Sunday, 5 July 2015

Memorials to "Terror Victims" - more scare tactics and a good dose of irony

 On top of the hypocrisy and shock tactics being thrown at us by Cameron about the Terror of Terrorism and the "existential threat" to Britain and it's values, we now have an announcement that there is to be a permanent memorial to the victims of the Sousse attack. 

 There will also be a separate site of remembrance for all Britons who have been victims of overseas terrorism, he has added - almost as an afterthought, as he is more won't to do recently every time he makes a statement.

"It is right that we mark and commemorate them and others murdered by terrorists overseas, appropriately and support the loved ones they have left behind in every way we can, " he says.

British holidaymakers accounted for 30 of those killed, along with three Irish nationals, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese and a Russian, before the assailant was himself shot dead. The attack has been claimed by the Islamic State group - IS/ /ISIS/ ISIL or which ever politically correct term Cameron or the BBC deem correct for today.

Yes, it was a despicable and tragic occurrence, but seems to me to be another "terror tactic" by the government to keep us afraid.

Would we erect a memorial and hold a minutes silence to 30 people killed in a motorway pile up, even if the cause of the incident was "with intent" ? I doubt it,  and of course now we also have to have a monument to commemorate those killed in this country - due to Cameron's word choice in the first statement.

That the monument is to be funded by fines levied from banks by the Financial Conduct Authority perhaps it's saving grace, however ironic and distasteful this is.

Thursday, 2 July 2015


There’s various types of resting and I suppose it depends on your own disposition on how you go about it.Some people close their eyes and are sleeping within less than five minutes. That must be quite pleasant. Close your eyes and maybe in only half an hour you are awake and refreshed.
There are some regimes to this resting time. In hot countries it is clear that the best thing to do in the hottest part of the day is to lay down and keep as still as possible. Work can continue later, when its cooler and more pleasant. Yet here in Britain we never really have that scenario. We have some hot days, but never enough to warrant an afternoon nap to get away from the heat.

 I remember when I was about 3 years old being almost forced by my mother to sleep after lunch, though tiredness was the last thing on my mind. She used to sit me on her lap and tell me that I did not need to sleep, just close my eyes for a  while. This seemed a ridiculous notion  to me. I now  realise the thinking behind it. She was exhausted. And having just got the elder 2 children back to school it was her chance to have a few minutes peace – if only I had let her.

Sleeping in the daytime has always seemed a slovenly thing to do in my view. Especially the people who actually undress and get into bed. What a waste of a day, what a waste of daylight hours. 

Others have a regime too. Hospitals for example. 
Most have a rest time usually in between about 1pm and 3pm – but not for the full 2 hours. Usually before visiting times, presumably so that you are looking as well as can be expected for your situation and circumstances. Don’t want the visitors thinking you are looking unwell. 

Sometimes, unfortunately in some wards, lunch is late. This means you have to wolf down your rice pudding in semi darkness as the curtains have already been drawn to the outside world. And by the time the tea lady arrives, she assumes everyone is asleep so you miss out on that one. Never mind, don’t stay asleep too long and you might catch the afternoon cuppa. 
The curtains never seem to close properly across the windows either. There’s a gap where the harsh sunlight bounces onto the shiny floors and sends a glare into your eyes, no matter which way you turn. You can put one arm over your eyes to stop the glare and wake with stiff muscles and pins and needles, or you can lay on your stomach with your face in the pillow. But hospital pillows weren’t made for breathing through.
This is the time for the nurses and any other passing staff to have their daily conversation about last night’s meal at the pub, or this weekends forthcoming one, in loud voices, outside your ward. As you can’t sleep in this anyway, you might as well try and enjoy the conversation, see if you can get a snippet of scandal to amuse your visitors when they come. You just can never actually put the faces to the voices and the straining to catch the crucial punch line is enough to make you fatigued. You feel yourself drifting, just as the lights come on blindingly and a voice is saying “are ya havin a drink love?”

Having a lie in at home can be just as stressful. You have a lie in today, someone says. We’ll see to everything and it’ll be all done when you wake up. Just have a good  rest. Bliss! You think.
They leave the room asking do you want the curtains open? Another blanket? Anything at all? No, no, NO ! They leave the room at last ...and leave the door open. You crawl out of bed and close it. Back in bed you thump the pillows a few times then close your eyes. The dog scratches on the door. You crawl out again and leave the door just a little ajar, so it can come and go as it pleases. Peace.
Downstairs the washing machine is doing the laundry of the whole country and the washing up must be from a hundred meals. Crash, bang, splash, ping. 

And of course its bin day. More bangs and crashes and some friendly banter between the workers which they yell at each other to be heard above the whirring and rumbling as the  machine does it's job. The lorry takes forever to leave the street. 

The post arrives. more mail than at Christmas, today and something that needs signing for too. Which involves some more chatter and laughter from inside and outside the house.

