Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Were You Doing, (In C Sharp Minor)

I got stuck in a mess on the L.A. freeway system this morning.

Oh Yes, I never said, did I? I have a job now. I am writing web content, among others things. Well, I left for work at a little before the usual time and, as I approached the freeway, i slowly became aware of a massive back-up, several miles long, and, after hearing the radio traffic news, I heard it had gone back as far as the next town...

Anyway the long and the short of it was that I spent around an hour and ten minutes going a distance I usually do in ten minutes most days and I guess, compared with other people, I got off lightly!

The humorous side of it was that the whole sig-alert was down to a gigantic truck spilling its load of... guess what? Pomegranates! First thing that went through my mind was: Persephone, stuck in Hades after eating the fatal fruit! Classic Greek mythology always seems to repeat itself, doesn't it!?

Got to work. I was late for one meeting, which went ahead anyway and a massive amount of stuff started to pile up.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Language of the World

I speak seven languages. Really? Which languages? European languages? Asian languages?

In my mind I am conjuring up a visual image of the person who speaks all of these languages. How do they get daily practice speaking not just one other language than their "mother-tongue" but all of the ones they profess to speak...

It seems to radiate outwardly in a kind of a wave. Let's say the mother-tongue is English. In school we may have learned French, Spanish, German, even Italian. At a stretch, we may have learned Russian, but this is a far harder language to learn with past passive participles and other oddments.

Going out with the ripples, it is unlikely that we would learn Portuguese or Greek. Even less likely that we would learn Romanian, Serbian or Croat. It is even less likely still that we have a command of Catalan or Basque. But we might. Following this theme, Asian languages are going to be really hard to learn, because they have no relationship to anything in our experience, unless we have spent time there in an Asian country with Asians and speaking an Asian language. And Asians are remarkably good at English, so why would we need to learn their language?

I began to learn Korean. I was fascinated with the culture. I got good at conversational Korean, but never learned the alphabet. This was a mistake, because I couldn't relate to anything which had been written, only spoken. Now, if I try and remember anything, it's a distant memory. And this was only a few months ago...

I think what I am coming to is that to successfully learn any language, you need to have a strong knowledge of the culture and also have someone who speaks that language spend time with you, helping you understand all the nuances and tricks in learning to speak it. Oddly enough, I remember enough about Korean to know that you have to use different words to say goodbye to someone who is leaving you than if you are leaving them!

Something which is really helping is the emergence of the Web 2.0 culture and all the social networks. This is helping stimulate bonds of friendship between really indigenous boundaries. It will be interesting to see how far this really goes. Even the Chinese censorship and blocking of outside web links is not having an adverse effect on social media. The word is still getting through. And woe betide you if you are an Iranian dictator who wants to stop a fair election! The word also gets out here too.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Outrage, Twitter worm author gets a job at exqSoft Solutions...

Why does someone who intentionally wanted to do harm to millions of people deserve a job more than me?

"It's because he can code, Steve," I hear you shouting. Yes but that's all very well, but a 17 year-old? People do improprietary things every day and sometimes they are punished and other times they are rewarded. It is such a crazy world. I mean, why would this dude get a job and the inventor of that terrible virus "Melissa" be headed to jail?

I think that it probably feels better to do the right thing. Every day I and other people too, are presented with situations where, if we said nothing, we would be undercharged, or we would not have to suffer the consequences of what would happen if we had spoken up. But for some reason, it always feels better to "face the music!"

I don't know about you, but I feel better at night. I sleep better if I know I have done the correct thing. Michael Josephson has written a book about ethics. In fact Michael Josephson writes a weekly column about how ethics make the world a better place. You can hear this on the radio too. The amazing thing is, there is so much quality to living an ethical life. The knock-on effect of your actions are very far-reaching! You have no idea how far-reaching they really are until you come to view it all from a point outside of yourself. Then you will see.

Well, here's hoping that I made a difference to somebody's life today!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

If Music Be The Food Of Love, Om On.....

We look endearingly at mantras. We gaze lovingly at yantras,

and yet we still cannot ground our chakras. Have you heard the crystal bowls being played? I had a friend who played the bowls. Their steady but haunting music had a positive effect on my thoughts. I was able to instill really great ideas in my head.

