Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rebuilding Brookmans,com

I’ve been working solidly each night for the past few weeks installing and adapting a new CMS for the Brookmans Park Newsletter.

For those who don’t know, a CMS is a content management system, which is a piece of software that should help speed up the creation and updating of the pages on the site.

Currently, that work is done by hand with each page coded in a fairly lengthy, manual process.

If it works, it will make it possible for any registered member of the Brookmans Park Newsletter Forum to write articles directly to the site. Those articles will then be checked off and published

It’s another move towards trying to build a site that is made up entirely of content created for the community by the community.

The CMS I am testing is called Joomla. It’s a free, open-source CMS and is fairly intuitive to use. The big issue is whether we can merge it with the current SMF forum so that there is one log in for both the CMS and the forum. It looks as though we will have to upgrade the forum before we can do that.

The new CMS offers many functions for streamlining the way content is created and displayed. We already have many of these elements, but the CMS will make them easier to update, edit and add. They include …

  • An events calendar with a front page display of the future events
  • A classified adverts section with images
  • Weather for the area on a one day – five day map
  • Maps of the area
  • Business directory – (local businesses)
  • Community directory – (local organisations)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Double Standards

“Afghans and Iraqis have voted for their Governments. Those attacking them are doing so to destroy those slender democratic roots. We are defending them. We should be absolutely proud of doing so.” Tony Blair address to the TUC 12th September 2006

13th September 2006 Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visits Toney Blair in Downing Street. A Downing Street spokesman said: "This visit will underline the expanding relationship we have with China…” This is one week after China tightened restrictions on foreign media operating in the country. It happens despite numerous documented cases of human rights abuses in China and despite Chinese people having no democratic rights whatsoever.

Clearly, some people’s democracies are more important than others.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Forum's Future

At the end of this post is a comment box where people can add their views about the spamming incident. Anyone can comment, but in an effort to prevent further abuse, the comments will only be published after being approved, so I am afraid there will be some delay before they go live.

The Forum's Future

In the early hours of Saturday 9 September, someone registered for the Brookmans Park Newsletter Forum with the user name of Colin Farrell.

Whether or not that was the person’s real name is not known to us.

The new user then proceeded to sent instant messages containing adult, pornographic material to all 670 forum members. Half a dozen forum posts containing obscene images were also created.

We took the indecent images down as soon as one of our moderators spotted them, but, unfortunately, once the messages were sent out, there was no way we could retrieve them.

As a result, many innocent forum members were exposed to adult images and links.

The Brookmans Park Newsletter can only apologies, unreservedly, for this incident.

We have since closed the forum and have been replying to the dozens of complaints that have been pouring in since the incident.

I have to say that once I explained the circumstances to those who complained, their follow up response was one of full support and backing. Such is the richness of the community that has built up around the Brookmans Park Newsletter Forum over the years.

Two forum members have asked for their profile to be deleted from the database, and this has been done. They both know they are free to join again at any time. Communicating with them over this issue has been a warm and refreshing experience.

The Brookmans Park Newsletter is non profit-making community venture supported by volunteers.

It is not pre-moderated but is post-moderated by a great group of local volunteer moderators who help keep an eye on the site. We also use reactive moderation (where we take action having been alerted by a users who has expressed concern about, or been offended by, something that appears on the forum).

Our volunteer moderators come from a variety of backgrounds. They do not work shifts and we share the load based on the philosophy of ‘keeping an eye on things’. However, because we are not online around the clock we are probably an easier target for spammers - particularly in the early hours of the morning.

Having said that, this was our first such attack in the eight years since the site has been running a community forum/notice board feature.

In fact, such has been the strength of this online community that we have never had to ban a member, edits have been minimal (usually typos) and the spirit has been wonderful, open, engaging and honest.

So, what do we do now? I have introduced two new security measures.

1) New members have to be checked after they register before they can post. This is perhaps more a delaying strategy rather than an absolute safety guarantee - but it could delay the opportunist who logs on late at night with dubious motives.

2) I have turned off the instant message option for forum members who have made fewer than 50 posts. The majority of the regulars have posted more than that, and so they will still be able to instant message their forum contacts.

The remaining issue is this.

Do we take a risk, having introduced a number of safety measures (including those mentioned above and some stronger blocks not mentioned here for obvious security reasons), or do we leave it closed.

If we open it again, there is probably a good chance that spammers will find a way round the security measures and the incident could be repeated. If we leave it closed, they have won and we have lost a valuable online community resource.

Perhaps there is a half-way position?

Perhaps we start again, delete the existing forum and invite people to register afresh on the understanding that with all online communications there is a possibility of it being abused?

The downside is that the archive of local debate including more than 10,000 posts on 870 topics will be lost.

I have bumped into several forum members over the past 24-hours and all said we must not give in and that the forum should continue, but they are just a few of the 670 registered members.

Any thoughts would be welcomed. Anyone can add their comments.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We have blog-off

We have blog-off Tuesday 1st August 21.00 (a bit late with this posting sorry Dave) all I need is words now.

I am now the proud owner of a newborn blog. This isn't special in itself, as I believe a community the size of Western Europe has already beaten me to this activity, and has written on topics as obscure and bizarre as sparrow porn, reusable bullets and Ron Atkinson's next career move.

