Discovered an odd web site today named Jesus Dress Up. Weirdly this site is second to come up in Google after Wikipedia if you type in the word Jesus. The site must have a very good web master. The guy has an invitation to Email him in the bottom right hand corner and I imagine he has received some fairly excited emails.
Have been in London for a couple of days. Highbury looking beautiful with blossom on all the trees and the daffodils in bloom. Arsenal football stadium is Amazing. Bicycles everywhere. Down the West End, China Town crammed with delivery vans in the morning and in Sloane Square an old woman feeds the pigeons while an ancient Harrods electric delivery van trundles past, the driver sporting a grey top hat.
An enormous horses head sculpture by Nic Fiddian-Green now stands at Marble Arch and walking back along Oxford Street I looked for the first time at the extravagant sculpture over the doors of Selfridges which seems based on a nautical motif. On Tottenham Court Road a queue formed for the new iPad2 at PC World.
Later, in the evening, the Cafe Oto in Dalston had some kind of music event underway but the bloke on the door wanted £12 so I declined and continued on to The Prince George which, to my delight, had Neil Young’s Words on the juke box.
On Saturday morning I noticed that the top of Charing Cross Road has been closed off for work on the London Underground. A lot of work going on there.
In Trafalgar Square the Fourth Plinth currently supports a large ship in a bottle. At around 11am people gathered as for the anti-cuts demonstration and a group of women from the Association of Child Psychotherapists sort of put the cuts into perspective.
Further toward Victoria, in St James Park, the squirrels are practically tame and leap onto the railings to beg for food. Once they receive something they rush away to bury their little treasure in the flower beds.
The crisis continues at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan and today the authorities raised the alert level to 5.
Energy is a problem. The modern world depends on it and obtaining enough of it is difficult and dangerous. Modern economies evolved when energy was cheap and plentiful and energy use comparatively limited. Today the demand for energy is growing and we have no clear idea of how this can be sustained.
Safe alternatives to fossil and nuclear power such as wind, solar and wave are available but the critics claim that these are not enough.
But not enough for what?
It may be true that sustainable energy would not be enough for our society as it is today. Not enough for us to drive our big cars at 70 mph and wreck the countryside. Not enough for a society that insists that it has the right to fly to anywhere on the face of the earth in under a day and then expects facilities identical to those at their departure point. Not enough for a society so materialistic that it cannot cope with the rubbish it produces.
Imagine the world prior to the rise of technology. Imagine a developer expounding the benefits of a hyper-consumerist society such as ours and presenting a vision of such a society. The south of England to be covered in tarmac and traffic. The workforce to sit in uniform air-conditioned factory offices for 8 hours a day getting so little exercise that they are forced to drag themselves to a gym in the evening. Three hour commuting times. Every unique and beautiful location in every city to be surrounded by fast food outlets and frequented by strangers from the other side of the world. From The Houses of Parliament to the Spanish Steps to Patong Beach, all to have their character stripped and replaced with shops selling mugs with pictures portraying how it used to be before commercialisation. Ko Samui becomes Blackpool and our cities become caricatures of themselves.
Now throw in climate change and nuclear accidents and ask yourself would we have bought into this vision if it had been presented to us a hundred years ago?
Given the choice, would we have given up local natural beauty for two weeks holiday a thousand miles away? Would we have given up the character of our local towns and cities for electric windows, flat screen TV and birth defects that nobody talks about?
Are a people ever allowed to develop their own vision of the future or are we slaves to our baser needs for more food, more wealth and more than everyone else? Can we not look up from the trough for a minute to consider where we are going?
Our hyper commercialised system encourages production and consumption above all else. It builds in obsolescence so perfectly that incredible works of technical genius become obsolete after four years not because they are not useful or fail to function but because the manufacturer needs to keep selling more to ensure that the corporate machine continues to function. A whole industry termed marketing has emerged to encourage us to consume and everywhere we look there are adverts.
We sigh and consider that this is all normal. Bollocks it is! Our hyper-commercialised economies have existed for less than a hundred years.
This age will pass.
The question is: what will replace it?
We need to think about where our society should be going. To address climate change we need to change society as a whole and this change can be beneficial but first we need a vision of the future.
