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Dad was discharged last night, and is at home.
Mum was rushed to hospital in an ambulance this morning after I left for work.

I don't understand anything anymore.


Dad's Operation has gone fairly well. He continues to give us immense cause for concern by exhibiting amazingly bizarre symptoms such as a racy heart rate for no apparent reason. The Doctors assure us these things happen, and that he is on the mend. However, I fail to see how a man who has not eaten a decent meal for 6 days can be considered healthy, especially if he's undergone major heart surgery? I have been rolled off my last project, and despite the political and bad fallout this has on me, I am grateful for fate's hand. Looking around at the Patients and Doctors/Nurses, I realise that I will never have the same job fulfilment in my soul that those who genuinely help others do. A fat wallet will never make me a wholesome character, regardless of what the Marketing blurb and Papers tell us.

It has been an emotionally trying period for me. I don't know how I've survived, I'm such a wouss.
I became teary, and still am when recalling it, when I realised a woman in a bed near my Dad's was always crying. Not because she was in pain, but because her sons and daughters didn't come to visit her. I felt like smashing their heads together. I looked back at what I did at work, for 3 weeks, working day and night and not seeing my dad, and I felt like smashing my own head in too. I will from this moment on, forever preach to all and sundry, that family and friends far outweigh any such notion of career and work commitments in this day and age. I am getting a lump in my throat just thinking about this and other moments of sadness that I witnessed over the past two weeks.

Still here I am, just about to exchange contracts on a house, and to part with all of my money. Yes, I will have but 5k in my account when this purchase is through. Its a lot of money to leave in an account I know, but I will suddenly become very thrifty in my nature as I realise that my float is only that amount. Gulp.

I wish you all the utmost value in health and happiness. In life, those are the things that mean the most, regardless of what we see on TV.


There is nothing more to say about this travesty....


Weapons Inspector Ends WMD Search in Iraq

By KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Wrapping up his investigation into Saddam Hussein's purported arsenal, the CIA's top weapons hunter in Iraq said his search for weapons of mass destruction "has been exhausted" without finding any.

Nor did he find any evidence that such weapons were shipped officially from Iraq to Syria to be hidden before the U.S. invasion, but he couldn't rule out some unofficial transfer of limited WMD-related materials.

He closed his effort with words of caution about potential future threats and careful assessment of this and other unanswered questions.

The Bush administration justified its 2003 invasion of Iraq as necessary to eliminate Hussein's purported stockpile of WMD.

"As matters now stand, the WMD investigation has gone as far as feasible," wrote Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, in an addendum to the report he issued last fall. "After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted."

In 92 pages posted online Monday evening, Duelfer provided a final look at an investigation that, at its peak, occupied more than 1,000 military and civilian translators, weapons specialists and other experts. His latest addenda conclude a roughly 1,500-page report released last fall.

Among warnings sprinkled throughout the new documents, one concludes that Saddam's programs created a pool of weapons experts, many of whom will be seeking work. While most will probably turn to the "benign civil sector," the danger remains that "hostile foreign governments, terrorists or insurgents may seek Iraqi expertise."

"Because a single individual can advance certain WMD activities, it remains an important concern," one addendum said.

Another addendum noted that military forces in Iraq may continue to find small numbers of degraded chemical weapons — most likely misplaced or improperly destroyed before 1991. In an insurgent's hands, "the use of a single even ineffectual chemical weapon would likely cause more terror than deadlier conventional explosives," the addendum said.

And still another said the survey group found some potential nuclear-related equipment was "missing from heavily damaged and looted sites." Yet, because of deteriorating security in Iraq, the survey group was unable to determine what happened to the equipment, which also had alternate civilian uses.

"Some of it probably has been sold for its scrap value. Other pieces might have been disassembled" and converted into motors or condensers, an addendum said. "Still others could have been taken intact to preserve their function."

