Thursday 31 January 2013

Got an iPhone - been on Google?

In a landmark legal action, a group of Apple customers in the UK are suing Google for deliberately snooping on them, after Google despite setting their iPhone security to say they did not want to be tracked.

You can find out more and join the legal action Here

The much publicised Safari tracking episode resulted in a $22.5 million dollar fine from the FTC in America, however no penalty has been handed out by the UK’s Information Commissioner. (In February 2012, the UK's Information Commissioner's Office announced they were investigating whether or not Google had broken UK law - specifically the Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations but to date have failed to take any enforcement action against Google.) When consumers see their private data being harvested on an industrial scale, with little reaction from the UK regulators, it is little wonder that they react by taking legal proceedings into their own hands.


Spooky or what?

You may call it co-incidence, however I still think its a bit spooky.... I wrote a posting a few days ago about David Attenborough and Human Conservation Click Here

Yesterday I had a follow up comment left on the blog from Kath on Nb Bobcat. The comment made reference to the biblical flood and Noah. It seems that the powerhouse that is Joanna Lumley the actress had done the narration on a program about the possible origin of the flood.

Kath said "The story was investigated (by Joanna Lumley - well she narrated it) and it goes back to very early times in the Hindu religion (which is the oldest) I hesitate to put in the earliest references but I think around 5000BC. Also appears in Islam and many others. There was definitely a Great Flood and the name Noah appears in various guises. Interesting program."
I had just replied "Hi Kath, I seemed to have missed the wonderful Joanna Lumley on the flood. Her talents have been tested over the years. Progressing from model to straight actress through comedy to voice overs and champion of the Gurkha's of Nepal. I will never forget the fear in the eyes of Phil Woolas the government minister when she mugged him in front of the cameras. If one actress should be made a dame then its JL. Now, who is going to get into an argument with her - certainly not me."

Bing! goes my laptop to let me know an email has arrived in my email system. When I checked my inbox it was an email from Joanna Lumley - I was gob smacked! I knew she was good, but I never thought that she was that good. It was an email from Compassion in World Farming. Joanna is lending her considerable influence to the cause of animal welfare in farming.

Dear Michael, Thank you so much for taking action on, calling for the urgent introduction of an EU Dairy Cow Welfare Directive. Every email that the European Commission receives reinforces the need for this vital new law to protect farm animals. Thank you for giving a voice to dairy cows!
You are remarkable because you have spoken out on behalf of millions of animals with no voice of their own. And you are remarkable because, by taking action like this alongside Compassion in World Farming, you really can change lives. Here are just a few examples of how Compassion’s supporters have made a real difference for farm animals:
Veal crates - banned
Thanks to Compassion campaigners, it has been illegal in the EU to rear calves in narrow, restrictive crates since 2007.Persistence and determination brought about this important legislation – first in the UK and then across Europe.
Barren battery cage - banned
Against all the odds, our campaigners helped secure the ban on barren battery cages for laying hens right across the EU.This ban, which came into force in January 2012, has been hailed by many as the single biggest victory for animal welfare in recent history.
Sow looking through bars
Following intense campaigning from Compassion, keeping pregnant sows in narrow sow stalls after the first four weeks of pregnancy, became illegal in the EU in January 2013. We are now working tirelessly to ensure that all 27 member states fully comply with this ban so that millions of pigs have the chance of a better life.
With your help Compassion will defend these victories in our fight to end factory farming, and our next great achievement for farm animal welfare will not be far away.
Spread the free-range message even further with your FREE compassionate window sticker!

As a compassionate campaigner we’d like to send you a FREE sticker to display in the window of your car, house or even your office. There are two stickers to choose from. To request your sticker, simply click on your choice below:
"Compassion in World Farming has done an amazing job in achieving real change for millions of farm animals."

Joanna Lumley OBE

I told you it was spooky... But its also a wonderful cause - why not lend your support.


Wednesday 30 January 2013

Nursing Home TV!

A few of you might be having problems of déjà vu, from reading this. It comes from the French, for literally "already seen." Déjà vu is the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event currently being experienced has been experienced in the past. That's because I pressed the publish button instead of the save button whilst editing the posting. So for about half an hour the part completed posting was published before being retracted.

Now, where was I, ah yes....

I must have had a bad dose of narrowboat cabin fever. A few days ago in a petulant fit of boredom, I turned on "Nursing Home TV."  This is the television output on the vast majority of the digital channels that are programmed for broadcast in the afternoon entertainment slot. As I flicked around it was like travelling back in time. However, I was amazed and taken aback because time had been so bad on on of the steam driven television pioneers. With a more youthful if equally repugnant Berk as is Jeremy Clarkson. There he was "Jezza" complete with acne and the beginnings of a monster chip on his shoulder. Hair like a kitchen scourer and a face like a slapped arse. In all fairness there was not much change other than less grey hair and a deathly pallor. I always though he had missed his calling with the demise of the Hammer House of Horrors!

So I pressed the button on the controller again. It was an edition of Time Team which was recorded much closer to the Romano British era in time, than it is to the present day. There were experts complete with hair and the production crew were obviously still perfecting their down the cleavage shots of Carenza, the token female. I actually like this sort of ground breaking (pun intended) program. Baldrick was his usual cynical self but seemed to be just out of nappies. Phil Harding looked just as old as he does today, as did his surgically removable hat. Plus the resident prof was having his usual bad hair and jumper day. The gadget man was as effusing as ever about the wrong sort of everything. Whilst Stuart the walkabout man, sensibly was keeping away from the throng by going on walkabout. 

So I pressed the button on the controller once again. This time I was availed by a  fly on the wall (pun intended) Environmental Health Department -v- Asian restaurant owner, who was being checked over for public health reasons. There were live rabbits in cages in the kitchen. Such a pretty kitchen, that it has to be said, had been tastefully decorated with a lifetime of chip fat and other such grime. The inspectors first kitted themselves with germ warfare barrier suits and body cavity searching heavy duty rubber gloves. Then came the respirator, before going delving into the various cupboards. As the light entered the cupbords the mice and cockroaches made a dash for safety. There were however many casualties old and new. Some even seemed to have been trampled underfoot for a quite a while.

Curmudgeon CommentThen it happened the jaw dropping moment. The inspector told the staff that "there were a few problems with cleanliness." WTF! This inspector could have worked for CaRT for his championship level of understatement. 