For anyone who is unaware, 'blog' is short for 'web log', deriving from the latest fashion where you take the last letter of the first word, and combine it with the first three letters of the next word to create the abbreviation. Hopefully, expressions like 'wrist watch' can be spared the same treatment.

But there is a special kind of powerful thrill of being able to write whatever and add whatever to the www. I doubt I will be more useful or entertaining than anyone else, but I will wait and see.
I frankly haven't a clue what I will write about right now.

As I sit here at my PC, on this hot evening, my sole inspiration is the sound of some local youths laughing hysterically on the street outside.

They are not riding their bikes, or playing Top Trumps - indeed, I believe they're filling the fuel tank of an abandoned moped with fizzy pop. That is playtime in AL9, and it sounds like a hoot.

I blame the absence of the World Cup. Were this sporting spectacle still on, they would be safely indoors, watching a festival of violence, cheating, thespian exceesses, big hair and step-overs.

If I see the same lads tomorrow, I might encourage them to start a blog themselves.

Not for the last time, I am running out of things to say, and will sign off for the evening. It's nice to be here.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Smoking litter

cigarette being smoked - image courtesy of freefotoWe have all, probably, become accustomed to seeing some smokers drop litter on the street when they stub out their cigarettes, but now a man has been taken to task for flicking ash from his car.

A step too far? If it stops other smokers littering - perhaps not?

Driver fuming over cigarette fine

A £75 fine has been given to a Dorset man for "dripping his cigarette" out of a car window.

Alan Joyce of Lower Parkstone, Poole, has said by "dripping" Poole Council must mean flicking his cigarette ash.

The retired 68-year-old said: "I am really annoyed - to me that is not worth being branded a litter bug."

Councillor Don Collier, who said he was unable to comment on individual cases, said: "The people of Poole won't tolerate littering."

Mr Joyce, a former carpenter, was served a fixed penalty notice which states he must pay the fine within 14 days or face court action.

It states that on 25 July a council officer had reason to believe Mr Joyce was "dripping his cigarette" from his car while driving along Sandbanks Road, Poole.

State of Fear

Are you frightened? Do you live in fear of your life? Do you see pseudo-nihilist fanatics hiding in every city, waiting and planning for the chance to deal death on an unimaginable scale? Do you see a war between civilizations? Is there an arch of extremism waiting to plunge the world into anarchy? Does an axis of evil control a global conspiracy of terror?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s hardly surprising. After all we have two sides who agree only that you should be in a constant state of fear. Frightened people don’t react in a rational way, but they can be manipulated and they can be trusted not to stop and think about what is going on. Frightened people want reassurance and are willing to overlook a government’s failings in other areas, so long as they promise to keep them safe.

If you’ve read this far, you may think that I’m going continue by claiming that 9/11, 7th July, Madrid, Bali and the Beslan school where government inspired conspiracies and Al Qaeda doesn’t exist. Well they happened, just as we told, with all the horrific lose of life we saw. And Al Qaeda does exits, only not exactly as many people believe. Al Qaeda is not a many armed octopus sitting on top of and controlling a global terror network. Al Qaeda is one of many terror organizations. It became famous mostly because Bill Clinton wanted something other than his sexual indescressions to make the news for a change. After that, lazy media labeled every Islamic terrorist group and terrorist attack as Al Qaeda or an affiliate and numerous terrorist groups who want you to believe that there is a powerful global network of terror, claimed allegiance to Al Qaeda. Thus a myth was born: The myth of the War on Terror.

Sadly terrorists do exist. They strike daily in Iraq and bring a terrible death toll. They fire rockets in Israel, kidnap children in Uganda, run the drugs trade in Colombia, fight the Russians in ChechnyaSri Lanka. But none of these wars has anything to do with a global War on Terror. These wars are local wars of liberation, insurgency or terror, which have almost nothing to do with Al Qaeda or a wider struggle. Even in Iraq the vast majority of the violence is by home grown terrorists killing along sectarian lines. and stage attacks in Sri Lanka.

What we see today is a series of bloody Wars of Terror, which pose no danger to our nation or way of life in themselves. They do pose a limited danger to our lives by creating home grown terrorists who, enraged by the suffering of innocents abroad seek to inflict the same horrors upon innocents at home. This is lunacy I don’t in any way seek to justify, and I very much don’t underestimate the suffering of the victims of last year’s terrible day in London, but these fanatics pose no more danger to us as a country than the IRA did for thirty years.

The biggest danger to our way of live comes from a sensationalist media and a reactionary government feeding off each other in a cycle of hyperbole. A few weeks ago the papers had lurid headlines about a suicide vest in Forrest Gate. We now know this to be nonsense. Before that we had The Sun running a sting operation to trap terrorists, which centered around Red Mercury (a non-existent substance) and was rightly thrown our of court. We’ve the papers printing pages of details on the famous rycin plot, but as we now know, no rycin was found and no plot existed.

And now we have the Airliner Plot, for which we get ever more graphic details on how the terrorists planned to create and use liquid explosives onboard ten planes, using common household products and bring about the deaths of three thousand people. Well the terrorists and the plot may have been real (some would argue that there was a real plot to kidnap Euan Blair) and the chemicals, being house hold chemicals, probably did existed, but the odds of success were so small as to be effectively zero (read Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible? ) but that doesn't stop the media from trying to give you nightmares.

