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Friday, June 24, 2005

Eagle Owl's beady eyes on me

Eagle Owl's beady eyes on me
Originally uploaded by LukePDQ.
This amazing bird has all the charm of a Barn Owl, only three times as big.
The Eagle Owl pictured here is about two feet tall from perch to tip of its tufty ears.
As I approached to take a picture, the bird heard my movement. Then his/her head swivelled and looked over its shoulder at me to reveal two piercing eyes of a hunter.
Lucky for me I was not its prey.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The need for ID cards and the *true* costs of implementing biometric ID cards in UK - Discuss.
There are a few issues about the way our UK Govt. has presented their arguments for the *necessity* to introduce biometric ID cards.

SPIN: The UK Govt. claim 80% of people support the need for ID cards.
TRUTH: Latest ICM poll shows collapse of public support for ID cards. In fact, 43% of population now think ID cards are a bad or very bad idea.
click here to

SPIN: The Govt. says "...ID cards are necessary to combat the Terrorist threats facing us in the UK".
TRUTH: If this is the case, why doesn't the Govt. issue emergency ID cards *now* to protect us, whilst they are seeking approval to "roll out" their proposed ID card scheme over the next 3 to 5 years.
Alternatively, they could insist all foreign nationals visiting or resident in UK should immediately have biometric ID cards issued to protect UK citizens.
After all, this is pretty much what USA are doing right now. All the IT hardware/software is installed at USA Border controls and their Immigration Service ensure compliance.

SPIN: The UK Govt. says "...It's imperative to introduce ID cards to combat identity theft".
TRUTH: In fact, "...ID cards will help fraudsters" says Dr James Backhouse of LSE's Info Systems Integrity Group
click here to

SPIN: The UK Govt claims they have "...International obligations on fingerprinting".
TRUTH: There is NO such obligation on UK Govt. The USA has passed an internal law, the little-known Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act 2002. Part of this internal law includes seeking international co-operation with this standard.
This is not an International obligation on the UK. It is the USA seeking to harmonise card reader standards, which also suggests the USA are seeking access to UK ID databases in order to access data on UK citizens. See next paragraph.
click here to

Data Confidentiality:
This reveals the bigger issues about Confidentiality, who gets access to our personal data, etc, etc,
The UK Govt. has quietly passed legislation designed to allow them to integrate or "link" all (currently separate) National databases on UK citizens.
Not publicly debated so far, is that these biometric ID cards will contain not only your Biometric data and Personal details, BUT access to your confidential Financial/Tax details, confidential Health records, Police records, Social Services data, etc.
Much of this data will be definitive, but some will be anecdotal, eg, Police, Social Services, Medical records information that is "intelligence" on their "clients".
This *anecdotal*, ie "officer reports..." data is currently justified to share information on criminals, benefits fraudsters, to protect vulnerable children, old people, battered wives, etc.
But once this personal data and anecdotal reports are all integrated into a shared National database, ALL this data can be accessed by ID card readers. These card readers will be be installed in Border Controls, Police, Inland Revenue, NHS Hospitals/GP surgeries, DHSS/Benefits offices, Social Services, etc. In fact, any UK "official" offices where UK citizens access local services.
Thus, your local Council offices, Social Services, DHSS, Benefit offices, Education Dept, Hospitals, GP surgeries, Police, Inland Revenue, etc, can all access your personal online records. Any of these "officials" will be able to access the data in National databases containing your personal and confidential data.
There has been *no* debate about controlling access to your confidential data by "curious" officials probing your data records for information other than their own immediate authorised use; other than the Govt. insisting this would not happen. Hah!

SPIN: The UK Govt. claims "The total costs of introducing biometric ID cards is £5.85 billion".
TRUTH: Authoritive independant reports put this figure at more like £15 billion - £18 billion.
Think of many of the big IT Govt. projects in last 10 years that massively overran on budgeted costs to decide which figure is more likely.

