31 December 2006

Happy New Year!

Another week, another post. I should get more regular with this. I've been having a relatively hectic week at work with year-end and various things going wrong. Anyway, I thought I would proffer my opinions on the Saddam Hussein Execution.

There has been a lot of hand-wringing by the Bush and Blair about how he should not be executed. It's kind of ironic that Bush is adverse to this, given his track record. That being said, one thing that is bugging me is the constant need by Western countries to impose their morals and values on to another country, which has opposing views.

Taking the example of China, they are a totalitariean state that supresses individual human rights. However, they are also in a position where their economy is one of the fastest growing and they are slowly giving more rights to the individual. Contrast this with the changes that took place with the fall of the Communism, which resulted in bloody conflicts and massive corruption at the same time that Western values and a Capitalist economy was adopted. I really believe that it is better to allow countries to progress at their own speed, rather than to force upon them foreign values.

Anyway, time for me to go party :)

24 December 2006

Merry Christmas!

Well, it's been over a month since my last posting. In my defence, I have started my new job and in addition to being pretty busy, I also wanted to check out their policy regarding blogging (do they allow it, etc). Fortunately, as long as I don't publish any confidential information, I should be fine. All common sense really.

Hope you all have a merry Christmas out there. I am not going to apologise for using the C-word. It appears the only people that have a problem with it are the anorak wearing drips whose spine is gelatinous. Heck, even most Muslims don't mind it being celebrated because if I recall correctly, Islam acknowledges both Jesus and Mohammed as a prophet. (Apologies for any incorrect information or spellings).

21 November 2006

Do they want them to fail?

Just watching the news this morning, and I see that there is some controversy surrounding the preparations for the London Olympic games in 2012.

The BBC commentator raised the point that these were likely to be the most expensive games in the tournaments history, and will top over £8bn. What's the word I am looking for here? Oh, that's right: d'uh! Now, basic maths and economics may be beyond some reporters but costs will always rise as inflation is a fact of life.

The Sydney Olympics cost £2bn to stage, Athens cost over £4bn and Beijing is expected to cost over £6bn. Spotting a trend here? If London manages to keep costs below £9bn, I personally believe they will be doing well.

I have more concerns regarding the completion of the Olympic village, as the last major sporting venue redevelopment that involved the Government was Wembley Stadium. I really don't think the IOC would be willing to relocate to the Millenium Stadium quite so easily.

20 November 2006

Turmoil on ITV

No, it's not a new programme. ITV has been subject to some speculation that it was going to be acquired. First potential suiter was a merger with NTL, followed up not long after by the German company RTL. On Friday however, BSkyB bought nearly an 18% of the shares - just 2% under the maximum stake it is allowed to own, under current rules. NTL (and Richard Branson) have immediately called foul on BSkyB's behaviour, claiming it is anti-competitive. BSkyB responded with a comment that NTL thinks they have the "right" to acquire ITV.

Having lived in a country where all media outlets are locked up by two companies (and seen the damage that does to viewer choice), I believe BSkyB's behaviour needs to be assessed. Also keep in mind that BSkyB is owned by News International who in turn own Fox, the fine purveyor of junk TV.

There is far too much junk on tv at the moment: "reality" tv programmes, ADD-inducing sketch shows and lack-of-talent programmes. Putting more control into the News International group, I am sure will do nothing but increase this nonsense. Plus as a major shareholder, I am sure BSkyB will be happy to derail future bids by ITV for sporting events such as the F1, European Champions league, etc. This may sound far-fetched, but football in Australia is in a still-born state partially due to live games solely being available on Foxtel, the BSkyB equivalent down-under and 50% owned by News International.

I wonder who Johnathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies was meant to be?

19 November 2006

Oooh... This will be fun

Heather and I were sorting out our holiday photos last night, and I had been exploring MyPixmania as a place to get them printed (as low as 3p each!). Heather however insisted on more of a coffee-table style picture book, something that MyPixmania no longer supports (that I can find).

After a bit of a hunt with Google, I found this interesting website. The great thing about it is that you download an application and design your photobook, before uploading (or sending it via CD) and they print it for you. The prices although they sound steep, seem to be pretty reasonable: £80 for a 144 page book, about A4 size.

