Sunday, 31 August 2008

Heavy User

There is a 3% spike in electrical power usage at 3:00 am following the second Tuesday of each month due to Microsoft-Windows-based computers rebooting themselves after receiving their monthly updates.

Assuming you leave them running at night…

Eh?


Aldo Cavini Benedetti made a working model of M. C. Escher's "Ascending and Descending" using a toy "Geomag" constructor set (see picture above). Cop for the vid:



Great trick.

No Problem


No idea where these were taken, but they made me smile nonetheless.

That's The Way To Do It

With so many speed eating competitions catering for all kinds of scoff, trust the Scottish to do things properly.

Competitors have to down a one pound (1 lb) haggis as quickly as possible with only a can of lager to help them and the winner gets a bottle of whiskey. :oD

This year's winner managed the feat in two minutes and five seconds...

Mctasty.

Time's Up For Podgy Plod

Fat Dunkin Donut Dibble face being banned from traffic duty unless they lose the lard, because they are risking taking their jam sandwiches over the maximum legal weight limit.

Tests have found that some patrol cars are so heavy with additional equipment such as waffle makers, deep fat fryers and ice-cream vending machines, that burly officers could tip them over the legal threshold.

Some cars, with two officers present, are within 14 stone of the maximum, meaning that they can carry, at most, only one additional passenger. In such circumstances, should a patrol vehicle containing a couple of fattie coppers stop a vehicle with two suspected criminals, the Rozzers would have to radio for assistance.

Foot patrols have already been banned from eating junk food in staff canteens and threatened with annual fitness tests if they go above a certain weight. Now there are proposals for a maximum weight for traffic officers, and a review of equipment carried in police cars.

:o)

More here: The Sunday Times

Already The Implications Begin

Prince Andrew has cancelled his proposed visit to Thailand since the demonstrations have escalated in the country.

A Buckingham Palace spokesflunky said:

"With the agreement of the Royal Thian and British Governments the Duke of York has decided it would be appropriate to postpone his official visit to Thailand to a later date."

In other words he's bottled it. Poor (no) show.

Couch Potato

Reckon you spend too much time in front of the TV? Don't panic. 7% of Americans have a day planner solely to keep track of when their television shows air.

Some Like It Hot

Asia is renowned for its love of the chilli but as we've heard earlier, Cambodia is not quite on the same level as Thailand, where it's all super-strength ring-sting hot. Here they prefer sweeter dished but this takes a little getting used to.

Particularly as the tend to lob sugar into pretty much everything, including savoury biscuits and even their peanuts. Too much for us, especially when it is unexpected.

Cuba Chilling

The lead singer of Porno para Ricardo, a Cuban punk band, was accused of "social dangerousness" for songs that ridicule the former president Fidel Castro as a "walking coma". The crime, and that of "perverting Communist morality", would normally incur a prison sentence of several years but instead he was fined fifteen quid.

Although Gorki Agui walked away a free man, he remained unrepentant and promised to continue criticising the leadership and insisted that nothing could be gained by staying silent.

Anarchy still lives, but the times most certainly are a-changing. Good to hear.

Paying Tax?

If you do, you will hopefully be getting some good news from the grasping taxman.

All taxpayers on the new 20p rate will receive an extra £60 in their September pay packet, followed by an extra £10 every month until the end of the March 2009. The rebate, which totals £2.6 billion over the next seven months, was ordered by the government in May after it was threatened with a revolt over the abolition of the 10p tax rate.

Enjoy.

More Problems in Thailand

Thailand sank deeper into political chaos yesterday as anti-government demonstrators forced the closure of airports and railway lines, stranding foreign and domestic passengers and increasing fears of yet another military coup.
In the capital, Bangkok, a crowd of 2 000 people faced a barrage of teargas as they attempted to take over police headquarters. In other parts of the country, members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaraveg shut down airports in Hat Yai and the tourist resorts of Phuket and Krabi.


I really hope this gets sorted out quickly as Thailand is a lovely country and these troubles will not help its reputation or its tourist trade.

I also wonder what is going to happen to those holiday makers whose visas have expired as they are stranded at the airport? They charge 500 THB per day's over stay...

More at The Sunday Times.

In the Old Days

Scientists in Israel are making digital copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls to place them on the internet.

The 2 000 year old documents, most on parchment, are the oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible and include secular text dating from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD and infrared imaging will allow readers to see faded sections not visible to the naked eye.

I wonder if they will be viewable for free or a paying site?


The scrolls were found by a Bedouin shepherd looking for a stray sheep in 1947.

Now the Bickering Begins

Following Darling's candid interview about Britain's economy and his rather refreshing honesty, it seems though that not all his colleagues share his preference to being as open and frank as he was.


Downing Street and the Treasury launched a desperate damage limitation exercise after Alistair Darling declared that Britain was facing “arguably the worst” slump in 60 years. As Treasury aides claimed that he had been misrepresented, Darling saught to clarify his remarks.

However, instead of reassuring voters, the Chancellor risked compounding the crisis by failing to modify his dire assessment. Darling insisted it was his duty to be “straight” with people and stood by his warning that the slump will be “more profound and long-lasting than people thought”.

I'm rather warming to the fellow.

More at The Sunday Times.

I Believe That This Post

Takes the month's tally to 600.

Six hundred posts in one month? That can't be right.

I can recall reaching 500 earlier this year and thought we'd never be able to repeat that effort, but unfortunately for you, we seem to have surpassed ourselves and set a new record.

If the connection holds (it's really ropey and continues to be), I'm sure there will a few more today but either way, this is something we will never see again.

Been a laugh though. :o)

Count Down to 2012 And All That Jazz

On the weekend of 26th to 28th September 2008, a four-year "Cultural Olympiad" will begin the countdown to London 2012. Here's what's been pencilled in so far:

— A total of 300 events, including the illumination of buildings such as Windsor Castle in Olympic colours.
— Each of Britain’s 12 regions will host a work of public art, such as a performance or sculpture, marking the Olympiad.
— A national singing day for Britain is intended to become a global event.
— July 2011: Construction finishes on main stadium.
— July 21st-22nd, 2012: World River Festival welcomes the world to the Games. The event will feature five stages held along the Thames, inspired by the Olympic rings.
— July 27th, 2012: Opening ceremony of the Games.

Tessa Jowell, the Olympics minister (love this self-appointed titles) has "staked her reputation" on ensuring venues are packed. following the sight of some empty seats at Beijing. That's hardly going to instill any confidence is it?

More here: The Sunday Times

Freedom Fries?

We briefly mentioned that the British plague of binge drinking is sweeping through France, but this sta-testicle brings it more into perspective.

Rates of obesity among the young are rising at 17% per year and one report suggests that by 2020 the French will be “as fat as the Americans” and between 2004 and 2007, the number of admissions to hospital for drink-related afflictions doubled for those aged under 25.

The government is going to ban sales of alcohol to anyone under the age of 18 but I suspect the mere comparison to their American pals will be enough to curb any reckless, youthful exuberance.

That Makes You Think

Until 1921 the American Medical Association had a separate medical reference for how to treat atheists and pagans.

No Fat Burd Warbling Yet

At least, not at the San Marino Moto GP.

Casey Stoner, despite being 50 points behind Rossi in the Championship has taken pole position for today's race, but Valentino (and firm home favourite) is right up there on the front row.

I'm hoping that with all the sports channels available to us, particularly ESPN, we should be able to see the race. The only problem is the time zone difference and it may clash with Die Hard...

James Toseland lines up on 9th spot and we wish him a good race.

Today's Highlight

As you'll know from some of our posts and photos on here and Flickr, we are in the middle of what could easily be described as a mini-paradise. However, guess what our highlight of our day is going to be today?

A whole afternoon/evening in front of the box, watching all four Die Hard filums back-to-back. How mega cool is that?

Can't wait. :oD

Beans and 57 Varieties

No, not Heinz but coffee beans.

I'm not a coffee drinker and can proudly boast that at the age of coming up to 44 in a couple of weeks* I have never even had a sip of the mud coloured muck, let alone a whole cup. Wifey on the other hand is a huge fan and loves to indulge at least a couple of times a day.

On our travels this has sometimes proven to be a bit of a challenge, and while she is not a coffee snob and can quite happily sup on an instant Nescafe (she even carries a few single-cup sachets and as she prefers it black with no sugar, it has proven a useful addition to her handbag), she has had to put up with some real rubbish.

