As this blog is titled 2020 Visions and exists, primarily, to help me imagine the future for my children, I read with interest that the terrorist organisation that has dominated the dark side of the 21st century so far has its own 2020 vision.
Although you need to take stuff written on Wikipedia with a hefty pinch of salt sometimes, particularly related to fast moving, politically charged events prone to cyber misinformation, there is a section on the Al Qaeda entry relating to the organisation’s strategy, which cites two separate sources from 2005 who basically agree on the general outline of what is titled “Al Qaeda’s Strategy to the Year 2020″.
It begins with provoking the US to attack a Muslim country by killing many of its citizens on its home soil.
Now, whether or not this has a degree of post event reasoning from the sources, personally I thought in the wake of 9/11 that the main outcome Bin Laden wished to achieve through such a world shaking atrocity was to get the US on the ground in Iraq – as George W Bush wouldn’t be able to restrain himself from finishing what his father started. I’m sure such thoughts and feelings were top of the mind of many of the millions who protested against the West invading Iraq.
I never met my paternal grandfather, Frank William Hoskins, but his story is one of the biggest inspirations in my life.
He died aged 67 in 1961 after suffering a stroke and contracting pneumonia a few years before I was born.
He enlisted in the Rifle Brigade in 1911 at the age of 18 and was on active service in Africa and India prior to the outbreak of the First World War. In 1914 he was sent with the British Expeditionary Force to France and survived being posted for a year on the Western Front, including having to deal with the first use of poison gas and flamethrowers on the battlefields during the Second Battle of Ypres. In late 1915 he was sent to Salonika to fight on the Macedonian Front for the remainder of the war. He was discharged from the Southern Command malaria concentration centre in spring 1919 – marking the end of his military career.
Having contracted malaria twice during his time on the Macedonian Front I have no doubt that this contributed to his early death as it is well documented these days that the disease can lay dormant and recur for many years after early infections. Added to which were the after effects of the only known drug treatment for malaria at that time – quinine – a hateful substance that caused tinnitus, giddiness, blurred vision, nausea, tremors and depression.
So despite surviving at the vanguard of many battles as a sharpshooter, scout and skirmisher, the psychological and physical legacy of the ‘Great War’ stretched beyond those early 20th Century years to finally claim him as a victim later in life. Read more…
It’s been a while since I produced an automotive related post but a recent trip to Rome has reminded me just how ripe things are for a revolution.
The country that gave us iconic cars like the Fiat 500 and the Vespa and Lambretta scooter brands has clearly embraced other small four, three and two wheeled vehicles, most notably Smart cars.
Rome must be the Smart car capital of the world and it is easy to see why the narrow cobbled streets and lack of large open parking areas or multi-story car parks have led to such an uptake of compact two seated vehicles that up half the space of the average family car. Read more…
This last weekend I went on what is an annual pilgrimage for many business owners – that glorious ‘assault on the senses’ known as the Spring Fair at the NEC.
If you haven’t been there, or to the smaller Autumn equivalent, then it is basically where the nation’s shopkeepers – both online and bricks and mortar – gather to see what latest and greatest ideas they can stock their warehouses and shelves with to entice the punters to part with their cash.
It was interesting to see what’s changed and what hasn’t since my last visit in 2011
The first thing that was noticeably different is that the ‘buzz is back’. You could see that even on the opening Sunday, when the general public like to take a peek, there was business being done. The last time I witnessed anywhere near a ‘buzz’ at a Spring or Autumn Fair was way back at the start of 2008 before the impact of the financial meltdown hit home in the UK.
The other big general change from a couple of years ago is that tablet PCs have become not just a flashy accessory but an essential exhibition tool – from snapping visitor badges, to demonstrating product variations to collecting order information, the exhibition stands were awash with tablet toting staff tapping and swiping away.
Here are a few more observations and highlights from this year’s visit … Read more…
Continuing the unprecedented run of warm and fuzzy feelgood posts on my blog over the last six months or so I’m finishing my 2013 commentary with three experiences in the last week that have made me particularly proud (and lucky) to be British …
TimBL takes a stand on web freedom hypocrisy
As a regular nominee and occasional winner on the various ‘Greatest Briton’ lists, inventor of the World Wide Web and all round good local bloke – when Tim Berners-Lee speaks, I listen and when he worries, I worry too.
This week he was the figurehead of a collaboration of free speech advocates and leading activists who have written an open letter highlighting the hypocrisy of member nations of the Open Government Partnership.
I am less proud of the fact the UK is one of those hypocritical member nations but in 100% agreement with the simple point that the western world doesn’t have a leg to stand on in protesting about lack of web freedoms elsewhere in the world when its leading members are complicit in running one of the largest surveillance networks the world has ever seen.
Commenting on the exposure of what organisations like the US National Security Agency have been up to in secret it says …
“These practices erode the checks and balances on which accountability depends, and have a deeply chilling effect on freedom of expression, information and association, without which the ideals of open government have no meaning.”
Towards the end of 2012 I was bemoaning how bad my grape crop was and fearing for the future of the UK’s wine producers as vineyards on the south coast announced they had abandoned the year’s harvest.
What a difference a year can make!
Following a succession of average and bad summers, the 2013 UK summer is the best I can remember. I have vague recollections of the summer of 1976 being a long, hot one and also being stuck in an airless office for much of the hot spell in 2003 – but this year has been absolutely glorious.
A recent article on the BBC website asked “Is the British weather unique in the world?” and concluded that up to six air masses battle it out for dominance above our island nation making for rapidly changeable and unpredictable conditions that are rarely experienced to such a degree elsewhere.
The net result is that we can experience some of the hottest and driest weather on record to the wettest and coldest within the space of few weeks.
In recent years, my grape crop has been a very visible and tangible barometer of these volatile weather changes. You can literally ‘taste’ how good or bad the weather has been – and 2013 has undoubtedly been a vintage year. My vine produced around 10lbs of ripe grapes that I turned into 4 litres of delicious grape juice. The next time I get a bumper crop I will try turning it into wine.
Here are some of my other personal highlights from 2013, arguably – ‘the best year of my life’ …
After 10 days of ferrying the family around theme parks and shopping malls ‘Dad’ was given his day in the Florida sun to use as he wished :)
Now that my eldest is increasingly making her own way in the world, I doubt that we will head state-side on a family holiday for quite a while now so I thought I’d go for a full-on American experience and decided to hire a Harley Davidson for a day, head down south for some alligator spotting in the swamps and then have a go at firing some weapons at a gun range.
I’ve never ridden a Harley before and as I’m fast approaching 50 and the age at which my family seem happier for me to own another bike then it was a good opportunity to experience what this style of ‘laid back’ classic motorcycling has to offer.
The bike I chose was the 2014 Street Glide model which is the latest output from Harley Davidson’s ‘Project Rushmore’ – an initiative from the iconic company to incorporate over 100 renovations into their 2014 product range that are based on close collaboration with customers.
The guys at Harley Davidson in South Orlando were very helpful to this HOG world newbie, giving me the full run down on this new machine and some of its ‘awesome’ features, such as the on-board infotainment system that includes bluetooth connectivity.
A few circuits of an adjacent car park to familiarise myself with the basic controls and handling and I was ready to get out on the highway.