Thursday, 31 July 2008

The Good Old Days?



If you're a fan of the 1970s, you'll love this...

Office Peeves

Top ten annoying office sounds:

1) Crisp eating
2) Slurping tea and coffee
3) Annoying mobile ring tones
4) The boss's voice
5) People collecting lottery money
6) Hum of the air conditioning
7) Personal phone calls
8) IT jargon
9) Hold music on the telephone
10) Keyboard tapping

Are some people really so intolerant?

Spicy in Thailand

Seems to have a different meaning to the one we accept in the UK.

Here it means furnace Hell-hot with the ability to peel the skin off your tongue and mouth after the tiniest morsel.

I'd hate to think what hot actually is...

Thai Street Food

Everywhere one looks there will be a little mobile cart, offering some kind of edible option directly on the pavement.

From fresh fruit to deep fried insects, to rice dishes, to noodles- if it can be cooked and scoffed, it will be on sale.

Last night we saw one such mobile kitchen with frogs on the menu, as they were all laid out, shining and glistening under the street lights.

I pretended I was a vegetarian. :0)

Naming a Coffee Shop

Starbucks takes its name from the British explorer Starbuck McAffee who brought the coffee bean back to Europe.

Keane Out, Bentley In

As Robbie Keane left for Liverpool on Monday for just over £20 million (£20.3 million to be exact), we expect to advised that Spurs have signed David Bentley from Blackburn Rovers for a reputed £15 million.

I'm sad Robbie has left but wish him well at Liverpool and also hope that Bentley performs to all expectations. Let's hope we have a better season than last year.

First league match is away to Middlesbrough on 16th August, so hopefully a point at least.

Fine for the BBC

The BBC has copped another fine (its largest to date) after Ofcom, the media regulator, found the broadcaster guilty of a litany of offences involving phone-in competitions.

The corporation was ordered to pay a total of £400 000 for breaches of the broadcasting code involving four television programmes, including Comic Relief, and four radio shows, which the regulator said had involved staff “faking winners of competitions and deliberately conducting competitions unfairly”.

The ruling takes the total fines levied by regulatory bodies on broadcasters to nearly £11.5 million in the past year, after a spate of incidents involving the abuse of premium-rate phone-in competitions.

And all of it OUR money. Make the directors pay out of their pocket.

The CSA

Due to be canned in October 2008 the Child Support Agency is to be replaced by no doubt yet another ineffectual body, the nattily named Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

In the meantime, they have released figures that report absentee parents owe almost £4 billion in support payments. The amount rose by £120 million in 2007-08, bringing the total to £3.8 billion.

About £2.2 billion is considered “probably uncollectable” and the overall figure is rising by £10 million a month.

What a great little success story.

Have a Drink On Me

New legislation will no longer allow bars and restaurants to use tips and gratuities to push up staff pay to the minimum wage of £5.52 an hour.

NOTE: The laws also mean restaurants will not be obliged to pass on any service charges to employees.

Bank Transactions

We were puzzling over when banks made their transactions for payment to or debit from one's account; business opening hours ie, 09:00 on the day or from midnight, when the new day officially begins.

Those fine fellows at Nationwide have just confirmed it is indeed from midnight, in case you were wondering too.

Back it up a Little, Love

80% of licensed drivers would fail a parallel parking exam were they to take it today.

I wasn't aware so many women could drive...

Our New Card



Snazzy, eh?

(And don't worry, in real life they are totally square, I just took the photo on the piss.)

At the Dentist

Good news and bad.

It was by far the most involved and thorough clean of the gnashers I have ever endured- at least half an hour in the chair and each and ever tooth was individually cleaned by hand and then polished. First class job.

The bad news? I need two fillings despite all feeling and being well, or so I thought.

Wifey went in next and had the exact same treatment and the same results...two fillings needed, again without any signs of decay or feelings of discomfort.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but instead of rushing into having work done that is "needed", we've decided to wait a while and see how things pan out. If the fillings are required, so be it, but if it's a little hasty, why have work done that may be unnecessary?

If it broke, don't fix it, right?

Still, a top scrape & polish and all for 600 THB per head- £9.00 or so.

Home Delivery

Nearly anything can be delivered to your gaff, free of charge, from clothes to food.

One local place to us was advertising just that but had a proviso: delivery only on a minimum of 20 THB spent. That's 30 pence...

Bespoke Kecks

And also on the list of stuff to do, was the final fitting of wifey's trousers. Not only do they fit like a glove, but they are even too good to wear whilst bumming around on our travels. High quality, excellent craftsmanship and all three pairs are due for delivery this morning.

Big up to: Bangkok Tailor's House located at the MBK Center [sic]- these guys will also do you two jackets, two trousers, two shirts and two ties- all for $200.

Luckily I don't do suits or ties, it could get very expensive.

The Future's So Bright

Gotta wear shades...

Wifey picked up her new glasses (reading and sun) yesterday and they're a knockout.

Absolutely fabulous and even better than her previous sets. her main glasses are thinner and even more lightweight and her shades look damn sexy. We just need to have some sun now.

Despite temperatures being a constant 30-32 C, it is usually overcast; something we're not too fussed about as when the sun does break through, it gets scorching hot.

Anyway, BIG round of applause for The Eye Club located on the 2nd Floor of the Siam Center [sic], you did a great job.

Welcome to our Hotel






Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Beach in a Jar

An "artist" has come up with a grand old scheme to mug off the art world. He is selling jam jars full of Margate sand at £18 a time to punters.

He claims:

"This is my concept and it is art. My idea is not just about selling off a natural asset for a few quid. The point is I collect the sand, weigh it, package it in sequence, log the numbers and the people who buy it become part of that chain. They also take away a part of the most glorious stretches of beach in the country."

There really are some fools around, aren't there?

Every Little Helps



Having trouble getting into a tight parking space? Try the new BRB Evolution, which jacks up on its nose with its back wheels sliding underneath on two rollers, allowing it to use 50% less parking space.

But be warned, motorists would have to step out of the car before it morphs into its "upright" parking pose.

Double Yellow Peril

The Department for Transport (DoT) is ready to allow councils to impose fines on drivers parking their vehicles even where no warning signs which note restrictions have been placed.

A civil enforcement officer (council traffic warden in old money) will be able to issue £70 fines for such offences as:
  • leaving their cars more than 19.7 inches (50cm) from the kerb
  • double parking
  • blocking in another motorist.

More details here: The Telegraph

For Sale, One Careful Owner

A couple are finally considering selling their cottage after the 15th lorry in 18 years crashed into it.

The owners say that the problem has got worse with the advent of satellite navigation systems, which are directing drivers through the village of Bodfari, Denbighshire.

Let's hope that potential buyers don't read the newspapers then...



(Or here)

HIPs Again

Following the unmitigated disaster that was/is the government's Home Information Pack, they further plan to include extra details.

Ministers have begun consulting (until the end of September), on including a questionnaire on building work, parking arrangements, council tax banding and utilities.

It could be introduced in January and will no doubt incur further costs to the seller.

Talking about flogging a dead horse to save face.

Yorkshire Day


Is this Friday, the 1st August and this year residents will have more to cheer about than in previous times. A new Yorkshire flag (above) was unfurled and registered with the UK Flag Institute, which means anyone will no longer need planning permission to fly their local emblem.
Anyone can fly a national flag without applying for permission because they are exempt under the Town and Country Planning Act. However, unregistered flags are not, and are deemed to be subject to local authorities' "advertisement consent". Consequently those flying such flags must apply for permission to do so first.

I wonder which county will be next?

Reaching the Top

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, France’s first lady, has been giving copies of her new album to ministers as the French Cabinet met for the last time before its summer break.

The album shot to the top of the French charts in its first week on sale.

Hardly surprising if she's been lobbing them out FOC to all and sundry, is it?

Tit For Tat?

The Italian competition authority has imposed a 54 100€ (~£42 700) fine on Ryanair for false fare advertising. It cited an offer for 10€ flights that did not include an additional charge of 2.50€ for credit card payments.

This has of course nothing to do with Ryanair's public criticism of Italy's own Alitalia which they accused of getting preferential treatment from the Italian government in obtaining internal flights and subsidies to keep the cash-stricken company afloat.

Expect to pay off Ryanair's fine with more hidden extras...

More DVDs

We joined another local DVD hire shop slightly further afield from where we are staying. Armed with a passport and the hotel's business card as proof of address is all it takes to open up an account and a nominal fee of 69 THB, a little over a quid.

Due to promotional offers and new joiners discount, we hired six films (all recent or blockbuster titles) for less than £2.50...

