Saturday, April 30, 2005

Flaky environmentalist

I really care about the environment. No really I do. I'm seriously worried about global warming, recycling, sea levels rising, lack of water, ice caps melting, etc. But I'm crap!

I recycle paper ... but I don't recycle as much as I should do. I claim access issues - half the time. I'm not sure I can claim my dishwasher is there because of a disability access issue though, that's lazyness and convenience, yes?

I'm always so impressed by environmental activists like the ones who fitted solar panels to deputy prime minister John Prescot's home the other day. How funny! How clever. Also extremely impressed with the McLibel duo, Dave and Helen, who fought McDonald's anti-earth practices for years in the British courts on several levels: health grounds, targeting children with advertising, animal cruelty and chopping down of rain forests. I didn't really engage with the huge anti-McDonald's campaign until recently ... and it is shocking where we've allowed them to get to as a multinational with a single aim to make profit at all costs with their appalling business model.

Anyway, to salvage my conscience I've decided that I am going to donate money monthly from my wage packet using Give As You Earn to some kind of environmental cause. I don't yet know who I'm going to give it to. If anyone has any suggestions that'd be really useful ... the research starts now.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Goodbye planet

I was shocked by this story: Glacier goes under wraps.

A Swiss alps ski resort is covering its glacier with plastic to stop it melting as a result of generalized global warming.

"... In May, once the ski season is over, more than 3,000 square metres of the Gurschen glacier above the resort of Andermatt is to be covered with an insulating
PVC foam. This, it is hoped, will protect the snow layer from heat, ultraviolet rays and rain, halting the recession of the glacier. The foam costs £45,000,
but it can be stored during the winter and reused."

Oi, Bushy. Global warming is happening, bozo. Wake up. You and your mates may well have billions of dollars in their bank accounts thanks to oil and other excesses but what's the point having all that money if there's no planet and no society in which to have status and/or units of wealth. Grrrr.

Oh and I wish my council gave us bigger recycling bins. We get tiny boxes that fit about a day's worth of recycling in them. Everyone has to take this seriously NOW!!!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Future TV ... and access to it.

Back on the futurology path again.

Convergence is coming. Everyone has been talking about how media, communications and computers are all going to converge. You can really see that TV, as it is now, is going to die. You've seen Star Trek: The Next Generation? They don't stil watch TV in the 24th century. I'm not entirely sure we'll be still watching TV come 2015. Not in the way we know it.

Broadband connections are getting faster which means more can be delivered to your home, more quickly ... and down your phone line! Who'd have thought that little copper wire could be the solution? ADSL2+ looks as if it will be rolled out from the third quarter of this year by BT. Currently you might have a 576k, 1 or 2 meg broadband connection. Well with this new system, we're talking 16 megabytes per second! That's instant high quality TV and then some. IPTV they're dubbing it, or Broadband TV. IPTV is a protocol Microsoft are working on. And we mustn't forget your mobile. 3G is broadband for your mobile and will deliver TV and allsorts too, wherever you are.

The TV universe could be similar to the internet, though with a simplified Electronic Programme Guide. Life and everything could be documented and on sale through that box. So, in the evening, you might end up watching a live lecture about cubism on The Tate Modern Channel. Your next door neighbour may be watching a live REM concert from Madrid on her mobile whilst on the tube. And her neighbour could be watching an old episode of Tiswas from February 1981, on demand, that he found on someone else's favourites list, someone whose tastes matched his in a Favourites Search he had done. Who knows.

Satellite could become meaningless. Rumours abound that Murdoch is really anxious that he has put so much money into giving away lots of free hardware: all those Sky Digital dishes and set-top boxes. get this, you could be getting all your TV universe needs down your existing phone line. All the new freeview and Sky boxes have got USB ports in the back. You'd just connect your broadband up to the back of your telly as well as to your PC. No dishes or dish install companies necessary. Pop down Dixons and plug n'play.

We consider electricity a necessity these days. You're not a proper modern person if you dont' have electricity in your home. Bt say that broadband is going to have that same status in years to come. You can see it happening now, more this year than any other.

One of my fave websites at the moment is Digital Lifestyles. Sometimes it's a bit techie but other times not. It's the new technological innovations that are going to drive our new digital lives, though. Inform ITV is another good site about interactive TV.

I've not even mentioned Sky Plus or TiVo yet!

I'm pretty anxious, as a visually impaired person, that as convergence grows, I move further away from being able to access content that others are seeing as pretty standard more and more now. Hardware just isn't addressing the issue. I can't access onscreen menus on a set-top box. It would be relatively simple, we think, to add a speech synth in to boxes as standard, or some other way of giving audio navigation. Mobile phones, PVR, DVD, iPods, digital TV and ironically also radio is becoming less accessible.

