I am horribly addicted, not going to gigs, not sorting my photos, not blogging.
This is for people I know, so apologies if you've found this from a random Google search or similar. There's currently a Question Of The Week on B3ta called "Things to do before you die", had a think about this, and decided I wanted to go see a couple of places in Norway (details below).
There's tonnes of things where I think "Oh, I'd like to do x, y or z", and then never get around to them. So I've decided I want to do this in the summer of 2011, and this post is a way for me to ask who'd be up for it.
The two places I want to go are Trolltunga and the Kjeragbolten. Trolltunga's a huge lip of rock sticking out of a cliff face 350m above the water, and the Kjeragbolten is a boulder stuck in a crevasse nearly 1km about the water. Couple of photos of the two:
Wikipedia seems to think the best season is June to September time, but not going to specify an exact date at the moment. If we were to road trip it crossing in France, it's about 1,400 miles through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. I'd think that would be at least two days of driving, possibly three each way. Given that, I'd reckon be something like leave on a Friday night, get back on a Sunday, and crash with friends on the way through the continent. Normally guesstimate the car taking 10p per mile, so that'd be around £75 each, plus tolls.
What do people reckon then? Mail me or send me a message on Facebook.
There was a letter published in the Daily Telegraph today (here), in which 35 business leaders gave their support to George Osborne's plans to cut spending. They say that extending the time it takes to reduce the deficit (and by extension the debt) will cause greater suffering for the country. A couple of names of the corporations made me think it could be worth having a quick Google to see the type of people who were so adamant in their support of the country, and the urgency in reducing the country's debts.
Two things make up a deficit - the amount of money that the country is spending, and the amount that the country has coming in. Guess what? It doesn't look like some of these companies are too keen on the second part of this.
Asda campaigned against a crackdown on a tax loophole allowing builders to be "self-employed" while working for one company (here), paid some of their top earners early to allow them to avoid the 50% tax rate (here), paid £115m to the authorities after over-paying royalties to Wal-Mart (here). It appears that Asda pays tax around the 18% mark (here).
Kingfisher has threatened to move its headquarters overseas, citing the UK's tax regime, one of the most friendly to corporations in Europe (here). The Guardian's tax database suggests that they paid 20% tax on their profits (here).
Towergate is involved in 'tax efficiencies', running seminars which deal with "Tax efficient cash/profit extraction and remuneration strategies for senior business personnel and high earners - leading to significant reductions in taxation" (here).
TalkTalk campaigned against the 50p a month broadband levy, claiming that it would force 100,000 people to give up their broadband lines as the increase would not be affordable in these times. The company then increased line rentals by 55p a month (here).
Microsoft channels a large amount of it's international business through Ireland. In 2007, they paid €460k tax on profits of €1.6bn - 0.04% (here).
GlaxoSmithKline has transferred intellectual property to low-tax regimes such as Puetro Rico and Ireland, with companies in higher tax countries paying licensing fees (here and here). Paid $3.4bn tax settlement to the American tax authorities (here). Threatened to move investment from the UK over tax (here).
Alliance Boots was taken over by a private equity firm in 2007. In the prior year the company paid £131m tax on £455m profit. Following the take over, the firm's profits were offset against finance charges. The headquarters has moved from Nottingham to the tax haven of Zug in Switzerland (here).
Diageo have moved a number of their brands from the UK to the more tax efficient Netherlands. The manufacturing facilities remain in the UK, but the ownership and profit now appear to reside in the Netherlands (here).
This is from a quick couple of Google and news site searches per company, with next to nothing in the way of investigation. I would suggest the Guardian's Tax Gap series, and the Tax Research blog as reading material.
As well as these details on the companies, it would appear that a number of these concerned businessmen may be non-domiciles rather than full UK taxpayers. While the activities of the companies may not be illegal, I would suggest that it is more than slightly hypocritical to demand the swift reduction of the UK's deficit while trying to pay the bare minimum in the way of tax. Following the spirit of the law, rather than the letter of the law.
I'm not coming out as gay, let's get that out of the way first. But in the same sort of spirit, I am coming out as someone who suffers from depression.
Every once in a while I have conversations with friends about the lack of futuristic things in our every day lives. By conversations, I mean rants - "Where's my flying car? Where's my robot? Where's my [science fiction staple]?" The kind of thing that the "Damn Scientists" t-shirt at Threadless covers.
I know other people get these frustrations. You know what though? Every once in a while something comes around which makes you take a step back and realise that we are in the future. Right now, I'm thinking of the miners in Chile. The mine collapses, and 33 men are trapped 700ft underground without anyone knowing they're alive. Main shaft's blocked, and that's where the story could end horrifically. Left alone in the dark, trapped, and with no means of contacting the outside world. Slowly starving to death. That's what could have happened. Instead we're seeing the men raised to the surface today in the Phoenix capsules 70 days after they were trapped.For a sense of scale, the Gherkin in London is just under 600ft high.
Think about what's had to happen to make this possible. This roughly 2ft hole's had to be drilled to hit an exact space 700ft below the surface, tiny errors at the start and they could have missed. The capsule's got to run smoothly up and down this hole, and the men have had to be kept alive and healthy throughout this time. The mining expert went down just before 4am UK time this morning, and we had live video of him arriving at the bottom.
Think about this - we can reach people 700ft underground in time to save them, and we can beam pictures halfway around the world as it happens from both ends of the rescue.
Take a step back, look at what's around and think about how it would appear to a classic sci-fi writer in the 60s or 70s. There's elements we have now that are a step change from what was around then. The obvious one's computing power and availability, but think around the implications in automation as well. We have technology building technology, with people only providing the guidance. I might not have a flying car or a jetpack, but I think there's definitely elements of the classic sci-fi in my every day life and in the world at large.