Friday, November 30, 2012

Winter on the allotment and #10 Nature

Winter now very much with us frost today but yesterday managed a few hours down on the allotment, tasks were:

1) Turning compost - advisable to do this every couple of weeks speeds process and chance to see if 'mixture' is too dry or too wet.

2) Picked my last cabbage, and started to dig over that area - Brussels are coming along nicely

3) Planting peas - more peas grown from seed added (see left).

4) Cutting 1st year asparagus back - this is meant to be cut back November-ish to around 50cm.

5) Draining water from butt -all the rain meant water butt was overflowing!

And todays big idea is Number 10 -Nature

Nature is a large term (like History yesterday) -
Nature is allied to denote things that are 'natural' like 'Human nature'.
State of Nature is a concept associated with Thomas Hobbes (him again - he might need more research!).

Currently mention of Nature can trigger thoughts of hills and Blacks Leisure shops - but it's previously been thought of an area of danger away from civilisation it was the romantic movement which led to it's re-evaluation.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Zeebox and #9 History

Last week I visited London's Zeebox offices (think they're looking to expand if you're after a job!) to offer some feedback on their App and see some of the new features that they're looking at rolling out.
The Zeebox boys and girls are currently residing in Covent Garden not far from the old BBC World service premises and have like so many companies an open plan office.
I am not sure how previous developments have been driven but they were interested to get closer to the customer experience and were recording my thoughts and attempts to use the App.
Now I was an early adopter on this and I like it great to find out cast and you can get odd facts by things called Zeetags also when I was at Discovery Anthony Rose (one of may people who have been credited with inventing the BBC's iPlayer) who's one of the brains behind came and spoke to us about the Zeebox TV future that was around the corner.
For those who aren't aware Zeebox is a  TV Guide  (look there are others) on steroids with the added capability to communicate socially (Twitter, Facebook, chat and e-mail) with respect to shared viewing experiences. The use fits well with the rapid penetration of Tablets and the desire to communicate with friends during high profile programmes like the X factor, it also opffers the opportunity to enhance TV experience along with the ability to give extra oomph to commercials.
I was a little surprised that the analysis of users wasn't slick and practiced but was told that I was the first person to provide input - so I gave them my thoughts - in return I got some stickers, badges and 4 drinks mats along with some (cold) food.
Take a look at Zeeebox here if you've not seen it - I expect Facebook will have something similar before too long.

Today's entry -Number 9 History

Yesterday I met my brother (Nick) for lunch at the very impressive Oxford and Cambridge Club in Pall Mall at the centre of London's heart.
While we chatted he mentioned that one of his friends had somewhat contentiously remarked there was no such thing as a 'Fact' now I do have some sympathy with the statement but if we are to have a regular conversation sometimes we need to skirt over too many deep thoughts but what is History?
Well in fact  Ian Crofton points out that  Histrory is not just fact and that it is a narrative from a certain PoV (something I noted when I was in Egypt where the 1967 6 day war is seen very differently from how it is by most people in UK).
Lord Macaulay
Earlier Histories were merely records of Kings lineage that showed how they were descended from God/Gods to  justify their position - later history has been used to highlight unerring progress and even by figures like Marx to show a socialist determinism. History (at present) is now providing a more diverse set of views showing the 'common' man/woman along with the big events but this remains a selective account of events.
Lord Macaulay (1800 -59) and  the German  G W F Hegel (1770 -1831) are suggested as figures who played an important part in the development of the subject.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Carphone warehouse (not impressed) and #8 Love

Some weeks ago I was prompted by Carphone warehouse that the time was  right for an upgrade (my contract was coming to an end), I'd not been over excited about the phone I had used for the last couple of years (a Samsung) so I went in to see them in Ealing.
I came out with a Nokia Lumia phone and this seemed better for making calls and I anticipated from what I was told that the cost would be around the same.
Now after a few days my old phone was working but new one was not so I made a further visit to the shop and they activated the new phone for me.
About a month later I got a test telling me that the bill was about £45 which was around £30 more than I had expected - thought this might be something to do with switch to the new phone.
Next bill was again much higher than I had expected so called up O2 who told me I was on the wrong tariff and they promptly changed this and advised me that if I wanted a refund that would need to be brought up with Carphone warehouse - with this in mind I wrote to them explaining what had happened.
A few days later I got a letter from them telling me that I should go into the shop where I had contracted  with paperwork and see what they could do.
So I visited the shop..

