Monday, December 31, 2007

Fin d'année

Happy marking of arbitrary moment in time and a joyous enforced calendar change to you all.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

i i

Why oh why oh why the obsession with the letter 'i'? Any product with a vaguely technological advance included now requires the letter 'i' at the start of it. Apple, of course, started it - iMac, iPod, iTunes etc. BMW have the 'iDrive' system on some of their cars, the BBC launched the iPlayer recently and now Philips... Oh dear Philips, you crazy Dutch bastards. iShave? Ye gods.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The problem with English football...

...is that English people involved in football don't know anything about football. Alan Shearer has said today that Arsenal will not win the Premiership by playing pretty football (no link - it was in the radio). Rot. Utter rot.
What Shearer seems to think is that the only way to win is by sticking to the kick-and-rush principles that served England so well in their glorious Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. It may come as a surprise to Mr Shearer - a man who many seemingly reasonable people touted as a credible person to take over as England manager, lest we forget - that the teams that win international competitions are the teams that play football rather than hoof it up front to a lanky front man and trust to luck from there. While people with this attitude still have anything to do with the game in this country, England will continue to fail.

Post-christmas advertising

The first things advertised after christmas is generally aimed at the new year's resolutioneer market - the partwork magazine. The worst of this year's batch is 'build yourself a Flying Scotsman model'. Obviously, the first issue is dirt cheap, but there are a staggering 124 editions to follow the discounted opener at £6.95 a pop.
Does anybody buy these things? If so, at what stage of the construction of your Egyptian pyramids/full size replica monster truck/model of Bob Dylan's head do you think "fuck me this is turning out to be rather more expensive than I first anticipated" and jack it all in?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Introspection

Merry kwanza everyone. I hope all your Decemberval wishes came true and you're now the owner of some tasteful knitwear.
As is the style of the time, I normally have a bit of a look back on the year. The sporting year was summed up by glorious failure. Lewis Hamilton, the toffs rugby side, Ricky Hatton. And their achievements will always be defined thus and yet the successes will go unrecognised - Joe Calzaghe finally settling all doubts to his class, Victoria Pendleton winning everything possible on a bike (the British cycling team is really good y'know). The year kicked off with an utterly brilliant world darts final with Ray Barneveld beating Phil Taylor to become only the fourth man to win both versions of the world title (prize for getting the other three. Answer below). Sadder news was Dennis Priestley's cancer diagnosis and I, for one, wish him all the very best in his future battle. Erik Clarys, meanwhile, continues to struggle after shattering his right elbow in a domestic accident. That's a bit of an issue for a right handed darts player, but he's trying to make his way with his left hand. Bon chance.
Cricket schmicket. The World Cup was this year, even though it felt like it lasted for all of 2006. England lurched from disaster to disaster: 'Fredalo', injuries, poor form etc etc etc. But the whole year was overshadowed by Bob Woolmer's tragic death. That it's taken the best part of the rest of the year to decide it was natural causes only worsens the tragedy.
City failed to get back to the football league, but that's nothing compared to England fucking up. Croatia are above England in the FIFA rankings and yet the common consensus before that game among the idiots that are fans of the national side was that it was a done deal before a ball was kicked. Unlike Scotland, whose failure was truly glorious, England got everything they deserved. Those wins over France were something spectacular, but results against the lesser sides in the group did for them.
Blair left office. Hurrah! Well, that was the mood at the time, but now that the new guys have managed to bungle just about everything, we're almost wishing the war-mongering, lying, US arse-kisser was still in charge. Almost.
Menzies Campbell was well and truly shafted. The leader of the LibDems for 2008 is Nick Clegg and the regular runners and riders are preparing their campaigns for the next contest.
Capitalism didn't get the kicking it deserved following the sub-prime loan market collapse and the Northern Rock fiasco. Am I the idiot here for thinking this is a huge global scam or is everyone else blind? I suppose only time will tell, but that doesn't help those who are now homeless having had their houses repossessed.
But no story over the whole year has compared to the tale of John Darwin. He went out in a kayak five years ago and didn't come back. Or did he? There's a lesson to be learned from Darwin's tale and it is this: if you've faked your own death, you'll get away with it until such time as you hand yourself in at a London police station.
TV event of the year. Without shadow of any element of doubt. Blink. Perhaps the best episode of Doctor Who ever, which I realise is a big claim, but bloody hell it's stunning.
And for me? Someone tried to nick my car, but that's alright. I got a newer, better one for less money than the insurance paid out. Grandma died, which was and still is terribly sad, but Grandad's still doing admirably well. I'm sure he has his weepy moments - I know I do - but none of us wanted her to suffer and death is kind of an inevitability. It did make me re-evaluate things. And so I quit IT after years of pissing and moaning about it. It is, quite frankly, the best thing I have ever done. I love my new job. It doesn't feel like work, so I don't mind doing it. I worked yesterday and it wasn't even an issue for me. I'll be back working on Thursday too. I'm not in the pub every day in an effort to make it through the days and I'm not on the trains any more, which is the biggest relief of all really. And then there's York City. OK so I'm not being paid, but this job could go somewhere. Might not, but bugger it; it's fun, although I'm concerned I may be spreading myself a bit thin. This will become clear when the rugby season gets into full swing. It was a good year for rugby as well. Wembley was great, particularly Younes Khattabi's try - the first by a Muslim in a cup final, but not as great as the semi-final against Wigan. What a game. What a day. We saw the end of Stacey Jones' career and I met the great man and got to interview him, among others. Replacing Jones was always going to be difficult, but not the extreme it's reached now. Thomas Bosc will be handed both an enormous responsibility and a huge opportunity. I have faith in him. He'll do just fine.
We've scotched New Zealand talk for now. Going there as a skilled migrant would mean I'd have to do IT for three years and I'm not about to jack in something I love doing to take a step back simply for a change of country.
I feel great. I feel younger and less grey. I have never had job satisfaction before. I do now. It's brilliant.

Always finish on a song eh? David Ford. I'm Alright Now. Bonus point for spotting Huddersfield on the video. And do you know what? I am alright now.




That darts answer: Phil Taylor (1 BDO, 12 PDC titles), John Part (one of each), Dennis Priestley (one of each). Barneveld has 4 BDO titles and one PDC.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The public v People

The public are idiots. People, however... People are alright y'know.

Well they would say that pt. 2

The government say that the NHS can be trusted with huge amounts of data despite all evidence to the contrary. It was inevitable that the claim over this latest data loss fiasco would be "if we had it all in one place it wouldn't have happened", but I shan't be entrusting my data to them. You can opt out of having your medical records uploaded to this not-yet-finished system. Write to your GP to say that you do not consent to this and you will not be part of it.

Well they would say that pt. 1

Israeli prosecutors say the Israeli army were acting legally in deploying cluster bombs in Lebanon last year. I struggle to believe that cluster bombs are still legal in the 'laws of war' (laws of war itself being a bit of a strange concept). They are a completely indiscriminate weapon and the people of Lebanon are continuing to pay the price for Israel's bullying of their weak democracy.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A confession

I must confess. Not every christmas record fills me with pain, nausea and dread. There's one that's more than half decent (actually, two but I can't find a clip of David Ford's I'm Leaving You This Christmas). I give you The Pretenders:

Thought I'd got away with it

December the 22nd today and on leaving the house, still no winter festival decorations up. I get back from the football and the tree is up. I thought I'd got away with having none for a change. Dammit anyway.

Feeling left out

I'm a little upset and feeling a bit down because I feel on the outside of society. Am I the only person who hasn't launched a fragrance in time for christmas?

Man of the year

Time magazine have named their man of the year. It's not immediately obvious if they're taking the piss or not in nominating Vladimir Putin, but that's who it is.
My contacts have managed to find a crumpled up piece of paper in the Time bins with the following names on it, all crossed out.

  • Steve McClaren
  • Sir Ian Blair
  • The entire England cricket team
  • John Darwin
  • The board of Northern Rock
  • Joseph Kabila
  • David Irving
  • Robert Mugabe

The name Putin had a lot of big ticks next to it.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Another handy pronunciation guide

Lackadaisical. One S and definitely no X. Therefore pronouncing aforementioned word anything like 'lacksadaisical' is wrong.
When the good burghers of the BBC start making this simple error, you know we really are struggling to maintain standards.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dear Barry Hearn

I'm just watching some of the darts and have to wonder why the introduction of a couple of dolly birds to walk the players to the stage? It demeans us all. Stop it.

