Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Levi's

And with this record-breaking post, we bid you farewell for the day as we're out of it.

See you all tomorrow.

At the Flicks

We wanted to go to the cinema to see Ice Cream, I Scream (see earlier) but it's seems to have moved on (or not arrived yet), despite being advised that it was showing.

Never mind, with glorious weather, it would be a shame to be cooped up inside, so we're off out to play in the sun.

Oh, ticket price- YTL 7.00, which is ~£2.80. Not so shabby. :0)

Our Current Gaff

And we like it lots, especially the staff.

Four Grand to Stand? Madness

A train passenger was given a £69 on-the-spot fine for standing in a first-class luggage area because there was no room in second class. The young (27) lady who pays more than £4 000 for her annual rail season ticket is regularly forced to sit on the floor or stand outside a toilet as the train is so crowded.

She moved to the end of the first-class carriage and, rather than sit in one of the empty seats, stood in a luggage area with a young couple. She was seen by a guard who accepted her reason and took no action.

However, 10 minutes later two ticket inspectors ordered her to move and, when she said she could not, issued the fine. The "officials" refused to listen to arguments from passengers in first class, who said she had no choice as the train was full and then they called for assistance and two police officers boarded the train.

What a really brave pair of job's worths they are.

A National Express East Anglia spokesman said: "We will look into the circumstances and decide what action is appropriate."

Certainly the action that was taken was highly inappropriate and let's hope she wins her appeal.

Question: How can such an over crowded train comply with fire and other health and safety regulations? I'd be most keen to see what they have to say there...

Down the Road from Us

Residents of the Greek island of Lesbos launched a legal action yesterday against a homosexual group, insisting that only islanders had the right to call themselves lesbians.

The inhabitants of the island said they were attempting to ban the Greek Gay and Lesbian Union (Olke) from bearing the name "lesbian".

What a great case that's going to be- likely to come before a court in Athens in June.



Lesbos is synonymous with the love verses of the poet Sappho, who expressed her love of other women in poetry written in the early sixth century BC. It is the third largest of the Greek islands and lies just a few miles off the Turkish mainland. It is often referred to in Greece not as Lesbos but as Mytilene, after its capital and the resort of Eressos is a popular tourist destination for lesbians.

Albert Hofmann

Who? Albert Hofmann- the Swiss scientist who invented the LSD* and became the first person in the world to experience a full-blown acid trip, has died of a heart attack at 9.00 am on Tuesday (29th April 2008) at his home in Basel. . He was 102.

And they say drugs are bad for you? :0)

Let's hope his final trip was a blast.



He was working as a chemist in Basel, when he synthesised *lysergic acid diethylamide. On 19th April 1943, he took the substance before cycling home. That day has become known among aficionados as “Bicycle Day” as it was while he was riding home that he experienced the most intense symptoms brought on by the drug.

In the Nick of Time

Only days before going through unnoticed, McBroon has quashed the plan to increase pay rates for prisoners in Britain's gaols.

Whilst the increase in the minimum pay rate for an employed offender was not a huge jump (from £4.00 a week to £5.50), it amounted to a 37.5% rise which is significant and would cost several million pounds across the Prison Service. The increase of £1.50 for each pay rate for a prisoner was agreed by senior officials and a prison service instruction was issued by the deputy director-general, on Monday "because they had not changed since the mid 1990s".

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, had not been aware that the increase was about to introduced.

Officials in No 10 spotted the instruction on the Prison Service web-site and alerted McBroon, who demanded an explanation, and then vetoed it. The instruction was quietly withdrawn yesterday afternoon.

Crims in the Can; cans and cannots:

— Convicted prisoners cannot run a business or trade in stocks and shares while in jail
— Cannot retain cash
— Cannot use credit cards
— Cannot apply for loans
— Cannot take part in the lottery or pools
— Can buy from Argos catalogue
— Can make contributions to private pension scheme
— Can open Isa account
— Benefits, including state pensions, are stopped on entry to jail
—Prisoners earning market wages may be subject to tax and national insurance contributions


And I bet nobody picked up on the brilliantly punny title, did they?

Car Tax

Thousands of people will have to pay up to £245 extra a year under new road tax rules, after a covert government decision to include cars up to seven years old.

The Treasury admitted that it was quietly abolishing the exemption for older cars from the highest rates of vehicle excise duty, which means that owners of larger cars bought since March 2001 will find that their road tax will rise steeply from next April.

More details here: Times





The increases are being introduced in two stages, with many owners who are now paying £210 a year being charged £300 in 2009 and up to £455 in 2010.

Mobile Rabbit

Using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving was made illegal in 2003, when the penalty was limited to a £30 fine. Last year, the law was toughened, with drivers now facing a £60 fine and three points on their licence if they are caught.

And nearly 500 motorists are being fined every day for doing just that- a rise of 30% in a year.

I wonder how they are being caught? GATSOs certainly can't do it and there are no Rozzers around, are there?


NOTE: Plod now check mobile phone records after accidents to see if the driver was making a call at the time. You've been warned.


In 2005, 129 700 motorists were issued with £30 fixed penalty notices for using a hand-held mobile phone. Latest figures will show that more than 168 000 fines were issued in 2006.

Fancy a Dip

The cash pool is over flowing...

And still the costs of the farcical 2012 Olympics keep escalating. This time it's the aquatics centre in the firing line as MPs accuse the London Olympics organisers of "spending money like water"- but surely what an aqua park would need, no?

They've just found out that the cost has risen from £75 million in 2005 to £303 million.

Checkmate

A microscopic chess set, no bigger than a match head, could be the smallest board game in the world. The board is 3.5 mm by 2.5 mm and the gold and silver pieces are 0.15 mm and 0.3 mm high.

The Russian micro-miniaturist Vladimir Aniskin, has spent a decade perfecting his craft and uses powerful microscopes and equipment that he designed himself. He says:

"Even one’s heartbeat disturbs such minute work, so particularly delicate work has to be done between heartbeats."

Amazing.

The chess took six months to complete and he has about another 40 works to his name. His first was a grain of rice inscribed with 2 027 letters. “The rice grain took three months, camels in an eye of a needle took two months and camels in a horse hair also took two months,” he said.

Local Fayre*

Pide- is a staple Turkish food and you'll find it all over the country, but in tourist land, it's commonly advertised as Turkish Pizza, which doesn't quite do it justice.

It's a long, thin, banana shaped bread, rolled with some skill from a small ball of dough. The bread is then covered with the topping of your choice and slammed into a large, (usually wood fuelled) oven for about 10 minutes or so and the resulting pide is sliced up and served piping hot.

The most common toppings are listed below:

Kasarli (kasharla) - a simple, yellow cheese topping, vegetarians can usually get tomatoes and green peppers added to this if they ask nicely.

Kiymali (kimarla) - lightly spiced mince lamb and tomato topping

Sucuklu (sujuklu} - slices of spicy Turkish sausage

Yumurtlu (as is) - egg, usually with a little cheese to keep it company

Karasik (karashuk} - all of the above in unpredictable proportions and scattered at random over the surface of the bready treat.

Kusbasili (kushbashala} - literally, birds heads, in reality small chunks of lamb in a spicy tomato type context.

Pick & Mix - although this concept may be new to the proprietor of the establishment in which you find yourself you can certainly ask for non standard combinations of the above topping to be used.



*PS: Generally speaking, a fair is "a gathering of stalls and amusements for public entertainment" and fare is "a range of food" (or cost of a journey). However, the archaic (15th to 17th century) spelling fayre is confusingly used for both words and can be used by those who think it lends "an historic flavour" to their prose. I'm just showing off.

Putting it into Perspective



NOTES:[1] Where official rates are expressed by the hour or week, they have been converted to monthly rates on the basis of a 40-hour week and 52-week year. Minimum wage figures are gross (pre-tax) rates and exclude any 13th or 14th month payments that may be due under national legislation, collective agreements, custom or practice.[2] Applies to certain industry sectors. Applicable to all sectors from 01.01.2009. Employees are entitled to 14 monthly payments each year.[3] Unskilled workers only.[4] Based on 170 hours per month.[5] White-collar workers only. Workers normally entitled to 14 monthly payments per year.[6] France: based on statutory 35-hour week.[7] Applicable to certain groups in non-unionised sectors.[8] There has been no statutory minimum wage since 1996, but there is a 'lowest wage' for full-time work.[9] Three-tier minimum wage system according to qualifications. The quoted rate is for employees without qualifications.

