Sunday, 27 October 2013

Three reasons why you won’t be driving electric cars any time soon

It’s a well-known fact that fossil fuels are running out at a rapid pace and car manufacturers worldwide have been forced to search for an alternative fuel source to petrol and diesel. Companies such as Renault and Nissan have already built electric cars which can be charged at charging points which are situated at various places around England, Tesla even build a powerful electric car which can give super-cars a run for its money. Unfortunately though, electric cars are still ridiculously impractical. So, here are 3 reasons why the world won't be driving electric vehicles any time in the near future.

Charging Stations
A few weeks ago I was talking to a journalist who had spent a week with a Nissan Leaf (probably one of the most popular electric cars you can currently buy) and he hated it. It was ideal for whizzing round town in however anywhere further than 30 miles away he didn't dare venture to go just in case he didn't have enough power to make it back home. Even if there was a charging station at the place he was going, it takes so long for Leafs to recharge it makes them ridiculously unpractical. There is also the issue of finding a charging station, because there is not that many.

A Tesla Model S in America recently set on fire after the battery, which is situated on the bottom of the car, was struck by a piece of metal. Luckily fire fighters were able to put it out before it hand chance to get into the drivers compartment on the inside of the car.

Not Cars
Motoring enthusiasts love the sounds super-cars roar and spit out however unless you buy a CD with engine noises on, that thrilling sound will soon cease to exist. Electric Cars make little to no noise which not only makes them boring, also quite risky. Texting teenagers may not look up to see if there are any cars when they are crossing the road if they can't hear any engines, so my guess is going to be that there will be more road accidents as electric cars get more popular. The injuries caused by electric cars won't be severe though as most of the time they don't have the power to pick up that much speed anyway.

Monday, 21 October 2013

'Captain Phillips' Film Review

Captain Phillips is an absorbing film based on a real life story about a cargo ship getting attacked by Somali Pirates looking for a quick pay day. Fortunately the main character, Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) does everything he can to try and stop the small group of Pirates from getting their way. Captain Phillips tries his hardest to protect his crew and attempt to stop the Pirates from getting on board the vessel.

Tom Hanks portrays Captain Phillips as a determined and  heroic character who always puts his crew first. This film will have a tight grasp of your attention from start to finish and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The real Captain Richard Phillips was described as "reckless" by his crew and he told white lies to make himself sound more like a hero when he was swamped in media attention. He is now a published writer who has written a handful of books and who said the film "portrayed my crew very well, and portrayed the work truly. We're not the best dressed, we don't talk the nicest, but we're pretty regular people."

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Smokefree Action Coalition Briefing – House of Commons 2013

Have you ever been in a car whilst an adult has smoked carelessly allowing the fumes to linger in the car or have any of your friends started smoking because it looks ‘cool’? It’s time for those things stop and there are many British organisations trying to achieve that goal.
In front of Big Ben
So, accompanied only by my wingman (so to say), I made the journey down to Westminster on October 15th for the Smokefree Action Coalition Briefing event where representatives from many different organisations and groups could mingle and confer about the work they've been doing. The aim of the event was to inform people about where the government currently stands with many matters regarding anti-smoking. From standardised cigarette packaging to smoking with children in cars the dozens of campaigners came out in force from organisations such as the British Lung Foundation, ASH, Fresh NE!

Early in 2013 I was promoting standardised packaging for cigarette packs in the UK via a video for Fresh NE. This sparked a speech that I made during March at a Fresh NE conference and I then wrote letters to members of parliament about where they stood regarding standardised packaging.
More information here: My fight for against Cigarettes (Smoking in Cars and Plain Packaging)

Anyway, after a swift wander around London we made our way to the historical and iconic parliament building which lingers in the shadow of the Elizabeth Tower. At airport like security in the entrance, the police had the guts to rummage through my bag; to their disappointment they didn't find anything apart from a can of Pepsi.

As I waited in a circular room directly between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, I allowed the extravagant, high ceiling, the polo white statues and the high class atmosphere soak in.

At approximately 4PM I was lead through a maze of corridors and staircases to a compact emerald room overflowing with people. After an anxious start to the event I was soon in flowing and intriguing conversations. The organisers of the event worked like match makers to try and get certain attendees to talk to certain other attendees, because nobody could talk to everyone so the organiser made sure you made the most of the 2 hours you had at the event.

This meant I was introduced to fascinating people who had travelled from all over England. They all had a different story to tell and different reasons for their campaign against the tobacco industry.

John McClurrey (independent newsagent from Gateshead and Liberal Democrat Councillor) was without a doubt one of the most intriguing people I met simply because of the results he had from the research he had conducted. He informed me that selling cigarettes isn't as profitable as you may assume, he went on to say that he actually makes more money from selling gum than he does with cigarettes!

One of the most interesting things I got given was a prototype of what the standardised plain packs could look like if the Government decided to implement them. Despite the pack being a vile shade of green and being littered in graphic health warnings there was a beauty to the packs that only few people will see. Many people, like me, will see the beauty because it is evidence that all the work they have done petitioning for standardised packaging might soon pay off.

