Saturday, November 28, 2009

The average dog owner gets more exercise walking their pet than someone with a gym membership, a pet health care expert has claimed. Researchers found animal lovers exercise their pet twice a day for 24 minutes each time – a total of five hours and 38 minutes a week. On top of that, the average dog owner also takes their pet out on three long walks each week adding another two hours and 33 minutes to the total.

But in comparison, those without a dog spend an average of just one hour and 20 minutes per week exercising by going to the gym or heading out for a stroll or jog. And almost half (47 per cent) of non-pet owners admit they do absolutely no exercise whatsoever.

...This newspaper story comes as little surprise to me. I have a crossbreed Jack Russell/Lakeland Terrier dog and taking him out for a walk is a joy. Taking him for a walk is not a chore, it is part of living, this freedom that we can all enjoy to wander about, wherever we wish. Compared to going to a gym, where the user exercises but does not go anywhere, there is really no contest. Going to a gym must be as exciting as watching paint dry! What an expensive chore gym membership must be, all that effort for no reward! Dog walking starts at your front door and you can pick your shopping up on the way back. Look at all the urban traffic congestion around caused by young ladies driving to the gym where they pose like performing seals! Get a life, get a dog and enjoy life like a normal person. You will also get a good loyal friend in a dog rather than a bored looking expression as you see yourself in the gym mirror!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown .

This 620 page thriller was written in 2000 and I found this book an entertaining and a fun read. This is not the tale of the under-dog for on page 21 we read...

Although not overly handsome in a classical sense, the forty-five-year-old Langdon had what his female colleagues referred to as an 'erudite' appeal - wisps of gray in his thick brown hair, probing blue eyes, an arrestingly deep voice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete. A varsity diver in prep school and college, Langdon still had the body of a swimmer, a toned, six-foot physique that he vigilantly maintained with fifty laps a day in the university pool.

...So, our hero moves on and on page 121 we read...

'Mr Langdon, I want to know who killed my father. And I want to know if your agency can find the anti-matter.'
Langdon looked flustered. 'My agency?'
'You're with U.S. Intelligence, I assume.'
Kholer intervened. 'Mr Langdon is a professor of art history at Harvard University.'
Vittoria felt like she had been doused with ice water. 'An art teacher?'

...But, I laugh to myself, can you really solve a crisis like this with the help of an art teacher? This reminds me of the song ...

If there's something strange
in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call?

If there's something weird
and it don't look good
Who ya gonna call?

This story is really far-fetched! It involves a long forgotten group called the Illuminati and their evil plans for the Catholic Church. What secrets may the Catholic Church be hiding within it's heavily guarded walls?

I do not suggest that bloggers buy this book, it is okay, it passed my quality threshold but this really is a silly story that you can enjoy in just the same way as a tv comedy programme. Once again, a big thank you goes to a workmate called Matthew for passing on his copy of this book to me to enjoy whilst his is on holiday in Thailand.

Angels & Demons is a daft, silly story that would never happen in real life. There are many twists in this tale and the pace is fast. Everything is explained to the reader, you just roll along with this fantasy. This novel deals at great length with the sculpture of Gian Lorenzo Bernini , as our hero Robert Langdon, the art teacher, saves the day! Dan Brown also explores a lot of theology from the point of view of a Catholic Priest. I think that readers of all beliefs will be able to follow all these theological arguments with great ease because of the way that Dan Brown explains them to the reader. You do not need an upbringing from my parents to understand the thoughts of Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca! Angels & Demons has a good ending and I think it is a better book than The Lost Symbol but I still rate it as okay, with 3 stars on Book Army .

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Harvesting the fat .

Police in Peru say they have arrested three members of a gang who murdered a string of peasant farmers, drained the fat from their dead bodies, and then attempted to sell it to European cosmetics manufacturers. The men have confessed to a total of five killings, but are suspected of dozens more. Police believe they approached their victims on remote roads and lured them to a hut in the jungle with talk of being able to introduce them to a potential employer. Instead, the victims were bludgeoned to death. Each of their bodies then had its head, arms and legs cut off. Major organs were removed, and discarded, before the torso was suspended from hooks in the ceiling of the hut. Candles were placed beneath, so that melting fat would dribble into pots, pans and other collecting vessels.

WOW! What a shocking story! Had today been the 1st of April I would have laughed this story off as a hoax. This is a dreadful crime and the victims would have been easy to entice with the offer of work. To think that criminals could butcher these peasant farmers in this way is shocking and this gang is clearly evil with not a moral among them. Police believe that the gang, and others like it, could have been carrying out versions of the scheme for almost three decades.

