Inder Manocha in forthcoming BBC drama

Inder Manocha has a supporting role in an adaptartion of Meera Syal’s book “Life isn’t all Ha Ha Hee Hee”.

Inder, who recently won an EMMA for best comedian and is regularly touring with his highly rated comedy act, will star alongside Laila Rouass, Ayesha Dharker, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Ace Bhatti as well as the other supporting cast of Lalita Ahmed, Indira Joshi and Rani Singh.

Filming is currently underway and the three part drama should air in the spring.

Link: article: Meera, Laila and Ayesha – the trio to lead BBC1 drama

Link: source: Asians In Media

Bahá’í World Centre Recommended as World Heritage Site

Globes [online] – Haifa municipality recommends Bahai center as World Heritage site

“The Haifa city council last week recommended that the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declare the Bahai center and gardens in Haifa a World Heritage site…”

As a Bahá’í myself there is obviously a bias that makes me particularly enthusiastic about this. The immense spiritual force and energy that engulfs me when I am in Haifa has left my heart and soul longing, almost begging every day, to be there time and again. As a young child I had a vivid dream of flying inside the Shrine of the Bab and awoke as, in my dream, I found myself locked within the Shrine and at rest in the ledge of a round window. With no pictures available of the interior of the Shrine it was not until about 8 years later when I made a pilgrimage as a 16 year old youth that I was able to witness that every detail I had vividly remembered was accurate and, when finding myself the bounty of being alone in prayer within the Shrine, felt my soul making the same flight that I had in my dream. I was not locked in after my prayers, but I liked to think that maybe a part of my soul remained there as my body did in my dream.

Since then the Baha’i World Centre has changed a lot and the mountain that surrounds the Shrine of the Bab, which is also the resting place for ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s body, has been beautified with 19 stunning terraces, each one tranquil and peaceful with the sound of trickling waterfalls and fountains drowning out the noise of the city. In essence, and in effect, the beauty that emanates from the Shrine is having its transforming affect on the land around it just as the souls that are moved by the transforming message of the Baha’i Faith have their positive influence on those that see them exemplifying the teachings of Baha’u’llah, whose coming The Bab announced.

Whether moved by the Spirit that animates the community of followers at the Baha’i Word Centre or simply keen to experience a beautiful and peaceful mountain, the terraced gardens with the jewel-like Shrine at their center are a treasure already hailed by many as one of the wonders of the world and, especially as the Baha’i Faith stands so firmly for the unity of people, races and nations, it might be fitting to acknowledge that this centre stands a symbol for the whole of mankind and not just those who have accepted the message of Baha’u’llah.

Link: article, Haifa municipality recommends Bahai center as World Heritage site

Link: source, Globes [online]

Herald the Birth Of a New World

THE SPEAKING TREE

Herald the Birth Of a New World – The Times of India, 20/10/04

“Few would have believed, when the Bab was born 185 years ago today, that the son of an Iranian merchant would herald the first world religion that would proclaim the equality of gender, the abolishment of slavery and the oneness of the human race…”

“As people everywhere become aware of the inadequacies of fanaticism, materialism, and extreme nationalism to solve the problems of a changing world, the Baha’i teachings point to a new way of life…”

This article, published on October 20th in The Times of India, gives voice to the uniting vision of the Baha’i community and provides a glimpse of how an optimistic view of the world’s future may take evidence from the turbulence of the times in which we live.

Link: article, Herald the Birth Of a New World

Link: source, The Times of India

Review: Blockbuster DVDs by Post

It’s some years since Mailbox Movies started DVD rentals by post in the UK, now there are loads of companies offering the same kind of service and I have set out to review a couple of them.

DVD rentals by post work on a monthly fee basis. Once you have paid your fee you can rent an unlimited number of DVDs per month within the limits of your package. You are sent a number of DVDs in the post and once you have watched them you return them, there is no maximum duration for your rental. Once you have returned the DVDs some new ones are sent out to you. DVDs are chosen by creating a wish list of films to watch, the company then choose DVDs from your list and send them to you, it is often possible to state further priorities within the list. This wish-list system is probably the greatest down-side of all DVD by post monthly subscription services, can you think of 20 films you have a burning desire to watch right now?