Many countries in Europe operate statutory or collectively determined minimum wage rates, ranging from just 65€ per month in the Russian Federation to 1 570€ per month in Luxembourg.

Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy and Sweden do not operate national minimum rates, but nevertheless have minimum rates set through sectoral collective agreements that jointly cover a high proportion of the working population.

Source: FedEE

Tipping in Turkey

The rather loathsome compulsory "service" charge that seems to becoming the norm in Britain is refreshingly absent here. They do not assume all service is worthy of reward and instead earn it- and very well too. Everyone is friendly, polite and makes such an effort and so it is only natural to tip.

Standard gratuities can be quickly calculated at around 5-10% of the bill and one thing that I particularly like is that places have a locked box, usually in full view of everyone, where all tips are deposited irrespective of who has earned it, to be shared between everyone later on.

Local Water

Unlike the water in Greece, the tap water is not recommended for consumption and they recommend the local, bottled mineral water, which has an outstandingly good quality all over Turkey.

Cheap too- half a litre kicks in at around 20-40 pence, depending on where you shop and even in the hotel, they charge you YTL 2.00 (80p) for two litres.

Dolmuş



A Turkish dolmus (pronounced DOHL-moosh) is a shared taxi or minibus running a predetermined route, with each passenger paying only a portion of the normal fare.

Dolmus means "filled" and the car or minibus waits at the beginning of its route until most, or all of its seats are filled. Passengers can get out anywhere along the route, or ride to the end, for a single set fare that's the same for all passengers, no matter what their destination.

Fares are usually about YTL 1 within a city, although city to village routes, which tend to be longer, may have higher fares but will still be far less than a private taxi.

Dondurmam Gaymak

Is the Turkish film, Ice Cream, I Scream, directed by Turkish director Yüksel Aksu, which has been honoured with two awards of Best Comedy and Best Director at the New York Queens Film Festival.

Ice Cream, I Scream tells the story of an ice cream salesman in Mugla, trying to survive in the face of fierce competition from the big ice cream brands.

It's also currently on at our local cinema in Turkish (obviously- again, as with many countries all films are shown in their original language with added commentary) but this time with English subtitles and sounds like fun. Hopefully we'll have a chance to see it.

Transfers

As you'll know, mum-in-law arrives tomorrow (technically it's Friday as she lands around 02.30 am) and we've been trying to arrange her pick up from the airport, which is around 45 km away from Bodrum centre.

Initially we were hoping to do it the ktelontour cheapy way, by getting the local bus and waiting to collect her personally, but we've since found out that local buses don't run that late (and why we ever imagined they would in the first place is beyond us) so we've been checking out alternative options.

Our hotel was advertising a collection for 40-45€, which quite frankly is a load of dough for a half hour trip, but one has to bear in mind the unsocial hours. However, worst case scenario is a return service would have set us back ninety notes, so not really viable. The local travel agents (hundreds around) were all around 35€-ish and not really much better, so what to do?

Long story short, we rang the company directly who was arranging the flight (Skype is bloody brilliant) and within minutes we have sorted things out. A return pick up and transfer, direct to our hotel at a most reasonable £18.

Reason for posting this? Once again, it pays to check out all options and not assume things will always be cheaper outside of the UK.

It Never Ceases To Amaze Me

Just how brilliant Lego is and how clever people can be, when using this magic stuff.






My, How I Laughed



On my first attempt to find "Turkey + Numbers" on Google, this is what it suggested. D'oh...

Top Ten Turkish Numbers

0 = sıfır
1 = bir
2 = iki
3 = üç
4 = dört
5 = beş
6 = altı
7 = yedi
8 = sekiz
9 = dokuz
10 = on

Another very useful list.

Bog Roll

Unlike Greece, where pretty much everywhere you venture to the toilet, there will be a sign requesting you dispose of toilet paper in the bin provided, Turkey is not the same.

This request may be present for older plumbing systems, but on the whole, you are free to drop paper into the pan as usual.

Manchester United

Win against Barcelona and will now be in the Champions League Final, against another English team (TBA as Chelsea play Liverpool tonight) in Moscow on 21st May, 2008.

Equally pleasing is that Barcelona are managed by Frank Rijkaard, whom I have a personal dislike for. He's the dirty bastard that spat (twice) at Rudi Voeller in the 1990 World Cup and ended up getting them both sent off. Ha- serves you right and I hope you're all choked up at losing.

I'm not fussed whom they will play against, but if it is Liverpool, it will make for a fun final around at bruv's gaff. He's a Man U fan and his eldest son is a staunch Liverpool follower.

Anyway, congrats to a big win for the Reds and let's see who they face tonight.

De-Caff

Remember the post on caffeine not being too good for your heart? This may be of use to you.

Coffee made from previously frozen coffee beans has 15% less caffeine than coffee made from freshly roasted beans.

Busted

The Clinton's top lies and if you go here, you can watch them on YouTube. :0)

#1 Bill Clinton lied to voters at their rallies and said he had been opposed to the Iraq war from the start.

#2 Hillary Clinton lied and said she had been opposed to NAFTA. After an advocacy group sued to have her First Lady records released, it was revealed that she had supported and advocated for NAFTA.

#3 Hillary Clinton lied to voters about a trip to Bosnia claiming she was running for cover and did not attend a greeting ceremony.

#4 Bill Clinton lied to voters about Barack Obama’s Iraq record.

#5 Bill Clinton just completely made up a story to supporters about Obama dismissing the 90s.

#6 Hillary Clinton said she was instrumental in helping bring peace to Northern Ireland.

#7 Hillary Clinton lied to Iowa and New Hampshire voters about whether she would try to count the Florida and Michigan primaries.

#8 Hillary Clinton lied at one of her rallies and said she began criticizing the Iraq War before Barack Obama did.

#9 On April 21, Bill Clinton said “I think they played the race card on me” of the Obama campaign. The next day when an NBC reporter asked Clinton, “Sir, what did you mean yesterday when you said that the Obama campaign was playing the race card on you?” Clinton claimed that he didn’t make that statement.

When It REALLY Isn't Your Day

As you get caught busting out

And your boyfriend is in the mood...

Ever Wondered About Stuff?

Here are some of the explanations:

Why do women endure the discomfort of high heels?

High heels are uncomfortable and make walking more difficult. Prolonged use can injure the feet, knees and back. So why do women keep wearing them?
The short answer seems to be that women in heels are more likely to attract favourable notice.
In Sense And Sensibility, Jane Austen describes the character Elinor Dashwood as having a "delicate complexion, regular features, and... remarkably pretty figure".
But Austen describes Elinor's sister, Marianne, as "still handsomer. Her form, though not so correct as her sister's, in having the advantage of height, was more striking".
In addition to making women taller, high heels force the back to arch, pushing the bosom forward and the buttocks rearward, thus accentuating the female form.
"Men like an exaggerated female figure," writes fashion historian Caroline Cox. The problem is that if all women wear high heels, such advantages tend to cancel out.
Height, after all, is a relative phenomenon. It may be advantageous to be taller than others, or at least not to be several inches shorter. But when all wear shoes that make them several inches taller, the relative height distribution is unaffected, so no one appears taller than if all had worn flat heels.
If women could decide collectively what shoes to wear, all might agree to forgo high heels. But because any individual can gain advantage by wearing them, such an agreement might be hard to maintain.


Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

On the heels of significant military setbacks in 1944, the Japanese military launched a campaign of kamikaze attacks, in which pilots attempted to crash their planes into American warships. Their aeroplanes were heavily laden with explosives, so a crash meant almost certain death for the pilot. Why, then, did these pilots wear helmets?
One reason is that in at least some instances, kamikaze pilots survived their missions. Another is that planes commonly experienced severe turbulence before reaching their targets, and in these cases Japanese military commanders had clear reasons for wanting their pilots to be adequately protected.
Perhaps even more important, the aviator's helmet had become emblematic of what it meant to be a pilot. Kamikaze pilots were pilots, and all pilots wear helmets.
But the most compelling explanation for why kamikaze pilots wore helmets is that it was not the express intention that these pilots commit suicide. Their charge was to destroy their targets by any means necessary. But the hope was that the pilots would return safely, even though the expectation was that most would not.


