Monthly Archives: August 2008

London 2012 Olympics: How Team GB can win!

It will be rubbish, but lets embrace it and enjoy!

It will be rubbish, but let's embrace it and enjoy!

I’m not a big fan of the Olympics in general, but have had my interest aroused by talk of – shock horror – a British sporting success story, as well as characters such as Bolt and Phelps performing seemingly super-human acts with consumate ease; although I’ll still never quite grasp why making horses walk sideways, BMX riding and beach volleyball (for all its probably viewing rating enhancing properties) are classified as Olympic sports.  But still.

Anyway, today it came to a close – and as the next hosts, it was the job of the Best of British to receive the Olympic flag which had been so expertly hosted by China (ignoring all the political stuff, let’s face it, it was a bloody spectacular event).  We marked this with a bus, on which was carried David Beckham, Leona Lewis (who I’d never heard of before) and Jimmy Page.  Of course, Bumbling Boris Johnson was also present as the Mayor of London, and basically, the result was – well, probably not quite as embarrassing as the games themselves will be.

Since China ‘won’ the Olympics thanks to their superb haul of medals, and an idle conversation today before lunch at Cat’s folks, in order to give Team GB the best possible chance to get the best tally of medals in the next Olympics (and upset the whinging Aussies further – I thought we were supposed to be whinging poms!), we need to introduce a number of new sports into the Olympics forthwith…

  • Cheese rolling – ship all our competitors most promising athletes from any disciple over to Coopers Hill in Gloucestershire and make them run after a double Gloucester from the top.  The Team GB competitors from nearby Brockworth will have mastered the technique and take the gold, silver and bronze medals – the bemused foreign competitors will amass injuries so severe that there will be no chance at all of them competing in their preferred events.
  • Bog Snorkelling – a contribution from our Welsh contingent, for those Olympians hardy enough to have dealt with the plummet down Coopers Hill, the opportunity to contract all manner of gastric infections by completing two lengths of a 60 yard trench cut out of a Welsh peat bog.  In doing this, they must wear a snorkel, mask and flippers – and not use any conventional swimming strokes – so Phelps will be screwed!
  • De-badging – something for the Essex team to consider – each country is presented with an S reg Vauxhall Astra from which they must remove the badges identifying either the make or model of the car, the team that does so within the alloted time and without leaving any visible marks will be the winner.  This could, in future Olympics, be extended the include the replacing of walnut-themed dashboards, the installation of neon or LED based superfluous lighting as well as installation of unconvincing looking ‘sporty’ body kits or low-profile alloy wheels.
  • Darts – let’s face it, it’s just time, isn’t it?  We could have a pub-sport decathlon involving a pool match followed by a variant on fencing involving pool cues, make use of the countless abandoned skittle alleys around the country, who can win the jackpot fastest on the bandit – followed by an intense session on the ‘who wants to be a Millionnaire’ quiz machine.  Before the decathlon is allowed to end in a dignified game of dominos however, there would need to be rounds of drinking games involving clothes pegs, golf balls, a funnel and a tube and topped off by a yard-of-Ale challenge.
  • Shin Kicking – is already a proud staple of the Cotswald Olimpicks.  Long have football fans such as myself decried the mincing nancy-boys who litter our once beautiful game with theatrical diving under the slightest of contact from their opponents.  Well no longer, let us shed football from the Olympic billing and replace it with this, it will be much more entertaining – particularly if it is the footballers who we insist upon competing!!
  • Sports Day – we decided that the ‘lite athetics’ we inflict on youngsters is perhaps dismissed all too soon as we march on towards adulthood, so we would like to see events like the egg and spoon race, the sack race (which is, according to Wikipedia, a former Olympic sport already!), most definitely the skipping race and it would definitely be prudent to include the three-legged race, where people from the Isle of Man are sure to be a runaway success!  It would also be amusing to have the Dad’s race and get the competitors fathers to compete in a 100 yard dash!  Unlike current day sports days, winners will be celebrated, losers will be summarily ridiculed.

I think these few ideas could start to swing the balance of 2012 into our favour, and very much keep in the games with the level of dignity and seriousness with which I expect the ceremonies and suchlike will manage to achieve!  Of course, one thing that it is vitally important that we include in the 2012 Olympics is “Ping Pong”, because it was invented in 19th Century Britain.  In fact, any event we opt to include is relevant because all sport was invented by Britain.  I shall leave you with this statement by Boris Johnson to clarify any confusion I may have caused.

