Thursday, February 23, 2006

Electricity vs Gas

Last weekend and the earlier part of this week I was ill (sorry boss). So I took to my bed. My little flat sometimes feels like the coldest part in the UK. As a consequence I use ALOT of electricity as I use two electric heaters. There are storage heaters, but they are worse, so I never use them. I use a pre-pay meter and am going through at least £20 a week in electricity despite trying all the usual energy saving tips. When I was ill, I was at home all day, so obviously using more as I had my two little heaters on the go. I never realised how cold my flat is during the day until falling ill. Luckily a good friend of mine came to the rescue and popped round with a gas heater. My flat was as warm as toast within minutes of this little heater being fired up. Fantastic I thought. I warmed up a treat, and was saving some electricity. Which got me thinking about the environmental impact of this. In theory I think I am saving money. It costs about £12 for a bottle of gas. I don't know how long this will last. But which is better on the environment as a whole? Gas (what is released into the atmosphere?) or electricity? If anyone has any opinions I would love to know. Perhaps it will be an experiment that we will do on one day.

Out of the mouths of babes...

This morning at the breakfast table we were discussing how the rest
of the year would be panning out, and the subject of holidays came
up. Or rather, why we were not too likely to be having one anywhere

I'd like to say this was down to a major commitment to eco-empathy,
but it was mainly a matter of financing, which being a trendy new age
Dad I felt the need to explain to the boys so they understood the
reasons for.

'So Daddy,' asked Kipp, 'what kind of job is it when don't you make
enough money?'.

This being my chance to secure the support of future generations, I
explained that while I certainly was hoping to make a living soon, my
job was to help save the planet, and what good would money be if
there was no planet left to spend it on.

'Still,' said Cody, 'it would be nice to have some to enjoy while it

Maybe he knows more than I do.

Mixed Feelings

In the run-up to the Ideal Home Show, one of the more significant tasks we're engaged upon, with the help of dirRE:ctory partner innotec, is the creation of the Vac:Sac.

This is a 'Junkk' idea I had a while ago, when passing a discarded vacuum cleaner in a rubbish pile, that evolved into what seems a quite promising concept turning such items into clamshell fashion rucksacks. What with one thing and another, it looks like the idea has captured the imaginations of a few media folk, so we are working hard on making it up. For instance, there is an event on launch day to the show called the 'Green Catwalk', at which we hope to make an impression.

Just to cover bases, we thought it best if we and innotec (who have the tools and skills to make a much more professional, press-pleasing effort than anything I'll be able to knock up, especially in the time) made one each.

Trouble is, try as she might, Mel of innotec couldn't find one, and so I have sent our 'makings' off to her.

The interesting part is that she tried her best at her local area reycling site, and though they didn't have any, she would have been able to take one away if they had. Apparently the guys who run that facility permit it.

However, today when I went to our local site to see if I could get another, our local site guys said they had several, but I couldn't touch them. In fact they couldn't touch them. It seems that now they get searched at the end of the day to make sure they are not sneaking out any rubbish. Which seems... odd. I'm sure there's a H&S reason in there, but it obviously does not apply nationwide.

Which is where my mixed feelings come in. I think what happened to me locally is daft, as anything removed from the skip for reuse is something not in the landfill. However, such a policy does throw more people at, because we can matchmake disposers and restorers beforehand. Individuals... and businesses. I simply popped to my local Electric Shop and they gave me a broken one from the back and will look out for more if I want to make it into a cottage industry. 

Plus I bought a battery recharger while I was in there. Check out the on-site POS (Partner Opportunity Sheet) 'Open Door Policies'.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bad Cop; Good Cop

As we prefer that extols all that is positive and proactive, it is often this blog that gets used to excise the eye-twitching demons that often beset us. 

I am also aware that the %age of my blogs may drift into areas of a... critical nature.

And of these, more than a few do seem to get targeted at the activities of a certain organisation. Hence it is a rare and welcome opportunity to leap to their defence having read Why don't Greenpeace make things happen?

So here you go: Greenpeace do make lots of things happen. And, what's more, a lot of them have been, are and doubtless will be pretty spiffy.