Unfortunately, standardised packaging is a touchy issue which not everyone agrees with so many experts, over the course of the day, informed me that it is unlikely the current Government will implement them with only around 18 months left in power. That is the only logical reason anyone could think of – standardised packaging is actually quite practical: it is cheap, easy to implement and would require little enforcement.

Even if the government was freshly in power there would still be some very political aspects they would view the situation from. 5000 British people are employed directly by the tobacco industry and a further 80,000 jobs rely on the industry so if the government did implement standardised packaging, they would see thousands of people become unemployed. Also, it may surprise you that the Tobacco industry actually has a significant amount of influence in White Hall so they can pressure and manipulate MPs if something isn’t going their way. One thing is for sure, the poison producers are not to be underestimated, they will attempt to lie and cheat out of anything. They are too rich and too powerful.

The current official government line is that they are seeing how standardised packaging goes down in Australia and if it is beneficial they will seriously consider introducing it to Britain.

Hopefully though, politicians will have the courage to look at the key statistics regarding health: Smoking remains the major cause of preventable premature death killing 100,000 people a year, more than the next six causes put together including alcohol, obesity and illegal drugs! 567 children start smoking every day in the UK which is approximately 207,000 a year. In research conducted by the British Heart Foundation, 87% of 2700 surveyed 16-25 years olds found plain packs less attractive and 77% of them believed that people to smoke less or quit.

As a teenager who sees people my age smoking, I’ve noticed that the glamour of it has a lot to do with why some of my friends started the disgusting habit. The attractive, colourful and shiny packing attracts people of all ages, especially children. The tobacco industry deny aiming packaging at young people, they've even went so far to say that they don’t care about packaging at all, yet they still spend millions on getting a perfect design and shape for them.
I watched a video made by Cancer Research UK on the train journey to London on October 15th and it showed primary school children speaking about what they thought of cigarette packaging. The video was unscripted and some of the things they said were astonishing:
“It has a funky design”
“Looks quite posh”
“Bright colours and looks quite fun to play with, makes you feel almost happy by looking at it”
“The pictures look quite nice; ice cubes and mint”

Overall, the event and day as a whole were brilliant. I got the opportunity to express my views on standardised packaging in front of some very important people from around Britain who are campaigning for the same things, plus not many people my age get invited to such events like this especially in places such as the House of Commons so I feel extremely privileged to have even been invited.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Saturday 19th October 2013: In the News this Week

It's the week of Saturday 19th October 2013 and...

The new Bing Smart Search

Windows 8.1 Started Rolling Out
Customised tile sizes in Windows 8.1
Windows 8.1, the latest version of Windows following the controversial and confusing Windows 8, started rolling out to customers worldwide earlier this week. The update is being called my many 'what the original Windows 8 should have been' because it includes lots of tweaks and improvements rather than new features. New features don't go completely absent though, Bing is now built in and the search results are extremely impressive as they scan the web and everything on your PC, there a verity of new Bing apps including Bing 'Food and Drink' and Bing 'Health and Fitness' and a handful of new Microsoft apps to such as a calculator and alarm. All the Microsoft Apps have been redesigned and made faster also.
The update allows you to personalise your computer more with more options on your background, different colours and the ability to re-size apps so you can have them really big or really small.
After complaints about Windows 8 that it lacked a 'Start' button, it has returned in Windows 8.1, the button takes you back to the 'Metro' Start screen and appears in the bottom left corner.

Government Advises People to Wear Jumpers
Westminster, the centre of brilliant ideas in England, has once again failed to disappoint with their latest piece of advice they've gave out to help people save money in Winter. They say that you should 'wear jumpers' to save spending money on heating. The announcement was on Thursday's episode of Newsnight where the spokesman for the Prime Minister also said "I am sure people do wear jumpers, I wear jumpers at home."

Chinese Parents Sell Baby for iPhone
Two parents have been arrested after they sold their baby daughter and some of the proceeds went towards a new iPhone! The parents had apparently advertised the baby online asking for somewhere between £3000 - £5000 for the unborn child. According to Chinese press the money was also used to buy some "high-end sport shoes". 
This is not the first time something similar to this has happened. A few years ago a teenage boy sold his kidney so he could buy an iPhone!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Saturday 12th October 2013: In the News this Week

It's the week of Saturday 12th October 2013 and...

Apple 'Spaceship' Campus Model
Earlier this week a scale model of the new futuristic Apple campus was shown off. The images show a black and white doughnut shaped building surrounded by trees and 2 blocks of car parking space just off a road to the side of the building. It has not been decided yet if the building will be constructed yet however a vote in the near future will give us that answer.

