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The 10 trends that will shape 2005.

Thursday, December 30, 2004
As its almost New Years Eve I thought I'd post this excerpt from a rather interesting article that I read recently. The whole article can be found here The Scotsman.

1 Age complexity
Children are becoming teenagers before reaching their teens. Today’s 12-year-old is more likely to think he or she is 17, and manufacturers are developing children’s products with "cool teen" attributes. To confuse matters, adults are behaving more like teenagers, playing computer games, reading "kidult" literature and wearing "young" clothes.

2 Gender complexity
Traditional distinctions between men and women are becoming blurred. Women have moved into many traditionally "male" employment areas and are earning more. There are also more women entering tertiary education, and they are marrying later or staying single. Women’s drinking habits have radically changed too. In the UK, their consumption of alcohol had increased by almost 27 per cent between 1998 and 2003.

At the same time, men are becoming more feminised as they take an active role in parenting, become more fashion-oriented and develop beauty regimes, including opting for plastic surgery.

3 Lifestage complexity
There’s been a sharp decline in the number of people with a family and rapid growth in people living alone, not getting married or not having children. Next year, there will be 21 million (14 per cent) fewer nuclear families in western Europe than in 1995.

4 Income complexity
We are curbing our spending in one area so we can splurge in others. This will mean food and drink manufacturers having to supply many people’s everyday purchases through the growing discount grocery channel. At the same time, British consumers spent a total of £920 million on premium treats and comfort foods in 2003. Datamonitor forecasts that consumers’ expenditure on premium indulgence will increase by 27 per cent, to £1.2 billion in 2008.

5 Individualism
We want ever more personalisation, in the way we live (46 million people now live alone in Europe), the marketing we receive ("Your M&S") and those adverts about "your inner self". Food and drink companies have responded with customised labels and the offer of any number of types of coffee - "I’ll have the frappacappamochacino".

6 Homing
Thanks to DIY and new gadgetry, consumers are spending more money on (and time in) their homes. This mega-trend has brought us a new vocabulary - downsizing, cocooning, pampering and everyday treating - and any number of new TV programmes.

7 Connectivity
We are now more connected through technology. But this mega-trend also encapsulates many people’s increased desire for belonging at the community, national and even global levels. It is evident in the success of schemes such as Walkers "Books for Schools" and Fair Trade products.

Manufacturers are also tapping into the idea of friendship with more sharable products (Pringles with Trivial Pursuit questions printed on them) and innovations such as Molson Twin Label beer bottle labels that get people talking and help to break the ice at parties.

8 Sensory experiences
We are all becoming more tolerant of risk and change and are actively seeking out more intense experiences. Hence the increase in extreme sports and short, busy weekend breaks. In our everyday lives, consumers are more prepared to experiment with new products, discover authentic ethnic foods and try intense flavours such as sour soft drinks, peppery liqueurs and chocolate-flavoured water.

9 Convenience
As the pace of life gets faster still, there will be more multi-tasking, "grazing" - at your desk and on-the-move consumption and other "quick fixes". UK consumers are Europe’s biggest on-the-go eaters and drinkers. Already on the horizon are products such as self-heating cans and fast-chilling drinks.

10 Health
The report shows that almost three-quarters of Europeans are now more concerned about their health and well-being compared with a year ago. People are putting greater value on healthiness such that sales of healthy, de-stressing and self-medicating products are booming. UK consumers are among the biggest spenders on functional foods and drinks in Europe, spending on average £110 a year each. Over the past five years, the number of functional food and drinks consumed in the UK has more than doubled and is set to reach five million by 2007. But for manufacturers, the biggest prizes will be found in products that cross over trends: health on-the-go such as salad pots or healthy indulgences such as Danone’s Actimel and Yakult bio-drinks.

Firefox Power-User Tips

Here's something for broadband people that will really speed Firefox up:

1. Type "about:config" into the address bar and hit return. Scroll down and look for the following entries:

network.http.pipelining network.http.proxy.pipelining network.http.pipelining.maxrequests

Normally the browser will make one request to a web page at a time. When you enable pipelining it will make several at once, which really speeds up page loading.

2. Alter the entries as follows:

Set "network.http.pipelining" to "true"

Set "network.http.proxy.pipelining" to "true"

Set "network.http.pipelining.maxrequests" to some number like 30. This means it will make 30 requests at once.

