The Country the World Forgot – Again

A copy of this 2002 article from the Sunday Telegraph written by Kevin Myers popped up in my inbox this morning thanks to Beth. It turned up under the heading of ‘Proud to be Canadian’, and ‘Salute to a Brave and Modest Nation’, with a comment about it being ironic that a Brit wrote the article.

Typically, it isn’t actually a Brit who wrote the article, so it can’t be used as evidence that the British are improving in that respect. Kevin Myers, a regular columnist for The Sunday Telegraph until 2005, although English born was the son of an Irish GP who had emigrated to the UK to work. He now lives back across the Irish sea and works over there. One of the things he is known for is promoting awareness of is the role of the Irish within the British Armed Forces, particularly in World War I. Interestingly, this article does much the same for Canada, another country whose contribution often gets forgotten.

The article was written back in 2002, at a time of growing anger in Canada after four Canadian soldiers had been killed in a ‘friendly fire’ incident when a US F-16 dropped a 227kg bomb on the men. Almost two years later the pilot involved was eventually punished, but only after the initial charges were lessened to dereliction of duty. It has echoes of the ongoing controversy over the death of Lance Corporal Matty Hull, a killing eventually ruled unlawful by a British coroner, after an inquest marked by a lack of co-operation by the US and British authorities in providing evidence and witnesses. The US rejected the ruling.

The article highlights the contribution made by Canada to both World War’s, including the 15,000 who went ashore at D-Day, and whose contribution the BBC commentators during the recent anniversary commemoration totally ignored. It also highlights that the same is true in the entertainment world, where many well known ‘American’s’ are in fact Canadian:

So it is a general rule that actors and film-makers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality – unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer British. It is as if in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakeably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.

Just to reinforce that, check out the fantastic William Shatner version of the famous I Am Canadian commercial.

The original article, The Country the World Forgot – Again, can be found on the Telegraph web site, well worth a look to understand the largely forgotten contribution that Canada makes to the world. (Oh and whilst on the subject of contributions, check out which other national broadcaster is credited as co-producer on the new Doctor Who…)

Oh Canada originally uploaded by Megan *.

A Day to Go…

For those of you without access to Sky or Virgin Media, here is the full trailer for the new series of Doctor Who that is currently running on BBCi – but not on Freeview.

The trailer only runs for ninety seconds, but crams a lot in. We get to see some flying Dalek destruction, some scary looking walking scarecrows, lots of pigs running around and someone that looks like the Doctor saying that he isn’t the Doctor amongst other things. We also get a whistle-stop run through some of the guest stars who are turning up this time around, including Michelle Collins, Derek Jacobi toasting Utopia, a brief snippet of the Doctor apparently marrying Jessica Stevenson, John Simm looking really smarmy and of course John Barrowman is back as Captain Jack. The most intriguing snippet though is a couple of shots of someone who looks rather like Denzel Washington – an actor linked with the US revival of the series back in the nineties. He pops up at about 23 seconds, and again at 43 seconds. Having said that, since I suspect a cameo by such a high profile actor would probably have been picked up by the press by now, it probably isn’t. Sure looks like him though…

Apprentice 3 Round 1

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Having lost both Michelle Dewberry and Tim Campbell this year, Alan Sugar is back looking for Apprentice number 3.

This time around, the series is going out on BBC1, and with two additional candidates, but aside from that it is much the same, even down to using parts of the soundtrack from 24 as incidental music during the programme. In fact it was a bit of deja-vu when Sugar did his boardroom introduction speech – although I guess if it works, why bother to change it?

Looking down through the profiles of this years candidates they are a real mixed bunch. There are two car salesmen, an ex-soilder, a couple of entrepreneurs, managers and sales managers from various industries, and a quantum physicist. The initial champagne get-to-know-you reception was as usual a cringe making effort – although the real jaw dropping moment was saved for the ‘You’re Fired’ show that goes out immediately after the main show on BBC2, where we see the public school educated candidates initially comparing their old school ties, and then discussing the quality of this years female candidates – and concluding that they were picked more for their business skills! The attitude of the boys is again highlighted when after initially splitting the teams into men and women, at the last minute swaps the project managers, leaving the boys being managed by one of the women. As a team, the boys seem to have many more problems gelling than the girls, but thanks to a spectacular purchasing disaster worthy of the pizza’s last year, the girls team lose.

The first task is a basic selling task, which as much tests how everybody works as a team. This time around it’s selling coffee on the streets. Each team has a fixed stall, and a mobile stall, and the idea is to make as much profit as possible. Both teams manage to turn a profit, and through the ebb and flow of the day manage to sell about the same amount, however thanks to the previous mentioned purchasing disaster, the overheads on the girls team leave them with a much smaller profit.

Looking at the show, I’m pretty certain that we haven’t seen much of whoever will be the final winner. Although the loud brash characters usually feature pretty highly during the early stages of the series, with Michelle and Tim they were certainly not either brash or loud, but were consistent throughout the series, and only came to the forefront during the later stages of the series. Although I’m sure it takes a certain level of arrogance and self-belief to get onto the programme, it is also clear that keeping your head down in the early stages is by far the best tactic. It is also worth noting that Sugar repeatedly says that he is not looking for a salesman, he wants managerial and organisational skills too – and this often seems to be where the candidates with more of a sales leaning fall down.