The government is happy for this hyperbole to continue. Actually they’re keen for it to continue, because as long as we perceive a threat to our lives, a threat they are dealing with, they know we will be willing to trust them. And they know that a threat to an airplane will keep the incredible facts about PFI, the NHS IT system fiasco, the coming cutbacks and a hundred other failings off the front page and out of the public eye.

This hyperbole and government subterfuge is creating the real threat to our way of life. More and more draconian laws are being introduced. After 9/11 detention prior to charge went from seven days to fourteen days. After 7th July, despite the police never needing more than fourteen days, it increased to twenty eight days and now there are hints that there will be a new attempt to increase it again to ninety days. The government has the power to put anyone under house arrest, indefinitely, with no right of appeal and without telling them what the charge or the evidence is. When the House of Lords tried to make the level of proof required be balance of probabilities the government forced through the weaker level of reasonable grounds. This means that you can be detained indefinitely even if the evidence indicates that you are probably innocent. After heckeling Jack Straw, Walter Wolfgang was detained by police under The Prevention of Terrorism Act. And he wasn’t alone, 600 people were detained under anti terrorism legislation prior to the conference and all were released without charge.

There are terrorists in this country and they will make attempts to kill innocent civilians. Should they succeed, the loss will be on an unimaginable scale to the victims, but the loss will not threaten our way of life or the values we should hold dear. Smoking kills 1,600 people every week in this country, 3,000 dies on our roads each and every year and eight thousand die from an alcohol related causes. Terrorists will not kill on this scale, but we don’t enact sweeping legislation and give the police draconian powers to halt these deaths; Deaths that wreck lives as effectively as any bomb. We haven’t even banned the biggest killer of all, smoking, believing it to be a matter of choice. Instead we have limited where people are allowed to smoke.

If the terrorists get very very lucky they may mange to kill several hundred people, which is about as many as are murdered every year by criminals in the UK. And this is how the terrorists (those that exist) should be treated: As criminals. None of the draconian terrorism laws are required to apprehend criminals and we do not need our freedoms curtailed to apprehend them. The laws that exist are able to deal with the real threat and the panic, which causes planes to be diverted by the presence of a bottle of liquid, needs to stop.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

'Instant Justice'

According to the Guardian, police are pressing ministers for radical new powers to dispense 'instant justice', including the immediate exclusion of "yobs" from town centres at night, and bans on street gang members associating with each other.

The Guardian claims that senior officers say the powers would be the "modern equivalent of a clip round the ear from the local bobby" and would ensure the introduction of neighbourhood policing across England and Wales has "bite" and meets public expectations.
It's claimed the measures would include...
  • Powers for police officers to tackle "town centre yobs" by immediately excluding an offender from the town centre at night "for an appropriate period" when they are issued with an informal warning or a fixed-penalty fine.
  • Powers to tackle disorder by giving the neighbourhood constable, who understands the local context, the right to issue a three-month ban on gangs who cause repeat disorder on estates from associating with each other in public or frequenting a particular location. The ban could include a requirement to clear up local damage. Breaching the order would lead to an immediate court appearance with a possible fine, parenting order or Asbo.
  • Powers to tackle "the yob driver": those repeatedly stopped in an unregistered car with no insurance, no driving licence or MOT, could face immediate seizure of the car which would be crushed. An instant interim driving ban would be imposed pending a court appearance.
  • Tackling knife crime by enabling "reasonable suspicion" for stop and search to be based on previous convictions.
BBC News Online is also reporting this story.

Note: The use of the word 'yob' is a direct quote from the newspaper. Also, free subscription usually required to access the Guardian online.

Monday, August 14, 2006

First silverware sorted

As Liverpool lifted the Community Shield at the Millennium Stadium after stuffing Chelski 2-1, the beaten blues commiserate.

Lampard: Come on JT, get a grip, stop crying, it's only a game and the gaffer, Maureen, has given us loads of excuses.

Terry: I know, but it's still hard being a losing captain.

Lampard: Yea, and just think, you'll get to do it twice as much now.

Too old at 50?

The TUC says many over 50s have been dumped out of work and on the employment scrap heap, scraping by on benefits or small work pensions.

It's calling on firms to 'stop discriminating' and to retrain and recruit older staff, saying that the size of the potential workforce aged between 50 and 69 will rise by 17% over the next decade.

But can over 50s be retrained or are younger workers a better bet?

The CBI's Director of human resources policy, Susan Anderson, is quoted by the BBC as saying...

"Evidence suggests that older people do find it hard to find a job and this is mainly because they have lower skills levels, particularly in regard to the literacy and numeracy requirements of the modern workplace.

"However employers are very aware of the benefits and advantages which older people offer, especially their attitude to work and their customer service skills, so where possible they will do all they can to hire and retain them."

So, according to Susan Anderson, older people have lower skill levels - not much encouragment there then.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hand luggage ban

The BBC says police have disrupted a major terrorist polot to blow up planes in mid-flight.

As a result, security is being increased at all UK airports.

According to the BBC, it means that passengers on all flights will not be allowed to take any hand luggage on to any flights in the UK.

Only the barest essentials - including passports and wallets - will be allowed to be carried on board in transparent plastic bags.

