Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy new year Zimbabwe?

Mugabe's own Zanu-PF party appear to have had enough of him. It's a good job really. In 1998, the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition, were beaten in elections marred by widespread fraud, intimidation and rigging and that seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of the Movement and their supporters - the stuffing that wasn't knocked out of them by police/army/militia batons, that is. Hence, I feel the last paragraph in the article I linked to is more than a tad unfair. Subsequent elections allowed Mugabe to seize enough power to change the constitution at will and basically be an even bigger tyrant than in the preceding 28 years. Which he's done reasonably well if youlike that sort of thing.
Widespread shortages of... well, everything really, have been afflicting the populous. A quarter of the population have fled the shortages and hyper-inflation (a figure of around 1100% is widely quoted).
Having Zanu-PF continue to govern but without Mugabe at the helm must surely be preferable to the continuing with the current situation. You can but hope. If factions within Zanu-PF can oust him in 2008, Zimbabwe's future - and Africa's along with it - may not be quite as bleak as it has appeared fated to over the last ten years.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bad Manners (and friends) at Bradford Rio

Full of cold and feeling sorry for myself, I nearly didn't bother with this, but I'd already forked for the ticket. Besides, I always think a good, hot curry is great for colds and if Bradford's good for anything it's a curry and one of the best places is Omar's. Famous for it's massive naan breads, they do great food at good prices. A chicken dopiaza and a family naan between 3 of us did a great job before heading to the gig at Bradford Rio. It's a reasonable venue. Decent enough size, although the bar is a bit small and the choice of drinks is limited. Stella at £2.70 was the only viable option for me in the face of a Carlsberg onslaught. As you may have expected for a Bad Manners crowd, skinheads, Doc Martens and braces were the de rigeur fashion items. But not dressed like that, I never felt like I didn't fit in or belong. A lot of folks are instantly put off by the skinhead look, but you should really know the roots of ska in the Caribbean and the whole history of Rock Against Racism. In other words, it was a boisterous, but good-natured crowd.
Ostensibly a Bad Manners gig, I was also interested in the support - Splodgenessabounds, the Macc Lad and The Ruts.

It was Dave Goodman of Splodgenessabounds that kicked things off with a few choice ditties including the one hit single, 'Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please', among some festive tunes like 'Tommy the christmas tree' and the Rolf Harris classic 'Two little boys'.


We were promised the Macc Lad - i.e. Muttley of the Macc Lads on his own. It didn't happen. Instead, some of the Bad Manners band played a few Macc Lads numbers for our listening pleasure. Not bad, but a bit disappointing that Muttley didn't make it. Still nice to hear 'Sweaty Betty' and 'Fat Bastard' live, as well as versions of 'Johnny Be Good' and The Police classic 'So Lonely'.
Final support act were The Ruts. Long-time favourites of mine from the punk era. Obviously not the original line-up, given that Malcolm Owen died 26 years ago, but the feller they've got in was very good - very enthusiastic and suitably angry. Paul Fox on the guitar was simply awesome. The passion was still there, but I can't help feeling folks that age should be getting angry about a lack of NHS dentists or putting their kids through college rather than 30-year old problems that inspired the whole punk movement. That said, some things are still relevant, like Jah War and the whole Blair Peach thing that isn't too far away from racial tensions that exist today. Managed to get a couple of really low quality pictures:



Warm ups done, it was time for the main event.
Buster Bloodvessel is a national treasure. One of the great showmen in the country in my opinion.


The whole place was rocking. Much pogoing, plastic pint pots flying, as all the ska classics came out. Guns Of Navarone is a personal favourite. I saw the Skatalites last year and their version was very different to these guys and neither can be faulted for interpreting a classic. It was the first time I'd heard Woolly Bully outside of Bradford Bulls' Odsal home, and therefore the first time I'd heard it without wanting to throttle someone. It was also the first time in many years that I'd not heard anyone singing "We all hate Leeds" when Tom Hark was played. Sadly I had to duck out for a lift home just two songs into the encore, so missed the inevitable rendition of Lip Up Fatty. Still, Special Brew and Ne-ne-ni-ni-na-na-nu-nu just about made up for it. Apparently, they finished with Lip Up Fatty and a quarter-hour version of the Can-Can.
All that bouncing, pogoing and ska jerks and everything really does work up a sweat. I cant help thinking that someone is missing a trick - a ska workout video: it'd be a winner.
Great gig, wild atmosphere, good laugh all following a good curry. Cracking night out all round.

Well he's dead

Saddam Hussein was executed this morning. And I'm conflicted. No-one would try to argue that he was a thoroughly despicable man - George Galloway excepted, perhaps - but I find it hollow and Bush's whooping and hollering merely exacerbate that. The other charges he was facing will obviously not now be heard, so there's an element of him having escaped justice, a bit like Pinochet in that regard, as well which feels a bit empty.
I would have thought that if I was ever to support the death penalty it would be in a case like this - a man responsible for murder on a massive scale and continued and brutal abuses of basic human rights. But I don't. I can't. And so I won't.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hallelujah

I get annoyed when I hear the same old christmas music played here, there and everywhere. I can't imagine being a captive audience to it all day long. So I fully support this initiative to get in banned in shops and other workplaces.
Except for my song, obviously. But then no-one will ever tire of hearing that....

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A pause for reflection

Another turbulent year is drawing to an end, and as usual I'm in reflective mood. I'm surprised I took up this blogging lark and even more surprised that I've kept it up. I am utterly amazed by the geographical spread for both blogs.
Here's a map showing where people have been visting this one from since August:


And here's one showing where folk visit Treiziste Diary from:


Every continent bar Antarctica covered.
Speaking of Treiziste Diary, my first attempt at blogging, it's been liberating to ditch my allegiances to Leeds RLFC. Not for their lack of glory this year, just to show me what life is like without feeling like I have to go every week. I never though the Catalans supporting thing would become something I actually wanted to do and now I'm all tied up in sang-et-or.net... It's notoriously difficult to get stats and information about Rugby League in France. What we've built - or are trying to - is a one-stop comprehensive site for everything you could possibly want to know about the Catalans Dragons. And if we make you laugh en route, so much the better. Giving up the commentary gig at Leeds was a wrench, but if you stop enjoying something, you'd be a fool to carry on. Met some great people in the course of the year, and some complete scrotes. Seeing the guys over from France was great, but we learned a few days ago that one of them, Axel, was involved in a car crash and is in a coma. Courage, Axel. Our thoughts are with you.
Work hasn't been such a success. Bought out by an American conglomerate, the outlook for the Leeds office still appears gloomy, even if I do have some reasonable work to do after having a proper whinge at my manager. Looking for alternative employment has been a thoroughly depressing experience and has lead in part to a potentially life-changing decision, more of which later.
If you're a regular visitor, you'll have noted my increasing exasperation with the manner in which Great Britain is being run. I'm not going to call Tony Blair a short-arsed despotic maniac because he's a lawyer, but I will say that if he's not a despot, he's sounding like one ("it's for your safety", "if you've done nothing wrong, you've nothing to fear") and putting the laws of a dictatorship onto the statute. Another factor in this life-changing decision.
I started the year a single man, planning a divorce (or rather burying my head in the sand until it went away) and facing the prospect of being alone for the first time since 1993. That was scary. And I'd written off all chance of reconciliation at one stage, but over the summer it all came back together again. It's not been easy and probably won't be so for some time yet. We've tried making a fresh start and again this leads into the big decision.
I might as well get on with this now I've built it up so much. We've decided to move to New Zealand - in principle at least. They are crying out for people with my skills and virtually begging qualified and experienced teachers to go - which suits us just lovely. We really like the look of Wellington, but wish that just one NZ website would refrain from mentioning the fact that Lord Of The bloody Rings was filmed there. There's lots of things we need to do before we're in any position to go, and it wouldn't be before the summer of 2007, but that's the plan. It covers my three main gripes of the year - a more liberal society, better chance of finding work and a complete and utter fresh start for our relationship. I'm not so naive I see the move as a panacea and know it'll take a hell of a lot of work, but it's a goal.
What else? Yorkshire stayed in cricket's top flight against all predictions. York City continue to improve as we seek a way back into a proper league. GB Rugby League and England cricket and football reverted to type, so normality is restored there. My top sporting moment was the last minute Ian Hindmarsh try as the Catalans won their first ever Super League game at home to Wigan, although the Colin Lloyd v Raymond van Barneveld game a couple of days ago at the Circus Tavern was pretty bloody spectacular.
My favourite news story of the year is the one about the Bishop of Southwark getting really pissed and then denying it blind while we all scratch out chins saying 'yeah right'. Just admit it! We'd like you more.
Iraq and Israel dominate the negatives - Iraq because the UK and the US have made such a fuck up out of it and refuse to acknowledge that or change tack while there's still a chance, Israel because they continue to play the role of oppressor and victim and do illegal things like bomb half of Lebanon to smithereens while going 'they started it'. The attempts of the big players in the region to destabilise an already fragile government in Lebanon in their ridiculous chess game is the biggest threat to global stability.
The other one is the heating up of the atmosphere, which nobody in power seems to have the will to do anything about. It will kill us all if we let it.
Russia worry me. Putin's Cabinet is almost full of ex-KGB and we've seen what happens to anyone who dares criticise this fact. The fact they could theoretically switch off gas and oil supplies to half of Europe means no other government can really criticise them either.
But all is not lost. Good people exist. The good people of America who gave that fucking moron Bush a good kicking in the mid-terms, for example. The ballot box can work people! I don't understand why the British don't use it themselves as our turnouts are pitiful. If we increase out turnouts here, I believe that the recent rise in the far right vote would all but disappear. Those tossers have no place in any sort of government. While the likes of the Mail and the Express continue to pour out their hateful bile, people will see it as a good idea, but I believe it's largely reactionary rather than opinion-forming. These nazi twats were beaten in the 70s and can be beaten today.
I'm not all negative. I do have hope. I believe in humanity and humanism. I think it will out in the face of increased religious nuttery and seemingly resurgent nazism. That's you and me, people. We can make a difference.
We saw the arrival of another niece - Matilda - taking the niece/nephew tally up to six. And they're all great.
I wrote a song! Hopefully I'll have music and a video ready for a christmas 2007 release.
I managed to maintain my years old new years resolution and not gamble. Had a bit of a wobbly moment, but rode it out.
And my knees are OK (largely). Still a bit of residual arthritic pain which I'm just going to have to live with, but I can go up and down stairs and I'm walking as quick as I ever did once again. Need to keep on top of things and make sure I keep doing my stretches, but I'm amazed at the results of the physio.

