Friday, 25 April 2008

ANZAC Day 2008

Today is ANZAC day, when Australians and New Zealanders, as well as Cook Islanders, Niueans, Samoans and Tongans, remember the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who participated in the Gallipoli landings of the Dardanelles Campaign during the first World War especially the 4,059 who gave their lives and more than 24,000 who were wounded.

In many ways this day has become more of a symbol of Australian independence than Australia Day itself, it has become a time of year when Australian politicians make statements about becoming a Republic and indulge in varying degrees of pom bashing. What they fail to realise is that most Brits couldn't care less whether Australia becomes a republic or not and view Their inability to ditch the Union Flag after over one hundred years of independence with mild amusement.

In contrast, the people of those nations mark the day with the kind of respect that is hard to find in the UK for any of our National Holidays or days of remembrance and are, generally, a credit to their respective countries.

In Turkey that campaign is known as Çanakkale Savaşları, as the defeat of the initial naval attack was most important; the significance of the campaign is deeply embedded in the national psyche as it is one of the key points in the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Turkey has good cause to remember the 56,000 who died defending their country.

It is a matter of regret that it in the UK and France, who had 21,000 and 10,000 men killed respectively, that their casualties have become seen as minor losses in a minor campaign compared to the vast numbers who lie under the fields of Belgium and France.

It seems appropriate to end with the words of Mustafa Kemal that are inscribed on the memorial at ANZAC Cove.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears.
Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.
Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Robotic Avatar

iRobot, the people who brought you the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner have now brought out the ConnectR Virtual Visiting Robot.

This device allows anyone with a wireless broadband connection in their home to give family and friends a remote robotic presence over the internet. The remote user can drive the robot around, can here and see whats going on thanks to a built in 16x camera and microphone and speak through the 'bot as well.

Currntly a PC is required to remotely control the ConnectR though if if they don't bring out a mobile phone client for it they'll be missing a trick

It's only available on a limited trial in the US at the moment, and that is many times oversubscribed, so the rest of us will have to wait.

"What's the price?" I hear you ask.

A measly $499, no not $4999 but $499, unbelievable. This bargain could turn out to be a huge phenomenon.

An Introduction to Hybrid Cars

I'd been considering writing a piece on the different kinds of electric hybrid vehicles that will be hitting the market in the near future, however this article from MIT's Technology Review explains it better than I ever could plus it comes with a neat interactive flash applet.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Photo of the Week

Robert F Bukaty has produced a series of stunning images for AP of the FIE World Fencing Championship, among the best is this one.
I hope you agree this is a stunning shot.

We Update: new video

Al Gore's climate guardians, the ACP, have launched a new video ad in their WE campaign. It features current house speaker, Nancy Pelosi with former incumbent, Newt Gingrich.

Getting these two together on a sofa is something of a coup for the WE campaign though they manage to give a performance so cheesily wooden it would make any spindoctor cringe with embarassment.

Anyway, without further ado, here it is.

Now hop on over to and register your support.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Opera Mini 4.1 beta

Not content with having what is easily the best mobile browser going, Opera have just released the beta of the latest update.

New features include auto completion of web addresses, find in page (just like hitting ctrl-f in your desktop browser), save pages and added upload functionality, useful if your blog or online photo storage doesn't support ShoZu.

Now I'm not usually an advocate of installing beta software on anything except testbeds however this works wonderfully and is faster as well

Message to Samsung, Nokia, O2, T-mobile etc.: I fail to understand why you mobile phone manufacturers and operators waste time and money on developing your own inferior browsers; just install Opera mini and make all your various stakeholders happy.
Get Opera Mini - Super fast and free

Free Science Teaching Resources

The folks over at the Physics Education Trust at the University of Colorado have some great simulations of real world physical phenomena. They will look great on your IWB.

Warning: some are dangerously addictive to the scientifically inclined.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Peace Through Destruction

Yesterday I wrote on the counterproductivity of Israel's policies of harassing and abusing the average young Yusufs of the occupied territories and within a few hours I read of further foolish acts of repression.

In the latest act of jaw dropping stupidity the Israeli army has decided to bulldoze a tract of all too precious agricultural land in Gaza including yet more Olive trees, a frequent target of the Army's bespoke caterpillars.

This follows hard on the heels of a report on the annual lettuce festival in Artas on the West Bank on how the Wall is acting as an instrument of economic repression by preventing farmers gaining access to markets.

The attacks on olive tree plantations are particularly hard to take; they take a long time reach economic maturity and represent a substantial investment by the grower, in the absence of a legitimate military reason for their removal one can only presume this is a deliberate policy aimed at preventing any economic stability for Gaza's residents.

So another sector of Palestinian society learns another reason to hate Israel and it becomes harder for me, living comfortably in the West, to appeal to my Muslim brothers and sisters to hope not hate.

Public Enemy

I've just been listening to Public Enemy's 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back right the way through for the first time in a few years.

Now rap and hip hop is not normally my thing however this still sounds great 10 years on; more fresh than most of what the current crop of mobo artists are producing.

