Monday, 27 December 2010

Happy Christmas Bah Humbug

There are some things that really cheese me off about Christmas. Not Christmas itself I hasten to add but the things that happen just because it happens to be Christmas.

Number One - Retail Store Sales because the purveyors of rampant consumerism whinge for weeks prior to Christmas that people aren't shopping enough, then milliseconds into the Christmas holiday they promote 'Sales' seemingly ignorant of the fact that they they created their own problems by selling stuff at ultra cheap prices on the 26th of December. People aren't stupid. Why pay more just for a Christmas day present in full knowledge that it will be more than 50% cheaper in 24 hours time!


Number Two - Dwelling on terrible news that is of no real concern for people that are not directly affected. This mawkish obsession with bad news at 'Christmas Time' is too much and abnormal. In the past most of us would be none the wiser, and feel much happier and safer as a result. It seems ridiculous to expect that people can emotionally take on constant streams of 'bad news.

Number Three - Finding someone to blame for something, such as the Heathrow disruption. There are significant numbers of people on the 'look out' for kicking someone else. Boo hoo they cry, my Christmas was ruined because I couldn't get my flight a the airports to blame. Get over it. Its one day and there are 364 more where you can get together.

Problems are personal, relative and private, and cheap Gucci will not make them go away.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Lord Young A Sorry Apology

There is something quite disturbing about the remarks about the economy, and the people affected by the recession by Lord Young to the Daily Telegraph. His apology is like that of a petty criminal who apologises in court not because he is truly sorry but because he is sorry he has been caught out.




He has been caught out because the deeper machinations of his sense-making, his core values and his beliefs have manifested themselves in some astonishing claims about the British Society and the British Economy. These are comment of man who has clearly never felt the 'fear' of loosing your ability to provide for yourself and your family, here is a man who inferring that people who are made redundant are work shy scroungers.

If we are to consider the 'generative mechanisms' that lie underneath Lord Young's callous statements, one of them of course is to speak 'as if' the economy is devoid of human beings. To describe 100,000 people as potentially a 'margin of error' is despicable. The economic way of explaining the world (not one covered in glory for predictive accuracy) is that of the 'closed system', where the numbers and the money are cleanly separated from humans and feelings. You only have to look at other regimes that thought of people as 'numbers' to see where that attitude comes from. Go on, check the documents, the millions of people with their inky part numbers on their arms, the numbers that were reported as processed to the centre. This is a deeper and darker belief that has found its way out into the light.

To suggest that people have 'never had it so good' is deluded if you give a kind interpretation (bless him he can't help it, its his age you know)Realistically it is outrageous. He has clearly never lived in a world where uncertainty, stress, financial pressures, despair, anxiety worry are never conflated with the term 'good'.

Lord Young should be sacked. It is the first time I have been moved to protest on the streets. This man should be removed with the speed of the cuts that are affecting the rest of us. How dare he speak of human beings as mere numbers. Here's a book he needs to read.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Are Lecturers Being Dunces Over Public Service Cutbacks?

Whilst it is understandable for any group of employees to try and defend their positions and income it seems rather ill-judged for lecturers to implicitly condone the reckless behaviour of the vandals at Goldsmiths by suggesting that:

"The real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts." 

There are logical problems with the deliberate use of English in their statement. They have isolated an act from its context. The smashed window was part of episodes of aggressive behaviour. It was an act borne out of generative mechanism relating to a set of ideas that condone the use of violence to make a point. It downplays the significance and meaning of the act.

The claim above also suggests that breaking windows is analogous to a management process that (whether well judged or not) is re-structuring processes and monies. Nothing in that process is being physically broken. Now I've been there, in the commercial world where for whatever reason my job was under threat. I've lost my job and it is not a pleasant experience. Did I go the merchant banks that I thought played a significant part in that experience and smash their windows? No. I faced up to the situation and moved on.

I am there now. As an academic I believe that people have a right to access Higher Education. I believe that the country should invest in HE as the R&D department of UK plc too, and it has to be investment that is valued. of course axiological judgements will be made, and that is how the issue should be debated. What do we as a society value and what is valued in our Higher Education experience and output.  That said Higher Education doesn't simply have a right to exist because it is Higher Education. It needs to provide true value (epistemologically, pedagogically and practically) and that value has a value that is worth paying for by the people who study. The relativist agenda that suggests that all things are equal (except my point of view which is the best of all) is child like in its grasp of social reality.Some people might not be bright enough or financially capable of having HE. There should be mechanisms to help the exceptional not processes to facilitate the ordinary.

The violent tantrum of the students at Goldsmiths will, if they educate themselves, be realised as incapable of changing anything. It was a destructive act not a generative act. Where are the ideas for solving the problem of funding HE from these bright sparks? The lecturers who have supported the violence have done their students a disservice. They have endorsed a partial grasp of social reality, they have not encouraged imaginative thinking, they have not developed a true sense of critical thinking on and in the nature of HE provision.

 




 

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Does Wikileaks Abuse Freedom Of Information?

Is knowing the plain truth (whatever we mean by that) always a good thing? The whole Wikileaks thing has got me thinking. On the face of it freedom of information seems like a very good idea. Think for more than a few moments about it and the topic becomes much more complicated.

Like most ideas the Wikileaks issue touches on the problem of intention. For example, if I was to ask you if cutting somebody with knife was a good idea, it would all depend on the intention of the person doing the cutting. A malignant intention would be doing it to harm me, like a mugger or a burglar, whereas a surgeon might be cutting me to save my life.

The same goes for knowing things. Sometimes it's in the best interests of everyone for people to be circumspect with the facts. In the classic case of  the woman asking her partner 'does my butt look big in this dress', it is not necessarily the case that speaking the 'truth' is an appropriate response. To me the founder of Wikileaks has a child-like and irresponsible attitude to the 'is my butt big' type of situation. He rationalizes the publication of all information as a good thing simply because he holds a catch all philosophy that making the information available is a good thing. This is naive because making information available has consequences and those consequences can harm other people. He is saying that free access to information trumps the effect it has. Surely this can't always be the case. There are bigger pictures to consider.

