heyrick1973 -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot uk

A recap of the last decade...

Okay, the purists will skweem that since there was no year zero...
Ask me if I give a crap.

The party in 2000 was, for many, because the 1 on the left rolled over to be a 2. Likewise, I will consider the change to 20x0 to be the start of the new decade. You can agree, or you can disagree. Frankly I'm not bothered either way. At least it keeps things tidy; certainly as a programmer 0-9 has more appeal than 1-0.

Anyway. Time perhaps for a run-through of the last decade.

The last decade, let's face it, was marked by three major events.

  • American stupidity
    They voted George Dubyah Bush into office. Okay, his counterpart was the slightly unhinged save-the-planet Al Gore, but that's got to be better than a dumb redneck, no?
    Ignoring foreign intelligence, or if we're kind, having no cohesive manner to correctly deal with foreign intelligence, the atrocities of 9/11 happened. This quickly wiped out nearly 3,000 people, leaving a further 6,000 injured. Not content with this, Dubyah launched an impossible war (a "War on Terror", which is perhaps the oxymoron of the century) and destroyed two countries in the process. There's no actual honest-looking report on foreign casualties, but the figures are in the order of tens-of-thousands. As for deaths to mostly American servicemen, plus the odd journalist or two, the figure is in the order of four and a half thousand. More than 9/11 itself. Oh, and the crowning bit of American stupidity? Not content with this mess, they voted Dubyah in for a second term. Maybe.
    [picture origin: http://img2.scoop.co.nz/stories/images/0411/e1e677288a8cd1f0b7b3.jpeg, originally Daily Mirror front page]
     
    And for what? To make the world a safer place? The Islamic world are friends of the West. Balls! We're all safe now. Balls! Al Qaeda has been crushed. BALLS! GIANT HAIRY TESTICLES to the lot of it. This world is a much more dangerous place than it was a decade ago. If anything, terrorist attacks are on the up, and with the mass media's masturbation over terrorist events, any crazy-ass mother can either shoot up a school or blow up something and scream "In the name of Allah and Al Qaeda" as their dying cry, and it'll get wall-to-wall coverage on the global networks. At least now, as 2010 rolls in, we can go look for eerie they-should-have-known-this-would-happen footage on YouTube.
     
    So what was the point? WMDs? Nope. Peace in the Middle East? Hah! I'll be long dead before that ever happens. Cheaper petrol? Actually, rather the opposite.
    And talking of opposites, once upon a time terrorists had crossed eyes, spouted incoherent semi-biblical rants (pick the Holy Book of your choice), and were on a mission... from God, from their mother, from the voices in their heads. Whatever.
    Now? The status quo is we are to be assumed to be terrorists unless proven otherwise, and screw privacy and civil liberties. Actually the British, who were equally stupid in electing a Labour government, have apathetically sat and watched themselves be screwed many times over. They don't even bother to dream up ingenious excuses anymore.
     
    However, for all the instigated military action this last decade... As far as I can work out, said dumb redneck wanted to one-up his father. He hung Saddam. Whoo. Was it worth it?
     
  • Economic stupidity
    It might have started with Enron. It didn't end with Lehman Brothers and the utter defeat of Iceland because, thanks to a massive bail-out which will eventually be bourne by taxpayers, nothing much has changed except banks which used to lend money unwisely don't want to lend it at all. And they still clobber you for being a few quid overdrawn whilst making little of their billions in the red.
    If it wouldn't have spelled the end of civilisation as we know it, it might have been better to let the financial system collapse and start over again. They say one bloke not getting a voicemail is what triggered this. Really? The system is so fragile it depended on one man? Get real - everybody had their finger in the pie and when somebody somewhere got caught out, everybody took their fingers out of the pie so they wouldn't be seen, and the world realised that the pie was so full of fingers that there wasn't any actual pie left.
    The governments kindly replenished the pie, and thanks to that generous effort, all the fingers are back in the pie...

    My question - how many times is Average Joe going to be prepared to bail out the banks?
     

  • Electronic stupidity
    Back in 2000, digital television was in its infancy and the BeAll was videos on DVDs. The Internet was something a lot of people knew existed, but didn't really know about. The BBS scene was dying, perhaps more due to lack of interest than anything else, and ISPs were starting to offer local-rate numbers for dial-up connections. Yes, 56kbps was about as fast as the world went, unless you were filthy rich and could afford ISDN. There was cable. Sort of. In the urban sprawl. If it worked from one day to the next. Mobiles existed. Clunky buggers that could make and receive phone calls and send 140-character messages. Oh, and "Whistler" (otherwise known as Windows XP) was on the way.
     
    I have two LNBs on a dish and can choose from several hundred free channels. With the right receiver and subscription card, the choice just grows. Videos are still supplied on DVD, the venerable VHS tape having just about died out, but perfectly acceptable video is available in numerous variants of MPEG4. The domestic one, DivX and the like, offers a picture with, usually, visible compression distortion, but considering the size of the data required can be in the order of a tenth of the MPEG2 source, it is a reasonable tradeoff. Couple this with a massive surge in the use of the internet coupled with, and no doubt related to, the common ability to high speed connectivity. I have a megabit piped directly into a box in the living room which sends it via radio to my computer. And that's slow. The stupidity part of the equation is because in the early days only smart people could go on the Internet. It took time and effort to get ka9q set up, or to break out of the CompuServe enclave. It took equal smarts to juggle Netscape Navigator and MSIE for often sites were set up to work correctly with one or the other, but often not both.
    But now? Stupid people have Internet. Don't think I'm being elitist here. They have email, yet they rarely check their inbox as they aren't exactly sure how. They want to book cheap airline tickets, and Firefox has been dumbed down to the point where typing "easyjet" into the URL bar will actually take you to the EasyJet website. I just tried. OMG! No need for a dim person to remember a URL. No, no. URLs are complicated geek-speak...
    But dim people and "cybercrime" is never a good mix. Somebody's rich pickings that a person can't tell the difference between their bank and a fake. Or even stop to think "why does my bank want all this information? don't they already have it?"...