The restaurant which had once been a three star (Michelin?) establishment had now been rated at "zero stars" and that the staff had been recommended for training in basic life skills. Which was to be followed by hand washing after first mastering potty training. Expecting that the sewer restaurant would be closed down as a danger to the health of cockroaches and mice. Plus being declared a bio hazard to the health and well-being of humanity. I was gob smacked when the inspector (who looked like an overweight version of Larry Grayson) said they could carry on the business. And by way of a warning, he said that an inspector would be back in three weeks to do another check. That will teach them a lesson!

Any sane individual would automatically shut down any food outlet scoring "zero stars." Not only that you would have expected them to call out the fire brigade a couple of days later. Just to damp down the embers after the clean up conflagration had finished its job. I figured with all the oil, fat and other organic combustibles that the building had been coated in. It could easily take a couple of days for the flames to go out. Just how bad does it have to get to close one of these establishments down?

I wonder what's for tea - anyone up for a takeaway Ruby Murry?


Tuesday 29 January 2013

The long haired short toothed approach.

When the waterways were within the remit of British Waterways, most people were well aware of the gathering storm clouds and gloom towards the end of BW's tenure. Due in the main to a piss poor performance from a dire choice of investments. Divesting some of the family jewels, but most of all the deliberate underfunding of repairs and maintenance.

After donning the new clothes (after the bonfire of quangos) the old British Waterways team became the wonderful sounding but quickly tarnishing Canal and Rivers Trust. In the run up to the change, it was a bit like looking forward to the excitement in the aftermath of the governments quango bonfire night. In this case however, bonfire night arrived under a cloud and it was cold and wet. The much looked forward to display of fireworks proved to be a box full of damp squibs. Back to the deliberate underfunding of repairs and maintenance. 

There has been much wringing of hands and epic levels of frustration over the first few months. To mark the arrival of an almost stillborn trust. If you wanted to send the inland waterways into a spiral of despair, you could not have made a better choice than reusing the old boardroom fixtures and fittings from the BW fire sale. 

So lets list some of the achievements so far:
Salem going.
Evans going.

Ok lets now move on to the cock-ups so far:
Some of the high watermarks in cock-up, included poetry on lock gates. With various figures of cost being bandied around. Yet, the bottom line was that the "long haired" poetry would somehow reflect the history of the canals. However the real history of the canals is locked up in its infrastructure. The old canal builders and proprietors were dour pragmatic folk looking for a profit. They would be no more likely to carve poetry on a lock beam than they would to give their employees a day off with pay.

This was followed up by the "short toothed" muesli eaters. If ever there was proof in the pudding of the poor performance of muesli. It came with the constipation that caused the bay of pigs "boat of trees" fiasco. Once more another incredulous idea of staggering and epic proportions. Fill a rusty boat with trees and bugger the costs. In the belief that it will bring visitors to the towpath in droves. With combined funding by CaRT and the Arts Council England of £50,000, with the Arts Council contributing £9,000. However, in a last of the summer wine type farce. The first problem encountered was met by exclamations of "whoops" because the boat and trees can't get under the nearby bridges. So we returned once more to quango night and promptly burn the evidence.

This was followed by the launch of a fund "to repair a breach of the Trent & Mersey Canal" To a fanfare and much chest thumping. The long haired short toothed gang launched an appeal to raise 1.5 million pounds. A few well wishers initially threw money into the funding black hole. The rest were quite reticent to add to the coffers. The fanfare and much chest thumping was soon muted. Then arrived the deafening silence. By November the appeal had almost reached £15,000 which has rapidly risen in the last two months to get to a very handy £18,000 which is less than 1% of what is needed to cover the costs.

Curmudgeon CommentThe appeal is due to run until Easter 2013. Which will fall this year on an appropriate 1st of April. Now as I write it is the 25th of January 2013. That gives 66 days to raise the rest at a rate of £22,454.54 per day. So to save the red faces of the the long haired short toothed gang, can you please dig deep into your pocket. Just had a thought - I wonder how much the the long haired short toothed gang have donated into the pot?


Monday 28 January 2013

Human conservation.

I love watching conservationist David Attenborough on television. Especially the new "Africa" series. I find David to be very easy listening and he narrates a good story. He has long been the guru of conservation especially after the death of sir Peter Scott. David has spent so many years on television that everyone in the world recognises his voice never mind his face. 

I have had a lifetime interest in conservation and so I suppose I meld with him on much of what he says. Though he has been benighted Sir David OM, CH, CVO, CBE, FRS, FZS, FRA also seems to prefer to be known as just plain David Attenborough. This I think is another one of his more endearing traits.

David Attenborough and a long list others including Partha Dasgupta, Paul Ehrlich, Shreela Flather, Jane Goodall, John Guillebaud, Susan Hampshire, James Lovelock, Aubrey Manning, Norman Myers, Chris Packham, Sara Parkin, Lionel Shriver, Crispin Tickell and Jonathan Porritt have between them more qualifications and recognitions for services to conservation and mankind than you could shake the proverbial stick at! But not only that, they are all patrons of the Optimum Population Trust.

In a recent interview in the Radio Times, David suggested that humans as a species are a plague on the environment. “We are a plague on the Earth, It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us and the natural world is doing it for us right now." 

Curmudgeon CommentThis is pretty strong stuff from Attenborough. I am minded of another David - conservationist David Bellamy. Who the BBC froze out because he held what was considered by the Beeb to be an extreme view. He did not and still does not believe in global warming.

Outspoken as ever, David Bellamy revealed why you don't see him on TV any more. Because he dismissed man-made global warming as "poppycock" in 2004. The BBC stopped giving him work and his career dried up as a result. David says global warming campaigners spat at him in street and sent him "paedophile" hate mail. It said: “David Bellamy is a paedophile because he doesn't believe in global warming and is killing our children. It’s just nonsense. For the last 16 years, temperatures have been going down and the carbon dioxide has been going up and the crops have got greener and grow quicker. We've done plenty to smash up the planet, but there’s been no global warming caused by man."

To read more Click Here

David Attenborough and the long list of worthies that make the Optimum Population Trust are therefore proposing that there should be limits in place to control human populations. Alternatively, its going to be a bleak future and that nature will - as she has done it before (remember the black plague) will do it for us instead! 

Modern estimates suggest half of Europe's population was wiped out before the first incarnation of the plague disappeared in the 700s after killing up to 100 million people. Major epidemic diseases did not appear again in Europe until the plague we call the Black Death of the 14th century arrived. The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350, and killing up to a further 100 million people. All in all, the plague reduced the world population from an estimated 450 million to around 350 million in the 14th century. The aftermath of the plague created a series of religious, social and economic upheavals which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took another 150 years for Europe's population to recover. Mother nature can be quite extreme in correcting population imbalances. If Plague is a cyclic event, then one is due along sometime soon! If you broaden the scope a bit then the 1918-20 flu pandemic was an unusually deadly influenza outbreak which infected 500 million people across the world, including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic and killed up to 50 million.

