Archive for December 2008

Goodbye 2008

Posted on Wednesday 31st December 2008 at 00:00
Oh dear Lord! Gerald, come quickly, that dreadful Mark Glover is about to bore everyone to death with another of those horrible end of year summary round-robin-esque posts that make such DULL reading every December. How utterly awful!

That's right dear reader, it's the annual End of Year Summary Round-Robbin-Esque post! Yes, yes I know Everyone does them Every year and they aren't much fun, but this is my blog and I'll write whatever I jolly well want to, thank you very much. If you don't want to read it you don't have to, I won't be offended, but don't expect me to take the hint and not write posts like this, because it's what I do.

So, without further ado:

My 2008 in Summary

The last year, which at the time of writing has approximately 9 hours and 9 minutes left to run, has been pretty good for me, one way or another. Things started slowly enough, with my degree still dragging, and work dragging even more. I was still working full time, and for a few weeks I got to pretend to be in charge whilst my supervisor was off work with a bad back.

At Easter I visited Cardiff for the first time and survived. Unknown to me at the time (although I suspected it) I'd just failed a large chunk of my year through not doing my coursework properly, and soon I'd be going on to fail an equally large chunk of the exams as well. Nonetheless, I was in good spirits when I directed my parents to the Jolly Sailor in Saltford to celebrate my 22nd birthday in June. They'd bought me what must rank as my ultimate gadget of all time, my iPod Touch. I won't start ranting about it here, but it's bloody fantastic! At the end of that month I developed an ingrown toenail, which has left me limping for the last 6 months, but should be fixed next week when the NHS chop my leg off.

Darling this just won't do! If he doesn't find something to talk about that isn't a disgusting medical condition soon I'm going to need another G&T!

In July I embarked on a summer work schedule that would see me in work every single day for over a month. It was pretty gruelling, but I hold no grudges as whilst there I got chatting to the girl who I'm now extremely pleased to call my girlfriend, L. Her arrival in my life has impacted my opinion of the whole year, and she dominates the remaining months, both in terms of time and my moods.

August and September were a blur of work and dates that sped by far too fast but left me with enough happy memories for a lifetime. L's gentle but firm influence helped me pass all my resits and enter my final year of university, my degree finally back on track.

At the end of September L returned to her own university course in Plymouth, and so began the now familiar routine of driving or training the 130 miles between our cities every weekend. It isn't an ideal situation for many reasons, but we've made it work and shall continue to do so in the New Year.

December involved sharing the run up to Christmas with a partner for the first time in my life, and the whole experience was better for being able to share it with L. We spent Christmas itself with our respective families but much of the rest of the holidays have been ours to share.

In a few hours she and I will attend our first New Year's Eve party together. I predict it'll be like When Harry Met Sally, but with less shouting.

Gerald, will you wake up! He's finished talking about his 2008 and now he's going to be disgustingly optimistic about the year ahead. I don't think I can take much more of this; it's making me feel queasy!

2009 Here I Come

And so to the New Year. What does 2009 have in store for me? Well first and foremost, a lot of coursework. I'm expecting to be snowed under pretty much solidly for the next two months, but once it's complete I'll never have to do coursework again! L and I are celebrating with a weekend break to Brussels in the Spring, the result of hard saving and a small Lottery win last year.

In the Summer I'm expecting to complete my degree and then things get weird. For the first time in my entire life, I have nothing planned. I went to uni as soon as I'd finished school, and so I've been in education solidly for the last 18 years of my life. Every year I've known that come September it'll be back to school, 6th form or university. This year September won't be back to anything. How bizarre!

Obviously I'm hoping to repay the extensive investment in my education over the last 18 years by my parents, teachers and the State by getting a job, but what job? Perhaps this time next year I'll have the answer to that big, looming question.

For now though it's still 2008, and what better way to finish off the year than by wishing you all a

Happy New Year!

