Friday, December 30

Cobblers II

In 2008 I bought a pair of hand made boots from Guat shoes in Sheffield. The experience was most satisfying. The boots are quite basic and traditional in design, they have real stitching rather than being glued together. There is no padding internally, the sort of thing you get with modern boots. Despite the lack of padding, they are just as or more comfortable than mass produced and marginally cheaper boots.

Apart from some scuff marks on the toe area and some wear on the soles. They are still going strong. I also have a theory that mass produced boots need a lot of padding because the outer skin design is so poor regarding comfort. eg. they design them to look cool, but that design is crap regarding comfort, so they stuff a load of padding in to compensate.

Unlike most modern boots however the soles on these boots can be replaced. The idea being that over the life time of the boots instead of buying two pairs for the approximate cost of £60 each (if you are lucky), I would spend an initial £90 for the hand made boots and about £30 for sole replacements later. The total cost being the same, but with just under half the materials used. I may even get away without replacing the soles, depending on wear.

That idea is still on schedule.

Sunday, December 11

Waterlooville Daleks get festive

The News reports that the Waterlooville Dalek squad have joined in with the Christmas festivities this year. Earlier in the year I commented that Daleks had appeared in the Waterlooville area.

Monday, December 5

Monckton gets demolished, scraped off the floor and then is ground to dust

Only Monckton could argue with himself and do it so badly:

Friday, December 2

Looking for work?

Portsmouth Friends of the Earth are looking for an Area Project Officer to cover maternity leave on their Lottery funded Grow to Eat Well project in Portsmouth. If you have good horticultural skills, are a good recruiter and are happy driving an electric van or riding a cycle, you might be interested. Closing date 13/12/11. Contact the project for more details.

Tuesday, November 15

Video of Earth

Watch this excellent video of the Earth as seen from the International Space Station earlier this year. The thinness of the atmosphere can be seen in many of the sequences. The northern lights, lightening and urban centres are also stunning.

Wednesday, November 2

Defrosted Pigeon

Spotted this pigeon resting at the top of a mobile phone mast near Waterlooville. Then thought, well that's a warm spot!

I think the output of these masts is up to 100 watts right next to the aerial, about a sixth of a microwave cooker at max power. Probably enough to defrost a frozen pigeon :-)

The power reduces dramatically the further away from them you are.

Hope the pigeon doesn't make a habit of it. I think antenna workers turn the power off or turn the signal off before working on them.

Tuesday, November 1

Wellington Park

Had a look around Taylor Wimpeys Wellington Park and took some photos. This photo looks back towards Hambledon Road along Coulter Road. Fortunately the Oak trees on the right of the photo have been retained from the fields that the housing estate is built on. One thing the is lacking on the site is trees, the building work isn't complete yet but as can be seen on the left of the photo, there aren't a lot of trees planted near the homes. We'll have to see how things develop.

Some flats at the rear of the development. They will have a good view of Portsdown Hill, currently there are still earth works at the rear. I can't remember from the plan how far the site is supposed to extend back from Hambledon Road, possibly further than this point. In the background you can see the pylon cables.

On the other side of the completed estate looking back towards Hambledon road again. In the distance can be seen the strange flats with the chimney/vent in the centre of each building.


What is interesting is that some of the homes have Solar PV panels on the roof. Can't help thinking that 3 panels is a bit pathetic. Many houses now are having most of the roof covered in them. Not only that, why don't they also have solar heating panels as well?? It all seems like Taylor Wimpey aren't sure about what they are doing.

In the centre there is a small public green which is probably the best part. The houses on the left have solar heating panels and those next to them on the right have solar PV panels (electric). There are benches to sit on that don't appear in the photo.
One good aspect is that bollards are used to block off some roads from traffic, which means they would be safe for kids to use.

You can see from these photos that trees are largely sparsely planted and ornamental. Yes they are obviously very young, but I don't get the impression any big trees have been planted.

Sunday, October 30

Couldn't resist posting this amusing video

Dr Richard Milne de-constructs climate change skeptic arguments in a lecture/talk. It takes a while to get going but is worth watching from end to end:

Tuesday, October 18

Isentropic settled in over at Fareham

Looks like the innovative energy storage start up Isentropic have settled in over at Fareham.
They are now after a Chief designer, Electrical power engineer and a Design/CAD  engineer:

The web site has also been re-designed.

The company have a new system for storing energy that uses steel, Argon gas and gravel, with a high round-trip efficiency. In my opinion, probably one of the most promising energy developments for a long time.

Tuesday, October 11

Public transport travel planning

Just noticed that Google Maps now has the option of working out routes via public transport. Previously only driving and walking were available. Haven't tried it yet, so don't know how good or bad it is.
But still no cycling option??