Left, Right, Left

Somewhat unexpectedly, it was with a bit of a surprise that after well over a couple of years of crossing the road and executing the Green Cross Code as titled above, we have to revert to "the norm" and look the other way first.

Here in Thailand they all drive on the left hand side.

NOTE: I use the term "drive" loosely to describe the phenomenon they practise on the vehicles; project at maximum warp speed is probably more fitting.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Southend Pier

Is in the news at The Times:

The determined survival of an accident-prone pier at Southend-on-Sea can set the example for the rebuilding now faced by Weston-super-Mare.

Long-time visitors to the pier in Essex often recall previous trips with reference to the numerous mishaps that have befallen it.

Prince George, Duke of Kent, presided over the opening of the newly extended Southend-on-Sea Pier in 1929. It was quite absurdly long already and the extension made it the longest in the world. Nearly 80 years later the sheer audacity of it still astonishes.

“We last came here between the last fire and the one before,” said Peggy Hinds, 69, sitting on a carriage of the train that rattles out over the sea. Stepping out of the train, passengers find themselves on a makeshift scaffold. Southend is spread across the distant shore. “It's quite scary,” says Adam Rendall, 11, from Surrey, staring down at the green-brown sea between the wooden boards. His mother is jumping up and down, recklessly. “Don't do it next to me,” he says, “I don't want you to take me with you.”

The promenade skirts part of the pier that was reduced to an iron skeleton in the last fire, in 2005, before running out to a broad stage 1.3 miles (2km) into the estuary.

Peggy Dowie, 74, fell in love with the pier in its postwar heyday when five million people travelled to Southend's proud monument every year. “It had everything you could want,” she said. “It was like an entire town on the sea. I can remember the hubbub, the music, the amusements, until you got to the last part of the pier where it was quiet. There were 900 deckchairs and if you didn't get there by 9am you didn't get a seat.”

During the war the pier had been commandeered by the Admiralty. Commodores would come ashore to receive their orders, RAF workers supplied the ships with kite balloons to ward off enemy aircraft and there were orders to blow up the end of the pier if it was ever captured. It survived the German bombers unloading the last of their munitions on Southend on their way home and floating mines. A fire in 1959 destroyed the pavilion at the shore end, another in 1976 destroyed cafés, amusement arcades and a theatre. In 1986 the MV Kingsabbey sailed clean through a section that had been rebuilt, Mrs Dowie said. “It went straight through the gents' toilets. A chap was in there at the time. He told me he felt a rumbling, got his trousers up quick and got out before the seat he was on disappeared into the sea.”

Another fire in 1995 destroyed the rebuilt shore end section, another in 2005 did for the seaward railway station, a bar and a café. Little wonder yesterday that stewards were quick to tell a tourist to put out his cigarette.

Fighting to save the pier through the fires has become Mrs Dowie's full-time occupation. “It's a very emotive thing, the pier,” she said. “Piers are very British. It's like John Betjeman said: 'Southend is the pier and the pier is Southend'.”

You Know It's Hot

When the cold water comes out warm from the tap. :0D

Puff of Smoke

It takes Camel Cigarettes 42 days to make one cigarette from a tobacco leaf.

Which then kills you by taking off five minutes of your life.

Allegedly.

Speedy Turnaround

Before we left the UK, we had some business cards made up with our contact details and our jellyfish logo. Very professional, very impressive but it also took quite a while to get it arranged, well over a couple of weeks and the price was still quite a bit, despite it being a mate rate.

Since we've left the shores of the UK, we have lobbed the mobile, an item that has not been missed in the least, our email address has migrated from hotmail to gmail, and we're on the last few cards.

Time to re-stock and so we asked a friendly looking chap if they could reproduce the card, which I had taken the precaution of adding to a memory stick, including our logo. Not only could he do what we requested, but they could even add the colour scheme I had originally wanted but had nearly passed out at when they mentioned the additional cost, and he could emphasise the definition of the jellyfish, which had always been a bit faint, but was the best they could do at the time.

300 cards, in three colours, turned around in one hour from start to finish- all for 1200 THB. That's about £18.

Outstanding.

Is There No End?

Another day in the shops yesterday and once more bargains galore as we begin to replenish our threadbare clothes and upgrade our worn out items.

Wifey decided to take the plunge to get some trousers tailor made to match her favourite pair, which have seen solid action over the last few years. In the end she's getting three pairs in an Italian wool/cashmere mix and they will be ready for collection tomorrow. All in, a quite amazing £50, the lot.

One of our rucksacks has also sen better days and we picked up a more suitable one that we may even get away with as hand-luggage. Smaller, neater and more compact, another great deal for just over a tenner.

I think that is just about it, bar a few tops for wifey and she's doubly excited as she gets her new glasses and shades tomorrow too. That just leaves the dentist in the afternoon and we should be all set for another year.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Still Top of the Pile

It's fifty years since the first Lego bricks were sold in the UK, but over half the people polled by Argos said that it remained their childhood favourite.

And More Marketing for the Church

Not content with producing an Indian Bible, another gimmick is the inflatable church, so that beach-loving sunbathers don't have to go home to get dressed before attending.

The “bouncy church” is 30 metres (100ft) long and 15 metres wide, and comes complete with an altar, an apse and a confessional. Using compressed air it takes only five minutes to inflate and it can be found at the beach at Cagliari, the Sardinian capital.

What next? Free popcorn? Get hitched and get a christening for free?

Crying into One's Beer

It's not looking too rosy for the pub trade.

Still firmly in the sights of the Government's war on binge drinking and following the fall out from the ban of smoking in pubs, they are now serving fewer drinks than ever.

Publicans say that they are pulling just 1.4 million pints a day, 1.6 million fewer than at the height of the market in 1979.

Licensees say that the 10.6% drop in sales between April and June compared with the same period last year could lead to the loss of hundreds of pubs.

A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association said:

“Beer sales in pubs are now at their lowest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

That is more than sad.

That's a Load of $$$

ATM fees account for one tenth of Bank of America's revenue.

Lunch Yesterday

Yes, I know I bang on about how reasonable stuff is, but yesterday we had lunch in a mall as follows:
  • Stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts and mushrooms
  • Rice
  • Spicy tuna salad
  • Diet Coke
  • Water
  • Coffee

That came to four quid.

You'd pay just that for the drinks alone in most places in Europe.

Sight Seeing

As this is our first step into exploring Asia, we're not rushing things, particularly as we intend to be around the area for the next three years or so.

We are also forced into staying just a month at a time due to visa restrictions as they only permit us 30 days at a time (Malaysia is the only exception; we get a generous and sensible 90 days and so we'll have more time to look around before needing to head off) and so for the first visit on this tour to each new country, we intend to little or no typical tourist sight seeing* at all.

One of our motto is to "leave something for the next time" and we fully intend to do just that.

We'll just use our maiden stay to acclimatise, get used to the new local customs, meet the people, understand their culture and take it easy. There will be plenty of time to see the temples and the like on subsequent visits.

So, for now at least, if you want to read about the Reclining Buddha or the Golden Palace, perhaps Google is your friend?


*Shopping does not count...

Traffic Light GP

The traffic here is horrendous but we're lucky and only have to contend with it on one corner (which also has a mock zebra crossing somewhat ambitiously painted across the road) before we reach Tesco-Lotus (and note one must always make reference to the "Lotus" part of the partnership, it's never just "Tesco") or our local BTS station.

Everywhere else we use the massive footbridges or suspended walkways that link the Sky Train stations to the multitude of shopping malls. I swear one could get around the entire district of Sukumvit without touching the pavement, but once more I digress.

They have a rather good idea at their traffic lights, which include countdown timers to advise motorists how long they have to wait before the lights change.

So simple, so effective, so why don't other countries do this? It would cut down on jumping a red light no end.

And One Final Luxury

One of the oft requested items of pure extravagance is to have clean, fresh towels and bedding every day. Usually this is accompanied somewhere in the sentence "if I was to win the Lottery".

Normally, as we only stay short term in hotels we rarely bother with a change and make do for the entire length of our stay as we try and do our "green" bit. Here however, we're staying a month and so far we have had the most amazing sheets put on our bed on a daily basis.

We've tried to explain it is not necessary, but house keeping perhaps doesn't quite follow my fluent Thai and they keep ignoring us with beaming smiles and a willingness to please.

So we'll keep humbly accepting and getting a pristinely made up bed every day.

Bliss.

