Monday, May 31, 2010

Spot the Elephant.

Did you know that there are 258 painted elephants in locations across central London? Oh yes, elephants are placed everywhere but mostly in the royal parks. It is quite strange driving into London and seeing a painted small Asian Elephant on the pavement along Knightsbridge. Quite often on my rest break in London I wander off for a walk in one of the many parks and encounter these lovely model elephants. It is quite a surprise when you first see one because your first impression is that it is an art installation that has sadly been vandalised. All these elephants have been painted differently and at a glance you will wonder if these marking are graffiti. Elephant Parade London 2010 is a conservation campaign that shines a multi-coloured spotlight on the urgent crisis faced by the endangered Asian elephant. Each decorated by a different artist or celebrity, the elephants brighten and beautify the city, enhancing every park, street corner and building they grace. Running from May to July 2010, this is London’s biggest outdoor art event on record.

I like this campaign to save the Asian Elephants and visitors to London will see that the rumour is true, you see all colours in London.

Friday, May 28, 2010

20mph in built-up areas?

There is a big piece in the Independent today written by Dr Nick Foreman, a GP from Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. Nick was involved in an accident when a child ran out in front of his car. Nick writes...

I think I was going at 20mph at the point of impact, and maybe now you will agree with me that that should be the speed limit in built-up areas.

...Well no Nick, I do not agree with you on this one. Life is about managing risk and if all built-up areas where pedestrianised then children could not run out in front of cars. Roads are for driving on and pavements are for walking on. These are basic life skills that should be taught to children by their parents. The Highway Code should also be introduced to these children, roads are for driving on and you should ONLY cross at recognised crossing points. The roads are not a playground and it is the parents' duty of care to their children to teach them these simple life skills.

If a child knows that to run out in front of a vehicle means certain death, as I was told as a child, then children will respect the Highway Code. If the built-up area speed limit is reduced to 20mph then this will only encourage children to run out in front of vehicles and even adults to jay-walk willy-nilly everywhere. Why should the whole country grind-down to 20mph because a few will not act sensibly?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Looking forward to my holidays.

I am looking forward to my holidays in June, I am going to Hammamet in Tunisia. However, some workmates suggest that Thailand would offer a better holiday for me. Does this picture suggest the reason why?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Equinox by Michael White .

Equinox is Michael's first novel and he wrote it in 2006, although he has written 25 non-fiction books from 1991. Equinox is a conspiracy thriller set in Oxford during 2006 but also involves tales from 1690 and 1851. The rear cover of this book reads...

Oxford, 2006: a young woman is found brutally murdered, her throat cut. Her heart has been removed and in its place lies an apparently ancient gold coin. Twenty-four hours later, another woman is found. The MO is identical, except that this time her brain has been removed, and a silver coin lies glittering in the bowl of her skull.

The police are baffled but when police photographer Philip Bainbridge and his estranged lover Laura Niven become involved, they discover that these horrific, ritualistic murders are not confined to the here and now. And a shocking story begins to emerge which intertwines Sir Isaac Newton, one of seventeenth-century England's most powerful figures, with a deadly conspiracy which echoes down the years to the present day, as lethal now as it was then.

...I enjoyed reading Equinox, it is a good book, I will give it 4 stars on Book Army . Equinox is different from other novels, it relates more to the concepts of the occult - the theme of this novel - rather than the characters. The story lasts for 380 pages but this is followed by 44 pages of "The Facts Behind the Fiction". These 2 parts fit together really well and compliment each other. At the end of the book you can look back and understand what Michael White has done. Michael has studied alchemy and the occult in great detail, a lot of research has gone into this book. He has then written a novel to lead the reader through an understanding of alchemy and many occult rituals. It is rather clever yet this is easy reading with a wonderful mix of fact and fiction. This novel has a steady pace and a reasoned plot. Philip and Laura work through contacts, the internet, books, puzzles and codes in the usual way of Da Vinci Code style novels. This informs the reader about the history of alchemy and the nature of the beast. You follow the learning curve with Philip and Laura although Michael does get it wrong on page 302...

Gail Honeywell, skin tanned, hair bleached blonde by Greek spring sun, dumped her rucksack on the floor of the waiting room at Victoria Coach Station, carefully avoiding the still-moist chewing gum and dark smudge of what she hoped was chocolate ... Through the filthy, semi-opaque glass she could see coaches turning and reversing, passengers getting on and off. A uniformed driver passed by the door; the room was empty... Gail replaced the receiver and picked up her bag just as a uniformed driver stuck his head round the door. 'You catching the five-thirty for Oxford, love?' he asked.
Gail nodded.
'Got a seat on the five-oh-nine if you want it. Old lady feels sick, decided to 'ave a cuppa tea and catch a later one - want it?'