3. Lastly right-click anywhere and select New-> Integer. Name it "nglayout.initialpaint.delay" and set its value to "0". This value is the amount of time the browser waits before it acts on information it receives.

If you're using a broadband connection you'll load pages MUCH faster now!

And the source for this article is Making firefox faster as I forgot to attribute it earlier. Oops!

'Black Santa' helps quake victims.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Dean Houston McKelvey raised over £200,000 for local charities during his Christmas sit-out in the Belfast's St Anne's Cathedral. And now he's extended the collection until Saturday evening to raise funds for victims of the undersea earthquake in south-east Asia.

The dean said it was important that people in Northern Ireland did what they could for those affected by the devastation. "The capacity of the Northern Ireland community to respond to people in need never ceases to amaze me, and I think we've all been shocked by what we've seen," he said. "At the cathedral, we have a facility that people know about to channel funds to a cause like this." The dean said the response was "quite staggering and moving. All age groups and all walks of life came along - the generosity of young people in particular was noticeable," he said.

The collection will continue at the cathedral in Donegall Street from 1000 GMT to 1600 GMT until Saturday.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Tom Ekin, gave his backing to the appeal which continues until Saturday. "If every man, woman and child in the city of Belfast gave just £1, we could raise more than £270,000 to offer much needed practical support to the people of this devastated region," he said.

'Black Santa' helps quake victims

New light on Rudolf Hess flight to Britain .

Monday, December 27, 2004
A diary entry made by the wife of a senior British intelligence officer has rekindled interest in the 1941 flight to England by Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess.

Britain's foreign intelligence agency MI6 has released few of its files from the World War II era, but a diary kept by Kay Foley offers some clues as to what was going on at that time. Her husband was renowned spy Frank Foley, who was the agency's chief of station in Berlin.

Entries in the diary are all very brief, but The Telegraph said by cross-checking dates of her husband's travels, it appears Foley had hopes of using the deputy fuehrer to Britain's benefit in Berlin. The diary confirms Foley spent two weeks in Lisbon, at the same time one of Hess' intermediaries was also in the Portuguese capital.

However, MI6 has repeatedly denied it had much interaction with Hess.

Conspiracy theories abound in Britain about Hess, who reportedly died in a 1942 plane crash. Among them is that it was not the real Hess who died in the crash, and others that claim Hess was kept by MI6 in Britain and used in an anti-Nazi propaganda campaign.

New light on Rudolf Hess flight to Britain

Only 'A Matter of Time' Until Scotland is Hit - Scaremongering.

SCIENTISTS believe it is only a matter of time before Scotland is hit by a massive natural disaster.

Just a small climactic shift could trigger freak weather conditions or increase the pace at which the polar ice caps melt.

There is also the possibility of underwater earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or even a meteor strike all bringing death and destruction.

A tsunami is a series of huge waves caused by an impact, eruption or explosion on the ocean. The name means harbour wave in Japanese.

The actual existence of Britain as an island came about as a result of a 40ft tsunami. The Storegga tsunami, 8000 years ago, was caused by an underwater landslide off the coast of Norway.

That created a succession of giant waves which flooded down the east coast and battered the landmass near the Borders which connected Britain to Europe and flooded it.

The waves can be virtually undetectable, can travel across an ocean in 24 hours and be hundreds of feet high when they hit shore.

And according to experts, it could be only a matter of time before the Scottish coast is pounded by a wall of water.

And it could come from any number of directions.

An impact from space would produce destruction on a massive scale.

Like the film Deep Impact, any sort of asteroid or meteorite hitting an ocean would create a huge wave.

The fact that tsunamis are able to travel across hundreds of miles of oceans in a matters of hours, means even an impact thousands of miles away on the other side of the world, could have serious consequences for Scotland.

A less dramatic - but equally effective - cause of giant wave destruction could be triggered by global warming.

The Day After Tomorrow effect - where the melting of polar ice caps interrupts the current of warm Gulf water moving up to heat the climate of the northern Atlantic causing a new ice age - is a genuine scientific concern.

Although it would happen over decades, the idea of Scotland being hit with floods and ice storms is perfectly feasible.

Dr Andrew Dugmore of Edinburgh University said: 'It is a fact that the Greenland ice cap is reducing and the saltiness of the water is definitely changing. That could have some serious impacts on global change.'

