Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Digital TV Recorder tale.

Gail really loves her television. She watches hours and hours of television, some programmes she watches live, others she time-shifts by recording them to view later. We had a Digital TV Recorder which provided good service and Gail used that machine heavily until one day she declared that it was "on it's way out" and she wanted it replaced with a new one.

We shopped around and on the 27th November 2009 decided to buy a Hitachi HDR253 250GB HDMI Digital TV Recorder from Argos at £106.19

This new machine worked but there were many glitches which really annoyed Gail. We would switch it off, then back on again and things would improve but the glitches would return after a while. We looked at the user reviews on the Argos website and found that many customers had taken their Hitachi HDR 253 Digital TV Recorder back because of faulty performance, with comments like...

"However when on standby will not turn on with remote control, it then has to be turned on at the machine itself. Occasionally the picture momentarily freezes."

"The unit worked fine for a fortnight and the display went off ,,the power led was still lit i then unplugged the unit ....left it for 10 minutes then reconnected the power the unit was dead i took it back to Argos and explained the situation they gave me a full refund after i refused an exchange ...thank you Argos"

"broke within 2 hours of installing it"

"I think we were unlucky because ours was a nightmare and eventually stopped working. we returned it for a full refund. As I said, we wouldn't condem the product - we obviously bought a bad one"

"Overall not bad,only problem is it has a mind of its own when you record. It sometimes records in 2 sections or starts late or early so you can miss part of the program.So will change for a new one and see if it a makes any differance its only 2 weeks old."

"A good range of features and the HDMI interface was excellent. However, the machine continually froze completely and had to be hard reset several times a week and the picture would also jump, both on live TV and in recordings. I had the machine replaced but the replacement was little better. That was eventually replaced by a different make. This item has serious design flaws."

"The only problem I have had is that it sometimes 'freezes'. You have to switch it off at the wall, then on again."

"I am having a serious problem with this purchase. Since I installed it, about once every hour or so my TV screen goes blank for 5-10 seconds. If I disconnect the scart lead, this ceases to happen. I believe it is a defective machine and I would like it replaced."

"The only thing(s) that have stopped this getting five stars is that it does occasionally let us down. Examples include: Starting a recording after the programme had started; Worse: ending a recording before the programme had finished (we watched a film for 90 minutes only for it to suddenly stop on the cliff-hanger finish two minutes before the film ended (very frustrating!); The other day it started one programme late and finished it early (doubly frustrating!); It stopped in the middle of one programme and then started it again three minutes later and listed it as two separate programmes in the library; Occasional freezing or loss of the picture (though every freeview box we have ever had has been guilty of this)."

"However we are now on our second unit (the first inexplicably switched itself on from standby and then froze several times in the first two weeks - returned to Argos who exchanged it without any trouble.) The second has done the same a couple of times & we are keeping fingers crossed!"

...So on the 22nd December 2009 we took our Hitachi HDR253 250GB HDMI Digital TV Recorder back to Argos for a replacement rather than a refund because Gail really liked this machine but could not stand the glitches. Having read the user reviews above we both felt that it was the luck of the draw whether you got a good or a bad example of this machine. We decided to try our second machine in the hope that it would work better than the first and without any glitches. Sadly this second machine would not record BBC1 and the Electronic Programme Guide would not page down - only scroll one line at a time and the general response was very slow, so it was useless to Gail. We went back to Argos on the 28th December 2009 and exchanged it for our third and after setting it up found that it was better than the second. Unfortunately it was not recording BBC1, so we checked that there was not a problem with our aerial or the signal being broadcast by using our old Onn Digital TV Recorder - everything worked well with our old machine. So we decided that these Hitachi's are tempermental and whenever we got a glitch we would switch the machine off, then on and do a new user installation routine.

We got quite used to the Hitachi throwing a wobbley, freezing, not recording and a whole range of glitches. Each time we would switch off and reinstall. The weeks rolled by and Gail was getting more and more fed up with the continual bad performance of our Digital TV Recorder. We lost all faith in the Hitachi and on the 14th March 2010 we took it back to Argos, paid them another £43.70 and traded up to a Sagem DTR67320T 320GB Digital Freeview+ Recorder . We had tried three different Hitachi's in the hope that one would work properly, none of them did, so we cut our losses and paid more in the hope that we would get a far better working and reliable Digital TV Recorder.

