Monday, 30 June 2008

The Sky Falling In

A hailstorm in Emden, Germany, with hail the size of tennis balls, has caused a major problem for 30 000 vehicles at a Volkswagen plant. They were parked outside and the damage caused to the body work of the new cars could amount to €100 million (£79 million).

A spokesman for the car maker said that each of the vehicles would have to be examined for damage so they could be repaired before being sold, but luckily Volkswagen is insured against hailstorm damage and would not suffer financially.

What You Should Have Answered

1. Skilful

2. William

3. Stockholm

4. Severn

5. Seven

6. 8

7. 1939 - 1945

8. Queen Victoria

9. Cranium

10. Mercury

How'd you get on?

Cleffer People?

A study has concluded that the majority of adults in Britain struggle to answer questions fit for 7-11 year olds. Only one in 20 were correctly able to answer all 10 questions taken from primary school syllabuses.

See how you fare:

1. Which is the correct spelling? skillful, skilful, skilfull, skillfull.
(Answered incorrectly by 77%)

2. What is the playwright's Shakespeare's first name?
(Answered incorrectly by 12%)

3. What is the capital of Sweden?
(Answered incorrectly by 58%)

4. What is the longest river in Great Britain?
(Answered incorrectly by 48%)

5. How many sides does a heptagon have?
(Answered incorrectly by 35%)

6. What is the cube of 2?
(Answered incorrectly by 58%)

7. What are the dates of the second world war - what years did it start and end?
(Answered incorrectly by 25%)

8. Which monarch was on the throne in 1900?
(Answered incorrectly by 39%)

9. What is the medical term for your skull?
(Answered incorrectly by 56%)

10. Which planet is nearest to the sun?
(Answered incorrectly by 63%)

I got two wrong; I was a year out for when the second world war began and I have no idea about the planets as I have never been the remotest bit interested in space exploration.

Answers in the next post.

Heir Force One

And from one royal parasite to another, the Big Cheese herself.

The Queen is to purchase a "small" jet (a 12-seater Gulfstream or Learjet) for a trifling £10 million which will be paid for by the Government.

The funniest part? Buckingham Palace has a £32 million backlog of essential repairs because of a shortage of cash!

If you can stand it, the full blurb here: The Telegraph

With Escalating Fuel Prices

You'd think that people would conserve their petrol/diesel and only make essential journeys, right?

Not if you're a "Royal", you don't...

Prince William took a Chinook helicopter to his cousin's stag celebrations on the Isle of Wight and left the tax payer with a £8 716 tab.

Previously he had also used the helicopter to drop in on a wedding in Northumberland, for a flight over the homes of his relatives and for a trip to meet his girlfriend's parents.

Estimated cost? According to details released by the MoD, the five excursions cost the taxpayer more than £50 000.

Top way to lead by example, wouldn't you agree?

Waving the Flag

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to spend £2.5 million replacing every flag in the British Armed Forces.

Defence chiefs say they have begun the unprecedented four-year programme to replace 50 000 flags for the Army, Navy, RAF and Royal Marines, because "tatty flags are bad for morale".

Erm, not as bad as incomplete, inadequate equipment or second hand kit, it's not. British soldiers serving in Iraq had suffered more than 2 500 failures of weapons and vehicles during the first two years of operations.



All service bases and headquarters are required by the Queen's Regulations to fly the Union Flag daily, and they normally also display unit and station banners. A typical Union Flag for use by the military, which measures 35in by 71in (90 centimetres by 180 cm), will cost about £35.

On the Road Again

EuroRAP, a non-profit making body in Brussels, says Britain is lagging behind much of Europe in reducing danger for motorists as it reveals that almost a quarter of Britain's motorways and nearly a third of the country's A roads have been rated as unsafe.

The figures came only a few days after the Government announced that the number of road deaths reached an all-time low last year- a 7% drop meant that 2 943 people died last year compared to 3 172 in 2006.

However, the research manager at the Road Safety Foundation, the British arm of EuroRAP said that:

"As recently as 2003, Britain's record was the best in the whole of Europe, but it has been lagging behind over the last few years. Our latest figures show that at least there has been some improvement over the past 12 months. A lot of work still has to be done, whether it is erecting more barriers to stop cars ploughing into trees or building lanes to make it safe to overtake."

Britain's most dangerous roads: The Telegraph


EuroRAP calculates the safety of a road using a formula comparing the number of serious and fatal accidents to the number of miles driven on a stretch of road. It expects motorways to be classified as low risk, with fewer than 15 such accidents per billion kilometres driven.

However, 24% of Britain's motorway network failed to meet these standards and 30% of A-roads failed to meet the benchmark of fewer than 62 serious or fatal accidents per billion kilometres.

Out With the Rubbish

An attempt by local council snoopers to catch fly-tippers backfired when a surveillance camera hidden in a black rubbish bag and worth around £10 000, was collected by binmen and thrown away.

The council would not say whether recordings had been lost or where the site is located.

A council spokesman snootily said:

"We are required to consider whether the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the exemption. But we consider that as there are on-going difficulties with this site, the investigation should take precedence."

Thin End of the Wedge

Pupils are being rewarded for writing obscenities in their GCSE English examinations- even when it has nothing to do with the question.

One genius pupil wrote "fuck off" on their paper.

The chief examiner of English for the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), an examination board, said that he had given the pupil two marks, out of a possible 27, for the expletive. He said:

“It would be wicked to give it zero, because it does show some very basic skills we are looking for – like conveying some meaning and some spelling. It’s better than someone that doesn’t write anything at all. It shows more skills than somebody who leaves the page blank.”

He further commented:

“If it had had an exclamation mark it would have got a little bit more because it would have been showing a little bit of skill.”

Congratulations Spain

Worthy winners of Euro 2008 and although the Germans didn't disgrace themselves by losing 0-1, they didn't play as well as they could have.

Spain on the other hand have been the team of the tournament and deserve their first title in 44 odd years.

I feel sorry for the captain Ballack, who continues his run of just missing out in major finals, having lost two Champions League finals and also been suspended for the 2002 World Cup final when they lost to Brazil.

However, I am pleased that at least the Germans made it through to yet another final and hope they learn from the experience. Like that we need a much more solid and mobile defence and that surely it's time for Lehmann to hang up the gloves.

I've just heard the 2014 World Cup (the next one in 2010 will be in South Africa) is to be hosted by Brazil, perhaps our wanderings will take us there by then? Now that would be neat.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Straight Up

Real names of species from around the world. If you to see pictures, try here: oddee

Slippery Dick

Slippery dick (Halichoeres bivittatus) is a species of ocean-dwelling fish in the family Labridae. This species originates mostly from the Western Atlantic: North Carolina and Bermuda to Brazil. It swims as if it's dragging its tail. Adults may grow to a length of 8 inches.

Colon Rectum

A leiodid beetle (from the Colon genus), named by Melville Harrison Hatch in 1933.

Agra vation

The Agra Vation, it's actually a very non-aggravating beetle, just one of over 40 000 species found in the family Carabidae. With a bright metallic green back and rufous-coloured head it cuts a very fine figure. The carabid family also includes the bombadier beetle, famous for being able to shoot hot, poisonous chemicals from its backside when annoyed. It is found in the Peruvian Amazon, not far from the borders with Brazil and Colombia.

Aha ha

Aha ha (from the Aha genus) is a species of Australian wasp. It was named by the entomologist Arnold Menke in 1977: when he received the package from a colleague containing the insect specimens, he exclaimed "Aha!".

GoldenPalace.com Monkey

The GoldenPalace.com Monkey (Callicebus aureipalatii, "aureipalatii" meaning "of the Golden Palace") is a titi, a kind of New World monkey, discovered in western Bolivia's Madidi National Park in 2004. Rather than choosing a name themselves, the discoverers auctioned off the naming rights to raise funds for FUNDESNAP, the nonprofit organization that maintains Madidi National Park. GoldenPalace.com, one of over a dozen bidders, paid US$ 650 000 to have the species named after them.

Calponia Harrisonfordi

Several spiders bear the names of entertainers such as the Calponia harrisonfordi, and the Pachygnatha zappa who clearly have taxonomists as fans. Sting, the musician, has his own tree frog as well: Hyla stingi. America's president, vice president and defence secretary each got a beetle (Agathidium bushi, A. cheneyi, A. rumsfeldi) courtesy of two Republican coleopterists. Admittedly, the beetles in question eat slime mould, which caused a few titters among taxonomists of a Democrat persuasion, but it is clearly an act of gross speciesism to criticise the dining habits of other organisms, so the titters were sotto voce.