Even at our rather posh hotel it seems they feel it is OK to reheat old coffee (I understand this is not a good thing, coffee should be fresh) in a microwave. How difficult can it be to provide fresh and good tasting coffee at a reasonable price?

Too difficult for some it would appear.

Another good reason not to drink the stuff in the first place.



*Yes folks, another birthday looms so dig deep into your pockets and send expensive presents to:

Room #17
The Pavilion Hotel
Phnom Penh
Cambodia

(and what with the British postal service now being part time, may I suggest you get your skates on sharpish? Ta.)

Spurs Get Their Man

Tottenham Hotspur have reached an agreement to sign Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko from Spartak Moscow.

The 26 year old arrives at White Hart Lane for a reported fee of £14 million.

Pavlyuchenko, was Russia's top scorer at Euro 2008 where he scored three goals as they reached the semi-finals, and he also netted twice in a 2-1 win over England in a qualifying match in October 2007.

Hopefully he will add some urgent fire power to the front line since we lost Keane and Defoe, but I fear it will be too late for today's "match" against Chelsea.

More at the Beeb.

Stroke of Luck

As our connection is running backwards at the moment, I am unable to find my footie score predictions from Friday. I don't think I did badly as to the forecasting of the results, but I reckon the scores were woefully out.

What's worse is that I "bet" against my own teams and so while I may have sussed the results, I can take scant pleasure in getting them right. It will no doubtedly get worse as Spurs face Chelsea later today and I know we're in for a thrashing as we had towards our third straight defeat for yet another stunning start to the Premiership season.


Is it too early to be involved in a relegation fight off already? Not if you're a Tottenham fan it ain't.

Yesterday's results then and they do not make pleasant reading:

The Arse beat The Toon, 3-0 (I think I said 2-0, so not far off)

Walsall stuffed Sarfend 5-2 (can't remember the score but did say the Shrimpers would lose)

Bielefeld lost to Hamburg 2-4 (what did I say, 0-3?)



Yet another winning weekend with ktelontour...

More Cheese, Gromit?

And that is the ability to be able to get hold of proper cheese.

Strong cheddar, proper Edam, wonderfully soft garlic and herb cheese, creamy Blue cheese- it's quite a delight to be able to indulge after many months of travelling through Europe and not even getting a sniff of my Achilles Heel.

I've always had a weakness for cheese which due to my rather high cholesterol readings means I shouldn't, since when have I ever listened to the "experts".

Coupled with the tasty French baguettes we get here and it's a snack made in heaven.

Mind you, we have to pay for our luxuries. Imported cheeses will set you back from $3.50 to well over $5.00 a piece, depending on style. A small price to pay, once in a while.

A Life Saving Top Tip

One of the best bits of advice we could offer you comes in a little orange tin and has the word "Off" on the front. It'll set you back around $3.70 and you'll need to purchase this at least once a week. Despite the high cost, it is worth its weight in gold as this little beauty will ensure you will not have to endure the agonies of mosquito bites.

Trust me when I say it works; on the only two occasions (right at the start of our Cambodian campaign) I was well and truly knacked by the little gits, but since then I have been bite/sting free and swear by it.

The added bonus us that it niffs rather nice too, so much so that having doused myself liberally in its scented aromas, the receptionist actually commented on how good I smelt. We both laughed when I explained it had nothing to do with my aftershave (particularly as I have not worn any in over a year) but it was indeed, Off.

Go get some (also available in Thailand), use it and piss the mossies right off.

Pass the Port

Stuttgart, Germany, has the highest per capita consumption of cigars in all of Europe.

I suspect that will soon change now that they have introduced a ban on smoking in public places...

Musical Chairs Continue

We're not just half way through our stay in Cambodia, but also our stay in room #17, and having thought we'd seen all the rooms we were to stay in, it turns out we still have one more hop to conclude before we get back to our favourite, #10.

9th September see us relocate to room #5 for a single night and so another crash pad to savour. Again, it will be a smaller place but so far all the accommodation has been first class (except the rather weedy showers) and we're looking forward to a change of scenery.

It will also make our review of The Pavilion Hotel for tripadvisor much more comprehensive as we will able to comment from personal experience and have several different perspectives.

Half Way Point

We are now just over half way through our thirty day visa and have to confess we're are falling in love with what little we have seen of Cambodia.

PPis like no other city we have seen as yet and most certainly does not come over a as capital city. However, in my opinion that adds to the charm of the place and we shall most certainly be coming back to visit before we leave the Asian continent.

So while we still have a fortnight left, we still have plenty on the list of things to see. The Royal Palace, The National Museum, the terrible Killing Fields, the gruesome "Torture" Museum, the Mekong River, to name but a few- there are several places to keep us occupied, enthralled and busy.

Phnom Penh, ktelontour highly recommended.

This We Liked

The average person thinks he isn't.

- Father Larry Lorenzoni

Sad to say I've never heard of the chap, but that is one quote I shall be committing to memory.

Slow, Slow, Quick-Quick, S-L-O-W

Perfectly describes the current speed of our internet connection over this weekend. Except for the quick, quick bit.

I made that up to so the title sounds better...

It is sooo frustrating.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Well I Never

This post marks the 6 000th on this Blog since we started it waaay back in January 2006.

We're having fun, but are you?

More Grumbles on Hotel Rooms

Usually one is lucky to find curtains that match, meet in the middle or drop long enough without leaving a gap of 10 cm at the bottom of the windows.

No such problems in either the Imm Fusion (Bangkok) or The Pavilion (Phnom Penh) where the quality of the drapes is indeed luxurious, and they are well proportioned to allow an overlay at meeting halves and hang well past the bottom of the window ledges.

However, and in keeping with most other hotel accommodation we have encountered during our travels, they still don't keep the light out as the colour schemes tend to be light hues of off white, beige and similar dainty browns.

Why can't we have dark curtains that keep the light out, particularly in countries that have an abundance of early morning sun?

Oh well, it's only a minor gripe- it can stay as sunny as it likes for as long as it likes. I'll just have to tough it out.

;o)

Welded Together

I'm not sure exactly why, but in both Thailand and Cambodia, all their crisp and nut packets are sealed so tightly that you need the strength of a Russian shot putter to prise the packs open. Usually, with the contents being flung far and wide as a consequence.

On the plus side, we have managed to locate a packet of salt and vinegat crisps for the first time since leaving the UK...

Scouse Tight Arse

A man who stole cash and belongings from train passengers has been banned from entering London for two years.

The 46 year old repeatedly boarded trains to take items from overhead racks, Southwark Crown Court was told.

When he was arrested in April, police discovered £280 in cash hidden between his buttocks. The man was banned from going inside the M25 for two years, given a six-month suspended gaol sentence and ordered to remain at his father's Liverpool address.

More here: BBC

Belated Birthday Greetings

To Michael Jackson who turned fifty yesterday.

Other parts of him hope to catch up to the same age as soon as possible...

Best Before Dates

A study of chocolate bars from eight major retailers has found the average confection sits for 140 days (about 4½ months), before reaching the consumer.

On average, slightly more than 3% were past the estimated shelf life of a year.

More on the delights of over due sweeties here: National Post

DD In Deutschland

A German court has banned the driver of an electric wheelchair from using his vehicle for a month, after he was caught twice with a blood alcohol level well over the legal limit.

Interestingly enough, according to German law drivers of cars and trucks in Germany can lose their licenses for a blood alcohol level of 1.1, whereas cyclists and wheelchair drivers are allowed a level of 1.6 before facing stern punishment.

The bollocksed wheelchair "driver" was first caught with a reading of 1.82 and then 2.06- within two weeks of each other. The judge said:

"most people can't even reach such a level- they fall over beforehand."

Hence the reason to sit down, right?

:oD

It's Dilbert

Click to Enlarge

Good News For the Texan Tornado

Colin Edwards has signed a new one-year deal to stay with Tech 3 Yamaha next season, alongside Brit boy, James Toseland.

Although he has never won a race, he has scored points in all but 10 of his 94 MotoGP races and next year will be Edwards's fifth season riding for Yamaha in MotoGP.

If all goes to plan, we'll be seeing them both in October at the Malaysian Moto GP; our first on foreign soil. Can't wait.