WOW! What a difference in two machines! This Sagem Digital TV Recorder is far, far better than the Hitachi. Gail has mastered the instructions because the software and remote control are very different to that on the Hitachi. The Sagem does the job, there are no problems watching live TV, the Electronic Programme Guide works well, all programmes are recorded properly, the system has not crashed and the screen has not froze. We have had no glitches with this Sagem and we are pleased we bit the bullet and traded up to a better machine. Everything works as it should and Gail is now a happy bunny. The lemon has gone and now we have a peach. This all makes for a quieter life for Stephen as Gail is no longer swearing at the television, bless her!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown .

This book is a tale of computers, software, privacy, freedom, intelligence gathering, government control and that old Dan Brown staple of code breaking. Meet Susan Fletcher and David Becker, our glamourous heroes for this easy reading novel that is ideal for holidays and occassional readers. You do not need to be an IT expert to understand this story because Dan Brown talks you through all the details. This is the crime thriller equivalent of painting-by-numbers, a sort of Thrillers for Dummies .

Digital Fortress is a good book and I am giving it 4 stars on book army . This novel is an entertaining read in the same way that The Da Vinci Code was for me. This story is a convincing tale of conspiracy, it has a good pace and is worth a read. There is only one little niggle I could point out. On page 260 Dan writes...

The sound of a small engine turned Becker's head. It sounded like a chainsaw. A big kid and his chain-clad date pulled into the parking lot on an old Vespa 250 motorcycle.

...Only Vespa have never made a motorcycle, they have only ever made scooters. They also have never had a machine with a 250cc engine. But do not let this little detail put you off this 510 page book that was written in 1998 and reissued by Corgi in 2009. This novel has a decent ending and on page 492 I guessed the right answer to the puzzle, the answer was written there as part of the text! Oh yes, another teacher saves the day like they do in these Dan Brown novels!

I would like to thank Matthew for passing on his copy of Digital Fortress to me, I enjoyed reading it just as much as I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code in 2007.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Times They Are A-Changin' .

"The Times They Are A-Changin'" sang Bob Dylan in 1963. But from June 2010 the song's lyrics should be changed to "The Times They Are A-Charging". The Times and the Sunday Times are to start charging for content online in June. Users will be charged £1 for a day's access and £2 for a week's subscription for access to both papers' websites, publisher News International has announced. The Times and the Sunday Times are the first UK papers to fully charge for digital content. In the latest ABCe traffic figures, Times Online – which includes the Times and Sunday Times – saw its daily users rise 6% to 1.22m, although monthly browsers fell to 20.42m.

So things are really changing within the UK newspaper scene. Former KGB spy Alexander Lebedev has bought the Independent for £1 and he will conduct a review to decide whether to make The Independent free. “There’s no decision as to whether it’s free or not,” a Lebedev spokesman said. “They’ll look at it once the deal is done in May.”

Time will tell how this story unfolds. Alexander Lebedev bought the London Evening Standard and decided to give it away free, so he may very well do the same with the Independent. I think that Rupert Murdoch is very brave trying to charge for online access to his newspaper websites. There are plenty of free newspapers websites for readers to visit and I think surfers will simply go to the other free newspaper websites rather than pay for the Times website. I am not a fan of the Times website and I certainly would not pay for online access. When a newspaper publisher gives away a free paper there is a big cost involved but their website incurs no extra cost at all for each reader who visits. All the publisher has to consider is the concept of "lost revenue". I got cheesed-off with newspapers a long time ago and I do not think I am alone. Therefore newspaper publishers are not losing any revenue from the likes of me and many other people. I think that Rupert Murdoch will change his mind when the cash does not roll in! There is a big reluctance among most internet users to pay for content.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It was only a matter of time .

