Wednesday, January 30, 2013

David Cameron Talks...Britain Suffers

David Cameron Talks...Britain Suffers

David Cameron talks a good talk. That's why his rich backers in the UK are so pleased with him, and the top rate tax reduction in April.

However like Mitt Romney's billions of campaign dollars, they will fall on the stoney ground of a British Electorate which will not vote Lib Dem ever again, and is seeing the economic injustices and imbalance as creating a US , laisez faire ghetto-and-condo society.

In April the new lower rate comes in for top tax payers. In fact I am not against a lower rate for those earning up to £60,000 a year: it actually isn't a lot of money in London and also these are people in positions of responsibility often in the public sector who at least declare all their income. However of course in the same month, the very poorest subsistance families and those WORKING families on a single minimum wage will have their kids clothes, their holidays, their christmas presents stolen by Dear David and his rich chums, all in the aid of "balancing the books and getting people back into work".

This is where his rich pals and former Eatonite fund managers can't paper over things: it was his rich, yuppie funny-money backers who caused the recession. It was them who leant money and took their cut and made a housing market boom based on a house-of-cards of credit. But it is they who don't have to pay, and in fact will pay less after April. It is many of them who are defering their bonuses based on some recovery from abject failure in 2012 into the April tax year. Britain is becoming an obscene party for the rich as the expence of a public, with the Tories trying very hard to blame labour for the catastophy.

Labour of course did over spend or rather spend in relation to the up phase of the "economic cycle" lasting for another term. So did many other states, and several conservative governments. They tried this trick in the US too, blaming the president who sat on top of the Bush approved bubble and a congress and senate legislature largely strangled by the super rich backed fascists and oligarchs in the Republican party and right of the democrats.

However raising taxes at this top rate doesn't always work of course: they are the very high earners who can employ accountants and find tax effective mechanisms, and they have enough power within their organisations to negotiate further bonuses, share options and foreign employ to avoid tax. But this is not the whole picture: now there are many more highly paid middle managers, engineers and technocrats. So there is a rich seam to be taxed above around 55K and of course a new super rate could be imposed above 80K for example, to claw back in some cash from those overpaid GPs for example. This also forces more people in the private sector into actually buying shares or indeed setting up their own private companies to supply their expertise and take a profit while enjoying the business tax-write-offs.

Effective taxation means maximising revenue. If you raise top rate too much, then you don't bring in so much tax. However as there are far more salaried high earners who don't have ready access to "mechanisms" then let them eat Dan Cake.

The Great PR Fraud of the Century

All governments try to blame the last outgoing who now sit in opposition. The problem is though that Labour despite having a very good opportunity for winning the next election, are losing the PR battle because the Tories are much better at it.

The tories know who they represent " the hard working types who want to get on" which is the same types who think there is no need for minimum wage OR benefits and that is kind of implied as in Labour then getting the " wasters who want to turn up and take the cash and deliver poor services" which the tory voter believes in, and many of those struggeling on low incomes also see as time wasters. We could come in a situation like in the USA where white-trash vote republican because of this aspiration-desparation effect. Their lives will get worse under a right-wing slow down but they will still aspire and blame big-bad-government.

Labour have lost their way and the big PR machine for the rich the Tory party is, will slowly convince enough people that labour are the route of all ills, and not their rich backers who favoured the laisez-faire, puny-weak governance of stock and capital markets. I hope the press do not forget this.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Brand .....and www.Brand Again

There are a couple of remarkable things about the internet: its early incarnations have mirrored themselves later on but somehow snowballed out into a mass market instead of merely being repeated into a fragmented market.

Why did the brands get so big on the internet? We all have finally a mechanism to deliver individually shaped products, communities and brand experiences while in fact we flock to the big brands: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter Amazon, E-Bay and the ancillary Skype, Bitly and of course not to forget the Google owned Blogger.

The really remarkable thing is that these brands turned the whole advertising world onto its own arse!
The mega brands of the internet grew outside the old model of advertising awareness: of off line brand build and banner ad drift. Instead they snowballed by word of mouth ( or rather invitation often) , and peeping over each other's shoulders in the office or the playground. Then the BRANDS sucked in the advertising industry or rather the revenue.

