Monday, July 27, 2009

Therm Or Lobster

The first two days in Menorca and I felt that my tan wasn't coming on quick enough. Factor 15 suncream (as opposed to the factor 30 for the rest of the family) was blocking too much. As a result I may have been slightly less rigorous today than was sensible. Not helped by being out on a boat and swimming in the sea, both of which can be rather misleading. And the Menorcan sun really is quite strong. I will learn in the morning if these currently red and tingling shoulders are going to turn into something I regret. Oh well, a good lesson for "A" as to why her mother plasters her in suncream every five minutes.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bare Facts

We arrived in Menorca for our holiday. Early start having to leave home at 0300 hours but the advantageof this is that we had a whole day here.

What I had forgotten was that topless sunbathing is the norm here (in fact accidentally stumbled across nude sunbathing as well but that's a seperate story). Now, topless sunbathing doesn't shock me. I think people should generally be allowed to show what they want of their bodies, we all have them after all (admitedly some are less nice to see than others though). However, what has shocked me, and makes me very uncomfortable, is that the little girls of seven or eight years old are often topless as well. I'm trying to work out if this shock makes me a prude. Is it just that we get steeped in a media culture where child abuse is a constant recurring story? Is it the child protection issues hat have been drummed into me over the years managing security at festivals have made me over-sensitive? Adults showing their respective bits (or irrespective depending on how you look at it/them) seems one thing, children quite another.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Splatt

OK, how about this for an excellent idea. Rather than fingerprints the police should start taking noseprints. Now, to be honest, I don't know if everyones nose is different, but that's not the point. Just think what a deterant it would be. I mean it's easy enough to hide an ink stained hand in a pocket but how could you hide an ink stained nose? So everyone would see that the police had been checking you out. Isn't that fantastic? No-one would want to be spotted with an inky nose. And you could colour code it as well. Purple would mean that you had nicked a tuppence sweet from the local store, magenta would mean you were doing 50 in a 30 speed limit, red for murder. For serious crimes use a long lasting permanent ink. For those just being printed so they can be eliminated from enquiries then you use an ink that would wear off quickly, like within 24 hours, and maybe black and yellow stripes so they could pretend they had been at a party and there was face painting.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kate Rusby - Planets

I can see the planets are aligned in front of me
I cannot read them for the futures growing old behind me

Through the world I am wandering, wandering
Soft breeze blowing I am wondering now
Through the world I am wandering, wandering
These happy days I live now

You said turn around so I cannot see your tears falling
You don't make me proud you see there is a new day dawning

Through the world I am wandering, wandering
Soft breeze blowing I am wondering now
Through the world I am wandering, wandering
These happy days I live now

On nights like these I could fly up to the sky above me
Like superman I would change the course of earth below me

Across the world I am wandering, wandering
Soft breeze blowing I am wondering now
Through the world I am wandering, wandering
These happy days I live now

I can see the planets are aligned in front of me
I dare not breath for them the clouds will fall and then deny me

Through the world I am wandering, wandering
Soft breeze blowing I am wondering now
Through the world I am wandering, wandering
These happy days I live now

Across the world I am wandering, wandering
Soft breeze blowing I am wondering now
Through the world I am wandering, wandering
These happy days I live now

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Zapped

In a really weird way, the news of the O2 network failure is actually an incredible relief. Any follower of my blog, or Facebook, or Plurk, or any IT support in the UK, will know by now that I do not have a good reputation when it comes to computers. I get through them at an alarming rate. 5 in 8 years at work, approximately 11 or even 12 in 17 years at home. I am now convinced that the aura I have, while a healing one for animals, is a fairly damaging one for computers. All of which is bad news when one is a bit of a gadget freak. So when my iPhone decided that it wasn't going to download emails or let any apps run this afternoon I thought I had managed to destroy yet another chip set. So, finding out that the whole network had crashed is a positive thing for me.

Alternatively I have single-handedly managed to crash an entire country-wide phone service. Something I would prefer not to think about.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fine Idea

I am slightly surprised that this seems to be slipping past wqithut anyone noticing. But, then again, this government are masters at sneaking through things without being up front. It appears that victims of assault and violent crime are to receive less compensation if they have been convicted of speeding. For instance, a rape victim will receive £37500 less if they have points on their licence. This is all in a move to save the government £25 million in compensation. It even stretches to murder, so a parent of a murdered child will receive less compensation if they have been fined in the last 5 years. Now, I in no way think monetary compensation is going to do anything to relieve the pain a parent would be going through, but this seems to just add insult to injury.

