Broadband for all! – At a price! & other musings

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It has been an eventful week.  First and foremost the passing of my Grandmother who at 93 years of age left our family peacefully at St Benedicts Hospice in the North East of the UK.  I would like to thank all the staff there for the kindness, professionalism and dignity they afforded my Grandmother in her last days.

I’m currently producing a YouTube video with material from a discussion with Michael Horn, the media representative for Billy Meier.  A fascinating gentleman.  It asks as many questions as it does give answers, which is a good thing.  No matter what your views, I’m sure people will enjoy it.

Barrack Obama is now on Facebook.  What can you say about that? About time?  Its doubtful anything Mr Obama gets up to will go under the radar of the mainstream media, so quite what this more personal venue of the president will provide is anyone’s guess.

The UK government is always a source of entertainment, comical, shocking and just plain ignorant.  For those who keep an eye on UK affairs there’s much going on.  Sus scrofa domesticus Cameron, has proclaimed that in 5 years, 10mbit broadband will be looked with at the same (in terms of right) as electricity.  Announced shortly after the new laws that everyone’s internet history can be looked at without warrant.   It seems the right of innocent until proven guilty has taken another hit in the UK, now there is no innocent, its “we’ll have a look and decide if you’ve done anything wrong”.  Investigative policing in the UK now seems more like a fishing trip.

And “fishing trip” investigating is probably for the best.  When looking at the “expertise” of the “specialists” we can see that government agencies fall well behind that of the private sector.  I suppose this is to be expected, if you are an in-demand specialist with real skills, then the lure of private sector pay and benefits far outweighs anything a government agency can offer.  If you want the good pay and perks then the only government role that offers those is to become an MP.


A troubled planet – News and musing around the world.

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If you needed proof humanity is lost, look no further than the news of One Direction and their cancelled concert.  According to the source of parenting and life advice (Sky News) there were reports of weeping fans sounding more like a scene of Luke 13:28 rather than a naff boy band cancelling an event due to one of them having the figurative sniffles.

Keeping on the topic of Sky News, what is it with the short advice video’s seemingly posted every morning.  This morning we were treated to advice on social media.    Let me say now, if you find yourself being helped by Sky News with their life advice – get rid of your technology, you are not responsible enough to be using these things without supervision.  The only advice Sky television gives is more indirect and that’s to switch it off, the volume of commercial breaks that are stuffed into their programming, for me makes them entirely unwatchable.

Keeping on the subject of adverts, if ever there was a warning for not pursuing AI and robotics, its the adverts that feature Brian the Robot.  Has there ever been a more annoying and unfunny example of artificial intelligence and a better warning that its one area of technology we shouldn’t dabble in?

Disney have managed something which I don’t think anyone would consider possible a few years ago – get people excited with an advert for an advert.  The build-up (and teaser) adverts to a trailer which was released the other day for a movie had many people in a frenzy and is a sad indictment of today’s society.  Is a movie something in life people feel the need to get into a frenzy over? Tragic.

Its “Back to the Future” day today, the date in which Marty goes to in the future.  Presumably because people have nothing better to do, a big issue is made of the predictions in the movie.  Holographic movie trailers? Nope not turned up.  Hoverboards? No not really, the tentative steps taken towards them seem to have been inspired by the movie so it was hardly a prediction, more of an encouragement.  Auto drying clothes? Nope.  The only predictions I see that are correct are baseball caps still being worn and groups of teenagers terrorising members of the public.  I suppose video conferencing is a correct prediction, but even that wasn’t accurate as anyone using a video conferencing service will attest that its often more a story of lag and disconnections.

A Healthier Outlook…and a toxic government

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It finally had to happen.  I’ve given up the cigarettes.

Now before you start to slap me on the back for the willpower, grit and determination in kicking a habit that I’ve had for over 20 years, its how I’ve done it that is key to this post.

Vaping, e-cigs or whatever else you wish to call them are the healthier alternative and have got me off the traditional cigarettes.  The addiction is still there of course and there’s nothing healthy about an addiction to anything, even nicotine, but when you look at all the harmful ingredients in a traditional cigarette at least now its only the addition to nicotine which poses the problem.