With Blockbuster you get a one month free trial, this is twice the length of the trials that most companies offer and each DVD is sent out under separate cover so you can send back the first DVD you watch before watching all the others. Blockbuster boast over 18,000 titles in their catalogue, this sounds impressive but in reality there are a lot of films missing, particularly more artistic or foreign titles. When it comes to maintaining a wish list over a period of time you will soon have seen everything you had a burning desire to watch and the availability of less popular films that you are willing to take a chance on becomes quite important. Compared to some offerings this service does seem to be rather limited to very popular movies and may not satisfy the hungrier movie fanatic. Another drawback of Blockbuster’s service is the turn-around time for getting a new DVD. When you send a DVD back they almost always spend the day of their receipt “processing” your next DVD before sending it out the following, so it takes three to five days to swap a current DVD for your next one. Finally, the ability to specify priority requests in your wish list seems almost counter-productive with DVDs generally beinmg sent from quite far down the list.

Blockbuster are very good with their online accounting, opening and closing accounts is seemless. They have sleeve images for all their videos and user ratings out of 5 (which you can add to) to guide in your decision making process when choosing DVDs.

In summary Blockbuster’s DVD’s by post service is run by professionals and is very easy to use. The speed of processing DVDs could be improved and their library would benefit from being extended. If you want a subscription that will ensure you get to see every popular film at a steady pace and you like the idea of a known brand being in charge then this is a good service. If you want more artistic or foreign films, or a fast turnaround, then this may not be the service for you.

Link: Blockbuster UK DVDs by Post

Pulver Communicator

The pendulum swings toward SIP

pulver.communicator – Download!:

From their site: “Using pulver.Communicator/XP, subscribers to the FWD Communications Network can enjoy Instant Messaging with their SIP contacts, as well as with their buddies on the four most popular IM networks as well (AOL, Yahoo!, ICQ, and MSN). And not only that, but pulver. Communicator supports multi-party chat across the different IM networks”

I couldn’t get this to work very well but it is only in beta. This new SIP client has some good new IM functionality which may help promote VoIP among the current IM community. Messaging functionality was a distinct feature of Skype but now they are only really ahead on free voice conferencing. See here for more on VoIP.

Essential Pollution?

The rising cost of fuel in the UK

It’s happening again, fuel prices are steadily rising toward the point where they can cause serious and unexpected damage to personal financial planning. Four years ago the cost of commuting by car went up by £50 per month for me within a matter of weeks, this time I am working from home so I am not so directly affected, but what concerns me most as I see fuel prices rise again is that I am not convinced any lessons were learned four years ago.

It has been common practise for the government of the day to announce in its annual budget that the tax paid on fuel would rise by some small amount. Currently when I pay 83 pence for a litre of fuel about 61 pence of that goes to the government and the UK has one of the highest rates of tax on fuel in the developed world. Generally the Chancellor of the Exchequer uses the preservation of the environment as the excuse for raising taxes as an incentive for us to stop driving cars, but when lorry drivers blockaded fuel depots in 2000 there were no politicians praising the good this was doing to our environment, instead it was proven that much of the countries infrastructure relies upon fuel and that many who rely on it cannot simply switch to using public transport.

Of course, that blockade of fuel was not expected and therefore it caused more problems than a planned-for shortage would. What has always seemed silly about the environmental incentive argument for fuel tax is that the cost of fuel (and thus the tax paid on it) in large cities, particularly London, is substantially cheaper than it is in rural areas, yet public transport into and within these cities is very good while public transport in more rural areas is very poor. In south east England a commuter can easily commute any number of miles toward, or directly away from, London but travelling less than ten miles east or west can often require a car or an 80 mile train journey via London. So where the choice really exists to leave your car at home and jump on a train or a bus there is substantially less incentive to do so, while those who have no choice are hit with higher and higher living costs.

