Wednesday, 31 October 2007

From The Telegraph

A Polish man who was burned as a child by a Nazi wartime attack on his village is suing Germany for compensation.

Winicjusz Natoniewski's claim is the first of its kind to come before a Polish court, according to his lawyers, and could trigger an avalanche of similar claims.

He is demanding one million Polish zloty (£255,000) in reparations for the February 1944 punishment attack on his village of Szczecyn, about 100 miles south of Warsaw.
He was just six years old when German police units set the village ablaze. At least 360 people died but Mr Natoniewski, 69, survived. The suit was filed with a court in Gdansk on Monday.


Previous claims in German courts have failed for passing the statute of limitations, but a Polish legal expert, Roman Nowosielski, insists that the collective punishment at Szczecyn was a crime against humanity and is therefore not bound by any deadline.

The article caught my eye as we were in Gdansk last year.

That All Adds Up

Consultants are being paid more than £300 an hour to advise the Government on how to shut more than 2 000 post offices, ministers have revealed.

If one of them happens to be the post office in Leigh on Sea, that's money well spent...

*waves at Clint* ;-)

New "Travel Advisers"

From next year, an army of government-funded “travel advisers” will be persuading people to switch from driving to walking, cycling and public transport. They will contact you directly at your home and if you are out, they will return up to a further ten times, even in the evenings or at weekends.

If someone intruded into my privacy and free time to ask me about my travel habits and offer advice tailored to my journeys or offering me maps for walking or bus timetables, they'd not get much joy.

There are three "f"s in off...

Schadenfreude

Britain’s most senior traffic policeman could be banned from driving after allegedly being caught doing 90mph on a 60mph road. If convicted, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, may have to resign as head of roads policing at the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). He already has had two previous speeding offences.

Oh dear...

Hallowe'en

Is today and a time for celebrating the Pagan festival of Samhain*. The term Halloween (and its alternative rendering Hallowe'en) is shortened from All-hallow-even, the eve of "All Hallows Day" and it is the time of year when spirits can make contact with the physical world, and when magic is most potent.

Nowadays, with the influence from across the pond, it is sadly no more than an excuse for "kids" to wrap a sheet around themselves and demand money with menaces, but it would be nice to think that the spirits do visit and let their hair down a bit.



*The Festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture and traditionally, the festival was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores.

The Ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.

The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, where the bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them.

Ding, Ding- Seconds Out, Round Four

We popped into Club Golub last night to say farewell and catch the band one final time. I seem to recall we entered in daylight and yet, somehow, it was rather dark as we rolled home...funny how that happens so often to us.

A fine tradition in the bar is they have a bell hanging on one of the walls. On each occasion we have been there, the owner has at some point rung said bell and immediately the bar staff are off out of the blocks, bringing everyone who is currently having a drink, a refill on the house. There seems to be no set time, just a case of when the owner gets the urge and I'd like to say we all heartily approve of such fine customs.

Couple that with us receiving further free drinks from the owner directly on account of being English and also from the band (another excellent performance by the way), it becomes apparent why we seem to miss the daylight hours for the return trip to base.

They say Serbian hospitality is one of the best; I could not disagree.

Monday, 29 October 2007

The Genius Factor

A scoring system to assess contenders on how much their contribution had turned *conventional thinking on its head, the popular acclaim they received, their intellectual power, their achievements and their cultural importance.
The top 100 features not just brainiacs and boffins, but 19 musicians, two artists (Damien Hirst and the illustrator Robert Crumb) and one sportsman (Muhammad Ali). He is joined at number 43 by a surprise entry: Osama bin Laden.
The British computer scientist Berners-Lee, the worldwide web founder shares the top spot with Albert Hofmann, the 101-year-old Swiss chemist best known for synthesising LSD. Matt Groening is at number four - one place ahead of Nelson Mandela and Stephen Hawking takes seventh position.

Top 10

1= Albert Hofmann (Swiss) chemist (genius factor 27)
1= Tim Berners-Lee (British) computer scientist (27)
3 George Soros (American) investor and philanthropist (25)
4 Matt Groening (American) satirist and animator (24)
5= Nelson Mandela (South African) politician and diplomat (23)
5= Frederick Sanger (British) chemist (23)
7= Dario Fo (Italian) writer & dramatist (22)
7= Stephen Hawking (British) physicist (22)
9= Oscar Niemeyer (Brazilian) architect (21)
9= Philip Glass (American) composer (21)
9= Grigory Perelman (Russian) mathematician (21)

From a list of more than 400 people, a panel of six consultants whittled them down to 100, giving them a score out of 10 for each of the five factors*. The highest ranked got 27 out of 50, while the 100th had a genius factor of two out of 50.

It would seem my assessment was lost in the post...



Spring Forward, Fall Back

We've all done it, forgotten to rewind the clocks and turned up at the pub waiting for the doors to open, only to find you've got an extra hour to kill off.

But imagine the chaos if a major airport forgot to do something similar? As it did at Gatwick yesterday. Mass confusion, panic and delays ensued, as a computer glitch failed to put clocks back at Britain's second-busiest airport.

The problem wasn't spotted until 06:00 and incorrect arrival and departure times were posted up on Teletext, Ceefax and the Gatwick website.

Ooops!

It's a Rat Trap

Once again plans are afoot to demand people tell tales and rat out their fellow citizens.

Police chiefs want to force doctors to break medical confidentiality and report any patients they treat for knife or gunshot wounds.

More worryingly, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) also want social workers and schools to be compelled to tell them of children who are, or they suspect may become, involved in gang or gun crime.

Truly incredible.

Hamilton Close, But No Winner

Stevenage Borough Council are to name a street after Lewis Hamilton in his home town, after his “great achievement” in finishing second in his debut World Championship season of the F1 championship.

Imagine if he'd won- they could have named the entire town after him.

Club Golub, The Details





You may have noticed my natty new T in the picture previously. Here's a close up of both front and back.
We popped in for the first time only last week as they were advertising live music but we immediately took to the place as the owner offered us a free round. Maybe speaking English can be an advantage?
By the time the music kicked off we'd become old friends and were treated to the world famous Serbian hospitality; I think we're still recovering even now.
The night was excellent with great music provided by a guy on a classical guitar and the other on a set of bongos; you'd be amazed at how good that combination works and we loved it. And the free T, of course...

Bloody Football

Spurs lose once again and remain rooted in third (from bottom) spot. Welcome aboard Juande Ramos who has just signed on for four years as their new manager, I hope you know what you have let yourself in for.

Southend lose at home to the current league leaders and they drop to 5th spot and Bielefeld earn a draw which sees them in 13th place in the Bundes Liga.

Not the best round of results, is it?

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Club Golub


Drop in for good beer, great company and outstanding live music. Even better, it's a mere 20 strides from our front door and according to Mr Levi Strauss, I have very small paces.
CLUB GOLUB, THE PLACE TO BE IN KRALJEVO

No Trainers Allowed

Heard the latest ban on the grounds of "health & safety"?

Kids from wearing football boots, whilst playing...erm...football.

Some school* in South-East London has sent parents a letter stating: "For health and safety reasons, children will not be allowed to wear trainers or football boots." Instead they were requested to bring school PE kit with plimsolls to the training course.

A statement was issued: "Our main concern was that the studs could cause injury to the children."

Righty ho, so what reason for banning trainers then?

Quality.



*Bedonwell Primary School for those that really need to know.

Lost in Space

Rather an old news item but amusing nonetheless.

It seems a bit of a bollock was dropped on a joint venture to produce a Mars orbiter; one engineering team using metric units while another used imperial units for a key spacecraft operation.

Result? One lost craft for NASA, costing $125 million!

I loved the statement:

"People sometimes make errors. The problem here was not the error, it was the failure of NASA's systems engineering, and the checks and balances in our processes to detect the error. That's why we lost the spacecraft."

Quite.

Ring of Fire

It seems that piercings and tattoos have become a little bit oh so yesterday, darling as a new craze sweeps into town.

Branding.

Red-hot metal brands or cauterising pens, which burn at more than 1 000 C, are used to sear a design permanently into the flesh of the willing victim- usually at a cost of around 7o quid!

One business to offer such services has claimed popularity has gone from one request a year in 2002 to nearly one a week and it seems to be a lot of "professional" people are requesting the service.

Takes all sorts, eh...

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Close, But No Cigar

I think I have just worked out the reason America is so keen to declare the World War I era killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks an act of genocide.

Bush is having problems spelling again; as he did with his recent Australia/Austria confusion...

