Friday, October 31, 2003

RedNova - Image Of The Day 

The the above image is an aurora of a Colorado sky triggered by a cloud of high energy particles from the Sun that collided with planet Earth's magnetosphere yesterday, October 29, at about 06:30 Universal Time.

The full description is available at Rednova

Lloyds Join The Exodus To India 

So Lloyds TSB are the latest Bank to close down a British Call Centre in favour of cheaper options abroad.

The bank said that it would close its call centre in Newcastle, which employs 986 people, and sub-contract the jobs to its new centre in Hyderabad.

Newcastle has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country, but Lloyds TSB said it was difficult to recruit and retain staff in the city. The bank shut a call centre in Gateshead earlier this year.

I suspect the real reasons it is difficult to recruit and retain staff are:

1. The wages that call centre staff are paid are pitiful for the frequent abuse they have to put up with.

2. Call centre staff are generally treated by there employers as little more than shit.

3. The bank will be able to get around reasons 1 & 2 by paying even less to the Indian staff and no doubt they can get around all manner of strict working conditions that would be imposed in a UK location.

Over and above the so called problems of retaining staff, Lloyds real reason for the move is to make bigger profits nothing more nothing less and they are doing it by abusing less fortunate societies.

I knew this was coming but didn't expect it so soon. I think it is time to start looking for another bank.

Mrs C Update! 

I've just spoken to Mrs C on the phone and she is fed up of being in hospital, she described her mood as suicidal, which is not surprising really. She has been in a lot of pain since coming off the morphine, it had to be done as she was starting to hallucinate due to the level that was in her system. The painkillers that are now been provided, paracetamol, do not seem to be strong enough, but the staff claim that is all that they can provide. Also she has not slept properly since the op'. everytime she dozes off someone comes in and disturbs her doing some test or other or to give her another potassium pill (her potassium levels are low).

On top of all this she hasn't eaten for a week, due to the wonderful system of outsourcing catering services, patients have to choose what they want too eat 24 hours in advance. If, when the time comes to eat the food, they then don't feel like it, then they are out of luck. All she wants is a lightly boiled egg, the hospital cannot provide it, is it too much to ask for?

The consultant has just told her that she is making great progress and, if he thinks she is ok tomorrow, then he might let me take her home for the day, as long as she is back by teatime that is. I think if he doesn't allow her out for the day she will conspire to assassinate him. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, at least at home she will be able to sit with her feet up with nobody pestering her and if she can sleep she will be allowed to sleep.

My Mood Today 

I feel extremely cynical today, don't ask me why, I just do.

Michael Howard - His Past Catches Up With Him 

I knew the medias favourite for the Tory Party leadership, Michael Howard, had a rather sinister past, so I was trying to do a little digging. Thankfully Gert saved me a lot of trouble, by finding Tom Watson's link, which details the murky political deeds of one Michael Howard.

Just as an aside to this, I was listening to Radio 5 the other night and some Tory MP was prattling on, about how Mr Howard's broad experience of government departments, he's worked in all of them at sometime or other, made him ideally suited to leadership, due to this very fact.

Does no one ever consider the other possibility? He was crap in everything he did, so was shipped from pillar to post just to get him out of the way. That's what they do with most of the more useless workers in the civil service. Why should it be any different for the MP's?

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

On Matters Of Security 

The civil service has many levels of security classification, which are attached to information, documents, memos, letters etc. along with detailed instructions on when and how to use the security levels and also, how to label/send envelopes through the post which had security levels associated with them. No doubt most companies have very similar procedures.

One of the most common classifications is 'Management In Confidence', envelops with these wonderful words stamped across their front usually contain information relating to staff under the control of the recipient, promotions agreement to pay rises, transfers etc.

During a particular period in the early eighties there seemed to be a particular boom in the numbers of these envelops landing in my intray. Why they landed there I don't know, I wasn't a manger nor was I the intended recipient. All I could assume was that the messenger, delivering the mail, was particularly useless and couldn't read or something.

The shear volume of such mail hitting my desk, which was actually addressed to my manager, started to get me intrigued as to what was going on. Subtle questions got me nowhere, outright bluntness was met with stonewall tactics, more often than not the old "It doesn't concern you" or "You don't need to know" were the answers I got back. So I hatched a plot, not to find out what was going on, it was usually something trivial anyway, but to play a simple joke on my ever suffering manager.

As the envelops hit my intray, I simply printed in large letters even the messenger could understand "Not In This Room, Try......" and in even larger writing I wrote the managers room number. I then crossed out the word "In Confidence" and replaced them in bold red ink with the word "incompetence". The envelop was then placed into my out tray.

Unfortunately the trick didn't quite pan out as expected, because the first time I tried it, my manager wandered into the room and started talking about the current project. He babbled on for a minute or so and then looked around at the In/Out trays asking "Has any more mail come in here for me? Oh yes I can see one there.".

He picked up the envelop and was about to walk out of the room when the alterations hit him, "What's this? Management incompetence! Who wrote that?". He went bright red in the face, when he realised what he had done, he was in a room of 12 progammers and their managers and, had just blurted out what was meant to be a private joke to all and sundry. The entire room was in stitches including me. You had to be there to see his face, when it dawned on him, to get the full measure of how funny it seemed at the time.

I of course admitted that, it was I who had pulled the stunt, though it worked better than I could have imagined in the end, it went down in section folklore, and there were a fair number of references to it over the next couple of years. The manager I pulled the joke on had a sense of humour and put it down to experience, he'd pulled enough stunts in his time. But you had to be there to appreciate the full impact stunt.

Oh , and the contents of all these mysterious envelops? They were all to do with emergency arrangements to be implemented in the event of strike action, during an impending fight with our unions. We all knew what was going on anyway.

MSN Search: update -- More Useful Everyday 

More useful everyday?

If this MSN Search hit, that found me yesterday, is anything to go by then I really do fear for the person that posed it. More pointless every day would have been a better description.

Why on earth did he/she bother, once they had discovered that there were 24,978,588 potential sites to scroll through?

New Labour Or Big Brother? 

As the incumbent government dig deeper and deeper into our pockets, savings and pensions via the ever increasing stealth taxes, they also seem hell bent on curtailing our freedoms and it's all very subtle. The fact that a Government uses stealth taxes should alert the population to the possibility of a Government using stealth in other ways. Consider the following:
  1. We have the proposed introduction of Identity Cards which will allegedly help us all secure our just benefits. On the face of it they are not particularly a bad idea, but they could be surrupticiously used to track our movements if the right chips were inserted into such cards.

  2. Next we have the heavy tax on petrol which eats into any low wage earners ability to travel.

  3. Proposals to fit cars with tracking devices on the pretext of being able to be taxed fairly on road usage, will more than likely be used to keep track of who is doing what and where they are doing it, as well a means of collecting revenue for the government.

  4. Constant Government raids on pension funds, erode the spending power of pensioners, ensuring that those not yet destined for custody in a care home, won't be able to afford to wander too far away and blow the whistle on the ever increasing financial burden of old age.

  5. Then along comes the wonderful proposal to whack a tax on the sale of houses to stop us all moving so often, if at all.

  6. Finally the proposed increase in airport taxes, puts a greater burden on the populace who merely want to enjoy a short period of time away from our overtaxed homeland.
Their seems to me to be a surupticious effort, on the part of those in power, to curtail our freedoms to travel and move home.

Does anyone else get the impression that the people we elected, to look after our interests, want to know and dog our every move, whilst charging us for the privledge?

On The Subject Of Taxes 

I wouldn't mind taxes too much if they gave us:
But they don't, they are just wasted by fools, who merely think they know what they are doing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

More Restrictions On Population Movement 

Ministers are planning to double airport tax risking a backlash from passengers and the increasingly popular budget airlines.

The Department of Transport and the Treasury are proposing to raise air passenger duty from £5 to £10 on economy tickets within Britain and from the UK to Europe, with the rate climbing from £20 to as much as £40 for other destinations.

Want to go on holiday? Then make sure you give the Government their pound of flesh first. The Guardian reports on yet more government plans, to grab money, from an already overtaxed populace, to further restrict the movement of people who can not afford to stump up the required proof of fitness to travel. ie. a nice bundle of readies.

Galloway Blast At PM 

Mr Galloway saved his most damning criticism for what he called the "Bush-Blair axis of evil", claiming that Mr Blair was the "monkey" to the "organ grinder" Mr Bush.

Mr Galloway said: "The role of the British Labour Prime Minister is to provide electoral succour and comfort for the Republican President George W Bush. Shoulder to shoulder, head to head and lips to posterior. ............"
Source: The Star

Who else but George Galloway could come up with that One. He might not be everyone's cup of tea, but he has a point.

Cancer 'postcode lottery' To End? 