One out of Two is Bad

Whenever you have an efficient government you have a dictatorship.

- Harry S Truman

Strange, in Britain we have the latter but not the former...

Fluffy-Wuffy

The average American seven year old girl has 4.4 stuffed animals on her bed.

I can sleep more soundly for sharing that with you now.

And That's a Chicken Too

A man feared his wife wasn't hearing as well as she used to and he thought she might need a hearing aid. Not quite sure how to approach her, he called the family doctor to discuss the problem.

The doctor told him there is s a simple informal test the husband could perform to give the doc a better idea about her hearing loss.

"Here's what you do," said the doctor, "stand about 40 feet away from her, and in a normal conversational speaking tone see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response."

That evening, the wife is in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he was in the den. He says to himself, "I'm about 40 feet away, let's see what happens."

Then in a normal tone he asks, "Honey, what's for dinner?"

No response.

So the husband moves closer to the kitchen, about 30 feet from his wife and repeats, "Honey, what's for dinner?"

Still no response.

Next he moves into the dining room where he is about 20 feet from his wife and asks again, "Honey, what's for dinner?"

Once more he gets no response.

So, he walks up to the kitchen door, about 10 feet away. "Honey, what's for dinner?" Again there is no response.

So he walks right up behind her. "Honey, what's for dinner?"

"For the FIFTH bloody time, it's bloody CHICKEN!"

Cheers, Bren; made me smile.

Nazi England Has Landed

Advertisements looking for people to sign up for the unpaid "environmental volunteer" jobs have been posted across the country in recent months. Or, to put it another way, councils are recruiting residents to report anyone who drops litter, fails to recycle their rubbish properly, or who allows their dog to foul the streets.

Or to put yet another way, our government is paying people to spy and grass their neighbours up.

From our pals at the Taxpayers' Alliance:

"Snooping on your neighbours to report recycling infringements sounds like something straight out of the East German Stasi's copybook. With council tax so high, the last thing people want to pay for is an army of busybodies peering through their net curtains at their neighbours as they put out their rubbish."

Typically, the Local Government Association said:

"Environment volunteers care passionately about their area and want to protect it. They are not snoopers. They will help councils cut crime and make places cleaner, greener and safer."

No, they are spies and grasses, it's a simple as that and this is utterly deplorable.

Let's Be Frank, Darling

Britain is in the grip of its worst economic crisis for 60 years, Alistair Darling has admitted and the Chancellor of the Exchequer warns that the slump is going to be "more profound and long-lasting than people thought".

He admits that voters are "pissed off" with Labour and says the party must recover the "zeal" which won it three successive general elections.

Since taking up the post, Mr Darling is said to have faced a crisis "every week", including the collapse of Northern Rock and the loss of millions of people's personal details from HM revenue & Customs. Such is the public concern over the economic crisis, he said that he has been challenged while filling up his own car by motorists demanding to know how he intends to improve the situation.

More from his interview with The Guardian at TTel.

How Many Bloggers Does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?

Light bulbs that are not screwed into their socket snuggly enough use 3% more electricity than those that are properly screwed in.

Oh Crap, in Colombo

Government helicopters in Sri Lanka dropped leaflets urging civilians living in areas held by Tamil Tiger rebels to flee to government-controlled territory as fighting escalated in the embattled north.

Tens of thousands of Sri Lankans have been driven from their homes in the north as government forces seized territory that had been controlled by the separatist guerrillas, aid groups say.

The rebels have fought for an independent state since 1983, after decades of marginalisation of ethnic Tamils by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70 000 people have been killed.

At some point we want to go to Sri Lanka but I think it's probably worth giving it a miss for a while yet.

No Crap, Columbo

The release of official figures yesterday has shown that it has been one of the wettest and dullest summers on record in the UK.

And it is about to get worse.

Some of the most dramatic thunder and lightning storms of the year are expected tomorrow (Sunday), bringing the risk of flooding, large hailstones and even tornados.

Met Office statistics show rainfall this summer is already up to 50% higher than normal and August is on course to have the fewest hours of sunshine since records began.

The average rainfall across the UK from June 1 to August 26 is 317.7 mm, 40% more than normal, with five days of readings still to be considered. The wettest summer since records began in 1914 was in 1956 when 358.4mm fell, while last year 357.1mm was recorded.

This month is also expected to be one of the dullest since sunshine records began in 1929. The national average of 96.3 sunshine hours up to 26th August is already 40% below the month’s average. The previous dullest August was in 1942, with 111.4 hours.

*cranes neck to peer out of window*

Oh look, scorchio...

The Patron Saint of Illness ...

Taken from TTimes, a most comprehensive list (all 50 of them) of Patron Saints of ailments and disease:

1. For abdomen pains pray to St Charles Borromeo , a nephew of Pope Pius V and key figure in the 16th century Catholic counter-reformation who improved the morals of the clergy and allegedly attempted to feed 60,000 – 70,000 people a day during the 1576 famine and plague.

2. To alleviate chest pain try St Bernadine of Siena who, by the age of 20, was running his local hospital. When other hospital workers succumbed to plague, St Bernardine ended up in sole charge. He needed two years to recover from exhaustion afterwards. Then he became a preacher allegedly attracting audiences of up to 30,000 to hear his sermons. He's also the patron saint of gamblers and those with lung complaints.

3. For Inflammatory diseases and kidney troubles pray to St Benedict. The founder of Western monasticism, and patron saint of Europe, St Benedict is famous for his “rule” on how to live in a religious community. Written in the 6th century specifically for life in a religious community, the "rule" has been adapted as a guide to family life and how to run a modern business. St Benedict's medal is said to offer protection against the Devil.

4. Stiff necked? Pray to St Urscinius of Saint Ursannne, a 7th century missionary in Switzerland who detested wine and those who tried to serve it to him.

5. Got an uncontrollabe twitch? Pray to St Bartholomew. He's also the patron saint of bookbinders, butchers, cobblers, leather workers, nervous diseases, neurological diseases, plasterers, shoemakers, tanners and trappers. Bartholomew, one of Christ’s 12 apostles, is said to have preached in India and Armenia before his beheading.

6. St Aloysius Gonzaga is the patron saint of Aids sufferers. A Jesuit who caught the plague while tending victims in a hospital in Rome, Gonzaga died aged 23 in 1591.

7. Struggling with drink? St John of God is the patron saint of those with alcohol problems.Committed to a mental hospital for beating himself in public in repentance for sin,St John was visited by a preacher, Blessed John of Avila, who advised him to care for others in need rather than inflict hardships upon himself. Until his death in 1550, John of God worked among the poor.

8. Another patron saint for alcoholics is St Martin of Tours. A reluctant soldier in the 4th century who refused prize booty from the Roman emperor, St Martin became a monk and was tricked into becoming a bishop, at the demand of the people of Tours, who lured him into the city saying he was needed to help a sick person. Famous for allegedly slashing his cloak in half to give one half to a beggar whom he later saw in a dream as Christ, St Martin is also the patron saint of horses.

9. And a third holy helper for alcoholics is St Monica, the Christian mother of St Augustine who prayed relentlessly for his conversion in the 4th century while he enjoyed the pagan high life.

10. Angina sufferers can pray to St Swithbert, the 7th century Northumbrian who took part in a evangelising trip to Holland with St Willibrod and later founded a monastery on an island on the Rhine.

11. And for apoplexy (strokes) try St Wolfgang. According to legend, this 10th century German bishop forced the devil to help him build a church. Sometimes he is painted holding an axe, a reference to a story that seeking a solitary spot to worship God, he threw his axe into a thicket in a wood, and regarded the place where it landed as divine indication of the spot he should build his hermit’s cell.

12. Those stricken with arthritis might try St Alphonsus of Ligouri. The founder of the Redemptorists, he wrote a famous work on moral theology in the 18th century, and tried to resist being made a bishop. In old age, Alphonsus apparently suffered poor sight and terrible rheumatism and was tricked by his followers into signing a document changing their rule.

13. For bowel problems try St Bonaventure. This 13th century theologian was allegedly healed from a childhood sickness by praying to St Francis of Assisi.

14. Women with Breast cancer might want to pray to St Agatha, a Sicilian imprisoned in a brothel for a month in the 3rd century by a wealthy admirer frustrated that Agatha had resisted him. According to legend, she was subsequently tortured and her breasts were cut off and placed on a plate. She is also prayed to for protection against fire: her intercession is said to have prevented, at one stage, the eruptions of Mount Etna.