Changing society is scorned by the hyper-consumerist tendency. It is condemned as “social engineering” and anti-libertarian. Yet the starting point of all corporate bureaucracy is the “vision statement”. A vision of the future is created and this is followed by a strategy and plans. Democratic governments are then bribed and bullied into facilitating this vision. So we have social engineering already but the driver is profit.
We need to stop fooling ourselves that we can continue to consume and waste while avoiding climate change and nuclear accidents. We need to grow up and take responsibility.
A good start would be a clear vision of our future which is fundamentally different from the hyper-commercialised, energy greedy society which is promoted by the vested interests such as global corporations and lobby group dominated governments.
Critics will argue that society advances randomly and organically rather than in any organised fashion and of course it does. But whenever the human race has achieved anything of worth it has been accompanied by a clear vision that has been shared by the participants. In the 60s and 70s the first series of Star Trek was screened and this promoted idealism, individuality, humanity and optimism. I have always believed that this was the vision that underpinned the moon landings.
The vision which is portrayed in our media at the start of the 21st century is more Blade Runner than Star Trek. When people do envision a sustainable society they think of earth toilets, marijuana and very little soap. The details of these visions are unimportant. When Martin Luther King had a dream it did not include every legal decision taken in the civil rights struggle. When Churchill spoke of broad sunlit uplands he didn’t mention a national health service. If there is one thing we can say for certain about the future it is that all the predictions will be wrong. Star Trek, Blade Runner and absence of soap are all visions of the future which will not come to pass.
So why have a vision at all? We need a vision, not as a goal, but as a guide. If we develop a shared vision of how our civilisation could live in a sustainable way then we can start making intelligent and thoughtful decisions on working our way toward that vision. Without the vision we merely flounder around grasping at anything which is not responsible for the current disaster. Witness governments around the world turning on a sixpence and becoming sceptical about nuclear power.
So how do we develop such a vision? I suggest that we need speculative fiction. We need novels, movies and TV which portray alternative ways of living.
Hang on, I have an idea for a story………
This week we heard that TV producer Brian True-May has been suspended after being accused of racist comments relating to the ITV series Midsummer Murders. It seems that Brian True-May does not include racial minorities in this program as he does not think it would work. His supposed racism seems to boil down to the following comments:
- “last bastion of Englishness”
- “We are a cosmopolitan society in this country, but if you watch Midsummer you wouldn’t think so”
- “Maybe I’m not politically correct.”
- “We just don’t have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn’t be the English village with them. It just wouldn’t work.”
- “I’m trying to make something that appeals to a certain audience, which seems to succeed. And I don’t want to change it.”
Does this make him a racist?
One might also complain that the series includes no commuters, seems to over emphasise murder when this is a comparatively rare crime and that most of the programs take place in summer. I am no fan of Midsummer Murders, I find it boring and I don’t watch it. Though I can see the attraction of small English villages I am no special fan of them. I think that life in one might be rather dull. However, I recognise that some people, especially older people, find this program enjoyable.
Mutli-culturalism and tolerance are about acceptance of difference.
Yes, Midsummer Murders portrays a silly romanticised version of English village life. So what? It’s fiction! Do we really believe that East Enders is an honest portrayal of East London? Are we to ban Miss bloody Marple for being unrealistic? Do we really want a society where producers are forced to ensure that each program has a scientifically selected cross section of British society? Should the program also have quotas for the young, the old, the disabled? What about council flats and hoodies?
What sickens me with this sort of thing is the way the lame minded jump on the band wagon and repeat the accusation of racism like some McCarthyist witch hunt. Once someone is accused the pack falls on them and tears them to pieces. This evening a self riotous comedian named Lloyd Langford appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Now Show and joined in the abuse. It seems to be a trend with comedians that they resort to supposed-anti-racist hate speeches to get the audience on their side and of course the audience all laugh as nobody wants to appear racist. It seems to me that trampling a man’s reputation for laughs is a cheap and despicable tactic.
I have never heard of Brian True-May until this week and have no idea if he has racist tendencies or not. I do know that producing a fictional TV show based on a traditional and romanticised portrayal of an English village is not racist and that indulging in groundless accusations of racism is bigoted prejudice.
