Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Well it’s been four weeks since our little human arrived and even at this early age it is quite extraordinary seeing the world through their eyes. Everything is new and this of course is only the beginning of a series of ‘first times’. It is the first time they see family, toys, animals, scenery….and television.

One thing I have found so far is that everyone is so unbelievably eager (eager in the sense of an excited puppy), to offer so much advice, the dos and don’ts and the all-time Nos of parenting. In fact I am so sick of hearing ths so called ‘advice’ based on ‘good intentions’ that my head is spinning, and let’s face it we all know what road is paved with good intentions.

So this opens the doors to the latest controversy, should you let your baby watch television?

If you asked this question to my in-laws they would say definitely not and would be unanimous, adamant and any other firm declaration you can think of. If you asked my mother she would say providing it was not being used as a babysitter, in small doses, television is fine. It contains moving images which stimulates the mind, and you can use it as an educational portal where you can watch it together, learn and have fun at the same time.

Now I know some would say what can you teach a baby less than 4 weeks old? I was actually surprised what you can teach them. Every day I see Monster’s brain developing more and more, as well as facial recognition, features and coordination. I am convinced that Monster has smiled a few times now (and it is not just wind), but the engagement with humans is fascinating. We were told by the health visitor to hold Monster 9 inches away from our faces so they could concentrate on our facial expressions and ascertain who is who, but Monster was doing this before we were told that. The eyes engage with my own and you can tell the focus is completely there as well – this kid is very sharp (probably due to the fish I ate) and not to mention incredibly strong (probably due to all of the spinach I ate while being pregnant).

I do allow Monster to watch television with me, but it is in small doses and I do filter what is on the television.

A great example of how I think television works is the short films that are currently on Netflix called Moving Art. These 25 minute(ish) films show amazing photography and cinematography accompanied by soothing background music. There isn’t any narration, just a quote at the beginning of the films and they concentrate on underwater, waterfalls, desserts and so on. The one I love to watch is the Moving Art Underwater film and this quite literally concentrates on marine life and anything under the water. It was amazing watching Monster’s face light up when they saw seals and some of the marine animals – clearly takes after mum, and perhaps we have another marine conservationist in the making – though that would be Monster’s choice.

Overall I do not see there being a problem with television, how else could I show my Monster these magnificent animals other than on the big screen or a computer. So the next time someone feels like offering advice based on their own experiences of being parenting, keep this in mind that parenting methods are subjective and what works for one child, will not work for another.

https://vimeo.com/146556794

Image source: https://vimeo.com/146556794

 

Why do we rely so much on technology nowadays? Our parents (depending on how old they are) never had a panic attack if their mobile phones, tablet PCs or music devices malfunctioned – mainly because if they were of my parents’ generation there were no such thing back then.

However nowadays we are so reliant on technology that we have become so trusting and perhaps somewhat complacent that it will always work every time.

Last year was a prime example of this. The Smiler ride at Alton Towers failed where one of the carriages holding passengers did not stop and crashed into the back of another carriage. It has now been revealed that this was due to a health and safety issue and the owner of the theme park has admitted that further precautions could have been taken. However the four individuals seated at the front of the carriage that crashed have suffered life changing injuries. While the owner of the park ensured that those injured and their families would not want for anything, two of the individuals have lost limbs.

The investigation continues and I feel it will be a while before we know the full story about what happened that day both on technological and operational aspects.

Further information about the whole incident along with the investigation can be found on the BBC website.

Smiler

In recent months there has been an emphasis on the debate regarding driverless cars and frankly I can’t help but think that automated vehicles might be a good thing considering the dismal displays of driving I witnessed over Christmas period.

There are many arguments for both sides and The Pathway to Driverless Cars Summary Report provides not only an official but a very good read regarding these.

While I believe that from a safety aspect automated vehicles would be beneficial, given how much people are in a rush nowadays and often let their bad habits take over when behind the wheel, I also question whether these vehicles will hinder the making of progress. For example, would an automated vehicle use evasive driving to make progression in a journey? Presumably it could be trained to know alternative routes like a SatNav, and obviously it would know to avoid potential collisions, but human judgement has always accounted for over half of the skill needed to drive. The rest is the actual tool which is the vehicle one is driving. On the other hand we can argue that humans create technology, therefore we build it based on us.

