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Perfect parents are always found behind a Keyboard

Last weekend saw a very tragic accident not very far from where I live. It made national news (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-19328786).

The story is utterly distressing, family at the seaside on a lovely day, they take a wander down the jetty to take a closer look at the incoming tide. Young boy slips off the edge and is as yet still missing. As a parent of a young child, it hurts just to type those words, let alone pause and consider how awful this event is.

I have the benefit of having visited the beach in question several times and have stood on the jetty, with my daughter, and watched the rapidity with which the water comes up and swirls next to the jetty. I consider myself a strong swimmer and while I too would have no hesitation is jumping in after a fallen kid, the currents there are very strong and I don’t think I’d find swimming in them easy or pleasant. A young child effectively has no chance.

Since this event is relatively local to me and I will continue to visit the location, I have followed the story more closely that I would normally. Stories of children dying tragically are not pleasant to read and so I generally actively avoid them.

In my internet travels following this story I have seen the understandable outpouring of sympathy to the family. Also predictably, there have been the idiotic comments about letting a child so young get so close to the sea and why someone wasn’t holding his hand. Even why didn’t someone jump in after him? The person who made that latter comment obviously didn’t read the story they were commenting on because both parents jumped in and had to be rescued themselves, such is the strength of those currents.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that there will be people who have dumb ideas or suggestions to make. Thankfully they are still a very significant minority, but sadly they lack the intelligence and common sense to keep their dumb ideas to themselves. How they think airing their wisdom after the event actually helps anyone is beyond me.

Another suggestion I saw posted was asking about health and safety at the beach and why it was possible for children under 16 to even go down that jetty. Does that person really think that is a reasonable action to take or consider? Do they mean just this beach or all beaches across the land? What I’d love to know is how they think this sort of idea would be implemented! I also wonder if said person ever crosses the road!

Life has danger, the act of living could be considered dangerous. Sadly, accidents like this will continue to happen. That’s not to say they are not tragic and should be avoided where possible. However, it life was made so safe that an accident like this was impossible, then life would have much less interest. I’m not saying that the danger creates the interest; I’m saying that removing the danger also removes the interest.

Protection from danger needs to be weighed up with the absolute need and with regards to this beach; I don’t think anything should be changed. Yes, this is a dangerous beach, there is a lot of mud and approaching the sea is hazardous. The incoming tide is astoundingly fast. Holiday makers are routinely rescued from the mud.

What happened to this family is deeply saddening. Wise-cracks about safety and what might have been done by perfect parents behind a keyboard help no one.

The BBC owes nothing to Conspiracy theorists

Over at his conspiracy blog Craig McKee makes the ludicrous claim that the BBC broke their own rules when reporting on conspiracies surrounding the New terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11th, (http://truthandshadows.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/media-and-the-911-cover-up-bbc-accused-of-breaking-its-own-fairness-rules/).

The key section that jumped out at me from the blog post is the following:

Peter Drew, Paul Warburton, and Adrian Mallett are using the publicly funded television network’s own rules to highlight its failure to fairly report the facts of 9/11. The three have launched their complaints with the BBC Trust claiming that the network failed to live up to its own Royal Charter and Agreement in two documentaries released last year – The Conspiracy Files: 9/11 Ten Years Onand 9/11 Conspiracy Road Trip. The complaints allege that the docs were not fair, not accurate, and that critical information was deliberately withheld from viewers to further an agenda supporting the official story.

The complaints have reached the highest levels of the BBC complaints process, and the complainants are now requesting a face-to-face meeting with BBC Trustees to discuss the situation. A possible result could be an apology or the screening of some documentaries with different points of view (such as films produced by AE) to balance out the record.

The BBC’s Royal Charter and Agreement states: “The Agreement accompanying the BBC Charterspecifies that we should do all we can “to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and impartiality” in our news and other output dealing with matters of public policy or political or industrial controversy.”