Smoke Gets Up Your Nose

A pub landlord has received an official council warning letter after he allowed his customers to smoke outside, in his beer garden.

Apparently a neighbour had complained that the “natural smell of fresh air” had been contaminated by the cigarette smoke.

The council acted after receiving the complaint and have threatened to serve an abatement notice if they decide a nuisance exists. This would prevent the pub's punters from being allowed to light up outside.

I wonder what would occur if the pub ever decided to do a barbecue in the garden and the neighbour also happens to be a vegetarian?

Personal Number Plates

The vehicle licence plate WE57 HAM has just been sold to a fan of the football club for £57 000.

The previous best price was £36 000 for AR53 NAL.

I'm hoping to get one for Spurs; 05 HITE- should get change out of a fiver...

Our Last Week

We've now less than a week to go before we leave Kraljevo and travel on to our next destination, Skopje, the capital of Macedonia.

It's going to take about 8 hours on the bus for the transfer and having spent the last two months comfortably holed in our apartment, that is quite a haul. Still, it's our first visit to the country and as ever, we're more than excited.

We don't know too much about Skopje as yet but that is the idea- we get to find out first hand and we are very much looking forward to it. One interesting fact to keep you occupied until we have a chance to explore:

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, a Roman Catholic nun, was born in Skopje in 1910. You may know her better as Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997)...

Martin Jol

Sadly, I hear that he has been sacked by Tottenham Hotspur yesterday and the rumour mill is suggesting that Juande Ramos, who resigned as coach of Sevilla, will be in situ by Monday.

I am very disappointed by this news as I liked Jol a lot and he has done wonders for my team over the last three years. However, one win in ten and in the bottom three is not good enough for the money men and he's been ousted.

I wish him and Ramos all the best for the future and I guess we now have to avoid relegation as our cause for the rest of this campaign. Same shit, different day.

Illuminating

The cost of changing a church lightbulb is so expensive (up to £50 a time ) that some congregations are worshipping in near darkness. I presume that is because an electrician needs to be called in and use extremely long ladders or even scaffold to replace the the defunct items?

Anyway, simple solution- use candles. They've been using them for centuries, after all...

My Personal Favourite

Cut from the long post below, in case you miss it:

I asked Boris Yeltsin to tell me briefly what the situation in Russia was like. “Good,” he said. I asked for a longer version. “Not good,” he replied. John Major, former Prime Minister, reminiscing, November 1999

How Do You Eat An Elelphant?

With thanks to The Times who in turn pinched it from the book Mission Accomplished (by Matthew Parris and Phil Mason ) the folllowing tidbits are some of the better moments politicians have had in the public eye.


As with the answer to the title, a bit at a time is how you may wish to read this as it is a lengthy post.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


What we’d left behind


Our priority is to create jobs. This is not just an economic priority but also a social and moral one. Conservative manifesto, 1997 general election, page 9


Governments cannot create jobs. Conservative manifesto, page 10


You can only be sure with the Conservatives Conservative Manifesto, title


What we were in for


One reason I changed the Labour Party is so that we can remain true to our principles. Tony Blair, general election campaign, 1997


There is a big difference between “we will accept these proposals” and “these proposals are acceptable”. Labour spokesman, trying to play down the party’s enthusiasm for a leaders’ debate after strategists decided that John Major had more to gain, general election campaign, 1997


You want spontaneity? Spontaneity is scheduled for Wednesday. Labour spin-doctor, talking to The Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley, election 1997


The Blair years: “education, education, education”, being in touch with modern Britain and spin


The Minister for School Standards and myself [sic] meet regularly with those parent’s [sic], teacher’s [sic] and head’s [sic] who have a commitment to raising standards. Parliamentary written answer posted under the name of the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, February 2001


Fifty-four. Stephen Byers, Schools Minister, asked to multiply eight by seven (56) during a BBC radio interview, January 1998.


A No 10 press spokesman, reaffirming the Prime Minister’s confidence in him, said “it is one of those character-forming events”. There was further controversy over Byers’s skills for his ministerial duties when, after the 2001 election, he was appointed Secretary of State for Transport despite not being able to drive.


Can I have a pot of that nice avocado mousse. Peter Mandelson, reported remarks in a fish and chip shop in his Hartlepool constituency, pointing to the mushy peas. He insists that the story is apocryphal.


There is one big obstacle in the way of all our plans for change. It is the greatest legacy of the Tory years: disillusion with politics itself. And if we want to remove it we must show that our politics is not theirs. Not just that our vision for Britain is different, but also our means of achieving it. A new politics – a politics of courage, honesty and trust. Tony Blair, as Leader of the Opposition, Labour Party conference, October 1994


‘Now is not the time for soundbites, but I feel the hand of history upon our shoulders’


I suspect Blair and his Government are going to be as strongly identified with the loss of public trust as Major’s was with sleaze. The public certainly feel let down over the period. Sir Alistair Graham, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, March 2007.


Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards as the Tory Right demand, let that money provide thousands more police officers on the beat in our local communities. Tony Blair, as Leader of the Opposition, Labour Party conference, October 1995


Through the identity cards Bill, we will pave the way for a British identity card –at first voluntary, and then in time, compulsory . . . identity cards, in my judgment, are long overdue. Tony Blair, Prime Minister, House of Commons, November 2004


I want to protect state pensions Tony Blair, writing in the Daily Mirror, June 1994


The unemployed youngster has no right to steal your radio. But let’s get just as serious about catching the people in the City with an eye on your pension. Tony Blair, Labour Party conference, October 1994.


Revelations in April 2007, towards the end of his premiership, showed his Chancellor’s abolition of tax concessions for pension schemes shortly after coming to office in 1997 ended up devastating Britain’s pension system over the following decade. The industry estimated that the move had cost pension schemes £100 billion.


A thug might think twice about kicking your gate, throwing traffic cones around your street, or hurling abuse into the night sky if he thought he might get picked up by the police, taken to a cashpoint and asked to pay an on-the-spot fine of, for example, £100 Tony Blair, proposing instant fines for street hooligans, June 2000


I think that the whole process of thinking that people who are raging drunk, or indeed those who are being disorderly or even violent, can be made quiescent to go to a cashpoint, will cause us some difficulties. Sir John Evans, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, reacting to the plan One or two chief constables said it was not a goer.


Charles Clarke, then the Home Office Minister in charge of youth justice, two days after Mr Blair’s speech acknowledging a problem with the concept. He maintained that the Prime Minister was “using a metaphor” when he spoke of frogmarching hooligans to cashpoints


It’s not a day for soundbites, really, we can leave those at home. But I feel the hand of history on our shoulder in respect to this. Tony Blair, press conference, during Northern Ireland Good Friday peace negotiations, April 1998


We will reduce and probably eliminate the homeless by 2008 John Prescott, 2002


[The green belt] It’s a Labour achievement and we intend to build on it. John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, quoted in The Guardian, April 1999 John Prescott, after a convoluted monologue in a BBC interview with Nick Robinson, March 2000: “Can I do that again? That was crap.” Nick Robinson: “You’re live.”


Well, of course, the Prime Minister has been working very hard at it. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in response to effusive congratulations from Bertie Ahern, Irish Prime Minister, November 1999. Cook assumed Ahern must be referring to a breakthrough he hadn't heard about in the Northern Ireland peace talks. He was, in fact, referring to news that Cherie Blair was pregnant, which Cook hadn’t heard about either.


‘The green belt is a Labour achievement, and we intend to build on it’


Jack Straw, Home Secretary, visiting a Bournemouth old people’s home during the 1999 Labour Party conference, to a resident: “Do you know who I am?” Resident: “No dear, but if you ask matron, she will tell you.”


I have expressed a degree of regret that can be equated with an apology. Des Browne, Defence Secretary, nearly apologising for his ministry’s public relations disaster in April 2007 in allowing Royal Navy sailors released from Iranian custody to sell their stories to the tabloid press.


Only some ghastly, dehumanised moron would want to get rid of the Routemaster. Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London and in charge of transport for the city, speaking in 2001 about its iconic red bus; by December 2005 he had had them all phased out.


When you are confident about your party, you do not have to prove how Scottish it is. Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, September 1998 speech. He proceeded to use the words “Scots”, “Scottish” or “Scotland” 95 times.


