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* Posts by Mike Richards

3579 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

BBC excludes Grange Hill after 30 years of misbehaviour

Mike Richards
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Paris Hilton

We'll always remember the enormous sausage

Paris (natch)

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eBay gets negative feedback about ban on negative feedback

Mike Richards
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@caffeine addict

Brilliant idea! You should patent that (you never know, 1 Click helped make Amazon rich)

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Scientists warn on climatic 'tipping points'

Mike Richards
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Vikings

Yep that old warhorse about Vikings and Greenland has reared its ugly head again.

Let's get it straight. (Putting his trained geologist hard hat on)...

Greenland in the Viking Period was not a lush paradise, its coasts had isolated patches of marginal land, the interior was the same ice cap that's there today. Greenland was always colder than both Iceland and Norway; its winters were harsher and summers short and frost prone. The Greenland communities remained heavily reliant on imports from Iceland and Norway for even quite basic materials.

Greenland got its name through Erik the Red's nordic spin-doctory; as the Icelandic sources put it: "He named the land Greenland, saying that people would be eager to go there if it had a good name."

The whole situation ended with the passing of the Medieval Warm Period - a time of unusual warmth in the North Atlantic region. There is much less evidence of a global warm period at the time, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. It is therefore not analogous to the current warming which is not only global, but occurring much faster than the MWP.

Scientists are much less concerned about the absolute temperatures we're seeing (it's still relatively nippy compared to the Eocene about 50mya when London had a pleasantly African climate including hippos), than the rate of change which is unusual.

Admittedly it is not unprecedented; the aforementioned Eocene kicked off with the Initial Eocene Thermal Maximum which is associated with a major extinction event and massive changes in sea level; but it is one of the fastest we know about. At the moment, the best explanation we have is that our CO2 emissions are driving the warming.

Oh and before I go, the ice age fears of the 1970s were well founded considering the state of knowledge of the time. Although it is worth pointing out that even then, the majority of scientists predicted climate to either remain unchanged or warm slightly.

But back to the cooling hypothesis.

For the last 12,000 years we've been living in an interglacial (periods of relative warmth between glacial advances). Isotope work done on Pleistocene deposits showed repeated advances interleaved with relatively short interglacials of between 10,000 and 20,000 years. The present Flandrian interglacial is already 12,000 years old it seemed to be reasonable to assume the climate would be turning inevitably towards the next glacial advance.

We now know that interglacials can last in excess of 100,000 years and the switch between the two extremes takes much less time than we thought - ice ages don't take tens of thousands of years to develop or end, they appear quite abruptly.

There was some evidence to support the cooling theory. The climate between 1940(ish) and 1970(ish) had cooled somewhat, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. We know know this was mainly due to heavy industrialisation during the post-War economy and the newer economies of the Soviet Union, China and Japan producing huge amounts of particulates from coal and unchecked emissions of sulphur dioxide. Through the 1960s and 70s, the West rapidly switched to oil and gas and began to filter SO2 from its emissions, the skies cleared and the climate turned back to normal.

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Iran fires rocket 'into space', plans satellite for '09

Mike Richards
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@ captain kangaroo

Why is Washington so obsessed with Iran?

Easy - it used to be theirs. They once had a tame dictator with impeccable fashion sense and a ready love of torture to act as a balwark against the Soviet Union. Sadly the people of Iran were less enamoured of the Shah than those in the West (even after many of them had been tortured to love him all the more) and got rid of him in a revolution. This had the nasty side-effect of putting some religious nutters with an even more free-loving addiction to torture and terror in charge of one of the largest oil reserves in the World.

All in all, not a good thing.

So it was time for plan B. America (and its faithful sidekick Britain) found another accommodating Middle Eastern dictator who if anything was even more stylish and torture happy than the erstwhile Shah. They promised him lots and lots of weapons (including some of the grown up toys) if he'd just pop next door and hold an impromptu invasion on our behalf.

Sadly, the Iranians didn't play ball, and despite our new best friend getting lots of satellite info cribs and gee-whizz poison gas, they didn't roll over and die (well not all of them at least).

After ten years of murder, mayhem and merriment, things were pretty much where they started; Iraq said 'sorry' to the mullahs and did the silliest thing imaginable by invading an even bigger oil field.

They weren't our friends any more! We were especially angry when we found out the Iraqis weren't as silly as we'd thought and had actually read the instruction leaflets on all those nuclear thingumjigs, biological doohickies and chemical wadjamacallits we'd sold them - and been building grown-up weapons.