Health Secretary John Reid was ordering action to end "postcode prescribing" that denies thousands of cancer patients drugs because of where they live.

Dr Reid wants to know why some health authorities are reluctant to prescribe new drugs that are nationally recommended.

He has ordered "Cancer Tsar" Mike Richards to conduct a nationwide review and says Government will deal with any funding problems.
Source: The Star.

It is about time someone took a serious interest in this, it's a national scandal.

Mobile madness? 

Having trouble with your mobile today? Well here's the reason:

A giant fireball hurtling towards Earth threatens to bring chaos to mobile phone networks, power grids and aircraft communications.

The vast cloud of gas - which with a temperature of 1.8million degrees fahrenheit is more powerful than a billion hydrogen bombs - will hit our planet's atmosphere some time this morning.

There is no chance of it connecting with the Earth's surface or endangering mankind.

But the effect of it bouncing off our planet's magnetic field will create a 'geomagnetic storm' with the power to disable the National Grid.

You can find out more about the story at This is London or from the BBC website which carried the warning last Friday.

And there's me thinking it was just a flat battery.

Man Hides IN Wardrobe To Avoid Work 

A German man who did not turn up to work because he fancied a day off was found hiding in his wardrobe.

Bosses at the painting and decorating firm in Koblenz, Germany, where the man works, called police when he failed to show up or answer his telephone.

There's many a time I've felt like throwing a sickie, but I think hiding in a wardrobe is taking it a bit too far. A simple phone call to say that he was ill should have sufficed, then there would have been no danger of been found out. Then again maybe he wanted to be found in order to make a statement: Work is a bloody pain in the ............

Monday, October 27, 2003

The Artist Within 

Over on Boot's blog, Pogo asked a question: How do you start painting? In the artists sense of the word. I was going to post answer in Boot's comments, but decided to blog about how I started in this wonderful hobby.

Like any child I enjoyed painting, dawbing watercolours onto bits of paper at home and school, dawbing things that had no discernible shape to the casual observer, or to the experience observer for that matter, but so what I enjoyed it. As I grew older my talent never developed. I don't think art teachers, at school, taught children how to enjoy painting, everyone was left to their own devices, unless they showed some innate ability.

My ideas on art teachers became very fixed at the age of twelve when we were set a piece of classwork, to be finished in a double period, entitled "An Alien Landscape". Well I slapped paint on my bit of white paper all over the place, objects representing mountains, moons, the odd sun or two and a fair number of alien life forms. Towards the end of the lesson our art teacher, a person considered by many in the class to be a plastic hippie or something, came over and gave my work the once over. To my surprise he exclaimed in a loud voice that everyone could hear "This is brilliant, just look at the effects of gravitaion on these life forms!", everyone heard him. He quickly added "I think it could be improved by adding some shadow detail, I'll come back before the lesson ends to review it". Then off he went to pester some other child with his delusions.

With that advice ringing in my ears I set about adding shadows. Now correct me if I'm wrong but shadows relate to light sources, yes I thought so. So I took into account of the positions on my suns and slapped on some dark paint, in various locations for shadows. Pleased with my work, I stepped back to admire it, but was quickly shocked when the teacher returned and pronounced loudly "OH No You've Ruined It. What did you go and do that for?". I answered "Errr you told me too sir.". His reply of "Fool, I didn't mean that much shadow" cemented in my mind that all artists were idiots and not worth the time of day. So ended my enjoyment of painting for nearly 33 years.

From that moment on I believed I was useless and couldn't draw, paint or even attempt to enjoy art.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

I started to see art as a possible hobby many years later, whilst watching a program, on one of the Sky channels, called Simply Painting by an artist called Frank Clark. Now Frank, showed his audience how a few simple splashes of colour, on a piece of paper, could be made to look like work of art. His system was simple to follow for the novice and he believed that anyone could paint, and actually made it easy. Franks secret was that he taught the basics, he assumed his audience had absolutely no idea how to paint and so started from that standpoint, his teaching method is good and very easy to follow.

His system was called HSMF which is an acronym for Have Some More Fun, or in Franks mind a description of the order in which you produce a picture Horizon, Sky, Middleground, Foreground. Obviously it wasn't that simple but it was a start and, is the start he uses to paint all pictures. Each of his 30 minute programs produced a different picture, all starting with the same principles and followed up, with just as easy to follow instructions, on how easy it is to paint a decent picture.

I thought "he makes it look so easy, I can do that". The whole point of his program was to make you think those very words. "It's easy, go on have a go". The problem was I didn't have a go, I just thought one day I'll give it a try, but never got around to it, that is until 3 years ago I injured my back, which necessitated me being off work for 7 weeks.

During my time off work there was a program's on TV in the early afternoon called Watercolour Challenge hosted by Hannah Gorden, I quickly got into the daily routine of watching this enjoyable competition and soon started to think "hey I wouldn't mind having a crack at that. Maybe it's time to do something about it".

That something turned out to be a Christmas present (Christmas 2000) from Mrs C, a starter set of watercolour paints, brushes, mixing palettes, under the banner of a "Watercolour Challenge" boxed set plus Frank Clark's first book "Simply Painting Book 1". That was it, I was off and running. The book took you through a number of extremely easy to follows lessons teaching the pupil to paint simple but effective landscapes, plus a still life of a flower pot and flowers. I quickly worked my way though the book, and by the end of it friends and family were asking me to paint pictures for their walls.

Not wanting to be put under pressure I just said, "I'm painting to enjoy myself, I'll do it for me. I'll do something for all of you in the end but in my own time". So far 3 people have got something of mine hung on their walls, and a number of others still keep reminding me that they would like a picture someday. I haven't painted anything for a year now and, keep reminding myself that when time permits, I'll get back into the groove. Maybe one day, I'll bang some on eBay for auction to see how they go. I've seen worse sold on there, but not just yet.

So to anybody who fancies a dabble with the old paintbrush, I say go on do it. If you don't fancy joining a class, get hold of one of Frank Clark's books and do the lessons in your own time. Remember art is for your own pleasure, if you enjoy who cares what anyone else thinks. If you get the bug, then you can progress from Frank Clark's method and join evening classes to boost your skills, interacting with other artists is good as many new techniques can be learned that you miss in books.

Go on you can do that! Just find a local art shop and ask for some advice about starting painting in watercolour. That's what Mrs C did for me.

The sad home owning fetish that's made fools of us all! 

I think Peter Hitchens got it right:

The leaked plan to tax house sales at 40 per cent - which will eventually come true, just wait and see - doesn't surprise me at all.

The great British home-owning fetish has always looked like a dead end. Why do people think of their houses as assets?

Your house may seem worth quite a lot more than when you bought it. But actually it is worth less in practice. For the price of a slightly bigger house has gone up as well, in proportion, so the gap between the two is far greater than it was. That gap is made greater by the stinging taxes on those who dare to move.......

He goes on to say:

If we're foolish enough to get old and ill, we'll be forced to sell our homes to pay for care. If we're crazy enough to die, the Chancellor will swoop on quite modest homes and levy death duties on us. These were designed to milk landowning noblemen, not working families.

The whole weird pyramid scheme benefits nobody except the very rich - who can afford more than one house - the Government, which has yet another thing to tax, estate agents and the builders we have to hire at huge cost to keep our 'assets' from crumbling.

How on earth did we fall for it?

How did we indeed?

Well I fell for it because I saw a bigger house as a way of storing some money/capital for retirement. Downsizing at the crucial stage I hoped would release some capital to make up for the drastic cut in income at retirement time. Such a cut income wasn't/isn't helped by the chancellors constant raids on pension funds.

UK to do battle with scissors, paper and stone 

Whilst the world of Rugby is busily enjoying the thrills and spills of a little tournament currently taking place in Australia, the worlds population may be surprised to find that another World Championship is about to take off:

Ananova: "The UK's scissors, paper, stone team is preparing to do battle as the game's world championships kick off in Canada....... The five team members will face more than 1,000 rivals in the playground game - officially called Rock, Paper, Scissors....."

My biggest surprise was that the game has a professional history, and the contestants are competing for a purse of £3,400.

Team captain James Lawson says he hopes the British public will get behind the team "in a big way..... After all, our chosen sport has all the intensity, drama and excitement of a Rugby World Cup and the team I've put together is determined to carry the trophy home."

Come On Britain, let's show the World how it's done.


Mrs C has started to drink things other than water, though she is still not allowed solids yet. The consultant/surgeon popped in to see her a couple of times over the weekend, he even came in on his day off. He was not a happy bunny to find that the physiotherapist had not yet visited Mrs C also, on Saturday, Mrs C was left in a lot of pain when her morphine drip ran out and the anaesthetist wouldn't come to change it, until he had finished in an operating theatre. He should have checked the supply before going into theatre.

