Friday, 11 March 2011

Down the Stream, the Swans all Glide*

I was supposed to be on leave but I’d to cancel it. Babe woke up with a massive headache and our plans for an outing to the Whitacre Heath Nature Reserve today had to be postponed. So I decided to go to work on the bus. This was my 2nd. bus trip for this week. I’m getting to be an expert now. I know that I’d to get the 7.50am bus from Foleshill Road and in town, wait for the No. 12 bus on Trinity Street. If I miss any of this, I’ll be late.

At work, my colleagues were surprised to see me. But not as surprise at the news that a tsunami had struck Sendai on the northeaster coast of Japan at 2.46pm local time (0546 GMT). This was followed by 12 powerful aftershocks, seven of them at least 6.3 on the Richter scale, the size of the quake which struck New Zealand on February 22.

Measured at 8.9 by the US Geological Survey, the quake was the fifth-largest in the world since 1900. The massive earthquake  sent a catastrophic 33 foot tsunami hurtling across the Pacific Ocean. Tsunami warnings were issued across the entire Pacific, as far away as South America, Canada, Alaska and the entire U.S. West Coast. I am very worried about those tiny islands that populate this area..

More than 1,000 people are feared to have died or missing in the 2min. 30sec. of tectonic vibrations.  Relief efforts were hampered by a number of aftershocks, including a 6.6 magnitude tremor which hit Tokyo and caused already damaged buildings to shake further. My thoughts and prayers are for those affected by this disaster. It just remind us how fragile life can be. The latest news was that a state of emergency was declared at a 2nd nuclear plant. Oh dear…

My colleagues and I kept our headphones glued to the BBC news live coverage. On the Intranet, help and counselling were offered to students and members of the university community. The university has students Brandon Marsh D300s  02-03-2011 13-53-19from all over the world and everytime a disaster happened, they were made aware that there were resources to assist them.

Since I didn’t bring my lunch with me, CC and I decided to have a big bowl of chips at the Library Cafe. We left early because we hoped that the Cafe won’t be busy. Big, big mistake. The queue was snaking right up to the door and since we didn’t have our coats on, we’d to join them. I’d a big plate of deep-fried thick chips drowned in mushy peas and tartar sauce. Ugh…it sounds soo unhealthy but it just taste divine. We managed to find a seat and, along with the rest of the diners, were glued to the big screen, watching the news on the Tsunami unfolding. Aftershocks and tremors were still on-going.

Since I’m taking the bus home, AM and I decided to checkout the M&S sales after work. It was nice and quiet and we’d a lovely time trying the clothes. We’d a good laugh because only the larger sizes were left. I picked a few and came out with a size 12 craftan-style tunic. Size 12!!! Woohoo :-). I also bought 2 boxed talcum powder for only £3 each. This will be birthday presents for my Mum, Sister, Emil and Su. They will be added to a box that I’m planning to send to Malaysia soon.

On Monday, JG bought home-baked marmalade cake, cookies and shortbread for us.Brandon Marsh D300s  04-03-2011 15-37-14 It was her birthday last week. Jokingly, she said that I wasn’t invited to her party because her team, Man. United lost 3:1 to Liverpool. We’d fun bantering with each other. JG’s cakes were to die for. Thank you JG and many happy returns. Good luck next Tuesday, when she’ll be watching her team playing against Marseille for the Champions League last-16 second leg clash at Old Trafford. Just to remind her that it falls on my birthday. Good omen or what???

How did you celebrate Pancake Day or Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, depending on where you are? I’d double helpings of pancakes with lashings of maple syrup for breakfast. But I cheated. It was ready-made from Sainsbury’s. Life was just too short to make pancakes and anyway, I’d a bus to catch that day :-).

It was also International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It was the 100th anniversary and I'm glad that much progress had been made to protect and promote women’s right. However, nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men. And here in the UK, with 11 times more millionaires than mothers in the Tory-led coalition government, their distorted priorities meant that the most poorest and most vulnerable were hardest hit, with women and children coming first when it comes to cuts and closures.