Let’s face it folks, it’s gonna be embarrassing – we might as well just sit back and embrace it, and attempt to enjoy it!  And from my own personal point of view, and not for the first time, be extremely grateful that I don’t live in the nation’s capital.

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There’s sod all in me kitchen, what am I gonna do?

Thanks to a rather persistent leak, we find ourselves living in somewhat of a building site at present.  We await some damp specialists who will be treating the wall and floors you can see have been expertly stripped down – after which we undergo a process of putting right.

Given that we don’t have a shower any kitchen facilities of note beyond a kettle, toaster and microwave at present, it’s going to be a long few weeks, methinks!!

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Testing, testing.. I think…

It’s pretty amazing how things are designed to ‘talk to one another’ in this technological age; back when Facebook was new to me, I was pretty obsessed with the graffiti application, now it appears I can include past efforts into blog posts.  I wonder if this will work?

Edit: Clearly it didn’t work. Never mind – it did make a nice random box thing!

Well that’s annoying, isn’t it? Bad WordPress!

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Chewbacca, what a wookiee!

I accidentally clicked on the ‘view videos of me’ on Facebook thing; and found these two amusing clips from Children in Need last year which made me chuckle.  Basically I spent the day dressed as Chewbacca for, well, if you had the chance, you just would, wouldn’t you? 🙂

And the grande finale…

Now I’m convinced the first clip actually shows Mikey beating me fairly convincingly – so for me to have reached the final was somewhat of a travesty; but perhaps justice was served, because I’m not entirely convinced that I didn’t cross that finish line first!  But t’was for a good cause!

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I got bored..

So I changed the layout of t’blog and made a new image header.. which I quite like, considering it was a ten minutes in Photoshop job; although the arbitrary change of theme is perhaps indicative of the quickness of the whim.  I’m not unhappy with the outcome, though.  For now.

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America condemns Russian invasion of Georgia..

.. well there’s a shock!

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Nottingham City Council’s tax on workers..

Nottingham City Council?

Nottingham City Council?

Nottingham City Council get on my nerves.  After a petition lodged with the Prime Minister’s website, they released a patronising and ridiculous statement attempting to justify their punitive revenue generating scheme levelled at the honest workers of Nottingham.  I sent them a long and ranty email about it, for all the good it will do… you should do the same.  wpl@nottinghamcity.gov.uk

The quoted bits are extracts from the statement issued by the robbing so and so’s Nottingham City Council puppet spokesperson…

Dear Sir/Madam,

It is with no small degree of dismay that I read the recent response to the petition submitted to the Prime Minister’s website from a representative of Nottingham City Council in relation to the Working Place Parking Levy proposal; which despite sensible objections appears to be pressing ahead to impose a new taxation on a subset of Nottingham and it’s surrounding area’s population.

I have copied sections of the reponse below, and annotated where I have queries relating to the various points discussed; I would appreciate if these concerns could be considered in the ongoing progression of the scheme, because to state that I am dissatisfied with the explanation provided by Jon Collins would be an extreme understatement.

“But we’ve got to keep the city moving. Forecasts tell us that car use is set to increase, congestion levels will get much worse and, ultimately, over the next 20 years oil production is going to peak. Any city that does not plan to meet these challenges is not planning ahead for sustainable growth.

People all over the UK are beginning to wake up to the fact that we’ve got to reduce our reliance on the car. Congestion already costs our local economy £160m every year. The traffic jams are literally putting the brakes on our competitiveness and, if left unchecked, our city could grind to halt in a fume filled traffic jam – not good for businesses, not good for residents, not good for anybody, even those driving the cars.”

If the WPL is designed to address congestion, how do you propose to raise revenue to pay for transport improvements, given that presumably you are hoping to encourage fewer people who happen to be unfortunate enough to work within the Nottingham City boundary to take their car to work. What percentage of the traffic active on the roads of Nottingham ends up parking within Nottingham City Boundaries?

How does this short-sighted and reactionary initiative address traffic flowing into and out of the City Boundary? How does it address the increasing amount of parents taking their children to school? It doesn’t – I don’t believe that this scheme is effectively targetting a suitable percentage of the traffic flowing through our city to be in a position to make a robust claim to be a measure to address congestion.