Another split party

Today's final discourse on split political parties, it's our old chums the BNP.
This set of despicable twats now can't even get on with each other, let alone the rest of society. Which is good news, as they're about to split the braindead morons they count on for support and erode any chance they have of organising themselves into anything more than a hateful mob once more as opposed to the ineffectual council representatives - tossers in suits, basically - they've been trying to be lately.
The far right tends to see support come in short, sharp bursts and this latest peak in support would appear to be close to an end now, allowing the grown-ups to talk about proper issues while they stew in their own hateful bile.

The 'other' leadership contest

While Britain was in a frenzy over who'd be leading the third party, South Africans were bracing themselves for a new leader of the ANC this week. Troubled leader Thabo Mbeki lost out to Jacob Zuma. This is worrying. Mbeki's leadership has had it's troubles recently, but nothing Zuma has said and done would appear to change anything.
Mbeki has been recalcitrant in accepting that AIDS is a problem. Zuma, meanwhile, convinced himself he had nothing to worry about after sleeping with a woman he knew to be HIV+ because he showered afterwards. That's hardly progressive.
And all the while thousands of people die every week of AIDS in Africa. This remains Africa's biggest challenge and while everyone looks to South Africa for leadership, the same old will continue to happen - nothing.

Not news

Of all the things that could have come out of the various interviews the new Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has done since winning the leadership contest, why is the focus on his non-belief in a god?
Why do we non-believers have to justify our non-belief? Surely it's up to fantasists to spell out why their version of reality is different to that experienced by everyone else rather than the other way round?
Besides, there are myriad things that matter more. Where are the LibDems going, for instance. Are they about to emerge from a trying period and finally kick on from where they were under Kennedy? After Vince Cable's sterling performance as stand-in leader, much will be expected of Clegg, and while he's a bit grey and anonymous, I'm quietly optimistic that they can finally begin to make a difference.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

That time of year again

A certain midwinter festival is fast creeping up on us once more. It doesn't feel to have begun yet as I've not heard that song this year to date - one benefit of working out of home/my car I suppose. In the absence of my own christmas song, I have been pointed instead in the direction of this as the pick of this year's christmas pops:

My idea

Having been out and about on the roads a lot lately, I have a proposal. Like Sweden, I believe that any car with it's engine running should have some lights on. On a day like today - freezing cold and foggy - it's amazing how many motorists think they don't need any lighting at all, making me think that people can't be trusted. Presumably, if they can see everyone around them, they must be OK.
But not just that. I think you'd have fewer accidents at slow speeds with people pulling out and suchlike. I think you'd have fewer accidents involving pedestrians if they were better able to see which cars were moving and which weren't. This is especially so at dawn and dusk - whenever the sun is low in the sky, basically.
I certainly think it's worth looking into. I'd write to my MP, Barry Sheerman, about it if I didn't think he still needed permission from Tony Blair to wipe his own arse.

Dear the news

The death of a passenger, who wasn't wearing a seatbelt, in a speeding car over ten years ago is not news. So stop it.
Think of the savings to worldwide forests if nobody gave the tupenny shit that this non-story isn't worth. The Mail and the Express would be forced to close, not only lessening the use of trees, but also reducing the amount of nonsense vitriol available to the general public.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Dear Virgin Media

Thanks a fricking bunch for not allowing me to watch the Mayweather-Hatton fight last night/this morning for no apparent reason. You make me long for the good old days of ntl customer "service", you odious set of wankers. Knowing this is likely to be a popular event, why were there no customer service operatives working a late shift? It's almost as if you don't want my money. I'm happy not to give it you though.
Fortunately, someone posted the footage from Mexican TV on YouTube, so I've seen the fight now. The conclusion is twofold: 1) Mayweather was too quick, too slick and too good for Hatton and 2) all sports commentary should be in Spanish.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Who knew?

Who knew work could actually be enjoyable and rewarding? Today, I received from a happy client a portion of freshly made lentil daal. Magnificent.

Think of a number

Another home secretary and a return to the debate over how long to hold suspects of certain offences without charge. Today's random number is 42. I'm beginning to think Johnny Ball is behind policy making on this issue - just Think Of A Number.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Michael McIntyre

There's a comedian who's getting more and more airtime on TV and radio by the name of Michael McIntyre. He's not funny. In fact, he's what Lee and Herring would describe as a lazy comedy slag, insofar as he peddles tired routines about how northerners are a bit slow compared to southerners. While peddling this centuries old material, he falls into the dual trap of thinking there's a single 'northern' accent and fails to grasp the complexities of the glottal stop.
I hope this foray into mainstream media ceases shortly before too much oxygen is wasted.


Meanwhile, in proper comedy news, Mark Watson and Stewart Lee are both playing Huddersfield in the near future and I'm rather looking forward to both.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ladies and gents

There is never any need to label the conveniences in bars, restaurants etc anything other than 'ladies' and 'gents'. Today, I had the choice of Knights and Dames, neither of which I am. It's not wacky and/or zany or even particularly original.
And when it is done, how come the disabled toilet is always left as 'disabled'? What's the matter - can't think of a suitably medieval/cowboy/gangster term for a wheelchair user? If not, then just don't bother at all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Demonstrate

Don't know about you, but I'm a busy chap these days. Therefore, I outsource all my demonstrating to McDemos. I urge you to do likewise.
Among my first protests will be urging an end to way too early christmas advertising, a plea to pursue BAe and Tony Blair through the courts. Sure I'll think up some more.

Out and about

Spent a couple of days in and around Hebden Bridge. Such a variety of fashions on show. The stetson seems to be 'in'. Facial hair, too, especially beards the size of rhodedendron bushes. 80s style leather jackets seem to be de rigeur, as do 18-hole Doc Martens. Sweat pants appear to be acceptable as well.

The blokes don't seem so fussy though.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bad brewing news

We're all supposed to be worried about the drop in beer sales, but I'm not going to. I'm going to celebrate. The only people actually whinging about it are the producers of mass-market slop - Carling, Carlsberg, Fosters, Stella. Muck, the lot of it. Microbreweries are enjoying record sales. People aren't switching off beer. They're switching to decent beer and that, friends, is reason to celebrate.
In fact, I'd drink to it. If I had any beer in the house...

Very odd

Today I did something very unusual. Despite nobody asking me to, nor there being any particular need for me to do so, I went and did some work today. I guess that means it's going OK. Also, it's been nearly two weeks since I had a beer - no conscious effort involved, life's just panned out that way. Perhaps those two facts are related; I dunno.

Anyway, listening to Jerry Chicken's first podcast as I did my rounds got me thinking about all sorts of stuff. For one, I think that as my bio-degradable coffin is lowered into the earth, I'd quite like the York Salvation Army brass band to play Abide With Me. Actually, that's a bit mawkish. Play Chan Chan by the Buena Vista Social Club would do just as well. For another - Gary is wrong. It's not Bruce Springsteen's soundtrack for Philadelphia that best matches the film. The Italian Job. There's one.

Time for a musical interlude:


Friday, November 23, 2007

Ship hits ice in Antarctica

A ship. Has hit ice. In Antarctica. Ice. In Antarctica. Don't know about you, but if I was looking for ice - and plenty of it - Antarctica would be one place I'd consider starting.
As headlines go, it's not one that really causes a huge surprise. What next - bicycle spotted in Beijing?

Sat nav II

I now have a sat nav unit. I got it from work to help me find my way round unfamiliar housing estates in unfamiliar towns. Except it doesn't. Twice yesterday the postcode didn't match the street, but you try talking to the woman inside the machine. She won't listen. And as there's a slight delay on satellite tracking, it often thinks you're still on one road when you're not or vice versa.
I had a bit of a falling out with it yesterday after it told me to turn right after I'd gone past the right turn it wanted me to take. We made up in the end though.
My other half has threatened to make it talk in a Hull accent for me as some sort of sick and twisted Christmas present ("Tairn raaart"). If I'm ever to stop pissing it off by ignoring the instructions, the only voice that will work is the HAL computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey. "Why didn't you turn right Dave?". "I'm sorry Dave. I can't let you take the ring road instead of going through the industrial estate".

Either way, I shan't be throwing away my maps any time soon.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dear The Government...

In your TV advert for student grants, you claim that "there has never been more people eligible for grants than there are today". This is patently bollocks. There was a time when university was free. What you probably meant was that there has never been more people eligible for grants now than in any point in the last ten years. This is very different.
Time was we all got grants. University was for the many, not just the adequately wealthy. Odd that a Labour government has done so much to undermine the previous situation. It's almost as if the party abandoned it's roots, abandoned it's principles and abandoned the needy in a shameful pursuit of power. Funny that, don't you think?

Yours etc
John

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I wonder...