    Combine the two first points - small video and fast internet, and you have easy-to-share movies. Or, knock back the quality, you have YouTube, which must surely be the ultimate celebration of human stupidity and eccentricity?

    Oh, and XP is the most popular operating system, some reports quote it as running a near 80% share. Vista made little impact, and Windows 7 (what, no fancy name?) is also failing to impress. XP is fairly lightweight, solid, and gets the job done. It is a thorn in the side of Microsoft because it is the one they nearly got right and as such, why should we upgrade to something ... else?

 

We're all going to die!

As well as the ill-conceived "War on Terror", one of the major themes of the last decade has been the climate. Or "Global Warming".

Now, I've said it a dozen times yet some people still send me nasty emails from time to time, so let me state it very clearly:

I do not deny that Global Warming is a possibility.
If you look at the weather these past years,
the indications are that something is changing.
And not for the better.
 
WHAT I DO NOT BELIEVE IS THE DEGREE OF HUMAN INVOLVEMENT.

Is that clear enough for you?

You see, human ego is rampant. When writing the Holy Book, mankind was "created in His image". Bloody hell, we imagine God to look like an old bloke with white hair and robes. There's nothing to say he doesn't look like a cartoon penguin. But human ego being what it is, he is this perfect shape (actually, medical science can say there's quite a lot wrong with the human design) and as such we are perfectly made in his perfect image. Ergo, we are perfect.
[picture origin: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/35/Tux.svg/200px-Tux.svg.png]

This same ego wants us to tackle Global Warming. Scientific data is massaged to tell us what we want to hear. You might ask why the world will spend billions to cut CO² emissions if this is unlikely to change much. Ego. We identify how much carbon dioxide is being belched out. We identify how much can be spewed. We set targets for the reduction of emissions until we are below the 'safe' level. Thus, saving the planet. Aren't we friggin' wonderful.

Problem is, it's a load of balls. As the fallout of Copenhagen '09 and ClimateGate (!) [read about this on the BBC website] settle at the end of the decade, the world's leaders will still be pushing for a reduction of emissions. Because they can deal with this. They can deal with percentages and trade-offs. What they can't deal with is the grim reality that the planet will warm up (as part of its natural cycle) whether humans are here, or never existed. That isn't to say we have had no effect, for we have been a disasterous blight on the face of this planet. But reducing emissions? Please. We'll still tear down forests and build massive housing complexes in flood-prone areas. We'll wage wars. We'll dump our crap in the oceans while hoiking out anything with a heartbeat. We'll say there's not enough food for the world when the rich nations throw stuff away as the poor nations starve (thus indicating there is enough food, but there is no profit to be made in distributing it more evenly). But carbon emissions. Clear. Simple. An attainable target if we all work better.

Why am I so heated about this little issue? Because I don't see how it will benefit the world to invest time and effort into an untimately futile act. The world's leaders don't like to spend money on prevention. Certainly not on something they aren't sure if they can fix. What will the future hold? I cannot say. They cannot say. The scientists cannot say. We can all look at the available information and come up with workable viable theories, but this isn't like trying to read a Japanese train timetable. The Hikari Shinkansen might arrive at 10.40 on the dot, but the seas rising enough to reclaim Bognor Regis to the waters will not happen on the 14th of July 2021 at half two in the afternoon. We cannot predict stuff like that until it is fairly self-evident. Anybody who doubts this assertion need only look at the average British weather forecast. Today, accurate. Tomorrow, mostly accurate. Next week? As much luck as science...
 
However, this is actually of little relevance. For we have two options:

  1. Set targets for carbon dioxide emissions. Spend a lot of money regulating the various industries to reduce their carbon, while allowing industry that cannot not pollute (steel works, oil rigs...) to trade points with industry that pollutes fairly little (boring "office jobs").
    In the future I will have to explain to my grandchildren why my generation saw this problem coming and we all opted to take an approach that, in future history, will be deemed about as intelligent as software patents...
  2. Work on reducing CO², for lesser pollution is a good thing. But identify areas at risk. Dredge rivers. Build canals for drainage. Put up sea defences. Stop building affordable housing on flood plains. Etc. Etc. Etc.
    And keep it up.
    It might not be necessary in our generation. But to have defences that are not needed until some undefinable future point is a lot better than "Oh, crap..." when you have the defences but they were neglected (like New Orleans), or you don't have anything at all.
There is actually a third option, but it's akin to "stick your head in the sand and wait for it to pass"...

 

Notable events

Here is a selection of notable events of the past decade, in no order whatsoever.