Another Thoughtful Extra

Along our travels we have always encountered the problem of washing our clothes. Relying on laundrettes is not always a solution when some countries do not provide such a facility (Poland is one such country that has not given this much thought) so we always look for washing facilities when checking out apartments or similar.

No such worry here. The hotel provides a washing machine, tumble drier and iron/ironing board, free of charge to all its guests. The only thing you have to provide is the washing powder and you're good to go.

Wash days have never been so much fun. Whilst your entire wardrobe is getting next to God, we're 20 metres away- having a swim. :0)

Breaking the Duck

After a hot and humid day out about in this vibrant city, there can be nothing better to take a swim in the indoor pool we have at The Imm Fusion Hotel.

Yesterday we took our first swim.

Peace and quiet, tranquility and luxury are just some of the ways to describe this little oasis hidden away from the hectic hustle and bustle that is Bangkok.

Photos to follow soon.

Walk The Line

We've been trying to see this for over two years and finally got the chance last night as we hired the DVD from our local shop.

I got into Johnny Cash rather late in life as I always had a hang up about admitting to liking "Country and Western", but realising that the Man in Black was way too cool to be ignored on such a petty bias. Since then I have been listening to his stuff and am first to admit, he really is worthy of inclusion into the Hall of Greats.

Walk The Line is his life story, starring Joaquin Phoenix as John R* Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter.

Both play the roles with great conviction and use their own voices, but it is Reese who is a major discovery; boy, can she sing.

Anyway, treat yourself and grab a copy of the film. Not only will you thoroughly enjoy it but you may even end up buying a JC CD.



*Cash was reportedly given the name "JR" because his parents could not agree on a name, only on initials. When he enlisted in the United States Air Force, the military would not accept initials as his name, so he adopted John R Cash as his legal name.

In 1955, when signing with Sun Records, he took Johnny Cash as his stage name. His friends and in-laws generally called him John, while his blood relatives usually continued to call him JR.

Price of Petrol

Seems to be rather reasonable in comparison to UK prices. At 38-40 THB (~£0.60) per litre, I'm sure most of you would be more than happy to pay that.

However, with 7015 - 9000 baht per month as the average salary for the locals, (£108- £138), it brings it back into perspective.

Local News

We seem to be well catered for in Bangkok where pretty much any publication can be obtained, from foreign newspapers to magazines and books; even the shop across the hotel offers any newspaper from around the world.

However, with all the news available on line at the touch of a button, we picked up a copy of the daily Bangkok Post: http://www.bangkokpost.com/

Unfortunately, what with our hectic schedule, I've barely even flicked through the sporting headlines from Saturday and it's already out of date. However, from what little I have read, it seems like a good paper.

Perhaps next week...

Local Time

As you'll see from our "home" page, we have a couple of clocks that depict our local time and that of the UK's. However, just in case there is any confusion, we are GMT + 7 hours in front of you.

Happy Wedding Anniversary

To our chums, Cliff and Denise.

Hope you have a great day (taking the day off work, we hope) and many congrats on chalking up another year.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Obvious Really

Faking one's own death is known as pseudocide.

Rainy Day

The average person's savings would last just 52 days if they found themselves out of work, a report by the Yorkshire Building Society has suggested.

As monthly outgoings hit £1 445 for the average person in the UK, and they only had £2 474 in accessible savings, it would take a little less than two months before the nest egg disappeared.

The survey also found that 36% of people would run out of money within 11 days if they found themselves jobless because they had savings of less than £500.

Scary.

Renting DVDs

With our special introductory offer of hire two, get one free, we picked up:

1- National Treasure: Book of Secrets
2- The Man
3- American Gangster

Not just a great way to while away a few hours (American Gangster is an excellent film, btw) but a cheap night in too. All three for £1.20 and we get to keep them for a whole week. Beat that Blockbuster.

Post It

Studies have found that office memos on blue paper are least likely to be ignored by workers.

Smart Mosaic


More than 4 000 employees at London's Chiswick Park, plus members of the local community have broken the Guinness World Record for creating the largest ever mosaic made entirely of sweets. The edible depiction made entirely out of Smarties included the London Eye, Big Ben, the Royal Albert Hall and Wembley Stadium measuring 40 square metres (48 square yards).
The previous record of 37.1 square metres was set by the Calderdale Education Service in Halifax on 4th & 5th February, 2006.

The Price of Snake Oil

The Essence – Crème De La Mer

Three weeks’ worth of serum in small phials contained in a magnetised box.

£1 500 at Harvey Nichols and Harrods.

Dr Perricone’s Neuropeptide Facial Conformer

60ml – £445 from NV Perricone

Sisley Global Anti-age Extra-rich cream

50ml – £157 from stockists including Selfridges

Darphin Predermine Replenishing Anti-wrinkle Serum

30ml – £165 from House of Fraser

M-lab Anti-ageing Treatment

200ml – £600 from Harrods

Steven Victor MD Bio-nutritive Luxury Cream

50g – £250 from Harvey Nichols

Natura Bisse Diamond Magnetic

300g – £220 from Harrods

Guerlain Orchidee Imperiale Cream

50ml – £215 from Harrods

Sk-ii Lxp Ultimate Revival Cream

50g – £180 from Bowling Health and Beauty, London

Strivectin Hydro Serum

27ml – £121 from Harvey Nichols


What do they have in common? The fools who actually believe a blob of cold cream will make them look younger. You're better off putting the bag they come in, over your head, pet. It will be showing the right label.

From The Sunday Telegraph.

Speaker of the House of Commons

Oft in the news, a good, balanced write up on Michael Martin in today's Sunday Times.

Definitely worth a look.

I Spy With My Little Eye...

Well, everything really.

Big Brother councils launched more than 10 000 spying missions on ordinary citizens last year, just to deal with offences such as fly-tipping and dog-fouling.

Ministers have ordered an inquiry into the increased use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act- which was brought in to combat terrorism.

As with all government enquiries, don't expect to hear about the results nor to have any action taken. Ho hum.

Counting Down the Pennies

Slowly the real reason for Carol Vorderman's departure from C4's popular show emerges, and as usual it's down to the wedge.

It seems that whilst previously earning around a cool mill for 225 episodes a year, she was only offered a paltry £100k- a 90% pay cut. Up until that point, she had reasonably offered to accept a 33% pay cut in line with a reduction in the show’s budget.

However, when the new salary was put to her and she was given only 48 hours to decide, she was not best pleased.

I'd have thought the icing on the cake was also the accompanying comment by an executive, who told Vorderman that the show had survived the death of its host Richard Whiteley in 2005 and could “easily survive without you”.

Time will tell, I'm sure, but no matter what happens, it will never be the same again.

Naughty Ryanair

It seems Ryanair have been busted when trying to pass on credit card charges onto their customers.

The airline claimed that it is charged a handling fee by banks for every passenger included in a single credit card transaction when the additional cost was queried by a customer who had block booked 10 passengers on a return flight. The credit card holder was charged an extra 100€.

The customer was told that:

“All of those processes go to Visa 10 separate times as well so we have to make sure that we are covered in order to cover the costs.”

Not so, you naughty people.

The bank involved has since stated that they only charge a set percentage of the total payment irrespective of how many passengers or tickets are booked- usually no more than 2.5% of the transaction total to process the payment, and due to the bargaining power of Ryanair it is likely to be less than 2%.

An example of the scam:

A return flight, say from Dublin to Manchester, departing August 26 and returning August 30 that costs €19.98 including taxes incurs a card handling fee of €10.

This is equivalent to 50% of the transaction total, yet Ryanair is only charged, at most, 50 cents by its bank to handle the payment.

This represents a 1 900% profit for the airline on the handling charge.

Nice little earner.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Fancy Some Sea Food, Mister?

Freshly cooked king-size prawns; eight in a pack for 69 THB at Carrefour- that's just over a quid for the lot. Seriously.

And to accompany that, we decided on some takeaway sushi, each portion was 10 THB, so for £1.50 we got a good range to try. If we'd bought it on the street, it was even cheaper at 5 THB per piece, but the options weren't so good.

Ain't life grand?

It's Happening, Folks

Millions of profiles on the national DNA database have been handed over secretly to private companies without the consent of those involved. Details obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that on five occasions since 2004, private firms with police contracts have successfully applied to use the database to help them develop computer programs.

The DNA database contains records of 4.2 million people, of which a million have never been convicted of an offence. Records are rarely deleted, even if a person is not charged.

Full story in The Telegraph.

There's Only One True Homemaker

A single queen bee can produce a 500-bee hive in less than 72 hours.

Feeling Warm and Toasty?