The mold of trad' marketing was not just broken, but pulverised, melted down and recast into something  no trad' marketeer would have spent time or money on fifteen years ago.

As I say, community oriented web brands have repeated themselves: google being the longest standing, the others like Facebook and Twitter, being essentially repeats of similar mechanisms for social communications and vanity-information display. I  think, therefore I am:   am on the internet, therefore I exist.  Take it back to phone freaks, or the private messages the early telegrapher sent each other. You put a comm's system up and humans will either use or abuse it to be sociable and vain.

The trad' mindset was that online brands would need to be built by offline brand building. Wrong, how very, very wrong that proved to be. It all went "viral" and WOM. However, one other big thing missing out in the old mind set in how to grow on line brands c 1998-2002, was the consumption part of branding. The true brand relationship, the personal brand equity of which the entire equity is the sum, is actually only consummated upon consummation, sorry consumption. It is only in the experience that you gain the satisfaction, the purchase confirmation comfort, the elation of spending too much.

 Take a BMW driver, they need to not only drive a pretty good car but be seen to be driving the advert around: either as someone who knows their car, but more likely someone who wants to show they have made it up the management echelons or a bung on being self employed. They have actually (apart from the 1 series or a used M3 /M5) just spent far too much on getting from A to B on rather Teutonic seats. But everyone can see they have spent too much, sorry have earned it and can afford it. That is where the satisfaction comes in.

With facebook versus the earlier personal-home-pages, yahoo groups, and of course friends-reunited, the brand worked in consumption. It was a delicious free candy, with no-holds-barred for those who had a mutual need to get in touch with each other. No fee for connecting finally, no limit to how many connections. The candy remained delicious and "free", being payed for by Amazon and many, many wanna be brands. Then came more "personalisation", which meant holiday and loan ads in the side bar.  Very unpersonal. Yes they know more about your profile, but purely to their benefit in getting a half a percent more percent response from a smaller group filtered for never-will-buys. Now FB is at a turning point with mobile content ad's "suggested likes" filling up our newsfeeds seemingly and repetitive invitations to quiz, dart and golf tours from the charming local pub we (once) Liked. Also more freinds are using social-network-marketing and massaging their posts between the two: personal touch on the branded "independent consultant/brand champion for brand X Cosmetics and smelly detritus" and linking out to said page on their personal pages.

I think two things are for sure; one FB will become more commerical and place income over personal freedom from spam. Two, there will be a new big, independent web brand which may somehow replace once again, an earlier epoch. My crystal ball says that this will be some form for video-audio communication coupled to a personal-posting page. So Skype meets FB and then some. Alternatively of course there could be a consolidation of the need to shop-at-best-price which so far has been largely a market place and not a "request for tender". There is a fragmented market, FB is in there in local used-buy and barter and "my tenders" for house work.

What ever comes next on the net, it is likely to follow the new model and be a tasty little fancy cake in the mouth of the consumer and grow exponentially on word-of-email and invitationss.

XC Ski Wax tips for Tourists/ Training

New snow on the way, with and old, hard crystaline snow on the ground above 200m where there is still skiing to be had. Time for a wax in the non Brasilian sense.

The best tips for someone like me who wants to have a decent tour - to "smørebu" ratio are these: based on Swix range:

1) Clean off your skis from last year or last klister! 

To get clister off first take the skis into a warm room or better still upside down on a cable warmed floor. Or use a hair drier/ paitn stripper gun on low. Once warm scrape as much as you can then use the roll of synthetic cloth: lay on top a couple of layers and then use an old iron to heat off the klister ontop to cloth.This will take the stubborn crap off and then you can just use base cleaner and the roll to wipe down and take the rest. Do this end of season or whenever there is new snow and cold weather forecast! 

2) For a good base prep in the kick zone I tape off the edges and use Swix Green Base wax spray: this is a hard wax which will quite likely last a whole season up to stripping back for clister.It goes on easy and is smoothed out with the spatula and really seems as good as ironing on wax.

 Put the skis outside after you have an even layer, and after 10 mins , cork them down and reapply another layer. 

Green  Base Spray-On WaX  is also a killer good rust protector for screw heads and bald patches on car paint work. 

