Heated roads e-petition

A few years ago I posted an article on my blog about how heated roads could be the answer to snow chaos and since then I have lots of comments about what a good idea it is.

The technology to heat our roads is available and I think we need a trial to see if the idea works. It is impossible to heat all our roads but surely the motorways and important A roads can be heated to avoid snow chaos when snow falls.

I have set up a government e-petition to ask for a trial of the heated roads technology and I need 100,000 signatures before it can be debated in parliament.

Please sign my e-petition by clicking here

The Singularity – The Answer to the Conquest of Space ?

There was an interesting article in The Sunday Times last weekend about how human life is evolving. This was an article about what has become known as the “singularity”. This is the time that a computer will be able to think like a human brain. It is estimated that the singularity will become a reality by about 2030 or 2040.

Once this milestone is reached scientists are saying that the content of a human brain will be able to be downloaded onto a computer. The significance of being able to do this cannot be understated. This will effectively mean that we will be able to live forever. After all, when you consider that humans are essentially a brain, with a body  to carry it around and once it’s possible for a computer to be a brain then we might not need a body!

All this doesn’t sound like much fun to me but it is said that many scientists are in a race to make sure that they live long enough so that they can take advantage of this huge advance in computer science.

Another interesting suggestion made in the article is that this move towards singularity is how we are meant to evolve as a species. It’s possible, the article says, that aliens haven’t contacted us because their species has not been able to solve the problem of inter-galactic travel and have subsequently died out.

As humans it is also very likely that we won’t be able to solve the same problem to enable us to explore the universe and avoid the natural destructive forces around us. However, it’s also possible that it will be machines and the vast computer power that we are developing that will solve the travel problem and mean we can escape the confines of our small galaxy.

Would I want the content of my brain downloading to a hard drive? As long as there is a secure back-up in case of a hard drive failure I could be tempted !

How to live a long happy life

What’s the secret to a long and happy life? If I knew the answer I would be a rich man. Every day new research is released telling us what to eat and what not to eat. It’s a minefield because there seems to be so much conflicting information and it changes constantly. Everything in moderation is my take on things. I also believe in cherry juice to stay healthy, although I don’t have any evidence of that yet !

Two senior couples toasting on a Happy New Year.
Two senior couples toasting on a Happy New Year.

Researchers have identified common traits of resilient people, and here is the list of things they have come up with. None of the things on the list are to do with the food we eat, it’s all about our mental attitude to life. Here is the list.

1. Adapt to change easily.
2. Feel in control of their lives.
3. Are able to bounce back after difficult times.
4. Have close, dependable relationship.
5. Remain optimistic even in the face of challenges.
6. Can function well under pressure.
7. Have a sense of humour, even under stress.
8. Have a sense of confidence and strength in themselves as individuals.
9. Believe that things happen for a reason.
10. Can handle uncertainty or unpleasant feelings.
11. Know when to turn for help.
12. Like challenges.
13. Enjoy taking the lead.
14. Have hobbies and others activities.

I guess the moral to the story here is to adopt a resilient mindset to live a long and enjoyable life.

Sources: “The common traits come from the article”  Are You Resilient?, Readers Digest, August 2009, Page 158, Sari Harrar and Debra Gordon

Windows 8 update problem on HP laptop

My daughter bought a new Windows 8 HP laptop last weekend from Currys and I was looking forward to seeing the new operating system in action. The desktop looks totally different to any other Windows software and it will take a lot of getting used to and involve a lot of learning on how to find things that we have all taken for granted for so long. Things like looking at your Device Manager and My Computer will take some finding !

However, a few days after buying the new Windows 8 laptop there is a problem. The HP laptop wants to update the operating system which begs the question why was the laptop sold with an old version of Windows 8. It shouldn’t need to update so soon after being bought. But there is an even bigger problem in that the software won’t update correctly as it gets stuck at 13% updated and then goes no further. The laptop eventually re-boots with an error message and the process starts all over again.

To make matters worse, Curry’s, where the laptop was bought,have the wrong help line telephone number on their purchase documents. When I called them I was directed to another number – bad customer service Currys !!

I eventually got through to someone at KnowHow and he knew all about the problem. He said we needed to update the anti-virus software and if that didn’t work we needed to update the audio and video drivers !

The problem is that its impossible to get to the desk top now as the software constantly wants to update. It looks like Windows 8 still has teething problems so beware.

What happened to being polite?