Friday, September 30

Pork Pies and Pickles

A long traditional match of two different food stuffs seems to have entered the political arena this week. For many years we have associated Pork Pies with that other cold food, a jar of Pickles. It appears Eric Pickles is carrying on that tradition with his love of Pork Pies.

This week Mr Pickles has come back with his misinformation about weekly waste collections and basic rights. In the past he has claimed that it is a 'basic right' that we have weekly (non-recycling) waste collections. If this is true, is the fat man going to take this campaign to the United Nations and have a mandate drawn up so that the 6 billion (and counting) humans on this planet all have this basic right??

The lack of logic and misinformation in claiming weekly waste collections are a basic right is astounding. Hiding behind the 'carrot' of £250 million that Pickles found, is a political ideology intent on going against waste reduction and environmentally sustainable management of waste. The ideology states that choice comes before the environment and the vocal minority have a right to force weekly collections on us, just because they are often kick up a fuss with their local MP or councillor.

Giving people what they desire often has damaging consequences. Certainly in Havant Borough the system we have works for the vast majority, but Pickles does no one any favours by using national funding to influence local issues. Pickles is using central government funding to manipulate 'localism' and to do what central government want, this is left wing ideology wrapped up in a thin layer of Conservative packaging.

Backlash against Pickles in the Twittersphere -

Press Association - Weekly bin funding plan attacked
Dorothy Thornhill, deputy leader of the LGA Lib Dem group, said: "Eric Pickles has revealed his true colours as an extreme centraliser. His statement flies in the face of the coalition Government's commitment to localism. It appears that local services must be provided according to Eric Pickles' demands." 
Business Green - Waste Industry Blasts Pickle's Weekly Collection Plans
In a statement, the CIWM (Chartered Institute of Waste Management) said the £250m could have been better spent on widening the range of materials collected for recycling, especially food waste, which it said was the main area of householder concern regarding collection frequency.

Thursday, September 29

Daleks taking over Waterlooville?


Daleks have been spotted in the Waterlooville area, run for the hills!

Robert LLewellyn reviews the electric Ford Transit

Excellent video that takes a look at the new Transit van:

Toilet repairs!

Last year I got heavily ripped off by a plumbing franchise that over charged me for a simple repair. Recently the flush stopped working on my toilet and I was loath to find a plumber again to fix it. I think they would have charged at least £50, probably £100 would have been closer to the mark.

So I decided to research the components via the DIY stores web sites (B&Q and Wickes) and spotted the Syphon component I needed, total cost £16.99 (bought the component from the local store, not online).

Here is a photo of the old unit (my loo is old fashioned). The new unit is black plastic and does the same job. Had to turn the water off and emptied the cistern before making the replacement. I also tied back the ball cock lever as an extra precaution to stop water getting into the cistern whilst working on it.

Anyway, once the old syphon had been removed I discovered the only fault was that the thin plastic 'valve' had split in two and could probably be repaired with some new plastic cut to shape.
I decided to put the new syphon in and try and repair the old one, to be used as a back up in case the new one breaks in the future.

Thankfully the toilet is working again. Total cost, £16.99 and completed in about 30 minutes!

Tuesday, September 13

The consequences of car dependency, supermarkets and online shopping...

The old Post Office building, briefly came back to life as a cafe, now
unoccupied.Email and other electronic communications have
reduced business for most Post Offices.

A row of shops near Waterlooville library unoccupied, although one is
being taken up by the Naomi House charity

The Curzons and a small unit next door. The Curzons has been empty
for how many years?
Another empty shop unit not far up from the library

Sunday, September 11

Climate Change still a major issue

Climate change is just as much on the political agenda as it ever was and the climate deniers/skeptics have been just as busy trying to make claims that there are no problems. I think this latest from the Climate Denial Crock of the Week series makes a clear point from an American perspective:

So what is new in the science??

Not a lot really, despite all the shocking misinformation put forward by the denialsphere, the climate is still warming and the science continues to offer evidence that it is humans that are causing it.

Recently physicist Jasper Kirkby and his team conducted an experiment at CERN to try and prove that the Sun and cosmic rays (protons) are responsible for seeding clouds and hence regulate climate. The results published in Nature last month have been discussed quite a bit but are inconclusive because the particles in the experiments chamber created by the protons are to small to seed clouds. He does however intend to do further experiments, so the results are likely to be fed into models and climate science in general.

Also recently the Spencer and Braswell paper published in a journal called Remote Sensing suggested that there would be far less warming than the majority of scientists have been predicting. However the paper came under a lot of criticism partly because the model used by Spencer was over simplified, partly because he published the paper in a journal with a specialism on the borders of climate science. More recently Andrew Dessler has a paper in press that criticises the maths/science of the Spencer/Braswell paper.

On top of all the criticism, the editor in chief of Remote Sensing stepped down because he realised the Spencer/Braswell paper probably was not of sufficient quality and the journal had not the expertise to review the paper effectively. Spencer has also been criticised for deviating from science and delving into politics and economics, publicly stating his political views and his purpose in life.