While Dr Mark Maslin of the University College London recently predicted that the melting ice caps could cause the land underneath the Greenland ice shelves to shift.

He believes that would cause underwater earthquakes - sending tsunamis across the north Atlantic.

With a force of 1000 hurricanes, the 15ft wall of water would cover the entire country in minutes.

But the most likely, imminent and terrifying source of sea-born destruction to threaten Scotland comes in the form of two Spanish words which could hold the key to our future - Cumbre Vieja.

That is the name of an unstable volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands. Many scientist predict Cumbre Vieja could erupt in a matter of years and send a rock twice as big as the Isle of Man into the sea.

They believe that would create a 500mph tsunami which would be sent in all directions.

The effects would include a wave 160ft high hitting the east coast of both North and South America Waves of up to sixty feet would smash into the west coast of Scotland and the rest of the UK.

That would ravage towns and cities for several miles inland with a similar impact to the Storegga destruction, and possibly leave hundreds of thousands dead.

But although the eruption is destined to happen - scientists at the Benfield Greig Hazard Research Centre in London believe it could take place in the next few decades - experts are divided on the impact.

While some believe there could be a 60 foot tsunami, others claim it will peter out by the time it reaches the UK and hit us with a 10 or 15 foot high wall of water - still deadly but not as devastating.

But as one expert predicted: 'It is not a question of if it will happen, only when it will happen.'

Only 'a Matter Of Time' Until Scotland Is Hit

Update on Black Santa.

Saturday, December 25, 2004
On the 17th December I mentioned 'Black Santa' and his fundraising efforts in Northern Ireland. Over the years much bad news has come out of that province, but this very definitely falls on the good side of the news balance.

On Christmas Eve Dean Houston McKelvey finished his seven-day vigil outside Belfast's St Anne's Cathedral, and it has today been announced that he has raised at least £180,000! Dean McKelvey said a final total would be known in the next few days when they had finished counting the money. A cheque for at least 10% of the total raised was presented to Christian Aid at a carol service on Christmas Eve.

Black Santa

Merry Christmas Around the World.

Afrikander - "Een Plesierige Kerfees"
Arabic - "I'd Miilad Said Oua Sana Saida"
Argentine - "Felices Pasquas Y felices ano Nuevo"
Armenian - "Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand"
Basque - Eguberri on
Bohemian - "Vesele Vanoce"
Brazilian - "Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo"
Breton - "Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat"
Bulgarian - "Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo"
Chinese - [Mandarin] - "Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan"
Chinese - [Catonese] - "Saint Dan Fai Lok"
Cornish - "Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth"
Croatian - "Sretan Bozic i Nova Godina"
(Merry Christmas & Happy New Year)
Czech - "Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok"
Danish - "Gl􏻦delig Jul"
Dutch - "Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar"
Inupiaq Eskimo (Kotzebue area in NW Alaska)-
Quvianagli Anaiyyuniqpaliqsi suli Nakuuluni Ukiutqiutiqsi-
(Merry Christmas) (and) (Happy New Year)
English - "Merry Christmas"
Farsi - "Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad"
Filipino -"Maligayang Pasko"
Happy New Year in Filipino
"Manigong Bagong Taon"
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in Filipino
"Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon"
Finnish - "Hyvaa joulua"
French - "Joyeux Noel"
German - "Froehliche Weihnachten"
Greek - "Kala Christouyenna"
Hawaiian - "Mele Kalikimaka"
Hebrew - "Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova"
Hindi - "Shub Naya Baras"
Hungarian - "Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket"
Icelandic - "Gledileg Jol"
Indonesian - "Selamat Hari Natal"
Iraqi - "Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah"
Irish - "Nollaig Shona Dhuit"
Italian - "Buone Feste Natalizie"
Japanese -" Shinnen omedeto, kurisumasu omedeto.
The first part is translated "Happy New Year.
Kurisumasu omedeto means Merry Christmas.
Japanese people generally add the expression gozaimasu
to indicate soemm humility.
Korean - "Sung Tan Chuk Ha"
Latvian - "Prieci'gus Ziemsve'tkus un Laimi'gu Jauno Gadu"
Lithuanian - "Linksmu Kaledu"
Navajo - "Merry Keshmish"
Norwegian - "God Jul"
Pennsylvania German - "En frehlicher Grischtdaag un en hallich Nei
Polish - "Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia"
Portuguese - "Feliz Natal" "Boas Festas"(Good Holidays.)
Rumanian - "Sarbatori Fericite"
Russian - "Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva s Novim Godom"
Serbian - "Hristos se rodi"
Slovakian - "Sretan Bozic or Vesele vianoce"
Samoan - "La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou"
Scots Gaelic - "Nollaig chridheil huibh"
Serb-Croatian - "Sretam Bozic. Vesela Nova Godina"
Slovak - "Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok"
Slovene - "Vesele Bozicne. Screcno Novo Leto"
Spanish - "Feliz Navidad"
Swedish - "God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt 􏻅r"
Tahitian -Merry Chrismas :" Ia orana te Noera"
and Happy new year is "Ia orana i te mata iti api"
Thai - "Sawadee Pee Mai"
Turkish - "Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun"
Ukrainian - "Z Rizdvom Khrystovym !" - "Merry Christmas"
" Z Novym Rokom !" - "Happy New Year"
"Z Rizdvom Khrystovym i Novym Rokom !" - both greetings together.
Vietnamese - "Chuc Mung Giang Sinh"
Welsh - "Nadolig Llawen"
Yugoslavian - "Cestitamo Bozic"