Therefore instead of sorting out the house and preparing for our housewarming party, I am going to be playing with this. Much better than housework :)

17 November 2006

Junk food advertising

It was announced today that Ofcom (the regulator of the communication companies) has announced measure to prevent the screening of junk food advertisements during times when children would most likely be watching. Specifically, these are:
  • All pre-school children's programmes
  • All programmes on mainstream channels aimed at children
  • All cable and satellite children's channels
  • Programmes aimed at young people, such as music shows
  • General entertainment programmes which would appeal to a "higher than average" number of under-16s.
Like my comments about increasing the duty on alcopops, this will not make any difference. Kids will still want their Big Mucks when they are out with their parents on a Saturday afternoon, gaudiness of the "restaurants" are designed to attract the impressionable mind. Likewise, crisps and soft drinks are still going to be consumed at school break times, they are convenience foods and kids are too keen to be doing other things than eating.

In moderation, all these foods are fine and it is better that the message is spread by the junk food companies that moderation and exercise are necessary. An example junk food ad might be:

At the moment, there is no incentive for the companies to clean up their message. Ofcom had the opportunity to make a difference, but instead took the easy way out by the blanket banning. Government agencies, policy makers, etc have to realise that people will continue to do those things that are bad for them. Telling them not to do something is a sure enough way of making people want to do it. Be realistic and educate people, its the best option for improvement.

While Ofcom are at it, could they create an index for how moronic advertisements are? An advertisement with a high index rating (for example the Phones4U campaign) should be automatically banned, the video tapes destroyed by incineration and the person that thought of it sterilised to prevent them from infecting the gene pool any further.

16 November 2006

Post Game Review

Well, England played their game against Holland last night in the Amsterdam Arena. Allegedly, they played with a 4-3-3 formation, with Joe Cole, Rooney and Johnson up front. In my opinion, if they are going to be playing 3 up front, it would have been better to play a striker there rather than an out of place midfielder. I think combination of say Crouch, Rooney and Johnson would have been quite interesting to have seen.

Nevertheless, I think England played a reasonably good game and were probably deserved a win, rather than draw. The goal they conceded however smacked of poor defending that is untypical of the back four, the scoring player having been unmarked at the time. Not too sure who you can blame: Terry, Ferdinand or Ashley Cole. That being said Micah Richards had an impressive debut for an 18 year old, with no signs of stage fright and a good shot on target. How nice would it have been to score on your England debut as a right-back?

Steve McLaren's email to fans was pretty upbeat about the performance, however England are now in the position of having to win just about every remaining game in their qualifying group to get through to the tournamenet. I hope they can do it, but we still have to face Croatia again and two legs with Russia and Israel (both of whom I would not write off as easy to beat). I think that we may not make Euro 2008.

My other concern, is that England have found their position in Europe: mid-table fodder unable to throw of the shackles of Sweden or Holland and rise above them. I include Portugal in that group, who constantly are found wanting against strong opposition.

13 November 2006

Can the man not think for himself?

After the Republicans suffered probably their worst defeat in twelve years, old GW decided that may be things in Iraq were not actually going to plan and it was time to think about new options.

In a totally unsuprising move, our Ovine Prime Minister has come out a few days later and said the very same thing. This is just under a month after he stated that troops were there indefinetly. However, because George Bush has changed his mind, so must Blair.

In a show of some originality, Blair did entertain the idea of Iran and Syria. However as these are the very countries that form part of Bush's famed "Axis of Evil", I think the chances of this ever happening are slim to non-existent. And not solely for that reason.

Blair is missing one of the fundemental precepts that is causing the problems in Iraq: the Balkan war happened fundementally because the stabilising force (Tito) was no longer in power (actually he was dead) and Communism in the area was taking it's last breaths. The tribes were therefore free to start causing mayhem by extracting revenge on each other after years of oppression. Fast-forward a few years, and you have a similar situation to how it was in the Balkan states now in Iraq. The violence in Iraq is predominantly sectarian (Shi'a muslim vs. Sunni muslim), even though the numbers of security force personnel injured seems to be rising daily.

