Sunday, June 03, 2012

Erith Riverside Festival 2012.

The photo above shows the Erith Riverside Festival, taken this morning. Unfortunately due to the horrendous weather, the event was a bit of a wash out; a real pity, especially after the hard work and sterling efforts of all of the volunteers who took part. In previous years the event has been a massive success - let's just hope the weather is better for next year. Many organisations saw the nasty forecast and cancelled their stands and did not bother to attend; a real pity, but somewhat understandable under the circumstances.

As the date of the start of the Olympics draws ever closer, the doubts about the public transport provision continue. Darryl of the excellent 853 blog recounts problems encountered on the Jubilee Line recently.  The overland train service on the Dartford to London via Greenwich line has not been inspiring; bearing in mind this will be one of the main ways to get to Olympic events in Woolwich and Greenwich, and to interchange at Woolwich Arsenal for the DLR to Stratford for the main stadium, the preparation for the games has seemingly been minimal. I was waiting at Greenwich for a train back to Erith last week; there were hundreds of people on the platform, some of whom had been there for over an hour. I overheard conversations in which commuters had not received any communication from South Eastern trains, despite it being pretty obvious that there had been some kind of serious failure. I saw two people go up to the information point and press the button to speak to someone in the rail control room for an update. Neither person got a reply at all – it seemed that the contact / information points were being ignored. Worrying, as they are also used to report crimes, or rail related incidents. On Monday morning the enquiry point at Erith Station was emitting a loud electronic screech; this was not the anti tamper alarm – I have heard that before and the sound was completely different, like audio feedback. It was so loud the people were covering their ears as they passed the unit. All this kind of thing does not inspire one with confidence. I am fortunate that my day job is one where I can work remotely quite easily. Physically not being in the office is not much of a problem for me, so I plan on working from home for the duration of the games. I realise that others are not so fortunate. 

Now that the weather has become somewhat more seasonal of late, the annual Erith strip off is well under way. Every year it is the same; as soon as the first rays of sunshine appear over the town the hordes of local low lives and assorted ne’er do wells strip their tracksuit tops and T-shirts off to reveal their sickly white and tattooed torsos. Over the next few days many of the idiots proceed to suffer sunburn as they inevitably don’t use sun cream, and they end up looking like walking saveloy sausages. They just never seem to learn. Another thing which really annoys me, which I have written about in the past, but which I think deserves a new airing is people who put their feet on the seats on trains and buses. Not only is it antisocial and damaging to the seat material, it is also seriously unhygienic. Dog mess and other nasties has a habit of collecting in the cleats on the sole of footwear; bacteria thus gets transferred onto the seat, and thus onto the clothing of the subsequent unfortunates who then sit in the same place. Many unexplained upset stomachs and other infections can be blamed directly as a result of feet on seats. I just detest this self centred and unthinking behaviour.

The London Evening Standard have (finally) picked up on the story about the wreck of the Richard Montgomery (digital high resolution sonar image above) that I originally wrote about here on the Maggot Sandwich, way back at the end of January. The Richard Montgomery was an American cargo ship that sank at the mouth of the River Medway back in 1944. The ship was stuffed to the gills with all sorts of high explosives and sank after going adrift and breaking its’ back. Some of the explosives were successfully removed at the time, but the rest was judged as too unstable and dangerous to touch. The ship has been in a seclusion zone ever since The masts can still be seen poking out of the water, and at low tides the uppermost portion of the hull can occasionally be seen; the water is very shallow at this point. It has been estimated that if the explosives detonated, the blast would create a column of water 1,000 feet across and 10,000 feet high, and most Windows in the town of Sheerness would be shattered. Basically the effect of a low yield nuclear weapon. The idea of creating London’s third airport within close proximity of this hazard beggars belief, as the Standard highlighted this week, and I have been banging on about for months. I have been in very close proximity with the wreck in the past, as I previously wrote in this posting. The other problem of potentially locating an airport amidst marshland is the huge amount of bird life in the area – just what you don’t need with jet engined aircraft in the vicinity. A bird strike can be fatal to a turbojet engine, and indeed the plane it is connected to.

Iceland opened their new store in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre on Wednesday; there were a healthy group of people keen to have a nose around the new shop, which has taken the double unit previously occupied by the now bankrupt Peacocks. Iceland were holding a prize draw; the winner of which would get a trolley dash around the shop - everything they grabbed within a fixed time would be free. When one considers that the kind of low value, high volume goods stocked by Iceland are not exactly going to be worth a fortune, the whole trolley dash scenario seems a bit mean. Nevertheless I am sure someone is going to have a good time, even if the value of the goods grabbed probably won't exceed £100. 

