Archive for July, 2012

Adjusted medals table

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 | Distractions

Tired of Great Britain languishing near the bottom of the Olympic medals table? So am I. That’s why I’ve created the adjusted medals table.

This takes the so called official medals table and reconfigures it so that Great Britain’s medal count includes all the countries we used to own. This includes all the Commonwealth countries such as Canada, all the former colonies such as the United States and even countries we just invaded a large part of, such as France. I feel this is a more accurate reflection of our sporting legacy.

Oh, and if you do it this way, we’re doing very well!

Adjusted medals table

In defence of Danny Boyle

Monday, July 30th, 2012 | Distractions, Thoughts

Recently, we witnessed the London 2012 opening ceremony, and what a sight it was to behold. Breathtaking and magical, it was enough even to warm my icy tax payer heart. It’s architect, British film director Danny Boyle, received almost unanimous praise from the media and twitterarti alike.

However, it stuck me that both the TV pundits and media writers the day after, essentially wrote a conclusion that said something along the lines of “it was never going to be as good as Beijing, but Danny managed to do the best second best that we could hope for.”

I take exception to this.

The Olympic opening ceremony that took place four years ago in Beijing was indeed an amazing ceremony. It’s a perfect example of what a totalitarian state can do when it throws enough money and slaves at something to really impress the rest of the world. But that’s all they had. While a big fireworks budget and lots of synchronised dancing is very impressive, it isn’t the only metric.

For example, we don’t recognise War & Peace as one the greatest novel because it’s really, really long. The quality of a novel is defined by the quality of its wordplay, the character of the story and the emotion that it generates. Not that Beijing didn’t have these, but London had them in bucket loads.

London had both. Clearly, we didn’t have grandeur on the scale of Bejijing, but it would ne nieve to say we lacked it entirely. An army of almost ten thousand performers were involved in the opening ceremony. Bejing may have had an amazing spectacle of thousands of drummers – but so did London.

As for character, soon after the ceremony it quickly became apparent how hollow the Beijing opening ceremony had actually been. The firework were pre-recorded and the girl who we thought was singing, was actually just miming while a girl deemed too unattractive sang from behind a curtain. Meanwhile, in London, we trotted out a series of heartwarming choirs, choirs that were actually singing, for real. In their need to achieve perfection, apparently, Beijing dare not compete with that.

We trotted out an endless list of amazing people – Isambard Kingdom Brunel, The Queen, James Bond, Mike Oldfield, Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal, David Beckham, Tim Berners-Lee, J. K. Rowling, Paul McCartney, Rowan Atkinson, Emeli Sandé and more. Again, Beijing simply couldn’t complete with that.

While China does have a long and noble history, we were really able to shine in celebrating our recent accomplishments (recent being the past few hundred years). Whether it be providing a shining beacon of socialist utopia as the world looks to the NHS as the model for universal free healthcare or a mega mix of the last fifty years of music, gently reminding everyone that the only people even in the same league as us when it comes to producing internationally acclaimed an enjoyed music is the United States, the ceremony reminded us all that Britain is both a cultural and social world leader. With a civil liberties record the likes of China, Beijing couldn’t complete.

Nor could it compete when we celebrated the two greatest turning points in modern society – the industrial revolution, that brought our economy from primary industries to secondary industries, and the creation of the world wide web, that took our economy from secondary industries to tertiary industries. Both owe their origins to Britain, allowing us to casually at the end of a house party scene, drop in “oh, btw, here is the guy who fundamentally changed how the world communicates.”

All that while respecting our own citizens Human Rights. And mostly[1] respecting other people’s as well.

So don’t be so quick to judge the London 2012 opening ceremony as the best we could do as an inevitable runner-up to Beijing. In so many ways, it was Beijing, that was hopelessly unable to complete with London.

References

1 http://www.antislavery.org/english/campaigns/slavery_free_london/slavery_free_london/team_invisible.aspx

Writing to the Colonel

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 | Life

Having found an interesting note on KFC’s website, I decided to write to them.

