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.