Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Ghost House - Erasmus Castle, Pretoria

The Erasmus Castle is commonly known as The Ghost House or Die Spookhuis was completed in 1903. It was the inspiration of Jochemus and Johanna Erasmus. The castle - which would feel quite at home in Transylvania - was designed by Dutch architect Van Der Benn. The Italian builder, Monte Bello used mostly imported materials to complete the house.

Jochemus had made some money from the gold rush at the end of the nineteenth century, and the family lived a flambuoyant lifestyle, hosting extravagent concerts and dances. The family's fortuned changed during the Great Depression and the castle fell into disrepair. Looking eerie in its dillapidated condition, the castle was used in the 1950 film Hier's Ons Weer.
Armscor later purchased and restored the house, but the original family are said to still be in residence in rather ghostly form.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Advantages of the recession

The seventies TV series 'The Waltons' shamelessly romanticised the Great Depression. The family as depicted by the narrator John-Boy was poor but happy. It was the family, their warmth and family unity that mattered. Who wouldn't be nostalgic for these wonderful times? But the schmaltzy portrayal of hard times contained an element of truth - there are really aome advantages of a recession.

A recession provides a dose of reality and perhaps a return to basic values.

The generation of the early twenty-first century is spoilt. Its members are accustomed to getting what they want when they want. Unlimited credit has made it all possible. Parents of young children have forgotten how to say NO.

The ever deepening global recession has changed all that. Cash-strapped parents are being forced to turn down demands for the latest Play Station, Ipod or quad bike. But instead of feeling guilty, these parents can feel good. Their children will manage very well without the latest technological toys and their possesions will acquire value.

Perhaps this will herald a return to traditional outdoor children's games. The transformation of children's play into sedentary activities has been a major cause of low-muscle tone and related perceptual problems. Children thrive when there are limits. For the first time in many years parents are once again learning how to say no. Saying no builds a sense of value.

Endless credit made it possible to get almost anything we wanted. But the novelty of each new purchase soon wore off, replaced by the craving for the next, and the next ....

During the recession times are tough. Each buying decision must be weighed up with care. Our things are beginning to acquire value.

The rampant materialism that has gripped our culture has driven many to taking on a second and even a third job. These were necessary to finance all of the 'necessities' of the age. It was all done for the family. The recession has put an end to the third job, the second job and perhaps the day job. At last there is time to spend with the family.

The recession helps us to discover that not everything worthwhile requires cash! A picnic on the banks of the river with a cool breeze caressing your skin is about as good as it gets. What can be better than sharing a bottle of ice cold Sauvignon Blanc on the beach at sunset? Sometimes the best things in life are free.

Take-out fast food became one of the curses of the age. Obesity has spread like wildfire as millions became overweight. Many have forgotten the pleasure of good home cooked food. One of the greatest benefits of the recession is that we are forced to eat good, wholesome home cooked meals. There is no going back!

Someone once said that a person is rich when he is content with what he has. Perhaps the single greatest advantage of the recession is the return to real values to value what is important, the people that we love and share our lives.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Songs with great opening lines

Words are flying out like
endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe

Lennon, McCartney - Across the Universe.

The Beatles provide a prime example of how the opening words of a song can help to capture our attention. Across the Universe illustrates something about us that many are unable to change. Whatever is happening elsewhere "nothing's gonna change my world".

It is often the opening lines of a song that grab our attention and define the music.

Rock and roll had not been famous for great lyrics. It was the rhythm, the beat that was all important. But all this was about to change.

As the "underground" flower power movement gathered strength, so the music and songs of the era grew in stature. The hippie culture was not just about drugs, but about expanding consciousness and awareness, seeking solutions to world issues from war to love to pollution. While there was always room for silly love songs, songwriters explored a range of issues, some political, many relating to the human condition. The words were no longer secondary to the beat but often reached the highest literary standards.