However, as this blog does outline, they can drift off the path of wonderfulness on occasion, and by my reading of this one I'd have to say the correspondent has a point... or two. As he writes (jn case the link drops): 'The back-story is too complicated to go into here, but the question at the heart of this debate is whether developing world countries like India should become the 'dustbin of the world'.

How I get Greenpeace into this is  because they are 'cock-a-hoop that the Clemenceau (a big carrier packed with asbestos en route to an indian ship-breakers) has been stopped - largely thanks to the publicity campaign that they waged against it. They say that stopping the Clemenceau will force Western countries to face up to their responsibilities regarding waste.' Good point.

But... 'The workers of the Alang shipyards in Gujarat, who were depending on the Clemenceau contract for their livelihoods, are less sure. They'd rather feed their families than be sacrificed on the altar of Greenpeace's environmental principles..' Indeed, though there is the not insignificant caveat: '... even if that means the risk of cancer down the line.' Whoops, compromise time. But this has cropped up recently on our own fair shores with 'Ghost ships' from the US, and countless other fair-trade stuff which is great in, and on, principle, but avoids certain 'here-and-now' facts of life... or survival.

It's the conclusion that hit home, and I have to quote it here even though it inspired the title which I felt I had to clarify: "But then I guess penniless, illiterate villagers are low-emitters of carbon. And that's the problem with Greenpeace and much of environmentalism - it's all about STOPPING things happening." Of course its not, but by golly an awful lot certainly is. And it's causing a no small frustration all round, as I have blogged often before.

But as I'm being a good cop today, let's end where the writer does, on a positive note, well... plea: "If only all that campaigning energy  could be funnelled into making things happen - i.e balancing environmental concerns with those of people who need to feed their families." 

To which I say "Oh, yeah!". And that applies nearer to home, too.

Let me though, I have a hypothesis!

I miss Tomorrow's World. It was on prime time, and it made nerdy science-stuff interesting, not to mention inspiring (a bit like I hear you say, no?). And as I can't think of anything that has since replaced it (and while I do confess to the odd peek and snigger, Sky's 'Brainiac' ain't even close), I think I can trace the fact that Universities are closing down Physics and Chemistry Departments left and right to this sad fact.

Which is why I quite perked up when I saw this: Science Comes to the Masses (You Want Fries With That?)
And I quote: "A scientist walks into a bar. More than 100 people are there, eager to hear all that she has to say and ask a lot of questions. No joke. Science is not cold and remote in this setting. It's live, interactive, free and informal, with a drink or two. The purpose is to make science accessible and even fun to anyone with the time to stop by." Amen. Not to mention... coooooool!

At first I thought it was one of those dashed clever ideas from our cousins over the pond, but it turns out they copied it from... us! It all started with an article in Nature by one Duncan Dallas, now a retired television producer, who started Café Scientifique in 1998 with a note posted in a bar in Leeds: "Where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, anyone can come to discuss the scientific ideas and developments which are changing our lives."
Café Scientifiques in Britain received public financing to get started, and dozens are now held around the country.
Now, a plan forms in my head....


Well, we do say that we do the trawlin' to spare you all the crawlin'...(around).  

Because it's one thing to have access to a wide world of web at your key and return, but it's quite another thing to get to grips with it all.  We sure can't, and it's our day job! But we do our best, and our antennae are always sensitive to obscure little snippets out in the ether.

One such was this: A Meeting Of The Mindless, from a pretty useful blog I came across. Useful for sure in terms of content, and also in terms of opinion, though I have to say I was not really with the author on this one. Not so much the facts (and who can argue with them?), but the 'tude inferred.

As (I hope I'm right in saying) Voltaire once declared: 'I may disagree with what you say, but I'll give my life for your right to say it'. Personally I'm iffy on the life-giving stuff (so no cartoons in about our good chums Mid-East of here), but pretty up on the rest. So I have to say that I am a little less than impressed with the way things are going in this area worldwide, what with Mr. Irving getting banged up and all for being nothing more than a self-delusional raving nutter who should have been ignored rather than martyred with a multi-year prison sentence that is in excess of what some folk get for much more physically violent assaults than writing offensive dross.