We need to breathe deeply and consider all of the great things that happen in our world. We need to be grateful for all the things we do have. We need to look forward to the things that will be coming to please us in the future.

There is so much in this world which is sad and dismal, we need to correct the balance. We can do that by being positive and upbeat. We need to look at happy things and face the brightness of the sun and shiny happy people. If we do that, all the shadowy, evil things will take their place behind us.

Every awesome day begins with the sun rising and warming our bodies. Even in winter, the sun comes for a few hours to warm up the earth. After the winter solstice, the days grow longer and the nights grow shorter all the time. That period is soon.

"When the white eagle of the north is flying overhead,
and the browns, reds, and golds of autumn lie in
the gutter, dead.
Remember then the summer birds with wings of fire
flaying come to witness springs new hope,
born of leaves decaying.
As new life will come through death, love will come
at leisure, love of love, love of life and giving,
without measure gives in return the wondrous yearn
for promise, almost seen.
Live hand in hand, and together we'll stand
on the threshold of a dream." - The Moody Blues

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Great Indian Food You Are Going To Love!

An Indian dish called dhansak. 

It is made with four types of lentils (aka "dhal" or "dal") and chicken. (Apologies to all the vegetarians out there.) The complete Indian (Parsee) name is murgh dhansak (meaning chicken curry made with lentils in a savory sauce.) Most restaurants who serve this dish make it medium spicy, so if you don't like any spicyness in your food, you may like to request it mild.  

It is eaten with Pulao Rice. Meantime here is the recipe for those who want to create it at home:

Rice Method: (start this around 15 minutes to the end)

2 cups         Indian Basmati Rice
6 tbsp          oil
1 tbsp          whole cumin
6          whole cloves
1 stick         cinnamon
8          whole black peppers
1/2          onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup          frozen peas
         large black cardamon seeds

Heat oil in a pan. When hot, add the pepper, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. Fry until brown. To this add the cumin and onions and fry until onions are soft and pink. Meanwhile wash and soak rice for 1/2 hour. Then add the rice to the pan and fry for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 4 cups water and cook until rice is done.

Dhansak Method:

1/4 tsp 
1/4 tsp 
1/2 tsp 
1 tbsp 
1/2 tsp 
1 tsp 
1/2 tsp 
1 cup 

2 1/2 cups 

1/4 cup 

1/2 cup 
1 1/3 cups 
2/3 cup 
1/4 cup 
1 tsp 
11/2 lb 
2-inch piece 
1/4 cup 
2 tsp 
1 tbsp 
2/3 cup
1 1/3 cups 
1 tsp

seeds from 3 cardamom pods
ground nutmeg
ground fenugreek
chili powder 
ground star anise 
ground black pepper 
mixed dal (lentil), washed and soaked for 1 hour 
you will need: toor, masoor, urad and moong 1/4 cup each. 
chopped cilantro 
large onions, chopped 
diced pumpkin 
diced eggplant 
diced potatoes 
vegetable oil 
garam masala 
boneless chicken breasts, cubed 
fresh ginger, peeled and grated 
garlic cloves, crushed 
chopped fenugreek leaves 
large green chilies, finely chopped up 
(you could make this only one chili, if you want a mild dish!) 
large tomatoes, chopped up 
tomato paste 
dark brown sugar 
Tamarind water 
chicken stock 
white wine vinegar 
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

Heat a dry skillet pan until it's hot, then add cardamom, cloves, and all the ground spices (nutmeg, star anise, pepper and fenugreek), and dry-fry for 4-5 minutes or until the spices are toasted and releasing their aroma. Put the dal (lentils mix) into a saucepan with the water, 1 tablespoon of the chopped cilantro, 2 tsp of the spice mixture, the onions, pumpkin, eggplant, and potatoes.

Simmer, covered, for 40 minutes or until the vegetables and lentils are very soft. Remove from the heat and puree in a blender (that's right! in a blender) to a smooth sauce.