Carmenelectra shechisme

Pronounced "Carmen Electra She Kiss Me", is actually a name for a fossil mythicmyiid (that's another word for moth) from Dominican amber.

Oedipus complex

The Oedipus Complex is a type of salamander that doesn't have any lungs, only gills. As if to make up for their lung-lack, they perform very elaborate courtship dances. They're also called Gamboa worm salamanders. Found on South and Central America, it's relatively common in Colombia and Panama.

Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides

At 42 characters, it's the longest accepted scientific name. It is a fly, and is only found in India. Whilst this beast has the longest accepted name, B. Dybowski, in 1927, proposed the following 50-letter name for a Lake Baikal amphipod: Gammaracanthuskytodermogammarus loricatobaicalensis, which was not accepted.

Pieza kake

This one is easy, an absolute piece of cake. It's a small furry fly. The name Pieza is derived from the Greek “piezos” meaning to squeeze, referring to the peculiar shape of the female's sperm pump.

One for the Road?


So

We reach 5 000 posts and over 20 000 hits on the Blog.

Cheers, people- here's to many more to come.

:0D

Shopping in the Big Smoke

London's 20 most "unmissable" shops are named by people who should know best, Britain's most powerful high street bosses.

Bamford & Sons, Sloane Square
Ralph Lauren, New Bond Street
Harrods, Knightsbridge
Trilogy (fashion), Chelsea
Borough Market, Borough
Playlounge (toys), Soho
Tri And Run (triathlon), Wimbledon
Rippon Cheese Stores, Pimlico
James Smith & Sons (umbrellas), New Oxford Street
John Lewis, Oxford Street
Nike Town, Oxford Circus
Peter Jones, Sloane Square
Selfridges, Oxford Street
Apple Store, Regent Street
La Fromagerie, Marylebone Tate
Britain Shop, Millbank
Le Pascalou (deli), Chelsea
Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge
USA Pro (women's sports), Soho
Hamleys, Regent Street

Don't forget your credit card.

Mulberry Bush

Remember the nursery rhyme about going around the Mulberry bush?

We've been lied to- they grow on trees.

Trained to Con

Research carried out by the Campaign for Better Transport has found that rail tickets bought on the day of travel cost up to seven times more than those bought in advance. The report also warns that the high prices for "turn-up-and-go" tickets have made it cheaper for rail passengers to use their cars, even at a time of rising fuel prices.

Some examples:

• The London-Preston peak return fare on the day is £238, more than seven times the £33 advance fare
• A peak "walk-on" return from London to Birmingham will set a traveller back £123, compared with £21 – about a sixth of the price – for the advance ticket
• A peak-time passenger travelling from Newcastle to London will pay £249 on the day but only £42 in advance
• A London to Penzance return costs £257 if bought on the day – more than eight times the £30 cost of buying two single tickets in advance
• An advance return ticket from Glasgow to Manchester costs £20, compared with up to £169 for walk-on purchasers, once the limited number of £76 saver tickets runs out

Tom Harris, the rail minister, has defended the pricing policy, saying that people should expect to pay more, because the quality of trains has improved.

"There is no evidence that fares are putting people off using the trains," he said. "As long as people have more access to lower fares with the internet that is a workable and affordable system."

What a ridiculous comment. Tell that to commuters who pay several thousand pounds a year and regularly have to stand in over crowded carriages that "the quality of trains has improved"...

Mugged Off Once More

Foreign drivers get away with not paying 180 000 speeding and parking fines every year because British authorities cannot trace them. The motorists can escape justice over the fines, which total more than £10 million, because police, councils and speed camera authorities are not able to obtain their details.

Statistics released by 36 local authorities also show that foreign drivers got away without paying 54 000 parking fines a year, pointing to a nationwide total of 105 000 unpaid fines.

Solution? Do what the French do.

Le French Rozzers have adopted a "zero-tolerance" attitude to speeding, with on-the-spot fines of up to £200 which motorists must pay regardless of nationality. Drivers are not allowed to continue their journey until they have paid up and are often escorted 30 or 40 miles out of their way to the nearest bank to withdraw cash.

If they do not have sufficient money to pay the fine, their car is impounded until the debt is cleared.

Why is Britain always the soft touch?



There are 140 000 foreign-registered vehicles on Britain's roads at any one time and three million enter the country each year. The largest group are Polish-registered vehicles, which account for 36% of those in Britain, followed by French vehicles at 10% and German vehicles at 9%.

Every Year It Happens

I forget that the Dutch Moto GP at Assen runs on a Saturday, not on the traditional Sunday.

Yesterday saw (although I didn't) Casey Stoner win by a country mile with Pedrosa in secound (and thus regaining the championship lead) and my fave Colin Edwards in third.

Rossi binned his bike on the opening lap but managed to remount and grab five precious points.

Results:

1 C Stoner (Aus) Ducati 42m 12.337
2 D Pedrosa (Spn) Honda 42:23.647
3 C Edwards (US) Yamaha 42:29.462
4 N Hayden (US) Honda 42:32.814
5 A Dovizioso (Ita) Honda 42:39.683
6 J Lorenzo (Spn) Yamaha 42:40.945
7 C Vermeulen (Aus) Suzuki 42:44.667
8 S Nakano (Jpn) Honda 42:47.229
9 J Toseland (GB) Yamaha 42:50.903
10 S Guintoli (Fr) Ducati 42:51.154
11 V Rossi (Ita) Yamaha 42:58.362

World championship standings:

1 D Pedrosa (Sp) Honda 171 pts
2 V Rossi (It) Yamaha 167
3 C Stoner (Aus) Ducati 142
4 J Lorenzo (Sp) Yamaha 114 5
C Edwards (US) Yamaha 98

Top of the Class

Babur Ali is a 16 year old Indian boy who goes to school just like anyone else does.

No, that is not true, not anyone else does, because they cannot afford the annual school fees his parents pay to get him an education- 1 000 rupees (£12).

So what does he do? He finishes his classes for the day and then comes back to his own school where, with the help of 10 volunteer tutors, he helps teach the village kids what he has learnt that day. All 650 of them.

He's been doing this since the age of 11.

Read the rest of his amazing story here: Sunday Times

What an incredibly decent young man.

Going Back Home

2 600 Australian migrants are quitting the UK each month, up from 1,750 a month in 2005

13 800 Australians applied for visas to work in the UK during 2007, half the number of applicants during 2005

125 000 Polish migrants are expected to return home this year, a fourfold increase on 2006

206 000 British citizens emigrated last year, a 45% rise on 2002

179 000 foreign nationals living in the UK returned home last year – up 13% on 2002

75% of NHS doctors who deregistered last year were foreign nationals

What do they know, I wonder?

No Fire Without Smoke

Since the smoking in public places ban in England was introduced a year ago, almost 250 000 people have stopped smoking.

More ktelontour Photies

Yes, I know it's been a while, but we've finally managed to upload a few photos of our trips with the Fez Bus and of some of the places we've been visiting over the last few weeks.

Check them out here: Flickr

British Dog's Eggs

In England and Wales, the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 allows authorities to designate any land in their area as a place in which owners must clear up any mess from their dogs.

The land must be publicly accessible and open to the air but cannot include roads with a speed limit of 40mph or over, or farming land. The normal on-the-spot fine is £50 but this can rise to £1 000 if contested in court.

Different laws govern Northern Ireland and Scotland, where the maximum fine is £500.

Some more doggie doos:
  • There are more than six million dogs in the UK
  • They produce 900 tonnes of faeces a day
  • Dog fouling costs councils £22 million a year to clear up
  • Ocular larva migrans is the kind of toxocariasis that can affect the eyes
  • There are on average 12 cases each year
I wonder why it is OK to dump a turd on roads with speed limits of 40 mph or higher?

The Royal Whip Round

The Queen and the Royal Family have cost the taxpayer £40 million during the last financial year- up £2 million on the previous 12 months, official accounts show. The total is equivalent cost of 66p per person in the UK, an increase of 4p.

Further figures on how this delightful parasite costs the country can be found here: BBC



The £40m quoted in the accounts does not include the cost of security provided by the police and Army or the ceremonial duties carried out by the armed forces.

Just Great

Catching up on some German TV last night and the headlines all say the same thing: "Ballack to miss final through injury".

It may explain his lack lustre performance against Turkey, and I know one man does not make a team, but if he is missing, we're doomed. Doomed, I tell ya. :-(

The Cost of Living

Every year the US Department of the Treasury estimates the value of the items mentioned in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas as a festive means of gauging inflation.

