I’ve just returned from Northern Ireland, having spent time in Belfast and took a tour around the provence to witness first hand the state of the politics there today.
Sure, the burnt-out cars of the Troubled-time are gone, I was able to walk where I chose, but the markers for the fault lines are clear for all to see. They hang from lamp-posts, from flagpoles attached to the front of houses and emblazoned on the end-walls of streets everywhere. I’m talking about Union Jacks and Ulster Unionist flags – and a significant number of Loyalist battle flags, too.
The UK media’s not too keen to talk about the flags. With investment money flowing in now, Belfast is thriving. An optimistic young city that’s a joy to spend time in. But within a mile of the centre, even around the corner from the majestic, globally recognised Queens University, teeming with it’s wonderful mix of accents and language from laughing foreign students, the symbols of sectarianism abound.
So why with all this new-found prosperity are the old sectarian feelings still so prevalent – why does the air have a sense of a unease, like a coiled spring or smoundering tinderbox?
Brexit – the fear of betrayal
Look beyond the Loyalist Crumlin and Shankill and you’ll come upon the Nationalist strongholds of The Falls. Forbidding steel gates stand ready to fall across the centre of the area in the event of unrest and ironically, they rest open against The Peace Wall. Its intention was noble but its now covered with political propaganda of the Marxist left, stoking the unrest and providing an insight into where the nationalist IRA, INLA, New IRA and Sinn Féin’s allegiances lie. Here you see Palestinian, Jihadist, Catalonian and Venezuelan images. The clear expression of “our republic” and talk of British occupation.
The Irish government in Dublin has long held links to the PLO and a few seconds research will reveal the extent of Sinn Féin’s long-held anti-semitism. Given that legacy, the murals should surprise no one.
On the Loyalist side of the gates, bold murals celebrate the historic British alliance and army connections, along with memorials to fallen Loyalist fighters. But I didn’t expect to see Israeli messages of solidarity for the Unionists, along with one in support of the Polish, recalling the contribution of the RAF’s Polish Squadron in the Second World War.
battlelines drawn anew?
Later that day, sipping my expresso back in the shabby-chiq cosmopolitan surroundings of the Cathedral Quarter, I reflected on what I’d seen. I imagined a land forfeited in the name of some ill-conceived accord with the EU that established a unified Ireland lazily justified by its majority Remain vote in the 2016 Referendum.
I remembered the IRA’s old alliance with Gaddafi’s Libya. Of course, that’s now gone. But something far more sinister has stepped in to fill that void. A pact between our more modern arab enemies.
I thought about a Marxist-driven land-grab by an army of criminals and terrorists armed by Hezbollah, Hamas or Iran, the spectre of roadside IED’s and suicide vests faced off by beleaguered Loyalists. What part might Israel play, could we see our very own Middle East-style conflict, a ferry or shuttle flight away. Just as the Troubles decided no winners, Ireland could become our new Afghanistan.
Whatever happens, we cannot – we dare not – betray this noble and loyal union. We can’t forget that these are proud British people, no matter what concessions the EU push us to accept in return for our own independence.
presenting biomaterials, 2019 Material of the Year
Greater London, United Kingdom, 2019-09-02 –
Every year, the London Design Fair showcases how innovative materials can be used in everyday things. Last year, it was recycled plastics, this year is the turn of biomaterials as Material of the Year.
Biomaterials or bio-based materials are often derived from agriculture. The products are harvested in an often complex yet sustainable process. The Fair is showing examples of work by four innovative environmental designers under the heading of Second Yield.
Jimmy MacDonald, the Fair’s Founder and Director explains: ‘The sheer volume of waste being repurposed and the potential volume these new materials can be used at, makes them extremely important and something we want to celebrate at the Fair.’
The Designers and inventors
Material: corn husks
Totomoxtle is a new veneer material made with the husks of local Mexican corn. A key part of traditional Mexican food, the local native corns range in colour, from wonderfully deep purples to soft yellow creams. Sadly, globalisation is threatening native varieties of Mexican corn. The only real hope of saving local species lies with Mexico’s indigenous people, who plant the corn in a traditional way. Working with the Tehuixtla community in the Mexican state of Puebla, Totomoxtle is helping local businesses and farmers to diversify to generate new income.
As a product and material designer, Fernando works between Mexico and London and has been engaged in this work since 2016. He takes the husks, often considered waste and transforms it into products that echoe the historic local culture, something that is key for him.
Material: potato waste
Co-founded by Rowan Minkley and Rob Nicoll, Chip[s] Board is an innovative biomaterial company that turns food waste into high-value materials. McCain, the world’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato products supports a number of sustainability projects is supplying Chip[s] Board with its raw materials. Chip[s] Board has several products using potato waste, including Parblex™ Plastics, a translucent pure or fibre reinforced bioplastics that can be used in fashion and interior design. Chip[s] Board has won several national and international grants and competitions and has attracted attention from global brands. The company is planning to scale up to be a provider of responsible alternatives, a step closer to replacing toxic polluting plastics.
Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven
Material: palm leaves
Based in the Netherlands, Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven is a product design studio with a difference: Tjeerd Veenhoven designs value chains, from initial production to the overall consumer experience.