Heat the oil and fry the remaining spice mixture with the garam masala. Add the chicken cubes, and fry on all sides to seal. (It is sometimes helpful to get the chicken going first by pre-cooking in a microwave.) Add the ginger, garlic, the remaining chopped cilantro, fenugreek leaves, tomatoes and green chilies to the skillet and cook for 10 minutes. Reminder: about twenty minutes into this final section of cooking, you will need to start the rice. Don't forget, because it is great when both gets served at the same time! Add the pureed dal mixture to the chicken with the tomato paste, sugar, tamarind water, and stock. Simmer gently, covered, for 35 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through and is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the vinegar and lemon juice.

Simmer for 5 minutes and serve on silver platters 
with Basmati (jasmine, pulao or whatever rice! It really is best with Basmati. Look at my separate recipe for the rice, which needs to be started 11 minutes before the rest of the dhansak is ready.)

Also, you might want to break out the mango chutney and lime pickle!

Serves 4 - Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Global Village

In my last blog, we touched on the Global Village. I wonder how many of you really understand this whole concept? I mean, it is one thing to know of the Global Village and entirely another to realize the implications of it too.

The Global Village is the phenomenon where we see that goods from around the world are easily available in our stores and in places where we would have struggled to obtain these items before. Of course the original term, "Global Village" was coined by Marshall McLuhan where he showed that the electronic hook-up of the world via the World Wide Web and what went before, made the distance between global areas so much shorter in terms of time.

Instantaneous movement of information has caused this phenomenon and it is clear that along with the information movement, so have goods and items from all over the globe, become easy to move into any area. In a way, this has been a little hurtful to some people, and extremely beneficial to others. Let me explain: the people who had come to rely on a certain methodology for trade, had to rethink their way of doing it, because  of all the new people from all over arriving on the scene...

So, now we see a completely different landscape emerging and goods and products are much more easily available in every area (at least every Western area!) Also we are seeing implications for forming new sociological structures within the context of culture. So the global village is actually helping us learn something new about our world.

There are many other things which the Global Village has changed about our lives. This blog is far too small for me to comprehensively go into all of them... I might do a Global Village Part #2 later on. 

Watch this space! OK see you all for Powerblog #3! 

Coffee Facts You Might Just Not Find At Starbucks!

Wow - what a plain title I hear you say!

Sorry, I am trying to create 30 100 word powerblogs by May 01, 2009! So here goes... My friends all say I can talk about anything under the sun (or the hind legs off a sick donkey!) I'll leave you to be the judge of that!

So here we are fishing for my first topic...

Let's talk about coffee, shall we? How much does anyone really know about coffee? First of all, it is grown all over the world, usually in hot places. (I.e. British coffee beans don't exist, or at least you won't find any called British, nudging shoulders with bags of beans from exotic places like Kenya, the Goald Coast or Java!)

Now that's out of the way, isn't it strange that although you don't see much coffee being grown in Britain, they sure drink a lot of it... Much more than say twenty years ago. Reason being is that they have improved their catered coffee over 700% since then. Gone are the days of the transport cafe, where a cup of "brewed" coffee was a mug of steamed milk with pretend coffee essence stirred in out of a bottle with the brand name "Camp" on it!

I can feel a blog about the Global Village coming on, but don't hold your breath. That's next!

OK, so to carry on, the coffee used to (after they ditched the stuff out of the bottle and started getting particular about how the powdered stuff would taste) be split into "arabica" and "robusta" beans. The difference was in the taste. The "robusta" beans had a coarse earthy taste to them and really lacked the delicate pungency of the "arabica" beans. Then the coffee importers would use so many parts "robusta" to so many parts "arabica."

To cut a long story short, we are all spoiled for choice now. British coffee drinkers can get their coffee from Costa or Starbucks. And the choice is no longer restricted to which brew is ordered, since the coffee can be created as a traditional Italian-style blended drink, along with the shots of expresso-made coffee added to it to create a perfect "Caffe Macchiato" (spotted coffee, rather like the spotted cow, really!)

I won't bore you with the rest. You can go to a Starbucks and just read the wall...

Happy coffee drinking! See you all on the flip-side for Powerblog #2!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Headache of Trying to Get Just Any Job!

You see people working, everywhere. You wonder why everyone is working and you are not.

The President passes some fabulous law which will remove the burden of $1,200 a month on "just-in-case" health insurance to 65% being paid by the employers and 35% paid by you, effective from September last year. Only you don't qualify, because you were laid off just six days too early (August 25th.) So you wonder why this doesn't work for you because in reality, you have a far greater need than all of those "chosen few" who just happened to get in at the right "event time!"