This year, the gifts would set the true love back $36 022*.


*Year not mentioned.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

999 Emergency

It may well be in the UK, but which number do you dial when abroad in Europe?

112 is the universal emergency number to call if in serious trouble, either directly or as a witness to an accident or similar. Learn it, use it.

Full details here: SOS 112 Europe

Burd Power

OK, so the tennis burds at Wimbledon are now being paid the same prize money as the blurks and quite right too.

However, what I don't understand is that why then they are still playing best of three sets when the men play the best of five?

Answers via carrier pigeon to...

Blowing in the Wind

A 30ft propeller turbine on a wind farm in Catcliffe snapped... because the wind was too strong.

Engineers are now analysing the problem at a research unit of the University of Sheffield but a neighbour to the wind farm said:

“It raises questions about how safe these things are.”

I'd say.

Meanwhile, Back in the Real World

Five people were injured after a miniature train derailed at a teddy bears’ picnic in Basildon, Essex.

Fortunately, the diesel-powered train only had a top speed of 6 mph and once Noddy and Big Ears arrived in the ambulance to give everyone lashings of ginger beer, all was well again and they all lived happily ever after.

Get Orf Moi Land

It's not all doom and gloom in the UK, the average cost of farmland has risen above £5 000 an acre after a 38% jump in prices in the past year.

What with the increasing rise in food costs, perhaps the smart money is on the Good Life after all?

Now if one could just discover a little oil out in the fields...

Clamping out of Date

Clamping was abolished in part of Central London yesterday after Westminster Council became the first authority in Britain to remove clamps from its streets in a radical reform of its parking policy.

The council was one of London's first to pioneer clamping more than 25 years ago said that it had overseen a 70% reduction in clamping since 2005 and it was now time for the practice to be scrapped.

Of course it is- with CCTV cameras now doing all the leg work and then sending the fine off directly in the post, raising revenue is far easier than getting one's hands dirty out on the street.

Every silver lining...



Westminster gained £3 million in clamping fees last year, but maintains profits were "negligible" because of the costs of enforcement.

Only in England Part II

In the original post: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 Mind the Step(ladder) an update from the Times:

A school caretaker who injured himself falling off a stepladder won a compensation case against his local council yesterday after insisting that they had not taught him how to use it.
Anthony Gower-Smith, 73, sued Hampshire County Council for negligence when he tumbled off a 6ft ladder at Awbridge Primary School in Romsey, Hampshire, in 2004. He made a claim for £50,000.


At the High Court, Recorder Christopher Moger, QC, ruled that the council was 75 per cent responsible for the fall, in which Mr Gower-Smith suffered a fractured skull, a broken cheekbone and trauma to the kidneys. He has not been able to work since.

The council contended that Mr Gower-Smith had been given adequate training and said that when he started the job in 2002 he had signed an induction sheet confirming that he had received tuition.

Mr Gower-Smith's compensation will now be assessed.


Un-bloody-believeable...

Thankfully

Since leaving the country I have had the huge advantage of not having to listen to that bloody awful John Motson's commentary on BBC football matches.

After tomorrow's Euro 2008 final (yes, the one with Germany playing, and let's hope they do) he is to give everyone the same luxury, as he finally stepps down from his post as international match commentator.

If you want to read the whole tiresome guff he comes out with, you can try here: The Times, but it as dull as his standard oration.

But the bad news? He will continue to guff on on Match of the Day. Unlucky, people.

Here are some of his offerings:

“That tackle was so hard, it hurt his whole family.”

“For those of you watching in black and white, Spurs are in the all-yellow strip.”

“The World Cup is a truly international event”.

“And what a time to score! Twenty-two minutes gone.”

“I think this could be our best victory over Germany since the war.”

“And Seaman, just like a falling oak, manages to change direction.”

“The goals made such a difference to the way this game went.”

“It looks like a one-man show here, although there are two men involved.”

“It’s Arsenal 0, Everton 1, and the longer it stays like that the more you’ve got to fancy Everton.”

“It’s a football stadium in the truest sense of the word.”

“This is the biggest thing that’s happened in Athens since Homer put down his pen.”

And they paid him for this rubbish?

Only in England

An angler was caught fishing illegally after he was pictured showing off his catch, a 6lb 2oz perch, in a fishing magazine.

He ended up in court as he did not have a valid rod licence and was fined £200 with £75 costs, after pleading guilty at the Magistrates' Court.

The cost of a full licence is £25 a year.

OK, so he was "breaking the law", but I am amazed this was chased up and more so that anyone would be sad enough to read a specialist magazine and then cross reference the angler to a list of permit holders. Or is there more than meets the eye here and someone has it in for him and grassed?

Either way, what a petty minded thing to do and it seems to be indicative of life in England at the moment. :-(

Gee, Thanks

Last week we invested some money with the Nationwide at a great interest rate of 6.6% (gross).

Today, they have just improved that figure to 7.0% (gross).

Arse.

Another Birthday?

Stone me, this month is full of them. Today we send our best wishes to Karin and wish her all the best on reaching yet another year of wisdom and maturity...

Thinking of you, as we do every time Germany play. :oD

Friday, 27 June 2008

McWow

To meet demand, McDonald's use 1.5 chickens every person on earth every year.

More Choice.com

As the internet’s governing body move to change suffixes for web addresses, here is an explanation taken from the Telegraph, of domain naming conventions:

What is the difference between a domain and a domain name?

A domain is the suffix that appears at the end of a web address, such as .com or .co.uk etc. A domain name is the bit of a web address that is sandwiched between the "www." and the suffix. In the web address www.telegraph.co.uk http://www.telegraph.co.uk/, "telegraph" is the domain name, but .co.uk is the domain.

Who can apply for a new top-level domain name?

In theory, anyone, but you're not simply buying a web address - you are buying an entire domain name, so you have to be able to show that you can afford to run and manage. To give you some idea of how much that would cost, VeriSign, which owns and operates the .com top-level domain, has spent more than $100 million (£50 million) running that service.

Can you register your own name?

This remains unclear. It's unlikely most ordinary people would be able to make money from registering their surname as a top-level domain, so for most people, simply buying an appropriate domain name will continue to suffice. Celebrities, however, may choose to register their name in order to build their brand and use it as a 'shop front'. Kylie Minogue, for instance, might buy the .kylie domain.


Hhmm, .ktelontour anyone?

Disposable Bike


A student of industrial design has made a working bicycle out of industrial-strength cardboard, as seen above.
The bike was strong enough for a rider weighing up to 12 stones and would not go soft in the rain, although it has a life expectancy of only about six months.

The bike is made almost entirely from recyclable and recycled materials, using mechanical parts that can also be reused.
Not just a green bike (although you could paint it any colour you choose...) but one that will not get nicked by thieves, as it only cost £15 to make.

SmartDrive

Help may be at hand to countless riders (and other road users) from the scourge of "white van (wo)man".

A new device called called SmartDrive, (a spy-in-the-cab device) is to help companies to identify which of their drivers are breaking laws such as using hand-held mobile phones, smoking or not wearing their seat belts. The forward-facing camera helps to identify who was responsible for a collision and can protect the driver from false claims or resolve disputed incidents.

It uses a motion sensor that is triggered by any jolts, impacts, swerving, sharp braking or aggressive acceleration. The cameras operate on a loop and the device captures and stores 30-second video clips of what happened before, during and after each incident which are then uploaded automatically when the van returns to base.

Good idea.

More of the story here: The Times

The Third Option

Currently, anyone interested in a qualification in the English language has two options; English and English literature.

As mentioned before on here, there will soon be a third option, as yet unnamed, which will involve no reading of traditional texts such as plays, poetry or classic novels and instead allow pupils to "study" travel brochures or biographies.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has this to say about the course, which will be available in a couple of years' time:

"The aim is to develop students’ understanding of language use in the real world, through engaging with and evaluating material that is relevant to their own development as speakers, listeners, readers and writers"

ktelontour suggest the course should be referred to as Thick English.

Colour Blind?


Now get a dictionary

Pray and Display

A new parking permit is being issued for religious leaders (of all faiths*) carrying out official duties.

The permit, issued by the London Borough of Barnet, will allow them to park in residents’ parking bays without charge and would enable better access to “vulnerable residents in time of spiritual need”.

Why not park anywhere and put their faith in God they won't get nicked? Thought not...



*including Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Rastafarianism, Sikhism, Unitarianism and Zoroastrianism.

Carrot & Stick

Smokers fined for throwing cigarette butts on the street will get their money back if they quit smoking in a pilot scheme starting next month.