Why do women's clothes button from the left, while men's button from the right?

It is hardly surprising that clothing manufacturers might adhere to uniform standards for the various features of garments bought by any given group.
What seems strange, however, is that the standard adopted for women is precisely the opposite of the one for men. If the standard were completely arbitrary, that would be one thing. But the men's standard would appear to make more sense for women as well.
Around 90 per cent of the world's population is right-handed, and it is easier for right-handers to button shirts from the right. So why do women's garments button from the left?
This is an example in which history seems to matter. When buttons first appeared in the 17th century, they were seen only on garments of the wealthy. At that time it was the custom for rich men to dress themselves and for women to be dressed by servants.
Having women's shirts button from the left thus made things easier for the mostly right-handed servants who dressed them. Having men's shirts button from the right made sense not only because most men dressed themselves, but also because a sword drawn from the left hip with the right hand would be less likely to become caught in the shirt. Today, virtually no women are dressed by servants, so why is buttoning from the left still the norm for women?
In economics, a norm, once established, resists change. At a time when all women's shirts buttoned from the left, it would have been risky for any single manufacturer to offer women's shirts that buttoned from the right.
After all, women had grown accustomed to shirts that buttoned from the left and would have to develop new habits and skills to switch.
Beyond that practical difficulty, some women might also have found it socially awkward to appear in public wearing shirts that buttoned from the right, since anyone who noticed would assume they were wearing men's shirts.


Why are petrol caps on the driver's side of some cars but the passenger's side of others?

One of the most frustrating experiences of driving a hire car is to pull up at a fuel pump as you would when driving your own car, only to discover that the fuel tank is located on the other side. Car manufacturers could eliminate this difficulty simply by putting petrol caps always on the same side of the car. Why don't they?
In countries in which motorists drive on the right side of the road, such as the U.S., it is easier to turn right than to turn left across oncoming traffic. A majority of drivers will thus buy fuel at stations they can enter by turning right.
Suppose fuel tanks were always on the driver's side of the car. Drivers would then have to park on the right side of an open pump in order to fill their tanks.
During busy times, all spots on the right sides of pumps would be filled even while most spots on the left sides of pumps remained empty.
Putting petrol caps on different sides of different cars means that some cars can access pumps from the left. And this makes it less likely that drivers will have to queue for fuel.


Why are DVDs sold in larger packages than CDs, even though the discs are the same size?

CDs come in cases that are 148mm wide and 125mm high. By contrast, DVDs are sold in cases that are 135mm wide and 191mm high. Why use such different packaging for discs of identical size?
A little digging reveals the historical origins of this difference.
Prior to the appearance of digital CDs, most music was sold on vinyl discs, packaged in close-fitting sleeves that measured 302mm square. The racks on which vinyl discs were displayed were just wide enough, in other words, to accommodate two rows of CD cases with a divider between them.
Making the CD cases a little less than half as wide as the record sleeves they were replacing thus enabled retailers to avoid the substantial costs of replacing their storage and display racks.
Similar considerations seem to have driven the decision regarding DVD packaging. Before DVDs became popular, most film rental stores carried videotapes in the VHS format, which were packaged in form-fitting boxes that measured 135mm wide and 191mm high.
These videos were typically displayed side by side with their spines out. Making DVD cases the same height enabled stores to display their new DVD stocks on existing shelves, while consumers were in the process of switching over to the new format.
Making the DVD package the same height as the VHS package also made switching to DVDs more attractive for consumers, since they could store their new DVDs on the shelves they used for VHS tapes.


Why are whales in danger of extinction, but not chickens?

Seldom does a year pass without a demonstration decrying international hunting that threatens extinction for many large marine mammal species. Yet to my knowledge there has never been a demonstration exhorting us to save chickens. Why not?
The short answer is that chickens have never been an endangered species. But that just raises the question of why one species is endangered and another not.
Whale populations have been dwindling because no one owns whales. They swim in international waters, and several nations have refused to respect the international treaties that have attempted to protect them.
Japanese and Norwegian whalers understand that their current practices threaten the survival of whales and hence their own livelihood. But each whaler also knows that any whale he does not harvest will be taken by someone else.
By contrast, most chickens in the world are owned by someone.
If you kill one of your chickens today, that is one less chicken you will own tomorrow. If chicken farming were your livelihood, you would have strong incentives to balance the number of birds you send to market and the number of new chicks you acquire.
Chickens and whales are both economically valuable. The fact that people enjoy secure property rights in chickens but not in whales explains why the former are secure and the latter are endangered.


Why don't more people wear shoes with Velcro fasteners?

Learning to tie one's shoelaces was a childhood rite of passage long before Swiss inventor George de Mestral obtained a patent for Velcro in 1955. Since then, Velcro has been replacing zips, hooks, laces and other traditional fastening methods in a host of applications.
As a method of fastening shoes, Velcro offers clear advantages over laces. Laces can become untied, for example, causing people to trip and fall. And fastening shoes with Velcro is much quicker and easier than tying a pair of laces. But although it once seemed that Velcro might drive laces from the marketplace, the proportion of adults who wear shoes with Velcro fasteners remains small. Why have shoelaces survived?
From the beginning, the most popular applications of Velcro in the shoe industry have been in shoes for children as well as the elderly and infirm. Velcro's popularity for children's shoes is explained by the fact that many of the youngest children have not yet learnt how to tie shoelaces.
Among the elderly, Velcro is popular for medical reasons. Some older people have difficulty bending down to tie their shoes, for example, while others have difficulty because of arthritic fingers.
The upshot is that Velcro fasteners on footwear are associated in the public mind with incompetence and fragility. Even though shoes that fasten with Velcro are in many ways more serviceable than lace-ups, shoelaces are unlikely to disappear in the near future.


So now you know. Maybe. :0)

Standing Room Only

Move along, please...

Panglish

English as it is spoken today will have disappeared in 100 years and could be replaced by a global language called Panglish, researchers are claiming.

According to the New Scientist, the global form of English is already becoming a loose grouping of local dialects and English-based common languages used by non-native speakers to communicate.

By 2020 there may be two billion people speaking English, of whom only 300 million will be native speakers. At that point English, Spanish, Hindi, Urdu and Arabic will have an equal number of native speakers.

A retired linguist (formerly at San Diego University in California), said:

"I don't see any way we can know whether the result of what's going on now will be Panglish - a single English that would have dialects... or scores of wildly varying Englishes, many or most of them heading toward mutual unintelligibility."

America already has a head start on mangling the English language, so perhaps it won't take quite so long?

Car-Toons


Fancy coming back to find your car trying to swim?


One day this driver will be legally on the road...


For sale- one careful owner

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Now That I Didn't Know

The riff from Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" is based on a common Gregorian chant.

Well, I never.

Manners Maketh the Man

Britons are ruder than they were a decade ago, according to a recent survey on Monday that showed almost three-quarters of people questioned think manners should be taught at school.

A third believe bad manners are the catalyst for much of the anti-social behaviour in Britain and blamed a lack of respect for authority.

More than 90% of respondents believe parents are also failing to ensure their children learn proper manners and that bad behaviour of celebrities and footballers are setting a poor example for impressionable youngsters.

Spitting and swearing were the most offensive behaviours, it found, while queue-jumping and not saying "please" or "thank you" were other main gripes.



(Poll conducted by ITV.)

Wrong Number

A German man plagued by nuisance calls for two years has finally got to the bottom of it.

After months of paying for a blocking service, the chap stopped and calls began again, but only on weekdays. He called in Plod who eventually traced the call back to a Hamburg hairdresser and a faulty card payment system.

Every time they took a payment via the plastic, the machine rang up the guy's number- but only on working days. They've now sorted the problem out and he's well chuffed.