I wonder... how much that crappy Post Office advert featuring Westlife cost to make.
I wonder... how much that crappy Post Office advert featuring Bill Oddie cost to make.
I wonder... how the Post Office explained the cost to the regulator in light of the fact that Post Offices up and down the land are under threat of closure.
I wonder... who thought this series of adverts were any good and decided to run with them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A ranter's ranter

I saw this on YouTube ages ago, but on hearing it in a pub in York recently, it's come back into my consciousness.



I could add a million 'thou shalt nots' myself. Thou shalt not work for a company which falsifies it's accounts in an Enron style, for instance.
I'm also quite taken with Beat That My Heart Skipped and Letter From God, but I shall remember that Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip are... just a band.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The other job

As well as the eaga thing, I'm working for York City writing previews and reports - like this - for first team games. It doesn't pay - City still don't have the proverbial pot in which to micturate - but it's expanding my repertoire into football as well as rugby.
The crueller element of my family and acquaintances have suggested that it's not going to be a huge amount of fun and so far they've largely been right, but when Bootham Crescent looks this good on a late autumn/early winter evening, they are so, so wrong.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dear Argos...

It is not beginning to look a lot like Christmas. It is very much looking like the middle of November.



cheers
John

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Keen and eaga

So, this new job then... I now work for eaga. Back in the day it stood for something (energy something grant agency or similar) but now it's just a word. More specifically, I'm working on the Warm Front side of things. The Warm Front grant, administered by DEFRA, gives people on qualifying benefits a grant of up to £2700 to heat and/or insulate their homes, removing people from fuel poverty and saving money on energy bills. A properly insulated home requires less energy to adequately heat it as well, so it helps reduce the environmental impact of the home. When people apply for the grant, they need an assessment done on their home in order to determine what we can offer them under the terms of the grant depending on the current state of the house and that's where I and about 350 other people come in. It's our job to visit these people and conduct a survey on the home to assess it's current rating and see what we can do to improve it.
So it's all warm and fluffy and very socially responsible. The last two weeks have been spent training up near Sunderland which has largely been fun. There were about 30 of us and it was a real good group of people, all of whom I got on with. Monday and Tuesday I'll be out with an assessor and learning more about how to do the job that way before being let loose on my own. Today will require me to get organised, by which I mean prepare an environment at home in which I can work comfortably. That could be the hardest task of all. It's amazing how much stuff has stuck. When I pulled up at home after the first week, I could tell that there is a cavity in our walls and that it's been filled, but my neighbours on either side have not. And I know they qualify for a grant. As do my parents. And that's the way I'm looking at it - I don't want my neighbours and parents to spend money unnecessarily or to be cold, and neither do I want other people's nearest and dearest to struggle the same way.

Warm Front has attracted a bit of bad publicity lately. The qualification rules are a bit odd and some questions were raised on that on the training, but we can only work to the rules DEFRA give us. These things are constantly reviewed and I'm sure this will be no different. Either way, I'm keen to get started properly and I hope that my first impressions that this will be a rewarding job that I can really enjoy are born out. So far so good anyway.

New ways to annoy

Back in the day, I created the aphonetic alphabet. This week, whilst stuck in an hotel in Sunderland (more of which later) I and two of my new colleagues came up with a new way to annoy telephone operators.

A is for ABC
B is for BBC
C is for CNN
D is for DEA
E is for ECB
F is for FSA
G is for GDP
H is for HBO
I is for ITV
J is for JIC
K is for KLF
L is for LBA
M is for MMR
N is for NWA
O is for OCD
P is for PLO
Q is for QED
R is for RAC
S is for STI
T is for TNT
U is for UDA
V is for VCR
W is for WWF
X is for XFM
Y is for YTV
Z is for ZDF

I'm so helpful.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Strictly Come Dancing

Please, please, please make it stop. I know it makes the BBC a lot of money from phone calls, but oh the horror!

Deals on wheels

Another new car - to me at least. The new job necessitated me getting myself some transport for business use, so I've gone for a Peugeot 306 turbo diesel. The fact it's a Peugeot makes it as good an excuse as I can think of to bring the following film to your attention - possibly the best bit of driving footage around. Ari Vatanen, a Peugeot 405 and the Pikes Peak hillclimb course back in 1988. Not that my humble tractor-engined hatchback is in the same league, or that I'm going to fling it round corners hanging off the edge of a massive cliff with only one hand on the wheel, but it should do just fine for me.

It begins

The christmas adverts have begun.... Ye Gods.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Like London buses...

Still out of work, but I'm off for an interview on Monday. And on Tuesday, I'll be off to see the lovely folks at York City regarding their vacancy for a matchday reporter. That doesn't pay, unfortunately, but could be amusing. We'll see what happens...

Happy birthday

Just thought I'd point out that today is John Cleese's birthday. He's 68. That's two years older than Menzies Campbell. I trust Cleese will suffer even more derision in the papers for daring to have lived for so long.

Yes I'm still annoyed.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Paul Fox

The Ruts are one of my favourite bands. Malcolm Owen, lead singer, died back in 1980 a mere three years after they hit the big time. Latterly, guitarist Paul Fox put a band together and last Christmas I went to see them at Bradford on Bad Manners' tour. Now Fox has died as well. Little did we know last Christmas that he was suffering from lung cancer. Bloody shame that. He was a charismatic performer, inspired song writer. Still, it's an excuse for a video.



Cheers Paul.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This is what my car feels like

Honda are renowned for their innovative adverts and, to be fair, that's not usually far from the mark. However, the series of 'choir' adverts is deeply, deeply irritating. Also, it's ripe for a send-up. Which is funny, because someone else thought so too.

Ratatouille

There's a film out at the moment called Ratatouille. I know this as I've just seen it advertised on TV. There's a pronunciation guide on there. How patronising is that?

You get what you want

With further regard to Ming's resignation...
A common complaint one hears regarding politics and politicians is that they're all the same. Well, you can't look old - that's been made clear over the last day and a bit. You can't look too young, as William Hague proved. You can't be too fat, too tall, too short, too strong or weak a personality. In short, all politicians are becoming a homogenised blend of one another as they are fashioned into shape not by personal experience, but by an image consultant.
One shouldn't be surprised by this. A trip down any high street in the country will give strong testament to the will of the people of this nation and they all appear to want the same things.

So well done the British public. You'll get your will and we'll all just deal in slightly different shades of grey from now on.

Menzies walks the plank

You've got to love the LibDems, but the resignation of their last two leaders says a lot more about how politics works than serious failings on the part of the party.
Charles Kennedy. A charismatic leader who actually looked electable, forced out after admitting a drink problem. Even if he'd got over the problem, he'd always be tarnished by the image and any time he got up to speak in the Commons would be subjected to childish jeering and, I imagine, lots of seemingly grown men making the drinky-drinky motion.
And, yesterday, Menzies Campbell. A hugely accomplished politician and parliamentarian, he's essentially been forced out because he looks old. He's the same age as Paul McCartney. The important bit should be the 'hugely accomplished politician and parliamentarian' bit rather than the 'he looks old' bit, but that's how it works, sadly.
The party is now after their third leader in the space of 18 months. Lembit Opik is seen as too much of a figure of fun, Mark Oaten and Simon Hughes won't get anywhere after the revelations that emerged after the last leadership race, which leaves Nick Clegg and Vince Cable. Either will do. Both are perfectly suitable for the role, although past history suggests that some skeleton or other will emerge from a closet somewhere and scupper the whole thing. Again.

Monday, October 15, 2007

An important difference

Year. Unit of time equal to the time taken by the earth to complete one orbit of the sun.

Light year. Unit of distance equal to the distance travelled by a photon of light in one of our Earth years.

So one is a unit of time and the other is a unit of distance and if you refer to a light year when attempting to describe a eon or other arbitrary unit of time, I will assume you're an idiot.

Fact of life

A gorilla, or any primate, monkey or ape, drumming will not make me want to buy Cadbury's sickly, horrid, not-particularly-chocolatey chocolate.

A Phil Collins record will not make me want to buy Cadbury's sickly, horrid &c &c.

A gorilla, or any primate etc, drumming along to a Phil Collins record will not make me want to buy Dairy fucking Milk.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Spam merchants

I have an e-mail account which up until a few days ago was completely spam-free. Then I applied for a job through Jobserve and it's now riddled with mails encouraging me to buy cheap pharmaceuticals, enhance my manhood and hand over all my bank details to some relative of a former African dictator.
So if you don't want a huge stack of spam, don't use Jobserve.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

All change

A bit of spring cleaning over the last few days and it's out with the old and in with the new.
Some scrote tried nicking my car. Why anyone would want it is still a mystery. Anyway, they did enough damage in their bungled robbery attempt for my insurers to write it off. So we've got a new motor. Nowt flash. Still a Skoda.
And I jacked my job in yesterday. So I still get paid for the next three months but don't have to go in. Bloody marvellous. Lots to do in the meantime though, not least look for another job. Still, no rush eh?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

What not to do...