What we seem to have here is more 'I may not agree with what you have to say, and I also don't think you should have a mind of your own and listen to anyone else our group don't happen to agree with', which I'm not sure is quite what Mr. V was going for, concept-wise.

Now, I haven't read (the missus has, and said it was a cracking yarn) Mr. Crichton's book yet, but I'm read a lot of his other ones. And whatever else you may wish to lay at his door, mindless is not one of them. Nor is he too shy on scientific training. Or, for that matter, imagination (Jurassic Park, anyone?). So if he has arrived at a view, I'd say he's entitled to it simply by being a a person, and worth respecting (if not agreeing with) as a resource by virtue of the points he has on the board.

I just find it sad that anyone who does not toe a certain line (Jeremy Clarkson, David Bellamy, Michael Crichton, etc) ends up on the receiving end of some rather extreme vilification and name-calling, which only drives a wedge between folk like me and the messages and actions we would wish to support. What I need is objective information, reasoned debate, humour and courtesy. Not name calling and throwing of toys out of prams when things don't go 100% the desired way.

It was telling that in a recent interview Zac Goldsmith (of the Ecologist) was put on the defensive by his joining Mr. Cameron's Tory Eco-committee. But as he robustly countered, the best way to effect change is from within (a view certainly subscribes to in word and deed). 

Constantly harping and demanding that people only listen to one side is just plain silly.

Here is the noose

I was reading an interesting piece on responsibility (in the guy at the top sense) in today's Guardian, snappily titled:

Basically it discussed how the word has been devalued by the deeds that (don't) surround it; a view with which I can only concur.

It has rapidly become something of a confessional 'get out of jail free' card, in some cases literally as figuratively.

Although in this case the big issue surrounds the attempt to delay and/or conceal, waaaaay too many in public life, with tremendous public, er, responsibility, have figured out that a quick, insincere 'it was on my watch' mea culpa works wonders to make the past and present go away, and the future look a whole load rosier a lot more quickly.

But what is amazing is how many still try to bend things to the maximum weasel level, and still get away with it. A certain cigar-chomping, trousers-round-his-ankles-in-the-Oval-Office ex-Prez springs to mind here.

What they have managed to arrange is that magnificent nirvana of public life (and/or in many cases paid service): authority with responsibility... but no accountability or consequences. They may be 'responsible' by being at the head of the chain (or simply being caught with their trousers down), but they are not to blame. Neat.

In some cases I have a certain sympathy. In many organisational structures, and certainly government, there is no way the guy at the top can be aware of every action by subordinates, even though they are carried out in their/government's (or business')/people's (or shareholder's/customer's) name. So it is often hard to direct one's ire fully at such an individual if they really were not part of the whatever it was that has blown up. Unless of course they have been complicit in the setting up, maintenance, preservation of or failure to address a system that allows such things to happen, and keep on doing so. I have a real problem with ministers 'taking responsibility', blaming juniors and then no one is ever brought to book at any level. Such status quo is unacceptable, because it is being successfully abused so much these days. And the media must share some blame. How many cases are tenaciously followed-up to a genuine conclusion beyond the first furore in favour of new pickings.? Not many.

Even with's minute structure, there are many things I am not aware of, and many things I have noted that may yet to be addressed. But I really do my best to stay on top of them and follow up. Especially if it is brought to my attention. And boy to I get grumpy if it's something  I have seen as a problem and asked for it to be  dealt with and it hasn't.

I think some slack does need to be cut. But when you get to the end of that rope ,and if you still haven't handled the problem,  it should be allowed to do what it was meant to do, so that another can come in and sort things out.

Monday, February 20, 2006

"I'm listening"

The following has caught my attention: 'Taxes aren't how Tories will save the world'  . 

And it brought to mind several scenes from the Simpsons when a clearly skeptical, but greedy for promised riches Homer encourages further explanation to be convinced... if not seduced.