Being polite doesn’t take much effort but I think it may be part of our behaviour that’s slowly dying. Politeness is just a way of being “nice”. Many people might say that being “nice” is a weakness and the word itself is a bit wishy-washy but I don’t think there is anything wrong with the word. The dictionary definition of the word “nice” has several meanings. It can mean:-

  • Pleasing and agreeable in nature: had a nice time.
  • Having a pleasant or attractive appearance: a nice dress; a nice face.
  • Exhibiting courtesy and politeness: a nice gesture.
  • Of good character and reputation; respectable

Being polite is the equivalent of giving someone a present but without it actually costing anything. It feels good to give somebody a present. You feel pleased with yourself and we often get a better feeling from giving than we do receiving.

Everyone, of course learns courtesy and politeness in their early years. I was no exception and I was always taught good manners. At school as well we had to stand when an adult walked into the classroom as this was a sign of respect for your elders. I often gave up my seat on the bus going to school for old ladies and I felt good about it. To this day I still hold doors open for other people and have been known to open a car door for someone.

It’s on the road though that the worst of lack of courtesy is seen. Everyday, I’m carved up by other drivers who break the written and unwritten rules of the road as they try to gain a few extra seconds on their journey to and from work. These are the people who will end up with heart attacks and who will argue with their wives!

Less young people are saying “please” and “thankyou” and I’m not impressed with that. Saying those words with a smile is even better.

Being polite will cause others to like you more and give you respect. Try being extra nice for a day. Smile at everyone and even try to make small talk with a complete stranger. You might be surprised how good it will make you feel.

What the Olympics can teach all of us

With the spectacle of the Olympics over and the Olympic athletes returning to their home towns and civic receptions we are all having to get used to life without the likes of Usain Bolt on our television screens. Despite some reservations about the cost of the games there is no doubt that Britain made them a success. It made me proud to be British and that the whole world was able to see us as friendly enthusiatstic people with an amazing historical and cultural heritage.Lets hope that the £10 billion cost proves to be a good investment.

But the legacy of the games is far more than encouraging more people to take up sport and be challenging for Oylmpic medals in the future. The legacy is also something that is intangible in that the efforts and sacrifes of our athletes has a lesson for us all. To have a chance of an Olympic medal athletes need to train very hard. It can take 4 years of training and personal sacrifice to reach the pinnacle of your sport. These athletes had a vision and a goal. They knew exacltly what they wanted and they were prepared to put as much effort in as was needed to succeed.

It’s a well known fact that if we don’t have a goal in life we will not get there, so that’s the first lesson. Write down your goals, have a vison of what you want in life and aim high. Once you have you goals you need to work out a way of achieving those goals. They won’t just fall at your feet. This usually involves getting to be good at what you want to do. Whether its football or working in a restaurant. If you are good at it you will progress, and the way you get good at what you do is to be enthusiastic and to train/work hard. It means being the best you can be!

Just like the Olympians we need to raise the bar that we set ourselves and also we need to raise the bar in education. As A level and GCSE results for this year are released we have the annual debate on whether the exams are hard enough. Whether that’s true or not we need to raise standards and one way of doing that is by making the exams harder. If everyone is getting A’s or A * how can we pick out the exeptional ones ?

One thing that I really liked during the Olympics is the way the parents of the athletes were treated. They were interviewed on TV and treated as VIP’s. I think we can learn from the praise that was heaped upon these parents. An athlete or indeed any young person will find it difficult to succceed without support from parents.It’s the same with succeeding in education and gaining qualifications. Parents need to be supportive of their childrens aspirations and teachers need to become very good at inspiring children with the love of learning.

There is no doubt that we have plenty of people who have a vision and a goal and have the support and self determination to achive in sport, education and in life in general. The Olympics showed everyone that we are genuine, friendly and can organise a hell of a party.

The Olympics also showed us how to succeed in whatever we do. There is a lesson for all of us !

England take a football lesson in draw against Italy.

Being a loyal England fan I watched the Euro 2012 quarter final between England and Italy on Sunday evening. It was inevitable, of course, that we would get beaten on penalties. To their credit England defended well and were well organised but that’s about the only good thing I can say about the England performance. The BBC football experts headed up by Gary Lineker were honest in their assessment of the England performance but I don’t think they were critical enough. The TV experts, flown out on a private plane to be at the match, failed to ask the question why the England players had tired legs and could not match the skills and passing game of the Italians.

The England team is full of the best most well paid English players in the Premier League. Why is it that they have tired legs and why is it that they can’t pass a ball or keep possession. I would have thought that the best players would know how to pass a ball, would have excellent skills on the ball and be fit enough to run for 90 minutes of a football game !