Oh and the other thing going on is that you cannot get any more unemployment benefit because the benefit just ran out after six months... So you apply for the benefit again, hoping they won't turn you down. The nice thing is, you are dealing with an ethical government office. They'll play it straight provided you do too. Sure enough, they approve your additional emergency relief. However, this only gives you ten weeks! At least it buys you some time!

After all, you played the whole thing straight, while there's some woman driving a Mercedes Benz and living in a mansion claiming food stamps! Huh! That doesn't sound right, does it... Makes the stuff AIG are allegedly doing, sound like small potatoes. But wait a minute, I thought all the skullduggery was over, no?

So what have you been doing to find work? Well, forget about "job" jobs. You may as well go and stand in line down on San Fernando Road along with those friendly folk from South of the Border, and wait to be chosen for semi-agricultural work at $7 per hour, except that you really don't want to jeopardize what you may have coming in from the Department of Employment Development.

So, what about Craig's List? Hmmm, they seem to have regular jobs every day. But wait, these are so competitive, that for every one you apply for, there are 10,000 others applying in the same second you apply. And wait, Craig's List themselves tell you that 89 - 99% of these jobs may not really exist, because this is the amount that get "flagged" for non-compliance with their code. Yes, you got scammed at least a couple of times. One scumbag has all of your details. God knows what he will do with all of this information. You do some damage limitation. First of all, what does he want the information for? Hang on! We need to know why he is a scammer first, right? OK - here's how we know... because we leave our browser open at the exact same page on Craig's List where his posting was yesterday, and it says right in the middle of the screen, "This posting has been flagged for removal" - so we go to the link under the word "flagged" and that is where we find the conciliatory note which explains why they prefer flagging over moderation,and, frankly, I wouldn't want that job either... Enough said.

Wait a minute, didn't we send off a resume, containing all of our information in good faith? Yep, we did! Bummer! That means that we will either be spammed to death by this guy or it will pose a security threat to our personal information. The key question to ask is "What did he want to do?" Well, the answer to this may end up being in your email a couple days later (if he's smart) or the next morning or the same day, if he is not smart. Mine came the next morning. "If you want this job you have to go to this site - link to click. Don't click it. But there may be clues in what he sent you, which will give his game away. This one was fairly straightforward. You actually click on the link and there's a page telling you that all employers need a person who really wants to further his education. There are three options, all of which take you to that famous alma-mater in Arizona somewhere, otherwise known as the fast-food university. You click on "No Thanks!" and it gives you one further option to sign up for something you really don't want!

This is mild. Other scams are after identity theft. Yet others will explode your screen with porn and other nasties, provided the browser you use doesn't intercept it first. (Mine does.) Nowadays, people are pretty well protected from this. That is why the scammers have to be so clever, and make sure that it all comes from the clicks made by the person they are scamming!

Enough of scamming! Back to the legitimate job search... And so, you very judiciously signed up for the Federal Jobs email, religiously emailed out every day, listing hundreds of jobs, albeit for careers like Marine Biologist in Taiwan etc... (These are all the 39,000 federal jobs that Jessica Holmes made such a big journalistic thing about the other morning on the KTLA Breakfast Show.) But let's not lose hope, eh? One day we'll see something there which will match your skillset. Along with these, we are seeing a whole new slew of jobs from the FBI. However, most of these are for Washington, DC and somewhere in Virginia. Now, the County, they still have openings, but wait, isn't there a hiring freeze?

Which brings me to the jobs that actually exist, but which have not been filled yet, but which you have to know somebody to get even the interview. These are around, but, as I say, if you don't know someone, forget it... I just really don't know how employers have the face to advertise a job and bring someone to an interview, and then change their mind. Others advertise jobs which don't exist. And employees at some recruiting companies, not all, mind you, are like hungry dogs....

So there are a bunch of people who are nice enough to phone you and see how you are doing... One has left a message. You phone them back. "Hi June! How is it going?" is your friendly opener.
"It's been so quiet. There is nothing for you right now... tell me how you have been getting on?"
So you tell her. You had a really successful interview and you are just waiting to hear... Wrong! She now wants to know which company. You stupidly tell her. And then you are surprised that the job is no longer open when you call the company back to find out what the next step is going to be!