And talking about problems is the point here.  Over in the UK, the liquid that goes into these e-cig’s is not taxed to the hilt like a traditional cigarettes or tobacco and this I’d suggest poses the government with a problem.

Rumours are abound that next year will see a tax placed on e-cigs in the UK, which if true, begs the question, does the government want people healthier or not?  The government is “seen” to want people to give up, but from figures and various research it’s argued that the tax made from tobacco could more than off-set the health bill from related illnesses.  Being a consumer of alcohol too, going off the excuse the government gives for taxing tobacco, could easily be one for alcohol too.  How much does it cost with the health issues of alcohol? or what about crime related to alcohol?  If we put the “cost” argument to tobacco, then we must also put it to alcohol and its my opinion that the cost of alcohol in terms of use of resources is far higher than smoking.

So here’s the problem the government has – People can have their nicotine habit but its no longer unhealthy (in terms of what the government promotes as the reason for stopping smoking).  The government can’t surely tax people to the hilt with e-cigarettes because it is going to be the healthy solution surely?

I certainly don’t believe that the UK government has the health of the nation in mind and I believe they see the e-cig as a great threat to their finances.  I think that there are two reasons why they promote giving up smoking when it clearly makes so much money for them and that’s a/ they need to be “seen” to be concerned and b/ when/if smoker numbers reduce, the tax will continue to go up meaning money for the government remains.

Do I think the UK government will tax e-cigs?  Of course it will and I’m sure come up with a “great” reason for doing so.  It can’t have all that potential money going the healthy route.  It will be interesting to watch the UK and what it does in relation to e-cigs because you can almost guarantee that the government has on the drawing board at this very moment plans for a whole host of fines, penalties and rules relating to the product too.

Smokers tend to live shorter lives than non-smokers, which also saves the government money in terms of resources in retirement.  Its like having two bites of the same cherry, taxing people for something they know people will pay and saving money when those people generally will be relying on public services for less time.

Here is my prediction for what will happen.  The UK government will tax e-cig’s to a point where it won’t be a money saving choice.  They will restrict the nicotine content of liquids to a number much lower than it is now, with the higher strength products only being available through prescription.  The effect of this will be that people will return to the traditional cigarettes with the incredibly high price and the government will continue to tax those to.  It might sound far fetched.  I don’t think my prediction will be far wrong.  The government will also seek to demonise the e-cig with a campaign claiming that young people are being illegally sold e-cig products and finding an “easier” route to addiction.  It will also seek to claim that the plethora of liquid flavours are there to entice young people into the addiction and to keep those already with the addiction trapped.

There is only one thing more toxic than a cigarette and that’s the UK government with its associated agencies.

It also asks an interesting question.  When the UK government is sniffing around the public financial records of US States which have trialled legal cannabis,  you can bet that the saliva will start forming on their lips for a piece of the action.  They will of course on one side of their mouth tell you about the health concerns, but the other side will firmly be taking your cash.  Personally I don’t believe Cannabis is the wonder plant people claim it is.  I have grave concerns of the effect it has on the brain and whilst you can shout back at me that the same could be said about alcohol, I’d probably agree, but then my answer to that would be – Why would we seek to introduce yet another product to the market which has the potential of long term harm.  If you view is that alcohol causes harm, why are you not campaigning for the total ban (or heavily taxation) of alcohol? What Cannabis actually does is gives a very good reason for banning alcohol as well as tobacco.  If anyone is going to play “medical Cannabis” to me, I’m actually supportive of that, if its prescribed and monitored by a Doctor.   What I’m not supportive of is a new revenue stream for a government not only with the product itself, but the new laws that will have to come about and be enforced because of it.

I digress.  Returning back to the topic of e-cigs and myself, I can say to anyone who has not thought they could leave the cigarette for a healthier option – its fine.  I’ve had no issues at all.  I do not find myself needing a nicotine fix because the e-cig delivers it perfectly.  Bizarrely I do miss the taste of a real cigarette every so often and I have drifted back into the odd cigarette now and then, but we are talking less than 10 in 2 weeks, which I think shows how effective e-cigs are.  Now the next step is to reduce the nicotine until its removed from my life completely, but I’m taking it one step at a time, so that’s not for the immediate.