... don't believe the hype ...

Towards New Urban Futures

Amid all the controversy over the Beijing Olympics this summer, over China's Human Rights record, its actions in Tibet and the terrible air pollution in the host city, it is good to see London 2012 getting some recognition for responsible development.

The city that once had the dubious distinction of having the world's worst air pollution has been steadily cleaning up its act over the last few decades is now using the Olympics to regenerate what is probably its most depressed and most polluted area. The Lower Lea Valley, a vast area of dumpsite canals, graffiti and rubbish strewn, post industrial scrubland, is being transformed in to integrated urban units of low rise family housing, mixed employment and parkland with local renewable power generation and a variety of transport links; there will be new schools, retail outlets, both large and small.

All in all this is a holistic approach to urban regeneration, where people and environment are the twin chambers of the heart of these new communities. Regeneration projects like this can be Britain's new towns for the new millennium.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Where do your Cacti come from?

A plea for biodiversity.

I read that cactus poaching and smuggling is becoming big business in Mexico, largely into the US but it's likely that some turn up in Europe as well.

This kind of wholesale pillaging of a country's biodiversity is not new and happens on many levels from small scale poaching up to organised crime. And it happens to satiate the vanity of gardeners and collectors in the developed world who, because of the whims of horticultural fashion, have switched to the next 'must have' plant; a few years ago it was New Zealand's tree ferns, now it's cacti and only Allah knows what it will be in a few years time.

These practices have devastating impacts on the ecosystems in which they are perpetrated and can have equally disastrous impacts on the places to which they are transported; not only is there the ever growing and apparently endless list list of invasive alien species around the world but there is the problem of local hybridisation, Britain's bluebells are increasingly becoming genetically contaminated with introduced Spanish stock.

So please, unless you want to cripple an increasing number of ecosystems: check the provenance of any plants you buy especially if the species is new to the market, buy from reputable garden centers or growers and please, please, please don't buy plants on holiday abroad.

Breeding Terrorism

Which country is doing the most to foster terrorism in the Middle East?

Not Iran, not Syria but Israel. This story from the BBC is an example of how the world's most beleaguered nation seems determined to take ordinary, unradicalised kids and turn them into next year's suicide bombers or Hamas activists.

For every child this happens to Israel is also ensuring that their friends are also being driven away from their moderate backgrounds into the arms of the more radical groups. Israel must also recognise that pretending that these things do not happen and asking the world to believe them rather than the ICRC and Amnesty International as well as their home grown Human Rights groups, is just not the way the world works.

As for the apologists of Israel's policies saying 'It's none of your business', I say it definitely is. Aside from the moral and legal arguments these policies directly impact on the rest of the world who would otherwise be Israel's friends and defenders; these policies turn the impressionable adolescents in our local mosques into angry young men who are easy prey for radical preachers and those who would like to send them abroad for 'advanced religious training'.

We moderate Muslims and others in the West must apply political pressure on our leaders to stand up against these systematic abuses of Human Rights otherwise the whole world will reap the whirlwind that Israel is sowing.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Radio Birdsong

With the demise of two of its stations, the UK Digital One network has taken to broadcasting 24 hour birdsong (and other countryside noises in the background - cars, light aircraft!?!) on one of its channels.

Being woken up by woodpigeons, rooks, geese, pheasants and assorted twitterers is a much more sane way to start the day than other radio channels or alarms.

Point your browser here to listen online.

I've just obtained the following from my friends over at

Birdsong channel on UK DAB Radio (the sound of the British countryside)
UK DAB Radio Birdsong channel originally recorded for the test transmission of Classic FM prior to its launch in 1992. Has recently been reinstated for a limited period due to the closure of Oneword. Since the beginning of April 2008, the Birdsong channel has been upgraded to stereo and currently broadcasts 24 hours a day. The transmission repeats every 37 minutes.

The transmission is also available online as a flash audio stream at:

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Can 'We' fix it?

Today I read that Al Gore's organisation, the Alliance for Climate Protection, has launched a new campaign called We Can Solve It or We for short.

In the unfortunate manner of anything international launched by politicians from the US of A, it's for America [sic] and the whole world, although they don't seem to be quite sure on the last bit. However, that's enough Yank bashing for today; this seems like a great idea to motivate a groundswell of public opinion to force leading politicians into action on climate change.

The Alliance is building partnerships with existing North American and International membership organisations with an interest in environmental protection, it is recruiting volunteers to evangelise , encouraging people to write to their local papers and elected representatives, to talk to community leaders, sign petititions, take part in local action, 'Ask lenders to consider climate impact when funding new coal plants' (that's a good one) and many other things, all as part of a coordinated three year campaign.

On their home turf they have started an advertising campaign on television, radio and print media, the rest of us will get to see their online advertising as well. they are aiming to get 10 million Americans, 1 in 30 of the whole population, working as volunteers. With that kind of support elected leaders will have to sit up, take notice and act.

So 'Go USA', whether we like it or not the rest of the world is waiting for your leadership, your technological capability and your industrial capacity in our struggle with climate change.