Sunday, December 31, 2006

So long 2006

M'colleague doesn't sound to have enjoyed 2006 so much. I've had a ball.

I've had 4 jobs during the year, which is pretty unusual for a quadragenarian I'm sure. Oh yes and I turned 40 and moved house. Quite a lot of high-stress activities and the only damage seems to have been to my waistline. I even gave up biting my nails.

I started this blog to fill the dead time between the end of the Channel4 News and the unconsciousness on work-days away from home. Can't believe it's still going. Even if the readership has averaged just over 1.0 it's been worthwhile. Cheers to my world-weary ex-co-worker for keeping the posts rolling along.

Maybe I'll bore you (and make God laugh) with my hopes for 2007 later, but meanwhile I need to go cook chicken.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Year-End Payback

One item today reminded me of a posting I made last month.

Within the next few days, the UK will pay the final installment on the almost-interest-free loan that stopped my grandparents' generation from starving to death after World War 2.

The idea of solving a war with a big wad of cash seems more appealing than getting stuck in it yourself. In fact the US are masters of the art - Contras in Nicaragua, for example.

Maybe someone American could explain whether there's a law against that kind of things these days.

Not a perfect parallel I'd agree - the US hardly fought WW2 at arms-length. I'm not forgetting the 300,000 or so US soldiers who died in the same war. But contrast with the 25 million Soviets who died and proxy wars start to make some kind of sense.

Oh - and any Americans reading this - please pass on my thanks to your grandparents. And I hope you spend the repayment money on something useful.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I have mixed feelings about Saddam's imminent demise.

On the one hand, no-one can argue with a serious face that the man is a first class monster. His crimes against his own people are on a moral magnitude with Hitler's. His war-waging with Iran and the classic annexation of Kuwait were bordering on lunacy. So, we exterminate him, yes?

Well, do we? It has long been apparent that Iraq is not capable of healing itself. Does his execution quell his supporters? Simple answer: no. As with any despotic regime, there are the next generation of despots sat in little despot green-houses being fed and watered ready for the opportunity to become Head Despot, through fair means or foul -- usually the latter. His death or where he is killed will probably not be announced until the deed is done to avoid any further insurgency.

Incidentally, I love that the word insurgent is a universally embraced term for utter balmpots. Six years ago, only crossword buffs like Stan and I had ever heard that word. Now, it's bar-room de riguer in any political discussion. Funny how we don't have insurgents here, just terrorists. There's a subtlety in nomenclature that should not be ignored for those of us with a lexicalogical bent.

Back on topic, insurgents will continue to insurge whether the moonbat EU gets its stay of execution or indeed the sentence is commuted to life. Uncle Sam will argue it sends a message to those who would aspire to fill his shoes, just as he argues that state-sponsored execution is a deterrent to wouldbe murderers -- and we all know that is a load of fetid dingo's kidneys.

Somewhere in the middle lies the right thing to do. But I'll be buggered if I know where. I would hate to be in the shoes of the person who finally makes a decision on this, for they will be recorded in history whichever way they sway and will be damned by 50% of the future for certain.

Don't misunderstand the point I'm making here. If you go out and kill 5 girls in Ipswich, I have no trouble in frying your arse. This is a moral dilemma in context; it's not one man, it's a nation.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Absolutists United

The Polish Parliament would like to crown Jesus as the next King of Poland. A wonderful story that saves me commenting on Organised Religion and Monarchy in two separate posts.

I'm imagining the reactions of a few people :-

(a) A Polish businessman trying to sell the idea of Poland as a modern, approachable place to do business.

"Kurwa!! They're making us look like a bunch of extremists stuck in the 16th century !!"

(b) An Iranian politician

"Aiiiieeee !!! Why didn't we think of this first. Quick - let's make Mohammed (may his name be blessed) the Sheik of Iran !"

(c) A Jew in Warsaw

"Oy Vay ! Here we go again"

If I were a Christian (which I am not) I would probably take offense to Jesus being demoted from his position as Saviour of the World to being merely King of Poland.

If I were a Monarchist (which I am not) I would prefer a living, breathing human King/Queen who could veto Laws, greet foreign visitors and open bridges.

As a Republican and an Atheist I'm looking forward to seeing how this whole mess comes out.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stan's Army

Is there anything our government is any good at ?

Yesterday I described their inability to handle education. In the past I've described their inability to protect our armed forces. Here we go again ...

An Army Board of Inquiry into his death found that the pistol he tried to shoot the Iraqi with failed and he was shot by a comrade in a tank who was trying to protect him but did not know his high-powered machine gun was inaccurate at short range.

This is incompetence worthy of Frank Spencer. And then for want of £167 of body armour, this man died.

Here's what would happen in my army (should anyone give me one for Christmas perhaps):-

(1) Stan's army is never deployed unless we outnumber the opposition 10 to 1.

(2) All front-line troops get all the kit they want. If Stan can't afford it, Stan's army stays home.

(3) Stan's army is only ever deployed for a week at a time. Every deployment is reviewed every week. If there's insufficient gratitude for the work done by Stan's army, then Stan's army come home.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wisdom is painful

I've got problems with a Wisdom Tooth which seems to have grown through my jaw sideways before heading towards the soles of my feet.

It seems bizarre that over 20 years after puberty, my body still has some surprises in store.

The pain can be softened by eating state-of-the-art over-the-counter pharmaceuticals like sweeties, by swilling whisky and by reading articles like this .

It seems the government doesn't want to pay for education which is useful to a person if it isn't directly useful to the State. I find it hard to think of any better use of State money than using it to educate its citizens in something they want to learn.

Knowledge is good, adults learning is good. The State has no imagination if it thinks that there is no advantage to people spending evenings learning together rather than drinking alone.

As to the subject matter, a country of multi-lingual, computer-literate people who know their way round a car engine sounds pretty good to me.

"Education is the transmission of civilization." Now I dare you to tell me that that isn't the job of government.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Happy Birthday Flit - your present went to Kenya

For my friend Flit's birthday, I offset the carbon from the flight she and her partner are going to be taking to Israel.

Quite a 21st century thing to do, but Flit's not a material girl, and I thought the idea would tickle her.

I went with . They calculate that a return flight for two people from the UK to Israel produces 1.58 tonnes of CO2. A scary amount of gas indeed.

They have tree-planting schemes in various remote parts of England. But the scheme that caught my attention was the Kenyan lightbulb scheme.

Here the money is used to provide, free of charge, low energy light bulbs to the Masai Mara region of Kenya. The idea is over the lifetime of these bulbs, the saving in fossil fuels will match the amount needed to propel my friends to the Holy Land.

I'm not blogging this to bathe in a warm glow of green smugness. And the green colour scheme of the blog was never meant to be symbolic. I just found it amusing and relevant and probably something that will become an increasing part of life from now - like £10 Chinese fairy lights that don't work and suffocating anti-terrorism.

Although, anyone looking to buy me a pressie could do worse than offset some of the effect of the 20,000 miles I drove last year (5.2 tonnes of CO2.)

Happy Birthday, Flit, and Nesia Tovah to you both.

Friday, December 08, 2006

How to annoy a Kenny, lesson #1

Welcome to the first in the series of how to annoy Kenny. These gems will allow RFS readers (as opposed to RSS readers [groan - Ed]) to be forewarned when in the company of a Kenny. Kenny, used in this context is a generic Kenny and should in no way, shape or form be construed as being based on any real Kenny, past, present or future.

Kennys are not fond of open-plan offices where people are working on individual pieces of work. Kennys, however, are fond of them in a team environment -- for example, in support centers someone may overhear a problem and know the answer instantly rather than their colleague spending hours re-inventing the polygon.

