Wednesday 29 July 2009

Bracknell Authors

Another budding author in Bracknell has just published a book.

In The Wool Cycle or The World Well Washed, Dominica Roberts takes a surreal look at the magical world we know as Bracknell.

The World Well Washed is set in and around Bracknell.

It takes in the Bracknell site used as the location of Harry Potter's muggle relations. This book has flying sheep, discussions on the exact type of chocolate that makes up the missing dark matter in the universe, recipes, footnotes and some truly horrible puns.

Readers especially recommended it if you like Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde or just giggling inanely at silly jokes.

In the Bracknell News, Mrs Robers is quoted as saying "I've been telling people silly stories about Bracknell for ages, things like the Warfield ghost bus, the way they're always digging the roads up 'for buried treasure' and a whole lot of silly stuff about the underworld under Bracknell.".

It s available from Amazon for £5.99, or it can be purchased from the author for £5 by calling 01344 422902

Don't forget that you can also buy my book (hint hint) from Amazon, and bookshops. See my website at

Tuesday 28 July 2009


The Bracknell Standard says that Priestwood has emerged as Bracknell’s best-loved area to live in.
I presume that means the whole area of Priestwod and Garth, or as it was Priestwood One and Two.

It is nice to know that we are in a good place!

The monks of Hurley Priory who were Lords of the Manor of Warfield (3rd place) in medieval times. would be pleased of the heritage they left. Perhaps we should thank the New Towns Commision for creating the open spaces that we have? Bracknell was designated as a New Town on 17 June in 1949. The first 50 houses in the New Town were completed here in 1950.

The original New Town was planned for 25,000 people; it was intended to occupy over 1,000 hectares of land on and around 'Old Bracknell' in the area now covered by Priestwood, Easthampstead, Bullbrook and Harman's Water.

Saturday 25 July 2009

Ancient eyesore

It dominatates Bracknell.
It dominates Priestwood and Garth.
The toothless hag of Winchester House.

More and more often now when I am out walking the dog I will see people standing staring, and somtimes what looks like pouting. They are looking at the skanky skyline.

BBC Berkshire says "It's awful, horrible, an eyesore and a mess. That is the verdict of Bracknell residents on the state of Winchester House building in Bracknell. Now Milton Land, owners of the former 3M building, have been ordered by the council to clean it up."

Residents questioned by BBC Berkshire reporter Sabi Phagura said they would prefer to see the building pulled down, blown up or turned it into a hospital.

Bracknell Forest Council say that:

The section 215 notice served on Miltonland Ltd, the owner of Winchester House, means that the building, which has been repeatedly vandalised and damaged by fire, will be made safe and brought up to a decent safe and presentable condition.

The owners of the building now have four months to carry out the improvements, which include:

*The removal of all broken glass;

*The boarding up of all broken windows with clean wood;

*The closure of all glazed openings for two storeys above the market;

*Repainting of fire damaged panels;

*Removal and painting over of graffiti from the exterior of the building;

*Blocking up of access where it has been vandalised on the ground floor;

*To finish the external face of the building.

We can only hope.
But maybe blowing it up would be much more satisfying?

A bit of Googling brings up BBC Bristol and Westmorland House.

Sounds familliar!

Comer Homes bought the plot in 1989 but has not been able to agree plans for its development with the city council.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Tracking the Hacking

The defence of human liberty can affect us all. The Extradition Act of 2003 was passed into law to fight the “war on terror” post 9/11. But one wonders how Gary McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome (a form of autism), can be described as a terrorist.

Lord Jones of Birmingham, a former Government minister has attacked Britain’s "lopsided" extradition arrangements with the United States. He has called on the Government to change the rules "the lopsided, biased extradition arrangements between the USA and the UK".

The Extradition Act 2003 requires the US only to show "reasonable suspicion" that the intended subject committed a crime before they can be removed from Britain, a lower threshold than British authorities must show in order to bring an American to trial.
The High Court is expected to rule on whether to grant judicial reviews of aspects of the Government's decision to extradite Gary McKinnon. The courts have seen details of numerous embarrassing intrusions by hackers into some of the US military's most sensitive systems.