I have a few words of advice if anyone is considering moving to e-cigs.  The first one – If you choose a tobacco flavour liquid in the hope it emulates a cigarette you will be disappointed.  Every liquid I’ve tried so far tastes (at best) like the smell you get from a fresh pack of tobacco.  That’s no bad thing though, just something which I assumed I could easily find – that is not so far the case.    I’d also say check online for your liquid as a rule I’ve found it much better value ordering straight from the manufacturers websites.  The stuff you can buy in the shops will still save you a lot of money compared with a traditional packet of cigarettes or tobacco, but you can make even bigger savings spending a little time shopping around online.  And finally, when changing to e-cigs, try and keep your smoking routine.  I never smoked in the house and always went into the back garden, I still do this with the e-cig as I think part of the addiction is the routine surrounding it.

At the moment I’m “vaping” a pineapple liquid and feel rather pleased that my regular cough has almost completely gone and I can taste things better.

Aliens, delusions of grandeur and warning labels

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A busy week has seen me with a plethora of projects/tasks, all of which (for a change) completed to the satisfaction of all.

I had a unique experience the other day.  I stumbled across an author/publisher? on my Twitter timeline seemingly inviting people to join their book publishing page.  I cannot say if it was more than a vanity press, certainly the 90’s style website that accompanied it would suggest that, as well as the fact the only book that this “company” had in its library was the one by the person advertising the page.

I’ve nothing against a vanity press per se, however it can sometimes be used to disguise some rather awful work and I think if you are making attempts to convince your readers that you are not self published, you must ask yourself why.  A good book is a good book regardless of who/how its published and a poor piece of literature from a self-published author can do damage to a method of publishing which has so many benefits to both the reader and author.  Add into the mix a vanity press and people will also get a poor impression of small publishing firms.

I digress, the issue of vanity press is moot for the purposes of this particular person, when I attempted to correct their mistake on the Tweet.

“Your invited to like my page” the tweet proudly exclaimed.

I don’t need to tell people what’s wrong with that statement , it is blatantly obvious to anyone with even the most basic understanding of the English language.   When the aforementioned grammatical error was pointed out, it was met with a rather aggressive response; and then a subsequent block.  That wouldn’t be so bad if the tweet had been corrected, but last time I looked it was still in situe.   For me, only two reasons exist for this, either a/ they are too stubborn to admit their mistake or worse, they genuinely believe that this is grammatically correct.   I hope the answer is merely (a) but I have a horrible feeling its actually (b).

Regardless of if this particular “press” is trying to sell other peoples work, it highlights a very important point.

There are some times that I wish I hadn’t taken a “traditional” publishing route and self published myself.  The lack of control I’ve experienced with my work has left me feeling frustrated at times and flabbergasted at others, but you have to be incredibly careful on who you chose to promote your work if you are choosing an unknown publisher.

For people who either can’t get a “traditional” publisher to handle their work and wish to look to a small publishing house, you are giving an awesome responsible to someone if you ask them to take your work.   I’ve built up an online presence over years and have experience with promoting a football club, but to take someone’s hard work and have responsibility for that work – I certainly would not want to do it.   The internet allows any person to step up as a publisher which is why you need to be incredibly careful with your work.  Promoting a football club is simple compared to that of a novel, so I’d suggest if you are considering using a publisher who is wanting your work, you look at the following:

  1. How is their website presented?  Does it look modern and up to date?  Or does it look like a rushed effort from the 90’s?
  2. Who is hosting their site?  Is it a provider of free webspace who have generic templates for people to modify?
  3. What are the results of a search?  Any discussion (good/bad) around this publisher?
  4. What titles have they previously released? Do they have sample chapters? What is the quality of the current titles?
  5. Are there typo’s or grammatical errors on their site?  Do they make promises that are yet to manifest or dubious in substance such as “We aim to have a large library of XYZ” or “We are the one stop shop for quality titles”

And maybe the most important questions you should ask yourself if you are tempted to approach an unknown publisher:

What can this publisher do that I cannot?  Am I doing this for a genuine benefit to me or is this an issue of merely vanity?