For all of the pictures, these are linked directly to the original URL. I make no comment as to the content of the sites referred, I simply looked up pictures in Google's image search.
With this in mind, said images are subject to various copyrights. If the rightful owner of any of these images objects to my use, please inform me by email (don't bother with a DCMA takedown, the site is not hosted in the US) and I will replace the relevant image. Alternatively, if you wish for a better credit than the source URL, email me...

  • Rick gets broadband! At home too!
    This might seem like a rather selfish first entry. The point is that while there are the big media stories that we all have in common, ten years is a long time and I'm sure many of my readers will have their own personal big events - births, marriages, deaths, moving... Feel free to share these in the comments at the bottom of the page, along with anything you think I've missed!
     
    For me, briefly: Kudos to Ewen, we found we shared similar interests in 2000 and have been friends since. Left the United Kingdom in 2002. Got digital satellite TV in 2004 so I can see what's become of my old stomping grounds. Our lovely cat was murdered by a hunter in 2004. Entered into the French 'system' in 2006. Hello to Mick, my second email pen-friend, we started sending messages to each other in 2007. Got a job in 2008. Got broadband in 2009. Got a proper position in the company in 2009. Chomp died a week ago.
    There's a load more, but those are the biggies.
     
  • Words are not necessary...

    Picture origin: http://www.nocaptionneeded.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/wtc-9-11.jpg
    Whatever you may think of America and Bush and who is right and wrong, the undisputed truth is the only time we should see images like these are in big budget Hollywood blockbusters...
     
  • Columbia's final voyage

    Picture origin: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/12/30/science/space/shuttle.600.jpg
    Our continuing quest to understand the universe and our place in it carries certain dangers. The problem with being on the cutting edge is that these dangers may not become apparent until it is too late.
    It is perhaps worth remembering that for all the technical failures and explosions that make global headlines, there are many success stories. One of the biggest must surely be the Pathfinder/Mars Exploration Rover missions. While this had its own problems, the device has far exceeded its design criteria. Two craft, Spirit and Opportunity went to our nearest planet in January 2004 to conduct 90-day missions to examine samples of the planet and send back data for a possible future manned mission. As of now, yes, right now, both rovers are operating on the remote planet, over five years later. There is an issue of one perhaps being stuck, but hey - they've engineered the things so well they got an extra one thousand and seven hundred-odd days out of it so far, including patching and updating the firmware to two little devices a mere 78,000,000km away.
    And for this, we can experience a sunrise on another planet. Impressive, no?

    Picture origin: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA07453.jpg

     
  • Michael Moore

    Picture origin: http://fireweedproductions.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/michael-moore.jpg
    While not an event as such, the man deserves credit for standing up and saying "What the f...?" along with making documentary-style films on the various subjects he chooses to highlight.
    You may feel his works are sexed up or otherwise sensationalised to make "a better film". To a degree this might be true, however the core message of such films as "Bowling for Columbine" (2002), "Fahrenheit 9/11" (2004), and "Sicko" (2007) stands intact. His methods may be brash and in-your-face, perhaps that is necessary to get the message across?
    I was wondering if he was planning on targetting the financial meltdown. Well, thanks Wikipedia, that film entitled "Capitalism: A Love Story" was released this September. I look forward to it.
    And just to point out that the big camera-weilding bloke actually does have a brain in his head - Wiki quotes him as saying "Democracy is not a spectator sport, it's a participatory event. If we don't participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy. So Obama will rise or fall based not so much on what he does but on what we do to support him." I know of a number of Americans who are anti-Obama. Perhaps they should consider his words carefully and ask not so much "why do I loathe Obama" but more "What can I do to make this better?".
     
  • Hurricane Katrina
    katrina dead Pictures, Images and Photos
    Picture origin: http://media.photobucket.com/image/katrina%20dead/edmarrow/050902_katrina_suffering.jpg; photo by Ed Marrow
    A castastrophe that should never have happened in a country such as America. The defences should have been maintained. The rescue efforts should have had a coordinated plan. The list of "should haves" goes on and on, but they're just poor black people so who cares?
     
  • Financial crisis

    Picture origin: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Business/Pix/pictures/2008/09/16/stockc.jpg
    Market greed in an unsustainable environment. I thought these were all smart highly educated people? I'm a dunce at maths and even I could spell out the word B O O M...

 
 
By this point you're probably feeling depressed as hell. I bet the floating bodies above didn't help.
You know, this has been an odd decade that we don't really know what to call it. The term that seems to have stuck is the horrid the noughties, and we're only really giving it a name so we can say thank God that decade is over.
If ever we needed a living example of FUD - the "noughties" tossed Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt around with gleeful abandon, and I wouldn't be surprised if it takes us most of this century to recover.
We had such high hopes, such excitement. A new decade, a new century, a new millennium. But these hopes vanish pretty rapidly with the first years of this millennium being like every sucky Monday morning rolled together.
Surely that's the end of this depressing-as-hell b.log entry?
 
As if we should be so lucky.
 
  • The Patriot Act
    Following the fall-out of 9/11, US Congress initiated The Patriot Act which permitted the powers that be to hold anybody, without charge or warrant, in the interests of national security. While it might have been something of a knee-jerk reaction, it started the slippery slope to the widescale slamming of privacy and civil liberties that has been copied in other countries. s44, anyone?
    It isn't so much that nobody cares and nobody complains, but more that such legislation is so badly thought out that it can be weilded for all sorts of inappropriate reasons. Perhaps we're too scared to speak out any more, in case we get branded as a threat to national security? If anything, this last decade has turned the terrorist into your next door neighbour. So maybe they are right to suspect us all of being terrorists. Maybe we are? Or maybe there is little security to be had nationally when the respective agencies are more than willing to make suspects out of the very people they are supposed to be protecting.
    And what happens if an innocent person is detained without apparent cause, interviewed without counsel, and more than likely lied to about evidence collected and what will happen to them "in the future"? People can be easily tricked. A minimal fragment of a quote can be taken so far out of context as to prove just about anything. This sort of thing happened before, and a lot of innocent people were sent to their deaths, accused... of... being... witches.
     
