Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Deals behind closed doors.

For years now I have told workmates that they will never get the full story and that a lot of things are done behind closed doors. I believe that competition in the passenger transport market is just a show to mislead the public into thinking that it is a free market with operators competing against each other. I think that a lot of deals are done under the table and there are a lot of gentleman's agreements in place. The public face is one of competition but in reality I think that the top managers of each firm are in it together.

And what is on the Daily Telegraph website today ? No surprises for me here then!...

FirstGroup has made a provocative nil-premium approach to rival National Express, based on the premise that it has a superior management team more capable of sorting out its target's troubled East Coast rail franchise. NatEx said that on June 19 it had received "a highly preliminary approach... on unspecified terms", noting that FirstGroup had put no price on the table. It was via a letter from FirstGroup chairman Martin Gilbert, posted to the house of his counterpart John Devaney, who has only recently joined NatEx. Despite the rejection, FirstGroup said it "continues to believe there is significant industrial and commercial logic in a combination of the two companies". It stressed that there could be no certainty of any offer.

...Yeah right! A letter from one chairman posted to the private house of the chairman of a rival company! Seems like a Gentleman's Club to me and not competing companies operating in a free market.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Keep off the grass!

On my rest break this morning I sat in Ebury Square Garden, which is a very small park in London at the rear of Victoria Coach Station. I was disturbed from reading my book by the sound of small children. I looked up and saw 12 primary school children accompanied by 3 women. These 3 women were all wearing high visibility waistcoats.

2 women and the 12 children were waiting on the path whilst the 3rd women walked onto a small section of grass. She walked all over the grass and her eyes never left the ground. She did a very thorough inspection indeed and when she was satisfied she nodded and the 12 children ran onto the grass and started playing.

This scenario amused me and I assume she was looking for dog faeces but was unable to find any! The wearing of high visibility waistcoats in the search for dog faeces I find really funny and I must remember to wear mine when I scoop up our pet's deposits at home!

What did you learn at school today, Johnny? Risk assessments replies Johnny with a smile!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hey Boris, how about some joined up thinking?

Coming home from London last night I already knew that the M4 westbound was closed between junctions 1 and 3. So, rather than go chug, chug, chug along the old A4 past Hounslow with the inevitable delays I went the smart way out of London along the A40. All was going smoothly until suddenly all 3 lanes of traffic stopped. The traffic then crawled very slowly for a long way and I saw a sign that lanes 2 and 3 were closed further along. The traffic edged forward until the main A40 westbound was reduced to a single lane. More crawling ensued until I got to the Hanger Lane underpass which had been closed, so all traffic had to go up the exit ramp to the traffic lights of the gyratory system. These traffic lights only let a few vehicles forward at a time because normally with the underpass open there is little traffic entering the junction. I drove back onto the A40 which was still restricted to 1 lane, went past just one guy with a pneumatic drill and then was on my merry way.

This whole delay has cost my employer 60 minutes in overtime. Now, think just how much the total cost was to all the people traveling out of London at that time? The Hanger Lane underpass runs under the North Circular Road (A406) and the M4 was closed also with it's junction with this same North Circular Road. Why was there not some joined up thinking here? It was plain stupid to close both westbound routes going out of London at the same radius from the West End. If they must close roads to do repairs, then surely do not close both parallel routes at adjacent points and at the same time. This was madness and an example of bad management by Boris Johnson's team. We live in a 24/7 society so why the hell did they close the M4 motorway at 21.00? Surely working within a 24/7 culture they should have closed the motorway at maybe midnight or 01.00 and not make everyone suffer. Joined up thinking it certainly was not. It is maddening to me that our elected representatives cannot plan roadworks sensibly but they have no difficulty in claiming expenses as a perk of their jobs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Two men feared drowned after Bristol Channel swim.

Two men carried away by the tide as they took a swim in the Bristol Channel last night are feared to have drowned. The men, both in their thirties, went into the water near Birnbeck Pier in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, after drinks at the nearby Royal Pier Hotel. According to reports received by the Coastguard, they stripped off down to their boxer shorts and entered the water while their girlfriends remained on the beach. They began to get into serious difficulties after the turning of the tide, which is swollen by the flow from the River Severn. The initial call to the coastguard was made just after 9pm and by 9.13pm the two men were believed to have been swept half a mile offshore and were heard still shouting for help. Story continues with reader comments.