...Well, laughing out loud! Coaches do not reverse in London Victoria Coach Station. You never see an empty waiting room, the waiting area is always busy and Gail was at a peak time. Drivers do not solicit passengers in the way described, they simply announce the route number and destination. The 509 service does not go to Oxford, you want the X90 from gate number 10. If you catch the 509 service then I may be the driver and I will take you to Cardiff, not Oxford!

What the reader takes away from this story is an idea that Michael weaves into the dialogue. The murders continue and Philip and Laura discuss why these occult rituals are happening. It does not matter what rubbish people believe in, fairies at the bottom of the garden, magic spells, alchemy and other occult lifestyles. These beliefs can be rubbish but because some people actually believe them, these actions including murder can happen. It is the nature of belief that allows these things to happen. Atheists will enjoy this book for obvious reasons as Michael gently teases all believers.

The ending of this novel is good with a nice twist that will please lovers of conspiracy novels. Follow that with the 44 pages of "The Facts Behind the Fiction" and you get a nice warm glow as you think to yourself "thought so".

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Everybody Draw Mohamed Day

Pakistan pulled the plug on Facebook yesterday, angered by its hosting of a "blasphemous" competition to draw the best portrait of the Prophet Mohamed .

...Well here is the link to the drawings , the Facebook page has so far attracted 487 confirmed guests. I think it is silly for Pakistan to ban Facebook, even the former military ruler and president General Pervez Musharraf, now languishing in gilded exile in London, fitfully emits Facebook messages to his dwindling ranks of followers. A popular joke doing the rounds yesterday was that now the court had shut down Facebook, Mr Musharraf had lost his entire constituency.

When you ban a website like Facebook for hosting a page, you only give it more publicity and become a victim of more ridicule. It is not just the Danish cartoonists who can wind up Muslims, anyone can do it. Respect is earned and banning a childish webpage gets the Pakistani government no respect at all.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dead Tomorrow by Peter James .

In the acknowledgements for this book, Peter writes...

This book is a work of fiction, as are all my Roy Grace novels. But it is a sad truth that three people die every day in the UK because there are not sufficient organs for transplant available. It is also sad and true that there are over a thousand children living rough in Bucharest - some of them third-generation street kids - and over five thousand adults, a legacy of Ceausescu's monstrous regime. Some of these children do get trafficked for their organs.

...This is a long story that spans 658 pages and was written in 2009. Dead Tomorrow is a crime thriller involving Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who I met in Dead Man's Footsteps . Dead Tomorrow starts by quickly introducing a lot of different characters, the chapters are quite short yet in each chapter you start, introduces another new character. These characters are very different people, performing different roles in different locations. WOW! you think, why this large range of disconnected people? You feel a little lost as a reader but then the nagging starts. Peter James has a very clever writing style, he puts little bits in here and there, that nag at the reader. Nag, nag and then you start to think what will happen next? All the time, in the background, there is this nagging that haunts you through this book.

I really enjoyed reading Dead Tomorrow. Steadily the story grows and you start to know all the characters. The joy of this book is in the detail which Peter provides, it is this detail that gives this novel such colour. Rather than being a book that washes over the reader, Dead Tomorrow makes you think as you work out what is happening. Drip, drip, drip come the clues. This is a big, full story and I will give it 5 stars on Book Army because it is excellent. Peter James has the gift of story telling and this book has an excellent plot, it is very clever and is well thought out with a really good structure. There are some interesting red-herrings that add rather than detract from the story. The tone of the characters is true, the attitudes are spot-on and earthy. These are realistic characters who are not a fantasy or glamourous.

There is some mild humour in this book, like on page 190...

Glenn grinned and pushed back his coat sleeve, baring part of his wrist. 'See that, Arf, the colour, right? Black, yeah? My ancestors rowed the Atlantic in slave ships, yeah? I got the sea in my blood!'

...Peter writes with great emotion and he conveys the true sense of loss. Dead Tomorrow has a sad ending with just a glimmer of hope.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Weightwatchers advert .

Over on the Ad Nauseum blog, Quincy Phd is having a go at the Weightwatchers - Habits advertisement. I think his criticism of this advertisement is spot on and using a regular sized actor is misleading. He is also right to file this advert under his "Patronising Bastards" category too.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sulky Old Men.