Another facet to think about would be the resistance to change. How many people would put their faith in this technology, to the extent that they are putting their lives in the automated vehicles, so to speak, hands? Being a part of technology in the legal system for years, I have seen many defy the integration of new technology to the extent that the implementation has been delayed for many years.

However, there is a valid point in the Summary Report which could be a winner, and that is the mention of time. It states that a driver can spend 6 weeks a year driving, and that a driver’s time can be put to more valuable use while travelling, much like a commuter does. While I am paraphrasing, I always thought that it was only lawyers who spoke in the time and money dialect, but that has seemed too evolve into many other fields now.

Perhaps delegating our driving will be welcomed after all.

Source: http://acurrie.me/2014/05/29/googles-autonomous-car/

Google just unveiled its latest autonomous car, and it’s a bulbous two-seater, with no steering wheel, gas or brake. 15minutenews.com

Keyboard warriors and people who are continuously glued to their mobile phone screens walking around like zombies, the wonders of modern technology as it seems that nowadays people always feel braver, or perhaps more comfortable, behind the safety of a screen than properly interacting with other members of the human race.

Being a campaigner for marine conservation and gender equality, I quite often come across the plight of the keyboard warrior so I am relatively immune to it. But let’s have a look at what one really is on urbandictionary.com:

A Person who, being unable to express his anger through physical violence (owning to their physical weakness, lack of bravery and/or conviction in real life), instead manifests said emotions through the text-based medium of the internet, usually in the form of aggressive writing that the Keyboard Warrior would not (for reasons previously mentioned) be able to give form to in real life.

2. The term is a combination of the word ‘keyboard’ (the main tool by which the person expresses his/her latent rage) and ‘warrior’ (due to the warrior-like aggression, tendency towards violence, headstrong nature and propensity towards brute force as a means of resolving conflict rather than more subtle means dependant on finesse).

3. The Keyboard Warrior seeks to use the power imbued in his ‘weapon’ to effect death and destruction (in a strictly-metaphorical sense) upon his foes (other virtual identities he has encountered on the internet). In essence, the keyboard (ie. text input ability) allows the keyboard warrior to manifest his true warrior nature in a safe and removed environment, from which no real-life repercussions.

4. Keyboard Warriors are generally identified by unnecessary rage in their written communications, and are regarded as ‘losers’ by other virtual identities on the internet.

I think we all are guilty of taking on the Keyboard Warrior persona at some point in our lives. It doesn’t mean that we are naturally violent in nature; it can mean a person is passionately trying to get their point across via websites etc and in the process rallies others into an accidental hate campaign. Check out Southeastern train’s Twitter feed, normal people losing their tempers provoked by immeasurable frustration.

Another example is when one of my friends put up a post stating that organ donning should be compulsory upon death, I argued this point saying that everyone should have the choice. The next thing I know I am being criticised for my opinion because it did not match others. I was unnecessarily persecuted and many hoped that I did not have children because of my opinion when if they had actually read my comment, they would have seen that I wasn’t against organ donning, far from it, I just said that people have a right to choice.

This was a classic example of people being overrun by their emotions on the internet and in turn making them judgemental before they have all of the information, they then react in an aggressive manner and inadvertently form a hate storm against someone who was just making a comment the same as them. This often happens in very closed end, influential circles.

Of course you do get the others who deliberately stir up people to get a reaction. Under the ‘Troll’ heading, I see this a lot when involved in online campaigns. These people have no interest in the campaign, they deliberately intervene to either cause a distraction, or just to stir up emotions even more. As there is a high element of maliciousness involved, I think these types of Keyboard Warriors are the worst – they also clearly have too much time on their hands.

Let’s have a look at the closely related mobile zombie. These individuals are high in population and can be seen virtually every minute of every day. I am also guilty of being one and I often see them on my commute to work on the train in the mornings and evenings.

They often form a stance of standing or sitting, neck and head is curved forward and eyes are fixated on the screen of either a mobile phone or eReader device. They very rarely look up to see where they are walking, and if you are in desperate need of a priority seat on the train, don’t be annoyed at these people, subtly get their attention so they move for you.