Bob Dylan exemplified this in his use of words. The Times They are a Changing is an early example of Dylan's exploration of language:

Come gather round people wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth saving
Then you'd better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone
For the times, they are a changing

The opening lines of Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone again illustrate the skilled use of words to express a personal view:

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
People'd call, say, beware doll, you're bound to fall
You thought they were all kiddin' you

Consider the opening lines of Just Life a Woman:

Nobody feels any pain
Tonight as I stand inside the rain
Everybody knows
That baby's got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls

Bob Dylan's early works were often concerned with real political issues. The opening lines of Only a Pawn in their Game are an excellent example of powerful words to describe a social issue:

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers' blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man's brain
But he can't be blamed
only a pawn in their game

Dylan's lyrics became more abstract - perhaps even obscure - as the sixties took their toll, but he returned to similar themes when confronted with injustice during the seventies. Hurricane is a prime example:

Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter patty valentine from the upper hall.
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood,

Cries out, my god, they killed them all!

As Dylan became more and more influential in the music of the day, song lyrics gained in importance. The stars of the day were inspired to stretch themselves to explore the human experience, thoughts and emotions. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones became primary examples of this.

The Rolling Stones' Jumping Jack Flash (Jagger, Richards)
opens with the words

I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,
But it's all right now, in fact, its a gas!
But it's all right. I'm jumpin' jack flash,
It's a gas! gas! gas!

Dramatic and visual, the words catch the listener's immediate attention. Jagger and Richards used a similar approach in Sympathy with the Devil:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a mans soul and faith

A song tells a story. Describing the hippie dream, Ruby Tuesday opens with:

She would never say where she came from
Yesterday don't matter if it's gone
While the sun is bright
Or in the darkest night
No one knows
She comes and goes

The Beatles' landmark album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ended with a powerful song A Day in the Life. Over the years, the song's words have be interpreted and re-interpreted.

I read the news today oh, boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph

The sixties was a time when music became a means of expression. Singer-songwriters became true poets. None less so than Leonard Cohen:

Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free

Like Dylan, Cohen's work focuses on the human condition. Using a narrative format, The Partisan describes the life of a partisan during the Second World War. The song brings the experience close to us.

When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender,
this I could not do;
I took my gun and vanished.
I have changed my name so often,
I've lost my wife and children
but I have many friends,
and some of them are with me

Pop music is not generally known for great lyrics, but these examples provide evidence that the medium can lend itself to some very profound and meaningful thoughts, ideas and true literary genius.

Karl Marx and his theory of alienation: How it can be applied to modern society

Amongst Karl Marx's earliest writings is a piece about alienation. The concept, developed by Marx is the subject of much interest in sociological discussions relating to the human condition and our relationship to society and the workplace.

Many theorists have distinguished Karl Marx's theory of alienation from his later work. The theory was produced before Marx's epistemological break.

There is a fundamental distinction between this work, and the later work where Marx had developed his own theories about the nature of capitalism and socio-economic development. Other argue that alienation is a theme that permeates all of Karl Marx's work including Das Capital.

The influence of Feuerbach and Hegel in Marx's thinking is quite evident in the theory of alienation. What Feuerbach and Hegel attribute to the spiritual world, Marx translates into the material world. Marx was aware that Hegel saw only the positive side of labour. It was up to him to draw attention to the negative side.

In Marx's view, alienation is a symptom of the industrial age and of capitalism. A worker on a production line sees only the part of the work that he is involved with. He has no knowledge or control over the final product that is produced and sold. Man specifically the workman has no relationship with the goods that he is producing. He is alienated from his own labour. He works purely for the money. There is no satisfaction in the work that he does.

By contrast a craftsman such as a traditional shoe-maker is involved in every aspect of the production process. He may even make shoes for a specific individual. He will select the leather, measure the feet, and lovingly make the pair of shoes. He is proud of his work and enjoys handing over the finished goods to the new owner. Contrast that to the worker in a shoe factory. In all probability, he is involved in only one part of the production process. He rarely gets to see the whole shoe and never sees the people that buy the shoes. The skill or craftsmanship required to produce the shoes is almost gone.