A couple of kids came to my door the other afternoon. "Hi my name is XXXXX, and mine is YYYYYY!" they chirped, with a professional polish you would only hear in SoCal, as their father stood down at the street, watching every move. "We want to share with you our fund-raising drive for our school", as they opened an envelope with a glossy magazine and a list of hand-written names. I didn't wait for them... I told them that I had been unemployed for quite a while, and I didn't really have any spare cash to hand out.... Then I went to talk to the Dad. It turned out that he was unemployed too! Maybe not for so long as me... but he pointed me to a couple of web sites, albeit useless to me for job-hunting in my line of work, but then again, isn't that just how the Internet has turned out?

So what is the word on the street? In this inquitous society we live in, there is nothing obvious about how we get this business of finding a job done. The Internet, despite Monster, Dice, BrassRing, Indeed.com, Craig's List, CareerBuilder, Yahoo Hot Jobs, and a hundred other job boards, won't help you get a job.

I am told the only way is to go round banging on doors the old fashioned way. Trouble is, who is going to offer you a job if you don't know anyone?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I'm the Dude - I have a PhD in Making Ends Meet!

I thought that this recession that we are in all over the world is so severe, that I should add some thoughts to the mix. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, meaning perhaps that we should become more inventive in order to survive.

Another expression we might be hearing in some quarters is "the algebra of need." This is a neat phrase, intended to tie the pure mathematics of survival in with the global issue of need and the know-how to make ends meet when everything is scarce. This phrase was first coined by William Burroughs in his sixties novel "The Naked Lunch."

Here's the kicker - it is so far-reaching that everyone takes a bite. So how do we survive?

First, everyone needs a job. How is that going to be achieved? Well, we need to get away from the climate which is negating our ability to expand. This is easier said than done. We need to pump a cash injection into all the areas of our life where we are seeing things getting cut back. Some areas will no doubt die and will never come back. People will lose their jobs and homes, and it will be a long drawn-out struggle to get back to work after that.

Second, the optimism that was so much a part of America seems to have taken a dive too. Eveywhere you look there is something going on which is extremely distasteful. Crime is up (although I have to say that the Los Angeles violent crimes are down, partly due to the fact that gangs are getting rounded up...) In an economy like this, it is no wonder that people are resorting to criminal means to stay solvent... But that is not really the focus of what I want to talk about. I think we have to look at the things we should be grateful for. If you still have a job, great! You should be really grateful. It is getting harder and harder to secure any job. Someone told me that they had overheard a person trying to get a job at the popular grocery store, Trader Joe's: "Sorry!" the clerk was telling him, "you are behind 1,000  lawyers and 5,500 bankers who all applied for work here last month." Someone once told me that Trader Joe's pays particularly well!

Another story I heard was that someone who had been working for a very well-known and prestigious company had been escorted to the door after 30 years of service. A disgraceful end to a perfect work record. Someone else was woken by the phone at six am from her company, telling her that she needn't report for work that day. Another firm moved out of their premises and changed the locks over the weekend. Workers arriving on Monday were unable to access the building where they had worked for a number of years, after bidding each other goodbye and wishing each other a nice weekend. In perfectly respectable companies employees have been told that they must take a mandatory two weeks unpaid vacation, after which they must return to work with a salary reduced by 6% to 10%.

The long and short of it is that there are now fewer jobs and many more qualified people to fill them. This is not good for the employee or person looking for work... In California where I live, 10% of people are out of work and claiming unemployment benefit, and the State is wondering how they will be able to continue to pay benefit to these people. So this now means that people, who if they felt that it was hard to get a job before, will find it ten times harder now, just to get an ordinary job. People working will need to be particularly careful not to do anything to jeopardize their position, since employers have every excuse to lay people off now.

Other than that, we are seeing the economy go mad. In the grocery stores, packages are being redesigned to cleverly disguise their size and capacity. (Next time you look at a can of beans, see if the bottom of the can has been designed with a great big concave base to it, like a big chunk has been bitten out of it. You won't see this unless you turn it upside down.)