...Well, what can I say, another 2 lives lost. This needless tragedy happens every year up and down our country. People have a few drinks and then they think it is a lovely idea to have a swim. People do not seem to learn by other peoples' mistakes or realize what dangers open water can bring. Yes, I was young once and have always enjoyed a few drinks but I always avoided water due to the simple risk of drowning. Call me an old woman but when on holiday I will happily swim in the hotel swimming pool but you will not get me into the open sea. There are dangers out at sea and not just from drowning. Sea creatures can bite or sting you. I will not go into the hotel swimming pool if I have had some wine or some beers with my lunch. You only need one chance to die so you should manage the risks and act sensible.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

what does the internet think?

Ever wondered what the internet thinks about things? Well, this search engine will tell you what the internet thinks about a given search field. It will show you the numbers of positive, negative and ambivalent results and their percentages. For example our leader, Gordon Brown comes up with negative 673 - 54%, positive 563 - 45% and 6 - 0.5%don't care.

A certain nationwide company comes up with negative 92 - 82%, positive 20 - 18% The leading competitor to long distance coach travel comes up with negative 56 - 62%, positive 34 - 38% A certain provider of passenger transport and wheelie bin collection comes up with negative 3 - 33%, positive 6 - 67% So, we all know just who the winner is here then!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Not quite a knob joke.

Following on from yesterday's post about what I find amusing on the internet, I offer today the tale of Mike's knob which is written by his wife Ariane. I do not think that she meant to make it sound so sexy but it certainly made me smile.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Complete Expenses Files.

At 12.15 this afternoon my Yahoo! webmail account received an email from the Daily Telegraph newspaper. A lot of people use the expression LOL, which is internet slang for Laughing Out Loud. I find a lot of things on the internet funny and amusing but this email really did make me laugh out loud. Of course I had to read this email out aloud to Gail as she wondered just what I had found so very funny. This was after I had chuckled at Martin on the Yahoo! newsgroup about a nationwide company, getting the registration number of a motorcycle confused with the registration number of a coach!

So for your amusement I have copied the body of the email below...

Dear Mr Clynes,

This Saturday in the Telegraph don't miss The Complete Expenses Files – a 68-page magazine supplement listing the expenses of all 646 MPs.

Inside the 68-page magazine supplement you will find files concerning all 646 MPs, with details of their Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) expenses for 2007-8, the most recent year for which figures are available.

This is the first time that such detailed information about our elected representatives has been available in one place. It is an historic moment. We believe that our expenses files will help change the face of British politics for the better.

...Ho! Ho! Ho! I will be teasing my father on Sunday about another supplement in his newspaper that will be quickly dispatched to the recycling green bag without being read by him or my mother. Joking apart though, it is good that the Daily Telegraph has run this investigative journalism campaign against these criminals who have been democratically elected as our representatives, yet blatantly have been fiddling their expenses.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More news that the Police are pissing people off again.

Oh yes, the Police are pissing off more people, yet again. Nice piece in the newspaper today about the abuse of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 by the Police.

White members of the public are being unlawfully detained by the police in order to give "racial balance" to stop-and-search statistics, a report by the Government's watchdog on terror laws has found. Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said he knew of cases where suspects were stopped by officers even though there was no evidence or suspicion against them. He said police were carrying out the searches on people they had no basis for suspecting so they could avoid accusations of prejudice. But the peer said police should stop trying to balance the figures, and it may be that an "ethnic imbalance" is a "proportional consequence" of policing.

Figures released earlier this year revealed a huge increase in searches using Section 44 powers. Officers in England and Wales used the powers to search 124,687 people in 2007-08, up from 41,924 in 2006-07. Only 1 per cent of searches led to an arrest. Nearly 90 per cent of the searches were carried out by the Metropolitan Police, which recorded a 266 per cent increase in its use of the power. Officers in London use Section 44 to carry out stop and search between 8,000 and 10,000 times a month.

Well, this whole story just stinks. First the Police pick on the non-white Muslims then they pick on everyone else to fiddle the statistics. Look at the large numbers of tax payers, the very people who pay their wages, they are pissing off under the disguise of the Terrorism Act 2000. This has got to stop. The Police are marvelous at wasting peoples' time with their stop and search, just because they can.

There were more road closures recently in Cardiff when the Police decided on their whim to close Westgate Street in our City Centre because Oasis and Take That were playing at the Millennium Stadium. There is no warning given, they just throw some cones across the road and grin at you like monkeys. The local bus services are thrown into disarray and the passengers do not know if the bus station is open or closed.