Click here for more.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Slowing down to 20mph

Aberdeen has set a 20mph speed limit on 100 city centre streets.

The city council says it will boost pedestrian safety, some business leaders say it will damage trade.

More on BBC News Online.

Safe Speed says ...
  • If someone is hit by a car at 40 mph they are 90% likely to be killed.
  • If someone is hit by a car at 30 mph they are 50% likely to be killed.
  • If someone is hit by a car at 20 mph they are 10% likely to be killed.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hydrogen Fuel - the possibilities from the Chinese perspective

This month, Horizon, a chinese company, will begin sales of a tiny hydrogen fuel-cell car, complete with its own miniature solar-powered refueling station.

The toy is a clever method of introducing the technology to the public and making it commercially viable.

Many companies around the world have the goal of mass-producing affordable hydrogen-powered cars that spurt water from their tailpipes.

So Shanghai's Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies decided to start small by producing the toy cars.

The cost and challenge of building fuel cells that convert hydrogen to electricity, and the question of how to cleanly generate the gas and distribute it to specialized fueling stations need to be addressed. Prototype hydrogen cars already exist but they are far from practical or affordable.

The toy car, Horizon's H-Racer, and its fueling station solve those problems on a very small scale. At a cost of approximately £45 for the set they might become the toy for Christmas.

The toy's fuel cell, like those envisioned for real cars, relies on an electrochemical reaction to generate the current that powers the electric motor in the car. Unlike a gas-powered internal combustion engine, the only byproducts are electricity, heat and water.

The fuel is supplied by its small refueling station. A small electric current, generated by the solar cells, extracts hydrogen from water. (A battery backup is available for cloudy days.)
When the vehicle is hooked up to the refueling station, a balloon inside the 6-inch long car slowly fills.The car runs for 4 minutes on a full tank.

Horizon has said it is working on ways to make fuel cells more efficient, so that they can be used to power cell phones and laptop computers, and eventually vehicles and households.

Maybe hydrogen fuelled cars are not just a distant dream.

Holiday flights a sin

holiday charter plane - image courtesy of freefotoAccording to the Sunday Times, the Bishop of London has declared it sinful for people to contribute to climate change by flying on holiday, driving a large car, or failing to use energy-saving measures in the home.

The paper says the bishop wants vicars to preach more green sermons and warn congregations that it is now a moral obligation for Christians to lead eco-friendly lifestyles.

“Making selfish choices such as flying on holiday or buying a large car are a symptom of sin. Sin is not just a restricted list of moral mistakes. It is living a life turned in on itself where people ignore the consequences of their actions.”

jeeep - image courtesy of freefotoThe Times says the Church of England is preparing to publish Treasures on Earth, a booklet on environmental matters to be sent to every diocese for distribution.

According to the Times, the booklet will say that scientific research supporting predictions that the earth faces serious climate change is “overwhelming”.

It will also detail practical ways for Christians to cut their carbon emissions, at church and at home, including trying to walk or cycle to communion.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Online stranger danger

The following is the text from a news release sent to the Brookmans Park Newsletter by Hertfordshire Constabulary. It's a little outside our area, but it I felt it worth pointing out so that parents and guardians are alerted to the dangers of youngsters contacting strangers over the Internet.

July 20, 2006
By Susie ODea

POLICE are becoming increasingly concerned for the welfare of a St Albans girl who has been missing since yesterday afternoon (Wednesday July 19).

15-year-old Hannah Rodrigues was last seen at a bus stop in London Road, St Albans. She is then believed to have travelled to Regent Street in London, where it is understood she planned to meet a man she had earlier had contact with over the internet.

She contacted a friend yesterday evening to confirm that she was “alright”, but has not been heard from since that time.

Hannah is described as a white female, approximately 5’4” tall, of medium build, with mousey brown shoulder length hair. She was last seen wearing a black mini ‘ra-ra’ style skirt and a black top with silver detailing.

Detective Sergeant Gerard Ellis, investigating the case, said: “We are very concerned for Hannah’s safety, particularly since she is now with someone she has never met and who is not known to her friends or family.

“If you have any idea as to Hannah’s whereabouts, or any information which may help us trace her, please contact police urgently on 0845 33 00 222.

“We have a photo of the man we believe Hannah met in London. If you are this person, then we need to speak with you as soon as possible to confirm Hannah's welfare.

"If anyone else can identify this person, please contact police urgently, as we require his assistance with our enquiries. All information will be treated in the strictest confidence."

A chance to part-own a racehorse

It has never been easier to get involved in the action, whether alone or with a group of friends.

When you become an owner, you become a member of a fascinating club.

There’s the fun of buying your horse, choosing your colours, watching your horse on the gallops in the early morning light, followed by breakfast and a discussion of the future plans for your horse.

Then, of course, the thrill and anticipation of being in the paddock before and after a race. The emotion of collecting the prize when your horse has won is just impossible to describe with words.

The syndicate that owned Motivator, the 2005 Derby winner, shows that you don't have to be Godolphin, Coolmore or the Aga Khan to compete at the highest level.

A group of friends and like-minded people can get together to purchase a horse with the potential to compete at the top meetings.

Whether you win or lose, the action is electrifying – it’s second to none – and you’re right in the thick of it.