Then - silence. Yes, definately silence.

The bedroom door opens slowly, with a 
“Had a nice lie in? I brought you a cup of tea”.
Ah well.......

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

An Existential Threat or Cameron's Political Scaremongering ?

The terror attacks which took place last Friday have, understandably, produced a sense of shock and horror around the world. 

Any attack which leads to the deaths of innocent people is condemned by the majority of ordinary people as disgusting and preposterous and the nearer to "home" that these deaths are, in general, affect the level of condemnation.

The decapitated head of the manager of a US owned transportation company was found near Lyon in France, along with banners said to be bearing Islamic writing. French investigators have said that there are links between the man who did this and Islamic State militants.
Soon after that, a bomb ripped through the Al - Sadiq mosque in Kuwait's capital city during Friday prayers, killing 27 people and injuring over 200 others. An affiliate of the Islamic State group have claimed responsibility and the suicide bomber identified as a Saudi citizen who had arrived in Kuwait that morning.

Then came the news that a gunman had shot numerous people on a tourist beach in Sousse, Tunisia, killing at least 38 people and injuring 39 others before being shot dead by the police outside the hotel. IS has also claimed responsibility for this attack. 

The so called "Islamic State" claiming responsibility for all these attacks shows that there is a strategy which is not just about fighting in the Middle East but about bringing the war into Europe. By stating that the Tunisia attacks were in response to the coalition's current involvement in Iraq and Syria, we can realistically conclude that the underlying responsibility lies with those who have continued with more than a decade of invasion, bombings and occupation of Middle East countries, including Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. The civil war in Syria has added to the growth of  IS and other terrorist groups as well as the bombing of Libya and the sectarian tensions caused by the US in Iraq.

The Government's "Prevent" strategy is aimed at stopping more people getting drawn towards and involved with violent extremism, but clearly is failing in it's purpose. It has it seems,  become counter - productive and appears to many as a means of spying on and reporting people for acts and opinions that were never intended to be racist or extremist, regardless of whether the person is Muslim or otherwise. 
For David Cameron to describe the threat of terrorism in Britain as an "existential threat" is therefore, absurd.

Because I am British I naturally have an affinity with what happens to other British people and that the Tunisian attack involved so many British victims affects me more than the attack in Kuwait, or the beheading in France. But to suggest that our very existence in this country is at risk is surely at best exagerration  and at worst scare tactics of the lowest order. 
It doesn't take much thinking to realise that Cameron's Government objective is the censoring of "free speech" and the pushing through of laws against "extremism" that were not so many weeks ago deemed to be an infringement of liberty and unworkable. 

While the government tries to distinguish between "non violent extremists" and "violent extremists", we try to uphold the notion of  British Values - though regardless of race, religion or culture, we can't seem to define simply.

Reasonable people want to live in a reasonable world where threats to our safety and chosen lifestyle are minimal. 
Suggesting that our existence is threatened is not likely to foster a feeling of safety or freedom, values that everyone wants to live within. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Bio - metrics : machine v man in an airport queue

Arriving at Manchester Airport recently to re - enter England / United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland / European Union I was faced with the option of the two queues for passport control  - EU or Non EU

My passport looks like this and so I do know that I am classed as EU (despite having 2 conversations in the streets in Istanbul about what type of money do the British use here. It seems that many non EU citizens believe that we use the Euro ) 
I have travelled within the EU using this newly issued passport, but had not taken much notice of the symbol of the bio metric facility on it (despite being informed by my daughter and fellow travellers last year)     ePassport gates are automated, where a passport reader and camera, rather than a border officer - in theory -  verifies your identity and checks your ‘chipped’ passport. To use the ePassport gates, you must have a ‘chipped’ biometric UK, EU, EEA or Swiss passport. These ePassports have the biometric logo on the front cover.

Seeing that the e-gates queue appeared longer than the other queue, I duly took my place in line to shuffle back and forth between the queue poles 
 strategically placed to ensure that we all walk the longest possible distance over the relatively small area of floor space.

"To help speed up your time at passport control, there are now ePassport gates at all major airports in the UK.
The gates use facial recognition technology to compare your face to the photograph recorded on the ‘chip’ in your passport. Once the check is made successfully, the gate opens automatically for you to walk through ", says the official information at HM Passport Office  

I took the opportunity to scrutinise the procedure of the e- gate during the 45 minutes it took 'my' queue to move along.

It seemed initially that yes, the e queue was moving most quickly. It did not operate solely without officers though, and one in particular spent his time marching up and down telling people to please watch the videos while queueing on how to use the facilities, enabling faster and easier processing. By my calculations the processing took about 4/5 minutes per person with around 1 in 5 people being sent to an officer at another desk when their details or whatever were not compliant with the bio metric information. If I was a mathematician, which it's  well known that I'm not, I could provide the stats on this to show which queue was indeed the most efficient. But my gut feeling tells me that the man behind the desk is more efficient and certainly more 'people friendly', though that is obviously not the intention of the technology.