It seems a Tory government would not come out with a huge increase in taxes,” according to Zac Goldsmith, he of Ecologist and Tory eco-committee fame. “The Conservative Party doesn’t like forcing people to do anything and I don’t think we have to - most of the obstacles are from bad governance.” With him so far, I have to say. "The best way to reduce the country’s dependence on oil and decrease greenhouse gas emissions is to make people aware of the importance of buying local food and introducing energy-efficiency savings in the home,“ he goes on: “No one thinks they’re going to change the world by switching their light bulbs, but if they knew you could push a button and make all houses change, everyone would push it. The Government has to make that button.”

Well, so far, I'm listening... I'm listening. If there's a chance of making such notions work, I know just the website to try to help make it happen:)

Driving Mother Earth Crazy

Well, they had to know it was going to be a rich source, didn't they? And I don't see why the major media (a few links below) should have all the fun with Mr. 2-Jags and his fellow Cab(inet) members.
And I quote: "All members of the Cabinet have been told by the government car pool that when their car is up for renewal they can swap it either for an XL Jaguar or a Toyota Prius."
Er, why just these?
I actually fully accept that for some selected pols (assuming Ma Beckett can be seduced from her helicopters and RAF flights), trying to escape a bunch of terrorists in a Prius (that's the minister, not the terrorists; one presumes the latter may not have the environment high on their agendas) may not quite make sense. But my R-reg Volvo & Golf fall between the two (and more Prius-wards when I can figure out the right option and how to afford it, LPG, Hydrogen, etc-wise) and would certainly do the necessary, even in converted modes.
In fact, I'm pretty sure that a recent Sunday Times had a selection of well interesting rides that could meet the requirements of all. I really fancied the Volvo myself, and it's not like The House of Commons couldn't sport a filler-station.
But if we're buying British (Toyota's excepted) I believe Morgan, a good British brand, has had a nice bit of grant-wedge to look at alternative fuel versions. Surely there are other options too?
But c'mon guys, is this not just pulling the other one a tad far when trying to persuade the rest of us to act responsibly?
Read more in the: Sunday Times

What's black and white a green all over? Well.. for a day or two at least.

As part of my weekend routine, I jogged, change in hand, to the local newsagents to buy my Sunday Times. But this day it was a double trip (good job I was using Shank's pony) as the change I had was not sufficient. Because the price has gone up... again. In fact I don't know why I was so foolish as to take the exact money as it has steadily raised, by arbritary inflation-busting amounts, almost incessantly.

The lady at the counter sympathised: 'A lot of people have complained,' she said, 'especially as most of it is stuff they just get home and throw away'.
So it's ironic that I am just about to chew now on an insert from the ST's sister publication, The Times, from the previous day, entitled 'How to be Green'.

And even more ironic that when I looked at the online version, the ad that popped up was for a Land Rover 4x4:)

I guess I'd have to say it was another BTN (better than nothing). At least there was a fair bit of positive, proactive content, and even some information and links that added to the value and extent of my knowledge.

The supplement itself was carbon neutral. But without looking into too deeply, I rather got the impression that it was just for this section, of this paper, for this day. Hmn.

Letting that pass, there was also this slight sense that it was being treated as a 'one-off' topic, with issues being cherry-picked. And in tone I felt ever so-slightly talked-down to.

For instance, in another of the multitudinous (un-carbon neutral?) sections called Style (I await with eager anticipation a future feature on eco-fashion, which will probably be between one on fur and flying to Asia to buy fabrics) there is an article about our yoof, titled 'teen queens', billed as a report on what today's teenagers think, including matters such as the environment. Now I am sure a lot of teens' views are shaped by those they are given by those they would wish to be (rich & famous & covered in the media), but I do wonder just how representative of most teenagers are 'Peaches and Pixie Geldof’s gang... gathered togther to help launch the Miss Selfridge spring/summer collection.

Peaches has views on the environment: “... rising sea levels, pollution ... Even if we don’t do anything about them, they are still a worry.”

“The hole in the ozone layer gives me nightmares,” adds Holly Gore, the 16-year-old daughter of the chef Skye Gyngell, who is rummaging through the studio fridge. Then her face lights up. “Oh. My. God. Purdeys. Is. My. Life. Mumalwayshastheminthefridge”.