So Kennys hate open-plan for serious work. What annoys a Kenny is someone else's phone calls at the next desk, their visitors from across the acreage of other desks, their cell phone ringtone, their extra loud headphones that they use to drown out the noise. Etc. You get the picture.

But there is one thing that makes a Kenny want to go postal in such an environment. That thing is more annoying than a tap dripping on your forehead every ten seconds for the rest of eternity. It is those people who work in such an environment yet have meetings at their desks but whisper so no-one knows what they are talking about. It must be very important, but Kennys are paranoid creatures. Kennys would prefer such subterfuge be conducted in a sealed, soundproofed room up in Senior PaperClipVille.

If in the vicinity of a Kenny, either remain silent or speak at a normal volume. Do not mutter, whisper or otherwise obfuscate your speech. RFS will not be liable for any failure to comply with the advice given above.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Divine Visit

Well, to paraphrase a good friend's verbage, I arrived at the paper clip factory this morning, bright and breezy and obtained a PC to use, moved it etc. I fired up all my usual internet windows (multiple IE windows as this PC is tied down for non-power users, read muppets, so I could not use Firefox). I had just finished this mammoth task when three unknown persons approached the desk where M and I were organizing ourselves for a meeting later this morning.

"We have this area reserved for us. We are [insert awesome pause here] auditors."

I, of course, gasped in a rarefied fit of revery. I dropped to my knees, unplugged everything and moved it away, leaving all the power strips, hubs and network cables for our Godly guests.

We did a bit of rejigging which involved fumbling around under desks and we are now operational again. I am compelled to drop to my knees (on my bare knees I might add -- I managed to rip my jeans in the hurry to vacate the Holy desks of A) and worship in that direction at least five times a day. In fact, if they so wish, they can sacrifice my wife to the God of Governance.

I have counted the paper clips for them. I have two that I carry around in my computer bag. Oh, and a couple of power cables...job done. They can float home now on whatever cloud they arrived on, presumably evicting low-lifes as they go.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

15 tons of ice from Grimsby

As Kenny so rightly hinted - I'm pretty busy at the moment. I'm trying to do my usual job using unfamiliar technology. Similar to an English stand-up comedian deciding to do his routines in French for a while. Oo la la. Lots of reading and looking like a twit until I get the hang of it. Apologies to all affected.

I saw this scary sign of climate change - and wondered whether the phrase "15 tons of ice from Grimsby" came from an early Radiohead song.

P.S - Radio Stan has now been visited over 1,000 times. Sounds impressive, but 500 of them were me posting stuff and the other 500 were me checking whether anyone was reading it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Interesting factoid

Stan is currently holed up under a pile of work. So piled up that he hasn't even been buying the Grauniad for crosswordly goodness. He has had to settle for my pleas for assistance via text message. So I feel duty bound to educate the masses (I use the term freely) of loyal readers that he has.

As I sat doing the Torygraph crossword with my Leeds crossword posse (membership: me and F), F informed me of the reason the British National Party and the National Front parted ways. I thought I would share this little gem with y'all as it's way too serious for my site.

Apparently, the problem stems from the IRA of all things. The National Front supported the IRA on the grounds that they were a nationalist organization. What became the BNP did not support the IRA on the grounds that they were anti-British. So a conflict of ideals or a philosophical difference, if you will, separated the two factions. The National Front became a more cerebral and intellectual organization (albeit fascist madmen) and as a consequence, the thug element was alienated and departed for pastures new. The BNP continue to plod along with their miserable ideals.

I bet Stan knew that. I didn't, but I have the excuse that when all this happened I was living in the Good Old US of A and so was comfortably shielded by the US media's security blanket that ensures no furrin' news is ever aired on a US channel.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Update on Kenny and the giant beanstalk dilemma

I notice that Stan asked for an update on my little dilemma-let, or rather the poor lady in question. I have only spoken to her a couple of times since the incident, but things are not too shiny in her world. Since the incident in question, the violence has been less physical and more mental. The chap hid her mobile phone in the garage, stopped all money (he insists that she have her wages paid into his account and is the sole card-holder for the account) and has generally been a control-freak.

The phone disappeared just after the police did a follow-up call and the social services had been around to interview the children. It reappeared last weekend, which is why I know of all this.

She has packed and unpacked several times. He has threatened to move back to his hometown. They, between them, have decided that they will tolerate this mutual pathos until Christmas is over and then address the problems head on, with a view to either ironing out the creases or going their different ways.

Having been through a divorce myself, I would hate to go through one again. I'm glad I did it though; any other path would have led to madness, and I would never have been able to marry the brightest, prettiest and most incredibly vibrant lady in the world. Shame she's 4000 miles away in Arsesville IL.

Anyway, the upshot is that relations are strained and my friend's time is spent avoiding her spouse or plotting how to avoid her spouse. I'm glad I have never met the chap in question and am unlikely to since he is now aware that it was I that called the fuzz in the first place.

Update to update: I received a frantic text at 6:30 this morning saying that she doesn't think she can make it until Christmas. I have agreed to meet her tonight for a chat. You can call me Aunt, that would be Agony Aunt or Mr Aunt to you.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Why I read Pynchon

I recently bought a copy of Thomas Pynchon's 1083 page "Against the Day". Since he only writes a novel every decade or so, it's something of an event.

Pynchon is one of those writers that you either get or you totally fail to get. I read "Gravity's Rainbow" and "V" and "The Crying of Lot 49" at University, so I guess I was at an impressionable age. It could have been "Catcher in The Rye" or "Ulysees" or "Catch 22". Well, for me it was all of these.

He specialises in writing dense multi-dimensional stories set in paranoid, irrational worlds. Very like real life in fact. The plots tends to be secondary to big ideas, long words, strange page-long lists. The journey is more important than the destination.

So far so good - I'm 5 pages in and enjoying the idea of a dog that reads Henry James and knows which side of an airship to pee from (don't ask).

Warning : I may become almost impossible to understand for the next few weeks. I'm already looking for an opportunity to use the word "absquatulated" in a sentence. Ooo I just did ...

My favourite piece of Pynchon is a description of his desk as being covered in "bureaucratic smegma". Well worth checking it in the dictionary if it doesn't immediately make you laugh.

A failure, that's me, that is

Am I the only person in the history of the universe to have failed to install Ubuntu on my laptop?

I spent Friday evening watching my PC systematically hang during installation. It's not like there are any choices for me to mess up.

Admittedly, it was v 6.10. I am currently downloading the 6.0.6 Dapper Drake (allegedly stable) version. I have a small inkling as to what the problem might have been. Should the energy be available, another attempt will be made this evening.

PS -- Well done Bolton. A better weekend of footie could not have been envisaged, other than Utd beating Chelsea.

PPS -- Stan got battered by Auraucaria on Saturday. I, of course, battered the Telegraph and the Times until they were weeping into their tea.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What's that coming over the hill - is it Anelka ?

Bolton Wanderers versus Arsenal. Saturday in late November 17:15.

I almost didn't go. Didn't really appeal - the idea of driving 30 miles to sit around a field in the freezing cold to watch Bolton try to stifle Arsenal.

But I have a season ticket and it would have been a shocking waste not to go, and Mrs Stan and Stanetta had planned some girl-time at home. And the pies at the Reebok are excellent ...

And it was a classic game. Flawed, brutal, skillful, passionate. And the pies really were good.