May I take this opportunity to wish all my readers, wherever you are, a very happy non-denominational winter festival of your choice and every good wish for 2007. Thanks for reading and I hope you continue to do so next year.

cheers
John

Friday, December 22, 2006

Some christmas revelling of my own

Works christmas do last night at Jongleurs comedy club in Leeds. Food - meh. Wine - gah! Beer - pfft. Still, all paid for by someone else so it ain't all bad.
Eddie Brimson compered. He was pretty good.
Some Aussie bloke with a moustache was on first. He was.... OK I suppose.
A feller from Oldham was on second. He was pretty funny.
The fact I can't remember these guys names tells you everything you need to know about the quality of their respective acts.
Headlining was Junior Simpson. I remember when Juinor Simpson first broke on to the comedy scene about 9 years ago. And he's still using the same material. And it wasn't that good in the first place.
Left to get a train about half eleven. The next train would have been at about 1.15. I didn't fancy another 2 hours there. I shall do the rest of my revelling with friends and family.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dear Christmas revellers...

We both know you don't really drink for 363 days of the year, with just your birthday and christmas set aside for getting completely rat-arsed. I can generally cope with the fact you're an amateur drinker who can get in the way of a serious professional at this festive time, but if there's any chance that you could just restrain yourself a little? Your system isn't trained to cope with this sudden, massive intake of booze and is very likely to result in some projectile vomiting, such as the five examples I encountered on the 20-minute walk from house to station this morning.
Bit of advice: when you feel yourself getting squiffy, try slowing down the rate of intake. When you start seeing double, stop. Don't get into rounds - drink at your own pace. Nobody will think less of you. Basically don't be a fricking idiot and please, please, please don't spew in areas where I'm likely to be walking in a few hours time.

All the best for the festive season
John

A perturbation of the universe

Something is wrong. My morning train arrived in Leeds...... early.
I'm now sat in the office in fear of what has to go wrong to balance out this freak occurrence.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Another day, another Stevens report

A busy chap is Lord Stevens, former Metropolitan police commissioner. Last week he published his report into the death of that royal bird in Paris t'other year with the staggering conclusion that a car being driven at well over 100mph into a solid concrete pillar in a Parisian tunnel by a driver who had been drinking whilst on prescription drugs was an accident. Today, he concludes in his report into corruption in football that some transfers are a bit sus.
I eagerly await the next report from this pillar of the investigative community. I'm not sure which is due next: is it the one about sky colouration? Perhaps the report into how come water isn't dry? Or maybe the one that finally gets to the bottom of what it is that bears do in the woods.

Waxworks

I have never understood why these places exist. The ones in Tussauds in that London look like they've been done from a bad photo of the subject and that's bad enough. The ones in (e.g.) Blackpool look like they've been done using the London one as a template. And Skegness must have used the Blackpool ones etc etc in a downward spiral of shitness.
But to get too far into that would justify the existence of waxworks museums in the first place. Why? Someone please tell me the point of these places.

Extreme ironing

Following England's third capitulation in an Ashes Test in quick succession, I went channel surfing and caught a bit of extreme ironing. All very good, but half the time the iron wasn't plugged in. How do they expect to shift any particularly stubborn creases with no heat? They've gone too far for the extreme and forgotten about the ironing.

The government, IT and ID

This government and all governments before it has a shocking record on IT projects. Routinely handed out to one of a small band of suppliers, they are always over budget and late - very, very late - and invariably don't work properly. This not working properly is one of the major sticking points of the whole ID cards (see this blog passim) thing - i.e. if it's not terribly secure, any Tom, Dick or Harry could swipe your identity like that. The possibility of this unnecessary system being hugely expensive, given the track record of government IT projects, is another angle from which to attack it.
In order to save money, according to Home Secretary John Reid, there won't be a new, single ID system. Instead, three existing systems will be used to see this through. This further proves that the government has no idea about what this type of project entails. This will not save money. You have three existing systems, designed (hopefully) and developed to do a specific thing. You now have to mangle those three systems to do something new. You then require interfaces to be developed to ensure these three systems can talk to each other - bear in mind these systems could each be from a different supplier and/or on different platforms, but almost certainly will not have been designed with communication channels to the other two in mind. These aren't going to be 10-minute jobs. They are time consuming and difficult tasks. Trust me. I've worked on similar.
And what are these three systems? The only one we know of is the Dept. of Work and Pensions Customer Information Service. Would checks on ID, therefore, also flag up issues with benefits? Not exactly a fanciful leap of logic.
The proposed ID card system is an utter farce and will remain so. This half-assed attempt to justify it by trying to make it cheaper just exacerbates that fact.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dear TV advertisers...

Can I assume that all your horrible christmasified adverts will cease in 6 days time? If not, please reply here and I'll sort out alternative arrangements. Like taking an 8lb lump hammer to the TV. Or your head, whichever I get to first.


best regards
John

Bishop on a beer scooter

The Bishop of Southwark's having a rough old time of it. On leaving a drinks reception at the Irish embassy (I'll not stoop to stereotyping the Irish nation here, tempting though it may be) it initially appeared that he'd been mugged. This was quickly scotched by police as evidence emerged he may just have been pished.
Today, he was on the radio protesting his innocence and how he couldn't possibly have been drunk. Frankly, his evidence just doesn't stack up. What is not in doubt is that he has a bump on the head, is missing a mobile phone and can't remember a lot. "My injuries are compatible with being mugged", he said. Yes, your grace, but not remembering large chunks of an evening, losing personal items and waking up with mysterious cuts and bruises is, in my extensive experience, entirely compatible with being rather drunk.
He also claims that it would be impossible for an inebriated person to get home in the manner he apparently did, saying "I defy anyone who had too much to drink to make that journey". But we've all done it - one minute you're in the pub, next thing you wake up on top of your bed, fully clothed and dribbling a bit with no idea how you got there. It's the well known beer scooter effect.
The Bishop just isn't making it any better for himself. I'm sure his flock would have a lot more respect for him if he'd just come out sand say 'Look. I had a few. I banged my noggin' on something and lost my phone. Sorry.'

Monday, December 18, 2006

Democracy - American style

You will no doubt remember the recent mid-terms in America which saw the Democrats take control of both houses. The public spoke and spoke in favour of the Democrats. Now at the stroke of a pen, the whole shape of American politics could be altered. In South Carolina, Senator Tim Johnson recently suffered a stroke. If he becomes unable to serve (normally this only occurs following a death, but that's not set in stone), thn the Republican governor of the state, Michael Rounds, would appoint a replacement. In some states, there are laws to say that the governor must select a replacment from the same party as the person who vacated the seat. In South Carolina, there is not and it would follow that a Republican would be appointed. If this were to happen, the Senate would be split 50-50. The Vice President's only real job is to chair the senate and in this situation - were no power sharing deals brokered - would have the casting vote.
The political landscape of America could be changed overnight without a single vote being cast by the populous. And this is the country that seems intent on telling everyone else how to run their democracies and when those democracies (Palestine, for example) don't return the government the Americans want, then sanctions are proposed.
It's ridiculous. It's so ridiculous, I can't think of an easy simile. How about 'it's as ridiculous as the prospect of a Lib Dem MP dating one of the Cheeky Girls'? Oh bloody hell....