People used to say that nationalism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. Now it seems that prejudice is the first fall back of comedians.
Just found some stimulating art from Perth Arts Festival 2011 by Zenbullets who apears to be a Brightonian who works with computers to produce something which he calls “Generative Art”. In fact it seems he has a book named Generative Art: A Practical Guide Using Processing. Some good stuff there.
Wandering toward Brighton this morning through some back-streets near the Robin Hood I stumbled across a shop full of old clocks. Grandfathers and mantelpieces mainly. Some fantastic objects in here. It seems that it’s Oliver Brian’s place on Cross Street. Sales & repair of clocks & Watchs I am reliably informed.
Today the BBC carried a story by their Home Affairs correspondent, Danny Shaw, about a document which they had obtained from the Metropolitan Police with a Freedom of Information Request. The document was the plan which the police had prepared for the tuition fee protests which took place in London some months ago and which got out of hand.
The BBC article serves only to ridicule the author of the report for poor grammar and spelling and for having the temerity to include some mild levity in the text. The article sneers at misspelling and phrases such as “cunning plan”, “embussed” as well as vague witticisms such as the sentence “Ideally we want to be able to use our carriers (vans) again in the future”.
The United Kingdom has submerged itself in corporate newspeak over the past decade with management consultants charging over the odds to write documents which are perfect when judged for spelling, grammar, syntax, formatting, colour coding and branding but which say nothing and serve no purpose.
Well done BBC, I fully expect that the author of this plan will be reprimanded and stopped from writing documents “going forward”. Instead we can expect that, at great expense, the Met will employ some twit in a suit to write a plan full of perfect platitudes and the sum total of human happiness will have been knocked down a couple of notches.
It is OK to make spelling mistakes. The written word came before the dullards who collated the rules. It is OK to bend and distort grammar on occasions. It is OK to include a bit of levity and to use some inventive terminology. Even if one disagrees with all of this, it is definitively OK for a person employed for his policing abilities to have a sense of humour and not be a grammatical pedant.
On the morning when we woke up to a Tsunami in the Pacific and civil war in Libya the BBC reported that some plod was using poor spelling and grammar. Here’s a better story: The BBC are reporting the bleeding obvious as news!
I attended an Oracle seminar on Cloud Computing last week at a hotel opposite St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. These events are a little grim as the marketing types have ensured that, once you enter the Oracle area, all sensory data received screams “Oracle are TRENDY” at you. From the colour scheme and the logos to the bloody awful music which appeared to have been selected by a teenager asked to play something he thought reminded him of computers.
Oracle’s main theme is that they are developing an overarching framework to provide cloud computing based around Exabyte and Exadata. They’re marketing can’t have been that good as I forget which is which but part of their offering is hardware tailored to virtualization and part is software tailored to provide systems which can be set up and taken down quickly.
Good, good, Excellent, excellent!
It got me thinking.
I suggest that server visualisation is the result of the failure of the Operating System (OS) to do its job. These days we tend to think of the OS as a fancy interface with windows which open and close and make nice noises. However, this is just a “shell”. It is the bit that talks to the user. The reason for an OS to exist is to abstract the hardware from the user and the applications. It is to allow developers to write in high level languages rather than machine code.
Another point of a modern OS is to provide interrupt driven slices of time to each application in a way that makes the application appear to be running continuously on a processor. Also to isolate each process so that if one fails it does not take down the rest.
All OS vendors spent a lot of time convincing us that they had achieved this. However, over the past ten years or so it has become common practice, especially with Windows systems, to place only one application on each system. The OS had failed to reliably isolate application and people did not trust Windows enough to allow two critical apps to share the same system. This led to a proliferation of underutilized servers.
VMware, as we all know, allows many physical boxes to appear like one big box and for this big box to appear like many smaller boxes. The effect is that we can run numerous “virtual machines” on one big physical machine that is itself made up of numerous smaller physical machines. This is useful as it allows fault tolerance and the ability to add capacity easily. It also isolates each system from the other without the necessity to add hardware for each new system and allows better management of hardware resources. In short it is more efficient.