Bodrum in Colour






Enough Already

The city of London, England produces around 1.5 pounds of toast crumbs on an average Sunday morning.

:-)

Pardon Me

I'm not sure how legit this is, but this made me laugh; how to deal with unwanted mice/rats in your home.

Step 1

Mice and rats lack the ability to burp, which can be used to your advantage to get shot of them without resorting to potentially harmful pesticides.

Step 2

Pour Coke (or Pepsi, why waste the good stuff?) into a shallow dish.

Step 3

Place dish near where the mice or rats are entering/exiting your home.

Step 4

The rodents will drink the sweet, soft drink and later, when they can't burp, they will die.

:0D

Cool T Shirt



"Air" Conditioned T Shirt

Here's what will be needing for a summer in the hot Turkish sun. With temperatures usually in the late 30s to early 40s, how about this T? It's actually filled with chilled/frozen water, but sure looks like a great way to keep the bod cool.

"A" Level Mickey Mouse

The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), the country's largest examination board which accounts for nearly half of UK's exams, has decided to add Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone to its list of "set texts" for "A" level English students.

Pupils taking the English language and literature "A" level next year, will study J K Rowling's first Potter volume (the 12th best-selling book of all time and the a Hollywood film blockbuster) and be asked to to write a 1 200 to 1 500-word piece of coursework comparing the "approaches" of the authoress.

Examiners will mark students on how they relate story lines and the activities of Harry Potter and his friends to the context of the times, and students will have to show an understanding of J K Rowling's use of language. They will also have to write their own 500 to 800 word story inspired by the book.

That'll be yet another "A" level destined to be mocked and ridiculed by the rest of the world then.

In the Next Ten Years

Interesting article from the Times (where else?) on what the future holds for your nosh:

CHICKEN

There is likely to be a significant price increase in the traditional centrepiece of the Sunday roast. Chicken, as a 100 per cent grain-fed animal, is at the mercy of soaring grain prices, which have increased 50 per cent in the past six months. The rise is in response to factors such as drought in Australia, the rise in affluence encouraging increasing numbers of consumers in the developing world to eat meat, and crops being grown for biofuels rather than food. As 60 per cent of the cost of a chicken is its feed, grain will have a significant impact on what we pay.

BEEF

The United Nations estimates that it takes an average of 8kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef. As most British beef is fed on pastures during the summer, beef might avoid the worst of rising grain prices, which have doubled in the past year. “Stick with British grass-fed beef and you're making a green choice as well as one that might remain immune to grain prices,” says Evan Fraser, a sustainablility expert at Leeds University. Beef from the United States is likely to be worse hit since it is intensively reared on large quantities of feed.

GM TINNED TOMATOES

Rising food prices may make genetically-modified food more popular. “Until now there has been the sense that we can do without GM methods,” says Giles Oldroyd, of the John Innes Centre. “But with rising food prices, we will appreciate that if this is a way to increase yields and keep prices down, it is worth pursuing.” Drought and insect-resistant crops are being developed that have the potential to combat climate problems in the developing world.

COFFEE

Coffee reserves are at their lowest point since records began, so prepare to fork out more for your morning latte. The first and biggest impact of countries such as China and India growing richer is a switch from a starch-based diet to a meat-based one. Next will be a sharp rise in demand for coffee and chocolate, increasing competition for the global supply. In Vietnam, for example, coffee consumption has risen 200 per cent over the past few years.

APPLES

Once oil becomes scarce, fuel prices will rise significantly and shipping fruit across the world will become less financially viable, encouraging us to eat locally grown produce. Exactly when this will happen is hotly disputed. The oil industry says that peak oil prices may be 30 years away, but some oil experts argue that we've reached them already. Until oil becomes considerably scarcer, it may continue to be as cheap to buy an apple from New Zealand as one from Somerset.

WINE

It is tax that affects the cost of wine, far more than anything to do with the raw ingredients. Even a series of bad grape harvests would have little impact on overall prices. When you buy a bottle of wine, £2.47 is tax, the remaining amount covers the bottling and transportation,as well as ingredients. However, some market analysts believe that thanks to global warming, we may be drinking Yorkshire wine by 2018.

MILK

While this may come as good news to dairy farmers, consumers can expect to be paying more for their pints. Already in the past 12 months prices have risen 20p, again owing to the increased cost of cow feed. In the past decade supermarkets have pushed down the price of milk, which has resulted in an exodus of farmers from the UK dairy industry. So, as less milk is being produced, prices inevitably go up.

EGGS

In the past nine months the price of eggs has increased by 34 per cent in the UK, as they are equally dependent on rising grain prices as chicken feed. The pattern will continue, according to Giles Oldroyd, at the John Innes Centre. He claims that the practice of intensively rearing chickens will continue, but that the days of the £2 chicken are over.

READYMEALS

According to Mintel research, the growth of the readymeals market has slowed over the past few years, due to growing health concerns. This is expected to continue. However, processed foods will have an easier time avoiding price increases. “What you're paying for is mostly packaging, transport, marketing, freezing and other things,” says Fraser. “The raw ingredients are only a fraction of the overall cost.” If they go up, the increase can be absorbed by cutting costs in other stages of the supply chain.

BREAD

The price of your daily loaf will rise, but not as dramatically as you might expect. Global wheat prices have doubled in the past year, but wheat accounts for only 13 per cent of the cost of bread. The rest of the cost is other ingredients (about 20 per cent): packaging, advertising and transportation. Leading retailers who know that it is important to control the price of staples will work hard to absorb higher bread production costs, even if it means squeezing producers.

RICE

Expect to be eating less of this basic foodstuff, says Evan Fraser, of Leeds University. Blame a decline in global exports - global supplies have been outstripping demand for the past few year - which is already under way. The rice-producing countries in Asia, worried that prices will rise and keen to keep their supplies to feed their own population, are clamping down on the amount that they export. Already India exports only basmati rice and Vietnam is cutting back its rice exports.

VEGETABLES

Compared with meat and other grain-related foodstuffs, vegetables may seem relatively inexpensive, says Peter Ayton, of the market analyst Mintel. Research indicates that sales of fruit and veg have been star performers, growing steadily over the past few years. Mintel predicts that this will continue, due as much to our interest in healthy eating as reasonably stable prices. In the longer term, rising oil prices combined with water shortages are likely to increase costs. Most vegetable production needs nitrogen fertiliser, which is energy-intensive, and plenty of water.

Tongue Tied

The tongue is the last muscle to stop functioning after death.

I'll be sure to let you know if that's true, as and when I gain first hand experience.

Bags of Cash

It's not just the motorist who is suffering due to soaring oil prices, the airlines are too. Particularly the no frill, budget jobbies who find other ways to entice the passenger to pay more.

As of next week (5th May 2008), Ryanair will be charging customers sixteen quid per bag for hold luggage- and £8 to use a check-in desk on return journeys.

Here's how they line up:

EXTRA COSTS PER RETURN JOURNEY

EasyJet
Bag check-in £10
Priority boarding pass £10-£15
Sports equipment check-in £16.50-£23

Ryanair
Bag check-in £16
Priority boarding pass £8
Check-in for musical instrument or sports equipment £50

Flybe
Bag check-in £9.98
Pre-assigned seating £10
Check-in for sports equipment £40

bmi baby
Bag check-in £6.99-£12
Sports equipment £15-£22.50

No Excuses

A father was taken to court after getting flashed for speeding at 37 mph on an empty carriageway, while his wife was in labour in the passenger seat, at 5.00 am.

He knew that he had been nicked but went to court hoping to explain the situation. However, the job's worth clerk of the court told him that the case could not be dropped and that he had no option other than to take the penalty points and a fine.

Instead, he hired a brief, found witnesses and incurred hundreds of pounds in legal costs, for his day in court and was exonerated within a few minutes at the magistrates' court.

So, once again we are reminded that the speed cameras are not for making money but for our own safety. Aye; sure they are.

Same Blurk, Same Tactics, Same (Lack of) Results

BLiar has attempted to inject fresh life into his Middle East mission by appointing a new chief of staff and trying to persuade Israel to ease restrictions on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

It comes after diplomats and aid experts in Jerusalem identified a sense of drift in BLiar's "mission", which after ten months has failed to deliver any significant progress towards its goal of preparing Palestinians for statehood.

