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Civil liberties Humour Politics Satire Society

If Music Be the Food Of Love, Play on…

I was just settled down in my local Costa Coffee last week, my favourite Skinny Wet Latte with an extra shot in my hand, and the Daily Mail (thoughtfully provided by Costa) on the table.

I browsed through the major news stories, which all seemed so boringly predictable, and was about to shove the paper back in the rack when another, more interesting article caught my eye.

Upon reading the story, it became apparent that a “Senior Politician”, in this case, Mr Dafydd Iwan, the former president of the Welsh Nationalist Party Plaid Cymru, has objected to the Tom Jones hit ballad “Delilah” being sung before Welsh Rugby Matches.

I stifled my laughter, as there were other customers nearby, and I didn’t want to be regarded as weird, even although some may say I am.

What nonsense!

It seems that the noble politician has got his knickers in a twist because he regards the song inappropriate, as it “is about murder, and it trivialises the murder of women”

Well, I can see his point – to a certain extent. Not, however, to the extent that I believe it should be banned.

For pity’s sake! It’s a song! A very well written song, as evidenced by being awarded the Ivor Novello award for the “Best song musically and lyrically” in 1968. It was so good that it reached Number 2 in the UK top ten in the same year.

Now, using the same sort of skewed logic that our Mr Iwan uses, maybe we should stop singing “God Save the Queen” as this may be construed as sexist, elitist, and theologically unbalanced. Jingoistic, and appealing to the might of empire to obtain wealth and status.

Or maybe we should ban the genteel ladies of the Women’s Institute from opening their meetings with the wonderful Hymn “Jerusalem”. After all, it is condoning violence, “Bring me my bow, of burning gold, bring me my arrows of desire, bring me my spear, oh clouds unfold, bring me my chariot of fire”.

The next verse implores the middle aged ladies to wage what amounts to a religious war, with quotes like “Nor shall my sword, sleep in my hand, till we have built Jerusalem, in England’s green and pleasant land”

Maybe Liverpool City football fans should be prevented from singing You’ll never walk alone” as it could be suggesting that it’s encouraging stalkers to follow fans.

What about Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls”. This is an anthem in praise of the larger lady, but if Mr Iwan and his ilk have their way, it will be suggested that this trivialises and marginalises the chunkier ladies. – better ban it as we can’t have that sort of suggestiveness!

Rod Stewart will certainly be banned, due to his chart topper Maggie May….in the dreary, dark, PC world that Mr Iwan wants us all to inhabit, this lyrical wistful ballad will be consigned to the Naughty Step, relating as it does, to the seduction of a schoolboy by a mature woman. In his world, this no doubt trivialises such actions.

The rest of us are mature enough to understand that the lyrics are merely a light hearted reflection on the types of adolescent fantasies that most schoolboys (myself included) have about older women.

Dean Martin – well, Little Ole Wine Drinker Me will be scuppered, as this obviously mocks the very real problems of alcoholism, and marginalises the needs and requirements of the alcoholic.

Nursery Rhymes shouldn’t be exempt either, most of which have lyrics that are of questionable integrity.

Jack and Jill famous for decades due to their hill climbing abilities? Banned! Why? Because it condones child labour. Fancy making little kids climb a steep hill to collect water. They obviously haven’t been adequately trained, and a proper risk assessment doesn’t seem to have been conducted. Furthermore, they weren’t wearing any form of protective clothing, or using the correct equipment for manually handling heavy buckets.

Ding Dong Bell doesn’t do well either. Think about it. “Ding dong bell. Pussy’s in the well, who put her in, Little Tommy Flynn”

Sounds like it’s trivialising the abuse of animals doesn’t it?

I could go on, and maybe research even more songs that should be banned using the flawed logic of Mr Iwan.

Ultimately, it’s all too silly for words. So, the lyrics of Delilah tell the story of a man pushed too far. It’s no worse than watching a modern police series, or, dare I say it, a contemporary soap series. You can see it happening for real every night on the TV news.

It’s a great song Mr Iwan. It’s a wonderful powerful stirring ballad that is sung by one of your countrymen, a man with a great voice. It’s been adopted by the Welsh Rugby fans because it is FUN to sing along as a big crowd, and Tom Jones is a true Welsh icon.

Quite unlike Mr Iwan, who I’m sure will sink into obscurity long before Delilah stops being sung by us ordinary, cheerful adults who are able to discriminate between political comment, and a good song.