Bolton's Kevin Davies should have been sent off for pushing Eboue for having the nerve to complain about being half-tackled, half-assaulted previously. It wasn't just a push. It was the biggest push I have ever seen on a football field. Everyone in the ground - Bolton fans and staff included thought he should have been sent off. The referee disagreed and just booked him.

Theo Walcott, the Arsenal teenager showed outrageous other-worldly pace. He is going to be outrageously good real soon.

But the real highlight of the night was Nicholas Anelka. He has underperformed since expensively arriving in Lancashire to say the least, and the pressure must really have been getting to him. But that night he played like a god. His first goal was awesome. All alone up-front, boxed in on the left wing, takes the ball a few steps to his right and puts it in the roof of the net from 25 yards with pace and enormous bend. Short pause for the Bolton fans' chins to hit the floor and then utter bedlam.

From that point on, the stadium was jumping. For the first time in ages there was an atmosphere in the big unlovable place and I haven't enjoyed football this much in years.

Next game : home to Chelsea on Wednesday night. Bring it on !

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Why, oh why, oh why?

This has been rattling my cage for quite a while now. Do you see anything wrong with this map? I see plenty.

The reason this sprang to mind is that not too long ago, plans were approved to extend the Metrolink in the East to Oldham.

You will note that the Metro services the affluent Southern areas of Manchester such as Altrincham. It also heads North towards Oldham.

Okay. We now have covered a substantial part of the Northwest, to wit: North, South and East (upon Oldham completion). Which compass point are we missing? Yes, West. The current Metro system extends as far East as, yes, you really did see it, Eccles. There are no plans to go any further West.

I could understand it if there were good reasons not to extend it, other than the obvious "Keep out the scousers". In reality, a service West could take in Wigan, St Helens and all places in between. It would radically reduce the congestion on the East Lancs (A580) and the M60. Currently the train and bus services from central Manchester have service levels that are roughly equivalent to a pack llama arriving on the third Sunday of every month, as long as it isn't raining.

To give you some idea as to how fundamentally pants the service levels are, it takes me 55 minutes to travel from Leeds to Manchester (45 miles). It then takes me 2 hours to travel the remaining 10 miles home. A Metrolink to Wigan would cut that last ten miles by at least half.

I think I'm going to hop on the good foot and do the bad thing over on their website and question the logic behind not even proposing an extension West.

Join with me in my jihad on Metrolink.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Stan goes Moonbat

At the risk of being branded a "Moonbat" by my learned friend, His Kennyness, I do think we should stop The War on Terror.

I'm not saying we should Hug-a-Mullah and we should definitely take steps to stop the keys to Air Traffic Control at Heathrow falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda.

But an accelerating climate of heavy-handed government with no end in sight is unacceptable.

Here's an idea.

* Pull the troops out of Iraq by the end of next year
* Triple the Foreign Office budget
* Quadruple our Overseas Aid budget

I'd rather make friends than shoot enemies. I'd rather spend my money on a War on Poverty than one on Terrorism.

Our troops in Iraq have tried to do an impossible job and have failed. Time to pull them out and give some Iraqis the resources they need to run their own country.

I'm not advocating a blank cheque. If they show any signs of misusing the money it stops and gets channeled elsewhere.

It's going to cost money, but the current fiasco is far from cheap and is delivering zero value.

Anyway - the new Thomas Pynchon book is out soon - I'm relying on him to have something to say about this

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lowering the tone a little

After Stan's altercation with religious gubbins, I'm not sure whether I'm lowering the tone or raising by bringing up the subject of our little war on Islam terror.

A few days ago, I was chatting with a few colleagues about what would happen if this man had gone undetected and achieved the unimaginable. Had he managed to puncture the tube line under the Thames, all hell would have been let loose. We rather (too) casually asked the question, how you would fix a problem like that and, even more casually, answered that it certainly couldn't be done with polyfilla/spackle and a bit of duct tape.

It came as quite a shock then, when as I sat down to watch the best British drama there is at the moment, [spooks], and the premise of the plot was that a bunch of environmental despots had rigged explosives under the Thames barrier (just before the highest tide for 7 years), that which keeps London from not being afloat or sunk (whichever way you care to look at it). Their demands were that the government should make public a document called Aftermath, essentially a manifesto for exploiting climate change, war and thus profiteering from what they regarded as the inevitable. Anyway, I digress.

[spooks] is fairly well researched from a military intelligence point of view and the repercussions of the Thames barrier being breached in such a fashion are immense. The figure used in the show was 1.5 million people being at risk from drowning. Even if we take that figure as being an order of magnitude too large, the numbers are daunting.

If Mr Barot (not to be confused with Borat) had succeeded with his little enterprise, we could have been looking at even more mass devastation than 9/11.

It is a popular misconception within the Moonbat community that if we stop taunting these poor oppressed mullahs (sic), they will leave us alone. Wrong. As long as Israel continues its illegal actions, we will be targetted as allies. In a week where the UK has actually started to take more of a lead in the war on terror (while DC dries its eyes after dear, dear Donny's departure and a pumelling second to none in the mid-terms), we have also started jabbing at the ribs of Israel for the desecration (by tank) of British graves. A small step in applying a ruler to the palm of Israel, maybe, but a necessary one. Israel has a right to defend itself, but as I predicted, the UN resolution that stipulates that, whilst calling for a complete Hamas ceasfire, is open to abuse; and indeed it is being abused. Pre-emptive strikes could be construed as subverting an attack. All very one sided methinks.

The upshot of all of this is that Moonbats will continue to wail and moan that we should stop the war on terror. The fact is that we cannot. The quite literally diabolical ideas that these fanatics have cannot be underestimated. Each one seems more insiduous than the last and I have to wonder what else they have conceived because, quite frankly, apart from hiring a Vogon ship to come and zap the whole place into oblivion, I cannot imagine what else they can come up. And I probably don't want to.

Here endeth (prematurely due to a phone call interruption) the Torygraph reader's little worry.

Christian Girl and Atheist Dad

So this little Christian girl said to her Atheist dad, while her Christian mum was out of the house :

"What's the point doing Maths homework; Jesus could come back tomorrow"

Atheist Dad's brain turned to mince. It churned slowly through the following possible answers :-

(1) "Don't be daft - there's no such thing as Jesus - and even if there were, he's never coming back"

-- Not nice to belittle anyone's faith; not least the faith of his little princess. Also it's not a provable statement - just a belief of Atheist Dad's.

(2) Use the Bible back at her

-- His knowledge of scripture isn't up to scratch - and little Christian girl knows it pretty well. And anyway he doesn't believe that book can be used to prove anything.

(3) Victorian father : "Because I am your Father, and you will obey my commands ! For I am wise in the way of the world, and you are but an infant."

-- Puh-leez !

(4) Sit there with mouth hanging open and mind doing loop-the-loops

He opted for option 4.

When Christian mum came back, she compiled half a dozen decent quotations where the Bible is down on laziness, lack of pride in your work etc.

It figures : the stereotype of Jewish children being pushed so hard to study must have had some basis in the Old Testament. Most people I know who are serious about their religion also take immense pride in their non-religious work.

Christian Girl was obviously just trying to wind up her dad, which is natural and BOY did she ever succeed.

Any advice gratefully received !

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Like a white rag to a bull

Funny how it is that for this left-winger it is the the antics of other left wingers that is more likely to raise the blood-pressure than anything the other side can produce.

Today's example is Ekklesia, a progressive Christian group who seem to have a problem with our annual Poppy appeal.

Like most successful campaigns it's simple - every year we give money, some wear a poppy, some go to church, but mostly a bunch of money is raised to support people who were damaged protecting the freedom we're currently taking for granted.

