Wednesday, April 30, 2003

New Muse Blog Opened

After spending the last couple of months trying to think up some sort of theme for this blog, I've settled on a theme, but decided to start a new blog and keep this one for random rubbish. The new blog is Mike's Garden Muse and will be aimed at telling the, probably, boring story of the development of our garden.

I know for one that axis will hate it, as he has already told me that he hates gardening, but that's his priveledge and my burden. At least I don't waste my Sunday afternoons sitting down to watch omnibus editions of TV soaps, even if it was only once. Only kidding Stu, I hope 'sick person' recovers soon, so you don't have to go through all that again.

The Real reason For The War On Iraq

Whilst surfing in blogland I came across Stevland's Superfast Computer which I think makes an interesting read if you are into computers, but this in turn led me to The J-Walk Blog another interesting blog but for different reasons.

John the author of the blog had posted a few brief comments about an ABC News article which hinted at the real reasons for the war in Iraq. Take a few seconds to read them and form or even re-form your own opinions.

I think I'll be revisiting both sites on a regular basis.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Blogless In Dublin

Sorry about the delay in writing up the next blog, but once again work is getting in the way, well that, and a visit to our Dublin office, where this miniscule piece of rubbish was composed.

Now Guinness is getting in the way of Blogging.

Monday, April 28, 2003

The Mail That Put The Junk Into Email

I received an odd email today submitted via my email link on the left.

The sender was one: "½Å ¿ë ö"

The subject was: (±¤°í)Â÷¾ÈÀÇ ´ã¹è³¿»õ, ÄûÄûÇÑ ³¿»õ...???@

And the body of the text contained the following:

¹æÇâÁ¦ ¶§¹®¿¡ ¸Ó¸®°¡ ¾ÆÇÁ½ÃÁÒ...! ÀÌ·¸°Ô ÇÏ½Ã¸é µË´Ï´Ù.

¸ðµç ³¿»õ ¾ÇÃëÁ¦°Å Àü¹®......

õ¿¬¿ø·á Á¦Ç°À¸·Î ÀÎü Àü¿¬ ¹«ÇØÇÏ°í ÀÚ¿¬ ģȭÀûÀÎ Á¦Ç°À¸·Î µÎÅëÀ» À¯¹ßÇÏÁö ¾Ê½À´Ï´Ù.....

There was more but I think you'll agree there is not a lot of point in posting it all. Now I do recieve a lot of junk mail to that account, but this one surpasses everything I received so far.

This is the actual site it came from. Would anyone care to take a guess as to what it all means?

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Continuing On The Law And Order Theme: Vandalism In Rainford

It's some years now since I lived in the village of Rainford near St Helens, Merseyside. When I last lived there it was considered a nice place to live, quiet and rural, a good place to bring up children, but oh how things seem to have changed. If I'm honest in my last year in the village, gangs of youths had started to congregate regularly in the village centre and there were instances of minor damage, but this was only a fore taste of what was to come.

Despite what the police say in this report they are not getting anywhere near on top of the problem. Five times in 2002 the local cricket club had it's clubhouse vandalised, culminating in a particularly nasty act of destruction in Decmeber last year. But this isn't the end of the matter, whilst I don't know if the police have actually managed to close the case (it's unlikely), I do know that the vandalism has continued elsewhere in the village.

On one occasion last year a gang of youths in the village centre threw a stone at a passing car, when the driver got out to remonstrate with them, a gang of bigger youths hiding around the corner, beat the driver to a pulp. Were they caught? I doubt it.

On two occasions over the Easter period a local business has had it's windows smashed, not so that the idiots can steal anything mind, but just for the fun of destroying property. The likely culprits are the teenagers who congregate/trespass in the car park on a nightly basis and are regularly seen by passers-by climbing onto the roof, and generally being a nuisance to everyone around. The police have been inmformed of the two acts of vandalism and have yet to show their face. This I guess is particularly gauling for the victims as the village police station is less than half a mile down the road from the village centre. Do the police send a patrol to the village centre on a regular basis, knowing that the gangs congregate in the area? No, they are probably too busy issuing tickets to motorists who park in double yellow lines, or setting radar traps to generate even more income from motorists.

Local business have installed security shutters on their premises, they may not know it but they actually need planning permission to do this, and the council will only allow the small mesh type shutters, because the village is considered a conservation area. Don't make me laugh the only thing being conserved are the criminals that frequent the centre.