Other packaging has been reduced in proportionate size, but looks exactly the same. The only way to see the difference is by holding it up with an original size package (conveniently pulled from the shelves by judicious merchants, not wishing for any trouble.) This size reduction is apparently because market-researchers understand that the public are more worried about rising prices than anything else.

So the price stays the same, but the quantity you get for it is reduced. However, you can't really do this with fruit and vegetables! I am wondering if they have any plans to manufacture donuts with hollow insides or wider inner rings? Will a "Veinte" at Starbucks take on the form currently used by a "Grande?" Of course we are going to see this everywhere, since the manufacturing industry has had to take the initial hit on the economy, in front of everyone else... Gone are the days when a slight blip on the economy's radar meant that a small business owner had to survive on a bank loan, rather than actual liquidity. Now they are not loaning anyone anything.

The other visible signs we see are in the high street. Stores which used to be there are gone. Restaurants, chain stores we have known and loved for tens of years are all disappearing. Who is doing well? I know the Waltons won't be losing any sleep!

Indeed, there are companies out there who are doing extremely well now and announcing record profits and earnings. Other, more household names, have had the worst fourth quarter on record. In the UK, household names like Woolworths have closed, never to return. I think there has been a landmark change in the way that people are now using their money to purchase things. 

One thing is certain. If we are able to survive this recession, we will be able to survive anything they want to throw at us in the future.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Socializing In So Cal... all about Twitter!

Let's face it - we exist on our social interactions. The Internet has just made it easier to do so. Our social interactions are just a part of how we communicate with each other today and applications like Twitter form an important part of this...

My experience with Twitter has been interesting as it has been varied. I started off with a couple of dozen followers, all of whom left me within a few short days, only to be replaced by others. I am now approaching 250 followers and I am following nearly 600. There are people who are hell-bent on having 2,000 followers and wish to get there in a few days! I have no such desire apart from not having enough time to concentrate on this. Also, don't believe anything you hear about the right and wrong way to run your Twitter account. I have explored a lot of Twitter and the co-applications (such as FriendOrFollow or retweetradar or even the infamous Twitter Grader.) Indeed, I have found some really useful applications like Twitscoop and Power Twitter (which runs from within Mozilla Firefox 3.05 as an add-on.)

People who think they are knowledgeable have put links to their mini-tutorials on Twitter. Click the link and you will have a bunch of rules, from one to twelve about what you should or should not do. If there was one rule which I will shout over the noise it is: BE YOURSELF!

So many people think that there is a way to be if you are on Twitter. Just as an experiment, I started three Twitter accounts. If you have been directed here from one of them it is probably the main one, http://twitter.com/stevetuf. FYI there are two others: one which I started because I wanted to see how or if I could direct the kind of people who end up being followers. Don't worry! I couldn't. Twitter just took its own course. Now I find that people follow me and I just follow them. Every day I look at Twitter. Occasionally I will post an update. Some days go by with me posting nothing. It's nice and easy and laid back like that. Why worry?

My main interest in Twitter was to explore its use as a social networking medium and I picked up a lot of the focus for this from George Siemens's CCK08 course at the University of Manitoba last fall. Certainly, Twitter can be looked upon as a powerful phenomenon which is changing the way we think about a lot of things. Certainly we can look at it as being a worldwide news spreader. It is amazing how quickly news spreads over Twitter, (exponentially faster than over conventional news-breaking media.)

So, what do I think about Twitter? I'll tell you. It is a media to which everyone should be signed up. They should have a handle which reflects their personality and character. It can also reflect a brand name, to which an individual is tied in some way, perhaps because that individual has a financial interest in the brand, or that the individual is a key figure in the organization which is supported by the Twitter account. Another variation is the account which represents a somewhat anonymous brand (e.g.: NASA) but these are far and few between. In the main, Twitter handles are like JoeBlow or MaryAnn. Others are more descriptive like BirdWatcher or CupcakeLover. (I made these up - they may even exist!)  The most important thing is that the BirdWatcher does characteristic things as updates, not unrealistic things. For example: BirdWatcher should not be seen shooting grouse or pheasant and CupcakeLover oughtn't be peddling porn. Even more subtle, if we continually see updates from Birdwatcher which decries his love of the country: "Got myself real dirty the other day, shovelin some mud..." this might persuade someone like me to unfollow BirdWatcher. I think you get the idea.