So, the band wagon had started rolling and on jumped everyone in sight creating their own systems for virtualization. Of course Oracle are up there with the best of them. At least, they claim that they are, I should point out that many presentations at the Oracle minar included am early slide stating that some of the features shown were currently still under development. We need not worry, their tasks is really one of tidying up and bolting everything together.
So, where are we now or where will we be once Oracle’s vision materialises?
We will be in a world where resources such as storage and networking are managed, not by the OS but by the Database engine or the virtualization software. A world of centralised functionality such as single sign on and file sharing.
What then is the role of the OS?
It may be that the OS has no role on the server side at all. Oracle already have a version of their relational database which runs directly on their virutalization software. Further, with desktop virtualization and gadgets like the iPad infringing on the desktop/laptop space it may be that we’re in for a shake up there too.
If you have Microsoft shares, sell them.
Around 1995 PCs were hot and now they’re not. We still use PCs or Macs and we still rely on them but we have to start asking why? Most new shared applications are written with a web front end so we can access them with any gadget with a web browser. For example we could just use our mobile phones.
Though this is true we may still feel that we need the size of a laptop or desktop screen and keyboard and so feel forced to use both a smartphone and a PC.
This can’t last much longer. A bit of hunting around the web reveals that it is possible to connect a large screen and a full size keyboard to your iPhone. So why not just have a big screen and a keyboard on our desks and plug our iPhone in when we want to do some full size work? Why have even own a PC?
Microsoft must be very worried and perhaps their last chance is the recently announced tie up with Nokia. Even if this partnership is a success it’s doubtful that we will see a return to one OS dominating. Microsoft have had their day.
Janet Street Porter had a go at Talking Bollocks in yesterday’s Independent. She termed it “Official Bollocks”and correctly identified the New Labour charlatans as a primary cause of this phenomena. Lately it seems to me that the one tangible thing that New Labour left behind is an ocean of bullshit. Talking Bollocks is one manifestation of this but lately I have started to realise it goes further. The weird consultancy led bollocks speak has led to miles of official documentation which achieves nothing. Targets, standards, policies, procedures – you name it, under New Labour business was taught that it was vital if they were to become “World Class’ (another bit of bullshit). Vision statements, frameworks and roadmaps were duly created. But all this bollocks requires people who are extraordinarily boring and unimaginative to write it and tart it up to look smart. Who could we possibly get to do it? Of course, Tony’s old friends the business consultants. So in they came, charged everyone an arm and a leg to create this mind numbing garbage and off they went with a bag full of cash. The written bollocks was then stored on a file server somewhere never to be accessed again.
Hypocrisy seems to be high on everyone’s list since the rebellions started in the middle east. The media have been reporting that the great and the good have been fraternising with defunct Arab establishments.
First Sir Howard Davies resigned as director of the London School of Economics because of a connection with the, now out of favour, Gaddafi regime and now we discover that Prince Andrew has “entertained” a leading member of the deposed Tunisian dictatorship at Buckingham Palace
Yes, from what I can gather Muammar Gaddafi is a shit. Yes, he has been ruthless and abominable in his dealings with the Libyan people. But hold on, don’t we know some other people like that. Didn’t Tony Blair invite Chinese president Jiang Zemin on his first satte visit to a Western country? Didn’t the New Labour government arrange for three white transit vans to shield Jiang Zemin’s eyes from people in the UK protesting against the despicable treatment of the Tibetan people by the Chinese regime?
I am not saying that we should not do business with the Chinese. It’s too late for that now.
What the West needs is less grand standing on human rights and more disciplined rules on engagement with undemocratic regimes. Democracy should be understood as a great prize. Experience in democratic countries has shown that it is something which is difficult to achieve and requires constant vigilance to maintain. It is not something that we can order a nation to introduce overnight. It needs time to grow and mature.
So we should not go around the world condemning every regime which does not measure up to Western standards of democracy. We should, however, encourage democracy and prefer democratic regimes over authoritarian regimes.
A good start would be for democracies to agree to refuse to grant Most Favoured Nation trading status to undemocratic regimes.
In the words of Elvis: A little less conversation and a little more action.