Good Job, Dave

Well done, Dave, you have come out victor in another conflict started without consent of the British public and at an estimated cost of £1bn give or take a few hundred million pounds. And I thought Britain was broke and we all (that is, the public at large) had to take it stoically on the chin. £1bn? That’s 5 new schools for you right there.

And now, the evil, but slightly comical goatee-bearded villain is dead. No more long rambling rhetorical speeches for journalists to be smugly condescending about and how comforting it is to know that the unelected Libyan transitional Head of State (who, not forgetting, was this time last year the Justice Minister in the aforesaid villain’s showpiece government) has publicly said that the bastions of humanity will not be forgotten when it comes to handing out those lucrative contracts to rebuild the bombed out country. A score for your party donators British business.

Now, Dave, how about this for an idea? Before we go gallivanting as the knight in shining armour in to yet another conflict with an oil rich state in the name of humanity (while of course neatly side-stepping the inconvenient issues present in non-oil rich failed states), why not ask the public if they want to send our (I’m searching for a better word here) defense forces in to a war zone thousands of miles away by conducting a democratic referendum?

Dave, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I would rather see the hospitals, schools and council services be better funded rather than spending another £250,000 to send a plane to drop a bomb on Johnny Foreigner, no matter how much oil the country has humanity the people need.

Good News Britain

I noticed that the last few posts about England were all a bit doom and gloom and since nothing sells like bad news that’s mostly what the newspapers and media companies will push. However there is still some good news around, you just have to hunt a little harder for it. Today it was announced that around 5,500 jobs will be created and secured in North Wales thanks to a new factory that will produce the wings for the new Airbus A350. Hmm, I wonder if they need any aerospace engineers…

£400m Factory Secures Thousands Of Jobs - Yahoo! UK & Ireland Finance

£400m Factory Secures Thousands Of Jobs largest factory to be built in the UK for five years, opens its doors today. The £400m facility, at Broughton in North Wales, will produce wings for the new Airbus A350.…

Oh What A Spectacle

Every now and then I tend to do something a little bit stupid. We’re not talking epic stupidity here, more like putting my mobile phone through the washing machine (err, twice) or dropping my phone in to a pint of beer (err, again, twice) or putting a mobile phone in to an open pocket of my backpack walking to the office and discovering with innocent horror that it was no longer there.

This week I decided to be stupid in a whole new innovative way which didn’t involve a mobile phone. Being a computer geek means that I have to spend rather more time sat in front of a computer than you would imagine is healthy, or rather is healthy for an average human being. Fortunately computer geeks are far from average and we can aimless surf around the Internet looking up things like what is a Beadle, how kidney stones are formed and discovering that the tune to “The Animals Go In Two By Two” is actually stolen from an American civil war marching tune called “When Jonny Comes Marching Home” for hours after the average person has given up and gone off to be sociable with real life actual people.

However, the super-human ability to sit in front of a computer screen does come at a cost, namely the eyes. I can barely look at a computer screen for more than 5 minutes without glasses before I feel the tell tale strain in my left eye that informs me that “buddy, we’re preparing one hell of a banging headache any minute now“. So yeah, my glasses are fairly important to me which is why it would be a really stupid idea to leave them on say, oh I don’t know, a plane.

I flew back to India yesterday. I left my glasses on the plane. I had to go to work today in my capacity of Online Marketing Manager, which as the designation implies, involves lots of computer work. Damnit!

Now this being India, some people who are a little less illuminated about this great country might think you have to go through hell and back to get a pair of spectacles. Hah, not a chance my ignorant friends. India is a land of programmers and call centres where people have to stare at computers all day long. There is an entire army of opticians waiting on every street in every town serving the never ending stream of Mechanical Engineering graduates who have toiled away for the last 4 years calculating complex matrices and partial differentiation and have realised that while finite element analysis is fascinating in every way, answering the phone and saying “Hello you have reached HSBC customer services, Brian speaking, how can I help you today?” pays well better and you even get a cool fussball table in the staff room. All you have to give up in return (apart from your innocence and soul) is your eyesight as you stare at Mrs. Grimbal’s account details on the computer screen for 10 solid hours a day.