And Twitter is really nowhere to be gross, profane or just plain nasty! (I have unfollowed people for their liberal use of the F word, (in the same way as I have unfollowed people who are overly religious and try and turn everything into a gospel.)

The people I am following seem to be split into three types: 1) plain ordinary folk who talk about the struggles they have with life every day 2) superstar professional microbloggers like Pistachio, ShelIsrael, Blonde2.0, Pop17 and CaliLewis, and others I have found who have a very defined avatar with an interesting slant on life like pastaqueen (and I love hearing what pastaqueen has to say!) and 3) everyone else, who can be a million different things.  If I have left anyone out, sorry! I am not superhuman. I remember most of you but not all 572 people! That's too hard!

One thing I have seen is the amazing way people manage to post videos which are not very good. Either they are unprofessionally made, or the person who is making the video hasn't bothered to write a script before talking directly to the camera for a whole twenty minutes, stopping every few sentences to correct something they obviously hadn't rehearsed. This is absolutely unforgiveable! And you really won't get a second chance! Others produce the slickest best-rehearsed material and stun me with their sheer professional ability. No wonder they are in the big league.

Above all - I think that people don't realize that the difference between having PowerTwitter and just plain old Twitter, is that pictures and videos come straight through, so if they are bad, I am going to be much more annoyed with them than if I was a plain old Twitter user. So pictures and videos should be looked at first before posting...

My Twitter wish list: 1) I would really like a way to head for a specific time in the time line to go back to something which was said (usually only a few days ago) and  2) it would be great if, next to the avatar picture on the left, there was a symbol which tells me they're not following me! I posted this on Twitter but so far, nobody has come back with the solution.

See you all next time!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What's New About Country and Western?

Well - it has been a while since I last blogged. Christmas and New Years was hectic like it always is... Meantime there has been time for me to reflect on the world.

Despite the horrible news from Gaza about so many people being maimed and killed, the world is trying hard to be a better place. I think the whole world is fed up with war-mongering and wants to do what it can to stop all the killing. Here is some good news, albeit only relevant for those folk in San Francisco, but anyway...

According to California Fire News, the response time to emergencies has improved enormously in the metro San Francisco area, and, following a new protocol, the 911 Call Center has improved the time it takes to dispatch emergency help to those people who really need it fast. For just about a year now, dispatchers have dispensed with the "further questions" approach before dispatching emergency teams, and, depending on the priority of the symptoms reported over the telephone, there is now no delay in getting people out to the scene of an emergency, whereas before, several questions needed to be asked to determine the priority, therefore taking up valuable time. This new approach has meant that now, instead of emergency workers arriving at a scene late one in four times, they now arrive late one in every five times. Although this doesn't appear to be monumental, try multiplying this figure by a hundred! This then means that whereas before, out of every 400 people's emergencies, 100 were late arrivals, now out of the same figure, 400, only 80 now are late arrivals, and we can expect the figure to keep dropping as the new technologies all take effect. Emergencies are really costly, and we should be very grateful for the support we get here in the USA. California had a record-setting wildfire year in 2008, with over 1.7 Billion dollars spent fighting wildland fires! There were some sad stories. But there were also many stories of heroism and courage too.

The other topic which came to mind was the film industry. Clint Eastwood has produced two new movies after a long time doing other stuff. He is 78 and still raring for more(!) He is going to be doing a story about Nelson Mandela this year. It is interesting that the film, "Gran Torino" is about an old guy who encounters some Asians who move into his neighborhood, and the movie deals with his very unique way of handling this. The old Eastwood of "High Plains Drifter" fame is still there, but, after the event, he has a lot to say about the presence (or lack) of political correctness, and somehow his old-style commonsense wins through in the end. 

This demonstrates the incredible changes we have gone through in just the last few years. Where did all the old cowboy westerns go? Why is all of this so foreign to us now? I think someone should do a remake of classic "western" movies like "Monte Walsh", "High Noon", "High Plains Drifter" or "The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance" dressed up in a modern "western" genre, just as an experiment. I have always believed that these films have a place in our current society too, since the "West" was won at some stage, and, if nothing else, they serve as a piece of history, however politically incorrect they may or may not be.

See you next time around... :)