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.