Last night on BBC Four I watched Behind the Scenes at the Museum about The British Commercial Vehicle Museum in Lancashire. This documentary was made by Richard Macer as he spent six months filming amidst the gleaming lorries and double decker buses. Did I learn much about the lorries and buses at this museum? No.

Did I enjoy watching this documentary? Yes, it was brilliant! Okay, The British Commercial Vehicle Museum was the location of this documentary but the stars were not the preserved vehicles but the volunteers. This programme had me in stitches of laughter due to the dialogue exchanged between the volunteers and the new manager of the museum. The volunteers wanted to run the museum their way, it was their hobby. The new manager wanted to save the museum from failure, due to falling visitor revenue, by making changes. The volunteers and the new manager were in dispute about how their museum should be run. This museum is an all-male environment and what this programme showed was how men can react to each other when things are not going their way. When women argue among themselves they can be catty, quite bitchy and loud. When these old men at the museum disagreed among themselves they sulked. Yes, they sulked big time! They told Richard Macer to stop filming them and declared their conversations to be private. This was followed by even more sulking and moaning from these old men. Things got so bad that even the sulking was not enough and one member withdrew his preserved Foden double decker bus from the museum in his good-bye protest. Then the other men continued sulking and claimed the museum would never be the same again because the departed volunteer had taken his knowledge and wisdom with him.

This programme was a scream! It showed just how sulky old men can be, they were harmless old men enjoying their hobby but they just sulked, big time. I found this programme really funny and I think that any lesbians watching would have laughed their socks off too! Of course, men do not need a museum to be sulky, any workplace will do. It was good to watch these tantrums from a distance on television, knowing that we all do it at our own workplace. Women can bitch but men walk off in a sulk.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum is repeated on Tuesday 18th May at 19:30 on BBC Four and is also available on BBC iPlayer.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What is it about dog walkers? .

Just what is it about dog walkers? I enjoy walking our pet dog, a 10 year old Jack Russell/Lakeland Terrier cross-breed. Barney loves to run off the lead and discover treasures in the countryside. However, time and time again I read of dog owners taking their pets for a walk, only for their dog to find a body.

Marks & Spencer model Noemie Lenoir was recovering today after she was found unconscious following an apparent suicide attempt. The French model was discovered slumped on the ground in a wood outside Paris by a dog walker on Sunday afternoon, according to reports. A French police spokesman said the 30 year old was found in woods in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, on the western outskirts of the capital.

Barney and I have never found a dead body yet but when you read the numerous newspaper reports of dog walkers finding bodies, I suppose it is only a matter of time! What would happen to these bodies if we were not such a nation of dog lovers? Of course it is easy for dogs to sniff out dead bodies because their sense of smell is 15 times greater than humans and dead bodies do give off a certain whiff!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

“like every harlot in history”.

I could not have put it better myself but the quote goes to David Blunkett , ex-Labour home secretary who opposes such a “coalition of the defeated” and accuses the Lib Dems of behaving “like every harlot in history”. We now have a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government. The Conservatives won 306 seats in last Thursday's general election and the Liberal Democrats won only 57 seats. But Nick Clegg acting like every harlot in history has managed to persuade David Cameron into forming a coalition government with him, although he came third in the election. The Liberal Democrats have managed to acquire 5 top jobs in the new cabinet , with Nick Clegg obtaining the post of Deputy Prime Minister. Well giving Nick Clegg the position of Deputy Prime Minister will certainly annoy a lot of Conservative members and voters. These Conservative supporters voted for a Tory government, not for David Cameron to give 5 top cabinet positions to a rival party, the party who came third.

This whole scandal has happened rather quickly though. In the five days since the general election that resulted in a hung parliament, the house has moved quickly on and formed a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition majority government. The Americans could never have got their act together in 5 days, no way. The speed at which this coalition was formed leads me to ask one question.

Remember those 3 cosy television debates featuring the 3 party leaders. We saw and heard what went on whilst the 3 leaders where sharing the stage together. But what happened behind the scenes and in the dressing rooms? Did Nick Clegg sneak into David Cameron's dressing room, like every harlot in history and the 2 men get very close together? Did a conversation take place between Nick and David, when David made Nick a deal, similar to that famous meeting in a cafe years ago between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown?