  • Roman Catholics and Kiddies
    The Roman Catholic Church hasn't had a good decade. It has been found to have been involved in some manner in covering up the abuse of children, and this seems to have been more widespread than first thought. I very much doubt this is exclusive to the Catholic Church, I just don't have enough confidence in The Church Of England (Anglian protestant) to successfully organise any sort of cover up. No, they get themselves embroiled in a huge mess over the ordaining of a homosexual despite the biblical teachings that they are supposed to follow saying something pretty strong about that. Now I don't plan to get into any argument over this point, except to say that if the bible says a big NO to homosexuality yet the church can be seen to permit it, this surely proves the bible (aka The Word of God) as being fallible, thus bringing the basic tenet of the religion crashing down to a sticky end?
    The Pope died and a new Pope was elected. A former member of the Hitler Youth, no less. Now the leader of one of the world's largest and most powerful religions. A figure that millions are supposed to have the utmost belief in. To say this is a controversial decision would be putting it lightly. However, it seems that he has not been a bad choice. He is staying fairly true to the Catholic way (re. abortion etc) and isn't trying to shake up the world quite as much as Vatican II. We can forgive his various dumb errors as from time to time everybody says something stupid, and the way the world is now instead of muttering "wally" to ourselves, people will stand up and take exception. Loudly. Loudly enough to expect a hard cash compensation for the insult that they personally have endured. And we wonder why the bankers made such a mess of things...
     
  • The French
    The French spoke out against the invasion of Iraq. Based upon flawed evidence and legal technicality. This was not a hunt for al Qaeda, this was apparently to stop weapons of mass destruction from being assembled and used in under an hour. A lot of people didn't believe, but in the climate few dared to question. Look what became of The Dixie Chicks.
    France and Germany stood up. Perhaps remembering only too well the devastation of the second world war, they didn't fancy seeing another country turned into ruins chasing ghosts.
    You can't do much to insult a German. They're too damn efficient and have a precise and unique way of thinking. But the French? They've been a target since before America existed, only now it went so overboard as to be comical. French Fries were supposed to be renamed Freedom Fries, for goodness sake.

    Picture origin: http://www.life.com/image/1844590
    I think anybody who actually did start calling fries "Freedom Fries" should be dragged from their beds (use the Patriot Act as an excuse) and sent to Iraq to act as a volunteer. Get a taste of this freedom first hand. Oh, and be aware that the older French references say chips are an English invention, while the country just calls them "frites".
     
    The French are always there for a bashing. Mom listens out for the regular subtle bashings on BBC Radio Four, and I am embarrassed enough to admit that when mom said she'd bought a place in France, I was all "WTF?!", for it's a country full of arrogant egotistical smelly people that eat snails and frogs legs and two hundred types of cheese...
    Now that I live here, the arrogant ones are more often than not the British ex-pats. You see, there is a cute way to be clueless (refer to any number of Goldie Hawn movies) and there is an offensive way to be clueless (refer to any number of ex-pats). They rarely eat snails, I've never seen an actual frog's leg on sale, and now the local supermarket does Seriously Strong Cheddar, that would make it 201 types of cheese.
     
    However in looking for photos for this loooooong article, I came across the following on a random blog (I didn't note the URL...):
    God is right. Bush is right. Anyone who disagrees can go live in France.
    Funny, I bet an Arab might post on their blog words to the effect of:
    Allah is right. Osama is right. Anyone who disagrees can go live in Israel.
    Maybe instead of blatantly insulting the French, the Americans should take a step back and consider that they might actually have had a point. But no, that would require them to consider the great venerable President was actually a stupid redneck ass... something that most of the world has already figured out, except the oversized percentage of Americans who still believe in what Dubyah did.
    The biggest deepest irony is that Bush was afforded a lot of respect in his invasion of Iraq, so much that he was voted in for a second term, though after the Supreme Court made in 2001 a ruling that will be judged in history as being terrible, the power to go vote your (dis)satisfaction at the ballot box seemed almost worthless, especially when media is barred from seeing votes being counted in Ohio. But, still, Bush got respect. Bush walked around with that same stupid expression, using highly uncouth language to the leaders of other countries, and he got respect. Obama would be on to a sure winner if his own people automatically offered him the same level of blind devotion.
     
  • How to steal a nation
    About the flawed voting in Ohio mentioned above... there's a book, details here (this is not a recommendation, I have not read it) that describes some of the goings on that were not reported as much as they should have been. Or in other words, Bush was president twice when he most likely was NOT ever elected.
    In 2000-2001 the world watched in absolute wonder at the mess the Americans called a democratic voting system. By the time 2004 rolled around, few people cared so much.