How can this shyster keep on bluffing his way through life? He truly is a genius- as a con artist.

Shame on the Taxman

Two elderly sisters who have lived together since birth today lost a last-ditch legal appeal to obtain the same inheritance tax rights as married and gay couples.

In a 15-2 vote, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that Joyce Burden, 90, and her sister, Sybil, 82, do not face unfair discrimination under British inheritance tax rules.

The pair argued that they should be spared inheritance tax in the same way as married couples, or homosexuals who form a civil partnership.

The sister who lives longest faces having to sell the family home in Marlborough, Wilts, when the other dies in order to meet the cost, estimated at more than £200,000.The sisters claimed British inheritance tax laws breached their human rights by exempting married and gay couples, while targeting cohabiting siblings. But the Grand Chamber of the human rights court upheld an earlier ruling that national governments were entitled to some discretion when deciding taxation arrangements.

The decision means that when one sister dies the other will have to sell their four-bedroom property to pay the 40 per cent inheritance tax on its value above £300,000.

The house is worth about £875,000.


If they had won their case, British inheritance tax law would have had to change, to place cohabiting couples on an equal footing with married couples and “civil partnerships” in being exempt from inheritance tax.

The sisters, who have been asking the Government to look at their case for 30 years, decided to write to the European courts after Labour introduced the Civil Partnership Act in 2004.
The Act granted the same right to gay and lesbian couples to avoid inheritance tax as married couples, but not to cohabiting family members.


Full story here: Telegraph

What a delightful and compassionate country Britain can be...

REAL Clever Blurks

Thanks to the Telegraph, some real cool dudes over the ages:

1. Galileo Galilei (1564 to 1642)

Legend has it that in order to test how gravity worked, Galileo dropped two balls, a heavy one and a light one, from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, showing that they landed at the same time. Historians doubt this - because his actual experiment was much better.
The Italian carved a groove down the centre of a board about 20 feet long and 10 inches wide. Then he propped it at an angle and timed how quickly the balls rolled down the track. What he discovered was that the distance the ball travels is proportional to the square of the time that has elapsed.
But how, in an age before clocks, could Galileo measure this so precisely? He probably used music. Along the ball's path, he placed cat-gut frets, like those on a lute. As the rolling ball clicked against the frets, Galileo sang a tune, using the upbeats to time the motion and discover a new law.

2. William Harvey (1578 to 1657)

Galen had taught that the body contains two separate vascular systems: a blue "vegetative" fluid, the elixir of nourishment and growth, coursed through the veins, while a bright red "vital" fluid travelled through the arteries, activating the muscles and stimulating motion. Invisible spirits, or "pneuma", caused the fluids to slosh back and forth like the tides. The heart just went along for the ride, expanding and contracting like a bellows.
Harvey was dubious. Cutting open a snake, he used a forceps to pinch the main vein, or vena cava, just before it entered the heart. The space downstream from the obstruction emptied of blood, while the heart grew paler and smaller, as though it were about to die. When Harvey released the grip, the heart refilled and sprung back to life.
Pinching the heart's main artery had the opposite effect: the space between heart and forceps became gorged with blood, inflating like a balloon. It was the heart, not invisible spirits, that was the driving motor, pushing red blood to the extremities of the body, where it passed into the bluish veins and returned to the heart for rejuvenation. There was one kind of blood and it moved in a circle: it circulated.

3. Isaac Newton (1642 to 1727)

In Newton's day, Europe's great scientists believed that white light was pure and fundamental. When it bounced off a coloured object or passed through a tinted liquid or glass, it became stained somehow with colour - whatever "colour" was.
Newton, holed up in a dark room at his family farm in Woolsthorpe, turned the idea on its head. He cut a hole in his window shutter and held a prism in the path of the sun, spreading the light into an oblong spectrum. Then he funnelled the spectrum through a second prism. White again.
Finally, he allowed the colours to pass, one by one, through the second prism. Starting at the red end and progressing toward the blue, each colour was bent a little more by the glass. Light, Newton had discovered, "consists of rayes differently refrangible". It was white that was the mongrel - not just another colour, but a combination of them all, a "heterogeneous mixture of differently refrangible rayes".

4. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743 to 1794)

In the 18th century, the conventional wisdom was that things burned because they contained something called phlogiston. Set a piece of wood on fire and it exuded this mysterious essence, leaving behind a pile of ash. Wood, it logically followed, was composed of phlogiston and ash.
Likewise, heating a metal under an intense flame left a whitish brittle substance, or calx. Metal was thus composed of phlogiston and calx. But Lavoisier was troubled by one thing: with the phlogiston expelled, the calx was heavier than the original metal. How could phlogiston weigh less than zero?
By cooking mercury in a flask, he showed that, as the calx formed, something was sucked from the surrounding air. He isolated the gas and lit a taper, noting that it burned "with a dazzling splendour". Calx was not metal without phlogiston, but metal combined with what Lavoisier would name oxygen.
Left behind in the flask was a gas that extinguished flames - what we now call nitrogen. Fire and rust produced similar reactions. Lavoisier had discovered the nature of oxidation - and the chemical composition of the air.

5. Luigi Galvani (1737 to 1798)

One day in Bologna, Galvani was startled to see a dismembered frog's leg twitch when an assistant cranked a static electricity generator on the far side of the laboratory. The same effect occurred during lightning storms. Even more remarkably, Galvani found, the frog's leg would move, seemingly of its own accord, as it hung from a hook, even in the clearest weather.
He concluded that some kind of animal electricity was involved. His compatriot Alessandro Volta was just as sure that the electricity was non-biological, produced by the touching of two different metals: the frog's leg had hung on a brass hook from an iron rail.
Though neither man could quite see it, they were dancing around a single truth. Volta confirmed that electricity can indeed come from two metals - he had invented the battery. But Galvani went on to show that there is also electricity in the body.
Taking a dissected frog, he nudged a severed nerve against another using a probe made of glass. No metal was involved, but when nerve touched nerve, the muscle contracted, as surely as if someone had closed a switch.

6. Michael Faraday (1791 to 1867)

In his youth, Faraday had performed a suite of experiments showing the linkage between electricity and magnetism, inventing, along the way, the electric motor and the dynamo. But by the time he was 53, he had fallen into a deep depression.
Maybe it was a barrage of flirtatious correspondence from Lady Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Byron, that snapped him out of his funk: whatever the cause, he decided to push the unification a step further, and show that electricity and magnetism are related to light.
Using an Argand oil lamp, Faraday projected polarised light through a block of glass, alongside of which sat a powerful electromagnet. Holding a polarising filter, called a Nicol prism, to his eye, he rotated it until the light was extinguished. Then he switched on the current.
The image of the flame suddenly reappeared. He turned the magnet off and the flame disappeared. The magnetic field, he realised, was twisting the light beam - and if the polarity of the field was reversed, the light beam rotated the other way. Faraday had unified two more forces, demonstrating that light was actually a form of electromagnetism.

7. James Joule (1818 to 1889)

Lavoisier had done away with phlogiston, but before his death he had introduced the idea of caloric, his name for an invisible substance - a "subtle fluid" - said to be the carrier of heat.
Put a metal poker in a fire, he argued, and the caloric will rise up the shaft until you can feel the warmth in the handle. According to this theory, the reason something gets hot when you rub it is because you abrade the surface and let some caloric out.
But why, no matter how long you rubbed, did the heat keep coming? Either there was an infinite supply of caloric in every object or, as Joule suspected, heat was something else altogether. With a rigging of pulleys and weights, he spun a paddle wheel inside a vessel of water and carefully measured the change in temperature.
The motion of the paddle made the water warmer, and the relationship was precise: raising one pound of the liquid by one degree took 772 foot-pounds of work. Joule had discovered that heat was not a thing. It was a form of motion.

