Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Firefox 3 .

I have now upgraded from Mozilla Firefox 2 to Mozilla Firefox 3. Firefox has been my favourite browser for many years now. When I thought that you could never improve on the excellent features on Firefox 2, along comes Firefox 3. Yes, it is a much better browser and is packed with extra features . Nothing can beat Firefox 3 for internet use and a tremendous amount of thought has gone into it's design. It is clean and efficient, giving you a very pleasant internet experience. Well done to the Mozilla team!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Driving Chaos As Motorway Shuts

Holidaymakers driving home were stuck in huge traffic jams, after a motorway pile-up closed the M4 in both directions. The crash in Wiltshire also spelt trouble for the thousands of commuters on their way to work. There were huge tailbacks locking thousands in a slow-moving traffic jam all morning.

Thirteen people have been injured in a major motorway pile-up involving two lorries, an empty coach and four cars. The collision took place on the M4 in Wiltshire around 1.45am on Tuesday morning between junctions 17 and 18 and left the motorway closed in both directions. The accident is believed to have been caused when a lorry's trailer crossed the central reservation and ploughed into the path of oncoming traffic. Police said nobody was killed in the incident, but one of the 13 casualties was seriously injured, and was rushed to hospital after fire crews battled to free him from his car for more than two hours.

The casualties were taken to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol and the Great Western Hospital in Swindon. The Highways Agency described the incident as a 'very serious crash'.

At 1440 BST The Highways Agency said both carriageways had fully reopened.

...Well here we go again, the Police close a motorway and they bring chaos to thousands of people. Nobody was killed in this accident yet the Police had the motorway closed for over 12 hours. This is the Police being bloody minded in the extreme. There was no reason to close this motorway for so long, the increased cost to the economy is huge. It took me another 60 minutes to get up to London this morning and another 3 gallons of diesel, as I did about another 30 miles trying to avoid the severe congestion by going near Gloucester and Oxford. I would normally have been travelling through Junction 18 of the M4 motorway at around 09.45 - 8 hours after this accident, yet the Police kept the motorway closed in both directions.

Parliament should force time limits on how long the Police can close roads. The time and money wasted by these closures is madness. I think that a limit of 120 minutes is reasonable and practical. If the Police cannot get their arse into gear within 120 minutes then they should be sacked and their jobs given to people who care.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What's in your bag?

I take a holdall with me to work in which I put all my stuff. I tend to accumulate lots of useful things that I simply put into this holdall. It is very easy to end up carrying an awful lot of stuff with you everyday. I am not alone in this as I have noticed that other coach drivers working for this nationwide company also have large bags containing lots of useful stuff.

There comes at time however, when you must have a cull and reduce the amount of things you are carrying with you every day. Gail has got me a new bag for me to take to work as a birthday present. I quite fancied a tidy, small rucksack like the one that Matthew takes with him. We chose a nice 18 Litre number from Mountain Equipment which should provide good service for a number of years to come.

So today I have gone through my holdall and placed upstairs all the things in it that I do not need to take with me everyday. We have a nice home, so unless I will really need something, then things should be stored at home, not my work bag. I will not bore readers of this blog with what I have taken out, anyone working in transport will know what sort of extras you can carry! The simple rule I applied was, what would happen if I did not carry this item? Would I get in trouble? Would I die? Would the earth stop rotating? You get the idea, why carry coals to Newcastle or in my case extras to Bradford, Edinburgh or London?

Wow! what a difference in weight and room in my holdall!

Any transport drivers reading this blog, what's in your bag? You could be carrying lots of unnecessary kit in your bag. Have a cull and leave the extras at home, you know it makes sense. I trust there is nobody out there who still carries the large ring binder with ALL the times and fare charts in for the WHOLE network. I know some drivers still do as I saw one ring binder behind the windscreen of a coach parked overnight in Bradford the other day! Some drivers have been spotted with their own suitcase, some with wheels and an extensible handle, which is rather sad and camp!