The areca palm tree of Southern India produces areca betel nuts used in Indian cuisine. The trees shed around 80 million square meters of beautiful, unused palm leaves every year. Tjeerd Veenhoven is putting the leaves to use. With just simple, natural ingredients and processes, he’s dried and permanently softened the brittle palm leaf, giving it a leather-like quality. Known as PalmLeather, this project began 2010 and has been growing ever since.
Tjeerd has set up several artisan factories in India, the Dominican Republic and Sri Lanka making various PalmLeather and derivative products, such as this unique PalmLeather interior rug using strips placed vertically, creating beautifully individual results.
Materials: hemp, tobacco and pomace
High Society was founded in 2015 by Johannes Kiniger and Giulia Farencena Casaro, located in the heart of the Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy. The company compression-moulds plant-based lighting from post-industrial waste including hemp leftovers, pomace, the pulpy residue left after after wine production, and discarded leaves and stalks from tobacco cultivation. Each light sold supports anti-drug dependency initiatives, working with Forum Prävention in Bolzano, north-east Italy.
High Society produces three lamp variations, the Highlight Hemp pendant, usings industrial hemp leftovers, Highlight Wine pendant, using pomace and the Highlight Tobacco pendant, leaves and stalks discarded during Venezian tobacco cultivation. Each unique lamp variation has an added bio-based binder and a natural wax coating providing a shiny surface protecting the lamp from humidity. Minimal and elegant, the pendants are ideal for both commercial and residential use.
Information and images supplied by V2com
I wonder how long it will be until the Rebel Alliance of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, Jo Swinson’s Libdems and Ian Ashford’s SNP realise the triple-irony of what they’ve done?
The first irony is that their grab for power has left them in voters minds with only a cigarette paper of difference between each of the three parties. The electorate won’t have a clear choice, leaving the alliance parties vulnerable in terms of vote share.
The second irony is the trick that brought them victory is the same trick that could destroy them. They exploited a weakened Tory party’s fragile majority for their power grab. If they ever get round to a general election, each party will have to stand and face the voters alone.
That exposes them to a populist swing in support of the bruised and mistreated Tories, along with a powerful push towards the full-fat leave policy of the Brexit Party. So with their “partners” standing against them, only a fifth of any voting share will be theirs. As we’ve seen, there is no policy daylight between any of them, leaving voters with no clear differentiator between the alliance parties. Plaid Cymru are the most exposed as Wales voted as a nation (53% – 47%) to leave the EU.
Crucially, voters have little reason to vote for this Rebel Alliance, given that they have made it perfectly clear they won’t honour voter’s wishes, so who would want to vote for any of them – who wants to see their vote ignored?
But the final irony is this. And it’s the key one. Should any of this evil trinity see the light, break free and try to differentiate themselves to crawl out of their cesspit of rancid coalition, the others will simply team up against them to bring them down. If it’s worked against the mighty Tory party, bringing down each other with the same tactics will be easy.
the Scottish perspective
And what of Scotland? The SNP will be up against a Conservative party that has its integrity intact. The SNP will have to break ranks with the LIbDems to gain share in its homeland and Labour will want to assert itself in Scotland. The LibDems will appeal to Remain-loving Scots who don’t want to break up the Union.
On that basis, it’s hard to see the SNP gaining any share – far more likely to see them losing ground.
The nuclear option this junta has deployed could contaminate British politics for a very long time. So don’t give up your day-job, comrades…
Savour your victory, you modern day politburo, you may find the damage you’ve done to British democracy could take a generation to heal – if ever.
Funny. I’ve always had a kind of uneasy feeling about Adobe’s Flash. Maybe because I saw it as some strange black art practised by weird geeks in back rooms. Flash never felt right, somehow.
Seems my unease about it was justified. Adobe’s just said it’s pulling the plug on part of its giant Flash product portfolio.
Only their Flash Mobile product, that is. Now you might say, so what? But this move suggests a more seismic event to follow.
With Adobe now working on the technology to replace Flash Mobile, desktop Flash will soon find itself the next in line product for the axe. But why’s that such a big deal. After all, technology changes regularly. Why worry about Flash?
Flash has long been king of Animation City. But Flash is a proprietary product you had to buy to use. Its not the agonising death of another corporate cash-cow that is bothering me. It is what will take its place. And that’s HTML5/CSS3. Which few really know much about.
We could see a real slow-down in site development as people try to get up to speed. That’s not occurred before and it comes now, when the Internet is seeing its fastest growth.
But this isn’t all doom and gloom. HTML5/CSS3 has great potential, such as search engine-friendly sites which can actually be updated – once we decide on the final video format, that is…
Don’t go for Flash – but don’t expect cheap HTML5/CSS animation. Because no one’s found the HTML5/CSS3 can opener yet!
Autumn 2011 has been a really interesting time for banking. I mean new banking, not that tired old high street of ours.
MovenBank’s appeared, Zopa’s broken more records, Wonga’s won more awards and a new social P2P player’s launching, CivilisedMoney.
