Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Just.. not with spelling. So much. Maybe.

Sorry, cruel. But I thought it was funny.


Matt, genius cartoonist of the Telegraph, manages to sum up two key stories in one simple brilliant cartoon, yet again!

PROF'S POSER - Soap Stars

The following query was submitted to the Junkk website:

'I work for a company that produce toiletries and guest amenities for hotels around the world! I had an enquiry from a customer today as to whether we have anything organised in regards to half-used soaps, she used to work at a hotel that gave there used soaps to charity but we are struggling to find any where that can help us and we are very interested, do you have any ideas??'

This... is a call for a Prof's Poser!

So far, from me:

'Short answer... none (A scope on the site didn't do that great:( . Medium answer... yet. Longer answer... to come, hopefully.

As an initial thought... have you guys thought of taking them back when you deliver new ones and then 'recycling' them as an 'eco' range?

I am sure there are hygiene, health and safety and consumer resistance issues (though what soap is originally made of might put some off) but let's try and think laterally. Maybe dog grooming salons: The Rex Salon Luxury Grooming Bar?

Depending on how you charge, the PR might it worth doing just as a CSR 'loss leader'.

Let's see what else folk might have to suggest.'

Peter the Meter

Just got our water rates advice: almost £700!!

Hence I am on a mission. So this will be an ongoing post, updated at intervals as events, dear boys and girls, events... transpire.

First action was to call the customer support line for Welsh Water.

Couldn't have been simpler. I asked for a water meter. The nice girl ignored that completely and took me through an 'assessment'. Number of people, washing machine, outdoor tap... no swimming pool, etc. No mention that slug 'n slug (the twins) currently bathe only with the full moon. And we operate a 'let it mellow' policy with the loos when Mum is out of sniffing range.

The result? Well, it seems my bill could be halved. Halved!!!? Why on earth was this option not mentioned a decade ago? That would be a saving, already, of a few thousand pounds!!!!!

So... when do I get the meter? Don't know. What I am getting... is 'a pack'.

The story unfolds...


... and not with the best of starts:

Times - Consumers shoulder cost of leaky pipes - This does not make encouraging reading, especially as (and I forgot to mention that, as a consequence of getting the pack and making a call), the surveyor turns up on Wednesday to assess the house for conversion! Next...

Times - MPs want water meters in every UK house to conserve water - Older piece, but I just chanced upon it.


I have taken the risk. The engineer/surveyor turned up and it took, oh, about 30-40 seconds.

We located the outdoor stopcock and swapped a screw cap on a plastic junction box (which I suspect must have been quite new and hence ready and waiting... some may not be so receptive) with a single unit.

The meter then looks up at you. All the usual numbers. Plus a little gizmo in the middle that spins if there is a drip. Hence we ascertained there were no leaks. I guess we are lucky that the distance to the house interior was but a metre, and we are then responsible for all that happens inside. So if there was a leak, we'd know about it.

Now... let's see about the next bill. Gulp....

A metaphor for the age

No, not Terminal 5.

I refer to the BBC forums comment system. As the licence fee has gone up, so every aspect of our national broadcaster has plummeted. I'd like my money back, but that's not an option.

It started with a comment by invitation:

Going Carla crazy

It's too much to hope that the current (0) comments is anything more than yet another glitch in the moderating system, or maybe my fellow commentors have so far managed to resist (at 1820 GMT) where I cannot. If so... bravo!

And good on the Gallic diplomat!

You and your lot really have lost the plot.

If 'In the Newsnight office Carla Bruni has.. been the most talked about subject of the week', then I weep for serious news journalism ever taking place again. Are you all just in demob mode for the Olympic jolly or what? Will it just be the trainees and temps running the show, getting their story ideas from Heat magazine?

ps: I don't think it is just the Daily Mail who have had trouble deciding whether it is plastic bags or this lady who are of most importance to the future of news, the governance of the world or the future of the planet.

Of course, I was too prescient from the outset. After a few days of retrying, I might have to give up. But have tried another tack:

Friday 28 March, 2008

Excuse being off topic, but as this little bit still works (for now) I am just experimenting with this posting system, which was either a) created by the T5 designers on an off day or b) has given up any pretence of being an open, free and objective forum and is now in the hands of highly selective moderation. Or maybe the BBC is just trying to grind us into submission to accept yet another fee hike?