Bearded Muslim pupil allowed to return to School
A 14-year old Muslim boy is allowed to return to school on Monday after spending a month in isolation and being excluded from school after refusing to shave of his beard. The facial hair did not comply with the school rules at the Accrington secondary however the boy argued it was part of his religion to keep it. Another boy at the school still has an unresolved case and is needing to stay at home until it is sorted out.
Headteacher and the Governing Body at the school where 1/3rd of pupils are Muslims are not planning to change any of their appearance policies anytime soon which means this dilemma will continue to go on.

American Army Iron Man Suits
One of the richest armies in the world, the US Army, announced earlier this week that they were developing a new suit of armor which would give solderers "super human strength". The "revolutionary" exoskeleton concept designs include a smart material fitted with sensors to monitor body temperature, heart rate and hydration levels.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

'Prisoners' Film Review

How far would you go to protect your family? That was an important decision which father of 2, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) needed to make when his infant daughter disappeared on thanksgiving along with her best friend. The two families struggled through what was the toughest time in their life as the police let them down because they could find no evidence to help discover who abducted their children and why.

Staring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, ‘Prisoners’ is a dramatic and creepy which has captured the UK box office making over £1.37 million in its opening weekend. The whole film is gripping and the first half an hour is significant as everything discussed over thanksgiving will be referred to later.

The film is packed with twists and turns which come as a surprise, there are many occasions during the 153 minutes when you think that every loose end has been tied up and the film is drawing to a close but then something will happen out of the blue which will intrigue you.

Overall, this film is long however there is not a dull moment; you’ll be on the edge of your seat through some parts, wincing through others and the ending will certainly not disappoint you.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Saturday 5th October 2013: In the News this Week

It's the week of Saturday 5th October 2013 and...

Ghost Dating Website
Young people in their 20 or 30s are the people most likely to use a dating website, the odd OAP uses a dating website to however a whole new market has been blown open today as got launched - a dating website for ghosts.
Ghosts who are interested in using the new service just need to submit their gender, how many centuries old they are and how they died (either mysteriously, suddenly, tragically or horribly). Once the website has this information, ghosts are able to find their perfect matches. The site even gives dating tips for ghosts!

And on the subject of dating: App stops people from Iceland from dating their Relatives
There has not been much immigration to Iceland over the last few decades so most people from Iceland are actually related so an app has been launched which allows them to check if they are related to the person they are about to go on a date with. The app informs you if you should or shouldn't date them (anything closer than 3rd cousin is a big no no) and it gathers it's information from official records which accurately date back to 1703!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

SMMT North Test Day 2013

The gurning mug of a Jaguar F-Type
Like me, you will giggle like a school girl every time the gear shifts up in the Jaguar F-Type V65. The car will spit and aggressively croak every time you apply pressure to the flappy-paddle gear leavers and then you will dive into another gear. The g-force will make your hair dance in the wind and the open road ahead will belong to you. Why Jaguar bothers fitting a stereo into this car is unknown, the natural song this car sings will be music to your ears.

Petrol head motor journalists from the North of England gathered at Wetherby Racecourse on October 1st for the 2013 SMMT test day. The organizers who have been 'driving the motor industry' for the past century had everything from Bentleys to Skodas to be thrashed around the North Yorkshire countryside.

The day started in a large hall where car manufactures had tables set up with brochures, laptops and gimmicky free stuff to give away (like pads, pens and sweets). Each manufacturer had come from their main PR office and were dying to give out the keys of their latest models to willing journalists.
A car park of finely engineered motors
As expected, most of the journalists there were men who knew exactly what to look for in a car; handling, acceleration, sound, feeling, ect ect. One journalist I talked to explained that it is easy for manufactures to tick all of those boxes but they also need to achieve an "x factor", something which gives the cars soles which stops them from being mere machines.

Over the course of the day, I got a chance to be driven in a variety of speedy cars, some more exciting than others, and some which lacked the mysterious 'x factor'.

Is it a Mini Cooper? Is it a van? It is a Mini Van
The car which was the most surprising of the day was a Mini Van (Mini Cooper D Clubvan) which was diesel, lacked back seats and, as you will have guessed by the name, a van! The interior of Minis have always intrigued me, the combination of circles and boxes mashed together to create a funky dashboard is unusual. Also, the fact that they've ceased to change much over the last half century is amazing.
The only reason we ended up trundling along a country road in a Mini Van is because the 208bhp John Cooper Works Paceman had already been taken out. 
There was one round about about a quarter of the way through our journey when our conversation came to a sudden standstill and the Mini proved it's self, our disappointed faces lifted as the handling and grip exceeded original expectations. Of course, this car was not in the same league as the F-Type however for less than half the price of the Jaguar I didn't expect it to be.

The wind picked up under the pillow of clouds as the day came to an end. The last drive added to our conga-line of cars was a Porsche 2nd Generation Panamera. This is a nippy saloon which was let down because of its size. The sport button did add a little excitement however this car lacked the 'x factor' I mentioned before, and who would use the sport mode in a car like that anyway?

Overall, the day was thoroughly enjoyable, I can't think of a better way to spend a day than with a room full of motoring journalists, tables overflowing with freebies and a car park packed with some of the finest cars of 2013.