I have previously reviewed one of the programmes mentioned (https://vteclimey.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/ponderings-on-the-tenth-anniversary-of-9-11/).

Impartiality does not mean everything is equally valid

The thing that gets forgotten by people that argue that the BBC should give more and better air time to conspiracies is that they actually only want their particular brand of conspiracy promoted. They don’t want conflicting or opposing conspiracies given any time at all. After all, the person who believes that the airliners that flew into the World Trade Centre had external pods attached holding explosives does not want exposure of the theory that the planes were simply sophisticated holograms and it was explosives in the building that brought them down. Similarly, the person who believes that the building was rigged to many explosives does not want to share air time with the person promoting the idea that it was actually a small number of nuclear devices, or even some ultra-high tech beam weapon mounted on a satellite in orbit.

That’s the trouble with conspiracies, there are far too many of them and they all claim to explain the evidence, and yet by definition, most of them must be wrong because they certainly can’t all be right.

So, when the BBC says its impartial, it is not at all talking about the myriad conclusions that misguided people come to. It is talking about the accurate portrayal of facts and the explanation of conclusions based on evidence. Sadly for those who continue to peddle the truth denialism that is the 9/11 conspiracy movement, this means that evidence does not explain their position and impartiality does not apply to their erroneous conclusions. It only extends to the acknowledgement that they exist.

If impartiality meant giving time to every alternative idea there was, can you imagine the chaos? Science programmes about health or how humans came to be would be intolerable as each regional myth was recounted as though it was of equal value. History documentaries would be confusing and impossible to follow as each biased interpretation was given its time.

No, Peter Drew, Paul Warburton, and Adrian Mallett are wrong in their assertions and the BBC will be right not to pander to them. Of course, those on Craig’s blog who have predicted that the BBC will stonewall the complaint will believe themselves proved right that the BBC is complicit. Sadly that’s the price of standing up against nonsense; thankfully the deniers of the truth of those September 11th attacks are a small and shrinking minority and over the passage of time their noise will grow fainter.

Legal does not mean okay

Much noise has been made in the papers in the past couple of weeks about a certain investing programme that enables wealthy subscribers to reduce their tax burden to a ridiculous 1% and yet still enjoy all that living in the UK offers.

Among the culprits was the comedian Jimmy Carr, though he was certainly not alone and not the only one to be outed; he was singled out by our Prime Minister and named as an example of exhibiting immoral behaviour by actively seeking to reduce his tax burden. Its long been known that many wealthy people jump through various hoops in order to save themselves from paying as much tax as possible. These schemes are legal and have generally been tolerated by the powers that be and begrudgingly accepted by the wider populace.

What I did find bazar about the furore over the Jimmy Carr outing is the number of people who jumped to his defence using phrases along the lines of ‘what he did was legal’ and ‘everyone would have done the same in the same position’. On the second point, that is not a valid defence and I don’t actually believe it. A majority maybe, but certainly not everyone, there will always be an exception. It still doesn’t make it right though, even if a majority would do it.

On the first point, that’s still not a valid defence. Being legal is not the same as being moral. Those who argue that its okay because he didn’t break any law are a few small steps away from declaring that they take their moral lead from the state and what it tells them is legal. Are the morals of these people so weak and changing that they can’t decide what is right and wrong without being told so by the government first? I bet they’d be offended at that concept, and yet they think its okay to avoid paying their fair share of the populace’s tax burden if there is a legal way to avoid it.

While I don’t particularly think what Mr Cameron did the right thing by naming Mr Carr, he was right when he branded his actions immoral. It is immoral to avoid paying your fair share of tax in that way. What is even more cynical and depressing is that politicians have known about these schemes for a long time and chosen to do nothing about them while it suited them. That too is immoral.

There should never have been the ability for this to happen. However the law can never rule everything out and there were always going to be loop holes that someone would find and exploit.

I hope that this latest spat of moral outrage will lead to more honest banking activities by the most wealthy of the population, however, I don’t think that will be the case.

