Easyjet Britain

This article caught my eye last week. There was an interesting comment from Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, an independent public body which represents rail passengers on the rise in rail fares: “Flexibility has become very, very expensive. We have moved towards an Easyjet railway without having much of a debate about it,” he said.  By this he meant that there are some very cheap fares on the railways, but generally with special conditions. Most of the time, especially when you want to travel, fares are not cheap, hence the incentive to use the car at those times.

Then we’ve had the furore over cheap chicken, where the RSPCA, amongst others is urging us to stop buying mass produced chickens. Quite frankly, I agree with them. I want to eat humanely reared animals and I don’t want the chemical garbage that goes with intensive farming. However, it’s incredibly difficult to make informed choices.

Are we turning into an Easyjet Britain (although Ryan Air are even worse), where all that matters is price or convenience and does this make us over-consume? Is this to the detriment of service and quality? I’m as guilty as anyone else. I can’t resist a bargain, hence, the ridiculous amount of gear I have, much of which I hardly use (who needs 5 tents, 6 stoves, 10 rucksacks etc.?). I surf the web, finding “bargains” and consuming more.

By shopping on-line I deprive the local economy. Why don’t I buy more books from the local bookshop than Amazon? By constant bargain hunting, I’m probably driving down the quality of service/goods that can be delivered. On the other hand, you don’t want to see no competition so you get ripped off by virtual monopolists. What’s the balance? If I stop consuming, I could throw someone out of a job (Keynes’ paradox of thrift). In the end, I guess, we just go on blindly doing what we do. It’s just too difficult to resolve.

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Google Reader

I’ve just got to grips with Google Reader. It certainly simplifies the task of keeping up to date with news and blogs. I wonder whether the site stats record when the item appears in the Google Reader window or does it wait until there is a click through. If it is the latter, then my site stats will underestimate the number of readers. Does it really matter? Probably not. I view the number of comments as a better measure.

One thing worries me, though. Is Google taking over our lives? I have Google Mail, I use Google for searching, I have Picassa installed and now use it for keeping up to date. I worry about the data that might be collected, not becasue I have anything to hide, but I just don’t like the idea of being catalogued. I guess I ought to abandon using Google for everything.

Dark materials

Over Christmas I finished Kublai Khan by John Man. Highly recommended, even if you’re not that interested in Chinese history. Man has also written on Ghengis Khan and Attila the Hun, so I’ll probably get those soon. I also finished “The Children of Hurin” by Tolkien. In truth, it’s bit boring and somewhat depressing.

I also read “Northern Lights” by Philip Pullman, partly to acquaint myself before I see “The Golden Compass”. If you like fantasy writing, then it’s certainly worth a read. Like most of these kind of books, it takes a bit of time to orientate yourself, but after about a 100 pages or so it starts to hot up. I’m not sure you can compare it to LOTR or Narnia as they were both trailblazers. LOTR has the greatest depth as Tolkien built a prodigious work of myth behind the story. Narnia, on the other hand, is very much a children’s story, and the style is somewhat dated. The imaginative force behind both LOTR and Narnia is prodigious as they were both very different to literature that had preceded them.

Of the most recent exponents of fantasy I think David Eddings is the best. In particular “The Belgariad” creates a wonderfully colourful “other” world of tremendous imagination and consistency. Perhaps Pullman is more similar to Michael Moorcock who created a number of interlocking universes with similarities and dissimilarities to our own. On the other hand, Pullman has a deeper style than Moorcock, where  action predominates. I’m now on to the second book, “The Subtle Knife”, which has got off to a cracking start.

No explanation

I have no explanation as to why the traffic suddenly exploded (well that might be over-egging it!) on my blog yesterday to 90 page views. However, if the person who found my blog by asking a search engine (google?) “are winwood outdoor any good” returns, the answer is “yes, they are good”. I’ve ordered quite a few things from them and found their service good (including exchanges of e-mails). Other retailers that merit an honourable mention for service are: Alpkit, Backpackinglight.co.uk and Rock + Run.

Riding the tiger

Writing a blog can be a frightening experience. You’ve got no idea where it’s going and whether you’ll have anything to say after a week or two. The open-ended nature of blogging is a bit daunting, but like doing a long trek, it’s best to take it a day at a time and not think about any destination. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to match John Hee’s  370 posts in 2007. My aim is one a day, but there are bound to be occasional fallow periods.

It is enjoyable to get your opinions “out there” and fun to have feedback from other readers/bloggers. Since I started at the end of November, I’ve had over 2,300 page views. The surge at the beginning has settled down to around 40-60 page views a day. My record was 227 on 28th November. I don’t know how many unique visitors I get a week. As long as a few people look at my blog and get some enjoyment, then it’s worth doing.

For those of you who don’t blog, please don’t underestimate the pleasure for bloggers of receiving comments. So if you can spare a few seconds and have something useful to contribute or some encouragement, it’s always worth leaving a message. If anyone out there is thinking of joining the fraternity, I can thoroughly recommend WordPress. It’s very well thought out and a doddle to use.

Nutters

I came across “grough” a few days ago. It’s quite interesting how many “walkers” are getting into trouble these days. Inadequate preparation and gear appears to be the refrain. How anyone can go up a Munro without a map, compass and torch in winter is beyond me. Then there are the three medical students suffering from hypothermia going up the Pyg track on Snowdon. Extraordinary. There’s an interesting article on the increasing demands on MRT from “walkers” getting lost and ringing the rescue services on their mobile phones. We may laugh (or cry), but there is a danger of this spoiling it for the many who go out on the hills responsibly with the right gear and preparation. I hope the ‘elf and safety apparatchiks don’t get involved. It does remind me of the time, a long, long time ago when I was descending into Wasdale from Sty Head to see a woman in a summer dress walking towards us in……high heels!!! At least she was keeping to the path and no mobile phones those days meant she couldn’t call out Mountain Rescue if she broke a finger nail.

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