Sleep your way slim.

Monday, December 20, 2004
Early to bed, early to rise,
Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise!

Stay up late, get up too early,
Gives a man baggy eyes, a foul mood,
and maybe extra body fat!

The first paragraph is an age-old rhyme, but the second, surprisingly enough, is the result of scientific research carried out on volunteers in two separate sleep studies, as reported in The Scotsman today.

Chronic lack of sleep could be one reason people are getting so broad in the beam, suggest the authors of two new studies. Their research found that going without sleep seems to elevate blood levels of a key appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin. It causes levels of a "stop eating" hormone, known as leptin, to take a dive. The likely net effect is an increase in appetite. It appears that the hunger-inducing powers of sleep deficits - i.e. the craving for salty, fatty food and the resulting extra weight that this puts on does not conversly prove that getting extra sleep will help shed extra weight!

Seems like a no-win situation, but either way getting a good nights sleep will certainly help your body through the daily rigours of life.

Just one little kind word ........ You never know...

Sunday, December 19, 2004

You never know where just one little tiny kind word of kindness can take you. We all need them, its a form of recognition and praise, it shows that we're really needed ......... and its so often missed out and missing from our lives.

So what sparked this off? I just happened to be reading an obituary to Alex Soria of The Nils. Who? Alex Soria died last Monday aged 39 as reported in the Montreal Gazette, and also at The Rock and Roll Report and is remembered by Mark because of a single throwaway comment from Alex which was "Hey, you should play the drums, you have natural rythym".

And that single comment changed Mark's life by encouraging him to learn to play the drums and thereby fostering a love of music which has given him a lot of pleasure.

When did you last receive a small word of kindness? And more to the point, when did you last give a kind word? You can't remember! That long ago huh? :) Maybe you've got some catching up to do? And maybe I'm taking this all too seriously :))))

And I can't finish better than by quoting Mark again As we approach Christmas this year, never underestimate the power that music and a kind word can have on a total stranger.

The New Words of the Year! Coming soon to a dictionary near you!

Saturday, December 18, 2004
Once again, The Washington Post published its yearly contest where readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for various words. And the winners are...
1. Coffee (n.), a person who is coughed upon.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your

7. Lymph (v), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), an olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) the emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified demeanor assumed by a proctologist immediately before he examines you.

13. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish expressions.

14. Pokemon (n), A Jamaican proctologist.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), The belief that, when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets
stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), the opening in the front of boxer shorts.

Has the world gone completely Christmas Mad?

Seen on Slashdot a guy called Brian Whiteman has had a bank of computers listening to as much Christmas music as they could handle, and thus learned their own true meaning of holiday cheer. And then, get this, he's had his computers compose the 'statistically optimal' Christmas music in A Singular Christmas, a freely downloadable MP3 album. Available here and a BitTorrent download from here.

Now, I don't know what this sounds like, but I'm downloading it via BitTorrent at the moment, so .... watch this space :)

Mobile hospitals hailed 'success'

So says one of the headlines in this mornings BBC News that I'm reading off their rss feed. It goes on to say, "Mobile casualty units to help deal with the problem of drunk and injured revellers during the party season were a "huge success", medics said. The field-style hospitals were launched in Cardiff and Swansea for Black Friday - one of the year's busiest nights as many offices shut for Christmas.

