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Mar. 14th, 2011

Sun

Olympics

In light of the 2012 Olympic game tickets being available tomorrow I've been thinking of ways to improve it.

General rules:
The following are banned:
-Sports that have fewer than a quarter of the nations competing. It is a global event after all.
-The total cost of a person's equipment must not exceed £5,000. It's meant to be accessible.

Specific rule changes:

Steeplechase:
-More obstacles, one every 50 meters. The water will be waist deep instead of ankle deep. Add a rope walk and a limbo.

Shooting:
-Instead of bullet holes that are extremely unsatisfying when witnessed; LaserQuest!

Equestrian:
-Instead of a sport with championship trained horses that costs more than what most people can afford, contestants must enter a ring of wild horses, catch one and then jump with it.

Wrestling:
-Reduce to just freestyle.

Beach Volleyball:
-Banned. People only watch it for the bikini clad ladies and volleyball is already an event.

Feb. 11th, 2010

Sun

The stupidity of overreaction

Supposedly the body set up to regulate and run the MPs' expenses is going to cost £6.5m per annum. The amount that MPs have been asked to pay back in fraudulent claims is £1.1m. This is only happening because of the huge public backlash over something that should have just caused a very quick change in law before moving on. Instead it's dragged on for about a year or so now ending in this ridiculous situation where fixing the problem will cost more of tax payers' money than not fixing the problem.

As I understand, MPs' wages are in the region of £65,000 per annum. If I earned that much money I would certainly not feel the need to claim back on my lunch with someone nor claim back hiring a cleaner. Why not reform the expenses so that the only expenses paid is the train ticket to get from their constituency to parliament. And this is easy to check because they can check attendance against the register for each parliamentary session. This process would need about 2-3 people to administer instead of the 80 currently lined up to police expenses.

In the meantime people need to realise that all this MPs' expenses fury is completely disproportionate to the crime. I'm sure if we added everyone who used their work printers to print off private documents, office mailing system to send and deliver personal letters/packages, work phones to make private calls etc it would run to billions of pounds a year and not the tiny amount of £1.1m pound.

Dec. 17th, 2009

Sun

We track santa in case he need to shoot him down with jets and missiles...

NORAD (the people who deal with defending North American air-space and used to watch the skies in case the Russians sent their nuclear missiles) have a website designed for kids. It pretends to track Santa on Christmas. The website then has some information about what NORAD does and gives this information using Santa as an example. What's amazing is how much of an hostile view of the world it portrays to children. The following are extracts from the site and can be found here.


NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa – radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets.

Tracking Santa starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system consists of 47 installations strung across the northern border of North America. On Christmas Eve, NORAD monitors the radar systems continuously for indications that Santa Claus has left the North Pole.

The moment that radar indicates Santa has lifted off, we use our second detection system. Satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles from the Earth’s surface are equipped with infrared sensors, which enable them to detect heat. Amazingly, Rudolph's bright red nose gives off an infrared signature, which allow our satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa.
US and Canada flags

The third tracking system is the Santa Cam network. We began using it in 1998, which is the year we put our Santa Tracking program on the internet. Santa Cams are ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras that are pre-positioned at many locations around the world. NORAD only uses these cameras once a year on Christmas Eve. The cameras capture images and videos of Santa and his reindeer as they make their journey around the world.

The fourth system is made up of fighter jets. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots flying the CF-18 intercept and welcome Santa to North America. In the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15 or the F-16 get the thrill of flying alongside Santa and his famous reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and, of course, Rudolph.


So first of all America uses 47 radars to make sure they pick up Santa the moment he leaves. Then infra-red reading satellites track him and Rudolph across the world. Then secret cameras around the world, specifically designed to capture him, are turned on around the world. And lastly, fighter jets escort him across North American air space. That's how much military attention NORAD tells kids they need to track someone as friendly as Santa. Now imagine what they'd be willing to use to track someone they think is a security threat.

Obviously I know they don't really track Santa, but the mindset it tries to instil in children is just mad! If there's someone in the air, friend or foe, the USA is always ready to shoot them down.

Nov. 18th, 2009

Sun

Contradiction

I don't really care that much about the Scottish national football team but the following statement from Gordon Smith, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, makes no sense. I've highlighted the contradiction.

"The decision was taken after a meeting with the board of directors and, subsequently, the national coach.

