08 September 2006

Germany: Smokers Paradise

Sorry to offend anyone out there, but I think smoking is a disgusting habit.

It's a drug, I know, it's addictive. I've been pretty lucky never to have been caught in it's trap. Sure, as a teenager, I'd tried it a few times (ah, peer pressure), and a few years ago used to take a cigarette occasionally after quite a few beers, but no more. It never latched on, got its hooks into me, but obviously for some reason others are susceptible.

But still the way I see a lot of smokers behave does quite annoy me sometimes. It seems to me like they don't believe that passive smoke is a health risk to people they come into contact with. And living in Germany means it's even worse. With one of the highest smoking rates in Western Europe, practically nowhere is safe from them (how do you think all those Europeans women keep their slim figures, nicotine and caffeine). Plus most of them see no problem in dropping butts anywhere, not thinking about putting them out then depositing them in bins, just have a look around any bus or tram stop, and that's the majority of the litter.

Having been back to Ireland a couple of times since they introduced a blanket ban in all work places, I think it's a great thing. Before the ban came in I was sceptical; I just accepted smoking as a part of going to pubs, nightclubs and restaurants (growing up in Ireland, when I was young, it was generally accepted that smoking happened everywhere), and assumed that it would be unenforceable. I had been to Canada before, and had been to a few smoke-free pubs, which I thought was the way forward; if there was a demand for it then they would exist was my reasoning. It worked in Canada, since generally north Americans are more health concious and pro-active than the irish. But in Ireland there seemed to be no sign of it happening, it would be committing commercial suicide. There needed to be a shove from government to make it happen.

The resistance of the German smoking lobby has been applaudable (matching that of CIE in denying carbon dioxide is harmful). It will be a long time before Germany sees a full ban in public places, but these days I try to go to the few restaurants in Munich that offer a smoke free environment when I can. Some things to look forward to when moving away from here:

  • coming home after a fews drinks not reeking of smoke
  • going to a disco and not risking getting ciggie burns on my favourite shirt
  • enjoying a meal without smoke wafting into my face

28 August 2006

The Beer Monkey

Hopefully I'll get back to writing more regularly in the next few days. Passed the exam, so no more studying to do (for the time being anyway).

I spent the last weekend in Budweis in the Czech Republic, where a colleague of mine comes from. As expected (due to the quality of the beer there), I ended up get pissed on a couple of night. Waking up the next morning made me think of something that happens to everyone (who drinks) at some stage: the visit of the beer monkey (amusing link).

Obviously there are many worse things about the beer monkey, but the most constant thing for me about his visits is how my hair looks in the morning. When I go to sleep sober, I wake up and my hair looks grand (well, as far as my hair goes). But after the beer monkey has dropped by, there are bits sticking up left right and centre in gravity defying positions (I've thin hair that always just falls over) that even the strongest hair wax can achieve.

What's your most regular or annoying feature of his calls?

12 August 2006

All Quiet On The Blogging Front

It's been a while since my last post. Next Monday I'll be sitting for a Java programmer exam, so most of my free time in the last week or so has been dedicated to studying for it. Hopefully I'll get it first time, and I can start to put up a few decent articles again (but a few celebratory drinks will have higher priority).

After that though I've a few other things that need to be done, so i reckon posting will still not be too frequent, but I'll be aiming for at least one a week. Me and Audrey (the wife) are moving out of Germany by the end of the year, so we'll need to start looking for jobs, and also organising all our stuff to be sent to wherever we go (likely destination, London).

So, it could be a while until my next proper post (unless I take a decent break from studying)

07 August 2006

Cut Power Cuts

With all the difficulties that North America has had in past few weeks with power cuts, you'd think that someone would have come up with a solution to the problems. The usual ideas and reasons for the current problems are being trotted out such as building more power stations, as it currently isn't keeping up with demand or making people more aware out their usage of energy.

Building more power stations is the simple way to solve the problem, but it won't help us solve the much bigger problem in the world, climate change. How is shovelling loads more coal into an inferno, letting it spew out more filth into our air and more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, going to help?

Making people aware of their energy usage is the perfect solution to the problem, but unfortunately that takes a lot of effort in educating everyone of the benefits, and then motivating them to do something about it. But let's face, humans are a lazy species, if we don't have to do it, we won't.

The simplest way is too hit us in our pockets. Hard. There is nothing quite like lighter wallet to make people finally wake up to the realities of a situation, and do something about it. Electricity is, I consider, quite cheap. What if it was whacked up by 100%. Would people learn to switch off the air-con when it wasn't needed? Or think about buying the energy efficient light-bulbs next time they have to replace the kitchen light? I think we'd soon see quite a large decrease in demand on the power grid.