This was not only bad, it was wrong, which is where the current Middle Eastern hilarity all began.

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HMRC still waiting for EDS cash

Mike Richards
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Nice idea

I wasn't aware that paying fines was something that could be done by installments as and when I feel like it and if I find any spare 5 pence pieces down the back of the sofa.

Thank-you EDS - you found a solution!

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Freeview lobby cries foul on Ofcom HDTV plans

Mike Richards
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Meanwhile in Milton Keynes

The 'city of the future'(tm) is still waiting for regular old Freeview. At the moment, thanks to sitting in a transmitter black hole, we get analogue Beardie TV over cable.

It's hard to describe the quality of the Virgin operation in MK but try to imagine watching a Baird televisor through an old sock. But perhaps I'm being unfair - what other TV service allows you to watch the scrolly News 24 ticker *EVEN* when you're not watching News 24?

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Atlantis looks good to go

Mike Richards
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Translating NASAese

"used a special tool to guide the hose back into its storage box while the payload bay doors were closed"

Aka. an old Bic biro.

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Local copper: Met secret police requested MP bugging

Mike Richards
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RIPA hilarity

Yesterday MPs asked Jack Straw to confirm that there were no bugging orders being operated against Members of Parliament. Straw said he could not, because RIPA 2000 makes it a criminal offence to disclose if a bugging order exists.

Who was the genius Home Secretary that brought in RIPA?

Well, one Jack Straw of course.

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Mike Richards
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Human rights lawyer

Didn't take Khan long to throw all that human rights rubbish aside once he became an MP. The only question being, did he jump on ID cards, internment without trial, war, DNA evidence and endemic surveillance *faster* than Emily Thornberry - a fellow human rights lawyer and ultra-loyal New Labour MP?

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A380 superjumbo in natural-gas powered test flight

Mike Richards
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@Matt Bryant

The flares you've seen on oil platforms are there as a safety measure in case of a sudden pressure spike elsewhere on the platform. If any part of the rig becomes overpressurised, the gas is sent to a flare stack where it can be burned safely. The flare is kept continuously burning much like a pilot light on a gas stove to prevent icing or debris getting into the stack.

Most operators are cutting back on flaring on production platforms as technology has improved and petroleum gas is now quite valuable. You'll continue to see it at oil refineries and exploration rigs for some time to come. IIRC the total amount of CO2 released from flaring all round the World is something like 1% of the total produced by Man - but one of the highlights of a long flight to the far East or over North Africa is to see the gas flares.

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Brits can't distinguish history from the TV listings

Mike Richards
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Worse than UKTV History

National Geographic Channel.

As best I can tell it's forever running 'Top Ten Air Crashes' - not a patch on UKTV's offerings of 'Hitler's Gardens'.

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Straw launches inquiry into Muslim MP bugging case

Mike Richards
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Flame

Anyone feel sorry for Sadiq Khan?

No thought not.

He's emblematic of everything that's wrong with the Commons - rank up rank of careerist lobby fodder blindly doing the government's will, stripping away our rights in the 'war against terror', always willing to parrot an identikit soundbite straight from the spindoctors, always preaching to the proles.

Well now Khan's found himself on the sharp end of an intrusive state I wonder if he'll be so willing to spout the 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' mantra that's got him quite so far up the greasy pole.

Doubt it. He'll probably demand an apology and seek ministerial reassurance that mighty MPs like the Member for Tooting should be immune from the laws they pass.

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Scientists create 'no-tears' onion

Mike Richards
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Scientists?

Why aren't they 'boffins'?

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Shell IT staff disgusted at mega profits

Mike Richards
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Guys, this is embarrassing, we're making far too much money...

...so let's throw most of it away by employing EDS!

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Sarko Killer and Bruni sue Ryanair

Mike Richards
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Rumpi?

Love it, once again the Register proves to be a lexicographical powerhouse.

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Reg readers bring down HMRC website

Mike Richards
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Clear evidence of a disturbing trend in Britain...

...we are facing a celebrity gap.

Not nearly enough tax-paying Brits are sufficiently famous to be exempt from filing online. It's a shocking inditement of 11 years of New Labour that Britain is still lagging America in the growth of trivial celebriosity.

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VOIP and the web baffle Brit spook wiretappers

Mike Richards
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Let the countdown begin...

Until some Home Office genius reanimates the grotesque idea of compulsory key-escrow (with the government being the escrow agency) as mooted under Jack Straw. The proposal died a quiet death and was not widely mourned.