For more information, the Skeptical Science web site (which recently won an award) has some useful articles:

So what has been happening around the world this year?

1. Arctic ice extent is again at a record low, similar to 2007.  So despite the claims the planet is (bizarrely) cooling, the average ice extent is continuing downwards. Why else would nations and oil companies be interested in these regions?

2. The US has suffered a very serious drought and wild fires as shown in the video above and news reports.

3. King Crabs have been found on the edges of the Antarctic.

4. Research has shown that species migration away from the equator towards the poles is about 20cm per hour.

Just a few observations out of many around the world, that our warming of the planet is gradually have an impact. But it isn't predicted to be gradual forever, positive feedbacks are likely to make things worse.

Tuesday, September 6

Polar Talk

Just spotted a talk called The Frozen Planet at Portsmouth Grammar School on 24th November, looks good. More details at The News.

Wednesday, August 24

Have your say about cycling

Havant Borough Council are wanting contributions to the consultation about the boroughs cycling policy. The deadline for submissions has been extended to 16th Sept so there is still time to contribute.

The council are developing a policy to get more people cycling and they want peoples views about how they can achieve this.

More info and the consultation form at

Tuesday, August 9

Fully Charged episode 27

Video time...

The latest episode of Fully Charged from Robert Llewellyn. Here he talks about the Nissan Leaf, the Top Gear review of the car and an Eco car Rally:

Tuesday, August 2

Wellington Park

Yet another change of name for the Taylor Wimpey housing development, once called Dukes Meadow and I think something else before that?? Now it's called Wellington Park, which is less subtle than Dukes Meadow. For a few months even the name of the developer changed, but now they seem to be happy with Taylor Wimpey:

Monday, August 1

New development

The Makiba development in Waterlooville looks like it has reached the top floor. Not sure what happened to the original developers, work on the site stopped for some time. The original plans were for flats and commercial premises, not sure if this is what is being built now, one assumes it is.

I remember when the Baytree Book Shop occupied the building on the corner.

Saturday, July 30


We have frogs. The frogs spawn, produced a lot of tadpoles, which produced some frogs in the little pond. Just hope the local cats don't get them. We also have to be careful not to tread on one, since there is a path by the pond.

You can just see one a a dark patch of slime here

This shot shows two, one hiding under a pebble

A better shot of the hiding frog. 
Note the metalwork is to stop cats and kids.

Friday, July 29

Plastic bags re-surface

In January and February 2008 I posted some articles about plastic bags found in trees and hedgerows around Waterlooville. As a result of my campaign, nationally supermarkets began a voluntary scheme to reduce plastic bags being handed out at the checkouts (ha, well I wish I had that much influence).
Supermarkets claimed that they reduced the number of bags they were handing out for free by (I think) 40%.

Is it just me that has noticed that after an initial effort to get checkout staff to reduce the number of bags handed out, the staff where ever you went, started going back to their old ways and automatically pulled out the bag with the assumption that you need one.

In some respects, I don't blame the staff, however even when you buy a small item, a checkout person will still offer a bag, even though the item can be carried or dropped in your pocket. This suggest management training is pushing them, along with consumer laziness.

So today the Guardian reports that bag use is going back up and Defra are preparing for legislation after a failure of the voluntary code. Something has to be done, leaving it to competing monopolistic institutions such as supermarkets, will not achieve the desired results.

Thursday, July 28

Sainsburys are back

This was always going to happen, but none the less, it isn't particularly welcome. Today Councillors at Havant Borough Council were voting on the latest plans Sainsbury are putting forward for their proposed Waterlooville store.

Sainsburys always intended to come back with a new proposal and had been given indications that they might be successful with revised plans. These included the moving of the petrol station to where the current recycling centre is. As soon as a date was set for the movement of the recycling centre to it's new home, then Sainsburys would go ahead by with a new application.

We have a nation of people with wide ranging skills and suitability to those skills, so in order to satisfy those skills we need many types of jobs. Creating 350 jobs at Sainsburys, will not only remove jobs from other shops (including the possibility of Waitrose), but will totally fail to create jobs for people who are unsuitable to work in that environment because their natural skills and education are better suited elsewhere.

Councillors at Havant have a long track record making bad decisions regarding our high streets, it looks like they are continuing that tradition.

Monday, July 25

Isentropic officially relocate to Hampshire

Energy storage start up Isentropic have officially moved from Cambridge to Segensworth near Fareham. The company are developing a Pumped Heat Energy Storage system that can be connected to the electricity grid. The advantage of the system is that it uses low cost abundant materials. The company moved to Hampshire to take advantage of advanced mechanical engineering skills in the area.

See press release and web site for more info.