Obviously this method has some drawbacks. Higher rates will hit the poor much harder, but so will blackouts, brownouts and economic stagnation based on fragility of supply. But there are ways around these problems, such as through some sort of tax breaks for the economically disadvantaged.

I would like to see another method implemented. An allowance should be worked out that decides how many units are necessary for a household to run the essential services, plus a bit extra. Before this limit is reached, the price per unit should be quite reasonable, but when this limit is reached, then the price per unit should shoot up. It would soon make people think about over usage of unnecessary equipment and using energy wastefully. This type of regulation could also work for other services, such as water, which I think gets wasted much to easily by people as it costs next to nothing from the tap.

The only problem (there's always one) is that it doesn't serve the capitalist economic model that we live in today. But there are (and in this case should be) exceptions to every rule.

03 August 2006

Ruining A Triumph

The recent World Cup certainly showed the world what Germans were really like, rather than the unfriendly and boring but efficient stereotype that is usual. Efficient certainly, but the other two have been reasonably well blown out of the water. Or so I thought.

The weekend before last, I went to the Kaltenburg Knights Tournament. It is like "Medieval Times" in North America, but much better and more interesting. There is a complete festival sites with lots of very interesting stalls, selling not tacky cheap souvenirs, but orginal or authentic fair, plus some excellent food.

Plus there were numerous stages dotted around the place with many different shows to keep you occupied before and after the main show, and the parade was amazing, showcasing all of the participants close up in full costume. The tournament itself in the arena was very impressive, although I think it'd be much better to see it in the evening.

The one thing that soured the day was a small, simple incident as me and Audrey took our seats in the arena. It being a blistering hot day, and the arena being open-air, we were sitting in the direct sun. So, just before the show started, Audrey put up her umbrella to give us a bit of shade for a few moments respite until the event. Barely before it was up though, we heard a shrill voice crying, "Das ist nicht erlaubt" ("That isn't allowed") coming from behind us.

Audrey turned round to inform the middle-aged German woman that the show had not started yet, but we simply got a similar reply. Very shortly after taking down the umbrella, the gates of the arena opened and the show did start. Now I can understand the woman not wanting us to obstruct our view, but the tone of her voice and what she said just brought the stereotypical stern, unfriendly German back into my mind. Is it that difficult to say something politely?

I hope people like her are not going to affect the way the rest of the world now (correctly) views Germany, but she certainly isn't doing the cause any good. And where was she during the World Cup? Did people like her simply keep indoors or go on holidays when the World Cup was on to avoid all the "lower-classes" who follow football?

01 August 2006

German Pregnancy Revisited

Seems I was certainly in the minority (according to the comments) when i claimed the germans always seemed to get accidentally pregnant. Still, it keeps cropping up in my life. Recently I found out that one of my bosses had a grandchild a couple of years back who was completely unplanned.
It seems like I must be keeping the wrong sort of company. Although, considering the situation a little more, it turns out that most of the cases I know involve couples who are going out with a foreigner. Of the total, German-German couples make up 37.5% and German-foreigner couples have 62.5%. But then again maybe I just know more mixed couples. Maybe I need to work with more Germans (small company, only one proper German, but who claims to be Bayrisch)

I'm reasonably sure that Germans are quite careful when it comes to contraception and sex, and also believe that a lot of them, as one comment (from MadJan) put it:

"plan their pregnancies with "No pregnancy".....and they probably only do end up with 'accidental' pregnancies cos they were so spaced out that they forget to be cautious!!!!"

Maybe not the last part though ;-) I know quite a few couples who haven't even though about having kids yet, despite one or both partners being in their 30's (nothing wrong with that by the way), so obviously they've been fairly careful over the years (or else male infertility is quite high in Germany).

Then I thought it might be to do with abortion rates in Germany. Could higher rates mean that mean that quite a few 'mistakes' are taken care of. Or could lower rates mean that they are careful, but when it does happen then they keep the kid. But this map showed that German rates are particularly typical for the western world.

So the next step in this research is to get out there and get to know more Germans...

30 July 2006

Goodbye Human Race

Going back to when i was writing about Euthanasia, I came across this quite interesting group, Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. It seems they are all for us dying out as a species on earth. Although it's not quite as simple as that, as the leader of the movement, Les Knight, admits;

"It's not too likely that the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement is going to succeed. I don't think any of us are so naïve as to think that 6.5 billion people are going to say, 'Yeah, let's stop breeding, this is great.' But it's still the right thing to do."