Free the 502 commenters from their limbo hell!

Shambles is too good a word for the whole sorry bunch. Like they care. What's the worst that can happen to them? Probably all en route to Beijing already.

Addendum 1:

I have been moved to send the above to Newswatch, for all the good that will do. Though Ray Snoddy may find one grumpy editor to say 'who cares?' on Sunday at dawn.

Why does the BBC bother with forums for audience comments?

I just ask, as after yet another frustrating few days trying to deal with the woeful system that we have all paid for, I have had to resort to a few other blogs that actually seem to work, including my own: [as above]

Addendum 2:

At time of writing (Sunday 7.20pm) nothing has changed. And no reply has yet been received, at least here... even to my complaint. Other than being mightily miffed personally, I am now even more concerned that any pretence at free and objective news and debate is now dead. Other than my little isolated outpost being outraged, the silence is pretty effective. Don't like the opinion? Ignore it! And ignore any follow up. What you don't see won't hurt you. But if you have an agenda you can let a few selected 'acceptable' thoughts slip through. It really is extraordinary. Where, if I could be bothered, do I go next? A registered letter to the BBC Trust? Sadly the compromise of that final word has rendered the ultimate avenue nonsense a long time ago. Even if this was a genuine glitch, just like the T5 debacle there has been no attempt to concede there even is a problem and PR an explanation at least.

Daily Mail - Fury of BBC over Cameron's £250m bid to end its public service monopoly -

"Once you take away part of the licence fee you break the trust between the BBC and the licence-fee payer," said a senior BBC executive. "The viewer won't know who on earth their money is going to and will say, 'why on earth should I pay this any more?'

Oh... will I?

Addendum - An answer.. of sorts. Unlike some, as I get 'em, they go up:

Thank you for your email. I can confirm that the problems you are
experiencing are due to technical difficulties that we are aware of and
working on. We intend to revamp the blog system in the next couple of
weeks which will end these problems. Until then I can only apologise for
the inconvenience caused and thank you for your patience.

Had to reply as yet again I have been thwarted:

Dear Team Assistant,

Thank you for your reply.

I am aware that there are technical difficulties. And would be amazed if the BBC had not been aware of them since they cropped up (which was when? It seems like months... or more).

I do note, with optimism, the confidence that these will be fixed, though am cautious on the vague timeline.

Having just tried, unsuccessfully , AGAIN, I am intrigued as to what has been causing these errors, and in so selective a manner. Evidently some are blessed with access and some are not.

Is it because I is Mac?

I am unsure if they will get the Ali G allusion.

BBBC - NEW - 'If you get error 502 you are probably blocked (as I am) from posting. They block your IP address. the BBC do this all the time.'

'Is this verified/able?

I currently get a 502 on every post (to Newsnight, Editor's Blogs, etc. Even, ironically, to the exchanges about them 'fixing' a system they 'admit' is 'broken'). That said, some get through, though most get 'lost'. Therefore a blanket 'ban' is hard to credit. Even a 'moderating' (sorry for all the quotes, but there is a lot that raises 'questions') stance is tricky to grasp as often many I offer up are not that complimentary of the guys who have kicked off the post either.

In fact I am exchanging pleasantries with a junior munchkin in some fob-off department as we speak. Not sure she liked my 'Is it 'cos I is Mac' comment, bless her. It's not... er.. supposed to be, by the way.

But if I get the merest whiff that such selectivity to agenda is taking place with an entity I co-fund, and especially when I have devoted good time at their request to contribute, I will be... grumpy.

And, like the Incredible Sulk, they won't like me when I'm grumpy.'

More cause for concern

Bisphenol A is a chemical substance used widely around this planet in food and drink packaging, as it is a common component in many widely used plastics, including those used for bottled water. It a a basic monomer used in polycarbonates, and is also utilised in polyesters and polyether ketones. At one time it was actually used as an anti-oxidant in foodstuffs, so those of us a little longer in the tooth have probably eaten it for years, because it had always been regarded as having a low acute toxicity. It is still used in the products used to line the insides of canned foods so there is still a potential direct food contamination possible from this source.