Leaving the door to the investigation open just a crack, a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a small team still operates under the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq, although the survey group officially disbanded earlier this month. Those staying on continue to examine documents and follow up any reports of weapons of mass destruction.

In a statement accompanying the final installment, Duelfer said any surprise discovery would be most likely in the biological weapons area because facilities and other clues would be comparatively small.

Among unanswered questions, Duelfer said a group formed to investigate whether WMD-related material was shipped out of Iraq before the invasion wasn't able to reach firm conclusions because the security situation halted its work. Investigators were focusing on transfers from Iraq to Syria.

The questioning of Iraqis did not produce any information to support the transfer possibility, one addendum said. The Iraq Survey Group believes "it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place. However, ISG was unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD-related materials."

Grass is greener?


Today is a weird day. I am finally off the project that had me working from 9am till 11pm every day and at weekends. However, the manner of my departure is weird. I believe I was pushed. I still took it with open arms, totally chuffed that I can finally get back to normal times. Why then, am I a bit nervous? Could it be that I secretly long for reward and recognition of my efforts? Am I afraid that the PM will dis me for not being able to fix the problems? Why do I care? Why do I care?

Anyway, I am off the project. I am free from the hours. And tonight, I will get a good night's sleep for the first time in 3 weeks. And yet, I still have a nervy feeling in my stomach. Why? Why? Why?

I think I need to evaluate my priorities and my life, once again. Is money and working for a big famous firm all that one needs? Or is it being able to relax every night, even without the money and glory? Maybe consulting is no longer for me. I've been doing it for over 6 years, travelled the world, enjoyed myself and had fun. I've worked amazingly long hours, amazingly long, been ill, been happy and now...now I maybe need a change.

I guess we all feel that way, that a change is good. The grass is always greener isnt it? But maybe in this case, it is. Maybe I need a job that will let me stay in London with my soon to be wife, so that I can be a family person and look after my parents? But then, how to finance it all? Hard graft again. Maybe I should contract? Me, me, me me. Maybe this, maybe that.

Felt this way a few times before. Each time I've felt like this, I've left a company. Each time. Oh jeez.


Gadget Friday


A very quick, 'relay' version of Gadget Friday today. Lots of people have been asking me about what type of Memory Card they should stick with. Its a hard choice to make, as it depends on your personal requirements. However, I thought I'd share with you some basics.

MultiMedia Card (MMC) vs. Secure Digital (SD)

The form factor or "size and shape" of the MMC Card and the SD Card are identical. As such they are generally interchangeable types of flash memory. If your camera or PDA will take SD Cards, then it is a good bet that it will take MMC Cards as well, and vice versa.

As a rule, SD cards are slightly more expensive than MMC cards. The question is, what do you get for the extra money when you purchase SD?

There are 5 main differences between the two: speed, durability, write-protection, copyright protection, and size.

Maximum transfer rates of SD are faster than that of MMC. SD has the capacity of being 4 times as fast as MMC. Whereas MMC can transfer data at 2.5MB per second, SD can transfer data up to 10MB per second. These are maximum speeds and will depend on the device utilizing the card.

The thicker casing and, apparently, changes in the design of the cards means that the SD card is more durable and resistant to electrostatic discharge. Having said this we have had no MMC card failures or complaints from users regarding reliability.

SD includes a small switch on the side of the card that has two settings: Locked and Unlocked. If you set the card to the locked position, devices will not be able to write to the card, erase data from the card, etc.

Copyright Protection
This is the most mysterious difference in the two media. According to the spec sheet provided by SanDisk (one of the consortium that developed the media), SD includes "cryptographic security for protection of copyrighted data." Presumably, this is to prevent people from copying information from a card (e.g., a card with games on it) and distributing it to other people.

It appears that this copyright protection may actually consume several 100kb of space on the card - which you cannot get back. The amount of space lost on a card is higher for SD than for MMC, or so it seems. Not necessarily a bonus for the consumer.