The assistant I spoke with was most helpful but neither the sales person who I had seen before and selected the phone with (a Nokia Lumia 710) or the shop the manager were present and the assistant did not have the authority to sanction a refund.

The assistant pointed out that I had signed the agreement which clearly showed what was included but I remain unhappy as the phone has been costing me a lot more than my previous arrangement and when I initially followed up on the upgrade offer I had made clear I wanted a replacement not extra features. Although my contract is clear it was not obvious that the default on the phone would mean automatic daily charges.
I realised that I could  attend at the shop again but did not wish to have a long protracted discussion with out either side being happy.
So I again wrote to Carphone Warehouse explaining that  my additional cost since August has been over 50 pounds, that I have now amended my contract and hope that I d not face such unexpected charges in the future.
I have had a somewhat confusing reply to this but do not think that there is anything like an apology or gesture - so I've written again.

It's instructive to me to find out how badly this query has been handled and how my view of the company (that I had been happy with) has sunk - I would now like to not deal with them again - this is bad from their point of view but they don't realise it - we'll see what happens my view to date is

1) They are wasting their time (which equals money) on my irritating letters.
2) They have lost a customer for the next 10 years and someone who might have recommended them.

All a business like Carphone Warehouse is the brand which is the sales people/service if you can't protect this you are in trouble.

Now a nicer topic.. 

Number 8 Love

We (modern man/woman) probably think of Mills and Boon, Valentine's Day when this is mentioned.
Some feminists have a problem with this Romantic' Love seeing it as a male construct used to enslave them.

Crofton's book lists 3 types:

Affection - (platonic without the passion perhaps)
Sexual - (keeps the human race going - was Plato the first feminist- discuss)
Selfless (also known as Agape)
Plato and the gang considered Love of Wisdom as top love  (and the this is originally what Philosophy meant).


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Playbook WiFi and #7 Human Nature

As a BT Broadband subscriber  I have registered with BT wifi which provides wireless access away from the home through a series of 'hotspots'.
Yesterday  when I was out and about in Ealing and thought I'd see if I could access from the Ealing Library or Caffé Nero (where I often enjoy one of their great Cappuccino Coffees) sadly I did not come across any signal on the Playbook - while I was in the coffee shop I did use the camera to take a picture (see here), I was amazed at the quality (which you might not see fully here).

Number 7 Human Nature.

Todays' entry from Big Ideas book is Human Nature- seems that there's a battle between the progressives/left and the reactionary right/ religious conservatives (as always).
Words from Hobbes

John Locke
Broadly speaking the battle over Human Nature is 'original' sin writ large while some such as Thomas Hobbes  (1588 to 1679) tended to believe that we're a sorry bunch destined to do bad things to one another unless order is imposed upon us there's an alternative view that we're not born to be rotters  but are more of a blank canvas with great potential (John Locke 1632 to1704 held this view).
You can see some of the arguments from the debate here.

On Vinyl today 18th Avenue by Cat Stevens

Monday, November 26, 2012

School of Life Shop and #6 Humanism

Alain's Shop in London
In one of the series of (the original) BBC TV Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin there was a period of success where Reggie had an empire called 'Grot' selling useless things.
Now I'm a big fan of what Alain de Botton is doing/has done with his books, lectures shows and of course the shop (see left). The shop has been going around 4 years so the assistant there told me on Friday when I made a pilgrimage to it. Stock is somewhat limited (I bought the last copy of  What to do about Everything - as I liked the title and thought I should show some sort of support).
It reminded me of Grot in the concept and it gives me some pleasure for it to be so.
Much of what we buy today is concept over content, and very much brand over product, if there was a slimming cube as an alternative to sugar it would fly off the shelves. Customer expectation is so high but when purchasing we know we will be disappointed and much as slimmers will always be on a diet or going on to another (better) diet so when we buy are goods the realisation as we unwrap our goodies is that it is not enough means we're perpetual consumers. So now the idea that we can buy the good life does not seem so far fetched - it's another choice we make, were not the shallow ones who spend all their money on holidays/cars/works of art - no we're deeper than that. Take a look at Keri Smith site for another view on advertising and other great but perhaps slightly subversive stuff .