Discuss….

Categories
Airport Flight Society Transport Travel

Airline Loyalty Programmes. Good For You – But Better For Them?

Member of an Airline Loyalty Programme?
Good for you – But better for the Owner!

If you are a regular airline traveller, you have special cause for celebration on the 1st May each year.

For on this date thirty seven years ago, American Airlines launched it’s Aadvantage® programme, the first ever integrated Frequent Flier Loyalty scheme.

In 1978, just prior to the launch of the then unique programme, the US Government had enacted the Airline Deregulation Act, and the US air carriers were in a state of turmoil.

Against a backdrop of recession and economic uncertainty, airlines were struggling to contain costs and make even meagre yields, so great thought was given to enhancing the profits from existing customers.

It is said that it is six times more expensive to generate a new customer than it is to hold on to an existing one, so the ability to retain customers was seen as being a high priority.

Executives at American Airlines created the Aadvantage Programme, a system that rewarded loyalty by offering free upgrades to either business or first class, or free tickets, based upon the number of air miles that the passenger travelled.

Prior to the launch of the programme, American’s marketing department trawled through their SABRE reservations system for bookings with recurring telephone numbers. The 130,000 most frequent flyers were selected as the initial members of the Aadvantage programme, closely followed by the 60,000 members of the Admirals Club (American’s Airport Lounge Club).

Naturally such a scheme was hugely popular with passengers, and United Airlines launched their own loyalty programme called Mileage Plus the following week. Subsequently most large airlines have launched similar programmes.

So, the passenger may enjoy a free Business Class ticket from New York to London for every 50,000 miles travelled. That’s certainly a good deal, but what’s in it for the Airline.

Firstly, the Airline can build up a profile of an individual’s travel behaviour, seat preferences, times of travel, and class of travel booked.

Such statistical data is gold dust for a marketing department, and the information may be used to make decisions related to routes, departure and arrival times, and size and type of aircraft to be used on various flights. These decisions could make or lose the airline millions.

Loyalty programmes are good – for the owner, but British Airways made an inspired development of the AA system when they launched the BA Credit Card,

Once the programme was launched, passengers were given a double incentive. Book the ticket on BA, and get airmiles for the flight, and pay for it on the airline’s credit card, and get bonus mileage!

The passenger obviously benefits from this, but not as much as the airline.

Consider this – The passenger buys his ticket on BA, using his BA credit card. He then rents a car through the BA booking system (getting some airmiles bonus of course), and then pays with his airline credit card – for more bonus mileage.

When he gets to the airport, he buys some duty free liquor, a Mont Blanc pen, and some Chanel perfume for his wife. He then orders some Lalique Crystal, and some Caviar from the Caviar House.

Having finished his shopping, he takes his trip, and whilst abroad uses his Airline credit card for further purchases, enthusiastically hoovering up bonus air miles, all to be redeemed with the airline for future flights, which of course, he will pay for with his airline credit card.

Now, the passenger thinks that the loyalty programme is basically for his benefit. Not so!

For the company is now building up a comprehensive profile of the passenger, logging his purchases, and his shops of preference. The marketing department is creating a whole new armoury of tools to use on the passenger.
You, the passenger, may not realise the stealthy gathering of data, and may be quite happy amassing your bonus airmiles.

It should be said, that there is nothing sinister in the gathering of such information. Many corporate E-commerce websites make no secret of the fact that personal details will be used for marketing purposes.

The airline gains far more than the passenger, mainly because air transport ticket prices have fallen in real terms over the years. They make profit on the ticket cost; they then make profit on the interest generated on the credit card. But most valuable of all is the comprehensive demographic information they glean.

Long-term analysis of the passenger’s buying behaviour enables the marketing department to design incentive packages targeted personally at the individual, and thus generate more business.

Further examination of the flights booked may help the airline’s network analysts to plan new routes, or revise timings of existing routes.

This type of programme promotes exceptional loyalty, and ties the passenger more effectively to the airline. A passenger who is mishandled for whatever reason is more likely to stay with the airline if he has amassed a significant number of airmiles.

Global economic problems and the huge costs involved in operating an airline has led many airlines to form commercial alliances. These alliances allow airlines to pool resources, share booking systems and flights. In most cases, they will also honour the redemption of airmiles gained on another alliance members loyalty programme.