Then use a glider on the cleaned end sections outside the zone with the tapes moved inboard to the kick side. Roll on glider with flouride seems to be fine and helps for fast ice free skis without arseing about with melting wax.  ( Wet and dry sanding should be done I suppose on the skis each year before all this, and definietly when new)

You can leave your skis with this and glider on the glide zones over summer.

3) Principle of Layer (laminating) : Soft on Hard

When ready for use you can go by the rule of thumb on Warmer/softer wax on top of Colder/harder wax. To extend base layer life you can take either green solid or standard blue wax over the green base and cork on from hard wax whcih is at room temperature. Let the skis cool off outdoors before then taking the days coiver on.  

4) Do it all Top Wax ? 
I prefer Swix Lillac VR45 -6: +1 : it seems to cover a wide range of conditions right to the edge of clister conditions (which is like UHU for those who dont XC ski) However it does need reapplying on harder snow while on tour, and does maybe attract snow "clabbing!" in some conditions so Red or clister may be better. I must have a go with a VR flouride version of lillac, which is expensive but prevents "clabbing" . Lillac is a lot less messy than Red and so easier to put on in thin layers and I hardly ever use red now, going over to clister instead for hard or wet snow.

There is also a special V50 lillac which is nicer to apply than Swix Red and works lower than Red even though it is a very narrow range on the can: -2 /0 new snow, -1/ +1 on old. This was " a secret weapon" for snow melting and freezing around zero but probably you want a fluroide VR type for racing these days, or a set of smørefri or Zero skis for top performance.

5) For colder conditions as forecast, with old snow I would put another layer of green spray base on virgin skis with their two layers waiting for any top coats. For skis which have been out already, then I take several layers of blue from room temperature, cooling each time the night before while then applying wax kept inside the car once on site.

6) you can slap universal clister on top of wax and you can have a reserve in the groove of the ski : messy but it will keep you kicking if it gets mild or the spores bet icey hard. Just scrape off stuff and ice crystals underway and reapply or spread out from the groove.

7) for a long time of clister conditions forecast : you should clean the kick zone back to plastic by scraping and using roll and cleaner. Dry off in a warm room.

 Heat the clister tube in an oven at 50'C  if you dont have an old iron or dislike ironing the on. From the oven, it will be very runny so expect it to flow out  on the slightest pressure. Use the ski spatula to spread a thin layer on each side of the groove completely cover the kick zone. Cool off the skis and repeat. Clean off any excess on the edges of the skis or in the groove each time. Use then end straps or two ski straps each side of the kick zone / binding to hold the skis together so the clister doesnt stick to anything, whiole not compressing much of the "spenn" in the ski: 

8) Apply the clister of the day ( i just use universal for all this) using a slightly cooled tube of clister so it is easy to apply in small fish bone stipes. Smooth on with the too and take excess out of the groove and off the edges with the tool and roll if needs be. For very icey stuff oir longer tours,  let the first layer of this set in the cold and add a second layer. Scrape for gubbins under way and reapply very sparingling from the ends of the kick zone inwards when on tour,

9) Waxing Underway on Tour

 Remember than you cannot apply harder wax onto alot of softer wax left, but if it is hard conditions then a stripe of blue when you have worn down your top layers will help save the base layers you spent time at home on!  

For colder days or hard days when you need to reapply often, keep the day's top layer wax in a pocket which gets body heat. It makes it easier to get an even, thickish layer on, or a quick, even and thin layer.  in hard, -6 to +1 I just use lilac and as soon as I loose kick I stop and apply either two thin layers or more, or one big thick application to get me up a hill for example. Good excuse for a rest! 

As said above you can in principle put softer wax ontop harder stuff but  Swix RED does not site very well on the do-it-all  Swix Lillac: however if the lillac is worn off then red can go on and preferably onto a new application of blue.

10) Clister for Long Uphills and Melting/Freezing conditions: As above also, you can slap clister onto wax actually: messy but it will keep you going at easter time especically, when it goes wet or icey hard. Also you can use clister for long uphills of course : if you have a tour uphill a hut or the end of day is up to the car, then you can clister up the whole ski instead of using a skin as a "felle" : just be prepared to have a mess in the car and a lot of cleaning and reapplying of glider and wax layer. If the tour next day from the hut is mostly down hill then you can just leave it on and it will help you brake down hill!