But that was before September 11th and the government's all-encompassing terrortastic policymaking.

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Chinese make Olympic weather bow to Party's will

Mike Richards
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@Joe and @Harry

No you're right. I remember seeing it on Tomorrow's World and Pravda ran an article on it a few years ago:

http://english.pravda.ru/science/19/94/379/15693_weather.html

Let's hope the environmentalists get sufficiently wound up about weather mod that there's no chance of preventing the driving drizzle that will inevitably blight the 2012 opening ceremony.

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Michael Bay to relive A Nightmare on Elm Street

Mike Richards
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Michael Bay might have a real problem with Elm Street

Because I don't think anything blows up.

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US military prepares for plummeting spy satellite

Mike Richards
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@M Burns

Actually America has orbited one nuclear reactor - the SNAP 10 in 1965 which was injected into a low polar orbit for 43 days before an unrelated failure caused the automatic ejection of the core into a higher storage orbit.

The US abandoned nuclear reactors on satellites fairly early as it perfected efficient solar cells for its reconnaissance satellites. They could put their satellites further out where solar arrays were less prone to atmospheric drag and make up for the greater distance with superior optics.

They continued with radioisotope generators (RTGs) on missions to the Moon (to get round the 14 day Lunar nights) and outer planets; but it's worth remembering that two American RTGs been lost when coming back to Earth...

In 1964 an RTG was launched on the unsuccessful Transit 5BN mission. The RTG burned up over Mozambique releasing something like 50,000 curies (1 metric shed-load) of plutonium 238 into the atmosphere. This led to a change in American RTGs to use ceramic plutonium and graphite construction. Which was handy when Odyssey, the Apollo 13 Lunar Module (which was meant to be left on the Moon) came back to Earth and burned up in the atmosphere. NASA deliberately steered the craft into the Tonga Trench in case its RTG leaked. Later surveys found no sign of contamination.

The Soviets not only continued using nuclear reactors in their radar satellites, their radars and solar cells were relatively poor requiring very low orbits where atmospheric drag would have brought a solar-powered craft back to Earth presto pronto, but they also used polonium 210 to heat some of their lunar missions. IIRC one of their Lunokhod missions never made it out of Earth orbit and eventually burned up along with its exciting cargo.

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UK gov issued 250k snoop licences in nine months

Mike Richards
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Quarter of a million?

Would anyone like to estimate the cumulative total of how much civil service time would have to be spent reading and signing cases for 250,000 intercepts?

ah silly me, they don't read them and authorise them with a stamp.

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MPs slam costly war-tech projects at MoD

Mike Richards
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@dervheid

'Why in Satan's Name would ANYONE think that the UK forces would need 232. '

Easy...

At any one time half of them will be out of service waiting for a component to come through under the Mastercare extended warranty.

Another fifty or so will have been filled with red diesel to cut costs at the RAF and are having their tanks drained round the back of the hanger.

Thirty of them will be back at BAe because they've been delivered with two left wings.

The pilots of the next twenty will all be on patenity and or maternity leave for the next six months and no one knows how to adjust the cockpit seat for another pilot.

Of the remaining twelve, five of them will be on loan filming episodes of 'Top Gear'; leaving just seven to defend the nation - one for each day of the week as they'll each need six days with their bonnets up just to get them working again.

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Scientology website shielded against DDoS attack

Mike Richards
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Big difference between most religions and Scientology

AFAIK, Scientology is the only one that's not happy for its teachings to be widely distributed outside of the organisation.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Xenu turns out to be the bad guy

[END OF SPOILER ALERT]

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Mike Richards
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‘Scientology website shielded against DDoS attack’

Tom Cruise and the rest of the crazy gang better not relax yet, Xenu will always find a way past their pitiful proxies.

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'Wii workout' for overweight pupils plan slammed

Mike Richards
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Campaign for Real Education

Aren't these the lot who've complained every education act since the mid 19th Century has been a regressive step that will only hasten the end of Empire and a lack of respect for the Empress of India?

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UK withdraws from Gemini telescope programme

Mike Richards
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Yeah but we're getting the Olympics!

I'm surprised the government hasn't pointed out that £70 million of public money spent on stars not only gets you Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton, but also that binary system - Ant AND Dec!

What a crap country...

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Mike Richards
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@Anonymous John

If only Northern Rock was only costing us £25 billion, it's probably twice that with another billion in tax-free profits going to Beardie.

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MoD asks UK Forces personnel to submit DNA samples

Mike Richards
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@Mat

In accordance with strict new governmental security guidelines when the laptop is left overnight on the backseat of a car, it must now be hidden under a copy of the Daily Mail.