Going racing as an owner is a unique experience, with access to parts of the racecourse that the ordinary racegoer never sees.

Patricia Marks and myself have horses in training and last year scored with five winners including a first and second place in the Jersey Guineas.

This year we have come so very close to winning on a number of occasions with four second places, and have runners at Newmarket Guineas meeting and at Epsom.

A Brookmans Park racing syndicate?

Recently I have been asked by several people in Brookmans Park about owning a racehorse and it struck me that setting up a race club and syndicate for people who live in the area could be a good idea.

If there is sufficient interest then I shall post an outline proposal in due course.

Should anyone be interested in this idea or has any questions, please post a comment or send me a message by logging on to the Brookmans Park Forum and then clicking here to send me an internal message and email.

Following the aforementioned conversations I have assembled the following proposal:

A race club to be set up with the following aims:

  • To be involved with racehorse ownership for a relatively small sum in the form of a syndicate. The opportunity to own a share in a racehorse and have the full benefits of ownership.
  • Visits to the racing yard, to watch the horses on the gallops and to chat with the trainer.
  • To meet up with like minded people and attend racing and equine events, often at a discount.
  • Sponsorship will be arranged for each horse.
  • Initially there will be two syndicates which will be duly registered with Weatherbys who carry out the administration for British racing. :
  • Syndicate 1: 12 shares of £5,000 each for the purpose of purchasing a yearling at the October sales, which will start its racing career in 2007. The training fees per member will be £100 per calendar month. The intention would be to name the horse “Brookmans Park Flyer.”
  • Syndicate 2: 12 shares of £1,000 each to purchase a horse which is ready to race. The training fees per member will be £100 per calendar month.
Membership should not be viewed as an investment opportunity although it is possible to get a positive return from owning a share in a racehorse.

Note: All images copyright Patricia Marks and Peter Trott.

Internet censorship

The BBC is reporting that UK users of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google are being urged by Amnesty International to email the companies to change the way they operate in China.

The firms have aided or colluded with internet censorship in the country, the human rights watchdog says.

It is asking the internet giants to reveal which words they have banned from blogs in China or filtered out of web searches.

The technology firms say they are helping develop more freedom in China.

But Amnesty says they are helping to reinforce censorship by the Chinese government.

Click here for more from BBC News Online. The Brookmans Park Newsletter removed Google AdSense from the site earlier this year because of the censorship issue in China. There is a discusson about this on the site's forum. Click here to read it.

Click here for the Amnesty news release.

You can send your comments to Yahoo! by using their online feedback form. Click here to access it.

You can find media contact addresses for Google at the right hand side of the media page. Click here to access it.

It's harder to find contact details for Microsoft, so you might be best going to the Gates Foundation page and sending a note to one of the links there. Click here to access that page.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

36C in the shade

How to survive the heat.

BBC News Online says the heatwave has resulted in health warnings for the elderly and vulnerable.

The Times says the gritters will be out to cover the roads to stop them melting.

How are you surviving the heat?

Imagine there's no Lennon

According to the BBC, a church school in Devon has withdrawn John Lennon's 'Imagine' from an end-of-term show after teachers ruled that its lyrics were anti religious.

Pupils at St Leonards Primary in Exeter, Devon, had spent weeks rehearsing the song.

But it was taken out of the running order after the head teacher and governors decided it was anti-Christian and unsuitable for the school.

The lyrics include: "Imagine there's no heaven... and no religion too."

Click here for more. Are the writings of Lennon a threat? Lyrics below.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Overheated computers has a handy 10-point check list about how to protect your computer during the hot spell.

Click here for more.

It's not just humans that are starting to suffer in the hot weather. Soaring temperatures are already creating an epidemic of frazzled hard drives, and more PCs are likely to fall victim to lightning strikes and flooding in the storms expected later this week.

Italian soccer bargains

Star players from Juventus, Lazio and Fiorentina are up for grabs after the clubs were relegated for their part in the match-fixing scandal.

AC Milan remain in Serie A but begin the season with a 15-point penalty. Clearly, the clubs will find it hard to keep hold of their star players, so where will they end up?

BBC News Online speculates, but will the majority end up at Chelsea?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Life After Racing -Easter Ogil

What becomes of a racehorse when they retire? Many just end up with horse dealers and spend their life being "sold on." But some are lucky and get the retirement they deserve.

It's not just a case of sticking them in a field because many thoroughbreds need to be occupied. With the correct retraining they can achieve new success.

Some of the options are:

Riding hack
Show horse
Polo pony
Training horse

With time and patience it can take between 2 and 18 months to settle a horse into its new way of life. Having a regular regeme is very helpful in settling ex racehorses, many of whom are very buzzy for months after retirement. The first step is to change their diet by reducing the protein content of their hard food and gradually reducing this type of feed and increasing the hay and grass intake.

Easter Ogil, a well known 11 year old gelding who won 11 races in his career retired two months ago. Amazingly the horse has fans in Germany and the USA. He is being retrained as a riding hack and may well go on to become a show horse too.

The initial step was to change his diet and keep him occupied on the horse walker and turning him out in the paddock each day. He has a high wither so a specialist saddle needed to be fitted to ensure that he could be ridden without stressing his back. He then was lunged in the indoor school before being ridden. He had to learn how to turn in equal circles and to trot (something a racehorse rarely does).