All very well and good, except for one thing. Aren't they doing exactly what part of the voluntary sector are doing? Specifically Saint John Ambulance Brigade, the men and women who give their own time, and sometimes money too, to undergo voluntary training in first aid and emergency life-saving skills, are re-examined annually, and then attend various events where they are invited by the organisers and provide 'first aid cover'. They are also trained to use the equipment on board ambulances, which also include defibrillator machines which can help to restart a heart after it has stopped beating, and then crew their own ambulances too. If they think that one of their casualities needs further treatment, beyond their skills and capacity, then they are taken to their nearest Accident and Emergency department. Saint John Ambulance has been providing their skills for over 100 years now, and were the forerunner of todays NHS Ambulance Service

I find it rather strange that the news media should be picking up on the Ambulance Service co-operating with the nurses and doctors to provide 'emergency medical centres' i.e. field hospitals, and talking about it as if it is a new idea. Having spent over thirteen years with Saint John Ambulance, and attending many events and dealing with many different casualties I feel rather upset with the latest 'new idea' trumpeted by the media. Although I am no longer a member of Saint John Ambulance I know that their members will have been out on duty last night, as they will be when requested by the civil authorities come wind, rain, hail, sleet or snow. And I also know it from the NHS side of things too, being a former Staff Nurse in a NHS hospital.

To my mind, Saint John Ambulance Brigade are the fourth emergency service, whatever the Automobile Association would like you to believe in their adverts.

Christmas is coming...

Friday, December 17, 2004
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat
Please put a penny in Santa's hat
If you haven't got a penny, a halfpenny will do,
If you haven't got a halfpenny then God bless you.

So goes the old Childrens Rhyme. And children throughout the world will be getting excited as its now only just over a week away from Christrmas Day. But, whats happening in the rest of the world as part of the buildup to Christmas?

In Belfast,

'Black Santa'
has started his annual charity collection outside St Anne's Cathedral until Christmas Eve, continuing a tradition started by his predecessors. This tradition is relatively recent, it was only started in 1976 by Dean Sammy Crooks, but in the intervening years Black Santa has collected over £2.8 million for various Northern Irish charities and Christian Aid.

And in England and Wales in 180 town and city centres the police will from tonight be handing out £80 fines to people caught fighting, urinating or being sick in the street. This campaign will run until the 3rd January 2005 as announced by the
Home Office today. In the same article, the BBC announced that in Wales mobile hospitals have been set up to treat Christmas casualties. In Cardiff and Swansea mobile casualty units and rapid-response teams of paramedics are being set up on Friday - the last Friday before offices close for Christmas. The units will also hit the streets on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

Paul Evans, head of the Police Standard's Unit, said "This is a period where people tend to drink more - we are not being Grinches or killjoys, but we want this to be a safe holiday season". Minister Richard Caborn said "We're not messing around - we want decent, law-abiding people to be able to get home safely from their Christmas and New Year's parties".

It seems as if the message of enjoy Christmas but don't get drunk and obnoxious in public places is becoming more strident and louder, and with the police being able to enforce higher fines [up from £50 to £80] the pain of a hangover could be even greater! I for one, applaud these efforts - yes, I admit to being drunk and vomiting in the street one Christmas in my youth, but it only has ever happened once ..... losing a whole Christmas Day with my family through being drunk and recovering from the hangover was not a pleasant experience, and one that I will never repeat.

TV News in a Postmodern World

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
A Broadcaster's Christmas Carol.
by Terry L. Heaton (and Charles Dickens)

A gust of wind swirled around the trees in front of old Ebenezer Broadcaster's hilltop house this cold December night, scattering snow from the branches like an invisible broom sweeping dust from the attic. The large evergreen at the corner bent in the gale and rerouted the gust over the valley and its inhabitants. It was Christmas Eve, 2004.

It was a peaceful and starlit night throughout the land, and the little ones dreamt of the next morning with its joy and gifts — all except the little ones at the cottage of Bob Gadget. Gadget had worked as an engineer for Ebenezer for 30 years, but this Christmas, he feared for his job and, along with it, his ability to care for his crippled son, Tiny New. Rather than buy gifts, he was saving what little money he had for the inevitability of Broadcaster's axe.