I manfully soldiered through 8 hours of office work today by installing a piece of software called workrave which is the cyber equivalent of a health and safety executive standing over your shoulder and telling you that your chair is wrong, the desk is too high, the foot rest is at the wrong angle, the fluorescent lights are the wrong frequency and you have sharpened your pencils to a degree that could cause significant discomfort if you were to drive it in to your ear absent mindedly. The software basically forces you to take a break every 10 minutes by locking up your computer for 30 seconds and if you even dare attempt to move your mouse during that time it pointedly freezes the count down, looks at you with a stare which suggests that it can pause all day if you want it to, before resuming a few seconds later when you’ve stopped moving the mouse around.

And so it was thus that I managed to do my job without getting too great a headache and seeing how I can’t do anything without the Internet these days proceeded to look up where my nearest optician was. Foolishly I forgot that this was India so felt rather sheepish when I found that there was one on the same street as my office.

When you go in to an opticians in England and say I want to buy a pair of glasses, the receptionist will look at you, make a show of putting down the phone to indicate that you dared to interrupt her daily gossip, flick through the appointments book and inform you that they’ve got a slot coming up in two weeks on Wednesday at the convenient time of 11:00am. In India, you walk in to the opticians at 8pm and a crowd of assistants descend upon you, lead you to the examination room, the optician comes in and does a full eye test, gives you the prescription which you take to the sales staff and then have three people helping and advising you on which frames to pick, you make the payment and are informed that the glasses will be ready to pick up at 5pm tomorrow afternoon.

God I do love India sometimes!

Daylight Robbery On The British Trains

I just purchased a single train ticket to take me from Market Harborough to London St Pancras tomorrow morning at 9am. The whole journey takes about 60 minutes and East Midland Trains, the thieving robbing bastards that they are, see it fit to charge a staggering £50 for the pleasure. It’s not paying for the fuel or staffing costs, it’s more than likely paying for the station refurbishment at St Pancras.

If the Government want more people to take public transport, then they need to sort out the prices of it first because at fifty quid a go it’s only going to be the wealthy people who can afford to not have a car! What’s more, if Network Rail (or whatever the hell it is now) franchise out the lines it means money grabbing companies like East Midland Trains have got the monopoly on that route and have no competition or incentive to keep the prices down.

£50 pounds for a 60 minute train ride. Britain is broken. The country has gone to the dogs. I’m not going to be hanging round here.

Steve Jobs Apple Store Memorial

Took this photo outside the Covent Garden Apple Store in London on Thursday afternoon. Big crowds had gathered outside to pay tribute to the man. I’m not a mac fan myself but you can’t argue with the success Steve brought to Apple when he returned to the company he founded in the mid-90’s. He left the company as one of the biggest in the world when it eclipsed Exxon in August (but then lost some ground) having already succeeded Microsoft and Dell.

Steve Jobs Apple Store London Memorial

Morning Mists

Not to be outdone by the often spectacular sunsets that India has to offer, I snapped this photo at about 7:30am which has the usual English Autumn morning mists with the sun desperately trying to break through. I’ve obviously brought the Indian weather home with me because it’s not supposed to be mid-high 20’s in October! Or as one person on Twitter pointed out: Greece, pay your bills and you can have your weather back!

Are Things Really That Bad In England?

Yesterday the BBC reported a story where there has been a sharp increase in metal theft. Are things really that bad in England that the only way to make a few quid is to steal the metal slide from the children’s playground? I once laughed when a friend in India told me that the reason all the manhole covers are made from concrete is because people used to steal the metal ones and leave big gaping holes in the road. I remember reading in mild amusement that thieves in Cape Town would steal the electrical cable from the street lights.