Now this Ekklesia bunch want to get into the old, tired argument that the poppy should be white and not red.

As an atheist I'll not take a swing at their quote that the white poppy is "more Christian", but I know Mrs. Stan will probably have something to say on that.

The head of Ekklesia is Jonathan Bartley, who is an endangered species - an outspoken Christian who is anti-gay-bashing and anti-Christian-Jihad when it comes to "Jerry Springer, The Opera". The man is a national treasure, but today he didn't have a good day with me. I hope today was just an opportunist piece of shameless publicity and that tomorrow Mr Bartley will go back to fighting the intolerance and chauvinism in his church, which is where he is needed.

Repeat after me - the colour doesn't matter. The Poppy appeal does very little harm and an enormous amount of good - both in raising money and in the annual remembrance.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Kenny and the giant beanstalk dilemma

I had considered posting this chez-moi but decided that it was a bit too serious, and I have spent a lot of my little acre of cyberspace being morose for a while, so I thought I would keep in the tone of being a serious individual rather than the iconic madman that I so often adopt the personna of.

I had a pretty serious ethical dilemma on Sunday. My good friend B texted me around lunch time to inform me that her husband had given her a pretty good kicking in front of the kids. I texted her back and got no reply. I waited 15 minutes and then tried to call. Voice-mail. I called her friend J and asked whether she had had no contact at all. Eventually, about another 10 minutes later, the phone rang and I could hear palpable fear. I suggested she call the police. She was too scared to countenance the idea.

I sat gnawing on the problem for around 10 minutes, wondering what to do for the best. Do you come between man and wife? Do you exercise some compassion in aid of the greater good? Do you go around and ensure that the guy in question knows that his cards are marked by a fairly large group of guys who are quite happy to deposit him at the bottom of a lake should he ever do that again?

I didn't know what to do. Da Missus and I had our moments, like all couples do. The difference here is that Da Missus wasn't averse to a bit of physical herself. We gave as good as we got and, where possible, the kids were not around. B is about 5 foot nothing and weighs less than a Mars Bar. Her husband is a 6 foot three ex-soldier who is built like your proverbial one.

After straining my addled brain for another 10 minutes, I took the view that I could not ignore the fact that this guy could well seriously injure her, if not kill her. I called the police. They went and arrested him. He was released later with a caution and her and her kids ended up in my bed while I suffered on a sofa knowing full well I needed to be up at 05:30. The ramifications of my actions worry me greatly. Have I caused a divorce? Is it likely to escalate now? Will it have taught the chap in question a lesson?

I would imagine that he is a combination of humiliated (being arrested in front of his neighbors), annoyed that he had to walk 8 miles home when released and relieved that he is not now sat at Her Majesty's pleasure.

The violence is not unprecedented so I think I feel vindicated. Opinions welcome.

In the meantime, if I can keep my eyes open when I get home, I may try to perform some bloggage on my realm. Perhaps something a little lighter?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Quick Saddam observation

Yes, we have convicted Saddam. Well done all.

In the interest of bringing civilization to the Wild East, we agree to allow them to execute him by hanging; a practice disbanded by the UK over 40 years ago for its brutality. Of course the US still has the death sentence. What kind of signal does it send to the rest of the world?

As much as I believe he should be put through the ringer prior to his well-deserved demise, I'm not sure that hanging him is the right decision. How many problems does it solve? And how many does it create?

Just a quick gut reaction there. Maybe more after my second gallon of tea and another twenty smokes.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Outsmarted by a Dead Bloke

Bunthorne is a name that will mean nothing unless you're big on Gilbert and Sullivan or have a serious three-a-day crossword habit.

A Bunthorne crossword is a work or art. The references are twice as esoteric as usual and the language dense and poetic.

For example :
"Well done, the solver ! That was Erin's stout assertion! (4,3,3)"
Could have been part of a poem by WB Yates.

So you launch into a few dozen streams of thought that lead to dead-ends before hitting on the idea that Erin is another name for Ireland and "stout" refers to the beer and not the body-shape. And then you remember that Guinness was advertised as being "Good For You". Hard to describe the strange connection you feel with the clue-writer after he's led you on a journey like that.

The reason I mention this here is that Bunthorne's final puzzle appeared in today's Guardian. And although he died in August, he beat me again. Rest in Peace, mate.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Halloween U-turn

A few days ago, I bemoaned (in a joyless whining kind of way) the fact that Americans spend $60m a year at Halloween on their pets.

Having seen the photos (thanks Guy L.), I've changed my mind

Next year I might consider renting a dog just for Halloween.

Sorry, America !

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Phone or super-computer

Stan and I are both geeks of an order of magnitude normally associated with nerds. We do not fall into the nerd category though. I have no interest in science fiction ergo non-nerd and Stan is a world authority on musicals (empirically proven by the pub quiz in St Albans). Yes, I have questioned his sexuality.

The reason I write the above is that I am currently in a state of immense excitement. A few days ago I received a call from my mobile phone provider informing me that I was due an upgrade to my handset. This is particularly fortuitous in that I had nearly bought one at the weekend. The one that I have is the mobile phone company branded one. It runs Microsoft's CE OS and I loathe it with a passion. My Linux box used to boot in approximately a quarter of the time it takes me to "boot" my phone. In my world, you boot PCs not phones. You switch on phones like you do lights.

The handset that I have at the moment performs more operations than I need by a nautical mile. I hate it with a passion. Thirty years ago, you would have needed a large room to house the power that I carry around in my pocket. Thanks to the advent of 0201 and 0101 passives, I have the equivalent of NASA's 1960s computer power and it fits in the palm of my hand. Progress is unrelenting.

I used to work in the electronic manufacturing business, first in Europe, then in the US, then in Asia and spent about 8 years walking around the various plants that make the phones. I can say without a shadow of a doubt, Nokia were by far the most impressive. Back in the day when Motorola used to make their own phones, I was surprised any of them ever worked. They were so focussed on statistics that they forgot about the primary aim; make the damned thing work. Walking down the Motorola lines, there were machines for as far as the eye could see, hammering down passives, ICs, SOICs, BGAs and RF shields by the thousands. A phone every 20 seconds. It all looked very impressive until you got to the end of the line, where armies of drone workers sat with ICT equipment and soldering irons. That is the face of Moto that you never get to see.

I digress.

Anyway, as I sit here typing, waiting for my new Nokia (read Cray) to arrive, I'm like a kid the night before Christmas, just waiting to get the bugger in my hands. At last, a phone I actually want to own!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween - the really scary bit

3 million Americans will buy Halloween costumes for their pets this year at an average cost of $17.

Just when you're determined to post a frivolous story to counteract the serious stuff about Kianoosh Sanjari, the Guardian comes up with another shock that near made me spray my coffee and panini across Mrs Stan.

I'm not going to drift into anti-American auto-rant - we Brits are probably five years behind the same curve. But for heavens sakes, is there not something better we can do with Mother Earth's precious bounty than make it into edible rawhide Halloween cards ?

Maybe I'm having a sense-of-humour failure here. Surely people can spend their money how they want ? (typed with gritted teeth).

It's just that reading that fact in the paper this morning chilled my blood and made the hairs stand-up more than any Slasher movie. I have an image in mind of what good $60m a year could accomplish.

I'm definitely going to stick to the Sports pages, the Crossword and the TV guide in future when I'm having breakfast.

Stan and Kenny

It may come as no surprise to you that my name is not Kenny and Stan's name is not Stan. I bring this up as a corollary to Stan's post on the Iranian blogger Kianoosh Sanjari.