Millions of households will pay even more for gas and electricity after EDF, the French-owned energy company, announced price increases of up to 22%.

EDF, which supplies more than five million people mainly in London and the South East, is putting up electricity bills by 17% and gas bills by 22%, meaning that an average joint bill rises by more than £200 a year (or £4 a week) to £1 211.

Other energy suppliers are expected to follow, and analysts gave a warning that another round of price increases was likely in January 2009.

More here: The Times

Countdown

Following the death of Richard Whiteley, who died in 2005, Des Lynam stepped into the presenter's role of the popular game show.

When he resigned, Des O'Connor became the next anchor man, but he too announced he was leaving earlier this week, to concentrate on his music career and live shows.

Now Carol Vorderman is to abandon the Channel 4 game show.

She has been with the programme since it began in 1982 and has co-hosted the show for 26 years. She was also the first woman to appear on the new TV channel and will leave at the end of the year.

One wonders if the programme can continue after that?

The Aftermath

A backlog of up to 150 000 passport applications has built up during a three-day strike at the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) and it will take “well into August” to clear as returning workers would embark on a "work to rule" policy.

Great timing as we approach the school holidays.

I'll Bet They'll Love This in Whitehall

Are you aware that it is against the law to insult a civil servant in France?

It dates back to Napoleonic times and is designed to protect “the dignity of a person charged with a public service mission”. The offence carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a 7 500€ fine.

The number of prosecutions for insulting police officers and other civil servants has risen from 17 700 in 1996 to 31 731 today.

Politicians and civil servants are increasingly quicker to claim that they have been the victims of insults, particularly as they can seek damages ranging from several hundred to several thousand euros.

Even post office employees, tax inspectors, railway staff and teachers are all starting to file lawsuits when they believe that they have been slighted.

Can you imagine the field day our tossers would have in the UK? That would have cost me a few quid...

Italian Holiday

Italy has declared a “national state of emergency” over illegal immigration yesterday.

Apparently 9 342 immigrants have arrived between the start of the year and the end of June (double the figure for the previous year) and there are at present more than 1 000 at the overcrowded refugee camp in Lampedusa.

If that has caused a "state of emergency", then Britain must be totally screwed.


This in the wake of the news that Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, won final parliamentary approval for a security package under which illegal immigrants convicted of crimes will face gaol sentences a third longer than those for Italians.

Good to be part of one, big Europe, isn't it?

How to Swell the Numbers

With the Catholic church taking a bit of a hammering in the audience stakes, they've had to get their marketing department working full time on how to boost their congregations. And their solution is?

"Indianise" it so that they can tap into the vast population of the country which is around 1.1 billion people.

So the front cover gets a revamp showing a bare-footed woman in sari (complete with bindi on her forehead) clutching a baby, accompanied by a dude in a loincloth and turban. Voila, Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

It is written in simplified English, features 27 sketches of typical Indian scenes and even contains notes which quote Hindu scriptures, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics, to help to explain Christianity to prospective converts.

Utter genius- a print run of 30 000 of the new Bibles sold out in a week in Bombay.

More here: The Times

Happy Birthday

To Sir Mick Jagger who can now claim his £87-a-week old age pension and free bus pass.

Not looking bad for the life of a rock and roller and certainly not short of a quid or two; he's currently worth around £225 million.

Good luck to him.

The Cornish Pasty

Is trying to get recognition from Brussels so that only pasties made in Cornwall will be allowed to produce them and making a similar pasty anywhere else in Britain as authentic Cornish could face prosecution from trading standards officers.

The food has been a staple diet for the county’s tin miners in the 18th century and it was for this profession that even the shape was designed in such a manner. An authentic pasty must have a distinctive D-shape and be crimped on the one side. This feature was demanded by miners who had dirty hands, as they were able to eat the meat and vegetable pie and then throw away the grimy crust.

Further stringent rules include the filling; uncooked mince or roughly cut chunks of beef, at least 12.5% of the filling, mixed with potato, onion, swede or turnip, and a light peppery seasoning. No flavourings or additives are permitted and the pastry is then glazed with milk or egg and baked.

However, rival firms located outside of Cornwall have indicated that they intend to challenge the application at the European Commission. Kerry Foods, which produces Cornish pasties under the "Miller and Clover" brand, from a factory in Poole, Dorset, announced yesterday that it would fight the plan. As would Greggs Bakeries, which is based in Newcastle upon Tyne, and makes 200 million pasties a year, most of them sold as Cornish, is also to make a formal objection.




Cornish pasties are already worth £60 million a year to Cornwall, some 6% of its food economy. Pasty makers employ 1 800 permanent staff and another 13 000 people benefit from the trade which produces 86.5 million pasties a year.

Think You've Got Negative Equity?

'Cos their's noting like a bit of Schadenfreude, is there? Some howlers in the property market from The Times:

1. Hotel of Doom

The North Korean government is looking for $330 million from foreign investors to finish the pyramid shaped Ryugyong Hotel, which towers 1,083 feet over central Pyongyang. The massive concrete white elephant is known locally as the "Hotel of Doom". It was conceived as a flagship project for the communist government, but embarrassed officials have since wiped it from official maps as building work floundered due to lack of cash.
Construction was eventually put on hold in 1992 when the project ran into financial difficulties, but work has reportedly started again. When completed, the hotel will boast 3.9 million square feet of floor space and seven rotating restaurants. North Korea has already sunk $750 million, of 2 per cent of its GDP, into the building, but it is unclear how many rooms the hotel will boast, or how many visitors are expected when it finally opens.


2. A place in the sun

The brochures were too good to be true. Buyers gazed in wonder at those shimmering golf courses - yet to be built; the beautiful beaches - only a short two hour drive away; the lively restaurants and bars - now abandoned; and those glorious villas - mostly unsold.
Thousands of British ex-pats, wanting to live the dream of eating a full English on their own patio gazing out over the Mediterranean, are facing up to a Spanish property nightmare. Prices have slumped by up to 65 per cent in the last year according to some websites, as the market is struck by a country-wide collapse in house values and massive overdevelopment on the Costa Del Sol. In the most acute cases, Brits who have bought off plan are now stuck with apartments in uncompleted developments they don’t want but can’t sell.


3. World’s largest shopping centre

Investors in the new shopping malls opening in west London, Liverpool and Bristol over the coming year will hope the centres prove more successful than the world largest and possibly emptiest mall, in Donguan, southern China. The gigantic centre opened in 2005 and is four times the size of Bluewater, in Kent, with 6.5 million sq feet of retail space. However, the owners who sunk millions of dollars into the project have persuaded only a dozen stores to open. Still, shoppers dispirited by the lack of retailers can instead take a trip down a Venetian canal leading onto a replica St Mark’s Square, enjoy a ride on the indoor roller coaster or grab some food under a giant 80ft mock-up of the Arc de Triomphe, all added in the vain attempt to increase foot fall at the mothballed mall.

4. The collapse of Nation Life

Thousand of private investors lost their life savings when one of the UK's first property funds, Nation Life, collapsed in 1974. It was part of the property empire of tycoon William Stearn, who holds the title of the UK's biggest bankrupt, after losing £118 million. When banks stopped lending Nation Life money, the holdings quickly ran out of cash and had to fold. The Policyholders' Protection Act was passed in 1975 as a direct result of Nation Life's losses, but there were no compensation schemes at the time to prevent thousands of small investors from losing everything. In April 2000 William Stearn was banned from serving as a company director after a second commercial empire worth £11 million collapsed.

5. Poor Barry Gibb

It may not have been the worst property investment, but it could certainly be the unluckiest. In 2006, Barry Gibb, one third of spandex-covered falsetto super group the BeeGees, blew £1.5 million on the one-time home of Johnny Cash in Nashville, Tennessee. The bearded former hunk sunk huge amounts of cash in the project, thoroughly renovating the three-storey timber house. Sadly, weeks before work was due to finish on his dream holiday home, tragedy struck when a devastating fire ripped through the property, causing wide-scale damage.

6. Canary Wharf

It was a squalid stretch of land home to an abandoned watery industrial estate, miles from any decent forms of public transport. But Michael von Clemm, chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston, spotted an opportunity. On a visit to the site in the early 80s he envisioned spending billions of pounds of private and public money building 12 million square feet of office and retail space. It was music to the ears of local developers. Welcome to Canary Wharf, one of the most audacious urban regeneration projects in Europe and a fitting monument to Thatcher’s free market revolution. It arrived complete with the tallest building in Europe (at the time) and even its own zippy transportation system. Sadly, just two years after its iconic office block was completed, the London property market collapsed. The gleaming towers of E12 stood half vacant and in 1992 the company behind the estate, Olympia and York Canary Wharf Limited, filed for bankruptcy, losing millions of pounds of investor cash.

