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September 27, 2006

Online ordering

Why do so many online ordering firms require landline phone numbers? In the modern age many people rely more on mobile phones. My mobile phone will get through to me at any time of day, and often night as well. A business landline might reach me 9:00-5:00, a home one at other times (except I don't have one, so never).

As a student, I don't have a landline phone. This prevents me from using several online shops. Why is it really so necessary?

My credit cards are registered to my home address. Today I ordered a new motherboard online, and was asked to provide not only a landline number for delivery, but a landline number for the billing address. I put "Ex Directory" in the box. I wonder if they'll honour the order.

September 26, 2006

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

The Guardian, (and now most of the internet) have been complaining:

Air traffic controllers monitoring a British Airways jumbo jet were stunned at the pilot's decision to try to "get as far as we can" after an engine caught fire on takeoff, a transcript of discussions between the plane and the control tower revealed.
The controllers in Los Angeles expected the four-engine Boeing 747 to turn around but, after taking advice from BA's operations base, the pilot carried on towards London. He told air traffic control: "We just decided we want to set off on our flight-plan route and get as far as we can."

Crikey, that seems frightening. Why would they do that. Luckily the Guardian has the answer too:

By pressing ahead with the flight, the aircraft avoided a £100,000 bill for delay compensation, though there is no suggestion that this is why this flight went ahead.

Ah, that's it. Bloody corporations at it again, risking lives to make money. Or perhaps not. The pilot's decision seems utterly ridiculous, but let's think about it a little more:
  • If the plane crashes, then the pilot dies. I don't think he wants to die. I'm guessing he probably thought that carrying on was safe.

  • Believe it or not, a 747 has absolutely no trouble flying on 3 engines. Taking off might take longer, but crusing along is fine. It's even (just about) possible to fly on 2 engines.

  • Planes these days come with fire extinguishing devices in the engines. I'm guessing that the fire was almost certainly completely extinguished, and the engine status checked, before the pilot decided to press on.

  • Most large jets have far lower permitted landing weights than permitted take-off weights. It's OK to take off with a heavy plane - you just turn up the power. Landing is harder. The simple fact is that the undercarriage of a 747 will not take the stress of landing with a full passenger complement, and FULL FUEL LOAD.

  • In order to land and return to LAX, the pilot would have to get rid of the excess weight (fuel). This means either dumping it all into the air, or doing laps around Los Angeles for several hours. Why spend hours flying in the same place when you might as well make some progress?

  • The way to London from LA involves flying a long way over America and Nova Scotia before hopping over the Atlantic. There are several large airports en route which could be used in the event of an emergency. What's more, it'd be a lot easier to get an emergency landing slot at a smaller airport.

  • If the plane got to the coast without trouble, it'd almost certainly manage the Atlantic as well. If not, then they could have landed in Iceland.

  • The reason for landing at Manchester was almost certainly due to the plane running into its fuel reserves, which is naughty. There's no suggestion that the landing was an emergency landing with the plane running on vapour.
Admittedly some of these points depend on things running smoothly, but it's clear that the pilot's decision wasn't at all foolhardy, and made a lot of sense. Flying on wasn't appreciably more dangerous than flying circles in the air, whereas landing immediately would have crashed the plane (as the undercarriage collapsed). That full fuel load would have burned nicely.

A little knowledge makes people think that they have the right to write articles and posts all round the internet criticising the actions of a professional pilot, but sometimes they don't have all the info to hand.

September 23, 2006

For those who use contact lenses

You my be interested to know that this:

was sold containing fungus. I'm not quite sure why you all see the need to use these things.


OK, here's how to make the greatest cheese and ham toasted sandwich known to man.

Start by gently toasting two slices of bread in the toaster. These need to be just slightly browned.

Add a mound of grated cheese to each slice, and place under the grill. Make sure to spread the cheese right to the edges.

When the cheese is browned, add a slice of thin ham to each piece.

Wait until the ham is just beginning to curl up, and put the entire sandwich together.


The ramblings of a tired mind

It occurred to me that the strains of the average US voice sound very similar to a mewing cat.

Cats make noise when they need something. What do Americans need? It can't be food, they're all obese.

Perhaps it's a cry for attention?

Blimey, maybe I should start writing for the Independent tomorrow.

September 22, 2006

Violence in Society

I enjoy films. I quite like ones which other people would hate. I really enjoyed "Sin City." Some people would say it was sickening, wrong, violent, barbaric, or any of a whole host of appropiate adjectives.