When the fuel protesters rolled up in 2000, however, and suggested that the government drop tax on fuel by just 2p per litre, the governments response was very revealing. The government informed us that losing 2 pence from fuel tax would require a public spending cut of over one billion pounds in an essential service such as education, health or the emergency services. What this information suggests about the UK’s reliance on fuel is that the government needs the public to buy fuel just as much as the public need it to operate their lives. Simple mathematics suggests that if just a few percent of UK drivers were in a position to stop using their cars completely for the sake of the environment then the government would be in that same predicament of lacking funds for essential services. So long as the UK government needs the tax from polluting fuels to fund the rest of the economy they are not going to have an incentive to make real improvements to public transport or offer powerful incentives to speed up the take-over of cheaper and cleaner fuels on our roads.

Back in 2000 there was talk of change from the government, a ten year plan had been introduced to improve transport throughout the UK, one suggestion in the plan was that Britain’s most congested roads might benefit from using tolls, but we were pomised that public transport would be greatly improved before this plan would be considered. Now, in 2004, the suggestion of tolls for congested roads is being considered again but without the promises of an improved public transport system. I worry for M25 users because this must be one of the most congested roads in Europe, nicknamed the M25 car-park by many regular users. One of the main reasons that the M25 is always so busy is the lack of alternative transport moving in a direction other than London, if there were such alternatives I think it is obvious many people would choose them over hovering between the break and the clutch in the bottom two gears for an hour. Most regular M25 users already suffer enough having to face the congestion nightmare twice every day, forcing them pay more for it just doesn’t seem fair and will likely make getting to work too expensive for some of them.

Obviously pollution is a problem that the people of the UK take very seriously, most people proudly switched to unleaded fuel as quickly as they could when it was introduced because they thought they were making a big difference. If the incentives and advertising were put in place to encourage drivers to convert to LPG (Gas) and it was sold at every fuel station then I am sure this would also be a popular move for most Britons. Even with cleaner fuels in place we still need to discourage non-essential travel that pollutes the environment, and some kind of toll charging may still be a good idea, but I would want it to be made conditional upon needs. If you can prove that your journey to work, or your actual work, or even your shopping trip or school run reasonably requires that you regularly use certain motorways then you should have free access to those sections of the road network, on the other hand if you are using your car for those purposes when there is a public transport alternative, or you are on a journey outside the part of the network that you require use of for your day to day life, then I think it fair that a charge would be made for occasional, luxury or liesure use of Britain’s motorways.

Ideally, of course, taxation needs to be re-thought so that tax taken from polluting transportation fuels that we should be trying to be rid of is only used to fund and improve transport and environmental projects and the funds required for our essential services are raised from other sources which we, as responsible and environmentally friendly citizens, would want to see available as a source of funds in the longer term.

Bodiam Castle

Today Manoocher Samii came to visit for the afternoon, the sun managed to start shining through the clouds so we headed out to find a nice place for a walk… I got a bit lost driving through Tunbridge Wells and found myself miles from where I had intended to be, so we ended up visiting Bodiam Castle.

Built in 1385, most of the interior of the castle has been destroyed but the exterior shell is still largely in tact and enough remains of the rooms and spiral staircases to make it a fun and throught provoking visit. Today it was quite quiet and thus very peaceful. Although Bodiam was built as a defensive castle it was also used as a home and is beautifully surrounded by not only a complete moat but also many hills. It was a slightly rushed but certainly pleasant use of thirty minutes.

Clicking on the photo above will lead you to more photos taken on our visit to the castle, or for more information you can visit the castle’s page on the National Trust’s website.

UK Two Pound Coin

Standing on the shoulders of giants

For a long time I have had a web page about the origin of the inscription on the outer edge of the UK two pound coin “Standing on the shoulders of giants”, so I have recorded the most important information from that older page here before removing it.