7. Hamilton Palace

Notorious businessman and property owner Nicholas van Hoogstraten has sunk £40 million of his own money into Hamilton Palace, a spectacular vanity project sitting in the rolling Sussex downs near the small town of Uckfield. It currently lies abandoned and incomplete after reports of a disagreement with builders. Mr van Hoogstraten, who was one of the UK’s youngest millionaires, has also apparently been at war with the Rambling Association who believe they have right of way across his land.

8. New-build city-centre flats

Thousands of newly-built urban apartments have flooded the market in recent years, dominating northern city skylines, but now prices are plummeting by up to 70 per cent. New-build blocks attracted amateur buy-to-letters eager to earn a quick buck from the property boom. But now many fear they paid vastly over the odds. One report cites a three-bedroom apartment in Kelso Heights, a development near the University of Leeds campus in the centre of the town, which was recently sold for £71,000. It was bought in 2006 for £237,999. Flats in certain developments in areas such as Manchester, Newcastle and east London have also fallen in value by 40-50 per cent.

9. Land banking

Investors have lost thousands of pounds to “landbanking” firms in recent years. Dodgy companies buy tracts of greenbelt land, then sell chunks of it to individuals on the promise that when houses need to be built on their acres of countryside, the value of the land will soar. This will happen a couple of years after their purchase, investors are told to convince them to hand over cash. However, it isn't that easy to get rich quick. It emerged that many of the schemes fell within areas that local authorities said would never gain planning permission for new homes, or at least not in the lifetime of the devastated investors.

10. Debbie does bankruptcy

Shy and retiring are not words usually associated with the Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds, star of classic musical Singin’ in the Rain and mother of actress Carrie Fisher. In the mid-80s Debbie decided to open a hotel in Las Vegas, modestly titled the Debbie Reynolds' Hollywood Hotel and Casino. The centre showcased her illustrious career and also contained her full collection of Hollywood props and costumes, including the headdress used in Cleopatra. Sadly, the world wasn’t ready for such a Debbie Reynolds extravaganza, and the project flopped. Debbie had opened the hotel with her then husband, real estate developer Richard Hamlett. But the couple divorced and she was left with picking up the bill for the failed venture. In 1997, poor Debbie was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Cheaper Hols This Year?

If you want to cut back on spending on your vacation this year, The Times has a few suggestions. We've added our comments in red:

1 Knock off hidden extras online

If you are booking a package holiday, using the internet will usually save you money compared with going to a travel agent, and also gives you the chance to get rid of hidden extras.
For example, if you go for a one-week self-catering holiday for a family of four to Cyprus flying from Gatwick with First Choice on July 20, the price is £1,419.18 if you book it as standard through its website.
If you exclude flight meals, cut the baggage allowance from 20kg to15kg per person and get your own transport to and from the airport you save £130.
Also, if you remove your "world care fund" contribution, which is essentially the optional carbon-offset charge, you knock off another £4.50 - saving £134.50 and taking the total cost to £1,284.68. This "carbon footprint offsetting" is one to watch on many flight and holiday websites as it may be included automatically, but you can usually remove it if you wish.

Why use an agent in the first place? Just book flights directly and arrange accommodation using both Asia Rooms for price and tripadvisor for the reviews. Both links in our Hall of Fame.

2 Plan your parking

If you fail to book at all and go to the long-stay car park at Gatwick, you would pay £9 a day - or a total of £63 for a one-week holiday. If you go to the short-stay car park, you will pay a whopping £20.90 a day, according to BAA Advance, which deals with car park pre-booking for Gatwick - £146.30 for a one-week break.
Sites such as Holidayextras and Simplyparking offer a range of options. For example, through Holiday Extras, you can park at Gatwick for £59.80 in the first week of August. It’s only a saving of £3 but every little helps.

Take the bus or train to the airport, or better still get a mate to drop you off and return the favour for their holiday. Better still, book a night into a hotel which offers free parking. No stress about not making it on time due to traffic or engine trouble and you can begin your hols in style with a nice meal and a drink.

3 Don't get currency at the airport

If you leave your currency purchase until you reach the airport, you will get about 10 per cent less than if you buy it elsewhere. You should also make sure you are not taken in by "no commission" deals as they often have a worse exchange rate.
Marks & Spencer and the Post Office are consistently competitive on the high street, and a recent survey by Which?, the consumer group, found that Chequepoint, Saga and Travelex were among the cheapest places to buy foreign currency.
The most expensive place, besides airports, are travel agents. Thomson, Going Places and First Choice were among the most expensive, according to the Which? survey.

Change a small amount at the Post Office or travel agent but use the ATM when you arrive with your Nationwide debit card. It's totally free around the whole world, as is their credit card, anywhere that accepts Visa.

4 Chop the cost of flights

Air travellers can pay hundreds of pounds more than other passengers on the same flight, for seats booked at the same time, depending on whether they bought their ticket through the airline or a partner.
The difference arises due to a practice called codesharing, where an airline sells tickets on a flight operated by another. Most airlines are part of a wider network and can offer their partners seats on their flights, which they can then sell at their own prices.
The best way to ensure you are not paying over the odds is to use a website such as Skyscanner, Flightchecker or Kayak. These send your trip details to scores of airlines and flight-broker websites for a range of quotes, listing the cheapest first.

Always shop around on the internet to compare prices. Take a half day off, grab a large pad and pen and makes notes as you go and you'll save a bundle. Also, be flexible with flight times and dates- you can pick up a great deal flying out during unsociable hours mid-week, but aways check weekends too as they can sometimes be cheaper. Avoid commuter times too.

5 Ask to pay in local currency

Hotels, restaurants and retailers have found a way to fleece holidaymakers using cards abroad with a scam known as dynamic currency conversion. When you pay by card, you should be given the option of paying a bill in the local currency or in pounds.
The hotel, shop or restaurant should inform the cardholder verbally of the payment choice before the transaction. However, many do not, converting your bill automatically into sterling at their own uncompetitive conversion rate, plus commission of up to 4 per cent.
Always ask to be charged in the local currency to avoid the fee.

Not ask, insist. And we always pay in cash to avoid handing over our card details as little as possible.

6 Use the right card

Debit and credit cards typically charge a foreign-loading fee of 2.75 per cent plus 2 per cent to 3 per cent on withdrawals.
The Abbey Zero credit card, however, does not charge a fee, will not charge you for foreign usage, and will enable you to withdraw up to £300 a day.
If you are making purchases abroad, you will also not be charged a foreign usage fee by Nationwide or the Post Office Classic Mastercard, but you would be charged for withdrawing cash from an ATM at 2.5 per cent and 2 per cent respectively.
You should always avoid using a credit card for cash withdrawals from an ATM at home or abroad. Not only are you likely to be charged a withdrawal fee, you will also start accruing interest on the amount you withdraw.

Big fans of the Nationwide and by far the best. You can check all transactions on line, move money from account to account and contact them via email directly. The Abbey only takes phone calls and are bloody useless most of the time.

7 Get the best cover

If you travel abroad more than once a year, you would probably benefit from taking out annual rather than single-trip cover.
Data from Travelsupermarket shows that for a couple on a multi-trip policy covering Europe, the annual premium is £40 with Top Dog Insurance, which covers you for £10m medical expenses, £2m personal liability cover, £1,250 cancellation cover, and £500 for baggage cover.
Insurance sold alongside a holiday by travel agents, tour operators and airlines is best avoided. It is unregulated and often riddled with exclusions. The Financial Services Authority (FSA), the City watchdog, is stepping in to regulate these sales but not until January.

Do you really need insurance? It may not always be necessary. It's your risk but a good way to save cash. If you do, never use the travel agents- and besides, you're doing all this independently, right?

8 Bundle your calls

Charges for making and receiving calls in the European Union have been capped at 38p and 19p since last summer.
Most networks now offer "travel bundles", which are worth buying if you will make a lot of calls or send numerous texts.
Orange, for example, offers 75 texts to be used in Europe within 30 days for £15. Call customer services from your mobile phone to see if your provider can offer any deals, or refer to its website.

Leave the mobile at home, it's your holiday so why get hassled. If you need to call back for any reason, use Skype, a genius idea. Again, link is in the Hall of Fame.

9 Cut car hire costs

Those who leave it to the last minute to pick up a rental at their destination generally will find that the cheaper cars are not available. So book online in advance to get the best deals.