15. If you have broken bones try St Drogo. A Flemish saint who lived in the 12th century, Drogo was so deformed by an illness that local people were said to be terrified by him. So he lived out of sight in a tiny cell attached to a church.

16. While for burns turn to St John the Apostle. The “beloved disciple” of Christ, John was famed for purifying water, allegedly driving out demons and for surviving when the Roman Emperor Dometian had him beaten, poisoned, and thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil. Afterwards, he went to live on Patmos.

17. For cancer pray to St Peregrine Laziosi a priest who in the 13th century imposed a penance on himself of standing whenever it was not necessary to sit. Eventually he got cancer of the foot, when medical treatment failed, he was told his foot would need to be amputated. The night before the operation, Peregrine prayed before a crucifix and, while asleep, allegedly had a vision of Jesus leaving the cross and touching his cancerous leg. When he awoke his leg was cured and he is said to have lived for another 20 years.

18. The patron saint of colic is St Erasmus or Elmo who had hot iron hooks stuck in his stomach on the orders of the Roman emperor Diocletian, but miraculously endured them. Blue lights seen at mastheads prior to and after a storm are called “St Elmo’s Fire” and traditionally seen as a sign of his protection.

19. The patron saints of deafness is St Francis de Sales. Bishop of Geneva and a prolific 16th century writer, Francis was famed for his gentle approach to evangelising. He said “a spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.”

20. The patron saint for depression is St Benedict Joseph Labre. An 18th century mendicant known as the “Beggar of Rome” Benedict dressed in rags, and lived in the Colosseum sharing his food with the poor. Also patron of the homeless.

21. St Lucy, whose eyes were removed on the orders of the Roman emperor Diocletian, is patron of the blind.

22. And St Clare, a lifelong friend of St Francis of Assisi, is the patron saint of those with eye problems. She is also patron saint of television due to a legend that unable to attend Mass with St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century she miraculously observed the liturgy on her cell wall.

23. For dizzy spells turn to St Ulric a 10th century German saint, who is also patron of pregnant women. Those who drank from his chalice were said to be guaranteed easy deliveries, while his cross was said to cure those bitten by rabid dogs.

24. Drug addicts can ask for the help of St Maxmilian Kolbe a Franciscan who volunteered to take the place of Jewish husband and father selected for the gas chambers of Auschwitz in 1941. He is also patron saint of journalists.

25. Eczema sufferers and those with skin problems in general can ask for the help of St Antony the Abbot. Also known as Anthony the Eygptian, he founded desert monasticism in the 3rd century and is often depicted with a pig, as pork was occasionally used to reduce inflammation or itching of the skin.

26. St Willibrod is the patron saint for epileptics. An 8th century bishop, Willibrod died in Luxemburg where he is remembered in an annual procession in which participants hold hands and hop on one leg to the basilica which contains his remains.

27. For earache pray to St Polycarp of Smyrna. A second century martyr, Polycarp is said to have predicted he would be burned to death, after dreaming of a pillow in flames. When cast into the fire, the 86-year-old bishop was said to have glowed golden like baking bread.

28. Feverish? Try St Genevieve, a 5th century saint who told Parisians they could avert slaughter by the surging hordes of Attila the Hun by prayer and fasting. Often depicted with a loaf of bread to symbolise her generosity to the hungry.

29. Suffering from gallstones? Pray to St Liborius, the 4th century bishop of Le Mans, who is patron of Paderborn. He is often shown either with a peacock or carrying a book with small stones on it.

30.For hangovers, pray to St Bibiana, a 4th century Roman scourged to death. In the garden of the church built over her grave, a herb grew which was reputed to cure headaches and epilepsy.
31.Headache sufferers can pray to the 16th century Spaniard, St Teresa of Avila. She founded convents of Reformed Carmelites and wrote three spiritual bestsellers, but initially struggled as a nun to resist temptations to gossip in the convent parlour. A paralysing sickness for which she prayed to St Joseph for a cure, is said to have radically transformed her spiritual journey.

32. The patron saint for hernias is St Alban of Mainz, a 5th century missionary beheaded while praying. A church was built at his graveside.

33. Feeling hopeless? Ask for help from St Jude, one of the 12 apostles who is associated with desperate cases because the Epistle he wrote to the Churches in the East, ( it is in the New Testament) speaks of the need to preserve in faith in difficult circumstances.

34. Another alternative for the desperate is St Rita of Cascia the 16th century Italian housewife who is also patron saints of parents and those who are infertile. She was pressured into marrying a cruel man eventually murdered in a brawl. Afterwards she became a nun famous for tending the sick.

35. Jaundice sufferers may pray to St Odilo an 11th century abbot of Cluny whose relics were burned “on the alter of the fatherland” in the French Revolution

36. Bad knees? St Roch is your man. Born in 1295 with a birthmark on his chest in the shape of a red cross, St Roch was said to be able to cure plague victims by making the sign of the cross. In the 15th century, public processions were held in his honour in Constance during an outbreak of plague, which according to legend, subsequently ceased.

37. St Giles is the patron saint of the disabled. Giles, who died in the 8th century, was shot in the leg with an arrow by huntsman who misaimed while chasing a deer. Hugely popular in England where many hospitals and churches were devoted to him, Giles was one of the '14 holy helpers’ a group of saints prayed to for recovery from illness and spiritual strength at the hour of death.

38.The patron of mental illness is St Dympna, the daughter of a 7th century Irish chieftain maddened by grief when his wife died. He decided to marry the teenage Dympna who ran away from home, and beheaded 15 of the friends she sought refuge with before killing her too.

39. The patron saint of migraine sufferers is St Gereon known as the “Golden Saint”. He was a soldier who was beheaded in 4th century Cologne for refusing to sacrifice to pagan Gods to ensure victory in battle.

40. The patron saint of neuralgia is St Ubald Baldassini an Italian bishop who died in 1168 and was said to have great power over evil spirits

41. The patron saint of polio sufferers is St Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French nun who had visions in the 17th century of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They inspired her to pray lying face down on the floor for an hour on the first Friday of every month in memory of Christ’s agony when abandoned by his apostles in the garden of Gethsemene.

42. The patron saint of those with rheumatism is St Coloman. An 11th century monk accused of being a spy while on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Coloman was captured and killed near Vienna during conflicts between Austria and Moravia. Speaking no German he could not defend himself, and was hanged alongside robbers, but the scaffold on which he died is said to have taken root in the ground and grown branches.

43. The patron saint of childbirth is St Gerard Majella, an 18th century Italian falsely accused of impregnating a woman. He said nothing, she retracted the claim.

44. For a stomach upset pray to St Timothy, the apostle who worked with St Paul, and was appointed by him to represent the Church in Ephesus. One of Paul’s most frequently quoted lines was addressed to him: “Stop drinking only water, but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23).

45. Bad toothache? Pray to St Apollonia. The patron saint of dentists, victim of a 2nd century anti-Christian mob in Alexandria who knocked out her teeth.

46. Bad throat? Ask for the help of St Blaize. A 3rd century bishop in Armenia, St Blaize is said to have miraculously commanded a child with a fish bone stuck in his throat to cough up the bone. Also patron of English wool combers, as he was suspended from a tree and his flesh torn with iron combs for his refusal to worship pagan Gods.

47. St Thérèse of Lisieux is the patron saint of tuberculosis sufferers. Known as “the little Flower,” and also patron of the Missions, St Therese said “to pick up a pin for love can convert a soul". She died aged 24 of tuberculosis

48. St Adalard is the patron saint for those afflicted with typhus and typhoid. A cousin of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne he became a monk and served as prime minister to Charlemagne’s son Pepin in Italy. Involved in the political struggles of the royal family, he spent seven years in exile, and is also the patron of French churches and towns.

49. The patron saint of VD sufferers is St Fiacre. He's also patron saint for those sick with haemorrhoids, as well as gardeners and French cab drivers. An Irish priest, Fiacre lived as a hermit in France where he was said have cured many diseases.

50. St Lazarus, the patron saint of lepers, appears in the New Testament parable told by Christ of a begger excluded from a rich man’s feast, who is given the place of honour in a banquet in heaven after his death, while the rich man is excluded. The 12th century order of St Lazarus was manned by knights with leprosy who cared for the sick but had military duties. They founded a leper’s hospital in Jersualem.