This all seems very quick to me. Just 5 days and Nick Clegg is given the job of Deputy Prime Minister, although he lost the election. I think that maybe a deal was struck between David Cameron and Nick Clegg days before the general election was held. It all seems a little dodgy to me and we all know how devious our elected representatives can be. Remember that Nick Clegg had some donations paid directly into his personal bank account, so he is not squeaky clean but what do you expect from a man acting “like every harlot in history”.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Finger Lickin' Good" said the cockroach.

An environmental health officer saw a cockroach eating a chip in one of the busiest branches of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Britain, only four months after the chain was warned to improve its hygiene.

When an inspector called at the fast-food outlet in Coventry Street, near Leicester Square in central London, he found the insect on a food dispensing counter near take-away boxes and tongs used to serve chicken. He also found a mouse, flies and dried chicken blood on the floor, and no soap for kitchen staff to wash their hands.

Westminster City Council had given KFC a warning about hygiene failings at the branch four months before, City of Westminster magistrates were was told. Last month, KFC admitted five breaches of hygiene legislation, for which District Judge Howard Riddle yesterday fined it £11,000 and ordered it to pay £7,927 costs. Daniel Astaire, a Westminster councillor, said: "The standards of hygiene at this restaurant were appalling and simply unacceptable."

David Whiting, in mitigation, said KFC took inspections "very seriously" and accepted that it had fallen "below their own high standards and below legal standards". He said the outside contractor employed to deal with pest control had had its hire agreement with KFC terminated across the UK. The Coventry Street outlet, which employs 65 staff, has since had a £600,000 refurbishment.

...Oh! Finger Lickin' Good is the slogan KFC use on their website. What a jolly good laugh this newspaper story has given me! Why do I find this story so funny? Simple, look at the comments made by David Whiting. Do they ring a bell with you? His comments certainly ring a bell with me. "KFC took inspections "very seriously" and accepted that it had fallen "below their own high standards and below legal standards". He said the outside contractor employed to deal with pest control had had its hire agreement with KFC terminated across the UK."

That sounds like the usual bullshit a lot of companies give out. These companies claim that they have high standards and take their business seriously yet they are reluctant to pay for the job to be done properly. All the time they try to cut costs and penny-pinch. When the scandal breaks, suddenly they sack the people who they had in on-the-cheap doing what little the company wanted at a rock-bottom price.

Cockroaches are not fussy, they will go anywhere food scraps are available. If you pay the money and keep places clean, then you will not attract cockroaches. If you take your eye off the game, the cockroaches will come along to play. It does not matter whether you operate a fast food restaurant or a Plaxton Panther coach.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

What a mess!

Okay, my head has stopped spinning but what a mess the 2010 General Election has been! As a country 29,653,638 votes have been cast and we have not elected a government but a hung parliament. This is not how democracy should work although voter turn-out was up 4% to 65.1%. This election has shown that the 3 major parties, who together have tolled 88% of the votes, have so little for the voter to choose between them, that no party can form a majority government. All 3 major parties have played it safe which has resulted in this disappointing result for the whole country. All the 29 million voters had was a list of candidates to choose from, it was the parties who decided their manifestos. There was a lack of radical policies that could whip up the voters one way or the other to give one party a majority in the house. The 3 major parties have let the public down. Of course, being an MP is a very well paid job and candidates are reluctant to endorse radical views because all they really want is that well paid job. The public are not attracted to extremists so the candidates play down their politics and try to appeal to the middle road of public opinion in the hope that they can land the well paid job for themselves.

So what do I think about wonder boy Nick Clegg? Well, his Liberal Democrat Party only won 57 seats and tolled 23% of the votes. Basically Nick Clegg lost the election, he came third and his party lost 5 seats. I do not think that David Cameron and Gordon Brown should give him the time of day, Nick Clegg is a loser! The Liberal Democrat Party has lost the 2010 General Election and their lucky 57 candidates should be very grateful that they have won their very well paid jobs as MP's. There is a place for the 57 Liberal Democrat MP's, it is called the back benches of the house.

So what do I think should happen? I think that David Cameron and Gordon Brown should both ignore Nick Clegg and tell him to sit on the back benches. The Liberal Democrats with only 57 out of 650 seats should never be offered a position in cabinet. Because the Conservatives have won 306 seats rather than Labour's 258 seats, David Cameron should become Prime Minister. The rest of the cabinet should be formed from Conservative and Labour MP's to reflect these 306 to 258 seat victories. This Conservative and Labour Party coalition should last for 12 months. There should then be another general election in May 2011 for the public to hopefully elect a majority government.