When I read about the new full body scanners being introduced at airports to stop suicide bombers from boarding planes, I knew it was only a matter of time before the terrorists developed a work-around. Radical Islamist plastic surgeons could be carrying out the implant operations in lawless areas of Pakistan, security sources are said to warned. Explosives experts have reportedly said just five ounces of Pentaerythritol Tetrabitrate packed into a breast implant would be enough to blow a “considerable” hole in the side of a jumbo jet.

It would be virtually impossible for airport security scanners to detect the explosive if hidden inside a breast, medics have said. Joseph Farah, a terrorism expert, told The Sun: "Women suicide bombers recruited by al-Qaeda are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery." Plastic surgeons may also have inserted the chemical into the buttocks of would-be suicide bombers.

...So, there you have it, watch out for exploding wobbly bits! When the news of these full body scanners at airports was broadcast I was sceptical that they would actually stop suicide bombers from boarding aircraft. I never thought about breast and buttock implants but I suppose the terrorists just played around with the words. "Plant a bomb" became simply "Implant a bomb". al-Qaeda will just keep plugging away until they get a breakthrough and when using plastic explosives it is logical to get the help of plastic surgeons. Of course, how would the suicide bomber detonate their explosive breasts or buttocks? I suppose they would simply tickle their belly button and BOOM! Or maybe you should be aware of Muslim girls with erect nipples or a Muslim man scratching his balls!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

£4.5m for a footbridge!

Go Delme boy, just £4.5m for a 140 metre bascule footbridge and I have not yet received my Cardiff County Council community charge bill for the year starting April 2010. No doubt I will see a considerable increase in my community charge as Cardiff County Council are putting forward £1.3m towards this footbridge. This new footbridge will be called the Pont y Werin and will open to the public on June 8 to enable pedestrians and cyclists to cross between Penarth and the International Sports Village at Cardiff Bay. Cardiff Council ran a competition to name the bridge, and the Penarth Woodcraft Folk's suggestion won. In English, the name translates to "Bridge of the People". Cardiff council’s transport chief Delme Bowen said: “Pont y Werin is a fantastic project and as chairman of the Pont y Werin steering group I have been fortunate to see all the pieces of the project coming together.” The bridge was funded with £1.645m from the Assembly Government, £1.3m from Cardiff council, £1.15m from Sustrans, £250k from the harbour authority and £200k from the Vale council.

£4.5m is an awful lot of money for a footbridge. Oh yes, it will be very nice for tourists to stroll across as they enjoy their visit to Cardiff Bay but with increasing obesity among the population I cannot imagine many tourists walking all the way from the Pier Head to Penarth and back. The only legitimate use for this bridge is people in Penarth who want to come across to Cardiff Bay on foot or a bicycle, I suspect those numbers to be very low indeed! Out of interest Barney and I will be walking this super new £4.5m footbridge when it opens to the public. I and the rest of the community have paid for this new footbridge, so I feel obliged to walk it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

That's right, buy your ticket in advance.

"I used to hassle the driver to buy a ticket but now I get a funfare on the internet because it is cheaper."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Getting the words right.

Writing a blog is a labour of love and because the blogger is not paid for the words it is no great crime if the blogger misspells words, uses incorrect grammar or makes a jumble of the words within a sentence. I am reading Kat's Keep , a Canadian woman's blog and on the 4th March 2010 she writes a post entitled "A Reader's Rant" . The gist of what NoirKat writes is this...

I first noticed it a few years back; errors popping up in novels. It is a pet peeve of mine. In published books, I expect correct spelling and grammar, at least where it isn't a deliberate use by the author. Take this sentence from “Flirt” by Laurell K Hamilton as an example. “He smiled flashed that brilliant white smile in his tan and left me to my menu.” Say what? My first thought on reading it was, well, that's some crappy writing. But that's the thing, it isn't really. It is really lousy editing.
I've little doubt she meant to use one or the other – smiled/flashed – for that sentence. I suspect when she wrote it, she couldn't decide and simply put both in.

Another example is “The Shimmer” by David Morrell. In the book, Morrell switches between various characters in different chapters. His main character is named Page, but he also tells the story from the perspective of a number of other characters. In one such chapter, he is relating the conversation between two men, neither of them the hero of the piece. But suddenly, there on page 88, one of those characters is now Page. But wait! No, it is not Page. It's just another example of poor editing.