The commoditisation of goods has led to increasing levels of alienation. Alienation may extend towards alienation from family, other people and society as a whole.

Marx sees alienation as the separation of a person from his essence his true nature. This alienation is a cause of some concern.

There are some disturbing and ever increasing trends in modern society. These are manifested by the exception rather than the rule.

School shootings and killings were unheard of a number of years ago. But they have become more common-place today and instances of this have occurred around the world. The level of suicides is high. Suicide is the ultimate result of alienation. An individual feels so alienated from society and himself that he resorts to taking his own life.

Drug and alcohol abuse are also symptomatic of the age.

Compulsive shopping and gambling are common. Antidepressants are prescribed to about half the adult population!

All of these are symptoms or manifestations of alienation in our modern society. While conditions and production processes in the workplace have generally improved, work is still something that is largely depersonalised. People are alienated from their essential being and from society. This alienation leads to all sorts of asocial behaviour and to a breakdown of social norms and values.

In modern society we are still able to compare the traditional shoemaker or tailor to the factory worker that produces the mass produced versions of these. The former is personally involved in the work. He knows fully what he is producing and even for whom. The latter is simply a cog in the machine or as Pink Floyd put it - only a brick in the wall.

Karl Marx's theory of alienation applies as much as ever to our modern era. Goods have become commodities. They have become depersonalised. The worker in a large corporation has little control over what happens in the company, in what is produced and how, or in how much he can expect to earn. The worker himself has become a mere commodity or a resource that is used to achieve production.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Have you chosen the wrong career?

One of the signs of midlife crisis is the sudden realisation that you're in the wrong career. You realise that the work is meaningless and that you are wasting your life away. What you really wanted to do was ...

One of our most difficult life choices is choosing a career. The choice is difficult because it has to be made before you know what the career really entails. It is a little like selecting your life partner from a catalogue. Compounding this is that fact that the choice is made at a very young age.

The lucky few school leavers that already know what they want are able to focus on their career choice, but many people don't really choose a career at all. They leave school and find a job. Their career chooses them.

There are also some highly qualified professionals that feel that they are in the wrong type of work. They were pressured by family to do medicine, law or accountancy.

These are two scenarios based on real people. Only their names have been changed. Dr Toad retired at age 65. His parents had forced him into medicine and he became a General Practitioner. He never enjoyed it. He welcomed retirement. He had always wanted to be an accountant.

John Lesse qualified as a dentist. His practice was very busy and he earned a lot of money. He bought properties and businesses, but was never happy. He hated spending his day gazing into patients' mouths. One day he chanced upon some research that revealed that a higher proportion of dentists committed suicide than members of any other occupation. That was the deciding point. John did not want to become another statistic and decided to change course. He sold his practice and joined the world of Information Technology as a beginner. The dentistry money has all gone, but John is happy.

How do we know that we are in the wrong career? In the right career you look forward to spending the day at work, you are stimulated and rewarded and learn something new every day.
When in the wrong career work becomes a curse.

Some of the signs that you are in the wrong career are:
  • You have to force yourself to get up in the morning to get to work.
  • You spend your days wishing away the time until the next weekend, the next holiday or retirement.
  • You find yourself avoiding your work as much as you can.
The effects of being in the wrong career can be quite devastating. With no enjoyment in what you do, life becomes very stressful. The standard of your work may drop and your reputation becomes at risk. Many people experience this phenomenon. Work has become a daily grind, something has has to be endured. High levels of stress result in a lowering of the auto-immune system and health problems may ensue.

The option to change career is the obvious solution but few have the courage to change career in mid-life. Those that do are often successful in their new-found roles, but many struggle to find employment in their newly chosen role. The business world does not make it easy to change. Recruitment specialists want experience. Who wants a 40 year old trainee?