Now I’m left wondering what England has come to when thieving robbing bastards will steal the lead lettering off of gravestones, pilfer metal doorknobs and letterboxes from highstreet shops and even make off with 100 year old bronze statues. Suddenly Indian politician Mayawati’s statue protection police force doesn’t look quite as absurd. And for what? Probably to make ten quid to get a haircut! Apparently one 22 year old was left with “horrendous” injuries when he tried to cut through a live electrical wire and was jolted with 22,000 volts of kick-ass karma – and probably did a remarkable Luke Skywalker impression when he was attacked by Emperor Palpatine. Who has to pick up the bill to pay for his surgery? Who has to pick up the bill when he claims for compensation for loss of earnings? And did he get charged for the attempted theft? Did he hell, he got 12 months community service.

Apparently train tracks are the favourite of cretinous scumbags who will steal anything from the signaling cable to the clips that hold the tracks to the sleepers which are kind of important if you are worried about little things like wanting the train to actually stay on the line. With such a disregard for safety where is it actually going to end? Are they going to start removing 5m sections of track so they can have a night out on the town followed by a doner kebab afterwards?

My Dad, who was working on an industrial site during the summer, recounted a tale where the complex suddenly lost power which was odd because there were no power cuts in the area. A scout around the perimeter fence located a very strange event; the heavy duty industrial power cable was mysteriously moving of its own accord back through the fence. Further investigation revealed a band of travelers on the other side heaving the cable through. “Oh” they said in their best Brad Pitt in Snatch accent, “We just saw this lying around and didn’t think it belonged to anyone.”

BBC News - Metal theft: Britain's most annoying crime wave

BBC News – Metal theft: Britain’s most annoying crime wave copper cable theft from a railway line. The result? A total of 108 trains delayed, 17 hours worth of hold-ups for thousands of passengers and damage put at over £80,000.…

£10 Haircuts?!

Every time I come back to England it seems to coincide with the urgent requirement to get a haircut and so once a year I head down to a local barbershop where I have been going for the last 10 years. Since I go during the day the conversation is always the same…

Hairdresser: You on holiday today then?
Me: Oh, no, I’m just back visiting my parents for a couple of weeks
HD: That’s nice, which part of the country have you come from?
Me: Err, India
HD: India?!
Me: Yeah, I live and work out there
HD: Really?! What are you doing out there?
Me: I work for one of those outsourcing companies
HD: You mean the ones that are taking all our jobs like the call centres and we can’t understand a word they are saying?
ME: Not quite, we build websites and don’t have a call centre
HD: Hmm, it won’t be long before they bloody well take all our jobs and no one has anything left to do here!
Me: Ah, but they can’t outsource hairdressers now can they!
HD: 😀

What’s more is that as sure as night follows the day, the price has steadily gone up and I don’t know if I’m going to reveal my true age here or something, but I remember when a good, honest haircut cost £4.50. Every year the price has increased and now we’ve reached the ludicrous price of £10. I almost choked when she told me the price, ten quid for 15-20 minutes of work, if this carries on I’ll work out a way to outsource hairdressers myself!

The Lilliputians Versus The Brobdingnagians

Today it was the giants of the Premiership. Not in a figurative performance sense, but in a literal, oh my god they are fricking massive, sense. Stoke have forged something of a winning strategy by being bigger and stronger than any other team in the Premiership and with the arrival of Peter Crouch in the summer have raised the average height of the squad from 6ft 6″ to a lofty 6ft 11″. In a word, Stoke City are HUGE!

And that’s why so many teams struggle against them, which is what happened with Man Utd today. Stoke used Crouch as the point man to great effect. The football isn’t pretty, it isn’t technical but damn it caused problems for Uniteds back line. At every opportunity the Stoke keeper or defenders would literally hoof the ball in to the United box and hope that Crouch could get on the end of it, which since he’s a full head taller than even Ferdinand or Jones, happened quite often.

What’s more, Stoke closed down United so quickly, it was like the charge of the light brigade every time a United player touched the ball, Stoke’s giants would rush on in. In the past this kind of pressing play worked great for the first 80 minutes and then everyone dies and United said thank you very much, Goal. Now though, I’ve noticed that teams that have to press United can do so for the full 90 minutes.