There are a number of very good points made about the ideas of the movement in this article. The group recognises two levels of support:

Volunteers - those who believe in the goal of human extinction.
Supporters - those who believe that the population of the earth should be greatly reduced, but that the human race should not become extinct

Both groups have taken the commitment to have no kids (or no more if they already have kids) to further their goals. I have to say I quite like the idea of the supporters, that the global population should be reduced, although i couldn't guarantee that I won't ever have kids. They also disagree with China's one child policy, as one child is too many (not to mention the coercive methods of the dodgy government, better be careful or my websites going to be banned in China soon).

28 July 2006

Air-con con

Air-con is one thing that I'm not a fan of (pun absolutely not meant). Yes, it may be nice to be able to cool down on that hot summers day, but it's a huge drain on energy. I know that anyone who lives in a 'hot' place will say it's an necessity to be able to live there, but I've only two things to say to them:

What did people who lived there before air-con became available do?
Why live there if you can't stand the heat?

I believe if it's too hot for humans to live in a certain place, then we shouldn't really be making our homes there. Nature might be trying to tell us something; either it's not for you, or global warming is making this happen, do something about it (hint, more air-con isn't the solution).

As regards a huge drain on energy, I think that in places such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore or New York (high density cities), it creates a vicious circle. By pushing the warm air out of buildings to create a cooler interior, you are therefore creating a larger difference between the temperature inside and out, making the air-con work harder, and the outside temperature warmer.
Here, it seems Tokyo has come up with a novel idea to tackle the problem (slightly).

OK, obviously air-con does have it's advantages. I do believe that it increases worker productivity, as i find it easier to get work done in the mornings at the minute rather than afternoon, and no wonder the people of mediteraanean Europe are famous for their 2-4 hour siestas. It would be quite difficult to work in that heat. But we still need to find ways of off-setting the fact that it still isn't good for our environment.

But the one thing that really gets me annoyed is over usage of air-con. A mate in Australia tells me of how he wears shorts and t-shirt to work, but brings a jumper with him as it gets a bit too cold in the office. Much worse though is a friend in Toronto who tells me she actually has to switch on the heater at work as the office is much too cold as the air-con is on. Talk about screwed up. It gives me the feeling the person in control of building conditioning is getting kick-backs from energy companies (he probably turns up the heat too high in the winter so that they have to switch on the air-con).

20 July 2006

The Right To Die

Ok, I want to get stuck into a controversial topic I touched on in my last post, Euthanasia. Quite simply I think it should be made legal everywhere. Obviously there are certain problems with the idea, for example someone could be coerced into it against their real wishes (by some unscrupulous family member after the inheritance a bit sooner). But if a person can be proved to be a decisionally-competent adult, then the process should be rather simple.

As usual a big part of the argument is from the religious right, who believe that only God should choose when someone dies, but how can anyone put that argument forward when it can't even be proved that God really exists. It should be the decision of the individual. And as usual the religious right has too much weight on this issue; 75% of Americans support some form of euthanasia, but still it is something that is rarely seen on a ballot (the one time it did, in 1994 in Oregon, it passed).

My boss has (I mean had) a friend who had to go to Switzerland to euthanise (is it a verb?) himself. That was a bit inconvenient for him, and also for his family to organise getting his body back to bury him. But what it did give him, was a proper chance to say goodbye to everyone.

Euthanasia is certainly an option I'd entertain. If I end up in a situation where the pain is insufferable, and no solution is available (or likely to come onto the market quite quickly), then I would choose it. If the other option is to suffer day after day, knowing that no matter what, it is never going to get better, the choice seems quite easy. I also think if I was in this position it would be a huge strain on my family, and that it would be a weight of their shoulders. I wouldn't want to be a burden on anyone.

Dude, Where's My Pension?

Will there even be such a thing as a state pension when we (by that I mean 20-somethings) retire? Surely if people are worried about all the baby boomer's retiring now, it's only going to get worse in the future, as the birth rates in western countries are dropping like a stone (see here for the only reason that Germans seem to have kids, for example).

Who's going to be paying into the system when I retire, and who's going to be doing all the work? I still don't think machines and robots will have solved all our problems by then. Plus, loads of those 'baby boomers' will still be living, as the average lifespan increases, and they'll be increasingly expensive to look after (alternatively, they could choose a bit of euthanasia to ease the burden). We're going to need loads of immigrants to solve these problems. But the issue of immigration already raised problems of its own, if they're not properly integrated into their new country.