Peru will not become a holiday destination for Gail and I because my wife would clearly be a target for these evil fat harvesting gangs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pig in the sky or surfing on a cloud?

With traditional computing you switch on your machine and it boots up. This is quite a complex routine and it can take quite a time before your machine is ready for your input. With your television set, you switch it on and very quickly you have sound and vision. With your mobile telephone, you switch it on and very quickly you are connected to your mobile telephone service. Can you see where my argument is going? Why can we not have computers that quickly connect to the internet in the same fashion and time scale as mobile telephones? This is because of how computer operating systems run, there is no other reason.

I as an internet user live in the cloud. The information that I read and write is out there on the internet and not stored on my home computer. This way of working is known as cloud computing. I do not need a bloated operating system to run my home computer but only a thin client. I am not alone in my computing use and Google is developing it's own operating system which is based on it's Chrome browser.

"We want Chrome OS to be blazingly fast," said Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google. "We want it to be like a TV - turn it on and you're in your web application." Google demonstrated the OS booting on an Eee PC in around seven seconds. "We're working very, very, very hard to make this time shorter," Pichai said. All user data will be stored in the cloud, with the operating system only using local flash memory for caching data such as settings. "If I lose my Chrome OS machine, I should be able to buy a new one, log in, and within a few seconds get all my applications back," Pichai claimed. Google said it's currently concentrating on the clamshell netbook form-factor, but wouldn't rule out moving to full-scale laptops and desktop PCs over time. Google wouldn't give any indication of what price it expects Chrome OS netbooks to sell for, although it seems likely they will be at the low-budget end of the netbook market.

So, will we see pigs fly in the sky or will using a netbook become as user friendly and efficient as a mobile telephone? I place my bet on the mighty Google and I think they will have a winner over Microsoft with their thin client that should be a really usable device rather than an over-specified home computer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is everybody going wi-fi?

I wonder, is everybody going wi-fi and adopting portable computing? I am relatively old school with my internet access. I have a broadband modem at home that runs a cable into the back of a traditional desktop computer, with a CRT monitor, 101 button keyboard and a mouse on the end of a cable. This equipment sits nicely on a tidy desk and I sit on a comfy chair whilst reading and writing on this wonderful machine.

But whilst doing my day job I notice that a lot of people have these portable computers, netbooks and laptops with various screen sizes. There appears to be a lot of people accessing the internet either with mobile broadband dongles or free wi-fi from a number of locations. Today I read that
Swindon is to become the first UK wi-fi town
with free internet access available to all its 186,000 residents. A £1 million network of 1,400 “access points” similar to the wireless routers installed in millions of homes will be sited at strategic locations around the Wiltshire town. The network is being named the Swindon mesh.

I notice a lot of signs around our country offering free wi-fi and this service is appearing to be catching on. I do wonder if the mobile phone companies who sell mobile broadband are feeling the cold here as there appears to be a growing number of free wi-fi internet hotspots. Maybe one day all the coaches of a nationwide company may have free wi-fi installed. It has already fitted wi-fi to it's coaches running from London to Portsmouth and Southampton because a rival service, named after a slim breed of racing dog, is offering wi-fi to their passengers.

I have often wondered about buying a netbook or laptop for use outside the home. Had I not discovered the joy of reading paperback novels, I may have bought one because I had become so disappointed with newspapers. The joy of books is that once who have chosen a book, whenever you open that book, it is a 100% quality reading experience. Internet use is a very different experience indeed, a mix of searching, reading and writing. My typical internet session has many different destinations and does not have the single focus that a paperback novel provides. If things turn bad with a paperback book then it could be up to £8 down the drain, even a dog could chew it. If things turn bad with a netbook or laptop then you could say goodbye to £200 to £350 - enough to make a grown man cry!

Still, I will play safe for now, with my throw-away £8 paperback books but one day I may trade up to this very popular technology.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Falling in the shit .

Now, straight faces at the back, I know this is going to be a challenge. One of my favourite blogs is called Health and Safety News . Oh dear, you may think, Stephen has his anorak on again but bear with me. Friends and workmates know how keen I am on Health and Safety and I promote best practice inside and outside of the workplace.

Now, women love shopping and looking at all those goods that are up for sale. Sometimes things get in their way when they are in shops like those warning signs for slippery floors. But what would happen if there were no signs or guards of this nature? Click this link to read the story, it is rather sad, an avoidable incident but I think it is impossible not to laugh at her misfortune!

I think that Uddin Selvaratnam is a greedy little man for not letting this woman use his telephone considering the circumstances and to charge her £1.50 for plastic bags is really rubbing it in!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Danish Dynamite .