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US looks to old Herr Kohle for energy security

Mike Richards
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Look West young man

The future of coal isn't in the Appalacians, its the mountain states of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. These coalfields have been powering the US electricity industry ever since Nixon did one good thing and inaugurated the Clean Air Act.

But the real gold rush is likely to get started if the mining companies start turning the 120 billion tonnes of coal (that's 40% of all the reserves in the US) under Montana into oil. Brian Schweitzer, the current (Democrat) governor is a big fan of synthetic petroleum and got a lot of votes on plans to turn the state into America's gas tank. It's a poor state with few well-paid jobs; open-cast coal mining pays well and doesn't have the health risks of deep mining in the East, so the mining industry has a lot of sway.

Whether Montana's environment can take the strain is another question. The region has been suffering a drought for a long time now, and hydrogenation is a prodigious water user. But I'm sure that problem can be overcome - after all, no one's dammed the Yellowstone yet. :(

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Spy satellite to slam Earthside

Mike Richards
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Beryllium

(Atomic number 4) is extremely light, strong over a wide range of temperatures, nonmagnetic and corrosion resistant making it ideal for satellites and aerospace applications. It is either used pure or alloyed, especially with copper. Satellites can use beryllium alloys in their structure, or sometimes in their engines.

The serious downside of beryllium is that many of its compounds are extraordinarily toxic, especially when ingested (interestingly, many beryllium compounds are very sweet - at least briefly). It's a top-notch carcinogen and also causes an extreme allergic lung reaction called beryllosis. For this reason, there aren't many elderly experts in the study of beryllium.

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IPS leak suggests ID card fingerprint chop

Mike Richards
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@Damian

Abandon it?

Abandon a flagship policy of the last New Labour manifesto? Don't you understand the ID card scheme is the 21st Century version of the 5-year tractor production plan? Just as it didn't matter if the proletariats glorious tractors only had three wheels; it won't matter if the people of Britain don't have working ID cards - they will have ID cards. And isn't that what the late, great David Blunkett would have wanted?

Give up now, just when unreformed science is saying the whole scheme won't work? You might as well say the Dear Leader before the current Great Helmsman showed signs of human fallibility. And we're not quite ready for Gordon's secret speech to the 20th Party Congress on the topic of 'the Personality Cult and its Consequences.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Personality_Cult_and_its_Consequences#Excerpts

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MPs squeeze science back onto select committee list

Mike Richards
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Re: why no chair with a science background?

New Labour would have to hunt for a long time to find a chairman with a science background - their Parliamentary highfliers are dominated by third-rate lawyers, ex-union smoothies and those who've done nothing but grease the party political machine since leaving their politics course at uni.

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Critics split over DDoS attacks on Scientology

Mike Richards
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For anyone still wondering...

Here's the definitive pocket-sized summary of Scientology:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4572326307756845678&q=south+park+scientology+youtube&total=50&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=1

South Park - it is educational!

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100Mbit/s sewer broadband rollout coming your way

Mike Richards
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Gives a new meaning to...

...pay as you go.

[Taddaaa]

Thank you! thank you! I'm here all week, enjoy the buffet.

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MP calls for law to force online shops to verify customer age

Mike Richards
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Margaret Moran

Is that a typo in her surname?

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Starbucks mocha clocked at 628 calories

Mike Richards
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Calories are better than 'portions'

Has anyone worked out the governmental busybody 'science' behind the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables?

According to the nanny state if I eat a banana, a handful of strawberries and wash it down with a glass of fresh orange juice I have consumed five portions. However, if I put the same three quantities into a blender and whizz it into a delicious smoothie it is transmogulated into a single portion.

Is this an example of the GillianMcKeithisation of science?

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Accenture and BAE pull out of ID card project

Mike Richards
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Church of Mormon

Can't we give the ID card project to the Mormons?

They're obsessed with collecting data about everyone who's ever lived so that we can all be baptised into the church of latterday wacky - and they're somewhat less disturbing than Ross Perot's EDS.

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ID cards delayed until 2012

Mike Richards
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@W

Mad, bad and dangerous to know - they're Blunkettcards.

@Jolyon

Watch Demolition Man *again*???

You are a cruel cruel man!!!

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Former top brass call for first-strike nuke option

Mike Richards
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Executive summary

The only way of avoiding a nuclear war is to have a nuclear war.

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Japanese to launch paper plane from ISS

Mike Richards
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YouTube glory awaits...