Patricia Marks his owner now rides him most days and takes him for a hack around the local countryside. It's a big step for an owner to retire a racehorse and retrain him to be ridden as an ordinary hack.

Terror warnings to be made public

The BBC says that from 1 August, details of current terrorist threat levels are to be published on the websites of the Home Office and MI5, click here for more on BBC News Online.

You might also want to bookmark the Home Office site and the site for MI5, and click on 'The Threat'.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Understanding hoodies

According to the BBC, the Conservative leader, David Cameron, is expected to call for greater understanding of teenage 'hoodies' (more on BBC News Online) saying that those who hide under hooded tops are trying to 'blend in' rather than appear threatening.

"We - the people in suits - often see hoodies as aggressive, the uniform of a rebel army of young gangsters, but hoodies are more defensive than offensive. They're a way to stay invisible in the street. In a dangerous environment the best thing to do is keep your head down, blend in."

The BBC quotes former Tory MP and newspaper columnist Michael Brown as saying that traditional Tory voters will see Mr Cameron's stance as political correctness gone a stage too far while the political correspondent Jo Coburn said: "David Cameron's new softer tone on crime and yobbish behaviour is the latest in a series of speeches designed to broaden the party's appeal."

More on BBC News Online.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Train overcrowding

Network Rail pleads for extra £7bn

Rail operator claims funding is vital to combat overcrowding - but fares could still rise again.

Juliette Jowit,
transport editor
The Observer
Sunday July 2, 2006

The Observer is reporting that Network Rail wants another £7bn to ease 'chronic overcrowding on services'.

At the same time, ministers are looking to trim £6bn from the railway's annual subsidy from the taxpayers this years.

Something has got to give.

The good new, according to the report, is the further out you live the more chance you have of getting a seat on your way to work, although getting home is a different matter.

Two Speed Internet

From the Observer

Internet users face congestion charge

Britain 'could be next' as US businesses seek pay-for-speed scheme

David Smith, technology correspondent
Sunday July 2, 2006
The Observer

Millions of people will be forced to pay a 'congestion charge' for sending email under plans being developed by American telephone companies to create a 'two-tier' internet...

...Industry experts say a 'two-tier internet' could see individuals and businesses charged a penny for each email they send, or asked to pay a premium for services such as online TV or an annual subscription for constant preferential treatment. This could leave less well-off users in the 'slow lane' of the information superhighway with an inferior service, as emails take longer to arrive and websites work more slowly.

And it's predicted the scheme could be heading this way.

Friday, June 30, 2006

North Mymms Community Centre help needed

The North Mymms Youth and Community Centre is still in need of new volunteers to help with its upkeep. Despite recent appeals in the local press and on the Brookmans Park Website, there has been very little response.

The Centre is extremely well used by the local community, but it is not directly funded by the local authority or parish council, although both have and do help with practical assistance when possible. Primarily it relies on fund raising and volunteer labour to keep it going.

As a venue for many local organisations and for family parties and gatherings, it needs an enegetic and enthusiastic management committee. If you could help,please email the center by clicking here.

A recent re-launch of a youth club at the Centre by Welwyn Hatfield Youth Partnership and The Welham Green Youth Project unfortunately was unsuccessful. Due to a number of anti-social youths spoiling it for the majority of the young people in the village, over £1000 worth of damage was done to the Centre in under 2 months.

A burnt out car at the community centre

Regretably, both the organisers of the club and the management committee of the Centre were agreed that the club had to close as it was clearly also damaging relationships with the many other users of the Centre and risked the Centre losing bookings as a result.

Damage at that level was unsustainable. Besides, the Centre was already providing a venue for may activities for young people through other organisations with no damage.

The resulting damage to the garage doors

Unfortunately, damage around the Centre has continued, with the now empty garages on the site having been targetted. Two of them have asbestos roofing and have now been damaged by youngsters climbing on them and falling through. They urgently need to be removed, but at a cost of around £1000 for each garage, the centre would like to seek assistance from the local community.

If anyone is in contact with, owns or works for a licensed asbestos removal/building contractor, please email the center by clicking here.

It has been decided not to replace the roofs as the doors have been damaged by frequent attempts to break in and when a car was abandonned and burnt out beside one earlier this year. Also, there is evidence that the garages have been used for drug taking and therefore will not be repaired.

It is a sad state of affairs, but to continue to provide a safe and popular local venue for local people, the Centre's committee must take this action. Unfortunately, the cost of removal is equivalent to around a third of the Centre's normal annual running costs. Any help would be welcome.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Overcrowded trains or roads?

Train fares double in secret deal by ministers

By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent

From the Times Online

The good news seems to be that First Capital Connect has had a rethink on the off peak fares from Brookmans Park and Welham Green.

A spokesman for First, which has rebranded the Thameslink franchise as First Capital Connect, said that it expected to reduce the number of passengers on trains between 4.30pm and 7pm by 13 per cent. First will announce today a partial retreat by reducing the number of stations affected from 37 to 27.