17 July 2006

Old People Aren't Useless

When the idea of a pension was first put into action (in the UK) in 1925, retirement age for men was 65, and women 60. Now, 80 years later, the retirement age for men is 65 and for women, 60 (although that is due to rise to 65 by 2020). General life expectancy since then has increased by about 15 years. Today's 65-year-olds are no longer worn out after a life of manual toil. They are in good health and there are plenty of physically undemanding jobs for them to do.

So why are they retiring? Obviously if i was in the situation where I could retire and live comfortably, I'd take it. But surely the age for retirement should be raised. I know that in the UK it will be
raised to 68 by 2044, but is that enough?

I done a little on-line test to calculate my life expectancy, and it looks like I should live 'til 87, which will give me 19 years to enjoy my retirement (although it could be longer with medical advances).

I think the retirement should be raised to 68 now, and move it gradually up as life expectancy increases. There is so much grey matter out there retiring well before they should. I worked with guy until last year, who retired at 58. He was still pretty fit and what I would consider as asset to his company, but for some reason they where perfectly happy to offer him early retirement.

Maybe it's a German problem, as people here tend to earn relative to their age, and not how useful they are, so companies maybe want to get them off the wage bill. Surely the wage graph of an average employee should be like a smooth curve, with it rising from the start until it peaks at around 50 (see graph), and then gradually declining until they leave the workforce. Here it just rises. I have a plan to go and work somewhere else in the world for the next 2-3 decades, and come back to Germany (or France, but i don't speak the lingo) for my last 10 years to take advantage of this practice (unless I'm loaded that is).

12 July 2006

But It's Football That Suffers

As a quick follow up to the Italian football scandal. The other major problem for me about it is the fact that it is the sport that ultimately suffers. Who could blame any italian football fan if they forfeited their love of the sport after another huge scandal. How would you feel about following something you where deeply passionate about, only to find out that it is all just one big scam.

It's like when a kid finds out that the WWF (WWE now according to a well-informed mate) is actually just a soap opera, much like EastEnders or Dallas.

If you are a Juventus fan, can you really feel proud of your last two Scudetto's (Italian Championships, if they get to keep them that is). And what about all the other fans of the other teams, now wondering if their titles have been won fair and square in the past, only safe in the knowledge that their chairman was able to keep anything under wraps.

And the people who should feel most gutted of all. The fans of teams who have been relegated by relatively slim margins. What if a crocked ref had given a dodgy penalty to one of the teams implicated in the scandal in the last year or two, and that penalty had caused you to drop points in a game, and as a result your team has been relegated. It would put you off football for life.

As for me, it's definitely dampened my appetite for the "beautiful game". Hopefully that'll free some time up for me to get on with something useful in my life. Scandals can have a positive side.

06 July 2006

White Collar Crime, Do No Time

The recent Italien football scandal has once again highlighted the inadequacies of the rule of law to deal with white collar crime. It seems that once again only the plebs are going to be the ones who suffer.

In this case it is the fans of Juventus and the other three clubs involved who will really be punished. While the big knobs at the top have committed the crimes, it seems that all they have to do is resign to be absolved of any wrong-doing, while the fans will have to watch their team play in lower quality leagues. The players should be ok, either they stick it out for a season or two, while still earning a fortune, or they can choose to go to another club.

It's the humble fan who is loyal to his club who is really being punished. The directors need to brought to justice properly, preferably with a nice stretch behind bars to make them realise that they just can't do what they want to achieve success, it has to be earned.

01 July 2006

Once again England crash out of the world cup in a penalty shoot-out against Portugal. Even though I was supporting Portugal, no matter who gets beat in a penalty shoot-out, even if it is England, I still feel some sympathy for them. It has to be the most cruel way, in all sports, to be knocked out of a competition. (England have won only one of six penalty shoot-outs that they have taken part in, Germany have lost only one of the five penalty shoot-outs they've been involved in, maybe the English could learn something from their German counterparts.)

Anyway, a new way has to be introduced to decide drawn games. Shoot-outs are too much of a lottery. I've been thinking about this quite a lot, and the following is my proposal. A goalie and two players from one side, Team A, should come up against three players from the other side, Team B. The 3 players from Team B are given the ball at the centre circle, and the 3 players from A are in the box of the goal they are defending. Team B then have 30 seconds in which to try and score a goal. If the ball is kicked into touch by either side, then the chance is finished. We then play out the same scenario at the other end, but with A attacking B. When one team scores and other team doesn't, then they are declared as winners. The system from shoot-outs, whereby both teams have 5 chances, could be implemented also.