Saturday, July 16

Fully Charged

Someone recently brought to my notice a new series of videos by Robert Llewellyn on the subject of electric cars called Fully Charged. The popular tv show he refers to in this first video is Top Gear. The series started last year and is well worth watching. This one is the pilot, since it was made, he has investigated the latest vehicles.

Sunday, July 3

Windtronics quiet and low wind speed turbine

This wind turbine was on the news about a year or two ago. An American start up designed a really simple wind turbine which had a few interesting features. The generator wires and magnets are around the rim or the turbine, this reduces the resistive forces that prevent turbine turning in low wind speeds. The end result is that it will continue turning even in very low wind speeds. It is also quiet because the turbine blades are enclosed so the tips produce less turbulence. This video demonstrates the low speed operation. The anemometer actually stops at one point, although, looking closely the anemometer is lower on the roof that the turbine.  So low obstructions on the roof could be interfering with the air flow close to the roof.
Also it should be pointed out that low wind speeds contain less energy, so despite the fact the turbine is spinning, it might not be producing much energy. Having said that, I know one Canadian company working on low speed generators for wind turbines claimed a potential 50% increase in output, by capturing the energy from low speed winds:

Read more at the company web site: Windtronics

Wednesday, June 29

HBC 'Serving You' says support local independent shops

The latest Havant Borough Council Serving You magazine has a small article about supporting our local independent shops.

My views about this have been clearly voiced previously. But why is the council only now realising that these shops need support when things are going badly in town centres?

For years councillors have approved and even actively encouraged the building of out of town retail parks, supermarkets and other huge retail units, knowing that these units undermine small retailers.
So what is going on here?

Either there is a conflict between Havant Borough Councillors in that some champion small retailers whilst others don't care, or all councillors have no long term idea of what is needed.

Can it all be blamed on central government??
Hardly, when some councillors are keen to get supermarkets set up and to 'create' jobs. Many councillors are keen to see Sainsburys build a store in Waterlooville, which conflicts with the idea of supporting small independent shops.

HBC say that Quicks in Stakes Hill Road is a good example of a small independent local shop.
Well for a start, it is hardly small and it is only local in that the headquarters are in Waterlooville!
There are 3 other Quicks shops nationally. The needs of the archery community nationally is served by a small number of such businesses. The majority of people in Waterlooville will never use Quicks and most people that do visit the shop will be travelling by car from many miles away.

What help is HBC giving small local independent retailers??
Massively reduced council tax rates maybe??

Well if that were the case, why didn't they reduce the rates for some small Waterlooville retail start ups a few years ago, when things were booming? They might be still here now.

Saturday, June 25

Checked out the Portsmouth Summer Fair and Picnic

Yep, needed to go into Portsmouth today so decided to have a look around the Summer Fair in Victoria Park. Although often the regular stalls appear at these events, you do get the occasional gems that are new to the scene.

I found two today...

Newlife Paints
This company is based in Sussex and takes unused paint from various sources and creates new paint products from it. The new paint is tested to make sure it is as good or better than the original. The range includes emulsion, masonry paint and other types and is packaged in paint cans as one would expect. It's great that someone is doing this and they are a relatively new company.

Sempatap Thermal solid wall insulation
The other product was an insulation material for old houses that have solid walls. Cavity wall insulation can not be used on such properties. The product comes in rolls and is glued to the internal walls of the house, it also improves sound insulation. The rolls do seem expensive, but I guess you would save on energy costs and reduce mould problems.

Thursday, June 16

Hover and Cycle

Hovertravel have a new scheme now that lets you book a hovercraft trip across to the Isle of Wight, which includes the hire of electric bikes to get around the island. Charging points are available at various pubs and cafes.

Hovertravel Hover Cycle

Wednesday, June 15

Portsmouth Summer Fair and Picnic

The fifth Portsmouth Summer (green) Fair takes place on the 25th June this year, with an added extra of a picnic. Last year they had a pedal powered hovercraft, not sure if that will be at this years, however as usual there will be food, crafts, solar powered stuff and music. A full list is available at the PCAN web page.

Monday, June 13

Wild garden

A part of the garden, that looks wild. Actually it is 'planned' and includes fruit (small apple trees), veg and flowers. The bees and other insects love it.  There are stepping stones amongst all that vegetation.
Compare this with the sterile blocks and concrete that many people call gardens these days and we wonder why we have unhealthy children and declining populations of insects and birds.

Sunday, June 12

Rain! lovely rain

Thank goodness that we have had a day of rain after some two months of dry weather. But is this the end? Very unlikely, the last two months should have been wet and now we are heading for the dry season, so things are somewhat screwed.

What about the future?
New research from Stanford University predicts a serious increase in the frequency of higher temperatures over the next few decades as the climate warms. This flies in the face of the lunatic deniers of anthropogenic global warming. Here Noah Diffenbaugh explains what they found if Carbon Dioxide emissions are not cut:

Saturday, June 11

Keep fortnightly bin collection

In Havant Borough the council have added to and improved the waste and recycling collection services over many years. There is a long way to go because we need to reduce waste and increase recycling.