 
 
You would be forgiven for thinking there is a lot of anti-American sentiment going on here. That isn't it at all. The fact of the matter is that America has positioned inself in the heart of the international community, so what happens in America can have a profound impact on the rest of the world.
I'll give you an example. The French banking system is pretty tightly regulated. About the only thing we've had to deal with recently is how some guy managed to rip off a load of cash from Societe Generale. If the American financial system had died along with Lehman Brothers, the CAC40 would have a really bad day. But it would still be there.
My company is not taking on any new staff this year. You see, the regional council provides incentives for companies to employ people. It helps with all the red tape involved, but in the end it is to everybody's benefit. More people in employment, and the company can make the transition without big headaches. Without these incentives, the company has to pay more attention to deciding if they really need more employees. Perhaps coupled also with a potential drop in sales as everybody tightens their belts. The decision? No, nobody else is required.
What does this have to do with America? Simple. The main government has cut the funding provided to Brittany by a third. If we pluck random unsubstantiated figures out of the air and say Brittany receives €30 million a year, than that's a loss of €10,000,000 in one go. There have been many small cutbacks. Little incentive schemes have been dropped. School outings greatly cut back. No matter how good the French economy is, the outside world will affect it. These are the ripples of the financial crisis.
 
But it isn't all America...
 
  • Media moguls don't f***ing get it
    So they'll scream about all their perceived losses and lobby hard for the governments to act. Good old Lord Mandelson is looking after the mess in the UK, and as of now France is to start a system of messages followed by eventual disconnection for file sharers and the like.
    What the f...?!
    Why is the government acting in the interests of media companies? Why can't these companies drag our sorry asses to court like they are supposed to. Why is my internet liable to disconnection if I rip off a bunch of movies? There's a lot to be said about supposed freedom of speech and communication here. Frankly it's an issue between the sharer and whoever owns the copyright, and the government should just bugger off...
    ...unless they plan to offer the exact same measures to everybody who has a copyright issue. A while back my Hacker Diary was ripped and posted on a diary forum. A sort of pre-blog. My copyright was infringed. If such a thing should happen again, if I should see any of my photographs or writings on a site that isn't HeyRick, will darling Sarkozy send a threatening email on my behalf?
    Don't make me laugh.
     
    And to further confound matters, in exactly whose interests will they be acting? I can understand the French authorities and artists and suchlike being a bit annoyed if Mylène Farmer's latest track is ripped the day it is released and pushed around all the usual peer-to-peer networks. Now let's say I download a Chinese film (with laughably bad dubbage, as all budget Chinese films must have, it's like a law or something...) from a server in Estonia. The host of the content is not in France, the film is not French and it stands a good chance of not even being available in France... so if the French internet stazi wish to get on my case about this, will they be willing to involve the Chinese? After all, somebody's copyright in China (haha, copyright? China?) has been infringed. There. Not here.
     
    Oh, but this one just keeps on giving. I typed the name of a song into Google. The top link took me to a site. After waiting for a stupid JavaScript countdown, the save-as dialogue appeared, with all the information for the MP3 of this song. Clicky-clicky, it could have been mine in about eight seconds. This, I would assume, was probably an unlawful download. Oh, and it was a French-hosted server, ho ho.
    On the other hand, MySpace has been making a big deal out of all the music it has available. You can build playlists of all your favourite musicians and listen to loads of stuff, right off MySpace. Given it's a big brand, I would assume this is legit?
    Nowhere does one scream "YOU CAN LISTEN TO ME LEGALLY" or "Warning - downloading this track will land you in the $#!+". So how is the average person going to be able to tell the difference? One site is throwing loads of music options at them... er... and so is another site. It's a bit like last.fm in the UK. This is lawful? How come? How do we know the difference?
    Oh, and without inspecting packets or recording known suspect IP addresses, exactly how are they going to monitor us?
     
    And finally - why the hell is the government now so keen to support the interests of massive media companies when they don't really give a toss about many other businesses that were destroyed or privatised (same thing really) over the years? If the labels have screwed up and decided it is easier to criminalise the on-line world instead of embracing it, then surely that's their loss, not the loss to all of us? I'd really like Sarko and Mandleson to explain that in a rational manner that doesn't involve bribes and backhanders... But you know the old adage, money walks and sh*t talks. It's just a shame its so damn obvious now, we can't even claim a degree of innocence.
     
  • Give 'em all an ASBO and be done with it
    Once upon a time, politicians commanded respect. They stood for something. They were not perfect, there was corruption, and some were arguably insane, but they got on with running the country. Sometimes things went wrong ("this is the winter of our discontent...") but by and large they represented the people and tried to make the best of a dozen conflicting opinions. Leadership, planning, and a good dose of insanity saw Britain through the second world war.
    Now they're clearly pigs scouring the bottom of the trough. They represent themselves and the "people" are little more than an inconvienience. The UK is led by a leader that they didn't elect, and the opposition parties are so useless that nobody cares to do more than bicker over a pint.
    PCSOs (fake-a-cops) have been introduced to counter concerns of underpolicing, while the big money-spinner is speed cameras. You'll probably get an (illegal) bollocking if you wander around taking photos of things, but god only knows how many surveillance cameras are around, who is looking at them, and where they are looking. We all know of one in Richmond peering into somebody's bedroom because, unwisely, it was stuck on the Internet. How many others are like that but nobody knows?

    Picture origin: http://regmedia.co.uk/2009/12/18/tfl_camera.jpg; The Register

     
  • Companies being stupid with things that go bang.
    From Buncefield to Toulouse, it doesn't do to stockpile explosive materials near residential areas. 99.99% of the time, it's all safe and okay. Until that 0.01% when it blows up.