To any women who may have stumbled across this blog: my wife has a large handbag and every now and again she has to have a clear out! This heavy bag syndrome is not just a man thing!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Severed by Simon Kernick.

You wake up in a strange room on a bed covered in blood. You have no idea how you got there. Beside you is a dead girl. Your girlfriend. The phone rings, and a voice tells you to press play on the room's DVD machine. The film shows you killing your girlfriend. Then you're told to go to an address in East London where you're to deliver a briefcase and await further instructions...

...The above is what I read on the back cover of this book in WH Smith. It sounds an awful situation to find yourself in, a nightmare that could happen to the best of us. What a shock it would be to find yourself in the same situation. That is a very chilling thought so I paid my £7 and brought this book home.

So what do you get for your £7? This novel is a thriller but not a standard thriller. This is a thriller on acid, I have never read a book with such a fast pace before. This book is written from the viewpoint of the lead character, a man called Tyler. This book is all action and what happens to Tyler in 48 hours is just amazing. Tyler is no ordinary guy, he is a butch ex-army soldier who now runs a successful BMW car dealership. He is God's gift to women and this guy is brash, cocky, flash, big headed and a typical BMW car owner. There are no limits to the talents of Tyler - rub, rub, rub - oh!!! SPLAT this man is wonderful in a masturbatory way, a real all action hero. I did not like the character of Tyler and I thought he was an arrogant fool, but then look at the average BMW car driver.

The pace of this novel is tremendous with fast action all the way. However this story lacks credibility. Yes, the detail and research are good but you cannot imagine these sequences of events happening in real life. These things simply would not happen. This book is childish fantasy, maybe okay for a 19 year old young man feeling his feet in the big world but not for a 49 year old coach driver. There is a quote on the inside back cover of this book, "The next time I see Simon Kernick's name on a book, I will pick it up. Brilliant! - Richard Madeley". Well Richard you have lost my respect straight away!

Well, I read the whole book, it was unbelievable but entertaining. There was nothing about this book that was outstanding and there was nothing to challenge the readers' attitudes. Nothing challenges the reader, it is just like watching a regular police drama on television. Simon has a tight structure to this book and everything fits in neatly in the end. There are many twists to the story and you have many doubts about all the characters. I will not be buying another of Simon's books and at the end of Severed is the first chapter of his next novel called Deadline. The inclusion of this first chapter is supposed to whet your appetite but for me it confirmed that Deadline will be more of the same. I like realism in books, not childish fantasy. I vote this book a MISS and to illustrate the unbelievable nature of this book I will finish this blog post by quoting from page 419 so that bloggers can judge for themselves...

...I pick up the desk phone and dial. He answers after three rings, his voice a slow yet breathless drawl, as if the very act of speaking is an effort.
'I was given your name by Martin Lukersson.'
'I know no-one of that name. I think you've got the wrong number.'
'You're Dorriel Graham?'
'Sorry,' he says, not sounding it at all,'I don't know a Dorriel Graham either. Goodbye.'
'Please, listen. This is a quick job. It'll take you ten minutes and I'll pay you five hundred pounds.'
There's a pause.
'Lukersson should be more careful who he gives our my number to.'
'I need addresses for two people, and I need them urgently. Like now.'
'I don't like being woken up.'
'No-one does. But this is worth five hundred pounds.'
'Five hundred pounds isn't that much money,' he says, sounding bored.
'It's for ten minutes work,' I remind him, my voice hardening.
'Do you have a credit card?'

...And the story continues in the same unbelievable fashion. Yeah, five hundred pounds is peanuts to our make believe super butch hero Tyler. Five hundred pounds for ten minutes work for a man he has never met or done business with before.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Talking up the language.

Brands get updated from time to time. Logos, slogans and typefaces are changed to reflect modern trends. One nationwide coach operator has changed it's tickets that are sold through various sales offices. At a glance the tickets look pretty much the same, with the same journey information and fare details. What is totally different is the edge to these tickets. The old tickets had a blue pull off ear with white lettering that showed "PASSENGER TICKET". The new tickets have a black pull off ear with white lettering that shows "Customer coach ticket".

