Thursday, November 29, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

EITHER £10m - contributed by the Government (i.e UK Taxpayers) in 2006 to the Marie Curie cancer charity to support hospice building and repair

OR £10m - spent by Government (i.e UK Taxpayers) on the most recent Diana Death Inquest

EITHER £30bn - (estimated) amount of Tax Payers' money used to bail out Northern Rock

OR £34.1bn - UK defense budget 2007/8 (see

EITHER - Upset neanderthal religious half-wits by calling a teddy bear "Muhammad". Lose your job and get deported after doing 15 days in prison.

OR - Call the teddy bear "Rupert". Risk being sued by the copyright holders

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Frenchman, A Finn and A Senegalese

It is fortunate that this is a written blog, because my voice is still sandpapery after yelling my team Bolton Wanderers to victory over the mighty Manchester United today. I was trying to think of an analogy for how unlikely the victory was, and the best I have is "As unlikely as Bolton beating Manchester United". Sorry.

United were toothless. Rooney wasn't available and Ronaldo was rested. If I were Sir Alex, I would rush out and give these two massive new contracts, because today confirmed that these two have been carrying the rest for some time. United today reminded me of the pushovers Arsenal could be in recent years when Thierry Henry wasn't available.

Full credit to Bolton - they don't have the massive resources of United and they're trying to recover from the nosedive caused by losing two managers. But what they do have is a world class striker in Nicolas Anelka, a world class goalie in Jussi Jaaskelainen and the strongest player in the Premiership in El-Hadj Diouf. Sometimes in football, that can be enough, and it was today.

Sir Alex complained about the referee : I don't understand it, the referee seemed to me to be bent on keeping United in the game by awarding fouls whenever a red shirt fell to the ground, which was often.

So, the first victory over Bolton's Superpower neighbour since December 1978 - and I was there.

Apologies to non-football-fan readers - but at least I didn't join in the uninformed mass outburst of flatulence regarding the England soccer team.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Security ? What Security ?

Don't give a second's thought to the recent news that disks containing the personal details for every Child Benefit claimant in the UK has gone missing. If you spend your life around data like I do, you'd never have assumed it was safe in the first place.

I have in my time had access to billing records, payment details, dates of birth and passwords for a number of large companies. I had innumerable opportunities to download them and walk out the door with them, but I'm fundamentally honest and am anyway clueless about how you'd turn them into money. Set up false identities, I suppose.

The thing is, there were many techies like me with god-like access to all data, and a large number of low-paid call-centre workers with scary-enough access to the data. Heck, even the cleaners at one Utility I worked for could have helped themselves to one of the CDs an ex-colleague of mine had on his desk, helpfully marked "Customer Database Backup".

I believe you should live your life as though every piece of information about you is public-domain. Because frankly, that's probably the case. Your bank details are known to any number of people you pay DDs to - not to mention your bank and their offshore call centres and their offshore IT support. Somewhere along the line, someone who got their job because they were the cheapest available will have access to your details. Might as well put it on a screen in Times Squares.

And then there are fraudsters and good, if incompetent, people who screw up and lose your data in the post.

So how can I be so unworried ?

(1) My bank password is secure
(2) Stanetta's Child Benefit is paid into a tiny account we set up specially for the purpose
(3) If criminals had this information they would already have attempted to fleece a few milliion people. It wouldn't suit their purposes to wait and let the data become obsolete. Where's the evidence this has happened ?

The people I feel sorry for are those that are getting their Child Benefit paid into their Northern Rock bank accounts ...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Write to Strike

No, the current lack of postings on Radio Free Stan is not because I'm striking in support of The Writers' Guild of America who have been on strike since 5 November. There are no scab writers being bussed in, and there is no picket line around my keyboard. I'm just working hard, doing a bit of crossword-solving blogging on and spending weekends with Mrs Stan and Stanetta.

I do support the WGA's action though - good writers are my heroes and should be the most overpaid people on the planet. Unfortunately they get less even than mediocre Associate Producers, and I couldn't even begin to guess how you could measure whether an Associate Producer is good, bad, or dying of Ebola.

The upshot of the strike is that American TV is even fuller of Reality shows and repeats than it was before - a situation likely to persist into the new year. Hopefully this will provoke outrage and a new appetite in America for writer-driven TV shows and films.

Speaking of which, I finished watching "Lost 3", which contains some great writing and some some of the laziest writing I'm seen all together. There is one of the best story-arcs ever created, which apparently extends another three series. But there are also too many episodes where it's all about the backstory for a character, and five minutes from the end it's as though the writer has thought "Oh damn, I forgot to move the plot forward" and they throw in a twist from nowhere.

I've also never seen such bad accounts of addictions in my life. Charlie is the second-least convincing drug addict in world literature, only eclipsed by Doctor Jack (in flashforward) who it seems will turn into a mumbling, bearded, denim-jacketed Nirvana-lover. Actually there may have been less convicing drug addicts in early "Starsky and Hutch" episodes, but I'd have to research it.