Driving into Sheffield yesterday afternoon along the A61 between Meadowhead and Woodseats I spotted a parked white van. This van was parked the wrong way, that is facing oncoming traffic, on a slight left-hand bend so that the sign writing on the side was not clearly visible to approaching drivers. There was nobody sat in the front of this white van but there was a small device attached to the windscreen. As I got closer I could see that a camera was attached to the windscreen, not an ordinary camera but a speed camera. As I drove slowly past to make the following traffic slow down (and not trip the device) and to register a protest, I could see the familiar sign writing of the revenue grabbing speed camera partnership. Looking in my mirror I could see no devices looking out of the back of this van.

This was the first time I have seen a forward facing speed camera van. Rear facing speed camera vans stick out like a sore thumb. This tactic is very underhand and it shows just how rotten the Police are to the tax paying public. If there ever was a suitable training location for our home grown terrorists to try out an Improvised Explosive Device then I strongly suggest a speed camera van.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Possession by Peter James .

In December 2008 I read Dead Man's Footsteps by Peter James. On this blog I wrote "I would buy another of Peter's books because the quality is there". Well, I was in an Asda supermarket and they were banging some paperbacks out for just £2 - I looked at the authors and here was one by Peter James, so for just £2 it was a gift.

Possession is a book Peter first published in 1988, a paperback edition was published in 2000 and reissued in 2007. This 290 page book is about Alex Hightower whose son, Fabian is killed in a car crash. Problem is that Alex believes her son is still alive and this novel is above life after death and the spirit world. Okay, you may think, what is Stephen - an Atheist doing reading a book about ghosts? Ah, that is because Peter James writes such a good story. He is a very skilled author and this book is a joy to read. This novel should appeal to readers of ALL religious beliefs, it does not matter whether you believe in a God or ghosts as it's interpretation is down to the reader. You can take this novel to be an easily explained fantasy of an after life or as a story of how society can deal with the challenges brought into every day life from a spirit world.

Peter tells a lovely tale and his writing style is very clear. I like the structure of this book and you feel that you are getting a full story. There is a lot of body to this story, it is not thin and the plot develops at a good steady pace. I consider this book a good read, even if it had been sold at a regular price! There was nothing I disliked about this novel, although I was surprised at the amount of cigarette smoking that was described but I would not mark this book down because of it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Atheist cleaners could sue Christian care homes over crucifixes, warn bishops .

What is this on the Daily Telegraph website, an April Fools' Day joke? Church care homes could be forced to remove crucifixes from their walls in case they offend "atheist cleaners" under the new Equality Bill, Catholic bishops have warned. The way the bill is written means non-Christians could sue for harassment if church authorities do not remove religious imagery, according to Monsignor Andrew Summersgill, general secretary of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. Bishops are concerned that religious authorities could be left in an impossible legal position, because under the bill it would be up to the employer to prove that displaying such an image did not amount to harassment of an employee.

This whole story is daft, I cannot imagine any Atheist going to court over religious imagery. I am an Atheist and I am not bothered by ANY religious imagery. You can call me by my first name of Stephen and then claim that Stephen is my Christian name, I am not bothered! I believe that ALL Atheists are tolerant people and that we are not bothered by other peoples' religious imagery, buildings, clothing or beliefs. I think that it is very hard to offend an Atheist, even if you tried. Atheists think that a belief in a God is daft and other people going around worshiping their God does not bother us, we just think it is funny and a waste of time.

Over a week ago, I refused a passenger with a Funfare ticket for another departure, travel on my coach. This woman did not like this as there were empty seats on my coach but the terms and conditions of her ticket would not allow her to travel. So she nagged which made no difference, then she cried which made no difference. Then she said something like "May God have pity on you!" as she walked away to the ticket office to purchase a valid ticket. This was not a cursing whisper but an attempt to get a reaction from me! Little did she know that I am an Atheist and that her religious claim would gain no credit with me. Never would I think of putting in a report to the nationwide company about her comments to me, which you could laughingly claim to be "religious abuse"! I am not offended by people thinking I may believe in a God or if they are wearing religious clothing or jewelry.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A new Minister of State for Transport .