So you're on a bus. You get off by the usual tube station, but.. oh no! It's closed.
What to do?
Well you could turn heel and try to get back on the bus and go to a different tube stop and head to work that way.
But don't!
Because doing that is punishable by death.

Anti-surveillance tactics? If the job was being done properly from the outset, it wouldn't even have been an issue.
The number of times I've left home without something - normally my phone or something to post - and turned on the spot to go back and get it. Could that be construed as an anti-surveillance tactic? Thought not. But then I'm not swarthy. And we don't have the Met patrolling our streets.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Fact of life

There are now officially too many TV channels. Today's launch of Virgin 1 and DivaTV (saw an advert for it yesterday - I don't go seeking these things out, honest) do nothing to relieve the situation.
I reckon I could make do with about a dozen of the many we have at the moment and not notice the others weren't there. Sometimes there is such a thing as too much choice.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The feeling's mutual: part 3

The global markets remain in turmoil and Alan Greenspan, former head of the US federal reserve, is OK with it. The reason: only rich people invested in these murky markets.
No matter that these murky markets were built on exploiting the poorest in society. As long as the already wealthy were putting their own money in, then it must obviously follow that everything's kosher. My arse it is. The rich get richer on the back of the poor, but that's fine as long as the wheels of economics keep turning. No matter that the entire principle of the sub-prime market was selling loans that the borrower had little to no chance of paying long-term. As long as the rich say it's OK, everyone's OK.
At least we know now.

New experiences

It's not often you get to experience a completely new thing once you're of an age, but yesterday I did.
I saw York City win a televised match.
Bloody marvellous.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Colin McRae

Something else that happened while I was away was the tragic death of 1995 World Rally champion Colin McRae in a helicopter crash. Even more tragic was that his young son was killed alongside him.
McRae is known to millions - possibly billions - through the successful computer game franchise, but to remember him only for that would be misguided. The man was a great driver. Suffice to say that were it not for him, Subaru would not enjoy the global sales success they enjoy now.

The below clip just about sums him up. The car is never out of control and is always set up not just for the corner he's attacking, but also the one after. Until it goes a bit wrong as he chases that tiny bit extra that turns nearly men into champions. And even then he almost drags a distinctly second-hand motor to within a whisker of a win. It's his career in a microcosm.



Thanks for the memories Colin.

5 things... that Iran doesn't have as well as gays

Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Crazy name, crazy guy. He told Columbia University that there are no homosexuals in Iran. It's pretty difficult to imagine he's right, given there are over 70 million people in the country.
Here are five things he could also have claimed Iran does not have.

5. Children
4. Women
3. Men
2. Insects
1. Bonkers presidents

The Catholic church want to kill Africans

That's the only conclusion I can draw from Archbishop Francisco Chimoio's latest bizarre rant. The trouble really comes from the fact that, having been prominent in brokering an end to the civil war in Mozambique 15 years ago, Chimoio is still a highly regarded figure.
One in six people in the country are HIV+. There are around 500 new cases every day. And the story is much the same across the continent. Crackpot theories like this, the South African health minister recommending garlic and beetroot as a cure, Jacob Zuma saying that he showered after sex so was therefore OK and the Gambian president's amazing green herbal potion are all undermining the efforts of experts in the field attempting to stem the tide. I struggle to understand why people would not only not help their fellow man, but go out of their way to cause more harm.

CBS part 2

Another new motivational poster up today. Apparently, "11 out of 15 of the top US banks can't be wrong".
I disagree. The US economy is on the brink of recession. The dollar is at it's weakest point in living memory and the sub-prime mortgage crisis threatens to bring down not just the USA, but the world economy.
So I put it to you that all US banks can indeed be wrong and wrong on a grand scale.

Refreshing

Possibly not something Villa fans wanted to hear, but for everyone else, Curtis Davies' admission that he wasn't very good last night comes as something of a surprise. Not for him blaming the turf, his boots, the lights or any other of a whole range of potential excuses for being beaten by a lower-division side.
So well done Curtis for calling it as you see it. You won't go far in punditry when your career's done, but well done anyway

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

CBS

I'm not sure if it's an official term, but CBS is the abbreviation I and some of my fellow drones have used for a number of years to define Corporate Bullshit.
Today, we have a new example. Hoisted in our office are a number of pictures with some thoroughly inspiring (no, really) messages about how great the company is. It's one small step from singing the company song every morning. I'm so motivated it's untrue.

Open can of worms

When Russia claimed land beneath the North Pole as their own, there was an understandable global concern. The claim was that the land is an extension of the above-sea-level land mass and therefore Russian 'soil'.
Naturally, this is all about gas, oil and mineral rights. As resources dwindle and population grows, there'll be ever-increasing competition. Moreover, as polar ice melts and ever more turbulent whether threatens to permanently flood some of the densest populous regions - think Bangladesh, for instance - the level of competition ramps up. And as we've already had dire warnings regarding the politics of mass migration from flooded areas, you can add another factor of n to that when it comes to supplying everyone with fuel.

Previously, a nation had rights over an area 200 nautical miles from it's coast. Obviously there are instances where these 200 mile limits overlap and that's where diplomacy comes in, but we'll put that to one side now. In an effort to keep Russia sweet, the UN upped that to 350 nautical miles provided the state in question can show the land is in some way attached to the mainland in the way Russia did. The USA, Denmark (through Greenland) and Canada are all following Russia's lead in attempting to claim parts of the previously unownable Arctic.
Slightly more worryingly is the position of Britain and France. The French territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific borders dozens of small island nations. France seem keen to push their boundaries as far as possible and throw their weight around in order to get it. Nations like Vanuatu do not seem to have a chance.
Britain has three areas under discussion. Ascension lies 1,000 miles from the African coast. The tiny island of Rockall - basically a bit of granite in the North Atlantic - will cause consternation between Britain, Ireland and Iceland, as the new limits on what can be claimed extends well into existing claimed waters. And then there's the Falklands. Remember them? A pointless pair of rocks 300 miles off Argentina. Home to a few farmers and a lot of penguins. Well it's set to become a major battle-ground again. One hopes not the extent of 1982. While Ireland may be willing to compromise regarding Rockall, it's difficult to see Argentina giving up regarding the Falklands. While the hateful junta of the 80s is no longer in power - probably the major benefit of the war - the 1995 agreement to share oil found in adjacent waters was scrapped at Argentina's behest.
The UN have set a worrying precedent in appeasing Russia. The can is open. How far the worms spread is yet to be seen.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The feeling's mutual: slight return

Banks welcome changes to system, says the BBC. Alistair Darling has announced plans to protect the first £100,000 of savers' money in the event of a collapse of Northern Rock stylings. No wonder the banks are pleased. Now they can continue being irresponsible with other people's money in the knowledge that there'll be little outcry from the proles who lodge their savings with them. Trebles all round.

Something happening in France

Apparently there's some kick and clappery occurring in France this month. In homage to the boredom, you can buy the t-shirt visible here. Click on the image to be taken to the shop.
There'll be others when I get round to it as well.

Face it, it's a silly game. Moreover, it stands for everything bad. There was a great piece in the Independent recently, outlining the iniquities of the game. I'd link to it, but the Independent website isn't playing ball. (edit: oh wait. It is now) Essentially, it was a precis of Mike Rylance's excellent 'The Forbidden Game'. And that's just the game in France - nothing about the banning of people from various premises for having the temerity to try a different sport. France, though, was and remains a very good microcosm of the game at large.


It's not just rugby union that's raising my ire. More empty seats in stadia. Ticket prices higher than ever. The gap in wages between the people on the field and those wishing to pay their way in to watch grows ever larger. Football will eat itself.

The feeling's mutual

Seems that while I was away the ongoing global financial crisis finally landed in Britain. Northern Rock. So what happened?
From a purely British perspective, Northern Rock were no longer able to borrow money from elsewhere to keep their commitments up. Panic ensues - a very British type of panic, that is, which involves a lot of orderly queuing - and every man and his dog tries to withdraw their savings at the same time. Obviously this would only exacerbate the situation as the bank would need to borrow more in order to pay people their own money. Naturally, Northern Rock chiefs plead with customers to leave their money where it is, but nobody wants to be among the last few punters who are left high and dry.
Not that Northern Rock are the only ones in trouble. Alliance and Leicester and Bradford and Bingley have also been bailed out by the Bank of England in order to keep themselves. The three troubled institutions have something in common. All are former mutuals who went chasing easy money by converting to plc status and dumping the building society ethos and becoming a bank. People are idiots and can't see the long term view when some hard cash is waved in front of them, which is what happens when a mutual converts to a bank. Essentially, if you have an account with a mutual, that's your share in the company. Float on the stock exchange and those holdings are converted to shares which you sell at your whim to make a wee bit of cash. Whoopee. If folk go chasing short term gain to the detriment of future security, then more fool them. They've fallen for the capitalism con and if you live by the sword, then you die by it too.