This talk of plagues is pretty heavy stuff, coming on the back of the furore about global climate change, which has taken over as the watch word for global warming. Just as there are proponents for and against global warming. There are proponents for and against population control. One of the biggest players against population control is of course the Catholic Church and its teachings. Batting for the other team are the Chinese, who as a nation have had laws in place to limit their own population growth for many years.

So what is the scale of the problem: As recently as the 1930's which is well within our parents or our grandparents youth. World population was some two billion compared with the seven billion living on the planet now. Absolute numbers are still rising at a rate of one and a half million every week.

In the UK each driver comes with its own problems. Annual population growth is the result of two main factors: natural increase, through more births than deaths and net migration, more immigrants than emigrants. These two alone would divide the population on ethical and moral grounds. Someone a while ago once said "The meek shall inherit the earth." I believe that the meek have already fulfilled that prediction. The meek majority however, meekly stand and do nothing about the rapacious minority. A minority that are fuelling the conservation and population conflagration. Change is going to be very difficult to bring about.

There are many challenges facing mankind over the next fifty to a hundred years or so. The Earth itself is a finite resource. Mankind has brought-about many changes and not always for altruistic reasons. I believe that all have had one driver, and that is economics. Rain forests are cleared for timber and growing oil palm for big businesses. Oil prospecting in ecologically sensitive parts of the world and the devastation that can be wreaked. Plus hundreds of other issues such as nuclear proliferation into ideological regimes. A general lack of women’s rights in the world and continuing poverty. It does not bode well for our children's future. Especially if they like us also meekly stand about and do nothing. We are not setting them a good example.


Sunday 27 January 2013

Want to spy on innocent strangers?

  • Bored with nothing to do?
  • Do you like to watch Big Brother?
  • Have a few perverted interests?
  • Would you enjoy secretly watching, completely innocent strangers on CCTV?

Then I have found the perfect website for you!

No its not the IWA and its not CaRT either.

There is a UK website that allows you to monitor CCTV footage of innocent strangers. The expansion of the website in to the Australian "market" means that internet users 12,000 miles away can also access the footage from 200 cameras which are based in the UK. So for the Australian insomniacs and voyeurs tossing themselves awake in the middle of the night. The "service" for that is what it is called is offered by Cornwall based company Internet Eyes. The company has around 8,000 subscribers who pay £1.99 a month or £15.00 for a year, allowing them to watch 10 minutes of footage at a time and to make five alerts a month when they believe they have spotted a crime. One stipulation of the subscription is that users are unable to monitor footage from cameras within 30 miles of their own location. However, to encourage insomniacs and voyeurs prizes are offered of up to £250 a month for people who successfully detect shoplifting or other crimes taking place. 

The website is a sad indictment of how out of control the British obsession with CCTV has become. Also, given the fact that users don’t know where the camera they are watching is located, it’s also impossible for them to raise an alarm with the police direct. Clearly, this is sort of website is a deviant’s dream, giving armchair snoopers the ability to sit and watch CCTV footage from across the country at their leisure. The people watching these cameras have no training, no legal oversight and have to pay to use the service. We should be asking ourselves what kind of person volunteers to spend their time watching CCTV cameras some of which are placed in shops they have no connection with. All in the vague hope of winning a prize? It’s a pointless and perverted system that puts privacy at risk and it is baffling as to whether it is even legal.

When Big Brother Watch reported on the launch of the Internet Eyes snooping scheme in three outlets of Budgens in Norfolk. The shop owner has since seen sense and stopped using the system barely a week later after receiving a number of complaints from his regular customers.
Jinx Hundal said: “The last thing I wanted to do was upset my customers. I have spoken to customers via our customer forum and there have been concerns raised, with customers saying they were uneasy about being viewed by members of the public. I made a mistake and I am genuinely sorry for that.”
This is a positive step away from doing a Ratner. Shop owners will not want the negative publicity associated with a system allowing strangers to spy on everyday customers for financial gain. Remember Gerald Ratner? He said: "We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, 'How can you sell this for such a low price?' I say, because it's total crap." He added that his stores' earrings were "cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn't last as long". Ratners lost £500 million in a few weeks, well who wants to buy crap? and who wants to be watched?
Tony Morgan, the creator of Internet eyes said “The intention behind the Internet Eyes service has always been to protect the retailer and their patrons. We are disappointed that the trial has met with opposition and fully support the retailer’s decision to end the scheme.”
Just like Bugdens in Norfolk. In a recent meeting held in Sheffield. The Canal and Rivers Trust national moorings manager has revealed that CaRT intend to install CCTV into all of their marinas. With around 350 marina sites this is going to be a huge investment in donated and government money just so that CaRT can then spy on its own customers. Tinsley Marina in Sheffield is currently being surveyed for costing the installation of the first of the surveillance camera systems. Tinsley also has a resident guard established on site. 

Big Brother Watch commissioned a report which highlights that CCTV is an issue that has not been subject to any real public debate. Big Brother Watch hope by highlighting the scale of the situation that a proper debate can now take place about, not only how to regulate CCTV. But also why surveillance continues to increase unchecked when there is still no academic research that suggests it is having a positive impact. 

The surveillance experiment of the past twenty years has failed to reduce crime or improve public safety. The Home Office’s proposed system of statutory regulation for CCTV could make some very serious changes. There is now a newly created position of Surveillance Camera Commissioner. (Andrew Rennison)

The public will be given more power to challenge the use of surveillance cameras through the creation of a new code of practice, the government has announced. Minister for criminal information Lord Taylor of Holbeach said: "Used properly CCTV for too long these systems have grown and developed in the absence of any proper framework or oversight. Andrew Rennison has the experience and authority to hold operators to account, empowering the public to shine a light on those who operate camera systems in public places, challenging them to show the use of these systems is justified, proportionate and effective."

This will become a political hot potato as the next election comes around. Just as many councils have cut costs by dropping the use of speed cameras, so some councils are already cost cutting by reducing the numbers of street cameras in use. The driver for dropping such systems in each case being, no real  return on investment. Whilst there are CCTV installations in place, plus there are television programmes that have highlighted thuggish drunken behaviour on our high-streets. Current wisdom is that the cameras are not an actual deterrent to the level crime. (because when people are drunk, all reasonable behaviour goes awry) There is no detectable difference between an active CCTV system and signs (without cameras) that say CCTV is in use. It's the same with burglar alarms, false boxes on the wall are just as good a deterrent as the real thing.