Too much reliance on spell/grammar checker? Was it only ever looked at in digital form and somehow this affects the editing process? I don't know. What I do know is this: every time I read one of these errors in a published work, it bothers me. Often, it ruins a perfectly good scene, throws off the flow of the story. And that really is unfortunate. It does a disservice to the reader, but equally, it fails to properly present the work or the author. Bad editing makes the author seem like a poor writer. Given the costs of books or ebooks, the least we as readers, and frankly authors as well, should expect is a decent job of editing. Surely it is not too much to ask that they, as publishers, provide an error-free product. The pleasure of reading a good book should not be compromised by lousy editing.

...Well, I agree with NoirKat. It is shoddy workmanship when books are spoiled by bad spelling, bad grammar, jumbled words and illogical groupings. I have also put up with errors in books and yes, it does spoil your enjoyment of the novel. Generally books are an authors' day-job and they should get their product right. Also people are employed as proof-readers and editors, they should also be doing their jobs correctly and modifying the text accordingly. I am a tolerant man and simply let these avoidable errors in print go unchallenged. I do spot the mistakes and I am not looking for them, it does spoil the book though. When I write a blog post about a book I have read, I do not list any errors I have spotted in the book. We live in an imperfect world and these errors are a part of life. Okay, there is a problem with the spelling differences between American-English and British-English but once you accept there is no "U" in American colour or humour and they leave "me" off every programme, then you can accept these differences and enjoy your book.

So, do any books spring to mind? Ah yes, two books spring to mind regarding author errors. The Associate by John Grisham and Hold Tight by Harlan Coben .

In The Associate on page 177 when Baxter is talking to Brother Manny it reads...

Brother Manny issued the questions and absorbed the answers with such ease that after fifteen minutes together, Kyle felt as though he could chat for hours and tell him everything.

...Only Kyle was not there!

Hold Tight has 19 major characters but the joy of the story is the sheer diversity of these characters. This is a story of real life across the whole community and not a tiny section of society. Every character is different and has their own special role to play in this story. But it is more than this, Harlan does not tell this tale as A speaks to B and then something happens. Harlan tells the tale from the viewpoint of each character, like using a first-person writing style but he does that with all 19 characters and no character is the lead or hero. The reader then develops an empathy for all 19 characters and even for a minor character who is on his way out for sloppy performance! What this book demonstrates is that Harlan clearly understands people, he knows exactly what makes people tick.

I did not notice any bad spelling, bad grammar, jumbled words or illogical groupings in Hold Tight. Yet Harlan Coben jostles 19 major characters around, writes from their point of view and gets ALL his words right!

What a difference between these two authors as an example. If Harlan Coben and his publishers can get it right, how come other authors and publishers fail so badly? Shoddy workmanship is the culprit and it is not rocket science to get it right, just basic adult literacy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tickling the dog!

A prize-winning Bulldog, according to the Kennel Club breed standard, ought to “convey an impression of determination, strength and activity”. The problem is: how to make a bored Bulldog look like this? The handlers in the show ring seem to have found a method, which as the video shows, has become almost universally popular: hold the dog’s head steady by grasping his collar with your left hand, and with your right hand, gently tickle the base of his scrotum. This action with the right hand is guaranteed to make any dog stand still, while adopting an understandably “questioning” facial expression. Ah, there's the rub!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What, nothing north of Birmingham?

Big changes start on Sunday with my day job. Last November our depot stopped having a driver stay overnight in London, essentially we got an extra run with the coach and driver returning to Cardiff the same day. This dropping of the overnight stay dropped our nights away from 28 nights in 28 weeks, down to 21 nights in 28 weeks - an average of 1 night away each week down to 3 nights away in 4 weeks. From last November we had 2 drivers staying every night in Bradford and 1 driver every night in Edinburgh.