But. There's always a but. This whole thing isn't just the fault of carpetbaggers (people who set up accounts in soon-to-be-demutualised societies for profit). For the root cause, we must cast a gaze over the Atlantic. Ever heard of sub-prime loans? Neither had most of us outside the City until recently. Now, this is tricky, so I must consult elsewhere to precis the information. It stems from predatory lenders fishing for borrowers at the bottom of the market who can't really afford to borrow in the first place. This is a fundamental of the issue. Can you see a flaw? Big commissions, fat fees and tempting interest rates all cloud rational judgment. As long as borrowers owned their homes, they were fair game. The lenders then look to unload the risk to bigger banks or by selling the loans. Or - and this is where it descends into economic theory and paper-shuffling - you get the big institutions - Wall Street, the City - to package this up in an attractive looking bundle that investors will see only the returns and not the risks. One question could have brought the whole thing down - what if the borrowers at the bottom can't pay? And, inevitably, there came a point not long ago that the borrowers couldn't and the whole thing came tumbling down. And again, it's the people at the bottom that suffer. If you're suffering as a result of all this, you will no doubt be happy to see the commissions and bonuses being spent on massive yachts, flash motors etc etc while the bailiffs come round to turf you out of your house. There'll be no comeback on the conners. Only the connees.

Another example of the capitalist con is in the Channel Islands. Jersey has made itself quite a handy living attracting corporations there to take advantage of the zero corporation tax. However, this has left a hole in the protectorate's finances. Who could possibly have seen that coming? These corporations make billions, so who is it that the governors are seeking to sting in order to plug the gap? Anyone who wants to buy stuff. Levying a 3% goods and services tax (GST) on everything is the solution and, naturally, the peasants are revolting. That's still quite low compared to 17.5% VAT on the mainland, but wages are pegged in accordance to the cost of living and now the cost of living goes up without commensurate wage rises. The less able are being forced to cough up where the abundantly able pay nothing to the upkeep of Jersey because it would 'harm their competitive position'. Utter nonsense.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Je retour

A week in France. Marvellous. As I sit on the sofa and peer out of the window upon another grey, windy, rainy September morning in West Yorkshire, I wonder why I came back.
The first couple of days, we spent in a tiny place called St Pierre de Champs. It's in the middle of nowhere, which is handily placed in the Aude wine region. We stayed in an old chateau. With just four suites, it was never going to be too busy.

And so it proved. Fresh food, straight off the surrounding farms and fresh wines, straight off the local vineyards. Splendid stuff. There was a pool as well, which came in handy as temperatures soared.
We were there for two nights and it was a different bunch of fellow guests each night. Both nights, we were the only ones who spoke much English - any, really. This had a twofold benefit. We got some much needed practice with our French and when the Most Boring Frenchman Ever wouldn't shut up about bloody bull-fighting, we could surreptitiously take the piss.
We took a walk the 6km to Lagrasse - yes, I do walk places - which apparently features in some Dan Brown-type novel. We didn't know this, but put two-and-two together when the whole place was full of English tourists banging on about it. That said, it's easy to see why one would coo, as it's a lovely wee town and the abbey is quite stunning.

From St Pierre, it was off to Perpignan in order to catch the last game of the season. The hotel (Mondial, if you're interested) wasn't so nice. Exceptionally uncomfortable, truth be told. Perpignan is, however, home to the greatest hat shop in the world.

We flew into Carcassonne and were due to fly back from the same place, so we headed north, via a few Rugby League hotspots, for a day there before the stupidly early departure. And by eck it's stunning. The old city is another which has had films and books set there and, again, it's easy to see why.

Sadly, like that other walled city that's close to my heart - York, it's full of shops selling pointless touristy tat. On looking for a bar, we settled for a place by the station. It was all very pleasant, but was home to a toilet which resembled that one in Trainspotting. Be warned.
We stayed the night in the cheapest place we could find near the airport. It was basically a cube. We'd gone from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous in seven days.
And so back home to plan the next trip. I'm thinking Paris for a pre-season friendly at Stade Charlety, but another trip south will depend on the fixture list as I'd like to combine a Dragons game with an AS Carcassonne game in the French domestic league. I'd best get saving.

Of course, it wasn't just pleasure. There was some rugby involved as well.

Monday, September 10, 2007

How much quicker is possible?

Asafa Powell can run very fast. He's shaved three one-hundredths of a second off his own 100m world record with a time of 9.74 seconds. That's quite a leap in the context of the record. It gets me wondering though. How much faster is it actually possible to get? Is there an absolute limit to how quick a person can cover 100m and, if so, what is it? Are we close to it?
All these are questions to which I don't have answers, but would be very interested to find out. Whatever the answers, 9.74 seconds is seriously quick. I think my own personal best was about twice that.

Friday, September 07, 2007

When I'm in charge...

The following things would change in sporting stadia.

No drums.
No brass instruments (bugles and piccolo cornets excepted).
No sodding bells.
None of them bleedin' horns.
No Queen and definitely no Status bloody Quo music over the tannoy.

Just watching tonight's Leeds v Hull game and the band - THAT band you'll know the one - are making it a misery to watch, despite the action on the field. And they'll be boring the life out of everyone at the England v Israel football game tomorrow with their repertoire of two tunes.
What on earth possesses a person to take a frigging drum into a stadium? And the less said about that tit with the bell at Portsmouth...

Guest rant: 3

I like to think of myself as a healer. Well, at least a facilitator of healing. Well OK, this is just a place to sound off. And semi-regular contributor to this blog, The Big Fat Phony, has something to get off his chest. Take it away....

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

I have the dubious pleasure of being a work colleague of a regular contributor to this blog (work it out - it's not rocket science!). In fact, we are the two disgruntled souls who feel it necessary to leave work at lunchtime and head for the nearest hostelry in a vain attempt to anaesthetise ourselves against the drudgery which will surely follow in our afternoon session at work.

It was not always thus. Sure, we used to avail ourselves of a couple of Holland's finest ales as a break from a morning of computer screens, credit cards and database errors. Talk used to be of football, rugby, norks, television, comedy, music - I'm sure you're getting the picture. Nowadays the happy, relaxed conversation is no more. Nowadays, we more often than not sit for an hour drinking and talking in what can only be described as an aggressive manner. When this is not the case, the air of resignation and depression hovering over our lunchtime haven must surely put fellow patrons off their particular brews (although if they're holding a pint of Carling in their mitt then quite frankly we're doing them a favour).

I get the impression that when it comes to how our view of work is influenced by our personalities, myself and Mr D are different creatures. Up to now I tend to have been the type of employee who will take pretty much any sort of shit as long as I get paid. Why this is I don't know - possibly I just don't have the cojones required to say no to a boss. Perhaps, deep down there somewhere, subconciously, I have a desire to climb the career ladder. Perhaps I have an inbuilt desire to please. I'm not sure but I have a suspiscion it's the first one.

I have made sacrifices for the company I'm currently working for. I was onsite four days after my wedding day, the honeymoon having lasted a mere two days due to the fact that I had to prepare to go on site. I did not follow the route that most decent men would when my pregnant wife rang me to tell me she had been admitted to hospital with pre-eclampsia. No, not for me hopping on a train to see my wife. I kept in touch by phone but stayed in that southern shithole whose only plus point is that it's not Luton.

I grumbled a bit, I mithered, I added to the aggression and depression in evidence in a certain L**ds public house Monday to Friday, 1200 'til 1315, but I never did anything about it. The straw which has broken the camels back came earlier this week.

22nd August saw the birth of my first child - a gorgeous little girl. She was born six weeks premature and was obviously kept in hospital and fed, initially through a tube, at regular intervals throughout the day. Being the good employee that I am I rang work on the day of my daughters birth, informing them of my news and speaking to my line manager with whom I agreed that I would come in to work the following Monday but would start early and finish early so that I could make my daughters evening feed as well as working from home one day a week up to the time of my paternity leave. Quite reasonable for both parties I thought. When I came back to work, I went to see my manager to arrange which day would be best for me to work from home. At this point my manager says that the deal is off because my daughter's condition is not "critical". This from a man who has one day off a week and comes in at around 1000 every day whilst insisting that all his team members are in work between 0900 and 1730 (plus all the extra hours we are expected to do for no reward or (in most cases) thanks). Taken aback slightly I said nothing, but after three or for days the mixture of betrayal, shock at his hypocricy and anger got to me and I emailed my manager asking for an official reason. His response was to make out that I was making a personal, political attack and that he would give me an official reply at a later date. I await my shafting and shall take it like a man.