Oh thank goodness, I thought he'd never stop!

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Merry Christmas

Posted on Thursday 25th December 2008 at 00:00
Merry Christmas to all my readers!

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Hope for the Future

Posted on Tuesday 23rd December 2008 at 00:00
Some time ago I wrote a post detailing what I thought might be the future of energy consumption in this ever more environmentally aware world that we seem to be occupying, and if your browser handles the transition from my old blog platform to WordPress a little better than mine does, you might still be able to read it. For those who can't, or would rather not trawl through the archive for October 2007, I stated that thanks to massive advances in technology, electric cars might soon replace petrol and diesel ones.

I went on to list the example of the Tesla, a battery powered, electric motor propelled roadster, which had been featured on the BBC's technology show, Click. Well, it seems that a year and 2 months on, Top Gear have finally caught up, as last week they conducted a review and test drive of the Tesla, and were reasonably impressed.

However, they then went on to show a video of James May reviewing the new Honda FCX Clarity, which he thinks is the most important development in the history of cars in over 100 years, and you know what? I'm inclined to agree with him. In fact, I feel so strongly about this, that I've spent all of 10 seconds on YouTube, and have found a clip of his report for you to watch. I appreciate that it is 8 and a half minutes long, which in internet terms is nearly a year, but if you have even the slightest interest in cars, the environment, climate change or the future, I really think you need to watch it:

Now, is it just me, or is this the key to solving that cornerstone of the global warming problem, car emissions? The technology in this car could, as I understand it, be rolled out to every single vehicle type on the road, just as soon as the fuel is available to supply it. It could, I think be rolled out to ships as well. Many new submarines are already using hydrogen fuel cells as their main source of propulsion. Trains already use electric motors to turn their wheels, so why not replace the overhead power lines and diesel generators with fuel cells instead?

Planes, I admit, may be a different matter. The dangers involved in carrying compressed hydrogen would have to be overcome, as would the extreme power needs required by modern jet engines, which perhaps electric motors simply cannot deliver yet. But this technology isn't finished. It can still be adapted and improved for different purposes, with the result that one day we could see all our energy needs met in this way.

There is still a long way to go before hydrogen filling stations are as abundant as petrol stations, but it is happening slowly. Even if governments continue to reject the option of forcing car manufacturers to adopt this technology by law, the market itself will create the demand for these cars, and soon too.

I can't say when the hydrogen pumps will get fitted at your local Tesco Petrol station, nor exactly how much it'll cost, but I sincerely hope that by the time my trusty Ford Fiesta is due for retirement, I'll have the option of switching to hydrogen. And if that option is there, and it's affordable, I hope I won't be the only one asking to whom I make the cheque payable!

(Have you seen any petrol stations offering hydrogen yet? Would you consider buying a hydrogen fuel cell car next time you visit the forecourt? Do you see this as the future, or am I getting all excited about nothing? Comments below please)

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Posted on Monday 22nd December 2008 at 00:00
Just saw this over at Steve Clayton's blog and thought I'd share:

(This is an embedded Youtube Video and I've absolutely no idea whether it'll show in your RSS reader. If you can't see anything please click through to the site for the full experience)

A very amusing comment on the miniturisation of Technology I'm sure you'll agree.

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The Big Festive Deadline

Posted on Tuesday 16th December 2008 at 00:00
It's 24th December 2003 and my 15 year old self has just arrived home from a 12 hour shift at Waitrose. I enter the lounge to discover the family tree is up but not decorated, the ceiling decorations are nowhere to be seen andmy family are rushing around like maniacs trying to get the house clean before Christmas Day. I'm left to decorate the tree by myself, whilst the ceiling decorations lie forgotten in a box somewhere. By the time I'm finished it is bed time and I am tired and cross and finding myself pretty short of Christmas cheer.