From Sunday our drivers will not be staying away overnight anywhere in our country! Every night will be spent at home! Our depot has lost the run to Edinburgh, it is replaced by a run to Liverpool that returns the same day - so we now have a spare coach. Management has decided that all coaches will change drivers in Birmingham and the Treforest drivers will drive another coach back home. Other depots will provide drivers to cover Birmingham to Bradford and Birmingham to Liverpool. These changes mean that we require 4 fewer drivers at our depot to service our contract with the nationwide company. Therefore our 28 line roster would reduce to 24 lines.

There are many ways to compile a work roster and you will never please everybody. Drivers have lobbied management for ages about different ways of compiling the work roster to provide a better work/life balance. What some drivers like, others simply detest. Some drivers prefer early shifts, others prefer lates. Up to now, we have had the balance of all shifts spread over 28 weeks and you take the rough with the smooth. But from Sunday there has been a good split in the ranks. There will be a 21 line work roster containing a variety of early and late shifts. There will also be a stand-alone 3 week work roster that just does 2 shifts - both of them starting at 01.55 - yes, it was not a typo - 01.55 in the goddamn morning! I was told that there were 5 volunteer drivers interested in these obscenely early shifts and I am really glad that these 2 ridiculously early starts have been put on a sub-roster. I am really pleased that Gwyn, John-Henry and Michael have risen to the challenge and taken on these shifts, for whatever reasons they have. I would not fancy getting up at one o'clock every morning to go to work!

So, Stephen will now only drive to Birmingham and London. I will go no further north than Birmingham in our great country. It seemed strange going to Bradford for the last time on Sunday. I was going to Bradford on average once every 2 weeks and Edinburgh once every 4 weeks. The bed and breakfast in Edinburgh was run by a retired couple and Bill is in his 80's but he was always up every morning to cook you an excellent, full "body-builder" breakfast. It was like staying with your mum and dad, Bill always liked the gossip over the dining table and he would talk about anything under the sun. I have stayed in many hotels and guest houses in and around Bradford over the years, the whole area became so familiar to me, as though I was born and bred there! I shall miss driving through Derby, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Meadowhall and Leeds on the way to Bradford, it all seemed as though it was my turf. People are different in various parts of our country and the attitude on the coach in West Yorkshire is rather different to London. I shall miss going "Up North" but Gail and Barney are very pleased to have Stephen home every night. I am grateful to Gwyn, John-Henry and Michael for taking the tomb-raider 01.55 early starts so that Barney does not bark by the front door at 01.25 pleading with me to take him out for a walk!

Friday, March 19, 2010

I've never voted Tory before,

All around our country there are billboards advertising the Conservative Party featuring real voters with the tag-line "I've never voted Tory before,". These posters have become very popular indeed and on this website you can view many more. The two I most liked were...


Of course there are other posters available that advertise a more liberal party and this one is my favourite...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oh dear, they took the car!

Loading my coach in London today I noticed that a group of 4 passengers for Newport looked rather grumpy. They had no luggage and they surely looked unhappy. They were grumbling amongst themselves when one guy glanced my way and told me that it had become a long, bad day. They had been on a day trip to France yesterday but when they returned to Dover in the early hours, Customs Officers pulled them over and inspected their car. The Customs Officers found rather a lot of tobacco in their car, which the guy speaking to me claimed was for personal use and would last him 6 months. The Customs Officers took a different view, seized the tobacco and their car. This procedure I have read about before and it is to stop the booze-cruisers buying cheap alcohol and tobacco to sell at a big profit on the black market. The seizing and destruction of motor vehicles was to deter the black marketeers from making future booze-cruise trips. These 4 passengers were well gutted at losing their car, which the owner claimed he had only had for a week. They then had to buy 4 single tickets from the nationwide company to get home, without their booty!

Still, I have no sympathy for people like this. They know what they are doing and it is not for their own personal use, they are simply taking the piss. This shortfall in Excise Duty has to be paid - paid for by you and me, the honest taxpayer. Oh dear, they took the car, what a shame! Serves them right for being greedy, doesn't it? Still, that was another 4 seats sold which the debt ridden nationwide company was not expecting.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dreamer by Peter James .

This book gets off to a good start, Samantha is only 7 years old and just on page 4 you read...