Finally, factor in that Syria is 75% Sunni muslim (like Saddam is) and Iran is about 85% Shi'a muslim, I don't think that Iraq will be peaceful anytime soon.

10 November 2006

Will this squad do it?

So Stevie Mac has announced his squad for the international friendly on Wednesday night, which can be found here. Unfortunately, I am not that impressed.

It's good to see Joe Cole back in a 3 Lions jersey so we have something on the left, and I assume Frank Lampard is going to hog his spot in the centre and push Gerrard out to the right wing. Gerrard hates playing there, and everyone can see his best form comes when he has freedom in the centre. Lamps has had a poor run of form recently, but seems to be returning to his normal ways for Chelsea - can he continue like that for England though? Personally, I would have Lamps on the subs bench, the lack of certainty over a starting position may help him find some form.

Up front, there is not a lot to shout about. Rooney has seen his form improve recently, although he missed a sitter on Saturday, Crouch is Crouch; he can have a brilliant night or an absolute pudding of one, once he figures out how to prevent the puddings, then he'll be consistently dangerous. I'm undecided about Johnson, his club form is great but he hasn't sparked in the England jersey. And as for Defoe, lets just hope he eats well before the match!!

The defence is as solid as ever, no complaints there at all. I am intrigued to see how new boy Micah Richards performs though. I guess every friendly squad needs a Theo though.

09 November 2006

He's at it again...

I see Graham Poll is getting himself in the papers, again. After a dismal World Cup performance, and his alleged behaviour on Saturday refereeing Chelsea vs. Spurs, the ego in black red-carded Everton player James McFadden last night in the Carling Cup match against Arsenal. The reason he was red-carded? Abusing an official.

Now, I have no problems with referees trying to put some discipline in to the game. It is something that needs to be addressed, but likewise swearing happens all the time and to start making random sending offs for it is going to lead to nothing but controversy.

Still, if the FA decide that Poll's ego has become too much for the game, they could demote him to the Championship League or expel him all together. Here's hoping it's the latter...

08 November 2006

The tide's turning...

But will things change?

Well, the results of the US mid-term are just about in, and it looks as if GW and his party have suffered a bit of a bloody nose. The loss of the House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years, along with the anticipated change in the Senate, means that the Republicans are on the back foot and at first analysis it looks as if things are going to improve, however a brief look at the facts here can dispel that notion.

Quite surprisingly for the Telegraph, they have a blog posting "revealing" media bias during the mid-term's campaigning, as if it was an untoward occurrence. Wake up and smell the roses! All media companies have an agenda, normally instigated by their Chairman or equivalent, to paint a picture that matches their own colour on the political spectrum. Although the BBC often gets a lot of abusive from the right for its bias, the real issue is the News International brand of newspapers as whomever the Sun has backed to win the UK general election has ultimately won. This shows the power that the media can have over parts of the population.

In the ideal world, all media would be like Switzerland - neutral and good at making chocolate.

Crikey, it's been a while

Well, I had a week off posting not because I lost interest but because I was slightly busy.

The house is a complete bomb site at the moment as I try to assemble furniture (Lewisham council's recycling truck must be overloaded with cardboard waste from me) and we had my sister and her partner's wedding over the weekend. Plus there were interviews for that elusive job.

But I am back now, although with a strained back from lifting heavy furniture incorrectly. Remember people, bend the knees not the back!

05 November 2006

My political leanings

I will be honest, I have been worried about some of the political thoughts that I have been having recently. They were quite novel for me, what with environmentalism and what-not filling it. I therefore decided to checkout the Political Compass to see where I stood.

This site poses a series of statements to which you then have to say how strongly you agree or disagree. To prevent fence-sitters, there is no neutral box so you are forced to have an opinion either way. The results are then plotted on an x-y graph, where the x-axis is how left- or right-leaning your economic views are. The vertical axis represents how authoritarian you are, the higher up the scale, the more of a bossy boots you are.

Two examples cited on the website are Maggie Thatcher who was quite far to the economic right and quite authoritative (based on her assumed scores) and Adolf Hitler, who was naturally nearly through the roof when it comes to authority, but was way to the economic left. Anyone with an understanding of pre-WW2 Germany, will agree that is a true assessment.

