All entries for December 2006

December 31, 2006

In Brief…

  • Just seen Flags of our Fathers by Clint Eastwood. Pretty good film, with a great performance by Adam Beach as Ira Hayes. Film should have had him as the central character and suffered because it didn’t.
  • I’m up in Blackpool. The weather is atrocious. The forecasts have been telling us it’s been blowing a gale, and it hasn’t been… until now. Anyone going out in this must be mad.
  • Why are menswear shops determined to make all men look gay? I’m sick of stripy, skinny sweaters with lapels on the shoulders. I’m not a sailor, and don’t want to look like one.
  • Two course meal planned for tonight. They don’t match. Smoked salmon starter. Fajitas main course.
  • That Saddam bloke got hung. Turns out original video made it look much more peaceful than it was. Hanging was clearly timed for American audience. Only tried for a tiny % of his crimes. Iraq still dominated by killings. Happy New Year, things can only get better… surely?
  • Jools Holland… what an annoying little man.

December 28, 2006

Should this man get compensation?

Here’s one for your ethics class. Are there circumstances under which someone should receive compensation for having killed someone?

I started reading this article thinking the claimant was a cynical, money-grabbing monster. That’s probably a result of the tabloid-style writing. By the end of the piece I felt pretty sorry for the guy. I can only suggest you read the whole thing yourself.

While riding his motorbike (at 50mph in a 70mph zone) he struck down a 12-year-old boy who was playing ‘chicken’ on a dual-carriageway. The child died three days later in hospital.

The claimant says he suffered six broken ribs, a punctured lung, a bruised heart, a shoulder injury and psychological trauma. I don’t think anyone would argue the accident was his fault. But should he be compensated?

His lawyers say the child was “negligent” and committed a “violent act” against the biker. They’re strong words, but remember to separate the legalese from the common uses of the words.

If successful, the money would come from the government-funded Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, which gives out £200m of public money each year.

So what do you reckon? I think he’s got a case for the money. Forget about blame – the guy’s been injured as a result of an accident that wasn’t his fault. But does the death of the child make a difference…?


Websites

Tetbury Online

Tetbury Online

Tetbury Online is a local community website that I created in 2000. It’s had a few reincarnations since then, and in its current one is finally making a bit of money. It’s got an enormous Business Directory with over 300 local businesses listed. And there’s some shiny new desktop backgrounds to be downloaded. Tetbury Online gets a few thousand hits a month.






Tetbury Badminton

Tetbury Badminton

A small web presence for the local badminton club. I designed the site about five years ago and it’s now updated by the club themselves. Content includes league tables, results and fixtures. It gets a handful of hits every day.







RaW

Radio Warwick

I did the graphic design for RaW’s new website in 2006. It went through about 20 drafts before the final effort was agreed on – my advice is don’t design a website by committee! The implementation was done by Simon Pain. I did a similar job for some of RaW’s behind-the-scenes software including the award-winning Digiplay.






JM Forss Opticians

JM Forss Opticians

A simple website design for Malmesbury-based JM Forss Opticians. I created this about three years ago and it’s now maintained by the business themselves.


December 27, 2006

Chris's Crystal Ball: Technology

If 2006 was the year of user-generated content, 2007 might be the year that the big boys bite back.

The iPlayer

If the new BBC Trust give it the go-ahead, then the BBC iPlayer (or whatever it ends up being called) will be the first step towards the fourth generation of TV. The first was black and white, the second was colour, the third was Digital TV and the fourth is online and on-demand. Forget setting the video recorder. From 2007 you can just go online and – legally – download any of the programmes you’ve missed. You’ll be able to watch every BBC channel online and it’ll be the first time many people have come face-to-face with High Definition. I’m very excited.

Mobiles

Where on earth will mobile phones go next? Do they need to go anywhere else? Well, you won’t be surprised to hear that the phone companies are throwing more pointless twaddle inside phones to make them more attractive. Surely it’s only a matter of time before there’s a phone with in-built SLR 10-megapixel digital camera. We’ll be watching more TV on our mobiles (apparently), and using more of that squint-or-you’ll-miss-it mobile internet. Can you tell I’m sceptical? Anyway, it’s rumored Apple will bring out an iPhone in 2007, which few people think will be very good. And finally, if 2005 was the year of the clamshell, 2006 was the year of the sliderr, then 2007 will be the year of the… Nope, my crystal ball fails me.