8. A A Michelson (1852 to 1931)

For a Navy man such as Michelson, it was unthinkable that the Earth could be adrift in the infinitude with no landmarks to measure by. So he set out to prove the existence of the aether, the fixed backdrop of the universe and the substance in which our planet swam as it moved through space. In his apparatus, two beams of light travelled in perpendicular directions.
The beam moving upstream - with the earth's orbit - should, he predicted, be slowed by the wind of the aether, while the other beam should be less effected. By comparing their velocities with an interferometer, Michelson would calculate the motion of the Earth against the heavens.
But something was wrong: the speed of the two beams was the same. With help from Edward Morley, Michelson made the measurements much more precisely. Still there was not a hint of aether. In fact, the experiment was a beautiful failure.
As Einstein went on to show, there can be no fixed space or even fixed time. As we move through the universe, our measuring sticks shrink and stretch, our clocks run slower and faster - all to preserve the one true standard, which is not the aether, but the speed of light.

9. Ivan Pavlov (1849 to 1936)

Contrary to legend, Pavlov hardly ever used bells in his experiments with salivating dogs. His animals were more discriminating. In his "Tower of Silence", sealed from distractions, he and his assistants conditioned the animals to distinguish between objects rotating clockwise or counter-clockwise, between a circle and an ellipse, even between subtle shades of gray.
But for his most remarkable experiment, he used music. First, a dog was trained to salivate when it heard an ascending scale, but not a descending one. But what, Pavlov wondered, would happen if the animal listened to the other combinations of the same notes? The melodies were played and the spittle collected.
Through simple conditioning, the dog had categorised the music it heard into two groups, depending on whether the pitches were predominantly rising or falling. The mind had lost a bit of its mystery, Pavlov had shown how learning was a matter of creatures forming new connections in a living machine.

10. Robert Millikan (1868 to 1953)

By bending a cathode ray with an electrical field, Cambridge scholar J?J Thomson had shown electricity to be a form of matter, and measured the ratio of its charge to its mass. It followed that electricity was made of particles, but to clinch the case someone needed to isolate and measure one.
In Millikan's laboratory in Chicago, two round brass plates, the top one with a hole drilled through the centre, were mounted on a stand and illuminated from the side by a bright light. Then the plates were connected to a 1,000-volt battery. With a perfume atomiser, Millikan sprayed a mist of oil above the apparatus and watched through a telescope as some of the droplets - they looked like little stars - fell into the area between the plates.
As he tweaked the voltage, he watched as some drops were pushed slowly upward while others were pulled down. Their passage through the atomiser had ionised them, giving the drops negative or positive charges.
By timing their movement with a stopwatch, Millikan showed that charge, like pocket change, came in discrete quantities. He had found the electron.

Smokescreen

30% of household fire and smoke alarms are inaudible through closed doors.

One in the Pods

Perhaps the glove should have been somewhere else?

Local Market

We visited the local, weekly under cover market, just behind the main bus station here, and what a laugh. Chaotic lunacy is the order of the day, with stall holders promising you the earth and then letting you have a dodgy copy of it.

All manner of knock off gear (most of such good quality it puts the real deal to shame) and at some stupid prices. Mostly clothing, footwear and bags, it had pretty much anything you could wish for. I saw the latest Germany football shirt (they had every country and every major league club throughout the world) and I asked how much.

From wanting YTL 45.00, I had him pleading to sell me one for YTL 15.00 in the end, and he was throwing in his wife into the bargain. I'd have been tempted too, as she was a bit of a looker, but wifey was in attendance.

A wonderful way to fill in an hour or so and we'll be back next week to really haggle with them. I really fancy a pair of knuckle dusters...

Artificial Spider Silk Nears

For decades, scientists have been trying to crack the secret of spider silk, which has a tensile strength that is far greater than steel's per unit weight, is five times more elastic than Kevlar and is easily recyclable.

Now, a couple of German professors and a doctor at the Technical University Munich report how they have built a device that mimics the early stages in the assembly of spider silk, which may aid in the eventual synthesis of the strong, lightweight material.

Spider dragline silk consists of two proteins, ADF3 and ADF4, which coil into fibres in an irreversible process. After using bacteria to make the proteins, using standard genetic engineering methods, the researchers made an artificial spinneret, the organ used by the spider, to explore the ratio of proteins in various conditions.

They suggest that three stages appear essential for fibre formation: that the proteins condense into spherical particles; that the acidity rises sharply; and that the particles be forced to slide past each other in a thin chamber.

The artificial fibres are grainy compared to natural spider silk fibres, but the researchers believe will be like the real thing when they copy the drying and drawing stages employed by spiders. In this way, they hope large scale spider silk production will become a reality "in the near future."

Neat.

Not a Chance

Have I ever mentioned what I find the worst type of "natural" food substance?

Tomatoes- or the Devil's testicles, as I prefer to refer to them as. Ghastly, squidgy, pus-filled globs of red snot and nothing, will ever get me to change my mind about them.

So it is with great distaste that I read that some more layabout, hippy uni research students suggest that eating five tomatoes a day could help protect against sunburn and premature ageing. "Experts" at Manchester and Newcastle universities have found that the fruit improved the skin's ability to protect itself against ultraviolet light and they have calculated that the protection offered was comparable to applying factor 1.3 sunscreen.

I'd rather eat the sun tan lotion.


(I am probably exaggerating, as I can eat some tomato stuff, such as a bolognese sauce and as pizza topping. Even ketchup is OK. However, raw toms in salads or sandwiches are a definite no-no, as is Bloody Mary. God, I nearly heaved just then. *shudder*)

Bank Holidays

Tunisia has 27 official state holidays, more than any other country in the world.

If I wasn't retired, I'd want to work there.

Britain gets 8; relatively few public holidays compared with other European countries.

Here's what you get in 2008:

1st January, 21st & 24th March, 5th & 26th May, 25th August and 25th & 26th December. It always looks so bleak after August, doesn't it?

999- No One In

A family with two young kids in Nottinghamshire, who dialled 999 when eight men wearing balaclavas burst into their home at 11.15 pm, were told by the police that they were too busy to come.

They ran upstairs when the men, one brandishing an axe, smashed the glass in a door that the father was trying to keep closed and burglar/thugs stripped the downstairs rooms of electrical items, before escaping in two cars.

The victims said: “The minute we knew these people were in the house we rang the police, but they said it would be at least half an hour before they could come out. No one from the police had turned up half an hour later, and when we rang again they said there was no one they could send.”

In a letter to the couple, the Chief Inspector said that they deserved an apology and confirmed that an inquiry was under way. How is that going to help?

And Plod wonder why they have such a piss poor rep?

A Happy Tale

A woman whose car-clamping operation extorted thousands of pounds from motorists by towing away their vehicles and blackmailing them into handing over cash, has been told that she faces a prison sentence.

Stafford Crown Court was told that motorists were targeted without warning, often within moments of leaving the car park. They would return to find their vehicles gone and were “blackmailed” into handing over nearly £300 to get them back. Motorists who tried to warn other people using the private car parks about the practices of the clampers were threatened.

The clampers, under her orders, demanded the legitimate sum of £95 to release the cars, but often a “tow-away fee” of £295 was added. One man paid £7 000 to get his vehicle back, but when questioned on this, the woman said the amount was £700 and it was charged to the finance company that owned the car.

A doctor was taking blood samples for analysis and stopped en route to collect some mail from the sorting office. When he returned he found his vehicle jacked up and clampers demanding £295. Although he said that it was “vital” the blood was analysed in a hospital, he was told to pay cash.

A former clamper who has admitted the conspiracy said that the woman "told him off for not being quick to clamp cars". He was also told not to make it obvious to people that he was a clamper and to wait until motorists had parked and left before clamping them.

She allegedly made “more than £1 000 a day” from her car-clamping operation.

The woman faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail and the judge warned: “Those who commit offences of blackmail or conspiracy to blackmail are likely to receive a custodial sentence and that is certainly the sentence on the cards in this case.”

Good, serves her right.

Apples and Oranges

The average price of petrol will hit the landmark figure of £5 a gallon today, in the wake of the two-day strike at the Grangemouth plant, one of the country's biggest oil refineries.

Perhaps, but why is this being reported in such a manner? We haven't used the gallon in years. Let's have a little consistency, shall we?