I wouldn't like to be in the shoes of those two people today, when the consultant gives them a piece of his mind. Having said that Mrs C is full of praise for all the hospital staff so there are good parts of the NHS, despite adverse media reports.

Though visiting times allow 2 hours in the afternoon and 2 in the evening, she only manages to get through about 90 minutes before she tires. Still despite a slight infection in the area one of the drip lines had been located, she's improving and all the extra tubes, feeding various solutions into her blood stream ,have now been removed, except for the morphine/pain killer feed.

I phoned her this morning, and she had tired herself out trying to wash herself. The ward seems to be quite high tech, each bed has it's own flat screen/TV/Radio/Phone which also gives access to the internet via a mini keyboard. The internet option is not available yet though and is advertised as coming soon. Unfortunately these facilities aren't free, using the TV costs around £1.60 per hour,dialingg out on the phone costs 10p per minutewhilstt those dialing in are charged 39p per minute off peak and 49p per minute at all other times. Use of the Radio is free.

We have been informed that her staples/stitches will not be removed for 10 days so by my estimate I reckon that will be next Monday, so I don't expect her to be allowed to come home until later that week at the earliest.

I keep saying this but thanks again for all the messages of support.

Friday, October 24, 2003

It's The Good News Bad News Time! 

The bad news is Mrs C needs another operation, the good news is that it will be in 9 months time and is only necessary to reverse a temporary bypass that was fitted in yesterdays operation.

Mrs C looked a lot better tonight, even though she is still weak and tired from the operation and is still attached to tubes galore. She managed to sit up in a chair for a while with the help of the ward nurses. While she claims she isn't in pain, it does hurt her a lot to move.

The consultant has informed her that the operation went very well, there is was no sign of the offending tumour (yes she has had cancer), so the radiotherapy/chemotherapy that she underwent for 6 weeks during August and September seems to have done a good job. A piece of the organ where the tumour had originally been found was removed, and a temporary bypass was attached, hence the requirement for a later operation. There was a danger that the bypass would have to be permanent, so we are both over the moon at this news.

Even though there is a long way to go yet, it almost feels like winning the lottery. This has been hanging over us since April and, I hope I'm not speaking too soon, but I think there is a light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel.

Once again thanks to everyone for all the well wishes and positive vibes.

Things Update: 

When I visited Mrs C last night at 6pm, she had not long returned from theatre. Thankfully she was well enough not to need to go into intensive care after the operation and had been returned fairly quickly to the ward. Obviously she had gone through a lot yesterday, but that having been said, she looked a lot better than I expected, despite all the tubes and wires that were emanating from her body.

She was awake and though very tired, managed to speak intermittently, her first words were "I want to come home". I dearly wish that I could comply with her wish, but she needs medical attention that I just cannot give at the moment. I sat with Mrs C for about 90 minutes, whilst she drifted in and out of sleep, until she told me I should go as she needed to rest.

When I phoned the hospital, this morning, the ward nurse informed me that Mrs C had had a comfortable night, but was sleeping at present. The nurses couldn't give me an awful lot of information about the operation, that will have to come from the consultant when he sees Mrs C today. I hope to learn more tonight, I know the consultant wanted to get her out of bed and moving today, which apparently helps to stop blood clots forming.

I must say that all the hospital staff have been very helpful and friendly and actually seem to be performing an efficient job, which is not how the newspapers portray the NHS.

Once again thanks to everybody for their messages of support, both in the comments and via email, it is appreciated.

Blog Statistics - Length of Stay 

Darren Rowse has an interesting post about how long the average blog reader will stay on a weblog.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

A Commonality Of Purpose? 

What have the french judge that I blogged last week and the Buick LaCrosse got in common?

Give up? Well the both have a link with self-gratification.

Apparently Buick are to change the name of the LaCrosse model because it is a slang term for self-gratification amongst teenagers in Quebec.

Perhaps they should rename it: The Buick "Judge D' Angouleme".


I'm afraid blogging may become a little intermittent over the coming weeks, due to a couple of events taking place in my life:

a. Work, don't worry I've got a job and haven't been laid off or anything, but I finally have something meaningful to do, after over two years of effectively sitting around and waiting for customer support calls, we now have a new project to work towards. A contract has been signed for some investigative work to be undertaken for one of our older customers, with a view to a full contract being signed in late December for appoximately 12-18 months worth of project work.

b. Mrs C went into hospital yesterday for a very necessary operation, she went into Pre-Med a 9am this morning and the surgeon expects to start, what could be a 4 hour plus operation, just before lunch.

I didn't sleep well last night and after hearing all the possible risks (all probably very minor in the surgeons eyes), I feel bloody awful at the minute. Although the medical staff have assured us that all will be well and there is a very high chance (90%) that the op' will be successful, I can't help worrying. The worst of it all is that I know Mrs C keeps thinking/worrying that I'll go off her after the op', despite my protestations that there will never be anyone else, I'm just not like that. I feel drained, God alone knows what she really feels like.

Which Animal Totem Spirit Are You? 

Your soul is bound to the Fourth Totem, Solomon:
The Owl

Solomon appears as an azure feathered owl. He
embodies wisdom, judgement, reason, and
. He is associated with the color
azure, the season of autumn, and the element of
water. His downfall is farsightedness.

You are most compatible with Ravens and Monkeys.

Which Animal Spirit Totem Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Which Mythological Form Are You? 

You are Form 0, Phoenix: The Eternal.

"And The Phoenix's cycle had reached
zenith, so he consumed himself in fire. He
emerged from his own ashes, to be forever

Some examples of the Phoenix Form are Quetzalcoatl
(Aztec), Shiva (Indian), and Ra-Atum
The Phoenix is associated with the concept of life,
the number 0, and the element of fire.
His sign is the eclipsed sun.

As a member of Form 0, you are a determined
individual. You tend to keep your sense of
optomism, even through tough times and have a
positive outlook on most situations. You have
a way of looking at going through life as a
journey that you can constantly learn from.
Phoenixes are the best friends to have because
they cheer people up easily.

Which Mythological Form Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Nicked from Breanagh.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Tales OF Cortinas, Carpets And Fuzz: 

I first took driving lessons in the early 1970's but on failing my first attempt at a driving test, I decided everything was too expensive and I didn't need a car anyway, so jacked in the lessons and merrily went about my life on public transport. That was until I moved out of my hometown to a village near Basingstoke in Hampshire. The village had a reasonable Bus service in those days, though I soon found that hanging around in rural bus stops in winter was not very pleasant, especially when the buses had problems on the local hills. These problems led to some friends suggesting that I learn to drive and buy a car. So it came to pass:

I bought my first ever car, a MkII Ford Cortina 1300 Estate in the late 70's six months before I passed my driving test. Living in the village I was residing in at the time, were a number of colleagues from work, who had offered to be the accomanying driver whilst I built up some driving practice before my test. This seemed like a workable idea, I would get driving practice, I would build up confidence and would not have some instructor sat beside me sighing when I got things slightly wrong.

I'd bought my car from a friend for a reasonable price and, had even helped him to install the reconditioned engine and, rebuild the gearbox before it passed into my possession. This should have served as a warning to me, especially as we had a small egg shaped piece of metal left over after the job was 'finished', but it didn't.

Over the early weeks I practiced in the local lanes, whilst I built up some confidence I quickly progressed to driving to and from work with the aforementioned colleagues sitting in with me. With my confidence so boosted I found myself doing things that most learners would have baulked at, such as overtaking on country lanes, driving instructors rarely allowed such maneuvers to take place. Once a week I would drive with a number of locals to the Mendips for caving expeditions, which gave me night driving practice.

buoyed by this confidence I made a decision to drive to Middlesbrough once a month accompanied by a potholing friend that hailed from the north east too. This would give me all sorts of practice on new roads and in differing traffic conditions, which could only be good experience.

The first trip went without a hitch, even though I had to take a rather roundabout route to avoid Motorways, I enjoyed it and agreed plans to make another run the month after. The build up went well, the car was loaded and off we set down the back roads to Newbury, through Newbury and off up the A34 towards Oxford and the North.

The car was motoring well then on the outskirts of Oxford something happened I changed gear to overtake a car on a hill and there was a distinct clunk, the speedo' needle returned to Zero but the car was still going so I thought "oh bugger looks like I need to find a reconditioned speedo' when I get back there's not much I can do now, I'll just push on". All was well until I approached a roundabout at the junction with the A40, I slowed down and tried to change down to 3rd, but the gearstick was just floating around all over the place. I tried to centre it and as I slowed down further went for 2nd gear, clunk, I got it, phew.