Online

Despite what people might tell you, virtual worlds like Second Life will only ever appeal to those people who spend hours in Games Workshop or play first-person shooters all day long and fancy a break. I’m not expecting Tony Blair to maintain a permanent presence any time soon. But I think 2007 will be the year that we start using the virtual ‘real-world’. Google Earth is halfway there, but something called Microsoft Photosynth is nearly the real deal. It blends photos of well-known places into one never-ending (in theory) 3D canvas. It’s a bit hard to explain, but combine this with a Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth and we might start approaching a virtual 3D model of the planet. Combine it with one of these sexy 3D controllers (only about £30 and built especially for such tasks) and you’ve got a whole load of possibilities, including online shopping where you click on the shop you want to buy from (Selfridges on Oxford Street, for instance).

Blogging

Every product has a life-cycle. Even KitKat bars will one day leave the shelves (probably to be replaced with something healthier). But when will blogging peak, and once it has, will it start to decline? I think it will, as cleverer things come along instead. But I’m not sure it’ll happen as early as 2007. Meanwhile, vlogging is still a bit too cumbersome, but expect to see something ‘embedded’ in just about every blog entry by the end of the year, whether it’s something from YouTube or an utterly pointless Flash movie.

Computers and Consoles

Britain will get its hands on the PS3 in March, although expect people to have a Vicky Pollard-esque ‘un-bothered’ face when it eventually arrives. The Xbox 360 has already got the serious gamers (and more importantly, many of the serious games) and the Wii has opened up the market to a new generation of game-players. It seems PCs will continue to be neglected by the big game-makers. While things like Call of Duty 3 appear on just about everything, it’ll still look better on a console. The only exceptions will be the games that work better with a mouse and keyboard, although someone’s built a box that lets you use them on an Xbox anyway. But PCs aren’t resting on their laurels. Windows Vista hits in the next few months, and offers a few things that will delight gamers. Namely, DirectX10, which might level the playing field with consoles. There’s also MS Office 2007, which won’t be radically different to Office 2003.

Radio

You might think “technology… radio?” but DAB is taking the radio further and further away from being a good old wireless. And not only because they consume so much electricity you have to plug them in at the mains. This year you’ll be able (on certain players) to buy tracks that you hear, as you hear them. Commercial radio stations are looking for new ways to make money, and selling you an MP3 of a track is a pretty good way of doing it. There’ll also be an auction for another batch of national digital radio stations. Channel 4 are among the frontrunners, and by the end of the year we might have an extra 7-10 stations on that dial.

And beyond 2007…

I still think that Virtual Real-Worlds will be the technology that really revolutionises the internet, making blogs and YouTube look tame. Another technology I think might, eventually, take off is video-goggles. Semi-transparent sunglasses with video-screens built into the lenses. It’ll make it worthwhile watching video on the move (rather than with those ‘portable’ media players) and could be the next shape of mobile phones too. Beyond that, who knows?


About Chris Doidge

Chris DoidgeI’m Chris Doidge and I’m a journalist based in the East Midlands.

I was born in Bedfordshire, and since then have lived all over the place.

I first got into politics on May 1st 1997, when I was on a school trip. I listened to the radio all night and let people know what was happening. Not surprisingly – as this was in Year 7 – I was the only person interested in a landslide general election. Since then I’ve absorbed a huge amount of utterly useless information, and this blog became the receptacle for much of it.

I’ve been blogging since October 2004. In my first entry, I wrote: “I have no idea why anyone would want to read this”. Tens of thousands of people have since ignored my advice.

I’ve interviewed many British politicians and been featured by The Guardian, The Times, the London Evening Standard and the French newspaper Le Monde. In 2006 I contributed to a book on Labour Scandals. A second edition was released in 2007.

In my spare time, I maintain Tetbury Online – a local community website based in the Cotswolds. Despite being far more interesting, it gets far fewer hits than this blog. I’ve also created other websites for small businesses and organisations.

My favourite band is The Divine Comedy, my favourite book is Atonement by Ian McEwan, and my favourite films are Shooting Fish and Sideways. I’m a big fan of 24, Lost and the best TV show ever made, The West Wing.

My heroes are Gavin Hewitt, Matt Frei, Jon Sopel and Andrew Marr. Oh, and Jack Bauer.