As with Paul Torrisi in series 1 and Syed Ahmed in series 2 there is a stand out character in Tre Azam who argues with Jadine his project manager throughout the task. Having said that, he got off to a bad start with Sugar after persuading his team to pick the name of one of his former companies as the name of their team – Sugar forces the team to pick a new name.

To be fair, although she leads in the winning team, Jadine doesn’t get off to a good start either. In the boardroom meeting at the end of the programme, when asked how the project went, she pretty well immediately starts criticising her team members – which earns a swift rebuke from Sugar.

The project manager of the other team, Andy Jackson took the rap for his teams failure, basically because he failed to manage the team properly. He was somewhat forced to take the poison chalice of being the first project leader by the rest of the boys team. After the swap of project managers, his team messed up the purchasing, with Sophie the quantum physicist going and trying to buy ‘only’ 200 litres of milk. Bear in mind their prediction of sales was for 1000 cups of coffee, so it doesn’t take much time to work out that she is proposing to have 200ml of milk per cup – and Andy tells her to get 20 litres instead – she comes back with 65 litres, plus 400 confectionary bars that they decided to buy on the spur of the moment too. It’s worth highlighting at this point that the estimate of 1000 cups was actually based on the maximum number of cups the machine could produce in the time, not any estimate of sales. Another black mark for the project manager. When Gerri suggests taking the mobile stall to a nearby market – filled with coffee shops who are all selling coffee cheaper than the team things start to look even worse, and then Andy just decides to cut his losses and pull the mobile stall altogether, and effectively his fate is sealed. The other team, by having the mobile stall moving around pull in much better sales on the road. Since Andy’s team had a much more lucrative fixed location, if they had managed to make money from the mobile stall in the same way, as a result of their inability to gel, it may well have been one of the boys team in the taxi heading home.

So we’ve had a good dose of utterly cringe making moments, including the regular pleasure of the meetings to pick the team names – Eclipse and Stealth in case you’re wondering. We’ve also pretty early on had some entertaining screw ups – a quantum physicist who seems to like a lot of milk in her coffee for example. We’ve also had a whole load of pretty predictable sales speak and management rubbish spouted by the contestants, and to round it all off we had the firee grovelling for another chance – and that was just week 1. There are another fourteen people to be fired before we get to the winner – can’t wait for next week.

Jesus Died on a Muffin

This week the Church school has been having one of it’s periodic inspections by the Church authorities. This is somewhat of a Church version of the OFSTED inspection, and as part of this the inspector sits in on classes, and talks to the children. As part of the inspection the inspector sat in on a reception class (first year infants in old money) where they were talking about Easter. The inspector asked one of the children how Jesus died, and the answer came back “Jesus died on a muffin.” – cue slightly bemused inspector. “No he didn’t,” replies one of the other children, “he died on a hot-cross bun.” Suffice to say that in her assembly this morning, one of our Churchwardens was taking in the large cross that gets set up in the Church over Easter, and was planning to tell the Easter story…

Hiding Behind Anonymity

If you read much of the IT related blogs, you may well have come across the storm over Kathy Sierra and her abrupt withdrawal from an O’Reilly Conference. Certainly it has registered on the radar of the major news organisation such as the BBC.

I have to say that Kathy’s blog is not one I read regularly, however it does indirectly affect me in that Robert Scoble is suspending Scobelizer for a week as sites that mentioned Kathy have also mentioned him and Maryam, and not surprisingly both of them are freaked out by it. If you take a look at what Kathy has faced, you can understand why. There is also a good summary of what has gone on here.

The bottom line is that the blogsphere runs pretty much as an anarchy – essentially it is a society that exists without any sort of central control, that coupled with the fact that people posting and commenting can have a good deal of anonymity, means that people say things that they would never say to somebody’s face. Certainly we’ve had a few offensive comments on here, and they are usually swiftly removed, but nothing of this sort of level. Having said that, it is worth remembering that even someone apparently anonymous is not really so – WordPress logs the IP address of anyone posting a comment. For example when a couple of young gentlemen at Beth’s school decided to post an offensive comment, believing themselves totally anonymous, we were within a couple of hours able to trace the comment right back to the terminal and user account in the school that they used to post. With what has happened to Kathy Sierra there are IP addresses logged, and it is probably possible to trace back at least some of the posts in much the same way. Since it is apparent that she has involved the Police, hopefully they will be able to investigate and find at least some of the perpetrators, and I would hope that the hosts of the various sites involved will be quick to come forward with the relevant logs.

However alongside this, the event has been a catalyst for a discussion on how women are treated in the IT industry. It is sad that for some the level of argument when you don’t agree with someone’s position posted on a blog is just to post a personal attack, it is much more than that when just because the person being attacked is a woman, people can degenerate to a whole new level. Whilst I am certain this current discussion is not going to stop all the personal attacks, I’m hopeful that at least the discussion will bring some more visibility of the problems, and the way people in the IT industry, and the blogsphere as a whole treat women. Hopefully it will also lead some of the supposed A-List bloggers involved in the sites at the centre of the story to reconsider the wisdom of their actions – some it seems have, others perhaps need to learn when it is best to just shut up and apologise – there are times when however you feel, trying to justify your position or argue your point further really does you no good at all.