And now Number 6 Humanism

Humanism these days is often tethered to Atheism/Agnosticism but has roots back to the big 3 (Socrates,Plato and  Aristotle) who had placed the 'human' centrre stage in their philosophising.
Later from the 1500's as the Scientific revolution gathered pace their was a belief that human reason could discover the workings of everything.

On in the background/foreground listening to Vinyl- Excellent Birds by Laurie Anderson and Peter Gabriel

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Telco Bills and #5 Aristoteliansim

So the cost of Telecoms for the home in the UK is dropping and let me give you a gentle nudge to check what you pay..


1) I've used BT for phone and Broadband for some time (the last 15 years at least since we got back to the UK).
2) Internet access used to be expensive and choice for fixed line services was limited.
3) BT was the strongest provider in terms of service and support.


1) Switching has been made easier  look at services like Uswitch to help you see the offers.
2) Internet access is available from many providers - some bundle it with TV and mobile here's Talk Talk as an example (they do mobile too).
3) Sky amongst others have a good service ethos - BT is not the only show in town.

Having spent some money and time improving the broadband connectivity at home I became aware that we were only getting around 3.0 Mbps - looking on BT's own site it became apparent I should be getting something like 10.0 Mbsp - BT's site indicated that this would cost me around £13.00 per month and for transferring customers the deal waswith a  free 6 moths too. (line rental was on top of this but I could get 12 months line rental fixed at £129.00).
Cheap but good switch
I called BT to find out how I could get a faster service at a better price
Result from the call with a very helpful lady was that from spending £67.00 per month I will now be spending around £25.00 per month for a better (faster) broadband service.
Now I understand that this might not be good news for BT but they still have me as a customer (presumably making a profit on this) and they might be able to up-sell to me in the future.
There is  a question on when I get the improved speed and how BT can continue to make  good profits and invest for the future.

I will be providing some thought around mobile deals shortly! (here's a taster/warning).

Powerline Adapter

By the way improving my broadband was purchase of another Powerline adapter and an ethernet switch cost  less than £25.00 (total) with pretty much next day delivery (postage was included in that £25.00) via Amazon and Ebay purchases, all worked out of the box - amazing.

Big Idea  Number 5 Aristoteliansim

Aristotle was a pupil of Plato who favoured reasoning he was around from 384 BC and lived to be around 62 years of age.
Islamic scholars preserved records of his ideas during the 'dark ages'.
As you can see below he looks like the other guys with  a beard  and messy hair (as do so many engineers nowadays but this might be because of the lack of readily available digital cameras and a few overworked sculptors).
Aristotle emphasised deduction  and investigation of  both concrete and particular things and situations.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bond Skyfall and #4 Plato's Cave

Following reports that the latest 007 was a must-see on Thursday we visited Odeon Richmond to carry out the assignment.
Very much worth the trip £9.70 (I think) seems fantastic value, I think that new equipment must have been fitted and the digital quality really was a revelation - much better than the home experience of watching a film nad also now able to take a decent cup of coffee in (from Costa) which was good and part of a trend?
Enough of the strategically placed advertising (of which there was far less in the film than I had feared) - wow the film was very very good for a 'Bond' movie. Daniel Craig may be the best Bond he certainly shines in this action packed account of MI6 falling apart.
Lots of clever post modern referencing and generally quite knowing, but what we'd expect from a great director like Sam Mendes.
Not sure what was CGI and what wasn't but some great action sequences in London and Turkey - if you've not seen the film I think you should (theme tune is super as well).

Number 4 -Plato's Cave

This entry about Palto's Cave seems slightly heavier and is characterised by  one of Plato's dialogues within the republic  that is concerned with defining the human condition as seeing only shadows (whilst in a cave) - rather than the full picture - Philosophers do see more and recongise the limits of the shadows that are observed and considered to be the full picture (for those not in the know).
The device also covers the fact that even such definitions as we have are problematic and shifting.
[Update 30/01/14 here's a sort of lecture on the subject (written)  from a series by Dr Tom Kerns which provides a Philosophy 101 for free].

Friday, November 23, 2012

NEW BBC DG and #3 Platonism

So Tony Hall will (re) join the BBC in March as the DG, he is seen by many as a steady pair of hands with some good external experience (running/sorting out the Royal Opera House at present).
Hall Actually (Lord Hall) lost out to Mark Thompson during the recruitment for the post in 1999 and is a cultured man with a strong Public service ethos, time will tell if he is able to bring beneficial change to the UK's primary cultural body.

more on the really big ideas...