Self publishing is without doubt a very valuable part of the literary world, last year my favourite title was a self published work, coming out top of my reading list over authors who are well known and have lucrative contracts with large publishers.  On the reverse side of that, self-publishing has the drawback of there being no quality control what so ever – by that I mean whilst there are many self-published authors who I know that are utterly meticulous in the editing, refining and correcting of their own work, it is not a prerequisite of publishing a work.  There have been many “bad” books I’ve read from traditional publishers, but if a company is investing money in your work, you can almost be guaranteed a minimum standard of the work contained within the covers.

I’m hoping the publisher/author in question will take up the right of reply instead of merely running away from the issue.  Maybe there is a facet of the English language where “Your invited” is correct and if so, they can enlighten us all to the lack of understanding we have.  We all make mistakes (well admittedly I’ve not seen as basic a one as that from a claimed author) but suffice to say when we do, we don’t continue making that mistake by claiming we are right.

Is this the grammar police? (as the vague response on the Twitter account suggests) Well yes, it is.  If I am selling something to people, then I expect my work to be of the highest standard, anything less is a disservice to my customers. Thankfully the example above is not typical of what I see when I look at self-published and for me anyway, all this work is taken out of my hands by people who have invested in my product.  Its funny how “grammar police” is only wheeled out when someone has tried to argue the point of being right then shown (again) to be wrong.

If you go with a publisher who they themselves cannot get the basics right, what hope does your work have?

A point of note here, if my grammar falls below standard, then I’d expect someone to say so.  If it is a typo then I would like to know, if its an ignorance on my part then I certainly want to know.  That’s how we prevent mistakes in the future and learn.  Grammar police? Yes please.

Promoting your own work

I have a tip – if you have taken on the role of promoting your own work, have a separate account to your “personal” one.  The reason for this is simple.  A well known author under a publishing house will not have to worry so much about promoting their own work.  The publisher will take care of that for them.  This means that when they do engage on their personal social media accounts, they do not have to focus on talking about their work.  If you are seen on social media as someone who is promoting your own work, I think the account doing that loses its appeal for being a “social” account.  I don’t want to engage in a conversation with someone who is going to try and sell me something every other sentence.  Why not have a separate account for promotion? People will still go there, but will be under no illusions as to what its there for.  Is there anything worse than having a conversation with someone who says something like: “I’m pleased to see you like XYZ, have you bought my new book? It has many of the same themes”  You can’t talk about life and universe with a car salesperson in a showroom for very long, their sole purpose is to sell you cars and the entire conversation I’d suggest is steered towards the ultimate goal of doing that.

Anyone who, in a conversation I deem as being of a personal (or even random) nature can lose all appeal immediately should they steer the conversation towards a sale of their book or product.  I use social media to be social.  If I am interested in a certain product, I’ll specifically go to the account pertaining to that product.


With the discovery of a structure near to Stonehenge, it is only a matter of time before the new find is written into the last alien conspiracy theory.  History is great for an alien promoter because often we are not in possession of all the facts and its that absence of facts that allow an alien theory to worm its way in.

I’ve come up with a formula that pertains to items on our planet and it goes something like this:

If an item is 10-50 years old its a collectable.  If its over 50 then its an antique.  If its over 1000 years old its a relic and if its 2000 years or more, then it was made by or for aliens.  Apply that to buildings, items on our planet, it roughly fits.

Area 51 – The Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for the alien believer, has had many stories, eye witness accounts and visitors to the locality.  When a family who have lived on the doorstep of the “secret” base for generations, you’d expect one or two stories of spaceships and aliens.   Unsurprisingly though, for the people who are not involved in some pseudo reality of aliens amongst us, the people who called Area 51 neighbours have no such stories.  Their issue with Area 51 is a plethora of complaints, none of which have an extra-terrestrial origin.  We can leave the fantastic stories to those who pass through the area and have an “experience” – one which the neighbours of Area 51 never seem to have had.  What are the chances of that?