As well as receiving a £75 fine, they will be given details of the nearest stop-smoking course and if they give up for 28 days, their fine will be refunded.

The scheme is running in the Hampshire borough of Rushmoor, with Havant and Gosport soon to follow.

Good idea on both counts.

Our Cave Hotel





Tolkien Meets Bedrock

Is how I would describe this charming little village of Göreme in the Cappadocian region of Turkey; a kind of cross between the Lord of the Rings' Hobbit Village and the town where Fred Flintstone and his pals crashed.

Göreme has a large number of what are termed "fairy chimneys " which are tuff* cones that have been hollowed out over the centuries to produce several storeys of dwellings and storage chambers.

We have a most charming little room in such a fairy chimney and it is a great place to spend the next week. All mods cons included, such as en suite bathroom, comfy bed (the Turks have the best beds we have slept on throughout our travels), internet (free wi-fi most of the time- the signal drops on occasion), satellite TV with 700+ channels and counting, including the odd English and German speaking ones) and loads of room as we got up-graded for free to a suite as we're staying just over a week.

Much nicer than the first cave we had on arrival for several reasons, including the request to vacate rooms by 09:00. Seeing as we had arrived at around 19:00 the previous night and then had gone straight out to grab a bite to eat and watch the Germany game, before arriving back at 02:00 that is not good value for money.

Particularly as they hadn't advised us of the ridiculously early check out time before we had booked. Still, for the same cash we are now at the Peri Cave Hotel and I'll lob up some photos shortly.



*It's a type of rock consisting of consolidated volcanic ash ejected from vents during a volcanic eruption

Already?

With the continuing Euro 2008 still being played out, it seems like there is hardly a let up for the fan of the game. 16th August 2008 is the first day of the Premiership in the UK and Tottenham will be lining up against Middlesbrough at their Riverside Stadium.

Wor Kev's Toon team will host the current champions, Man Utd- good luck on that one.

Whilst on the subject of Spurs, it seems Paul Robinson our keeper (and occasional Eng-er-land stopper) looks to be on his way out of the club to Aston Villa. Tottenham have just agreed a deal with PSV Eindhoven to sign goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, Brazil's national keeper.

Ordinarily I'd be more than chuffed at my team signing a Brazilian, but notoriously their goalies have always been the weakest link and for £7 million seems a load of dosh which could have been better spent on a decent defender.

Still, with £16.5 million already having been spent on the Hrvatskan striker Luka Modric it appears that they are finally loosening the purse strings. Let's hope it has been wisely spent...

Deafening Sound of Defeat

Russian Alla Kudryavtseva knocked out number three seed and 2004 champion Maria Sharapova in the second round at Wimbledon yesterday.

We didn't get to see the game but heard her shrieks and gasps in Turkey.

Using a digital sound level meter her voice was recorded at a maximum decibels of 103.2- louder than a motorcycle or a lawnmower. Last year, Sharapova broke her previous record of 102.7 (equivalent to an ambulance siren) by yelling at 103.7, greater than the noise of a small aircraft landing.


Peace at last.

Y Viva Espana

That's that then.

Spain crush Russia by 3-0 once again, and steam rather ominously into the Final with Germany on Sunday, 29th June 2008.

On last night's performance (in fact, all their performances throughout the tournament) they look unbeatable and if the Germans play as poorly as they did against the wonderful Turks, it will be a cricket score.

Of course I'm hoping they will raise their game and play as they did against Portugal, their only really reasonable match, but deep down I know full well they are mediocre at best and it is has been good fortune (and Ballack) who have somehow steered them through to the last two.

As ever, in a one off game one can never right them off, but I still forecast a miserable night for the team in white and predict a 0-3 loss.


Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, may I be wrong...

Hanging on the Telephone

One quarter of all telephone calls are answered by voicemail or an answering machine.

Today's Birthdays

Many congratulations to two people who couldn't be further apart.

To Andy and Danni Clark's daughter, Abi and to another age old pal from the hockey club, Paul "Flossi" Moxon.

Hoping you have a top day, guys.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Flying

When given the option on any form of public transport, I have always requested an aisle seat.

For no other reason that I happen to find it more convenient to be able to pass out of my seat at will, without having to excuse myself and then disrupt a fellow passenger and I'm always able to stretch the odd leg on longer journeys.

It seems there is also another advantage if in the air.

After an exhaustive study of 105 accidents and personal accounts from almost 2 000 survivors of how they managed to escape from crash landings and on board fires, it seems it's the safest place to squat.

For the best chance of getting out alive from a burning aircraft, people should choose an aisle seat near the front within five rows of an emergency exit.

How's your luck?

The True Cost of Things

Each iPod costs Apple around 80 dollars to make.

My Apologies To Brave Turkey

I am still unable to believe that Germany have made it to the Final of Euro 2008; a record breaking sixth time, against a courageous and committed Turkish team.

You deserved to win and I am still recovering from the match.

More later...

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Have You Seen This Man?

Welsh dibble believe this photo-fit image of a suspect will "help them with their enquiries".

With hoodies and base-ball caps currently the height of trendy street wear, I'm sure this will prove essential in apprehending the man. But if you see someone with over half their face covered by head gear, you know where to go to rat them out.

Back on the Map

China will end a ban today on tourists visiting Tibet, according to state reports. Restrictions on foreign visitors and journalists were imposed in response to violent protests against Chinese rule in the capital, Lhasa, in March.

Jolly good, it's another place we're hoping to visit.

How Attitudes Change

Before embarking on our leisurely tour of these amazing countries we have had the privilege of visiting, two words would guarantee to send a shiver of dread through me. Camping* and hostels.

However, since we've been travelling with the Fez Bus, it's been the latter style of accommodation that we have been using and quite honestly, it's been grand. Images of shared dorms, cold water showers and communal bathrooms all flashed before my eyes at the merest hint of the "H" word- if you're going to use it, make it a silent "s" for pity's sake.

But no, they are all clean, private, have superb beds, en suite facilities and usually are far superior to the good old fashioned British B & B- a good comparison in most cases as breakfast is included in the price.

And the price is very keen too, at around YTL 50 (~£20) for a double room, sometimes with TV and air-con thrown in. Most Turkish pensions (a far better word) also have either free to air wi-fi broad band or at least a computer for public use to check emails.

So no complaints about the pit stops suggested by the Fez Bus as we travel through Turkey (aside the dubious "tree house hippy commune bollocks at Olympos" (but at one night, it was hardly a concern) and tonight we trundle on down to Cappadocia (via Konya) to go and live in a cave...

Again, possibly off air for a while as we suss connections, but I'm sure we'll all be cheering on Germany tonight and so you'll have plenty to occupy you.

*And no way will I ever resort to camping again.

Happy Returns of the Day

Go out to Carolyn, wifey's life-long friend from her junior school days.

Ironically she is due to holiday in Turkey next month- just as we leave.

Never mind, we're sure you'll have a smashing time and look forward to meeting up one day, somewhere else.

BIG Day Today

Yes, finally we have the first semi-final with Turkey facing the Germans and whilst on paper it should be a "formality", the Turks have proven to be damn difficult to beat- particularly in the latter stages of a game.

Coupled with their team being ravaged by injury and bans (accumulation of yellow cards in previous matches), this is quite possibly the finest chance the Germans have of reaching the final.

Prior to the tournament commencing, I'd have put our house on them not doing well (as proven against Hrvatska) but since then:

(a) they are getting stronger
(b) we no longer have the house :-)

and I am now keeping fingers crossed.

Come on the Deutschers!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

This Was Written by an English Jiurnalist

By Joe Lovejoy at the Times - how refreshing to have such an unbiased sports reporter:

German steel still sharp

After a slow start Joachim Low has Germany hitting their peak at just the right time with Wednesday’s semi-final against Turkey looming

Like “Don’t eat yellow snow”, it should be one of the first things you teach the children: “Never bet against the Germans.” They are at it again at Euro 2008, semi-finalists after the recidivists among us, who should really know better, wrote them off.

When they lost to Croatia, then made horribly hard work of beating feeble Austria 1-0, it seemed that this time, for once, they were not genuine contenders. Wrong again. Digits were duly extracted against Portugal last Thursday, and after a vibrant quarter-final that was handsomely typical of the championship to date, it was Germany who marched triumphantly into the last four, where they play Turkey in Basle on Wednesday.

They had expected to be facing Croatia again, and were as surprised as the rest of us when the Turks, having fluked their way through Group A at the expense of the Czech Republic and Switzerland, eliminated the Croats in Vienna on Friday night.