Okay, so that is central government sorted, how do I feel about Cardiff West ? Well, I am pleased that Kevin Brennan, the Labour candidate got 16,893 votes, which was 41.2% of the ballot. It is a shame that Kevin's votes were -3.6% down on the 2005 election. However, Kevin Brennan did not suffer the same percentage drop in votes as the -5.9% Plaid Cymru did with Mohammed Sarul Islam.

I am also pleased that the Cardiff West voter turn-out was 65.2% which is the national average.

Time will tell how our country is governed and we shall find out in the week to come. I just hope that David Cameron and Gordon Brown both tell Nick Clegg to get lost because Nick Clegg has not got the public vote to steer our government at cabinet level. Although I will never vote for the Conservatives, I am sure that the best men in the Conservative and Labour parties should be able to work together for 12 months as a coalition government.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Presenting Lenore .

Times change and people move on. Some bloggers are active and some go quiet. Like most bloggers I have a sidebar on the right of my blog that features links to other blogs or websites. I think this list should be small and feature links that are active, interesting and of quality. Every now and then I will update my sidebar.

Today I have removed the Justice Now Network - New Holocaust blog. The content of this blog became reduced over time and new posts were becoming rather rare. As this blog was not being updated enough, I decided to remove it from my sidebar.

I then considered the other blogs that I read regularly to replace the vacant position on my sidebar. Today I have inserted Presenting Lenore onto my sidebar. Presenting Lenore is a book blog and a very good one at that! I like her writing style and she clearly loves books. It is nice to turn away from the book you are currently reading and discover just what other readers think about the book they are reading - the concept of a parallel universe. Whether you like the types of books Lenore is reading or not, it does not matter. What matters is how she describes the relationship between the book and the reader.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Dave Pearce Trance Anthems 2010.

I like music in my car as I drive to and from my place of work. Sometimes I get a little bored with the radio and want to put a CD into the player. I am not a follower of any particular artist but I do like a certain type of music - a modern Eurodance, Trance or electronic dance sound. I am generally a fan of radio because I am a little lazy with my music selection and I like to delegate the choice to a radio DJ, provided he can play music that does not irritate me.

I saw an advertisement on television for the Dave Pearce Trance Anthems 2010. Oh, I thought, I like the sound of that, it sounds like my type of music. I have always been a fan of compilation albums because you simply get the best without the dross. So I looked it up on the internet and found the clip featured above on You Tube. I listened to this 10 minute sample, considered the price for this 3 CD compilation album that consists of 60 tracks and thought "That's the one for me!".

So what have I got for my money? I have a wonderful collection of Trance music on 3 CD's. Dave Pearce has done all the work for me and has put together 60 tracks that really hit the spot with me. There is not one track on this compilation album that irritates me. This is quality dance music without any of that awful American Rapper singing. What is so nice about this compilation is that on each CD of 20 tracks you do not hear 20 separate songs with a break after each track. What you get is a seamless join from one track to the next and you do not notice that the song has changed. You glance down at the CD player and notice that the track number has advanced by one digit. Dave Pearce has arranged this album so well that it appears as though one group has made one very long song on each CD. This demonstrates just what a talented DJ and record producer Dave Pearce actually is. This album to my ears is magic. Don't get me wrong, this is not an album of 60 tracks that all sound the same. What Dave Pearce has done is arrange this collection so that these very different songs simply blend and progress from one dynamic riff into the next. To get this progression on each track to sound like the work of one group, shows that Dave Pearce is one master of his craft.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Who is to blame for the loss of British jobs to Eastern European migrants?

Oh it does annoy me this electioneering by all the major parties. They have been arguing among themselves about the numbers of migrant workers entering the UK . The big three Westminster parties have tended to brush to one side the point that lots of our inward migration comes from the EU and none of their policies would do anything about that. Only UKIP and the BNP would withdraw from the European Union, a prerequisite for restricting Poles, Latvians and Lithuanians from coming to work in Britain. 46,000 more EU-workers came than left.

Now, these jobs that these Eastern Europeans have taken away from British workers were not given to them by our democratically elected government. Oh no, it is not our government who have given these jobs away, it is the employers. The employers and their back-stabbing Human Resources teams have given these jobs away. Who gets the blame for giving the jobs away? The Labour Party, which is wrong. It is the employers who have decided to recruit these EU workers because they want to depress the labour market and increase their profits. So, when you are annoyed by the number of jobs lost to Eastern European migrants from Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, think about the companies who simply love to employ them. It is those companies you should be angry with and not your local MP.

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