Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Criminally negligent?

The names, addresses and bank details and national insurance numbers of 25 million people who receive child benefit have been put on computer disk and put in the mail by a government department ... and lost.

No attempt to protect the information by sending it by registered post was made.

How did the government respond to this appalling carelessness? The Chancellor Alistair Darling has told people that they need to be especially vigilant to make sure that their bank accounts are not accessed by criminals!

Why warn us about the perils of identity theft and credit fraud - when the Government doesn't look after the private details we have entrusted them with?

Would anyone other than members of the government escape criminal charges?

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Water Fight

The National Consumer Council in the UK has published a study saying that consumers are fed up with paying huge mark ups for mineral water in restaurants. The law, apparently, requires restaurants to offer a free glass of tap water.

As ever this can be argued both ways.

My biggest problem with mineral water is that it water from a long way away is flown round the world in plastic bottles, but many have distinct flavours. If I am just drinking water, especially at dinner, I prefer to drink a sparkling water such as San Pellegrino or Perrier. I'm not sure I can always taste the difference with still water.

Most restaurants will not have a problem serving tap water, provided you are drinking wine as well.

So when you sit down at the table and the waiter asks 'Still or Sparkling?' you could ask whether the water is British and in a glass bottle. Or, as is your right, do not feel embarrassed about asking for a glass of tap water.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Party Games

Lord West of Spithead (Security Minister and a former head of the Royal Navy) contradicted Gordon Brown this week by stating that 'he still needs to be fully convinced that we absolutely need more than 28 days' of detention without charge for suspected terrorists.

As the government is trying to raise this to 56 days this statement was rapidly retracted and Lord West later said: 'Well, I haven't changed my position. I think being a simple sailor, not a politician, maybe I didn't choose my words well.'

How refreshing: a government minister who says what he thinks rather than what he has been told he should think.

I can't imagine he will last long.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The Original TV Heroes come to HD-DVD

George Takei was in London at Halloween. Star Trek: The Original Series has been remastered in high definition and many of the special effects have been updated with CGI.

This new improved series has been shown on television in the US, but now is coming to the UK on HD-DVD.

To celebrate (and advertise) this release there was a screening of 'The Menagerie' on a (relatively) big screen at the Odeon Covent Garden.

Free wine and tasty nibbles got the evening off to a good start. And then, about 45 minutes before the show was due to start, George Takei walked into the cinema foyer. With no announcement, and apparently no security, he mingled with the crowd. He was happy to chat to guests and posed for numerous photos.

He was a little less sure when he introduced the main feature, stumbling over his words, but he was amongst friends and his introduction was warmly received.

Bizarrely he is not actually in 'The Menagerie', a rehashing of the rejected original pilot for the show. This proto-Star Trek featured a different captain, a female number one and a surprisingly emotional Vulcan.

The acting was just as dated, the sets wobbled and the plot was not as sophisticated as we have come to expect, but the new high definition print looks gorgeous. Even the fans had to chuckle indulgently at some of the scenes, but it was generally very well received.

The five year mission may be endless - but it has a new bold sparkle!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Flower Power

Today is Remembrance Day.

People from all walks of life gather at the cenotaph in central London and war memorials all over the country (and the Commonwealth) to pay tribute to the men and women who have given their lives in wars all over the world.

So where were all the poppies?

There has been poppy overkill on the television: it seems like there is a three line whip for anyone appearing in anything other than drama. The only person I have seen on the BBC in the last several weeks without a poppy is Will Self.

It would seem reasonable, however, to wear a poppy in the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday. And yet when out in East London last night I only saw one poppy - other than the ones worn by me and my partner.

There were more around today - although the numbers only became significant in central London (perhaps people who had been to the Cenotaph?)

Poppies not only commemorate those killed in the Great (?) Wars - they signify support for the families and loved ones lost in all wars.

Whatever your views on war - especially our participation in more recent conflicts - it shames us all not to honour those who have paid the ultimate price.