...the lucky person who gets speared through the eye by a burning spaceplane.

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MoD coughs to laptop triple whammy

Mike Richards
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eBay

Anyone reckon there's plenty of bidding for COMPAQ Evo N600c laptops round about now?

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Dildo rails dirty? Help is at hand

Mike Richards
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'Hover Upholstery'

I might just settle for (on?) a flying sofa if the flying car still isn't available.

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Computer system suspected in Heathrow 777 crash

Mike Richards
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Spooks

If the BBC's 'incredibly well-researched' drama is to be believed Malcolm could have fixed the problem in seconds by hacking into the 777 and installing a virus.

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Join the army, get your ID pinched - MoD laptop goes AWOL

Mike Richards
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Clear case of overworked MoD personnel

Everyone on El Reg is being terribly harsh to the real victim in this - yes that unnamed MoD worker who is forced to personally handle the cases of some 500,000 wannabe squaddies.

Think about it - how would you like to know the well-being of half a million people is your responsibility? Doubtless the poor fellow was so stressed at being made to carry his work home at night that he made the perfectly understandable mistake of forgetting to take his laptop with him when he popped into the local Spar (or another one of the metropolis' innumerable high-quality all-night self-service consumer boutiques) for a family pack of ProPlus and a barrel of full-fat own-label cola.

Hold on, my associates wish to raise another possibility (although I am shocked to think that they would consider it), that this is a clear case of irresponsible data security with excessive numbers of personal records being duplicated, processed and stored on unsupervised machines.

I think I much prefer my scenario; one where Gerald (I think it should be a Gerald) works tirelessly to serve Britain's finest armed only with only a hot laptop, a cup of Mellow Blend and a chocolate HobNob.

So let's not berate Gerald, let's pray that the Civil Service (especially that magnificent edifice the Home Office) is staffed solely by Geralds!

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Minister calls for boffins to engage with public

Mike Richards
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Ah yes, government listening to scientists

Like the scientists who tell them to stop cod fishing in the North Sea - and then they promptly ignore them. Cut carbon emissions by 90% or face disaster - press on with plans for a new generation of coal-fired power stations and new runways. Biometrics are snake oil, your security plans are nonsense and you're endangering the privacy of everyone in the country - ID cards please (for which John Denham voted).

As for MMR, the government tried to have it both ways, the DoH said MMR was safe, but the Prime Minister turned it into a long-running media circus by refusing to say if it was sufficiently safe that Leo Blair had been injected.

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Cops admit CCTV no use in deterring drunken violence

Mike Richards
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Spinnery

'Gerrard insisted that the proliferation of CCTV cameras in public spaces was being driven by local communities, or rather local authorities and other public agencies.'

For which the Home Office makes available seemingly endless amounts of public money.

This is government policy.

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Microsoft backpedals on Blu-ray for Xbox 360 comments

Mike Richards
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So no Blu-Ray for the 360

Makes sense, the console's core technology is getting on a bit and an expensive redesign would be a nightmare for compatibility and push back that elusive day when the XBox division becomes profitable.

What Microsoft isn't saying is that whatever comes after the 360 won't use Blu-Ray.

Speaking of which, isn't it time for the next-gen console rumour mill to start up again?

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Is it or isn't it? Brown keeps bottling the ID card question

Mike Richards
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No change in policy

Actually Brown is just being inarticulate in telling us the state of the ID Card legislation.

When it looked like the New Labour sheep might have woken up to the scheme, the Home Office came over all emollient and said that their would be no element of compulsion in the Act. Which is true(ish) - but as people have pointed out above, not really necessary since Blunkettcards will be needed to function in society. Satisfied by the government's ability to listen, the backbench androids duly all pressed the button marked 'Police State' and the government got its way.

When the ID Cards Act became law, one of the Home Secretaries (can't remember if it was the one who looked like a garden gnome or the drunk who cuddled up to warmongers) said that if Labour were re-elected at the next election, they would publish a second ID Card Act that would make the cards compulsory.

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UK gov scraps '£1bn' prisoner tracking system

Mike Richards
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EDS

Yes!

Continuing a long line of screw-ups into 2008.

Now please put the cherry on the icing of the cake by telling me the whole idea was dreamt up by that serial offender - David Blunkett.

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Reaper airborne war-droids to patrol 2012 Olympics

Mike Richards
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Black Helicopters

Weather

Bearing in mind I'm fully expecting cloud ceilings at about 20ft and permanent rain - we'd better get used to ducking as these things whizz around.

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