The question isn't between a world where there is no information versus a world where everything is available. Wisdom and judgments come into play. Telling your partner that her butt looks massive might be true and it might not be taken as polite, helpful, or conducive to a good on-going relationship.

You have to ask what is the motivation driving the fixation with such a simplistic stance to the provision of freely available information. What is going off in the head of the founder of Wikileaks? Why is the provision of information totally divorced from consequences regarded as a 'good idea'? It borders on a socio-pathic disregard for the impact of actions on others. Is there a case for a therapeutic intervention here? What might have happened if Wikileaks was around in the second world war? Would Wikileaks have felt it was appropriate to let the Nazis know about Radar installations? Enigma code breaking, the arrangements for D Day? I presume I'm OK saying these things because being free to express myself regardless of the embarrassment, risks for others or hurt it might create is OK. Surely I'm just being a true Wikileakerist?

Wikileaks is a concept that smacks of the half baked idealistic thinking of first year undergraduates. Naively idealistic and totally simplistic in its grasp of the systemic complexities it purports to address. Wikileaks is a gullible idea. Yes Wikileaks you have the right to know that your digital butt does look big in this.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

UK Government's Budget Cuts Hidden Agenda?

Mark Easton raises an interesting point about who will be affected by the UK government budget cuts. Implicit in his article is the fact that the budget cuts will result in profound social change with particular consequences for women.



Things don't just happen in the real world. Actions are predicated on underpinning philosophy. The inference in Mark Easton's article is plain. A conservative philosophical perspective of family life an the role of women in society (unless they are rich an financially independent) sees women better off performing a domestic role. There is nothing so practical as a good theory said Kurt Lewin.

They've also one the stakeholder analysis, who has power and interest. Cut back areas of major female employment because the political consequences can be managed. Plus we have the added bonus of more consistent female influence in younger years an that will improve anti social behaviour, families will be locked together due to fearful dependence on a male breadwinner, and hey ho we are back to where our social values ought to be.

The budget cuts are as much about social engineering as social prudence.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Ricky Hatton Floored Diamond

I feel very sorry for Ricky Hatton after news that the British Boxing Board of Control have revoked his boxing license. The psychological impact of this decision must be devastating for him. His sense of identity and purpose taken away. What choice did they have. Ricky exposed himself to choices and temptations that risked this outcome. It is almost bordering on self destructiveness. It is difficult for any of us with more conventional lifestyles to imagine the curious and high pressure world he lived in. Periods of intense focus followed by periods of care free relaxation. When the genie is out of the bottle (sic) psychologists are aware of the destructive consequences that arise from extreme sensation seeking. Shifting contexts from high risk high discipline environments to high arousal no limits environments can lead to the type of behaviour shown by Ricky Hatton.

Technically he has allegedly behaved illegally, and his transgressed the rules of the BBBC. Let's hope that a more holistic and understanding approach is taken to helping and supporting this great sportsman rebuild his life.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Is A Student A Customer?

Andrew Croskery, from County Down, has applied for a judicial review of the university grade he received from Queen's University in Belfast. His basic claim is that he reckons he would have got a better grade if he had received better tutoring. His attitude seems belie some telling assumptions about what he thinks university education and being a student entails.

Obviously disappointed at his performance is he seeking to displace the blame elsewhere? Let's begin with some basic facts. University education is not School education. A student is an adult learner who takes responsibility for their own learning. The tutors research, design and deliver lectures and provide seminar activities as platforms to help the student develop their understanding. If they have puzzles and need clarification then pondering on them and proactively seeking guidance is what they need to do. If we look at the term 'Student' it has specific connotations. Notice university students are not called pupils. The etymology of the word comes from the latin 'studere' which means to direct ones zeal at something. Notice there is no reference to being spoon fed and taught as a pupil might be. Students are provided with a 'field of study' into which they must immerse themselves taking responsibility for engaging with the subject. Tutors cannot do the learning for the student. Andrew Croskery seems to have decided that he is a customer rather than a student.

This is a hot topic in higher education. It is a misguided and mischievous metaphor.  Using the term 'customer' for everyone from patients, passengers, to to pupils has a managerialst genealogy. It is to some extent a helpful metaphor in helping universities think about the service they deliver, and it should also be connected with 'customers' thinking about their responsibilities too. Mr Croskery was awarded a 2:2 because that was standard of the work he submitted it was not awarded to him because he wasn't a very good customer. There are issues with student as customer metaphor. and interesting unexpected side effects form the culture of student experience too.

In a recent Times Higher Article it was noted by Paul Ramsden that universities were not responsible for satisfying students. At first blush this might seem ridiculous and arrogant however the point is well made in the sense there is often a difference between what a students feels they 'want' and educationally what they need. Higher education is transformative process that confronts people with challenging and demanding situations which by 'choice' they would not necessarily put themselves through. To whinge about not receiving tutorship is immature. The opportunity to seek out additional guidance is available to every student. It may not be given with the speed of a fast food restaurant (realising you are not the only student in the world is also part of growing up!) It may not be at the drop of hat at a time and place of your choosing and it will be there if it is sought.

Paul Ramsden is a noted and informed writer in this area. Paul was a prime mover in the 1990s of introducing the notion of 'student experience'. Something that like many sophisticated concepts has been hijacked and misrepresented since. A notion that has been adopted by managerialst conceptions of customer centricity. His fascinating article in the August edition Times Higher is titled No Thinkable Alternative
and he finished the article with the following quote:
"The rationale for university teaching is not satisfying students, distrubuting information to them nor changing them, as some condescendingly say. Rather, it is enabling students to change for themselves...What will inspire our students and our colleagues is the belief that reasoning out problems for yourself is the greatest gift that higher education can offer"

Lets hope the judicial review sends Andrew Croskery back with some simple facts of adult life, and a reminder of the value that the gift of his 2:2 experience has given him for the rest of his life. I say this a former 'desmond' student myself.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Russell Brand Protects His Brand

I don't usually have too much sympathy with celebrities when they whinge about the attention they get. It strikes me as sort of hypocritical that people who depend on generating self publicity have a problem when it gets out of control. People should always be careful what they wish for because they might just 'get it'.