Back in 2000 I bought myself a domain with my own name in it. I had no intentions of starting blogging; it just happened. I started a journal with a monthly update primarily to serve as a summary of life for my estranged daughter in England, for when she was old enough to comprehend what had actually happened during the turbulent few months that led to her mother and I parting company. Unfortunately, I was spending a lot of time traveling at the time so had hours of tedium in hotel rooms across Europe, the US and Asia, so blogging became a way of spending some time doing something vaguely constructive. I look at it as a kind of diary, a medium to rip the mick and a method of reminding myself of my state of mind at any given time. As a reader, you won't necessarily pick up on the "tells" but as me, I do.

The problem came when I had my blog referenced in a meeting at work. If you googled my real name, I came up top of the list and there was my soul for all to see. A very uncomfortable position to be in.

At that point I moved domains, erased any references to my real name and my wife's name and banned search engines. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. A couple of my friends, Stan and R know where my blog is and who I am but I had hoped my craftiness had been sufficient to keep prying eyes away from it. Not so. Not a few weeks ago, again my blog was cited in a meeting at work. Even after all my efforts to conceal my real identity.

We tread a fine line as bloggers. I try not to say anything specific about work because that is not what my blog is about at all. If I wanted to do that, I'd go into PR and do it properly. I quite like my job although I do worry about how well suited I am to it, which just adds to the stress of a sub-optimal existence with few constants. The ever-present precedent of Dooce in the home of the free and the land of the brave is a constant reminder that free is a subjective term.

That said, I have not been invited to spend time at Her Majesty's pleasure for lampooning the donkey Michael Owen or criticizing our government, monarchy or press. The fact is though that free speech is relative. We may be permitted to speak freely, but it's a permission that stretches only as far as acceptable norms go. What I write on my blog does not affect my work. I rarely, if ever visit that site while I am at work (bar the occasional lunchtime rant when something in the world is ticking me off or amusing me).

To be hiked off by the powers that be for documenting your life and observations is intolerable and I hope you will all join me in emailing the list of people Stan has and demanding to know whether this blameless blogger is in good health and being treated with the dignity he deserves.

Being slightly to the right of Stan politically, I am outraged by regimes that operate such overt oppression. When George W President gave his Axis of Evil speech, I lifted my meagre frame from my recliner and clapped. It may be a long and unpalletable battle, but for the sake of future generations, we cannot allow such tyranny to persist in the modern age. Not four hundred years ago, our countries were operating along those lines. Thankfully, the weight of common sense corrected our values. All we can hope is that the weight of the biggots' common sense kicks in.

And that Mr Sanjari is released as soon as possible.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Blogger in Trouble

A friend of mine has got himself into a bit of trouble. Kianoosh Sanjari was blogging the clashes between security forces and supporters of a Shi'a cleric when he got lifted and carted off.

He hasn't been charged with any violent crime - or indeed charged with anything. In a slightly less intense country, he'd probably be blogging novelty socks and daft TV programmes like me.

His most likely current location is in the notorious Section 209 of Evin Prison in Iran. I would normally describe a person as "languishing" in prison, but by all accounts this would be quite the wrong word to describe the Section 209 experience.

I've written to a few high-powered Iranian leaders asking after him. If anyone else can suggest anything to help this guy, I'd be very grateful.

Something less hopeless and depressing next time, I promise....

Sent the following to (Iranian President), (Iranian Ministery of Information), (Iranian Embassy in London), (Iranian Prime Minister)

Your Excellency,

I am writing to enquire about the famous Blogger, Kianoosh Sanjari, who was until recently reporting on events in your country.

There has been no word from him recently, and many of his friends are now worried.

I'm not looking for anything complicated, I just want to make sure he is in good health. I would also like to pass on a message that his friends would like to hear from him as soon as possible.

I would be very grateful if you could use your influence to make sure this message gets to him.

With Best Wishes,

Stan Gamla,

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sock shock

In any rundown of the reasons for problems in the National Health Service, "clueless management" has got to be in anyone's Top 10.

If any proof be required, step forward Lynn Wissett, director of clinical care at the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Ms Wissett has chosen to devote a worrying percentage of her energies to banning Doctors, Nurses and Health Visitors in Blackburn and Burnley from wearing novelty socks. She is probably now spending most of her time doing interviews with amused and puzzled journalists worldwide, who want to know if she is for real.

I own a fair few novelty socks - presents from my Stan-etta and Mrs Stan. They cheer me up on bad days and don't affect my work performance as far as I'm aware.

If Ms Wissett were wearing novelty socks, my opinion of her would be unchanged. Personally I'd prefer a skilled NHS administrator in a clown suit to a clueless one in a trouser suit.

This tax-payer says focus on what is important and don't sweat the details.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Veiled threats

I know I'm a bit late into the game on this one but forgive me, for I have been sick as a butchers dog with e-coli and trychonosis. Might as well throw in some mad cow (no, I'm not talking about my ex-wife) and bird flu for good measure. Oooh, and SARs. Yup, I have been unwell. Actually I still am. Ne'er the less, my brain functioneth. My body not.

Anyway, to the point.

The recent comments that the wearing of veils dividing the community got me a little stressed in looking at the response from the veil-wearing brigade. I looked at the "human rights" argument and freedom of expression, and then I remembered the young lady from BA who was chastised for having a small cross on a necklace that she wore while working. Head-scarfs for Muslims are fine, but a small cross is not. And this is me speaking as a devoted and passionate atheist.

Once more, the nanny state panders to the minorities: pet hate of mine. For example, in my local council office which is in Manchester, there is some sign or other. Underneath the English is a Welsh translation. Underneath the Welsh translation is a phone number to call if you are partially sighted (???WTF???) and underneath that there is the equivalent message in Welsh (yes, I do read some) saying the same thing. So let me get this straight. On every board across the whole of the GM area, we are catering for partially sighted Welsh people? In England. The mind boggles.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for looking after minority groups but really, do we need to be so anal? The 80/20 rule exists for a reason. In the case of minorities I would apply a six sigma rule. Outside of that, it goes from the statistically viable (if not economically) to the utterly daft.

In the immortal cliche, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. We have three choices, and I know this will rile Stan no end: (i) total freedom to worship whatever we want whenever, (ii) a compromise whereby all faiths are treated equally or (iii) ban everything religious. (i) is a dangerous precedent, (ii) seems reasonable, (iii) seems pinko commie.

As with everything in life, nothing is absolute and a compromise is always the way to go. Stan thinks I am right of the parrot on Maggie's shoulder. Not so. Common sense may be an oxymoron but it is the future.

Veils be damned. Turbans, fine. Scarfs fine. Buddhist tattoos fine. Crosses on necklaces, fine. Whatever the Sikh dot thingumy is, fine. But when you detach yourself from a vital means of communication, you cross the line. When I was a kid, a woman with just her eyes peering out of a slit of cloth would have made me literally sh*t my pants. You have to remember how kids look at the world. I would never have noticed a necklace because it's so surrepticious and inoccuous. A veil is in your face (pun intended).

The problem that we are facing is that we think that the issue is in the here and now and it isn't.
In order to stabilize, we need to see the future and a fully integrated culture. Us Westerner native types have to give (and have, ref national dish = curry) and the Asian immigrants need to understand our Western values and what we think is tolerable. We were still a democracy last time I looked. I think the outcry over the veils and the amount of support that statement got shows an aversion to veils. Live by the will. If you don't like it, go somewhere that does. You have your right to your religion and dress sense, but don't insult us by saying you wear these things by choice.