In an interesting aside.  There is a business located very close to Tinsley Marina that has just had its CCTV cameras removed. It would seem that there is a thriving "back of a lorry" market in CCTV cameras.


Saturday 26 January 2013

On Yer Bike!

With a nod to Norman Tebbit ordering people to get on their bikes to find a job - comes phase II from Bonking BoJo as he appoints a new bike Czar.   Journalist Andrew Gilligan was today confirmed as Boris Johnson's cycling Czar on a salary of £38,000. Mr Gilligan, whose appointment sparked claims that the Mayor was giving jobs to his friends, will work just a two-day week and will report to deputy mayor for transport Isabel Dedringat at City Hall.

Curmudgeon Comment: "So me thinks that the towpath which currently doubles as a velodrome to most cyclists  Is about to have a significant increase in two wheeled traffic. Plus a significant increase in people being run down.  I can't see Londoners having their streets closed and foot paths turned into cycleways. The slack has to come from somewhere. I can see it now - CaRT with toll booths set up along various stretches of towpath, making a charge to bikers to use the newly designated high-speed cycleway. With railway style annual commuter passes."

The Telegraph journalist, who previously worked for the Evening Standard and the BBC, is due to unveil a new strategy outlining how to encourage hundreds of thousands more Londoners to take to their bikes while seeking to improve safety for cyclists. 

Mayor BoJo said: “Andrew Gilligan is the perfect fit for the role of cycling commissioner. His drive, determination and ideas will be immensely valuable assets as we press forward with my agenda for cycling.”


Friday 25 January 2013

Laura is a drip but Safe!

Capital FM newsreader Laura Safe is the one making headlines rather than breaking them after she strolls straight into a canal in Birmingham while engrossed in a text to her boyfriend. CCTV cameras in the Mailbox shopping district of Birmingham recorded the moment a radio newsreader walked straight into a freezing cold canal while composing a text to her boyfriend.

Lovely Laura, who works for Capital FM's breakfast show in the city, can be seen texting as she walks down a flight of steps, unaware of the canalside a few feet in front of her. Seconds later a splash reveals she has fallen in, and she briefly flails around in the freezing cold water. Ms Safe was pulled to safety moments later by a passer-by, with her health if not her pride fully intact.


Milton Keynes Lubianka.

In a late breaking news item. I bring an informational update on the changes to the first battalion of the Internal Wind Advisory (IWA) intestinal movement monitoring team. Read Here

Here are two of the latest Kennet and Avon recruits spotted soon after being fitted out with their new covert uniforms. 

Robin who is on secondment from the Colonic and Retention Team (CaRT) on the right can be seen during basic training on, which end of the binoculars to look through. He then quickly moved on to stage one of advanced binocular adjustment techniques. While his colleague Vaughan on the left completes (did you spot him?) stage one of initial covert observational training.

Yes, you too can join the Canal Stassi Hostile Information Tracker. (CSHIT) With all the freedom in the world to plot and spy on your friends and neighbours.  Reporting directly back to your handler at the Milton Keynes Lubianka. 

Think of the joy of reporting people for loitering with intent to use a lock, or urinating in a sanitary station. Bringing charges of going equipped with an offensive wife or being cheerful on a Wednesday.

Can you see me yet?
After completing the basic training in semi-advanced counter terrorist productive surveillance techniques.

You could be amongst the first of the recruits progressing into one of the new covert monitoring rapid response squads.

Soon you could be leading your cohort as it sets out to on patrol to catch the miscreants. The enjoyment that comes with being able to organise and run your own petty personal vendettas.

Here is Simon, a promoted in the field general in the 1st Foot and Mouth. A three week veteran of the Ashby, Leeds Liverpool and North Oxford campaigns. Wearing his extinguished service bottle tops. IPA (Indian Pale Ale) and bar, DCM (Drunk Come Mondays) and nut cluster. 


Feeding is for the birds.

Winter can be good for bird watching. As food gets scarce and daylight gets shorter. The birds have to keep busy topping up before it gets dark. However, when snow settles, the problems get even harder for the birds and it is time to help. When food is hard to find, the birds become a bit more bold. In the last few days we have had Bullfinch, Yellow Wagtail, Greenfinch, Blue tit, Great tit, Long-tailed tit, Dunnock, Robin, Chaffinch, Sparrow, Wren, Goldfinch, Blackbird and Mizzle Thrush. 

Fat Balls! No I'm not being personal or trying to be provocative. Fat balls and other fat-based bird food are excellent winter food. Plus they are a good source of food for almost all kinds of birds. You can purchase them in supermarkets and specialist stores. Wilkinson's  B&M, Lidl and Aldi all sell them in boxes of fifty. However, they are often contained inside small green bags made up of plastic netting. Before putting the fat balls out, please remove them from the green bags. I know that they are useful for hanging them from branches. However, birds are killed every year by becoming entangled in the netting. We have seen a box of fifty fat balls go in about four days.

Nuts! No once again I'm not trying to be provocative. The most popular one is peanuts but most kinds of nuts are good for birds. Peanuts are very popular with tits, finches, sparrows, nuthatches,  woodpeckers and siskins. Crushed or grated nuts are good for attracting robins, dunnocks and even wrens. Nuthatches and coal tits may try to hoard peanuts. Because of the hoarding and because peanuts can be high in a natural toxin, which can kill birds. Only buy from a reputable dealer to guarantee freedom from aflatoxin. Salted or dry roasted peanuts should never be fed to birds.

Seeds come in many different mixes and types. Some are intended for bird feeders. There are others that are intended for use on birdtables and some that are intended for ground feeding. The better mixtures contain a varied mixture with plenty of millet, wheat, oatmeal, flaked maize, sunflower seeds and peanut granules. Cooked rice, without salt added in the cooking process is beneficial and readily accepted by all species during severe winter weather.

Bread on its own is not a good choice as there can sometimes be additives in the bread that are not so good for birds. However, some bread mixed with other foods can be better than no food at all. So we prefer to cook the bread using some fat to make it a bit more wholesome. However, you must use the correct type of fat. Because used fat from cooking can often be bad for birds. Lard and beef suet on their own are fine as they are pure fat. Most butchers throw away suet as it is not as popular as it once was for cooking. Our butcher is happy for us to have some free suet in the winter months for feeding birds. 

The RSPB say "The problem with cooked fat is that the meat juices have blended with the fat and when allowed to set, this consistency makes it prone to smearing. Which is not good for birds' feathers. It is a breeding ground for bacteria, so potentially bad for birds' health. Salt levels also depend on what meat is used and if any salt has been added during cooking." 
"Polyunsaturated margarines or vegetable oils are unsuitable for birds. Unlike humans, birds need high levels of saturated fat, such as raw suet and lard. They need the high energy content to keep warm in the worst of the winter weather, since their body reserves are quickly used up, particularly on cold winter nights. The soft fats can easily be smeared onto the feathers, destroying the waterproofing and insulating qualities."


