Monthly Archives: February 2009

links for 2009-02-28

Global downturn: In graphics | Business | BBC NEWS | Some of the key facts and figures behind the turmoil in the global financial markets; in easy to consume graphical formats. …..

links for 2009-02-27

Home repossessions rise to 40,000 | Business | BBC NEWS | Harrowing news that number of home repossessed in the UK by lenders rose by 54% to 40,000, thankfully this is less than predicted by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), however they still expect that repossessions this. …..

links for 2009-02-26

  • Another collaboration with Google Maps, showing updated data about approximately 2,500 endangered languages around the world. Out of circa 6,000 existing languages, more than 200 have become extinct during the last three generations, 538 critically endangered, 502 severely endangered, 632 definitely endangered and 607 unsafe. The Atlas shows that 199 languages have fewer than ten speakers and 178 others have 10 to 50. Recently extinct include Manx (Isle of Man, 1974), Aasax (Tanzania, 1976), Ubykh (Turkey, 1992) and Eyak (Alaska, USA, 2008). UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura stressed, “The death of a language leads to the disappearance of many forms of intangible cultural heritage, especially the invaluable heritage of traditions and oral expressions of the community that spoke it – from poems and legends to proverbs and jokes. The loss of languages is also detrimental to humanity’s grasp of biodiversity, as they transmit much knowledge about the nature and the universe.”

links for 2009-02-25

Shark attacks predict economic bubbles, says boffinThe Register A top Florida fish boffin says that the global recession is causing a massive decrease in the number of shark attacks; “I’ve yet to find a surfer who says he or she won’t go back into the water. …..

links for 2009-02-24

Thoughts on hearing that Northern Rock are to lend £14 Billion in mortgages

Just wanted to jot down a few thoughts on hearing that Northern Rock are to release £14 Billion into the UK economy via lending for mortgages.

Frankly it seems pretty obvious that this isn’t just the UK Governments method for pumping liquidity into the UK housing market, but also demonstrates a frustration with the money used to help ‘prop up’ the Financial Sector. Much of the Government bail-outs were supposed to help restart the financial institutions in question to start lending again, this plainly hasn’t happened. I think everyone, especially the UK Government, is disappointed that the money has been used to shore up the massive debts run up, as well as the short-falls exasperated by the world-wide economic downturn.

Northern Rock was the first of the big financial companies to bite the bullet and need to seek massive Government investment to stay solvent, or be nationalised, whichever you prefer.

What’s phenomenal about this apparent ‘turn of face’ given that up until today they had closed their books to new mortgage lending (in fact they had been aggressively repossessing homes across the UK), is how much the Bank had ‘closed the gap’ between it’s original debt and what it now owes; a massive two-thirds, the original level of debt when it sought Government intervention was £27 Billion and it now stands at £9 Billion.

The Shadow Treasury Minister, Greg Hands, is concerned about the dichotomy between existing Northern Rock customers, facing repossession, with all the new mortgage customers; a very valid point given that the Bank has said that it will be restructured, with new mortgages and existing mortgages managed separately, furthering any gap between the two groups.

Evidently this is not all that there is to this story and the three other questions I think we should be asking right now are:

Given that the number of homes in the UK repossessed by lenders rose last year by 54% to 40,000, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), how much was this number contributed to by Northern Rock?

Given that the new management team at Northern Rock successfully decreased the Banks debt by £18 Billion, how much of this was done via straight forward repossessions and how much by other methods, and if replicable in an appropriate manner, can any of these alternative approaches to repossession be turned into ‘best practices’ which can be shared with the rest of the UK banking community to reduce their levels of debt too?

Given that organisations like the CBI are saying if credit isn’t available soon the recession is going to get a whole lot worse what is the Government going to do to get the other Banks and Financial Institutions lending again as soon as possible?

links for 2009-02-23

Steam cashes in on better gaming experience – The Inquirer – The future of distribution is in giving people what they want; immediate access to high quality content. …..

links for 2009-02-22

USA CO2 emissions from fossil fuel (2002 data only) : Project Vulcan : US Scientists from Purdue University have created an interactive Google Earth map showing carbon dioxide emissions across the United States, the high-resolution map shows carbon dioxide emissions in metric. …..

links for 2009-02-21

“Whose data is it anyway?” Facebook in row over who owns *your* data | Technology | BBC NEWS | With Facebook still yet to find a genuine revenue generating business model, there are plenty of people who are uncomfortable not knowing what Facebook might do to achieve profitability.…..

A view from the Monument

Glad to see the Monument to the Great Fire of London has been re-opened after spending the last eighteen months being refurbished. And to celebrate here’s a few of the photographs I’ve taken on, from, by, and of, the Monument.

I’m keen on the Monument seeing as I’m a bit of a nostalgist and it’s just by Sun’s London offices (55 King William St.) and Customer Briefing Centre (CBC, at Regis House, 45 King William St.), with the Fine Line pub artfully arranged betwixt the two (there are plenty of other pubs nearby, it’s just almost a certainty you’ll see someone you know here after work, prior to the inevitable journey home).

A couple of years ago I went through a phase of going up the Monument almost every lunch time I was at our London offices; for a bit of exercise (it’s 311 steps up) and because I enjoyed the view, and that’s when I started to take the photos.

Serendipitously my children were learning about the Great Fire a few months after I’d become interested in the Monument, in fact I think the commemorative certificate I received when I first went up there is still on the wall at their primary school, along with the information booklet and a few pictures.

Obviously the history of the Monument is more than interesting; it was commissioned in 1669, three years after the Great Fire of London of 1666 that it commemorated. And for a great deal of the time it has been in existence it was inscribed with a variety of text blaming the Catholic community for starting the fire (getting caught up in the ascension of William III to the throne), a lie so plainly untrue that Alexander Pope famously wrote “Where London’s column pointing at the skies, Like a tall bully, lifts the head, and lies.” (Moral Essays. Epistle iii.).

William the III marks the last successful invasion and occupation of England and Wales, and is often overlooked by many, as, of course, he and his Dutch forces were ‘invited’ to invade by Parliament, but invasion and occupation it was. The bloodshed was predominately kept to Scotland and Ireland, where supporters for James the II were most prevalent; in Scotland because of his links to and descent from the Scottish throne and in Ireland because of his support of Catholicism. Anecdotally I’ve been told by elder members of the Horkan family that a number of our ancestors fought at ‘Battle of the Boyne‘ on the side of James the II, this decisive battle marked the failure of James to regain the throne of England and a crucial turning point in the struggle between Protestant and Catholic communities in Ireland.

The English Parliament, had made it illegal for anyone to be Head of State who was Catholic, in part, as being so would mean that the Head of the Church of England would be subject to the See of Rome, something that could not be tolerated, but predominately because of the mainly Protestant make up of Parliament itself. Coupled with the complex relationship to, and composition of, allies and enemies, some united by and divided by religious alignment, across Western Europe, it led to the situation that saw the invasion take place (in fact many historians see it as being little more than an extension to the fighting across Europe attempting to keep Louise the XIV in check). The law still exists that dictates the religion of the Head of State of England, even though a number of the Royal family have chosen to convert to Catholicism, losing them their place in the ‘order of precedence’ for the throne for all time (unsurprisingly this is often done just before they need to receive their last rights, just in case I suppose).

Thanks to the wonders of tagging here’s a selection of pictures from the monument taken by everyone who hosts their photographs on flickr who’ve used ‘the-monument‘ as a tag (some of these will be mine, flickr doesn’t have complex search and sort around tags yet, that would allow me to exclude my photos from this selection).

Here’s a whole host of links to Monument themed content; go knock yourselves out: