Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Street?

Reading up on the long-overdue £128 million investment announced by the Government yesterday, I noticed the following things:

1) It is only £128 million and not £350 asked for the complete redevelopment of the station. It will be spent "underground" on the rail infrastructure and platforms, so this naturally lighted glass structure has not yet been agreed.

2) Most of the money is coming from increased fares. The Government has actually cut funding for the railways so the passenger will be paying 75% of the costs in 2014 rather than 50% now.

3) The Government was interested in the more sensible Grand Central Station idea

4) There will be no decision until 2012 at the earliest whether or not to build a new line between London and Birmingham, despite the fact that the current route is predicted to be full by 2016. There is talk of resurrecting the disused Grand Central route, but this would have the same maximum speed (125mph) as now and there are no plans for a high speed rail link, which has previously been mooted (see link for 2)

All in all, not such a great deal then. It is good that there will be some investment in the station of course, but it is likely in 10 years we will still have a concrete station stuck between a car park and a shopping centre.

A far cry from the station that was once written about in the following manner:

"that station alone is enough to make one proud of being a modern Englishman".

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies..?

I was very suspicious of the news this week detailing evidence from one hospital in one month that the liberalization of the drinking laws had led to a three-fold increase in alcohol-related A&E admissions. Very suspicious because i work as an information analyst at a hospital close to Birmingham City Centre and have done two studies into this which suggest there has been absolutely no impact. My colleague looked at the subject again this week as a result of this story breaking and came to the same conclusion. I really suspect there is a hidden agenda behind this story, because it is questionable to present data based only on one month. I looked at a years worth of data, and in one of the reports took into account many conditions that may be related to increased alcohol consumption, but found no significant changes.

It should also be noted that it is not very easy, at my hospital at least, to produce this information, as the data from A&E is pretty difficult to interrogate. I doubt it is very different at St. Thomas' hospital because of the nature of A&E data. I would put this down to an increased awareness and recording of alcohol problems by the medical staff in A&E, as opposed to a genuine increase.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Perfect Role

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair took up his role as Middle-East envoy today. Many people have criticised his appointment due to his perceived bias towards Israel during the war on Lebanon, but I believe he has exactly the right experience for the job.

In the Middle-East, talk is cheap and no-one delivers on their promises.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ken Hardeman Dies Aged 72

After spending three weeks at City Hospital, Birmingham with a chest infection and breathing difficulties, Ken Hardeman died today aged 72. Currently a Conservative councillor for Brandwood and in charge of regeneration, he popularity spanned the political divide.

From a personal point of view, Ken was the first politician I ever voted for in a time when the Conservatives had a chance of winning the ward of Moseley and Kings Heath. It is sad to hear of his illness and death.

The Birmingham Post have a tribute here.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Prince of Formats

Prince gave away his new album Planet Earth free with the Mail on Sunday today, to cries of protest from the music industry. How can he slap in the face the shops that have built his career they cry. Why will people buy a CD by a top artist for £10 when they can get one for free?

All completely irrelevant. The music industry has been deliberately trying to hold back new methods of distributing music in vain attempts to try and make more money. They seem to delude themselves into believing people actually want to buy CD's; they don't and the tide has been moving from CD's to digital downloads for quite a while now. Of course, the music industry hate digital downloads, not because much of it is being done illegally (as a response to the music industry trying to hold it back) but because they can charge us much more for a CD for very little reason. Instead of us buying a track we want for 79p from iTunes, they insist on filling the CD with up to three B-side songs we do not particularly want so they can put it on a portable medium and charge us five times as much for it. A CD only costs about 50p to make, but after all the marketing, packaging and salaries are paid for, suddenly the cost shoots up to around £4 for a single, or £10 for an album.

The truth is the music industry is becoming irrelevant. The Internet has democratized music. Artists that would not have been give a chance by the "experts" provide their music on sites like Myspace to people who are prepared to listen to it. No longer are we told what we can listen to by middlemen making a quick buck out of other peoples talents. We can decide what we want and pay a reasonable price for it, if there is a price at all. It is an example of good capitalism (giving the people what they want) defeating bad capitalism (big business restricting the market and bumping up prices) - and long may it continue.

What about the music shops and the middleman? Well they will just have to get used to it. They can either embrace it and continue in the business, or they can die out.

After all, you can't stop progress.

Friday, July 13, 2007

ID Cards and Segregation in the Real World

I have not been blogging much recently because I have become addicted to the phenomenon of web 2.0 know as Facebook. If you read blogs, you probably know that this is a social networking site where you can post information about yourself and associate with you friend letting them know you are alive and what you are up to. It got me thinking that if the government wanted to create a bottom-up version of a national identity database, facebook would be a pretty useful model - but let's not overestimate the intelligence of our democratically elected officials.

It was fascinating catching up with people I have not seen for the best part of 10 years. I was surprised to find that many of my asian friends were still unmarried. If you believe the press, at the age of 18 (or sometimes younger), they are shipped to the subcontinent against their will where they are forceably married to someone they have never seen before. Well actually, no. For second and third generation immigrants, the truth is closer to this - caught between two worlds that leave the individual at a loss. I should know - as an asian catholic I too have struggled to find a suitable future spouse.

While we are at dispelling media myths about ethnic-minority communities, particularly in the wake of the Glasgow-London terrorist attacks, you might be interested to know that none of my muslim friends appeared to be involved in terrorism, and many seemed to be more integrated than me! One was actually dating a white girl, while another had actually joined the group opposing the academic boycott of Israel.

But of course, these kinds of stories do not sell newspapers, so it will be up to blogs like this to inform interested British people what really is going on.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Londres 2012

London is currently not parte de angleterre apparently. In an astonishing piece of treachery, even for the cockneys, they have decided to take entente cordial a bit to far and are hosting the opening stages of this year's Tour de France. Which in French means "Tour of France". I.e. currently London is part of France.

Presumably this means Birmingham is currently the nation's capital?

This is all in aid of London 2012 apparently. "Promoting sport" is part of the official excuse, but I suspect the France have decided to pull out all stops to host the 2012 Olympics. After Paris' failure this time two years ago, they have decided simply to annex the winner.

I've always maintained there is an advantage to an independent nuclear deterrent.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

We Shall Never Surrender

The recent terror attack attempts in London and Glasgow are sickening, seemingly designed to corner the new British administration into a more antagonistic position.

It is refreshing to see no links to Birmingham in this one though.

I have added a terror alert status to my sidebar, but I will not be taking down my links to Taking Liberties.

After all, maintaining civil liberties and fighting terrorism are not mutually exclusive.