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Showing posts from 2014

Religion and ignorance killed those kids, not faith.

Matthew Syed wrote eloquently in the Times: "The problem in the Middle East is not with Sunnis, Shias or even Isis. It's with religion itself. The Bible like the Koran, has elements that can be interpreted as authorising violence; if Christianity in the West has caused less bloodshed in recent centuries, it's only because it has become less religious. The more "revealed truth" gives way to Enlightenment ideals of evidence and reason, the less followers of a given creed kill those who take a different view." Today we heard the disgusting and tragic news that yet another school has been bombed by Boko Haram. 47 children were killed and countless severely injured at a science and technology school in Nigeria. This is the most recent in a series of vile horrors committed by these madmen in the name of their deranged version of Islam. As Syed says, it's not the books they believe in that are the problem. It's the mad interpretation they put on their co

How to start a successful business

After around four decades of trying to work out what does and doesn't contribute to business success, these days I spend much of my time mentoring others to help them discover the same thing (fortunately I can afford to do this because I did eventually manage to work out some of the answers). Over the years I have come to realise that successful business founders share a number of characteristics which seem to be lacking from those who try, but fail. Perhaps serially. So here are some observations: Who is the business being created for? I am often confronted by excited wide-eyed people clutching business plans that tell you about the fortunes they are going to make, but which lack the single most important factor any business requires, and which is answered by the question - Who wants it to succeed most - the founders or their customers? If it's the former, then the business is being created for the wrong reasons. Businesses that provide what customers need and really want

iPhone 6. Don't Bother!

So my iPhone 4S fell on the floor. The screen crazed and my old faithful finally joined every other iPhone in the house. Tricky to read and not worth stealing. But it was only a couple of weeks away from the release of the much vaunted 6 and my network contract had expired long ago. These days I buy SIM only contracts with EE. Vastly better coverage than the loathsome Vodafone and O2, and cheaper to boot. So what I needed was an unlocked 6. No problem. Ordered it on Apple's website and within a few days it arrived. Hurrah. Although Apple did send me an SMS text to my old iPhone with a link to a website that an iPhone can't read! iTwats. Now the most important thing not to do to an iPhone, as I had already discovered, is drop it. The fancy box it arrives in has a tight fitting lid that you have to pull off as the increasing vacuum inside tries to stop you. Finally the lid popped off, releasing my precious and precariously balanced, as I now discovered, £700 iPhone. In slow m

Prepare for Alien Contact

I've not gone barking mad or joined some weird religious cult (aren't they all?). But I do predict that we will make contact with intelligences from other planets soon. Here's my reasoning: There are approximately 100,000,000,000 stars in our galaxy (easy way to remember this order of magnitude is it's one hundred, thousand, million). Usefully there are also approximately the same number of galaxies in the universe. And assuming every star has about the same number of planets orbiting it as our Sun, and that the Milky Way is an average size of galaxy, that means there are around 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets in the universe. A lot. Scientists have long debated the probability of life, as we would recognise it - reproducing, eating, etc - existing outside Earth. Most agree mathematically that it's a certainty. What they did was take all the components they believed were required for life to have evolved on Earth and then extrapolate what they know about

Standing Up Meant Humans Could Talk

I am a big fan of The Royal Institution  where I've been a member for about 30 years. Their most interesting activities are their Friday Evening Discourses which last exactly one hour and feature august speakers from somewhere in the wide world of science - usually academics. The audience comprises RI members and their guests who broadly enjoy learning about leading edge science presented in an entertaining and, usually, easy to understand way. The RI was in fact founded by Michael Faraday and Humphrey Davy to promote science to the glitterati of London society. Today it's a bit of an anachronism overtaken to some extent by TV documentaries, the internet and social goliaths like TED. But I personally get a great deal out of membership if for no other reason that it gives me a good excuse to start the weekend with a Friday night out in London preceded by a stimulating topic of conversation for the West End dinner which follows. Last Friday I went to a particularly interesting

Will Ukrainians Protect the Scots?

Is it just me, or does the West's indignance about Putin invading the Crimea reek of hypocrisy in the light of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and countless other invasions and regime changes we've perpetrated during recent decades? And the people we've 'rescued' don't even speak our language, share our cultures or have the faintest idea who we are. And none of them are thanking us now. The other side of the hypocrisy is exemplified by the Falkland Islands whose inhabitants voted to remain British - despite Argentina, not unreasonably from a purely geographic point of view, claiming territorial sovereignty. So it is OK for the UK to sail half way around the globe to maintain British dominion in far away places, but not OK for Russians to pop next door to protect Russians. It would seem that at least 96% of Crimeans welcome Putin's invasion if you can trust their referendum... which the West are trying to call illegal. I don't recall being asked if I wanted

Using Faith for Good - The Fatwa Against Wildlife Trade

I have been battling with a dilemma. The concept of god is artificial. I am not going to argue the case for atheism here. It's overwhelmingly argued in thousands of books and blogs, and if you were still in any doubt, just listen to a few creationists or watch any religious service for acres of mumbo-jumbo helping to make the case for a 'wake-up' call. My dilemma is about the idea of perpetuating the brainwashing of populations who haven't woken up, or been allowed to, in order to encourage changes of behaviour to improve the world. In other words, if populations are already led by balmy divine instructions, why not harness its control of their minds to do good (whilst also trying to reach the same muddled brains to encourage a rational view of how the world really works). At their hearts, religions are sets of rules which: Justify, protect and propagate their own sources of power (eg 'There is only one god', 'You will not worship any other' etc).