The question that puzzles me is why am I so angry? Is it because I have been denied the opportunity to spend more time with my daughter? Is it because I believed in the existence of a system of "give and take" and only experienced take? These are all factors of course, but mainly I am angry with myself for trusting my manager to be a decent sort, occassionaly defending him in the pub, thinking that if I worked hard it would be noticed and appreciated. Remembering all the times (and there are many) that I have sacrificed my personal time, energy, effort and, on some occassions, cash to do my best in my job and then equating this to the laissez faire attitude of my superiors to my sacrifices, my hardwork and my personal wellbeing.

Work hard? Do your best? Fuck 'em!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Get ahead in politics

Fred Thompson has declared his intention to stand for election to the post of President of the United States of America.
Now, Mr Thompson has been in politics before as representative of the state of Tennessee in the Senate and he's about as Republican as one can get, which automatically makes me want him to fail. However, he stands a greater than average chance of winning should he win the Republican nomination. This is because large swathes of the American population have already seen him be President. Of course, this was on the small screen, but I have so little confidence in the voters of America to dissociate that from reality, that I can see many thinking 'well he was alright last time he was in charge' and ticking the box accordingly. Call me cynical if you must, but anyone observing American politics for a period of time could be forgiven for being so.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

How to survive car accidents

News coming in says that three people have been hurt when the car they were travelling collided with a water buffalo in south Cumbria. A nasty business, no doubt, but I have a proven method of dealing with such incidents. A 1988 VW Jetta.
Some years ago, I owned such a vehicle, very similar to the one pictured here. With a full four (count 'em) forward gears and a mighty 1.3 litre engine to lug nearly a ton and a half of steel around, speedster it was not. But it did a job - a very good one - and had a massive boot to.. err... boot.
My daily commute back then was from Driffield to Malton, over the Yorkshire Wolds and through some particularly pleasant countryside. Obviously this brings the motorist into close proximity to wildlife. Many are the animals that succumbed to the tank-like Jetta - pigeons, pheasants, rabbits etc.
It surpassed itself on encountering a deer. Just outside the village of Sledmere on the North/East Yorkshire border, a deer leaped out from right of shot, ran across the road into the field on the other side. 'Phew', I thought. 'That was a lucky escape'. And it was, as I was doing about 70mph at the time. I'd not gone more than 20 yards when another deer attempted the same manouevre. I had no time to react at all, although I'd slowed to somewhere between 60 and 65mph after the first deer. Wallop. I hit it side on, the front of the car taking the full impact.
Life, I find, goes into slow motion when things like this happen. The deer slowly passed down the passenger side of the car, clearly already dead from the impact. The car lurched this way and that and I was fortunate the road was quiet. I pulled up in a small clearing just up the way and sat for a minute or two, breathing rather heavily.
Eventually, having convinced myself I wasn't dead, I got out to inspect the damage. It must have done something nasty to the front of it. I mean - a deer. They're big buggers them. My expectation was for a scene of twisted metal, broken glass and plastic. And what did I see? Nothing. There was no outward sign of my brush with the deer. The front left indicator wasn't working though. On taking a screwdriver to the lens later, I discovered the bulb had been knocked loose. And that was it.
I'd passed a service bus back up the road before the deer incident and as the bus approached, the driver, having seen the deer carcass on the road, put two and two together, reached four and stopped to see if I was OK. "Yeah mate, fine", I said. "The bugger's broke me indicator though".
He got out and was similarly amazed at the lack of damage.
"You hit that deer back there? And that's it?" he said. "Well bugger me". I didn't and we went our separate ways.
I got to work and retold the incident. A colleague wondered if you need to report dead deer like you do dogs or swans, so I phoned the local police to find out. "I've just clobbered a deer with my car. Do I need to report it?"
"Hang on". Rustling of paper... "No you don't. But you can't pick your own roadkill up. You've not done that have you?"
"No I've not. But if I told someone where it was, they could - theoretically speaking - pick it up themselves?"
Rustling of paper.... More rustling. "Errr... yeah. I suppose."
"Oh right. Well, thanks for your help."
I didn't get anyone to go pick it up, but it's nice to know eh?

Advertising computer games

I know that adverts for computer games aren't aimed at me, but they still annoy me. You get all these whizzy graphics, all very impressive I'm sure, but in the bottom corner of the screen is the legend 'Not actual game footage'. So what was the point of that then? Would it not be better to show folk what the thing actually looks like? It's not like you're flogging them a lifestyle choice.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Dear Head and Shoulders

I don't know a bloke like Mickey. You can tell this is true by the way that this Mickey character hasn't been stabbed in the neck by now.
Also, merely putting on a pair of glasses does not an intellectual make. Shocking though this may be to you, there are some idiots who wear glasses. And some very intelligent people who don't. I swear it's true, however incredible it may sound.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Opinions

In case you'd not heard, there's a new EU treaty to be ratified. Not a constitution, oh dear me no, although it looks very much like the constitution that was previously thrown out. But because it's not quite the same, the promised referendum doesn't apply. Now Keith Vaz, former Europe minister, reckons that although we don't need a referendum, it would be desirable.
I don't agree with the assertion that government shouldn't be afraid of trusting the public with this. The public are morons. The public have made the Daily Mail the biggest selling paper in the country. The public are obsessed by a woman who died as a result of a crash involving no seat belts and a pissed driver who was going far too fast in a Paris tunnel ten years ago.
People are elected to make these decisions on the public's behalf according to the promises made in election manifestos. If I wanted the public's opinion, it'd be about the minutiae of life rather than important decisions over the future of the nation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dopes

After securing a bronze medal at the World Athletics Championships in Osaka, Britain's Kelly Sotherton railed at silver medallist Lyudmila Blonska as she had previously served a 2-year doping ban.
I hope Ms Sotherton is suitably angered by another high profile medal winner who has recently returned from a ban for doping offences, Christine Ohuruogu, who took gold in the 400m.
But she won't and for why? Ohuruogu is British and we all know that plucky Brits are always at the fault of laboratory difficulties (Linford Christie) or taking the wrong cold medication (Alain Baxter) and are not dirty cheats like what them foreigners who get found out are.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What a dreary August

In media circles, August is often referred to as the silly season, what with parliament being out for the summer and a lack of any real news, by and large. This silly season has been sillier than most, what with faked sightings of sharks, whinging about established TV editing practices and David Cameron managing to make himself look more of a tit than anyone thought possible (society should take responsibility, he says. Was it not his own party that told us that society was dead?).
Here's to a more invigorating September. With less silliness.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Scotland

As service from Jerry Chicken is coming from the Edinburgh festival this week, he's tried to describe that creamy Edinburgh accent. As Al Murray says, that's type 3:



Hope that helps.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

All in the edit

Why was there such a row about TV editing lately? Is anyone that bamboozled by the concepts involved? Here, Charlie Brooker explains all, way before the shit hit the fan about the Queen and Annie Liebowitz.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Where to build?

A few weeks ago as England was under several feet of water, we had stern lectures about the disappearance of gardens. Paving over gardens for car parking or suchlike reduces the area of grass and soil which rainwater can easily drain through.
Today, as the need for more houses becomes ever more acute, we are told that the green belt must be built on. But won't doing that be much, much worse for drainage than paving over some gardens?
And all the time, brown field sites (that's derelict and/or flattened buildings in urban areas to you and me) stand idle. There's a reason for this. The land these areas occupy is increasing in value all the time, but doesn't attract the taxman's attention until such time it's built on when the buildings become taxable assets (yes I've just read Private Eye which includes an illuminating letter on this subject). Rather, such sites are generally turned over for car parking, if anything at all.
Like a small section of a sudoku puzzle, there's one way these three things - not increasing flood risk, protecting the green belt and having large swathes of urban land stand (relatively) idle - to fit together in harmony. The methods proposed over the last few weeks are not the right way to do it. You end up with two twos in the same column (sudoku analogy stretched to snapping point. Ending it now).

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Lightening the mood

It's been a bit low in here lately, so let's lighten it up. Here's Frank Sidebottom's football medley by way of tribute to the new football season.

Part 1:


Part 2:


May I advise you to take a look at some of the related videos from them Sidebottom clips.

And 'up the City' for the new season.