Many airlines have invested in hotel chains and car rental companies, and these will also offer airmiles for the airline, generating further profits – and all for the cost of a free ticket for every ten return trips London to New York.

Compared with the total spend made by the customer, the net gain is heavily loaded in favour of the airline.

These programmes have proved so successful that many high street chains have embraced the idea with great enthusiasm. Tesco’s have their Clubcard; Sainsbury’s have the Nectar card.

Interestingly, ASDA, which is part of the US Wal-Mart group do not operate such a scheme. Their philosophy is that low prices at the time of checkout ties the customer more effectively to them rather than the promise of money back later. It must be a successful business models, as Wal-Mart is the world’s biggest employer.

It may be argued that Low Cost carriers such as Ryanair and Easyjet drive loyalty through low prices, but this seems to be a less powerful argument, as service standards are much lower than that provided by legacy full fare airlines.

The only other loyalty programme that doesn’t seem to translate very well into the world of air transport is that operated by the Co-Operative Retail Group.

The Co-Op as it’s popularly known has been running a loyalty scheme for many years, and is known throughout the UK as “dividend”, or just plain “divi”. Put quite simply, customers were encouraged to become members of the Cop-operative.

They purchased a share, which then enabled them to receive a percentage of the profits generated. This scheme has been running for decades, and has been very successful in keeping customers loyal to the brand despite enormous competition from much bigger rivals such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

So – Loyalty programmes are good for the customer, but not as good as they are for the provider!!!

Categories
Civil liberties internet privacy Society

The Internet of Things – Sinister Threat, or Powerful Friend?

Ask most people what they understand by the term “Internet”, and the majority will respond by explaining that the World Wide Web is accessed on their laptop computers, tablets, or smart phones to enable them to shop, communicate, and maybe conduct some research for business or educational purposes.

The expression “internet-enabled” is casually bandied about, referring to maybe a camera that will download photos automatically to a social networking site via the internet.

At the moment people access the internet, using a fixed dedicated interface device such as a desktop PC, Laptop, or smart phone.

However, the exclusive status is about to change, as more and more “inanimate” objects are being Internet enabled, becoming what is known as Ambient Intelligence.

The humble fridge in your kitchen may soon be able to assess stock levels, and reorder supplies when a preset level is detected. The vacuum cleaner may soon be able to communicate with a centralised home computer to decide which rooms require cleaning, and in what priority.

Your shopping basket may soon be enabled, and will monitor what products you are buying, and may look at patterns – maybe you are buying unhealthy food combinations, and may then upload this data to your medical centre, where your Doctor may be able to assess your diet.

Maybe government departments will monitor your spending habits to see if you are buying things that when used in combination may be dangerous.

Checking care labels on articles of clothing before loading the washing machine may soon become a thing of the past, as the item will have a microchip woven into the fabric which will communicate to the washing machine the required cleaning programme.

Already home management systems are on the market that enables a multitude of tasks to be automatically conducted with many of the functions being controlled remotely using a smart phone or a tablet computer, via the Internet.

The development of the Radio Frequency Identity Device (RFID) tag has had a profound and dramatic effect on the way we live our lives.

Initially developed for stock control and security purposes, this small chip may be programmed with a unique code that is associated with a particular product. The chip is passive, and will activate and transmit its code when interrogated by a reader device.

Stock may then be tracked within a warehouse, on board transport, and ultimately into the supermarket. It may be tracked again at checkout, and once paid for may be deleted from the system.

The same technology is used in bank cards, credit cards, Identity Cards, and documents such as passports and official documents.

If this technology is taken a step further, RFIDs may be attached to small inert chips, and placed under the skin of animals, and ultimately even human beings.

Even more chilling is the development of the Internet for security and control purposes. In the past, Governments had fairly limited means at their disposal to monitor its citizens.

Closed Circuit Television Cameras have been in use for decades, but have always relied upon human operators to monitor the captured film. Up until recently, the UK had the greatest number of cameras per capita than anywhere else in the world.

However, that is all about to change, and not necessarily for the better. The new Chinese city of Shenzhen already has a network of over 200,00 cameras monitoring its population of 12.4 million. Over the next few years, this is expected to increase to about two million.

In itself, this may not be so alarming, but when coupled with biometric data and RFID chip technology, this will enable a whole new concept in government control, and state intervention into private lives.