(The average price of unleaded petrol yesterday was 109.77p, £4.99 a gallon.)

C to B

McBroon is to upgrade cannabis to a Class B drug, rejecting advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (his own crew) that it should remain in Class C.

Ministers will argue that its downgrading, in 2004, made people think it had been legalised and the PM wants to make clear that cannabis is harmful. Maybe. Perhaps.

We'll let you know when he gets all shouty, tough, stern and firm and actually makes it happen, instead of constantly saying he will.

Darling in the Doo

Brussels has inflicted a double embarrassment on Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, after challenging his economic forecasts as "too rosy" and starting disciplinary action against Britain for allowing its finances to slide too deep into the red.

Darling's Budget predicted that Britain's economy would rebound strongly next year, after a "lacklustre 2008", but the bods in Belgium seem to disagree. They cut their forecast for UK growth this year from 2.2% to 1.7%, barely in line with the bottom of the Treasury forecast of 1.75 to 2.25%.

The Commission have also challenged Darling's claims that the economy will enjoy a resurgence next year, as it cut its forecast for 2009 to 1.6%. This is sharply lower than its previous November projection of 2.5% growth and far below Darling's hopes for GDP to expand by 2.25 to 2.75%.

Brussels also said that it expected that British employment growth would slow “to almost zero”, while the unemployment rate was tipped to increase slightly over the next two years.

Brussels coupled its questioning of the Chancellor's economic forecasts with an attack on his financial management as well, singling Britain out as one of the bad boys of Europe.

The Commission said that the Treasury was set to borrow 3.3% of national income (GDP) in the present 2008-09 financial year and the next, twice breaching the 3.0% ceiling prescribed under the Maastricht Treaty. The average deficit for the 27 European Union nations this year is, by contrast, set to be only 1.2 per cent of GDP.

Full story here: Times

Oh, The Irony

Known as the Snow Lion Flag, it was introduced in 1912 and banned in mainland China

Police in Guangdong, southern China, have discovered a factory manufacturing "Free Tibet flags" as shown above. The factory owner reportedly told police the emblems had been ordered from outside China, and he did not know that they stood for an independent Tibet.

However, when some of the worker saw TV images of protesters holding the emblem, and they alerted the authorities.

Oops.

Backgammon

We were out and about and stopped off for a beer yesterday as it started chucking it down and what's the point getting wet on the outside when on the inside is much more preferable?

As it happens, it was a guesthouse, not a bar or taverna, but it had a sheltered patio/forecourt with a little bar and tables and chairs and it was advertising Efes at YTL 3.00 for a full pint.

We settled in more than comfortably and noticed the old timers playing backgammon (again, hugely popular as it is in Greece) but the odd thing was that after each game, instead of simply changing colours by turning the board (or box as is the case), the two gadgies got up out of their seats and swapped with each other. It was all rather amusing to see and I still can't work out why- there was no sun advantage or anything else that I could see for this manoeuvre. Still, they were happy and that is all that counts.

Another oddity about the place, was that it didn't have a loo for the bar and when we needed to go (the down side of supping beer), the barman gave us a key to the first room. It not only gave us the opportunity to get some instant relief, but also to see what the standard was like.

Basic- a twin room with not much else (no TV/hairdryer etc) but en suite, obviously and what looked like a good shower. Naturally I enquired as to the price and was amazed to find they wanted the same as we're paying for our hotel suite, which as you know also includes free internet, a swimming pool and breakfast and dinner.

Again, it pays to haggle...

Speaking the Lingo

Turkish isn’t an easy language to learn, but it's worth picking up a few words and phrases to amuse yourself and to astonish and delight Turks!

Despite oddities such as the silent 'g'(ğ) and undotted i (ı) , Turkish is phonetic and simple to pronounce- allegedly. In a few minutes you can get the hang of the sounds, and then you're ready to start talking.

Most letters are said just as they're written: but here's a list of the tricky ones: A,a short, as in 'ant'. E,e short as in 'bell'. I,i as 'ee' in 'bee'. I,ı 'uh' like the 'e' in 'open'. Ö,ö as German 'ö', or 'fur'. U,u short as 'oo' in 'moon'. Ü,ü same as German 'ü', or 'pew'. C,c is a 'j', as jam. Ç,ç 'ch' is in 'chin'.G,g always hard, as in 'get'. G,g: not pronounced, lengthens preceding vowel, ignore it! H,h always pronounced, as in 'hat'. J,j as in French 'j', or 'rouge'. S,s always 'ss', never 'z'. S,s 'sh' as in 'ship'. X,x not used, Turks use 'ks' instead.

Some rather useful phrases/words:

Meeting People

Hello: Merhaba
Good morning: Günaydin
Good evening: Iyi aksamlar
How are you?: Nasilsiniz?
Very well: Çok iyiyim
Good Bye:Hoşça kal(ın)


Useful Words

Yes: Evet
No: Hayir
Please: Lütfen
Thank you: Tesekkür ederim
Excuse me: Pardon
What? Ne? How? Nasil?
How much?: Ne kadar?
Who?: Kim? When?: Ne zaman?
What time is it?: Saat kaç? Friend: Arkada?
Big/Small: Büyük/Küçük
Hot/Cold: Sicak/Soguk
Left/Right: Sol/Sag
Near/Far: Yakin/Uzak
Early/Late: Erken/Geç
Good/Bad: Iyi/Kötü
Beautiful: Güzel
Street: Sokak/Cadde
I don't understand: Anlamiyorum
I don't know: Bilmiyorum
Sun/Sea: Günes/Deniz
Water: Su

Shopping

Do you take credit cards? Kredi karti kabul ediyor musunuz?
I'm just looking: Yalniz bakiyorum.
That's too expensive: Çok pahali
What's your best price? Son fiyatiniz ne?
Can I try this on? Bunu deneyebilirmiyim?
A larger/smaller size: Daha büyük/küçük beden
It really suits you: Size çok yakisiyor
We'll come back tomorrow: Yarin yine gelecegiz

Eating Out

Bon apettit: Afiyet olsun
Rare/medium (steak) : Az/orta pismis
Chears!: Serefe!
White wine : Beyaz sarap
Red wine : Kirmizi sarap
Dry/sweet: sek/dömisek
2 more bottles,please: Iki sise daha, lütfen
Ice cold beer: Buz gibi bira
Soft drink: Alkolsüz içki
Table for four: Dört kisilik masa
Hot(spicy): Aci
Meatballs: Köfte
Mixed salad: Karisik salata
Without oil: Zeytinyagsiz
Barbecue: Mangal
Typical Turkish cuisine: Tipik Türk Mutfagi
Fruit: Meyve
Unsweetened/medium/sweet (Turkish Coffee): Sade/orta/sekerli
Compliments to the chef: Asçiya tebrikler

Think I'll concentrate on the ones in red first, but this isn't going to be easy...

Kemal Atatürk

Kemal Atatürk


A rather important man in Turkish history, with details once again pinched from this rather marvellous site: Bodrum Info

Atatürk, a very short but important note:

The history of modern Turkey starts with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, President of the Turkish Republic from 1923 until his death in 1938.Dramatic steps were taken by Atatürk, Father of the Turks, this title was officially given to him during his presidency.In his program of modernization, secular government and education played a major role. Making religious faith a matter of individual conscience, he created a truly secular system in Turkey, where the vast Moslem majority and the small Christian and Jewish minorities are free to practice their faith. As a result of Atatürk's reforms, Turkey -unlike scores of other countries- has fully secular institutions.

These are his main reforms:

*the Latin alphabet


*the introduction of the surname


*voting rights for women


*World Children's Day (23rd April )

Atatürk still nowadays is highly admired. That's why you see his picture everywhere.

The Boncuk


Nazar Boncuk pronounced "bon-dschuk"

Everywhere you go, you'll "see" the Boncuk, which is the little magic stone that protects one from the "Evil Eye". Here's the tale behind it:

Once upon a time (yes, it starts like in a fairy tale) there was a rock by the sea which, even with the force of a hundred men and a lot of dynamite, couldn't be moved or cracked. And there was also a man in this town by the sea, who was known to carry the evil eye (Nazar). After much effort and endeavor, the town people brought the man to the rock, and the man, upon looking at the rock said, "My! What a big rock this is." The instant he said this, there was a rip and roar and crack and instantly the immense and impossible rock was found to be cracked in two.