“Businesses tell us they want a public transport system fit for the 21st century. With the Workplace Parking Levy that’s exactly what they’ll get; the Levy is designed to pay for:

· A tram system that spans the entire city

· A modern railway station

· More and better Link buses serving employment sites

· Help and assistance for businesses to implement the Levy

The Levy is a small stick with some really big juicy carrots. It will provide real public transport alternatives, making it easier for people to choose to hop on a bus or tram and leave their cars at home. Importantly, with more people using public transport, those who continue to drive will enjoy less congested roads.”

So those road users who don’t get several hundred pounds written from their salary will benefit; that is beyond doubt. Those people fortunate enough to live within the influence of the proposed public transport links will benefit. Those of us who live outside of these areas and are not served by sufficient public transport will simply be expected to lose a portion of their salary. That doesn’t feel like a carrot to me, and given that a sizeable proportion of the traffic on the roads that will not be punished by this not-so-stealth tax, I’m dubious about how much improvement in congestion there will be.

“The Levy isn’t an additional tax or convenient revenue-generator; it’s a demand management tool which is directly linked to real and tangible benefits, and part of a coherent set of measures that give genuine alternatives to those traveling.”

It is a tax. It is a convenient revenue generator. If you were serious about addressing congestion you would introduce a congestion charge; this would raise revenue from all road users, not a subset. It would also involve investment in infrastructure to implement it (cameras, processing etc) which is why I presume the Council has elected to ‘pass the buck’ to the employers of Nottingham, who they expect to adminster the cashflow of the initiative on their behalf. It is frankly insulting to suggest it is anything other than this.

“Alternative funding sources could, and may, contribute towards public transport in Nottingham. However these sources don’t offer a viable alternative to the Levy as they require further legislation, or are limited in the level of funding they generate.”

It is a funding source, which sounds remarkably like revenue generator, which was denied in only the previous paragraph!

“Ultimately the vast majority of congestion in Nottingham is caused by commuters driving to a free parking space at one of the 500 large employers of the public and private sectors. I believe it’s only fair that these larger employers stop being part of today’s problem and start being part of tomorrow’s solution.”

Or alternatively these larger employers could decide that they would prefer to relocate their business at the first opportunity, leaving a lack of jobs in the region and a disaffected local population.

“And let’s be clear, the Levy is a charge on the employer not the staff; it’s up to the employers to decide whether to pass the charge on. The Levy also won’t apply to businesses with ten or fewer parking spaces because they are more likely to be younger or smaller businesses which we need to encourage and support.”

So we can feel safe and secure in the knowledge that the council washes its hands of whether a business chooses to absorb an exorbitant bill for something they wouldn’t have to pay in a more forward-thinking city; or we can feel alientated and embittered that our employer has passed the cost on to their employees.

“Last year 68% of Nottingham City residents who took part in the consultation supported the Levy and the transport benefits it will bring. Of course there are those who objected, there always will be, but here in Nottingham we’re prepared to take tough decisions for the long-term benefit of the city, and that’s exactly what the Levy does.”

How were people recruited into the consultation process? How widely was it advertised? Research methodologies such as these are not representative; and since – as described above – the levy targets a minority of Nottingham’s road users, it isn’t remotely surprising that the figures were able to be presented in a manner which appears to be a majority. If you don’t work within the Nottingham City boundaries, or don’t drive, then why would you not agree with a mass investment in public transport funded by a minority of road users?

I still fail to see the tangible benefits; aside from an improvement in public transport for a subset of the population lucky enough to be served by the proposed extensions, and perhaps a minor decrease in congestion, I am at a loss to understand how this will actually improve the metrics which the scheme is proposed to – ie, congestion, because such a proportion of road users will remain unaffected and content to use their cars and vans just as they had been doing before.

It is clear from the rhetoric and transparent attempts to reinforce the false aims of this levy that regardless of common-sense objections, they will be ignored and a repetition of the same ill-conceived justifications will be repeated ad infinitum, and the levy will be put into place, and the hundreds of employees of Nottinghams companies will bear the brunt of the cost.

I can’t express clearly enough how disaffected I am with the way my home City is being managed; I am very proud of where I come from, of our heritage and of our City in its current incarnation. It’s genuinely upsetting to read false media portrayals of Nottingham as some kind of drug-addled gun-crazy crime zone. I had always envisioned that I would be happy to remain living and working in the City for my lifetime – but increasingly I cast envious glances at other cities, whose councils don’t choose to disadvantage its’ hard working population, who don’t alienate large employers from wishing to base themselves with them, who offer genuine initiatives to make the environment a better place rather than cynically seek to extort money from people already under pressure from raising prices of fuel, amenities and groceries.