Back when I was a kid, Christmas was the biggest deal of the whole year. I'd have my list written in November and would be unable to sleep by mid December due to the excitement building up in me ahead of the big day. That all changed that year, when I discovered for the first time the harsh reality of Christmas for adults. It's a lot of work for a very short day of relaxation and happiness.

Subsequent years have proved almost as bad, with long working or uni hours and ever more preparation to get through before the 25th. Last year was my first Christmas in my New Flat, and with it my first tree, decorations and everything else. To this day I still feel a slight pain in my fingers when I recall tying lengths of thread to several dozen new baubles over the course of about 4 hours one evening. As for presents, I finally fell into that worst category of men, the Christmas Eve panic shopper!

This year things are different. I now have a girlfriend, L, and like all girlfriends her mission in life is to organise me (with my whole hearted support, naturally). We spent an entire weekend buying and wrapping presents a couple of weeks ago and I now have nothing left to buy for anyone this year, apart from L herself, who has come in under budget, but I'm working on that.

When I returned from Plymouth on Sunday night I considered going to bed, but, in the spirit of organisation I stayed up til half 1 in the morning hanging ceiling decorations. It reminded me why my parents have always been less than enthusiastic for this task, as I'm finally reaching the point in my life (aged 22) where climbing on furniture to stick drawing pins into the ceiling just doesn't hold the same appeal as it once did.

The tree, also, is planned, even if not yet bought. For the last few weeks I've been working extended shifts at work, which have seen me not getting home until around half past 8 every night. This ends tomorrow (Thank God) and I'll be leaving work at 3pm on Thursday, driving to B&Q and crying over the cost of Norwegian Spruces. The idea is that by the time I drive L back to Bristol for the holidays on Saturday, the tree will be standing, covered in working lights and ready for us to decorate together, just to prove that we are a real couple who do couply things together.

Tonight I think I'll write the dreaded Christmas cards, of which I have 3 large boxes, having bought new ones without checking to see if I had any left for at least 2 years in a row, as I discovered the other day. Wrapping paper will also not be a problem, as it seems to my (not entirely scientific) estimates that I should have enough to wrap a double decker bus, should the need arise.

My point, besides possibly irritating all those less organised people with my gloating, is that for the first time in years, when Christmas finally arrives I shall be ready, happy and enthusiastic about the day. I'd begun to think that Christmas was just a colossal waste of time and energy, but a little festive planning has left me as excited as a child all over again. And no, I won't be working a 12 hour shift on Christmas Eve this year. I've elected to finish on the 22nd, so as to enjoy the holidays that bit more, with no more stress and planning to be carried out by The Big Festive Deadline.

Happy December Everyone!

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Posted on Tuesday 9th December 2008 at 00:00
Earlier today I was sat in an unusually sleepy lecture on Consumer Buying Behavior in Tourism. The lecturer was trying, in vain, to get the class to contribute and kept putting questions to the students to try and get them thinking and responding to what he was telling them. Afterwards he remarked to me that he really wished that students would make more of an effort to challenge lecturers about what they are being taught.

"Back in my day, students used to be rebellious. They argued with authority and fought against ideas they disagreed with. These days young people have become commercialised conformists and all their individualism has gone."

He then went on to tell me about how his peers, outraged by the siting of a US Missile base near their home, had chosen to protest by storming the place and pulling down the fences. It didn't change anything, but at least they were able to make a point. There was a strong sense of idealism and anger at the establishment for permitting what they saw as injustice in the world.

This got me thinking; why have we moved from a world where students were on the forefront of political and social debates, always making their opinions known and campaigning to change the world, to one in which students don't even bother to question the information being spoon fed to them in lectures, never mind take an interest in current affairs or speak out against injustice? Why don't we ever rebel? Is it simply laziness? Is it the consequence of living in a consumer entertainment world, where no one ever has to think for themselves?

Quite possibly, but I have another suggestion that I wish to put to you today, oh dear reader. Could it be that these days there simply isn't anything to rebel about or against? Could it be that we simply don't need to make a stand anymore?