Earlier today it was suggested on various news sources that the arch enemy of any progress in environmental sustainability, Eric Pickles, had made a U turn on the issue. However the government have been quick to deny that a U turn is being made, this is bad news, we can't have a weekly waste collection, such a move increases the capacity to increase waste and the only place for that stream is either incineration (increasing carbon emissions and particulates) or increased landfill, neither are acceptable.

There are plenty of opportunities to cut waste, especially food waste, which is a major problem in itself. If you waste a lot of food, maybe you deserve the bad smells of rotting meat and veg!
Either cut waste, or put up with the smell. It's your choice, but don't screw the environment up for the majority.

If you need ideas to cut waste, Superscrimpers is a good start:

Tuesday, June 7

Waterlooville cosmetics company installs massive solar array

Hampshire Cosmetics, a local Waterlooville company producing cosmetics for various brands, is installing a huge solar PV panel array that will supply 20% of the companies energy needs. The project has been reported in The News and on Hampshire Cosmetics web site. The company report that it is the largest 'zero capital' solar energy project in the country, which basically means it is the biggest leasing project involving solar panels. The company itself will not be investing money, instead it will I assume be purchasing the electricity from the companies that are providing the panels and capital. The array is rated at 277 kilo Watts.

Hampshire Cosmetics

Friday, June 3

Isentropic set up shop in Fareham?

Whilst scanning Monster for jobs in the local area I came across a very interesting job with a company developing a unique energy storage technology. Isentropic have their main office in Cambridge, but the advert is for a vacancy in Fareham.

I did a double take when I saw the name and the location. You can bet that the mainstream media will miss this story completely or ignore it.

To quote the company:
Isentropic is a small company developing a solution to large-scale energy storage and has developed the answer with a ground breaking reciprocating heat engine /​ heat pump of unprecedented efficiency and low cost.​  Isentropic is working in an exclusive, new and exciting market sector that will lead to enormous career potential.​
With the potential to store large amounts of energy cheaply from renewable energy sources, the company has a lot of potential. It's good to have them in Hampshire.

For more information about the technology, visit the Isentropic web site.

Saturday, May 28

Green Fair - Havant Park

Went along to the green fair at Havant Park today. Despite the weather the turnout was quite good, with some interesting stalls that I haven't seen before. Amazingly Highbury College had a stall, the reason being that they have a lot of new courses starting that include subjects like installing photovoltaic, solar thermal, water harvesting systems, energy efficiency, smart metering and renewable energy awareness.

One of my favourite stalls was  Northney Ice Cream who are based on Hayling Island, they had some excellent ice creams. I ended up buying two, firstly Turkish Delight flavour which was nice a smooth, then later I tried the Rum and Raisin flavour. Both were really good, I kid not.

Another interesting product on show were the Eko-logs which are made from rice husk food waste. Samples were available at the fair, they seemed very dense and quite heavy, apparently they burn for a longer time than wood.

An interesting event and well worth doing again.

Thursday, May 12

Waterlooville and the 1986 Domesday project

Back in 1986 the BBC created a modern Domesday project using the BBC micro computer and what was then cutting edge technology, a video disc. It was very ambitious and was ahead of its time.
The BBC have now recovered the information from the discs and placed it on the interweb.

I searched the new pages and found this page which covers Waterlooville and Havant Borough:

D-block GB-468000-108000

This page has entries for St Georges church, Waterlooville shopping precinct, Waterlooville facilities and an 'Interview with a local man', amongst other entries.

Or you can search the whole project.
Also visit the Wikipedia page for information about the technology and how data was collected.

Wednesday, May 11

Sunday, May 1

Wednesday, April 27

Waterlooville Music Festival 2011

Don't have much to say about this, it's become a regular event. It's from 11th to 19th June this year. The latest programme is available at their web site. Hampshire Police Band are playing this year and there is also a Bollywood Experience to:

Waterlooville Music Festival web site

Superscrimpers - Channel 4

Excellent programme on Channel 4 and although not specifically an eco show, it probably does more to get people changing than an eco show would.

But what really shocks me are some of the figures they give. Such as this week a mother that spends £45 per week on each of her kids clothing (£90 in total)!??!
Some people live on £90 per week (that includes food and bills).
Geez, £90 is probably more than I spend on clothes a year! And I try and buy organic if I can. My favourite winter coat is over 20 years old (I bought it in the 80s sometime, but can't remember the exact date). Sure kids need new clothing when they grow, but when I was a kid, I don't remember getting new clothing every month, let alone every week.

Then a few weeks ago they said the average adult in the UK spends over £1000 per year on clothing??
Who are these people??
No wonder wages are high and debt is high, along with masses of waste being generated. Hey folks, you are really sick in the head.