Thursday 24 January 2013

Doing my Bit!

Can you help?

It took me just two minutes to email my local council to ask what they were doing to get rough sleepers off the streets in this bitter weather. Councils are supposed to activate an emergency plan to find people who are homeless and get them into the warm. Some councils are working hard to do this, but others may be dragging their heels, so it is important to find out exactly what they are doing. Please e-mail your council too, by clicking here. It only takes two minutes and it will help to try to make sure no one has to sleep out in the freezing cold again tonight.

Click Here


Two years and counting

I don't know why, maybe its down to the snow (though me and Poppy did have a good time throwing and chasing snowballs along the towpath) and feeling at a loose end and a bit bored.... So, in a moment of madness I went to have a look at what's happening in my old place of work. (I left 2 years ago) I started by reading bits and pieces that were  available on-line. It was nice in one way to do a bit of a catch up. Then I went to have a look at my old bosses blog. Oh! they have been busy, the blog was full of stuff with about "IT infrastructure, the corporate review and governance" I was enthralled, it was as I was reading the headings that a glazed look took over. I came to a sudden and deep realisation that I had been more than ready to walk away.

I got a return of the old feelings. Which were a bit like the enjoyment I could get from watching paint dry. Two years further on and the loathing for the salt mine had not abated one iota. This started me thinking about a job opportunity that had come along about ten years previously. It would have been challenging and very different from my old role. I would have had a great deal more autonomy and I am sure that I would still be doing the job today. But that was then and this is now. Maybe an opportunity missed opened up the opportunity I'm enjoying now. I can't emphasise how much I am enjoying early retirement.

Party Political Advertisement on behalf of the Toffs Party

What I had missed, was the way of life that I enjoyed in my early career in academia. At at time when there was much more engagement between staff and students. We were all on first name terms. We coalesced into diverse groups of colleagues and friends. Today, that methodology of working has been consigned to the dustbin. Interaction is via email, there is no time to sit around and have a discussion. Add hoc education has been sacrificed on the altar of planning groups, think tanks, production lines and pragmatism. 

Now, I can spend my time reading or going for a walk. I can perhaps  indulge myself by feeding the birds or having a nap. My time is my own, there are no pressures to meet a deadline.  I can lay back with closed eyes and muse over any issues. I can formulate opinions and make personal decisions once more. It's a lovely warm self satisfied feeling and one I shall remind myself about from time to time.  Yes, I'm very philosophical today!


Wednesday 23 January 2013

A Daughter of India

We had intended to go to India on holiday this winter. We have been several times in the past. India is a wonderful country that we both hold dear to our hearts. However, this year we have cancelled our holiday in protest at a terrible situation that has arisen Unfortunately its not for the first time either and until changes are made, I think it will not be the last.

A daughter of India died after she was brutally gang raped and beaten by six men last month. But a defence lawyer for her attackers has just said publicly that "it wouldn't have happened to a respected lady". To me the defence lawyer's words are distressing proof of how much still needs to change. More than 600,000 people from around the world have already signed Namita’s petition, and the Indian government is already feeling the pressure some change has taken place because the Chief Justice has now advised High Courts across India to prioritise cases of crimes against women. 

However, there has now been another gang rape involving six men on a bus. For Namita, nothing matters more than making sure this opportunity for action doesn't slip away and she’s asking for your help to keep up the momentum. Namita said "All my life, I've heard victims being blamed while their attackers eventually walked free. But this time, something feels different. This is because India’s government is being forced to confront a painful reality." As Namita says it feels this time that the world is behind her and the women of India.

I have signed the petition "India: Stop Rape" Calling on the Indian Government to implement stronger policies to protect Indian women following the death of the young woman who was gang raped in Delhi last month. More than 600,000 people from across the world have already signed and the goal is to get 700,000 signatures before delivering the petition to the Chief Justice of India. 

Can you please sign the petition?

Just click Here:

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Common sense or blind obedience

I'm not sure what the scale of overstaying by constant cruisers on a visitor mooring is. I suspect that it depends on age, employment, time of year, the location and the weather. I'm also not sure what the scale of overstaying on a visitor mooring by those with a home mooring is either. But once again I suspect that it depends on age, employment, the time of year, the location and the weather. I also suspect that nobody, not even CaRT has any verifiable and reliable figures to base a judgement call upon. Living aboard and owning a boat, is a lifestyle that should be free and open to everyone. Because if its not open to everyone we can't expect the excluded part of the population to contribute charitable donations to what is a closed club available only to a minority.

Why do I suspect age, employment, time of year, location and the weather as being the primary drivers. Take age, there is I'm sure no single age grouping that covers the whole demographic for boat owners. Though I do suspect that there is a majority amongst the over sixty something's. I also think that employment, is a minority driver. There are people living out on the cut who are also in employment. Some will also have children and will be wanting them to attend a local school. It is a lifestyle call that should be free and open to everyone. The "rules" should not be allowed to discriminate against people on their age, their employment or their lifestyle choice. I also think that the time of year, the location and the weather are also a driver. During the winter months many popular destinations will be almost deserted. Whilst in the school holidays, the honey trap moorings will be in great demand. 

So if we are out cruising and we come to a good spot to moor (for whatever reason) for a few days. Then quite often we do. If our boat is on a 48 hour mooring and soon our time will be up. I make a decision, if it is bouncing down with rain and there are empty berths. We stay put, if by the middle of the afternoon things have not improved, we stay put until tomorrow. One of the joys of boating is that you can do your own thing. There are people out on the cut who have a cavalier attitude to overstaying. You can see for yourself, I have to count myself amongst their number. The fact that I have a mooring somewhere else on the system has no bearing whatsoever, I don't feel that I have any more of a right to a visitor mooring than anyone else. I just apply common sense and not blind obedience to a rule that is ignored by the majority and their cat.

There is the old adage that any rule that can't be enforced is a poor rule in the first place. Why make a set of rules that you can't enforce, monitor or demonstrate to be working. Making a rule that is universally ignored is made from a myopic understanding of what people want and expect. If you then go on to make even more rules in an attempt to enforce the rules that don't work. Such actions just demonstrates your lack of awareness of the scale of issue and that you are out of touch. 

So is there an answer, yes its quite simple get rid of rules that are not working. Keep the ones that are and work with people to encourage a caring and sharing attitude. The best rules are the ones that people want. But remember rules can never be a one size fits all scenario.