And... er... that's it. The cure for the ozone layer is opening the fridge (small smile here, as I'm pretty sure ours is still packed with CFCs, being 15 yeasr old 'n all. I'm sure this is not the case Chez Gore) and grabbing a brace of Purdeys.

The article concludes by suggesting these lovely lasses 'are role models for their peers and an inspiration to the majority of inert British teens whose favourite sport is watching cheap telly.' O......k, then.

Moving up an age-bracket, though I suspect not too many postcodes away, by counterpoint we then had 'So you want to be a yummy-mummy', which advises that you don't need to live in a sprawling house in Notting Hill, driving a Mercedes SUV, or employing a full-time au pair.

But I'm sure it helps if you do. Especially when it comes top popping round to do a quick interview.

By way of left/right balance, media-wise, let me end with this, from today's Independent: 'Why I'm seriously cheesed off with my skiing holiday.'

Sadly the bulk of the text was part of the 'paid-for' sub section, so I was denied why the lady in question was unhappy with her lot, but I'm sure the trip was conducted to the highest standards of environmental responsibility.
Which is what role models are for.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Grace and favours

Today, Emma and I were on the way back from a JunkkYard mission for our own benefit, and we are now the proud owners (well, as these things seem to work out, custodians) of a perfectly good 3 drawer filing cabinet that was destined for the skip until we got wind of it. The system works!
Anyway, on our way back through Ross High Street we noticed a book signing event at one of our local organic food stores, and decided to drop by in our capacity as journalists. The author in question was Janey Lee Grace (who, amongst many other things, graces R2's Steve Wright show) and she was there to promote her book, 'imperfectly natural woman'.

It was a more than worthwhile stopover, in many ways, as she proved to be a lovely, approachable woman, and it was a pleasure to spend a few moments in her company. We'll certainly be happy to give her a slot on our diRE:ctory, and having succumbed to her charms I bought a copy which we will be reviewing soon for a news feature.
We were also pleased to find that she was very interested in, and thought it was a great idea! Hopefully something she will share with her colleagues back at the radio station. We have been trying to break into the London PR/media club with a notable lack of success to date, and this could well be the break that we were looking for.
She also was kind enough to write some nice things in the cover, which we'll add to our collection of testimonials.
So, all in all, it was a a most rewarding exchange, and I'd like to think mutually. And with our Ideal Home Show fast approaching, the timing could not have been much better to make the most of such a nice opportunity.
Speaking of which, there are a few more rather wonderful developments to report on when I can grab the time.

Building Blocks

I've never been quite sure of the actual value of memberships of business bodies. The benefits have always seemed a little less than those promised, especially when weighed against the costs of participation, which can run from free to a few hundred £ a year. There is also the small matter of time commitments (getting to events, etc), but you can get out a lot if you put in some well-directed efforts.

Being part of the Chamber of Commerce certainly didn't hurt in our being helped by Business Link to initiate But I have to say I have ceased to go to many of their breakfast meetings any more, as there are only so many life coaches, bank managers and teenage web developers I can face paying £15 and getting up at 6am to drive 20 miles to meet.

But there is no subsitute at our stage for networking (and what could be a more tangible example than our fortcoming exhibitions stands). And one organisation that is bearing fruit is by our being a member of the FPB. And as what goes around comes around, I happily promote them here.

Making it happen took a lot of persistence and work on both sides, but it has resulted in the following feature. Not bad, even if we do say so ourselves.

And it has kinda of snowballed, bringing in many other stands. For instance, we were immediately contacted by another member, Melanie Murrell of Innotec, and as a result a truly delightful and ever-evolving synergy has developed.

Her company have a product which essentially enables the repair of pretty much any plastics. And with a vast number of items made from plastic being discarded unnecessarily due to relatively minor, repairable damage, you can imagine how excited we were simply to feature them as a re:source on

And now it has already developed much further. For the one month duration of the show we have been keen to 'feature' diRE:ctory clients, and we're pleased that Melanie is keen to come on board and arrange some demos.