Another question that arises frequently is due to the discrepancy between the cards "claimed" capacity and what you see when you view it through your file manager or card reader connected to your computer. For example, if you buy a 64MB card and look at the free space shown, you will see that there is less space than this available on the card.

Where did the space go?
To understand why your 64MB card has only 60.9MB of space, it is necessary to define what we mean by a MB or megabyte.

The "dictionary" definition of MB, and that which is used by software such as Windows Explorer is that 1 Megabyte is equal to 1,048,576 bytes. This is the case because there are 1,024 bytes in a kilobyte and there are 1,024 kilobytes in a megabyte. Remember that computer capacities are measured in powers of 2. A kilobyte is 2 to the 10th power. A megabyte is 2 to the 20th power.

Manufacturers who produce storage media, however, use a different definition of megabyte: 1 MB = 1 million bytes. It's a simpler definition to understand, but it causes a large discrepancy when you start talking about large numbers of megabytes.

A "64MB card" will hold only 64,000,000 bytes (not 67,108,864 bytes) worth of programs, data, etc. If you divide that by 1024 (the number of bytes in kilobyte), you find that it will hold 62,500 kilobytes. If you divide that number by 1024 (the number of kilobytes in a megabyte), you find that the card will hold only 61MB. The two different definitions "cost" you approximately 4MB on a "64MB card."

It is a confusing concept if you're not used to thinking of bytes, kilobytes and megabytes being determined by powers of 2. What this means, basically, is that if you have a 62MB file (say, a video), it will not fit on a 64MB card.

Note that there is also a chunk of space that is taken by system files, which amounts to around 100k on an MMC card (which is why the 64MB card shows up as 60.9MB; you start with 61MB and subtract about 100k). These system files seem to be much larger (more than 900k) on SD cards.

Also, remember that the discrepancy gets bigger as file sizes get bigger. A 512MB card, will actually hold only about 488MB worth of data, for a loss of 34MB!

The main difference we have found that is of use to our clients is the write protect tab. If you are concerned about accidental erasure of crucial data, SD card could very well be the way to go.

A very good link that has sizes (form factors) of each can be found here.

ID Cards...again...

By John Lettice
Published Thursday 14th April 2005 13:08 GMT

Analysis Yesterday's conviction of Kamel Bourgass for terrorism offences prompted some spectacular spin from the security services, an al-Qaeda ricin feeding frenzy in this morning's press and - of course - claims from Home Secretary Charles Clarke that the case highlighted the need for ID cards. The snag is that there was no ricin, the security forces' case for an al-Qaeda link had been discredited in an earlier court case last week, and a further eight individuals claimed as co-conspirators were cleared or had charges against them dropped.

One man with a ricin recipe but no ricin, and no established al-Qaeda connection is not much of a result from something that two years ago was claimed as an international terror conspiracy poised to mount attacks on London. These claims were used by Tony Blair to show there was a threat of weapons of mass destruction in the UK and deployed by Colin Powell to back his case to the UN for war against Iraq. But despite the fact that the security forces had their chance in court to show that there was more to the conspiracy than fevered imagination, and blew it, here we go again with a justification for ID cards and, it would appear, for control orders.

Neither of which, as it happens, would have been of the slightest use in this case. We'll get back to that, but we'll deal with the non-existent ricin and the equally non-existent al-Qaeda link first.

The story begins with a police raid, following a tip off, on a flat in Wood Green, North London in January 2003. Four people were arrested there, but Bourgass was not one of them. Police found a ricin recipe in Bourgass' handwriting together with details of other poisons and some ingredients for ricin. Later that month special branch officers conducting a raid in Manchester stumbled across Bourgass by accident. Bourgass killed one officer with a kitchen knife in a struggle, and was subsequently convicted for murder. The terrorism case against him then proceeded, leading to his conviction yesterday, but it was the trial of four of his claimed co-conspirators, who were found not guilty last week, which destroyed the conspiracy theory.