So this nationwide company no longer carries passengers on it's coaches but customers. That is sad, as customers have a choice of products or services to choose from. Yes, a customer can choose from a range of things and then become a passenger by buying a coach ticket. This company has talked up the person travelling as a passenger into a customer. They have tried to add value to the passenger by changing the language. This is as misleading as when a single mother on benefits, the scourge of the Daily Mail, becomes a contestant on the X Factor talent show under the talked up title of Full Time Mother. You are not fooling anyone by talking up the language, passengers travel on buses and coaches, it is what they do and it is how they are defined in both language and society. Customers go into shops and buy things, that is what they do.

Gregory Rizi knows the difference between a passenger and a customer. His tale illustrates very well the differences between a bus passenger and a customer. The undercover policewoman assigned to the drug dealer could not believe that he had arranged for her to meet him at work: "She was told to wait at a bus stop and along came a bus driven by the very same man she knew as a drug dealer. He told her to get on with the other passengers, but whereas everyone else paid for their tickets, he refused to take her money, saying the ride was on him. Later he did take money from her, but in exchange for drugs," explained Chief Inspector Gil Alhadad yesterday.

The driver, Gregory Rizi, 43, from Tel Aviv, was brought before the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court yesterday morning to be remanded for five days on charges of drug dealing. The police recorded him selling drugs to the undercover cop on a number of occasions, including on the number 56 bus line he drove. Rizi sold the undercover policewoman Ecstasy, hashish and marijuana - all as part of his route. On other occasions he sold her drugs he had wrapped in tube used for holding bus tickets. A search of his house revealed more drugs, packaged and ready for sale. Police believe he has been dealing for months and made quite a nice sum.

Now, that is the difference between a passenger and a customer!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Genius of Charles Darwin .

Tonight on Channel 4 television I watched the third and final episode of The Genius of Charles Darwin. This series was presented by Richard Dawkins , the author of The God Delusion , a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading whilst I was on holiday at Port El Kantaoui, Tunisia in November 2006.

For people too impatient to read his books, this series explores the gist of evolution, Charles Darwin, life and the religious impulse. The series is very moving and hopefully it has got some viewers to question their beliefs. I agree with what Richard Dawkins has written in his book and have thoroughly enjoyed this television series. Everything makes sense and it is easy to feel rather smug at knowing how life on our planet has evolved and how it works. You can laugh at all established religions, safe in the knowledge that they are all peddling fairy tales and are anxious to retain their power with their propaganda. When you look and learn how life on our planet exists, you will understand that there is no God and there was no creating deity to worship. You will then ask the question why religion is so powerful within our society? The answer I believe is because of the religious impulse that many people develop and never grow out of! Thankfully many more people are now seeing sense and are turning away from established religions. Those people who still believe in a God shout even louder because their numbers and influence are falling.

I am very happy as an Atheist and I am surprised at the large numbers of people throughout the world who are hoodwinked into believing that there is a God who created this earth. When will the penny drop with them, or have they been brainwashed by regular worship with all it's mind bending chanting rituals?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Jewel Of Medina, a book written by Sherry Jones.

I like reading books and I should be able to choose fully what I read. However, The Jewel of Medina, a debut novel by Sherry Jones has been pulped by the publisher Random House because "credible and unrelated sources" had warned that the book "could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment".

Oh yeah, what about the mantra of publish and be damned? You should be allowed to buy and read whatever you like. You pays your money and you have a read. Nobody is forcing you to buy and read this book. Why should readers be bullied by some religious fanatics because they do not like their secrets becoming public knowledge? Is it because they are rightly ashamed of the paedophile antics of their role model? Does the thought of having sex with a 9 year old girl make you want to convert to Islam and follow in the footsteps of Prophet Mohamed ibn Abdallah?