What of the parents of these miscreants? Well they don't care. How do I know this? Well I have it on good authority from a source who has spoken to the police on other matters, that even when a vandal has been caught in the act on video, kicking in a phone box, the parents have denied it was their offspring claiming it was a fit up, their darling Justin or whatever he was called wouldn't possibly do that. So the parents don't care, the police don't do anything, it's too much like hard work, the council are too busy inventing meeting, so a once nice village goes down the pan.

To the police of Merseyside, I say stand up and tackle the issues of vandalism, stop areas from becoming no go areas for the general public. I'm not saying the centre of Rainford is a no-go area, but it is an intimidating area for any lone woman to walk through after dark, and could rapidly deteriorate if the police don't take control.

To parents in Rainford, I challenge you to take your children to task, find out where they go and what they do behind your back, they are not all angels, some of your angels are scum. Follow them descretely and challenge them if they seem to be up to no good. If they are on someone elses property without permission then they are at the very least trespassing. Your village is not a peaceful haven, it's becoming a haven for vandals and thugs.

To the local council you pay the police to do a job, now make them do it properly. You are paid good money by the residents and businesses of Rainford to provide services, this includes ensuring that the law is enforced properly in the borough, now do your job.

There are too many lawyers about today who tout for business from the criminal classes, to find ways of suing the victims of their clients crime. Such lawyers should be banned from practising law, they are a disgrace to their profession and what's more are leaches on society.

To the Government of Britain: It's about time you started punishing crime, instead of trying to give the low life who commit the offences a better life and more rights than those who are sinned against. Kick Europe into touch, bin the European Human Rights Act (Greece has, see rant below), where criminals are trying to gain advantage from it. Give us the right to fight back against crime in our own homes without fear of prosecution. Kick criminals where it hurts take their so called rights away from them, stuff rehabilitation. Rehabilitate and compenstate their victims, it's not a hard concept to grasp. Give the police some teeth, and extract the teeth of the lawyers and barristers that are coining it in representing the rights of convicted criminals. That includes, Cherie Blair, the Prime Ministers wife.

To the lily-livered liberals that infest our society, perhaps you haven't been the victim of a crime of any sort, let alone a crime of violence. Wake up before it's too late, and stop fighting in the corner of scum.

Todays un-thought out rant has been brought to you by a severely pissed off Coffdrop, playing Cockney Rebel's 'Death Trip' in the background.

Erm..... I'll climb down off my soapbox now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Rough Justice In The Cradle Of Democracy

I was going to blog about the state British law and order today, following a spate of vandalism over the weekend at my partners place of work, but I found the following story in one of todays newspapers (Daily Mail), and decided that it might be of higher interest:

About a month ago, lorry driver David Wilson parked in a Greek ferry terminal at Patras, and settled down for the night in his cab, before the long journey home. Whilst he slept 19 Iraqi Kurds quietly broke into the trailer and clambered inside. The next morning a routine inspection by the local police found the illegal migrants sat on the £20,000 cargo of wood bound for the UK. Mr Wilson, a 44 year old man from Bradford, insisted that he knew nothing of the immigrants existance, although maybe his mistake here was that he didn't check his own cargo before lining up to board the ferry.

The Greek police being like any other police force, arrested Mr Wilson on suspicion of smuggling illegal migrants, he was then dumped in the usual dirty prison cell, to await trial. Now comes the unbelievable bit: Within 24 hours Mr Wilson appeared in court, was tried, convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison, a record for illegal refugee smuggling in a Greek court. Mr Wilson was not given an opportunity to hire an English speaking lawyer, summon witnesses or seek help from the British consulate.

A month into his sentence, Mr Wilson shares his cell with 30 other prisoners, including murderers and drug dealers. Speaking to a reporter from the Daily Mail, Mr Wilson, a man of previous good character, has declared his innocence and claimed he had no idea what was going on. He has even handed over illegal refugees to authorities in Belgium five years ago, when he found an Albanian couple and their two children stowed away in the back of his truck.

So is Mr Wilson innocent or Guilty? Well, Greek Rough Justice has declared him guilty despite the sworn statements of the 19 refugees indicating that the lorry driver knew nothing of their presence. He points to one piece of evidence which even an idiot would have hidden, when the door of the container was opened, all 19 refugees were sat on the cargo in full view of anyone who cared to take a look, hardly the act of a desperate smuggler. Anyone one with a brain cell in his head would have tried to hide any illicit cargo surely?

Mr Wilson and his family are appealing against the conviction, but this will take around one year to come to court, in the meantime he can either sit in his grotty cell, or pay a £22,000 bail fine, to buy off the jail sentence. Another £50,000 fine can be paid in installment later, but this wiill leave him with a criminal record.