A list of violated military agencies is detailed in a document published by Computer Weekly. The document demonstrates how vulnerable US military computer systems were to attack before and after 11 September 2001.

Mckinnon's lawyers used the CPS' 'Review Note 3' to support their argument in the High Court that US evidence against McKinnon is too weak to secure a prosecution in this country and unlikely even to uphold allegations against McKinnon in the US.

Mckinnon has Asperger's syndrome – a type of autism that makes him shy and prone to obsessive behaviour – his supporters are concerned that his condition would probably deteriorate were he to be taken away from his family. His condition means he would sometimes combines a compulsive need to follow any mission to its conclusion with an almost complete inability to envisage any negative outcome.

Leah Hardy writing in the Daily Mail says "As a mother and a voter, I feel nothing but loathing and contempt for those cowardly, two-faced Labour MPs who signed up to this newspaper's campaign for Gary McKinnon, then, faced with pressure from their own party, caved in and voted to sacrifice him - and any other UK citizen the U.S. happens to take a dislike to - for their own craven ambitions."

I was fascinated by the book "Born On A Blue Day". It gave an insight into the mind of a person with Asperger's.

It is very distressing to read how Gary McKinnon has been abandoned by his own country. Here we have yet another wrong decision by our current government.
I is also very interesting to read how relatively easy it has been to break into these supposed secure systems, which is perhaps another lesson that our government should pay attention to.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Wrapping up RSS and smashing atoms

This was an interesting exercise. I had to do several things that I had done before, but it was a bit like relearning some of it. Seems like the things I learnt 30 years ago stay in my memory better that thing from 30 days ago.

The thing is now created though, and I have a wrapper around the Blogger blog stuff. The wrapper picks up the things from blogger using RSS. I am using php rather than a script (must remember to call the files php not htm or html) to include the RSS stream. This meant remembering how the Wamp server worked, and where to put stuff in directories. All easy really one I remembered where I put it all.

WAMP includes Apache 2, MySQL, and PHP 5. Once installed, it just works. There was a fiddly bit with the RSS and rssinclude. I had not used that site before, but it did make it easy. I should probably now revist and tweak that a bit. The RSS part there is a bit clunky.

It was interesting picking up a website template off the web. A lot of the positioning of stuff is done through Cascading Style Sheets CSS. I thing that I really should pay more attention to. It can make things look quite pretty, but is not always obvious in use. I always fell much happier handcoding HTML. I suppose it is the sort of way I feel better using Assembler to produce code instead of somthing like C++ as one can see exactly what the computer is doing, and where one is heading.
Thinking of Assembler, I must get around to visiting the National Computer Musem at Bletchley Park. They have a Elliott 905 computer there that it would be nice to see again.
The 920 was a millitary version.

Oh dear. A lot of techy type stuff here.

Monday 20 July 2009

What a waste

Following on from an earlier post about Tracking Trash, and Watching Waste it was interesting to see the front page of the Times on Saturday.

Two British companies are being investigated over the discovery of 1,400 tonnes of hazardous waste from Britain at Brazilian ports.

The Times now says that Britain is preparing to take back more than 1,400 tonnes of toxic waste said to have been exported illegally to Brazil for recycling.

It make you wonder if recycling targets are real or not.
We just have to put our trust in contractors, and government schemes.

We learnt, earlier in the month, again from The Times that More than 2,800 tons of paper left out by householders for recycling is being dumped in landfill sites every year. Paper collected in the same containers as plastic bottles and metal cans is being contaminated by food and liquid waste, making it unusable for recycling.

Thursday 16 July 2009

A Bee on my Bonnet

We have loads of Bumble Bees going in and out of the garage.
They decided to live in there somewhere quite some time back.

We have to make sure that the back door is opened when we get up, so that the bees can get out easily. They could get out through the up-and-over door, but it's a bit more complicated.
I forgot the other morning, and a lone bee came in the house, presumably to get me to open the door. The door glass was covered in bees, all waiting to get out.