The odd accessible solution rears its head but visually impaired people are often a generation behind what everyone else is doing. For instance, there is no such thing as a truly accessible video recorder ... can you believe that???? And now, as we know, some electrical stores have decided not to sell VCRs any more because they're old technology. What happened there, then? How didn't a lasting integrated solution arise over the 25 years that video was king?

Integrated solutions have to be the way forward. Legislation should be passed, or something, to ensure that disabled people don't get left behind in the swooping new digital revolution. Currently the DDA doesn't cover products, though arguably some of these things are more like services and hence should be covered.

Rumour has it that Sky are concocting a fantastic new accessible digital set-top box, though. It's very hush hush. Confidentiality agreements have been signed. Everyone is very excited about it. But no public announcements until the middle of 2006. I need to know more. I've heard this from 3 sources now.

There's more:

• inaccessible iPods and music download sites could mean music will be inaccessible in the very near future as the industry stops manufacturing so many CDs and rely on their download sites. iTunes apparently has 1.5 million transactions per day! Julie Howell mentions this in the latest New Beacon [not available to link to online]. Blind people not being able to buy and listen to music, many would consider that an absurdity.

There's much more but I'll leave that for another occasion.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Ebay killed my childhood

I love TV nostalgia. Off the back of all this Doctor Who hype I decided to buy a copy of the old 70s sci fi series The Tomorrow People I used to love it! Really love it: Tim, John, Hsu Tai, Stephen, Andrew, the Galactic Trig, jaunting. Such good memories.

To cut a long story short: the DVD arrived from Amazon, I watched it, it was shit.

I've got some old Tomorrow People books from that era and thought to myself ... hey, maybe I could make a few bucks on Ebay like everyone else seems to be doing. It was a cult series, right? Sci fi? There are bound to be some obsessive collectors out there. They could be worth 10 or 20 quid?

To cut a long story short: went to Ebay. Found Tomorrow People books there already. They were going for 1 pence wit no bids. I am shit.

My old Swap Shop books were going for just 99p. I thought people liked that kind of stuff? I thought it meant something? But no one was interested.

My childhood was a sham.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Facts about The pope:

He used to be a footballer.
He may or may not have been hit on the head with a silver mallet at death yesterday.
And ... it's just two letters away from Popeye!

Aww, dunno how I feel about the death of the pope. He was some world leader. But sadly he was a bit anti gay and didn't seem to appreciate the importance of protecting against AIDS by promoting condoms. Oh no. There should be no sex out of wedlock, no samesex sex. End of the matter.

I wonder if a new pope wil be more liberal in such matters? It'll be interesting.

Having been born in 1970, I don't remember any other pope. I do have a vague memory of when JP2 was appointed in 1978 ... and when he came to the UK around 1981 ... but to me he's the pope, can't imagine anyone else being pope.

The other big thing for me is that, as I lost my sight in 1984, I know what JP2 looks like! But I won't know what a new pope looks like. No doubt as with George Bush, Tony Blair and any new person I meet, I'll make up an image for them completely subconsciously ... but JP2's passing means there's one more important world figure who I don't have a visual image of in my mind.

I wonder if my mental image of Tony Blair and George Bush are in any way accurate? It's funny, I have such a strong image of what I think they, and other famous people, look like ... that I sometimes find myself describing them "you know, the guy with the dark brown hair, slightly pointy nose, reddish cheeks, quite tall ..." even if I've actually not got a clue what they really look like.

Someone once told me Tony Blair looks a bit like a lizard. Sadly I think I may have incorporated a long flicky forked tongue into my current image of the man.


Ya know there's all these reports out about how TB is back in full force? Retro diseases coming to get you in the 21st century? Well, I'm still pretty much reeling from the idea that I have been diagnosed as having gout.

It sounds like one of those hideous old man diseases. When I think of it, I imagine rotten skin, open seeping ulcers and sores - but it's nothing like that. It's more akin to arthritis in a lot of ways, it makes your joints swell up badly, get very hot and red.

Reason for gout? - too much urea in the bloodstream. Often caused by over-indulging. Previously considered a rich man's disease, the disease of someone who drinks port. Ick, port.

I got an attack of it (again) Friday morning when I woke. It totally floors you. It gets me in the foot or knee. For two whole days I just couldn't walk! I started using my new office chair as a wheelchair round the house which was interesting but it did rather ruck the carpets up.

Gout = excrutiating agony. if anyone ever tells you they've got it, don't laugh and call them a premature pensioner, just hand over any codine or painkillers you might have immediately.

Totally screwed my weekend. What a flipping waste. I've been asleep half the time because of the codine and anti-inflamatories. I've woken this morning and am a little more mobile.

Who on earth would want to read this blog entry? I've stopped.