WOW! I had some Danish Dynamite today, it was a lovely surprise and it really made me chuckle, with joy. What, you may wonder, was Stephen so pleased about, not more Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad? Oh, but this was golden, it really was!

Relax folks, no need to buy Danish flags to burn in protest at the freedom of expression enjoyed in Europe! Danish Dynamite is a light golden, dry, strong ale, slightly fruity with a well balanced hop flavour and bitterness - simply a Top Class Beer which has won several major beer festivals, brewed at OG 1048 and ABV 5.0%

Danish Dynamite is brewed by Stonehenge Ales , Bunces Brewery, The Old Mill, Mill Road, Netheravon, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP4 9QB, United Kingdom and I found it an absolute joy to drink with my pub lunch today. No wonder Danish Dynamite has won so many awards ! This real ale is simply delicious! There is something really lovely about having a day off work, enjoying a romantic pub lunch for two, washed down with an excellent real ale like Danish Dynamite. I do not know why the Stonehenge Ales called this brew Danish Dynamite but this Prophet approves! If you know why this golden ale was called Danish Dynamite, please leave a comment in the box below. Maybe it is because Stig Anker Andersen: Master Brewer, MD and Owner is Danish and/or of Danish ethnic origin. However, do not get confused with Carlsberg, there are other beers produced by Danes !

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason .

This 521 page book took six years to write and it was finished in 2004. I feel those six years were a waste. The Rule of Four reached the top of the New York Times Bestseller list, where it remained for more than six months. The book was a no. 1 national and international bestseller and has been translated into more than 25 languages. It has sold more than four million copies worldwide, and to date is the best selling debut novel of the decade. This really surprises me as I did not enjoy this book. I have had a good run of reading books lately, the last 6 books passed my quality threshold but The Rule of Four failed, big time. I vote this book an AVOID.

The Rule of Four is about a 500 year old book called the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. It was thought that the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili was a coded book that held secrets. It was coded in 7 languages and it is not until page 292 of The Rule of Four that it is confirmed to the reader that it does in fact hold a secret. This tale belonging to the Renaissance period is drab, it is not exciting and this whole book is a big disappointment. I took nothing away from this book and I feel it is wrong that some people relate this book to The Da Vinci Code. The Da Vinci Code was a good entertaining book, The Rule of Four in comparison is boring. This book is poor and rambles along about the joys of college life at great length. This is more about the fun life of four college guys enjoying their education rather than solving some 500 year old riddles. It does explore the love that scholars can hold for certain books but having a book written in 7 languages that you have to decipher to get the hidden meaning is beyond me! Dan Brown does not have to look over his shoulder from this pair!

Next book please.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We get all sorts of passengers using our coaches.

Oh yes, we have a rather diverse range of passengers using our coaches. We get all different sorts of passengers, different sizes, different shapes and different skin colours. But I have yet to see a group of these as intending passengers!

Click this photograph to make it bigger and let me know in the comment box below whether you think these mammals are Merekats trying to catch a bus to a studio to make an annoying advertisement about an insurance premium comparison website .

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Parking within the lines.

What is it with some motorists? I noticed many cars this morning in a car park that were not parked within the lines marked out into designated bays. Why are some motorists so lazy in their parking? There is no need for this laziness as it robs the natural capacity of any car park. If every motorist was lazy and parked their car across the lines then the car park would become full with only half the number of car park spaces filled. This laziness must stop and I have no sympathy for any motorist who receives a parking ticket for not parking within the lines.

I have another question to ask. Is the motorist who parks their car across the lines, taking up two bays, lazy or simply incompetent at driving? Surely all motorists on the road have passed a test and must be able to park their car within the lines. Now, if they cannot park their car within the lines of a car park, just how bad is their driving out on the open road? It makes me wonder, because if they cannot get a poxy little car into a parking space at walking speed, then what is their driving ability like at up to 70mph on our motorways? I rest my case!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Put the kettle on, you know it makes sense.

Drinking up to eight cups of tea a day offers "significant health benefits", including a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, according to research. Caffeinated drinks including tea, coffee and cocoa have a positive effect on mental function, increasing alertness, wellbeing and short-term memory, according to the study.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, a dietician who conducted a review of 47 published studies, found that an intake of 400mg of caffeine a day – or eight cups of tea – delivered "key benefits in terms of mental function and heart health" without any adverse consequences. She found that regular tea drinking could help lead to "reduced mortality, a lower risk of heart attack and lower cholesterol."