How, I wonder, are we to persuade them to live somewhere else next year?

According to Defra, up to £10 million is to be invested to help to identify the main threats to bees and other insect pollinators. Maybe it's because they get themselves locked in a garage all day?

Palaver, Poppycock, and Poppy Crop

I see that a Priestwood soldier who served in Afghanistan has backed the Government’s decision to keep troops there after 15 men died in 10 days.
TA soldier David McMullan said “There are a number of reasons we’re out there. “Afghanistan produces more than 90 per cent of the heroin in the UK and if you look at the impact that has on crime in the UK - that’s something worth fighting for.
"I don’t think anyone should have to live under a rule like the Taliban [Muslim fundamentalists and former ruling party of Afghanistan]. Having spent some time out there, and having seen the difference in the Afghan nationals when they see changes working for them, I think it is a fight worth fighting."

It was interesting to read this following Boris Johnson's column in the Telegraph.

He says that at direct UK government urgings, there are large tracts of land that are given over to the cultivation of the palaver somniferum (Opium Poppy) , for the very good reason that the opium is essential for the NHS. Why are we paying our farmers to grow poppies in Oxfordshire, and paying our soldiers to destroy them in Afghanistan? Be in no doubt that what British troops are doing in Helmand is heroic, and it is very far from futile. If Nato forces pulled out, the Taliban would probably overrun Kabul in three weeks, with catastrophic consequences for Pakistan and for global stability
Why not Let us help the Afghans to obtain what legal value they can from their poppies?
As long as heroin is illegal in most jurisdictions (for the foreseeable future, that is), the price of illegal opium will probably be higher than the legal crop, and the drugs barons will not be entirely undermined. But we should at least try an option that offers the world cheaper pain relief.

Boris also says that we could dwell on how poppies have symbolised the sacrifice of soldiers.

Fat Pig - Moi? Flab and Flu

As if people struggling with obesity did not have enough to worry about, they now face a new health hazard.
According to statistics from the US, overweight people appear more likely to die of swine flu.

In the US, 45 who died per cent were obese. As only 26 per cent of US adults are obese, this suggests that obesity doubles the risk.

Overfed, obese mice are nearly seven times as likely to die of ordinary flu as genetically identical lean mice. HWCIT

We don't know if the same series of events happen in obese people with swine flu, Beck warns. But it is possible that, as in mice, obesity dampens our ability to fight flu by disrupting the immune response.

David Fedson, a former flu researcher at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, has long proposed using drugs that damp down inflammation, such as statins, fibrates and glitazones, as an additional way of cutting deaths from flu. These drugs are normally prescribed for obesity-related disorders such as high cholesterol and insulin insensitivity - figures on obesity and swine flu strengthen the case for stockpiling the drugs.

Well at least I am on Statins and Fibrates. The tummy needs some working on though - but the doctor has already told me that.


Wednesday 15 July 2009

Watch the Birdie

Numbers of a threatened species of bird native to some of Bracknell Forest’s nature reserves have dropped following heavy snowfalls in the winter. Conservationists are warning that numbers of Dartford warblers could have fallen by 80 or 90 per cent.
Bracknell Standard

It is worrying that things are being done to protect birds, but that they continue to decline.

The Council has produced Open Space Management Plans in consultation with Natural England. These set out the precise works to areas of open space and the priority order for these enhancements. Four of these plans have now been finalised, Horseshoe Lakes, Englemere Pond, The Cut Countryside Corridor and Longhill Park cluster, and the remaining four will be produced.
Thames Basin.

The birds in our garden, and the woodland behind appear to have done well with breeding this year.
At one stage I could count 7 baby Blue Tits in the bird bath together. The were like a bunch of small boys at the seaside splashing about.

On a more somber note, there is a "smell" in the attic. The Starlings did appear to breed OK, but I suspect that one did not make it. Diane wants me to go up now and sort it out. I wonder if I wait whether "it" will dry out and cease to be a problem.