In a match that was one of the rare disappointments these past two weeks, Turkey burgled a win, against the run of play, on penalties, and will be rank outsiders among the semi-finalists.

The Germans, who regarded Croatia as much more of a threat, could hardly believe their luck, and probably the only observer not taken aback by Friday’s outcome was Fatih Terim, who is clearly something of a seer, as well as Turkey’s effervescent coach.

On the eve of the tournament he said: “I promised we would qualify for these finals and would then prove to be the surprise package. We’ve fulfilled the first part of our mission, now we have to take care of the second, and I’m confident we will do well.” Terim’s prophecy was more impressive than his team’s play in a quarter-final where Croatia created nearly all the chances, only to do a passable imitation of England in the shoot-out, missing the target with two penalties and having a third saved.

Germany, of course, don’t make those mistakes. There is always a temptation to damn the old enemy with faint praise, and the easy way to do it on this occasion was to suggest the ubermen-schen were too big and strong for little Portugal. It is probably not too far from the truth, either. According to Luiz Felipe Scolari (and who would dare gainsay “Big Phil’s” stats?), Germany had an average 7cm (2.7in) per man height advantage.

What is also true, however, is that they played good, constructive football that was entirely in keeping with the attacking spirit of what is developing into possibly the best international tournament I have seen in 30 years of reporting on them.

Five more goals were rattled home in another thoroughly entertaining match, and the only pity was that Basle’s St Jakob Park is so small that fewer than 40,000 were able to witness it first-hand. It is a common problem here, and will be so again when the same venue stages the first semi-final on Wednesday.

The majority of neutrals will have been in Portugal’s corner, but Cristiano Ronaldo and company were left with the Mat-terhorn to climb after conceding twice in the first 25 minutes. Given this demoralising start, it was to their great credit that they made such a good game of it in the second half, when the outcome might conceivably have been different had not Pepe, the centre-half, somehow contrived to head over Jens Lehmann’s crossbar from barely two yards.

This is not meant to suggest that the result was inequitable. Scolari was correct when he made the point that Michael Ballack had been guilty of a push before heading in Bastian Schweinsteiger’s free kick for Germany’s decisive third goal but, judged on balance of play, 3-2 was just about right.

Chelsea’s new manager won’t have it, of course, but he was at fault on two counts. Despite his denials a week ago, the morale of his squad was undermined by the timing of the announcement that he was to leave. After he went public with his decision, Portugal played two matches and lost both. QED. Scolari also came out second best in the tactical battle last Thursday, when Joachim Loew stymied him by switching from his previous 4-4-2 to 4-5-1. Outnumbered in midfield (Ronaldo and Simao are wingers, with no pretensions otherwise), Portugal were unable to assemble their pleasing, passing game until it was too late. At 2-0 down, they resembled Lilliputians in the Land of the Giants.

Promoted from within to replace Jurgen Klinsmann after the 2006 World Cup, Loew appears to be everything Steve McClaren was not - an accomplished yet self-effacing technician. After playing for Stuttgart and Eintracht Frankfurt, among others, he went back to Stuttgart as coach in 1995 and took them to the old European Cup-Winners Cup Final in 1998, when they lost 1-0 to Chelsea. After winning the Austrian title with Tirol Innsbruck in 2002, “Jogi”, as he is known, had brief spells with Austria Vienna and Fenerbahce, in Turkey, before becoming Klinsmann’s right-hand man.

When the celebrated striker-turned-coach stepped down, there was never any doubt who would succeed him, and under Loew’s tutelage the Germans qualified for the European Championship for the 10th time in succession, a record. Winners in 1972, ’80 and ’96, they were also runners-up in ’76 and ’92, and the last time they were not present at the finals was back in 1968 (as West Germany).

Loew has effective man-management skills as well as a tactician’s brain. When Schweinsteiger was sent off for retaliation in added time against Croatia and suspended for the Austria game, the coach told him his action was indefensible and that he owed his teammates a “big performance” against Portugal. Suitably motivated, the Bayern Munich midfielder said beforehand: “I must show something special now and give something back to the team”, went out and was man of the match.

Intriguingly, in view of Fabio Capello’s comments last week to the effect that England needed to show more of their old fighting spirit and emulate the fervour of the Croats, Loew says of the Germans’ poised approach: “We must not go back to those days of overreliance on our traditional values. Players from San Marino can run around and fight, too. We’ve made significant progress in that respect in the past three years, and I feel we are now back on a level with the big European countries.”

Ballack, the captain, is a Loew fan. Looking back on the tournament so far, he said: “We changed the way we played on Thursday [to 4-5-1] and really benefited from that. We had more physical presence in midfield, which was important, especially so against Portugal. I felt our midfield were more involved in the game.

“In our first two matches the ideas were missing and so was the creativity. Mental freshness was lacking, that’s why changing the formation helped us. The first two games were not as we wanted them to be, we knew we hadn’t performed to our best, but at least we progressed.”
Of his new role, supporting the lone striker, Miroslav Klose, at the point of the midfield, Ballack said: “It was a very different position for me and I was able to get in the box more. It was important that the whole team worked at that, and I think we managed it quite well.”
Lehmann, the goalkeeper who has just joined Stuttgart from Arsenal, admitted victory over Croatia had been taken for granted. “We underestimated them, that was the problem,” he said. “I wouldn’t say the group stages were really that difficult.


“Playing Portugal was always going to be harder, and when we have to play at that level we know 4-5-1 suits us more because it’s less risky and it’s a better way to cope with the opposition’s attacking capabilities.”

The grizzled old keeper’s 39th birthday is beckoning, so is this his international swansong? “A last European Championship for me, definitely”, he said. And the 2010 World Cup? “You never know . . . ”

The Germans will be there, with or without him. Bet on it.

Long Way Home

Upside down plod in Australia have charged a man for drink driving- in a motorised wheelchair after he was found to be six times over the legal alcohol limit.

The rozzers in the Queensland city of Cairns said the man had a blood alcohol reading of 0.31 and was so drunk he was asleep at the controls of his motorised wheelchair in a turning lane of a major highway.

"It beggars belief" (yeah, I bet he said exactly that) a top dibble blurk remarked, adding that wheelchairs, bicycles, horses and skateboards were all considered to be vehicles under the state's road laws.

Let Me Tell You a Story

Although they are commonly assumed to go together, the phrase "once upon a time" predates "and they lived happily ever after" in printed books by almost 150 years.

Slovenia’s Gorgeous Honeycomb Housing Complex


This stunning seaside structure bursts free from the all-too-frequently stale stock of public housing projects with its dynamic array of brightly shaded cells. Taking its cues from the modular honeycomb clusters of a beehive, the complex was constructed as a low-income residence for young families and couples in the industrial district of Izola on the Slovenian coast. The striking development boasts beautiful views and makes smart use of solar shading and natural ventilation to regulate its interiors all year-round.

At first glance, one can’t help but be taken in by the building’s beautiful staggered balconies. Designed to mimic the rhythmic structure of honeycomb, the layout creates “dynamic elevations and offers privacy to the neighboring owners.” We’re also impressed by the collaborative effort behind the project which at its core was comprised of a 9-person design team including Rok Oman, Špela Videčnik, Martina Lipicer, Neža Oman, Nejc Batistič, Florian Frey, Marisa Baptista, and špela uršič. Each of the balcony modules is topped with a colorful textile shade that provides for efficient solar shading and ventilation: “Textile elements fixed on the front of the balconies block direct sunlight and accumulate ‘air buffer’ zone. In the summer, hot air accumulated in the area behind the shadings is naturally ventilated through (10 cm holes) perforated side partitions of the balconies. In the winter the warm air stays in the area and provides additional heating to the apartments.”

We* love seeing such inspired approaches towards social design- taken from here: inhabitat

*NOTE: "We" as the original author of the article and not us. I still haven't decided and would need to see it in real life.

G/Googlemail User?

This may be of help to you; robbed from here: Coen Jacobs

Filters and labels

Besides it’s flexibility and being available via the web, the filters and labels are the greatest features in Gmail. The greatest thing about it, is that they work together like a charm.
I receive dozens of emails each day, about new comments on blogs that I follow, or one of my own blogs. With a filter and a single label, Gmail puts those in one page to review them later. Now my Gmail account contains over 30 filters and about 10 labels, all to result in the ultimate goal; a clean inbox with as less effort as possible. That’s my ultimate goal and the purpose of what I’m doing.
Besides email that I expect, there is ‘fresh’ email from everyone who is trying to contact me. Total strangers, or people that I haven’t mailed with before, will pop in into my Gmail account blank.
But colleagues are a different story. For groups of people that I regularly work with, you probably guessed it already, I have some filters and a label. The colours get my attention, just like they should.
The labels and filters are the system that you can’t go without when you receive over 100 emails each day. 100 emails a day can be quite a frustration, imagine what will happen to you when you reach 1.000 mails a day like Darren does!