 

I Love Ingenuity

Way back in my school days when we were doing the physics of the car engine I asked my physics teacher why we couldn’t invent a car that used an engine to get going and then engaged the wheels back to the engine to provide a sort of perpetual motion car and negate having to use petrol quite so much. The answer is, it’s a non-workable idea. The energy from the wheels would be lost in friction and heat and the amount going back into drive would be so small the car would immediately start to slow down you’d need to start the engine again within a few seconds.

So with that knowledge I read this story on the Sky News website and got a school days flashback (http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16228695). The article is about a man in China who has invented an electric car which incorporates a fan and generator to add charge to the battery and provide extra range.

I love this kind of thing, its by doing things like this that we as a human race learn. Its experiments like this that drive ingenuity and invention and they should be encouraged.

Here Comes the BUT…

However, in this particular case its not as clear cut and judging from some of the related comments (and other discussion I have seen on the story), that not everyone understands why this idea is flawed from the start and will never take off. Much like the school boy me, who was thankfully eager to learn.

It basically boils down to the efficiency of electric generators. They do not convert 100% of the energy they are given into electricity. The conversion process takes some of that energy.

How this translates to the news article

The car in the question has to carry the extra weight of the fan and the generator, this makes the car heavier and means more energy is required to get it up to speed. The wind resistance of the fan on the front also increases the energy required. These two elements combined mean that the battery in the car will have to provide more energy to get the car to go compared with the same car with the fan, generator and related ancillaries removed. This difference is the amount of energy being put into the fan at the front of the car when it is driving the generator. That’s not strictly true, there are other factors at play but for this simplification it explains the point well.

This is where we get to the kicker. The energy that is put back into the battery will be less that the energy used to drive the fan; namely less than that required to carry it in the first place. In other words, the battery would provide more range if the man featured simply took his invention off the car.

If the idea was true and had genuine potential, it would be used in industry already. The fact its not shows the truth. This is something that has been played with a long time ago and modern physicists know exactly why it won’t work and no longer even bother to consider it.

I’ve seen variations of this idea come up before. In my car club days it would come up in the form of people asking why they can’t just plug their air conditioner into their car air intake and provide extra power due to the cold air going into the engine.

Its pretty much the same principle, the weight and energy used by the air-conditioner will be greater than that that provided by the cold air flow, thus the benefit is erased.

Learn by experimentation

OF course people should try things out because we learn by experimentation. However, when its something as basic as this that has been known about for many years, it is useful to have a critical thinking mind set and a basic education to understand why it won’t work in the first place to save yourself a whole heap of time.

Though with the number of people who are obviously thinking it’s a decent idea, perhaps our schools out to run this form of experiment each year to demonstrate just why this sort of thing is a fool’s errand.

Most Dog Owners are Bad Owners

One of the side effects of having to look after and train a Guide Dog is that I now look for and notice how other dog owners behave and treat their dogs. Sadly, I am not impressed by what I see.

I had already formed a low opinion of some dog owners because over the years I have encountered several bad ones anyway. Usually when out with my daughter and said bad owner allows their dog to jump up and terrorise a young child to the point of significant distress. The dog owner then says to the child “It’s okay, he (or she) won’t hurt you” and moves on. How utterly unhelpful! No apology is offered for the distress and upset caused.

In situations like that the dog needs to be controlled and its behaviour corrected. Telling a tearful child that the terrifying encounter they have just experienced that its okay and they had nothing to worry about achieves nothing. I know from many encounters like this that it only creates a chid that gets more and more terrified at the mere sight of a dog. What should be a calm family walk becomes a ‘look out for the big bad dog and try to avoid an encounter’ walk. The number of dog owners that I have witnessed that have dealt with the situation well and to my satisfaction as an affected parent are very definitely in the minority.