Stopping at the roundabout, I switched to 1st and nothing, I tried 2nd, nothing just a gearstick that felt as if it was connected to nothing. I tried 3rd, cluck we were in, but then I had to wait for a big gap in traffic to pull away in 3rd gear, it was hairy stuff but still I went on. I decided at that point to push on regardless, I was going to get ''home" somehow, after all there was a big football match the day after. Any normal person might have thrown in the towel and at the very least tried to get back to where I started from, but oh now not me.

The journey to Middlesbrough was interesting, with gear changes being random to say the least. One thing in my favour was that I could always get 4th. Somehow we got home to Middlesbrough in one piece, without further incident, apart from an ongoing game of which gear will I get next.

A neighbour of my parents was a mechanic and agreed to have a quick look at the problem, and quickly came to the decision that I needed a new gearbox, I think I could have told him that. Given that I had to be back at work on Monday and there was no chance of a fix before then I made the mad decision to drive back south on Sunday. Nothing was going to get in the way of me enjoying a footballing and drinking weekend. Before I finally left my mum donated an offcut roll of carpet to me to use in the car, this was loaded into the car with our luggage and once again we began a long journey.

Suffice to say the journey back south on the Sunday followed a similar pattern to the journey north. Somehow the car kept going, albeit starting off from roundabouts involved some interesting gear combinations, such as 1st to 4th, 2nd to 4th and 3rd to 4th. It's not an experience I would recommend to anyone.

As we passed Oxford heading south on the A34, I was overtaking a stream of traffic, when a large dark blue car hurtled up behind me, I thought "aye, aye he's in a hurry", I probably was too, but my speedo' was bust remember, so I pulled over into a gap in traffic to let the driver pass me. As he pulled alongside he slowed slightly, the passenger looked my car up and down and he once again speeded up.

As he pulled away I indicated to pull out again to continue with my overtaking maneuvers, it was a that point that I noticed a black box on the parcel shelf of the dark blue car suddenly light up with the words: POLICE STOP. "Bollocks" I thought "was I speeding? Did I do some dodgy maneuver?" I had no idea. All I could do was follow the police car to the lay-by that he chose to pull over into. Thankfully I'd wrestled successfully with the gears and switched the engine off before he approached the car.

I rolled the windows down the two officers approached, showing their ID they told me to get out of the car, which I did. They asked the usual "Is this your car, where are you going to, where have you been, let's see your license, who do you work for?". I was fully expecting them to question my speed, but they didn't which was a bit of a surprise. Inspecting my license the PC didn't pickup on the fact that it was a provisional again a surprise.

I was asked to open the tailgate of the car so that the contents could be inspected, bags were opened, my roll of carpet was unrolled along the side of the road, and checked for hidden pockets but nothing was found.

Meanwhile my passenger, Simon, was being questioned by the second office, I heard the questions "Where do you live? Who do you work for and where are you traveling too?" fired off in quick succession before Simon could answer.

All I could hear of his reply was "Errrm, Errrrm, Errrm Errrr, I'm err not errr sure if......". Oh no he was pulling the I'm not at liberty to tell you stunt that so many minor MOD employees seem to delight in answering to anything you ask them. Obviously the police were pricking up their ears at this, so I just shouted "For gods sake Simon stop messing about and tell them you idiot, it's not a secret." Thankfully he responded with the answers they were looking for.

With that the police thanked me and apologised for pulling us over, explaining that it was a random check because so many of these Cortinas are stolen in the area. I had to respond to that, I said "I'm not surprised, I know 4 people in my village who can open this with their own car keys, and I've unlocked it with a sardine tin key", that statement is true as well. They bid me goodbye and left me to wrestle with the gearstick once again.

Once I got back to Hampshire, the guy who sold me the car determined what the missing gearbox part mentioned earlier did, it was a locking mechanism that only allowed one spigot of two, inside the box, to move at anyone time, during gear changes. What was happening was that in certain conditions movement of the gear stick moved both spigots causing the gearstick to become detached form the slot it normally resided in, then the spigots got out of alignment thus causing me problems.

The quick solution was to unscrew the piece where the stick entered the gearbox, use a screwdriver to slip the internal spigots back into position and then replace the stick. The only time the box gearstick caused problems after that was when I tried top select reverse, but I now knew how to cure it. I still needed a new speedo' though.

I passed my test in August that year, which to be honest surprised me. Just before my test I'd booked some refresher lessons to kick me into shape. The instructor commented at the time "Well you know how to drive, now I just have to teach you to pass a test". I was relieved when I did.

Austrian farmer faces jail over apricot 'marmalade' 

Ananova: An Austrian farmer has been threatened with jail because he sold marmalade made from apricots instead of citrus fruits.

Johann Thiery was also fined after trading standards inspectors found him selling the apricot marmalade which he made using his grandmother's recipe.

According to a European Union ruling, marmalade can contain only citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges. It can't be made out of apricots or other soft fruits. Such produce has to be labelled as jam.

Is it any wonder that many people have a dislike of the EU, when such idiot laws are being enforced on a continual basis and, our government actually want to cede more power to to such petty morons.

An EU spokesman said: "The law is the law."

I say the law is an ASS and a damned public money wasting petty one at that!.

A friend of mine makes and sells onion marmalade, I suppose that will be outlawed too if the morons in Brussels find out.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Bizarre Signs To make You Chuckle 

After tea break staff should empty the teapot and stand upside down on the draining board - On the wall in a staff canteen.........

Safety first: Please put on your seatbelt and wait for accident - In a Japanese taxi.......

Toilet out of order please use floor below - In an office block in Manchester......

SMARTS IS THE MOST EXCLUSIVE DISCO IN TOWN EVERYONE WELCOME - Seen outside a nightclub in the Midlands....

Not to be used as protection from a tornado - On a blanket from Taiwan....

These plus many many more can be found in yesterdays People.

This Weekend 

On Saturday as the weather was fine we decided to have a day trip to Bakewell in Derbyshire, a 131 mile round trip. It was Mrs C's idea, she was looking for somewhere we hadn't been before, she found one of her colleagues was there a couple of weeks ago for a wedding and they claimed it was a nice Derbyshire market town.

The drive across was very pleasant, the road over the Pennines from Macclesfiled to Buxton was surprisingly quiet, which gave us time to admire the dramatic moorland scenery. We arrived at Bakewell around 12:45pm and parked up in the long stay car park near the agricultural market, it costs around £2-50 for up to 4 hours or £3-50 for over four hours. The short stay car parks in the centre of the town limit you to a maximum of 2 hours parking.

A short stroll from the car and we were quickly into the town centre, the river Wye was crystal clear and absolutely full of ducks, Canadian geese and the ubiquitous seagulls. There were even a couple of coots swimming about, but avoiding the huge populations of the other birds. The town centre was quite busy for such small town, and the stone built cottages and shops reminded us very much of the Yorkshire Dales towns.

Despite there being pubs everywhere we chose to lunch in The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop where there is an upstairs restaurant. For anyone visiting Bakewell and the Pudding Shop, I can recommend the Tuna sandwiches served with chips and salad all for £3-50. The bakewell pudding and custard was tasty too. After we'd finished lunch we wandered around the shops and strolled up to All Saints church which overlooked the town from a rise to the West, and wandered around the stone cottages getting a feel for the place, before our return to the car and a slow drive home.

In case you are wondering, the cake, that we know as a Bakewell Tart, does not originate from Bakewell. Bakewell is famous for the Bakewell pudding which comprises of a puff pastry base covered with a layer of jam which in turn is covered with a layer of egg and almond paste mix or so I was told, by the assistant, in the Old Bakewell Pudding shop.

A few, and I mean a few, photos of our visit can be found here.

Friday, October 17, 2003

China's Great Wall Is Not That Big After All 

China's first astronaut has blown a myth by admitting the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from space. - Ananova.

So who started the lie in the first place? NASA admits that all their astronauts admitted to seeing were: the white of clouds, the blue of the oceans, the yellow of deserts and a few green patches of vegetation.

Judge caught masturbating in court 

A French judge has been caught masturbating in court.

The un-named magistrate was seen masturbating in a court in Angouleme.

Three witnesses, a lawyer, a woman in the public gallery and a journalist, all reported seeing the act.

Source: Ananova

Apparently the magistrate involved is expected to be put under a psychiatric evaluation. The question I ask is:

Will the verdict by the French be 'Vive La Sport' or 'He's a wanker, he's a wanker, it does him.........'.

Ananova - Wife Swap has made life 'living hell' 

Ananova reports that: Wife Swap couple the Bardsleys say their lives are 'a living hell' after appearing on the Channel 4 show - and wished they had never taken part....... Mark Bardsley, who lives in Rochdale with wife Lizzy and their eight children, has told GMTV he has now been offered a job as a result of the show after years out of work..... But he said he had no idea when he could start as the backlash from Wife Swap had made him even more depressed.

Perhaps Mr Bardsley you should get off your lazy backside and take the job, people might just have a bit more respect for you then. It would also offer you a way out of your so called depression.