Whilst the Foreign Office sit back and do nothing to help, as usual, Richard Corbett, MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside, has taken up the case. Mr Corbett believes that Mr Wilson has been unfairly treated by the Greek legal system, which 2 years ago jailed 11 British planespotters for spying.

I don't know if Mr Wilson is innocent or guilty, but I do know enough to work out that he has not had a fair trial, nor has he been given the opportunity to present any case whatsoever, that to me is enough for me to suspect that he is innocent. I'm not a bleeding heart liberal, I'm more from the hang em and flog em brigade, but everyone should have the right to proper legal representation. What has the Greek legal system got to hide?

I would have posted links to the story if I could have found any elsewhere on the net, but the google searches I tried, failed to find any related references. Once again for the second time in two years I find myself boycotting Greece as a holiday destination, if you as a reader believe in any sense of justice, so would you.

Addendum: I've finally tracked down a link on the BBC website which backs up this story, it has other related links too. (added 28/04/2003)

Thursday, April 17, 2003

The Last Blog Before Tuesday Probably

Countinuing in the "What type of xxxxx are you?" vein, I also found this one today: So what type of wizard are you?

You are a Bard!

Take the "How Do You Use Magic?" test! Written by Brimo

Remember NetHack?

I can't remember the last time I wasted my life away playing this game, well I just found out what monster I would be in the game:

Take the quiz your self:

If I were a NetHack monster, I would be a shopkeeper. I'm exceptionally polite and helpful, but get angry when people try to take advantage of my trusting nature.
Which NetHack Monster Are You?

From EasyJet To EasyCruise

The founder of EasyJet, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, has announced plans for a new low cost way to travel: EasyCruise. Not only will I now be able to hop on a low cost flight from Liverpool to Nice, but from their will be able to join a Cruise liner stopping off at locations such as Malaga and Barcalona. The planned cost of travelling by cruise liner could be as little as £29 per person per night, but will not include drinks, food or entertainment, which no doubt will be where the main profits will come from.

Another news source indicates that EasyCruise plan to operate 13 ships in the Mediterranean area in Summer months and the Caribbean in winter. Passengers will be able to hop on and off ships at different ports and only pay for the time they are on board. But before letting a ship set sail they had better make darned sure when the next one is due in port.

It will be interesting to see how the EasyCruise ports, link up with EasyJet airports, EasyCar hire rental outlets and/or easy-internet-Cafes, the last two of which are making losses. The 36 year-old shipping magnet, who gave up the management of EasyJet to concentrate on other ventures, also has high hopes for another new EasyGroup venture: easyCinema, though what benefits other than lower prices this will give the consumer is anyones guess.

Monday, April 14, 2003

A Mixed Bag Of Results

My beloved Middlesbrough FC took their, recent, unbeaten run to 8 games, with an instantly forgetable 0-0 away draw at Manchester City. This in itself isn't a bad result given our poor away form, but it doesn't help our receding ambitions of finishing high enough to qualify for Europe next season. We now sit in 9th place on 46 points, after flirting in with the relegation zone for so long, up to our recent run of form. If we win all our remaining 5 games, which is unlikely (we're at home to championship contenders and last seasons Champions, Arsenal, next week) we could just about get into a European place, but that's just dreaming.

Our hated rivals, Sunderland, lost yet again and have confirmed how dire they are this year, by being relegated from the Premiership with five games of the season left to play.

On the Rugby League front, St Helens were knocked out of the Challenge Cup Semi Final by Leeds Rhinos. It was a game that positively overflowed with skill, thrills and passion. Saints led the game 6-2 early on, but by half time, the Rhinos and steamed into an 18-6 lead. At the start of the second period Saints put Leeds under some unrelenting pressure and finally cracks started to show. With minutes of the game remaining as Saints had turned the scoreline to 22-20 in their advantage and then went on to score another try giving them a 6 point lead. The conversion attempt, which would have given Saints an almost unassailable lead, was missed from a difficult angle.

From that let off Leeds stormed back to score a try of their own, after a defensive mistake in the Saints camp, Leeds completed the conversion with the last kick of normal time, taking the game to extra time. Both teams looked tired as extra time wore on, Leeds took a one point lead with a drop goal, but with such a narrow margin, he game was far from over, though I have to say that Saints looked dead on their feet, whilst Leeds were still hammering away looking that bit fitter. With barely a minute of extra time left, Leeds put the game beyond doubt with a try and another conversion. It was all over, Leeds were through to the final, and despite the 7 point gap the difference between the two sides was wafer thin. All credit to Leeds for pulling back the deficit at the death.