Working with Tout

Tout is a challenge in this regard himself; he is an utter attention whore and gets hugely excited at the prospect of meeting other people. It’s a regular battle to get him to continue to pay attention to his walking duties when he has spotted that people are approaching. His whole demeanour changes noticeably on spotting other people and free running him makes it even more difficult. We’ve had to physically hold him and apologise to families on more than one occasion for his spirited intrusion.

The hard work with him is paying off though and when we see what other older dogs still do and how Tout is now we can see that his behaviour has improved and he is paying attention to out instructions more and calming down. It is rewarding seeing that the dog we are responsible for is generally well behaved and that the effort we are putting into the training is making a difference. However, it is equally disappointing that so many other owners simply don’t have a clue and let undisciplined dogs run amok. Worse than that, there are those who don’t even notice when their pets act aggressively or in other unacceptable ways and then refuse to even acknowledge that they ought to do something about it, as I experienced a few years ago (https://vteclimey.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/this-afternoon-i-had-a-deeply-unpleasant-experience-with-a-dog-and-its-owner/)

Dogs are not Children

One bug bear of mine is the insistence of dog owners to treat their pets as substitute children. They are animals, effectively tame wolves, and their nature is very different to that of people and they should be treated as such. Yes, there are dogs that actively enjoy and even crave human contact, but that does not equal treating them as though they were human. They are pack animals that require an alpha member and ought to be treated with that understanding. Molly-coddling and pandering to them is not treating them appropriately.

Just because they beg it Doesn’t Mean they need Food

One thing I have especially noticed since taking Tout on is the number of overweight dogs. Tout appears to be able to eat absolutely anything and when food is being prepared he hovers and sniffs and nudges, hoping for that little scrap that will make its way off the counter and into his domain. When we are out, he’ll go after anything that will fit in his mouth, especially when free-running. Back at home, even after he’s just eaten, he’ll still come up and beg. There is never a time when he won’t eat anything that’s offered to him as food.

With this knowledge, it is now plainly obvious to me that many dog owners have absolutely no idea on what is a suitable amount of food to give to their dogs. Almost every dog I see is carrying fat, some are obviously obese. In our care of Tout the food we give him is monitored so that he remains healthy and in a suitable fit condition. He looks slim compared to most dogs and positively skinny on others. I don’t think we’ve seen a dog that is thinner than Tout. That’s not because Tout is underfed, but because every other dog is either fed the same or more, usually more.

This is bound up in owners pandering to their pets rather than acting like a controlling alpha or pack leader and just goes to show how little dog owners understand about care and control of their pets.

Clean up the Poo!

This is a subject I have commented on previously (https://vteclimey.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/oh-how-i-wish-some-dog-owners-would-think-a-bit/) and is still very much something that many dog owners seem incapable of. I’ve said all I need to on dog poo in that post, my thoughts on the subject remain unchanged.

 

A Sampling of London Hotels – Part 3

My review of London Hotels continues ….

Reem Crystal Hotel

Yet another four floor hotel with averagely clean rooms and averagely clean hotel lobby and stairs.

Do you get the impression that hotels are starting to blur into a single barely acceptable entity? It feels like it to me at the moment.

The room itself was reasonable, with a comfortable bed. The shower was a major disappointment; water barely dribbled out of it and the knobs were very difficult to turn once wet, or handles with wet hands. This combined to give a very poor shower experience.

Breakfast was decent enough and cooked to order, so at least it was hot. The fruit juice has suffered from a surfeit of ice and tasted watered down. The coffee was also poor; though being served with a small jug of warm milk made this hotel unique. Fresh fruit at the buffet was a choice of one, a very poor show there.

The Commodore Hotel

Hurrah! A quality hotel!

The Commodore sits very close to Kensington Park and the Diana Memorial Playground. This is a beautiful part of London and walking through the park to and from the Hotel each day was a genuine pleasure. Especially with the glorious weather experienced that week.

The hotel is very smart and everywhere looks well cleaned and cared for. My room was a generously sized double room with a wonderful dinner plate sized shower head in the shower. I would enjoy my showers that week.