SPIN: The UK Govt. has said £93 is their "indicative unit cost" for ID cards. ie, each citizen must pay £93 for their ID Card.
TRUTH: Independant IT industry reports that the true cost of ID cards is more likely to cost us around £200 - £300 each.
This discrepancy is due to flawed Govt figures for IT infrastructure costs. eg, Govt says card readers will cost around £750 each.
The IT industry estimates that biometric card readers will likely cost up to £3000 each to provide accurate ID recognition.

SPIN: The UK Govt says "...Biometric ID cards are quick, easy and definitive proof of ID."
TRUTH: Even if biometric ID cards are deemed necessary, some 600,000 people are likely to be "failed" by their biometric scans due mobility/disability issues, eye defects, cataracts etc.
In any case Biometric body morphology changes over time, so it is likely growing children or older people will need fresh scans every 3 - 5 years to maintain their biometric identity compliance.
click here to

The London School of Economics (LSE) have released their independent interim report on the whole issue of ID cards.
This is a serious body of work which highlights in much detail, the many flaws in the Govt arguments about ID cards.
click here to


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sorry. I've not been blogging much this last few weeks.
Note to self: Must do better and take more painkillers.

Allergies on the increase.
Allergic conditions increased threefold in Britain over last 20 years.
UK now has one of the world’s highest prevalence of allergic conditions, with allergies affecting one third of the UK population.

* Approximately 18m people in the UK will develop allergy at some time in their lives
* 4 in 10 school children have at least one allergic condition
* 25% of 13-21 years olds suffer hayfever
* 1 in 8 children has asthma
* 5.1 million people have asthma
* 6 million people have eczema
* 9 million people have hayfever
* 1 million people have a food allergy

(Source: Royal College of Physicians, National Asthma Campaign, Allergy UK)

That's an awful lot of itching, wheezing or sneezing people.
Many of whom will suffer regular sleep deprivation as a result.
Not to mention missed schooling, exams, lost days at work.
Plus, the cost to NHS for drug treatments, plus prescription charges to affected families.

Wouldn't you think that someone, somewhere would have told Tony Blair about all this.
Then our Nanny State could ban us, on pain of ASBO's, from suffering above conditions and save us all that time and worry.
.......as if Life (TM) was that simple.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A simple rant about Jonathon Ross. O.B.E. on ugliness and disability.
Now, Wossy is a very accomplished Radio and TV presenter (since 1987 apparently) and has his own chat show as well.
He is amusing, witty, informed, a cool kid on music trends, geeky on films and comics.
Originally a punk, now uber smartly dressed in designer suits and trademark long floppy hair-style.
Married to Jane and proud father of his privately educated children.
In short, a typical successful and rich man; where all appears wonderful in his world.
He has won many TV/Radio/Showbiz awards. So, why am I troubled by his OBE award ?

Firstly, his career achievements seem a bit lightweight to justify an OBE. Except, these Honours are now issued by decree recommendation of Tony Blair, who seems to go out of his way to use these Honours lists to reward his cronies and demonstrate his *street cred* with populist figures. Especially if it might influence younger voters that President Prime Minister Blair has his finger on the pulse of what's cool and happening in the lives of young people in Britain today.
Secondly, Wossy, is a bit of a foul mouthed, sex obsessed bloke at times. Who, since he regularly rants against Queen and Royal family, I find it a bit of a turn-around that he now accepts an OBE from the Queen.
Thirdly, he is a vain, shallow creature, whose world is so perfect (lucky him) that he regularly (like most weeks on his show) makes disparaging, crude or even cruel comments about ugly, disabled or mentally handicapped people getting in the way of able bodied people or cluttering up his perfect world view.
He does seem oblivious of the fact that some people do not cope as well as he does; probably because they don't have his health, wealth and family support.

I think JR is so obsessed, with good looks and smart clothes, witness his often harsh comments about the *ugly* looks or clothes of his guests or other *stars*; that he has long forgotten to count his blessings for a healthy family who are not ugly, disfigured or disabled.
I would like JR to take time out to visit a few children' wards in hospital to be more thankful for the health and wellbeing of his children.
I would like JR to visit a few residential homes for disabled or special needs adults to appreciate that many *ordinary* people are desperately trying to cope with life and adversity as best they can.
Who knows, he might even meet a few people whose souls shine like a beacon through their physical imperfections.