10 Reasons Why Immigration is Good for Britain

Every country needs people who WANT to work. Immigrants want to make a better life for themselves and for their children. The emphasis is on the word 'make'. This is in contrast to a massive UK benefit culture that's become the lifestyle of choice for so many claiming to deserve it solely because they were born here. Rights without responsibilities weaken societies. To leave your family, friends, language (usually), customs, familiar places and climate (usually better than cold damp UK) to forge a new life in an unknown place takes courage and determination - both qualities we should welcome into our society. The UK has always been a melting pot of nationalities. Until very recently we were by far the largest trading nation on the planet. Our nation is designed to mix peoples and cultures economically and culturally. By opening our doors to foreign cultures, our lives are enriched. Food, music, dance, art, theatre, sport and many other aspects of the way we entertain o

How hard can it be to pay for something? My experience with EE

I'm truly sick of Vodafone ( after having been sicker of O2 ). Both networks aren't networks in that a network is meant to connect things - and my phone doesn't connect to anything most of the time. Vast swathes of the UK are invisible to it, but especially the barren unpopulated wastes (not) of Surrey. My biggest gromble is about the lack of signal (3G especially) that I experience on the train between Guildford (county town of Surrey) and London - a distance of around 35 miles through some of the most densely populated parts of the planet. Wealthy too. At best you get a Vodafone signal for half the journey and perhaps only 5% of it is usable for data (ie 3G). This independent comparison research explains why I decided to experiment with a new network, EE (Everything Everywhere), who have combined the masts of Orange and T-Mobile: I have an iPhone 4S on a Vodafone contract which recently expired. So I'm due either an upgrade from them or I can easily move to a n

Tome Searcher - The world's first intelligent search agent

In the summer of 1986, I met a guy in a pub. At the time I was between jobs having left mainstream marketing at BMW and trying to make a go of Marketing 4 Motorsport (most of my start-up businesses subsequently contained a numeral... 2nd Byte, 10ACT, Calls2Account, R9 etc). The bloke I met, Tom, was a freelance systems engineer (a sort of software expert) who had formed a company called Tome Associates Ltd with another systems expert, Carl Mattocks (now living in New Jersey). Together with an academic duo - Alina Vickery and her husband Professor Brian Vickery, from the University of London, who were much published in the field of Information Science... or librarianship - they formed a company called Tome Associates. The Vickerys had developed some pioneering software with a small team of computer experts at UCL that used an expert system to formulate and then modify boolean search strategies (sets of words combined with AND, OR and NOT that you could use to search textual databases) f

Make Elections Boring

I've arrived at the conclusion that the Conservatives can improve their chances of victory at future elections by making them as boring as possible. My non-PC logic is as follows: Nobody will disagree that we need more and better national infrastructure, education, healthcare, defence, law-enforcement, support for the arts etc etc. The question is, which party has the best chance of delivering it? The ones who prioritise how we can afford it  or the ones who prioritise doing it Ask the average voter if they want more money and more public services, and the answer's bound to be 'yes please'. And turkeys never vote for Christmas (although if turkeys could think a little clearer, then the only reason they exist at all is for Christmas/Thanks Giving - so not voting for Christmas etc means extinction. But I digress). So it's really easy to make the majority believe you're nicer and on their side. The problem is, countries like ours need tough love. What's

Mugged at Paris ATM - Scammed by a Piece of Paper

I was in Paris this weekend to watch England very nearly beat the French at rugby. Really close game, only marred by a) not winning, and b) getting mugged that morning at an ATM for €200. It was about 9.30 in the morning on a relatively quiet road. I needed a top-up of Euros having arrived the evening before with my wife and two (female) friends for a weekend of rugby (yes, I know). So naturally we'd run out of cash since the shops had already been open a good hour. (Note to self... rugby trips are cheaper with blokes). I went up to an ATM outside a post office while the girls stood to one side. I had noticed a couple of teenagers hanging around nearby (one bizarrely was sitting on a grating in the pavement (sidewalk) apparently warming his butt), but I paid them no attention. I inserted my card, entered my PIN and then realised that the kids had flanked me on either side. The guy on my right held a piece of newspaper on top of the lower screen (the one with the keypad buttons).

Britain... Indig-Nation. Obscene Press Feeding Frenzy Over Celebrity Hanky Panky

The British press are having a field day. They adore a good scandal. The more surprising the participants, the more delight they exhibit as their feeding frenzies outside courtrooms and all over the mainstream news testify. And when the details about gropes, bonks and cuddles get revealed, even more joy spreads through their ranks as their outrage intensifies into an orgy of indignation ostensibly proclaimed on behalf of a shocked British public. Imagine their collective squeals of joy when they discovered that not one but three otherwise highly popular celebrities, all with 'cleaning-living', 'butter-wouldn't-melt-in-their-mouths' personas, were all going to be tried in different courts, on the same day! What sort of collusion must there have been between the Department of Justice responsible for scheduling these trials and the baying packs of wildly excited press representing their profit-motivated newspapers and magazines. Plenty of titillating details about vict