Friday, December 15, 2006

Serious Farce

The crushingly inevitable has happened. An investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into allegations of bribery and corruption at BAe in regard to a deal with Saudi Arabia has been dropped. With the Saudis saying they'd take their wads of cash for new fighters to France if it wasn't dropped, it smacks of blackmail and it screams to anyone who is interested that rule of law doesn't apply when it comes to arms deals with abhorrent regimes. It's a farce of the highest order and pours shame on the government, BAe, the SFO and - if more shame were possible - Saudi Arabia.

More bank nonsense

A recent report concluded that banks are taking the piss with penalty charges (as referred to in the linked article for which I apologise for the ridiculous use of a question as a headline in what is very much a Mail/Express stylee). Today's 'no shit Sherlock' story in relation to banking concludes that while banks reflect changes to base rates instantly on borrowing, they're not so swift in applying them to savings.
I don't expect there to be any changes any time soon on either of these items and both have had justification attempted with a whole load of utter blather. It'd be nice to see a bit of equivalence and consistency, but that's never been a commodity banks have traded in, so I shan't hold my breath.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Daft sayings: 2

It's always in the last place you look.
Of course it is. Only a moron trapped in a buffoon's body would find the item they've been looking for and then go and search somewhere else.

Spam

Why? I'm not going to reply to a Nigerian 319 scam e-mail. Neither am I going to panic, let alone click several links and fill in my bank details on a form, when billing@jewelryadviser.com sends me a mail titled "Visa overdraft has exceed".

And the spiced ham product is pointless as well.

How Congress works

Say you're American. And that you fancy running for Congress. Then you get elected. Suppose that you then get appointed to be the chairman of the house intelligence committee. Would you think to learn something of the current issues concerning America in terms of their security? I know I would. Silvestro Reyes has different ideas.
And this is the major power in the world today. It's times like these I almost wish I believed in a god, because it would represent our only chance of being saved from these morons.

More train nonsense

You've not doubt read my thoughts on the whole train privatisation thing. Putting that aside for a moment, let's have a look at Virgin Trains' recently announced £1.4bn subsidy. This private company require this hand-out from the state to cover increased costs of running their trains on Network Rail's tracks - Network Rail being the state owned maintenance company.
Essentially, the money leaves the state, goes to a private company and is paid back to the state. Which is bloody ridiculous. Virgin Trains have undertaken to run trains on these tracks and the 'risk' in terms of cost is - or at least should be - their problem. Not ours.
Another 1.4 billion reasons why the rail network is, to put it bluntly, fucked.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sus

Finally, someone is paying attention. Hats off today to Andy Hayman, the Metroploitan Police's assistant commissioner, says of the powers available to stop and search anyone the police fancy if they reckon might be up to something terroristy "[W]e have to question the way we use a power that causes so much pain to the community we serve but results in so few arrests or charges. Is it worth it?"
In this writer's opinion, Mr Hayman, no. It isn't.

Disappointing headline of the day

Today's disappointing headline of the day once again comes from The Guardian for this piece headlined "Archer back in court".
Sadly it's just a TV show. Shame.

Redressing the balance. A bit

I'd hate for people to get the impression I'm only ever critical. Today, proposals have been laid out to overhaul the bus 'system'. The article I've linked to there points out that the proposals stop short of the full regulation that there is in London, but it is a start. Bigger companies (and I'd be a fool to be the First to point the finger) can flex their muscles at present to force smaller ones out by flooding routes. It's not a service - less well-used routes are neglected as they don't generate enough revenue - which public transport really ought to be. This should be an opportunity to give the public that use buses more of a say in when and where they're run rather than the balance sheet being the driving factor.
We're lucky in West Yorkshire as we have a fairly strong passenger transport executive. The article I linked to mentions York where no such thing exists and it is an utter farce. Routes and timetables were changed every week or two when I lived there (and that's a long time since now) and nothing much has changed. I really hope this goes some way to change things. Sheffield, too, has long been held up as a 'shining' example of deregulation in action. It'll be interesting to see what, if any, difference this makes.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Blair in irony corner

Tolerance is "what makes Britain, Britain", says our dear leader today. So new immigrants must "conform to it or don't come here".

The irony-o-meter almost blew there. What a great new slogan for Britain. 'We're tolerant. So if you're not, bugger off'.
The man's either lost it or he's one of the great undiscovered stand-up talents.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The official start of christmas

Sat in the pub this lunchtime, I heard Paul McCartney's godawful Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time. This signals the official start to the festive season. I managed to last until December 18 last year before the soon-to-be-less-well-off ex-Wings frontman's dirge hit my ears, but that was exceptional. Today is more or less average for the first hearing.
As well as the former Frog Chorus warbler's ditty, a number of other christmas hits were played in the pub. And they're pretty much all shite. The Pogues are an exception. It got me thinking though. All these artists have a 50-year pension plan with their festive tunes as it appears on a new album every fricking year. So I'm going to write one - one with a strong theme of social realism. Watch this space.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Save the Holmfirth Picturedrome

You may have noticed previous mention on here of the Holmfirth Picturedrome who have recently hosted such luminaries as Half Man Half Biscuit and Billy Bragg among many others (and hopefully a trip to see the Clone Roses there early in 2007). Now it appears that world's worst pub chain Wetherspoons want to turn it into one of their shite pubs. I don't like Wetherspoons pubs. Soulless places which seem to aim for the lowest common denominator and usually succeed. They'd need permission for a change of use from the council, as well as to alter the interior to suit pub requirements cf those of a working cinema and music venue. It's the last independent cinema in the area. It's also the only music venue in the area I can think of that isn't a pub and as such able to hold any number above about 40. Both of these facts make the place worth saving, as does it's history and architecture. Trouble is, history and architecture don't pay the bills.... But bloody Wetherspoons..?? I despair.
I'll be keeping an eye on this one and making my feelings known to the council at the appropriate time.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Be careful out there

If you're going to have an accident at any point, do make sure that you do it somewhere within easy access of a hospital with an A&E department. Otherwise you could be in a spot of bother.
The chutzpah of the government to claim that protests against making the vast, vast majority of people travel further for emergency care will actually cost lives is quite breathtaking.

Tiiiimmmmmber

Nothing collapses like an England cricket batting card. Why am I surprised any more?

Trident rusted

20 years is a long time. That long ago saw most of the current Labour cabinet being vehemently anti-nuclear. Now that Trident is coming to the end of it's useful life, the tune is very different. It would be "unwise and dangerous" to remove our "ultimate insurance" policy, according to our Dear Leader. Insurance against what or whom exactly? Back in the '80s and the Cold War, there was far more justification for maintaining an arsenal of nukes. Today, there isn't that Mexican stand-off we found ourselves in back then. We're constantly being told about the perceived threats to Britain and a nuclear assault from a nation state simply ain't one of 'em. Nuclear weapons are not going to be a deterrent to, for example, someone intent on blowing up themselves and others on a packed tube.
Blair also says that "it is not utterly fanciful [to] imagine states sponsoring nuclear terrorism from their soil." Au contraire Tony. It is utterly fanciful.
And to rub salt in, Blair conducted a Cabinet meeting about the replacement. It wasn't a discussion, it's not open to debate, even in that circle of arse-lickers, lickspittles and hangers-on. It's being pushed through Cabinet and through Parliament with nary a word.
And it'll cost £25bn. That's one hell of a lot of teachers, nurses, doctors etc etc etc.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Billy Bragg at the Holmfirth Picturedrome

The Bard of Barking brought his brand of socio-political folk to Holmfirth last night. As the picture below signifies, the whole tour is an anti-fascist thing - hope not hate - and second up was a rendition of the old Woody Guthrie number, All You Fascists.


The tour will encompass those areas afflicted with a large far-right vote and a number of BNP councillors. Kirklees has a few - Dewsbury, Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton - hence his appearance in the area and tomorrow takes him to Burnley. Bragg's home town of Barking recently voted 11 of the twats in and he said that he wants to learn from Burnley how to kick them out again.
It's all very worthy, but there is a massive element of preaching to the converted. I don't imagine any rabid far-right supporter would have gone to see him in the first place, let alone having their mind changed should they have done.
Perhaps the most relevant thing in terms of anti-fascism was his highlighting of the far-right website Redwatch. I can appreciate people who don't know about this. It's a website that publishes names, addresses and pictures of anti-fascist activists and encourages the kind of twat that supports the BNP to take direct action against them, i.e. violence. It needs shutting down and there were postcards already addressed to Ian Blair exhorting him to take action. Consider one posted, although the number of times I've called the BNP lying racist scum, I'm slightly disappointed I'm not on there.