This process is described in some detail by George Smith of Vmyths, Crypt Newsletter and GlobalSecurity here. Smith pointed out that the Bourgass' ricin recipe differed from the recipe put forward by the prosecution as establishing the al-Qaeda connection. The "al-Qaeda" recipe appears in a "Manual of Afghan Jihad" obtained by UK security forces in 2000, and is markedly different from the Bourgass recipe, which follows the ricin recipe in Maxwell Hutchkinson's The Poisoner's Handbook, and itself derives from Kurt Saxon's pamphlet The Weaponeer, published in 1984. The Hutchkinson recipe is widely available on the Internet, along with much other tripe, but should you wish to splash out you appear to be able to get it on Amazon for around $25.

Clearly, Bourgass' recipe originated in the US, and this al-Qaeda connection was smoke. Smith also notes that "Manual of Afghan Jihad" seems to have originated in the first jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, when you'll recall the US was on a rather different side. Its status as an "al Qaeda" document is therefore questionable.

At the Wood Green flat police had found 22 castor seeds (an ingredient of ricin), bottles of acetone (also part of the recipe), a large number of apple pips and some spices. An initial identification of the presence of ricin by the UK's Porton Down Lab was discovered to be a false positive two days later, but this finding was then conveyed to the authorities, in what Smith describes as "an astonishing example of sheer incompetence", as confirmation of the presence of ricin.

The Government and security services must have been made aware of this error fairly swiftly, but there was no correction of the original claims, and headlines around the world have reinforced and elaborated the myth of the Wood Green poison terror cell ever since. When the Bourgass verdict came in yesterday, the security services resumed the spin, and off again went the news reports describing Bourgass as part of an al-Qaeda poison conspiracy with an al-Qaeda terror handbook. The non-existence of the ricin is frequently not mentioned in these.

Also found were recipes for poisons described by Smith as "trivial affairs" and likely descended from the Hutchkinson book. The "silly notes" cover the production of "'cyanide' from 'cup of apple seeds or apricots 10,000 [sic], peaches, plums or cherries'". Which explains the apple seeds, after a fashion. An alleged intent to produce nicotine poison has produced reports of some dastardly terror plot to smear it on the doorhandles of cars in the Holloway Road; locals may consider this to be not entirely the ideal street to stride up and down carrying a spatula and a bucket of brown gunk, but there you go. It shouldn't take MI5 particularly long to find half a dozen Internet sites with recipes for nicotine poison, and if they'd care to stretch themselves just a little more they'll find a recipe for a molotov cocktail variant that contains poison gas, and that you don't have to light.

Need we go on? Here's one for luck, a deadly nicotine tea used for the mass destruction of aphids by guerrilla gardeners.

Now, about the control orders and ID cards. As Charles Clarke, being Home Secretary, ought to be aware, asylum seekers will not, according to his own Government's plans, be allowed to have UK national ID cards. Asylum seekers do however already have their own biometric ID card. These were introduced in 2002, and Bourgass was an asylum seeker - a failed, absconded one. Bourgass arrived in the UK in 2000, so clearly will not have been given a card at that point. A fingerprinting system was however introduced in December 2000, and Bourgass' application for asylum was processed and rejected in August 2001. His fingerprints should therefore have been on record. He absconded after the failure of his application, but a conviction for shoplifting in 2002 failed to identify him as a rejected asylum applicant.

So, if he had arrived after 2002 he would have been assigned an asylum seeker's ID card, while if he had arrived from 2001 he would have been recorded in an immigration fingerprint system. Whether or not either of these things subsequently happened to him is somewhat academic, as he wasn't found until a full 16 months after the refusal of his application and his disappearance. Should you happen to meet Charles Clarke on the doorstep during the current election campaign, you might care to ask him why it therefore follows that we desperately need ID cards.*

The four people arrested in Wood Green were, as we said earlier, cleared last week, at which point charges against a further four were dropped. Clarke's reaction to this was to say that the eight would be watched closely, and to suggest that the whole matter illustrates the difficulties the current British judicial faces in dealing with terrorism. Which is perhaps something else to ask him on the doorstep. What is it about people being cleared of charges because there wasn't any evidence against them that the British judicial system is having trouble with? And what is it about people who definitely weren't part of a ricin terror conspiracy that means you have to watch them? Watching some of them won't exactly be hard anyway - three are now in prison for that old standby of the failed terror raid, passport offences.

