30 December 2008

T-Mobile Internet Censors

It's not just the government who wants to censor the Internet (they already do, through their self-appointed and highly secretive quango, the Internet Watch Foundation)...

The day after Boxing Day we decided to drive up to Dartmoor for a walk and lunch in a pub at Widdecombe. 

"Do we know for sure that they do proper lunches?" someone asked. 

"I'll just check on their website" I said and Googled them, but when I clicked on their url I was met with 

'You are not authorised to view this site'


We were at my Mum's home for xmas, so I was using my laptop and a T-mobile pay-as-you-go 3G broadband modem.

It turns out that T-mobile take it upon themselves to censor all connections. I was not allowed to view a pub website because T-mobile don't know that I'm over 18 yrs old. 

In order to view the Rugglestone Inn  (excellent pub BTW!) I have to go down to my local T-mobile shop with my passport. 

Ho hum...sign of the times. 

And, unless we stop them, there's more Internet Censorship to come. 

17 December 2008

Cuba's 50th - no surprises there

Anniversary research has been a regular exercise for me for years. 

It's just one of those things that every freelance journalist (and editor)  should be trained to do, but very few do.  In fact, I've started doing it now on behalf of my freelance colleagues at the BGTW (www.bgtw.org) and posting the results on the website.

It's very simple. You look ahead for the next 18-24 months (so right now we're looking at 2009 and 2010) and then go to your computer or library and find out what happened 25, 50 and 100 years ago (so 1984/5, 1959/60 and 1909/10). 

Then you start pitching for commissions and planning features way ahead of the pack. 

That's how/why I was asking United Airlines in 2001, how they were going to mark the 100th anniversary of powered flight (the Wright bros) on 17 Dec 2003

That's how I know which Oxford Street shopping icon will be celebrating in March, why the focus will be on Hollywood a year later , and why there will be tv crews down on the Dover cliffs in July

And why I wasn't surprised this morning to receive my first press release about Cuba, highlighting the 50th anniversary of Castro's  revolutionary government (which, although the release doesn't mention it, came to power on 2nd Jan 1959).

04 December 2008

Declaration of Intent

The story (perhaps "legend") goes that, faced with a number of 'declaration' questions on a, rather po-faced, visa/immigration form for entry into the United States, the comic songwriter, W S Gilbert, answered the question "Is it your intention to overthrow the government of the United States?" with "Sole purpose of visit". Apparently he got in anyway because they had no way of processing his answer! (Or maybe they had a sense of humour.)

I've just had the same thing.

I'm buying a new laptop for my son's xmas present (hope he doesn't read this!)...from Dell - an American company. So at the end of the online transaction I am asked to confirm, via a dropdown menu, the use my new laptop will be put to...


I'm telling you, I had to tie one hand behind my back and bite my knuckles to not select Nuclear Research & Manufacturing!

Definition of an ocean liner

One of John Heald's groupies asked what exactly the difference is between an "Ocean Liner" and a "Cruise Ship" and in yesterday's blog, John got Peter Shanks from Carnival UK to come up with a 4-point definition of an ocean liner. 

The first three points are concerned with ship design and routes. It was the  fourth that I liked...
Only Cunard has ocean liners - absolutely everybody else has cruise ships.

03 December 2008

How many emails are they snooping on?

I see from a www.theyworkforyou.com alert that the Labour MP, Micheal Meacher (Oldham West & Royton) posted a written question in the House of Commons on 26 Nov 08...

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many e-mails and other electronic communications data were sent in the UK in each of the last three years; how many were monitored by the authorities in each year; and how many were found to be relevant to (a) terrorist activity and (b) crime in each year.

He'll be fobbed off of course, but I'd love to see the answer if he wasn't!

02 December 2008

Germans put off visiting UK by our surveillance cameras

A colleague in the BGTW (www.bgtw.org) has just told me that her local newspaper in Berlin is reporting that potential tourists from Germany cite the pervasive presence of surveillance cameras in Britain as an important reason to chose anywhere other than the UK as a tourist destination.

Nuff said.

Compassionate air fares

Ok, I have been doing this (travel journalism) a long time but, just as there are some places I have never visited, there are (pause to compose myself) some things I don't know about (gasps from audience).

This is one of them.

I didn't know that many airlines have 'compassion/bereavement' fare rates. 

Seems obvious that they should.....now. But I guess I'm lucky in that I've never encountered it.

Some airlines are up-front and organised about it, like Continental. For most it is more of a POA thing (Price on Application).

Anyway, I learned about it from Mark Ashley's post here.

Obviously you'll already know about it, but I thought I'd pass it on, just in case...