It is hard to express how shocked I am by this. The two things are so totally unrelated. How can anyone argue that someone who has been attacked and paralysed deserves less money just because they were caught speeding in the past. There is no justice in this, it is not fair. It is simply picking on an identifiable group. This is a despicable and cruel policy that shows the level of this governments inhumanity.

{I would like to point out that, while I have been caught speeding in my past, I currently have a clean licence. Although once the Audi A5 arrives......}

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dark Times

Phillip Pullman has been complaining recently that authors need to be CRB checked before they can go into schools. He thinks this is a terrible thing. Well, putting aside the fact that I believe that anything stopping Pullman meeting children is a good thing, I couldn't disagree more.

First off, let me address my issues with Pullamn personally. It isn't that he has written anti-Christian books that worries me. I think debate is a good thing and I generally welcome anything that will challenge beliefs. After all, it is only by being challenged that we can grow stronger. No, it is the way he does it. I have read "The Dark Materials" trilogy, and I found it a completely dishonest and subversive way to get a message across. He only owns up to his position, which is anti-god, very near the end. You are drawn into a story which later turns out to be a lecture. And I don't think that that is the right approach. Be open, ask the questions, make people think about what they believe. But don't mislead them.

So, having got past that, should childrens authors be checked? Well, as someone who generally says that children are too protected these days, I would have to say that this is actually the right approach for once. Childrens authors are like heroes in the school. If you meet someone who writes the books that you enjoy then you would be willing to walk through fire for them. It is an incredibly powerful position. It is only right that we should check that the power isn't going to be abused. A good author commands more respect than a sportsman when you are talking about young children. Someone who can talk to them at a level they understand, can appear to know what is happening to them and write about it, is going to achieve an almost god-like status (hmm, some irony there possibly). And with things like Facebook a single meeting can develop into more. So, don't wrap children in cotton wool, don't take them out of school because of a single case of swine flu, but do check that those in powerful positions are fully checked.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cash Point

There seems to be a rather neat fix to the "cash for peerage" problem. As the government are no longer to give away seats in the House of Lords for money they seem to have found a different route for getting those they like in there. You have to wonder if less than two years service is really enough to qualify for a lifelong position don't you. The idea of the Goats (government of all talents) was a dubious one anyway, a clever way to get people into power without them ever being elected, and a way to skew the votes to favour Labour. But they should have at least had a contract with a minimum service period. If you are going to get a peerage then I want you to work for at least 5 years for the country, if not ten. Did Lord Darzi not think that being a minister and also remaining a doctor might just be a little difficult and possibly, just possibly, over-committing. Very nice that he now wants to give his patients some time, but indicating a certain short-sightedness than is worrying in someone who could wield a scalpel.

{Sorry, a bit late picking up on this one, but I have been away for a few days}

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Who threw that - assegai

I'm quite used to sitting watching the South Wales Borderers singing "Men of Harlech" as the waves of zulus come charging over the plains. It brings tears to my eyes. Within a period of 24 hours the British army saw one of their greatest defeats and one of their greatest victories. No one battle ahs ever had more VCs awarded than Rorke's Drift. Men stood tall, and they did it for each other. Sure, they never really sang "Men of Harlech" (this version sung in the chapel at Rorke's Drift by the RoyalRegiment of Wales), but I wish they had. 150 men against 4000, defending a small supply station with Martini-Henry rifles and a lot of guts.

I am not sure that "pool of Harlech" has quite the same ring to it. But it has been a fight none-the-less. The swimming pool in Harlech has been under threat of closure for over a year. And it was down to the wire (should that be lane), the end of this month would have seen the doors locked for the last time. But a group has been fighting the council in order to keep it open and, great news, Gwynedd council have accepted their proposal today.

This is a Welsh swimming pool, although there are some foreigners in it mind.

{And yes, before someone points it out, I know that they weren't the South Wales Borderers until 2 years after the war}

{And if you don't understand the title then you need to listen to some Max Boyce}

Monday, July 13, 2009

F***** B****** S*******

Next time I am caught swearing I can at least justify it. It isn't simply me being mindless, swearing serves a function. It appears that using bad words can actually increase your pain threshold. I often think that it is strange that the swear words we use are generally derived from either normal bodily functions or, even more strange, the physical act of sex, which is generally an enjoyable thing. But the one thing they have in common is the amount of force that you can get behind the words. It appears that these test subjects were asked to either repeatedly use a swear word or a word to describe a table when in a situation of pain (hand plunged in ise water). I can understand that the use of f*** is going to be rather more cathartic than the use of "regency". And they managed to keep their hand in the water for longer when using the swear word.