Why hire transport- just use the local bus or train. Far cheaper, you get to see more, you're interacting with locals and you can have a beer at the other end too or a glass of wine with your meal.

Not all countries have the same alcohol levels as in the UK and even one drink can put you OTT. Plus you avoid any encounters with Foreign Plod as they all carry big guns and speak little English. Why contribute to the next Policeman's Ball?

10 Beware travel surcharges

Potential fuel surcharges imposed by airlines and operators in reaction to rising fuel prices could add significantly to the cost of a holiday, particularly where families are involved. Your travel company could ask for a surcharge even after you have booked to cover the soaring cost of oil.

Stupid tip- nowt you can do about it so grit your teeth and pay the robbing sods.

Interest Rates on Savings

With the Nationwide's e-Bond yesterday went down. This follows the highest rate I can recall, where it jumped to 7.00% gross if you opted for an annual payout on your interest. I remember it well, as it was only a week after we invested at 6.6%...

It's now at 6.8% so still extremely attractive but perhaps shows that the banks are slowly getting back on their feet again. This has to be a good thing for confidence in the British economy.

Names From the Yugoslav War

Interesting article in The Times about some of the more prominent people associated with the conflict twelve years ago:

Irma Hadzimuratovic

Every war has its human symbol of suffering. Bosnia’s was Irma Hadzimuratovic, 5, right, a girl from Sarajevo severely injured in 1993 by a Serb mortar that killed her mother. She was taken to a Sarajevo hospital, where, deprived of supplies, doctors could do virtually nothing. Irma was eventually evacuated to Great Ormond Street Hospital. She was paralysed from the neck down and was fed intravenously but learnt English at the hospital school. She died of a blood infection in 1995.

Colonel Bob Stewart

The first commander of British UN forces in Bosnia took a robust approach to his mission. While UN officials in Sarajevo agonised over the nuances of their mandate, Britbat, based in Vitez, central Bosnia, got on with ensuring that relief supplies reached the warzone. In the spring of 1993, when the conflict between Bosnian Croats and Muslims erupted, Britbat troops were out rescuing trapped civilians and returning fire when shot at. On April 16, 1993, Colonel Stewart was investigating reports of a massacre at the village of Ahmici. He was stopped by HVO (Bosnian Croat) soldiers asking if he had permission to enter. His reply has gone down in history: “I don’t need the permission of the bloody HVO. I’m from the United Nations.” He smashed through the barricade into a scene of horror: the HVO had killed more than 100 civilians, including women and children. He was awarded the DSO and left the Army in 1995. He works in corporate communications.

Arkan

Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, was the most notorious paramilitary leader of the Yugoslav wars. Born in Slovenia in 1952, he was a career criminal from an early age. He recruited Belgrade football fans to form his Tigers militia, which carried out much of the murder and “ethnic cleansing”. He reported directly to the Serbian secret service, which gave him weapons, funds and bases. In January 2001 Arkan was shot dead in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel, Belgrade.

Yasushi Akashi

Political chief of Unprofor, the UN mission, Mr Akashi was not a well-known figure but was immensely important. With Nato he held the “dual key”, authorising airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs. Mr Akashi was obsessed with preserving the UN’s neutrality. In May 1995 he refused a request by General Rupert Smith, the British UN commander, for airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs after they shelled Sarajevo. He left the UN in 1997. He is chairman of the Japan Centre for Conflict Prevention.

Slobodan Milosevic

As President of Serbia and then of the rump Yugoslavia, Milosevic was the key figure in the destruction of Tito’s multinational federation. He was overthrown in October 2000 and sent to The Hague, where he faced charges of war crimes and genocide. He died in his cell in March 2006.

Franjo Tudjman

Croatia’s first President after independence was declared in 1991. A jowly, authoritarian nationalist, Tudjman once told an election rally that he thanked God his wife was neither a Serb nor a Jew. In March 1991, after fighting had erupted in Croatia, Tudjman and Milosevic met secretly to discuss the partition of Bosnia. He died in 1999 but would have been charged with war crimes had he lived.

Richard Holbrooke

President Clinton’s envoy to Yugoslavia, he brokered the 1995 Dayton peace accords that divided Bosnia into two entities, Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. Critics said that it rewarded the Bosnian Serbs for “ethnic cleansing”. Later he was US Ambassador to the UN. He works at a merchant bank in New York.

And more on the war here: The Times Again

A Glasgow Kiss- Off

Labour lost it's constituency in Glasgow East, to the Scottish National Party (SNP) on a 22% swing, which cost them 331 council seats.

It's not looking good for McBroon and even less so for "Nu" Labour as the polls show only 24% of voters intending to vote for the party, 22 points behind the Conservatives on 46%.

Good- the sooner they are out the better and I can spend less time on here venting my disapproval and more time sightseeing and having a good time.

At The End of The Day, Garth

In the wake of Team Eng-er-land's dismal failure to qualify for the 2008 Euro Championships, the one where Germany came second, England's Culture, Media and Sport Secretary said that he was willing to campaign for a change in European law to allow a cap on the number of foreign players in top sides.

Currently, the European Union will not allow sports to introduce rules that restrict freedom of movement.

Fabio Capello, the Italian manager of the England national team (irony in italics), complained yesterday that only 35% of Premier League players were English (compared with 72% of Italians in Serie A) and teams such as Arsenal and Chelsea have on occasions fielded teams made up entirely of foreigners.

It's a fair point, but would it make any difference anyway? And television companies be less willing to pay billions of pounds for broadcasting rights if there were fewer foreign players?

But It's Not All Frivolous Shopping You Know

We've done photos for our visas and some spare for the next time.

We've booked up appointments to see the dentist for a check, scrape and polish. Another great price at 500 THB per head- about £7.70. Try finding that on the NHS and that's just walking in off the street.

We've arranged for wifey to get her replacement glasses, having had to wait for months as it would be cheaper here. And is it.

Replacing the lenses with ultra thin ones and a special coating to avoid scratches and also buying a pair of prescription sun glasses with designer frames (but they're all designed, I've never quite understood that), we're paying 5 000 THB ~£77.

Back in England, she paid over £300 for the same thing. Hopefully the quality will be equally as good and we look forward to collecting them next week.

That just leaves inoculations to sort out at some point and we can get back to dossing.

PS: We've even sent our postcards too. :0)

Better Late Than Never

May is national Toaster Oven Safety Awareness month.

That was a couple of months ago but we hope it was good for you too.

Speaking of Cambodia

While Cambodia does have its own currency, the riel (KHR), which at today's price is approximately 8 300 KHR to the pound, no one wants it.

Everyone is after American dollars and we even have to pay the hotel in USD. Fortunately though, the ATMs dispense in dollars and only the local markets will accept the riel.

I find this most odd that one cannot use one's own currency in one's own country. Why not just go the whole hog and convert officially.

Saying that, we're quids in (literally) as we now get two to one with the pound, so we're laughing.

Cambodian Visa

Right, we have our flights booked and also the first three weeks accommodation in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital.

And it looks absolutely marvellous too, check it out here: The Pavilion.

The only outstanding thing to arrange are our visas and a quick check on the internet shows it's $20 for a 30 day stay and we can obtain the paperwork at the airport. But we would also need to provide a passport-sized photograph.

Right then, they don't have photo booths around here, so yesterday, during the course of our shopping trip, we found a shop advertising they could supply what we needed.

Within 20 minutes they had developed a suitable criminal styled mug shot of your truly (wifey is going back next week as she "hadn't done her hair") and I was given eight high quality, professional photos (no automatic robot shots here, this was done by a real person) for the princely sum of three quid.

Another thing off the tick list.

Extended Stay

We have decided to carry on at our current hotel, the Imm Fusion, for another two weeks, before we fly on to Cambodia.

Not only is the hotel absolutely fantastic, but we are getting such a good rate it would be silly not to make the most. With the BTS On Nut station a minute's walk away we're but a swift 20 minutes by train away from the city centre and all the attractions it has to offer.

Plus the hotel has loaned us a DVD player as we wanted to catch up with "24"- we have been lugging the first four series about with us "just in case". Unfortunately though our discs are from the European zone and so will not play on a Thai player...

Instead we've joined the local DVD rental shop at Tesco-Lotus and so we can catch up on some films in the comfort of our bedroom. At 60p a night, it's hardly going to break the bank. :-)

And we also have to start using the swimming pool which as yet has gone untouched as we've been too busy. Seriously, it's very time consuming doing all this shopping lark...and addictive.

