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!

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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.