How to deal with protests

Air travel and expansion of airports is a big deal and the development of the new terminal at Heathrow was always going to attract protestors. The way to deal with these protestors is apparently by using the Terrorism Act 2000.
Whatever the issue, people have the right to peaceful protest and of course there's a responsibility on police to ensure that it remains peaceful. Using heavy-handed laws that were introduced for a totally different scenario is not a good way of policing it. The Criminal Justice Act that was introduced in the 1990s introduced a stupidly large raft of measures to limit what protestors can and can't do. Surely there's enough legislation there to ensure that if the protests get a bit heated it can be dealt with.
And here's my beef. You give police powers to deal with situation A and there'll suddenly be situations B through Z that the new powers can suddenly be applied to. Similarly, introducing 'emergency' powers at a time of crisis. Once the emergency is over, it's very difficult to remove the powers. Labelling a young lass cycling near Heathrow a terrorist suspect and locking her up for 30 hours with no charge or right to a phone call is, frankly, ridiculous and should be a source of shame for those involved.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hilda Mary Dobson

Hilda Mary Dobson (née Robinson) was born on May 3 1923 in Easingwold, North Yorkshire, and died yesterday at York District Hospital. Two months ago, she suffered a stroke from which she was making a slow recovery - very slow, but progress nonetheless. Last Monday, she suffered another stroke and yesterday she died as a result. Her husband, Arthur Ernest (Ernie) Dobson, was at her bedside.
Hilda grew up on a farm in Easingwold, the youngest of the Robinson children and was particularly close to her brother Arthur and sister Edith - the next two youngest. Whilst in her teens, the family moved to York. Upon leaving school, Hilda did what most people in York did - go to work at Rowntree's. There, she met Ernie. Their love blossomed as Europe descended into turmoil. They had plans to marry in 1942, but with Ernie away with the Navy and Hilda working at the Rover plant in Barnoldswick, it was on hold.
The Rover plant had been sequestered for munitions manufacture. Many was the story of the humour employed to see the workers get through. For instance, a bracket was once sent back to Hilda with the note "hole wrong size. Please fit smaller hole".
On September 4, 1944, Hilda and Ernie - on shore leave - were finally married. It wasn't long before Ernie was back on the Russian convoys, but a bad accident saw him break his back and he was invalided out of the Navy and back to his new bride.
They had their first child, a son, Keith, on March 3 1946 and the family settled in the Clifton area of York. Soon after, their second child, Colin, was born. As the boys grew up, Hilda returned to work at Rowntree's in the staff canteen. She was always a great cook and took immense pride in it. Her cheese scones have to be tasted to be believed and her Sunday dinners often took the best part of a week to finally finish. It was a real passion and she passed that on to anyone who wanted to listen.
Throughout her life, she was an active member of the Salvation Army, as was her sister Edith. As their relationship grew, Ernie also got involved and they were prominent figures at York Citadel. This brought them into contact with a huge number of people and the affection for which every one of them had for both Hilda and Ernie was truly shown every Christmas as an absolute mountain of cards would cause backache for the postman. People they'd not seen for years would walk through the doors of the Citadel and immediately ask where they were. Down the years, many people came to treat them as surrogate aunt and uncle and a massive number of people will be upset at the news of her passing.
In later years, they ran the over-60s club at the Citadel until age finally began to catch up with the pair of them and they retired from their years of service at the Salvation Army. It still took a few more years before they wound down completely and accepted that neither could do the things they'd spent so many years doing for others.
In recent years, Hilda's health slowly deteriorated. Stubborn to the last, she finally came to accept the help that was on offer. The first stroke saw her hospitalised and she didn't leave. Ernie wanted to be there when she finally went and he was. His sons weren't far away. While it is a hugely sad event, nobody wanted her to suffer as she was.
Hilda is survived by her husband Ernie, her sons Colin and Keith, three grandchildren, Helen, John and Matthew, and four great-grandchildren, Dominic, Matilda, Lydia and Andrew, as well as extended family around the world and an army of friends who were all touched by her warm, generous nature.
Hilda Mary Dobson was my grandmother and I miss her terribly.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

In the wrong business

Britain's largest insurer is in the news today, having totted up the costs of the recent inclement weather at about £400m. It all comes across as a bit of a whinge, given the imminent premium increases, but should it be? They're in the business of taking money off folk for insurance against a variety of events which all have a greater or lesser chance of occurring. When it goes against them, we get pronouncements such as the one linked to. At all other times, they're laughing. If paying out on some of the policies they more than willingly sold is such a problem is such a big problem, then they're in completely the wrong business.
It reminds me very much of a good friend of mine who runs a small chain of bookies. When Frankie Dettori rode through the card at Ascot that time (i.e. he won all seven races on the day), he was down about quarter of a million on the day. But he had the good grace to let me know he'd recouped it all by the time the week was out, rather than go bleating to anyone who would listen about losing money in the short-term.
Bloody Norwich Union. They want it all ways. Trouble is, they're probably going to get it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Revelation

Today I got paid for doing a job which I really enjoyed. What a complete revelation. I should do it more often.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Schools out

The schools have finished for the summer. This means parents and grandparents get to take their lovable kids off somewhere from time to time. So why take them on the train to the seaside at fecking rush hour? You morons! You've got all day. Why choose to travel when hundreds of over-wrought, over-sweaty people are also crammed into the laughably under-capacity trains? You make no sense.

August 1

Happy Yorkshire to all (both?) my readers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Apparently...

...there's a record which has been at number 1 on the Hit Parade for 10 weeks now.
I have never heard it.
I hope to maintain this record (no pun intended. Honest).

You want a reason? Well if it's anything like the rest of the stuff the misspelled, weedy-voiced Rihanna (surely that should be Rhianna? Am I wrong? Going mad? In a coma?) has ever inflicted on the pop-buying public, it'll be shit.

Double detention

28 days is not enough, apparently. That six people have gone up to 27 days apparently makes it imperative that we go to 56 days.
Work expands to fill the available time. 14, 28, 56 - whatever the limit, there will be cases where it's drawn out to the fullest extent. And presumably the first time anything approaches 56 days, we bring 90 days back to the table. What is required is a well-thought-out plan based on evidence from a number of sources - not just the police - instead of arbitrarily plucking numbers out of the air and turning that into a policy. However, with such a weak opposition it's likely that whatever proposal is finally put forward will go through without a significant back-bench rebellion. Whether the hunger for such a rebellion is there so early into Brown's premiership, I very much doubt.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dear football clubs

If you are hosting Portsmouth in a game, or if you are Portsmouth FC, please take the bell off that twunt who insists on ringing it all the way through the 90 minutes. I've just seen the second half of a Portsmouth pre-season friendly from bleedin' China and there he was, ringing his bloody bell. And now it's all I can hear. He's given me tinnitus, the scurvy knave.

cheers
John

Dear RAC

You have until my renewal is due to get rid of Vinny Jones from your advertising campaigns.


cheers
John

Confucius say...

...build house on flood plain and carpet will get wet.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Poncy Leeds

Worrying news. There's a 'gourmet chippy' in Leeds. That in itself would be bad enough, but this place is charging £2 a portion for scraps. Bloody scraps! For two quid!
There are rules about fish and chips and one of them is it that it's simple. Another is that it's cheap. And scraps are just that - scraps - and charging for them is a bloody cheek. If it's fish and chips you want, get to a local chippy, not some poncy-arsed rip-off merchants. It's akin to the curry house designed for whitey, with all it's cutlery and tablecloths and subservient waiters. You watch - this fish and chip place will have staff with faux-northern accents to make the clientele thinking they're in proper Yorkshire, something which Leeds is rapidly extricating itself from.
And I bet they don't do cannonballs.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The big question

According to the front cover of the copy of Top Gear magazine someone left in kitchen area at work, the big question, the question that's burning everybody up inside, the question that has to have an answer before we all die of anticipation, is "Aston or Porsche?"
No it bloody isn't. Why are we here? That's a bigger one. So is "what's the point of Dan Brown novels?". And even if we're just going for car-related questions, a much bigger one for me is "do I get that squeak in the suspension looked at or what?", and if that's a 'yes', the big question would become "this is going to be expensive, right?".

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Thieving gitwizard

A message on the answerphone this morning. Could I call my chosen banking provider's special investigations unit? Of course I could. Some transactions were a bit suspect and they wanted to check them with me. Some thieving gitwizard of a schnorrer has been using a card that purports to be mine down south. "There's a transaction here at Tesco in Lewisham for £50" said the most helpful and pleasant lass on the phone. I don't go to Tesco and I've never been to Lewisham, so that ain't me. There are a few other transactions in that London on occasions that I wasn't there. It amounts to about £110, which I will get back.
The main thing, though, was a transaction at Goldsmith's in London for £3500. It was declined, unsurprising as I don't have that much in the account - memo to the thieving schnorrer, pick on someone who actually has some cash next time - and flagged up on that account. It could quite as easily have been flagged up because shopping at Goldsmith's..??? Give me some credit.
Anyway, all sorted now. Enjoy your completely worthless bit of plastic, you extraordinary turd.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Dear newspaper/magazine editors

When wishing to describe how someone from that cultural wilderness you call 'the North' says the word 'fucking', just type the word 'fucking'. It is not pronounced 'fooking'. Not now, not ever. Just because you tossers down south can't pronounce 'fucking' as 'fucking' does not mean that we can't.
Facking cants.