This way the players can be more creative in trying to score goals, instead of simply hitting the ball from 12 yards and hoping. After some experimenting, the system could be altered to include extra attacking players if necessary. With any luck penalty shoot-out would then be a thing of the past.

29 June 2006

Disposable deposits

At the Fan Fests for the world cup here in Germany there is a deposit system in place when you buy a beer (or any drink for that matter), which mean when you buy a €3.50 beer, it costs €4.50 as you have to pay €1 for the (plastic) glass, which you get back when you return the glass.

This great idea means much less litter is strewn around the festival sites, making the general environment much more pleasant for everyone, and probably much cheaper clearing-up costs.

What if we extended this to more areas of our lives? Can you imagine the hundreds of thousands of pieces of electronic equipment that are discarded every year in the western world. Mountains of telly's, piles of PCs and hills of Hi-Fi systems. And the majority of this 'rubbish' ends up in a dump, to be buried under ever more rubbish, ad finitum.

Surely most elements that compromise electronic equipment could be recycled and used in the production of newer equipment with a small amount of effort. Also, many electronic components contain toxic substances, such as mercury, lead and cobalt, which are hazardous to our environment if not properly disposed of (or reused).

How can we get people to be responsible with respect to recycling electronic goods? With a deposit system, as used by the Fan Fest organisers for glasses. When you go to buy your new HD 60 inch TV, you should have to pay a deposit (say 5% of the cost), which you only get back when you feel the TV has run its course, and you bring it to a place where it can be properly disposed of. This would probably stop most people from simply chucking electronic goods out at the most handy place available (i.e. the local dump site, or, if it fits, the bin).

Most people (and I include myself in this) most of the time, will think of the consequences only when it affects their wallet. Time to hit us where it hurts!

26 June 2006

Role Model For The Rich

So Warren Buffet has decided to give away about 85% of his fortune. I'm sure it won't affect him too much, as I think I could still live on the 7 billion dollars he's still got to his name, and supposedly the guy lives on 100,000 dollars a year anyway (which I could also do).

It is a noble gesture, plenty of people in this world wouldn't do that. But is it not weird that we live in a world where so many people are starving or don't have clean water, yet someone can earn such obscene amounts of money. And I don't lay any of the blame at his feet, his views on American taxation are very liberal, and is it his fault that he was able to do it? Most people would if they could. Plus it's better that someone like him has earned it (rather than a Rupert Murdoch type person), and is now willing to give most of it away, rather that shower it on undeserving offspring.

At one stage or another though, I'm sure he's invested in companies with dubious policies as regards the general world we live in. Many venture capitalist have invested money in massive mining corporations, Big Oil, real estate construction and heavy chemicals companies etc. So for all these people who have made fortunes out of these 'negative' industries, and have therefore contributed to the unnecessary pollution of our world in many ways, what percentage of it will be given back in a philanthropic way? And is it anywhere near enough to fix the ills of this planet?

But as a step in the right direction (and hopefully a inspiration for others fortunate enough to have too much), I have to acknowledge this great gesture from Mr. Buffet.

21 June 2006

A World Team At The World Cup

I've been enjoying the world cup for the past couple of weeks now, and it's been one of the reasons that I haven't been posting as often as I've wanted to (its difficult to fit in 8 hours of work, a couple of games of football, some food, sleep and writing a blog into one day). I heard a novel idea the other day about a new possibility for the world cup, something to get more people interested.

The idea was that one place should be reserved at the world cup for a team made up of top players from around the world whose country hadn't qualified for the worlds largest sporting spectacle. If you look around at the players, past and present, who have very little chance of being involved in the world cup, gracing the biggest stage, due to the country they were born in (or have allegiance to), it's shocking. A quick list off the top of my head would be:

  • Gerorge Best
  • Alfredo Di Stefano
  • Ryan Giggs
  • Jim Baxter
  • George Weah
  • Johnny Giles
  • Liam Brady
  • Ian Rush
  • Mark Hughes
  • Eric Cantona

Obviously my list is a bit north-west Euro-centric, can anyone add more to my list (and also, who would be in the list if there was a team in the world cup this year; by the way, players who have played in previously world cup, in my opinion, should be allowed if their country is absent this time)?

It would also give fans of these 'lesser' countries a team to support at the world cup (if one of their players was included, that is). Certainly a place could be made for them at the World Cup, as having 3 teams from North America and 4 teams from Asian is clearly too many. I understand that FIFA wants to promote the game in those areas, but other good teams do miss out.