It is genuinely heartbreaking to consider my home in this way; but policies such as these leave little room for misinterpretation, whatever propaganda or spin is applied in a slapdash and inconsistent fashion in press releases or responses to petitions.

I hope somewhat vainly that some common sense in this issue will prevail; because I really genuinely fear for the future prosperity of Nottingham should initiatives like this be allowed to proceed.

Sometimes it’s good to let it all out!  It’s ironic that the council desperately clings on to the imagery of Robin Hood, I wonder what he would have made of such corruption?

Since sending the email, it’s clear that the “68% of people agreed” with statistic is based on people who live in Nottingham City boundaries – ie. those probably, in greater Nottingham, less likely to depend on cars, and more likely to depend on public transport.  The beneficiaries of the scheme, not those being punished.  Also, conveniently, the electorate for the City Council of course.  As a friend and colleague pointed out, Nottingham City Council witters about the full population of Nottingham to be considered for misleading crime statistics – then uses the said same methods to try to justify their robbery of non-City-bound motorists trying to earn a living.

Bastards.

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I saw a sparrow hawk today!

Today I awoke to a strange noise; concerned that we were being burgled I stagged upright from my slumbers, and looked out the spare bedroom window – which was kind of wear the noise was coming from – only to find what I believe to be a female Sparrow Hawk looking up at me from the flat roof outside the window, having just felled what looked like a Dove from the feathers scattered around.

Something like the scene I encountered this morning, but our bird had lost its kill!

Something like the scene I encountered this morning, but our bird had lost its' kill!

She was looking at me, the yellow eyes enabling me to identify the type of bird more easily.  Just as I was reaching for my phone to try to get a picture, she was startled and flew off.  It was this point that I noticed I couldn’t actually see the body of the kill, so whether it was actually a smaller bird the hawk could take away with her, or whether the unlucky Dove had managed to escape, I can’t be sure.  Even if so, I can’t imagine the poor Dove lasted much longer given the number of feathers that had been scattered.

It’s quite exciting to have a bit of real life wildlife shenanigans going on on our very doorstep!  Even if I was too slow with my phone to get a proper picture of it!

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Is this the most sinister advert ever?

Now, I ain’t no prude… quite the opposite in general – but this advert popped on to telly the other night and flummoxed me completely.  It’s disturbing.  Disturbing and wrong.  Isn’t it?  This is actually the French version, but the one I saw was pretty much the same.

In other news I spent around 20 hours frantically turning the house upside down because I thought I’d lost Rich‘s season ticket, which I’ve taken charge of whilst he’s busy in between Russia and Mongolia (with no car now!)… it transpires that it had somehow fallen from the chest of drawers upon which it was residing, and ended up lodged between two of the drawers.  The only way I discovered this was a last ditch desperate measure of taking the back off the chest of drawers.

Forest, being the customer-centric robbing bastards that they are, would have made me (or Rich, but obviously I would have paid him!) pay for the full cost of the season ticket (less one game, as I wouldn’t have told them ’til after tomorrow) had it been lost.  Most other clubs just charge a nominal administrative fee, which is fair enough.  Robbing bastards.

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How to freak people out thanks to Facebook!

You can have quite a bit of fun with the ubiquitous nature of Facebook.  For example, if you are reading this on a computer where you have logged into the social networking site, you should be seeing your profile picture to the left over there.  Freaky, huh?

I had some fun on my Forest forum earlier, indeed, it is ongoing.  I changed by ‘avatar’ (the picture that appears next to messages you post) to be the Facebook photo of whoever is viewing the post in question.  Cue a flurry of private messages demanding to know why I have a picture of them in my avatar.

Quite amusing really, since all I can see on the forum is my own inane face grinning from a collapsable camping chair which makes up my own Facebook profile picture.

So, how do you do it?  Well, the URL I used in this post to insert the image including a status message was:

http://www.facebook.com/badge.php?&items%5B%5D=badge_profile_pic&items%5B%5D=badge_mobile_status&layout=vert&format=png

For most Internet forums, to create an avatar you would be better off using something more like this:

http://www.facebook.com/badge.php?&items%5B%5D=badge_profile_pic&format=png

Although be prepared for the questions to ensue, particularly if – like me – you put some text under saying “a picture of my latest stalking victim”, only to be greeted with private messages of concern saying things like “Why do you have a picture of my 2 year old daughter as your avatar?”.  Well, actually, I don’t!

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