The previous rules on the use of cheap fares will be reintroduced at Cuffley, Bayford, Watton at Stone, Brookmans Park, Welham Green, Radlett, Hatfield, Hertford North, Welwyn Garden City and Potters Bar.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Fermi Paradox

Have you ever looked up at the sky on one of those nights where the sky is clear and the stars shine with a beauty unmatched and un-captured by any work of art? When you did, did you find yourself wondering if there was any other intelligent life out there? After all there are up to 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone and there are about 100 billion galaxies. With such mind numbingly huge numbers, no matter how rarely life appears, surely there must aliens out there? Mustn’t there?

Back in the 1950’s a man by the name of Enrico Fermi asked himself the same question. But Enrico was smarter than the average bear and he new a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff. He was a physicist and knew how to work with big numbers, so he started drawing up calculations. He realised that if the people on Earth really wanted to (and they would have to really want to) then within the next couple of centuries they could build space ships that could reach nearby stars. These wouldn’t be your Captain Kirk, warp factor 9 space ships, which could get you to Sirius in time for tea. These would be slow, big ships which would take decades. They would be one way tickets and the passengers would have to build a colony. But they would do it on a new planet around a new star. Then, thinking a bit more, Enrico decided that within a few centuries these colonies would probably send out their own ships and start the process again. If, on average, each colony created two more colonies then the whole galaxy would be full of humans in about a million years.

Only trouble was that Enrio knew something else. The sun is a second generation star and (for reasons I won’t explain now) only second generation stars can support life. It’s been around for 4.5 billion years, which makes it middle aged. Some second generation stars are much older. Billions of years older. And if one of these stars had of had a race of little green men grow up on one of its planets, then they would have been buying up the real estate on Earth long before the Dinosaurs got their turn.

So where on Earth, and I do mean on Earth, are they? Did they all decide to stay at home? Did they all die in a nuclear war or plague? Maybe some of them stoped, maybe some of them had a cold war that turned hot. But all of them? Every one? Because it would only take one to keep going, get lucky and fill the galaxy.

Ok, so maybe Enrico was wrong. Maybe it’s just too hard and everyone has stayed at home. No colonies, no captain Kirk. Just one very final frontier. But that’s not the end of it. Every day our TV programmes, ham radio calls and mobile phone calls get beamed into space. Not deliberately, but out they go and they go for ever. Somewhere, 44 light years away, the original broadcast of Doctor Who is heading out into the vast unknown. And the same should be true of our alien cousins. Our radio telescopes are fine enough to detect the faintest whisper of the broadcast of Big Alien Brother anywhere in the galaxy. We do listen and we are very good are recognising random static from an encrypted message. But we haven’t heard anything. It’s as silent as a grave!

And this is the Fermi Paradox: The stars suggest that extraterrestrial life should be common, but where are they? Maybe we are alone.

Royals 'cost the taxpayer £37.4m'

From BBC News

The Queen and the Royal Family cost the UK taxpayer £37.4m in the last financial year, her financial public accounts reveal.

The cost, equivalent to 62p per person in the UK, rose 4.2% over the previous year, accountants said."

Should the royal family continue to receive money from the taxpayer?

Monday, June 26, 2006

No superstores 'means prosperity'

BBC News Online is carrying a report today quoting the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Plunkett Foundation, which claims that shops, employment and the countryside in England all flourish if plans for superstores are refused.

The report focuses on Saxmundham in East
Suffolk where planning permmission for an outside town superstore was refused in 1997.

The following is taken from the BBC report.

"The area's butchers, bakers, fish shops and greengrocers have since prospered, the report says. It says the evidence should inspire UK-wide action.

Benefits of rejecting the supermarket included small stores doing well, an increase in farm shops and markets, more firms adding choice and value and local stores helping to keep communities alive, the report said.

It also ensured local countryside was well managed and served the community.

In the area around Saxmundham, the number of food suppliers rose from 300, in 1997, to 370.

And the number of shops - 81 - had remained constant, bucking the national trend."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

An anthem for England

Next Saturday, England play Portugal in the quarter final of the World Cup and before the game the payers will stand to attention and pretend to remember the words to God Save the Queen.

But why? God Save the Queen is the British anthem, not the English one. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. The Scots, the Welsh and the Irish each have their own anthem, why not the English?

This may be more important a question than it first appears. One on the pressures on the United Kingdom is the resentment that springs from the confusion between British and English. Foreigners confuse them and so do the English. As a result the English have no distinct identity and the other parts of the UK, who have no desire to be thought of as English, become primarily Scottish, Welsh or Irish and less British. This increased national identity is in turn resented by the English, who look with jealously on the national pride these countries have.

We should separate Englishness from Britishness and a good place to start is by having a separate anthem. Jerusalem would be a good candidate. It is virtually the English rugby teams anthem already and it stirs the heart just as well as Flower of Scotland.

Shoppers 'want long Sunday hours'

Which camp do you fall into?

My Sunday My Choice
Keep Sunday Special?

This from BBC News Online.

More than half of consumers want shops to open for longer on Sundays, research suggests.

The findings come from a YouGov poll carried out for the My Sunday My Choice campaign, which wants the Sunday trading laws to be deregulated.

The government is currently reviewing the restrictions on trading, which let shops open for six hours on a Sunday.

A rival campaign called Keep Sunday Special says it wants to see the day return to a family day of rest."