The quote is generally attributed to Sir Isaac Newton, the famous physicist, mathematician and more, who wrote in a letter to his colleague Robert Hooke on 5th February 1676:

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”

The phrase is understood to mean that if he (Sir Isaac Newton) has been able to discover more about the universe than others then it was because he was working in the light of discoveries made by fellow scientists either in his own time or earlier. There is some suggestion that the phrase may have also had a sarcastic undertone as some historians report that Robert Hooke began to disagree with many of Newton’s theories and Hooke himself was reportedly of quite short height.

Whilst the exact phrase above is attributed to Sir Newton, the main idea to which it refers can be traced back many centuries earlier, at least to Bernard of Chartes who died around the year 1130. The following is attributed to him:

“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more than they do, indeed even farther; but not because our sight is better than theirs or because we are taller than they. Our sight is enhanced because they raise us up and increase our stature by their enormous height”

My thanks to Alan Williams for leaving a note about the quote from Bernard of Chartes in my old guestbook.

FREEVIEW doesn’t cover my area

…at least that’s what their website says.

A couple of years ago I had that longing for 24 hour news and more chances to see my favourite BBC comedies but Freeview were insistent that they did not cover my postcode and they had no plans to do so in the near future.

I started studying the information that this section of the Digital Television Group web site provided me with, it still claimed I would not receive all the channels but has a link for more details displaying exactly which channels I might get if I did have a Digital Terrestial Television receiver. Depending on which receiver my aerial was pointing at it became clear that I should receive at least a few extra channels with a receiver.

Now, I have often taken the dangerous attitude that I know better than the staff of many companies about their own product, and so I decided to ignore the advise from Freeview and grab myself a receiver anyway. In Dixons, where I bought it, they said I must do a coverage check before purchasing one, so I said I had done it online… which I had… I didn’t mention the check came up negative. The freeview web site, the DTG website and my, then new, Grundig GDT2000 box all had warnings that I may need an aerial upgrade in order to receive the digital signal, but I figured that although my aerial must be at least 5 years old it gets a pretty good signal on channels 1-4, so I ignored that warning as well as the advise that there was no coverage where I live. On opening the box to my new toy I was faced with a warning again… an Important Notice… that before I unpack the product I must check my postcode for reception and even if the postcode is covered I may need an aerial upgrade… I had it in mind I might buy a signal booster to see if that worked rather than a new aerial, but by now I was starting to worry that I had been very foolish in spending 90 pounds on this box out of some blind faith in this new DTT technology that was not shared by Freeview, Grundig, or Dixons and only vaguely shared by the DTG (Digital Television Group).

Still, as foolish as my actions had come to seem I plugged it all in and watched the auto setup sequence commence… I stared at the screen as it searched for channels… “0 new services found” was written at the bottom as the red bar slowly moved across from left to right, it was taking a very long time, it was more than half way across and still reporting no channels when I decided to pop out of the room nd make tea in the hope that if I didn’t look at it everything would be fine, in the same way that sometimes when something above you starts to fall you might flinch, scrunch up and close your eyes as if not seeing the object fall will mean that it can’t plunge down and hit you on the head. When I came back into the room – I can’t remember exactly what it said on the screen now – it had clearly finished searching for services and there was TV coming through my new receiver.

I paged up and down the channels, I had Channel 5 which was previously unobtainable where I live, I had BBC 3 so I had the comedies I wanted, I had Sky News so I had the 24 hour news I was longing for… it was a success! In fact, it was a huge success… no aerial upgrade and I was receiving every channel that Freeview offer, not just a selection from one transmitter. I do live fairly high up and one of the transmitters is in line of sight from my roof, which is a factor that fed my blind optimism in the first instance, but I am sure this is true of everyone in my postcode.

I believe that many retailers now use the DTG website to do their coverage checks so that they can show people which channels they might receive (and make a potential sale) rather than warn people away because they might not get anything.

Two years on and both the Freeview and DTG sites continue to say there is no coverage where I live, yet I am enjoying the benefits of being a DTT viewer almost daily. Every channel that has been launched since has been succesfully added to my channel lineup, clearly Freeview does cover my area.

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