The board was in unanimous agreement. It should be stressed that the decision was not a direct consequence of Saturday's unacceptable 3-0 defeat to Wales but, rather, a realisation that the expectations of the supporters, the Scottish FA and George, himself, were not being met.

I should point out that the Scottish FA stands by its decision to give the national coach our full support despite failure to qualify for the World Cup play-offs. It would have been negligent not to have given George every opportunity to rebuild and revitalise the squad in light of the improved performances in the last two qualifiers against Macedonia and Holland.

Unfortunately, the adverse results in the two subsequent friendly matches against Japan and Wales provided confirmation that the improvement could not be sustained."


So the decision was a direct consequence of the Saturday result. What he should say is that the Saturday game was not the only cause but admit that it was one of the direct causes.

Sep. 23rd, 2009

Sun

The other 94%

Isn't it funny how the 'Tesco Finest: Sunblush Tomato and Basil Soup' only contains 6% Sunblush tomato and Basil? The other 94% being filled with regular tomatoes and various not-so-fancy ingredients. That 6% will cost you about £1.50 more than the 100% tomatoes and various not-so-fancy ingredients tomato soup.

Marketing at its best.

Sep. 10th, 2009

Sun

Tap tap

Sometimes I've been tempted to tap someone on the shoulder in the street if I recognise them just to give them a surprise. But most of the time I refrain from doing that for fear that the said person is not actually my friend but a complete stranger. The risk of embarrassment overwhelms me more often than not.

This morning while riding the escalators at the tube station I was reading The Economist. At half way up I felt a hand stroking my shoulder. I turned around expecting that it must be someone I know very well - for who else would stroke my shoulder rather than just tap it - only to find that it was a woman I'd never seen before. She suddenly looked very embarrassed and apologised incoherently. Incoherently because she was so shamed by the action that words would not come out of her mouth in the right order. Probably not helped by me looking at her as if she's completely mad. She said that I had looked like a colleague of hers.

I think now I will be even more cautious than ever to tap someone on the shoulder if I think I know them.

May. 19th, 2009

Sun

Faster, larger, better

Britain needs a railway overhaul. London needs an overhaul of the tube network. Both have been overdue. That's despite constant promises and publicity about the supposed 'overhaul' or 'revolution' or 'advancement' of both. The consequences of these false overhauls is wide ranging.

Last Friday, I was on a train to an appointment when it came to a sudden halt in the middle of a field. The train driver's rather apologetic voice materialised through the in-carriage speakers. 'Sorry we've come to a stop. We're on a neutral part of the track and I have no power to move this train forwards. We will have to wait until the next train comes along to give us a push.' It wasn't until 20 minutes later the next train appeared and the driver announced, 'If you're not sitting down then hold onto something. There may be a slight bang.' Another five minutes later the train behind us pushed our train onto a live section of the track. I was 15 minutes late for my appointment which then led to a 30 minute delay to being seen.

On a daily basis Londoners can witness examples of Tube-rage. Penned into narrow carriages, people exhibit examples of behaviour like those witnessed in severe traffic jams on a hot day. People will curse, push and be aggressive while feeling threatened where no real threats are present. Examples:
1) Today, the tube I was on was very full. When it pulled into a station a man in the middle of the carriage pushed through other passengers. One girl near the exit felt angered by this and kicked him. He shot her an evil glare and she returned with a shout, 'WHAT?!'
2) A few days ago, I was preparing to get off the carriage when it pulled into a station. I was the closest to the door; in fact I was pressed against the door. As the door opened and I started to step off the train a woman from behind me barged through my left shoulder and spat, 'How rude!' towards me as she marched past.
I'm assuming these people would not usually be so unreasonable.

Seeing as it's 2009 surely Britain should have trains reliable enough to not get stuck in the neutral section of a track. Seeing as it's 2009 surely - and especially with all the investment for the 2012 Olympics - London's tube network should have trains spacious enough to avoid having people packed into greater density than bees in a hive.

Over the last few years (or perhaps decade) there have been so much, supposed, government investment on the transport network across the country. Some of which has been successful and a few things have improved, notably London buses. However, given the number of delays, engineering works, new constructions and monetary investment we really should be seeing a greater improvement.

I suspect a culture of sub-contracting work and government policy writers, who are not experts in the field they set policies for, have squandered much of the money invested. The papers and public keep crying out for more investment. Do they not see figures in the billions and think, 'That should be enough money'?