While these individuals are relatively harmless, the risk comes in when they are walking and staring into their mobile devices, we are not in China and do not have cell lanes after all. I don’t need to say that walking along and not looking where you are going is a hazard to the person doing the walking and the person being walked into.

So where is the resolution here?

Well we could always revert back to the pre-mobile device age, or we could just think before we post and actually look where we are walking. After all, is a post, text, email really that important that you neglect basic manners?

th (1)

I am thinking that my next novel should be called “A train too far” – perhaps it could be a fictional piece, or a combination of Tweets from commuters. Either way, no one would actually believe the events we endure on a daily basis are real, unless of course you are unfortunate enough to be a train commuter.

It seems the New Year has not encouraged resolutions with the train system, they are still as delayed or cancelled as previous years, only this time the excuses have become more imaginative. 

Some of you may remember in one of my recent posts regarding the fun I have trying to get to work by train. Due to the work on the DLR over Christmas and New Year, they were planning not to run services to any stations other than Victoria or Blackfriars – so the high number of people whose destination stations are Charing Cross, Cannon Street, London Bridge, Waterloo and so on, were pretty much…. well inconvenienced so say the least. Lucky for me I was off over the Christmas and New Year period, but if I hadn’t then it would have been a Christmas and New Year just trying to get from A to B spending longer away from the family over the festive period and perhaps having to cancel celebratory plans.

Who knew getting to work could be such a trial.

Well I can top that story as a few weeks ago it got worse due to a landslip in the Barnehurst area which rendered the Bexleyheath line unusable for several days. What did this mean for anyone using the Bexleyhealth line? Well it meant we either had to take a replacement bus service which was ten times longer in duration, pay for taxis knowing that the delay repay compensation would not cover the cost, or use our own cars and park in another train station that used a different train line, incurring extra expenses in fuel and car parking that again the delay repay would not cover. Not to mention the annoyance this would cause the regular commuters of the alternative train lines who would normally park in the stations’ carparks.

I would like to say that since then the trains have improved but if you go on my Twitter feed (@kjfoxhall) you will see that they have in comparison, but there are still continuous delays. So as you can imagine, this was enough to make commuters launch another petition.

I will say at this point that many of us know that Southeastern as not responsible for some of the delays, however they are not good at informing the people/organisations who are. If they did then we could direct our frustrations towards that organisation (i.e. Network Rail), but at the same time we pay Southeastern to provide us with an acceptable and safe service and what we are receiving is not acceptable. Safety is also questionable at times. If my client had an issue with a third party provider, it would be up to me to relay those issues and sort them out so my service and reputation was not affected. I think this escapes Southeastern at times – to the extent that they were voted as one of the top three worst providers (please see article below).

The petition successfully passed 10,000 signatures with ease and a response was received from the Government (also at the bottom of this post).

Why oh why did they bother?!?

The government basically did not sympathise with the commuters, they told us information we already knew and just generally fobbed us off saying that some commuters are unhappy with the service (I would go as far to say that most are unhappy), and how they were putting improvements into place… which they have been saying for years.

By the time we had received a response, the petition had reached over 14,000 signatures. If I was a company with that many against me I would do something about it.

For the petition to be read in Parliament, it would need to reach 100,000 signatures, so if you are frustrated and an angry commuter, please do sign it.

To put it into perspective, I was delayed by over 30 minutes on Thursday 4 February 2016 and 17 minutes the following Friday morning. This is a usual occurrence now and out of habit I have to leave much earlier in the morning to ensure I get to work on time, how do they think this is affecting my personal life? Oh right, they don’t think about it.

If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the petition Committee will consider it for a debate.

The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition and it is entirely independent of the Government.

The Government’s response is below:

The industry is working hard to improve services and we are reforming passenger compensation. We are determined to provide the service passengers expect across the country.

We know that some passengers are very frustrated about the performance and the service they receive. We expect Southeastern to continue to work with Network Rail in order to minimise disruption and ensure services improve in 2016. The Department for Transport is closely monitoring the performance of the rail network across London and the South East and operators must inform customers properly when things go wrong.