Mark said: "I've never said I want to stay on benefits. I want to go out and work.

Well take the job and stop making excuses, put some pride back into your life man.

What To Read Next? 

Well I finished The Blue Road by Windy Baboulene, last night and, the rest of the book, since my last post, was every bit as funny as the first half.

So I'm now have a choice of reads from a couple of books I bought some time ago. I think I'll start on The Road To McCarthy - Pete McCarthy, even though I haven't read his first book McCarthy's Bar yet.

"Relentless pursuit of the non-existent by the clueless armed with the unworkable is bound to turn up something sooner or later" a sentence, from the book, mentioned in one of the reviews, made the choice for me.

(Now with working links)

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Reds Under The Beds (Or No. 5 In An Occasional Series of Strange behavior In The Workplace) 

In the mid to late 1980's I had moved from a mini computer background into a PC specialism. As part of the job I managed a small help desk for the Department I worked in, and also a small team of developers. The development language/database of choice in those days was dBase III+, which has no real bearing on this tale, but helps to set the scene a little.

During my time on this section whilst in the process of learning to use and program in dBase I developed a small PC application which could be used in house to track who was in possession of various registered files, promotional films, video evidence, departmental/section literature and anything else that could be thought of at the time. This became quite a popular piece of software throughout various sections of the department, so much so that it was later taken as a model for a more large scale development in the 1990's, this time on a mini platform but that's a bit of trumpet blowing by me.

At some point in the late 80's a couple of the head office sections in London got to hear of the software and requested that it be installed on a few PC's down there. Once agreements had been signed etc, I was dispatched to the capitol for a couple of days both to install the software and give a little bit of onsite training.

The installation of software within the first section went wonderfully well as did the training. I'd written a Noddy guide that was easy to follow and showed users how to do both simple and complex searches and the users cottoned on pretty quickly. This in no way prepared me for what was to come on day two though.

I'd spent a nice evening in London, met up with a some old friends for a few bevies and a curry, not too drunk I'd had a good nights sleep and following breakfast I reported on time to install the software onto the final two PC's. The first installation went well, there were no hitches and the operator picked up on the use of the software very quickly. One PC left to do, I thought: 'good I can be on the 2pm train back to Liverpool and back home by 6:30pm'.

I asked Joan (name changed to protect the innocent), the operator I had just trained, directions to where the next PC, nominated to receive the new software, was situated.

She replied "I'll take you there".

"It's ok" I said "I'll find my way really".

Joan looked at me with serious eyes and said "No honestly it is better if I show you and introduce you to the girl who will be using the software".

I'm not sure what I thought at the time, but I think that should have rung some alarm bells but I just said "Well ok, thanks very much, lead on.".

So it came to pass that I was led through some corridors of power to the office of the secretary of one of the major players in the department management team. The secretary, Debbie (again name changed), happened to be out of the office at the time but her boss was in and just pointed to the PC that the software was to be installed on.

I thanked Joan and said she could go back to her office if she liked, she gave me an odd look and said 'OK, but I'll keep popping back to see if everything is alright'. I wasn't sure if what signals her attitude were hinting at here, had she taken a fancy to me or was I missing something? Anyway Joan left and I soon found out why Joan was being a bit cagey.

The PC that I was working on also needed a upgrade to the Video card at the time I was installing the new software, so I opened it up and was about to add insert the new VGA card when a voice demanded "What do you think you are doing?". I turned and standing before me was what turned out to be the secretary, Debbie. She was about 5' 6" tall of slight build and aged around 40, but she had a strange presence about her.

I quickly explained who I was and what I was doing, I also informed her that her boss had told me to get on with the job whilst she was out of the office. Debbie nodded along to all this but was having none of it. She wanted to inspect the video card, I happily showed it to her, I'm not sure what she expected but was stunned by her next words.

"Where's the camera?" she asked.

"Camera, what camera?" I countered.

"The one that you are using to spy on me" she retorted.

I started to protest, but she was adamant that I was spying on her, if the camera wasn't in the card, then the software contained something that could be used to gather information about her through the monitor. My protestations were coming to nothing, I tried to explain in detail as far as I was able what each chip and capacitor in the card was, but still she didn't believe me.

After around 15 minutes of arguments and counter arguments Joan entered the room and sort of came to my rescue. She spent the next 45 minutes trying to convince Debbie that I was who I said I was and was doing nothing to spy on her. It was a long tedious process. It seemed that Debbie trusted Joan for some reason, but didn't trust many others and, slowly came to accept my reasons for being there.

This had all put my departure time back a bit so Joan told me if I wanted to work through lunch, she'd go out and get me a sandwich and organise some drinks. This was fine by me but would I be able to work with Debbie watching my every move. "She'll be alright now" said Joan, but made some reassuring noises to Debbie anyway before she left.

I suggested to Debbie that she grab something to eat herself whilst I completed the installation and then I could train her up on her return. No chance she wasn't leaving me on my own and continued to watch and question everything I did. I set the software installation running and stepped back to wait for it to finish. Debbie suddenly proclaimed "There they are, they're there every day"

"Who are?" I asked.

"Them, there, the men with the bags, they meet every day to pass on secrets" was the response.

I looked out of the window into the square outside of the building, all I could see were a few suited civil servants sat on benches eating their lunches, was I missing something? I just said to her "They are just regular guys, having their lunch, away from the office."

Debbie looked astounded "See they're fooling you too, no one knows what they are up to, no one believes me but I know they are spies and they are stealing secrets from me. The ones with the little red cases are the worst, you should be wary of them" she claimed.

At that the PC beeped to signal the end of the installation. This started her off again, "you're spying on me?" aren't you she asked. Again I protested my innocence, but she countered "That beep was a signal to the men in the van".

"What men? What van?" I asked feeling somewhat ill at ease.

"Those there" she shouted pointing again out of the window.

Once again I looked out of the window and sure enough there was a white van parked below her office, it was a very ordinary van, in fact it was a departmental van used to transport stationary and office items between our twin London HQ's. Debbie looked worried and told me "They park there every day at the same time and they are collecting information from my PC from the radiation the screen gives off, I've read about it in the papers, everybody is spying on me I have to be on my guard all the time.".

I sighed and explained the purpose of the van and why they were parked in that particular spot, I'm not sure if she was convinced but she lightened up a little. We got on with the training thankfully with not much more interruption and I actually think that Debbie came to trust me a little more after the session, but didn't find that out because Joan returned as we closed and took me back to her office for the promised drinks and a bite to eat.

It was during lunch that I found out the story about Debbie, she had been perfectly normal, but had been badly injured in a road accident in which she hit her head badly. She recovered fully from her physical injuries, but unfortunately she ended up with a rather nasty persecution complex. Whilst she could do her job, she had these terrible delusions of being spied upon. After the accident, work was all she had left, many places might have invalided her out, but her work mates rallied round and protected her from herself as best they could, so she could continue to have a life outside of her home.

I found it a sad tale, but the team spirit in that office was remarkable and I'll always remember the day I was accused of been a Russian spy and the grilling that went with it. I never did cross paths with Debbie and Joan again, though I sometimes wonder if things got any better.

Football - A Chance To See My Team In Action 

Despite my earlier rant, I'm in a good mood today. I've just received two tickets to see Middlesbrough FC take on Wigan AFC at the JJB Stadium, in the 3rd Round of The Carling Cup on 29th October.

Although I only live about 20 minutes drive from the JJB and I look on Wigan as my adopted team these days, I'll be seated with the Middlesbrough supporters. I have supported Middlesbrough all my life, them being my hometown club of course. It should be a tough game as we haven't been playing well this season and Wigan are flying high at the top of the Nationwide 1st Division having only lost one game all season.

I'm looking forward to seeing some of our new signings for this season in action, Gaizka Mendieta is supposed to be a class act and Bolo Zenden is settling in nicely. Hopefully both will play, and again hopefully the Boro away fans will create their usual electric atmosphere to cheer the lads on to a big win.

I had hoped that I would be able to attend more Middlesbrough matches in the North West this season, but unfortunately I seem to be pre-booked for other events when they are scheduled to play other team over this way. So if I want to see them again, I'm just going to have to make time for a visit to the Riverside before the end of the season. Home To Villa (Apr) or Man City (May) look favourites so far.

EU official wants to rename Waterloo Station and Trafalgar Square 

Ananova reports that: A British EU official says Waterloo Station and Trafalgar Square should be renamed to avoid offending French tourists...... Francis Carpenter, who's in charge of the EU's European Investment Fund, says they should be called Europe Station and Concord Square.

So the Politically Correct brigade surface once again, this time from a rather powerful position in the EU. This total moron should be dragged back to this country and forced to undergo a programme of re-education, it's obvious that the first attempt at educating him failed miserably.