Archiving after labelling

Besides labelling there is another feature that I’m using often in my filters. Some mail is fun to receive, but not always important enough to pop in into your inbox. A good filter labels these emails and instantly sends them to the archive. It won’t pop in your inbox, but it’s easy to find it again.
I’m using this trick for example for; emails about new shouts on Digg.com, new friend requests on social networks and so on. I read these emails, but they aren’t important enough to interupt my work by popping in, into my inbox.

Important mail goes first

As I mentioned before, I have a label for different people. Email from people that are important to me, pop into my inbox with a label that gets my attention, or even get a star. A star is like a ‘flag’ in Outlook and some other email clients, it grabs your attention at first sight.

Stars are wonderful for:

- Creating list of email that you need to look into again, or just still need to reply on.
- Finding back important email, even when you’ve archived it.
- Keeping track on conversations, that require just that extra bit of attention.

And probably even more purposes suite the stars right. Email from my girlfriend just pops in as a starred email. Anything for keeping her a happy girl, right?

Prevent unwanted mail from popping in

Gmail deals with most of the spam, but there is another threat to be found in newsletters. After I configured my filters and labels, it became obvious that newsletters are almost as frustrating as spam is. To tackle this problem, you need to start erasing it from the roots.
Newsletters that you hardly read are a waste of your time. As most newsletters provide a link to unsubscribe, that’s where you have to start your search.
But not only newsletters can be a real pain in the ass. What to think about your social networks that keep on sending you emails about new friend requests. When you visit Digg.com two to three times a day, these emails become a waste of your time and are ready to be disabled.

Gmail labs go beyond the normal features

With Gmail as a solid email-’client’, you can work the way you want to. The labs function Google recently added to Gmail, finishes Gmail totally. Gmail Labs adds little pieces of functionality that aren’t ready to be released in public yet, but can be used to test them properly.
Most of these functions work great, so I didn’t hessitate to start using them. Take a look around, Gmail Labs give you little things that I was really missing in Gmail (standardly).

Your own (creative) way of emailing

These tricks can be used by yourself, but you’re own creative way of managing your email is always the best. Perhaps you find it annoying that Gmail does not allow you to create separate folders to store your email, or anything else. But once you’re really looking for a nice way to clean your inbox, filters and labels really are the way to go!
Let me know in the comment what you think is working great in Gmail. I’m curious about new ways of cleaning inboxes, using stars, filters and labels!

The Good the Bad and the Top Ten

The results of the Harris Interactive survey that tracks the reputations of the 60 most visible companies in America has been released and here they are:

The Top 10 Reputations

1) Google
2) Johnson & Johnson
3) Intel
4) General Mills
5) Kraft
6) Berkshire Hathaway
7) 3M
8) Coca-Cola
9) Honda
10) Microsoft

The 10 Worst Reputations

10) DaimlerChrysler
9) General Motors Corporation
8) ChevronTexaco Corporation
7) Ford
6) Sprint
5) Comcast
4) Exxon
3) Northwest Airlines
2) Citgo
1) Halliburton

The Price of Scoff

How food prices have risen in just a year

4 Real

The average teenage text-messager can enter 22 'words' per minute.

I can barely manage three.

A Honest Cabbie

A taxi driver who found a crumpled Sainsbury's shopping bag in the back of his cab was close to chucking it out as rubbish. Instead, he peered inside and shocked to find a cheque book and nine grand in used notes.

More impressively, he handed his find in, and the lucky person who had lost the bag was more than a tad happy about his honest actions. The taxi driver was given a "generous" tip and goes someway to restoring faith in a race of people that most find utter bastards.

Well done, fellah.

Property in the UK

According to HM Revenue & Customs, the number of properties sold in the UK has tumbled by 40% in a year, with just 100 000 homes and offices being sold in the month of May 2008. In July 2007, before the credit crunch struck, more than 160 000 homes were selling every month.

These figures demonstrate the alarming decline in the country's property market, with prices falling faster than at any time for more than 25 years and with London seeing its biggest monthly fall in house prices for three years.

Properties that came on to the market this month were, on average, £4 500 lower than in May and the trend looks set to continue.

I guess our sale has been fortunate, but Leigh on Sea (Chalkwell, to be more accurate) has always been a very sought after area that maintains its value. With the location of the house a mere 3 minute walk to a mainline station, taking you into London in 45 minutes, and the same three minute stroll dropping you directly at the seafront, it's perfect.

Its close proximity to several first class schools, a large park and all the local shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs just at the top of the road is yet another bonus and I'm sure the current owner will have a very happy time in her new home.

And More To Pay at Airports

Not content with charging customers to check in, pay for their bags or choose their seats, the latest plan to extricate more cash from the airborne passenger is to charge them for using luggage trolleys.

From 1st July 2008, it will cost £1 if you want a trolley to ferry luggage around at Luton Airport and for those entering from abroad without any British currency, it will cost an even pricier two Euros.

As ever, expect this new idea to be rolled out across the country soon.

Not in a Brazillion Years


A Little Late

Click to Enlarge

For Father's Day as we were off line, but this is a clever ad...

Blurkie Snog on the Box

A television advert for Heinz mayonnaise has sparked nearly 200 complaints because it features two men kissing.

Viewers have branded it "offensive", "inappropriate" and "unsuitable to be seen by children" and it is already on course to be one of the most complained-about adverts of the year.

The Advertising Standards Authority has received 179 complaints so far with the final tally likely to be far higher.

Quite right; how disgusting.





Everyone knows that Hellman's mayo is far superior...

Not Getting in Here With Those Trainers On, Sonny

Heightened security (why?) at Wimbledon has seen the introduction of a strict rule of "one player, one coach" being permitted into the members' locker-rooms and as ever, the job's worths are in their element.

Particularly the ones who stopped both Boris Becker and Michael Stich the former champions from gaining access.

I hope the small-minded, clipboard Cavaliers try the same for McEnroe...

Today is Midsummer’s Day

summer solstice usually falls on 21st June and is an astronomical event, the longest hours of daylight in the year when the Sun is highest in our sky at noon.

However, Midsummer’s Day marks the halfway point in the calendar year and was one of the old Quarter Days:

Lady Day (25th March)
Midsummer’s Day (24th June)
Michaelmas (29th September)
Christmas (25th December)

Generally speaking, these were not hugely popular dates as they were often when rents, rates and taxes were due (our tax year still starts on Lady Day), although the new Gregorian calendar shifted the date from 25th March to 6th April.

Doom & Gloom

It's being predicted that up to 350 000 people will lose their jobs by next April as the economy slows. Companies also expect their profits to dip by an average of 1.3% this financial year, taking £900 million off their accounts.

Larger companies, with more than 100 employees, expect to be harder hit, predicting a 2.2% drop in profits, while financial services companies are expecting an 8.4% decline.

Companies said they were ready to cut worker numbers by an average of 1.1%, equal to 350 000 jobs and financial services will axe 2% of workers- 110 000 jobs.

Workers can expect pay increases of about 3.9%, less than the retail price index, currently at 4.3%.



The survey, of 120 business leaders, was conducted by the Centre for Economic and Business Research and the Hay Group, a management consultancy company.

Puppy Fat?

No such thing, pet.

The Times.

Starch

The British eat potatoes about 10 billion times a year and pasta only 1.4 billion times.

UK Bills

Wifey's mum lives in the North East of the country, in Durham, very close to Newcastle.

Typically, the weather is not the kindest in the country and it is usually colder and wetter than the South East and so she has to use the heating a bit more during the bitingly cold winters they have to endure.

She is a pensioner and lives in a small, one-bed roomed bungalow, on her own, and is fairly thrifty with her energy sources. Her last two quarterly gas bills have been £250 and £230!

Some Q & As from the BBC on gas pricing:

Centrica has signalled that gas prices for customers could increase again in 2008, owing to increasing wholesale costs for UK suppliers.
The owner of British Gas said that it was expecting a "materially lower" profit for the first half of 2008 despite price rises earlier in the year.
It said it would take "action to deliver reasonable margins".
So what should consumers expect for their gas and electricity bills later in the year?


What is British Gas saying?