It's not all politics at a Billy Bragg gig. There's a lot of humour too, both in the lyrics and in the chat between songs. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable night. He measures his enjoyment of gigs by his teabag count. Last night was a three-cups-of-tea gig. That's good, apparently.


He said he'd be back. If he is, I'll definitely go.

Pointless statistics

Everywhere you look these days, there are a glut of pointless statistics to dazzle and impress you. They come in two main areas - advertising and politics. A typical example is the current TV ad for Lexmark printers. According to them, 75% of top companies in some sectors use Lexmark. Who decides who these "top companies" are? Does a use of one Lexmark printer constitute them being a customer or do they need to have a service agreement with them? Without these questions being asked and sufficiently answered, the statistic is meaningless. See also creams that reduce signs of ageing by up to 60%. Nonsense.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Price 'em off the trains, price 'em off the roads

Following recent news of train fare hikes way above inflation, we now get the news that road pricing is very much on the agenda.
I give up. Pricing motorists out of their cars is a noble aim if we're ever to get on top of the shite that we as a population pump into the air. It will not work if there is no viable alternative. I've said this so often I'm getting fecked off with it. So if at the same time as you plan to bring in road pricing you are also pricing people off the rails, how do you expect it to be anything other than a revenue -generating exercise?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Train price hikes all round

Every train operating company is subjecting we, the public who already provide massive subsidies to these privately owned companies through our taxes, to inflation-busting price rises. Simple economic theory of supply and demand would explain the rationale behind this - if every train is over-crowded, then demand must be outstripping supply therefore fares go up. But it's not that simple. The companies themselves control the supply, so all normal theories of supply and demand do not apply. For example, sticking a three-coach train on a route where a 4, 5 or even 6 coach train would still be full creates this illusion that the company must be doing something right for all these people to want to travel. It's bollocks.
I'm sick of hearing earnest cries from Whitehall about getting motorists out of their cars and onto public transport. That would be great. But until there's the viable alternative of an integrated public transport system, it will not - nay, can not - happen. Bus deregulation is a mess, train privatisation is a mess. And we the public end up paying through the nose for the whole job lot of it, whether we travel or not.

Monday, November 27, 2006

If you don't like it, tough

I complain about a lot of things on here. Back in the day, if you didn't like something, you could protest about it. Not any more. Do as you're told and be subservient. Or else.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

That General Pinochet's a lovely man

Mrs Thatcher's favourite murderous South American dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, has today said that he takes full political responsibility for his time in power.
Well that's alright then. I'm sure the families of the disappeared will be appeased by that.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Bonus puzzle

OK puzzle fans, here's a bonus for you. A crossword.


ACROSS
2 - Poisoned Alexander Litvinenko (1,1,1)

DOWN
1 - Shot Anna Politkovskaya (1,1,1)


Good luck.

Binary Sudoku 2

Here's today's puzzle:

Enjoy

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ashes to Ashes

Bollocks anyway.

5 terms you could have used instead of... Addicted to

  1. Like a bit
  2. Had my curiosity pricked by
  3. Use sometimes
  4. Had recently
  5. Quite interested in


Addiction is a fucking serious business. You are NOT addicted to chocolate, you self-obsessed Bridget Jones-reading idiot.

(with apologies to MickeyMo)

Binary Sudoku 1


Here you go. The first binary sudoku for you to print out and have a go at. A reminder of the rules - each column and each row must contain the numbers 0 and 1 with no repetition. Good luck and tune in tomorrow for another gruelling puzzle.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sudoku

Never got into sudoku myself. Tried it and found out that I get stuck approximately 2 minutes after I lose all interest, so now I don't bother. I do have some ideas to improve the experience.

1. Binary Sudoku
You have a two-by-two grid in which you have to insert the numbers 0 and 1 so that each number only appears once in each column and each row.

2. Hexadecimal Sudoku
This time it's a 16-by-16 grid made up of smaller four-by-four grids in which you have to put the numbers 1 to F in each row, column and 4-by-4 grid.

3. Keep it the same, but bin those restrictive rules
In your common or garden sudoku, several of the squares are filled in. What's the point of that? Make it all blank. Freestyle. It's like jazz for sudoku.

I'm sitting on a gold mine I tells you.

Another small erosion

Police in England and Wales are shortly to be allowed to check fingerprints on the street. Currently, you have to be arrested and taken to a station before you can be fingerprinted. I don't remember any public debate into changing this quite important facet of the whole process. It appears to have gone through unnoticed, which is a worry. What else is being sneaked under our collective radar?
No doubt this is all being pushed through as being 'for our safety', just like every other little erosion of our liberties.

Advertising standards

Standards are slipping. Watching TV the other day, I saw an advert for some retailer or other hawking Jim Davidson's latest DVD. "Everyone loves Jim Davidson" it said. Now, dear reader, I can't remember which retailer was responsible for this so if you see this abomination, let me know and I shall fire off the following letter to the ASA:

"Dear Sir,

I recently noticed an advert for [insert retailer's name here] and wish to lodge a complaint. The advert claimed that "everyone loves Jim Davidson" when the truth is that - at least in my circle of friends, colleagues, family and acquaintances - that 'everyone' think he's a racist, misogynistic twat.

I trust this oversight will soon be rectified.


Yours etc...."

Business ethics

Word of advice for anyone wishing to heap praise on the ethical way their company does business.
Say you've hauled everyone in the UK down to London for a staff meeting in which - in a total American stylee - you present to the attending a summary of what 2006 brought and what the aim is for 2007. If you're going to mention how ethically you do business, it will carry more weight if you don't do it immediately after you tell everyone how well you're doing in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and how you're exploring new markets in the field of biometric ID cards.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Made me laugh

Headline on the BBC ticker that is manna to heaven for the Daily Mail:


(might be best clicking the picture for a bigger and more readable version)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Makes me cross

This story about a BA desk worker having to remove her cross did annoy me. And now she's lost her appeal. Good. It's not about BA banning her from wearing it, just that she can't wear it over her clothes. She reckons it's the same as a nijab or a turban. Is it bollocks. No-one in any form of Christianity has ever said anything about having to wear a visible cross. Hopefully that'll be the last of it.
Daft bint.

H

I'm not dropping an aitch when I say 'aitch'. It's pronounced 'aitch'. There's no aitch at the start of aitch. So will people stop putting one on there please? Thanks ever so.

90-day dissent

Following recent developments in getting the 90-day detention without trial thing back on the agenda, it seems we dissenters have an influential ally. Lord Goldsmith, attorney general, says he's "not convinced" there is any evidence to extend the current 28 days. I know that makes out that he could be convinced, but it's a start and at the current point of desperation in terms of requiring straws to clutch at, I'll take it.

Did you know 'gullible' has been removed from the dictionary?

I cannot believe there is anyone in the English (or, more accurately, pidgin-English) speaking world who is not aware of Nigerian 419 scams. And so today's report that losses to British business as a result of these scams runs into billions leaves me scratching my head. If I'm supposed to feel sympathy for those duped by promises of untold wealth, then it's failed the mark. If it's supposed to make me aware of the scam, then it's several years too late.
Once upon a time, a chap purporting to be Joseph Kabila, son of former Congolese dictator Laurent and recent 'winner' of the DR Congo elections (and I'd like to pass on my congratulations to my erstwhile correspondent), sent me one of these things. I deleted it, for I, dear reader, am not a moron.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Twas only a matter of time

Not content with earning billions of pounds of profit every year, the end could be in sight to free banking. First Direct - admittedly a small concern - is the first bank in Britain to introduce standing charges for simply having an account. Not for them is the charges levied on sending letters enough. Nor is it enough for them to hold your money, invest it and earn lots of money off the back of that and give you back the 1% interest you're supposed to be grateful for. I heard the story on the radio this morning and the First Direct spokesman did say it wasn't so much an end to free banking - customers just had to buy other products, i.e. loans, mortgages etc, or else. So it is an end to free banking then.
I accept they are a relatively small fish and that it's a toe-in-the-water exercise. If the public complain as much about this as ATM charges - i.e. charging you to withdraw your own money from an ATM run by your own bank - it'll go no further.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Not again

Despite being roundly defeated once already, 90 days is back on the agenda.
That article makes for interesting reading. The killer bit for me is where John Denham, Home Affairs select committee chairman, says that government should 'not infringe civil liberties too much'. Which says to me that we should prepare to have our civil liberties infringed. And once they're infringed a little, it's very easy to infringe them a lot subsequently.
I already know my MP, Barry Sheerman, supports this illiberal measure. That probably won't stop me writing him another letter. Hopefully your MP isn't such a suck-up to Blair like Sheerman is and a letter from you to yours may carry more weight. Try it.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Atheism

I've been thinking about this for a while recently following an online discussion. Some say that atheism itself is a belief system, but I reckon that's rubbish. It's only defined as a belief system by people who do have a belief system - the debate is on their terms. Because I choose not to believe in something that makes no rational sense should not need to be described in terms of that thing I do not believe in. An example may make my train of thought clearer.