Ramadan Ahead

Monday, 1st September sees the start of Ramadan, the month of fasting during the hours of sunlight for the world's Muslims.

This year it is particularly tough as the clocks don't go back until October and so there are even more daylight hours to contend with.

Good luck to one and all participating, I hope you get through without too much difficulty.

Time Gentlemen, Please

Britain’s pub industry is in its worst crisis for 70 years as the pressures of the economic downturn, increased beer duty and aggressive marketing of alcohol by supermarkets drive away customers in rapidly growing numbers. Not to mention the ban on smoking in pubs.

More than two dozen pubs are said to be closing every week and analysts predict that that rate could almost double within a year. Since 2000, more than 3 600 pubs have closed in Britain- last year, almost seven times as many pubs closed compared with the previous year.

Supermarkets are predicted to take over from pubs and other licensed venues as the biggest sellers of beer within the year, as they continue attracting customers with heavy cost cutting and using alcohol as a loss leader.

Sad to hear- we've always been fans of drinking in a pub and not at home, as it should be a social event, to be enjoyed by a group of friends.

Scores Not Through the Doors

Almost one in 20 national curriculum test papers taken by 14 year olds this summer has still not been marked, the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, has admitted.

Big of him to 'fess up, but what is he doing to get it sorted?

Crazy

An inmate refused to go to court because he feared losing his bed in his cell.

The 34 year old man had been due to appear at Exeter Magistrates’ Court to face burglary charges, but his lawyer, told the bench:

“He refuses to come out of his cell at the prison. If he leaves his cell he might lose his bed by the window.”

Bless.

What is more of concern though is that magistrates then adjourned the case until next week!

A court official said:

“There have been a number of incidents where prisoners have refused to leave their cells.”

AND? So bloody what? Conduct the trial in their absence and stop wasting time and pandering to their whims. What next, another no show if a packed lunch isn't provided?

Sign of the Times 2008



This has just won the competition run by The Times to find the funniest sign. For the rest, check here: TTimes

Checkout Soaps

This made us laugh the other day at the supermarket.

All cashiers, shelf stackers, counter staff and anyone else remotely near to the check outs, were glued to the large over head television that was showing a local soap. There must have been well over a dozen people watching the latest episode of Asian Eastenders...

R1 V R15


Click to Enlarge

Come on, who wouldn't love either one of these?

R15



Last night we saw an advert come up for Yamaha and it featured the R15.

We've lost touch with some of the newer models but I am a firm favourite of the R1 (photos of my old beast elsewhere in archives, or follow the link to our bikes in the Hall of Fame) and this looked intriguing.

A bit of research reveals that it is in fact a 150 cc (not 1000 cc as the R1 was) bike, being released in India and aimed at the Asian market, where smaller bikes are massively popular.

I'd just love to have a go, particularly as it's a featherweight 120kg...

WWII

Of the 437 feature-length films made about the Second World War, only 11 take place from an Axis* perspective.




*The Axis Powers were those nations opposed to the Allies during the Second World War. The three major Axis Powers, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan, referred to themselves as the "Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis".

At their zenith, the Axis Powers ruled empires that dominated large parts of Europe, Asia and the Pacific Ocean, but the Second World War ended with their total defeat. Like the Allies, membership of the Axis was fluid, and some nations entered and later left the Axis during the course of the war. These included Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia, Spain, Denmark, Finland and others.

Rounding the Day Off

Seeing as it was Friday we decided to keep things traditional and headed out for a couple of beers.

Another local bar ("Freebird") seems to attract a lot of ex-pats and though not quite to our liking, it does offer a happy "hour" from 17:00 to 19:00 and they do serve the best beer- Tiger. At $5.50 a jug (standard price) it becomes even better value during happy time and so we forsake traditional surroundings and company and settle for "cheap".

This was also our first visit to the bar on a Friday and it turned out that they have another discount scheme for "Lady's Night". Any drink ordered by females will get them the next one free and despite wifey having me in tow and that we were sharing jugs of beer, she still qualified for the BOGOF, thanks to the waitress pointing this out at the time.

We had a good night and were utterly surprised at how little the bar tab came to, particularly as we managed to sneak in a hefty pizza as a "snack" too. Top evening out and we'll be back soon.

Arriving Back at Our Room

We'd asked for our room to be made up during our absence for the first time since we moved in and it was a real treat to have fresh towels and bedding. Not that I've been using the sheets at all; since arriving in Asia I have simply been sleeping on top of the bed clothes as it is far more comfortable and far too warm to get entangled in sheets and whatnot.

The first thing we realised as we entered was how hot it was.

We always leave the curtains drawn to keep heat out, but since house keeping had been in, they had dutifully left all the curtains open. We have glazing on all exterior walls and the windows are particularly large (a patio door leads onto the balcony and the entire side is glass), which act like a green house.

For the first time our thermometer read thirty degrees centigrade!

Air con on full, ceiling fan on turbo and bask in the artificial coolness with a bottle of chilled water from the fridge. They always leave a couple of bottle of drinking water for you, free of charge here. Nice touch.

Haggling in PP

While it may seem rather tight haggling over the price of a tuk-tuk, don't be taken for a ride.

Always agree a price before setting off and then stick to it. Yesterday we arrived at the post office and I asked the driver how much, having forgotten my own sage advice.

He asked me how much I thought it was worth and so I said two dollars. He wanted three, but I stood firm and he finally relented. Two dollars is the going rate about town from our hotel and he was simply trying it on.

Hailing a tuk-tuk off the street is easy and they are abundant. Again, ask how much and then haggle if you choose. Our return trip was offered to us at $3.00 and I countered with the standard $2.00. He refused, I shrugged and started to walk off but immediately he called me back and the ride back was a couple of bucks.

As I said, it's up to you. On vacation an extra dollar here and there may not seem a lot to the tourist, but for us and our budget, every dollar counts and we have to keep reminding ourselves that we are not on holiday and this is our way of life.

Haggling is not such a done thing in Cambodia as it is in say, Thailand, but the practice does go on, particularly in the market places (such as the Central and Russian markets) and so if you want a fair price, be prepared to work for it.

Good Start to the Day

Which we followed up with a late lunch at our local restaurant, "The Tavern". It's fast becoming our favourite as it is utterly local, traditional, non-pretentious and the owners and staff are quite simply delightful, with beaming smiles and always a happy wave, whether we're going in our simply going past. The food is by far the best quality and value for money compared to the other rather POSH restuarants on the drag. We know 'cos we've tried them all and keep coming back to The Tavern.

Yesterday we had:
  • 2 x diet Cokes
  • 2 x orange juices
  • 1 x coffee
  • 2 x rice
  • 1 x mixed stir fry vegetable in oyster sauce
  • 1 x sweet and sour chicken (enough to feed two...)
  • 1 x sweet fish & coconut curry

All for $16.00...including tip. :-)

Whilst in the Neighbourhood


Just across from the park, we headed down to the river and had our first real close up of the Mekong.
It is the 11th-longest river in the world, and 7th longest in Asia, with an estimated length of 4 350 km (2 703 miles), and it drains an area of 795 000 km2 (307 000 sq mi).
From the Tibetan Plateau it runs through China's Yunnan province, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam- see picture above.
The river was originally named by the local Tai peoples as Mae Nam Khong meaning "Mother-River Khong"; Mae Khong for short, meaning "Mother Khong".
We had a gander and it didn't look like much. Calm, wide but extremely muddy, its colour taking after the rich red earth that surrounds the entire area. I was more impressed with the local kids swimming in the mud bath; I hope they've had their Tetanus jabs...

Aaahhh...


Click to Enlarge

Meanwhile, Back in the Jungle

The park, actually, but it's such a great song lyric...

As we made our way to the temple we were surrounded by locals, street hawkers, beggars, lush vegetation and...monkeys.

For us insulated Britishers who have perhaps seen the odd monkey in the zoo and cooed at pictures of man's nearest descendants in the local news, it comes as quite a surprise to witness them just sitting in front of you, sunning themselves as they try and calculate where they are going to find their next meal.

The park is quite literally full of them, bold as brass and more than comfortable to mix with anyone else daring to walk through their domain. But don't be fooled. Taken from Pocket Guide Cambodia:

They maybe our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom, but familiarity can also breed contempt and smash’n’grab raids.