In my view having choice is special.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Iran, Trident and leadership

Currently the UK is among a group of Western countries trying to persuade, or cajole, Iran into giving up its plans to develop nuclear power. The powers believe, despite Iranian denials, that Iran’s real intention is to develop nuclear weapons. The West feels that Iran is not to be trusted with such WMDs and is quick to point out that development of such weapons would breach Iran’s obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. What the West in general and the UK in particular fail to point out is that article VI of the same treaty calls on the existing nuclear powers to undergo “…general and complete disarmament …”

So, the UK is breaching its own treaty obligations and has been for a number of years by not disarming. Up to now it could put up an arguable case as to why it had to retain a nuclear arsenal, but with the end of the Cold War and Trident reaching the end of its shelf life, this becomes much harder. It could (and will) point to the threat poised by the newer nuclear powers and the danger of rouge states giving terrorists nuclear weapons to justify upgrading. But Iran could use the same arguments to justify withdrawal from the treaty under article 10, which covers “..extraordinary events..” such as perceived threats.

Should the UK use the conjunction of Trident and Iran to show some leadership and offer unilateral nuclear disarmament, provided Iran gives enforceable undertakings to forego nuclear weapons? It would enable the West to lose the stench of hypocrisy and gain the moral high ground while not forcing Iran to lose face. Or is such leadership too much to expect?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Summer fete reporters wanted

This year we are inviting local residents to report on the various local school summer fetes and post their accounts here in the Brookmans Park Newsletter's new Weblog.

You can even include pictures, although please avoid images of children and also make sure you have obtained the permission of those you have photographed before you upload images.

If you want to write a report for the site, simply log on to the Brookmans Park Newsletter's discussion forum and send me a message asking to be registered for the Brookmans Park Newsletter Weblog.

For more information on the fetes, click here.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Joke For The Day

There once was a young man from Australia
Who’s limericks were always a failure

His rymeing was fine
But he forgot the fifth line



There was a young man from crew
Who’s limericks would stop at line two



There was a young man of Verdun

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Joke For The Day

There was a young man of Milan
Whose poems, they never would scan;
When asked why it was,
He said, "It's because
I always try to get as many words into the last line as I possibly can"

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lioness kills visitor at Kiev zoo

This story was posted in the Christians in Brookmans Park thread in the Brookmans Park Newsletter Forum but moved here to the Weblog.

From BBC News Online...

A lioness at Kiev's zoo has killed a man who climbed into her enclosure.

A Ukrainian of Azerbaijani origin lowered himself into the enclosure using a rope. He was quoted as saying God would save him.

One of four lions in the enclosure seized the 45-year-old by the throat, and he died at the scene."

If you want to comment you can add your views by clicking on the 'comment' link below.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Da Vinci Code Debate

The Vicar of St Mary's C of E, North Mymms, Revd. Sally Davenport, has written about the Da Vinci Code in this month's parish magazine.

"We always have a choice – to withdraw or to engage with our culture, its values and ideas ..."

Revd Davenport continues...

"... None of us have the whole truth and there’s always more we can learn from each other – often provoked from the most surprising sources."

You can read the entire article by clicking here or add your comments below.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Crouch, top man for England

Well, who else is there?

Okay, he looks as though he is going to fall over everytime he approaches the ball, but he puts them away.

England 6-0 Jamaica

"A Peter Crouch hat-trick rounded off England's World Cup preparations in style with an easy win over Jamaica.

Frank Lampard swept England into an early lead, which was doubled by Jermaine Taylor's own goal.

Crouch scored England's third from a set-piece, before Michael Owen rounded keeper Donovan Ricketts to make it 4-0.

After tapping in the fifth from Jamie Carragher's cross, Crouch blazed a late penalty over the bar but completed his hat-trick from Owen's pass."

(yes, okay, I am a life-long Liverpool fan.)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Could Arsenal get thrown out of the Champions League?

A BBC Newsnight investigation raises a rather gloomy prospect for all Arsenal fans.

According to the BBC...

"Fifa has launched a probe into whether Arsenal have broken regulations which may leave the club exposed to possible expulsion from the Champions League.

BC Newsnight has learnt that a police probe in Belgium has concluded Arsenal made secret payments of £1m to Beveren.

"If Arsenal secretly controlled another club, especially one such as Beveren who they bought Emmanuel Eboue from, they could be in breach of FIFA rules and could be heavily fined or even thrown out of the Champions League."

More on FC Beveren from Wikipedia.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A weblog for Brookmans Park

Welcome to the Brookmans Park Community weblog, yet another way for local residents to express themselves.

The Brookmans Park Community Forum, is still the place
for discussions about issues local to Brookmans Park and the parish of North Mymms, however the weblog offers the opportunity for discussions on wider issues, such as general current affairs, charitable campaigns, politics, religion, arts, culture, sport, in fact anything that interests locals, but might not be local.

Contributions made to the weblog might, occasionally, be considered for publication as a story or feature on the front page of the Brookmans Park Newsletter. You never know, it might get picked up by the local press or a specialist magazine. It’s happened before and it could happen again.

Authors can also upload pictures to illustrate their work. The weblog has a facility for browsing to pictures on your computer and publishing them as part of your post.

If you want to be registered so that you can start posting on this weblog, please message me through the Brookmans Park Newsletter Forum and I will register you with the same email address as you use on the forum.