Suppose I was to suggest the existence of roundabout monsters. These are huge, blue, scaly creatures with Routemaster buses for teeth and they feed on people who hesitate when getting onto a roundabout. They live on the grassy bit in the middle - they need the chlorophyll - which is why you don't see them on mini roundabouts and - consequently - you see lots of people hesitating and not really knowing what they're doing at mini roundabouts.
You may think this theory is rubbish, but you wouldn't define yourself as an 'a-roundaboutmonsterist' for not believing it.
I've heard it said the only sensible position on the whole god thing is agnosticism. Again, using my roundabout monster theory, this is patently nonsense. You would not listen to me espousing my theory and then say 'I think you're wrong but there's enough doubt' and adopt that stance as a valid position in relation to the theory. That's not the action of a rational and sensible person.
And it's the same for all ridiculous and irrational theories, be it creationism, roundabout-monsterism, the theory that David Blaine is any good etc etc.
So where does this leave us? I do not believe in the existence of a god. It makes no sense whatsoever. But unlike people who do, I do not define myself by that and resent the fact that the classical definition for this position still involves reference to a theology. If the position I take on the whole god thing involves an absence of belief, then there should be an absence of a definition.

Now, who wants to donate £50 to the Society of Roundabout-Monsterists?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Another prosecution required

Head BNP twat Nick Griffin may have been cleared of inciting racial hatred, but seeing as he said in court that he's not a racist and that the BNP are not a racist party, I'd have him up for perjury.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Just in case...

...you had forgotten, you're supposed to be panicking.
Somehow I just can't force myself.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

More mid-terms

It looks like the Democrats have taken The Senate as well. And while - at time of writing - the Republican candidate in Virginia has yet to concede, it looks like the party as a whole have accepted the defeat because they've removed Donald Rumsfeld from office ahead of any possible inquiry into his handling of military deployments. But not shooting friends in the chest because he thought they were a quail.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Legal aid

A Law Society report has estimated that a quarter of all current providers of legal aid could close as reforms are introduced by which solicitors would have to bid competitively for all legal aid work instead of a set rate per hour. This will obviously make it difficult for practices to run solely on legal aid cases, hence the estimate in numbers of providers closing.
Legal aid is a vital method of ensuring justice is for everyone, rather than the privileged few. Such an action could be expected by a right wing goverment. Oh, hang on....

Meanwhile, footballer, sometime llama impersonator and earner of tens of thousands of pounds per week El Hadji Diouf - currently on bail over an alleged assault on his wife - claimed legal aid while defending himself in case regarding him gobbing at an 11-year old.

The most stupid libel case ever?

This has got to be the most ludicrous libel action I've seen. It's this line in the article that makes me think that:
"Ms Spears and husband Kevin Federline denied filming the video and that they feared it would be made public."
So they didn't make a film, but fear this film they didn't make would get out? How does that work?

Anyway, the sorry pair are divorcing now, but this isn't Heat magazine so I'll refrain from comment.

The return of non-mainstream cinema

Some months ago, I lamented the Odeon taking over my nearest cinema. Today, I feel the need to give credit where it's due.
Yesterday, idly browsing the schedules, I noticed the 'Director's Chair' feature - i.e. putting something a bit more left-field on once in a while - was back. And so it came to pass that I was sat in there last night watching Luc Besson's Angel-a. Beautifully filmed, in black and white, it's the story of a down-on-his-luck American in Paris who, when contemplating suicide, encounters a leggy blonde who sets about changing his life. There's a few holes in the plot, but it's charm gets it through.
It could have been rubbish - that's not really the point. After all my chelping about the lack of variety, I felt it was almost my duty to go and see it, no matter what.

Mid-term bloody nose

America may have seen sense. The Democrats have taken the House of Representatives. This could make life uncomfortable for Bush in the remaining two years of his presidency.
Control of the Senate looks like coming down to just one state - Virginia. With eerie echoes of the 2000 presidential election, we could be facing a couple of recounts and legal challenges before this is decided. The difference between then and now is that Bush's brother doesn't hold sway in Virginia and can't unduly influence the result as per Florida in 2000.
If the Democrats take control of both houses, Bush becomes little more than a rubber-stamp merchant. The Democrats would have chairmanship of all committees, be able to force legislation through or block it - basically be in charge while Bush would have to sit and nod acceptance.

Road pricing

The suggestion that road pricing will solve congestion problems in our towns and cities is, I believe, misguided. The news this morning carried a lengthy piece focusing on London and a tri-city initiative between Leicester, Derby and Nottingham. It's one thing to attempt to get motorists off the roads, but until there is an integrated transport system in place as an alternative, people will continue to drive. Bus deregulation is a mess and my maxim re train privatisation has always been that if there was ever one national industry that was not ripe for privatisation it was the the railways. Things were not peachy under British Rail, but I don't remember it being any worse than the current situation and it was a hell of a lot cheaper for the taxpayer while it went about it.
Moreover, as we saw when some local councils proposed to charge people with cars that pollute more than others more money to park, those that can afford it will carry on regardless while those less well off can whistle.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Overkill?

Following the verdict on Sunday in Saddam Hussein's trial regarding crimes against humanity and subsequent sentencing to death, today we learn that he's back in court facing charges of genocide.
Obviously the theory is that justice mustt be done and be seen to be done, but if this part of the BBC article:
"It is not clear if the Iraqi authorities will wait until the second trial is complete before they carry out the sentence in the first case"
ends with a decision that they won't wait, then what's the point?

Borat's entertainment

Went to see the Borat movie, imaginatively titled Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, last Friday and I went with a very open mind.
I was never a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G character, but the Ali G show did feature Borat, who I quite enjoyed. As Ali G became suddenly ubiquitous to the point of a pretty weak film, the Borat character began to get more exposure and this is where it traditionally goes wrong. Over-exposure tends to weaken the whole premise for a character with Cohen. So I wasn't sure what to expect.
Now, Borat is supposed to be a Kazakh TV reporter. I can't help thinking it would have been better to have invented some fictional former Soviet state for his origin as the "Kazakhstan is backwards, inbred and rubbish" bit is laid on rather thick. But then the real butt of the jokes - Americans - probably think Kazakhstan is made up anyway, so maybe my initial reservation is misplaced.
Well I say it's Americans that are the butt, but I should be more specific. It's the American religious right, it's American frat boys, American racists, anti-semites and, especially, Christians. I've heard it said that Borat's own anti-semitism - supposedly a tradition in Kazakhstan - is laid on too thick and gets tiresome, but it all leads to one absolute killer gag at the end. If the whole film is geared up for this one joke, it is totally worth it as it's pants-darkeningly funny. There are quite a lot of amusing bits on the way to this punchline as well as a few weak points, but it is worth it and it is funny.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Crap lights

For some reason, the pub near our office put up some lights. The entrance - shared with our office - now looks like a gay Santa's grotto.

See?

Daft sayings: 1

"You want for nothing you've got"
That always struck me as a bizarre thing to say. Of course I want for nothing I've got. When I am in want of something, 100% of the time it's for something I don't have.

Frank Sidebottom at York City Social Club

To York, and take in City v Altrincham. Awful first half, slightly better second and City came out on top. Altrincham, unlike York, have a celebrity fan. He is the all-round entertainer with a papier maché head, Frank Sidebottom.

There he is lobbing sweets into the crowd. It was after the game though that the main event took place in the social club - Frank's one-man show.

It was full value for money. We had songs (the Manchester medley was sensational. Got a video of Love Will Tear Us Apart here), jokes, ventriloquism, a lecture (it was about how to have pets. Don't get a mobile zoo because bison don't like going in cars).
There's some of the ventriloquism act with his sidekick Little Frank.
We learned how he's been on Match Of The Day - in his big shorts:
and we picked up some Altrincham football songs. "You're going home on an organised football coach".
Father Christmas put in an appearance:
but it turned out to be Frank in a big red coat.
The night was wrapped up with tributes to some music legends. First, Queen:
and finally Elvis:
I laughed like a drain all the way through. Tell me another nation that could come up with a comic legend with a massive papier maché head. I defy you to tell me.
That said, it's definitely a "you had to be there" experience, as trying to tell people what it was all about just doesn't get across the charm and hilarity. Either way, he was fantastic. Oh yes he was. He really was.