Ebenezer was a second generation Broadcaster, having built his empire from a small A.M. radio station his father owned in the 50s. With a penchant for squeezing every last penny from a dollar, Ebenezer Broadcaster had a reputation as a hostile and difficult employer. He boasted that many celebrities had come through his television stations on their way up the ladder, but the truth is he never paid anybody enough money to want to stick around.

"Humbug," he would say on the matter. "I just did my part in helping their careers move along."

Earlier in the evening, Ebenezer had been enjoying his holiday brandy, when a vision appeared to him warning of visits by three Ghosts during the night. Dismissing the apparition as too much booze, he went to bed as usual. However, his fitful sleep was interrupted when the clock struck midnight, and he bolted upright in bed as a strange presence rattled chains while emitting a comfortable but frightening warmth. The Ghost was small in stature, and a broad smile never left its face.

"Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me." asked Ebenezer.

"I am."

The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.

"Who, and what are you." Ebenezer demanded.

"I am the Ghost of Broadcasting Past."

"Long Past?" inquired Ebenezer, observant of its dwarfish stature.

"No. Your past. Now, come. Let us look and observe."

Suddenly, Ebenezer Broadcaster was pulled into a vortex of sight and sound — familiar yet unfamiliar. The tunnel was lined with all sorts of money — floating cash, loose change, profit, credit scores, check books, and an endless sea of balanced budgets. He reached for a $100 bill, but it slipped through his fingers. Laughter and merriment echoed from every direction, and he was aware of a profound sense of power as they flew along on their journey.

"A journey to where?" he wondered.

The Ghost turned to the left and suddenly they were aboard a cruise ship with hundreds of old associates and clients.

"I never thought the Broadcasters would ever spend their money on something like this," said a stout fellow holding a martini.

"Their money?" replied his companion. "Hell, it's OUR money they're spending. They've got us by the balls, they do. If we want to reach our customers, we're a slave to their outrageous rates."

With a sudden yank, the Ghost pulled Ebenezer heavenward, and they were soon floating over the city. Tucked in an envelope of warmth, it seemed they were immune to the cold night air. Every home had an antenna attached to the chimney, and inside smiling faces were everywhere as families gathered around their television sets to enjoy the programming Ebenezer's station provided. It was good and all was well, but in an instant Ebenezer was back in his bed. With its toothy smile, the Ghost stood before him and announced that another Spirit would soon knock.

Then, Ebenezer Broadcaster was alone.

In mid-snore, he was again awakened as the clock struck one. A stream of light from the next room beckoned, and Ebenezer reluctantly investigated, discovering a giant Phantom surrounded by a floating field of electronic gadgetry and wires that filled the room. The Ghost of Broadcasting Present was pleasant and young, and she carried a torch shaped like a computer screen. When the Ghost turned to the left, the floating field turned with her. When she turned to the right, the floating field followed. It was most strange indeed.

First the Ghost of Broadcasting Present showed Ebenezer the people of the town in all their merriment on Christmas morning. As they watched the townspeople, the Ghost sprinkled good cheer on them from her computer and the people rejoiced. As Ebenezer looked around each home, he noticed that no one was watching television. The set still stood in the corner of the living room, but youngsters played video games and DVDs, while older people watched cable niche channels like HGTV and The Food Channel, each in their own room. How awful, he thought.

Computers were evident in other rooms of the homes, and people sat typing and drawing and reading and watching. There was only a scattering of antennas on the chimneys of the homes.

A bone shivering chill swept over Ebenezer's body as he considered the scene before him, and he felt a want that was unfamiliar.

"What's happened to my business?" he inquired of the Spirit. "You cannot represent the present, Ghost. Where are the people watching television? What about Nielsen? What about my clients?"

"You seek the past in what is now," the Ghost replied.

"Humbug," Broadcaster muttered. "This is nonsense! My spreadsheet still shows profit."

Off they flew to the northeast corner of the valley and entered the home of Ebenezer's most loyal employee, Bob Gadget. Electronic machines sizzled and swirled in every corner of the cold house, and Bob himself was busy in front of a computer. As he pecked at the keyboard, the Ghost led Broadcaster to read the screen. Gadget was making an entry to his blog — forecasting doom for the industry he'd served for 30 years and gathering links from like-minded bloggers who were searching for ways to calm their unemployment fears.

"Rebellion," Ebenezer cried. "My own trusted employee is rebelling against me."