Setting policies is a difficult balance. If you hire technical people into the field of expertise then they will request lots of money into expansion which is unhelpful for budgeting. If you hire bureaucratic people who understand budgeting and government policies then they write great plans but have little idea how to spend the money and where inefficiencies are. Perhaps the government and civil service needs to hire bureaucratic workers who are well trained in the field they are to work in. It seems to me that there is currently a trend amongst government officials who look to develop good general managers rather than specialised managers. They then move these 'good' managers around into completely unrelated fields to fix this or the other. I think there is a fallacious assumption that a good worker is one that's purely good at working and doesn't need to be good at the field they work in. The motive is good but I think the execution is poor. It lacks balance.

May. 12th, 2009

Sun

Keeping up with les Joneses

What's with the obsession recently about the 'French Model' for an economy? When our economy was on the rise everyone criticized the French Model for being too big and unwieldy for a modern economy. Now there's an economic downturn people are all jumpy and looking at their neighbours seeing how they are doing. It seems to me people are suddenly admiring the French Model because they've not been hit as bad.

Is that really a good measure of what a good model is? That when it goes wrong it doesn't go as wrong? Two points really. First of all, why is a model better almost purely because when it goes wrong it doesn't fair as badly as others? Any group of people who still live in caves in the wild with no communication with the rest of the world would not have been hit by the recession at all. Does that mean we should follow their economic model? It would make our economy immune to global economic turbulence.

Second of all, if the change in GDP is significant at this stage, which many people have constantly referenced regarding France, then why not look at someone like China? Still maintaining roughly a 8% rise in GDP as opposed to France's 3% drop.

Surely the way to judge a model is on how it performs both in the good times as well as the bad times not just one such period in isolation. A steady model like the French Model may have the admirable attribute of being steady but that's not a great criteria by itself for judging how good a model is. You may want a model that jumps highly in the good times but falls somewhat in the bad times as long as overall the pace is good going upwards. That is probably better than a model that overall progresses very slowly.

May. 1st, 2009

Sun

It's just flu

We've survived SARS. We've survived bird flu. Each time a new variant of animal flu comes along we get a national scare and whoever manages to catch it ends up on the news and the nation holds its breath to see if this poor individual dies or passes it on to another twenty people. Of course it never actually happens. All that happens is that news reporters walk around the streets and ask people for their outraged views. Everyone gets blamed; government, police, NHS, other supposedly less intelligent people.

Why are we so obsessed by a variety of diseases that don't kill many people? Why does the media make it sound like the next major killer of the century? There's constant comparisons of this to major flu pandemics in the past and big scary, and seemingly random, numbers are forecast to die. 150million people could die from this swine flu allegedly. Can we arrest and imprison people who make up these figures for causing public panic? It's as if we are more scared of this flu than of terrorism or murder. The latter couple kill off far more people than all these animal flu put together.

By all means warn people of it. Inform people on best practises to prevent spreading the disease. But stop making such a huge fuss of it. Even if it turns out to be the most serious animal flu we've seen I doubt it'll kill more people than regular flu does this year.

Mar. 30th, 2009

Sun

I want ecologically unfriendly washing up liquid

I am all for saving the environment though I admit I'm often a bit too lazy and don't do quite as much as I perhaps could. At least now all the waste I produce at home is only un-recyclable plastic and food. I know I could technically make the food into compost but I don't maintain a green garden and frankly I've smelt a previous compost heap attempt before and it's bad.

Anyway, recently I've been using an ecologically friendly washing up liquid. The bottle promises not to damage the ecology of wherever the washing up liquid ends up being after it's gone through the drains. This all sounds like a very good idea. But perhaps the makers are also masters of irony. Or maybe they aren't...

I know it's ecologically friendly but does it have to be ecologically friendly to the ecology of my washing up? It's rubbish at removing grease from the dirty washing! Perhaps they forgot there is a class of ecology we want to destroy with this product or else I'd just wash everything in lukewarm water which would be cheaper and just as effective.

Next they'll probably make ecologically friendly shower gel that doesn't kill the ecology of germs and bacteria on your body. Then ecologically friendly toilet cleaner that gives the germs in your toilet a comforting home.

I wonder if I put some of this ecologically friendly washing up liquid in a compost heap might it cause the habitat to be more friendly to fungus and bacteria so the compost will decompose faster (and smell nicer?).

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