Monday 21 January 2013

IWA Fifth Column

Do you get fed up sitting around on your boat all day. Fed up of having nothing to do. Do you need a bit of excitement and spice in your life. Forget your moral upbringing, leave your conscience behind because now you can sell yourself to the devil. Can you shame Sherlock, can you out think the Saint. Could you teach the politburo a trick or two?

Join the Covert and Recondite Team (CaRT) as a volunteer and you too will be able to practice your new covert trade. Alternatively you can join the CaRT fifth column also known as the Invited Watchers Association (IWA). With your cover if confronted being a member of the IWA secret service team. Rise through the ranks and become a volunteer handler. Become an agent provocateur or go deep underground as a sleeper in your local boat club and become a snitch, grass, snout or a nark. 

But first you will need to hone up your surveillance techniques. You can start by practice hiding in hedgerows. Taking covert photographs of people coming and going to the toilet block. Noting down the comings and goings of unsuspecting members of the boating public. Blending into the background or engaging in innocent fact finding conversation with your quarry. You could even go searching through their rubbish bags thrown in the Biffa skip. 

Could you be the next Officer Crabtree, or operate a canal side cafe Rene. Any previous experience of cross dressing could be a distinct advantage. You must be prepared for possible physical confrontation from people who think that you are a Curtain Twitcher, Busy Body, Peeping Tom, Paedophile or Voyeur. In fact if you are a Curtain Twitcher, Busy Body, Peeping Tom, Paedophile or Voyeur this could provide you with just the cover story you need for next time you go out dogging. 

You will be provided with the covert tools of the trade. Including a Rodney Charlton Trotter ID Card, a 007 compass, a 007 wrist watch, a 007 note book, a 007 pencil, a pair of 007 Wellington's, a 007 camera, a 007 torch, a 007 utility belt, a 007 camouflaged balaclava,  a 007 energy drink, 007 Reliant tricycle, a pair of 007 water-wings and a 007 camouflaged lunch box.

Once you have perfected your techniques you could be working for MI5 as a spy. Yes, you too could be the next replacement for James Bond. Alternatively you could join the WRVS suicide squad.

Wiki Quote: A fifth column is a group of people who clandestinely undermine a larger group, such as a nation, from within. A fifth column can be a group of secret sympathizers of an enemy within a country's borders. A key tactic of the fifth column is the secret introduction of supporters into the whole fabric of the entity under attack. This clandestine infiltration is especially effective with positions concerning national policy. From influential positions like these, fifth column tactics can be effectively utilized, from stoking fears through misinformation campaigns, to traditional techniques like espionage.


Sunday 20 January 2013

Is it me!

I know that I am a stick in the mud at the best of times. Metric is the official system for most regulated trading by weight or measure purposes, the pint is a permitted unit for milk in returnable bottles and for draught beer and cider in British pubs. Also miles, yards and feet remain the official units for road signs, but not road design. For years after decimalisation, I would on a point-of-principal convert the new money into old money just to understand the notional value. After enough time had gone by and as the worth of the pound plummeted to just above a packet of spangles. I grudgingly and gradually converted over. Now enough time has gone by that I have to stop and think about the old currency, The farthing, ha'penny, penny, threepence, sixpence, shilling, two bob, florin, half a crown, crown, ten bob note, and the pound note. Not forgetting the Sovereign and the white fiver that I once got for Christmas!

Why do the powers that be - not leave things alone. I was quite happy going along with the old coinage. It was specific and distinct and you had to be British to understand it. In fact, you have to be British to understand why we need that uniqueness and to be different.

The system of weights and measures in use in England had been developed over a period of more than a thousand years and was another different, unique and defining part of British culture. One that was notable for uniting the English-speaking nations. Then is was another sacrilegious and scurrilous change. Having to give up pounds and ounces and start thinking about kilos and grammes. Imperial weights and measures or English weights and measures are what I was comfortable with. For years I knew what a pound of apples looked and felt like. But we had tons, for the big stuff which was 20 hundredweight which in turn was 112 pounds. Not only that but a half hundredweight was 56 pounds. Then there were stones just to confuse things a bit more. The avoirdupois pound as its name implies, it was intended to be used for weighing heavy goods is split into 16 ounces. Each ounce is divided into 16 drams all this is much more fun than metric-kery is ever going to be!

Why do the powers that be - not leave things alone. I was quite happy going along with the old system of weights and measures  It was specific and distinct and you had to be British to understand it. In fact, you have to be British to understand why we need that uniqueness and to be different.

Then there was the change away from the comfortable gallons and pints. Did you know that there were four gills in a pint That two pints was equal to a quart. That four quarts was equal to one gallon. Beer came in pints and half's which was quite good as the glasses it was served in by lucky coincidence just happened to be the same size. Now we have litres. "I'll have a litre of you finest landlord" does not have the same ring to it. Litre is fine when talking about engine capacity, but even a bottle of wine is 75cl, what sort of size is that!

Why do the powers that be - not leave things alone. I was quite happy going along with the old system of pints and gallons.  It was specific and distinct and you had to be British to understand it. In fact, you have to be British to understand why we need that uniqueness and to be different.

Then they started on measurements, distances were for donkeys years, measured in inches feet, yards and miles. Measurements which were mixed in with perch, chains, furlongs and even leagues. A cricket pitch is twenty two yards which is the same as a chain. A foot is about the size of your foot. Three feet are a yard about the length of a stride.  Six feet is a fathom and we race horses over furlongs which is the same as ten chains. There were eight furlongs in a statute mile and 6080 feet are the equivalent of a nautical mile. Which we use for boats and aircraft. I remember asking a modern engineering apprentice "how many 'thou' there were in an inch" - he answered "Dunno, mate - must be millions of them."

Why do the powers that be - not leave things alone. I was quite happy going along with the old system of feet and inches.  It was specific and distinct and you had to be British to understand it. In fact, you have to be British to understand why we need that uniqueness and to be different.
I don't know about you but, I was happier setting my car tyres in pounds per square inch. But now its measured in bars. Bars as far as I am concerned are for purveying pints and gills. But I will tell you one thing,  I am against retaining the second as the basic unit of time. If we changed the way we measure time we could have a three day week. and an eight day weekend. How about,  a fourteen month year. 

Why do the powers that be leave things like, measuring time alone. I would be quite happy going along with the a three day week. And an eight day weekend.  You have to be British to understand it. In fact, you have to be British to understand why we need that uniqueness and to be different.