I don't want to M-bash, but "what kind of God can this be anyway, when you have to prostrate to Him five times a day. With hate in your heart and a gun in your hand, His way the only way to understand. Underneath the black cloud of I*lam." Ten points for anyone who can name the song.

Wow. I really went off on one there. Soz.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Foam update

If you remember I was somewhat perturbed that some pencil-necked bureaucrat had neglected to fit fire-retardant foam to the British Hercules fleet, coming under increasingly sustained attack in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I wrote to my local MP, George Osborne and I now have a reply.

Thank you for your email of 19th September about British forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I am proud of the role that UK troops have played in Afghanistan since 2001. A stable, democratic Afghanistan is vital to our national interest and for the future of NATO.

British troops must be adequately equipped to fulfill the missions that the Government ask them to carry out. I am concerned that British troops might not have all the necessary back-up they need in order to complete their mission safely. The MOD has a duty to ensure that our troops are adequately protected.

My colleague, the Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox MP, has asked the Government detailed questions to ensure that British troops will be able to fulfill the tasks required of them.

Now that we are in Afghanistan it is vital that we complete our mission successfully.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me,

Best Wishes,

George Osborne MP

Can't argue with a word of that, but I probably haven't influenced the situation either way. Probably too much to hope that one email would make a difference. But there again, if we all sent one email to our MPs when something irked us, the message might get through.

Big thank you to George Osborne MP for replying. I will now be trying Ozzie Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne and John Osborne to see if they can help me out.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Goldplated" - update

Well, "Goldplated" turned out to be something of a combination of "Dallas" and "Shameless", without the jokes. The only thing deep about the people being the sadness and emptiness within (apparently).

I suspect the programme makers have been listening to my i-pod : Suede, Goldfrapp, Flaming Lips ... good choices all.

Mrs Stan will be pleased that :

a) she has nothing to fear from any size 6 airhead bimbos.
b) It reminded me of the Bible - specifically the only bit that ever made any kind of sense to me. Ecclesiastes Chapter 2

It also reminded me of another Wilmslow story :

I was driving a friend of my little Stan-etta back to her house after a sleep-over. We drove up a fairly substantial drive and outside the very substantial farm house were a menagerie of cars haphazardly parked: a Merc, a 4x4, Volvo estate, little Mazda, slightly battered Ford Focus.

"Oh !" said Mrs. Stan "Have you got friends visiting ?"

No - she hadn't. We had just been introduced to the concept of a Five-Car-Family.


I was once walking past a church in Alderley Edge near Wilmslow and saw a sign outside that said "Make Poverty History".

I looked around at the Tudor facias, neatly trimmed hedges and gravel drives and thought : "By heck; they've done a good job of that round here"

Old Money, New Money and Silly Money - "Goldplated" on Channel 4

Highlight of the evening for me (apart from the call home to Mrs. Stan of course) is likely to be the first episode of "Goldplated" on Channel 4 tonight.

This sounds as though it will be a cheesy (Cheshire cheese ?) "Footballers' Wives"-style romp set in and around my home town of Wilmslow.

I love Wilmslow - it's just a shame that in order to afford to live there I need to spend so much time working away. It was either that or getting a part-time job playing midfield for Manchester United.

It is leafy, tidy and relaxing - with an atmosphere all of its own. The first time I brought my daughter there we went to a rather well-equipped swing-park with lots of polite children. Afterwards she said to me "Dad - why was everyone all dressed up?".

There are definitely people with more money than sense there. People who can justify a 5 carat diamond (£200k+) a Bentley (£100k+) and Krug champagne (£300) when life is more than bearable with something 10% of the price. Or even, let's face it, without any of these.

Apparently the mark of a successful man in Wilmslow is

(1) His watch (Cartier or Frank Mueller)
(2) His shoes (must be hand-made)
(3) His wallet (more than 3 cards indicates unsexy debt)

In my case :-

(1) Battered Accurist from Argos
(2) Marks & Spencers (previous set were George from Asda)
(3) Wallet (Blue Amex, Debit Card and a wad of expense receipts)

So I fail the test, but fortunately I and the people I associate with don't gauge my worth from my belongings.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Random Thoughts

According to my 10 year-old daughter, the word "random" has these days taken on the meaning of "strange, odd" e.g "What's that random music you're playing, Dad?"
As a recovering Mathematician, this grates on my nerves even more than my other pet hates, which are (for the record) :-
(a) The construction " ... so not ...."
          e.g "You're so not funny",
               "We're so not going there" 
(b) Applying the superlative to binary adjectives
         e.g  "A very unique opportunity" (it's either unique or not) 
                "Extremely pregnant" (you're either pregnant or not)
or even     "A very random set of values" (they are either random or not)

The idea of randomness is a subtle and profound one that deserves its own word. There are already so many good words that convey strangeness or oddness without overloading this one with an extra meaning. Alternatives include my all-time favourite word, "eldritch", which doesn't get used nearly enough in these strange days. It literally means "from the kingdom of the elves".
I understand I am powerless to prevent change to the language, and in fact the comical way my face goes red and the vein in my forehead throbs when my daughter uses the term may even be encouraging her to use it more.

Interesting Question courtesy of Mrs. Stan : Is the phrase "random pattern" an oxymoron ?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Brits Out

I really can't fault the accuracy of the comments of General Sir Richard Dannatt regarding the British in Iraq. In fact, I'm mighty relieved that someone so qualified agrees with my instinctive prejudices :-

* On future planning : "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems".

* "I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them."

* On our planning for the Occupation : "poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning".

Now - here's my gripe : I don't believe he should be making public statements like that in his position.

To me, in his position he knocks himself out arguing his case internally, but if his counsel is not heeded, he can't be publicly contradicting his Commander-in-Chief.

To me he has two options : suck it up and get on with his job, and save the gripe for the memoirs. Or quit and kick up a world-class stink.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Syntax, semantics and verbage

Stan and I are both crossword buffs. Cryptic ones for the US readers. So you would expect us to know some fairly obscure words.

But I am suffering.

The BBC weather people keep using the term "squally". I have no idea what it means. It must be bad but what the bejesus does it mean?

Answers on a postcard or in a comment to radiofreestan.

I thank you.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


My garage mostly contained stuff - by which I mean objects that were gathering dust. Even after moving house twice this year, decluttering each time, and then taking half a dozen carloads of stuff to the charity shops, my garage was still crammed full of stuff.

A good example of "stuff" was a generic TV-video player from circa 1996. It cost me a few hundred pounds then - ten years on, it probably has a resale value of about twenty pounds.

Its value to me though was more like minus twenty pounds, seeing as how it blocked the garage and had to be shifted around sporadically whenever it was in my way. And since I couldn't imagine when I'd ever use it again, it was likely to stay in the garage until it rotted and had to be taken to the tip.

I decided to use Freecycle for the first time.

When I put the items on the local Freecycle bulletin board (simply a Yahoo Group) I got more than a hundred replies. This did make me pause and wonder whether I should be selling the stuff instead. Nah - I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible, and I figured any small return wouldn't be worth the hassle.

So I narrowed down the requesters to those who lived within a mile of us. I also discriminated in favour of women to spare my wife having some hairy bloke turn up demanding our stuff.

And without pain the stuff went and now my garage is a stuff-free zone.

Freecycle is a win-win-win :-

(Win 1) Stuff doesn't go into the landfill.
(Win 2) Someone gets something they want for nothing.
(Win 3) I get my garage back.

The only bad point about this is that because someone unexpectedly got my second-hand TV, they didn't go out and buy a new one. So it's entirely possible that I may have wrecked the British retail and the Japanese electronics industries.