The lift is a tad pokey and the suggestion of four occupants max is a little ambitious. Getting to my fifth floor room was a bit of an adventure too, it meant getting the lift to the sixth floor and then walking along a corridor and back down a flight of stairs. I guess this is what happens when several adjacent buildings are merged into a single hotel.

I decided against full English breakfast and had the included continental each day instead. There was nothing special about it, it wasn’t bad and it served its purpose, but it wasn’t great. The jugs of fresh fruit juice did look enormous and some guests seemed to struggle a little to lift them one handed. The fruit on offer was the usual, citrus, soft and prune, which has got quite boring now. I do wish hotels would offer a wider selection. One nice touch is that there is a toaster in the corner and customers are invited to toast their own bread as they want it. This makes a nice change from having toast triangles delivered to the table, most of which get consumed cold, if they get consumed at all.

All in, this is a place I would return to.

The Gainsborough Hotel

Another decent hotel, clean and well looked after.

The double bed was comfortable, though the room was not quite as large as I had in the Commodore. The shower was over a bath, not always a bad thing as many people do prefer a bath. Many of the past hotels have only offered a shower cubicle. The shower gave great pressure and getting it to a good temperature was also very easy, so no complaints there at all.

Continental breakfast was what I have come to expect. A small selection of fruit juices, cereals, tinned fruit and yoghurt, bread and bakery tit bits, and cheese and sliced meats. The Gainsborough makes a unique offering with some herb infused betters. Cold meat and cheese slices doesn’t inspire me for breakfast, so sampling the butters wasn’t a priority. What did please me was the peanut butter on offer, peanut butter with jam on toast, yum!

English breakfast was cooked to order and while welcome and pleasant, was certainly not the best I’ve had. The poached egg looked like it had been done in swirling water, rather than the cheats way of in a small dish; the yolk was bright yellow and runny so top marks for the egg anyway. The leaf of salad sitting under the cooked tomato made the breakfast dish unique, but did look a little surreal and I’d have rather done without it.

This is another place worth returning too.

Hotel 82

A fancy name for a bland hotel, the 82 comes from the address number. The hotel is best described as functional rather than comfortable.

The room had few comforts and looked tired. The carpet could have done with being replaced and the paint and cupboards needed refreshing too. By contrast the utilities in the bathroom had been chosen as to impress. They were expensive and quality items. The shower was a very fancy multi head unit that looked out of place with the  rest of the room. Sadly there simply wasn’t enough water pressure to enjoy the shower to its greatest potential. Another failing in the bathroom was the sink plug; the first morning I suffered from water continually draining around the plug. The second morning extra pressure applied to the plug meant I was unable to release it again and left the room with the sink still containing my shaving water. Lovely.

Breakfast was poor. It wasn’t clear if there was any cooked option available and I didn’t ask, I simply made do with what was there. The fruit juice jug dribbled on the table and floor, one to be replaced I think. It wasn’t all bad though, in addition to cold sliced meat and cheese, there was also salmon available, yum!

Coffee was a surprise; when it arrived the look and taste made me think it was from a Nespresso machine. When the next guests arrived for breakfast the tell-tale sound of a Nespresso machine whirring in the background confirmed my suspicion.

 

A Sampling of London Hotels – Part 2

My review of London Hotels continues ….

Kensington Gardens Hotel

Ooops, stayed a bit too cheap on this one as well. The hotel is similar in condition to the Wigmore Court so nothing special to write about there.

The Kensington Gardens is owned by the same people who own the neighbouring Phoenix, which means that costs are cut by sharing services. I didn’t particularly mind this to be honest and it wasn’t much of an inconvenience. When going out in the evening, keys had to be left and collected next door and a buzzer on the door enabled the Phoenix reception to let you in. Leave before 9am and you need to leave the keys with the Phoenix reception as well.

The room, like the Wigmore, was functional but not special and the shower was the worst one yet with practically no worthwhile pressure at all. Lack of a mixer tap was disappointing, but at least there was no issue with having no hot water.