Centrica, the owner of British Gas, made a trading statement saying that profit for the first half of the year would be materially lower than the first half of 2007.
It blames the "stubbornly high" wholesale gas and power prices in the UK that it is buying for the future.
It warned that wholesale gas prices increased by 92% from a year ago to now, and wholesale electricity costs doubled.

Haven't we heard this before?

Yes, wholesale prices were largely blamed for a round of price rises by the big six energy companies earlier in 2008.
In early January, Npower put prices up for its domestic electricity customers by 12.7%, while its gas price rose by 17.2%.
That same month, EDF put up electricity tariffs by 7.9% and gas prices by 12.9%. British Gas increased gas and electricity prices by 15%.
In February Scottish Power increased gas bills by 15% and electricity bills by 14%, and a week later E.On put up gas bills by 15% and electricity tariffs by 9.7%.
Scottish and Southern Energy was the last to make the move with an average 14.2% increase in electricity bills, and a 15.8% lift in gas charges for domestic customers coming into force on 1 April.

So why have wholesale prices risen?

Wholesale prices had fallen from highs seen in early 2006 but they began to rise again in about February 2007.
A variety of factors have been at play. Most of our gas still comes from the North Sea, but production has been declining faster than was expected.
As a result, the UK has had to import more of its total gas supplies. Meanwhile, the wholesale price of gas - which is linked on the continent to the price of crude oil - has been driven higher by record oil costs.
Meanwhile, rising coal prices have made producing electricity at coal-powered plants more expensive.
And as European firms turn to the UK's more liberalised market for supplies as a cheaper alternative to that offered in mainland Europe, that has also driven up UK wholesale prices.

What will this mean for my bill?


Centrica have not said directly how much bills would increase by, or even that they will be putting up prices at all.

But reacting to the announcement, price comparison website Uswitch.com is predicting that if households are "lucky" they will see a 10%, or £105, price rise by late summer with a further 15%, or £173, hike in January 2009.
Mark Todd, director at energyhelpline.com, said: "Undoubtedly, the 15% to 20% rise we've already had will be repeated again in 2008, with more price hikes anticipated in the first quarter of 2009."
And rises would not only affect British Gas customers.
Allan Asher, the chief executive of industry watchdog Energywatch, said that if British Gas raises prices, other suppliers could follow suit.


Shouldn't all these price rises be investigated?


They already are.
Energy regulator Ofgem has been looking into electricity and gas markets for households and small businesses since February.
It said it had no evidence of anti-competitive behaviour but is responding to customer worries.
The probe was announced the same day that Centrica reported a 40% rise in operating profits in 2007 to £1.95bn.
It includes investigating the relationship between retail and wholesale energy prices, barriers to customers switching gas and electricity supplier, and the competitiveness of prices to different types of customers.
It could report to the Competition Commission if it finds anything is wrong with competition in the market.

UK TV Next?

Pop up ads, the blight of web-surfing, seem to be quite a popular way of advertising on Turkey television.

Whilst still incorporating traditional commercial breaks, they also intersperse a film or programme with a pop up banner for a particular product or service.

Not quite so intrusive as on a computer screen and much quicker than the conventional interludes, possibly the next thing to hit your screens?

Modification

Speaking with our fellow travellers, most seem quite impressed at our jaunt and usually ask if we've been to such and such a place and what it was like.

We'll offer all kinds of insight/tips and usually hand out a "business card" (our contact details) and tell them that the Blog will have a load more info and pictures, which they can have a gander at when they get time.

We'll also try and give an approximate time when we were there so they can check back into the archives if a particular country interests them. However, my memory not quite being what it is, sometimes the dates tend to be a bit vague.

Fear not fellow adventurers, for just today I have back tracked through the years and added date links to the listed countries to make referencing a little easier for you.

It has also given me an opportunity to realise that I don't half talk a load of bollocks at times an' all...

Happy Anniversary

To our dear friends, Marlis and Heinz who celebrate their wedding anniversary today.

Congratulations, and we hope you have a wonderful day.

Looking forward to meeting up with you in Thailand in early 2009.

Japan's Latest Fashion Craze




My thanks to Brendan once more for his vigilance...

Monday, 23 June 2008

Never Too Young

Bastian Schweinsteiger, the Deutscher wunderkind is a mere 23.

Yet he has represented his country a remarkable 54 times already.

False Ending

Disney's "The Never Ending Story" sparked 28 lawsuits from customers who were furious that the movie had an end.

"New" Look Wimbledon

  • After going “naked” in 2007, the Centre Court has a roof of sorts this year, before the completion of a retractable structure for 2009.
  • The seating capacity of Centre Court is increased by 12 00 to 15 000*.
  • Court 11 replaces Court 13 as a show court.
  • There is a new 4 000 sq ft Centre Court shop.
  • In the interests of safety, there will be only one queue for tickets each day, rather than the traditional two.
  • Visitors will be allowed only one bag apiece, no larger than 18 x 12 x 12in (45 x 30 x 30cm).
  • Don’t bring hard-sided hampers, cool-boxes or briefcases — they are not allowed in the grounds.
  • Fans on Centre Court and No 1 Court will be able to see Hawk-Eye replays on new digital scoreboards.

* I think that maybe a typo- if not, that is some expansion.

And the Video...Hopefully

Remember our easyCruise?

And we bumped into a travel writer for the Telegraph?

Here's his article:

Max Davidson joins the latest ship from easyCruise for its maiden voyage around the Aegean – and is pleasantly surprised. Just don’t mention the breakfast.

It is after midnight. On the dance floor, a sixtysomething Sikh is strutting his stuff, arms aloft, to the strains of the Plastic People. “Nice mover,” says the man on the double bass. From the bar, a young German couple watch, mesmerised. There is a shriek of drunken laughter from the deck above. Welcome aboard the people’s cruise ship.

EasyCruise Life does not call itself that, but there is a definite frisson of democratic adventure on its maiden voyage. People of all ages and many nations jostle happily together as the ship zig-zags across the Aegean, stopping at one sun-drenched port after another.
When easyCruise One was launched in 2006, its brash orange hull looked comically out of place in the style-conscious ports of the French Riviera.


But there is nothing obviously brash about its new and larger sister ship, easyCruise Life. On the side of the vessel is a simple, tasteful motto: “Reunite the Parthenon Marbles.” Half the passengers probably know what the Parthenon Marbles are and why they need to be reunited.

This is still a bargain-basement cruise — £350-odd a week for the cheapest cabin — but the cabins are more generously sized this time round and there is a sophistication in the air.
If you thought this was just a drunken jolly for the under-30s, think again. Snatches of Puccini and Bizet drift across the swimming-pool. On the sun deck they are reading Ian McEwan, P G Wodehouse, Balzac and Naomi Klein (as well, it must be said, as Heat).


“Yes, there is a great mix of people on board,” says Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, proudly surveying his latest toy. “Some of them have been on dozens of cruises. Others are first-timers. The challenge is keeping them all happy.”

For the founder of easyJet — “the spoiled son of a Greek ship-owner”, in his own words — easyCruise Life is both a departure and a homecoming.

Instead of cruising the length of the Mediterranean, then sailing to the Caribbean for the winter, the ship will confine itself to the Aegean, Homer’s “wine-dark sea”, wreathed in legend.
In high season it will carry as many Greek as non-Greek passengers, as Athenians escape the city and head for the islands. But right now, on its maiden voyage, it is the United Nations afloat. The waiter at breakfast is Ukrainian. The couple booking a spa treatment are Australian. The man pounding the treadmill in the gym is Mexican. The four girls in the Jacuzzi are from Essex and proud of it.


“Look!” squeals one of them. “It’s Gerry from Big Brother!” “Which Gerry?” “The gay Greek.” “Oh, him.”

The cast is so exotic, so gloriously diverse, with no one age group predominant, that it is a shame when easyCruise Life starts fluffing its lines.

Service in the à la carte café-restaurant is erratic and painfully slow. “I have been waiting for butter for 40 minutes,” wails a man from the Black Country, holding up a piece of cold toast.

The rumblings of impatience grow louder and louder as the week advances. Breakfast is particularly shambolic.

I hope the service problems will be sorted out, because the basic product is good and should prove popular with regular cruisers and people who want to try something different.

EasyCruise Life is a medium-sized ship, carrying up to 600 passengers, and offers a reasonable mixture of on-board entertainment and activities — from pilates classes to lessons in modern Greek — and onshore excursions.

The business model is similar to easyJet. You pay enticingly little for your cabin, then extra for everything else: €2.50 (nearly £2) for an espresso, €14 for a bottle of wine, €40 for a half-day excursion. It all adds up, but it is still a cheap holiday in congenial surroundings.