It generated quite a lot of Twitter traffic with people on digital banking’s front-line, like banking innovators, Darren G and Aden Davies. And raised one key question.
Online or on high street – can a click ever replace a footstep?
You know, no matter how much you explain, some people never manage to get it.
Take Wonga and the thorny question of APR, for example.
Now I’m not going into compound interest’s mysteries and related technobabble. Let’s just look at the reality of how life is and take it from there.
Before the crash, we trusted banks and most of us funded our lifestyles with credit. Nowadays, most people are recovering from first-degree finger burns and avoid credit like gasoline on bonfire night.
But life still bites. You still get unexpected bills that threaten the next meal’s arrival. And if that happens – and you’re smart – you’ll appreciate Wonga…
If our high street merged, what would you take from each to form one super bank?
I’ll leave you for a minute to have a think about that one.
For all banking’s “talent” and money, why so little to choose between each one? Why can’t we find a killer product or even one differentiator?
How can this be – in other sectors key differences exist. Why not in banking?
I mean, there are some great web browsers – and they’re all free, for Pete’s sake. Gaming calls for the latest technology. People happily buy that, don’t they?
But for some reason, we have to placate the stupid and design sites like its 1999. Web designers are told that they must maintain full compatibility with everything. Not just for browsers maybe a version behind, but stuff from another age.
Well, I think it’s time we ask the question. Should we push or just follow?
Ever stopped for a moment to consider exactly what is banking really all about? Could a lawn mower be the key to change?Not any old lawn mower. But Bosch lawn mowers – and how they came about. Because this is about re-invention at a very dark time. A time not unlike now.
About how a company faced with a collapsing market found the vision to change. Emerging stronger and able to cope with an even greater challenge to follow.
Once upon a time, we thought US financial policy was decided democratically. That concept was blown away like a dollar bill in Hurricane Katrina.
The US government in reality is no more than some crude Punch & Judy show, the strings being pulled by a financial Mafia run by Wall Street and its lobbyists. Everything neatly stage-managed by a company called Standard & Poor.
Standard & Poor was perceived as the US financial world’s steadying influence. The trusted hand deciding the efficacy of decisions taken on Wall Street.
The banking crash revealed a startling fallibility – but was that the real story?
They must have made us buy millions of wallets. I’m talking about plastic cards. They became an obsession – even something we collected.
Colourful, pictorial, themed, silver, gold, platinum, even black. We had them all. Pushed by banks and card companies desperate to part us from whatever cash the Government hadn’t taxed us on, we let them cause our own credit crunch.
But finally, the tide is turning. Its not just consumers who are abandoning them. The banks can’t wait to get rid of their dried up cash-cow too.
How come most companies think having PowerPoint more important than CRM?
CRM comes last, after email, office productivity and accounting.
Everybody knows, we’re told often enough, that looking after customers is vital. But as a process, many companies don’t see it as that important.
In fact, most companies don’t think about managing the relationship with their customers until something goes wrong and they find they can’t.
Ironic, really. When you consider that CRM will start to deliver benefits instantly, the moment you roll it out to your users. Let’s take a look…
Just a few months ago, I had high hopes for what Tesco bank might achieve. Even with Fred Goodwin fan-boy Benny Higgins in charge.
But the recent prolonged outage for so many customers has been handled badly. And Benny Higgins has shown his old-school banking colours.
Given the opportunity to show strength and courage, he chose to make excuses. Instead of holding his hands up, he chose mitigation.
Every new venture has a wobble. He could have shone, but he blew his chance. Not only does Tesco have the wrong boss, it has the wrong staff. Here’s why…
OK, regular readers will know I’m not buying the hype around SmartPhone NFC. This is for a number of reasons and none of which are about it being new.
I’ve talked about security, why quick isn’t a good reason, but that’s not everything. The real show-stopper to me is market reach. NFC just won’t fit the market.
Every other payment system before NFC reached its market cheaply and quickly. Now I’m going to show just how far NFC will fall short. Time to wake up…
Although owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest isn’t as hated as its parent. Strange, because really NatWest’s no better – some may even say its worse.
I’d like to talk a little about NatWest, but lets concentrate first on RBS as a brand. What can be done with a brand so damaged it’s lost the trust of its market?
I’ve just read a Management Today supplement about West Yorks Fire Service. Remember how Public Service budgets are meant to be getting cut back?
It should have cost a tenth of that – and it’ll only reach 60% of their users…
Maybe the great bank holiday weather took many writers away for the weekend. But the number of “its all over for Cloud” rants were mercifully few.
So, what should be taken away from Amazon’s failure. What have we learnt? Well, its shown intelligent system design is as vital for Cloud as anywhere else. Along with how many “experts” can still talk through their back-ends…
This is the bing result for Vista Service Pack 2 on Microsoft’s own download site. Bing can’t find it. No results. Zilch. Nothing. What about a Google search?
Well. Let’s take a look. The result may surprise you…
You see, this speed carries one big penalty. Security. Not for the device, for you. The transaction is now so fast, it can’t be fraud-checked conventionally.
“Contactless” means just that. No contact from either side – counter or customer. There’ll be no alerts, no chance to stop a fraudster. Or is there?