Breakfast is served at the Phoenix as well. This week I avoided cooked English and stayed with the supplied continental, which meant lots of fruit and Alpen were consumed. Sadly, the coffee was the bitter poor standard I’ve become accustomed to. The last morning I was a little later than usual (blame an evening out the night before) and found the breakfast room full of people. So full I had to wait a few moments for a table to be made up. The room was so stuffy and the continental buffet so depleted that I gave up and had a latte and toasted sandwich at my desk instead.

Kensington House Hotel

Hurrah! Money well spent at last.

A small mishap with my booking meant I was assigned a single room rather than the booked double. However, a quick word with reception and the booked double was confirmed and a new room assigned; all is sorted pleasantly and without fuss.

The hotel seems to have several sets of stairs to choose from when navigating between floors and it’s easy to imagine kids having a good fun time exploring. It all adds to the impression of a very charming place to stay.

The room was a wonderful sight, especially after the Hotels of the last three weeks. A scented freshener in the wall socket made itself known very obviously upon walking in. The room is neat, well furnished, and clean and is more than worth the small nightly increase in price compared with past weeks. There was a minor inconvenience regarding the bed, my particular room had a high windows to wall space ratio which meant the bad, by necessity, had to be under a window. Combine that with a low headboard and it makes leaning against the headboard to read or use a laptop uncomfortable and a sore neck soon makes itself known. I fully expect that not all rooms here suffer the same way. Its far more likely to be related to the shape and location of my room, which is at the front of the hotel.

No restaurant though, only breakfast is served so it’s out onto the London streets to find somewhere again. As always, this is not hard as there is plenty of choice nearby and the Kensington House Hotel is very well located, being close to the main road than runs alongside Hyde Park.

Of the Hotels stayed in so far, this is the one I would most happily return to; and a few weeks later I did just that. The second stay being just as enjoyable as the first, it was also nice to be welcomed back.

Maranton House Hotel

Another building with features that reminded me of the Wigmore of a few weeks ago.

Lots of stairs and yes I was on the top floor again. The staircase is wide with a deep pile carpet and wasn’t unpleasant to climb. The building itself is in good condition and in a reasonable location.

My top floor room was modestly and sparsely decorated, with a decent bed. The big surprise however, was the size of the onsuite, it was huge and tiled floor to ceiling with a drain hole in the middle and bidet (yes really) in the corner. I can probably count on one hand how many of these I’ve seen in my life. It was quite a surreal moment.

The shower was utterly pathetic though. It struggled to provide a decent flow of water and getting it at a nice temperature was almost as hard. Shame really as with all that space a properly decent shower would easily fit.

The biggest disappointment however was the breakfast; quite simply the worst breakfast so far. So bad that I declined to take it again after the first morning and instead opted for a coffee and pastry on the way to the office.

Mabledon Court Hotel

London does seem to be utterly packed with 3 and 4 storey hotels offering medium priced accommodation in an acceptable environment. They are all very similar in the sense that the buildings are tall and narrow, with only a few rooms on each floor. Many lack a lift. Décor is typically okay but in need to touching up.

Mable Court, like several others I’ve reviewed in in this series, is just such an Hotel. There is a lift at the Mabledon, through it’s a double sliding manual door operation; which means fingers need to be watched, especially with the inner scissor door.

With this hotel, I’d left my booking too late and so I was unable to get a double room within a decent distance of my place of work and even with the Mabledon, the distance was too far to walk each day. So I suffered with my first single bed and sequence of tube journeys.

The room was comfortable enough, but small. The shower was very small and it was disappointing to find that the showerhead was actually lower than the top of my head. This made showering awkward; but at least there was no shortage of hot water.

Cooked breakfast was included in the price and cooked fresh; it tasted great and my egg yolks were runny, so no disappointment there. The rest of the breakfast buffet was basic so not up to the standard of other hotels; but for the price this worked; I shan’t be going back though.

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