Saturday 19 January 2013

You're Leaving

It is always hard to say goodbye to a much loved friend or colleague. But a nice leaving card and a poem carved into a lock gate could help to make it easier. A poem I think is always a nice way to be able to express one's deep felt feelings. They can have a happy or sad theme - this one is with a happy theme.

All around its coming to a sticky end;
its been a good run for me and my friends;
once I sat on my throne like Pharaoh king Tut;
but now with boaters all wanting to get shut;
bon voyage I'm off  no more to pretend. 

Four million I've salted away in the bank;
was I worth it well speaking quite frank;
with no inkling of the much needed work;
responsibilities I buried, hid and shirk;
no wonder the canal business just sank.

Off to oblivion both me and the business;
for ten years each day was just like Christmas;
now there is a rush for the revolving door;
not just me there's also one or two more;
it's all gone tits up everyone is a witness.

He can't hang around and just wait to retire;
the water is hot with boaters stoking the fire;
I want to invest in a empty canalside pub;
I've proved in the past I'm stupid enough;
the future for everyone could be quite dire.

There is a taxi waiting with room for just the one;
a sense of relief now we know you're gone;
no postcards please as we don't really care;
the pension pot you have more than your share;
the very best of your worst is finally done!

Like Elvis the bird has now flown and gone;
of his achievements they amounted to none;
on reflection at the end of his tenure;
his employ proved a very risky venture;
common sense has finally won.

Why do they refer to him as acorn dick;
that connection for me did not click;
or is it as everyone well knows; 
great oaks from acorns will grows;
or am I just being quite thick.


Friday 18 January 2013


The world hold no surprises for me any more. I have seen it all. The magic of making a new personal discovery is blighted forever. Poo or Pooh have recently become interchangeable. I remember those stories from the book "Winnie the Pooh" and "The House at Pooh Corner" that I read to my kids. Which incidentally I also found quite enjoyable when they were read to me. The pooh books have now had the primary name hijacked and used in a way, which somehow detracts and sullies A.A.Milne's tales. Playing pooh sticks will never be the same.

Now we have MC Pooh and his instantly forgettable "Funky as I wanna be" c-rap recording "Pooh-Man" which is not only part of the album name but also a valid criticism of the contents. The american rap artist who has released several bum albums all with lyrics that focus on the topics of sex, money and murder.

But the interest in pooh or poo does no stop at album recordings. It has also spread, so to speak onto paper. The wonderful "What's Your Poo Telling You?" might not be a follow up to the pooh books. I suppose it might not make it onto the list of things to read to your children either. Or would it - No its a book for adults describing different aspects of human flatulence, defecation, diarrhoea, and various faeces-related phenomena. It was authored by Josh Richman and gastroenterology doctor Anish Sheth. It includes diagrams It could be good for you to do, whilst you sit waiting to do your do do.

Now you might be thinking that there must be a follow up book to this. But you would be wrong as the book itself is a follow up.

Here it is, "What's My Pee Telling Me?" Generating waste is a fact of life for each and every one of the six billion human beings inhabiting the planet and yet, we’d all rather ignore our waste than entertain the idea of thinking about it twice. 

Josh Richman and Dr. Anish Sheth, however, put waste in the spotlight in their latest book, "What’s Your Poo Telling You?" The sequel to "What’s My Pee Telling Me?"  Which reached number two on the New York Times best-seller list. Dedicated to exposing the treasure trove of information hidden within our waste in four sections devoted to urine, excrement, flatulence, and age-old bodily myths.

My favourite Pooh quote “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”


Thursday 17 January 2013

Lock Gate Poetry.

A poem about Lock Gate poems and CaRT.
By Frank Hurst.

Pretty words upon the beam are not a thing of which I dream;
My life would be much more content if the money more usefully was spent;
The canals do not require verse their condition now could not be worse;
Canals are navigations of great age and require a craftsman and not a sage;
So spend the cash for what we need and not for that which you perceive;
Poetry is fine in its place but do not speed a barge’s pace;
Verse will not repair a breach so pack it in and give us peace.

I just had to share....

Click Here to read.


Wednesday 16 January 2013

Are You Being Annoyed

If you are like me, spending more and more time on your boat. Getting to the point where a fixed telephone landline is no longer a practical solution. So I switched to just having a mobile phone. That is when it all started with the unsolicited text messages. However, the most annoying thing I found was the cold callers - wanting to know if I have had an accident or been sold a payment protection plan. Worse still are the silent callers. I have this thing now, if I don't recognise the number, or the number is withheld - I press the button to direct the call to my voice mail.

There has recently been an increase in unsolicited text messages relating to accident claims, debts or miss sold PPI. The companies sending these messages are seeking to solicit leads which are then sold on to management firms. The TPS advise that if you receive these text messages then it is best to ignore them. 

So I decided to register for the free service provided by the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), the official central opt out register where you can record your preference to not receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls. TPS note that it is a legal requirement that all organisations (including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties) do not make calls to numbers registered on the TPS database unless they have your consent to do so.

 To register with TPS click Click Here.

If you feel that the text messages are becoming a nusance then you can report the messages to your network operator who may be able to prevent further spam from the originating number. You can either contact your network operator’s customer services or use one of the reporting numbers:

Orange, O2, T-Mobile and Three: Forward the text to 7726

Vodafone: Forward the text to VSPAM (87726)

However, numbers often change and so the network cannot guarantee stopping all unsolicited messages. If you do not believe that you have opted-in to the number and that there is a breach of your data protection then you can also report it to the ICO.

If a company that has contacted you fails to provide details of who they are then the communication is unlawful and the ICO can help. The ICO Website advises the following action to be taken if you are concerned:

1) Contact the organisation in question explaining your concerns and allow them some time to address the problem. You can call the ICO helpline on 0303 123 1113 for more advise on what can be done to resolve the matter.

2) If the problem remains unresolved the ICO may be able to help. If necessary, they will investigate the problem further and they can provide help and guidance to the organisation if they believe that the law has been broken. You will need to be able to provide evidence to support your complaint otherwise the ICO will be unable to consider it.

You can make a complaint to the ICO by email:
Fill out the complaint form Click Here
Open an email with ‘Complaint to the ICO’ in the subject line
Attach the complaint form and any additional documents that you wish to include
Send to

Or, you can send it by post:
Fill out the complaint form Click Here
Send the form and and any additional documents that you wish to include to:

First Contact Team
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane


Tuesday 15 January 2013

Patrick Moore

The death last month of Sir Patrick Moore was in a way the end of an era of amateur astronomers of the old school. I loved his eccentric presentation of "The Sky at Night" an astronomical program which started on the 26th April 1957 on BBC television. It is the longest running television program in the world. In the case of Patrick he was also the presenter throughout. I can't remember exactly when I first started to watch the program on a regular basis, but it would have been before I left school so it was in the early 1960's. Without a doubt Patrick was the man who brought me to a life long interest in astronomy. 