The security services now have an alternative al-Qaeda connection for Bourgass, and a revised ricin scare. Mohamed Meguerba, currently held by Algerian security, claims to have been in an Afghan training camp with Bourgass, and that ricin was successfully manufactured in the Wood Green 'terror lab', and placed in two Nivea cream tubs. As a "senior anti-terrorist officer" said: "Everything Meguerba told us turned out to be true. We have no reason to disbelieve him when he said he and Bourgass has made ricin. We just couldn't find it." We presume Porton Down's techies will be grateful for the large quantity of handcream tubs about to descend on them for testing. The state of the art ricin terror scare, should you be interested, can be found here.

Bourgass, also Algerian, could not have been returned there after the rejection of his asylum application, because of the danger of torture. The conditions under which Meguerba's claims were obtained are not clear.

* Equally puzzling was the reaction of the Ghost of Home Secretaries Past, D Blunkett, to news of the industrialisation of postal ballot rigging the other week. This too, said our David, illustrated the need for ID cards. Postal ballot fraud happens, you may be aware, when somebody takes somebody else's postal ballot form, fills it in and, er, posts it. Blunkett neglected to say where in this process you could could possible shove an ID card. Readers with suggestions should send them to him, not us, please.



If you've moolah to spare, then the following could be interesting:
No work today, just lots of visiting family and getting, ahem, Wedding Rings ;)

Sometimes it snows in April


I have had one of the worst few weeks of my working life so far. If I didn't have enough on my plate already - what with Dad in hospital, my Neice in hospital, my House purchase slowing down, and my Honeymoon plans still undecided - work decides to get me to head up the Volume and Performance test phase of the highest profile project in the Client Engagement. And guess what? I've had to work from 8.30am to 11.50pm each day for the past week and a half. We are now approaching the same experience as when I had working on a certain Wellbeing project about 4-5 years ago, where I was working the most obscene hours 6 days a week for about 3-4 months on the trot. Luckily that particular project completed and the result is something fairly useful that I still use to this day. That cannot be said for my current task, which is more like Mission:Impossible than anything else I've ever seen. I have 2.5 weeks now to complete a task that was scheduled for 5 weeks. Isn't that interesting? And guess what? The software doesn't work yet. Needless to say I am asolutely Exhausted both physically and mentally, as well as emotionally.

Other than that, things are as they were really. I am still hoping that Tony Bush isn't re-elected, I'd rather a devil I know I can't, trust than a guy who leads a party I want to trust but can't due to him!

My Sister's kids came to stay for half-term holidays last week. Alas I didn't even get a chance to play with them due to coming home at midnight every night. But when I did have a chance on Sunday, we had a fantastic time. They are a hiliarious trio if I ever saw one.

My Gadget Friday posts will resume soon, I promise. There are lots of bits and bobs which I think are useful for the average punter to know of, even if they aren't interested in buying one. Just for knowledge's sake you see.

I hope all the regular readers are doing well, I shall resume my searching and chit-chat once my project life allows, and I shall hopefully have good news to share finally!

PS It snowed in london last night, hence the Title.


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Weekly musings from a confused mind. This blog, and all posts within it, are just ramblings. They are in no way affiliated with any past, current or future employers. Neither do they represent my deep felt views, or those of my friends or family. Really, its just a blog, which is a new thing, and has new dimensions. So please, dont take anything seriously. If you do, contact me via a comment, and I will get back to you to resolve the situation. Seriously, enjoy life, ignore this blog, and views within it.


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