Journalism by Chris Doidge

Broadcast

The future of Cardiff’s Victorian shopping arcades:
Part of postgraduate assessment at Cardiff, March 2007

David Cameron visits Wales:
Part of postgraduate assessment at Cardiff, March 2007

Disabled Services in Cardiff – Is the money being well-spent?
Part of postgraduate assessment at Cardiff, December 2006

Interview with David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary
Broadcast on Radio Warwick and BBC Radio 4, October 2005

A current affairs programme on the AUT Lecturers’ Strike
Broadcast on Radio Warwick, June 2006

Print

Comment on the Labour leadership race
Evening Standard, 10th January 2007

An opinion piece on John Prescott’s behaviour
Evening Standard, 25th July 2006

The Phillis Report – What it means for politics and journalism
Unpublished, January 2007

Blogs

An article on the 2008 United States Presidential Elections

Thoughts on the plan to have more directly-elected mayors in Britain

Chris’s blog has been quoted a number of times in The Guardian, as well as in The Times, Le Monde and on BBC News Online.

Other

A letter to the Guardian regarding their ‘Student Media Awards’
Printed in MediaGuardian, 10th April 2006


Two very different politicians

Gordon Brown and Gerald Ford

A question being asked after the death of former U.S. President Gerald Ford is whether a politician of his kind could lead today. Ford was thrust into the Oval Office after Nixon resigned following Watergate. He hadn’t even been elected as Vice President, but had been placed there after another scandal.

Despite not seeking the job, his achievements in two years were impressive. He failed in the 1976 election because of his decision to pardon President Nixon. At the time he was strongly criticised for the pardon, but as time passed Americans realised he took the difficult, but correct decision.

Contrast him with the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, and you have to wonder whether an accidental politician could ever prosper in Britain or America in the 21st Century.

It seems to be to the detriment of politics that there are fewer public servants like Ford.


Stuff the dictionary

If there’s one thing that Scrabble, Boggle or Countdown are any good for, it’s reminding you how stupid the English language is. My mum asked a good question:

How do you pronounce “Ough”?

Is it like Cough? Bough? Dough? Nought? Thorough? Through?

The Americans can’t spell Colour. But then neither can we. It should be culur or even culler.

Why do we put up with this traditionalist nonsense? Why don’t we march on Oxford and inform the OED they’re wrong?

Millions of kids ‘fail’ at English. But is it surprising when the English language is such a ruddy great big hurdle to speaking, reading and writing?

There’s things I love about English. The lack of all those male/female verbs for one thing. The EU should make everyone speak English. They’d save billions on translation. But we need to sort out our pronunciation first.

Britain’s quite a traditional country but we’ve never been afraid of doing something differently if the first attempt didn’t work. Look at Wembley. The railways. The M6. Corner shops.

So dictionary people, stop inventing utterly useless fad-words like “Crunk” and “Celebutante” and start doing something useful! You can start with weird, believe and leisure. Shall we just ban ‘i before e’ outright?


2006 through African eyes

Adam Westbrook has been complaining that many journalists are lazy at Christmas and complain of “no news” when there’s plenty going on outside cosy Britain. He’s right, as usual, although broadcasters have been kept busy this year thanks to plenty of famous people popping their clogs.

There’s been a few rays of light amongst the lazy stuff though. Kate Silverton’s been dispatched to Basra to spend Christmas with the troops, where she’s providing plenty of material for News 24 and covering the daily events as well.

And BBC News Online have managed the near-impossible. A ‘Year in Review’ which doesn’t tread well-trodden ground.

Using the cartoons of two African cartoonists, Jonathan Shapiro and Tayo Fatunla, they’ve proven that pictures are worth a thousand words. Not surprisingly, it’s one of the most popular stories on the site. And it’s the only “Year in Review” that makes the top 10 articles.


December 25, 2006

A new model saving the Middle East

BBC News Online headline

Peter, presumably, is serving mince pies. Seen on BBC News Online about 3 minutes ago.

UPDATE: CNN are getting in on the act. They’re showing a strange attitude to the War on Terror with their Entertainment article ‘Biggest Bombs of the Year’.


December 24, 2006

Pachelbel Hell

After spreading a bit of Tim Minchin love last month, I decided it was only right to offer some more musical comedy at this festive time of year. Here’s Rob Paravonian with a brilliant rant about Pachelbel’s Canon in D. You know the tune, but does it drive you this mad? I think it gets funnier the longer it goes on.

He obviously hasn’t heard that Coolio track “I’ll see you when I get there…”


December 23, 2006

The miserable world of Christmas TV

Why do we like depressing ourselves at Christmas? Millions will watch soap operas and dramas for a festive dose of death and destruction. And as if they’re not bad enough for the other 350 days of the year, those scriptwriters love to turn the tears up to 11 in late December.

Pauline. Dead.I’m reliably informed that Pauline cops it in EastEnders. Josh pops his clogs in Casualty. Some bloke goes the same way in Emmerdale (apparently).