Thanks
John

The names change, but the script remains the same

In a Sky News interview yesterday, our new glorious leader Gordon Brown said the following:
"We do now need more information flowing internationally about who are potential terrorists and who are potential suspects".

If he'd not uttered the final five words of that sentence I don't think anybody could quibble, but 'potential suspects'? That would be every person currently drawing breath.

Tagged again - 5 things I dig about Jesus

Thanks a bundle to Jerry Chicken for his kind efforts in tagging me with this task; to inform you, dear reader, of five things I dig about Jesus. This is going to be tough.

1 - I really dig the way he's personally responsible for many achievements in film, sport etc, or at least that's the impression one gets from listening to award acceptance speeches. Not for an Oscar winner is it enough to thank the people who have done the work to get the recipient into a position where they might win, oh no. It wasn't the gaffer, best boy or dolly grip - it was someone who died over 2000 years ago. If I remember correctly, that was many years before cinema.

2 - I dig the way he's always portrayed as being very white for a Palestinian. Well, not dig perhaps, more despair.

I'm struggling already, being the godless commie scum that I am.....

3 - I dig the way that nobody in this country would dare name their child 'Jesus', despite it being a perfectly acceptable name. That said, an acquaintance of my sister in-law named her child 'Mohammad' because she thought it was a cool name. So somewhere there's a pasty-white, ginger-haired Irish kid called Mohammad O'Brien.

4 - I dig the way that you can end a lot of conversations by bringing Jesus into it like "Interesting. Now; how would Jesus react to that?" or end sentences with "and that's like Jesus". Obviously this doesn't work with Jehovah's Witnesses. I think Marx is a better bet with that lot. Karl that is, not Groucho. Although now I think about it.....

5 - I dig the way that after his ill-fated fight against Leavander Johnson, Jesus Chávez was encouraged by Johnson's family to continue boxing and not blame himself for Johnson's death. He has fought again - just the once though and that was a loss against Julio Diaz back in February. That's only the fourth loss on his record, but the second in quick succession and his career, while not over, remains in the balance. Boxing's an ugly sport at times and whatever the Johnson family say to appease his conscience, Chávez will always have Leavander Johnson on his mind and that's a terrible burden for anyone to bear.


That was a struggle. I suppose the time-honoured tradition is now to pass it to someone else. Like Gary, I'll just send it to my default person: Asim.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

How much?

One of those adverts for IT training courses has just been on. Apparently the average salary in IT is £37k pa. Is it? Who's got the rest of mine?
Not only that, it's a shit business. I'm working hard to get out. It's mind-numbing. Don't do it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Notes on the smoking ban - day 4

It's early days to judge the impact of the ban on smoking in pubs, especially in Huddersfield where the large student population has, largely, gone for a time. But some things are noticeable.
1 - Having a drink yesterday whilst deciding where to eat, the smell of one chap's fish dinner managed to permeate all four rooms of the pub.
2 - The smell of smoke when someone comes back in having nipped out for a fag is decidedly more noticeable.


I'm sure there'll be more to follow.

Falling flat

Leeds has changed a lot lately. It's gone upwards. Lots of new buildings comprising lots of flats have been built on the sites of old warehouses and the like. The skyline is now puckered by tall buildings with nobody living in them. Hence, this report doesn't surprise me.
And yet more are planned. There was a regional show on the BBC with Linda Barker (she of ubiquitous adverts a few years back) banging on about the regeneration of Bradford and comparing that to what's happening in Leeds. And she totally missed the point.
The recently opened Bridgewater Place is currently the tallest building in Leeds and comprises a large number of flats. Barker showed us the inside of one of these, and your 200 grand or whatever doesn't buy you much space. Plans are afoot for a building twice that size, cringeingly described as a 'vertical village'. At 52 stories, that's a lot of flats with no identifiable group to buy them.
Also mentioned were plans to build on the site of the international pool in Leeds. The chaps responsible for 'The Gherkin' in London are undertaking this project. They described this building, The Spiracle, in the usual terms of being iconic and that. They showed us a model. They explained that the wind turbine was predicted to supply more than enough power for the building itself, but could also return some to the National Grid. But at no point was it mentioned who had asked for this or what it was for. And therein lies the problem. The maxim of 'build it and they will come' just doesn't work. The huge number of empty offices and flats in Leeds is testament to that.
Meanwhile, Bradford is caught between two stools. Does it ape Leeds or does it do something different - complementary even. The plan, however, appears to be to flood half of the city centre to create some hideous water feature. This has been planned for ages though and nothing ever seems to happen apart from more meetings and more conceptualisation. Meanwhile, the old Odeon in Bradford is finally coming down and will be replaced by a louvred building which looks like a modern turn on the old 1960s architecture that everyone's in a rush to rip down. This featured on the aforementioned Barker show and again, for all her cooing over the plans and drawings, at no point was this building's purpose revealed, nor it's end users.

Redevelop if you must, but building for the sake of building is what created the mess in the first place. Heed history.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Interlude

Super furry video

Aidez-moi

Can anyone tell me the fundamental differences between Davina McCall and Kate Thornton? In today's post-operative discomfort, I've had time to think about this and I'm stumped.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Dear Gap...

I like your jeans, despite your many irritating advertising campaigns. They fit well and are generally comfortable. However, please ensure your pockets can withstand a modicum of usage because, as of now, they are woefully inadequate. I reckon you owe me a few quid in lost coinage over the last x months.


cheers
John

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Smoke-free England

This morning England went smoke-free. So last night I went out and smoked myself silly. I'm not looking forward to the early stages of the ban as non-pub goers perhaps start going to pubs and get in the way ordering mochachocafrappacino lattés or cocktails that take half an hour to prepare.

Anyway, is it such a good thing. I mean....

Before:


After:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

He's gone!

Oh happy day

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

TV advert annoyances

Some current issues with TV adverts:

Knock-off Nigel buys knock-off DVDs.
No idea what you're selling with that. Is it knock-off DVDs?

Still struggling with a watering can? No. I've never struggled with a watering can and showing me pictures of someone with less co-ordination than a frog in a blender trying to make a mess of filling up a watering can with a hosepipe will convince me your product is better. See also strimmers.

"I know naffink about loans". So shut up then.

Total first pint refreshment. Just, no. And putting ice in cider is a complete affectation as well. If a drinks company told folk it tastes much better when falling from the roof of a 25-storey building some people would give it a whirl.

I'm sure there are more, but it feels better for having got those off my chest.

Dear pub owners/managers

If you're going to put a pool table in a pub, make sure it's lit so folk can see what they're doing. If you aren't going to light it, just don't bother. It will save everybody's time, money and energy.

cheers
John

Dear Conservative party...

Using the word 'choice' 19 times in the space of half a dozen sentences does not a policy make.


cheers,
John

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Spanish title run-in

There is one game each left in the Primera Liga in Spain. Athletic Bilbao need to get something against Levante at the San Mamés to maintain a record of never having been relegated. It could be that simple, but the permutations are mind-boggling in their complicatedness. Either way, Sunday will be tense.
At the top end, Barcelona and Real Madrid are level on points with Sevilla tucked in 2 behind. Unlike most leagues, goal difference isn't the deciding factor, but the head-to-head record of the team(s) involved and in that, the Madrid monolith holds the upper hand. This is obviously bad. Nobody with any sense wants General Franco's plaything to win. And so, here's a song in support of Barcelona and Sevilla's bid to overtake them:

Dear Vodafone

If you're going to push us all onto 18-month contracts, could you first please ensure that the handsets you offer last more than a year before routinely buggering about - losing signal and not picking it back up again, randomly switching itself off, losing all battery in a matter of seconds from it being indicated as full, for a few examples.

cheers,
John

Annoying adverts

Inspired by an online discussion, I thought I'd share the world's most annoying advert with you, accompanied by a critique from Charlie Brooker:

Thursday, June 07, 2007

If they can do it...

If the people who brought you the hideous 'exposé' of Scientology can now bring you news of just how dodgy the Al Yammamah arms deal is - the biggest sale by anyone British of anything - why can't the SFO?