Sunday, July 15, 2007

Driving lesion no. 43: Parking the car

Just in case some hint of uncertainty is troubling you as to how to position your car when parking in a parking lot (or car park as they refer to them here in Britain), here's an example of what not to do:

Morag and I stumbled across this car at Tesco in Linlithgow. We must confess to rubber necking as we passed. Others stared in bewilderment as they walked past, trying to determine if there was someone still sitting in the car, or if this was in fact the worst parking job in the history of the internal combustion engine.

One might be tempted to suspect an obstacle prevented the driver from pulling the whole distance into the parking space; however, this is not the case as there was a good four feet of space in front of the car and plenty of room on either side.
As I had my camera at the time, I thought I would give this particular piece of motorist excellence the infamy it deserves.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Considering the Environment

Someone in the IT department at work had a bright idea the other day. Wanting to show that just because we have the entire value of South America under management doesn’t mean we are not environmentally friendly, he added an image to the bottom of all emails on our server. The message simply asks the employee to consider the environment before printing an email.

This would perhaps be a good plan if anyone read the footer of emails. Unfortunately, this is hidden below about 200 words of corporate disclaimer – none of which is ever read, I assure you – so its chances of getting noticed are slim. Its efficacy is also contingent upon a few whimsical employees who print out emails for very little reason whatsoever. Considering that most desks are not so close to the printer as mine is, I suspect the walk does more to dissuade these fops than any footer. However, it is still theoretically possible that some youngster out there is printing his email four or five times over in the hopes of encountering the girl he fancies at that timeless rendezvous scene of yore: the Fujitsu.

There is yet a more serious objection to the footer: not only is it shown in Lotus on all emails, but it is included when these are printed out. On a standard British A4 sheet of paper, emails print out utilizing 9 ¾” of paper. The new environmental plea adds an additional ½” of text to the bottom of a printed email, which is fine if the email ended at 6 ½” or 8 ¾”, but there is a roughly one in twenty chance that the footer will be printed out on the following page. This happens so routinely that I have decided to start a collection of the wasted pages.

I find this quite representative of the entire environmentalist movement. A strong tendency exists to elevate motives and ‘raising awareness’ over pragmatic concerns. It doesn’t matter how many excess pages are wasted by the 400 workers in my office over the course of a year compared with the potentially saved pages; the footer is implemented because it symbolizes a commitment to green principals and responsible business practices.

The same tendency was at work this weekend at the Live Earth events. It doesn’t matter how much energy was used to fly aging rock stars around the planet, or for that matter how much CO2 was released by the thousands of fans traveling millions of miles – collectively, of course - to see them. What mattered was that consciousness was raised
– or would have been, had anyone actually bothered to watch the thing. From Al Gore’s $20,000 utility bill to hybrids loaded with toxic batteries, consciousness over practice rules the day. The local Green party here in Falkirk stated it best on their signs during the last Scottish elections: “First Vote Green.” They might have get respect if they lived green first.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Corpus Riani

With the price of complying with new Home Office regulations increasing on a daily basis, I have decided to sell myself for scientific experimentation. According to online calculations, here is how much I expect to receive:

$4175.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth. From Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

I know this may seem like a foolish plan at the moment. But, rest assured, I shall cheat them all in the Resurrection!

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Were Europeans first?

The BBC ran a show last Thursday on a new hypothesis concerning early migrations to the Americas. It was more or less universally believed that humans first reached the Americans over the land bridge from Asia during the last ice age.

“This version was so accepted that few archaeologists even bothered to look for artefacts from periods before 10,000BC. But when Jim Adavasio continued to dig below the Clovis layer at his dig near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he found blades and blade cores dating back to 16,000BC. His findings were dismissed as erroneous; too astonishing to be credible. The Clovis consensus had too many reputations behind it to evaporate easily. Some archaeologists who backed Adavasio's conclusions with other similar data were accused of making radiocarbon dating errors or even of planting finds.”

What’s even more surprising is from where these immigrants may have come.

"[Douglas Wallace] spotted the similarity in production method between the Clovis point and tools made by the Solutrean neolithic (Stone Age) culture in southwest France. At this stage his idea was pure hypothesis, but could the first Americans have been European?

The Solutreans were a remarkably society, the most innovative and adaptive of the time. They were among the first to discover the value of heat treating flints to increase strength. Bradley was keen to discover if Solutrean flintknapping styles matched Clovis techniques. A trawl through the unattractive flint offcuts in the storerooms of a French museum convinced him of the similarities, even though five thousand kilometres lay between their territories."

Although the evidence from stone-working techniques is not so impressive, modern genetic techniques provide strong support for this theory.

“In the DNA profile of the Ichigua Native American tribe he identified a lineage that was clearly European in origin, too old to be due to genetic mixing since Columbus' discovery of the New World. Instead it dated to Solutrean times. Wallace's genetic timelines show the Ice Age prompted a number of migrations from Europe to America. It looks highly likely that the Solutreans were one.”

The implications of this new theory are obvious:

“The impact of this new prehistory on Native Americans could be grave. They usually consider themselves to be Asian in origin; and to have been subjugated by Europeans after 1492. If they too were partly Europeans, the dividing lines would be instantly blurred. Dr Joallyn Archambault of the American Indian Programme of the Smithsonian Institute offers a positive interpretation, however. Venturing across huge bodies of water, she says, is a clear demonstration of the courage and creativity of the Native Americans' ancestors. Bruce Bradley agrees. He feels his Solutrean Ice Age theory takes into consideration the abilities of people to embrace new places, adding, ‘To ignore this possibility ignores the humanity of people 20,000 years ago.’”

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Feel Will and Grace

"Take away Free Will, and there is nothing that needs to be saved; take away grace, and there is nothing to save it" - St. Bernard.

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