Sunday, December 30, 2007

Burke in a Merc

A motorist has been fined £30 for defrosting his car outside his home because he left it unattended with the engine running. Ken Hardman, 45, was prosecuted for the offence of "quitting" after the vehicle was spotted by a police officer.

However, Mr Hardman, of Whittle-le-Woods, Lancashire, said that thieves had no way of stealing his Mercedes saloon because its windows and doors could be locked while the engine was running. He said: "I heard a knock on the door at 8.20am. The officer asked me whether the car was mine and said that, if it was, I was committing a crime.

A police spokesman said: "The officer tried to offer words of advice but the male refused to accept them. So the officer was left with no option but to issue a fixed penalty notice of £30.

...And so here we have another tale of a Burke in a Merc. What is it with owners of Mercedes? They appear to have very little in the way of common sense and always appear to believe that they are above the law. They feel that the law should apply only to lesser people, people with less money than them. There is no need to warm a car up to defrost the windows, that is a waste of money (petrol or diesel), time, against the law and offends the environment. All you need to defrost car windows is some hot water, just like you use to wash your hands and face. Simply pour the hot water over the windows, open the door, jump in, switch on the engine and drive away.

I think this Mercedes owner was one of the many arrogant Mercedes owners who will not take advice from anyone, including the Police. If he took the Police Officers advice and turned his engine off, he would not have been given a fine. But no, Mercedes owners are special, a special kind of Burke who will just flaunt their money and arrogance at anybody who gets in their way.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto is assassinated in suicide attack.

Pakistan was facing the spectre of civil war last night after Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, was assassinated in a suicide attack. Miss Bhutto, 54, an iconic politician who had twice served as prime minister, was killed as she left an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi. Witnesses described how a man opened fire on Miss Bhutto as she stood through the sunroof of a car, hitting her in the throat and chest. Seconds later, he detonated a bomb, leaving Miss Bhutto critically injured and dozens of her followers killed or wounded. Police said that 16 others died in the blast.

Benazir Bhutto had many enemies who wanted her dead. I wrote before in this blog that Benazir Bhutto was warned about suicide attacks on her yet she ignored these warnings and went along with her campaign. She is a very silly woman and has ignored common sense. She was living safely in exile due to her previous political life in Pakistan yet she would not leave alone. That is what I wrote on the 21st October 2007 after 139 lives had been lost when a suicide bomber targetted her parade.

So now, there we have it, she ignored common sense yet again and she has been killed. The terrorists have won yet again and taken another 16 lives with them. Yes, I was shocked when I heard the news on the radio but then anger set in that this woman was so stupid - so stupid not to leave Pakistan alone and remain safely in exile.

Because of this event Pakistan may erupt into civil war, a war that Benazir Bhutto in her own stubborn way helped to start.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What should I buy to read next?

What paperback book should I buy to read next? There are many different ways to choose a new book. You can choose another book by an author you have enjoyed in the past. But what do you do if you want to try something new, maybe a novel from an unestablished author? You can go into a local branch of W H Smith and look at their book chart to see what has been selling well. You could also see what has been recommended on the Richard and Judy television show. Richard and Judy's Book Club has been attributed to helping transform several authors into household names and lift their sales over a million. The couple have announced the 10 reads of 2008 , ensuring a lucrative year for those authors included. From Jan 9, celebrity reviewers will discuss the merits of each book over 10 weeks on the couple's prime-time Channel 4 show. Viewers will then vote for their favourite book, which will be awarded the title of Richard and Judy's Best Read at the Galaxy British Book Awards on March 14. The award, launched in 2004, has quickly overtaken better known - and more highbrow - prizes such as the Man Booker and the Costa awards in influencing reader habits. The books which make the shortlist are not chosen by Richard and Judy themselves, but by Amanda Ross, the show's producer - making her one of the most powerful people in British publishing.

I have looked at this list and it appears to have something for everyone. The first book is A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini which I have already read . Looking at the other books I rather fancy Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris.