    Picture origin: http://www.ouest-france.fr/photos/2009/02/16/P932352D822856G_px_470__w_ouestfrance_.jpg; Ouest-France

     
  • More death and mayhem
    July 7th (usefully 7/7 in either date format), a London bus is blown up by terrorists.
    The Big Wave as cheesy media outlets that probably can't spell tsunami called it, came and went taking a lot of lives with it. A lovely Christmas holiday ends as an unforgettable horror... assuming you survived it.
    More terrorists. Mumbia. Glasgow. Do we see a trend developing yet?
     
    Not an act of terrorism, for a change. The decade started with the demise of Concord, a plane far ahead of its time with no rival. Now nothing but a memory. Well, here's a picture of this beautiful machine:

    Picture origin: http://www.jetshow.de/images/planes/fair97/concord.JPG; copyright Markus Haas

     
  • Whatever happened to...
    Madeleine McCann?
     
  • All that's wrong with Britain...
    Hug-a-hoodie, why can't homeowners defend themselves and their property against burglars?, Baby P, cash-for-questions, expenses row, BNP, WAGs, binge drinking, quangos...
     
    And now for something very pro-America. Go there (in person or Google street view) and you will see the American flag. Not on The White House, but everywhere. It is incredible. Houses, manicured lawns and picket fences, with a mini flagpole sticking out of the porch. Hanging the stars and stripes. They are proud to be Americans. Talk to an American, you should expect phrases such as "God's country" and "the greatest country on earth". They aren't being patronising, they truly believe this. Being American is a great source of pride.
     
    Meanwhile a black binman in Britain has been told he cannot wear a George's Cross bandana as he does his work because (actual quote) "it could be offensive and racist".
    The flag of England offensive and racist to a person living in said country?
    What the hell? I mean really - what the hell?
    I highlight his ethnicity as he is obviously going to be a screaming racist, right? Oh come on! He is non-native, having moved from Barbados in 1999. If an immigrant who likes his new country enough to want to wear the flag is slapped down for it, what hope the natives? Oh, the natives just think up these stupid rules and destroy anything that remains of the once-great country, while ensuring all the other natives have very little pride in what Britain has become... it seems as if the only ones actually trying to support pride in Britain are the BNP, and that's not saying a lot.
     
    I think this last example, the binman and his bandana, more than any of the others, screams how screwed up Britain is. F***ing stupid country.
     
    [picture origin: http://barbadosfreepress.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/barbados-british-matthew-carter-cross-ban.jpg; and he is now apparently wearing a Jolly Roger bandana without any complaints, how apt!]

 
 
Now, before we all kill ourselves out of depression, anger, or because it's better than facing the reality of a lot of this nonsense... let's look to some more positive things...
 
  • The rise of the ARM... (sorry, Geek@♥)
    The ARM processor has pretty much failed as a computer/desktop processor. It did wonders in the Archimedes where for a time it was heralded as the fastest desktop computer on the planet. But Acorn sat on their laurels and the various Intel incarnations passed it by. There are many rumours of what killed Phoebe, but personally I think the cold hard reality is that in comparison to the rest of the marketplace, it was woefully underspecified.
    The ARM failed in an Internet set top box. Again, the technology wasn't bad, but in 2002 we expect to see more than a 33.6kbps modem and a box that can't even do Flash and is saddled with a laughably useless implementation of SSL. The concept was good - take the digital set top box and simplify it for the masses. Unfortunately it was simplified to the point of being nearly useless.
    And, finally, the Iyonix. The last breath of a commercial ARM based desktop computer. Impressive hardware let down by its general lack of software and finally killed by the costs of applying for an RoHS certificate.
     
    The ARM, however, has been faring somewhat better. Licenced as an embedded technology, the ARM has turned up in all sorts of things - it's the perfect low-power capable processor for applications that run fixed firmware for a specific task. Examples? The Psion series 5 was built around one. Mobile phones. Printers. There's quite a list.
    This is well and good, for these applications have fixed manufacturer-written firmware. It is possible in many cases for user firmware, but this is by a defined mechanism - usually OPL for the Psion, and some version of Java for mobile phones.
     
    The unofficial word on the street is that Google's upcoming laptop project will feature an ARM. Running ChromeOS, this machine will attempt to remove the computer from the computer and turn it into a sort of user interface for "the Cloud", like your data is "out there" (somewhere). Those who think of Google as the Big Brother we wish we never met will probably be pushed to incontinence diapers over this concept. Google? Meet Privacy. Privacy? Hello? Yoo-hoo? Still there...?
     
    The point is, if this project really does contain an ARM, it will be a major coup for the company. For, well, the ARM is brilliant for embedded stuff, but as a mainstream OS-running platform it is lacking. Can we enjoy all the options of YouTube on any RISC OS machine, yet?
    This is what the populace will want from a wired computer. Twitter. YouTube. MySpace. And all that sort of rubbish. If the Google laptop can't deliver, it will sink.
    I am wondering how the video will be handled. For the record, a randomly selected 720p HD video downloaded from YouTube plays on the Asus eeePC 901 XP at around 95% speed when in normal processing mode. It might play at full speed if I switch to super high speed, but this is technically overclocking the Intel Atom processor. I'm not sure I'd fancy doing this for too long... Oh, and it must be played using VLC. Nothing else on the system recognises the video format. I'm a bit surprised MPlayer didn't, but I'm not the least bit surprised that Media Player choked...
     