She felt his hand grab her sweater, pulling, and she wriggled, trying to tear free, then tripped again and fell.
As she tried to get up, his hand gripped her shoulder and spun her over, then he was lying on top of her, knees either side, pinioning her body down, and she felt the stench of his breath, the raw onions like a warm foul wind.
'Like to be fucked, would you, little one?' He laughed, and she stared up at his black hood, lit clearly by the bulb above it, seeing the glint of his eyes and his rotten broken teeth through the slits. He leaned back tugging open his belt.

...Well, 25 years later Samantha is having nightmares again, she dreams of Slider wearing his black hood and her life is in danger again. But it is not just her life that is in danger and her dreams begin with the crash of a Boeing 747. The next morning an aeroplane crash is making headlines. Are her dreams premonitions or is she remembering her dreams to fit the facts?

This book was written in 1989 and it has 386 pages. Now, friends and family know that I am an Atheist, so what am I doing reading a book about the paranormal? Ah, it is because of the author, Peter James, who also writes crime thrillers. I really like the writing style that Peter has, he is very good with words. Reading any of his books is like wearing a pair of your favourite carpet slippers. His writing is very British and very polished, it is a joy to read any of his books. I get a glow from reading his books and Dreamer gives me the same glow I got from his other 2 novels I have read so far.

Dreamer is a spooky story, the plot develops at a steady pace and you never know if what is happening on the page you are currently reading is real life or another of Samantha's dreams. This novel explores in great detail the nature of dreams and how people interpret them. It is left to the reader to decide whether Samantha's dreams are premonitions, coincidences, her natural warning instincts or if she is wrongly interpreting her dreams.

This book was written over 20 years ago and it is good to remember London in the 1980's. Peter describes the Yuppie lifestyle really well and this is a good story of that era in our history. What comes as a nasty reminder is the amount of passive smoking Samantha has to suffer in the workplace. There are constant references to the smoking of cigarettes in the workplace and sadly when Samantha gets home, she has to suffer yet more passive smoking from her husband Richard. Thankfully our society has moved on from then.

I enjoy all my dreams and this book was very easy to relate to. It is wonderful how we all dream and this novel gives you something else to think about as you do an audit of your own dreams and ask the questions why. This story comes to a tidy ending, with all the pieces coming together. Now, how many stars will I give this novel on book army ? I will give Dreamer 3 stars because this book is Okay, it passes my quality threshold, the story is not wonderful but the quality of Peter's writing is very good indeed. I give it a thumbs up but do not suggest you rush out and buy a copy. Peter's crime thriller novels are better than Dreamer but this is still a classy read.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Where has Health and Safety News gone?

When you click on the 5th link in the sidebar on the right of this blog, your browser should open another blog titled "Health and Safety News". This is one of my favourite blogs and I like to read it because it gives all the latest news in the Health and Safety scene. It is clearly a labour of love for the blog author, because they scour all the news to publish the latest health and safety issues and court cases. I do not know who writes this blog but I have enjoyed reading it for a long time. Health and Safety is crucial in my day job and I like to keep up to date with the Health and Safety scene. It really saddens me to read about all those avoidable accidents that are generally the result of ignorance in the workplace by cowboys. But now, when you click on the 5th link in my sidebar, a webpage comes up that declares "The blog you were looking for was not found.".

I do not know why this blog has been withdrawn. It is not a case of the author simply stopping posting to the blog, leaving the archives intact, the whole blog has been deleted. Maybe something nasty has happened in the author's day job and he was forced to delete his labour-of-love blog.

I will keep the 5th link in my sidebar still showing Health and Safety News in the hope that the blog returns online. If Health and Safety News does not return online shortly then the 5th link will be replaced by another of my favourite blogs.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Don't tell me it's not about revenue.

Driving down the Cowbridge Road this morning I, like everyone else, have to be aware of the fixed speed camera situated near the Dusty Forge going towards Ely Bridge. Oh, that was a surprise, I thought - the check marks are still on the road but the fixed speed camera has gone.