The nice thing about an alien conspiracy – absolutely anything can be made to “fit”.  So maybe the theory will be the neighbours of Area 51 are sending out mundane messages in order to make people believe there are no aliens at the base?  The mind boggles (for those of us who haven’t bought into the alien industry) For the believers, the next “truth” is only a story away.

The story can be found here.

Warning labels

“Warning, product contains nuts” – proudly displayed on a packet of peanuts.

We are all aware of the silly warning labels used to cover the figurative backs of companies, but over on Facebook there was an interesting post which asked the question: If you had a warning label, what would it be?

For myself the answer was simple:

“Must be supervised by a responsible adult at all times”

And on that note, I’ll bid you good day.

Tim Wilson

Let’s blame the smoker – Nottinghamshire County Council’s “great” idea

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jsb_zps5af72910Nottinghamshire County Council has announced an intention to ban smoking for its employee’s during work time.  Its aim is to improve workers health (isn’t that nice of them), reduce sickness (not sure how that works, people can smoke at home & are they going to ban drinking for employee’s when they are off work just so that they don’t have a self-inflicted sick day?) also, they say their idea intends to increase time working – and now I think we get to the real reason, once we get past any faux concern about workers health.  More hours for the same money.

Before the age old “smokers get extra breaks” is given, spend a little time considering what’s been taken away here.  Do you think that if the smoke break is banned, the council will be happy with people instead taking 5 minutes to stand outside and inhale fresh air (in the name of healthy living), or is this more than just a ban on an easy target?

This is what the ITV is currently reporting.

Nottinghamshire County Council has said its 9,000 employees will be barred from smoking during work time with the ban extending to e-cigarettes, in the mooted plans.

Anyone who fails to stick to the rules could face internal disciplinary action.

Source: ITV

So lets consider this.  Its very fair to say that someone who smokes could end up having more breaks during the day than someone who doesn’t.  That’s not always the case, but that’s the point some people make.  The issue here though is that instead of cutting things out and taking away – something which many other workers in many other industries are privy to, the consideration should be for ensuring smokers and non-smokers get the same amount of breaks.

I believe this new scheme is more about something we see increasingly in the workplace – getting more out of the worker for less.  How many people can say that they are not doing far more for the same wage now as compared to a few years ago?

I think the people who develop these schemes or ideas are not particularly bright, because if they were they would realize that a happy workforce is a productive one. Or maybe they are bright and this an attempt to erode another freedom of a worker whilst spreading a faux message of concern for health?  You can work someone all the hours under the sun, but if they are not happy in the workplace, they won’t be as productive as a happy worker.  That doesn’t just apply smokers, that’s everyone in the workplace.  Here is the catch, since the world works on figures and what’s claimed on paper without regard to what people are actually doing, then a claim of lack of performance after your break has been taken away will be met with a visit to the job centre for you – after all there are plenty of people lining up to do your job.

We also have to consider what this could lead to.  Its a slippery slope from here on in.  Once the smoke break is gone, what’s to stop a quick break for a coffee being met with a line manager saying “Wait until lunchtime, the smokers don’t have a cigarette break”  Coffee, like tobacco is not essential to life.  You can have a water bottle on your desk and have your coffee in your lunch break.

Since Nottingham Council are concerned on the health of their workers, are they also going to ensure that the recommended practice for computer users (a break every 60 mins) is enforced with line managers responsible for those missing a break away from the screen?  There are a whole set of recommendations for healthy computer use which are agreed upon by many people, are the council going to ensure workers have these?  If they are so concerned about health then I’m sure they will.

I don’t think this is anything less than a removal of a break which whilst has health issues (and subject to laws as to where you can smoke) I’d suggest contributes to a happy worker – as does any break for a member of staff.  Smoking is always an easy target, but lets also then look at coffee and tea.  These are not essential for life either.