To be fair to this contemptable piece of scum, he did also say, that the French should rename Paris's Austerlitz station and Avenues Wagram and Friedland, which commemorate Napoleonic victories over the Austrians and Germans.

Writing in Le Figaro, Mr Carpenter said: "Our urban environments reflect a mental structure right out of the 19th century.

No it doesn't you idiot, it reflects our history and heritage, nothing will change that, even attempts by fools like yourself will ultimately fail to rewrite history unless you destroy a large number of historical documentation. Actually your ideas reflect a moron structure all too prevalent in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Now bugger off and get a proper job, stop pandering to the wets in society and stop wasting our taxes on stupid ideas.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Which Revolution Are You? 

What revolution are You?
Made by altern_active

Death Row: 

I scored 10 on the Serial Killer Profile Quiz which means:

I'm not a threat to society. Although a few quirks in my personality may present some challenges in life, those same idiosyncrasies may very well explain the reason my name continues to appear on "A" party lists

Where do you stand? Take the Quiz and find out.

In the StarTrek Universe: 

You would serve in starfleet as a Commander. You have a command position. You may have started your career in Starfleet by working in engineering. Any of the following positions could be available on a Starship:

Propulsion Engineer
System Mainenance Technician
Impulse Engineering Specialist
Chief of Impulse Propulsion Systems
Warp Core Supervisor
System Diagnostic Engineer
Duty Engineer
Damage Control

Technology tells us how far we can go in the universe. It tells us who in a Startrek Universe: we can talk to, who to help, who to teach, and who we can learn from. Engineers are always willing to experiment with new ways to increase the efficiency of the systems they work with. The only thing worse than a failed experiment is a failure to learn from it. "

What would you be? Take The StarTrek Personality Test and find out your character.

Ananova - Toddler's artwork gets critical acclaim 

The artwork of a three-year-old Georgia boy has been displayed at a local gallery - attracting critical acclaim and even buyers...... Dante Lamb has had his canvas and acrylic works displayed on St Simons Island, and has already sold one piece reports Ananova

This story raises a couple of questions: Is the child a natural born genius? Or does it prove that so called art critics and investers don't know what they are talking about?

Given that the child understands how to use sand and paper to add texture to his work, then he could have a natural talent. It's a pity the story didn't come with a picture or two so we could make our own minds up.


The things that will destroy us are: politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; and worship without sacrifice.

- Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

It had To Happen Sooner Or Later 

You know those wonderful scientific inventions that are designed to make life a little easier for us all? Well there is always a fool who will come along and rely, a little too much, on such a device.

Take the example of the 68 year old American tourist driving through Barvaria, an area he didn't know too well, so what did he do to find his way about? He used the cars automatic navigation system of course, only he relied on the system too much. The journey ended with the car crashing through a set of supermarket doors and finally coming to rest after demolishing a few supermarket shelves.

The unnamed driver, who has been told to foot the bill for the damage, told police that he had relied entirely on the automatic navigation system as he did not know the area

The original story can be found on Ananova - (Car navigation system led tourist into supermarket)

What Am I Reading Now? 

I've just finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) [Adult Edition] by J.K. Rowling, which was a reasonable read considering that it was written for children. Well I'm a big kid really.

I've now started on The Blue Road by Windy Baboulene, a true account of a hilarious and sometimes frightening journey through the surreal world of a bunch of cynical, reprobate merchant sailors. Baboulene joins this world as a 16 year old who is trying to escape the clutches of police. Tales of the crossing the line ceremony, what seamen get up to alone in their own cabins, what the other seamen do to catch them out, general high jinx, they are all in there.

Suffice to say, if you want to know what a glossy sales brochure featuring doors and letter boxes, an able seamen, a plastic tube, polystyrene foam, a locked cabin, polaroid cameras and the term "To Starfish" have in common, then I suggest you read the book.

I'm halfway through and am finding it hilarious so far. Oh remind me never to join the Merchant Navy.

Singapore Set For Horror Show 

It seems that Breanagh is about to get the chance to see something, on the Wee Isle, that has been banned for nearly 30 years.

The Rocky Horror Show film, which had previously been banned because of it's explicit sexiual and masochistic content, will be shown for the first time at an outdoor Halloween party on 1 November.

Google Swamped By Blogs 

The humble weblog has finally achieved dominance over Google, the world's most-used search engine. Originally intended as a tool that allowed people to publish their personal diaries, weblog software has swiftly evolved, accreting several "innovations" that have had catastrophic consequences for Google. If you've never heard of the "Trackback", or ever wanted to know, then we have bad news: you're about to become acquainted, whether you like it or not, dear Google user. so starts an article on The Register

It seems that the trackback tool, used by many blogs, generates empty webpages when it creates lists of trackback entries, these empty pages are being picked up but not filtered out by Google. What is worse is that they are given a high rating in any search results.

Take this simple search: os x panther discussion for instance. Google is - at time of writing - returning empty Trackback pages as No.1, No.2, No.3 and No.4 positions. No.5 gets you to a real web page - an Apple Insider bulletin board. Then it's back to empty Trackback pages for results No.6, No.7 and No.10. In short, Google returns blog-infested blanks for seven of the top entries..

Google is taking some drastic remedial action in the face of these problems including, abandoning PageRank™ and instataing some brutal emergency filters. Only time will tell if they will be successful.

For the full article and discussion click here.

Chinese woman eats dirt 

Hot on the heels of my Let Them Eat Dirt post yesterday, comes a report from Ananova about a Chinese woman who has eaten dirt, once a day for the last 70 years, and she is in good health. Apparently it has been calculated that eaten around 10 tons of the stuff since she started eating mud at the age of eight.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Vandross singing since stroke  

Good news for Luther Vandross fans as the October issue of the Montgomery Advertiser reports: Since the removal in late June of a tracheotomy tube, inserted while he battled meningitis and pneumonia, Luther Vandross is once again talking and singing.....

A Right Grand Sporting Weekend 

So England qualified for the European Championships with a 0-0 draw in Turkey, Scotland and Wales have another shot at qualifying via the play-off system, the home nations all get off to winning starts in the Rugby World Cup, does it get any better?

The answer is a resounding YES, for Britain has swept the board at the World Conker Championships, winning the hard-fought men's and women's titles and unlimited ice cream.

Ananova - Flood victim finds £36,000 down the back of his settee 

An Ananova reports:: that "Flood victim finds £36,000 down the back of his settee..... The man, from the Oberoesterreich region, was affected by a flood which left most of his furniture soaking wet...... When he tried to dry off an old couch, he found 700,000 Schillings, the currency used in Austria before the introduction of the euro.

This reminds me of when my Grandma died may years ago, my father and his brother were arranging to throw her old settee and chairs away, but my mother told them to search them first. It's just as well that they did, she had hidden nearly £7000 away in it.

Who Do You Work For? 

Formed at a grassroots level, Who Do You Work For? has no party line to tow; no paymasters to appease. We are drawn from a broad spectrum of political viewpoints and share one essential vision: to ensure that our democratically elected representatives remain true to the promises they have made, promises that convinced the public that they were worthy of their postitions.

This is the brief description of Who Do You Work For?, a new blog aimed at getting democracy back under the control of the public at large.

Everyone can help, have the people in power let you down, gone back on promises, or do you know of someone in power that should be praised, if so get over there and lend your support. It's run by people who are sick of posturing politicians, and a national media that has it's own agenda.

I wish it every success.

Let Them Eat Dirt 

This post is being written as I think of it so if it makes no sense or rambles off in odd directions, I'll apologise now. I think I know where it's going but I'm not entirelywhether it will get there.

In his recent post, Nanny State, Pogo raised some controversy when he accused his school of overprotecting pupils in their charge who have a peanut allergy.

In the comments to the post Gert asked How many of those allergies are actually psychosomatic. How many kids at your school had food alergies?.

I believe the question asked, should actually have been: Why has there been such an increase in auto immune allergies over the the last few decades?.

Just over three years ago I watched an interesting programme on Channel 4 called Eat Dirt, the programme explored and presented the Hygiene Hypothesis - the theory that the recent western epidemic of allergic diseases, such as asthma, is a direct result of our super clean lifestyles.

The programme and hypothesis will be anathema to those who who overprotect their children from the dangers of bacteria. They would be horrified at the suggestion that dirt is actually good for you, but if you read on and read the links then you may just see why the hypothesis strikes a chord with me.

The hypothesis goes along the lines that over sanitation in the in the western world, from the use of disinfectants and antibiotics has become too extreme, they are killing the good bacteria, that our immune systems need to hone their defences, as well as the bad bacteria. By killing all the bacteria, the body's natural immune capacity fails to develop fully in the early years of a childs life. The arguement goes: when a body is attacked it either does nothing or goes into overkill. When overkill occurs that is when the immune system attacks it's own defences and this is called auto immune disease. This is probably better explained in JE Publications article: Eat Dirt. A more scentific explanation of the whole theory can be found in an article that appeared in The New Scientist, July 18 1998, called not surprisingly Let Them Eat Dirt.