So without further waffling, my results:

As I expected, I am slightly to the economic right - after all a free market means free people*. What was suprising though, was that I was totally neutral. I had expected me to be tending towards the authoritative side. A bit of a revelation.

* Except in China, where the free market has not meant the people are freed, however in reality the markets there are not truly free, so the mantra sticks.

01 November 2006

Your voice is needed!

The FA is conducting a survey to determine the future of grassroots football accross England. Anyone that completes not only has a say in how the sport is run in the country but also gets into a draw to win various prizes (I am hoping for friendly tickets myself).

The way I see it, the future of English football is to get kids at young age having the fantastic balls skills as seen on South American and certain European sides. England for years has produced players that are "hard", they push around the opposition and when they go down, they get right up again and keep running. The problem is, ball skills are sometimes left behind so that anyone that is slightly above normal skill is labelled a wonderkid.

Not that I want to see anything like this mind.

31 October 2006

Green tax or just more tax?

Well, it looks as if my cynicism regarding the government's environmental policy was not entirely misplaced. While I agree with some of the statement the article makes, I do have some issues: specifically, the fact that Britain only contributes 2% of the global Carbon Dioxide emissions, and anything that it is done must be done globally. While this in itself is true, if the majority of countries acted in isolation, then the overall result will be the same. There is the issue of increased economic cost, but this government has not shown itself averse to increasing taxes at all.

I did find the accompanying article interesting reading. It sort of flies in the face of Capitalism being seen as the root cause of the environmental issues. It does beg the question why Greenies are almost without exception Socialist, though.

30 October 2006

Do the Swiss understand irony?

It was mentioned today in the Sydney Morning Herald that Sepp Blatter, the distinguished head of the football world governing body FIFA has apologised to Australia for the way they exited this year's World Cup. For those that didn't see it or have erased it from their memories, in stoppage time some Italian dived in the box when closed in on by Lucas Neill, which lead to a penalty and a very underserving ride into the quarter finals by Italy (along with their win, which was also undeserved IMO). Subsequent replays showed no contact whatsoever was made.

Ok, Blatter has the nerve to apologise for something that FIFA has consistently refused to do anything to fix? Perhaps if he could move his corpulent frame away far enough from the sponsorship trough so that fans can get to see the games live, he may be able to summon up the energy to fix the diving that has ruined the last two tournaments. Something that I have already ranted about.

Fix the diving, fix the unequal allocations of tickets and fix the bias of referees, then I will take anything that comes out of FIFA executives with something less than a Lott-sized grain of salt.

29 October 2006

Let's get cynical, cynical!

(With apologies to Olivia Newton John).
An article in today's Mail on Sunday has a copy of a "secret memo"* sent by the Secretary of State for the Environment to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This memo lists a number of measures that the government should consider introducing in order to make the general population more environmentally conscious. Let's take a look at some of these proposals and run them through the cynic's filter, shall we?
  1. Increase vehicle excise duty for gass guzzlers: hmm, ok I guess but there are some people (farmers, etc) that need such vehicles and why should they be penalised just because DINK1 and DINK2 each want an 4x4 drive to work? As well as raising the duty, why not make it claimable as an expense for those engaged in agricultural work, as long as it was under a certain age. This would give farmers a reason to upgrade to cleaner models, and penalise the urban off-roader (which is the true intent of the tax).
  2. Exemption from stamp duty for zero-carbon homes: fantastic idea, however I would also like to see greater rebates for those wishing to upgrade their homes, such as additional double-glazing, windmills or solar panels.
  3. Increased tax on aviation: no! economic growth in the airline industry can lead to greater uptake of newer models which are more efficient and less polluting. Just give airlines (and manufacturers) a reason to upgrade.
  4. Pricing to reflect enviromental cost: a nice idea in a utopian society, but if the government wants to encourage economic growth, raising prices will not achieve this unless salaries rise correspondingly - something that the government will not want.
  5. Public sector activities to be more environmentally conscious: nice idea, but I would have expected most sectors to be reasonably environmentally aware. The only exception would be the armed forces, and really there's not a lot that can be done without massive expensive.