And As We're Standing

Using the BTS Sky Train (which so far seems to be a daily occurrence as it is so easy and quick) we were amused to see signs asking people to give up their seats for monks.

All Rise

Forgot to mention something that happened during our recent trip to the cinema.

After the ads and trailers, they played what we assumed was the national anthem and showed a mini-film of Thailand's King as he grew up, with pictures if his childhood through to current.

Everyone stood up (including us, of course) and showed their respect.

Didn't they used to do the same in England too? Or was it on the BBC when they played the anthem at the close of broadcasting?

Anyway, it was refreshing to see.

Driving in the Rain

Researchers have concluded that if you drive in wet or rainy conditions, you are three times more likely to have an accident.

Friday, 25 July 2008

70 and Not Out

A very hearty congratulations to my favourite mother-in-law who reaches the incredible age of seventy and continues to travel the world to come and visit us.

Next stop Malaysia and a ride on an elephant; something you have always wanted to do.

Happy birthday and here's to many, many more.

:0)

More Big Brother

Organisers keen to ensure that the public do not miss a moment of London's 2012 Olympics are planning to broadcast around the clock in 60 towns and cities, by installing and operating the largest network of public screens seen in Britain.

They have so far announced eight permanent sites (in Bristol, Cardiff, Middlesbrough, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Swansea and Walthamstow) and 22 temporary ones but rumour has that the real ambition is for between 45 and 60 permanent screens, something the organisers are remaining tight lipped about.

And whilst the London Olympic Organising Committee is supplying the screens and the BBC will provide the content, local authorities will be responsible for maintenance costs.

The project received £2.6 million of National Lottery funds but the total cost is believed to be £45 million, covered by sponsorship from BT and Lloyds TSB.

And that's the rub, isn't it?

If BT, Llyods and others are stumping up the cash, what do they get out of it? Advertising of course and as the screens can't be switched off at any time (they are muted overnight but emit a constant neon flicker, so very "green") you can just imagine what will be shown after the Olympics are over.

The screen lifespan is around 10 years...

Honour Amongst Thieves

Almost £6 000 is paid to informants every day by Britain’s largest police force, as the latest figures show that Scotland Yard paid out £2 131 786 in the past financial year.

And they say crime doesn't pay?

Al Jazeera

I seem to recall they began broadcasting in English a few years back and it put them in direct competition with CNN. At the time I also seem to remember that CNN were none to happy with the new guys on the block and were losing out to them.

Here in Bangkok, we have AJ as opposed to CNN (also BBC World service) and as we are strictly limited to English speaking channels, we've been getting quite an introduction to the news channel.

I have to say, I like it most out of them all.

Their website is good too: Al Jazeera

And another good watch is NHK, Japan's government broadcaster, which offers news in English about Japan and Asia.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

At The Flicks in Bangkok

With the following line up:

Christian Bale
Heath Ledger
Aaron Eckhart
Michael Caine
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Gary Oldman
Morgan Freeman

You just know that you're going to be in for a treat and when the film is the IMAX* version, WOW! And how often does a sequel improve on the original(s)?

Without doubt the best of the six Batman films, and a quite superb portrayal of The Joker by the late Heath Ledger. Prior to seeing the film, I had heard all the plaudits and assumed it was due to his untimely and sad death, but this boy really does deserve all the praise as he earns all the accolades and may even get a posthumous Oscar. He gets my vote.

No need to delve into the plot, it's Batman v the baddies and with the help of Inspector Gordan, again a blinding performance by Oldman as ever, it's a cracking, dark, moody and mysterious. Don't expect many happy endings, this is not that style of film but it's certainly worth the visit to the cinema to see it on the screen.

We paid big bucks to see it in extra large and we certainly made the right choice. Mind you, it was only three quid. Don't you just love Thailand? :oD

ktelontour thoroughly recommended, do not miss this blockbuster.

*This was our first introduction to this format, where IMAX stands for Image Maximum and I doubt we will ever be able to go back to a standard film again. I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E. Here's what wikipedia has to say about the style:

IMAX (short for Image Maximum) is a film format created by Canada's IMAX Corporation that has the capacity to display images of far greater size and resolution than conventional film display systems available at the time. A standard IMAX screen is 22 m wide and 16.1 m high (72.6 ft x 52.8 ft), but can be larger. As of 2008, IMAX is the most widely used system for large-format, special-venue film presentations. As of March 2007, there were 280 IMAX theatres in 38 countries (60% of these are located in Canada and the United States). Half of these are commercial theatres and half are in educational venues. A variation of IMAX, IMAX DOME (originally called OMNIMAX), is designed for projection on tilted dome screens. Films can also be projected in 3D with IMAX 3D. The Hyderabad, India IMAX has the world's largest display screen. The biggest "IMAX Dome" is in the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey. The world's largest IMAX 3D cinema screen is located in Sydney, NSW in Australia.
The desire to increase the visual impact of film has a long history. In 1929, Fox introduced Fox Grandeur, the first 70 mm movie format, which quickly fell from use. In the 1950s, CinemaScope and VistaVision widened the projected image from 35 mm film, and there were multi-projector systems such as Cinerama for even wider presentations. While impressive, Cinerama was difficult to set up, and the seams between adjacent projected images were difficult to hide

PS: And we saw it on the biggest screen in entire Thailand.

Having Your Cake and Eating It

Just in time for the 2012 London Olympics, it has been announced that there will be a Team Great Britain competing for the for the football gold medal.

If that is the case, I'm sure they will be more than happy to extend this idea to all future international games. Who knows, they may even win something for a change.

The wooden spoon springs to mind...

More here: The Telegraph

Fresh Faced

One of our good sources for the news is The Telegraph and it seems that recently it has had a make over and got a new look.

I haven't had much time to check it out properly as yet as Bangkok is far too tempting, but hope it is as good, if not better, than the last on-line version, which I thoroughly enjoyed, pilfing stuff for here and pretending it was my own work.

I'm sure it will be another winner, but check for yourselves: The New Look Telegraph

Genius

A couple who ran a restaurant seemed to work all the hours that God sent, opening the business at 06:00 am and only losing the place at 03:00 am the following day.

But it has now emerged that the restaurant, in the city of Yiwu in eastern China is actually run by two couples, and both the men and the women are identical twins.

The twin brothers married the twin sisters three years ago, and the four of them decided to go into business together.

“Many diners thought we worked too hard and are like robots, but they don’t know that we are actually four people,” said one of the brothers.

Lovely. :0)

More Ad Breaks Soon

Currently, films shown on ITV, Channel 4, Five and other channels are interrupted once every 45 minutes to allow adverts to clog up your viewing pleasure. Apparently that is not sufficient enough and so Ofcom has ruled that from September 2008, broadcasters will be allowed to advertise every 30 minutes instead.

However, they will be restricted to no more than 12 minutes of advertising per hour.

The new code also ends restrictions on advertising during religious affairs programmes, documentaries and current affairs programmes lasting less than half an hour.

Oh goodie. More ads for personal loans 'cos you're too stupid to stop spending your money, "can't be arsed to work, just call this number and let us sue someone for you" and the latest inane, irritating ring tone so that you be just like the rest of the sheep.

Not so Natty Names in NZ

There seems to be a rush of blood to the heads of some parents down under when it comes to naming their kids.

Although the registrar general of Births, Deaths and Marriages, said that the law did not allow names that would cause offence to a reasonable person, that are more than 100 characters or that include titles, military ranks, punctuation or numerals, it seems some people aren't quite sure what that means.

In the news at the moment is a poor nine year old girl who's been dumped with the ludicrous handle "Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii"- a judge has ruled that the she should be placed in the guardianship of the court until she is renamed, but more corkers are coming out of the woodwork. Rejected examples such as:

Violence
Midnight Chardonnay
Number 16 Bus Shelter
O.crnia (later renamed to Oceania after legal intervention)
Fish and Chips
Yeah Detroit
Stallion
Twisty Poi
Keenan Got Lucy
Sex Fruit

I'm sure the kids would have been delighted and suggest that as part of the court rulings, the parents get renamed too.

Imbecile and Retard would be a good start.

eBooks, The Way Forward?

Already immensely popular in the States, the Sony Reader is due to be launched in the UK at Waterstones, the popular bookshop.

The Reader is smaller in size than a hardback and the downloads are written in E Ink to resemble a traditional book page and it is capable of storing around 150 ebooks with no reflection or glare. It should cost around £200.

I'm sure traditionalist will be aghast at this sacrilege, but if you're stuck for space or don't want to travel over loaded with normal books, this may well be the answer. Anything that gets more people reading has surely got to be a good idea.