...I remember watching Tony Benn on television doing a lecture tour. He is a great man, who I have admired for many years now, he was the MP for Bristol South East from 1963 to 1983. When the time came for the interval, he calmly sat on the edge of the stage and drank hot tea from a thermos flask. Not quite rock and roll, but a great politician and thinker! He remarked that he always enjoyed drinking tea and drank many cups every day. Still, he is now 84 years old and is living proof of how good a high intake of tea is for the human body.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What do they look like to you?

You are in a pub when a man and a woman enter. You look at these people and think to yourself, what do they look like? Look at the photograph below and then describe the people you see.

Well, these people certainly look like a Black Couple to me! However, Johnson Abraham, 24, and Roxanne Duhur, 21, ordered at the bar, without a table number, before going upstairs to find a seat. When they went to pay for the meal the comment 'upstairs blk couple' was printed on the bill.

Mr Abraham said: “I was outraged. They wouldn't have written 'white couple'. I do class it as racism. It spoiled what should have been a celebration.”

Slug And Lettuce area manager Nick O'Donnell said: “We often put a note on orders to help reduce the chances of it being sent to the wrong table. I agree the language was inappropriate. I apologise for the upset caused.”

...Now come on Johnson, this is not racism, you chose to order without a table number, how else could someone briefly describe you as a customer? Ah, I know, bloke with a chip on his shoulder. I thought this story was funny and I laughed my socks off. My wife Gail however had mixed feelings about this story and said she would be very annoyed if our till receipt showed "Fat Cow sat in the corner"! Lighten up everyone, simply chose a table number before you order if you are sensitive to how you look to other people.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

After 9 years, Wales to follow Ireland.

In 2002 Ireland launched a 15 cent carrier bag tax - cutting their use by 90 per cent and reducing litter. Nine years later in 2011, shoppers in Wales are to be charged up to 15p per carrier bag. Other parts of Britain are expected to follow by introducing the tax aimed at reducing the number of plastic bags which take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

This is stupid, our government should not be treating it's voters like children. Anyone wanting to charge me 15p for a plastic carrier bag will be told where to stuff it! Efficient use of resources should be encouraged and not charged. The idle rich are never going to be bothered by a 15p charge for a carrier bag, they will just pay for the convenience and throw it away later. Governments should get the public behind them, rather than annoy them with petty childish taxes.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Rule of Two.

The book I am reading at the moment is called The Rule of Four, written by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. It is a conspiracy novel that lets the reader wonder about a book that was written 500 years ago. I wonder if there is a Rule of Two?

On Sunday I was two hours late coming back in my coach from Edinburgh. The delays caused by roadworks on the M6 motorway were tremendous. There were numerous delays from junction 36 down to junction 12. When I stopped in the queue before junction 35 I thought it would be better to leave the motorway and drive down the A6 through Carnforth and Lancaster. This saved some time but I was still two hours late finishing my shift.

In August I signed up for the company pension scheme which was due to start on the 1st of September. Well, September came and went with no deductions from my wages or any paperwork through the post. I sent an email to our payroll department but I did not receive a reply. I asked my line manager who did not know what was going on. He asked the depot manager who claimed he would look into the matter. Then October came and went with no deductions from my wages or any answers from management or the payroll department. So now it is November and I received a letter yesterday from the Pensions Broker to tell me that the company pension scheme is going live from the 1st of November. WOW! two months late in starting!

Two hours late finishing my shift on the coach, two months late starting the company pension scheme, I offer you the Rule of Two.

Monday, November 02, 2009

X marks the spot!

Bumbling London Mayor Boris Johnson has unveiled a pedestrian crossing by striking a cymbal. In homage to its Far Eastern inspiration, Mr Johnson struck a two-metre high cymbal as Japanese musicians played taiko drums. Mr Johnson said the crossing, controlled by traffic lights, was "a triumph for British engineering, Japanese innovation and good old fashioned common sense".

So, where is this alleged triumph of British engineering? This pedestrian crossing is across Oxford Circus in the heart of London. It is very different from other pedestrian crossings because people can not just walk from one side to the other but they can walk diagonally in an "X". Based on crossings in Tokyo, the new design stops traffic in all directions, then people can cross by whichever route is best for them. The £5m junction is able to handle double the number of pedestrians and ease overcrowding at the busy intersection.

Now, for something so obvious, why did someone in power not think of this before? Just look at the extra flow you can get through the junction, with no extra delay imposed against anyone. There are lots of junctions throughout our country where people are left waiting because of bad traffic management. People are held back for no good reason because of bad design. It does not matter whether people are on foot or in vehicles. It is bad design to hold people back when the junction is clear but this is often the case in most of our cities. You notice this wasted capacity most in late evenings and early morning. I agree with Boris that this is the way forward and good old fashioned common sense.

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