Patrick died at his West Sussex home on 9 December 2012. Friends and members of Moore's staff released a statement: "After a short spell in hospital last week, it was determined that no further treatment would benefit him, and it was his wish to spend his last days in his own home, Farthings, where he today passed on, in the company of close friends and carers and his cat Ptolemy. Over the past few years, Patrick, an inspiration to generations of astronomers, fought his way back from many serious spells of illness and continued to work and write at a great rate, but this time his body was too weak to overcome the infection which set in a few weeks ago. He was able to perform on his world record-holding TV Programme The Sky at Night right up until the most recent episode. His executors and close friends plan to fulfil his wishes for a quiet ceremony of interment, but a farewell event is planned for what would have been his 90th birthday in March 2013."

I always found astronomy fascinating, in the early days through the expectations that were influenced a young mind. Fed by the adventures of Dan Dare in the Eagle comic. I loved the whole idea of space travel and ray guns. Both of which have come to pass. Man has been to the moon and the laser is the ray gun brought to realisation. The other thing that I was apprehensive in anticipating was aliens from space - which I expected to be a bit like the Mekon Dare's arch enemy. (The Mekon was the ruler of Venus.) I did hope that the aliens when they arrived would not be so warlike. Patrick always discouraged such ideas of little green men ever arriving. Yet the more we learn about the cosmos the more we realise that we are not mathematically unique. Every new discovery seems to confirm the chances of life on other planets is almost certain.

The space race between the USA and the Russians which kicked off with launch of Sputnik became a another driver feeding my interest. I was always good at mathematics at school, and so I did for a while harbour an interest in a career in astronomy. The problem was the more that I looked at the requirements the more I realised that astronomy was becoming more theoretical based. So rather than looking for a formal route, I chose to go down the route of just being an interested amateur. Pursuing my career in the early days of number crunching computing and early digital communications. So today I tend to read research materials about astronomy. But only in the areas that continue to interest me. However, I did for a few years teach the basics of astronomy part time.

Is there life out there, yes I'm pretty convinced. It may not be in a form that we might instantly recognise. Will we ever be in communication with such life forms. I doubt it, unless we can come up with a communications system that is not bound to the mathematical constant that is the speed of light. There has been some theoretical postulation about using superluminal (faster than light) communications. The theory of relativity or to be more correct the theory of special relativity, does not forbid the existence of particles that travel faster than light. Although the plausibility of this, as a faster than light communications solution is uncertain.

Its my opinion as the guru of amateur astronomers Patrick can never be surpassed. He was someone I would have liked to have met. As a much loved English eccentric he is also second to none. As an unconventional yet quintessential English man he was a genuine legend in his own lifetime. Often imitated, never duplicated. RIP Patrick.


Monday 14 January 2013

Cruising in denial!

It's been pretty quiet on Rosie for the last few days. I have been getting on with a few jobs. The first one was converting the sliding lid on the stern doorway into a lift-up one. This lets us get in and out much easier and as a project cost about £30 pounds to do. A couple of brass hinges, a pair of handles, a handful of stainless steel bolts and one of those gas filled boot lid stabilisers as used on the tailgate of your car. 

OK, the reason that it has been so quiet is that the Gruffalo and daughter Dr Steph are out and about river cruising. I have had a few text messages from them letting me know where they are. The latest message was sent as the boat passed through the locks at Esna on their way to Luxor. So when I titled the post "cruising in denial."  That's exactly what they are doing.

Enjoying Egypt and the temples along the river between Luxor and the Aswan dam, which when built created Lake Nassar. I understand its a hot air balloon ride over the valley of the kings tomorrow! However, I shall be taking the dogs for a walk.

Alternator to Battery controller installation. I purchased a new Sterling Alternator to Battery charge controller. This device that transforms the output of your alternator into a sophisticated multi stage battery charger resulting in faster and more complete charging of your battery bank. This purchase was to replace the original beta engine battery management system that has gone faulty. This will allow the secondary 40 amp alternator to complement the new 100 amp alternator that I recently installed.  So when we start the engine the smaller alternator will recharge the starting battery then switch to join the leisure bank alternator to recharge the leisure battery bank. 

I am having some new brackets made up so that the solar panels can be pointed towards the sun. I'm hoping to improve on the charging rate. The panels proved to be quite productive last year even though we had only a few days without some cloud cover. Another job is a pair of front cratch area storage panniers are in the process being made to provide a bit of occasional seating plus providing some storage for spare ropes and fenders. So a visit to BQ to get the material was called for.

I know how to enjoy myself.


Sunday 13 January 2013

DVLA FOI outcome!

The draft Communications Data Bill has been roundly criticised by the committee of MPs and Peers, who make clear that the draft Bill is not fit for purpose and unacceptable in its current form. The report makes clear tinkering and minor changes are nowhere near enough - this draft bill is unacceptable to Parliament and if there is to be legislation, it is back to the drawing board for the Home Office.

Typical of the criticisms is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority. The DVLA is the custodian of our details including car registrations and driving licenses which are contained on a database. In the past three years, 294 public organisations have faced action over their improper use of the information contained in the database.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request the DVLA has disclosed that the organisations were overwhelmingly local authorities, but included Sussex Police and Transport for London. They all had access to the database suspended. While a further 38 organisations saw their access permanently revoked.

Concerns about the DVLA database have been voiced for several years, but it is remarkable that in just three years nearly half the country’s councils have been suspended from looking at motorists’ information. It is essential members of the public know why their local council, or any other body, has faced sanctions and equally the DVLA must do far more to ensure that its data is not so wide open to abuse.

Of the issues identified, 156 came about because of audits of the database use by staff. The question is whether these suspensions hinder staff trying to do their job, while other staff doing the unauthorised searches escape proper punishment. One key issue that still has not been resolved is whether someone could be sent to prison for deliberately abusing the databases they have access to and that deterrent is badly needed.

You can download an excel chart of all the organisations involved Click Here.

The same concerns exist about a range of other databases and the public are right to be worried that their privacy is at risk across a range of Government services. If the current system cannot even protect basic information about motorists and vehicles, how can the public have faith that a host of information about who they email and what websites they look at will be kept secure and only accessed by those who are supposed to be doing so?

The public do not have confidence that their data is being kept securely and their privacy is not being violated on a routine basis. The whole framework of how information is protected and when access is granted needs reviewing and a system that protects privacy put in place, starting with significant reform of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.