Whoopsie !

Nukes and NK

Stan and I recently had a comment exchange about where the third flank of war would arise. I said it would be somewhere unexpected. When I said that, I meant here rather than Iran. Little did I realise that it might be North Korea.

Whether or not you believe whether the detonation was successful (reports conflict), it sends a message to the international community that we are in trouble. The North Koreans already have ICBMs and you have to wonder how long it will take to attach a nuclear warhead on to them...a matter of years.

The UN, being the useless pile of bureaucrats that they are, are helpless. Financial sanctions on a country that doesn't give a flying proverbial about its people are about as useful as Mary Whitehouse's dishcloth.

Thankfully even China have come around to seeing the evil in their communist ally's folly. To disguise the development of nuclear technology under the pretence that it is to deter the "evil" US foe is, quite frankly, ridiculous. The US may have some dodgy foreign policy but having lived there for the better part of ten years, I can assure you that every person means well and wants the rest of the world to enjoy the freedoms (and in some cases hell) that they do. You make your own luck there, and reap the dividends.

Anyway, I digress. If Kim Jong-Il thinks he's proved a point, he's probably right. As someone famous once said "let China sleep, for when she wakes, the world will be sorry". Right quote. Wrong country.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Death in Moscow

Who do I talk to about the murder of Anna Politkovskaya ? Please do click on the link and read about her - one heck of a story.

It beggars belief that there's anything other than an obvious explanation for the murder, just like there was unlikely to be a benign reason for the dodgy in-flight tea that conveniently put her in a coma while she was on the way to cover the Beslan school siege.

'Russia's lost moral conscience' died at the weekend. Couldn't happen here ... right ?

Even though I saw the bleak Children of Men recently, I can't quite see it. I think our investigative reporters can and do publish a lot that hurts our government without risking a bullet in the brain. I can't think of anything that would jeopardise that state of affairs.

Although maybe I lack imagination. Rights and Freedoms seem to be having a hard time in the face of "Homeland Security", so maybe we're a few bad laws and couple of Terrorist outrages away from being just as much of a police state.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

God Truth and Creation

"Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe - a spirit vastly superior to that of man... In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive"

The Nobel Prize-winning work on the Background radiation brought to mind those words of Einstein. Once upon a time I studied Astronomy at University and would then probably have been able to read the original papers. Nowadays, I'm pretty much an ex-scientist, so I'm reliant on the news sites to inform me. Even at such a distance from the science, I can still get a buzz from such a breakthrough as this.

It beats me why so many religious people have a problem with this idea of a Big Bang. I'm prepared to accept (as with so many things) that it's because I'm under-informed and a bit thick.

I'm in a motel typing this - let me reach over and get the Gideon bible and use it for once for something other than as a coaster or a fly swat ...

Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"

Great - I don't think any scientist could claim to have disproved that statement. They may fervently believe, but it's one of those statements that is not in the realm of science.

Note there's no further detail on how he did it, which makes me wonder how the idea of a Big Bang could be so threatening.

Incidentally, one of the things that excites me about the early history of the Universe is that apparently there was a point before Time itself was created. Even more remarkably, the Fundamentalists agree. It's only by verse 5 that God creates Time, just before teatime on the first day:-

Genesis 1:5 God called the light "day" and the darkness he called "night". And there was evening and there was morning - the first day.
I think Fundamentalists and Cosmologists have more in common than they care to admit.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

LazyGreed - Every Night's a Stag Night

According to the BBC , it's apparently now routine to round off a Lads' Night Out with a visit to a prostitute. Prefer a kebab myself, but I'm not really the kind of bloke they're talking about here.

This is a link to a well-argued statement from a Feminist blogger on this subject. There's a lot I agree with here but I reject her conclusion that it's all down to misogyny at root.

Myself, I think the same kind of lazy greed that causes weak people to do most bad things is at fault. To me, LazyGreed is one of the fundamental forces of nature, right up there with Gravitation and Apathy and it's more abundant than Hydrogen in the atmosphere just now.

LazyGreed is what drives businessmen to cut corners, politicians to abuse their power, parents to feed their kids junk food etc. etc.

To me, the Punters have desires and they have money and they have opportunity. They don't have the patience to delay gratification nor the will-power just to say "No". Their LazyGreed takes over and they want to slake their thirst in the tidiest, surest, ready-meal manner possible.

I find it impossible to imagine being so LazyGreedy that I would force my excess libido onto a girl who doesn't speak my language and bears the marks of ill-treatment from her current and past pimps. So maybe I'm the wrong person to be definitive about a Punter's psychology.

I would concede that misogyny comes into play after the act, when the punter is back with his mates. That's when the Punter is made to feel like Jack the Lad by his mates, rather being shunned and ridiculed for being a weak, inadequate, adulterous rapist.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mumbai Roulette - Stan versus Tiscali

The idea with this Blog was to take aim at the big, worthy, weighty issues in the world.

Then Tiscali came into my life and I no longer have the energy.

If rights are being trampled at home and war crimes committed abroad, I could care less at the moment. Just as long as someone fixes my home broadband connection.

I moved into my new house and signed up with Tiscali this summer. Things seemed to be working OK albeit with the occasional hiccup, but then I'm hardly home long enough to notice. However, my wife started to become an enthusiastic Internet user and she worked out that it always stopped working when the sun went down.

I could cut-and-paste the email chain and type up summaries of the phone calls that followed but that would be tedious for everyone and like I say, I don't have the energy anymore.

Suffice it to say, I have suffered the full range of Call Centre agonies.

Here are the Top Ten Tiscali Tortures :-

(1) Tiscali staff who couldn't understand my accent (to be fair I had trouble with theirs)
(2) Tiscali staff who didn't understand my problem
(3) Tiscali staff who couldn't do anything for me at all
(4) Tiscali staff who could do only one thing for me, and did it even though the notes said it was something that had already been done.
(5) Tiscali staff who tried and failed to divert me and cut me off
(6) Tiscali staff who didn't want to talk to my wife
(7) Tiscali staff who denied I had ever reported a problem
(8) Tiscali voice message system that cut me off, after keeping me waiting 10 minutes
(9) Tiscali voice system that didn't let me queue or leave a message - just cut me off.
(10) The totally information-free Tiscali website that doesn't exactly help you when you are having problems.

And the torture continues - my connection continues to go down with the sun and I'm serious considering learning some basic Urdu, Bengali and Hindi to see if I can get myself understood.

Better type faster - night is falling I hav.......

Monday, September 25, 2006

Gordon Brown - Summer of '97

Gordon Brown's speech today reminded me of summer 1997.

I was living in Glasgow, the Labour party had just burst into power, changing everything in a stunning first 100 days.

One of the next challenges was to stage and win a Referendum on a separate Parliament for Scotland.

I attended the meeting that launched the campaign - speakers were the late Donald Dewar who had a formidable reputation as a public speaker, and Gordon Brown who was well-known to be dour and a bit boring.

As it happened, Donald Dewar was just about adequate and Gordon Brown blew the roof off the place with one of the most charismatic, enthusiastic heart-felt speeches I have ever experienced.

I stopped being an activist when I discovered that getting stuff done within the party had a far lower priority than back-biting and internal procedure, and that the iron-hand of the leadership allowed no lee-way from being "on message". A little later the Labour Party flip-flopped on practically every policy I cared about and so I gave up my membership totally.

Gordon Brown is a talented man, a gifted public speaker and has a genuine passion for his causes. Everyone seems to be convinced that he'll be Blair Mark II should he become leader.