Oh ho! What is that parked on the left, further down near Blockbuster? Oh yes, it is Mr Cunt in his mobile speed camera van. Okay, let's get this right, this is not about safety but revenue. I think that the fixed speed camera near the Dusty Forge was not gaining Mr Cunt any revenue and revenue, not safety is the name of the game. With the fixed speed camera in place, locals were well aware of this licence and financial hazard. Putting Mr Cunt in his speed camera van near Blockbuster would be a waste of time and a nill revenue stream. Take away the fixed speed camera and some locals maybe over-run the 30 mph speed limit on this 4 lane main road into town. Put Mr Cunt in his mobile speed camera van further down the road and bingo, the cash and penalty points come flooding in. So, don't tell me this is not about revenue, I was not born yesterday and I know that all Mr Cunt wants is easy cash.

The Police often wonder why they do not have the support of the public but with their cash grabbing, league table and target driven culture, it is no surprise. Speed cameras are for raising cash, not making our roads safer. That is why speed cameras are used wherever the speed limit is inappropriate. With a 4 lane road like the Cowbridge Road through Ely, anywhere else in the Britain it would attract a 40 mph speed limit, but in cash grabbing Cardiff it has a lower 30 mph speed limit. We all know why, lower speed limits generate revenue and speed cameras are the tool of choice.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Is the summer coming?

Loading my coach yesterday I glanced down as I was picking up the luggage and I got a nice surprise. A young black African woman stood in front of me wearing flip-flops. Oh yes, pink flip-flops as she stood there in the afternoon sun. The sun was shining off her naked feet which brought a smile to my face and an impulse to my groin. These were the first flip-flops I have seen this season and I like to see the naked feet of the wearer. She got off my coach in London and walked away in her flip-flops leaving me with the image of her chubby little dark brown naked feet walking the streets of London pulling her suitcase.

I awoke this morning and all I could think of were those chubby little dark brown naked feet walking the streets of London. Ah, I think summer has come!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Finally definitive proof; Size Does Not Matter!

Okay, so that was not exactly dogging but have you heard the one about "a girl walks into a bar"?...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Ah! a rest day and it is beer and biscuits .

Oh I do enjoy my rest days away from the day job, a time to enjoy the good things in life like lying on the sofa drinking beer and eating biscuits. Today is no different, yet sometimes a beer or a biscuit really hits the spot. Like with beer, I like to try them all, with biscuits I also like to try different ones. Today I bought a packet that were on special offer, Fox's chunkie extremely chocolatey cookies .

Boy, these biscuits are gorgeous, what a treat. They come in a 200g packet and I ate them all in one go! It says on the packet "Once opened, place in an airtight container". What would I want to put them into an airtight container for? Seems daft to me, I just sat there with a big grin on my face and ate them, one after the other. Oh Gail, look away now, it says on the packet 506 calories per 100g - too heavy for you to enjoy. No Barney, these are not dog biscuits, you cannot have one, they would make you poorly. Crunch, crunch, crunch, all gone. Ah! that was nice, very nice.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Chamber by John Grisham .

The back cover of this 598 page book reads...

Adam Hall is in his first year at a top Chicago law firm. He volunteers for the toughest assignment any lawyer could ask for.

His prospective client doesn't want Adam or his law firm. He is an unrepentant and outspoken racist with a violent past. His is on Death Row for the murder of two Jewish children in an horrific bombing in 1967. Why would he want to take on Adam, a complete novice, to defend him? And why would Adam want his case so desperately? The answer lies in the past, in a twenty-year-old secret buried in the madness of another time.

...Well, that sounds interesting doesn't it. A novel that promises dark secrets which were buried in the past involving a prisoner on death row. Can Adam stop the prisoner from being taken from Death Row into the gas chamber? The Chamber was written in 1994 and was reissued by Arrow Books in 2007. John Grisham is a top selling author with over 20 novels to his name. So, you read the blurb on the back, discover the success of the author and think that you will be onto a good book. WRONG!