For far too long we have had the same type of England players who do not have the skills to compete at the highest level. Also, why was it that the Italians best player, Pirlo, was allowed so much space so that he could pass the ball with as much time as he needed on the ball? I would have thought that he needed to be taken out of the game by man marking by one or maybe two England players.

In my opinion it seems that despite high wages our national football team still does not have the skills and passing abilities that it should have. Why is this? Well, maybe it’s because we have too many foreign players gracing our Premier League teams. Is this not giving our own home grown players the chance to play at the highest level?

Some radical thinking needs to take place to work out why our players can’t keep and pass the ball like the Spanish and Italians can. Maybe they need to spend more time practicing !

Why do societies fail ? Nothing lasts forever.

If you think about it, nothings lasts forever ! I know it might be an obvious statement but does this law of physics apply to the way human beings live their lives? And if so what causes this?

The Universe is about 14.6 billion years old and was created after the Big Bang but what existed before to cause the Big Bang? Well maybe it was the remains of an old Universe that had died due to its age and the old energy eventually caused a huge  explosion. I don’t know and I am no where near an expert on the subject but it makes you think because everything has a “shelf life”. Nothing lasts forever. This same physical law also seems to apply to the lives of humans. Is there some sort of physical law that says its time for renewal. A bit like Doctor Who and his re-generation!

I was thinking about history in particular and the way some societies become powerful and then go into decline. Way back in 3150BC the Egyptian Empire was in full swing under the Pharaoh’s. Egypt ruled the world and was all powerful until about 30BC when it became a Roman province. Egypt had a huge army that could defeat anybody and it had invented many things such as mining and writing. It also built many amazing monuments like temples and pyramids. I think they were also early Mathematicians.

At this time Greece also had its own empire and in 332AD Greece conquered Egypt and imposed its own way of life.

By 400AD Egypt had become The Byzantine Empire and was increasingly turning to the East. By 639AD Egypt had been captured by a large force of Arabs and Muslims and the Egyptian way of life, including its government, and even its language, disappeared.

The Roman Empire was, of course, thought to be  invincible as well but that only lasted 500 years.

There have been other Empires. Even the British had its own which lasted maybe 200 years at best.

Europe is an Empire of sorts, although not as powerful as previous ones but the common factor is that none of these lasted forever and in most cases they ceased to exist at all. I’m not saying that Europe will cease to exist but it will change, of that there is do doubt because everything seems to have a limited life. Not just planets, animals, humans and everything else but actual ways of life. Maybe this is natures way of improving things and will the British way of life eventually disappear as we know it to be replaced with something else? I think the answer is a certain “yes it will”.

There was a very interesting magazine article about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire on the BBC website and you can read it here. The article does ask the question about why the Roman Empire failed and it says that complex societies like the Roman ones are run by people and are then actually brought down by the same people.

But why are the people responsible for a failed empire? Well, it seems that the gap between rich and poor is a major reason. This leads to a loss of group feeling toward the state or a loss of a common cause that leads to dissatisfaction and a breakdown in social order followed by system collapse.

Everything self destructs. Is Europe about to be part of this destructive mechanism caused by the gap between rich and poor and the fact that nothing lasts forever?

Coffee Shop Owner Bans Mobile Phones

On the phoneThere is an interesting news story on the BBC website about a coffee stall owner banning customers who are on their mobile phones. He has taken a dislike to customers who try to order whilst they are on their mobile phones to someone else!

Well, I have to agree with this guy and well done to him for putting a sign up about it. Mobile phones have taken over a lot of peoples lives and they can’t live without either speaking to someone or texting someone every few minutes. Next time you walk into a bar or restaurant take  a look to see how many people are using their phones rather than actually speaking face to face with someone. You will be amazed how many people seem to be losing the art of conversation !

Watch the BBC video about this news story here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17687054

HS2 is not money well spent

I’m all in favour of spending money to improve transport links but I think that the high speed rail link from London to Birmingham is probably not money well spent. £33bn for something that will take 21 years to fully be completed and will probably be delayed and cost twice as much as first thought does not make sense to me.

People argue that there is a strong business case in improving journey times but has the government thought about whether there are alternatives that are cheaper and better ?

Most of the UK’s major cities have major transport problems. Millions of people a day spend hours commuting into our cities on journeys that should take half the time they actually take. Imagine how much more productive we would be as a nation if we saved time travelling to work!

The government continually blocks the development of tram systems in our cities because they say there is no money available. These schemes cost a fraction of the cost of HS2. Imagine what cities could do with a budget of £10bn. If all of our major cities were given just £250m each that would mean all our cities would have tram systems. If they had more they could probably build their own underground systems !