There used to be a lot of Starlings about when I moved in 12 years ago. There was constant whistling and chatting. I miss all that background noise.

We did the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. As always it was interesting watching all the birds come and go.
I must remember to keep an eye out for a suitable webcam to capture the garden and wildlife.

Tracking Trash, and Watching Waste

3,000 pieces of rubbish, donated by volunteers, will be tagged in New York, Seattle and London. In order to monitor how rubbish moves around the cities and beyond, a MIT team has developed a small mobile sensor. Basically a miniature cell phone with limited functionality. They say that the system should be able to track rubbish around the globe.

I will be interesting to see the results.

The team also says that it hopes that the technology can be miniaturised and made cheap enough that the tags could one day be attached to everything.

But does that mean that we might en up throwing even more away? I remember a company I worked for asking that when photocopies were made, a copy was to be set to an administrator. This was so that excessive copying could be tracked. Of course there was then outrage from the admin department that the use of the photocopier had doubled.

Also in the article it says that the MIT team has previously revealed the movements of people around cities, such as Rome and Copenhagen, by analysing mobile phone signals.

Perhaps a bit scary that - Who is able to do this monitoring?

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Limits on speed, Limits on common sense?

A Safer Way: Consultation on Making Britain's Roads the Safest in the World - Ends today.

What will transpire?

Andrew MacKay (Senior Parliamentary & Political Advisor To David Cameron; Bracknell, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received on proposed changes to speed limits; and if he will make a statement.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport; Poplar & Canning Town, Labour)

Our consultation "A Safer Way" on road safety published on 21 April, aims to reduce road deaths by a third by 2020. We make a range of proposals and there are two carefully targeted to reduce speeds:

(1) That local authorities reduce limits to 20 mph on roads of a primarily residential nature and around schools; and

(2) That highway authorities reduce limits on the more dangerous rural single carriageways from 60 mph, where the evidence supports it.

Every day the government seems to find a new way to make the motorist's life a misery. They will probably now decree a blanket reduction in the National Speed Limit from 60MPH to 50MPH, all of which will be enforced by a massive network of interlinked intelligent cameras.

Unlike traditional speed cameras, average speed cameras work by measuring how fast a car travels over a stretch of road.

The lower limit would apply automatically unless the local authority could prove that it was safe for the road to remain at 60mph.

Road safety and motoring groups said that a lower limit would make little difference to safety unless it was accompanied by greater enforcement and changes to the layout of rural roads, such as improving visibility at junctions.

The change may have no impact on average speed, which DfT surveys show is only 48mph in free-flowing conditions on rural 60mph roads.

On many stretches of rural road without bends or small junctions, the responsible driver can drive safely at 60mph. If the limit is reduced, more drivers will be tempted to try potentially dangerous overtaking manoeuvres to get past a car doing 48mph.

We need a proportionate approach to road safety that targets problems such as poor road design and problem-makers such as reckless drivers. Why should all drivers be inconvenienced for the sake of a reckless minority? We should improve driver education, increase the number of traffic police, improve road design and target the reckless minority rather than introduce more restrictions.

Many local authorities are already in the position to take key decisions on whether reduced speed limits are the best option.
Rather than have across-the-board reductions in the speed limit that hit everyone, why not create a situation where local authorities/local people are empowered to make our roads safer, and given the powers to target problem drivers? html

Protest the reduction in the National Speed Limit from 60 to 50?


Like a monkey at a zoo caught playing with himself.

Home truths served up by Dan Hannan in reply to Brown’s address to the European Parliament.

"All the time Gordon just squirmed in his seat pretending not to be bothered. Gordon was reduced to grinning like a monkey at a zoo caught playing with himself."

I have to keep going back and watching it again.

Who is watching you?

Charles Farrier, a spokesman for national pressure group No CCTV, which campaigns against surveillance in the UK, criticised the use of CCTV in schools. He said: “It's outrageous and unacceptable to put CCTV in toilets, particularly children's toilets. CCTV doesn't stop problems. It is treated as a 'silver bullet' but it won't - at best it films the problem but you can't tell what's going on with the footage."