As the Chancellor stated in his Autumn Statement, we are committed to reducing the time threshold for which passengers can claim from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, and the Department is gearing up to reform the compensation arrangements as set out in that commitment.

As part of our robust franchising programme, the current operator of Southeastern is delivering millions of pounds of investment to improve journeys, which includes:

• New high speed and classic services delivering more than 95,000 extra seats, including 1,000 extra seats on Southeastern’s High Speed services every day

• Refreshing 112 trains and updating toilets on a further 190 trains as well as improving accessibility by investing over £10 million in the train fleet over the franchise

• An obligation to improve stations by investing £4.8 million by 31 October 2016 and from January 2015 opening Cannon Street 21 hours a day with additional staff to assist passengers

• Extra staff will be available at stations as Southeastern have committed to ensuring that its gatelines are staffed for 90% in London and 70% of opening hours.

• The new £26m Rochester Station completion was opened on 13 December 2015 and forms part of the East Kent Re-signalling programme, an investment of £145m.

• Strood Station – a £2.6 million project to demolish the current 1960’s style station and replace it with a modern building – Work is due to start in Spring 2016 and to be completed by 2017.

• A programme to deep clean all Southeastern stations and a programme of station improvement works across the franchise.

Alongside this, our record investment in the railways, and the transformative work which the industry is doing on this part of the network, is essential in building a world-class railway, providing more services and better journeys. We understand that passengers are concerned about performance and the service they receive, however we know that Southeastern are working together with Network Rail in order to minimise disruption and to recover services faster where infrastructure failures occur. We would like this work to continue in order that service improvements continue. Southeastern have been working on their fleet of trains to improve capacity in the Metro area, and the Department for Transport is working with Southeastern to look at whether additional capacity can be introduced in the near term and improve the service for passengers.

This Government has long recognised the importance of improving the performance of train operators, and through Network Rail we committed to seeing £38 billion invested in the rail network, and the hugely ambitious infrastructure projects such as Crossrail and HS2, as well the transformation of London Bridge.

We closely monitor the performance of both the operators and Network Rail, and incentivise their performance through the Franchise Agreements and Track Access Agreements. Whilst we understand the frustration felt by all constituents affected by any delay, we would like to assure you that the Department for Transport is determined to see further improvements and provide the service that passengers expect.

trains delays

Here are some entertaining articles from when the landslip happened, all of which are pure fiction:

Southeastern trains boss: I’m sorry for recent delays

Thameslink, Southeastern trains, and Southern rail voted worst in Britain by passengers

And as an adieu dear readers, here are some bags parked in Welling station. I do hope they paid for those parking spaces, until that time 10 lucky commuters are walking to the station.

Parking

I published an article in a magazine a few years back detailing how we in the UK once had the best train service, now our service is laughable to say the least.

I am one of the unfortunate crowd who have no other alternative but to travel by train into London to work. I am normally asked several questions with regards to Southeastern’s train service. Here are a few:

1) Can’t you take the coach?
2) Do you travel using High Speed?
3) Why don’t you work locally?

My answers:

1) I’ve done the coach, they take too long to get anywhere and stop running at particular times. I need to have access to transport until the late evening if work kicks off.

2) There are two main train links into London, the Cannon St line and London Victoria. The High Speed is only good for those who live in the likes of Ashford because it is fast. It costs over £1000 a year more than my train, it doesn’t stop anywhere near the two main train links so one would need to take the tube, bus or walk adding more time to the journey.

3) I will when I want to take tens of thousands off of my current pay.

Commuters are angrier than they have ever been and this is all due to the amount they pay for a ticket, and the amount of delays they have to endure. We wouldn’t complain if this was every so often as it is understandable that the weather plays a large part in any form of transport, but I enter at least 2 delay repay forms per month.

A delay repay on Southeastern is valid when your train is more than 30 minutes late. There are many occasions when my train is between 20-29 minutes late, I can’t claim for these occasions but that is still my time wasted. Sometimes I have to work in the evenings, if I can’t get back that means I’m up early the next morning to compensate.

I am actually moving house soon, so I am hoping to deal with them less. If I get my way, I won’t be dealing with them at all. My alternative solution is to finance a small car and hire a parking space.