Today's news that Russell Brand has got into lumber because of alleged assault of a photographer in Los Angeles has me feeling differently this time. Whether or not Russell Brand is your sort of guy or not I can imagine that pushy press photographers are a real pain in the backside. Surely there has to be a time when even a celebrity is 'off duty'. Why don't these people leave it to press conferences and other public appearances?

 Of course they 'rationalize' their behaviour as perversely providing a 'service' for the celebrity. Keeping the celebrity engine going in order that the brand of Brand doesn't stall they would say. So by the same reasoning that they apply  when they say celebrities are never off duty, they should be regarded as never being off duty too!  They should also realise that their chosen profession involves risks and hassles as well. That means they should expect to get confronted, pushed and shoved because that comes with the territory of their profession. Russell Brand didn't ask them to become a 'Pap'. Celebrity photographers are self interested. They want to run with the foxes and chase with the hounds. If they get whacked in the process that seems fair game to me.

Here's what Katy Perry tweeted. Can't say I disagree!
If you cross the line & try an put a lens up my dress, my fiancé will do his job & protect me. #standbyyourman #don'tfuckwiththeBrands.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Why Ofsted Downplays Special Needs In The Classroom

UK education watch dog Ofsted  claims that the term special needs is used too widely. Clearly this is highly charged issue involving the usual suspects of ego involvement and reactance all founded on your position based on your world view. This is an interesting classroom battle over the details of classroom management and the use of the label Special Needs.

What I find really interesting is the fact that what we are really witnessing is a battle of educational philosophy. If you ask yourself 'where does educational policy come from?' you are inexorably led to a philosophy that drives some beliefs and some actions.

Contemporary educational policy is based on the assumptions of Post Modernism. The relativist philosophy that on a good day encourages us to appreciate diversity and on a bad day mires us in hand wringing over what to do about 'all those differences' because there are no absolute standards that can be applied to anything. It also influences how problems are characterized and how solutions are formed. So.

Problem = children have challenges learning. Solution = provide customised education to the level of bespoke delivery because everyone has 'special needs'. The issue of course is connotation. Any label used to defined a so called real world phenomenon is open to alternative meanings. I think what Ofsted are saying is that the prevailing meaning is too sloppy, and the overuse of the term special needs characterizes the 'problem' of challenging situations in the classroom as 'the child with special needs' rather the dynamic capability of the teacher. I can hear howls of insult already. After all haven't teaching professionals been 'Kolb'd' up to the eyeballs (if we are lucky they might have been Mezirowed too!) They know all about 'learning styles' their text books describe the 'types' and these difficult children don't fit.

Teaching isn't easy (as a colleague of mine once said to me when I was whinging about the challenges of the job - that's why they pay you! - ouch) Like many 'managers' and executives, teachers are possibly prey to lacking a degree of critical self awareness of the founding philosophies that underpin their world views. Possibly unaware of their Post Modernist credentials, having been steeped in them through teacher training and pgce's, they will also be unaware of the emergence of philosophies such as Critical Realism that at one level reject the so called 'realities' of post modernism's linguistic turn. Maybe Ofsted aren't explicitly aware of the philosophy that under-girds their approach either.On their view the reality is a problem of dynamic teaching capability. It could very well be real too, and no doubt it hurts to hear it.

The special needs zealots also need to be mindful of labels too. Social psychologists call this altercasting. Label someone 'as if ' they have special needs and guess what they behave 'as if ' they have special needs. I'm not suggesting for a minute the issue is easy to resolve, I'm simply making the point that people with alternatives argue their differences on emotive issues rather than unpacking the underpinning points of philosophy. If this is the case then Ofsted and The Teaching Profession will simply play out a grotesque caricature of an unruly classroom! Then what? does that mean Teachers have 'special needs'too?


Friday, 10 September 2010

Is Koran Burning Pastor The New John Brown?

As Protests against US Koran-burning sweep Afghanistan we are witnessing the practical consequences of the politically inpet utterings of Pastor Terry Jones. Whilst the cause is different the political assessement  of Terry Jones echoes that of abolitionist John Brown and the part he played in starting the American Civil War. "President Abraham Lincoln said he was a "misguided fanatic" and Brown has been called "the most controversial of all 19th-century Americans."

Like Brown, Terry Jones may have set in train violent consequences that he has no way of controlling. Already 3 people have been shot dead because of his idiocy. He may yet lay claim to being the most controversial of all 21st century Americans. President Obama is trying to glue the US nation together by a bout of international condemnation. President Obama says the US is not going to be divided by religion or ethnicity. The problem is huge and the solution complex. Millions of people are only too happy to run with simplistic and polarised opinions. There is potential for a perfect storm. Instantaneous global communication, high power weaponary within the reach of millions, religious fundamentalism on both sides. This could really 'kick off'. Historians agree John Brown played a major role in starting the Civil War. Maybe they will attribute Terry Jones with starting World War Three.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Burning The Koran Is Wrong

Terry Jones of the The Dove World Outreach Center provides clear evidence of the dangers of muddled logic and belief. The idea of Koran burning is an ill conceived idea. Putting aside the serious real world consequences of his ill informed decision to burn a copy of the holy book of the Islamic faith, his chopped logic is depressing. Let's have a look at how his approach can only be believed by the gullible.


The 'brand' of his church includes the word 'Dove' which is regarded as a symbol of peace. His actions are designed to stir trouble.

Similarly the name of the church includes the word 'outreach' which has the common meaning of, surprise, surprise, reaching out, which in turn implies building bridges and meeting people not alienating them. It also implies trying to understand the world view of another to find common ground.

The act of burning a copy of a religious text is deeply offensive to those people who have a faith regardless of their faith. On a direct personal level it is ignorant and rude whether you are religious, agnostic or atheist.

He conflates a world religion with terrorism. This is a gross error of understanding.

He has a supernatural (child like) belief in the material effects of book burning. That somehow this will affect (like sticking pins in a voodoo doll) the attitude and behavior of terrorists. This is merely an example of his dependence on faith rather than practical reality.

He apparently lacks any rhetorical and communication skills because he misunderstands that the meaning of communication is the way it is perceived. If he believes that burning a copy of the Koran will send a message to radical Islam, he overlooks the fact that is also sends a message to moderate Muslims too.