John Cleese may do a wacky imitation of the macaque, but in the hairy flesh these often amusingly entertaining apes can be a bit of a menace. Enjoying a Sunday stroll through the park at the foot of Wat Phnom, you are snacking on some local treats while taking in the scenery. Then, appearing suddenly from nowhere, a troupe of macaques surrounds you.

Organised and calculating, they have practiced their smash’n’grab technique over the years and the ambush is sudden, successful and over in a split second. And don’t even think that your size works to your advantage. These guys are built to climb virtually anything, so as you attempt to hold your bag of peanuts out of the reach of grasping hands, think how much less challenging your leg is compared to a tree trunk. Also, the fruit this human tree is bearing comes picked, shelled and packed in a party bag ready to take away.

There are a lot of rumours surrounding these almost human creatures. Some claim the more mischievous macaques have picked up glue-sniffing habits from the street kids, occasionally even falling out of their trees as the chemical high kicks in after they inhale the potent contents of the stolen glue bags.

They also wreak havoc in nearby homes and businesses. Adrian Rowe of Monsoon bar and restaurant on Street 104 was forced to change his roof from tiles to corrugated iron after monkeys from Wat Phnom discovered how much fun it was to throw the tiles on to the road below. The chairs outside were once decorated with colourful cushions until they too were stolen by hairy hands.

Local families claim the monkeys often steal or damage laundry, sneak into their kitchens to steal food and take any loose items that are inadvertently left too close to a window. One Khmer teenager even warns female friends of the dangers of going up to Wat Phnom at night. She is adamant that under cover of darkness these evil little monkeys gang-rape women. So infamous have their activities become that late last year the authorities announced they would pay a $250 reward to anyone capturing the three macaque ringleaders.

Pich Socheata, the deputy district governor, told the press at the time that they “behaved like gang leaders” and were not afraid of human contact. They were scaring and even biting tourists, destroying phone lines and stealing property from houses and businesses in the neighbourhood. Police have tried several times to capture and remove some of the monkeys. In one attempt they fed them eggs laced with sleeping pills, but as the drug began to kick in so the smart ones climbed to branches high in the nearby trees and settled down for an undisturbed afternoon nap.

More recently things got a little out of hand when police shot dead a 20kg macaque that had attacked an old man during his morning jog and bitten an elderly lady on the head, hands and legs. A police spokesman said they decided to kill the monkey because it had bitten many people and was reportedly a “gangster”.

There are an estimated 200 macaques at the Phnom Penh site and over the years they have become a big draw for tourists, who enjoy interacting with these semi-tame and often entertaining animals. They are always fascinating to watch and as long as you hold on tight to your belongings and avoid a staring contest, which experts say can be construed as a threat, the macaques are fun to watch on a sunny afternoon.

On a precautionary note, though, they are unpredictable and can carry many human diseases such as hepatitis B and rabies. So if you find yourself in the middle of a stand-off between you and one of these gangster monkeys, it may be wise to hand over that can of Anchor you are carrying and head for a different hill.

Perhaps, but they are still as cute as buttons (hairy, big-teethed buttons naturally, but cute nonetheless).

Wat Phnom Temple





Click to Enlarge

And Just Around the Corner

From the not-so-dreaded post office, it wasn't far to Wat Phnom park and the famous temple, so we strolled over in the burning sun and had a look around.

With its hilltop location, it is hard to miss Wat Phnom, sitting 27 metres above the surrounding flatness of the Cambodian capital.

*Dating back to 1372, the original pagoda is a popular place for locals to come and pray for good fortune and also to try their luck at getting tourists to part with a few Riel. Accessible by a main central staircase that is guarded by statues of dragons and seven headed serpents (naga), it looks both daunting yet very impressive.

Not worth the dollar entrance fee when you reach the top, it was still nonetheless worth traipsing to the pinnacle just for the panoramic view. The temple was a bit disappointing, because despite interesting murals on the wooden walls and a large, central Golden Buddha with the scent of joss stick ever present, the main area was crammed solid with statuettes and gifts.

It looked more like a storage hall than a place of worship.

A few photos next...




*The hill and a small temple were reputedly built by Lady Penh in 1372 after she found a floating Koki tree in the river. Inside the tree were 4 Buddha statues and she built the temple in their honour. The current temple was rebuilt in 1926.

Where You Been Mister?

Feeling full of energy and non-throbbing limbs, we finally decided to tackle the immense problem of visiting the post office to get shot of our post cards that have been decorating the writing desk and making us feel guiltier by the day.

Cor, it went so smoothly that I thought I must have been dreaming.

A tuk-tuk ride at $2.00 and 10 odd minutes later we arrived at the capital's only post office and walked up the main steps into quite a grand old hall. Numerous counter positions stretched along the far wall with big, clear signs indicating which service they offered and there it was, "stamps" with only one person in front of us.

Surely it couldn't be this easy?

Whilst we waited we saw further posters with relevant information (and in English) advising us that post card stamps were 3 900 Riel (~50 cents {USD}) and that collection for mainland Europe was every Monday and Wednesday.

Having digested that, another counter position opened up ahead of us and we were beckoned over by a lovely lady with a beaming smile and a perfect "how can I help you?"

10 stamps later we'd stuck them on, shoved them through the letter box (again, the only place to post mail; we haven't seen any post boxes around town) and our mission was complete without even breaking sweat.

What a great start to the day. :0D

Friday, 29 August 2008

Taking Notes

More information has been recorded in the last 10 years than in the entire rest of human history.

Meanwhile, Back in Cambodia

A condom lubricant designed for sex workers and gay men has become a popular acne cure among female Cambodians, women in the capital have said.

Number One Plus, a water-based lubricant produced by health organisation Population Services International (PSI), is an excellent cure for acne, 29-year-old vendor Tep Kemyoeurn told news agencies.

"After I used it for three days, all of my acne dried up and went away," she said. "Many people believe in it," she added.

Khen Vanny, 29, from Phnom Penh, said women of all ages have taken to using the lubricant to get rid of spots.

"It is very effective. Some people don't believe in it but people who do really get a good result," she said, adding: "My youngest sister and my aunt use it too."

Another woman told Khmer-language Kampuchea Thmey newspaper that she had used many kinds of medicine to treat acne but none had worked.

"After that my friends, who work at garment factories in Phnom Penh, advised me to apply the lubricant from Number One Plus condoms on my face every night," she told the paper.

"And just within three to four nights, the acne on my face gradually and then totally disappeared," she added.

A vendor near a factory in the coastal city of Sihanoukville told the newspaper that she sold packets of Number One Plus lubricant for 500 riels (12 cents) to many women every day.
The paper urged experts to conduct research about the phenomenon.


PSI were not immediately available for comment on the apparent cosmetic benefits of their product.

I'm not sure how the discovery was initially made, but very pleased it's working for them. :0)

Setting a Trend?

Let's hope so.

The 67 year old singer, Neil Diamond, is to refund any of his fans who felt his show at show in Columbus, Ohio was not up to scratch. 11 000 people watched him perform but he struggled due to acute laryngitis and he apologies on his web site, offering them their money back if they felt disappointed.

Great gesture and perhaps something all performers should consider?

New Muppet Movie

Click to Enlarge

If the new film (where the old gang reunite to save their studio with one last variety show) is a success, it could also pave the way for a new TV series. Let's hope so.

It's All Getting Quite Silly

I'm certainly used to seeing security tags attached to high cost electrical items and luxury goods, but to supermarket meats?

However, it seems that rising food prices have put steaks, joints and chickens out of many people's price range and supermarkets have said that meat has become a big target for shoplifters over the last two months.

This is leaving them with no option but to tag the meat, something usually only done for items such as spirits, DVDs and razor blades (also vastly over priced as far as I am concerned).

Is it really becoming so bad? :0(

More on Education

English schoolchildren undergo a range of tests from the age of five to 18:

* Age five: Teachers assess children's all-round development against Early Years Foundation Stage profile
* Age seven: Key Stage One standard assessment tests assess pupils in the "Three Rs"
* Age 11: Key Stage Two sats tests pupils in English, Maths and Science.
* Age 14: Key Stage Three sats assesses pupils in core subjects for GCSEs.
* Age 16: GCSEs test pupils, typically in eight to 12 subjects.
* Age 17/18: AS and A Levels test pupils in three to six subjects.