Number 3 Platonism

Plato is a seminal figure who recorded his dialogues with his teacher Socrates - it is not known how much he 'adjusted' the Socrates element.
The dialogues favour 'Ideas' over 'Experience' and the most influential dialogue is  considered to be The Republic - you can take a look at it here or try a  summary here.
Plato was born around 428 BC lived to age of about 80 which seems a ripe old age - his achievements in life included the founding of the Academy - in later life he was involved with Politics (nobody's perfect).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

ITV (re) Branding and Number 2 -Reason (and Thomas Paine)

If I know anything about an industry it is probably broadcasting/media and as I have done a couple of dissertations around broadcast branding then a new logo from the major UK commercial broadcaster is bound to be of interest to me.
I had heard a month or so ago that ITV was introducing a new logo to reflect better the brand and positioning but only got sight of it yesterday.
Now as a logo I think it's not bad and it is perhaps of some significance that ITV 1 is losing the 1 but I'm not sure that it is going to make more than a very marginal change in the audience perception (perhaps slightly more with the advertisers and agencies though).
ITV (Independent Television)  has a history of over 60 years in the UK - although I think the 'independent' is something of a misnomer in that it is far from Independent  but it would be more accurate to call it "commercial licensed TV".
Now back to the new logo ITV has a challenge in that it wishes to reach a younger more affluent audience but remains a mass brand it has some chance of reaching the objectives with a multi channel strategy but this is at the risk of some cannibalisation of the main flagship ITV 1.
My question would be does the new logo answer the challenge?
My answer would be not to any significant degree - a strategy to grow a new younger audience would most likely require either an acquisition or launch of a new radical alternative to ITV (like BA did with Go).
ITV continues to battle with the past federal/regional system where there was limited channel choice and single TV per household rather than the current landscape which needs to confront the multiplicity of platforms and where YouTube/Amazon are making the running either now or very soon.

On a side note look how the other 'dinosaur' media  in terminal decline swipe at ITV efforts to reposition with the new logo
The Mail
The Mirror

Next topic from Crofton is reason...
# 2 Reason.

You might think this is a given as in modern times most of us live by what we think is 'reason'.
In fact what we consider as the primacy of reason using logic for Deduction (general to specific) and Induction (observation to generalisation) can be argued to be a relatively modern concept gifted to us during the period of enlightenment (also known as Age of Reason which was an influential book by Thomas Paine 1737 -1809).
Useful reference on Reason here.
Look at Paine's book here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Philosophy (big Ideas in brief)

Big Ideas book
I bought Ian Crofton's book Big Ideas in brief today from Waterstone's  as I'd got some points/credit from their loyalty card it only cost me 97 pence. It's got 200 concepts and I'm going to reference one on each of my 200  posts  from now on (I hope)- starting with the first  Philosophy today.

#1 Philosophy

Interestingly Philosophy the  word has evolved from the Greek Philosophos Lover of Wisdom.
Pre -Socrates, (the father of modern Philosophy who wrote nothing down but who's thoughts are remembered by virtue of his student Plato's dialogues) Philosophy or Natural Philosophy was what we now know as Science. Since then it's split into many specialties/branches including ethics, logic and metaphysics and science has often gone it's own way.
If you have time look at  149 quotes from him here. (They're pretty good)
The Wikipedia entry on Socrates is informative and clearly identifies his use of dialogues to work through issues - it's commonly used in educational establishments to this day - take a look and you'll recognise elements I'm sure.

In other news I was intrigued by John Lloyd on Desert Island Discs and intend to get hold of Alan Watt's 'The book on the taboo on knowing who you are' in the near future (actually it's on-line here so might read it on my Playbook.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Asparagus, planter and peas

Transplanted Asparagus
 Today I have been down to the allotment and continued with a bit of tidying up this included moving my scattered Asparagus (from seed) into one area I  gather that for best results the plants should be left to form lots of ferny foliage and that about now I need to cut down the stems leaving 5cm/2 inch stumps above the ground. I will do this on my next visit.
Peas with their sticks from Pear tree
 At home at the weekend gave the Pear tree it's autumn pruning - this involved cutting lots of straight twigs from the tree- they seem to me me to be of use as pea twigs on the peas I've planted out - time will tell.
Indoor Planting contraption