Dear KFC,

I was recently browsing your website, when I found the following statement at the small print at the bottom of the page:

“Our research shows that UK customers don’t want genetically modified foods in KFC products; so naturally, we have ensured none of our products contain genetically modified ingredients.”

You seem to be pointing out that this is what we as consumers want, presumably rather than what is the sensible thing.

Therefore, I just wanted to write and let you know that I DO WANT genetically modified ingredients in KFC products.

Genetic modification is nothing new – we have been adapting plants to suit our needs in agriculture for thousands of years. Using GM crops allows us to reduce the amount of agricultural chemicals used, and is therefore be better for the environment. The EU maintains strict controls over GM foods to ensure they are safe.

For all these reasons, I wanted to inform you that some of your customers do want genetically modified ingredients in KFC products, and hope that you will re-consider your position.

Yours faithfully,
Chris Worfolk

Why not contact them about it too?

Like a Virgin

Saturday, July 28th, 2012 | Books

I’ve recently finished reading Richard Branson’s new book, Like a Virgin, “They Won’t Teach You at Business School”.

My first question was, if Richard didn’t go to business school, how does he know they don’t teach this stuff? But, for the moment, lets take him on his word that they genuinely don’t. Once I got passed my own sarcastic comments, I settled down for an enjoyable read.

The book is structured in many short sections of only a few pages each, dealing with specific topics in no particular order, some related to a specific area of business and management, some on what Virgin has done and what lessons can be learnt, and some were Richard answering emails people have sent him asking for advice.

I really liked this format. Having sections that only lasted two or three pages meant that I could easily dip in and out of it. If I had five minutes to do some reading, I did’t need to worry about getting lost in the middle of a chapter. Though it also had the problem that when I was reading in bed, every end of a section was followed by a “oh, I’ll just read the next section, it’s only two more pages” until it was late into the night!

In many ways, Virgin really have turned business on it’s head. I once heard them described as a brand based capital house and where other companies have sought to dominate the one market they are best at, Virgin have built an empire out of going into many different, diverse markets, and staying small. This fits well with Richard’s personality, who clearly suits the cheeky personal marketing approach that they take, and there is a lot to be said for it.

Ultimately, there are no hidden secrets in the book, which is almost certainly a good thing (as any book promising you to uncover the “magic” is probably nonsense) but reinforces what we really should know already – be nice to your customers, invest in your staff, get your name out there and don’t take yourself too seriously. Definitely worth a read for budding entrepreneurs, if only as a gentle reminder.

Guilt tripping

Friday, July 27th, 2012 | Thoughts

A few months ago, I wrote about how one of religion’s most insidious evils is the way it controls it’s own members through guilt. Since then, I’ve referred to what I call guilt culture in several blog posts. However, I can’t remember where I wrote the original post. It doesn’t seem to be on my blog. Or on my computer. I just don’t know where it is. So I’ve decided to re-write my thoughts again, albeit it in a shorter form.

The most successful religions maintain an absolute grip on their adherent’s lives. A believers whole existent revolves around the faith they follow. This is often associated with cults but can equally be observed in the practicing main stream followers as well.

To maintain this grip, they really have to get you over a barrel. Luckily (for them, not for us), they found an extremely effective way to do this – buy attacking us for just being who we are. There are lots of examples of this, but the best one is the way they try to control our sex lives.

We’re biologically wired to want to have sex. That is just who we are. It’s not just us – all animals are. We couldn’t survive through evolution by natural selection by any other means. We are attracted to other human beings and natural driven to procreate so that our genes can further their own selfish ends.

But the Church says no! You shall not be free to go to bed with whoever you want. You must only do it in accordance with our rules. These rules are as follows: 1. No sex before marriage (our special concept of marriage that is, in our Church). 2. No sex with members of the same sex, even if you’re attracted to them. 3. No enjoying sex, it’s only for creating children to further the religion.

So lets recap. We’re expected to deny ourselves our basic, biological urges and if we should fail to fight human nature, then we’re guilty of sinning. That seems quite hard to avoid.