I wonder how useful cameras are.
Other reports are as follows: .html
85 per cent of teachers say that they have CCTV in their schools, whilst nearly a quarter worry about hidden cameras within their building. In most cases, the surveillance cameras are covering the school grounds and entrances to the school, but nearly ten per cent say CCTV is operating in the toilets.


Father of four Paul Cooper, from Solihull, was shocked to find cameras in the gents at Wolverhampton rail station, leased and operated by Virgin Trains.

Car delivery man Mr Cooper, aged 50, of Thelsford Way, has lodged a complaint with Virgin but has yet to receive a proper reply.

"I use the rail network daily, travelling throughout Britain from John o'Groats to Lands End," he said. "This is is the first time I have ever found CCTV cameras in toilets at a rail station and I am disgusted by it.

"There is a CCTV camera in toilets at Wolverh
Wolverhampton, fitted to the ceiling above the urinals and cubicles. 540545/

latest figures - released under the Freedom of Information Act - show the number of images taken with ANPR cameras has risen by up to 1,000 per cent from 2007.

The ANPR cameras are placed on major roads and hidden in strategic locations such as ports, airports and on CCTV cameras in towns.

All information recorded on the cameras is then kept on the police database for a minimum of two years.

Police say are needed for operational reasons such as tracking stolen cars and catching drug dealers and uninsured drivers.

But anti-surveillance campaigners claim the hidden devices are an invasion of privacy and are a sign of a "Big Brother state".

All very well, until someone leaves a memory stick of data laying about.

I wonder who watches the watchers.
How is data secured.
What is the data used for.
Why is it kept for so long.

History is more or less bunk ?

t seems that there is a generation of teenagers who know almost nothing about the history of Britain.

Professor Derek Matthews says that this is because schools are sidelining knowledge in favour of trendy topics and generic skills.

He decided to investigate by setting them five simple questions. Over three years, 284 UK-educated first-years took the test, which demanded basic knowledge the professor believes 'every 18-year-old should know'.

In total, the students answered just 26.7 per cent of questions correctly - just over one in five. Students with A*s or As in history GCSE fared little better, answering just a third correctly.


He recounted in his report how students in a typical tutorial had never heard of the Reformation and did not know what was meant by the term Protestant. One thought Martin Luther was an American civil rights leader.
His students were probably in the top 15 per cent of their age group for educational success.
'This implies that, all things being equal, 85 per cent of my undergraduates' age group know even less than they do.
'In other words, we are looking at a whole generation that knows almost nothing about the history of their (or anyone else's) country.'

  • 1. Who was the general in charge of the British army at the battle of Waterloo?
  • 2. Who was the reigning monarch when the Spanish Armarda attacked Britain?
  • 3. What was Isambard Brunel's profession?
  • 4. Name one Prime Minister of Britain in the 19th Century?
  • 5. In what country was the Boer War of 1899 to 1902 fought?

Is it that we have moved away from valuing rigorous subject teaching and education as a good in itself?
Is the only thing taught Ignorance itself?
is not deemed Politically Correct?
Are we ashamed of this nations Past?
Is it down to underfunding?
In the light of fringe parties such as the BNP gaining votes it is incredibly important that we ensure that young people are aware (politically aware even) of the past? Knowing the past can set the frame for how we think about the future.

Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to continue always a child. If no use is made of the labors of past ages, the world must remain always in the infancy of knowledge.

Any country's education policy will be framed by the context of that nation's history and it is vital that every generation is given the chance to take pride in our country’s past.

Cyber stuff

Much of the cybercrime targeting UK organisations comes from overseas crime groups, according to a new strategy document for tackling serious organised crime. There is also growing evidence that states are sponsoring criminal gangs to make cyberattacks.

The worry is that the more that is held centrally, the more reliance will be placed on those central systems. Systems that could be compromised, or made unavailable. Systems that are prime targets for hackers.

