Tuesday, March 29, 2005

It's that day again...

My annual milestone (should that be millstone?) has come around again...

As a teenager listening to my grandparents who were born in the very early years of the 20th century, I was always struck by the massive technological change they'd witnessed. They all had vivid memories of horse-drawn transport, airships (yes, airships!) and the first areoplanes, as well as the gradual replacement of coal for heating and powering ships and locomotives.

My generation hasn't seen anything like the same degree of change. Here's a brief list of the things I can remember that have all but disappeared:
  • Black and white televisions
  • Mechanical watches
  • Electro-mechanical telephones
  • Record players and of course records
  • Microfilm records
  • Tape recorders.
As for new things, the only really significant technology for most of us has been:
  • Mobile phones
  • Compact Disks
  • Affordable home computers and the Internet
  • Quartz watches.
Of course there are a ton of improvements that have occured to make life much safer and better for us all. Largely invisible things like the replacement of lead pipes for drinking water, quiet fuel efficient aircraft, more reliable and faster cars, the development of new drugs and medical technology, computers replacing paper filing systems, better artifical fibres and so on.

But none of these things represent a paradigm shift (to use the management consultant speak) of anything like the magnitude of the replacement of the horse by the internal combustion engine, or the development of the aircraft.

As for the significance of all this, I'm very pleased I have some memories of the moon landings - in my opinion the most important event of the 20th century and the only thing it will be remembered for in centuries to come.

Of the short list above, the Internet is the only development that really seems significant. It has changed the lives of millions of us at least in the developed world. It's too early to say just what it's long-term impact will be although it, or it's sucessors must be here to stay.

For everything else, despite the image we may have of ourselves, there's been a steady improvement in all areas of life with things becoming better made and more reliable. Welcome, worthy, but unspectacular.

So remember, despite what the management consultants might scrawl on the whiteboard we do not live in revolutionary times of rapid technological change.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Spring Has Sprung!

At long last it doesn't hurt to spend time outside!

It's been a dull year so far, but give me a sunny day and some unexpected daffodils appearing overnight in the front garden and the optimism returns.

All this in site of more mismanagement at work, which has seen the entire department waste almost the entire day with nothing to test. This is due to all three (count them) prototype systems being down for maintenance or upgrades simultaneously. Good planning eh?

Never mind, the week-end beckons, I've got £20 left, and no plans whatsoever.

Since 2001 my life doesn't get much better than this.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Remembering Rachel

Rachel Corrie was murdered two years ago today.

She was 23 years old, an age when most of us have finally got an idea of who we are and what we want to do with our lives. Like most young I.S.M volunteers, Rachel was eloquent, intelligent, committed, intense, tougher than she looked, and beautiful as only young people in the prime of life are.

Two long years have passed, and the fact that Rachel is dead still sticks in the throat.

Of course some of our opponents still insist that crushing an unarmed young woman to death was a magnificent feat of arms, or simply funny. And their comments and insults and lies on the extremist sites like Little Green Fascists continue to motivate and educate us.

Equally illuminating was the ineffectual, pathetic performance from Rachel's State Representatives and Senators and the U.S. State Department itself. No other country in the world would have been allowed to kill an American with so little fuss, and allowed it to happen without so much as a question, let alone a debate.

So for anyone unfortunate enough to have a little green football in your head, or a career in U.S politics, here are a few facts:
  • Rachel Corrie was unarmed and trying to protect a house from demolition.
  • It was a house, not a bomb factory, or an arms depot, or the entrance to a smuggling tunnel.
  • The house belonged to a pharmacist called Dr. Nasrallah, not a terrorist or a terrorist group.
  • No tunnel was found in the house, before or after it was demolished, or in the vicinity of the house.
  • Rachel was wearing a bright fluorescent orange jacket and a bullhorn when she was crushed.
  • If in the unlikely event the initial bulldozer movement was accidental, reversing over Rachel with the blade down was murder, pure and simple.

Nothing we do or say can bring Rachel back.

But we can do two things for her:

  1. Ensure she is never forgotten, no matter what sort of "lets move on" or "there are casualties on both sides" or “it was a tragic accident” platitudes we hear from the other side.
  2. Support the Rebuilding Alliance, which has already managed to buy a plot of land for a new house for the Nasrallah family, and now needs to raise the money to build the house.

There’s one other thing Rachel Corrie did – recruit myself (and many others) into the I.S.M.

For that, I’m profoundly grateful and will always remember her.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Poker, silly poker

For some strange reason I've suddenly got interested in poker tournaments recently. I suppose the catalyst was a vague request to review an expensive on-line book that claims to show the beginner and intermediate player how to win fame and fortune playing poker tournaments...

There's no doubt that for a skilled AND very lucky few, poker tournaments can offer at least the fortune bit. I know the current world champion of poker very slightly, a nice man named Greg Raymer. I was introduced to him at Foxwoods Casino about four years ago, and since then we've nodded and said hello to each other when our paths have crossed (generally on the way to or from the restaurant or the toilet). Greg generally played seven-card stud (not my game) to a reasonably high standard every weekend. Last year, along with several hundred other hopefuls, he entered the World Series of Poker and ended up winning the thing, along with a life changing $5,000,000 in cash.

The most I've ever won playing a tournament was just over £500, which gives you a warm buzz on the night bus home to North London. But that £500 is dwarfed by the several thousand I've won over the years playing low limit "ring-games." And the £500 wasn't really £500, as I'd spent at least £300 trying to win that weekly tournament in the preceding weeks.

Anyway, last night I entered the largest, stupidest tournament of my life when I ponied up a buck, along with 1549 other players, and survived for a couple of hours to get eliminated in 80th place. That's not a bad achievement, but my winnings came to less than $3.00 which probably makes it the stupidest poker decision I've made in a long time. And the way my pair of Kings got cracked by a pair of Jacks still hurts - the fish caught one of the two remaining Jacks on the turn, and forced me down from 50th to 120th place. The comeback was rather remarkable, but had my Kings stood up, I may have even won the damn thing and a not unsatisfying $300+.

The editor hasn't called back about the book review, but I hope he will. After all, I've been living right, and things deserve to go in my favour every once in a while...