Perhaps the biggest single difference between my generation and the previous generation of university students is that right now, in 2008, life is pretty sweet. Back then there were real problems to be concerned about. There was a Cold War going on. Serious, very real threat of a Nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the West. There were wars that actually affected people in the West; the Vietnam War for example, where large numbers of soldiers were dying or being brutily maimed. There were periods of wide spread civil unrest, power shortages, povety. Lots and lots of thing to get angry about.

And we just don't have that anymore. Yes there are still Nuclear weapons and other WMDs in the World, but no one is really expecting them to ever be used. There are still wars, but they are a long way from here, and thanks to the reduced size of the military and better risk assessments, most people don't know anyone serving over seas, and far fewer still can name anyone who has actually been killed or injured in battle. As for power shortages, I can't remember the last time there was a cut here, and the petrol pumps rarely threaten to run dry.

The fact is that life is pretty good. Okay, the economy is in recession, but since most students don't have stocks and shares or large morgages, they remain relatively affluent. I get annoyed when I see my electricity bill. I can feel my blood pressure rising when I get stuck in traffic or when I can't find a parking space at the supermarket, but that is as bad as things get for me these days. There just isn't anything that makes me really angry, and there isn't anything I'd pick up a plackard for just now.

One day this happy little problem free world will again be punctured by something terrible and outragous, and when that day comes I think the student population as a whole will be rallied to do what it can to fight the powers that be once more. But whilst times are good I suspect my lecturer is going to becoming yet more frustrated by the care free, unquestioning nature of those who enter the classroom.

What do you think? Did you ever rebel against anything when you were a student? Would you do so now? What gets you angry enough to speak out? Answers in the comment box please.

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Welcome to WordPress

Posted on Tuesday 2nd December 2008 at 00:00
Hello and Welcome!

This is the first post written exclusively for the new version of the blog, which is still very much in the development process, but which I think is ready for me to start posting again. For those who are still working their way over from the old version of the blog, hey there! It's ok, you're in the right place! It's still me, Ignorminious, although as you can see, the name of the blog itself has been changed, for reasons which I will explain in a moment. But first a warm hello to everyone who is finding the blog for the first time, you are very welcome indeed. Don't forget to check the About page for more information.

Now, time for a little house keeping I think. The new blog comes with a new URL for the RSS feed, which is as follows:

Got that? Good. The URL for the site itself remains unchanged, despite the change of site name and a complete overhaul of the site itself. As those of you with eagle eyes will have noticed, I am now using WordPress, rather than the scripts that I wrote specifically for the old version of the site myself. This should offer me much greater functionality and usability, as well as improved security for you guys, as WordPress should prove fairly resistant to the hackers who made my blog life a misery by constantly hacking the site databases and either posting rude messages or else deleting large sections of the archives, which was an utter arse to fix. Yes, I do consider myself posh enough to use phrases such as "utter arse", so if you don't like it you can jolly well sit on a hot buttered crumpet and swivel!

This, for those of you reading off the site itself, is not the final design for the site, nor even my design. This is one that I downloaded from the WordPress Theme Directory to make everything look nice until I develop my own custom theme. I hope you approve. The name change is mine though, and although I don't intend to shell out for a new URL for the site, I shall be using my Ignorminious alias less often from now on, as it wasn't proving memorable enough to ever be widely adopted, and it isn't much fun to type in either, as those who've tried it will know.

I've done my best to import my old posts into the WordPress system and have met with some success. They are all here to a greater or lesser extent, but many are suffering from formatting errors that I simply won't have time to fix, and for which I apologise. Right now though I'm more interested in looking forward than looking back, and there are many exciting improvements still to make.

So thus concludes my first post! If you have any thoughts about the new blog, why not drop me a line or two in the comment box, or perhaps just say hi? It'll be great to hear from you :-)

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