Superscrimpers web site

Tuesday, April 19

The lies in the No Alternative Vote campaign

Just had the 'No AV' campaign leaflet put through my letter box and noticed some really bad presentation of statistics and an even worse appraisal of the alternative vote system.
Lets have a look at some of the flaws in the leaflet:

1. They say that the money that would be spent on implementing AV would pay for 2,503 doctors and 6,297 teachers and 8,107 nurses etc. Or does it mean that?
And this is where the leaflet deliberately misleads, it is not clear how long a period £250million or so  would keep these people employed and it is also unclear if one should place 'and' or 'or' between the numbers. So without some context the numbers are open to interpretation, which of course is what these clowns want. It's the same type of game played to confuse people about climate change and here we see 'green' Camereon playing silly school boy games which apparently impresses some people.

2. The AV system intended for the parliamentary elections does not require anyone to put a mark against every candidate, you only have to vote for one person, in fact in Scotland where a similar system is used, about 40% of  people still only vote for their favourite candidate and don't mark any others. Not only that, but the vast majority vote for a max of 3 candidates. If there is a racist candidate or some other party you do not like, you don't have to include them in your decision.

If there is a good reason for changing the system, then the No AV campaign makes a good case for changing it.

Tuesday, April 12

jobs and recruitment in the UK

Spotted a job advertised by Office Angels today that highlights the hypocrisy and incompetence in the UK working environment. Many employers these days go for surface quality and lists of requirements rather than true in depth quality. The other thing that is important is a ridiculous name for the position you are advertising. So now someone that develops a web site can be called an 'engineer' and any job can have the word technician or executive tagged onto the end.

Anyway, admittedly my language abilities are not the best, but when an employer requests that the applicant should have excellent communication skills, one would expect the advert to reflect this requirement.

I don't think this Office Angels sentence for an IT Support position in Basingstoke satisfies the advertisers own requirement:

"Good communication skills is also extremely important and you are dealing with them on the phones all day."

Who is them?
How many skills?
Who are these communication skills?
Why do they have to be dealt with on the phones?
How many phones is the person responsible for?
10, 2, 50?

This isn't unusual. Employers of all types run adverts with bloated expectations which not only exceed the potential candidates abilities but also exceed the advertisers own competence. I recently had an interview at a big employer, lets call it organisation X. I was lucky to get an interview. Why?

Well because the HR department of Organisation X failed to send out any interview invitations for the position. When it came to the day of the interviews, no one turned up (including me!). So the manager responsible had to phone up every candidate, asking why they hadn't attended the interview. Once it was clear that the fault was with the employer, a new date was set for the interviews.

This same employer had the usual list of requirements, excellent this and excellent that. Of course part of the problem is that the internet has taken over the job hunting market. Employers no longer send out replies to every application, so the applicant doesn't get worried about not receiving any communication about the job they just applied for. The result is that when things go wrong, no one has a clue why. There is a good reason why traditional two way communication was established. It was to establish a process that minimised errors, the same principles apply today whether using the internet or traditional post. If someone applies for a job, that application should be acknowledged. It just isn't good enough to say 'if you don't hear from us within 5 days, assume you have not been successful', this breaks all the rules of reliable communications. The very same principles that allow the internet to work in the first place.

Things are bad enough with so many pointless jobs being advertised, but it is made worse by the fact that we have so many incompetent recruitment systems, dominated by internet companies that are themselves pointless.

BTW apologies for bad grammar and spelling mistakes, but it isn't me that is making ridiculous lists of requirements when advertising for a job. I suggest you sort out your own house before requesting your new recruit to sort out theirs.

Wednesday, March 16

Havant Goes Greener Week

Havant Borough Council, Friends of the Earth and Havant Transition Network are organising a Go Greener Week for the week from 23th to 28th May. Events include a talk at The Sacred Heart Church in Waterlooville about solar energy and rain water capture on Friday 27th May. Other events include Gardening Without Chemicals on Hayling Island, How to spend less on energy in Emsworth and Keeping Bees in Bedhampton.

On Saturday 28th May there will be a green fair at Havant Park, at the time of writing the stalls include Ren Energy, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Wikaniko, Hampshire Farmers Markets, Veggie Power and others.

For more information visit the Goes Greener web site:

Saturday, March 12

Nuclear containment failure in Japan?

Friday may prove to have been the worst day in recent human history, when it comes to natural disasters (Earth quake, Tsunami etc). I am writing this when news has hit the screen showing a massive explosion at Japan's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear energy plant.
On BBC news a 'nuclear energy expert' was making it seem that it wasn't so bad and glossing over the fact that the whole building had exploded. Naive BBC reporters on the 24 hour news, were referring to the buildings as a cylinders, despite be rectangular in shape!