    The ARM may have a chance to show off again? The only problems are: it certainly has some stiff competition, the battery lifetime of the eeePC running an Atom simply urinates all over most laptops on the market - you can watch movies for a lot of the rail journeys from Brittany to London. I know a guy who did! ☺ On any normal laptop, you'd get a movie. Maybe. Perhaps to Paris. Unless you were watching off a DVD, in which case the extra drain might not get you to the end credits of any of the Lord Of The Rings films. Can an ARM-based machine offer battery life to blow the eeePC out of the water?
    The other problem is that of software. There's an army of people writing stuff for the PC, whether this be Windows or some form of Linux. OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, MPlayer/MPUI, WinAMP, avast!, and so on. There is also a plethora of programming choices. Some commercial, some free. You can practically pick the language of your choice and find something. I Googled for a Pascal compiler, by way of example. This led me to http://www.freepascal.org/ with a system for many sorts of computer, including the ARM, but sadly no RISC OS! Point is, there's a lot available for the x86. Support for ARM is growing, and it seems most coders who discover the ARM assembly fall in love with it. It will need something fine to launch the ARM into the world as more than just a capable embedded processor, 'cos God knows Acorn didn't try hard enough!
     
    While we're at it, the open sourcing of RISC OS is a massively bold step. I'm sure if Google do make a cool laptop with an ARM heart, there will be more than just a couple of people looking to hack a RISC OS into the thing. If this looked like a real viability and the price was good, I'd seriously look to getting involved. Rekindle my geeky inclinations and atone for years of using Visual Basic! But we'd need all the RISC OS source code, so we can get this thing running from the ground up. It will be possible - just look at what's being done for the BeagleBoard. No doubt Google will think of this as a potential problem, but on the contrary, if it sells their machines...! I don't need another laptop, I have Azumi. If I can spend a couple of hundred and get a powerful machine that can run RISC OS, well, won't that take it into the next decade in style?
     
    Of course, you might wonder why I would want to support a dead operating system? The thing with RISC OS is that it was small, clean, and precise. Well, they cocked it up a bit with RISC OS 3.5, but the core of the system is pretty solid. I have learned and experimented and done all sorts with Visual Basic, even made some money out of my creations. I had fun with RISC OS. There's the difference.
     
  • The 44th President

    Picture origin: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery_img_full/image/image_file/P091609CK-0223.jpg; official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy
    While some hate him for his Health Care Reforms, make no mistake. Electing Barrack Obama into office was a huge step forward for America. It doesn't matter if he is useless, for having a person of colour in the oval office is no longer Morgan Freeman in a movie. It's real.
    But, American sentiment aside, perhaps Obama's crowning achievement is simply in not being yet another in a line of semi-power-crazed indignant ex-Army generals. Mom thinks America needs a man who has seen active service so he knows what to do in a crisis. I say balls. I say that Obama has pretty much softened several of the world's tensions. The stupid stupid "missile shield" in eastern Europe is nowt but a distasteful memory. The Cold War was on the verge of erupting again, but the new (non-dumb-redneck) President sorted out that mess. He is tied to the support of Israel and a lot of the Arabic world doesn't like Israel, so I don't see him sorting that one in any hurry. The future is hard to predict, so I think we should just reflect on Michael Moore's comment that a president needs the support of his people, and how good his term in office is depends on the people as much as him.
    But put it like this - it isn't another term of the Bush family. Or, perhaps better, it isn't Sarah Palin.
     
  • The end of Big Brother
    An innovative experiment descended into a parody of itself. The sheer pointlessness of this was highlighed at the reactions to the Goody/Shetty furore. I firmly believe that the programme should not be censored. If people are going to be dickheads, then let them be dickheads and show your approval by voting them the hell out. It's a live program of people... um... I switched to e4 one night to see what was on and I saw night vision footage of people sleeping. Seriously. Checking the EPG, this was on half the night. Half the damn night sad lonely losers that can't handle the reality of people making ill-informed racist comments will waste their pathetic little lives watching other people sleep. WTF?

    Picture origin: http://ilovereality.com/Bigbrother/Bb11/wp-content/uploads/bb071309.jpg
    That's the American one with streaming on-line video... but you get the idea.
    Perhaps Channel4 should launch DryingPaint.tv where you can watch paint dry, and on a website you can bid cash for somebody to stick their finger into the paint and write messages. Then the bits of plasterboard can be auctioned on eBay?
    Anyway, this is a Good Thing because the stupid programme is finally coming to an end...
     
  • Simon Cowell
    Yes, really.
    But you might wonder why I am saying the annoying bloke who has done a serious disservice to music on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean is a good thing. It is easy. A lot of the acts he supports do have some talent, but I feel the overriding factor in the decision is "who will make Mr. Cowell even more money?". Indeed, can you name all the past winners? Where are they now?
    The music industry complains of competition, piracy, and reduced sales for making it difficult to want to promote new groups and performers. Sadly they are missing the power of the Internet, thus making people such as Mr. Cowell big players in the industry. What they should do is take the songs of newbies, polish them a little, then release them cheaply online, like maybe 50p a song instead of 99p. Don't freak if the songs end up on YouTube. And push the songs to well-rated ShoutCast stations. Set up an "official" webpage with lyrics and an interview with the performer, and no fancy-but-useless graphical eye candy. All of this will likely be pennies compared to a normal advertising campaign. Those songs that don't capture the imagination won't go anywhere. Those that do will show their popularity. Cut a single CD. Look to making an album with that artist. But no, we have the carefully stage-managed Cowell productions looking for new talent...
     