There is a classic belief that if you do what you are passionate about you will succeed. The successful musician that does what she loves and gets paid to do it is the classic example. But success does not always result in material reward. The world and history is full of such stories. Vincent van Gogh sold one painting in his short life. He lived in poverty. While he may have succeeded artistically, he certainly failed financially. Many would have told him to change his career.

Sometimes the right career is wrong simply because it is unable to produce the kind of rewards required. Some change course simply to improve their financial status.

There are times when it is not the career that is wrong but the attitude of the subject.
If you are able to change your career for something that you really want to do, then go ahead. But if the financial sacrifice is too great, then an attitude change can work wonders.

Perhaps a change in attitude could solve the problem of being in the wrong career. When you have made the wrong choice then the best option is to do everything you can to make the most of that option.

Life is too short to waste time pondering on what might have been.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Gambling and desperation

Desperate times can lead to desperate measures. Selling your household goods and precious valuables for money is a sign of desperation.

Joel arrived at the casino in the early evening after work. He found his way to a blackjack table and cashed in $500 for chips. He began playing. His luck was good and within an hour his chips were piled high on the table. His bets had risen from $50 to $1000 - the table maximum.

Joel felt elated. Every hand resulted in another win. With bets on three boxes, Joel had been dealt good cards.

Now the dealer was showing a ten, but this didn't worry Joel. When the dealer drew an ace, Joel lost the hand. He shrugged this off. He was having a wonderful run, and the odd win by the house was not a problem. Joel lost the next hand and the next. Not to worry, his luck would return.

The pile of chips became small. The last few chips would enable him to win everything back. But before he knew it everything was gone.

Back to the auto-bank to draw more money and Joel returned to the table. Soon, this too was gone.

Joel knew that he had to recover the money that he had lost. There was the rent to pay, the electricity bill - and of course he would need money to buy food.

Joel was desperate. He drove home and returned with the television set. The pawn shop was located conveniently next to the casino and was open 24 hours a day. The television set brought only a few dollars, but he was in with a chance. It would be retrieved as soon as Joel had won all his money back.

The next few weeks became very stressful for Joel. Money to pay the bills had become a problem. The bad runs at the casino had left him without the means to live and it seemed as if the only way out was at the tables.

One item after another disappeared from his apartment as goods were pawned or sold to give him a chance at the big win.
When all of his own resources were exhausted, he turned to his parents. What kind of parents would allow their son to sink?

With fresh money it was back to the casino. His next win would allow him to buy back all of his possessions. He would buy a huge gift for his parents. Joel's fortunes at the blackjack table went up and down. The occasional win was offset by heavy losses. Everything was gone.

One more act of desperation followed. Joel sold his mother's diamond engagement ring. It was a valuable piece that she had inherited from her mother. But desperate times called for desperate measures.

Joel was desperate.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Bob Dylan's Together Through Life - album review

Bob Dylan's latest album 'Together Through Life' rose straight to the top of both the US and UK album charts on its release. The sales reflect the strength of Dylan's fan base for whom the singer, songwriter and lyricist can do no wrong.
Together Through Life is Bob Dylan's 33rd album. At the age of 68 his voice sounds gravely. The album is a collection of ten tracks, all rooted in the blues. The opening track 'Beyond Here Lies Nothin' was written for a forthcoming film by French director Oliver Dahan. This is one of the strongest tracks on the album along with the closing song 'Its all Good'. Much of the album has a laid back and relaxed feel to it
Dylan still has the ability to put words together and to include humour and sarcasm in his songs. I have taken some time to listen to the album and have concluded that the the album is good. Repeated listening confirms this - rather than growing stale too quickly the songs improve with familiarity.
I certainly prefer Together Through Life to its predecessors 'Modern Times' and 'Love and Theft'.
While giving credit where it is due, the album is no masterpiece. It lacks the richness and variety of 'Desire', 'Blood on the Tracks' or 'Blonde on Blonde'. Dylan is still able to write and perform. But the inspiration is gone. The Dylan of thirty and forty years ago was truly inspired. Together Through Life is listenable and enjoyable but it is no masterpiece.
It would be interesting to find out who is buying Dylan's latest offerings. Are the buyers primarily baby-boomer generation Dylan devotees or is there a significant representation of the younger generation that is surprisingly familiar with the music of the sixties and seventies?