But it gets better (I use the term better very loosely). It turns out that just having the thought, it just as bad as doing the act itself! Not only are you not allowed to go to bed with who you please, when you please, just thinking about doing something naughty with someone else you find incredibly attractive is a sin too!

Inevitably, the believer commits a sin they don’t have a choice about it, they’re a human, they find other humans attractive, they’re biologically wired to want to procreate. They sin.

At this point, the Church is on hand to remind them that they are a bad person, and should feel guilty for letting God down. You know, the all knowing God that made them and knew they were going to do exactly that. Luckily, there is a way to redeem yourself. You can buy your way out of sin – and of course there is only place in town selling it…

So the Church keeps its followers in a state of perpetual guilt, feeling that they have left a non-existent man in the sky down for just being who they are, and that the only way to redeem themselves is to band over thousands of pounds a year to the Church.

If anyone other than a religion tried to enforce such torture on a person, the United Nations Human Rights Council would be screaming from the rooftops.

Decade in the Sun

Thursday, July 26th, 2012 | Life, Limited

History of Worfolk Online

Recently, I was thinking that it must be coming up to ten years since I registered my first domain name, in the next couple of years. When I actually checked, it was two months ago.

In May 2002, I first registered Worfolk.co.uk, now the home of my consultancy company. This was by no means my first venture into the world of web development, I had been developing websites for years before, and programming for years before that. But it’s difficult to put a precise date on any such projects, unlike 7 May, 2002.

Between then and now things have changed a lot – a one point, the Worfolk Online network contained hundreds of websites. It now contains only a few dozen, that are far more focused on quality. While I don’t have screenshots of all of them, the image above shows the evolution of some of the network’s homepages.

Anyway, cheers, here is to a wonderful decade and hopefully, an even better one to come.

Chirp

Thursday, July 26th, 2012 | Tech, Thoughts

Chirp is a fantastic new service that lets devices literally talk to each other.

Actually, by devices, I mean iPhones. It’s not specifically for iPhones, but that is the only client they have released so far. It does also work fine on the iPad as well though, so if you have both you can test it by getting them talking to each other. But anyway…

The idea is that a lot of devices these days have speakers and microphones – so rather than having to mess around with bluetooth pairing, instant messaging, emails that never arrive, etc, the devices could just talk to each other – using sound.

When you want to send a link, or a photo, or anything for that matter, you simply “chirp” it and your phone outputs a sound. Other devices listening in can then hear it and decode what it says. The simplicity of it is its brilliance – any device could talk to another, without having to connect, or pair, or any such nonsense. Finally you could share a link or photo to all your friends in the bar without having to mess around with some complicated system – even texting it to them requires you to have their number in your phone for example, but Chirp doesn’t.

It’s an amazing concept; you have to wonder why nobody has done it before.

One drawback I will note is that the devices are actually just communicating locations to each other – so rather than chirping a photo to each other, the photo is actually uploaded to Chirp’s cloud, then the device listening simply hears the location and goes and downloads it. This means all your data has to pass through Chirp’s cloud, which isn’t ideal, but as a chirp is inherently public to anyone who is listening in anyway, you should never use it to transfer private data in any case.

How Britain dominates Formula One

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 | Distractions, Thoughts

Given our recent blows in the sporting world (we’ve just lost at the European Cup, and by the time I publish this I’m sure Andy Murray will be out of Wimbledon too), it’s easy to think that we’re just rubbish at sport (as a nation).

But there is at least one sport were Britain dominates the world – Formula One. Although a lot of the key names thrown around are people like Vettel and Schumacher, when you look at the figures, Formula One simply revolves around this country. Here are some key figures.

  • 8 of the 12 manufacturers are based in Britain
  • 9 of the 14 technical directors are British
  • 2 of the 4 engine manufacturers are based in Britain
  • Britain has 3 drivers – only Germany has more (with 5), everyone else has less (Finland, Australia, Spain, France and Brazil have 2)

Here is a full breakdown of each team and where they are from. I’ve highlighed the British connections in yellow, though with hindsight, I probably should have highlighed the non-British connections!