Saddam to hang

You may have heard that Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death. Where does one start on this?
For a start, a trial where the prosecution has to cherry-pick evidence so that politically sensitive material isn't made public is on shaky ground from the off.
Then the sentence. Even in this extreme case I do not support the death penalty. State-sponsored murder is still murder. I don't think it'll change anything in Iraq either. Then again, locking him up for ever wouldn't change anything either. What really grates is the whooping and hollering from some quarters in regard to his impending death - especially a former Texas governor who has a penchant for executions.
There's no doubting he's an utter rotter, but I have a number of issues with the whole process

Changing rooms

Why are the changing rooms in women's clothes shops always in the pants and bras section? If the rationale is to make men look shifty while waiting for their other half to try stuff on then mission accomplished.
That said, there's an unspoken bond between blokes who are waiting. A nod of the head and a roll of the eyes seals that solidarity.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Guest rant: 1

In the first of an occasional series, I'm inviting punters to take over whatever the internet equivalent of the airwaves is with their guest rants. Today, we have regular commenter on here The Big Fat Phony, who is behind the RKS Radomiak UK website, with his lament over what football obsessives who don't know any better call The Beautiful Game, in particular last Tuesday's game between Barcelona and Chelsea. Take it away:

--------------------------------------------------------------

A Word on 'The Russians' vs Barca

Both sides should really have a look at themselves and decide whether they are in the business of playing football or acting. Never, ever have I seen 22 men so willing to throw themselves to the floor at the sight of an opponent looking at them in "a funny way". Alright, I confess, I have, as I was privy to Mourinho's boys taking on Celtic in a certain European final a few years back and I see quite a lot of the Premiership here in the UK.

Only during the game did I find out that The Chosen One had accused one of his former players of diving for a penalty. For fucks sake Jose you should be pleased - you have obviously taught him well! Every team that I have seen that you have had control of has been a set of cheating, time-wasting wankers. "Oh well Ron, it's a business nowadays and the win is worth millions". That seems, unfortunately, to be the view of many a commentator in the UK nowadays and the phrase is usually followed by a chuckle....when the play acting, time-wasting, generally acting the twat is coming from someone playing for an "English" team - them foreigners you see, they're dirty and they take advantage. Why don't you fuck off? This is not the game of football that I was brought up with. It used to be a mans game, none of this "going down for a penalty is all part and parcel of the game" bollocks.

Is this thing that I see on television nowadays actually football? Is it fuck! It's a bunch of prima donnas waltzing around acting the hard man and then falling over for no apparent reason. Premier competition in football my fat hairy arse!

I'm writing this pre post-match press conference so I look forward to Mourinho slagging the referee, the Barca players the Barca manager, the fact that the fans were too pro Barca, etc. No doubt Rijkaard will do the same.

Before I go, a statement addressed to the man in the mac. You're a fucking shit summariser, get off the tv and get back to cruising the back streets for fucking prostitues. You twat.

Oh and another thing, it's not the fucking Champions League. That would involve the fucking champions only, not 2nd and 3rd and 4th and any other fucker that can afford it.

P.S. The sooner Putin decides that yer man that owns Chelsea isn't quite to his liking and puts him away for no apparent reason the better! I'm not normally one for unjustified political imprisonings but this is one that I pray for. Vladimir, you Russian wanker, get him in nick asap.

P.P.S. Townsend? Fuck off!

--------------------------------------------------------------


So endeth Guest Rant 1. If you want to do a guest rant, leave me a message or get in touch somehow if you already know how to and ramble away.

Wherever you are in the world

No matter where you are and no matter what time it is, you are sure, somewhere across the dial, bound to find at least one episode of Friends on TV.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

British Gas

Apparently, complaints about British Gas have doubled year-on-year. And they're the most expensive. This reminds me of an old joke (so old it can probably be found in coal in some parts of the world).

What have British Gas and pelicans got in common?
They can both shove their massive bills up their arse.

Sorry.

Always in the last place you look

Thomas Hauser is a great boxing writer. His articles carry the weight of authority denied to us mere plebs. But just because you write predominantly about boxing doesn't mean you can't write about anything else. Even so, it was still a surprise to read this treatise on the state of America on boxing website secondsout.com.
I fully agree with Hauser's assertion that "the distortion of American values by the Bush Administration and its allies in Congress is more important than the result of a prizefight and should be commented upon in every forum possible", hence it's appearance here.
Two things, bearing in mind the impending mid-terms in the States, stand out for me. The Democrats need to win both houses and look on course to do that despite the Republicans upping their smear tactics and despite the Democrats having no single voice or figurehead to rally behind. The other thing is that Bill Clinton is beginning to look like a pretty damn good president. I don't believe he was, but in comparison to Bush he's beginning to look like JFK, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and Lloyd George all rolled into one.

Crap beer II

Following from the previous crap beer entry, C2. It's a while since I first encountered this (at a Skatalites gig at Leeds Met, if memory serves), but it seems to be subject to a big oush at the moment. Why is beyond me. Presumably the theory goes that taking half the alcohol out of regular Carling solves all it's problems. I despair.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

And relax...

A week off to recharge the batteries and do some serious relaxing worked wonders. For three whole days, I wasn't bothered by a thing as I indulged in spas, jacuzzis and saunas etc.
Well, not quite. John Reid continues to annoy with his nonsensical rules on migration within the EU - some EU member states being denied the same rights as others doesn't make much sense to me. A two-tier EU isn't going to help anyone. Indeed, it's the very antithesis of what the EU is all about. Bar that, it was a very relaxing break. But, as a return to work got closer, I could feel the stress and angst levels rising. Ah well. Nice while it lasted.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Torchwood

The successful return of Doctor Who to our screens was most welcome, even if I have outgrown hiding behind the sofa when the Daleks appear. Success may have gone to the producers heads as this weekend sees a spin-off begin, Torchwood. I don't know if I'll bother, as the last spin-off from Doctor Who was the lamentable and irritating K-9. I'll probably give this a miss.

Walking quickly

If you want to walk quickly, follow this simple plan.
  1. Download Verve's Bittersweet Symphony to your iPod (other mp3 (other music formats are available) players are available)
  2. Apply headphones to ears
  3. Press play
  4. Walk

You will then walk quickly.
There are, however, drawbacks. You may find an urge to bump into people.

Zebra crossings

Simple things are zebra crossings. Approach it, traffic stops, you cross road. Simple.
Apparently not. This evening, after stepping on such a crossing a bus driver didn't seem keen on stopping, and after eventually stopping on half the crossing, leaned out of the window and asked me if I was "fucking blind" with no hint of irony. I proceeded to discuss the finer points of zebra crossing etiquette with him, but his only comeback was that I was "fucking blind".
So First can be a shower of bastards when they're running buses as well as trains.

Crap beer

I can handle there being crap beer. It just doesn't belong in decent pubs; by which I mean pubs that have a wide and varied range of imported beers and select domestic produce other than that mass produced crap that goes into the barrels marked 'Carlsberg' or 'Carling'.
There are few things more annoying than seeing someone peruse 20-odd taps of German, Dutch, Belgian etc etc etc beers and then deciding to go for a Carlsberg. It's wrong.

Third person

I don't know what it is that boxers and football managers have in common that makes them constantly refer to themselves in the third person.
John_D hates it when people do that.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Aristocrats

I'm a year out of date on this one, but it's still annoying me. A poor joke made into a film. Fundamentally not funny. On any level. Unless you're a puerile tosser.

Do not be fooled

Labour tried to portray David Cameron as a chameleon. Leopard would have been more appropriate. The Tory 'menu of options' on tax cuts contains a whole raft of measures seemingly designed to increase the wealth of the wealthy while leaving people who aren't so wealthy to swing in the wind.
You can talk of a new Conservativism until the cows come home, but scratch a little below the surface and nothing has changed

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Festive reminder

Today, the Christmas decorations are going up in Leeds. Which reminds me that (pause for sharp intake of breath) only two and a half shopping months until Christmas!!!

ffs

Motivation 101

How not to disenfranchise and demoralise your staff. Lesson 1:

Say you have 3 C++ developers who are currently not doing much/any C++ development. Sending a company-wide e-mail saying that the company is looking to recruit a C++ developer will not make these 3 people feel valued and may in fact destroy what remaining morale they may have had.

Les banlieus de Paris

It's all kicking off again on the fringes of Paris. A year after the riots which claimed global attention, it's reached boiling point again as Nicolas Sarkozy, who famously and not-very-helpfully described the rioters as "scum", "gangrene" and "rabble", prepares to stand for the French presidency.
And it's not really that much of a surprise that is is brewing again. Well, I say 'again' - I mean 'still'. Nothing has changed, despite all the hand-wringing a year ago. This is a massively disenfranchised section of French society. When people feel they have no voice - and it's easily understood in this case - many feel they have no recourse but to take to the streets. It couldn't happen at a worse time for Sarkozy. Which is good. Because he's an idiot.

Literally

A chap on the radio this morning was lamenting the plight of farmers yet to receive their subsidy and bemoaning the government's big cock up over this. Apparently, the government have "literally made a pig's ear" out of subsidy payments which has left farmers "literally tearing their hair out".
Both clever tricks, I'm sure you'll agree. Somehow I doubt he meant it "literally".