Saturday, 02 May 2009

The negative side of the Internet

The Internet has helped to transform the world into a global village. Communication with friends and family across the globe has become fast and free. It is easy to keep in touch with programs such as Skype and Face book. Online dating provides unprecedented opportunities for people to meet. The Internet is an excellent source of information, unparalleled in history. But the Internet has a darker, more sinister side. It is as easy for criminals to use the Internet for their own evil ends as it is for you. The world's law enforcement agencies have a tough job tracing, catching and preventing stop Internet scammers, identity thieves and paedophiles from operating. This is the negative side of the Internet.

The Internet provides the ability for anyone, anywhere to access any type of site or material. Terrorists and other extremist groups use the Internet to publish sinister propaganda and disinformation. Vulnerable people and especially young children can be influenced by these sites.

Disinformation is a common Internet disease. Almost anyone can set up a web-site and post articles or news that is inaccurate or simply wrong. A seemingly respectable site can publish information that is without any basis. Disinformation occurs in all fields, but can be quite dangerous in the fields of medicine, science and politics where unqualified individuals post seemingly authoritative articles full of disinformation.

Social networking has taken off in a big way over the last few years. The most well known if these is Face book. Most young people and increasing numbers of older people maintain a Face book presence. Here they post all sorts of personal information about their personal lives, their friends and families. Photographs and other visual information is provided as well. This is a wonderful way to keep in touch with all the social news and events in your and your friends' lives. The danger begins when strangers begin to maintain a presence on your profile. They befriend young people and gain their trust. Young people may be enticed to meet others whose intentions are anything but honourable. There have been cases of identity theft based on Face book profiles. Use these sites with care!

Pornography including child pornography is widely available. One visit to a porn site results in endless spamming by these sites. Paedophile rings use the Internet to plan child abductions and to let each other know the whereabouts of child-pornography on the Web.

On-line gambling sites seeking out compulsive gamblers are available at every turn. Most of these on-line gambling sites are totally unregulated. They operate offshore or from a location where there are few controls. The games can easily be rigged. These sites draw in people looking for the excitement of gambling and the hope of winning. Many of the players become compulsive or pathological gamblers in a short space of time and the extremely profitable gambling sites have an easy source of revenue.

On-line crime is more widespread than most people realise. One of the methods involves using viruses or spyware such as Trojans to steal personal information from your computer and pass it on to credit card and other fraudsters. Always ensure that you use a firewall and good anti-virus and anti-spyware protection to prevent theft from your computer.

There are a whole range of on-line scams available on the Internet. Many of these pose as get rich quick schemes. For a small fee you could be earning millions within a few weeks!

Then there are dating site scams. Criminals post false profiles with photographs of beautiful young girls keen to travel to meet you. After two emails they are ready to drop everything and travel to marry. But they don't have the money to do it. $10,000 will do the trick. Once you have paid, both the money and the girl disappear forever.

Then there are the phishing schemes. Fraudsters replicate sites such as PayPal or Citi Bank. An email arrives in your in-box informing you that your password has expired and must be renewed to prevent your details from being destroyed. The link on the email directs the victim to the scammer's site to update their personal information and password. The site is a perfect replica of the real thing. But one look at the url provides the best clue that this is a scam.