I wonder whether he might pleasantly surprise us all.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Can you be left-wing and still think it's OK to have fun ?

I read yesterday's posting on the Richard Hammond again in the light of an article in today's right-wing Telegraph newspaper

Wait a minute - I'm calling for less government intervention and more personal freedom too ! Is it possible I've become (gulp) right-wing ?
I quickly checked through my other positions :-
(1) Socialised medicine good (left wing)
(2) Out of control militarism is bad (left-wing)
(3) Taxation of those who can afford it to support those who can't (left wing)
(4) The Market can't be allowed to control everything unaided (left wing)
OK - so not a major "Road to Damascus" conversion. So why am I agreeing with the Telegraph ?
The problem here is that no-one on the planet exactly conforms to the stereotypes. No-one exactly toes a party line on everything. Right wingers hate government control until it comes to Abortion. Left wingers think there should be more state-control until it stops them taking their drug of choice. 

It's a complicated world and simple beliefs can't get you through it.
Which brings me to my favourite Islamic extremist up against John Humphreys on this morning's Radio 4 "Today" program.
Mr Izzadeen has a unexceptional mind and little clue about how to make a point coherently. Mr Humphries is one of the country's all-time best interviewers. I hope to whichever God may be protecting us that Mr Izadeen speaks for a tiny group of people, massively outnumbered by people like John Humphreys who can show them to be the delusional cranks most of us suspect them to be.
The program was better than coffee for getting the adrenalin going. Even more painful to experience than last night's episode of The Office. Incidentally, I was particular amused by his repeated use of the phrase "Wake up and Smell the Coffee", a cliche from his "Great Satan", America.
In my new found devotion to personal freedom - let him speak the language of the Koran if he wants, let him be woken by the beverage of choice, but if he wants to change my view of him and his cronies - he'll have to be elected to something and give something recognisable as an answer to a whole lot of questions.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Richard Hammond's Freedom to Risk

I love Top Gear the British TV car-show. It's a bunch of articulate humorous car-nuts having enormous fun with fast, expensive and dangerous cars.

The presenters have a remarkable chemistry, the strutting, grumpy, right-wing Jeremy Clarkson, the cheeky, boyish, smooth Richard Hammond and the old-before-his-time "Captain Slow" James May. Even my 10 year-old daughter who doesn't care about cars enjoys the show.

If you've never been exposed to it before, do yourself a favour and watch the clips on the Top Gear website - my personal favourite is the £100 car challenge.

Of course, the reason I mention this is Richard Hammond's recent accident with a 300 mph jet car while filming the new series.

No accident at that speed is a little accident and the hospital says that they are "reasonably optimistic he should make a good recovery" rather than "sure he'll make a full recovery" so I fear he's done himself some permanent damage.

Now the hunt is on for the Shysters to assign blame and for the Safety Nazis to spoil our fun.

My position is that as long as you take all possible precautions to protect innocent by-standers, everyone should be able to do pretty well what they want.

I hope Richard Hammond does make that full-recovery and we get to enjoy him enjoying high-G activity in future. However, I fear he won't and I also fear we may have witnessed the high-water mark of motoring journalism.

Watch those marvellous clips while you can. The future's safe, the future's much, much blander.

I am not worthy

Well my good mate Stan has invited me to be the voice of the literate Tory party on here. I'm not sure I would go as far as describing myself as Tory, but as the years pass, it may happen. After all, I remember the Thatcher years so I cannot lean that far right, particularly with a broken foot.

I am firmly behind the two flanks on the war on terminism terrorism, which is why Stan thinks I am a Tory. Well, that and the Telegraph.

Have work to do at the moment, but nice to meet you all. Oh, and my grandfather's name was Stan. How bizarro!

Toodles, and I'll have a rant soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Muslim area

There's a guy called Abu Izzadeen who said something today that made my jaw hang open and my brain turn to mush. He heckled the Home Secretary, John Reid. I don't have a problem with that - John Reid (as is his habit) was talking really quite a lot of patronising clap-trap at the time.

It was this line I had a problem with :-
"How dare you come to a Muslim area"

The location of the meeting was either Leyton or Leytonstone in East London, depending on which newspaper you read. Look at the statistics.

Less than a quarter of the population are Muslim - how does that make it a Muslim area ?

I think Mr. Izzadeen has revealed something very interesting about himself here. In his mind - everyone in the area is Muslim. Wonder how he's managed to live there without bumping into any of the non-Muslims who outnumber his people 3-to-1.

Even if it were 100% Muslim - we're talking about a small slice of the capital city of our country and they get the same law as everyone else.

And so he has to suffer visits from John Reid just like the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Welcome to Britain (you, you and you - but not you)

Romanian and Bulgarian workers are going to be rationed, but we can have an unlimited supply of Poles or Slovaks. Reminds me of a nightclub letting in anyone from Yorkshire but only 5 people from Cambridgeshire at any time.

Personally, assuming they can support themselves and pass some basic vetting to keep out the begging-classes, I'd say let them all come.

Anyone remember how rude the staff used to be in shops and restaurants in Britain ? Remember how powerful plumbers and builders used to be ? Do you know how screwed our economy would be without a regular infusion of tax-paying legal immigrants ?

If nothing else, think of the food. Five years from now I fully expect it to be routine to be nip into a Bulgarian Takeaway after a heavy night out for a tray of stuffed cabbage leaves and a glass of rakyia while you're waiting.

Doing something about the Foam

In the previous rant about fire-retardant foam I blew off some steam and felt a lot better for it.

It occurred to me this was just talk unless I did something about it. So I did.

I haven't chained myself to the gates of parliament (way too busy, sorry) but I have emailed my MP, George Osborne (Conservative), who as shadow Chancellor is odds-on to be the man responsible for paying for this sort of thing after the next election.

I was moved by the report on Channel 4 news of the continuing delay in fitting fire-retardant foam to the fuel tanks of Hercules transport planes deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I am by no means a supporter of either deployment but believe that when troops are put in harm's way there must be an extraordinary effort to do all we can to protect them.

Could I please ask you to raise the continuing delay with the proper authorities ? I feel it's only good luck that we haven't had a repeat of the tragedy of December.

It's not exactly "Ten Days that Shook the World", but it's the first political thing I've done for years.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Foaming at the Mouth

The British government has a foreign policy that I find difficult to understand. I'm prepared to accept this is because I am under-informed and a bit thick.

This policy is carried out by British soldiers who need to stand in dangerous places surrounded by people who hate them and have the means and desire to kill them.

You would hope that the Government, by way of gratitude, would move mountains to protect them for harm as far as humanly possible.

Then you hear about the flame-retardant foam

Available for forty years, requested since the Falklands War, fitted as standard to American planes. Without it, one lucky shot from a Kalashnikov can turn the wing fuel tank of a Hercules cargo plane into a fireball. Sounds like a no-brainer.

I'm betting some bureaucrat picked up an award for the false economy of not having the foam fitted when we ordered the planes. Hope he still feels as smug after the incident in Iraq last December when 10 agents of Government Foreign Policy died needlessly .

You might expect a speedy response from a shocked government to avoid a recurrence.

Now it's Mid-September - and I see on Channel 4 News nothing much has happened, and it's really down to pure dumb luck that it hasn't happened again.

Look, I don't agree with the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I have massive respect for the people who try to make these unpopular policies happen at risk to their own lives, thousands of miles away from their homes and families. They deserve our respect and they deserve the government's protection.

Get it sorted. Learn the lessons. Apologise to the families of the victims. But most of all, buy the damn foam.