Facial recognition software has now been developed to the extent that it’s possible for computers to not only recognise an individual face, but also to interpret the mood or emotional state of the individual.

The covert monitoring of an individual’s body language and emotional state may be conducted by government agencies, and uploaded to powerful computers. Behavioural algorithms will analyse the data, and appropriate measures may be taken I. The event that adverse behaviour is detected.

This has both positive and negative aspects. A severely depressed individual, contemplating suicide by jumping off a bridge will naturally display strong emotional and physiological signals, which would be detected, enabling trained paramedics to be called to assist.

An individual contemplating criminal activity will also display behavioural markers that will trigger police officers to atend the scene.

However, what of the innocent individual who may be bored, mildly intoxicated, or awaiting a romantic liaison? They too may be targeted for intervention at some level.

In future, it may be possible for your local supermarket to monitor your internet enabled shopping trolley, and capture your facial image at the check out. The image may then be stored in a database containing your shopping profile.

It would then be possible for a network of cameras located in public places to recognise your image as you go about your daily business, and using your stored shopping preferences, display personally targeted advertisements on screens located, for example, on bus shelters, or mounted on the walls of buildings.

Individuals with medical conditions could be monitored effectively without the need for attending clinics at hospitals. Imagine if a pacemaker could monitor the state of a patients heart, and uplink real time data to a medical team. Early detection of a problem could result in the patient being called in for treatment before the condition becomes life threatening.

We have all become quite blasé about the internet, but it is very much a double edged sword. Used intelligently, and in a benign and sensitive way, it can improve the lives of everyone, empowering them to live a better quality of life.

Unscrupulous use of the internet by state governments for controlling the population leads to the undeniably sinister erosion of personal freedom.

Big Brother is out there – just waiting for the right moment to step in and take over our lives completely.

It is up to us, the general public to remain aware of the risks, and not allow ourselves to sleepwalk into computer controlled servitude.

You decide.

Mark Charlwood
17/06/2014

Mark Charlwood MSc reserves the intellectual copyright to this work. Re publication of this work is prohibited without seeking permission.

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Uncategorized

The Forgotten Hero

The Forgotten Hero

The old man, stooped and shabby dressed,
With faded ribbons on his chest,
The clipped moustache, still neat, now grey,
A tribute to his yesterday.

He shuffles through the city streets,
Forgotten now, his selfless feats,
“Scramble A Flight!” A memory cries,
And once more, he’s in the skies.

Festooned with kit, and parachutes,
Leather jacket, fur-lined boots,
Sidcot suits and maps and charts,
Cracking jokes, and having larks.

The ops phone rings, and rest is over,
“B flight – Scamble, raid at Dover!”
Swallow tea, the lumbering run,
The Merlin’s running – now where’s the Hun?

Line her up, green light from the tower,
One deep breath, apply full power,
The mighty Merlin’s marvellous sound,
A rumble, bump, then off the ground

Look up sun, then left, then right,
“Close up, red two, and watch your height”
A glint, a flash – they’re just below,
Someone shouts “Tally Ho, Tally Ho!”

Mouth dry with fear, and stomach churning,
A Spit screams down, yellow flames, – Oh God it’s burning!
One in the ring sight, squeeze the tit, feel the shudder,
Hold the deflection, a little more on the rudder

The enemy’s hit, and rolls onto its back,
Spewing out smoke, thick, oily and black,
All of a sudden to the skies empty once more,
And gone in a heartbeat, the engines of war

Back in the mess there’s a binge in full swing,
Young men getting plastered with whiskey and gin,
The CO’s passed out, the adj is unstable,
Two drunken lads dance a waltz on the table

The horrors of war, overlooked for a night,
Tomorrow’s soon enough to get back to the fight
When once again hundreds of nineteen year old boys,
Will exchange a Spitfire for childhood and toys

So, now, old man, who gave your youth,
Must face the cold and ugly truth,
That battles fought in angry skies,
Have earned you but a pack of lies,

This England that you fought to save,
Has turned it’s back on those who gave,
A paltry pension, breadline existence,
Whilst thieves and thugs receive assistance

Old man with ribbons on your chest,
Clipped grey moustache, and shabby dressed
You’re not forgotten, you will not die,
Remembered still by us who fly

Mark Charlwood
06 June 1986