11) End of season and storage: Back to square one, I lilke to prep up with green base wax. At the start of the season I also have a cheap pair of jumble sale skis which I leave tied up with base clister layers so I can avoid dewaxing the usual skis for days which will be rubbish anyway on ice or slush! 

Damage on the ski surface should be sanded out I guess for small stuff and "hairs" but bigger scores or worse should be taken to a  decent shop  or experty pal for advice. Damage  revealling the wood core is most serious and should maybe ne sealed up somehow temproarlity/ over summer before pixing.

NEVER leave a pair of skis compresses with a ski strap for any legnth of time: it is best to either have then loose or bound on each end, and the two new types of ski ties do this: the sponsor pro type holds the skis parallel, and then the stretch on end type you use on each end with a pad of neoprene in them.

Appendix on Other Stuff:

11) Old Waxless skis:  the scale pattern on waxless skis wear out eventualy . However this does not mean the ski is dead. You can have a pair then with a base of hard Green to protect them as above and even out a little of the old fish scales, and then use then as clister skis or a spare pair. You could also leave a set of skins (feller) on them , see below:

12) Feller / Skins: These are actually a very good idea to have with you for touring and for hard conditions. At end of the short season 2012 here, the trouble was lack of snow and quite cold conditions making for just hard packed ice. One spritely 50 year old girl was winging her way round "drivheie" on skins at a good pace : she did two rounds wiith all the spore being hard as steel and had good kick all the way uphill. I guess you can use "zero ski" flouride appl,kications to stop snow gathering on them in wetter or fluffy conditions. 

Skins brake you a lot down hill making for a juddery descent sometimes in plough, but do help for beginners too if the tour is just fish-boning up hill and ploughing down with few flat sectioins.

I don't know how they help or hinder telemark turning : I guess actually they make it easier on ice and maybe help you brake a little on steeper, soft or off piste hills on tour skis ?

Thursday, January 03, 2013

2013...Finally Convergent!

There were two things which really brought home that finally, after ten or more years of talking about it, we will have a meaningful convergence of internet devices.

In 2005 people were talking about the big year for convergence: internet TV, TV with PC cards, and your toaster running http.

But somehow it did not happen quite quickly enough.

What did we expect from convergence and what can we actually define the term by?

Well my own definition is that yes, our communication devices become on line, all time. But more over the operating systems and inter-compatibility becomes seamless in appearance and cross device functionality. Basically a PC monitor becomes a TV, that TV gets a touch screen, that touchscreen is down sized to a tablet, that tablet is just a big mobile which you also have.

The big move I hear on the BBC today is Ubuntu running on mobiles. Mobiles have actually been powerful enough to run pretty good windows GUI type environments for a while, it was just that no one wanted to release a windows 3.11 or apple OS6 on a mobile. Unebknown to me, it is linux at the base of Android OS. So now that phones are all powerful, you can install and run Ubuntu, and then the writers have to follow suite and run a device detect, or make a special downsized version for the small screen or expect the hardware to handle it out to a HDMI screen.

The next thing will be semi intelligent, "thin client" remote devices such as blue tooth touch pads/keyboards/scribes, mobile mini dialer handpieces, more advance headset/handsfri, and most of all mobiles.

The next big revolution is already there and has been for a long time with the military and plane transport: talk. The internet for now is a visual-touch interaction by in large. Sound is for basic alerts and entertainment. Although handsets and tablets now have uptime link to google oral translation and text reading, the ability for you to get richer non visual information is there and will get bigger.

Also this lends itself to convergence of more devices: cameras which talk their exposure settings ac focal range to your ear piece, toaster which e-mail you when they are done, voice mail on facebook, notebook apps with voice to text on just about anything,

Talking web sites is something I wanted to do as a charity project when I was an internet project manager, but in its own right, to do it right and cover even a basic description which is comprehensible, it is actually a pretty major undertaking. However the tablet interface with rumble response lends itself much better to a more user guided non visual interaction with the media, which is intuitive for blind people and becomes so as an aid or just pleasure for sighted people.

Shut your eyes people, the internet is right in front of you.....