I think I am going to introduce a "freedom to swear" day at work.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Technorush

I may be accused of being a glutton for punishment. As I write this on my old computer because the new Water Dragon has completely fallen over, while this one has only partially fallen over, I have gone out and bought a laptop today. Now, to be fair, the laptop isn't for me, it's for my daughter. And I am not entirely convinced that buying a laptop for a 7 year old is a sensible decision. However, we just had her SATs results and the end of year report. I am not going to give scores, but let me say (as a proud father) she has done extremely well. And what impresses me as much, if not more so, than the results is that the report says how helpful she is, that she shares her ideas, shows others how to do things when they are stuck etc. While I may not exactly recognise the girl who, with us, is often a bad loser, I am very happy to have a report that says what a pleasure she is to have in the class. So I told her she could have a present. Bless her, her opening gambit was to go to the cinema. Which is lovely but not really as big as I was thinking. Then, from mummy, came the idea of a TV for her room. I was a bit reticent about this, I think she watches enough TV anyway. So I suggested a laptop, she loves playing online games, she loves using Powerpoint (at seven I think she can write better presentations than some of the people I work with), and a computer can be educational as well. It seemed a good (albeit expensive) option, and "A" was eager. So we went in to Comet and bought an off the shelf one. Which, despite my loading on things like Microsoft Office and basically fiddling, is still working 10 hours later.

Which leaves me with two desktops, two laptops, an iPhone, 4 iPods and an iPAQ. Hmm, gadget overload.

Friday, July 10, 2009

In The Head

A somewhat curious observation made tonight. When I go to Whittlebury Hall spa the women outnumber the men by a ratio of approximately ten to one. And yet in the spa at the gym it is the other way around. It isn't that women don't use the gym, although it isn't quite 50:50. But clearly a greater proportion don't use the spa facilities. There isn't really a lot of difference between the two places so this must be a psychological thing. For the men going down the gym is manly so anything associated with it must also be so, but a spa club is "girly". For the women a hotel spa facility is feminine while the gym has too much testosterone. It's amazing what location can do to something and how it can change perception.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Under Pressure

OK, here's a piece of advice should you ever need it. When at the gym, if you have had a good session, don't ask them to increase the levels on all your equipment in one go! Last night that is exactly what I did. And today wasn't pretty. I tried to get them to swap me off the treadmill, which I detest almost as much as computers (dong this blog on my iPhone as my new computer is so unstable as to be almost unusable), and my attempt was in the vein of "I can't run on the treadmill as my shins can't take it so I am not sure I get enough exercise on it". Their response was to leave me on the treadmill but to increase the incline. But without thinking I asked them to increase everything else.

As it is, the treadmill on an incline is knackering. So when I moved to the hand bike I was feeling as though I was running on empty. And the one I normally use, standing up, was occupied so I used a sittting one which is clearly a different angle. Result was that I struggled. Then I found another problem. I use constant power settings. Normally with the hand bike I have a good momentum going before it piles on the pressure. But I was so tired I lost momentum. So much so that I stopped for a few seconds. Only to discover that it increased the resistance so much that I couldn't get going again. Not my best look really, sweat pouring down my face, mouthing swear words, and most clearly absolutely and utterly stuck.

I was so tired by the end that I almost didn't have the energy to use the sauna.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Gurgle Gurgle

Health and Safety. It's enough to strike fear into anyone. In a world gone mad the H&S people take the biscuit. Or, in this case, the water wings! What am I going on about? A school has banned swimming goggles because they could snap back and hurt a child. I would be really interested to see the statistics showing just how much of a risk this is. And do we not think that maybe teaching the children how to put on and take off the goggles might be better than simply banning them. At some point we have to trust people to take responsibilty for themselves. The more we encourage this nannyism then the less people think. The way to deal with it is not to say "there there let us take the risk out of your life" because finally people will be surprised that stepping off a cliff killed them, and there will be outcry to ban all cliffs. No, we need to say "what, it hurt, so what did you learn about that then and what are YOU going to do in the future, what have YOU learnt". Empower people, let them be responsible for their own lives, adn you might be surprised how much more you can get out of people.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bang

There is something vaguely disconcerting about finding yourself in a hotel that supplies ear
plugs on the bedside table. I mean, what do they know. Why do they come with the not so cryptic message -we wish you a good nights sleep? Am I only going to get a good nights sleep if I use them? Do the bin men come at an early hour? Are
they expecting an RAF fly past? Are the neighbours screamers? All very worrying.

