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).