The so-called 419 scams have become quite common. In these there is usually a large sum of money tied up in a bank account in an African country. Your help is required to get the money out and of course you will be the lucky recipient of millions of US dollars. You are required to pay a facilitation fee for the money to be transferred. Many pay the fee and wait.

Obsessional use of the Internet can become a real problem for some people. Cases have been reported where Internet addiction is so bad that parents are left to die while the son obsessively played his Internet game.

As with all aspects of life, moderation is key. Common sense is one of the best defences against scammers and Internet crime. Good anti-virus and anti-spyware protection is essential. Children should be encouraged to play outdoors rather than spending all their time on the Web! Used wisely and with caution, the Internet can provide great benefits.

Friday, 01 May 2009


Tips and advice on "going green" in IT for mid-sized companies

Faced with the phenomenon of global warming heralding dramatic climate change, business has come under pressure to "go green". Mid-sized companies are impacted as much as the large corporations but have more limited resources to deal with the problem. As major energy consumers, the Information Technology management have a key contribution to make in the fight against global warming. Many CIOs may be alarmed at how to improve their ecological footprint, but the good news is that going green can result in significant cost savings.

IT represents a significant cost to any business. It may come as some surprise to learn that almost 48% of IT spending is consumed by energy demands. The US Department of Energy reports that almost 13% of commercial energy usage originates from IT. Desktop computers in the US and Europe consume an estimated seven gigawatts of power every day.

Power consumption is not the only concern of IT departments. Computer hardware contains hazardous materials that include barium, beryllium, phosphorous, mercury, cadmium and lead.

Disposal of computer equipment poses an ever increasing threat to the environment.

Computer peripherals such as printers pose additional problems in the disposal of spent toner and ink cartridges and excessive use of paper for daily reports.

For a mid-sized business looking for ways to "go green" there are a number of imperatives:

  • The cost of the venture
  • The resources required
  • The size of the investment

But going green may achieve some major benefits:

  • Significant cost savings
  • An improved environment for management and staff
  • Higher productivity
  • Less damage to the environment
  • An improved image as a socially and environmentally responsible company

Going green will involve some or all of the following steps:

  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Reducing waste and improving the life-cycle management of computer equipment
  • Using less paper
  • Creating a more environmentally friendly working environment
  • Considering work from home options

Many of the options to achieve a greener environment require no initial investment.

Power consumption reduction

A significant reduction in power consumption may be achieved by some simple measures.

Configure all desktop computers to use the standard Windows power saving facility. Simply enable the power-saving option on each computer to allow inactive computer to go into standby and to hibernate. Major cost savings can be achieved. General Electric expects to save $2.3 million dollars per annum by simply using these options.

Enforce a policy of shutting down and switching off computers at the end of the day.

Turn off peripheral devices overnight wherever possible. Equipment in standby mode consumes electricity in small quantities. Small quantities become large when a large number of machines are involved.

Data centres may play a key role in reducing energy consumption through the use of server virtualization, storage consolidation and eco-procurement.

Server virtualization eliminates the need for many servers when one can do the job. The number of servers in use is masked from the user who accesses a virtual private server while in fact sharing the resource with other users. This fulfils a dual role of conserving energy and ensuring more effective life-cycle management.

Eco-procurement involves the specification of energy-efficient equipment when an RFP is compiled and whenever equipment is purchased. Invest in computers and peripheral devices that are Energy Star compliant as these should prove to be more energy efficient than uncertified equipment.

Waste reduction and improved life-cycle management

The frequent replacement of computer equipment results in a worldwide waste management problem. Achieve a longer lifespan for computer equipment through the purchase of higher specification computers. A top-end computer should provide longer service simply because it has more processing power and more memory than the entry level equivalent. When the standard machine starts showing signs of slowing down, the high end machine will still have life.

Developers may require powerful equipment but many computer end-users will be able to work effectively with older computers. The replacement of developers' computers does not have to result in their disposal. Recycle these to staff with a lower processing power demand. Replace equipment as the need arises rather than replacing every computer at once.