I agree with both Salman Rushdie and Johann Hari in that this book should not have been pulped. You cannot allow self appointed groups the right to censure what adults can buy and read. If you don't like a book, then simply do not buy and read that book. I am not going to call on publishers to withdraw from sale copies of the Holy Bible. If other readers wish to buy and read the Holy Bible and believe the stories rendered, then they in our democracy are welcome to do it. The Jewel of Medina, is a novel - a work of fiction, so nobody should get upset about it unless you like screwing 9 year old girls and people knowing your preferences then may think bad of you!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Turning down work.

The years roll by and Stephen is getting older. I will be 50 years old in September and I need to renew my PCV licence in order to continue in my employment as a coach driver for a nationwide company. When a PCV driver gets to 45 years of age he has to have a medical examination every 5 years for him to renew his vocational driving licence. The same rules and medical examination also apply to LGV - large goods vehicle - lorry drivers. You give the standard DVLA D4 form to your doctor who completes the boxes and you can renew your licence.

On Tuesday 22nd July I went to my doctors, Woodlands Medical Centre on Greenfarm Road, Ely, Cardiff. I had my medical examination there when I renewed my PCV licence when I was 45 years old, so I simply asked the receptionist for an appointment with a doctor. She told me that the secretary would arrange an appointment for me and could I write down my name, address and telephone number, plus my date of birth and she would contact me with a date and time. I also wrote down 4 rest days available to me in August, so that I would be free all day - and the fact that my licence would expire on the 1st September.

I heard nothing back from my doctors so on Wednesday 30th July I went back to reception and asked again. This receptionist said "Before you go on, because of annual leave we are not doing any private work like medicals in August. Come back in September." I was shocked and replied that my licence expires on the 1st September and without a medical examination I would be out of a job. I think she just mumbled "Well" or maybe "So" - she was clearly not bothered. The website for the surgery clearly states...

Private Services

The Doctors provide additional private services to patients on request. Charges vary and depend on the time taken to complete the work.

Common requests include: -

* Private certificates.
* Employment medical examinations/reports.
* Vocational driving examinations (PCV/LGV or Taxi).
* Passport/Driving licence countersignature.
* Insurance examinations/reports.
* Sickness/Accident claim reports.

If the service that you require is not listed above, please enquire at reception as we will, in all probability, be able to help you.

...Like heck they will. What can I do, without a renewal of my PCV licence I am out of a job. So off I go to the next nearest doctors to my home which is Westway Surgery on Wilson Road, Ely, Cardiff. I told the receptionist my situation and was told that yes they do PCV medicals but because I am not registered at their surgery they will not do one for me.

I then went to the next nearest doctors to the Westway Surgery and repeated my situation to their receptionist. Caerau Lane Surgery on Caerau Lane, Ely, Cardiff gave exactly the same reply - yes they do PCV medicals but not unless you are one of their registered patients.

I then went further down towards Ely Bridge and called into the Ely Bridge Surgery on Mill Road, Ely, Cardiff and repeated my situation to the receptionist. She told me to sit down and wait. After a couple of minutes a guy came up to me and said he was Doctor Charles - "Can I help you?" he asked. I explained my situation to him which he instantly understood. He was surprised that the Woodlands Medical Centre had refused this routine medical examination but that he would happily do one for me and when can I come down to him. I arranged with him to have my PCV medical examination this morning at 11.30 - all went fine and I have posted my licence renewal papers this afternoon to DVLA in Swansea. Doctor Charles said that if he is still there in 5 years time he would be very happy to do the same again. He is a good man and I admire him.

I am now very relieved because with my PCV licence renewal I can keep my job. What annoys me and I simply cannot understand is why the Woodlands Medical Centre is turning down work? We are not talking beer money here, we are talking good money. We are talking £109 - which is good work! Also what is wrong with both the Westway and Caerau Lane Surgeries for turning down good, profitable work if you are not a registered patient with them? Words almost fail me but I know who will be getting my business when I am coming up to my 55th birthday. I will not bother asking for a PCV medical at the Woodlands Medical Centre as I will simply march down Mill Road and give my business to those sensible people at the Ely Bridge Surgery.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Mission Song by John le Carre .