The force of the evil eye (or Nazar) is a widely accepted and feared random element in Turkish daily life. The word *Nazar* denotes seeing or looking and is often used in literally translated phrases such as "Nazar touched her", in reference to a young woman, for example, who mysteriously goes blind.

Another typical scenario. A woman gives birth to a healthy child with pink cheeks, all the neighbors come and see the baby. They shower the baby with compliments, commentating especially on how healthy and chubby the baby is. After getting so much attention weeks later the baby is found dead in his crib. No explanation can be found for the death. It is ascribed to Nazar. Compliments made to a specific body part can result in Nazar.That's why nearly every Turkish mother fixes with a safety pin a small Boncuk on the child's clothes. Once a Boncuk is found cracked, it means it has done his job and immediately a new one has to replace it.

Scoff on the Hoof

Being fed breakfast and dinner at the hotel, a light snack is very easy to find in Turkey.

Yesterday I tried a Turkish kebab, which consisted of lavash (a soft, thin flatbread, similar to a tortilla) filled with chicken, lettuce, chips (seems to be the in thing for kebabs in these parts, just like Greece) and a squirt of both mayo and ketchup).

This was then folded up to make a long, rectangular parcel and then pressed on a hotplate similar to a sandwich toaster before it was passed onto a salivating customer, who was itching to get his hands on it.

Absolutely delicious and at YTL 3 (~£1.20) that sure ain't going to break the bank.

However, the most interesting point about this was the way they weigh (ha!) out the chicken pieces on scales before scooping it into the kebab. At least you know you're always going to get the same amount, each and every time.

The Posties Are In

We have now purchased our post cards and they will be off out in the next few days.

I send only four per country to friends and relatives and their collection is soon about to increase, after a hibernation period of nearly six months.

For the record, postage is 80 Kuruş (YTL 0.80) and a postcard around 15 Kuruş.

More or Less Wedge?

Do not expect to see the price of anything in the shop windows or at market stalls for goods. All costs are discussed verbally and when doing so, expect them to be heavily loaded- against you.

General rule of thumb is to listen to the price offered and then counter with 60% less and haggle to around half of what was originally requested. It can be a little daunting or embarrassing for the Brits to do this, but this is exactly what they rely on, so grit your teeth and prepare to bargain hard or get ripped off. The choice is entirely yours.

Me? I love it and will dive in with relish to achieve the best deal possible if I'm in the mood. As I always say, "I've worked hard to earn this- you're going to have to work even harder to get it off me."

Prices in Bodrum

As it is heavily reliant on tourism, the good folk will happily accept British Sterling (£), European Euro (€) and of course, the Turkish Lira (YTL). A word of warning.

When displaying the cost of meals and such like on boards outside the restaurants for the meal of the day, make sure you are aware of what the currency is. Usually, it's shown in Euros, not in Lira as you may expect.

It can be slightly confusing (perhaps even a ploy?) when they write the Lira/Euro signs by hand; they can look very similar, and as we know, the Lira is worth half the Euro.

NOTE: YTL stands for: Yeni Türk Lirasi and there are 100 Kuruş to the Lira.

Barnet Buzz

It's been a while since my last fleecing (both hair wise and pocket wise) back in Rhodes and so I dropped into one of the Brazilian barbers here.

NOTE: Barber, not Hairdresser or Hair Artiste (of which they have a gazillion as well).

With limited linguistic skills (a new pasta dish?) including a lot of hand waving and making buzzing sounds, I got understood and we were off. I'm not quite sure why the chap needed a comb, but between that and his trusty clippers, I now have a finely cropped dome.

He also did the goatee using mini- clippers and then a proper cut-throat razor shave, followed by the flaming-balls-of-death act, where they use a naked flame to burn off stray hairs, growing out of places best not mentioned on a family board.

To finish off, an upper body massage, a liberal dousing of aftershave (sur le bonce too) and I was relieved of a rather good YTL 15 (£6.00). OK, I probably paid over the odds due to tourist rates, but even so, six quid for that? Bargain.

And I am looking well swish once more.

Weather May be Good

What we're expecting this week. :0)

Heart of the Matter

Excessive caffeine consumption is the second leading cause of heart disease behind smoking.

Double whammy for those that enjoy a cup of coffee with their cigarettes...

Heavy Snack

In one year, Americans will unknowingly consume enough industrial-grade steel, plastics, glass, and rubber to build three Mazda MX-5s.

May explain the weight problem?

Monday, 28 April 2008

Cushy Life Inside

An inmate at HMP Cardiff, said that his en suite accommodation was "outstanding" and revealed that he was paid £10 a week, to study for a maths GCSE, which he spends on cigarettes, chocolate and "other luxury goods".

In a letter to his local paper:

"I am better off in here. I could only imagine how cold it was this winter living on the streets. May I just say that the food and accomadation [sic] is of outstanding quality here.

We have coulour [sic] TVs, on sweet [sic] facilities, everything is provided for us eg toiletries, laundry. The staff are very friendly and helpful."

He stated that the education department at Cardiff was of a "very high standard".

"I'm currently doing a GCSE grade in maths which I am paid ten pound a week to achieve which I can spend on tobbacco [sic], chocolate and other luxury goods," he said.

Perhaps he may wish to reconsider his exam and try English?

The man was gaoled in 2005 for stabbing his wife seven times in the chest and back after she told him she was leaving him.

It's All So Yesterday

A recent survey has suggested that the "traditional" holiday at a British seaside resort is no longer attracting the younger generation. Old fashioned pastimes, such as donkey rides, a Punch & Judy show and end of the pier entertainment are no longer the in thing, instead people prefer to visit a spa, drink in pubs or watch a pop concert.

Those ever important stats reveal that only 1% of under-30s would consider visiting an end of the pier show on holiday, 2% would send a novelty postcard, 3% would ride a donkey and 2% would sit in a deck chair and watch a Punch & Judy show.

I can't honestly blame them, either.



Nearly a third say eating and drinking in pubs is their favourite holiday pastime- nuff said. :0)

I Want a Refund

Click to Enlarge

Dream Job- For a Burd

A Belgian chocolate manufacturer is looking to find a 150 women prepared to eat a free bar of chocolate a day, for a whole year, with the intention is to see whether it improves the women’s health.

Chocolate is rich in flavonoids, compounds that have been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease and chocolate companies are trying to encourage the belief that chocolate can be good for you. Until now however, few of the trials have met the highest standards of scientific rigour, but a team from the University of East Anglia plans to put that right.

I don't think they'll have any concerns filling the posts...


Full story here: The Times





The volunteers must be past the menopause, must suffer from type 2 diabetes, and must already be taking statins to reduce their cholesterol levels.

Get Carter

Is about to be got.

The multi storey car park used in the 1971 classic gangster movie, Get Carter, starring Michael Caine, is about to be turned into shops and flats.

Trinity Square, (real name of the infamous car park) offering panoramic views of Newcastle and Gateshead is owned by a subsidiary of Tesco and they have decided the ageing building is due a revamp.

Great film, but an even better name...

Full Steam Ahead

Motorists aged over 70 are responsible for only 6% of pedestrian accidents each year, the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) has declared. It added that male drivers under 30 were the most likely to be in a fatal collision with someone on foot.

I'm not surprised at this sta-testicle in the slightest; the old duffers rarely get out of first gear to drive fast enough to harm anyone in the first place.

I Spy With My Anti-Terrorist Eye, A Bin Mis-user

As we have highlighted already, some councils think they are part of a John Le Carre spy novel and feel it is entirely within their rights to spy, track and covertly watch innocent citizens going about their daily grind.

A survey has found that councils are using "spy laws" to follow alleged crime warlords who may be dog-foulers, litterbugs and parking offenders. Some have used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, designed to fight terrorism, more than 100 times in the past year.

Campaigners have now demanded a “root and branch” review of spy laws, but as ever, bugger all squared will come of it, as it is swept under the ever bulging carpet in the corner of the civic centre.