His faux religious zeal and simplistic grasp of realpolitik actually betray his real credentials as a despotic attention seeking trouble maker, with no real concern for others. He doesn't care about our troops in the field, he doesn't care about innocent civilians who will be used as scape goats by his mirrors in terrorist groups, he doesn't care about the beliefs and faiths of other people, he doesn't care about anything except his own opinion and status.

Maybe he should rename his church The Hawk World Polarisation Center instead?
Obama response:

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Disapora Open Source Social Network Needs Facebook

Don't you find it curious that Diaspora aren't able to promote themselves by explaining what they do? They can only explain themselves by explaining what they are not. The Diaspora social networking site has to mention the more famous name of Facebook (who they aspire to usurp) in order to gain any traction for their idea. In other words if it wasn't for Facebook (the very social networking site they criticise) they wouldn't exist because they position themselves as 'anti facebook'. So they must admit that they really don't have an original idea, because the original idea belongs to Facebook. They have come up with a less creative single loop solution to criticisms of the original they have not re-invented the concept which requires true creativity and innovation. If they are lucky they might the Oasis to the Beatles.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

You Can Believe What Is Untrue and Disbelieve What Is True

Mary Ann tweeted a link that led to a fascinating site about faith, belief, and scientific thought. For Richard Dawkins "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence".




This is an argument that has to swim against a tide of thought that argues that to have faith is good because of the very fact that it is irrational. Well someone clever came up with that dead end rebuttal. I fear lack of open mindedness. I fear ideas that are resist counter evidence. I fear dogma. Reading on from the link that Mary Ann posted I thought the following quote from Craig Lee Duckett was worth posting.

"Beliefs oftentime give the appearance of pleasure and peace, because beliefs are almost always personalsubjective and don't push back. People typically believe in those things that make them happy, alleviate their fears, give them hope, and promise to fulfill their wishes and dreams. Life-after-death, living in eternal Paradise with your loved ones, seventy-two virgins, inheriting a vibrant young 'spiritual' body, all knowledge revealed, seeing wicked people get theirs'—these are just some of the things that motivatetempting, the endings neat and tidy. Seeking truth and knowledge, on the other hand, typically produces the opposite effect by eventually uncovering the self-deception and denial underlying most untested belief systems "

Cold Calling Leaves British Customers Cold

When you get a Cold Call in the evening and it's obvious the cold caller is using a cold calling script doesn't it just drive you mad? Cold calling scripts are invariably stilted and its often impossible to get the caller away from the set line of conversation. Ceri Stanaway of consumer magazine Which is right when she says that cold calling is "At best a nuisance and at worst an intimidating intrusion into our lives.” The self -referencing rhetoric of direct mail and selling organisations is that its all about providing service, and making people aware of choice. The dirty little secret of course is that it's a high pressure sales led activity that knows it can use the gullibility of customers who feel under pressure to win a few extra dollars of turnover. According to the BBC they report that a significant majority of Britons believe Cold Calling Should Be Banned

The question is very simple. Why do organisations conduct cold calling campaigns? Is it driven by an altruistic concern that we aren't aware of the best deals that just might transform our lives? Are these organisations being philanthropic choosing to call us in the early evening to save us the hassle trudging around stores and surfing the web to ensure we know just what's on offer? You're having a laugh aren't you? No profit driven organisation does anything unless there is something in it for them and that something is 'incremental sales'.

People who wish to exploit the gullibility of others are masters of 'the situation'. Control the situation and you control the person. So, 'get them when they are off guard in their own homes, get them at meal times when they are likely to agree to anything to get you off the line'. Cold calling is an aggressive activity that exploits the vulnerability of people. Worst of all are the cold calling pariahs who call elderly people. I have personal experience of this with my father. Cold called by a utilities company they tried to 'aggregate' his policies into one 'easy to pay plan'. Sounds great until you do the arithmetic and  his payments would have trebled!

The people who design cold calling campaigns sit in their office planning how to exploit people. They now that the majority of people are not skilled in rebutting their selling techniques, they know that people often struggle to say 'no', they know most people have never heard of 'bait and switch', 'low balling' and the host of other manipulative techniques they deploy to get a 'Yes'

I recommend the Telephone Preference Service to get these leeches off your case. The real issue for customer choice is the right to choose when to speak to an organisation, when to ask for information and when to spend their money, and how to spend their money. It is not the right of a business to decide when a customer does these things. So stop there, don't tell me these businesses never do these things, don't give me the shallow nonsense about 'providing a service'. Cold calling is the professional equivalent of aggressive begging and the perpetrators should be named and shamed. In the meantime it would pay to learn about their dirty tricks. Customers are not gullible.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

20% Of Americans Wrongly Believe Obama Is A Muslim

How ironic. 20% of Americans 'believe' that Obama is a Muslim. Belief is a curious thing. One in Five Americans are too lazy to be bothered to find out the facts. To get the evidence. They would rather depend on belief rather than data. A fifth of Americans are playing a tit for tat faith game. They presume Obama's faith is Muslim when he is a Christian. They believe that Obama's faith isn't as 'good' as their 'faith'. They believe he has the wrong faith. This is a problem with faith. It requires you to believe without any evidence. When such thinking seeps into the ordinary everyday ways of the world rather than staying in the meta-physical place where such thinking belongs then we have trouble. There is an equivalence in ignorance here between this 20% and the Taliban who 'believe' that their beliefs should direct day to day affairs. This 20% lack of intellectual sophistication translates into a huge number of ignorant people.

This is worrying. Why are they content to 'believe' rather than put effort into getting the facts? Perhaps its because so much of their life, it's meaning and it's purpose is prepared like a 'ready meal' for them to consume by Big Media and Big Business. With yet more irony, what more evidence is needed for evolution! The brain skill of researching for evidence, analysis, synthesis and placing of meaning has been de-selected. An evolutionary branch that has no need to 'gather evidence' has started in 20% of the population of the USA. In a couple of hundred years they will become a sub (sic) species of human. Unable to understand information, incapable of thinking for themselves, reliant on rote and routine to get them from waking to sleeping.  The Washington Post  report on the survey should worry anyone who thinks deeper than foam on a Starbuck's cappuccino.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Scattering Raoul Moat's Ashes In Rothbury Was Scatalogical

Scattering Raoul Moat's ashes in the river at Rothbury can only be described as scatalogical! That said so matter how heinous a criminal Raoul Moat was there is no reason why his family shouldn't mourn his passing. In many ways the violence of his life and death was a waste and a tragedy.