Who would be top of your list?

What a Hummer

Is the Hummer one car that should be banned? I know that capitalism is all about demand, and if there is a demand for something, and it's within the laws, then a person should be able to buy/do/have it.

But surely there should be some sort of respect for your fellow human being, and the environment in which we live in. A vehicle which gets only these strange protesters
) should really have some restrictions on it. Since fuel tax in the US is so low, Hummer drivers don't pay much of a penalty for their profligacy.

At least in Europe it is nearly prohibitively expensive to drive one (although I have seen a few in Munich, where I live). But then again, just because you're rich, does that give you the right to pollute the environment even more than we already do?

Even though these vehicles are behemoths, surely it must be possible to improve the efficiency of these vehicles (including SUVs). It seems simply to me that Big Oil have the government in their back pockets, making sure that no new legislation goes through to make Americans think more before purchasing a wasteful car, or pressing Detroit car manufacturers into increasing its efforts in these areas (see the strides made in Europe and East Asia in this comparison of fuel efficiency

Anyway, it reminder me of a quote from the Simpsons, as McBain (Rainier Wolfcastle, Arnold Schwarzenegger parody) pulls up to the Simpsons in his Hummer:

Marge: That car's as big as all outdoors.
Homer: Wow, what kind of mileage does it get?
Ranier: One highway, zero city.
Marge: (impressed) Ooooh.
Ranier: Mmm-hm.

16 June 2006

Don't Look Back In Anger

Just to revisit the first CEI ads.

I decided to have a quick look on the internet to see what sort of stir they had made on other websites and blogs, and came up with a few interesting ones:

http://www.factcheck.org/article395.html (from a professor whose facts they 'misinterpreted')


http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/05/co2_we_call_it.php (meant to be the biggest green lifestyle blog on the net ???)

At least I wasn't the only outraged. It seems the ads have been designed to target 'middle America'. Which I have to concede is a pretty damn good target, who else do you want to convince the keep buying SUV's, switching on the air-con when it gets above 23° C (73.4° F), and be generally inconsiderate about the damage they do to the environment. Collectively they wield huge economic clout, and as long as they can be convinced to live life without thinking about the future, the more money CEI's sponsors can make.

I'm not saying that Americans are stupid, but, as with in western Europe, people get selfish, and tend not to think about long term consequences. But still, is it a surprise that such ads have originated in America?

15 June 2006

Tabloid Ruse

Child's play has erupted between the British Sun and German Bild (picture) newspapers, not for the first time I'm sure. And it all centres around one of their favourite pieces of fodder, David Beckham, and here's a blog discussion about it.

Is this sort of stuff really news? Do people really want to read this sort of stuff? What annoys me most though, is the hypocrisy of it all. The Sun comes out with this "How dare you try to upset David, and unsettle England's world cup chances, like that", when we all know that they are probably the best in the business at it. There are countless times when they have vilified Beckham, Rooney and whoever else you may care to mention in the England set-up.

And it doesn't stop there. Was it not the Sun (and others), again, who advised the English faithful to harass the referee who (correctly, due to a John Terry foul) disallowed a goal in their defeat to Portugal at Euro 2004. They even went as far as to publish his telephone number and e-mail address. The Bild is just as bad though, if you speak German you might like to look at this interesting blog.

Anyway, disgusting general behaviour, is it not time these publications where held to accountability? They publish outrageous headlines to make people buy their papers, but when they get it wrong they pay a paltry fine in court (or settle out of), and print a small apology on the side bar on page 7, between two pieces of irrelevant news. Should they be forced into a front page splash, making the apology and saying how stupid they were, or that their journalism in that case was amateurish?

13 June 2006


It's been more than a week now since my last entry; you may be wondering if this is one of the quickest dying blogs on the web ever. Does enthusiasm die that quickly? For me, I hope not. My excuse was that i was on holiday for the past week (well, Sunday to Sunday). Hopefully I'll get back into the rhythm in the next few days. But the question is how long does the average blog last?

A quick search on the old favourite, wikipedia, turned up very little useful info, so I moved on to googling it (new verbs still springing up everywhere, I've even found myself saying, "I'll skype you later"). The first reasonable info I found was, unsurprisingly, on a blog, unfortunately the stats are from 2003. More detailed info of these statistics can be found here.