And all around you there is Greece. Not the smoggy hell of Athens, but the islands, big and small, touristy and unspoilt, that are the true heartbeat of this extraordinary country.

A lot of cruise ships in the Aegean make the mistake of doing too much too quickly. Whizz! Was that Naxos? No, it was Skiathos. You are weighing anchor almost as soon as you have docked. Here, the itinerary is designed to maximise your time on shore. The ship typically docks at an island at 10 in the morning, then sails at three or four the next morning — plenty of time to find a deserted beach, do a bit of shopping and sightseeing, then sample the nightlife.

On Kalymnos, our first stop, I take a bus to the other side of the island, then a motorboat to the small volcanic island of Telendos, a sleepy little place fabled for its sunsets. I share this one with two Frenchmen, a goat and a couple of seagulls. Then it is back to the harbour for grilled squid and octopus, accompanied by ouzo.

Next stop is Bodrum, on the Turkish coast. It is just a few hours away, but a different world, with its mosques and bazaars and its Crusaders’ castle on a rocky promontory. There is a Museum of Underwater Archaeology in the castle grounds, an enchanted maze of ruined statues and pediments fringed by oleander bushes. A leisurely post-lunch gulet cruise along the coast is followed by some serious partying in the town centre, before we lurch back to the ship at 3am.

Through bleary eyes, I try to take in Kos, our next port of call. At first blush it is not as pretty as the other islands: the package holiday market has taken its toll. But a trip to the ruins of the Asklepion, the leading medical sanctuary of the ancient world, changes all that. It is one of those magical, tranquil, pine-scented spots, like Delphi on the Greek mainland, where the ghosts of the past seem tantalisingly close.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, was a Kos man. As I head for the taverna, I wonder what he recommended for a hangover.
The juxtaposition of ancient and modern makes the Greek islands so beguiling.


Paros, our next destination, cannot match Kos for archaeological sites, but, in Naoussa, it boasts one of those picturesque Greek fishing villages that make the heart dance.

The noonday sun blazes down on whitewashed walls, bright blue shutters, a cat sleeping in a window box and a wizened fisherman mending his net, a pipe drooping from his mouth.

How can one not be seduced by a country like this? With Mykonos and its windmills still to come — the hippest island in the Aegean these days, with sandy beaches, fabulous restaurants and louche nightclubs — the itinerary is so enticing, such a perfect encapsulation of the Greek way of life, that one wants to go back to the beginning and start again.


It is just a pity that breakfast on the ship takes an eternity to arrive. But as Homer nearly wrote, who needs a cappuccino and a croissant when you can enjoy a symphony in sun, sea and sand?

Good write up and who cares about breakfast? Just wait until you get on shore.

Looking to Buy, Sell or Rent Property?

Coulson James are the people for you then. Here's their link:

Top people. :oD

Strike

Manis the orangutan (best remembered as "Clyde" from the 1978 Clint Eastwood movie "Every Which Way But Loose") had been purchased by a Los Angeles bowling alley owner in 1982 and trained to bowl.

Prior to Manis' death in 1993, her highest scoring game was a 159, which is better than most people's.

Covered

Jimi Hendrix’s recording of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower is the best cover version of a song, according to Total Guitar magazine.

Celine Dion’s performance of AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long was named as the worst.

That sounds so bad I'd love to hear it.

My vote? Rolf Harris's version of Led Zep's classic Stairway to Heaven, complete with wobble board and all the huffs and puffs included. A genuine classic.

Dopes

Despite drug seizures in gaol increasing to over 5 500 a year, prosecutions have barely changed, at between 302 in 2005 and 304 last year.

That can't be right, can it?

Big Brother

Councils have been urged to stop using controversial surveillance powers for “trivial” offences such as littering and dog fouling. Town hall leaders were told by the head of the Local Government Association that they risked alienating the public and being stripped of the right to spy.

However, Sir Simon Milton defended the right for councils to use surveillance to tackle fly-tipping, rogue trading and tax and benefit fraud.

Urged? They should be forced to immediately.

That's a Lot

More than 800 000 people, nearly one third of the total number of recipients, have been claiming incapacity benefits for ten years or longer.

The North West had the highest level of claims, with 130 000 long-term beneficiaries.

*yay* A British WINNER

Well, nearly.

Britain has more entries in a top ten of free European tourist attractions than any other country.

The Pantheon in Rome was voted the best, with the National Gallery in London second and the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham (which displays the craft and techniques of jewellery-making and silverware) came in in third.

Westminster Abbey was eighth and the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland was voted tenth in the survey by the website TripAdvisor*.

Others on the list included Notre Dame cathedral, Paris; Retiro Park, Madrid; and St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

* See ktelontour's Hall of Fame for link.

Needing Treatment

If you're going to bust your pal out of gaol, try and be a little smarter than this lot.

A group of men stormed the Peyia Plod Factory near Paphos and beat up four Cypriot officers in a raid to free a mate who had been arrested a few hours earlier- for assaulting policemen.

However, the three suspects and the freed man were caught when they were seen being treated at local hospital- where the injured officers had also gone to.

D'oh.

Party On Down, Garth

Yesterday we spoke to our parents via Skype and one of the major talking points was the sale of our now ex home in the UK. One question asked was, "did you have a big celebration?"

It was then we realised that we hadn't done anything to mark the achievement as we were so mentally tired by the relentless stress of "will it go through" that we decided that we should make up for this oversight and go out for and have a beer or two yesterday.

Problem.

Egirdir is a very small, traditional little village which is not geared up for tourism in the slightest and so finding a taverna that sold Efes and a pide proved to be nigh on impossible. We must have walked through and around the town centre half a dozen times before deciding the best option was a large restaurant on the waterfront, over looking the massive lake.

Success- they did beer and food and we settled in for the afternoon, going over the recent events and still not really believing we had managed to sell the place in the middle of a recession. As the convo flowed, so too did the beer and after a few hours we noticed the waiters moving the tables around and the arrival of large, stunningly colourful floral tributes.

Deciding it was either a wedding or a funeral we carried on and soon the guests began to arrive in their dozens. Within the next hour, we had moved right to the back of the outdoor seating arrangements (having been assured by the waiter that it would not be a problem if we watched for a little while {and it was a wedding btw}) as the place became packed with people.

Perhaps 300 odd?

It was a spectacular occasion with fireworks, a live band, a six tier wedding cake and all the guests dressed up to the nines.

A family joined us at our table and before long we were in conversation with neither of us able to speak the other language. Pidgin English was met by turkey Turkish but it mattered not, as the mother invited wifey up to the floor to do the gurlie dance thing. Fortunately the men must have realised I dance like a hat stand in a typhoon and sensibly left me well alone.

We had an amazing time.

Best of the luck to the happy couple, many thanks for the piece of wedding cake and thanks a lot for letting us gate crash your special day.

Aiming High

Taken from the BBC:

"After a decade without any tennis players in the world's top 100, Britain's women are suddenly bearing down on the mark with real momentum.
In May, British number one Anne Keothavong broke into double figures and she is being closely followed by four women who are desperate to join her."


I'm sorry, this is an achievement? To get into the top one hundred? Stroll on...

Wimbledon 2008

Begins today and is scheduled to end on 6th July.

Yeah right, as if that is going to conclude on time with the British "summer". Go on Cliff, sing us a song, please.

British Moto GP at Donington

In Rossi's 200th grand prix, it was Casey Stoner who comfortably took the win, with the Italian in second place (like in the football, eh?) and Pedrosa in third.

Britain's James Toseland didn't have the best of races, qualifying in 16th place and then binning his bike in the first corner. However, it didn't stop him from completing the race without a right footrest and brake, and he limped in at 17th spot.

The top five so far:

1 Valentino Rossi (Ita) Yamaha 162pts
2 Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Honda 151
3 Casey Stoner (Aus) Ducati 117
4 Jorge Lorenzo (Spa) Yamaha 104
5 Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha 82

Good to see Colin Edwards, a favourite of mine, still up there though with no realistic chance of doing much more.

The Last Four

With Spain beating Italy last night it makes for a very interesting line up for the two semis.

Germany take on the Turks (which is going to be dead good fun watching that game here...) and the Russians met the Spanish.

Looking back at my quarter final predictions, it strikes me that I got them 100% wrong.

Let's hope I have a bit more luck this time as I go for a Germany v Russia Final.

How good will that be?

How True

66% of people will start playing a musical instrument at some point in their life.

92% of those people will stop playing that instrument within one year.