The show organisers are very keen on our message of re:pair and re:use (even higher up the re:tree than re:cycling), and have already expressed an interest in our 'product' range for some PR events, including their Green Catwalk show on press day.

Hence Melanie is teaming up with us to try and make a gob-smacking demo model of one of my latest ideas, the Vac:Sac, which is a clamshell rucksack made out of an an old vacuum.

I'm pleased to say we are also getting many other businesses keen to be a part of our roadshow. Hopefully we'll hear from more like Melanie via the FPB. 

It's just what we'd hoped for; acting as a matchmaker between those with ways to re-something away from the landfill, and those who are looking for ideas to help the environment ... and their pockets. Better yet if we can come up with ways via the site to link complementary enterprises together.

Sticks and Stones

So the whole Danish cartoon issue ferments ever more onerously. Meanwhile fingers are being pointed. Intellects engaged and ranged in all directions. Pronouncements made. Actions taken. So much fuss... and on the part of those claiming to try and make sense of it all and/or resolve matters, so far all I can see is a bubbling pot.

It's one to which I have contributed (by submitting the wrods below to a few letters pages and blogs), but only to try and point out that most exchanges I have been exposed make it feel like being caught in the middle of artillery exchanges between those who can only see things in black and white. 

That this issue creeps into this blog is twofold. One is that so much in the world of environmental debate these days also seems to be conducted on similar lines. You are either 'for' or 'against', 'believe' or 'don't believe'. Middle ground does not exist, perhaps because it does not make for such good ratings. Which is my second concern. Those that control the media have the power to shape debate by selecting what they share or omit, not that I can see much that can be done about it.

Spoken or written words and/or images of potential offence will inevitably exist so long is there is one with lips to speak and hands to write, and another with whom they may come into contact who has ears to hear or eyes to read. Plus...

There's an important piece of context that can often be ignored when 'giving, or taking, offence' is referred to. It’s always there ready and waiting, and will be delivered freely and immediately (p&p inc.)... the minute anyone opts to seek it out and collect it. 

Failing to recognize, accept and cope with this is one thing, but to wring hands, deny or, most incredulously, try to prevent it happening (again) is up there with Canute’s tide-restraining demo. 

The threat of physical violence is another matter entirely. Words (or, in this case images) cannot harm us. But allowing even the hint of validation that they may be used as an excuse (and hence somehow should be restricted) is a far more dangerous route to opt for. Hence my disquiet at the tacit approval given in some quarters to 4x4 tyre deflation pranks. Where can this lead but further downwards?

While one could wish they had not existed, the cartoons are therefore essentially irrelevant. 

There will always be tinder available for those with a match and who seek to light a fire. So all the well-meaning efforts being expended on explanation and mitigation are simply helping fan the flames in support of those whose interests are served by this 'event' taking its course. Starve it of the oxygen it feeds upon, in the form of credibility, and it will extinguish. Until the next time. But feed it straw, and it will flare once more.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pretty Much Ideal

As a subject/title line, that looks pretty positive, doesn't it? Well, let's hope it proves to be the case. But it's also a bit like the sword of Damocles as we at Junkk Towers are currently working like little Beavers to get ready for our being an exhibitor at... The Daily Mail Ideal Home Show 2006!

It really seemed too good an opportunity to miss when it was presented...oh.. all of a week ago. And it has pretty much been a blur ever since. 

Normally one would have months to prepare for such a thing. The small matter of the stand, the logistics of designing it, building it, decorating it, getting it there, staffing it, etc. And we're talking almost a solid month here... or, rather there. And when I think of how much is waiting back at the ranch when we did the 3-day events. Sheesh.

It almost didn't happen. The costs of the stand was bad enough, but the accommodation alone was going to write us off. But then some very good chums rallied round, and that has come off the budget red-zone.

With just a few weeks more things are starting to take shape. But beyond all this design and construction we're also trying to build a coherent campaign around it all. Inviting businesses from to join in with ideas, items and even a spell to help out just 'being there'. Plus PR, marekting to soem of our target fmcg guys. Flyers. The list is as long as time is short.