Anyway, it seems I've out-lasted more than 25% of blogs merely by making more than one post. And an average active blog is updated once every two weeks, so it seems my target of trying to do an article a day is maybe a little ambitious, but I'll still aim for that (better to aim high I reckon). As usual, stats should be taken with a pinch of salt, not only due to the age of the survey, and also that they have only taken account of blogs from (as far as I can tell) blog servers, and not dedicated blogs, which I assume would be more persistent.

Finally, I seem to have found a more recent article, although still a year or so old, and relying on some even older stats. Here there is a lot more info than I care to go into, but I'll try and pull out a few choice cuts

"Wired exulted that "nine blogs are created every minute and 2.3 content updates are posted every second". Those seeking perspective might ask how many disappear every minute and note other 'magical' statistics, e.g. globally there is a suicide every 40 seconds."

I like this comment, but it should be noticed that i read a few weeks ago that there is now a new blog created every second (can't get the link to this article yet).

"Several studies indicate that most blogs are abandoned soon after creation and that few are regularly updated. The 'average blog thus has the lifespan of a fruit fly; one cruel reader of this page commented that the average blog also has the intelligence of a fly."

Hmm, biting. It's certainly worth taking a few minutes, if you have the time, to view some of the other points on that page. Just on a personal note, my wife started a blog about a year ago, and made about 10 entries before getting bored, so my first target is to beat that.

02 June 2006

World Cup Antidote

With the world cup starting within a week, i'm getting pretty excited by it all (especially since i managed to get a couple fo tickets with mates). But the thing i'm anticipating the most is the general atmosphere that should be around with place with so many people from different countriew here to enjoy themselves.

If the weather picks up (it's been freakishly freezing for this time of year for a couple fo weeks now), the beer gardens should be great for watching a game or two on their big screens, or visiting the Olympic park to watch it there.

The strange thing is, very few Germans seem enthusiastic about it all. No one seems to rate their team at all. I know they haven't been on sparkling form recently, but you can never count out the Germans. Look at 2002. As Gary Lineker famously said "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win". I know it's not quite the same these days, but they've got pedigree.

I think the Germans biggest worry is that they think their town and cities will be crawling with football hooligans, mainly from the triumvirate of England, Poland and the Netherlands. And that their cities will be covered in litter and empty beer bottles. Which i can understand. But they should also feel lucky that the have a chance to hold this tournament, it's an honour and a privilege that most countries will never have.

It's also a chance to show the country off for what it is, give the place a much needed economic boost, and to try and sell the world a better image of Germany. I have found the germans to be friendly and helpful in nearly every way since i came here (civil sevants are the exception to that, but that's normal everywhere), but i can still see the traits coming through that gives the german their stereotype.

Now is the chance for them to try and change that image.

01 June 2006

Google Earth is one of the coolest pieces of software that i've seen in quite some time. Having been using for about a year now, i've been able to 'visit' a lot of places that are on my todo list. It can give me a 3D journey through the Grand Canyon, a peek into the forbidden city in Beijing and a top down view of my own backyard.

An debate has been running on the web, questioning the right of privacy of the individual, which can be argued are being violated by Google Earth. This, in my opinion, is of little significance, as the photos are rarely updated (the ones of my back yard are nearly two years old). Governments are instigating the other battle with the program, citing national security as being put at risk by it. The most vocal proponents have been Indian, South Korea and Australia (request later withdrawn). Again, these cases don't worry me too much.

What got me thinking about it though was; if that's the sort of images arganisations such as NASA are willing to offer for viewing by the general public, what are they likely to have privately stored. And what could they see, or zoom into, if they wanted? My colleague jokingly wondering how long it would take to get a call from Bush if he build a dummy rocket launcher on the balcony of our office (maybe we wouldn't even get a call, just a trident missile taking out our office, affirmative action indeed).

Of course, these technologies would be useful in tackling terrorism. And since I'm not trying to grow an opium crop in my back yard, I won't worry about the intrusion too much, and enjoy Google Earth (although I'm still waiting for Swatragh to be featured in high-res).

31 May 2006

Why Do Germans Get Consistently Accidentally Pregnant

Since I've been in Germany now for four years, I have noticed something about the Germans. They only ever seem to get pregnant accidentally.

It's probably a relief for the German government that they do, or Germany's already low birth rate would be hitting rock bottom. But still i find it strange that in a well educated first world country like Germany, they seem to have ignored what they have learned about contraception (and trust me, Germany ain't shy about it, with condom ads everywhere). It makes me wonder if the government are paying the condom industry to make them faulty.