Computerised records of all 250 million journeys made by individuals in and out of the UK each year will be kept for up to 10 years.
The government says the database is essential in the fight against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism.
But opposition MPs and privacy campaigners fear it is a significant step towards a surveillance society.
The intelligence centre will store names, addresses, telephone numbers, seat reservations, travel itineraries and credit card details of travellers.

The government is building databases to track more and more of our movements. They always say that it is about security or personal protection.

But we have a government that just can't be trusted over highly sensitive issues.

In 2004, Richard Thomas, the information commissioner at the time, warned that Britain was "sleepwalking" into a surveillance society. Davies believes the situation has got worse. "When we categorise the privacy ratings of all the countries, Britain is already in the black category along with some pretty unpleasant societies."

Evey day we hear of yet another way that the Government is going to track out lives. They tell us that if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. The fear is the government just cannot hold onto its data, and details of millions of people are going to end up in the wrong hands.

There is now so much held that any individual may not know if they have any incorrectly-ascribed information. Information that could magnified until it is out of hand and the individual concerned having no way of correcting it, or who has meddled with it.

Monday 13 July 2009

The pigs flew?

Debora MacKenzie bloging in the New Scentist says that the British mirage of "containment" meant administering prophylactic half-doses of antiviral drugs to contacts of the few known cases to stop them spreading the virus. Such a policy only makes sense if the virus is not already spreading widely, and it risks creating drug-resistant viruses - as happened in Denmark and also in Japan.

The normal seasonal H1N1 virus became almost entirely Tamiflu resistant over the past two years, for reasons that are not yet understood. Scientists fear the pandemic virus, also a member of the H1N1 family, might acquire Tamiflu resistance by interbreeding with these ordinary strains. To start with we were almost able count individual cases.

The experts say that individuals differ in the way they react to viruses. (So maybe there were too few to get a clear idea of effects) The current virus apparently binds deep in the lung, and can trigger potentially fatal pneumonia if the person infected mounts a strong inflammation in response to it. As more people become infected the effects should become more apparant.

Interestingly, Daniel Hannan in his blog asks "Why, then, the urgent need to inoculate the entire British population? Perhaps I’m being overly cynical, but I can’t help wondering whether we’re being pushed into a wrong-headed course of action by the health scare industry."

The new deaths of a six-year old schoolgirl and a GP don't make it any clearer.

We will just have to wait and see.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Not together at all

Well I give up on joining social networks and blogs together.
What with multiple posts, no posts and general lumpiness.
It may be a good thing though. Having spent the afternoon wading though 600 unlooked at emails on my AOL/AIM address, and some hundreds more in other accounts, I think it is best that these things are not coupled together anyway. I still have loads of seminar (have to pay to go) invites on the council email, and load of junk from Microsoft, and Yahoo in those accounts.
At least in the "junk" accounts that I use to sign up for things(they promise NEVER to give your email away) I don't have to look too hard before I hit the delete button.

At least in those "junk" accounts I don't have to eyeball the junk and spam folders. It is so annoying to find a week or a month old message in either the spam or junk boxes, when it is perfectly valid. I suppose I find much the same problem with snail mail. Useful things get hidden under the junk, and find their way to the recycling bin. The trouble is whenever you want to check the real or virtual bin for accidents a garbage collector has always been by the day before.
I did go through a stage of rechecking the bins before putting them out, but Diane thought I was bonkers.

Facebook seems to be the one everyone communicates with, I have not had many people link up to me on myspace, windows live, yahoo, or whatever else I did and can't remember much about now. Playing with these things comes in handy though, just in case a customer needs help with suchlike.

One Way Technology

Perhaps it is too late at night to work out which things go what way.
It's all inside out.

Testing the Technology

It this works right, I should have hooked up blogger with Facebook.
It not. Not.

Some Vague Mutterings

Should be bedtime really, but I thought I should get at least a bit of a blog thing set up.
Funny how the spelling mistakes sneak up on one.