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Terror controls may get tougher

Maintaining the climate of fear (are you scared? Me neither) is important to this government. Today's initiative is to toughen existing measures which currently see suspects restricted in their movements - effective house arrest in extreme cases. I don't like these measures. If there's enough evidence to detain someone, then do it. Restricting a person's movement for over 6 months because they might have had an intention of doing something in the future can't be sensible. You're labelling someone a terrorist while never having the evidence to do so or putting them on trial to prove it.
Anyway, these control orders are about to get tougher because the authorities can't police them. This is not a good reason. If you can't police a law, it is bad legislation.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The worst song ever written is...

Where Do You Go To My Lovely by Peter Sarstedt.
I think it's the "and then you laugh. Ha ha ha ha" bit that seals the deal for me, but that is the single worst ever record to be unleashed on the public of all time.

Train overcrowding

My daily journey to and from work involves the wonderful First Transpennine Express trains. These are always full to the point of busting and today was no exception. This is not normally too much of an issue. After 2 years, I'm used to it. However, today one chap seemed to suffer some sort of seizure en route to Leeds. It took an unreasonable amount of time to find the conductor, the emergency stop switch, the intercom to speak to the driver... anything that may have been of help really. And all of this could have been avoided and help got to the bloke quicker had the aisles not been completely full of people. Demand massively outstrips supply and we commuters just take it.
Does someone have to die before anything is done? Suffice to say I'll be writing to the operators with my concerns and copy the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive in. Not that I think it'll help.

Ruth Kelly

Ruth Kelly is the minister responsible for equality. This has already raised questions from other parties as to her suitability, what with her long track record of letting her religious beliefs get in the way of policy in this area.
The latest row brewing is her apparent blocking of new rights for homosexuals. Well, I say 'new' rights, but it's more extending what everyone else has to incorporate a previously excluded section of society and a bloody long time overdue. Her beliefs make it impossible for her to have anything to do with making society more inclusive.
Government is happy to make a stand against religious extremism in Iran and to commit troops to supress it in Afghanistan, but when there's a minister with extreme religious beliefs that hinder her doing her job in the Cabinet, it's quietly ignored.
Today she is telling everyone that the battle against extremism should be undertaken by all communities, not just Muslims. She seems to forget that it isn't just Muslims that can hold extreme views when it comes to religion. She herself does, for example.

She cannot do the job for which she is very well paid. So get rid.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Blunkett in irony corner

Pity poor David Blunkett. His recently released diaries are making their way into the media with the Guardian and the Daily Mail publishing extracts and Radio 4 getting the man himself to read some on air. And so it came to pass that the latter was trailed on this morning's Today programme on that august station. He railed against the media intrusion into his life - the very media he's now exploiting for as much money as he can get his grubby mitts on - saying "I was under 24 hour surveillance". I don't think he thinks that is a good thing, which is odd as legislation he pushed during his time in office is attempting to subject the general populous to exactly that.
I'm not a fan of berating politicians for non-political reasons except where it exposes rank hypocrisy. However, on occasion I think anything is fair game when it comes to getting an odious scrote like Blunkett out.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tax. Again

Business leaders reckon that high UK corporation taxes force companies abroad. Bollocks. Greed does.
Pay what you owe and stop chelping.

I'm a bad man who is probably going to hell

Listening to the radio this morning, a discussion about prison overcrowding and the locking up of the mentally ill was aired. It's a serious problem. Those with mental disorders are routinely kept in isolation in mainstream prisons which doesn't help anyone. The particular case in discussion was with the mother of a young man who committed suicide in a mainstream prison whilst in isolation, despite being on suicide watch. In fact, he was in prison as a result of attempting suicide by shooting himself with an air pistol and was, quite bizarrely on the face of it, sentenced to 5 years in stir. A tragic case, but not - I would suggest - atypical.
But I let myself down. The mother said that the young man had "committed suicide in Strangeways". And I laughed. I'm very sorry.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The curse of the six-footer

I'm fed up of being classed in the bracket of the inherently clumsy because of my height. Peter Crouch, rather tall England striker, and Jan Koller, equally tall Czech striker, are always referred to as 'having a good touch for a big man'. Why? If you are over six feet tall are you not allowed a good touch? Is there the equivalent for footballers under 5'5" to say 'he's got a terrible touch for a wee feller'? No there isn't. It's heightist.
My other half was watching the BBC dance show thing, Celebrity Come Dancing or whatever it's bleedin' name is, t'other day and Peter Schmeichel, erstwhile Manchester United and Denmark goalkeeper was on. Apparently, his footwork was 'impeccable for such a big man'. Would there even have been comments had he been under six feet tall? Probably not.
Why are we not allowed to be graceful, balletic or even poised? What is it about the six feet mark that renders us incapable of putting one foot in front of the other? I'm almost coming to expect spontaneous rounds of applause every time I'm seen walking down the street successfully.

Know what I'm saying?

Sparked by a recent flurry of letters to the Guardian, I'm prompted to bemoan people who can't get common sayings right. The examples in the Guardian include changing 'off his own bat' to 'off his own back', which becomes nonsensical. Ones that particularly grate with me are 'chomping at the bit' instead of 'champing' and saying 'disect' when 'bisect' is the intended meaning (that kick downfield really didn't disect the winger and full-back now did it).
I've heard the November 5 festivities referred to on more than one occasion as 'bomb fire night', a tale of complete nonsense called a 'cotton wool story' and the once-popular pastime of 'pigeon toss'.
It also extends, in the written word, to confusion between quite dissimilar words. I've seen confusion between 'seen' and 'seeing', 'been' and 'being' and even more bizarrely 'as' and 'has'.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bomb factory found, but shhhh....

You would think that the discovery of one of your actual bomb factories - as opposed to a random house in London - would be big news. And yet it's only regional publications, the Burnley Citizen and Pendle Today, that seem to be carrying the story. A Google search throws up no other links.
This is an actual find of some serious gear - rocket launchers, a nuclear biological suit, explosive components - rather than a massively over-manned raid based on single statement information which ends up with someone getting shot and the blame being put on some gloves. Interesting too to note that the arrests were made under the Explosive Substances Act 1883 rather than one of the raft of totalitarian measures under 2006 'anti-terrorism' legislation. It begs the question as to whether these new measures were actually required.
So why is it so quiet in the mainstream media about all this rather worrisome activity? A cynic (who sir, me sir?) might suggest that as the arrested men are not Muslims, it doesn't fit the general profile of what makes a news story with regard to bombs, bomb making equipment and an alleged plots to blow stuff up. If it's not that, then what? I wouldn't buy any argument that it's purely a regional story and only relevant to that corner of Lancashire. It's too big a find for that. The only reason that makes any sense is that there is no agenda against white skinned bombers.
The main chap involved stood as a BNP candidate at the last local elections, but is apparently now an ex-member. If his views were too extreme even for that bunch of fascist wankers, I dread to believe how far he and his accomplices were prepared to go.

There has been no bigger find of this sort in this country. The silence in the mainstream is deafening.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Meetings

If you're organising a meeting, please bear in mind the following:

- Have a point. And stick to it. If you do not have a point, do not organise a meeting.
- If you have a point, create an agenda. Stick to this agenda and something might get done.
- Don't organise a fucking meeeting at fucking lunchtime on a fucking Friday at 12 when anyone in their right mind wants a fucking beer.

Briton on death row

Imagine the scene. Cleared of murder by a criminal court in Pakistan, you are then convicted of the same offence by a religious court and sentenced to death. What's more, the government of the country you are from and a citizen of will do nothing to right the wrong.
At least it's consistent with the stance over the remaining UK residents held in Guantanamo, albeit not in a good way.

UPDATE 18/10/06: He's due to die on November 1.
UPDATE 19/10/06: If the Pakistani state do murder this chap, all is not lost. Prince Charles won't go for a visit!!!!!!! That'll show 'em. Bizarrely, it sort of worked though, as he's now been given a 2-month stay.

Waterproof plasters

OK, so water doesn't pass from one side to the other, but the raison d'etre for a plaster is that it sticks. Which they don't once introduced to the merest hint of water.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Buster Keaton

Just had a couple of days off with 'man flu' and that would normally mean utter boredom and trying in vain to find something to pass the time other than wade through Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis which is a tedious piece of literature.
So praise be to Sky Cinema which today ran a series of Buster Keaton films. Utterly magical. Absolute timeless classics, the lot of 'em.

UPDATE 8/10/06 - Yesterday there was more Keaton on Sky Cinema, including The Playhouse where, in a stunning dream sequence, Keaton plays 26 different characters. Incredible.

Britain's inaction on Guantanamo

Just say the word and get them out. Surely that's the only way to be consistent in describing Guantanamo as a shocking affront to democracy with your actions.