Story: The characters spend their days, and too many of their nights, at work. Away from friends and family, they share a stretch of stained carpet with a group of strangers they call colleagues. Amidst the boredom, redundancies, water cooler moments, meetings, flirtations and pure rage they find life is happening, to their great surprise, all around them.

This appears to be published in paperback on 04/01/2008 for £7.99 which should be a good pocket money read.

The idea that Richard and Judy use for their book club is a good one, an idea that I like and many new authors will like because it encourages the public to try authors other than the big names. There is no reason to support only the well known names because authors have the same problems getting their product out as musicians have. Richard and Judy help this diversity of talent and bring good new work to the mass market.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The dress code.

I wear a uniform in my day job. The predominant colour is blue but I do have a high visibility coat. This coat is lovely and warm. It is also waterproof. It does it's job and keeps me dry and warm. Some people claim that they cannot drive a coach wearing one of these high visibility coats. Some people think they are too bulky and other people think it does not look right. I am happy to wear the high visibility coat whilst driving my coach until the interior coach temperature rises to normal office temperature. I do not think that this looks unprofessional and I am very comfortable and warm. I am aware that some transport managers dislike the public seeing coach drivers wearing high visibility garments whilst behind the wheel. I feel that if I am warm and cosy then I am safe. Looks are a personal thing and are quite a conversation point among workers in many industries.

On the Truck Driver's forum they are having a debate at the moment about wearing high visibility clothing whilst driving a lorry. One forum member's post really made me smile...

I put my hi-vis on when I get to work and leave it on, so whats the big deal? who cares? I'm a truck driver not a fashion icon.

But then again, I think people who wear baseball hats, especially backwards or side ways are Pratt's.

Or rigger boots.

Or trousers that stop halfway up your calf.

Or shave their heads.

Or, and I have seen this, all four at once.

One mans meat.......................

This guy has written fair comment here and I certainly agree with him on trousers that stop halfway up your calf! What possesses men to buy these cut down trousers is beyond me - they look absolute wallies. High visibility garments in the workplace I have no problem with.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Council surveys to ask about sexuality

Local councils have been ordered by the Government to send out a survey asking for the personal details and opinions of residents. The survey, which could cost £55 million by 2012 and have been branded "highly intrusive and sinister", asks for details of householders' children, jobs, health, religion and sexuality.

In a consultation paper published by Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, councils are even advised to disguise the fact that the survey comes from the local authority because respondents may "like the area but not like the local authority". Instead, it suggests using the brand of a market research company, if one is being hired to carry out the survey.

...Well this is just plain sneaky. Why don't councils just mind their own business? People are so fed up with intrusive surveys from nosey companies and councils that they are being advised to disguise the source of these dreadful surveys. People vote with their feet, if an area is so bad then people will move away. It does not take surveys to find out the problems within local areas. It is no business of councils the religion or sexuality of their council tax payers.

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's Christmas time.

It's Christmas time
There's no need to be afraid
At Christmas time
We let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty
We can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world
At Christmas time

...Do you remember those lyrics? It was the Band Aid single from 1984 and not a lot has changed. "And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy."

Yes, our land of plenty, I went shopping with Gail today, supermarket shopping. The stores were very busy and I looked at the other shoppers stocking up for Christmas. They were in a siege mentality with trolley loads of food. Others had bought large non-food electrical items that were probably presents for someone. A lot of people get whipped up by Christmas and feel they must take part and buy, buy, buy. It is not a weekly food shop but enough food for a month, because it is Christmas. They buy loads of presents for each other and children because people have wish lists for Christmas. These people are not worshiping Christians but consumers swept up in a commercial Christmas. Some people go into debt because the calendar declares it is Christmas and they must take part. Their homes are like Santa's grotto, in a mess due to the festive decoration litter. Have these people not got a mind of their own? No, the follow like sheep, run to the shops, buy more food than they can eat in a week and buy loads of presents from peoples' wish lists. This commercialism is gross, buying in excess just because the calendar states it is Christmas and because they do not want to be out of the loop.