Foreign Affairs


It is white. George W Bush, to a child who had asked what the White House was like, on a visit to Britain, July 2001


The Swiss did not say no to Europe. They chose to answer the question later. European Commission spokesman after a Swiss referendum had rejected joining the EU by a four-to-one margin, March 2001


I asked the barmaid for a quickie. I was mortified when the man next to me said it’s pronounced “quiche”. Italian Ambassador to Britain, Luigi Amaduzzi, 2001


I’ll walk naked down Main Street. Jim Whitaker, Mayor of North Platte, Nebraska, promising to raise $5,000 for a local animal charity, August 1998. He duly fulfilled his pledge: “Naked” was a puppy dog. The stunt caused a media storm for the Mayor, with criticism of his demeaning the office, then more of it from disappointed citizens taken in by the joke.


This is a strengthened peace implementation force. George Robertson, Defence Secretary announcing the reinforcement of British troops in Kosovo, May 1999


It was the right address applied to the wrong building. US Intelligence spokesman explaining the mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, during Nato airstrikes to deter Serbian aggression in Kosovo, May 1999


Who cares about a little terrorist in Afghanistan? Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defence Secretary, dismissing concerns about al-Qaeda at an antiterrorism policy meeting, April 2001


Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we. George Bush, Washington press conference, August 2004


Weasel words


The way we travel is damaging our towns. Alan Meale, junior Environment Minister, in a speech April 1999 in Peterborough, delivered moments after being driven the two miles from the railway station to the venue in a stretch limo that did only 17 miles to the gallon.


It is a social experience for most people. They want to meet the people in the queue. David Mills, Chief Executive of the Post Office, claiming that customers were happy with long queues at post offices, September 2004


I was not even setting out an argument. I was setting out the facts, the pros and the cons, as dispassionately as I could. Lord Irvine, Lord Chancellor, on a letter he had written to the House authorities justifying his request for an immediate shipment of fine art for his official apartment. He was giving evidence to the Commons Public Administration Committee investigating the controversial redecoration of his official accommodation, which had cost the taxpayer £650,000, including £59,000 for wallpaper, March 1998


[It is just] a significant change in direction away from meeting the objective. Explanatory note in the Quality of Life Barometer produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs regarding any target that was failing to be met, March 2002


Obviously I don’t support it, but I support the impulses that are giving rise to it. President Clinton, on a congressional proposal to balance the US budget, 1995


[Cars] pose a mortal threat to the security of every nation. Al Gore, in his antipollution book Earth in the Balance, 1992


Here in Motor City, we recognise that cars have done more than fuel our commerce. Cars have freed the American spirit and given us the chance to chase our dreams. Al Gore, as Vice-President, campaigning in the 2000 presidential election, speech in Detroit, 1999


9/11 and the War on Terror


This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while. George W Bush, 16 September 2001


Operation Infinite Justice. Codename of the post 9/11 US war on global terrorism, dropped within a fortnight after concerns that it might deter Muslim nations from joining the coalition it is leading. Islamic scholars said that Muslims found the name deeply offensive because the Koran said that only Allah could grant infinite justice. The codename became operation Enduring Freedom.


It’s not going to be a country club, but it’s going to be humane. Donald Rumsfeld, 2002, on conditions at the Guantanamo Bay base where al-Qaeda suspects were held after 9/11.


They’re very well treated down there. They’re living in the tropics. They’re well fed. Dick Cheney, US Vice-President, defending the treatment of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, June 2005


Let’s give the terrorists a fair trial and then hang them. US Senator Gary Hart, post9/11 perspective, 2001


Iraaaaagh!


Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition. . . to the early use of military force by the US against Iraq. I share your concerns. On January 11, I voted in favour of a resolution that would have insisted that economic sanctions be given more time to work and against a resolution giving the President the immediate authority to go to war. John Kerry, then the Senator of Massachusetts, in a letter to a constituent January 22, 1991, on the first Gulf War


Thank you for contacting me to express your support for the actions of President Bush in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. From the outset of the invasion, I have strongly and unequivocally supported President Bush’s response to the crisis and the policy goals he has established with our military deployment in the Persian Gulf. John Kerry, letter to the same constituent, January 31, 1991


Iraqis are sick of foreign people coming in their country and trying to destabilise their country, and we will help them rid Iraq of these killers. George Bush, on the Iraqi insurgency, 2004


The solution to Iraq [is] an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself . . . Precisely the reason why I sent more troops into Baghdad. George Bush, April 2007


One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we’re asking questions, is, can you ever win the War on Terror? Of course, you can. George Bush, April 2004


I don’t think you can win [the War on Terror]. George Bush, August 30, 2004


Make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win [the War on Terror]. George Bush, August 31, 2004


It’s a slam-dunk case. George Tenet, Director of the CIA, replying to President Bush’s concerns about the quality of the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, December 2002,

publicly revealed for the first time in April 2004 by Bob Woodward's book, Plan of Attack.


Those were the two dumbest words I ever said. George Tenet, former CIA Director, May 2005


My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence. Colin Powell, Secretary of State, laying out the US intelligence case to the United Nations Security Council, February 2003


As I have said throughout, I have no doubt that they will find the clearest possible evidence of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Tony Blair, House of Commons, June 2003


I don’t think it’s surprising we will have to look for them. I’m confident that when the Iraq Survey Group has done its work we will find what’s happened to those weapons because he had them. Tony Blair, interview BBC Arabic Service, December 2003


I have to accept we haven’t found them (WMD) and we may never find them. We don’t know what has happened to them . . . They could have been removed. They could have been hidden. They could have been destroyed. Tony Blair, to Commons Liaison Committee, July 2004


The evidence about Saddam having actual biological and chemical weapons, as opposed to the capability to develop them, has turned out to be wrong. I acknowledge that and accept it. I simply point out, such evidence was agreed by the whole international community. Tony Blair, Labour Party conference, September 2004


‘Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me’


Stuff happens . . . Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things . . . Donald Rumsfeld, US Defence Secretary, Pentagon press conference April 2003, on the looting of Iraqi government buildings after the capture of Baghdad.


There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us. My answer is bring ’em on. George W Bush, on Iraqi insurgents attacking US forces, July 2003


The Mission Accomplished sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. George W Bush, November 2003, on the banner used as a backdrop for his appearance aboard the aircraft carrier to declare the end of major combat operations in Iraq in May 2003. His spokesman clarified: “Though the Navy requested the banner, the White House made it.”


I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it. US presidential candidate John Kerry, responding to Republican campaign ads that criticised his vote against a Bill to authorise $87 billion in funds for postwar Iraq, March 2004


You bet we might have. John Kerry, asked if he would have gone to war against Saddam Hussein if he refused to disarm, US presidential election 2004


In the end, it was all too perplexing . . .
Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me. Republican Senator Trent Lott, on the Iraq insurgency, September 2006

Chart Music

In an effort to boost album sales, record companies will be selling music as downloads on USB memory sticks and they will also count towards the rundown of the top 75 bestselling albums, compiled by the Official UK Charts Company.

Sometimes Size IS Everything


Suddenly the leisurely paddle quickly loses its attraction...cheers to Bren for passing this on.

Guitar Man

A news item has reported that roughly 1 730 guitarists in the Indian town of Shillong played Bob Dylan’s "Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door" in an attempt to break a Guinness record. The current record was set in Kansas by 1 721 guitarists, playing Deep Purple’s "Smoke on the Water".

Righty ho, but wouldn't it have made sense to actually count the guitarists accurately before making the attempt- hardly much between the two scores, are there?

Friday, 26 October 2007

Disgruntled

If you're not, are you then gruntled?

Weird



Is the dancer rotating clockwise or counter clockwise?
If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa. Most of us would see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction. Spooky, huh?






More Snouts in the Trough

MPs are costing taxpayers £87 million a year in expenses alone. The 646 members claimed an average of £136 000 each on top of their annual salary of £60 277.

Additional attractions include 91 days holiday, a pension of £30k per year (after 20 years contributions), unlimited first class travel to and from Parliament (partners and children can get up to 15 years free travel too), 40p per mile car allowance (dropping to 25p/mile after the first 10 000 miles) plus a whole host of allowances for staffing and incidental costs.

Nice "work" if you can get it, eh?

Come Fly With Me


You may recall the post we put up a while ago that highlighted the amazing expenses claimed by Sir John Bourn, the auditor general who spent £365 000 in travel costs and £27 000 in restaurant bill in just three years as head of the National Audit Office (NAO).

The auditor general is currently one of the few officials who cannot be sacked by the Government and can only be dismissed after votes in both houses of Parliament, but after much outcry and pressure from MPs, it seems that he has finally done the decent thing and announced his retirement, effective January 2008.

The diagram above depicts his travels and costs, with thanks to The Telegraph. Shameful, isn't it?

That There Londinium

For some inexplicable reason, Wembley is hosting an American football match between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants this Sunday. I suppose they need to stage any old shite to pay off the enormous debts incurred whilst building the place, but I am already wandering off line.

