Monday, May 30, 2005

Non! 55% Oui! 45%

So, the French Referendum on the proposed Constitution for Europe has resulted in a decisive victory for its opponents. The reasons for this are many and are complex, so it is difficult, if not impossible to provide a quick, simple rational explanation as to what is going on.

However, I would suggest that the Non! vote stems from a simple distrust of the European Elite who for too long have ignored democracy (and who will attempt to ignore this negative result as well, if they allowed to). Their "turmoil" is the realization that they are actually servants of the people, not the people's masters!

Friday, May 27, 2005

I've been phished

I just received an e-mail from PayPal, informing me that my account has been accessed and that I have three days to confirm my details or the account will be blocked. I went to the link:

http://68.208.50.35/scgi-bin/webscr/

and it certainly looked like PayPal's web page. All the menus worked, but then I noticed something odd. The link above is not paypal.com but 68.208.50.35. So I did a WHOIS and it came up blank - no known address!

So I next went to paypal.com and it certainly looked the same. This time WHOIS came up with a legitimate owner - PayPal.

One more check confirmed the phish. I went to the rogue link (the one above) and clicked on a menu item. Sure enough the URL changed to paypal.com. Then, when I clicked back to the welcome page, it took me to the official paypal.com home.

This is a very clever attempt at obtaining personal information in that it would be very easy to overlook the URL.

Oh, yes, one other reason I was suspicious. I DON'T HAVE A PAYPAL ACCOUNT!!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

East Devon Weekend

We spent the weekend camping in East Devon - our third trip there this year. Summer still hasn't arrived, which explains why we've quoted an old saying above. More rain and wind than we would care to suffer from under canvas but in between the showers we got in a couple of walks along the "Triassic Coast"



Actually the official name for this coastline is the Jurassic Coast, but as there is no Jurassic in the area, we've renamed our favorite stretch of the heritage coast. The coastal towns of Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth are surrounded by red cliffs, ranging from coarse pebble beds to fine clays with gypsum, all deposited in an arid desert environment. The photo above is of Sidmouth from near Ladrum Bay. The combes of Salcombe and Weston are just about visible to the right of the town, separated by cliffs that are around 500 feet high.



This photo shows the mouth of the River Otter, immediately east of Budleigh Salterton. The river was in full flood following several days of rain and a band of red sediments can be seen flowing out to sea. The mouth of the river is located between a red cliff and a huge pebble bar. The next photo shows the view to the west from on top of the red cliff. The pebbles are all derived fom the cliffs in the distance, carried by currents in front of the Otter valley, forming a large area of salt marsh that is now a nature reserve. We were both surprised to see a white egret feeding in the river - a reminder of Texas!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Explained: why we no longer see the police

The news today was the acquittal of a police officer who was caught speeding on a Motorway in Shropshire. He was "only" doing 159 mph. Reason for speeding: testing out his new car. Reason for acquittal: benefit of the doubt.

Howls of protest from the public who are regularly photographed exceeding the limit by a few mph, fined and given three points toward a possible loss of license. But I liked the comment in the Letters to the Editor column whereby a citizen remarked that the reason we don't see police officers on the street any more is because they're travelling too fast to notice!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

BT Revisited

Back in early April we had a problem with our landline telephone supplier, BT. They sent out a bill, over-charging us for internet services. As reported on these pages, we called them (three times) and e-mailed them (twice, plus a customer service questionnaire). They were supposed to rectify the bill and resend it. Well, they didn't. Instead they suspended our phone service. A thirty minute call to the Indian Call Center resulted in no progress as the various departments they contacted all refused to deal with the problem. So I suggested BT call me and in the meantime remove the block on outgoing calls. Five hours later - Nothing has happened. Watch this space for continuing developments.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Google Adsense on all Travelogues

It didn't take too long to customize and install adsense onto all the pages in the Travelogue section. Initially some of the pages had generic "public service" ads but by this morning they were all keyed into the subject material. In some cases, for example, Asia in the 1970s, the ads seem to reflect Dubai only, possibly because Dubai features early on in the story line. I wonder if there is a way to tweak the Googlebots into certain directions? But if the Googlebots only see the first few lines of a page, that might be useful in that an adsense table at the top of this page would reflect the content of the most recent post. Worth a try. See what happens above!