They are among the most tested in the world.

And yet some seem to remain spectacularly thick. That can't be right, can it?

Perhaps here's why: TTel

Stroke Victims

Using a treadmill for forty minutes three times a week can help stroke victims to improve their mobility long after their attack, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore have suggested.

They have also said that scans found increased activity in brain areas associated with controlling gait and walking.

You just can't beat good, old fashioned exercise.

More here: TTel

Lost & Found

A platinum engagement ring was lost by its owner after she had left it on the bathroom window ledge. Despite searching thoroughly for the missing £5 000 diamond ring, it had vanished and its whereabouts remained a complete mystery.

The couple then put up their house for sale and whilst the fiancé tidied their garden, he found the ring again at the bottom of a magpie’s nest, three years later.

They have now insured the ring and are planning to get married soon.

Slowly, Slowly, Catchee Monkey

Teenagers could take their GCSE exams early and then have a year without examinations before starting "A" levels, under new reforms set out yesterday.

In the biggest shake-up of the qualification since it was introduced, it will make the GCSE structure more modular, where each unit will be assessed as soon as it is completed, and pupils only allowed one chance to retake any module they fail.

More details on this at and further revamps at: TTimes.

Basic "O" Level Biology

Or GCSE as it is now referred to.

The perfect fly swatting strategy, has now been "revealed" by scientists at the California Institute of Technology, who used high-resolution, high-speed imaging technology to examine how flies move to avoid impending threats.. They recommend that:

“It is best to aim a bit forward of the fly's starting position, to anticipate where it is going to jump when it first sees your swatter.”

I can't believe that they can claim this is a breakthrough as I was taught this tip in my Biology class nearly thirty years ago!

"Story" here at TTimes.

Going to Hospital Soon?

The number of deaths involving the hospital bug Clostridium difficile have more than doubled in two years in England and Wales, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

The Government has said that it wants to cut infections linked to the bacterial infection by a third by 2010-11, but data shows a year-on-year rise in the number of related deaths since 2001.

The Prime Minister ordered a high-profile “deep clean” of all NHS hospitals in England earlier this year in order to stop the spread of infections such as MRSA and C. difficile, but despite recent falls in the rate of both infections, C. difficile was mentioned on 8 324 death certificates last year compared with 6 480 in 2006- an increase of 28%.

A Q & A from TTimes on Clostridium difficile seems appropriate then:

What is Clostridium difficile and why is it so dangerous?

The large intestine of the average person contains as many as 1,500 types of bacteria, one of which is C. diff. It is of the family Clostridium, which includes the bacterium that cause tetanus, botulism and gas gangrene.
It is found naturally in the gut of up to 3 per cent of healthy adults and 66 per cent of children, where it rarely causes problems. People who carry C. diff without problems are said to have been “colonised” by the bacteria, but it can cause infections and illness when it is allowed to grow unchecked. More than 50,000 patients aged 65 and over developed a C. diff infection at NHS hospitals in England last year.


How does it make you sick?

Infection can cause no symptoms at all, or mild or severe diarrhoea, or, in some cases, severe inflammation of the bowel (colitis) which can be life-threatening. Typically this occurs when the normal, healthy intestinal bacteria have been killed off by antibiotics. When not held in check by the normal bacteria, C. diff multiplies in the intestine and produces two toxins (known as A and B) that damage the cells lining the intestine. The result is diarrhoea, and about one in ten cases of infection proves fatal.

Who gets C. diff infection?


Patients being treated with broad spectrum antibiotics (those that affect a wide range of bacteria, including those in the intestine) are at greatest risk of infection. Most of these will be elderly patients with serious underlying illnesses, whose immune systems may already be weakened with age. Others with conditions or treatments affecting their immune systems or those who have had repeated gut surgery are also at increased risk.
Most infections occur in hospitals, community hospitals or nursing homes but infections can also result from patients taking antibiotics at home.


Is this a recent problem? Why is it causing so many deaths now?

Although C. diff was first described in the 1930s, it was not identified as the cause of diarrhoea and colitis linked to antibiotic therapy until the late 1970s.
As the use of antibiotics has increased, so has the infection rate, but some of this can be accounted for by better reporting.
Since 1990, testing laboratories have reported the number of confirmed cases to the Health Protection Agency.
Reports increased from less than 1,000 a year in the early 1990s to 55,000 in 2006, dipping only slightly last year.
Since 2005, doctors have also been asked to record C. diff infection on death certificates, even if it was not the main cause of death.


Is it a drug-resistant “superbug”?

No. At present it can be treated relatively easily. But patients with diarrhoea can unintentionally spread the infection to others. The spores by which C. diff spreads are also very resilient, capable of surviving for long periods on surfaces, lavatory areas and medical equipment.
There is also evidence that some strains of C. diff have started to acquire resistance to several antibiotics in common use to treat infections.
This suggests that the bacterium is quickly evolving and could reach superbug status in the not-too-distant future.


What is type 027 and why is it causing concern?

More than a hundred types of C. diff have been identified. Type 027 was initially rare in Britain; the first case was identified in 1999 and the second in 2002. But it has proved to be a much more virulent strain than other types, responsible for outbreaks at Stoke Mandeville and the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospitals and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in recent years.
It produces much more of the toxins than most other types, because a mutation has knocked out the gene that normally restricts toxin production.
It also seems to be very capable of spreading between patients. This results in a greater proportion of severe disease and appears to have a higher mortality – in Maidstone, 1,100 patients became infected, with C. diff directly killing 90 patients and being regarded as a contributing factor in a further 246 deaths.
The same type has been responsible for severe disease in hospitals in Quebec, Canada, and the northeast of America since 2000.


Can we kill it with a “deep clean” of hospitals?

After the high-profile outbreaks, Gordon Brown ordered all 1,500 hospitals in England to be intensively scrubbed down and disinfected earlier this year.
But experts remain unconvinced about how effective it will be at reducing infections, pointing out that the effects of the deep clean would last only a few weeks.
Other recommended procedures include prudent prescribing of antibiotics, isolation of infected patients, use of chlorinated disinfectant and handwashing – using alcohol gel alone does not kill the C. diff spores.

But It's Not Just Average Houses

That are feeling the down turn in property prices. Have some gratuitous schadenfreude if you're not one of the minted crew as prices for properties worth between £1 million and £4 million have fallen sharply in recent months too.

Country homes worth between £1 million and £2 million fell in value by 5.2%, or £72 000, in the three months to June, with houses worth between £2 million and £4 million slipping by 3.2%, wiping nearly £100 000 off the price of a £3 million home. Prices of London homes worth between £1 million and £2 million dropped by more than 8%.

Apparently only prices of properties worth £4 million or more were holding up in the downturn.

More here: TTimes

And Credit Where it is Due

I'm sure we must have but just in case we haven't, the ticker tape messaging feature is provided by Widgetbox. Fine work fellahs, we're big fans.

New Look Ticker Tape Messages

We always get enquiries from people wanting to know where we are and what the weather is like, usually from lazy family who can't be arsed to go through the shite I post up here (understandable) and so we're standardising the ticker tape so people (and they know who they are) can tell at a glance exactly that.

However, to leave that churning around until we move on would be deathly boring, so there'll be updates to factuals, events and bonus news/AOB as and when appropriate to keep things a bit varied.

As previously, updates will result in a colour change to give an indication we've been tampering.

You ask, ktelontour respond. ;-)

Personal Progress

Right arm is back to normal and hardly knows it's received an injection. Left arm on the other hand [sic] is still slightly sore and it's been fun to lie on it to get some kip (favoured side). However, despite the accidental massage yesterday, it's definitely improving and coupled with no other side effects, I'd like to think all is now well and there'll be none of this keeling over and dying of the plague nonsense.

Wifey reports the same so the adventures continue.

Sadly the clean pate is now up to the grade one sandpaper stage and I awoke with head firmly velcroed to the pillow this morning. Business as usual then. :0)

Forgot to Mention

After having all facial and cranial hair removed at the barbers yesterday, he piled into a most severe yet exhilarating neck and shoulder massage, getting almost brutal. It was excellent- until he started on the upper arms, right where I had received my jabs the day before.

I'm not sure who was most "surprised"...