International Women's Day

There was still much work to do. We need to end the second class treatment of women, end women poverty and the under representation of women everywhere. As it says in the song :

“We will march not just for bread, but for roses too”

~Song written by Oppenheim as part of a women textile workers struggle for justice, 1910~

We also had the mother of all meetings, the Digital Services meeting.Brandon Marsh D300s  02-03-2011 14-04-18 This department was formed after the restructuring nearly 2 years ago and we never had a meeting. There were 6 different departments and we were like ships crossing in the night, Finally we got to meet over biscuits and coffee, putting the faces to the names. It was nearly a 3 hour meeting. Lots to talk about and exchange of ideas. We realised that we’d lots in common and found ways that we could help each other in our work. The presentations need to be sexed (!) up a bit, though. It was death by power-point!!!

Our department too were looking forward to attending the DDC 23 preview webinar. DDC or Dewey Decimal Classification was one of the standards we used to organize books on the shelf for easy retrieval. The 30-minute webinar provided a sneak preview of DDC 23, the new print edition that is currently in final production. It addressed the major changes with updates and a selection of new numbers. We only use DDC for education and school collections which meant the 370 classes will be of interest.

It was census time where every household in the UK was asked to provide very detailed Brandon Marsh D300s  02-03-2011 14-05-25information about their lives to the government, so that they can keep track of what’s going on. This information will be used for government planning of public services and crucial in allocating funds from central government to local authorities. It was also used to benchmark data for other surveys by the National Statistics Office, and to provide information for business and academics.

Looking through the census, what does my country of birth, the date I arrived here, passport got to do with the government? Why do they need to know my date of birth? Wasn’t it very intrusive, with 918 tick-box option over 32 pages? What about the phantom Census question left blank as it leapt from question 16 to 18? It emerged that households in Wales were asked in question 17 whether they can speak Welsh. But I can speak Welsh ( albeit struggling at the moment). Don’t I count? I’m sure there are thousands of proud Welsh-speakers scattered all over the UK.

What about question 26? It lists seven options on employment but not retirement. Anyone filling out the Census had to answer 3 more questions about their work habits before getting a chance to tick that they were retired!!!Brandon Marsh D300s  02-03-2011 14-09-18 

But all the above wasn’t what I’m most concerned about. It was that the collection and storage of all these data was contracted out to the American arms company, Lockheed Martin. This company armed a number of repressive regimes and the USA heavily in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They make land mines and nuclear weapons, and contracts out interrogation at Guantanamo Bay.

Although it was the UK branch in charge, there was the worry that the information could fall under the auspices of the US Patriot Act, which compelled personal data held by any company on systems in the USA to be made available to government intelligent services. The National Statistics Office, which engaged Lockheed Martin, maintained that measures were taken to make sure that the USA authorities cannot access the data.

We must remember that our government agencies don’t have a great track record about safeguarding information. Eg, a file containing secret terror-related documents was left on a train and recently, the NHS lost medical records of thousands of people. I wish I could boycott this census but was it worth the hassle. Do I risk prosecution because I object to participating in an activity which goes into the pocket of a company ( contract worth £240m) engaged in things which I am against? I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Lets go to something less depressing. We are now the proud owners of the Samsung Galaxy Europa Android mobile. The shiny, black fascia and metallic frame with a snappy silver Google logo on the back offers Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth, along with 140MB of internal memory and a 2.8-inch touch-screen. The usual suspects in the apps screen, included calendar, camera, maps, browser, YouTube and Android Market, among others. I’m still learning to navigate around the menu screens. A child's play if you're already used to the Android interface, which unfortunately I’m not. Will definitely have fun playing…

I also want to wish a very, very Happy Birthday to my lovely sister. Khamarul e-mailed me photographs of the birthday girl surrounded by her sons with loads of pressies and a table groaning with food. This beautiful pansy is for you from both of us.Coventry D200 F  04-03-2011 09-28-00

On your birthday, count your candles, count your years, count your blessings.

* It had been a very bare week on the photography front for me. Babe took these beautiful photographs of the swans when he was in Brandon Marsh. They were really having fun. Wish I could join them :-)

Brandon Marsh D300s  04-03-2011 14-29-43

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