There was less of the tiki taka football on show today, Anderson continued with his loose balls and as I’ve mentioned before De Gea still really needs to work on his distribution, especially when you are playing against a team the size of Stoke – I don’t think any of his hoofs was caught by a United player. That said, he pulled off some exceptional saves and he’s looking a bit more comfortable than a few weeks ago and looks like the quality United need at the back.

Nani was once again the best player for United, the last season or so he’s finally beginning to fill the boots to match his ego. Always written off as a poor man’s Ronaldo, he’s more like a middle class man’s Ronaldo now. Rather surprisingly was that Owen managed to last the full 90 minutes, but his contribution, yet again, didn’t do justice to his ability. A good run to draw off defenders to help Nani’s goal, but apart from that when he did get the ball there didn’t seem to be any killer strike, there was too much hesitation and on more than one occasion there was too many touches. Maybe with more games he could get back to his goal scoring ways and with the injury to Rooney and Hernandez (how many injuries do United get in a season!) maybe he’ll get his chance.

Two points dropped here, but Stoke were a very tough side to deal with.

This Is The Worst Flu Ever!

I’m currently down and out with man-flu, which is a little bit like a cold that women and children get – what with all the aching joints, mucus oozing out of various orifices, a single functioning nasal passage, sneezes so hard it gets picked up by seismometers around the world, sinuses that have inflated to twice their normal size and general Sunday morning tiredness – only man-flu is scientifically proven to be 10x worse. Yes, it might mean we are a weaker sex, but damnit if that’s what it takes for you to believe that this flu has me at deaths door and it’s using all my bodily strength to fight it off and it’s not ‘just a cold’ then so be it.

So far, I’ve kept myself occupied by finding out why mucus is yellow when you have a cold (and that your nose contains the same, err, expandable flesh, as male sexual organs), what the hell the sinuses even are or do (I was surprised), read an entire Star Wars novel and then researched who Sifo Dyas was and why General Grevious was a cyborg with lightsabers. So despite being completely knocked for six as my body battles this virulent man-flu, I feel as if I’ve achieved something with my new found knowledge that Grevious was trained by Count Dooku and will be sure to pass on this information when I meet new people.

Oh yes, and my girlfriend has sent a care package to help me get better which consists of honey, pepper, ginger and cloves which I’m to mix in to a cup of tea and then take a Combiflam afterwards. If you haven’t heard of Combiflam it’s an awesome 1+1=3 painkiller where the creators thought “Hmm, Ibruprofen and Paracetamol are great but they both lack that little something. I know let’s mix the two together and call it Combiflam!”

Forget The Shire, Hobbit Homes Come To Wales!

A tree hugger An environmentalist from Wales has created his own version of the hobbit home replete with rounded windows and doors, grass covered roof and will undoubtedly become a super-charged magnet for all kinds of creepy crawlies that lurk in the undergrowth. The gentleman who created it, Simon Dale, had no previous building experience, no previous carpentry knowledge and yet for just £3,000 he got the place done in about four months. I know people here in India that have hired a whole army of builders and decorators and their all-ready-built home still isn’t finished after 9 months!

Apparently Simon is going to live in this eco-friendly home with his wife and two young kids but as far as I can see there is just one open plan bedroom which I’m sure the children will be thrilled about when they hit their teens! It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Euw, mum, dad, get a room!”.

I’m wondering if the wife will think it’s still such a brilliant idea when Wales has one of its famously wet winters (which is like the Wales summer really it’s just the day light hours are shorter) and the eco-friendly compost toilet needs emptying, the turf roof has sprung a leak and half the rodents of the nearby forest decide that this little hobbit hole is an awesome place to keep warm. Given the opportunity, I think I’d rather live in one of the £60 houses I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

Man builds stunning ‘hobbit house’ for just £3,000 - Yahoo! UK & Ireland Finance

Man builds stunning ‘hobbit house’ for just £3,000 – Yahoo! UK & Ireland Finance man has built a hillside home reminiscent of a hobbit house from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings — on a budget of just £3,000. Simon Dale constructed the woodland home for his family in Wales, taking only four months to fully complete the project