"You've given him no choice," answered the Spirit. "He must protect his family, including Tiny New Gadget."

In the living room, the Gadget family was gathered around the TV watching a Seinfeld rerun between the commercials.

"At least these are loyal to me," Ebenezer thought, but the Spirit directed his attention to the empty floor beneath the Christmas tree.

Suddenly, Ebenezer Broadcaster was alone once again, and he trembled for perhaps the first time in his life.

The clock struck two, and he awoke to a room filled with a terrible sense of foreboding and dread. Before him stood a third Spirit — this one ghastly and misshapen.

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Ebenezer bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved, it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

"I am in the presence of the Ghost of Broadcasting Yet To Come," said Ebenezer.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

"You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us," Broadcaster pursued. "Is that so, Spirit?"

The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.

The city appeared before Broadcaster as if it sprang up around him, and the Ghost's hand directed Ebenezer to listen to the conversation of several groups of men in the streets. They spoke of the death of a man and a funeral that no one planned to attend.

"He died a fool," said a fellow with a moustache and glasses. "The old coot just couldn't accept change."

"He also died broke," added another. "He never knew what hit him, because he wouldn't listen to anybody."

Ebenezer stared into the black emptiness of the Phantom's hooded face and said, "They're talking about me. Is it not so?"

Suddenly, they were above Broadcaster's old television station. It was a shadow of its former self, its windows broken and its walls covered with the utterings of vandals armed with spray paint. Equipment racks had been ransacked and anything of value removed. The parking lot stood empty. The tower was broken in half, and its transmitter was covered in overgrowth and wires. The cold wind whistled through the buildings of Broadcaster's once proud station.

"This, this cannot be," Ebenezer cried.

Over the city they flew, and joy and merriment was all the Ghost could reveal. Life went on. The people were entertained. The people were informed. Gone was any trace of a TV antenna. Inside the homes, the people entertained themselves with a variety of gadgetry. Elaborate menus of content drifted before his eyes, along with acronyms he didn't recognize. VOD, DVR, and PSP. There were no television sets, only flat screens, laptops and handheld units — some connected by wires,others not.

Broadcaster's thoughts turned to his own sense of worthlessness. All this time, he had believed the people of the town couldn't live without him. Yet, here they were doing just fine despite the loss of the TV station.

Once again, he found himself inside the dwelling of Bob Gadget. The family home had been transformed into a sprawling mansion, the splendor of which overwhelmed Ebenezer. Laughter and joy filled the house, and prosperity flowed from every room. Bob's son, Tiny New, was the center of attention, and cash fell from his pocket as Bob lifted him into the air and set him in a special chair.

"It's all been worth it, my family," Bob announced as he raised his glass in a toast. "While that old bastard, Ebenezer Broadcaster, wasted away the hours counting on the immortality of his spreadsheets, we've explored the many new ways of doing what he used to do. Mass marketing died when the Internet was born, and media is now all about consumer choice.

"Our company has gone public, and thanks to our Tiny New Gadget here, we've come to a place where we can enjoy the fruits of life's many blessings."

And Ebenezer found himself in a graveyard, alone with the Phantom. Before him stood a tombstone that read:

Here lies the body of Ebenezer Broadcaster.
He dug the hole in which he is now buried.

The scales fell from his eyes and he realized what the Ghost of Broadcasting Yet to Come was telling him, so he asked, "Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of the things that May be only?"

He begged the Spirit to assure him that if he changed his ways, this would not be his end, but the Ghost did not answer. He threw himself at the Spirit's feet and pleaded saying, "I will honor New Media in my heart, and try to keep up with changes. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me, and I will spend what the Future requires."

Ebenezer watched frightfully as the Ghost began to shrink until it melted away into nothing more than a bedpost.

As the sun broke through the window, Ebenezer Broadcaster awoke with a stretch and a smile. He was also on a mission, and there was no time like the present to get started. He made his way to the mall and burst into the door buster sales to buy this gift and that. He turned his car northeastward to the home of Bob Gadget and his family.

When Gadget opened the door, old Ebenezer smiled and announced, "Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas to you and your family."

He handed out gifts to one and all, put his arm around Bob, and said, "Let's you and I sit down and talk on Monday about what's going on in the business and what we can do together to prepare for the Future."

And Tiny New raced to Ebenezer and squeezed his leg.

"God bless us all," he proclaimed, "each and every one of us."