What is utterly astonishing is the empathy bypass his surviving family members have had. What possible rationalisation can they have for scattering Moat's ashes in the river at Rothbury? Surely this is indicative of the 'nature' of his family and upbringing. A callous disregard for the feelings of others. An inability to sublimate one's own feelings in relation to the feelings of others. You really have to question how his family 'see the world'. Did it not occur to them the level of insensitivity that their act would demonstrate. Quite simply scattering the ashes of Raoul Moat in Rothbury is an insult.

In our politically correct times we are given to the post modernist gullibility of according equivalent value to words and deeds regardless of who does them. No thing is any better or worse than any other thing. There is no absolute right and there is no absolute wrong. This then becomes a justification for the less philosophically sophisticated to justify their right to do anything they please! In the Moatian Parallelverse anything goes. Well I don't go along with the POMO's. Ok so there might not be an absolute version of things like truth, but we can have a consensus, and the consensus could say in non PC terms that the members of  Raoul Moat's family are thick, unfeeling, self absorbed, dead heads.

Actions are born from ideas. Ideas are indications of a world view. The Moat view seems to be 'me -centric'. Their lack of respect for the people of Rothbury is shameful. It might be argued that they lack intelligence. What is without doubt is their complete lack of emotional intelligence.


Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Ground Zero Mosque A Challenge To Basic Christian Beliefs?

Let me clear at the outset. I have absolutely no grasp or comprehension of the nature, scale and grief of the families and friends of the 9/11 victims. It is because of this that I find the the challenge put before us to 'turn the other cheek' such an incredibly demanding thing to ask. The phrase comes from Jesus' Sermon On The Mount and is reported in the Gospel of St Matthew as:

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
Matthew 5:38-42, NIV

Putting aside any discussion of religious freedom, I presume senators such as Mr Harry Reid are Christians. Therefore I believe he is being given a truly demanding test of his christian faith to sublimate his anger, grief, thirst for revenge etc and allow something to happen which his core instincts find so deeply wrong.

Notwithstanding the fact that some of the Americans killed by the 9/11 terrorists were in fact Muslims, the issue seems to be much deeper than one of religious freedom. It is a test put at the philosophical basis of Christianity. Turning the other cheek is a philosophical 'turn' (sic) in direct opposition to the historical Jewish approach of 'an eye for an eye'. It is a 'catch phrase' if you like that sums a very deep insight into human nature that shows that an eye for an eye philosophy will degenerate into a viscous circle of vendetta. Because our natural (basest?) instincts are confronted with such a challenge marks the incredible difficulty if the task, because the greater the grievance the greater the challenge of turning away. The philosophical demand to forgive increases in proportion to the scale of the hurt.

Of course with elections looming I'd never say that any of the Senators were turning this into a political vote catching issue rather than a philosophical or theological issue. That would be mean I was being rather gullible.

More... read Rationally Speaking
The Mosque Analysis Part 1 Technorati

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Obama Ground Zero Mosque Recognition of All Victims

The negative reaction to a Mosque being sited at Ground Zero is irrational. President Obama is wise to point out that "Our [The United States'] commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable," There is a clear distinction to be made between the spiritual and religious choices a person makes and terrorist actions. If this were not the case then our prisons would contain people who there because they were 'Christians','Sikhs',or 'Shintoists' rather than being there because they are murders, burglars and fraudsters. There is no necessary connection between a religious faith and terrorism. There might of course be a correlation but this is not the same as a 'cause and effect'.

The people (sic) that committed the September 11th 2001 attacks in New York were terrorists. They killed at least 50 people who follow the Islamic religion. They didn't care about them either. There seems to no logical reason why people of that faith cannot have a place of spiritual reflection at the site of the 9/11 atrocity the same as other people can. The small minded and simplistic retort of Sarah Palin that "to build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks" is breath takingly ignorant of the facts, juvenile in its sophistication, and un-educated in terms of philosophical, theocratic and social grasp.

Although as Mick Glossop points out on Twitter " it's not a mosque, it's a cultural centre, and it's not at Ground Zero, it's 2 blocks away, but I agree.... "

A New Yorker speaks

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

UK Government Plays Hardball With Playground Schemes

So playground schemes are the latest victims of the bank induced financial crisis. Playgrounds like the one picture here at Cotgrave in Nottinghamshire are going to increasingly rare because "Education Secretary Michael Gove has frozen grants to 122 councils for building and running up to 1,300 schemes" according to the BBC. Now call me stupid, but didn't I just read about the £billions that our state owned banks are now making. Why can't the culprits of our financial crisis (The Banks) invest in the youngsters of the communities they have created personal havoc in? Are they hellbent on ruining the vital playtime and playspace of our children like they have blighted the lives of countless people in small business and the public sector. How about Fred the Shred stumping up some of his ill gotten gains, and putting up the money to support our children in their communities. The role of the playground for developing social skills of sharing , collaboration, burning off energy, stimulating the imagination is crucial. This government edict will have systemic consequences. With luck and from the lead of the USA in continuing to fund public projects, their systemic grasp will dawn on our penny pinching ministers.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Beware Of Games Design Myopia

One of the problems that powerful incumbents have is the myopia created by the success of their past business models. To underplay the ambition and capability of Ronnie Screwvala, chairman of media & entertainment company, UTV Group would be very dangerous indeed for the western and Japanese dominated games development and publishing industry. Sure we have had international games development teams plugging themselves into the extant industry structure to get their creative content to market. That doesn't always have to be so. India and other Asian are vast. The gameplay is likely to contain cultural norms and references that are different to what has gone before. The whole dimension of narrative will be alternative. The customers don't have be European, American (N&S) or Japanese. Of course the platform base has to be there, but UTV getting in early is a wise strategic move.