I'm also not sure about the nnnnnew "flash forward" device in "Lost 3" - with all the flashing back and forward, the writers may become even more forgetful about moving the plot forward, and the viewers will become .... er, lost.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Auto Erotic

The following account of my week has been cunningly edited to help my flagging search-engine rating.

* Today was Remembrance Sunday - it was a strange feeling to be observing two minutes silence at the gym, looking down through on suburbanites in the jacuzzi looking up at the pictures of men and women in uniform on the TV.

* Blogger "Play" is a marvellous way to waste your time. It's a random slideshow of pictures people have posted to their blogs. It's like when you get the wrong pictures back from the developers - it's usually boring hills and slightly drunk girls and teenage boys doing a thumbs-up. Lots of pets too. But every once in a while, you get something seriously strange that makes it all worth while.

* Saturday's Araucaria crossword was a beast - I stared at it long and hard, but to no avail. I'm going to have it to take it on the train down to London and give it a good looking at.

* Went to see "Glengarry Glen Ross" at the Apollo Theatre in London. It is one of my favourite films, but I was pretty disappointed in the stage-play. Reduced to a series of dialogues, it doesn't carry the same emotional charge. Plus, the Apollo is a seriously unpleasant venue. Even in nowhere-near-the-worst seat in a half-empty house, visibility was poor and comfort non-existent. Obviously the theater had been designed by a sadistic architect who had taken a bung from by the Society of Osteopaths.

I followed the theatre visit with my first (and last) Vietnamese meal. Not really a fan of their approach to dividing a chicken into pieces. Seemed to have been cut up using a chainsaw. Bone and skin and meat all in one bite. Mmmmmm (not). Why can't they just do separate legs and breasts ?

* Saturday night was "The Car Man" at the Lowry in Manchester with Mrs Stan. We actually had tickets for Stanetta too, but she was double-booked. Just as well maybe, "The Car Man" has many adult themes - the occassional nudity, bisexuality and attempted homosexual rape might have been a bit much for an 11-year-old. It's a wonderful extended piece of modern dance to Bizet's music from "Carmen", with a number of memorable performances. Although, look out for Michela Meazza who plays the long-limbed femme-fatale, Lana. Utterly stunning.

Anyway, that's enough of my week. I'll write again when I get a chance.


Stan XXX

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord

God has punished America for tolerating homosexuals according to the Westboro Baptist church in Kansas.

They believe this so strongly that they picket the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, displaying placards with slogans like "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates fags".

They have been fined $11m by a federal court for this outrageously hurtful behaviour, but the smart money is on this being reversed by the Supreme Court under American First Amendment "freedom of speech" provisions.

One of their websites was not working at the time of typing - I do hope this is because someone's God put a thunderbolt through their web-server. Their main site is in good health unfortunately.

Please don't click on it - you'll just encourage them.

As an example, they have this counter on the website that shows that :-

Matthew Shepard has been in hell for 3311 days.
Diane Whipple has been in hell for 2474 days.

Matthew Sheppard was the 21 year-old gay student who died in 1998 in Wyoming after being robbed, pistol whipped, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area, and left to die.

Diane Whipple was an openly lesbian Lacrosse coach who was mauled to death by her neighbour's attack-dogs.

Remember I said before that I loved the American Constitution ? I'm not sure I really can be a fan of anything that would prevent the father of the dead soldier from getting justice from these cretins.

I hate these hurtful, tactless, mental midgets with a will. According to Mrs. Stan, God hates nobody. To me, that's a really impressive feat. He doesn't hate gays, he doesn't hate America, and he doesn't even hate braindead thugs who cause harm in his name.

When the pawn meets the king

Okay, totally ripped off title from Fiona Apple

I've not met up with Stan in forever to philosophise or read the riot act to all the big five crosswords (Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent and Evening Standard). There were days where we hammered them all over a couple of brewskis at lunch.

However sometimes you meet people in your life that you just click with and know that you'll keep in touch. I have a friend called, say, the Waart -- he got his nickname from 6th form when a computer teacher asked one of the larger lads to "forcibly ejaculate this Wart". It stuck. He's now got a PhD in formal methods and is close to being the next professor at his university. I've always stuck by him and him by me. With the exception of my grandmother, he is the only person who ever visited me in my eight years in the States. That's how closely knit we are. I mentioned on my blog that we're kind kind of telepathically connected and have been since being teenagers. Long may it continue.

Stan is another one where we just clicked. He's a bit more cerebral than I am, but I blame that on the fact that I'm sickly ill a ce moment. Okay, I could be just plain dumb, but I'm not about to accept that. When the day comes that I don't finish the Telegraph crossword, then I'll be dumb.

In the meantime, being all airy-fairy, it's nice to know you have good friends knocking around.

And no, before you ask, I'm the pawn.

Ask Stan about opening chess moves ( pawn to K4) -- he approves of conventional openings. I certainly do not.