I don't know too many Germans with kids, but of the seven families of people my wife and I know (who are younger than approx. 35), not a single one of them planned their first kid. How does this happen? To me it seems like it's completely against the German mentality. Normally everything has to be planned down to the last detail, or has to be perfect. But in this case, when it comes to probably the biggest life changing decision imaginable, they leave it up to chance.

Why does it happen? Is it because the welfare system here is so good, that a lot of the costs of bringing up a kid is subsidised by the government, so they don't worry too much about the financial burden of it? I'm certain it's not because of sexual promiscuity, I don't know any Germans who have ended up in this 'situation' after a one night stand.

Anyone any ideas about why this may be?

30 May 2006

A Convenient Denial

As said yesterday, the topic today (sounds like a Uni lecture) is Al Gores new Film 'An Inconvenient Truth'. Having not seen it yet, I'm in no position to comment on the facts or information on show in the movie (actually more like a documentary as far as I can tell).

But after checking out the user comments on Internet Movie Database (IMDB), it seems clear that Al Gore is up against some pretty stubborn opposition. Typically for something like this, extremes views were very much in evidence, with the Global Warming deniers giving it the lowest possible rating, and the believers giving 9 or 10 out of 10. I'd certainly place my hat in the ring with the believers, and, like most believers, find some peoples absolute denial a little hard to understand.

I don't deny that some of their claims may be true, like the earth's climate being cyclical (although we seem to be speeding up the cycle logarithmically), but the complete weight of scientific evidence in favour of warming actually happening seems to conveniently escape these people. To me, I think most of these deniers enjoy life comfortably as it is (with a good chance they have interests in 'certain' businesses), and simply don't want to be the ones making the necessary sacrifices to safeguard the future of our planet. It makes me wonder if the CEI (see yesterdays post) haven't been spamming IMDB with bogus user comments.

From what I've read about the film (using the ever trusty wikipedia among other sources), it seems to me a genuine enough attempt by a politician to get across an important message, that everyone needs to try to play their part in reducing the effect of global warming. Do people really need that gas-guzzling SUV (normally with only a driver in them as well) or to be so lazy as to leave all appliances on stand-by (some stand-by modes use half the energy that the 'on' mode uses) or to switch on lights if not necessary? I'm not saying I'm Mr energy efficient, but I try when I can.

OK, there was much actually about the film, but I'd be interested to hear your comments on it (whether you've seen it or not)

29 May 2006

Unashamed Ads

My first proper blog entry. And the main rational for starting this blog.

A couple of days ago I was reading an article in the Economist about climate control. It happened to mention a "think tank" (an association to be taken with a pinch of salt) called the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) who have made a couple of ads glamorising carbon dioxide. Being curious, I checked it out, only to find the most rotting, disgusting piece of advertising propaganda imaginable. It left me feeling sick to the core that some people are willing to push an agenda like this, forsaking the well-being of our planet for a quick buck. You can view the ads here

http://streams.cei.org/ (it's the first two)

This is a Non-Governmental Organisation (supposedly) supported by the usual motley-crew of big-business, such as oil producers, car manufacturers and tobacco companies. What's its ads try to portray is the fact that carbon dioxide is good for us, using lots of soft music and positive images (not a single smoke bellowing factory chimney in sight). We all know that CO2 is necessary for life on earth, but not at the rate we are producing it, yet this campaign is trying to tell us that more is better.

Also they've decided to have a pop at Al Gore (I'm not saying i like politicians too much either), 'cause he's now promoting an environmentally aware film called 'An Inconvenient Truth' (see the third clip).

Since I want to keep these entries relatively short, i might continue with the Al Gore stuff tomorrow, but I'll leave it at that for now. Any comments would be very welcome

Welcome, first test post

Welcome to the blog that hopes to keep track of things that should concern any intelligent and right minded thinking person. This is my first (attempt at a) blog, so hopefully i can get quite a few articles under my belt in the next few weeks, and a few views, to get a bit of momentum going, and not go the way of many other blogs.

I want to keep this initial entry reasonably short, as I've a more pressing entry that i need to make as soon as i get this up and running properly.

The aim of this blog is to highlight problems in our world, problems created by people (generally businesses, big ones at that) that should be solvable by the people (either by letting relevant organisations know how they feel or by non-participation). These topics could range from environmental issues to salary caps for footballers

About me: I'm a concerned 26 year old software programmer living in Munich. Like most bloggers (I assume), I don't claim to be an expert in most of the areas i might comment on, but am interested in them. Plus, I'm no man of words.Stephen O'Kane