Your name's not down, you're not coming in

The US 'cannot allow' North Korea to have nuclear weapons. The US says the same about Iran. These nations are not allowed to join the club unlike America's buddies like the UK, France, India etc. To some degree, fair enough, but at the same time saying nothing about the military junta in Pakistan or the epually abhorrent Chinese government having nuclear capabilities is pure hypocrisy.
I do hope this isn't a portent for another Korean War, given the roaring success of the first one, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was a tactic the Republicans will use in the run-up to the next presidential election to reinforce the theory that the Democrats are weak in this area.

The BBC think we're attention deficient morons

Tonight I shall be mostly watching BBC2 for some quality new comedy. I will also be getting rather annoyed with the corporation. At the end of one show, they will put a promo on for the show which follows immediately after. After a trail for a different BBC show, the show they promo-ed seconds earlier will begin. Why? Only if you are a serious dope fiend or an American teenager could your attention span be so short as to require this. So pack it in, the BBC. You're better than this.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Running the car on veg oil

As eny fule kno, the diesel engine was originally designed to run on peanut oil rather than a fossil fuel derivative. I see no reason why I can't use veg oil (among other things) as fuel in the diesel we own. As I live within short range of at least half a dozen take-aways, I'm sure a steady supply of used oil can be obtained if not free then very cheaply.
I shall let you all know how I get on.

UPDATE 5/10/06 - £1300 to get the car converted. And it's not suitable for used food oil. I think this is going on the backburner for now. One day though....

Dear 'The Automatic': a letter

Dear The Automatic,

I have heard several of your records and find them largely to be on the pleasant side of average. However, that bloke you employ to screech alongside the melody is extremely irritating and causes me to switch off whilst breating you as a group for persisting with the notion that screeching in some way enhances the listening experience. It doesn't.
Continue if you must, but I - for one - shall ignore future releases and laugh as the rest of the populous realise that this is annoying and stop buying your music.

all the best
John

Tax back

Something I heard on the news the other day was that illegal workers in the UK cost us £3bn in lost taxes. That's a lot of money, but a mere drop in the ocean compared to the amount of tax being avoided by the wealthy and by corporations who hive off their earnings in overseas tax havens. Shell recently moved all their operations to the Netherlands to avoid paying UK taxes. I'd wager that their bill alone would more than cover that 'lost' to people coming here to do jobs no-one else wants to do for - in many cases - less than minimum wage.
But no government is going to shoot itself in the foot by going for the massive lost amounts to the Treasury from big business and wealthy individuals when it can go for an easy target.

A bizarre industry

There exists a whole industry out there committed to re-writing popular songs to fit in the names of products a company wishes to sell. Daydream Believer mangled to fit in the name of a lawn feed, and a whole raft of Halifax ads ("Be a high rate saver"? Not until you shut up mate) are prime among offenders.
I defy these people who butcher perfectly serviceable records to go home at night and look their loved ones in the eye.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

"Is a haircut ever worth £350?"

That was the headline in Saturday's Guardian Weekend section as journalist Alexis Petridis attempts to find out.
Simple answer Alexis: no.
My barber, ex-forces dontcha know - chops yer mop and gets you out of there in five minutes for £5. That's service if you ask me.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Impressionists

Saying "Hi, I'm [insert name of person you're attempting to mimic here]" at the start of the impression marks you out as a really bad impressionist. So maybe change careers eh?

BNP: "We're not racist"

According to today's Examiner - that's Huddersfield's local rag - the leader of the BNP group on Kirklees council - and I still say to those who voted for them "you bunch of fucking morons" - has defended the party on it's anti-racism credentials. Councillor David Exley said "I would defy anyone to come round and say to me you're a racist party". OK then David, here we go.
You are a racist party.
You have racist policies (such that they are policies at all).
You lie along racist lines in your electoral pamphlets to push your racist bollocks onto people.
You yourself are a racist, if only by association to the racist tossers you represent in chambers.


I've said it once on here and I'll say it again: the BNP are idiot scummers.

Prescott's apology

The Labour party conference closed yesterday and one of the 'highlights' was John Prescott's speech in which he apologised for letting his wife down, himself down and the party down over the last year.
Just last year John?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cashpoint flashpoint

People of Britain; heed my call. Here follows a simple list of instructions for the use of a cashpoint, or ATM if you will.

  1. Approach cashpoint, withdrawing card on approach
  2. Introduce card to slot
  3. Having many months previously committed PIN number to memory, enter PIN
  4. Withdraw as much cash as you like WITHOUT getting a receipt
  5. Retrieve notes
  6. Leave
So very simple a procedure.
Here, by way of contrast, are several do-nots, particularly pertinent during the archetypal office lunch hour:

  1. Wait in queue
  2. When at front of queue, proceed to rummage in Pandora's Handbag for the appropriate card
  3. On locating card, return to Pandora's Handbag for the slip of paper with the relevant PIN written on it
  4. Enter PIN
  5. Realise it was the wrong slip of paper
  6. Enter PIN
  7. Realise it's the same PIN as previously and rummage once again in Pandora's Handbag for the correct slip of paper with a 4-digit number written on it
  8. Repeat as necessary until PIN accepted
  9. Check balance
  10. Get a receipt for checking the balance
  11. Repeat steps 3-9
  12. Extract smallest currency machine able to dispense
  13. Get receipt
  14. Check receipt
  15. Return all the paraphernalia required to perform previous steps to Pandora's Handbag
  16. Check you've not left card/receipt/medication/shoes in/on machine
  17. Leave

I'm all for new ATM protocols. Between the hours of 11:30am and 1:30pm in city centres, no receipts should be allowed to be printed, one PIN failure and your card gets swallowed, anyone wanting anything other than cash gets an electric shock of no less than 50,000V.

Citizenship

Apparently, according to today's news, Britain's pupils are being failed. This would be serious stuff. I would assume that the decline in science and engineering graduates would be where this was pointing to, but no. It's about 'citizenship'.
I don't know much about this 'citizenship' lark. Sounds like a pile of unmitigated rubbish to me. Anyway, I solicited the opinion of a teacher who has taught this on occasion to help me grasp the thinking behind it. She says:
"The thinking is woolly, the subject of a knee-jerk, Blair-inspired crock of shit expecting teachers to make students better human beings by teaching self-obsessed, immature kids about ethics and community. It's bollocks [because] the only lessons they are emotionally able to cope with are the ones on animal welfare (animals are good, anyone who hurts them is bad) and children's rights."
This isn't a scientific survey by any stretch of the imagination, but I can understand why only a minority of schools teach the subject "with enthusiasm".
I'm not enthused by the push to train 1200 new citizenship teachers that the DfES has given itself 2 years to achieve. Are these people teachers who are being diverted from other subjects, is it a special recruitment programme or is just an aim they've set themselves? My correspondent continues:
"There aren't enough to teach it already. So schmucks like me have to teach it. It doesn't surprise me though. Ethics are creeping into every subject. Even science. No more teaching of facts, now it's all geared to 'imagine you've been told your unborn child has a genetic disorder, what would you do?' And only a handful of kids are able to see the shades of grey and not the black/white version. Not that I'm against encouraging them to think."

The aims as it says in that BBC article are noble. Re-enfranchising a generation in the political process is a vaulable ideal, but I don't think it's up to our teachers to be doing it, especially given the factors pointed out by my correspondent. Political enfranchisement has to come from politicians (and I don't mean terrible photo-opportunities in urban areas or name-checking the Arctic Monkeys), the media and from parents. Trouble is, the generation of new parents are also of a politically unaware generation themselves - blame Thatcher, I do - which puts more emphasis on the politicians and media.

Saving humanity

Ken Livingstone seems to have assumed the mantle of Britain's Al Gore in terms of attempting to save the world from itself. Today's gripe is about air travel. Livingstone, on today's Today programme, accepted that Britain had met it's Kyoto targets for emission reduction, but the reduction has been more than taken up by the increase in air traffic. Which is a fair point. A popular idea, one which Livingstone among many others subscribes to, is to increase tax on air travel so that it properly reflects the true cost to the planet of a flight. Earlier in the year I took a trip to the south of France on a flight which cost me 5p. Five of your English pennies. That's ridiculous and I felt terribly guilty about it as I hit the 'buy now' button on the airline's website...
It's not just air travel though. I'm not 'anti-car', but I don't believe that the cost of running a car properly reflects the cost to the environment. Adding tax to bring that into line is a fine idea, but that would require there to be a viable integrated public transport system alternative. There is not as yet - very, very far from it as anyone who commutes any sort of distance by bus or rail will testify - so levying tax on the motorist right now would be nothing other than a shameless revenue gathering technique as opposed to a step towards extending the life of the planet.
Either way, it's high time the prevaricating around the bush stopped and steps were taken.