A lot of people think that we complain over nothing, but when your time and money is being wasted it makes a difference to your life. You get to the point where you cannot plan anything, you eat later, and if you have children and never get to see them, my sympathies to you!

If you want further proof, look at my Tweet posts (@kjfoxhall) I now record every time there is a delay.

The most recent issues have taken place over Christmas and New Year, their website continuously showed inaccurate times and there were delays even over the holidays with no plausible reasoning. To top things off, this below-average service increased their prices yesterday and ran a weekend service which meant I didn’t get home from work until 8.40pm.

Have I missed something? Is 2 January 2015 now a public holiday?

Another interesting read on Twitter was when it was announced that the franchise had been renewed. Please see the following:

11 September 2014 @07:32

@Se_Railway: We are pleased to be awarded the contract to continue running train services in the South East. Details here:

Some of the responses the post received:

@stu*****: .@Se_Railway you have GOT to be kidding me?????

@Less******: @Se_Railway sh*t. That’s not good news for us.

You should see it when there are delays. I’m surprised Twitter hasn’t crashed.

Travelling with Southeastern has become the worse part of my day, and while I fear that their reign of terror will not end any time soon (thank you for that Minister of Transport Claire Perry), why should hard working commuters continuously have to rearrange their lives due to public transport?

466018 at Strood

Thanks to the likes of the Petition Sight, You Sign, Change.org and a few others, we have seen an increase of petitions taken out by just about anyone in a short space of time, leading to the question are these encouraging unsubstantiated ‘witch-hunts’?

This question was raised in one of the Cats Protection League forums on Facebook when a petition was released asking that Sara Giffs Giffards from Swansea, Wales be prosecuted for putting her cat in a pet carrier and placing it in a bath filled with water after it ate her pizza.

She then posted it on Facebook along with a picture.

PLEASE READ THE REST OF THIS BEFORE YOU REACT.

In the alongside post she expresses her annoyance at her cat for eating a whole pizza she had ordered which cost her £15. Therefore to punish the cat, she puts it in the carrier and places it in the bath. Included within the post are several C words which will not be displayed here, along with ‘have a bath to go with your pizza u fat s***”.

In the photo you cannot actually see the cat in the carrier, which technically means there is no actual evidence against Ms. Giffard, and for all we know there was no cat in the carrier, but as one can imagine this has gone viral.

In the space of a few days this post and screenshot of said post has been shared on a wider level. Ms. Giffard has been scrutinized by animal lovers through private messages, friend requests and general followers – she has even been paid a visit by the RSPCA and police because of the outcry.

To say she is more than annoyed now I suppose would be an understatement.

There have been further comments that suggest this was a joke in poor taste, however this has not given this young lady leniency.

Whether this was a joke or not, and as Ms. Giffard mentions in her following Facebook posts, the cat was submerged at knee height, therefore there was little risk.

I think this would be the opportune moment to revisit a similar situation back in 2010, where Mary Bale was fined £250 for picking up cat Lola by the scruff of the neck and placing her in a wheelie bin outside of the cat owners’ house.

Bale received hate mail and even death threats for what she deemed at the time as being ‘a joke’ but sorely regretted it later.

What we need to realise is that we are under the spotlight more than ever before. With social, professional and many other sites, we document everything. I have even been condemned for having an opinion on Facebook, and it seems unless you quantify your reasons behind your opinions, then you will be persecuted, however I have found that even if you do provide substance to your opinions and/or actions most will still not read them. As a society run by technology we fail to look beyond the text that we scan, not read, and see the other point of view.

While I do not condone what Ms. Giffard did whether it is real or a joke, she has been targeted and while the RSPCA and police were not concerned following this visit to her house, we need to perhaps look at things from every angle before we react.

Understandably this may result in neglect for the urgent situations but a young woman has been boycotted here, for basically being really careless with her posts.

If you agree that Ms. Giffard should be prosecuted then you can sign the petition below:

http://www.yousignanimals.org/Prosecute-Sara-Giffs-Giffard-for-trying-to-drown-her-cat-that-ate-her-pizza-t-671

Below is the photo that is on the petition site. While Ms. Giffard has now closed off her Facebook page, see what you think when you look at this.

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