It has bee... interesting, so far. But no complaints. We could have said no. But with the theme being recycling and sustainable living it was really too good to miss. 400,000 consumers walking past. Lots of press and TV, too.

If we can't make an impression then I don't know what else we can do.

It's shaping up. Watch this space. Or rather, make sure you visit this one.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Cartridge (Nut) Cases

With all our current adventures the blogging is a bit thin on the ground lately, so here's an opportunity to pop one in a quickie in the form of a cut & paste of the text of a letter to our chums at Materials Recycling World, following their carrying a story about Canon winning a court case against a cartridge reseller in Japan. As you'll gather, I was not best pleased.

What I am trying to get my head around is how such a huge, not to mention worthwhile, industry has developed over such a long period when a threat like this was on the cards. How many people now depend (in so many ways) on it? Were those who decided to get into this taking a gamble, or are we again looking at grey areas being made black retroactively by clever lawyers supported by well-funded lobby groups?

Notwithstanding the legal implications to the firms in question, as a member of the confused consumer world, I am meanwhile still trying to get to grips with all the various issues that surround this topic, from the technical, to the financial to the ecological.

I remember having an interesting debate recently with a representative of Brother, who was doing a fair job of presenting the case for the manufacturer, but I'm afraid he just couldn't sway me. We take our old cartridges to Cartridge World, we get given new ones in exchange that work just fine (if we do high end work we may opt for quality if there is a difference that doesn't require a microscope to judge), is guaranteed anyway (so the clogging thing doesn't seem to apply) and costs a whole lot less. Pretty much a win-win unless I'm missing something, with the obvious exception of the manufacturer.

It's hard to feel too sympathetic when you read stories such as the one we noted in our own info category for this topic with an addendum about a BBC report. We run our printers 'til the streaks show, for sure.

On a personal note I'm still steaming about a new Dell cartridge I put in today that required 'aligning', and printed two 1" full width bars of ink. Was that really necessary?

In the spirit of positivity, if such test pages are a valid function, why not design them to produce a page that could be reused? My starter for one would be as a picture frame. I'm sure others may have better suggestions that would still provide the technical function and find a use around the home or office rather than being binned.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tough Times

Because of our continued involvement with the music business we still monitor various goings-on to get wind of any opportunities. And having some moons ago come across a site called UK radio I was happy to get its free weekly updates, though frankly once became really intense they were a bit too long and detailed to stay on top of as well as I would have liked. But still, I was saddened to learn today that they were ceasing to operate. 

My mood is in part selfish. Here was yet another useful, independent resource run by committed folks who had put a lot of time and doubtless money into something that they were interested and believed in, but they just couldn't sustain it. And this despite the fact that they had a healthy and loyal audience... and took ads, which were without doubt going to a highly-targeted readership.

They are not alone in struggling. This recent year-end/new year season has seen many an email from some highly valued resources seeking 'donations'. Almost all of these have been from the world of ENV/REC, going the charity or not-for-profit route, and many actively avoiding ads. Their call, but for obvious reasons I don't see this as a mechanism for guaranteeing objectivity and, let's face it, revenue is a great way to maintain a healthy business. The trick is to ensure that one is not beholden to just a few masters.

I have to confess I have not responded to any of these pleas. For one I don't find many useful enough to pay for. And for another we don't ask for any money from them, and would be happy to feature them if they asked, so we'll keep our meagre budget to ourselves.

Speaking of which, we're looking at where we can go next. The model is relatively simple. We need to get the numbers of our visitors/registrants up so we can point to an audience base that makes it worth the major media talking about us, and the major brands advertising with us.

And while we are growing virally very nicely thank you, it is not yet at a rate that can sustain us in all our efforts to hone the site functions, research information, write articles, etc. The site is built, and our overheads are very low, but salaries do need to be paid so folk can afford to live. And sadly, while we have had generous support in funding 3rd party constructions and consultations, none of it has come in ways we most need 'to keep us going' at such a critical phase. Funders like widgets, not pay slips.

So we are faced with a dilemma. To keep going we need money. And to get money we have to spend it. Well, one thing is for sure. Sitting here worrying about it isn't going to get us anywhere. So watch this space. is about to get very active.