    A campaign to neuter the eventually of the X-Factor winner being the British Christmas number one single (ugh, how sickmaking, there was a time when it was religious pap by Cliff Richard...) and that campaign was successful, with Rage Against The Machine (how apt!) gaining the coveted slot. There's a message in there.

    Picture origin: http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b351/MrClivver/Cliff02.jpg

     
    Me? I am looking elsewhere.
    Right now, Japan. There's some beautiful music, and some crazy music. Stuff with a totally different commercial outlook. Okay, it is unlikely to make it anywhere in the UK, what with some of the engrish being near incomprehensible, and the writing looking like nothing a generic Westerner would understand... but I've always gone for music that I liked the sound of even if I don't understand the words. It's not just Japanese. Mostly, yes, but there's Chinese, Korean, Russian...
    Alan; picture origin: http://www.jay-han.com/images/jpop/alan.jpgOriga; picture origin: http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/_/33879/ORIGA.jpg
    Alan and Origa; for picture origins, let pointer linger over image for caption.

     
    Now there are those who say the music scene is well alive. They point to all sorts of minority bands. Perhaps if you're in the student scene you can find out about these bands virally. What about the rest of us? We can look out the interesting "Górecki" by Lamb and find out that they think it is a bit commercial, with the rest of their music being more difficult to follow. But if they made it big, how long would that attitude last? The Cure were pretty good until the early 90s when we all had Cure shirts and stuff. Then they sucked. Limp Bizkit were an interesting "numetal" band (though not really my thing) until they went commercial with the rather sucky Mission Impossible 2 theme. They might have recovered with a brilliant parody piece entitled "Rollin'", only... it wasn't a parody.
     
    So instead of finding little known good performers and watch them eventually suck, I will look for active performers that don't suck. A much better outcome, no?
     
    Picture origins: Lamb - http://www.alwaysontherun.net/lamblive1.jpg
    Limp Bizkit - http://www.mtv.com/shared/media/news/images/l/Limp_Bizkit/sq-limp-durst-rolling-smack-int.jpg

 

Well, Happy New Year! ☺

I shall leave you with a girl called Momoko speaking engrish. Can you say cute? Can you? Can you?
This has been a brutal and essentially tactless b.log entry. I hope like hell I don't have to sum up another decade like this one. But, it's gone the New Year as I write these final words. So stuff the old decade, let's have something really sweet for the start of the new one. Here's Momoko...

 

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Mick, 2nd January 2010, 23:17
A very interesting read Mr HeyRick! If -only- it was the end of big brother. The Scum reakons Vinnie Jones and Gazza may star in the next celeb one. I suppose we should be grateful it don't last long as celebs are just too busy to hang around? On the subject of bad things over the decade, you missed out the ammendment to the "Proceeds of Crime" act. You remember, where the council can now break your door down and take your goods for failure to pay a parking fine. All this without your day in court. Oh, and 3 quarters of the London Councils deemed the 26th of December to not really be boxing day so many folk received parking tickets. The bank holiday was on the Monday! Funny that all the libraries and council tips and town halls were were closed on that day. Everybody had the day off... well except the parking attendants. PS. You should of done this over the 12 days of Christmas, instead of in 1 hit! :-) PS. Seeing as I couldn't send this yesterday, I heard today this is the last celeb BB! Hurray!!!Time to bring back the more entertaining test card and music. I expect a reply comment to this Mr Hey! Why all those subjects were conensed into one. Had they been spread over, this senile git may have been able to remember to comment on more.
Rick, 3rd January 2010, 00:57
Hey Mick! You could always read a bit and when you have something to say, whizz down to the bottom to make a comment?

It was written all in one entry as it was an end-of-decade recap and while this decade has had its good moments (like leaving England <smirk!>), all in all I think it's been a pretty crap ten years for the planet. Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, when we all bullshit each other about how much we like each other, and we're so needy 'cos it is cold and dark and you feel like murdering the next fake Santa you see, that you buy into the lies. So to spread this dismal recap across the twelve days of Christmas would be... well... evil.

Totally agree with the testcard. They should run the See-Hear programme and then play the testcard until the morning... except on BBC Two where we're treated to pages of Ceefax. Yes, Ceefax. I mean it. 40x25 in eight colours and ridiculously naff graphics is a lot better than a lot of programming on at those hours. Hell, I'd maybe be pursuaded to watch the final Big Brother if we had a little program to on-the-fly map the screen into a teletext representation. You know, like ASCII art, only nerdier. ☺

I cannot comment on the council's parking ticket scam. I should be surprised. I should be shocked. I should make people's profanity filters bluescreen as I turn the air blue(screen)... but somehow I just can't muster up the effort do anything more than shrug and say "yeah, kinda expected that". What did I say about the people of Britain being screwed over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over?
(no, I didn't cut and paste, I actually typed that, it was cathartic)

Rick, 3rd January 2010, 15:43
For a rather intelligent (though somewhat anti-American seeming) BBC roundup of what Time magazine referred to "The decade from hell", pop on over to http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/world_news_america/8429327.stm

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