One of the "stars", a Mr Channing Crowder, however has once again demonstrated why the rest of the world sometimes takes a rather dim view of our American cousins when it comes to exercising their intellect.

In an interview he admitted to not only not knowing where London was but also that he wasn't aware they speak English there...

I wonder if he's related to good old Dubya?

Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow

It is estimated that by the year 2025, traffic congestion will have risen by 28% in the UK.

To combat this, the Department for Transport is to cut and strictly enforce the speed limit at peak times. The reason for this “active traffic management” is that it is cheaper to accommodate the rising traffic levels than widening motorways.

The new limit will be dropped to 40 mph and yet more speed cameras will be introduced to ensure compliance.

Nice to know where all the motorists' taxes are going to, isn't it?

Crackers

A parrot saved a father and his 9 year old son when their house caught fire by imitating a smoke alarm. Peanut the parrot roused them from their sleep by mimicking the bleeping of an alarm and they managed to escape to safety.

If the parrot was that clever, why didn't it just "Oi, get up- the house is on fire"?

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Birthday Greetings To

Both Brendan and Wendy today. Both long term friends and just because we're not around does not mean we've forgotten.

Hope the day is extra special.

Real Class Comes at a Price

You may recall we mentioned that Singapore Airlines have just put the world’s largest airliner, the A380, into service recently.

Well, it has just taken its maiden, commercial voyage and a Briton was amongst the first of the passengers from Singapore to Sydney.

He paid £50 160 in an online auction for two first-class suites.

Walk This Way

It seems that naked sleepwalkers, nearly all men, are causing problems at the hotel chain, Travelodge. Staff are now being advised how to cope and will have a handy supply of towels nearby "to protect the dignity of customers".

That may well be the only attraction to staying at theses places for some folk...

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Connected to Crime

Who says crime doesn't pay? Well, the Government does obviously, but two studies recently have scorned that saying.

Apparently the Mafia generates ~7% of Italy’s gross domestic product; about €90 billion (64 billion quid) and organised crime now even affects companies listed on the stock market.

Bless

An 81-year-old German woman trying to visit a Nuremberg cemetery in her electric wheelchair got lost along the way and ended up taking a shortcut the wrong way down a motorway.

Reaching a top speed of 6kmh (~4 mph), police had no trouble catching up with her to escort her to safety.

When questioned as to what she was doing, the old bid said she wanted to avoid a long detour.

:oD

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Roxanne

Did you know that so called "boring" Brussels has a red light district? Of course you did, why else do you get so many EMPs there...

Anyway, in a bid to make Belgian Plod earn the respect of the public, the capital's police force has been ordered to stop visiting brothels and drinking in bars while on duty.

Not so dull after all are they, are our Belgian cousins?

Well, Of Course

Newcastle 3, Tottenham Hotspur 1.

Why me?

Monday, 22 October 2007

Stick 'Em Up

A masked bank robber who held up a bank in northern Greece turned out to be an off duty cop.

The rozzer and his two accomplices had fired warning shots in the air at the bank and tied up two security guards before legging off with about 1 million euros (~£696 000). However, he was nicked by another bank guard after the two robbers escaped in a getaway car.

Nowt unusual in that I suppose, aside from that it took place in in the northern city of Thessaloniki, where we head off to after Macedonia...

Dib, Dib, Dib

Nearly 37% of serial killers have once been in the Boy Scouts.

Contrast that to only 3% of the general male population who have ever joined the organisation.

Lard + VAT Please

Private gyms have to charge VAT on membership, whilst public gyms (for example, not-for-profit trusts which run leisure centre gyms on behalf of local authorities) either get concessions or do not pay any. Until now.

After a recent court case* in Scotland won by Customs & Revenue, tax officials have warned all 2 597 public gyms saying that they must levy VAT on their full membership fees.

Entirely acceptable with Britain fast tracking towards stomach straining lardiness for the majority of its population and particularly with Gordon Brown’s high profile attempts to bring obesity under control.



*The case involved the Highlands council, which levied only a small amount of VAT on fees at leisure centres to cover non-sport facilities at the gym, such as the sauna and steam room. The court ruled that since membership was all-inclusive, VAT had to be charged on the full amount.

Subsequently the Revenue made clear it would chase up VAT retrospectively if leisure centres had not been paying it- calculated to be about £20 million.

Poles take to the Polls

You don't have to be in Poland to vote in the national election. Thousands of Polish folk queued for hours in Central London yesterday to register their vote, after officials underestimated the numbers turning out.

Only 11 polling booths were opened at the Polish Consulate & Embassy although there were more than 12,000 registered voters in the area. They arrived by bus from Brighton and other cities and police were called in to control traffic. However, even though the polling stations were due to be closed at 8.00 pm, they were kept open until the last person had voted.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the nationalist Prime Minister, has been ousted after a landslide victory for his main conservative rival, Donald Tusk.

I'll Have a "P" Please, Bob

Was anyone aware that the "Scrabble" national championship took place in England over the weekend?

The turning point in the final was the word "skitter", played for 81 points on a double word score, which gave the champion a result of 3-1 to take the title and a £1 000 prize.

Some more useless guff on the famous game, with thanks to The Times:

— The highest number of points that can be scored on the first go is 128 — with MUZJIKS (Russian peasants)

— The Dutch gave us the generic word Scrabble — schrabbelan means to claw or scrape

— Karl Khoshnaw, from Manchester, holds the record for the highest word score in a competition, scoring 392 points with CAZIQUES— the plural for a West Indian chief

— Scrabble is used in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, to decide the answer to the ultimate question

— There is a town called Scrabble in Virginia in the US

— In 1985 Lieutenant Commander Waghorn and Lance Corporal Gill played Scrabble continuously for five days when trapped in Antarctica




There are an estimated 1 000 competitive Scrabble players in the country, with 50 000 worldwide. Britain is one of the strongest nations in the game, with the US, Canada, Australia and Thailand also feared on the international stage. Bet the Germans need an over sized board and extra tiles...

Second is not Best

After so much expectation the inevitable doom cloud descends and we're left scrabbling through the aftermath of failure. Again.

England came second in the World Rugby Final against the South African Springbok, and Lewis Hamilton rolled into second place in the F1 Championship after coming a lowly 7th in the Brazilian GP.

I'm sure they gave their all, that they will bounce back bigger and better next year, blah etc blah, but that is always the problem; next year, next time- next whenever Why? Why do we always choke on the big occasions?

OK, the rugby boys did win in 2003 and the footie boys have the distant memory of 1966 (snigger) but is that really a good enough return for nearly half a century? Yes, we've had champions in F1 before, with Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill and no doubt there will be readers reeling off other British greats in darts, snooker, athletics and so on, BUT it all counts for nothing on the way to the office on this Monday morning.

Oh well, Bielefeld managed a 0-0 draw away from home and Southend also took victory, the only one of the weekend to move up the First Division table. Yes, you've guessed it; they're second now...

Spurs will be losing to Newcastle tonight so that will complete the round up of a piss poor sporting weekend with ktelontour.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Heads Have Rolled

Remember the post about an American plane flying over Washington carrying six live nuclear bombs? Each warhead had 15 times the power of the Hiroshima atomic bomb!

It seems that thy are taking it a tad more seriously, as 70 US Air Force personnel have been reprimanded. It has been called the "worst nuclear weapons security breach in the US for at least 40 years".

And still Bush feels he has the right to demand nuclear cooperation from other countries? Try cleaning up your act in your own backyard first.

Full story here: The Sunday Telegraph

Spring Forward, Fall Back

Well, they've tried all other types of reasons to banish the outdated custom of turning the clocks back at the end of October (next weekend), so the obvious excuse of "greenhouse gas emissions" is hardly surprising. Nor will it make a difference either.

Despite lengthy research which shows that millions of pounds could be saved on power bills, the traditionalists will insist we keep to the time-honoured routine to ensure we keep our mornings brighter.

Anyone remember 1968-71 which saw the trial of Britain putting its clocks forward by an hour? It was voted out by MPs on anecdotal evidence of morning road accidents involving schoolchildren and disruption to dairy farmers and construction, delivery and postal workers.

However, a bit like the alcohol safety level report no facts or research was involved and it was based on nothing more realistic than hearsay and subjective opinion. No wonder the politicians went for it...

Anyway, it's a good article and full details can be found here: The Sunday Times




It is also estimated that remaining on British Summer Time (BST) all year could also prevent 104 deaths and 450 serious injuries on the roads each year by decreasing the amount of driving in the dark. The National Health Service (NHS) would save £200m a year in treating injuries associated with daytime darkness.