I can party like the best of them but I do not need a calendar to tell me when to party. You do not have to tell me it is 24th, 25th, 26th or 31st December - I know what day it is thank you. There is no law that states I must do this and that on these dates - that is for the Chavs to observe in the comfort of their debt ridden homes. It makes me sick to see all this money being misspent when other people around the world are dying of hunger and living in appalling poverty. A lot of food will be thrown away in the next week and the little children will have more toys than they have time to play with all because it's Christmas. Remember...

There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing
Is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring
There are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you

...I am not a killjoy but it saddens me when I see the level of waste in our country at Christmas time. A Christmas that is driven by greed and the worship of a consumer god.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Update: Samina Malik

Whilst I was away on holiday in Tunisia I did not bother with the news. Now it has suddenly dawned on me, what sentence did Samina Malik receive on the 6th December 2007. I posted on the 22nd November 2007 about the petition to Free Samina Malik and I was pleased to read now that Judge Peter Beaumont gave her a nine month suspended jail sentence after her conviction at the Old Bailey undersection 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 last month. She had already spent five months in custody.

I agree with Muhammed Abdul Bari, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, when he said...

"Many young people download objectionable material from the internet, but it seems if you are a Muslim then this could lead to criminal charges, even if you have absolutely no intention to do harm to anyone else.

"Young people may well have some silly thoughts. That should not be criminalised. It is their actions that we should be concerned about."

...So, common sense prevailed in the end and Samina Malik has walked free from jail for downloading some material from the internet and writing poetry. Still, she spent five months in custody which is not a picnic and her freedoms were taken away. What message does this send out to the public? Our government does not trust us to think for ourselves, download content from the internet and for us to have a liberal freedom of expression. Our freedoms are being reduced, slowly but surely and Samina was the guinea pig who has spent five months in custody whilst our judicial system decides just how much freedom our citizens can enjoy.
Cracking the code.

Modern motor cars, buses, coaches and lorries have lots of electronic systems. From new these systems work extremely well. You switch on the ignition of your vehicle and wait as the electronics boot up in the say way as your home computer boots up from cold. When all systems are go you turn that ignition key a little further and your starter motor reliably fires and starts your engine. A quick glance at your dashboard will tell you when it is safe to drive away. So far, so good. But what happens when things go wrong and you have to call the garage boys? Things are not like the old days when mechanics can service all road vehicles. No, things have changed and manufacturers are locking the market down by restricting information to it's franchised dealers who can charge through the roof because there is no competition.

These electronic systems do not use common standards and the manufacturers scan tools with software must be used to do most basic servicing tasks. Even switching off the "next service" warning light requires unlocking these special codes.

The Right to Repair Campaign has been created by the independent automotive aftermarket in response to potential changes in legislation in Europe that could drive all repair work into the vehicle manufacturers franchised dealerships. When you see the price of new cars in real terms falling you wonder what the catch must be. Manufacturers can sell their cars at a loss and get their money back on the servicing in a captive market. This principal is the same as game console manufacturers selling the machines at below cost and getting their money back on the sale of the only games that will work on their machines. The contract mobile phone industry works the same way.

I think this working of automotive electronic systems is wrong and very underhand. Vehicle electronic systems should be open-source for the benefit of everyone just like the Linux computer operating system. I think the manufacturers are being greedy and are abusing their market position.

This is a Europe wide problem and the only answer is for our politicians to draft legislation to protect the rights of consumers. Otherwise manufacturers can buy a gold mine because of the consumers lack of choice on service and repair. The list showing routine service work that can no longer be carried out without the use of a scan tool is rather long and cannot be ignored. You will simply - pay for it, big time.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Omid Djalili Show.

I am enjoying The Omid Djalili Show on BBC1, he does a very good stand-up routine. His satire is spot-on and he is prepared to take chances. The other week he did a piece about the 7th July London bombers . At the mention of 7/7 his audience went sharply quiet but he continued. The 7th July suicide bombings are a very difficult event to satirize but Omid did it spot-on. He was worried about how the public would take to satire about an event that claimed 52 innocent lives. He wrote on his blog ...