This is John le Carre's 20th novel and was published in paperback in 2007. I have not read any of his books before and I can see from this novel just why he is such a successful and prolific author.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Bruno Salvador, an interpreter of mixed race. The pace of the story is good and the humour is appropriate. It is a spy thriller that involves a conspiracy. The research behind the story is first rate and John le Carre tells a good tale. I wonder if the inspiration for this novel came from the real life 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d'état attempt which involved a certain Mark Thatcher ? John includes recognisable locations within London and captures the mood of the times after the 7/7 London bombings. The plot has many good twists that keep you guessing. The story ends in the way that in real life a similar tale would have done. John has written a realistic tale that questions morals in life, the home and the workplace.

Outside of this novel the reader may question their views on identity. What makes people believe they belong to a certain group? Can people belong to more than one group? Are groups of people important or are the boundaries meaningless? Who should you trust in life, should you trust them all of the time or just part of the time?

I vote this novel a hit although I did not like the lead character Bruno Salvador for 2 reasons. The main reason is because he committed adultery - a crime I cannot condone - the thought of this act makes the shiver. The second reason is that most employees would take the money and keep their mouths shut. Their silence and loyalty would have been paid for in full. Still you do not have to totally like the lead character to thoroughly enjoy a good book. It takes all sorts in this world and there are a lot of villains out there!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Cuil is not cool .

Do not believe the hype, Cuil , the new search engine, is not cool. Cuil claims to have 121 bn web pages in it's index. I have tried this new search engine and I found it poor, very disappointing. It does not give good results for the typical web searches that I would make. The interface is poor and it does not have any feature that attracts me to it. I vote this new search engine a MISS. Avoid it and continue to use your favourite search engine, is my advice to everyone.

My favourite search engine for general web searches is Yahoo! because the results are good and numerous. The interface allows you to refine your search and gives you good ideas to explore your search into other directions. My second choice of general search engine goes to Ask which offers most of what I look for in any search engine.

For news stories I do not think anybody does it better than News at Google and for blogs it can only be Blog Search at Google because nothing else comes close.

Happy surfing everyone.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Piri Piri Chicken.

Oh it can be trying when you have visitors! Out goes your usual routine and in come the visitors that you have to entertain. It does not matter who they are, you still have to entertain. Oh boy, it can be trying no matter how close they are! We are having my parents stay with us for 5 nights. What can we do with them, where can we go? Oh, it is a pub lunch but where, with all of my mother's food intolerances?

We decided today on a Sizzling Pub , the Stone House, Lighthouse Road, St Bridges Wentlooge, Newport NP10 8TG. I went into this pub not feeling over bright. My routine has been altered and time is taken over with simply keeping everyone happy. A busman's holiday if you like. But then I looked at the menu and spotted a Piri Piri Chicken, which sounded different, foreign and rather interesting. I decided to give this chicken dish a go and walked to the bar to order. What did I find at the bar but Brain's SA on draft for only £1.90 a pint. No that is not a key punch error - I repeat - £1.90 a pint for an excellent 4.2% ABV real ale. Well, my spirits quickly brightened and the beer tasted as good as ever. I obviously recommended the same for my father.

My Piri Piri Chicken dinner came and it was simply lush. The flavour was gorgeous and the taste very foreign. What a joy this dinner was to eat compared to bland, boring British food. I felt like a new man in an instant and I became sociable again, ready to face conversation and family life.

If ever there was a food to change somebody's mood quickly for the better, then the Piri Piri Chicken gets my vote.

The Stone House pub is nice and airy, with plenty of room. I would be very happy to eat there again in the future. Well done to the team at the Stone House for making a somewhat grumpy 49 year old happy again!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]