Olivia with her Nan

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Not Enough Time!

Life seems to be getting busier these days. It doesn't help that the recent journey through Heathrow caused me to throw my back out of whack (lifting bag and carrying it up two escalators) where it remains, despite whiskey, analgesics and being careful.
But a few things have come across my path that seem to be worth commenting on:

Apple's success in recent months has the stock market in turmoil. Many analysts just can't believe that the company has had a major turnaround and prefer to believe in a doomsday scenario that states "Yahoo entering the music download scene is hurting the competition". But wait a minute, Apple stands to make very little on iTunes song sales - think of the 400 million sold so far as a loss leader for promoting iPod and the Apple multi-media in general. Then, today, Bill Gates weighs in with his opinion that iPods are a flash in the pan. I don't doubt that they are, Bill, but why are you so busy talking down Apple and not saying anything important about your own company? Let me guess: there is very little to say, what with Longhorn still 18 months away while Apple OS X Tiger is already on sale.

No we haven't installed OS X Tiger yet, but the reports suggest that we should without delay.

The early English summer is stalled for the moment - cold northerly winds today but with them some sunshine.

Post election blues seem to have me depressed. Another 4 years of spin and nanny state politics. And now Europe is trying to force us to limit working hours to 48 a week. Hard work never hurt anybody and the bills do get paid a bit quicker!

It dawned on me this week that our reviews on epinions.com could be better placed on focalplane.com, together with Google adsense advertising as a potential revenue stream. So far we've made $40 in nearly three years on epinions.com. Not exactly lucrative.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Which Airport is Worse?

I use both London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports and after an experience at Heathrow this morning I have decided that it's the London hub that takes the prize. It took 1-1/2 hours to deplane, go through immigration and find the correct bus stop for the off-airport parking bus. And I was fast-tracked through immigration and had only carry on luggage! So what happened?

First the plane had to wait 15 minutes for a free gate ( but that doesn't count toward the time spent at Heathrow as we were, in fact 15 minutes early from Calgary). Then we deplaned to find ourselves blocked by a locked door that, interestingly, had a sign over it saying "Emergency Exit". An Airbus 330-200 carries about 200 passengers so imagine the consequences of being confined by a locked door in a narrow jetway corridor should there be a fire. Eventually a man appears, blaming "them" for not having unlocked the doors earlier.

Next, the walk to immigration. Two escalators, both broken.

Immigration. For me, this was easy, but the queues for economy passengers were horrendous. And all this after a transcontinental flight. Welcome to Britain. Baggage carousels looked hectic but I didn't have to stop to investigate. Travel light whenever you can.

And so to find the correct bus stop for the car park. No pickups at Terminal 3, go to Terminal 2. The signposted route went underground and again one of two escalators was broken. Long tunnels went this way and that, visiting the tube station, the bus station and the chapel before finally emerging at Terminal 2. Which turns out to be situated right next to Terminal 3!

And so to the offf-site airport parking by shuttle bus. Total time from plane to car, 90 minutes. Total time to drive from parking to home (80 miles), 90 minutes.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

In Calgary after a gap of fifteen years

In some ways this Canadian outpost on the Prairie has not changed a bit, in others it has kept up with progress. My hotel has 1970s decor and no internet (it wasn't anyone's first choice!) while some restaurants (such as Caesar's steak house) look unchanged. But there are new buildings and plenty of new company names due to a high merger rate among Canadian oil companies. The Rockies are still there on the western horizon and the people are as friendly as ever.