Lets make things clearer. The fact that the whole building that contained the nuclear reactor exploded, implies that containment has been lost, or at least it is extremely likely. Modern nuclear reactors are supposed to have containment buildings that are 'designed' to contain an event if the reactor itself fails. In boiling water reactors (such as the one at Fukushima), explosions are caused by an uncontrolled build up of heat in the reactor which can result in hydrogen being produced, which is of course is explosive.

So given that the outer building has been blown apart, it isn't that difficult to assume the worse and that is the reactor blew up and the containment building failed to contain that explosion. This is a massive failure that isn't suppose to happen, at least if you are to believe the nuclear engineers!

Lets hope it hasn't happened, but it doesn't take much imagination to put two and two together.

ADDED: It thankfully looks like the explosion was external to the containment vessel, caused by vented steam and hydrogen gas. This did actually occur to me later, since only the outer skin of the building had been blown away. This didn't tie in with an explosion ripping apart the containment vessel, if that had happened, I don't think the steel framework of the building would have remained standing.
We'll have to see how this plays out. It now appears No. 3 reactor also has a failure of the emergency cooling system.

Wednesday, March 2

Name the wind farm and win a prize

Eneco are running a competition to pick the best name for the offshore wind farm near the Isle of Wight.
The short list of names are:
    1. Knollsea
    2. Jurassic Coast
    3. Wessex Array
    4. Wight Wind
    5. Jurassic Approach
    6. Solent Breeze
    7. Navitus Bay
    8. Vectis-Zephyrus
    9. Jurassic Future
    10. Wind Needles

      I think the first two are probably going to be the most popular??
      But why not name it 'Jurassic Park' ?

      If you want to participate, you have until 22nd March. Top prize is a luxury weekend holiday in Rotterdam. See the Eneco web site competition page for details.

      Wednesday, February 9

      Now and Then

      Some photos taken near the Dukes Meadow development along the Hambledon Road in 2007 and this month:

      October 2007:

      February 2011:

      Junction under construction across the road:

      Thursday, February 3

      Save Our Buses

      Although I haven't noticed any significant cuts in bus services in Havant Borough, the one exception being the x42 at the weekend, it is clear that the current governments cuts may result in some services being cut by the local Conservative council.
      Any cuts will have an impact on those trying to get to work and as I have often pointed out previously our dependency on cars has resulted in supermarkets dominating shopping habits, which in turn has resulted in a higher reliance on buses for pensioners and others with a low income.

      Places like Hambledon are quite isolated if you don't own your own transport.

      Better Transport (president Michael Palin) are running a campaign to save bus services:

      The other point of course is that buses are greener than a typical car. Unless you own a Fiat 500 TwinAir then your CO2 emissions are very likely to be greater than a typical bus journey. Any cuts in bus services will also conflict with Havant Borough Councils new travel plan campaign which is aimed at getting people to use their cars less.

      Monday, January 31

      Green Journey Planning

      If you want to travel by train and bus, or you want to cycle and walk, it can be tricky to work out the route. So I thought I would take a look at a few web sites that do a lot of the work for you.

      Google Maps
      The updated journey planning features on Google maps include route planning for walking and driving. I use Google Maps a lot when I need to get to a place I haven't been to before, this is partly to see if there is a rail station near by so that I can then work out a rail journey and costs via the National Rail Enquiries web site. But it is also useful for planning bus journeys and walking.
      The walking route planner probably makes my 'walk to Waterlooville' map application redundant. The new route planner allows you to put start address and end address, you then click on the 'Get Directions' button and your route is drawn on the map, complete with time to complete the journey, distances to walk and directions. If you are unhappy with the route you can move the start or end addresses and Google Maps alters the route.

      I just wish they would add cycling.

      Cycle Streets
      If you want to plan a cycling journey then the best site for that is Cycle Streets. This works on similar principles, however the amount of detailed information about roads, hills and carbon emissions saved is outstanding!
      First of all you type in your start and end points, the site then gives you the option of different cycling speeds, Unhurried (10mph), Cruising(12mph) and Quick(15mph). It then calculates the journey based on your chosen speed.
      The results give you a choice of a Balanced route, Fastest route or a Quiet route. The Quietest route may not be the most direct since it will avoid busy roads. The results also show you a profile of the terrain indicating whether the journey is hilly, the distance to travel, a comparison with walking and a list of directions complete with mini maps showing the stretches of roads that you have to cycle along.
      The break down of directions also state which roads are busy, whether it is pedestrianized, cycling is permitted, residential, a footpath etc.
      Probably the most comprehensive journey planning app on the web!