For anyone perturbed by the 7/7 bombing material that aired on the programme Saturday night, I thought I should explain that in doing this material, my hope was to highlight the absurdity of the pointless actions of the suicide bombers.

Those of you who know my stand up will realise that while I believe there should be no taboos in comedy, I’d also never want to offend anyone or make light of the suffering of those that died and their families, so that was not my intention. Rather, I wanted to highlight the sheer madness of the terrorists themselves and their complete lack of regard for human life.

The satire on the northern accents (Leeds bombers) was to indicate the cultural confusion and ignorance of those individuals who show no loyalty or respect to the country that took them in and the British way of life that has nurtured them.

Comedy and the use of satirical humour is my way of highlighting the important issues we face living in multi cultural Britain today, unfortunately terrorism is one of those issues which I believe we should take a stand against together wherever and however possible.

- OD

...This was just one piece of comedy and Omid Djalili will poke fun at a whole range of things. He tends to make a lot of observations about cultural differences, not just the obvious differences between his parents' Iran and the UK. He will compare many lifestyles and regional identities and leave the viewer believing that everyone is a minority - no matter how big they feel the size of their demographics are in the community. The content of his satire is very good and this is coupled with his lovely mimicking of all accents - UK regional and English Spoken as a Foreign Language. My favourite was his ranting the other week as a Nigerian Parking Enforcement Officer in London, not just the accent but the actual use of English by people that are often over-qualified for the jobs they are doing.

Watching the credits at the end of the television programme you will see that Omid Djalili is not the only writer but part of a team. I do not know but I feel that the stand-up material is 100% Omid but that maybe the sketches are team written. The sketches are not as good as the stand-up and as a viewer I would be happy just to have the stand-up without the sketches. His satire is spot-on and his range of characters with accompanying accents is a delight to watch.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns.

I went shopping yesterday and noticed that A Thousand Splendid Suns, a novel by Khaled Hosseini was number 1 in the book charts at WH Smith. I read this book on holiday and yesterday passed it onto my mother. I am not surprised that it is number 1 in Smiths as this book is brilliant.

It is more than a week now since I finished reading this book, it left a big impression on me. In places this book made me cry, the reader gets really drawn into the characters. The story although set in Afghanistan is very easy to relate to and appeals to both men and women. The story is told from the viewpoint of 2 women but men can relate to their experiences. The story is very sad in places and you can understand the joys of being a part of a family and the sadness of failure.

If you are ever feeling low then remember this story. There are many women in the world like Mariam and Laila. People will make mistakes in life and they cannot help the world they were born into, they have to adapt and do their level best. We should always hope but should not be afraid of failure.

If any bloggers are reading this post, then yes - this book is definitely worth the £12 I paid for it and it deserves to be number 1 in the book charts.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Last Testament .

Back from my holiday to Hammamet in Tunisia and thinking of our country code. Take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints. I did leave something in Tunisia however, on the bookshelf in my hotel on the shelf labelled English books. This shelf in the lounge is meant for holiday makers to share books they have finished with and do not want to take home.

The Last Testament is written by Sam Bourne, which is the nom de plume of the British journalist Jonathan Freedland. His second novel, The Last Testament (2007) is set in the Middle East, and draws heavily on the author's experiences in that region, both as a reporter for over twenty years, and also a Guardian newspaper sponsored dialogue which was influential in the 2003 Geneva Accords. The central character, Maggie Costello, finds herself involved in a mix of the modern political situation and ancient revalations.

I enjoyed Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and the BBC drama Spooks. The Last Testament is this type of book - a conspiracy/thriller. I finished this book on holiday and I was a little disappointed. The book did not inspire me and I cannot recommend it to anyone. It was not bad enough to abort reading after a few pages but the story just washed over me in the way poor television programmes do. The detail was good as is his understanding of Middle East politics but the story was not gripping.

To have this book as a free/no purchase read is OK, you would not be disappointed but if you paid cash for it like I did, then you know there are better value books for sale. I will not be buying another book written by Sam Bourne and I hope other holiday makers will read his book and are glad they did not pay for it!

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