All in all, there are some good ideas, a few not so well thought out ideas and a couple of mistakes. Putting my cynical head on, it is likely that the tax increases will adopted a lot quicker than anything that either provides rebates or increases public spending. One thing Gordon Brown is not averse to is putting his hand in the electorate's pocket.

* The classification of it is actually Restricted which is the lowest classified level for Government documents, but lets not get hung up on semantics here.

27 October 2006

Just a quick update

We had our broadband connection relocated to our study today. Now it means I don't have to perch over a laptop while Heather tries to watch America's Next Top Model or some such tripe (for an intelligent woman, she does like more than her fair share of reality tv).

Also got my mate coming over from Basingstoke for a pub crawl around Blackheath. Should be a messy night as Heather is away :)

Of course, we wouldn't want them having fun would we?

I was watching the news today and the Health Secretary of our wonderful government is proposing to increase the tax on alcoholic drinks, particularly alcopops, to discourage teenage binge drinking. Of course, the BMA are ecstatic about it as well, as it will reduce the number of casualties on Friday and Saturday nights due to drinking.

Here's a thought for them: It will not work! Irrespective of how much the drinks cost, teenagers will find a way to get the money. It may be working longer hours at their part-time job as they try to fund themselves through University, beating up old ladies or whatever. They want the drink, and they will get it. Sadly the nanny state cannot allow anyone to think and make decisions for themselves and Gordon Brown does not need a second invitation to raise taxes further, so it's I guess it is pretty much certain that the change will go ahead.
If the government were genuinely interested in the health and welfare of young drinkers, rather than taxing them, it would be better to spend more money on proper prevention. An increased police presence on foot at night would do a lot to calm people down, and if special constables are used, their costs are substantially less. Better education of drinkers can do a lot to reduce the alcohol consumption and this should be done at schools, colleges and universities as well as on TV.
Finally, 24 hour licensing laws need to be relaxed. In Sydney, a large number of pubs are open 24 hours and it avoids the desire for everyone to drink as many beers/wines/alcopops as possible before closing time. People will drink slower and therefore there is less likelihood of fights occuring due to excessive drunkeness.
But no, it's easier to just to tax everyone.

26 October 2006

It's a disturbing trend that has to stop


What am I talking about? Well, let me run you by a brief story: I was wondering around WH Smiths today looking around for something to read, as nothing on my bookshelves was inspiring me. Now, I have read some really bad stuff in my time (the Da Vinci Code being an example) and I have some stuff that although bad is a guilty pleasure of mine (the Sven Hassel series of books for example). As such, I will consider buying something that may provide me with some entertainment, no matter how bad it appears.

Today, however what I saw beggars belief; and that is not hyperbole. I was wondering around the biographies section seeking inspiration as I have read a couple and as long as the person in question I either respect or looks interesting, I will always give it a crack. The tome I saw today was the biography of someone that I neither respected nor did it look interesting. No, it wasn't GW Bush, it wasn't Blair, Major or any politician. It was Wayne Rooney's girlfriend and I am not kidding. Look, Victoria Beckham (hate her or love her) did achieve a degree of fame by being the near mute one of the Spice Girls. To the best of my knowledge, Ms McLoughlin's road to fame was to snog Wayne Rooney as a teenager. What on earth is there to say?

It's a sorry state of affairs when the wives and girlfriends of footballers (I refuse to use the acronym as it is another sign of society dumbing down) start getting as much or more attention than the players. In the same vein, there is talk about Frank Lampard heading off to Spain to play for Barcelona as his girlfriend is from that region and misses home. Given the success of every English player since Steve McManaman left Spain, if Lamps has any plans on having a future in football he might be advised to deal with the nagging.

25 October 2006

Curbing the Chelsea Tractors

A recent article on today's news highlighted that the borough of Richmond in west London was introducing increasing the price of permits for 4x4 cars in the borough to £300 per year and free parking permits if you have an electric car.

On the surface, it looks like a good idea - cuts greenhouse emissions, penalises those bad drivers who say that they need it to protect their children, etc. However, the fact that the parking permit for a Nissan Micra driver has risen, just goes to show the real motive for this: raising revenue.