Now I can understand why drama writers want to make the soaps more dramatic at Christmas. But why does that seem to mean the tears have to flow all the time? Doctor Who’s shown that you don’t need unhappy endings every week to keep people gripped.

I stopped watching The Bill a few years ago when the writers forgot that characters didn’t have to be shot/stabbed/murdered in order to be written out. This blood-thirst seems to have spread.

Maybe falling audience figures aren’t because of games consoles, the internet and Digital TV but because the most realistic drama on the box is set in a Tardis.


December 18, 2006

If David Bellamy's an environmentalist, I'm a nuclear physicist

David BellamyI know nothing about nuclear physics. Nor, it seems, does David Bellamy know anything about science. Because he’s still banging on about the “myth” of global warming.

Now that’s fine. He’s entitled to have alternative views. But every time he appears on television (as he has today) he is labelled an “Environmentalist”. I can see where the second bit of the word comes from, but not the “Environ” bit.

He’s popped up today to say how environmentally-unfriendly wind farms are. I’ll repeat that sentence just so you’re clear on where he stands.

He’s popped up today to say how environmentally-unfriendly wind farms are.

Writing in 2004 in the Daily Mail, who know a thing or two about dodgy science, he wrote:

Global warming – at least the modern nightmare version – is a myth. I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists.

The only science he quotes comes from the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, who Sourcewatch have written about. It seems they’re a bunch of serial nutters who lie about their credentials and are about as scientific as Lembit Opik.

George Monbiot had a bit of correspondence with Bellamy in 2004, and I agree wholeheartedly with what he had to say:

You claim that you are still an environmentalist, yet the harm you have done to environmentalism over the past few months is incalculable. May I respectfully suggest that you brush up on the science (and I mean all the science, not just a few selected studies of the kind you cite) and talk to some mainstream climatologists (not just the cranks whose work you champion) before writing any more on this topic?

More of the same, and Bellamy’s reply here

And may I take this opportunity to respectfully ask the BBC and others to stop putting Bellamy’s nonsensical diatribes on TV and find some credible opponents to wind-farms who can actually come up with an alternative idea.

I’m personally excited about the “offshore wind farms project” that’s been given the green light today. It’ll power up to 1,000,000 homes at a time. It’s only a small part of what’s needed, but at least we’re moving forward rather than watching our career slide into the abyss like David Bellamy.


Judge, Jury, and entertainment for all the family

As the former head of the Flying Squad said today, “it looks like a soap opera”.

Police have arrested a 37-year-old in connection with the five murders in and around Ipswich. And that’s about all they’ve said.

But at the current rate, we’ll know whether he’s guilty and how long he’ll be banged up for by the end of the day. The 24-hour news channels have jumped on this one line of news and given us a torrent of copy, video, audio, maps, helicopter shots, speculation, 3D graphics, screenshots from MySpace and worse.

And, in my opinion, they’ve done enough in 5 hours to prejudice a potential trial.

It took the BBC a few hours, but they found they had interviewed the arrested man for background material. Sure enough, this not-for-broadcast interview was on BBC News 24 by midday, despite assurances given to him that it would not be used. Must be guilty then, if we’re taking his rights away from him already.

The cameras have been given us multi-angle options of his house like we’re in an interactive DVD. Oh yes, there’s another picture of his roof. Very informative.

Not only is our world-renowned broadcaster damaging the chances of a fair trial, they’re also ignoring every other news story in the process. The competition between News 24 and Sky News has become so ridiculous that they dare not move away from the story in case they are a nano-second behind the other.

It’s making a mockery of ‘news’ and I hope every journalist involved in it feels ashamed by the decisions being made by their editors.


December 15, 2006

Dig For Victory?

Burying Bad News

The BBC’s Nick Robinson has called it spot on. Yesterday wasn’t a matter of burying bad news. It was:

fly tipping so much that one scarcely knows what to begin with

Let’s consider, as Loyd Grossman would say, the evidence.

  • The 832-page Stevens Report into Princess Diana’s death.
  • Ongoing investigations in Ipswich murder hunt.
  • The closure of 2,500 post offices.
  • The end of the Serious Fraud Squad’s inquiry into BAe and Saudi Arabia
  • Proposals to build four new runways at British airports
  • Discussions about giving prisoners the right to vote
  • Plans to limit the Freedom of Information Act
  • Prime Minister goes to Europe for key summit
  • Oh, and he’s questioned by police for selling honours.

All in all, a busy day’s work.


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