I think it was Roisseau, who said "...most ordinary people are leading lives of quiet desperation".
Enlightment, Jonathon is what I hope for you. A little humility and respect for other people not born with your good looks and charm.
Then you would be more worthy of an O.B.E. in my eyes.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Not blogging - due throbbing ....
Not been able to blog all week due worsening of left shoulder pain.
This was the booby prize received when go kart racing some time ago and tore a shoulder tendon which refuses to heal. The pain has eased off with heavy painkillers for now, but movement still difficult. Still waiting for 2nd. shoulder op to repair the supraspinatus tendon, which our NHS service has given me a "definite maybe" date sometime in Sept. Hopefully, this year, please.

In other news, I posted previously about Swahili. Now I've got an e-mail from "Isobel" asking me to translate "One Man went to Mow" into Swahili and email it to her. Like me, she learned this childrens rhyme in East Africa, but has forgotten the words.
So, Isobel, gird your loins to receive a Swahili version of "One Man went to mow, went to mow a meadow - or rather...
"Mtu Moja kwenda, kwenda kwa lima Shamba..., etc, which is presently being typed up in all its 10 verses glory for your amusement.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Question - by Bob Moore
This isn't my story, it may be saccharine; but I copied it here because it says something about how our American friends foster their *can do* attitude.

Isn't it amazing how few of us ask ourselves the important question?
Some years ago I was invited to hear an important speaker address the students at college in South Carolina. The hall was filled with students excited about hearing a person of her stature speak. After the Head introduced her, the speaker moved to the microphone, looked at the audience from left to right, and began:
"I was born to a mother who was deaf and could not speak. I do not know who my father is or was. The first job I ever had was in a cotton field."

The students were spellbound. "Nothing has to remain the way it is if that's not the way a person wants it to be," she said. "It isn't luck, and it isn't circumstances, and it isn't being born a certain way that causes a person's future to become what it becomes." She softly repeated, "Nothing has to remain the way it is if that's not the way a person wants it to be."

"All a person has to do," she added firmly, "to change a situation that brings unhappiness or dissatisfaction is answer the question: "How do I want this situation to become?" Then the person must commit totally to personal actions that carry them there."

Then with beautiful smile, she said, "My name is Azie Taylor Morton. I stand before you today as treasurer of the United States of America."
...from Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

The moral for me is that we should celebrate *achievement* (whether personal or academic) more than we do, given our stoic british upbringing.

Have a great weekend. Back on Monday.
Feel free to comment with your "chicken soup for the soul" moments.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

"Is this God's Eye ?"

(pic sourced from NASA web-site.)

Isn't this image just fantastic ?
I've been searching for the original, after hearing about it on the t'internet webbie thing.
It's a composite pic of the Helix Nebula taken by the 0.9 metre Telescope at Kitt Peak Nat. Observatory and the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.
Someone named this pic "Gods Eye". Whilst not the official Nasa description, it does have a certain iconic ring to it.
Anyway, it's both a scientific reality and a brilliant image. If it is God's Eye, then he must be temporarily staying in a celestial hideaway some 650-700 light years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation of Aquarius. Unless you know different.
So, if there is a God, where does He live ?
Click here to read more about The Helix Nebula on the NASA web-site.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Why a little knowledge can be dangerous for your health.
So I was idly perusing my medical dictionary, like you do. No, don't ask.
But in this case, I needed to check out the medical abbreviation "SAD"

Wow, I thought, this looks scary. Sudden Death Syndrome (SADS)
What's Sudden Death Syndrome ? Is it when you just drop dead ?
So I looked for the details.... Well, yes, it is.
SAD's are due to Long QT's. Of course.
.... you can read about long QT's here.

Luckily for me, there is another syndrome called "SAD".
This one is called Sub Acromial Decompression or SAD. That's the one I'm looking for.

P.S. I'm sorry if this post upsets anyone bereaved. I write here to amuse or enlighten myself, not cause personal offence.
P.P.S If you are concerned about your health, you should consult a doctor.

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