It's a pity that governments, whether they are local or national, use people's genuine environmental concerns in this cynical matter. The fact is that if local governments were genuinely interested in reducing emissions, they would tackle their fleet of diesel-spewing, often dilapidated buses and either improve them or replace them with genuine greener alternatives.

If national governments wanted to reduce emissions, then they could better invest their energies in developing an integrated transport policy that made greater use of the rail networks (which incidentally need to be cleaned up first) and removing the reliance on road haulage, where diesel-powered vehicles burn up and down the M1 when it should be transported en-masse.

If a government is going to espouse socialism and social conscious at least follow the Scandinavian model of socialism. It may cost a fortune, but the services delivered make up for it.
Still I don't think there is a full set of balls in the government at the moment.

24 October 2006

Some people need more bran...

Because they seem to be full of sh!t :)

I am talking about the uproar surrounding Jermain Defoe's "bite" on the arm of someone who had repeatedly tackled him from behind, the last one being a two-footed tackle.

Yesterday's Telegraph covered it in an article that did not really dwell on it greatly other than to mention the incumbent Minister of Sport whining like a spoiled child to the FA (via the media of course) to do something about it. Contrast this to an article in the Sun where not content with publishing the picture again, they have a diatribe from Javier Mascherano claiming it the most outrageous thing he has suffered in the UK.

My biggest issue with the incident is not the biting; tempers get riled in all sports nowadays and people forget these sportsmen and women are only human. My issue is that the moment Defoe made contact with Mascherano, Mascherano immediately started rolling around in agony on the floor - it's the diving mentality in him immediately taking effect. It appeared to me that the intention was to get him red-carded. This is the behaviour that has to stop, as diving has ruined two World Cups but it doesn't look as if it is going to end any time soon.

And if that is the worse thing Mascherano has suffered, he should head to a few home counties towns and deal with drunken ASBO candidates on a Saturday night like the police force have to.

23 October 2006

A micro update

This posting is just to get me listed on the directory Technocrati. Technorati Profile. I wonder what it does?

20 October 2006

It's like Christmas early

Well, not quite.

We had our consignment arrive today from Australia. It had been in storage while we travelled and started its own journey itself at the end of August.

The guys from Allied Pickfords were scheduled to arrive at 10am, so we set the alarm for 8:30 to give us time to shower and get dressed. Heather came out of the shower first at 9:10 and 5 minutes later the guys arrived (nearly taking down a tree in front of our house in the process).

After reading about the troubles our friends had when they moved, I was a bit nervous about what state ours would be in. In fact, everything went really smoothly with only a couple of minor breakages, which hopefully the insurance will cover.

Our place is currently full of half-empty cartons as we did not bring over any wardrobes as our last place had built-ins. We have ordered some cheap junk from Argos, which should arrive soon. Until then, it's a bit more living like a backpacker (albeit with nice furniture, HD tv, etc).

Oh and happy anniversary Sophie and Paddy!

09 October 2006

Moving in...

Ok, so we are now in our new place. Unfortunately, our stuff has yet to arrive so we are sleeping on an air mattress and using an inflatable sofa as our only seating. On the plus side, our new high definition television has arrived so at least we can watch tellie, and 40-odd channels of it!

We are renting a 3 bedroom place in Blackheath, which is a really nice suburb in London - very close to the Canary Wharf and the city but green and picturesque.

When we walked across the common for the first time, I knew that this is the place I wanted to be when I saw the church sitting in the middle of it. Hopefully, it will be cold this winter and it will get covered in snow. That would be a picture worth recording.

Our stuff arrives sometime soon (we hope) so our sparse place will soon be a lot more homely.

08 October 2006

A new blog and a new posting...

Ok so I have been running my other blog for a couple of years now and although it's reasonably up to date, it is more geared towards holidays, rather than the routine of day-to-day life. So with that in mind, I have decided to fire up a new blog and keep it regularly updated.

This blog will be a place for me to keep a record of what goes on in our life, what (non-holiday) related activity we are up to and a place for me to vent my opinions on politics, world affairs, sport, etc.

Let's get cracking!