Things are changing big time within our government. Following many resignations and the scandal of MP's expenses we are having a new Minister of State for Transport. Tooting MP Sadiq Khan said his late father, who drove buses around Wandsworth for 25 years, would be proud today after he became the first ever Muslim to join the cabinet. The 38-year-old father of two, who grew up on the Henry Prince Estate in Earlsfield, said he wanted to be an inspiration to all people from humble backgrounds. He said: “My dad, when he first came to this country, he wouldn’t have dreamt that his son would have gone to the cabinet. If he was alive now he’d pinch himself. When you’re an immigrant and you’re driving buses, working all the hours God sends, and when you live on the Henry Prince Estate, sometimes you can have limited dreams and expectations."

Sadiq claims that transport was “in the blood” because of the decades his father, Amanullah Khan, spent driving the number 44 bus from Wandsworth garage until he died in 2003.

Well, good luck Sadiq, it is nice to see the son of a bus driver being given the job of Minister of State for Transport. To be given any job in the cabinet at the age of just 38 is a huge achievement and is an inspiration to everyone. What generally annoys voters is when ministers are appointed in fields that they know nothing about and working in issues where they are not representative. Because of your father's influence and his inevitable talks over the kitchen table you will be well placed to be the Minister of State for Transport. You will have done the Maths and you will understand how transport affects the whole population of our country. You will have seen transport from the bottom up, from the bus driver on an hourly rate where no-matter how well he does his job he is trapped by his employer and the transport infrastructure, to the top businessmen who do not care about the general public because money talks and they MUST come first.

The job of Minister of State for Transport is a great challenge and I hope Sadiq is in it for the long haul. Sadiq's choice of religion is his private business and it should have nothing to do with his political career. If I were a voter in Tooting then Sadiq would get my vote because I feel that he is representative of the working man. Oh yes, I am only human and I hate it when people look down on bus drivers as second class citizens. All citizens should be represented equally and we should move away from a class and snobbery ridden society.

Friday, June 05, 2009

When sex goes wrong.

A lot of people think that sex is what only young people do and that they can be described as young and daft. However, age is no barrier to sex and dangerous games. David Carradine, the Hollywood star who was found dead in a Bangkok hotel cupboard, appears to have died in a sex act gone wrong, Thai police claim. The 72-year old actor was found with a rope tied around his neck and testicles by a maid in the hotel. Police said an autopsy was being carried out to determine the cause of death but a spokesman for the actor's family said they were "100 per cent" certain he did not commit suicide. "There was a rope tied around his neck and another rope tied at his sex organ, and the two ropes were tied together and hung in the closet," police commander, Lieutenant General Worapong Siewpreecha said. "Under these circumstances we cannot be sure that he committed suicide but he may have died from masturbation."

So there you have it, age is no barrier to sex games. Makes me wonder what goes on at the sheltered housing scheme where my parents are living. This could explain why every flat has an emergency pull cord and the warden always checks their status every morning. Of course, some middle aged men have a lot of climbing gear at home. Maybe the ropes, clamps and straps have other uses away from the mountains!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Sunflower Forest by Torey Hayden .

I read the rear cover of this novel in WH Smith...

Seventeen-year-old Lesley is a typical teenage girl: her worries revolve around boys, choosing the right college and bickering with her younger sister Megan. She adores her beautiful, captivating mother Mara, who tells evocative stories of her childhood in Hungary and Germany before the war. However, Mara has one memory of the past that she can never share...

As Lesley begins to uncover the horror of her mother's secret, their idyllic family life shatters around them, and Lesley realizes that her mother is not the person she thought she knew.

...Well, this 461 page book sounded an interesting mystery so I bought it. I thought it was a new book and the copyright is 2008 but it was actually first published in 1984. Still, having read it all, I just do not know why they have re-published this poor book. I found this novel slow, nothing was dramatic and there was no resolution at the end of this story. This whole tale is drawn out and written in a very long-winded style. I stopped caring about the characters as the plot is very shallow, the dialogue is poor, there is no special message to the reader and there are no strong opinions which makes this a very bland tale.

This novel is far fetched and I cannot believe this story could happen just as it was told. This story is unrealistic and although it is written in the first person, I could not develop any interest or liking for any of the main 6 characters. The most over-used word in this whole book is lichen as it is mentioned again and again, so much so that I began to groan every time I read it yet again.

I vote this book a MISS because it is such a poor read. I will not be buying any of her other 10 books. There is some mild humour in The Sunflower Forest that would not offend anyone but then this book does not inspire anyone either. So I will finish this post by quoting possibly the best part of this book from page 141...