TV Schedules

Don't count for much here, in Serbia.

The Godfather II was due to begin at 22:30 and finally limped on screen well past 23:00- and it's not as if they were showing any live, important sporting event; just some game show.

Oh well, it was worth the wait as it is one of my top five films, even if I did fall asleep before the end...

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Coo-eee

Eighty percent of images supplied to the police from closed-circuit television (CCTV) does not help to identify criminals. The latest report also reveals that the majority of cameras are not placed where they can help to detect or prevent serious crimes or terrorist attacks.

In 2002, there were at least 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain- I wonder how many there are now; or have we given up counting?

I'll Drink to That

Back in 1987 a set of safe limits for imbibing alcohol were introduced by the Royal College of Physicians. As you will have heard, the figures were not based on any clear evidence and just plucked out of the air.

"It was impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t, you can’t say ‘Well, we’ve no evidence. Come back in 20 years and we’ll let you know’." Therefore, on an unsubstantiated whim, it was defined any man who drinks more than 21 units of alcohol a week, or woman who consumes more than 14, was a "hazardous" drinker.

Far better to make something up than leave a blank, right? And this is what Governments have been attacking the public with for the last 20 years- a fairy tale.

Since then we have had many more investigations and research carried out, such as The WHO’s International Guide for Monitoring Alcohol Consumption and Related Harm. It set out drinking ranges that qualified people as being at low, medium or high-risk of chronic alcohol-related harm.

For men, less than 35 weekly units was low-risk, 36-52.5 was medium-risk and above 53 was high-risk. Women were low-risk below 17.5 units, medium between 18 and 35 and high above 36.

Or the 1993 investigation of 12 000 middle-aged, male doctors that found the lowest mortality rates, lower even than teetotallers, were among those drinking between 20 and 30 units of alcohol each week. The level of drinking that produced the same risk of death as that faced by a teetotaller was 63 units a week, or roughly a bottle of wine a day.

Perhaps even the five studies in 1994 which showed that moderate amounts of alcohol gave some degree of protection against heart disease.

Better still, a year later, scientists at the Institute for Preventive Medicine in Copenhagen, who monitored 13 000 men and women over 12 years, found that drinking more than half a bottle of wine a day (50 units a week) cut the risk of premature death by half.

Odd, isn't it that with all the new data and discoveries that have been made since the fictitious report in 1987, the Government keeps referring to that one...





Facts and figures all robbed from The Times, thanks: In Britain one unit of alcohol is 8 grams of pure ethanol. In Australia and Spain it is 10 grams, in Italy 12, in America 14, and in Japan 19.75. Translate the respective countries’ levels into British units and you find that, for men, Britain’s supposed safe weekly limit of 21 is more than Poland (12.5), but less than Canada (23.75), America (24.5), South Africa and Denmark (31.5) and Australia (35).

The School Register a la 21st Century

The latest scheme in a country that is hell bent on covert surveillance "for the good of the people" is to embed micro-chips into school uniforms and allow teachers to track their pupils via a computer.

The chip contains a photograph of the pupil, data about academic performance and whether they are in the correct classroom. It can also restrict access to parts of the school.

I'm sorry but wtf? We "tag" criminals let out of prison early on parole- what kind of a message does this portray?

Ka-BOOM!

Six nuclear weapons were mistakenly loaded on to a bomber in August 2007 and flown across Washington in the United States because of “procedural errors”.

Why is this acceptable? We already have to put up with feeble buzz words such as "friendly fire" and now we have the potential of nukes being flown around without good cause or proper security based on a mere oversight?

Pathetic.

Big Sporting Weekend

Lots to look forward to if you enjoy watching sports.

England take on the South Africans in the Rugby World Cup Final in Paris hoping to win back to back campaigns and defend their title for the first time in the history of Rugby Union. Whilst they will undoubtedly give their best, they will have the 0-36 result in their memories when they faced the Springboks in the qualifiers.

Meanwhile at Interlagos at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton is hoping to be crowned the youngest ever world champion in his first attempt. The 22-year-old Briton leads the double world champion, Fernando Alonso, by four points in the race for the drivers' championship, and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen is a mere three points behind.

And of course we have our domestic football back in action with Spurs taking on Newcastle (always a fun game chez ktelontour as wifey is a Geordie), Southend play away to Walsall and Bielefeld meeting Karlsruhe tomorrow.

My predictions?

All my interests to come second (or worse) and that way, using the laws of probability, I'm going to have to be wrong somewhere along the line and get a welcome surprise. :oD

Room For The Night?

After much hard work trawling through countless empty promises on the internet, wifey has located suitable places for us to stay at before we land in Port Heli for our winter hibernation.

Due to our short visits and that November is really "off season", our first choice accommodation of apartments have not been available and so we are using hotels, as follows:

Skopje, Macedonia: The Hotel Square
Thessaloniki, Greece: Hotel Rex
Piraeus, Greece: Dream Hotel
Port Heli, Greece: Rozos Hotel, Best Western

They all provide our much needed broadband internet connection and are of an advertised high standard (within our feeble price bracket thanks to some generous discounts) so we are looking forward to spoiling ourselves for a month or so before we can take on the apartment in Port Heli.

As ever, expect a ktelontour review of all the pads we use, but we are only hoping for good things.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Chill Time

It seems our over worked politicians are so hard at it that they feel they are entitled to even longer holidays. They have just voted to give themselves an extra ten days time off which brings their tally to an astonishing 91 days. That's just over 18 weeks a year!

Contrast that with Joe Blow Public who is lucky to get 25 days...






The "working" calendar in full: The Commons will rise for the Christmas recess on December 18 and return on January 7. What has become termed the “constituency recess week” will begin on February 7 until February 18. Because Easter is early next year, the House will rise on March 20, returning briefly on March 25, and then rise again for an April holiday from April 3 to April 21. The Whitsun recess will begin on May 22 and return on June 2. The House will rise July 22.

Roger, Roger, Wilco and Out

It looks more and more likely that the one place left to travel without someone yakking into their mobile phone is to come to an end. Plans are afoot for allowing mobile communications to be permitted on board European flights.

However, it will come at a price- around two quid per minute.

As you can imagine, where there's money to be made, Ryanair will not be far behind and they are already planning to introduce the service.

What I find a bit odd though is that the use of a telephone has been banned on the grounds that the signals from the mobiles will interfere with the plane's delicate instruments and technical systems. Now all of a sudden it's OK? I wonder just how much testing has been conducted on this?

All Out

It's not just the post office that will have to contend with strikes, but the BBC too, as they plan to cut back around 2 500 jobs in an attempt to save cash.

If the BBC plays it right though, the strikes will be of benefit to them. Let their employees continue with their "industrial action", lob on a few more repeats and save a packet. Business as usual one might say.

And Relax

The latest trial scheme for pupils who have "anger management" issues is to allow them a "time out" whenever they feel they are due to lose their tempers.

The person simply holds a card aloft at any point in the lesson and is permitted to leave the class to retire to a quiet room to calm down.

Yeah, right and that is not going to be abused much...


*looks around frantically for his time out card*

Birthday Party

Again, back to our local and we were enjoying an end of week beer, last night. Not being the end of the week makes absolutely no difference to us of course as everyday is a weekend, but there you go.

Around six-ish, a couple arrived accompanied by 3, maybe 4 kids and made themselves comfortable in one corner. Slowly more and more children arrived and by the end, there must have been a dozen or so, all around ten years old.

The bar staff came across and attempted to explain something to us, but our Serbian is still not much further advanced from the "two beers and a pizza, please" stage so were left not knowing what was being requested. They went over to the couple who didn't seem all that worried and so we continued as we were.

It turns out it was the couple's son's 12th birthday and they had either hired the place for his private party or they were using the facilities and asking folk to move next door, into the diner part (which most people did as they arrived, quite happily).

Usually, kids' parties are confined to the local Maccy D's but with the absence of such a facility why not use the local pub to host a young lad's bash? Makes perfect sense to the Serbians...

It was great to see and I have to admit they were better behaved than most of the adult punters who frequent the place. Certainly far less smoke!

Towards the end, they brought out a huge cake and do you know what? We got a couple of pieces. The mother spoke first class English and insisted we tried something a little Serbian- it was delicious.

Love Shack, Baby, Love Shack

A cult classic from the B-52s and which admirably describes our local.

As the nights draw in and darkness descends, the plush leather sofa-ed bar area becomes the ideal place to bring your partner along to participate in a gentle (?) game of tonsil-tug-of-war.