      Travel Line
      Like most journey planning map sites this one requires you to enter your start and end points. The difference with this one is that it will produce journey plans using multiple modes of transport. These include Bus, Tram, Coach, Rail, Ferry and Walking. Although walking isn't option that can be selected, it assumes you -for example- have to walk between a bus stop and a train station.
      After entering the start and end locations, you put the details of leaving/arrival dates and times and click on the go button.
      The site will then work out a number of journey plans, complete with bus numbers, bus and train operating companies, service times (train, bus, ferry etc), walking directions and the time the journey will take.

      I have one or two gripes with this site though. One is that it doesn't include cycling as one of the modes, eg. you could cycle to a train station or ferry, then lock the bike up or take it on the train or ferry.
      The second is that it assumes that the walking parts of the journey are short, this can result in ridiculously long and convoluted routes being calculated taking public transport services. eg. if your destination is 1 mile away from a rail station, instead of suggesting you walk it from there, it will suggest a convoluted bus route that will require say about 3 buses and a 6 mile deviation. So instead of taking 1 hour, the calculated route may be 2 hours!
      There maybe ways of forcing it to consider walking, admittedly I have only used it once so I might have not seen all the options. Also any sensible person would see errors like that and choose to walk.

      Despite these problems, it is a very good way of finding out about services that operate in areas that you are not familiar with.

      (Added: In retrospect I was probably a bit unfair. Despite some flaws,  Travel Line does produce some nice maps that can be printed to help on the journey and will even animate the journey, showing icons of buses etc. travelling along the route)

      National Rail Enquiries

      This site is the main place to find out about train journeys, including ticket prices for specific journeys, train times and the number of changes you need to make for a specific journey. Like most of the planner sites, you give it the start and end points (rail stations in this case) and the leaving/arrival times/dates.

      First Bus and Stagecoach
      These sites provide downloadable bus timetables and bus route maps for different areas. They are more 'traditional' in the way they provide information.

      For many journeys you can use a combination of these sites for planning. Google Maps can be used for a walking section of a journey, whilst National Rail Enquiries can be used on a rail section and Cycle Streets can be used to work out a cycling route to the station.

      Hope that is useful. Many keen internet users will already know of these sites, however many are not aware of all the options. If you know of other useful sites, leave a comment.

      Monday, January 17

      Fuel costs

      It looks like the sob sob stories about increasing fuel costs are hitting the news today.

      BBC news had a 'story' about a chap working at a printers some 50 to 60 miles from his home and he allegedly decided to quit his job due to increasing fuel costs. What we don't know of course is whether he liked his job much and what other pressures there were in his life. Had he checked other travel options, or was his male ego married to his car?

      Many people that worked freelance/self employed in the 80s often lived away from home and shared the costs of weekday accommodation with fellow contractors. Carpenters working on site, work away from home for months. This is common practice.

      Of course the 'printer' could have rented his home out and bought a property nearer work, or even looked at the possibility of buying a smaller fuel efficient car!

      But no, this is not what the media wants, especially the likes of the Daily Mail and even the BBC. For those sources, we need to be told that innovation is bad, personal vehicle ownership is our right and getting on our bikes is no longer a good thing.

      What on earth would our ancestors make of our apathetic life styles?
      The media complain about the health and safety culture, but at the same time want us to drive everywhere, increasing the risks of rickets and heart disease. In order to attract sales and advertising the media set out to confuse. Probably because they are themselves confused and incompetent.

      Sunday, January 9

      Worlds first electric bus service

      Interesting development in South Korea. The first electric bus service goes into operation on a mountain/hilly route! The buses apparently take 30 minutes to charge, which isn't to bad.

      Monday, January 3

      Conservative Coalition continue down the brown path

      Bad, but probably predictable news today. The Conservative dominated coalition government lifted restrictions on parking charges and the number of parking spaces allowed on new housing developments.
      The restrictions were originally planned to encourage people to use their cars less and a lot of supporting work had resulted in progress being made, along with a gradual change in attitude.

      Without central government restrictions developers can re-submit their plans and increase the number of parking spaces, plus possibly reducing the amount of green space. Councils will be powerless to reject any revised plans unless they are given powers to do so. It is doubtful that the 'localism' (another piece of badly named legislation, in which the name has been hijacked from the green movement) bill will give councils the powers.

      It will be worthwhile keeping an eye on the Newlands development to see what happens there.
      The Labour government weren't heroes when it came to essential changes for greening the country, however this announcement is a backwards step and in the name of political ideology, fails to establish a culture that is green and environmentally sustainable.

      Some tasks have to be done, no matter what your politics are, greening human behaviour is one of them. This unfortunately means that political ideals may have to be abandoned (in this case the Conservative ideology of a smaller central government role). This isn't unique to the 'right', the 'left' also need to make sacrifices regarding political ideology.

      It is of no surprise that the person behind this appears to be Eric Pickles, although one assumes it is approved by others in the coalition. The Dickensian character appears to be behind most of the moves in the current government to increase pollution and a prime driver of ideological policies that ignore climate change and other green issues.