I might say it was escapism or fantasy. I wonder if there's any significance that these are nouns.

I wonder if my enjoyment of violence on screen is a release from an inner primeval need to witness violence and suffering.

Read that again.

One of the most violent characters in Sin City is described thus:

Most people think Marv is crazy. He just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century. He'd be right at home on some ancient battlefield, swinging an axe into somebody's face. Or in a Roman arena taking a sword to other Gladiators like him.

What do we do with people who need violence? One could quite happily argue that everybody needs violence. "Fight Club" works with this premise. So did World War II. Otherwise normal people found they had no trouble killing - killing as many as they could as fast as possible.

Perhaps modern thuggery and hooliganism are a simple expression of a repressed male need.

Me, I'll just carry on watching films.

The World Today

YouGov peace and conflict survey

As part of our efforts to raise awareness about the UN International Day of Peace (21 September), International Alert commissioned a YouGov survey to discover the British public's knowledge and awareness of peace and conflict today. The survey was conducted in August 2006 and the results were grim: nearly three-quarters of respondants felt the world is more violent today than 50 years ago and that it will remain that way—or get worse—in the next 50 years.

But the reality is that the number of violent conflicts has declined by more than 40% since 1992 and is at the lowest it has been since WWII, with the deadliest conflicts (those with 1000 or more battle deaths) dropping by 80% in the past 15 years. The current pessimism demonstrates how important it is for Alert and others to offer our ideas on how peace is possibly achieved.

And there's more...

The world: just how dangerous is it?

So, it's not just the Daily Mail that believes we are all doomed. According to a new survey almost three-quarters of Britons think the world is a more dangerous, war-like place than it was 50 years ago, writes Peter Walker.

Conducted to mark the UN Peace Day today, the poll found 74% of the public believes the globe is more violent now than it was in 1956 while 63% think the situation will get worse in the next 50 years. So far, so gloomy. But are they right? Well, not really.


The average number of battle-deaths per conflict per year - a measure of the deadliness of warfare - has plummeted from 38,000 in 1950 to just 600 in 2002.

This is rather interesting. It's also rather strong evidence in favour of what most of us have known for ages - the world really wasn't a better place a century ago, and most of the general public need to return their rose-tinted spectacles to be cleaned.

I wonder why there is such a discrepancy about these things. Crime figures fall - and yet people refuse to acknowledge this. "My sister's friend's boyfriend's cat was attacked by three youths the other day, so there must be more violence."

An inability to impartially judge between past and present states of the world is nothing new. But what causes it?

I think a large factor must be the raised expectations people have. Years ago a street urchin would be content - how can anybody judge their position in life when they know no better. Nowadays everyone believes that they can be anything. If they want to be a brain surgeon, then that's fine. The hospital will be happy to take you. Qualifications? A handwriting certificate at age 8 and a 10m swimming badge? Fine! Welcome aboard!

Perhaps not. But there's a grain of truth in absurdity. Years ago crime was something which people expected. Now we all believe that we ought to be free from crime. It's no longer a random act - a piece of bad luck. Now it's the government's fault, and the police's fault. But certainly not the victim's fault, even if the car was stolen from the roadside with the keys in and the engine running.

But what still gets me is that anyone could look back into history, into the bloodshed and carnage, at genocides committed in the name of colonialisation, at murders committed for political gain, and still say that any war perpetrated by a western state today is violent.


Here's a thought for the day - Swindon Surprise Maximus is rubbish. Almost as bad as the place.
For a picture, click here (scroll down and click the "go" button). The Cambridge overwork messes up the coursing order above the treble, and the underwork doesn't do much. The only music off the front is the odd random 90ET.

Oh well, only one peal due of it - wonder if I can manage the rest of my life without meeting it again?

September 15, 2006

It's been a while...

I've been on holiday. It was great. We stayed in a cottage in the middle of angulsea. I thihought it was really fun. And the log fire was tremenddous.

Holidays appeal to my inner child somehow. Although the log fire was rather good fun. Except when it stubbornly refused to catch fire. Every time my father sees a fire he starts off, "you know, there's something deep about watching a fire, something primeval, somehow." The conversation ebbs and flows for a few seconds before we all realise that we've discussed the issue before. Every bonfire night.

Still, it's the familiarity which makes family holidays so enjoyable.

I'm hoping to actually post something over the next few weeks. Maybe even once a day. Although it may have to wait until after the weekend, as I'm horrendously booked up, starting with a 5:58 train tomorrow morning. Oh well.