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Wednesday, 20 December 2006
Wry not?

Oxted Christmas lights

Someone suggested to me in an email yesterday that my blog posts were wry. I decided to turn that remark into a corney Chinese joke, and post a night photograph of Oxted’s most luminous shop.  On the left is one of the many Oxted hairdressers (Trimmers?) and on the right is the Cantonese restaurant (The Rainbow), which specialises in seafood.

Winter seems to have returned with fog and sub-zero temperatures today. This morning I even had to scrape the windscreen, which is not unusual for this time of the year but it is only the third time I have had to do this since autumn. The weather till now has been unusually mild.

Posted by bigblue on 20/12/2006 at 06:47 AM
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Tuesday, 19 December 2006
Giant Polar Bear of Oxted

Christmas bling

I have been known to comment at length on the symbolic meaning of garden ornaments.  The above ornament, which appears ritualistically at this time of the year on the lawn of a garden in Oxted, does not require much analysis. It is a statement of how human beings are destroying the environment through wasteful over-consumption of resources, thereby placing much life on earth (including polar bears) in peril.  According to a a study that was reported on in 2004:

Amid all the studies and first-hand observations relating to climate change, it is the small details that often convey the bigger message most effectively. One such is the forecast, contained in a comprehensive study released this week about climate change in the Arctic, that polar bears could become extinct. The study, the work of more than 300 scientists, says that the thinning of Arctic ice is depriving polar bears of life-sustaining conditions for hunting. The risk is that they could become so thin that they lose the ability to reproduce.

While the decline of the polar bear population, like any diminution of the diversity of animal life, would be highly regrettable, it is but one symptom of the adverse effects of climate change on our planet overall. Among the findings of the same study are a significant rise in average temperatures in Alaska, northern Canada and eastern Russia; the much earlier break-up of sea ice in Hudson Bay and the eventual melting of the polar ice cap altogether. This is some of the most compelling evidence ever presented for the accelerating effects of global warming. It needs to be treated seriously.

Posted by bigblue on 19/12/2006 at 05:44 AM
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Monday, 18 December 2006
Bring Omar Home

Bring Omar home

This afternoon I met with two of my sisters in a central spot to plan our joint Christmas lunch: The Prince Albert pub in Bletchingley.  In the pub I met three walkers doing the Bring Omar home from Guantanamo Bay walk from Brighton to London. The Prince Albert seems to be on an important route: earlier this year I met some other people doing the Back to Bedlam walk less than a mile down the road towards Outwood.  Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera on me (not even my mobile phone) so I will have to do with using the photo on their campaign postcard.

Bigblue lived through a period in the old South Africa when thousands of people were locked up for months without trial, were imprisoned under unjust laws, and were sometimes assassinated, because they opposed apartheid. At one stage democrats in South Africa were calling for detainees of the Apartheid regime to be charged or released. Later the call was modified to simply call for the release of detainees - how could one support charging or imprisoning anti-apartheid activists under unjust laws?  There are 9 British residents who have now been detained illegally for over 5 years in Guantanamo. It is simply time to send them all home.

Here is the wording from the pamphlets they had left lying on tables in the pub:

The British Government and Guantanamo: Lies and Endless Delay

The United States have offered to release 9 British residents currently being held in Guantanamo if they were subject to control orders or surveillance on their return to Britain. British officials have refused because MI5 do not believe the Guantanamo detainees pose a threat sufficient to warrant these measures. Meanwhile in the High Court, lawyers for the British Government claim they cannot request the return of detainees because, among other things, it would damage US-British foreign policy relations. This decision is being appealed in the House of Lords but as the British government plays political games, the lives of detainees and their families is being destroyed.

Omar Deghayes, a Brighton man, is one of the Guantanamo detainees

Omar Deghayes, a thirty-eight year old married man with a young son, has lived with his family in Saltdean, just outside Brighton, for 20 years.

  • In 2001 he was kidnapped fleeing Afghanistan with his Afghan wife and their child
  • He was tortured in Baghram airbase, then flown to Guantanamo Bay
  • He has never been charged with any crime
  • No evidence against him has ever been made available for legal scrutiny
  • Omar’s arrest, detention and treatment by United States guards are all in breach of human rights legislation
  • Like other detainees, Omar has been systematically beaten and tortured by US guards at Guantanamo
Support our Brighton to London Free Omar Walk

Details of the walk follow.  It started on Saturday 16 December at Brighton Pier and is due to end on Tuesday 19 December in Whitehall, London. Supporters have been asked to meet the walkers at Brixton Tube at noon on Tuesday and walk the last few miles to Westminster Bridge (or all the way to Downing Street, where they face arrest for entering the Westminster Exclusion Zone.

As the protesters in the pub said yesterday afternoon: If you can’t protest outside parliament, then where can you protest?.

Posted by bigblue on 18/12/2006 at 06:08 AM
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Sunday, 17 December 2006
Shooting it up in the subway

subway

Lastnight I was out and about shooting some more Christmas house bling.  Although most of the photos didn’t work I did manage to get a few decent photos including one of the giant lawn ornaments of Oxted - watch this space in the coming week. I also walked through this subway that connects Old Oxted and (new) Oxted.

This evening we went to Chennai Dosa restaurant in West Croydon. The reviews (follow the link) seem to be mixed, and the views of our small party were equally mixed. It’s cheap, and quite good, but I didn’t think the food was as tasty as at Delhi Wala. After the meal it was a dash back to catch the first installment of The Hogfather on TV. I can’t wait for Part II tomorrow.