As I have not done too well with my herb growing I have decided to start a fresh batch indoors and am using this contraption from Robert Dyas for the propagation and will use for starting other plants through the year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Plus points for Sainsbury's and AXA/Co-Op Bank

West Ealing Home of Toilet Discs
Get your review here
Toilet duck refill discs available at West Ealing Sainsbury's as they indicated which they said the would be,  well done to them.
Also able to give thumbs up for using the AXA financial review (I got it through Co-Op bank) which I had not been looking forward to, very good consultant who seemed happy with my financial position and actually didn't try to sell me another product.
For other users of PlayBook who are not aware there's a great tool called The Orb which helps with access to PC as well as replaying video and audio (you can use it with other PCs and devices too).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cutty Sark, BBC and battle between Physics and the soul Plus BBC Chair under threat.

Last week I met up with former Euronews colleague Shaun and we visited the Cutty Sark at Greenwich.
Cutty Sark Hull and Café
It's over 40 years since my first trip to visit the Cutty Sark as a schoolkid studying in Essex.I believe the focus on the museum has changed as our current use of history has changed, it seemed to me there was quite a focus on the Chinese side of the Tea Clipper business (is is a coincidence that this is happening while Chinese tourism is booming in the UK?) Entrance is now around £12 for an adult and that is without extras like the café.
Labeling of  the parts that are original was useful with 'original' parts one colour and replacements another this put me in mind of the dilemma highlighted in BBC Radio 4's The Philospher's Arms about the Drifters Trigger's Broom (and much more).
It was interesting to  discuss with Shaun the battle between Physics and Philosophy - how do the two tie together and what if it is all Physics as Prof. Hawkins and co are saying  ( just chemicals and the like with no free will).

Whatever the spin that's being put on the crisis at the BBC Lord Patten is the chairman (of trust?) and is under pressure to exit, this could be worse that the mess around Dyke and Davis departure in 2004 and is having the effect of making mark Thompson look good.
It is quite easy for Patten to be generous with other people's money but I'm puzzled why a resignation should give George half a million pounds (plus a generous pension I expect) - if he's being honourable and taking the blame how can he take the money too?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Goodbye George Entwistle and Hi to delonix Regia

Not looking comfortable George?
So George Entwistle has gone from the post of BBC Director General and it is most  unlikely that he will be seen as  little more than a footnote in the organisation's history. Should he be anything more it will be that he will be the point when the organisation rapidly goes downhill.
Ed - next DG perhaps?
The decision to appoint internally was with hindsight a bad one and it is questionable that the selection of  next DG should follow the same path. Amongst the recent applicants for the post Ed Richards would be a good choice and would not have made the same mistake as Enwistle did (Asleep at the wheel and then a startled rabbit in the headlights) - perhaps the idea of getting someone to do the job (but not the headhunters) on the cheap was not such a good one .Could be a good time to look outside the BBC for a new perspective?
Nash at Kew
We went to Kew today the Autumn colours in the tress really lovely and quite a few visitors bit of a shame they've closed one of their cafés already meaning long Queues at Kew
In a perfect world my tree in a few years

Picked up some Delonix Regia seeds while we were in Cyprus and have sown these (indoors in a propagating tray )I hope something comes of them but it'll be a challenge!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Naming restaurants and bars in Cyprus

If only
Now over my vacation I spent quite a bit of time reading and learning about philosophers - wouldn't it be great if the Socrates restaurant in Protaras actually was run by a great philosopher who'd hang out there and explain things to you?
Not only were there a few branded places (like McDonald's and Costa's) but there were other places that used TV shows as their brands like Cheers, Friends and Happy Days further up from the main drag was The Flintstones - not sure they'd all got clearance from the MGMs of this world but at least they were having some fun with identity in a tongue in cheek post modern  way.
Yab a dab a doo- Wilma
As well as starting the reading of the useful  Philosophy for Life: And other dangerous situations written by Jules Evans I read Nile Rogers amazing autobiography Le Freak.

They didn't know my name and were closed
Would Rachael hang out here?

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Hot in Cyprus

Arrived yesterday evening at Larnaca airport (Cyprus)  and about 90 minutes  later were at our Hotel Capo Bay. Here's a picture of it -more about the vacation when I return after 7th November.
Nice Hotel

Here's a picture of one of the pools at the hotel taken with my Blackberry Playbook internal camera.
My Left foot