Young kids seem to like the idea of sumptuous settees, subdued lighting (the staff attentively oblige by fading out the main, overhead beams) and a "everyone minds their own business attitude" to catch up on their amorous antics, undoubtedly well away from parental gazes.

Wonderful to see them enjoying themselves and I've been keeping notes for my own, personal repertoire to be tested at a later date. However, being British it will no doubt only arise in the bedroom, as they say...

Thursday, 18 October 2007

A Weighting Game

Lancashire fire brigade is considering charging organisations, such as hospitals, nursing homes, the police or other agencies a fee to move grossly overweight members of the public.

A spokesman said that crews had been called out a number of times to people weighing more than 30 stone.

With predictions by "experts" suggesting Britain will have an obese population within a few decades, I wonder if they are planning for the future?

Green for Go, Red for Stop?

The latest study shows that London has the slowest moving traffic in Europe at an average speed of 12 mph, whilst the fastest is found in Hamburg at over 50 mph. Britain also had six other cities in the Top Ten.

This follows on from campaigners wanting to mount GATSOs on more street corners and reduce speeds through built up area and towns to a mere 20 mph.

Once again proof that speed doesn't kill...




Other British cities in the Top Ten are Manchester, at 17mph; Edinburgh, at 18mph; Glasgow, at 19mph; and Bristol and Belfast, both at about 20mph. Newcastle-upon-Tyne was the fastest-moving city in the country, with an average of 26mph.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Euro 2008 - Woeful

Another round of qualifiers and Germany went crashing down to the Czech Republic, 0-3 at home!

I caught the highlights and it looked like it was the reserve team playing. I can only assume that as we had already qualified, they were relaxing in the game but all credit to the Czechs who are now equal top with Germany and are the only team to beat them. Both teams qualify for the Finals next year. Unlike England...

Their qualification still hangs in the balance as they surrendered a 0-1 first half lead over the Russians to lose 2-1 which keeps the in second place. Unfortunately Russia have a game in hand and still have to play Israel and Andorra so it looks they could pip England to the post. England play Croatia in their last game (at Wembley) and the Croatians are not just league leaders but looking very smart this year. It will be tough and it may also be futile if Russia take full points from their final games.

I saw the England game live and Rooney's master strike (a long up field clearance, headed on by Owen for Rooney to chest down and volley into the roof of the net) aside, they played awfully. Clearly devoid of tactics or ideas they resorted to the long ball (ie hoof the ball up the pitch and pray) and that it seems, is all they do.

It should not have been a penalty mind you. Rooney was clearly guilty of bringing his man down (and correctly copping a yellow card for it) but it was just outside the box and should have been a free kick only. Robinson, despite guessing which way to dive had no chance as the strike was driven almost perfectly into the corner.

Then, less than five minutes later, Roman Pavluchenko scored his second and England reverted back to headless chickens, panicking and giving the ball away. Poor.

Not their best game by any chance and it's looking likely they could regret not hanging on to their lead and taking the points. Time will tell and we have to hope the Russians slip up against Israel, but I wouldn't like to be McClaren this morning.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Johnny Foreigner at Home

Home Office figures have provided the first full analysis of the impact of increased immigration in the last decade. In a 43-page report for the year 2006, it suggested many fears are unfounded and the 574 000 migrants to the UK last year contributed around a sixth of the total growth in the economy.

That's around £6 000 000 000 000!

On average, migrants earned more than native workers and paid more tax, suggesting that they are more productive, the report concluded.

What a wonderful world we live in.

Extra First Class

Singapore Airlines have just taken charge of their newest aeroplane, the Airbus A380, which takes flying first class to the next, ahem, plane.

Whilst the massive Airbus will have 471 seats split between economy and business class, it is the 12 opulent "suites" that are the ultimate in luxury as they feature their own extravagant double bed, with linen by Givenchy and upholstery by the makers of seats for Ferrari and Maserati. And of course each suite comes with a 22-inch flatscreen TV.

Cost will be up to a quarter more than normal first class, with a trip between Singapore and Sydney around £3,500 for a return flight and Singapore Airlines plan to launch their first A380 services to Britain (Heathrow) in the spring.

Bet Qatar Airways are just as good...

Blackboard Specials

The Good Pub Guide 2008 is out today and aside from their usual recommendations for which pub does what, it has launched a scathing attack on the price of pub grub.

Whilst the average cost of a main meal is £6.25, prices are rising as "gastro" style pubs are becoming more popular and people are jumping on the bandwagon. A starter and main course now cost on average £16.76, so chuck in a glass of wine an it's heading towards the twenty quid mark.

Twenty sovs for a bog standard prawn cocktail, a steak and kidney pie and a glass of acidic house plonk! Are people going mad?

In comparison, the guide described a buffet in a Brittany restaurant (equivalent to a British pub lunch) where for €10/~£6.50 which included a litre of wine, mineral water and coffee, plus a choice of half a crab, Coquille St Jacques, salamis, rillettes, egg mayonnaise and about ten salads; then mussels or a big Breton stew, followed by a choice of four or five puddings. Diners could eat as much as they wanted.

Having eaten extensively on our travels at restaurants, bistros, buffets and all manner of eateries in several countries, I can add that this is entirely our experience too. Pub grub in Britain? No thanks- not just expensive but poor quality and the service is usually dire too.

Two Up

Work has begun on the first section of motorway to contain a car-sharing lane on the M606- M62 link at a cost of ~£4 million. It will be exclusively for vehicles with more than one occupant.

I wonder if motorbikes will be allowed to use it?

Monday, 15 October 2007

Top Ten Wits

The latest survey of Britain’s wittiest individuals sees the top ten taken by the blurks. Highest burd was Baroness Thatcher, at number 12, who once remarked: “Being powerful is like being a lady - if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”



1 Oscar Wilde “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast”


2 Spike Milligan “All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy”


3 Stephen Fry “An original idea. That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them”


4 Jeremy Clarkson “Speed has never killed anyone, suddenly becoming stationary . . . that’s what gets you”


5 Sir Winston Churchill “A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen”


6 Paul Merton “I’m always amazed to hear of air crash victims so badly mutilated that they have to be identified by their dental records. If they don’t know who you are, how do they know who your dentist is?”


7 Noel Coward “People are wrong when they say opera is not what it used to be. It is what it used to be. That is what’s wrong with it.”


8 Shakespeare “Maids want nothing but husbands, and when they have them, they want everything”


9 Brian Clough “The River Trent is lovely, I know because I have walked on it for 18 years”


10 Liam Gallagher “She [Victoria Beckham] cannot even chew gum and walk in a straight line at the same time, let alone write a book.”





It should also be pointed out that Liam Gallagher's quote is plagiarised as it was once said about Gerald Ford that "he couldn't walk and chew gum" supposedly said by Lyndon Johnson. So, if we give him partial credit for that, it makes him a half-wit.



*titter*

2 + 2 = 7

Back in the year 2000, student teachers had to sit basic numeracy and literacy tests and they had four opportunities to pass them before going on to qualify as teachers. Following complaints from the teaching profession however, the four-goes-and-out rule was "relaxed" so that any candidate was permitted unlimited attempts to pass.

Examples of the type of questions include,

- what is 6.03 multiplied by 100?
- A pupil scores 18 marks out of 25. What was the score as a percentage?
- choose the right answer from four alternative spellings for words such as preference, acknowledge and relieved. Options given included releived, releaved and realived.

Not too taxing for people wishing to teach at school one would think. But...

In each of the last six years, there was at least one student who had to re-take the basic numeracy test more than 20 times, and the literacy test as many as up to 25 times. In both 2005 and 2006, there was at least one teacher who needed 28 attempts at the numeracy test; for literacy it was 20 and 19 respectively.

A spokeswoman for the agency who set the tests said: "We don't want to deny potential good teachers the opportunity to re-take tests. If you don't pass first time, it does not necessarily make you a bad teacher."

Sorry pet, that is exactly what it does mean!

SWF, GSOH, Seeks...

This is currently doing the rounds and drawing a load of attention. An ad placed in the American classifieds website Craigslist, where it is unashamedly straight forward.

“What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I’m tired of beating around the bush. I’m a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25-year-old girl. I’m articulate and classy.

I’m not from New York. I’m looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle-class in New York City, so I don’t think I’m overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500k or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200-250k. But that’s where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won’t get me to Central Park West.

I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she’s not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level? Here are my questions specifically:

- Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics - bars, restaurants, gyms

- What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won’t hurt my feelings

- Is there an age range I should be targeting (I’m 25)?


- Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the Upper East Side so plain? I’ve seen really ‘plain jane’ boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I’ve seen drop-dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the East Village. What’s the story there?

- Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows - lawyer, investment banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

- How you decide marriage v just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY

Please hold your insults - I’m putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I’m being up front about it. I wouldn’t be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn’t able to match them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.”

Of the many replies, this was one of the better responses, from an anonymous "banker":

“I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament. Firstly, I’m not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500k per year. That said here’s how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here’s why. Cutting through all the BS, what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple.


But here’s the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity ... in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won’t be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you’re 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next five years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold ... hence the rub ... marriage. It doesn’t make good business sense to “buy you” (which is what you’re asking) so I’d rather lease. In case you think I’m being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out.

It’s as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage. Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as “articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful” as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500k hasn’t found you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn’t need to have this difficult conversation.
With all that said, I must say you’re going about it the right way. Classic “pump and dump.”
I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.”



:oD

Pssst, Wanna Go to the Pictures?

If you were a senior executive, responsible for building London’s 2012 Olympic venues, you would really feel that accepting hospitality from companies to whom you have awarded contracts worth millions of pounds would not be the right thing to do, wouldn't you?

Well, officials on the "Olympic Delivery Authority" (ODA) have received theatre tickets, seats at rugby matches and days at the races worth thousands of pounds from firms that have received or are bidding for work.

Under freedom of information laws, the ODA disclosed these details after months of pressure from the Open Society Institute (OSI), but the ODA only gave the OSI (don't you just love TLAs*?) researchers just 90 minutes to view hundreds of documents, would not allow copies to be made and is now refusing to let anyone else see the names of the officials.

It's nice to know how the project to establish the 2012, £9 billion Olympic games is being overseen by such ethical, scrupulous and honourable people...





*Three Letter Acronyms.

Organic Cows?

Anyone who believes organic milk to be better than milk produced by conventional farming methods is wasting their time and money; it's not.

In fact, going by vitamin content, it's worse. Levels of vitamins A and E, which help fight cancer and boost the immune system, are up to 15% lower in organic milk, which typically costs almost a third more.

I'll bet it's the same with most organic foods and it's just a clever marketing strategy for the gullible to pay over the odds for.

2022

Just ten years after the London Olympics, Nine out of ten men will be overweight in the UK and half of them obese, within 15 years. And in 25 years, at least half the population will be obese, the latest Government report reveals.

And the gurlies are no better, following closely behind: within 20 years, 70% of women will be overweight, of whom half will have a body mass index of more than 30, the medical definition of obesity.

Elasticated waist bands anyone?

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Express Till?

Our local super markets, well, they aren't really.

They're just shopping areas in big vast spaces and that includes the gaps in the shelves for the products. However, we have got by without problem and have been feeding our faces quite merrily since we arrived and sussed that each type of food has its own particular store.

Anyway, the "super" market of choice does for most things but they have this most odd way of accepting credit cards. No matter which till you go to, the check out burd will leave her place and go all the way to the end of the shop to where the chemist counter is situated (they even keep the soap and toothpaste here, you can't help yourself) to utilise, I presume the only card reader/machine.

Then they wander all the way back to the till, to the person they have just served and return their card and receipt to them. Clearly, said shopper has not been inclined to pack any of the purchases away.

No, they insist on leaving all items on the counter on full display allowing the queue to admire their choice of purchases. Perhaps they are so pleased at getting a particular item they just want to rub it in on those who have missed out?

The person will then accept the offered card and receipt and carefully try and locate their purse, usually packed right into the bottom of a shopping bag, laden down with more bought goods from previous stores, which necessitates in emptying out all the items onto the now overladen counter to put away the credit card.

Then the laborious process of re-packing, now twice the amount of shopping, back into the bags before the receipt has even been signed.

Shop and PIN has not arrived here yet and so bills are signed for. I await the glorious occasion when the check out burd requires confirmation of autograph. Then I can truly get excited at watching all the shopping by emptied out again, as, the purse has carefully been placed at the bottom of one of the bags of course.

I only came in for a couple of rolls and some bottles of water...

Meal Fit For a King

It was nothing more than an idle comment made in passing; "I really fancy a full, blown-out Sunday roast, I haven't that in aaaaaages", made during the week.

Yesterday wifey made rare, roast beef (despite her being a vegetarian!), Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and all manner of vegetables, followed up by apple crumble. All from scratch.

I believe that has been the best meal I have had this year and doubt anything can top that.

AND she did all the dishes. :oD

Pot, Kettle Part US of A

US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has voiced concern about Russia by saying "too much power was concentrated within the Kremlin".

On her visit to Moscow, she met human rights activists and said she wanted to help them build institutions to protect people from the "arbitrary power of the state". But she also said she had no wish to interfere in Russia's internal affairs.

You'd think that being able to spell a name such as hers, she could also spell "hypocrisy", wouldn't you?

England's Weekend

The fairy tale continues as England's rugby team beat France in Paris 14-9 to reach their second successive World Cup Final with yet another Jonny Wilkinson kick, and the country's football team stroll past Estonia with a 3-0 victory at Wembley. Wayne Rooney gets his first competitive goal for three and a half years.

Another good result for Scotland who beat Ukraine 3-1 which keeps them top of their table, ahead of both Italy and France.

Finally, the Germans are the first team to qualify for the Euro 2008 Championships in Austria & Switzerland next year with a routine 0-0 draw against the Republic of Ireland at Croke Park. We play the Czech Republic on Wednesday who are currently in second place.

A Classless England?

A diktat from the Commons authorities has stipulated that Commons Staff must give way to Members of Parliament in the queue for meals, lifts, photocopiers and other facilities at Westminster.

The chairman of the Administration Committee said: "You cannot have an MP standing in a queue for ages – they are very busy people."

Someone remind me again, which century are we in?

Local Target

Have you noticed how anything that gives the public pleasure or some fun will eventually be taxed by this current Government? Your local pub is next in line.

Council "inspectors" are to grade public houses that offer additional services such as quiz nights, football teams, pool tables or dartboards and they will be forced to pay higher business rates. They have also been directed to grade how "popular, friendly and hospitable" your local is, which will have a bearing on the extent your landlord will be taxed.

Cheers...





Business rates are set at 44% of the rateable value of the property, so if a pub's rateable value is increased by £1 000 either because it attracts extra custom with regular quiz nights or because it has a 'friendly' atmosphere, the bill would increase by £440 a year.
The new business-rates valuations are due to be finalised by 2009 and will take effect in 2010.

Eau Dear

Claridge's in London is launching a water list next month, with 30 brands from places such as the icebergs of Newfoundland, the volcanoes of New Zealand and the Nilgiris Mountains in India.

As you may expect, the prices won't be cheap. The most expensive water is going to cost the equivalent of £50 a litre!

Claridge's "food and beverage" director, said: "Water is becoming like wine. Every guest has an opinion and asks for a particular brand."

Pretentious tosser and so is the concept.

I'd like to know why the bog standard tap water is not included on the list- we have to pay enough for that, don't we?

Saturday, 13 October 2007

J K Rowling V Goddess Durga, Next Round

An update:

An Indian court has dismissed a claim by J K Rowling/Warner Brothers for damages from the organisers of a religious event who constructed a replica of her fictional Hogwarts School.

Delhi High Court however has ordered the organisers of the Durga Puja festivities in Calcutta - the biggest Hindu religious event in eastern India to not to use any characters from the books without her permission.

Good; common sense does prevail.

The Common Man in the Street

My mate BLiar continues to make the headlines instead of having the decency to simply bow out quietly and crawl back under his stone.

He is now attempting to secure a personal parking space outside his £5 million home in Connaught Square.

The proposal would mean two residents' parking bays outside BLiar's gaff would be set aside for his exclusive use, 24 hours a day, whilst parking bays on the opposite side of the road will also be converted to "BLiar only" spaces.

In all, it would mean the loss of six "shared use" spaces, where members of the public can park using a pay and display machine and a gain of three residents' only spaces. Naturally, the proposed scheme would be paid for by the Home Office, which oversees Mr Blair's lifelong security arrangements.

Amazing, he takes us into an illegal war that is still no where near being resolved and we have to pamper this arrogant, selfish, hypocritical megalomaniac for the rest of his natural life?

And people wonder what is wrong with the country today?

Spot The Difference?