A Broadcaster's Christmas Carol.

New easy blogging program

I've been looking for a long time for a program that will help me in my blogging and I think that I've now found one, and this is my first post with it :) Its got the rather strange name of PyQLogger and can be found at PyQLogger 1.3.3 and also at PyQLogger 1.3.3 and this is my first [aka 'test page'] with it :) Its nice and will, I think, fulfill my needs ... but as usual, only time will tell :)

Online Scams.

Foiling the Phishers.

Phishing is a growing form of online fraud. It blends old-fashioned confidence scams with innovations in technological trickery. The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to remember that real companies almost never send e-mail asking you to submit any personal data.

Phishers use "spoofed" [fake] e-mails and fraudulent websites designed to fool you into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords, Social Security numbers, etc. By hijacking the trusted brands of well-known banks, online retailers and credit card companies, phishers can fool you.

They often include fancy graphics, trademark symbols, and an authentic-looking e-mail address in the "from" line, but all of these things can be faked easily. One of the easiest ways to tell that it comes from a phiser is if the message tries to scare you into giving up personal and financial information by saying that your account needs to be verified, updated or confirmed. If you think a message might be legitimate, contact the organization by phone or open a new Internet browser window and type in the company's Web address. Do not cut and paste material from suspicious e-mail messages and never reply to a suspected phiser.

Be smart. Be safe. Here's more on how to avoid these phishing scams: PHISHING

Nigerian Scam.

On another fraud front, many people have been contacted by perpetuators of what's known as the Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud or "4-1-9" scheme -- so named after the section of the Nigerian penal code that addresses fraud schemes. These are often quite creative as people are discovering.

A large number of victims are enticed into believing they have been singled out from the masses (often by using your family names) to share in some multi-million dollar windfall profits. Don't fall for such frauds either. Read this online public awareness advisory: NIGERIAN SCAM

Todays Guardian Newspaper.

Watery Grave

Once a week, somewhere along the 213 miles of the Thames, a dead body is washed ashore. But only rarely do these discoveries make the news; most simply become forgotten victims of the river. Zaiba Malik meets those who find them - and those they leave behind.

A very interesting and thought provoking article about the bodies recovered from the River Thames. This river is the recipient of many bodies from many fictional authors, some of whom are Sax Rohmer and Simon Scarrow to name but two, and spanning two centuries form the 19th to the 21st.

But as I read the article I found myself thinking, if one a week is found, how many are not found? Some bodies must, as it were, slip through the net and remain undiscovered and then to eventually reach the sea. Perhaps then they are finally washed ashore somewhere, or consumed by fishes, or just simply decay into oblivion. Perhaps mourned but with no grave site to be mourned over. Perhaps this is where, and how, some of the 'missing people' on the police files end up? Who knows?

San Francisco in Ruins

Sunday, December 12, 2004
San Francisco in Ruins: "THE YEAR was 1906, and the citizens of San Francisco must have found it a wildly incongruous sight--grown men at child's play in the midst of tragedy. Less than three weeks before, the earth had shaken and the city had burned. The disaster began with an earthquake in the early morning of Wednesday, April 18, and when the fires were extinguished three days later, at least two hundred thousand San Francisco residents were homeless. Yet on the afternoon of May 5, a small group of men was flying kites near Folsom and Sixth streets."

An article about the remarkable aerial photography of the devastated city of San Francisco in 1906. Four of these photos are shown in the article although much reduced from their original size. Truly Lawrence was a pioneer!

Why is it ....

Why is it that when you spend quite some time sorting something out for a web page so that it looks right to you, and then you upload it and view it again ....... it either isn't there or it now looks totally distorted and horrible!? Does a gremlin live within the guts of my computer? Because whenever I've had the side off for some reason I've never seen it, unless its cunningly disguised as a dust-bunnie! And, rabbits are supposed to breed proverbially fast, but does that also apply to the afore-mentioned dust-bunnies too? However fast I seem to clear them out, they seem to reoccur just as fast, seemingly a losing battle that I'm fighting.

Ah well, such is life, and back to the onslaught :)

Friday, December 10, 2004
It works!

Now why am I suprised that it all works as it should do? And what am I going to fill these blank pages up with? Time will tell, and tempus fugit.

A new site and a new blog.

The first entry will just be a purely 'test' entry just to see if its all working as it should do. Other than that, theres not a lot to say until I can see it all.