Maybe the council actually wants to get rid of smokers completely from its workplace?  Maybe it sees a non-smoker as being that extra bit value for money?  The argument about productivity and lost hours doesn’t cut it.  50 years ago when smoking was far more common, did industry and society grind to a halt because of a smoke break?  Of course it didn’t, so why are people trying to “fix” things now when smoker numbers are reduced.

Do you have a job in front of a terminal?  Lets get rid of the lunch break.  You can eat a sandwich whilst working.  Better yet, get a laptop with WIFI and you can continue working whilst you take a toilet break.  This may sound far fetched but with a banning of a break is a slippery slope.

A cigarette may not be written into your contract, but its part of a productive, happy environment at work, not so much the cigarette itself, but the fact that people are able to take a break.

Lets keep the break and merely ensure that everyone gets the same treatment in the workplace.

Tim Wilson

10p extra for milk – Have I missed something?

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Farmers don’t have an easy life.  When you consider the amount of work at times when most of us are tucked up in bed for very small profits, its hardly a popstar lifestyle.

Morrisons have reacted to complaints by producing a new brand which allows consumers to pay extra to donate 10p to farmers who produce milk.  The details are still vague as far as I can see, but it does raise an interesting point.

What we have here is a supermarket chain not paying farmers enough to make a reasonable living from milk.  The supermarket turning around and saying “Ok, we’ll charge the customers more and give them that”.  I’d suggest with the massive profits these supermarkets make, we get the price staying the same for the consumer and the farmer still getting the extra 10p.  We buy far more than just milk from supermarkets and maybe the answer here is to vote with our feet and tell the supermarkets that not only should they be giving their customers value, but also a fair price for the producers.

Or have I got that wrong?

If customers avoid stores not looking after our farming community properly, it won’t take long before they change.   In the meantime, there’s an opportunity for any supermarket chain that wants to get into the top spot by implementing the above.

There is no doubt that farmers work incredibly hard.  There is also no doubt that supermarkets make huge profits, so lets see both parties benefiting from this and let the supermarkets swallow the extra (deserved) payment to the farmers, after all, when we are customers in a supermarket, we are usually buying much more than milk and I’d suggest if the supermarket wants to see my money for the other things, it needs to consider that.

David Beckham & the Media

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Is it a slow news day?  We have Sky News frightening people with information about “terror” that although is being dealt with by the appropriate agencies, is seen fit to put into the mainstream domain in order to remind people that they are powerless to do anything.   Make sure you support your government! They will look after you! Trust in your government, they know best! – Yeah right.

So it is with no surprise that after a little frightening of the masses, there comes the mind numbingly dull news about a celebrity and their child that is next.

David Beckham, footballer and whatever else he does, has come under criticism from some social media after his 4 year old was pictured in public with a dummy.

Beckham has hit back with a response for those that question his parenting skills.

So those who criticise think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticise me as a parent

Don’t they David?  If you were an average person on the street then you may have a point, but you are not are you?  You made your living in the public eye did you not?  Your wife makes her living in the public eye.  I would expect if you had been praised for being a good parent you’d not be so quick to say “no right” would you?

4 years old does seem to me to be rather late in years to have a dummy.  My children voluntarily gave up those things early on.   Sadly though, we see all too often that strains can be put onto the children of celebrities and their lifestyles, so maybe a 4 year old still having a dummy is not to be unexpected.

David has been told about potential issues of having a dummy later in a child’s life, so its now up to him what he does next.  He opted into the celebrity lifestyle and should know very well that every aspect of his life will be under scrutiny.  He is free to make his own parenting decisions, but he will do so under the spotlight of the media.

And now we await the next pointless story to hit the press.  I think the frightening stories are done for now so expect more Beckham type nonsense for the next few days.

Move along now and remember to focus your attention on stories of dummies whilst keeping scared of the “T” word and trusting your government to know what’s best for you.

There’s a conspiracy theory running around at the moment where a meteor is due to hit Earth in September which will push us back to the stone age.  For me, that can’t come quick enough.

Stop the world, I want to get off.