Oh yes, the blurb on the back cover was well written but that was about as good as it gets. I found The Chamber a big disappointment. I think John's writing style is poor, maybe okay for writing a soap opera like Eastenders, where characters chat among themselves asking relentless questions but he has not got the skills for adult storytelling. I will give this book one star on book army because I think it is rubbish. I developed no empathy for Adam or Sam, the Death Row prisoner. I am against the Death Penalty on moral grounds but reading this novel I could not care less whether Sam lived or died. There was nothing really interesting about The Chamber, nothing really surprising happened and nothing challenged the reader. All the book did was crawl slowly towards the end which was like having an extra large helping of baked beans. I have nothing to recommend this book for, although 2 of my friends liked The Chamber and they said it made them question their views on the Death Penalty. This book did not question my views on the Death Penalty, watching the Saddam Hussein hanging video certainly did though!

I would like to thank Matthew for passing onto me his copy of The Chamber but I do not rate John Grisham as an author.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

When one star is good enough.

When we watch a film on television, Gail and I have a 15 minute ruling. If we do not like the film within the first 15 minutes, then we switch channels and watch another programme. When I review a book that I have read, I will award it between one and five stars on the book army website. One star means rubbish, two stars mean poor, three stars mean okay, four stars mean good and five stars mean excellent. So, you may ask, if I will only give a film 15 minutes to prove itself, then why will I read a book that I rate as only one star to the very end?

Ah! The difference is that books are my drug of choice. I will always reserve my opinion on any particular book until I read the final word. Privately I will develop an opinion within the first 5% of a book as to whether that book exceeds my quality threshold. If a book fails my quality threshold, then I will continue to the end because I will always enjoy my daily fix of reading a book. At the end of a book I will be sure of how many stars I will award it. I will still enjoy reading books that I finally award just one or two stars, because book reading is my thing. On average, three quarters of the books I read exceed my quality threshold but I am never put off by the quarter that disappoint me. Even poor books are good to read because they give me my daily fix and I will always have the hope that the next book will be better. Films however, will always have just 15 minutes to tie me in, I just do not have the patience to watch rubbish like a fish swimming around a bowl.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I remember the days!

Over on A Transport of Delight is a guest post from the author of the Omnibuses Blog. The post is titled "More rattles than at Mothercare." It is about the Leyland Lynx MkII and a company called Dorset Sprinter who have 3 Leyland Lynx MKII's that used to be owned by Cardiff Bus. Friends and family will already know that I was a driver with Cardiff Bus from 1991 to 1997 and I remember driving a lot of Leyland Lynxes.

The author of this post writes...

Riding the X5/X55, you certainly sense that the Lynxes belong to a different generation. They are no match for W&D’s 58-reg Scanias on the Bournemouth-Ringwood-Salisburys. On poorer quality roads, Lynx demonstrate an unsettled & harsh ride. Shudders feed through the vehicle. Indeed, there were more rattles than at Mothercare.

...Ah! That is a shame! My memories of the Leyland Lynx are somewhat different. In my opinion the Leyland Lynx was the best single deck bus I have ever driven. The entrance door was lovely and wide with a low floor. The steering was wonderfully light. The ZF automatic gearbox with integral retarder did a spot on job with the demands of city service bus work. The engine had good low down grunt to pull away sharply from traffic lights. The windscreen in front of the driver was a brilliant piece of design. Look at the photographs and observe the slanting windscreen. This windscreen NEVER suffered from reflections from the lights and passengers riding behind the driver. A classic design that was welcomed by all the drivers, especially after dark.

I was saddened when the production of the Leyland Lynx ceased, it is a classic bus and sadly missed by drivers and enthusiasts everywhere. There may have been the odd rattle but they were a lovely bus to drive.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Petition to reduce by Fuel Duty by 2p a litre.

I and over 85,196 other people have signed a petition to reduce Fuel Duty by 2p a litre. The petition reads...

When vat was reduced to 15% in January '09 your chancellor levied an extra 2p per litre of fuel, to compensate for the loss of revenue from the vat reduction, now that vat has now gone back to 17.5% we think it only fair that you reduce the the duty again by the same amount, ie 2p per litre., come on folks, let's have fair play here and sign this petition to our government for them to reduce Fuel Duty by 2p a litre. The closing date for this petition is the 12th March 2010, so time is running out. Let's have a level playing field here and reject these extra taxes that are imposed by stealth. These stealth taxes were not part of the election manifestos and we should rise against them.

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