One weekend afternoon when the sun had become hot, I took off my shirt while Paul and I were lying together in the grass out on Ladder Creek. Then he unhooked my bra. We had no blanket to lie on, so all along my back I could feel the damp, scratchy prairie grass. Paul, beside me, touched my breasts, moving his fingers around my nipples. It made me shiver with an electric sensation that I found too intense to be pleasurable, and spasmodically, I would jerk away from him when I couldn't tolerate it any longer. Paul unbuttoned his pants. Closing his eyes, he clutched me tight against him and rubbed his body against mine. I could smell his sweat. It was a pleasingly sexy odour that belonged with the smell of prairie grass and with the warmth of late March sun. Then suddenly I felt a spurt of wetness over my belly and I sat up abruptly. Paul laughed. Didn't I know what was going to happen? he asked and dropped back on the grass. Hadn't I realized he was going to come? Raised up on one elbow, I looked at the semen, creamy and white like liquid soap from the dispenser on the kitchen window ledge. I had never seen semen before and I hadn't known it was going to happen and for a moment I was tempted to deny my ignorance, feeling stupid for having been so surprised. But instead, I just giggled and fell back on the grass beside Paul and we laughed about it together.

When it was time to go, I wiped the semen off my stomach with my shirt. At home that night I examined the shirt, smelled the faintly musky odour. I meant to put it into the laundry afterward, but I didn't. I kept the shirt out and put it under my pillow for that night, if not to smell Paul's closeness, then to dream of it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

bandwidth hogging internet users .

Rory Cellan-Jones writes today that...

When the BBC launched its iPlayer at Christmas 2007, there was a deal of muttering from some internet service providers about the effect on their networks and their costs of handling a flood of video streaming traffic.

Then it all seemed to go quiet for a while, despite an even bigger surge in traffic than most had anticipated. Now, though, the BBC appears to be at daggers drawn with the giant of the UK broadband market over the impact of iPlayer.

I was contacted a short while ago by a BBC colleague who wanted to tell me an interesting story. He worked in the technology department at the BBC, but was also a BT customer on the basic broadband package. And he couldn't help noticing that every evening, his speed was dropping to such a low level that watching the iPlayer became a much less satisfactory experience than usual.

This chap had access to the infrastructure behind the iPlayer and so was able to investigate further. What he found was that BT appeared to be throttling back iPlayer speeds for its Option 1 customers to somewhere around 700kbps between teatime and midnight.

...Read the full story if you like by clicking this link or the story on IT PRO .

Here is my opinion, I think that using BBC iPlayer is similar to the centre lane hogs on British motorways. These drivers stick in the middle lane not overtaking anybody but they develop a queue of traffic behind them. It is selfish and inconsiderate behaviour. Motorways were never designed for these centre lane hoggers but for considerate drivers to make best use of all lanes by overtaking slower traffic.

The internet is for everyone and we all have to share bandwidth with other internet users. BBC iPlayer uses an awful lot of bandwidth and is an inefficient use of the network that everyone pays for. I think that BT was right to throttle BBC iPlayer speeds down to 700mbps. What should other internet users suffer lower speeds because of the selfish use of bandwidth by the BBC iPlayer surfers.

People who wish to watch television programmes after they have been broadcast should buy a digital TV recorder. We have had one of these wonderful machines for over 2 years now and they are great to use. Broadband internet access should be used for information, not as another broadcast television medium that makes other users suffer lower access speeds.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Random testing for everyone?

THE annual summer campaign to stamp out drink-driving begins today. South Wales Police will increase the number of spot checks carried out this month to clamp down on drunk motorists flouting the law. During last year’s campaign South Wales Police tested 3,912 motorists – 196 tested positive. Of those, 1,321 were under 25-years-old, 61 of whom tested positive.

Here we go again, treat us all like children. In the workplace we have random breath tests that produce the ritual ZERO result on all donors. This is a waste of time but we are paid by the hour so we cannot complain. It is a criminal offence to waste Police time but what actions do we have against the Police for wasting our time and treating us all like naughty children? Over 3,700 drivers in South Wales in last year's annual summer drink-driving campaign had their time wasted producing negative breath tests. I would be happier if the Police gave ALL drivers who produced a negative breath test £2 in cash for wasting their time. There is a thing called wrongful arrest and getting people to prove their innocence is not really fair play. No wonder the Police are loosing the support and respect of the public as we blunder our way into a police-state where everyone is constantly under suspicion as likely to commit an offence.

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