Current books on offer in electronic form include classics such as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, as well as a number of contemporary titles.

Been a Bit Busy

Sorry folks, but the Blog is currently taking a back seat as we get to know Bangkok and begin to explore this amazing city. I've not been so excited in ages and whilst we thoroughly loved Europe, this has a whole new feel to it.

I'm sure the euphoria will wear off eventually, but for the moment we are shopping in malls the size of football pitches, eating exotic stir fry dishes and generally having a quite brilliant time.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?


You need to look at this twice before it sinks in...

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Next Stage Sorted

As we only have thirty days in Thailand due to visa restrictions, we needed to consider where we wanted to move onto next month.

The country is placed very centrally and is surrounded by some exciting neighbours: Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia/Vietnam and Malaysia/Singapore, most of which we have not had the opportunity to visit before.

As we're meeting a friend in Vietnam in September, it made sense to head in that general direction and so we're going to travel to Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city in Cambodia.

We've just booked our flights via Asia Air and it has come to a cracking £65- for the pair of us. Bargain.

Tickets, Cash...Passport?

Going on holiday soon? Hope your passport is up to date and you've not left it too late to get a new one.

A three-day strike starts at the Passport Office today over pay and office closures, affecting the seven regional passport offices and 68 interview offices.

The service by which new documents can be provided in a day for an extra charge will also be unavailable.

Ah Yes, Lesbos

Remember the residents of Lesbos who wanted to ban the use of the word "lesbian" to describe gay women and so went to trial?

A Greek court has dismissed the case.

So now all the lezzers can chill again. :0)

The Long Way Wrong

A driver delivering cars from Turkey to Gibraltar got his 32-tonne truck stuck in a lane near Skegness as his machine directed him towards a nature reserve called Gibraltar Point.

Big oops.

IT Quotes

Supposedly all true:

Tech support: What kind of computer do you have?
Female customer: A white one...

===============

Customer: Hi, this is Maureen. I can't get my diskette out.
Tech support: Have you tried pushing the Button?
Customer: Yes, sure, it's really stuck.
Tech support: That doesn't sound good; I'll make a note.
Customer: No , wait a minute... I hadn't inserted it yet... it's still on my desk... sorry....

===============

Tech support: Click on the 'my computer' icon on to the left of the screen.
Customer: Your left or my left?

===============

Tech support: Good day. How may I help you?
Male customer: Hello... I can't print.
Tech support: Would you click on 'start' for me and.
Customer: Listen pal; don't start getting technical on me! I'm not Bill Gates.

===============

Customer: Hi, good afternoon, this is Martha, I can't print. Every time I try, it says 'Can't find printer'. I've even lifted the printer and placed it in front of the monitor, but the computer still says he can't find it...

============== =

Customer: I have problems printing in red...
Tech support: Do you have a color printer?
Customer: Aaaah....................thank you.

===============

Tech support: What's on your monitor now, ma'am?
Customer: A teddy bear my boyfriend bought for me at Woolies.

===============

Customer: My keyboard is not working anymore.
Tech support: Are you sure it's plugged into the computer?
Customer: No. I can't get behind the computer.
Tech support: Pick up your keyboard and walk 10 paces back.
Customer:! OK Tech support: Did the keyboard come with you?
Customer: Yes
Tech support: That means the keyboard is not plugged in. Is there another keyboard? Customer: Yes, there's another one here. Ah...that one does work...

===============

Tech support: Your password is the small letter 'a' as in apple, a capital letter V as in Victor, the number 7.
Customer: Is that 7 in capital letters ?

== =============

Customer: can't get on the Internet.
Tech support: Are you sure you used the right password?
Customer: Yes, I'm sure. I saw my colleague do it.
Tech support: Can you tell me what the password was?
Customer: Five stars.

===============

Tech support: What anti-virus program do you use?
Customer: Netscape.Tech support: That's not an anti-virus program.
Customer: Oh, sorry...Internet Explorer.

===============

Customer: I have a huge problem. A friend has placed a screen saver on my computer, but every time I move the mouse, it disappears.

===============

Tech support: How may I help you?
Customer: I'm writing my first e-mail.
Tech support: OK, and what seems to be the problem?
Customer: Well, I have the letter 'a' in the address, but how do I get the circle around it?

===============

A woman customer called the Canon help desk with a problem with her printer.
Tech support: Are you running it under windows?
Customer: 'No, my desk is next to the door, but that is a good point. The man sitting in the cubicle next to me is under a window, and his printer is working fine.'

===============

Tech support: 'Okay Colin, let's press the control and escape keys at the same time. That brings up a task list in the middle of the screen. Now type the letter 'P' to bring up the Program Manager.'
Customer: I don't have a P.
Tech support: On your keyboard, Colin.
Customer: What do you mean?
Tech support: 'P'.....on your keyboard, Colin.
Customer: I'M NOT GOING TO DO THAT!!

Cheers, Brendan.

Postcode Lottery

Due to the variation in numbers of speed camera in the UK, drivers in some parts of country are nearly seven times more likely to be nicked.

Drivers in Radlett, Hertfordshire for example, are penalised the most by roadside cameras, with a conviction of rate of 27%, more than double the national average.

Ten of the top 20 hotspots are in the Thames Valley Police area, covering Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire, where motorists are monitored by nearly 500 speed cameras – the second-highest total in Britain.

However, there is a conviction rate of just 4.1% in Possilpark and Milton in Glasgow, where the fewest drivers have penalty points for breaking the limit.

According to Admiral, the insurance company which conducted the research, Bournemouth and Poole in Dorset are also speed camera hot spots, along with Woburn in Bedfordshire, South Queensferry in Edinburgh, Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, Buckhurst Hill in Epping Forest and Clifton in Bristol.

Hardly seems fair, does it?

You Can Trust British Plod

A total of 75 people died in incidents involving police in the year to March 2008, including 23 who were killed in road accidents involving patrol cars on emergency calls or pursuing vehicles carrying suspects.

Five people were shot by officers.

Stop the Plane, I want to Get Off

A family setting off on a five-star holiday travelled 2 000 miles in another direction after they were given boarding passes for the wrong flight.

Instead of landing in Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, they ended up in Bodrum, Turkey.

Apparently there was a mix up at the check in desk and they received the wrong boarding cards.

Using the excuse that they were tired ("it was 6:30 in the morning", my oh my that is up with a sparrow's fart), none of the dim-witted family realised the mistake until after the plane landed and the air stewardess announced: “Welcome to Turkey”. :0)

What, like no one looked at the information screen to check which boarding gate they required? Per-lease.

Anyway, they should have stayed in Bodrum, it's a lovely place.

2012 Olympics Coining It In

The consultants given the task of keeping down the bill for the London Olympics cost the taxpayer £87 million in the last financial year.

More of the story here: The Times

Say Good Bye to the Vocal 99

Worcester City Council have ordered ice-cream vans to silence their jingles after four seconds because they are considered to be noise pollution.

They will be permitted to play a second short blast of music after three minutes, but will be banned from playing a third tune for another two hours. Other rules the kill joys have introduced is prohibiting vans from making any noise outside places of worship, schools during lessons and in narrow or restricted places.

Oh well, it's not like you get a summer in England to enjoy an ice-cream any more, is it?

British Blockbusters

In January 2007, a new set of guidelines was introduced that rated films for their "Britishness" and ensured that films "delivered economic and cultural benefit to the UK". The reason? Tax breaks, of course.

The culture test

Films must score at least 16 out of 31 to qualify for the tax break:

— Leads? Four points if two or more of three lead characters are British; one point for one.

— Setting? Four points if at least 75% of film is set in Britain.

— Is film based on British subject matter? Four points if it is, or is based on a story by a British citizen or resident.

— Is dialogue mainly in English? Four points if at least 75% is; three for 66%; two for 50%; one for 25%.

— Up to four points for promotion and development of British culture.

— Where is it shot? Up to three points according to how much of the film is made in Britain.

— Up to eight points if following are from the EU: director, scriptwriter, producer, composer, leading male and female actors, key staff, majority of crew.

Based on this new criteria, it shows that the "British" industry is thriving, with British movies took more than £1.65 billion at box offices around the world last year - an increase of more than 50% on the previous year. Sounds to good to be true, doesn't it? Aye.

Because that means that films such as the 1970s classic Alien would be classed as British- even though it was made with American money from 20th Century Fox, because its director, Ridley Scott, and some of the cast were British and it was filmed at a studio in the UK.

That makes it about as British as Arsenal's, Man Utd's and Chelsea's Premiership football teams...