In information technology, biometrics refers to technologies that measure and analyze human body characteristics, such as DNA, fingerprints, eye retinas and irises, voice patterns, facial patterns and hand measurements, for authentication purposes.


The several types of biometric identification schemes include :

face: the analysis of facial characteristics
fingerprint: the analysis of an individual's unique fingerprints
hand geometry: the analysis of the shape of the hand and the length of the fingers
retina: the analysis of the capillary vessels located at the back of the eye
iris: the analysis of the colored ring that surrounds the eye's pupil
signature: the analysis of the way a person signs his name.
vein: the analysis of pattern of veins in the back if the hand and the wrist
voice: the analysis of the tone, pitch, cadence and frequency of a person's voice.

Many believe that biometrics will play a critical role in future computers, and especially in electronic commerce. Personal computers of the future might include a fingerprint scanner where you could place your index finger. The computer would analyze your fingerprint to determine who you are and, based on your identity, authorize you different levels of access Access levels could include the ability to use credit card information to make electronic purchases (Some of these, if not all are no doubt in operation now)

I'm all for advancement in technology for the amazing benefits that it bring to us as humans. As long as the benefits really are for mankind and not for power and surveillance reasons only. The time for the chip in our forehead which takes away the need for any card, cash or even social communication as we have known it is becoming ever closer. 
Who knows whether this is advancement or not ? 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Change - Created by the Unreasonable Man ?

How do those of us who try to embrace a philosophy of doing what we believe to be good/right deal with the anger and despair that we feel over the injustices all around us?

Would you rather give the world a hug, or a slap in the face? Would you rather get up there and battle, or leave it alone for the sake of a peaceful life?

I am sure that many of us can relate to this. It isn’t just my worry, it’s a human question. 
We all fight with our anger over issues in our own lives as well as in the wider world. Often, it leads us to the depths of despair and we feel any effort on our part is futile. So we give up.
But anger is a powerful emotion, and when it is channeled properly, it can be a force used to positive affect. Rather than ranting at the world – or worse, allowing the anger to destroy us inside by keeping it hidden, we need to find a way to use it and work for change. 

"The reasonable man attempts to adapt himself to the world and the unreasonable man attempts to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all change is created by the unreasonable man" . George Bernard Shaw

The comment is clearly a viable one - but does this persuade anyone to NOT try to change things? Conversely, does it make us want to change even more, just for the hell of it? Maybe some of us don't want anything at all to change, so do not need to consider. "The terror of change has been exceeded by the terror of remaining the same " said someone at a conference on teamwork, that I was at once.
Perhaps it's unreasonable to want to change things for the betterment of society. And selfish to want to leave things as they are, because it's 'comfortable' to do so. And who is to say what the betterment of society is? It's a bit of a subjective subject ! I wonder if "doing good" is also a selfish notion, as it makes us feel better ? I have always struggled with this, and the response from my staunch Methodist father was that "God knows who is acting for themselves and who is loving their neighbour". Sound advice to a believer, but not so easily taken in by someone with no religious faith.

So, I have to conclude that it's a personal thing, which no one can advise on or give suggestions on, but ourselves. In other words it's about conscience. What our conscience makes us do or not do might bring harsh words from others with differing views. If I have someone say that I was being hypocritical, in my views - the one thing I strive against constantly - I used to be devastated, but not any more.  Only I know the truth behind my thinking and actions. 
And only you know yours.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

One Thumb Is All You Need

So, just when I decided that it's time I really ought to get back to using a pen or pencil instead of a keyboard constantly, I find this function on my phone.

Whether it's been available all the time I've had the phone or if it's a new thing, I don't know, but I do know that it's a lot easier and quicker than the memo facility and, whilst there is definitely something to the feel of writing on paper- especially brand new paper and I've got a beautiful new notebook that is crying out to be used -  needs must, as they say and my old age and the conditions it brings with it mean that using one thumb as opposed to a whole hand is a more pleasurable experience.  

I understand that I can write, edit, save and share whether online or not so have visions of me tapping out my next best seller (next ??) while sat on a beach, on top of a mountain, in the woods, on a boat ( not likely) or wherever I happen to be when the muse hits me. Yes, I am expecting it to hit me again sometime very soon. The risk of losing my notes somewhere is lessened and though the risk of losing my phone is always "Category High" my manuscripts will be safe as they will have been sent to some other device in a different location. Magic.

The test of the real benefit of my findings this morning will be if I manage to send this to anywhere else successfully. If you are reading this somewhere other than on my phone then I reckon this is my most useful find this week. And it's only Tuesday, so who knows what I'll be doing by Friday ?