Simple Stuff Missing in Hotels

Like a "Do Not Disturb" sign. Some have them, some don't. Liberate one from the hotels that do and use it at hotels that don't. It's the only way to avoid tentative knocks at the door, timidly asking if house keeping can come in.

Add to that doors that do not have locks or chains that prevent external entry whilst the room is occupied and it becomes even more of a nuisance.

There's no need for this.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Grease is the Word

Eight teams completed a 2 500-mile car rally from London to Athens during the week in a bid to promote awareness of cheap and environmentally-friendly bio-fuels.

Their 10-day "race" across Europe saw them using only oil to fuel their cars which they obtained from restaurants, motorway cafes and fast-food joints along the way.

Unlike conventional rallies, one competitor paid just £500 British for his second-hand Peugeot 405 and spent nothing on fuel since leaving London, saving the equivalent of what he paid for the car.

Last year he drove to the desert town of Timbuktu in Mali using a truck powered by waste chocolate and his next scheme is a round-the-world trip next year using aviation fuel made from recycled plastic bags.

The competitors in the race included a policeman, several engineers, farmers, a film editor, and an accountant.

Must be a right laugh doing something like that.

Rare, Medium or Well Done?

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - The price of rat meat has quadrupled in Cambodia this year as inflation has put other meat beyond the reach of poor people, officials said on Wednesday.
With consumer price inflation at 37 percent according to the latest central bank estimate, demand has pushed a kilogram of rat meat up to around 5,000 riel ($1.28) from 1,200 riel last year.


Spicy field rat dishes with garlic thrown in have become particularly popular at a time when beef costs 20,000 riel a kg.

Officials said rats were fleeing to higher ground from flooded areas of the lower Mekong Delta, making it easier for villagers to catch them.

"Many children are happy making some money from selling the animals to the markets, but they keep some for their family," Ly Marong, an agriculture official, said by telephone from the Koh Thom district on the border with Vietnam.

"Not only are our poor eating it, but there is also demand from Vietnamese living on the border with us."

He estimated that Cambodia supplied more than a tonne of live rats a day to Vietnam.
Rats are also eaten widely in Thailand, while a state government in eastern India this month encouraged its people to eat rats in an effort to battle soaring food prices and save grain stocks.


($1 = 3,900 riel)

No, I haven't tried rat yet and I am not going to. :oD

And Still Property Plunges

Click to Enlarge


UK house prices have seen an annual double-digit fall for the first time since 1990, according to the latest survey from the Nationwide.

Prices were 10.5% lower in August than they were a year ago and values fell by 1.9% compared with July. The average home now costs £164 654, which is more than £19 000 cheaper than the average price one year ago.

More gloomy news here: BBC

More Worthless Predictions

Football results for the weekend will be as follows:

Arminia Bielefeld v Hamburg, 14:30 1-3
Walsall v Southend, 15:00 2-0
Arsenal v Newcastle, 17:30 2-1
Chelsea v Tottenham, 13:30 (Sunday) 4-0

I'm applying a new theory that I will just predict a defeat and if it comes up good, I was right and if it comes up bad, my team wins.

Except in the case of Tottenham where they will get crushed and stay at the foot of the league with nil wins from three games 'cos we super stink.

Wifey Treated Too

Whilst I was in the chair, wifey decided to get a manicure and a pedicure at the same place.

She was thoroughly spoilt and had to pay a modest $4 for the privilege.

Being Lazy

Yes, me. Shockingly lazy, if you can believe that, but I couldn't be bothered to shave today and so went to our local barber who was advertising shaves for a just dollar.

(Cue age old gag where blurk goes in and asks how much for a hair cut? A tenner is the reply, to which he enquires how much for a shave and is told it's a fiver. The punch line is that he asks to have his head shaved...boom boom.)

Which is exactly what I did; complete shave, head and all for the massive cost of three bucks.

It feels really weird to have a shaved skull as opposed to a number zero with the clippers, but at that price it was too good to resist and means I can continue with my lazy streak/less energetic mode for at least another fortnight.

Have to say though, that once again I am left disappointed at the closeness of a third party cut-throat shave. They never get as close as I can as they don't shave against the grain. Back to the Bics tomorrow for me then.

*sigh*

Dr Who?

Until the late 18th century, it was considered rude to wear a scarf in public.

I can't see why tastes have changed- you still look like a knob. :0)

There Ain't Arf Been Some Clever Bastards

Wrote the late and most certainly great Ian Dury. And he's right you know. Among the gems from this year's undergraduate exams we have:
  • an economics student at City University in London who attributed Northern Rock's downfall to the "laxative enforcement policies"
  • in literature, a student from Bath Spa University wrote of Margaret Atwood's book: "The Handmaid's Tale shows how patriarchy treats women as escape goats"
  • a University of Southampton student concerned by global warming wrote that: "Tackling climate change will require an unpresidented response"
  • a fellow undergraduate concerned by the threat of diseases, wrote: "Control of infectious diseases is very important in case an academic breaks out"

Students at St Helens College of Art and Design near Liverpool, who were asked to "outline the importance of the four Noble Truths to the Buddhist faith". Their response?

"Nirvana cannot be described because there are no words in existence for doing so. Not non-existence either, it is beyond the very ideas of existing and not existing."

Students at the same university were asked to outline the importance of the railway in 19th-century Britain. One wrote:

"The railways were invented to bring the Irish from Dublin to Liverpool where they were promptly arrested for being vagrants"

While another responded:

"The railways were invented to take the weight off the motorways."

A student at the University of the West of England in Bristol astonished his tutor by spelling the subject of one of his favourite topics wrong: "alchol" instead of "alcohol". Another wrote "whom" instead of "womb" in an anatomy paper, and one replaced the word "abdominal" with "abominous".

DIY Dibble

A couple who dialled 999 to report a burglary at their neighbour's house received a text message from police asking them to investigate it themselves.

Cambridgeshire Rozzers contacted the alarmed neighbours an hour after their emergency call to explain that it was too short-staffed to send anyone to the scene. The message read:

"Following on from your call earlier on to the police, please can you contact us if you are able to establish what has been stolen and where from? At this time we're struggling to get the police to attend general calls for service, many thanks."

if time were of the essence, why text and not call- it's far quicker to speak. Or were they too cowardly to talk to the people directly?

More here: TTel

Broken Record

When he took office last year, McBroon pledged a new sort of politics and sought to distance himself from BLiar, who was frequently accused of being too heavily involved in spin and presentation.

Official figures showed that central government spent a total of £391 million on advertising, marketing, PR and other presentational work in 2007- 2008. The total is up by £53 million on the previous year, when it was £338 million; a rise of almost 16%.

What a waste of money.

The Information Office's total spending has more than trebled since Labour came to power in 1997, with the latest figures show that the government spent £167 million on advertising, as well as £29 million on PR and sponsorship and £12 million on "strategic consultancy". The Central Office of Information co-ordinates government marketing, advertising and PR work.

Customer Diservices, How Can We Not Help?

From the BBC:

A man who chose "Lloyds is pants" as his telephone banking password said he found it had been changed by a member of staff to "no it's not".

Steve Jetley, from Shrewsbury, said he chose the password after falling out with Lloyds TSB over insurance that came free with an account.

He said he was then banned from changing it back or to another password of "Barclays is better".

The bank apologised and said the staff member no longer worked there.

Mr Jetley said he first realised his security password had been changed when a call centre staff member told him his code word did not match with the one on the computer.
"I thought it was actually quite a funny response," he said.

"But what really incensed me was when I was told I could not change it back to 'Lloyds is pants' because they said it was not appropriate.

"I asked if it was 'pants' they didn't like, and would 'Lloyds is rubbish' do? But they didn't think so.

"So I tried 'Barclays is better' and that didn't go down too well either.

"The rules seemed to change, and they told me it had to be one word, so I tried 'censorship', but they didn't like that, and then said it had to be no more than six letters long."

Mr Jetley said he was still trying to find a suitable password which met the conditions.
He said his dispute with the bank started over some travel insurance, but that issue had been dealt with by managers independently.

A statement released by the bank said: "We would like to apologise to Mr Jetley.

"It is very disappointing that he felt the need to express his upset with our service in this way. Customers can have any password they choose and it is not our policy to allow staff to change the password without the customer's permission.

"The member of staff involved no longer works for Lloyds TSB."


Nice story but it doesn't surprise me in the least.