The only consolation I can take from the weekend's Rugby is that at least Wigan went out in their semi-final to Bradford Bulls. I'll be supporting Leeds for in the final, as I just cannot find it in myself to like Bradford in fact they are probably the team I like least behind Wigan.

Taking The Pizza Or What?

I read, in a newspaper yesterday, that Domino's Pizza have interesting policies covering theft from pizza delivery boys. Apparently pizza delivery man, Scott Collier of Romford, was battered by thieves who stole his night's takings. Scott was robbed of £82 and suffered bruised ribs in the attack by three knife-wielding thugs.

Domino's, in their infinite compassion for their staff, compounded the man's misery by withholding his £76 wages, and waived the extra £6 "in goodwill". Scott said "It's disgraceful. I could have been killed, and this is how I'm repaid.". His boss, Raul Fawzi, on the otherhand said "I've done everything according to company policy.". (Story Source: Sunday People)

I say this to Mr Fawzi: "Just because it's company policy, doesn't make it right. Just remember that there were many people branded war criminals in WWII because they blindly implemented what could be thought as of 'company policy' to the letter.".

The above incident begs the question of what would happen if financial institutions implemented the same policies on their staff. Can you imagine the staff of a bank or building society having to pay back hundreds of thousands of pounds to their employer, just because they had the misfortune to work in a branch that was robbed by some desperate armed gang. Given that most of the counter staff probably don't earn more than £12,000 a year, they would end up working for nothing for the rest of their lives. I think not, people would just not work for the banks, unions would get involved, and there would be a national campaign to get the institutions to change their ways.

Well this doesn't help Scott Collier, but I think he would have a valid case to sue Domino's possibly on two counts, one being unfair working practices, the other could have to do with the ensuring of employee safety in the work place. Obviously someone better informed in law would need to view and advise on any possible legal action first.

What can you do about this ridiculous situation? The same as me, spread the word: Boycott Domino's Pizza. Their company policy stinks, as do their pizzas.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

While Away Boring Meetings

Next time you are called to a boring meeting at work, arm yourself with a number of randomly printed Bullshit Bingo cards, to help pass the time. You know it makes sense.

More On Moles

The little perisher is back. Whilst we were away 3 more mole hills appeared, but this time he's burrowing under the Eucalyptus tree. It's all still in the bottom end of the garden, and he doesn't seem to be making any moves onto the lawns or landscaped areas. The gardener, hired to work on the next phase of landscaping, tells me it can smell the manure that we laid down earlier, and manure being a prime worm attractor, also attracts moles seeking said worms.

It'll be seeking the sharp end of my garden fork soon, if it's not careful. Anyone want a pet mole?

Error Of Omission

I forgot to mention in yesterdays blog, that one of the volunteer room stewards at Trerice, was 96 years old and still going strong.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Back In The Blog Time

Well, what a week that was. The weather was fine for the time of year, clear skies, no rain, what more could I ask for whilst on holiday in England. The holiday started, on Friday afternoon, with a 120 mile drive to Dilmore House, a guest house on the outskirts of Worcester, where we would stay overnight, in order to break up the long drive to Cornwall. We spent a couple of hours in Worcester on Saturday morning to get a feel for the place, visiting first the cathedral, where apparently King John's tomb resides, and then the Royal Worcester Porcelain Factory. Worcester struck me as an odd city, it obviously has a lot of history behind it, but didn't play on the tourism aspects. I don't think either myself or Pauline would want to revisit this city on another occasion, though the guest house we stayed in would make a good base for visiting other attractions in the area such as Stratford, Hereford and or the Cotswolds. The guest house was comfortable, and our host Terry was very friendly.On leaving Worcester we continued our journey to Trelowth (already linked in the previous blog), which was another 4 hours drive excluding stops on the way.

The cottage was very much like the link below indicates, quaint, comfortable and in a picturesque setting. It made an ideal base for visiting all areas of Cornwall. We started our tours of the area on Sunday with a visit to The Lost Gardens Of Heligan which were very impressive. As the day drew on and we had seen all we wanted to see, we made the short drive to Mevagissey, a small fishing village on the south coast. To be honest we were disappointed with Mevagissey, although it was obviously a picturesque working fishing village, there were too many gift shops offering 'tat' and rubbish for sale for my liking, added to that, the habour area was strewn with litter. In short the village struck me as cheap and shabby, though others I have spoken too seemed to have liked it.