One of the problems of paradigm, of world view, is that it can quickly become a psychic prison. Just because it 'has been' doesn't mean it 'will be' in the future. I worked for an edutainment publishing in the 1990s and was told by retailers that kids aged 4 couldn't ever use computers and no one would by software for them. Really?

I'm not so sure that Piers Harding-Rolls, an analyst with Screen Digest, will be proved correct when he said that it was a "tough market" to launch new brands, and when he said that releasing new IP into a mature market was not without risk., surely he is missing the point by defining 'the market' by its current parameters.

The Boston Ice companies overlooked left competition with similar thinking, and whilst not directly analogous it serves as a salutary lesson to keep an open mind about what business you are in and who your competitors are. To do anything else would be rather gullible.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Blackberry Ban Echoes Gutenberg Reaction

The Blackberry Ban of the UAE and Saudi Arabia echoes the reaction of authority in Middle Ages to the Gutenberg printing press. The fear of authority to people sharing their own ideas, to having alternative interpretations to the 'official' line and making new meanings is a familiar response to 'new technology. The printing press preciptated the development of scientific thinking which lead to the Enlightenment and the split between Theocratic explanations of the world and rational scientific explanations. It led to the democratisation of knowledge.


The need for the State to protect its secrets and defend its borders is a natural right. When censorship intrudes on everyday conversations and exchange of information there is the distinct whiff of Medieval media control in the air. The UAE TRA director general Mohammed al-Ghanem claims that the Blackberry restrictions are due to something quite different to control of communications. He said "Censorship has got nothing to do with this. What we are talking about is suspension due to the lack of compliance with UAE telecommunications regulations." Cue Mandy Rice Davies - "He would wouldn't he"

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Muderer Huntley Claims Prison Service Don't Care!

Uncaring murderer of two little girls Ian Huntley is suing the British Prison Service because they haven't taken care of him whilst serving time at her majesty's pleasure. He alledges that when a fellow inmate attacked him and slashed his throat the Prison Service weren't doing enough to look after him.

The gruesome irony of his claim is surely not lost on the biological entity named Ian Huntley. Not that I'm any legal expert. I assume the law provides rights regardless of previous offences otherwise we lapse as a society into the dark place that the perpetrator exists.

This does not mean we have to 'feel sorry' for him. In August 2002 he murdered two ten year old girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. He was the caretaker (sic) at their school. He joined in police searches and callous TV interviews feigning dismay and concern.

It seems that he has finally revealed his true nature through psychological projection. This behaviour is defined by Sigmund Freud as "a psychological defense mechanism whereby one "projects" one's own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings, and so on onto someone else" In other words he believes the Prison Service failed in its duty of care and in doing so he is publically admitting that in August 2002 that's exactly what he did. He failed in his duty of care to Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Importance Of Being Curious

I sometimes wonder if I will ever stop being interested in things. Will there come a time when being curious fades away? If that should happen is it a sign that the end is approaching? Why have we been designed to be curious? I guess at an evolutionary level it starts with learning about what things to avoid and what things to approach. identifying the things that are good for us and the things that are bad for us. Some people stop being curious. You can see this when they behave 'as if' they have made it or cracked it. They mistakenly believe they have the answers. Perhaps they should take heed of Socrates - "I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing. "


Thursday, 22 July 2010

Big Society Is A Two Way Street

It's easy to be cynical about abstract ideas. Concepts are not always obvious in their practical application. Because they are the stuff of thought rather than substance they are often dismissed or belittled. In an ironic sense the concept of the Big Society models exactly what the issue is. Instead of people being handed everything on a plate they have to put some effort into thinking how the the idea might be brought into reality, and they have to make it happen. How easy it is to sit behind your newspaper, to mutter behind your pint, to whinge on your commute about what's wrong with society. To spout off about 'what needs to be done', to pontificate on 'what I'd do if I was in charge'. This is the luxurious position taken by people who never originate, people who say and never do, people who prefer one way rather than two way streets.

Seeing notions such as 'volunteering' as a 'public services on the cheap' is a small minded, self interested interpretation of the concept. If we live in a society where abstract concepts are avoided because people only respond to things that are given to them on a plate then something profound in the idea is being missed. The Big Society is a systemic notion. There are benefits for the people doing it as well as the people served. The idea of doing something unconditionally to help other people re-balances the 'what's in it for me' mentality that is under girded by materialism, consumerism, and bully boy corporate world views.

The mere fact that someone has a tilt at the concept implies they are likely to be the very people that should reflect on what it truly means for themselves and what they could do, right now, without permission, without payment to make someone else's life easier and happier. There are plenty of people who 'get' the Big Society and plenty of people who are doing something to make it more of a reality.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Big Society Response To Afghanistan Strategy

If I have understood David Cameron's Big Society idea then it means we can all chip in with suggestions for government activities and decisions. As a result I have appointed myself as our Local Community Strategy Advisor on Afghanistan.

Because there is concern the government strategy might be in a bit of a muddle due to apparent mixed messages I have decided to step into the PR arena with a 'Bumper Media Campaign' to avert any misunderstandings. Any questions from the local community on the Afghanistan issue and neighbours can just flag my car down and I'll be happy to clarify government policy for them.

Ali al-Megrahi Astonishingly Released On Faith Not Fact

Just how gullible have the Scottish Government have been in their decision making over the Pan Am 103 murderer al-Megrahi's release now seems clear. For some quaint Scottish reason they choose to forgo the full rigor of 21st century scientific medical advice and release al-Megrahi in good faith!

These people want to be in sole charge of the affairs of Scotland. What a disturbing prospect that must for anyone living in Scotland. With judgements like that they'll soon be burning witches in North Berwick and Dornoch again! So they claim it was a reasonable medical estimate. It wouldn't have been long to wait and fly him back home 24 hours before he was due to 'pop his clogs'. They could have even used and unmanned plane and blown it up over the Atlantic to give him a taste of his own medicine.

I presume he will be entering the Guiness Book of records for defying medical science? It should not be forgotten what this man actually did. Interestingly the BBC have recently written about a study that says that the Scots consume 25% more alcohol than the british average. Perhaps scientists could identify is there is a correlation between this study and the quality of Scottish government decision making?