While older equipment may no longer be of use to your company, many organisations can benefit from your end-of-life IT assets. These assets may be refurbished to provide a new lease of life for charity and community organisations.

End-of-life assets that cannot be refurbished should be recycled. Recycling companies are able to recover lithium, lead and a host of other materials for use in new equipment. Recyclers may even pay for the old equipment.

Paper usage

A range of measures that result in saving trees include:

  • Use recycled paper wherever possible.
  • Ensure that all waste paper is sent for recycling.
  • Set the printing options of all printers to default to duplex - Citigroup expects to save $860,000 by enabling duplex printing and copying.
  • Halve the cost of paper again by printing 2 pages per side instead of the usual one!
The working environment

At home, electric lights are generally used at night. Conventional office design means that electric lights are needed whether or not daylight is available. Lights at the office are allowed to burn in every room and every facility all day. Even though a board room may be empty for much of the day, the lights are always on. Low cost sensors enable lights to be turned on when people are in the area and turned off when there is no-one there. The same result may be achieved manually if energy conservation is instilled in the ethic of the company.

An environmentally friendly building can achieve significant savings. Using smaller offices with access to natural light sources is an excellent place to start. There is no need to throw away the air-conditioners, but their use may be reduced by having windows that open to allow for the circulation of fresh rather than recycled air. Insulation can reduce heating and cooling costs within a building. Smaller offices can be heated and cooled more efficiently than large open spaces.

Allow for the work at home option

Many of today's jobs can be effectively designated as suitable candidates to work at home. Some may prove to be far more productive. This will result in lower power consumption at the business as well as reduced carbon emissions from the daily journey to work.

Broadband connectivity using secure Internet access is a viable option. Workers will save the considerable time and energy consumed by the daily return journey.

The work from home option allows for the migration to a virtual office environment. Instead of a desk for each employee there is a virtual work station and conference facilities with plug and play network points providing connectivity and space when necessary.

Video conferencing has become a viable option using a secure broadband Internet connection. Workers are able to meet on-line while working from remote locations.

Going green need not represent a threat to the mid-sized company. Many green initiatives will achieve significant savings at little or no cost. The options that do involve an initial capital investment should produce operational savings from the outset and a positive return on investment within a short time-span.

The origins of Earth Day

Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 each year. The April 22 Earth Day was started by Senator Gaylord Nelson.

The idea began in 1962 when Senator Nelson first tried to bring environmental issues into government in the United States. "That year," recalls Senator Nelson, "an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, something that would put the environment into the political spotlight once and for all." He proposed a conservation tour to President Kennedy, and in September 1963 President Kennedy embarked on a conservation tour of the United States. The tour did not succeed in putting conservation onto the political agenda.

During the 1969 anti Vietnam war protests and teach-ins, Senator Gaylord Nelsonn came up with an idea. "Why not organize a huge grassroots demonstration a teach-in that would focus on what was happening to our environment?"

At a Seattle conference in September 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson announced "a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment". Everyone was invited to participate in this demonstration the following spring. He recalls that "The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air - and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two members of my Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office."

On November 30, 1969 the New York Times carried a lengthy report on environment issues. By this time, public concern about the environment had become huge. Gladwin Hill reported that:
"Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam...a national day of observance of environmental being planned for next spring...when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'...coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned...."

Senator Gaylord Nelson's initiative was a huge success. On April 22, 1970, "twenty million Americans participated in the first Earth Day. They demonstrated for a clean, sustainable planet. Earth Day became an annual national event where eco-activists could voice their concerns about environmental issues. The results of the first Earth Day have been significant and included the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the passing of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

One of the most remarkable features of the first Earth Day was that the event was virtually un-organised. In Senator Gaylord Nelson's words, "We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself."

Since 1990, Earth Day has become an event celebrated in many countries around the world. Since 2000, the focus has turned towards global warming.