Saturday, February 28, 2009

Greed is Good?

Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in the 1980s assured us that "Greed is Good!", but I'm not sure how many victims of the current global financial crisis would agree with him. Personally, I think much of the responsibility for the state of the World lies with each of us individually. The general population, particularly in the US and UK grew addicted over the years to easy credit, and a "buy now pay (maybe) later" mentality. How anyone could have thought that a position where personal debt in the UK exceeded the GDP of the country was sustainable I do not know! The situation where someone in the South East of England could earn more from the rise in the value of their house in a year than they could from their job clearly could not continue for long!

There is no doubt, however, that people in general, and politicians in particular, would like to make out that it was those greedy senior bankers that got us into this mess. The furore over bonus payments, particularly for RBS employees, has been closely followed by equally impotent rage over the pension that Fred Goodwin is apparently going to receive: £693,000 a year!

It is easy to take pleasure in watching Goodwin squirm when quizzed about his pension by the Commons Treasury Select Committee. Many people would like to see him suffer in a much more painful and prolonged way. However, at the end of the day, Goodwin and his cronies were really only doing what their shareholders wanted: trying to make them (even) more money.

As Lao-tzu, the Chinese Philosopher, said:
"There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
There is no greater guilt than discontentment.
And there is no greater disaster than greed."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What Next?

Further to my last post, it seems the Government now feels the need to record on a database every trip that I make! Without any consultation, as far as I am aware, 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!

As far as I am concerned, if this is the price we have to pay to try and ensure absolute security, the terrorists have already won the war...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Talk of the Steamie

There is a Glaswegian phrase "Talk of the Steamie": this refers to the chatter that people (almost exclusively women) would have while washing their clothes in a communal wash room. As you may surmise, the expression dates from the time before individual washing machines in the average home were commonplace. I always think that the Web is the ultimate steamie: providing a truly global forum where ideas and opinions can spread with breathtaking rapidity.

One of the things that is the talk of the steamie just now is Google Latitude. I have always admired Google's relentless innovation. I love Google Mail, Google Calendar, and Google Earth. However, I'm not so sure about Google Latitude. People in the UK, it seems to me, are monitored to an increasing and disturbing degree. I believe there is a higher number of CCT cameras in the UK per head of population than practically anywhere else in the World. The so-called War on Terror has led the government to propose that they should be able to read every e-mail and text message that we send, and have access to details of every web page that we visit. Although, I don't feel I've got anything to hide, my instinct is to oppose stubbornly these creeping infringements of our civil liberties. I can't really imagine why anybody would want to allow themselves to be tracked using Google latitude and it seems I am not the only one to have concerns about its privacy implications.

Clearly, use of this application is voluntary, but if it becomes widely used I would be concerned that systems like this could develop into yet another way for Big Brother to watch us.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Texting the Obvious?

I was not previously a fan of sending text messages. My old Nokia phone had predictive text, but I could never get the hang of it. As a result, I needed to perform multiple key presses, making sending even the simplest of messages a slow and painful chore. Wosog is quite a dab hand at predictive texting, as are my children. I believe my daughter's friend can even text at amazing speed using predictive text on her phone without looking at it! How the Hell does that work? Anyway, I've now got a BlackBerry Curve smartphone with a separate key for each letter, so texting is a dawdle.

I've heard of text messages being used for a few medical purposes: reminding patients about their clinic/ surgery appointments; reminding asthmatic children to monitor their peak flow measurements etc. This article on the BBC website describes a trial of the use of text messages to warn patients with seasonal affective disorder of impending overcast weather. To quote the article:

"Under the pilot project, alerts are sent to participants before gloomy days warning them to spend 20 minutes in front of their light box, and to read the accompanying advice that day.

This should help them to prepare for the dark weather and know what to expect when they draw the curtains."
Maybe I'm being stupid here, but unless these folk have very thick curtains (which would not seem a good idea in someone who craves light exposure) can't they get a pretty good idea what the light level outside is by examining the light coming through the curtains?