So why the concern? Again from RedOrbit, it appears that Bisphenol A mimics oestrogen, the primary female sex hormone. A quick web search finds that some research also suggests Bisphenol A is potentially carcinogenic and may be linked to breast cancer, could be a cause of lower sperm counts, and it has even been linked to Schizophrenia.

Yes, there are a lot of 'may' and 'could' words in there, but whilst the Canadian Gov appears to be doing something about it, as in a major revue of the chemical and its possible effects on humans, I'll bet our Gov does nothing for years!

More on this story and the effects the information has had on the plastic bottled water industry from the Financial Post.

Just maybe, perhaps, .....

... Dubbya is finally taking notice? Another from RedOribit.

I don't think I'll be convinced until I've seen an official announcement.

More on this from ADVFN.

More on sea levels ......

..... from RedOrbit, and quite worrying it is too.

"According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average rise in global sea levels will be 28 to 43 centimeters (1 – 1.4 feet) by 2100. However, according to a new scientific analysis this predicted number is substantially low, and sea levels could actually rise by nearly one and a half meters (almost 5 feet) in that same time frame."

Yes, I know it contains that nasty little word 'could', but bearing in mind that a one metre rise (let alone 1.5 metres) would put millions at risk, that's quite a cause for concern, especially to countries like Bangladesh.

"Eighty to 90% of Bangladesh is within a meter or so of sea level, so if you live in the Ganges delta you're in a lot of trouble; and that's an awful lot of people."


This from The Times highlights an issue that is going to really stress producers, refiners and the retail outlets of all within the fuel industry. Just how can you guarantee that the Gov's requisite content of biofuel (2.5% as of tomorrow) comes from sustainable sources?

"An investigation by Greenpeace found that 30 per cent of the biofuel in Tesco diesel came from palm oil. A litre of Tesco diesel typically contains 5 per cent biofuel."

Oh, its not Tesco's fault though ..... "Tesco said that the concentration of palm oil in its biodiesel was the responsibility of Greenergy, its supplier."

"A spokeswoman for Greenergy also initially denied using palm oil but later said: 'It’s a very, very small proportion of our feedstock mix.'"

Interesting to note that Tesco actually owns 25% of Greenenergy though. Isn't it amazing just how incestuous big business is nowadays?

The heat is on..........

Ok, it's a poor title, but I couldn't resist it. The song was on radio 2 yesterday, and has been running around in my head ever since.

The 'Heat Project' from Enact Energy is the first that I have found that clearly and concisely sets out exactly what is (and isn't) available to householders in terms of insulation grants that are now managed under the Gov's CERT scheme. (You know, the scheme where they make the energy utility companies pay for it!)

Interesting to note that the actual grants were available pre-CERT, under the Home Energy Conservation Act, as far back as 1996! Can't recollect seeing too much publicity about them back then. Perhaps that was because the grants were handled by our local authorities?

Friggin' with the riggin'

Or... when bad polls go bad.

Thing is, I'm pretty sure we all do it, or would if we could. I have.

That is, tried to manipulate a poll result. Heck, I just did it recently with our last newsletter when I asked the readership to bung us a big up in the Observer Ethical Awards. But somehow I doubt our current readership, no matter how high quality, would quite compare to some others doubtless (well, I know they were, 'cos I only found out about the thing by one I'm signed up to asking me to vote for them) doing the same thing.

I was reminded of this last night, when I got an appeal from the owner of a big, respected music blog to help tip the balance in favour of his daughter in some music competition or other so she could win a car. The appeal of her music, or abilities, seemed vaguely irrelevant.

And if one wins such things, for sure you go on to milk it big time in PR. Whether it's Strictly Come Dancing or the BBC's 'Have Your Say' ('See... x% of those moderated in agreed...').

I'd say that a panel of judges is a much better bet for real expert assessment and objectivity, but these days what counts as an expert is often rather 'creative' at best. And even with 'pros' some agendas can often be held up to scrutiny.

I guess the best thing is to treat it just as a big game. But sadly, few do. Too much, including fame and fortune, hinges on these things. And with the inevitable influences of the vast , manipulable audiences on the internet available at the stroke of a key, it looks set to spiral ever higher. In entertainment value for sure, but as to real value... probably not so much.

Another MOTA (Metaphor Of The Age)?