As it was there was nothing. At least nothing more than the usual nature getting on with life and the occasional car passing. I know this be wise I lay awake waiting for whatever the big noise was going to be. The big noise that never came!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Final Roar

It's the third, and last, test for the Lions against South Africa. They have already lost the series. Importantly they have also lost a large number of key players. And yet, when the cards are finally dealt, they come out with every intention of winning. And they do. Emphatically. Considering the other two matches went to the last whistle, this is the most convincing play by either of the teams. In fact on total points, and on tries scored, the Lions actually win. However, that's statistics, South Africa won the test and we can't take that away from them. Some players today really showed their mettle. I won't ever understand why Martyn Williams didn't start the other two matches, today he was inspirational, always there and in the thick of it. Only really eclipsed by Mike Phillips who controlled the game as scrum half and then stood tall when he was moved out to centre.

Three fantastic amtches. The Lions are not a spent force, they have a role to play in the modern game. And they were so close to winning it all.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Deuce

It was almost predictable wasn't it. The hype just got so high. It's as though we never learnt from Henman. Whats almost more amazing is that The Telegraph manages to turn this into a bad thing for Roddick. Now, I'm no tennis fan, and I have to admit to only watching because I don't like Murray and wanted to see him beaten, but it seems to me to be extemely unlikely that Roddick could be sorry to have beaten Murray, no matter how often he has lost to Federer. The media are strange. A week ago they had Murray through to the final, despite the distance to go. They even managed to forget the match a few days ago when he was taken to the line. This morning they were talking about a man on top of his form, but this is a man who was lucky to get this far after nearly being unseated by Wawrinka. And with Roddick they are already writing him up as losing the final. Time to let them get on with playing.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Full Monty

Dress down Friday is one thing, but dress off Friday quite another. I am sorry, but there are quite a few of my work colleagues that I really, really wouldn't want to see naked. And they would feel the same about me. Team building events are bad enough, having to all muck in and build a raft, or see how many balloons you can hold between your legs, but this is a team getting too close and intimate. Why do I feel that David Taylor, the one who came up with the idea, was really doing it for a bet. I suspect that one evening down the pub he told his mates that he could get anyone to take their clothes off for him and that they would pay him obscene amounts for the priviledge. So the next job was a poor unsuspecting lot from Newcastle, and the next thing they know is that their "things" are receiving rather excessive attention.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Room With A View

When you hear that a conference is going to be at somewhere called "Eynsham Hall" I think you automatically imagine a rather grand place. This is emphasised, when you get there, by the long drive leading to a rather grand house with more windows than I have had hot dinners. What you don't therefore expect is for the first two colleagues you meet to tell you that they had to request different rooms. One because he found frogs in his (both live and dead), and the other because brown gloop came out of the taps rather than water. Having heard this I wasn't expecting much from my room but finding that the shower didn't work (and no bath) did not make my day. I told reception that I would put up with it for one night but I wanted to be moved the next day. This should not be too difficult as a number of people weren't staying after we had booked rooms for them.

The next morning I went and reiterated my request. Their opening gambit was that the duty manager had fixed the shower the night before. Thi answered one question, I had been wondering where the dirty footprints in my room had come from, as I was certain my feet had not been that muddy the previous night. However, I felt that they had a different definition of "fixed" than I had. As far as I was concerned, the dribble that came from the shower head did not indicate "working". So their next gambit was to say that they didn't have any better rooms to move me to. At this point, and with others around, I did rather go down the mean route and said "well if that's the best room you ahve then I'd hate to see your worst". I followed with explaining why this was not good enough. When I came back in the afternoon I had been moved. And I was in the main building (so a bigger room) and on the first floor (so no frogs). At this point I accepted where I was. I am loathed to defend them too much though, so have to point out that there were holes in the side of the bath and the shower rail.

If the hotel inspector called I somehow don't think she would be impressed.