Monday, 19 July 2010

One Sure Fire Incredible Way To Monetize Your Blog

I have been trying for a long while to find the ideal way to monetize my blog. After trawling the web for ideas I came across this sure fire way to instantly monetize any blog or web site. This is how I did it. I searched Google images for a picture by Monet. Picked one, uploaded it and instantly my blog was Monetized. Amazing!

There are other ways of Monetizing your blog too which I discovered in this great book...


Friday, 16 July 2010

Siobhan O'Dowd Commits Raoul Moat Facebook Page Suicide


So the infamous Raoul Moat Facebook tribute page has been taken down (pro tem). The BBC said on their website that "Siobhan O'Dowd confirmed she had taken the page down, but has not ruled out putting it back up".


This subject strikes at the heart of  Freedom of Speech. Let me make my position absolutely clear. I believe on the basis of the information presented in the news that Raoul Moat was an aggressive bully who terrorised the people he decided were his victims, killed one man, nearly killed and then blinded a policeman and nearly killed his ex-girlfriend. He disrupted the lives of hundreds of people when he became a fugitive and cost all of us alot of money in hunting him down. By any body's reckoning (except by poor old Gazza) this man was a nasty piece of work.

Nevertheless I remain troubled by the indignation caused by the Facebook site. Yes it was in bad taste, yes it was ill judged, and yes the members of the group left some pretty outrageous opinions in my estimation. That said I have the words of Voltaire ringing in my ears:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." 

What this means is that also have the right to claim that I feel Siobhan O'Dowd has displayed astonishing emotional un-intelligence. She has displayed an immature grasp of the medium she is using and the social impact it can have on the feelings of others. She has turned serious life events into a form of facile entertainment. She has displayed gullibility of gold plated magnitude. The site should be let to stand as evidence of just what an uncaring, ignorant and life thwarting individual Siobhan O'Dowd is. People who might employ her or have relationship with her should visit it to get a real sense of the inner person that Siobhan O'Dowd is. She has provided the evidence herself. These are not statements made by others.

We might be left asking why the site has been taken down? Public pressure? David Cameron? I would suggest these things are unlikely. The reason Siobhan O'Dowd has taken the Raoul Moat Is A Legend Facebook site down is because the penny has dropped that her personal reputation is at stake. She set it up for self serving reasons she has taken it down for similar reasons. Put it back up Siobhan then we can all see the real you! The similarities between you and your anti-hero are disturbing. You enjoy control (you might put the site back up) and you don't seem care about the feelings of other people. This is why you have committed Facebook suicide.

"We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard."  ~Voltaire, 

"The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen. " ~Tommy Smothers

"To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves. " ~Claude-Adrien Helvétius

"God forbid that any book should be banned.  The practice is as indefensible as infanticide." ~Rebecca West


And as I type a second Moat Facebook is published.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Monday, 28 June 2010

England Muppets Create Soccer Nightmare




The fact is the 2010 England team were a bunch of overpaid talentless prima donnas. Remember they earn more in one day than most of us earn in a year. They are paid these huge sums to deliver. They didn't.

Unlike the rest of the employed human race these people remain in secure highly paid jobs despite not being able to deilver, failing in front of billions of people, costing the fans that follow them thousands of pounds and still go back to their pampered lifestyles. Nice work if you can get it.

The real issue is being able to define 'the problem'. It is clearly a systemic management problem. Well beyond the intellectual capability of the 'lads in suits' that run the Football Association. A complete re-imagining of what English soccer is about is required. Not just tinkering with team rules and tactics. A complete re-think of what brings success from a high profile team sport. What is the role of the 'manager'? do we need it? Should people who have worked their way 'up the ranks' in the game be determining where it goes in the future. To quote Hamel and Prahalad, all they are going to do is "infect everyone with the same orthodoxies they've infected everyone else with" You've only got to look at the supreme Luddite Sepp Blatter to see how dominant mind-sets can lock a game into the psychic prison of the past.

Welcome to the nightmare!

Remember a true English hero:


Saturday, 19 June 2010

Wayne Rooney Apologises Thank You

So Wayne Rooney has apologised. Thank you. The best form of atonement clearly has to be a hat full of goals against Slovenia.

The Telegraph
The Daily Mail
The Guardian

If this happens then he might regain his hero status.

Am I being cynical if I say I think I spotted him noticing which side his bread is buttered?






Fly Wayne Rooney Home Immediately




Wayne Rooney is an overpaid, pugnacious and arrogant man who should be dropped from the England team and flown home. The fans who have paid thousands of pounds to be in South Africa are not there to blow smoke up his arse and fawn over his flawed celebrity. He is just a footballer who claims to be an elite performer and he should be judged by his actions not is ill conceived sense of celebrity status.

Wayne Rooney is gullible if he thinks that he is not answerable to the paying public. Where do your wages come from Wayne? He is also gullible if he thinks its the fans job to motivate him, when he is paid to inspire the fans.

The Game An Open Letter To Wayne Rooney


Friday, 4 June 2010

Just One Of Those Days




Its been a while now. 15 years or so. This morning I'm sitting in the conservatory on a sunny morning...and I want to speak to my mother. Don't know why. Nothing bad or anything just fancied a chat, a catch up, and I can't. I'm looking at her piano. I thought her soul was in it. Today I don't think she's there. I think she may have gone? I feel very alone at this moment. I'm sure it will pass.

I can't fathom why I suddenly got yanked by the chain on this one. Right now. This morning. A beautiful morning to sit and chat. I think I'm going to have that chat. Right now. A walk and a chat, now that sounds good. Maybe I'm not alone.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Dough!! Duchess of York Sells Prince Andrew



Duchess demonstrates eligability for this blog. As she rationalises what has taken place she attempts to diminish the PR and reputational catastrophe as a heavy day.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Elephant In The Blogosphere

So who really is getting the benefit from blogging? It seems that for all the talk about marketing paradigm shifts and new communication eras that the usual suspects are the people who have the time and interest in blogging.

Journalists are a case in point. Trained writers and people who are paid to write. The UK election trotted out the odd political blogger to show how 'hip and trendy' they were. The old wags made quips about the new turks using twitter.