Posted by bigblue on 17/12/2006 at 10:36 PM
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Saturday, 16 December 2006
How do the ants do it?


If we were an ant colony we would fail

I will never forget this quote from a customer, commenting about problems on the project we were working on. I work on implementing large-scale Enterprise Software applications and it is always worth bearing in mind that such projects can fail, and that from time to time they do. As I understand the theory, most IT projects do fail when measured strictly by the four criteria of:

Most projects get around this by keeping the project sponsor happy and adjusting deadlines/budget/scope.  Sometimes, as a consultant, you can make a difference. The rest of the time you are the dog with the nodding head riding along in the back window of a car.

Often we look to simplistic analogies to explain what we do. I recently stumbled across a conversation about this in the blogsophere.  For example see Thomas Otter on Lego, Enterprise apps, Design, SOA and Hasso Plattner and Venture Chronicles on Lego blocks, software design mentality and random thoughts and the other articles they link to. My own thoughts are that people use Lego as a simplistic analogy to represent the engineering and construction industries, with which we have much in common. I still love Zachman’s Information Systems Architecture (ISA) Framework. Zachman drew the parallels between information systems architecture and classical architecture, and the need for us to adopt similar disciplines to deal with the complexity of our systems (Just google it).

Going back to the video above it refers to the case of Collin County, Texas vs Siemens Business Services. In 2004 Collin County signed a contract for 8 million US dollars with Siemens for SAP applications. Not long after, Siemens encountered problems meeting the contract’s requirements.  In March 2005 after Collin County had already spent 1 million US dollars, Siemens stated they could not complete the project. As a result the County sued Siemens and SAP’s public-services unit for 10 million US dollars in damages.  There’s an old article in Information Week.  I don’t know what the current status of that case is.

Posted by bigblue on 16/12/2006 at 10:52 AM
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Delhi Wala

Delhi Wala Restaurant

This is the window of the Delhi Wala restaurant, 11 King Street, Southall near the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara.  The high street in Southall is decked with Christmas lights. Or perhaps they are Diwali lights - they have been up since before Diwali and some of them consist of giant red chillis! I assume though that this photograph shows a Christmas tree and not a Diwali tree ...

Raghs and I had supper here yesterday evening after work. Delhi Wala is a strictly vegetarian restaurant, and I notice from a recent newspaper report that vegetarians are smarter people, or rather smarter people are vegetarians. It’s explained in the Indy article. The article also lists The benefits of forsaking meat:

  • A vegetarian diet tends to be lower in fat, higher in fibre and vitamins
  • Vegetarian diets are associated with lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and less obesity
  • Vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease, less diabetes and may have less risk of cancer and dementia
  • The Vegetarian Society, claimed to be the oldest in the world, was founded in Ramsgate, Kent, in 1847. Mahatma Ghandi, George Bernard Shaw and Linda McCartney were members
  • ‘Vegetarian’ is derived from the Latin vegetus, meaning ‘lively’ and was intended to be suggestive of the English ‘vegetable’.

If the reporter has got their facts mixed up and those aren’t the benefits of forsaking meat but rather an entry in the Which of the following items is false stage of a quiz show, then I would guess that the last point is false on the basis that it is highly unlikely that the word vegetarian was chosen to mean “someone who is lively” rather than “someone who eats vegetables”.

Posted by bigblue on 16/12/2006 at 06:32 AM
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Friday, 15 December 2006
A lift at Heathrow

Heathrow lift outside

I recently had cause to visit Heathrow airport. This is a view of the lift at the short stay parking garage at terminal 4. It strikes me as strange that the button to call the lift is about 1,6 metres from the ground, and not accessible to someone in a wheelchair. I would have thought that this was illegal under the Disability Discrimination Act.


Heathrow lift inside

Inside the lift it is a different story: the bottom button (“door open”) is a mere 1 metre from the ground, which is fine for people in wheelchairs (but awkward for everyone else).  This is not illegal and I have no problems with it (unlike the buttons outside the lift). However it brought to mind the following puzzle:

A man lived upon the top floor of a thirty-five floor block of flats. Every morning, when leaving for work, he would get in the lift from the thirty-fifth floor to the ground floor. However when he returned from work in the evening he would take the lift only to the twentieth floor where he would exit the lift and walk up the stairs to his flat.  However if it was raining he would catch the lift all the way to the top floor. He is not climbing the stairs for exercise, so what explains this behaviour?

The answer is that he was a short man who couldn’t reach the 35th button in the lift - he could only reach the 20th. However if it was raining he had his umbrella with him and would use this to push the higher button.  Another variation on this puzzle replaces the “if it was raining” with an “if there was somebody else in the lift”.

So my variation on the story would involve a man or woman who hangs around in the parking garage at Heathrow until someone comes along and catches the lift. If someone doesn’t come for a long time then he or she misses their plane…

Posted by bigblue on 15/12/2006 at 05:24 AM
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Thursday, 14 December 2006
Abstract

abstract

This is a photograph of the Godstone Green Christmas lights. Click on the image to see a detailed study rather than an enlarged version.

Checking through my server statistics last night I saw that suddenly I am getting a lot of hits on the term Christmas lights. Doing my own search on this term I I discovered the famous Mousehole Christmas lights in Cornwall. The annual surge in interest in Gallettes des Rois also prompts me to get the ingredients for this traditional cake/tart - normally eaten on Epiphany in France.

Posted by bigblue on 14/12/2006 at 05:53 AM
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