Basically all these articles are saying that an ultra-clean lifestyle damages your immune system, this is something I have been saying for years, even before I was aware of this scientific theory, or even the Channel 4 programme that I watched back in July 2000.

When I was a kid the news that some other unfortunate child had developed measles, mumps, chicken pox or whatever, brought a delighted response from our mothers of "Oh good, let's take xxxxx round and expose him/her to the disease, that way they won't get it later in life". Protesting "that you didn't want said disease, did no good whatsoever, you were exposed to the germs and bingo, the disease developed and you got over it, I think my immune system must have been honed to perfection judging by the diseases I overcame as a child.

The only thing I can recall being told not to do was play near drains or you'll be catching Scarlet Fever my mum claimed. Did we take any notice? Did we heckers like, come the next downpour, we'd be there sailing lolly sticks down the gutters as imaginary boats shooting the rapids. If the imaginary boat disappeared down into the grids, we'd imagine that another disaster had struck, and our ship had plunged down Niagara Falls or something. Kicking balls about in stagnent pools in back alleyways where, dogs roamed freely whilst their owners were at work, was second nature to us, if you fell in it you got wet so what? Just remember not to swallow. Basically we were allowed the freedom to interact with other kids and animals, in a relatively 'unclean' environment, building up our immune systems as we went along.

Nowadays children are vaccinated against all the common diseases and many parents don't allow them to interact properly with their environment, a practise which is storing up trouble for the future. If the immune system doesn't develop properly then over reactions to subtances it doesn't like can cause very severe consequences. These substances can be anything from bacteria to food products such as nuts, dairy products etc.

The message for me is clear, it's been said often enough in this article: 'Let Them Eat Dirt'. By all means protect your kids, just don't overprotect them.

For more links on the subject try this search on Google

Friday, October 10, 2003

It's Not Just Premiership Players Getting Bad Press 

A, third division, Carlisle United footballer is to be questioned by police investigating an alleged assault in a city nightclub.

The player has not been named by the police, who are investigating an incident at Mood on Botchergate on Sunday night where several United players had been enjoying a night out.

It is understood that a row developed when a fan goaded the players about the team’s dismal performances, which have left them four points adrift at the bottom of the Third Division....... It was alleged that some players had been spotted in the pubs and clubs of Carlisle, drinking after defeats against Boston United and Darlington, provoking anger among fans.
reports the Cumbrian based News & Star

To me the big surprise is that something like this hasn't happened before. I mean, Carlisle have been poor for so long that you'd have thought the fans were used to it by now and, any row would have occured well before this.

Carlisle's manager Paul Simpson said: "If it happens again, I may have to look at suspending players from the club."

This has left me wondering whether he meant that the players will be suspended from Carlisle FC if they get beat again, or that they will be banned from the nightclub if any more incidents happen. Perhaps, Carlisle fan, Pogo would like to comment.

The Mind Boggles 

Ananova: A Swedish couple hunting on a remote mountain in Sweden's far northern province of Jaemtland have found 70 pairs of shoes, all filled with butter.

Apparently the find is similar to an exhibit found in the Tibetan mountains done by artist Yu Xiuzhen's in 1996. But a local province spokesman is nonplussed:

If we knew who had done this we could make them clean this mess up...... It's not going to be pretty when the butter starts to rot. And we have to wait for the snow so we can get up there with the snowmobile

That's the ticket it's not art it's a mess.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Inkblot Tests. 

I took Emode's inkblot test today and this is what they said about me:

Mike, your subconscious mind is driven most by Curiosity

You are full of questions about life, people, and your own potential. You spend more time than others imagining the possibilities for your life — and you're open to things others are too afraid to consider.

You have an almost physical need to know and do more. It's only through new experiences that you feel a greater understanding of yourself and the world. You also have a rebellious streak that shows up when you feel unable to truly influence the world or circumstances around you. Your appetite for novel experiences also shows an openness others don't have, but wish they did.

Your psyche is very rich; the more you learn about it, the more you will understand who you really are.

I can find out more about the results, in a 25 page report, if I pay them $9.95. I'm not that bloody curious.

How To Boost Attendance And Profits At Small Race Tracks 

Smaller racecourses will have to do away with their admission charges in order to survive in racing's brave new world. That's the message from Towcester chief executive Chris Palmer, after crowds flocked to a free-for-all at his track yesterday, as it reopened after lying idle for the last 18 months. The full story can be found here.

This is a great idea to boost attendances, I'm sure that the 8,000 racegoers who turned up, for the free event, generated more income for the course, by way of food and drink purchases, than the 1,000 who turned up at the last meeting generated in ticket sales and other purchases.

The normal race admission charge is around £14. So if each race goer paid say £5 each on food and drink the normal takings for a paid event would be, £19,000, as opposed to £40,000 for the free event. That doesn't take into account increased programme and betting revenues.

I don't go to horse racing events very often because of the normal cost of such days out. In fact the last meeting I went to was around 1990 at Uttoxeter, a nice track on a summers day or evening. You can back your car up to the trackside and have a picnic whilst the races go on in front of you. On that night we took £50 out with us for bets, entrance fees, extra food and drink etc. I ended up coming home with £49 in my pocket, the kids kept their own 'winnings' and money given for there own entertainments. Both myself and Mrs C had a bet on every race so I consider that was a good cheap day out. Oh and I ended up with a free miniture bottle of Famous Grouse whisky too, I got that for knowing the 'password' of the day on entry, "make mine a low flier".

I think might have consider another day out at the races, if a local track introduces such a free entry scheme in the near future. I'm told the Cartmel track is a good day out in summer.

Blogger 'Star Sign'/Diary Survey 

Blue Witch has got a Blogger 'Star Sign'/Diary Survey underway and needs some more entries. Why not take a look and add your responses to help make the sample a bit more representative? The results will be published at the weekend.

Pipers banned from Rugby World Cup 

Ananova reports:: "Pipers won't be allowed to play Scotland on to the pitch before their Rugby World Cup games - because organisers say it would give them an unfair advantage"

I'm no fan of Scotland but this is just bloody stupid, they're allowing the All Blacks to perform their traditional Haka war dance though. I say the ban would give Scotland an unfair advantage, it would enrage their squad so much that every game will be total war.

Idiot beaureucrats, I'd be surprised if the idiots, who thought this one up, weren't trained by the European Parliament.

A League Of Corruption 

Finland, Iceland, Denmark and New Zealand top the league whereas Bangladesh, Nigeria and Haiti are well entrenched at the bottom. The United Kingdom is 11th equal alongside Canada and Luxembourg.

Where does the country you live in stand in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2003?

Thanks to The J-Walk Weblog for this one.

The Spread Of AIDS According To The Vatican 

Who is more responsible for the spread of AIDS, The Vatican or Condoms?

Well Quarsan has a wonderful quote from the Vatican that, with a little applied logic, would indicate that the Vatican blames it all on Condoms. Click here for the link to his comments.

A backup story, to Quarsan's comments, can be found in The Gaurdian where the World Health Organisation dispute the view of The Vatican.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

A 500 yard Walk Can Result In Lost Students 

Ananova reports: Oxford University's Student's Union is providing a bus for freshers so they don't get lost on a 500 yard journey between buildings.... Helena Puig Larrauri, union president, defended the coach trips during Freshers Fair. "We don't want the freshers to walk because we are worried they might get lost," she said

And these people are supposed to be highly educated. Anyway if they get lost they have a tongue in their head. Haven't they?

Ananova - Woman arrested after taking 'cursed' money from widow 

A tarot card reader has been arrested in Colorado after telling a widow her money was cursed and it needed to be cleansed..... When the widow, from Greeley, went to pick up her 'cleansed' money, she found the tarot reader had gone and her flat in Longmont had been emptied.

There's one born every minute.

English language 'sexed up' in 21st century 

Ananova reports English has been "sexed up" over recent years according to a new book.

Let's hope that there isn't an inquiry into who is to blame for this one.

Strange Behaviour In The Workplace (No. 4 In An Occasional Series)  

As mentioned earlier, I'd moved to Basingstoke in September 1978, on promotion within the civil service. The new computer project that I was joining was about to take off in a big way, or so the project management claimed. As it turned out it didn't happen quite like that:

As I joined the equipment suppliers had already been chosen and were expected to deliver and in stall all the required components by mid December that year. There was one problem with this, the purchasing procedure had not followed the proper process, ie. there was no general invite to tender issued, so the management had left themselves open to possible corruption accusations if any other computer manufacturer had decided to complain. As a result the whole project was delayed, whilst the proper process was undertaken.