Marketing communications and relationship marketing people are evangelists too. Paid to relate paid to communicate. The thing is all these people have TIME to blog, TIME to engage and participate. I've noticed a very interesting things with social networking. I work in academia. Academics do alot of reading and writing. Usually other peoples work. When it comes to blogging and engaging in sharepoint sites, ning communities they simply don't have the time to be avid and prolific. Composing a post occupies the mind as well the time. If your mind and time are occupied you don't blog. Simple as. So if a huge number of people are disenfranchised from the blogosphere not because of technological access or know how, not because of education, then how representative is the blogosphere of opinion?


Blogging and social media neophytes claim its the new frontier. They have the time to preach. For me its Cognitive Miser time. I can engage sparodically, my social influence is limited. The only gratification is expression of point of view. This has taken me 20 minutes and I could have been watching Springwatch.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Do Google Keywords Stifle Originality?

I've been dabbling alot with keywords recently, using Googles Keyword Tool and other Google search tools such as Google Insight for Search.

Now sure as eggs are eggs I'm no SEO expert, and yes I've found that finding 'goldilocks' keywords (not too popular, not too obscure but 'just right') have appeared to make a difference to blog posts visits and also my Squidoo lenses. They've also influenced url selection and also title selection too.

But that is what got me thinking about originality. If writers and publishers of on-line material chase after key words then where is the spark of originality?

If Harper Lee had done a search on 'To Kill A Mocking Bird' would she have thought woah!! Not very popular steer clear? How about Shakespeare? 'Much Ado About Nothing' hmmm not many searches for that...So it seems to me there is a conundrum. Do you go for the unique and rely on your creative genius to be discovered, or do you go bland and follow the sheep?

Google after all is predicated on technical search assumptions not artistic originality.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Bloggers Break Free From Traditional Media Manipulation and Bias

The UK Election debates have proved unequivocally how biased UK Big Media is in their reporting. Their blatant misrepresentation of reality in a naive attempt to dupe the British public into believing something else happened in the televised leaders debates shows just how out of touch they are with modern media and communciations. Look at any overseas reporting of the debates and they confirm that Nick Clegg did well, look at the narrative that Sky and the Daily Mail would have you believe and you'd think Cameron had produced a rhetorical triumph of Aristotelean proportions.

The British public are not stupid. They do not uncritically digest the pap that comes from the keyboards of so called 'professional' journalists. Furthermore once they realise that they are being misled they will kcik back. The electorate can think for themselves and social media platforms allow the true consensus to emerge into the light. The patronising attitude of Big Media is out of touch with reality and the voice of ordinary people. The man in the street saw Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown do well and and saw a David Cameron grasp and gasp as he put across half baked polemical ideas targetted at getting a 'hurrah' from his fellow 'henries'.

Twitter reaches more people than Sky and more people participate too. Facebook is a popular forum that represents topics from the ground up. All of these places are the new hustings, the space of community. We don't need someone else to make sense of our worlds for us Mr Murdoch we are quite savvy enough to do it for ourselves. If your reporting in this is biased why on earth should we believe anything else your organisation says?

The British electorate have emerged into the sunlight. They don't have to comment in huddles down the pub they can express themselves as they wish via social media. David Cameron did NOT do well on last night's television debate he looked all sea, he looked concerned and desperate, he is out of touch and lives in the past with his media backers.

Objective reporting? See Google Election Trends for the real buzz.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Is Nick Clegg Really Being Heard?

I've just been trawling Google Trends, Google Search and Technorati for the buzz about Nick Clegg's electoral challenge and there isn't any!

Whilst our news programmes and papers are full of the Clegg effect the blogosphere is remarkably quiet. So just how important is the UK election to the rest of the world? Not alot it seems. Or perhaps its a little early.

Maybe it will get a bit more feisty after tonight's gunfight at the OK Corall. Ego's have been pricked and so pulling Nick down a peg or two is bound to be part of the game plan. The mud slinging has started of course. It has to be asked whether this is a feint or a full on assault. I think the former.

If Nick gets drawn into defending his position he might just slip back to third place. As we know from the 'X' factor and 'Dorothy' you can sing a song well one week and singing for your right to stay in the game the next.

Conservative Americans were worried about Nick Clegg about 17 hours ago from the time of writing this post according to Technorati. Google Buzz seems to be a bit more up to the minute and Twitter is on the pulse too.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Iceland Volcano Creates A Clear Blue Sky

This morning I took the dog for a walk and for a while I couldn't quite put my finger on what was different. Then it dawned upon me. Totally clear blue sky. Not just clear of clouds but clear of vapour trails. I was looking at the sky as it must have been 100 years ago. This has had a profound impact on me. No noise. The air is completely free of even high level distant aircraft noise and I never realised just how pervasive the noise has been. Today is a beautiful day. We have Eyjafjallajoekull the Icelandic Volcano to thank for this. Now of course modern living means use of jet aircraft but what this brings home to me is just how polluting the current design solutions are. Today is a beautiful day.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Magnets In Large Hadron Collider Disrupt Moral Compass

Magnets change your morals.The surpising side effect following yesterdays particle collision experiments has been confirmed by Dr Liane Young of the Massechusetts Insititute of Technology.

In a recent paper reported by the The BBC titled Magnets Can Modify Our Morality Dr Young is quoted as saying: "To be able to apply a magnetic field to a specific brain region and change people's moral judgments is really astonishing"

Worryingly the massive power of the LHC magnets have a huge effect on people working on the project. It seems the magnets 'pull' peoples moral compass away from their typical disposition making them see the ethical consequences of what they are doing in very different ways.

It is claimed that what started as a project seeking ways to improve knowledge about particle physics has for some become a race to create the first so called Particle Weapon capable of launching mini black holes at their targets and blasting them to oblivion. Not even their final screams escape the gravitational pull of the singularity.

Others who were previously staunch rationalists and who have been standing close to the LHC magnets have become highly spiritual and believe they are seeing the mind of God.

Normal morality is typically recovered after a short break away from the LHC. Although scientists are advised to avoid Las Vegas due to the 'top up' effects of the weak magnetic fields that exist around the thousands of slot machines.