Team Nationality Key people History Engine
Caterham Malaysian, but based in British Mike Gascoyne (technical director) and Mark Smith (technical director) are both British Originally British, until Tony Fernandes bought Caterham Cars Renault
Ferrari Italian Pat Fry (technical director) is British   Ferrari
Force India Indian, but based in Britain Andrew Green (technical director) are Paul di Resta (driver) are British. Buy out of Eddie Jordan’s team. Mercedes AMG
HRT Spanish     Cosworth
Lotus British James Allison (technical director) is British Originally Toleman Motorsport (British) Renault
Marrusia Russian, but based in Britain John Booth (team principal) is British Founded by Manor Motorsport and Wirth Research (both British). Taken on by Virgin Racing (British). Cosworth
McLaren British Martin Whitmarsh (team principal), Neil Oatley (technical director), Jenson Button (driver), Lewis Hamilton (driver) are all British. Founded by New Zealander Bruce McLaren. Mercedes AMG
Mercedes German, but based in Britain Ross Brawn (team principal), Nick Fry (CEO) and Bob Bell (technical director) are all British. Mercedes AGM is a separate company – a buy out of British engine manufacturers Ilmor. Mercedes AMG
Red Bull Austrian, but based in Britain Christian Horner (team principal) and Adrian Newey (technical director) are both British. Originally Stewart Racing, founded by British driver Sir Jackie Stewart Renault
Sauber Swiss     Ferrari
Toro Rosso Austrian, but based in Italy     Ferrari
Williams British Sir Frank Williams (team principal) and Mike Coughlan (technical director) are both British. Founded by Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head. Renault

…and this is before I’ve even founded Worfolk Racing.

The nerve

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 | Religion & Politics

I wasn’t going to write about this, but so many people have now mentioned it to me that I’ve decided it is worth while commenting after all…

It’s now been six months since Lloyds TSB started the processing of correcting the account they had incorrectly set up and then started billing our charity for. They’re still working on it. After all this time, you really have to wonder if they ever will get it done.

This is a bank of truly incompetent scale – no wonder they had to sell 77% of it to the government as part of a £37,000,000,000 bailout from public funds to the major banks. That’s about £800 each btw.

So what did such a bank do with all it’s ill gotten gains from hard working tax payers?

They spent £40,000,000 sponsoring London 2012. As if the tax payer hadn’t paid enough for the Olympics already, Lloyds TSB are now taking our emergency bailout money and spending it on making itself a sponsor of London 2012!

Not only that, but this is only the money paid for the sponsorship deal – and one imagines that the expenses of having a party bus follow the Olympic torch round and anything else rack up to quite a bit. In fact, they’ve even made a website about everything their blowing money on this summer.

It’s absolutely unbelievable.

Footing the bill

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 | Religion & Politics

Hosting the Olympics has been a harsh affair. We’ve had to temporarily (hopefully!) transformed into a semi-totalitarian state.

But on the flip side, we get to go to the Olympics. Or do we?

The Olympic Stadium holds 80,000 people. So even if you allocate a rather large amount of 800 tickets to sponsors and other interests in the private sector, that still means we can sell 99% of tickets to the generic public. But apparently not. Only 75% of the tickets have gone on sale to the general public. When it comes to the high profile events, that already rather low number of 75% drops to 35%!

But, of course, you have to give some to the private sector. They’re paying for the games after all. Otherwise, the tax payer would have to foot the bill. But, as it turns out, and we all knew already, we are footing the bill.

According to the Guardian, sponsors have contributed £1 billion of funding. They’ve made the data available for free too. The Guardian is actually being generous here – a report by Parliament puts the figure even lower.

Meanwhile, the total cost was reported to the House of Parliament as being around £12 billion. Jules Boykoff points out this isn’t entirely accurate though and, indeed, according to Sky Sports, the figure is actually around the £24 billion mark.

So do the maths on that one. We’re footing 92% to 96% of the cost, yet we’re getting 35% – 75% of the tickets.