RIM, the makers of the Blackberry range of mobile devices seem to be suffering from the Osborne Effect. The Osborne effect is a term referring to the unintended consequence of the announcement of a future product ahead of its availability and its impact upon the sales of the current product. Pre-announcement is done for several reasons: to reassure current customers that there is improvement or lower cost coming, to increase the interest of the media and investors in the company's future prospects, and to intimidate or confuse competitors. When done correctly the sales or cash flow impact to the company is minimal as the revenue drop for the current product is replaced by orders or completed sales of the new product as it becomes available. The Osborne effect occurs when this pre-announcement is made either unaware of the risks involved or when the timing is misjudged. Customers react immediately by cancelling or deferring orders for the current product, knowing that it will soon be obsolete. Stock inventories increase, and the company must react by either discounting or lowering production of the current product. Either of these choices depresses cash flow and can lead to company bankruptcy. In the actual case of Osborne Computer Corporation the pioneering transportable computer maker took more than a year to make its next product available. It ran out of cash and was liquidated in 1985. This is what appears to be happening to RIM. They pre- announced their forthcoming Blackberry 10 operating system, originally promising that a new range of devices running Blackberry 10 would be available during the first quarter of 2012, which was later altered to “late 2012”. Consequently sales of their current range of handsets has plummeted, with something like a billion dollars worth of stock sitting unsold on warehouse shelves. The Blackberry market share has halved in the last year, as individuals (and most tellingly) corporates move away to iPhone and Android devices. Three or four years ago, the much vaunted end to end security and strong encryption was a real and unique Blackberry selling point, and something businesses in particular were keen to embrace. Nowadays, what Blackberry pioneered in proprietary hardware can be easily done in software by any mobile device – the advantage of modern multi core processors and their vastly increased computing power. The unique selling point of Blackberry has gone. I predict that they will either be bought by a competitor such as Samsung or Apple, or they will quietly fade away over the next year or so.

Another technology company looks like it might be about to be swallowed up by a giant; browser pioneer Opera Software are in talks to be bought by Facebook. Opera have been around for ages, but their browser, though extremely capable, has never really set the world on fire; it pioneered many now common technologies such as tabbed browsing, but perhaps due to its’ quirky user interface, the PC and Mac versions have never gained the popularity of Firefox or Google Chrome – which both have a far larger user base (indeed, in some markets, Chrome has now overtaken Internet Explorer as the most widely used web browser). I understand that the mobile version of Opera is a different proposition entirely, with a lightweight foot print, compatible with even relatively low powered phones, and an intuitive interface. Facebook are looking for ways to make money out of the mobile market – something that has largely eluded them to date. More and more Facebook users are accessing the site by phone – and Facebook want a way to make money from them. They could create their own bespoke browser, but that would take considerable time, and large amounts of technical resources; even though their share price has crashed somewhat, they have so much cash in the coffers it would make sense to buy the Norwegian software company – and a spin off from this would be to greatly annoy Google, something which Facebook are historically very keen on doing when the opportunity arises. Personally I am ambivalent at best regarding things to do with Facebook; I don’t use the site. As I have previously written, it is the world’s largest repository of private information, which is sold on to all sorts of third parties. Users have no control over what happens to their details. It really is a huge invasion of privacy. I am really very careful indeed as to what information about me is online; in reality very little – due to my extreme caution. Effectively the only real online presence I have is the Maggot Sandwich, which is designed to be as public and accessible as possible.

Bexley council seem to have had a change of heart regarding the closure of Belvedere Splash Park; it will now open after all, as it would appear that it is exempt from the hosepipe ban. I think that the views of many local people may well have had an influence on the decision – not only were there a substantial number of letters to the News Shopper on the subject, but things went as far as a very well subscribed and active Facebook group was set up. It certainly united many local parents whose children were looking forward to using the park, which incidentally is currently the largest of its’ type in the UK. The splash park is now scheduled to re-open on the 8th of June.

Erith and Thamesmead local MP Teresa Pearce has very kindly sent me an invitation to an event to be held on the 2nd of July in Westminster. It is a seminar on the Raspberry Pi, and I am hoping to attend the event as a delegate. I am very grateful to her for such a thoughtful gesture; I know she is a regular Maggot Sandwich reader, and was aware of my keen interest in the whole Raspberry Pi education project. 

The story I featured last week, about the project to build a prototype Starship Enterprise with existing and emerging technology has now gone mainstream; my reading of the website is that the guy behind it is trying to provoke debate, and he wishes to court controversy in order to get things moving. He's got a gargantuan task ahead of him, but I suppose that you have to start somewhere.

Breaking news from those nice people at The Chap; not only has their website had a rather fine makeover, but they have a scoop of a story. As I have often recounted, every year they hold The Chap Olympics in Grosvenor Square, as a kind of ironic "anti Olympics". This year things have got much bigger, and even stranger. Here is a direct quotation from their revamped website "In a surprising, not to say flattering, turn of events, The Chap has been asked to stage our eccentric Olympiad within the very grounds of the proper Olympic stadium. Clearly realising that the real crowd puller to the Stratford Stadium would be, not boring old athletics, gymnastics and muscular people in Lycra, but wan, foppish gentlemen in tweed, trilbies and brogues stumbling their way through Hop Skip and G&T and Cucumber Sandwich Discus, the British Olympic Committee approached this humble publication to request some of our top athletes. On Sunday 29th July, Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th August, ten of our finest-dressed, inappropriately trained and frankly weak at the knees Olympians will be representing The Chap in the Olympic Park. They will be demonstrating the above mentioned events, as well as the Pipeathlon, Moustache Wrestling and Butler Baiting. We thought Shouting at Foreigners was unnecessary, as the security guards will be doing plenty of that themselves, when they find some hapless Spanish student has tried to bring a bottle of fizzy pop into the Stadium".

In the spirit of this, here is a clip featuring Mister B the gentleman rhymer, with his musical ditty, "All Hail the Chap".

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could believe that public opinion swayed the council over the Splash Park ! but just over a week ago I was rung back by Thames Water regarding the fact I had complained about not receiving the document explaining their takeover of shared drains (also that we had a soakaway in the garden for the 41 years we had lived here but never been discounted for)In the course of the conversation I was told that their water restrictions for public parks had just been removed. I presumed it wasn't so much because of the rainfall but more to make London parks look better to tourists for the Jubilee and Olympics.