And finally we have our first competition at ktelontour. To win a prize*, just circle any differences you can see in the picture on the LHS to the image on the RHS and send your entries to the usual address.
There is an annual, religious Hindu festival in India which builds a shrine (pandal) to the Goddess Durga, the goddess of valour. This year, one of the temples constructed this amazing pandal, pictured on the left, but it seems they are in breach of J K Rowling's copyright and they have been fined 2.0 million rupees (~£25 000) for their efforts.
They were served a a 394-page law suit in which Warner Brothers/wizzard burd successfully argued that the shrine had been built for commercial gain, despite the organisers stressing it is a religious festival. In previous years they have "copied" many other famous themes, including Titanic, without any problem.
Shame on you Warner Brothers and J K Rowling for such a petty and mean-spirited display of big corporate bullying.
*There at least 476 differences and should you spot them all, we will send you a copy of the next HP film, "Harry Potter and the Greedy Golden Goose"
The "pandal" is a temporary shrine made from wood, canvas and papier mache and The Durga festival is one of the biggest social and religious events of the year in eastern Indian during which temples compete with each other create the most fantastic pandals, drawing large family crowds who eat, drink and mingle with each other.

Halloween

This stupid "begging for 'treats' with menaces" charade imported (where else?) from our American cousins will soon be upon us as the end of the month fast approaches.

Aside from my personal dislike for this "tradition" isn't it a little out of place in the 21st century where kids sadly aren't even safe to wander the streets in broad daylight, let alone in the dark. More so, I wonder how many parents have considered the slim possibility of perhaps their child coming into contact with a convicted sex-offender.

They do live somewhere...

Yes, There IS More

Back to the swapped babies topic and there is yet more news. It looks both sets of parents will trade kids before Christmas after all but one of the couple (the burd, more than likely) is pregnant again.

Funnily enough, they have decided to have their baby in another hospital, despite promises of VIP treatment from the original clinic.

Next round: The Telegraph

And hopefully that will now be the end of it and they all live happily ever after.

Knock Down Ginger

As we have mentioned we are living in an apartment that is situated perhaps a few metres from the busy and bustling High Street. The flat is on the ground floor and can be accessed from either the front; main shopping street or from the back where the cars are parked and the school children walk along on their way to school.

It also acts as a useful thoroughfare for people to get to the High Street and this is providing some of the kids (?) ample opportunity to have a laugh by ringing the bell and being off on their toes before we can open the front door.

I have no problem with anyone playing practical jokes but of late, it seems to becoming more popular and so we just ignore the bell. How many visitors are we expecting anyway, right?

However, if anyone has genuinely been trying to get through, please ring a few times and wait or easier still, just call us on the telephone. Unless of course we're out, which is quite a lot.

Next Phase Acommodation- Check

Right, we've confirmed places to stay in Skopje, Thessaloniki and Port Heli but the only city proving difficult is Athens; and it's not through a want of trying.

What is fast testing our patience is that no matter what the Athenians are advertising, when it comes to directly asking for a price for our stay, they are quoting ridiculous money.

Hang on a minute. You're advertising "prices from 30€/night" so why are you now telling us it's over 50€? It's hardly as if it is peak "summer" season is it; the middle of November. Either that or they can't even be bothered to reply.

Not impressed so far but we soldier on.

However, for the accommodation we have reserved in all the places we will be visiting, we have managed to obtain a discount from 10-20€ per night and that, on our budget, is making a huge difference to our wallet. Thanks to all the generosity- we really do appreciate it.

Happay Birthday H and it's the BIG 4-0 for Bruv

Last year we stayed in Hamburg with friends. Stayed? We practically lived there as part of the family we were so well looked after- for over five weeks!

Today it's H's birthday and despite the fact it was his 70th last year, he is still travelling around the Far East for months at a time and getting to see the real side of things.

Hope Malaysia and Thailand are keeping you occupied and we'll be raising a glass to you tonight. Many congratulations and here's to many more.

And on the theme of birthdays, it's my brother's 40th tomorrow; the one where life is meant to begin. With three lovely kids I'm sure he'll say his life started a long time ago and I hope he gets a chance to celebrate in style. Happy birthday, bro- will call in the morning but not too early, eh? :o)

Friday, 12 October 2007

The Cat sat on the Mat

There's a big hoo-ha in the press about how 40% of children are struggling to write their own name or to sound out letters to form simple words such as “dog” or “red” by the age of five.

Why?

Why can't kids be allowed to have a bit of fun in their younger years before being subjected to a barrage of test, exams and other such guides to determine their levels of "achievement"?

Certainly in Germany and Japan they are not expected to learn to read and write until they reach the age of seven.

Or is it that the Government has to justify their spending of £21 000 000 000 000 on early learning schemes? That being the case, it ain't working, is it?

You Are Having a Laugh

I thought that upwards of £125 for a ticket to see Led Zeppelin play live again was taking the piss, but The Eagles are reaching even bigger highs.

Tickets for the concert, which takes place in London and will be their first new material in 28 years, come in several classes, with the “gold circle package” a bargain £950 + VAT. Other tickets are offered at £575 and £475.

What's even worse though is that none of the 2000 tickets will be offered to the general public, instead they are by invitation only to corporate clients, competition-winners, record-label employees and the media.

Poor, very poor.

But I'm very glad I think they are overrated shite. :-)

Pot; Kettle

The Auditor-General, head of the spending watchdog and who is responsible for investigating waste and extravagance in Whitehall is facing pressure to resign his position after the National Audit Office (NAO) volunteered details of how Sir John Bourn spent £365 000 on 43 trips and £27 000 on meals in just three years- all at the taxpayers’ expense.

He travelled first-class (with his wife on 22 occasions) to destinations including San Francisco, the Bahamas, Brazil, Lisbon and Venice, costing £76,000. He also had 164 lunches and dinners (since 2004) including meals at the Ritz, Savoy, Dorchester, Wiltons, Mirabelle and Bibendum. The bills, nearly all for two people, varied from £80 to £301.

A spokeswoman for the NAO said that Sir John would no longer take first-class flights or travel with his wife without parliamentary approval, but added: “The Auditor-General justifies the dinners and lunches as part of the need for the NAO to keep in touch with a wide range of people, including companies that are doing business with government and the NAO.”

Well, that's all right then...

750 000 Britons Can't Be Wrong

Want to know how much in total inept Brits have to pay to put right their botched DIY projects?

£350 million!

And it's mainly down to them trying to copy things they have seen on the television in programmes like Changing Rooms, or Property Ladder.

DIY? Leave it to the experts.

Kraljevo; Serbia

We leave here exactly three weeks today for our visit to Macedonia, another country we shall be staying in for the first time. Three weeks sounds like a lot of time but it's not enough; we're fast becoming attached to the place.

From our initial arrival in blazing sunshine to the more autumnal weather we are currently experiencing, Kraljevo has been full of surprises- the biggest being how, er, big the place actually is.

Along the way, people have taken in interest in our adventure, usually with a similar response of surprise and encouragement but also the occasional rolling of the eyes accompanied by the "you must be mad" comments. But when mentioning here, it's usually "where?" or if they have heard of the place, they've all said how small the place is.

It's not. Nor is it lacking in anything or dirty, or dangerous or ex-"Eastern Bloc" or anything else cliched or derogatory that some have suggested it might be. It is in fact a charming and lovely place to stay.

It is clean, with absolutely no dog mess or litter to be seen (despite the odd packs of friendly, stray dogs roving around the centre), there seem to be no homeless people or beggars around (witnessed pretty much everywhere along our travels) and people are friendly, generous and very, very kind.

Not everyone can speak English but those that can do, and those that can't, try. It matters not when you are greeted with a beaming smile and an apparent willingness to help.

I can't imagine many will visit as a holiday and that is understandable- we seem to be the only two tourists in the village. But for us that adds to the attraction after a summer filled with holiday makers and people thronging en masse around the restaurants, bistros and bars.

It's been a delightful rest and an ideal opportunity to rest up, take stock and simply relax before the next leg of our journey and we have both enjoyed our stay immensely.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About

It's acquired (quite rightly) a cult following and I was recently reminded of the site which we lost from "Favourites" when our old lappie died.

If you've never seen it before, treat yourselves. Well written and laugh-out-loud funny:

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About

Eeek

Only 36% of common spiders are capable of laying eggs under human skin.

That's reassuring to know then.

Baby Face

There's been another twist to the mixed up babies (sic) we've been posting about. One of the mothers does not want give up the baby she thought was hers, despite having been proven it's not.

The other one must be really fugly...

Latest update: The Telegraph

Spy in the Sky Part II


And it's not just the English and French who are using airborne spying surveillance- here's what the Americans are working on.
These flying cameras will be about the size of a dragon fly and despite denials from the Government that they do not exist, several similar "insects" were sighted at an anti-war rally in Washington last month...