Monday saw us take the longish drive westwards to Marazion and
St Michael's Mount. We arrived as the tide was coming in, but the causeway to the mount was still open, so were able to walk to the island, where we wandered around the castle and gardens for a number of hours. The breeze from the Atlantic was bracing, though it was warm enough to sit and watch the world go by in sheltered areas. The castle cafe had a few problems with staff, they had only opened that day for the first time this year. The staff were on the whole new, and untrained. I'm sure they will get better as time goes by, they were pleasent and friendly enough. For the journey back to the cottage, we took the long route around, heading for St Just, and then taking the northern coast road back towards St Ives. This was a shock in itself, as I was unprepared for the dramatic change in scenery that transpired. Green agricultural scenes giving way to rugged moorland with, in many cases, the only signs of life gone by, being the derelict tin mines on remote hillsides. We finished the day with a meal and bottle of wine in the Hewas Inn, at Sticker which was about a mile from our cottage base.

Tuesday and it was time for the impressive Eden project (already linked in earlier blog), this was one impressive achievement. It was well worth a visit, though I wouldn't like to be there at the height of summer. I would expect the crowds and queuing to be horrendous. The staff told me of 4 mile queues to get in on the busier days. The car parks hold 3000 cars and the staff say that the busiest day saw 10,000 people pass through the Biomes. I'm am informed that it is better to go late in the day at around 3pm to 4pm at such times.

On to Wednesday with the week rapidly coming to too fast an end, we travelled to Lanhydrock House, which is just to the South of Bodmin. We had been here once before way back in 1986, but from what I recall, it hadn't changed a great deal. If you are into National Trust buildings, then this is worth a visit, though I doubt that the small restaurant and seperate snack bar could cope well on a busy day. It was here that we met what was probably the most miserable waitress of the holiday. She was positively flustered by our request for a second plate when we ordered two cakes, she obviously expected us to share the one plate she proferred us. To say she had a face like she had sucked on a grub was an understatement.

Thursday came and saw us drive east to the Tamar valley, to the north of Plymouth. The final destination was Cotehele House, pronounced Cotheal, one of the least altered medieval houses in the country. The building and estate was much bigger than expected, and the woodland walk down to the Quay and then on to the old Mill, which still grinds flour today made our visit a lot longer than intended. The property was an unexpected gem with fine views across the Tamar. The only thing to watch out for if you ever pay a visit yourselves, is that the cafe on the quay doesn't offer much in the way of food, cakes and scones are the limit. If you want something more substantial, then eat in the cafe/restaurant by the main house. The ice cream from the Harbour cafe was superb though.

So to our last day, Friday we thought to give the historic houses a miss today, and visit Padstow, a fishing village on the north coast, home of Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant. We really enjoyed Padstow, it was set in the very pictureque Camel valley, and fishing vessels were tied up in the harbour in numbers. The shops were decent, not full of 'tat' though there were a couple that variety as can be expected. But it wasn't over-run with rubbish. There were some decent pubs and cafes, though why anyone eat's in Mr Stein's restaurent is beyond me. His cheapest main course was Cod, Chips and Mushy Peas, for which he charged £17.50 (that is around $27 to my US readers). When I told my mother this, bless her, she asked if that included bread and butter and a cup of tea. We ended up buying our usual holiday momento from Padstow, a watercolour print of the North Quay by Judith Trevorrow from The Whistlefish Gallery.

From there we travelled via the coast road to Newquay and Fistral Bay
for a brief visit, which confirmed that this had been turned into possibly the capital for British surfers. The quiet coves between Padstow and Newquay were idyllic, but were probably filled with tourists and surfers in the summer months. From Newquay we ended up at a small Elizabethan Mansion called Trerice, which was an interesting if somewhat overpriced find. Finally we travelled down to Charlestown, half a mile South of St Austell, which turned out to be a real surprise. It was only small but had an interesting harbour, and what looked to be an interestng Shipwreck Museum, it was closed by the time we arrived, but looked as if it may be worth a visit next time we are down this way. We finished the holiday with another meal at the Hewas Inn, which offered good food at good value prices, which is probably one up on Mr Stein.

The journey home was uneventful, though we stopped off at Chedder Gorge to break the journey a little, and to show Pauline my former stamping grounds, in the days that I indulged in the oft considered mad pastime of caving in the Mendips.

The holiday and this megablog has nudged me with a few thoughts for future rants, which I may indulge in, in the days to come. In case you are wondering about the number of NT properties that we visited during our stay, we are members of the National Trust and being a tight Yorkshireman, I fully intended to get full use out of my subscription.

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