In the new tender process 3 suppliers were shortlisted one of them being the original first and only choice, the second was an large well known American outfit, the 3rd was a joint effort between a well known British Software house and an American manufacturer. The 3rd effort quickly developed into a farce as we found out that the Software house was only using the tender to develop database software on the chosen suppliers computers. Not only that they were using newly recruited graduates to develop the software. The personnel changed each week. This option was quickly booted out of the process and a reserve British manufacturer was called into the process. They quickly fell by the wayside as tehy didn't have any database software nor could they provide COBOL for their machine which was a major requirement.

The purchasing process became a two horse race which ended in the original company being rejected, much to the annoyance of one on the original management team, but he quickly changed his mind once he found how easy it was to work on the first choice. By October 1979 we had taken delivery of our first development machines and we were nearing completion of the first phase of development. It should be noted that we had the use of the suppliers own machines for development purposes before this. A user acceptance testing environment was set up and testing got under way, all went well and the first installation and signoff was due in December.

'Two Brains', a Principle who had been the project manager of the entire project called the us all in for a mini celebration after the users had signed up to take the system. Whilst we were all patting ourselves on the back, 'Two Brains' who had worked in civil service IT for around 30 years, started to deliver a speach. It was in this speach that the immortal words came out:

"Errrm I'm at a bit of a loss as to what happens next. I've never worked on a project that went live before. What happens now?".

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

A Thought On Fireball XL5: 

Does anyone else think that those hover scooters in the old 60's TV show Fireball XL5, look remarkably like a forerunner to JetSki's? They were even named Jetmobiles.

You can find a rundown of the set, characters and cast, here. There are some nice modern art images of Fireball at The Space City Fireball XL5 Gallery.

In a tribute to Fireball and other Gerry and Sylvia Anderson creations, Space City has more modern 3d images (created by Robin & Pauline Day) of craft and scenes Supercar, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and U.F.O as well as Fireball XL5. There are even some images of Daleks in there as a tribute to Terry Nation.

Some of those shows bring back some memories.

Psst! Wanna Buy An Insult? 

At a loss for an insult try: Idol of idiot-worshippers! - Troilus and Cressida, or one of many others randomly generated by the Shakespearean Insulter.

How To Cut The Perfect Cheese Sandwich! 

An article on Reuters describes how to make the perfect cheese sandwhich:

In a bite-sized sandwich using pre-sliced white bread lightly buttered with margarine, a slice of cheddar needs to be at least 2.8 mm thick, the study found.

That's no good to me, I can't stand cheese unless it's the stuff on pizzas.

Ananova - Teacher literally throws schoolboys out of classroom 

Ananova - Teacher literally throws schoolboys out of classroom: Two Moroccan schoolboys have sustained injuries after a female teacher threw them out of a first floor classroom window for being too noisy....... They did not listen. They should have listened," an official said......"

I think I would have probably done something like this if I had ended up teaching. It was probably a good career choice on my part to reject such a notion at an early age.

What Song? 

Nicked from Pogo:

What Song...?

Reminds you of an ex-lover: Three Times A Lady (The Commodores)
Reminds you of your best friend: Tuesday's Dead (Cat Stevens)
Makes you cry: (change cry to sad) Jealous Guy (Brian Ferry)
Makes you laugh: It's a tie between: I'm Sticking With You (Velvet Underground) & The Intergalactic Laxative (Donovan)
Reminds you of the one you want: More Than A Feeling (Boston)
You wish you wrote: Fairytale Of New York (the Pogues)
You never want to hear again: Annies Song (John Denver)
You want to get married to: Unforgettable (Nat King Cole)
Makes you want to mosh: Brown Sugar (The Rolling Stones)
You used to hate but now love: Golden Brown (The Stranglers)
You like to wake up to: I'm Into Something Good (Carole King and Gerry Goffin)
You like out of your parents collection: Blueberry Hill (Fats Domino)
You love that you wouldn't know about if it wasn't for a friend: Year Of The Cat (Al Stewart) & Friday I'm In Love (The Cure)
Makes you think of someone who died: Angels (Robbie Williams)
You sing in the shower: Modern Love (David Bowie)
You sing when you're alone: Clear White Light (Lindisfarne)
You love the video more than the tune: China Girl (David Bowie)
Reminds you of your first crush: Walkin' Back To Happiness (Helen Shapiro)
You love which is from a movie: The Timewarp (Richard O'Brian)
Makes you think of the moon: Blue Moon (THe Marcels)
Makes you think of stars: Cosmic Wheels (Donovan)
Makes you think of the sun: In The Summer Time (Mungo Jerry)
Makes you think of the night: Meet Me On The Corner (Lindisfarne)
Makes you think of sex: Piano Man (Billy Joel)
Makes you think of being alone: Jealous Guy (Brian Ferry) again
You love to hear at clubs: White Lines (Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five) (but that was in the days I still went to clubs)
Has only been released recently but you love already: N/A

I'll add my own here:

Would you request for your own funeral: Dance The Night Away (The Mavericks)

A Rant A Day Helps You Blog Rest And Play. 

Roy at Man In The Street has started a new blog called In The Presence Of Idiots. The blog is a an outlet for a rant against stupid people, companies and stupid things in general.

I think we all know how he feels.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

A Week In The Cotswolds 

I've been meaning to write this up all week and I suppose it's better late than never, so here's a brief run down of what we did whilst i was off work and out of the blogsphere:

As usual when we booked a cottage holiday in England we booked it through Welcome Holidays, this time we booked a week in the Cotswolds, in a village called Fordwells near Burford in Oxfordshire. As usual the cottage was good value for money at around £240 for the week and though relatively remote it provided a good base to explore the north eastern area of the Cotswolds.

We travelled down from Lancashire on Saturday 13th September, an uneventful journey saw us arrive at the cottage at around 5pm, the owners, Olive and Fred, who lived in the adjoining property, were on hand to show us around and invite us to use their garden as if it were our own. A quick scan through the provided tourist leaflets that night , whilst eating dinner and partaking of a bottle of wine, determined an outline plan for the week.

Sunday came and a quick run into Burford was followed by a visit to some private gardens in Wyck Rissington which had been opened to collect funds for The Red Cross. The village was beautiful and the gardens were superb. Unfortunately Mrs C was still suffering from her recent medical treatment and tired fairly quickly that day, so we ruturned to the cottage early and enjoyed a glass or two of wine in the evening in the garden watching the sun go down.

Following a lie in on Monday we eventually made our way to Hidecote Manor Gardens an National Trust property near Chipping Camden, many of the brochures we had read had recommended the gardens, but to be honest we were slightly disappointed, they weren't as nice as we had expected, though a brief stop in Chipping Camden later in the day compensated somewhat, it was a pretty market town, typically cotswold in character. Mrs C seemed to get through the day much better, so we celebrated that night by going to The Dragon Inn, a Chinese Restaurent in Burford. The meal was excellent though somewhat dearer than we would expect to pay up north, having said that I can highly recommend this establishment to anyone else visiting the area.

Tuesday saw us visit another National Trust property, Chedworth Roman Villa near Northleach. We had visited this proerty once before a few years ago, but were pleasently surprised to see that some more find were being excavated this year. Following our visit to Chedworth we drove down to Bibury once described by William Morris as the most beautiful village in England. We had a late lunch at Arlington Mill and then took time out to visit the local trout farm and then walk around the village. Though the catch your own trout facility, in the farm, was not open that day we weren't too disappointed as neither of us are keen on trout anyway.

On Wednesday we took a trip to Oxford, taking in the sights on an open top bus tour, eating lunch in the University Parks, and visiting some of the museums. Before returning back to base in the evening we chilled out for an hour in the Kings Head pub where I bowed to an offer of 4 bottles of various Youngs ales for a fiver, to take out.

So far the weather had been superb but Thursday started cloudy and was a lot cooler. After a little discussion we decided that the best bet was another NT property, this time Chastleton House near Stow-On-The-Wold got the vote. As visitors are limited we booked ahead of the visit, for a 1:30pm viewing and, once we had completed the tour headed over to Broadway, where we had a Cotswold cream tea before returning back to Fordwells, via The Maypole Inn in Asthall for an evening meal. This is another pub/restaurent that I can heartily recommend.

Friday our final day in the Cotswolds saw us pay a visit to Buscott Park near Lechlade. The weather had thankfully warmed up again for the final day and, a slow drive back to the cottage, saw the effective end to our holiday.

The return journey home on the Saturday was punctuated by a brief stop for lunch in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The second week of our holiday was spent mainly in the garden, weeding, building compost bins and clearing the vegetable plot of dead plants and nettles.

Photos of the week in the Cotswolds can be found here.

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