Saturday, December 29, 2007

What's your tipple?

As I kick back with a Bacardi & Coke I'm wondering what my choice of drink says about me. If nothing else, it probably confirms what a lot of people fear - namely that I'm unlikely ever to play rugby for England. I don't care, however, because I'm rather enjoying it.

I do find it quite amusing that there are stereotypes based on choice of drink; what's your tipple and what do you think it tells the rest of us?

I'm less amused, however, by the increasing number of calls by various "do good-ers" to increase the price of alcohol. Why should I pay for the lack of self control displayed by so many?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Buon Natale! (Christmas part two)

Another year on, and the presents are again wrapped and beneath the tree. The cards and decorations are hanging and looking festive. Dinner with the family is about to start, and my Christmas Message* has been written. So, it's time to wish you all a


HAPPY CHRISTMAS!



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*I've been in the Blogosphere for three years now, so it's becoming an annual thing. Like the Queen's.

Christmas (part one)


These words were uttered by Jesus Christ, who's birth I shall enjoy commemorating tomorrow. Although I'd imagine that few of you would doubt his actual existence, there are probably many who would simply pass him off as a 'nice man'.

Yet, once you examine the actual claims of Jesus and His eyewitness followers, there are really only three alternatives for who He really is - Jesus Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or our Lord. So, as you doze in your armchair, glass in hand, and try and block out the sounds of the latest family row, you might want to give it some thought; especially since many of Jesus' outrageous claims aren't compatible with the nicey-nicey Universalist* model.

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*Universalism is the idea that all religions lead to the same God anyway. Basically.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

atheism at Christmas

A while back, Dave pointed me in the direction of this link, and I've been meaning to get around to responding for a while.

I thought that the general sentiment of the article was good, although Parmjit Dhanda's comments about "the importance being aware of the significance of Christianity" seemed at odds with the BBC News report at the time which focussed on how well known the Nativity is. I've not been able to find a link back to this article or the associated Have Your Say, but the bottom line is that a large proportion of the population do not seem to be clued up.

The amount of ignorance displayed in the Have Your Say pages was as usual fairly staggering. One chap seemed to imply that "Christianity is based on a lie because we all know that Jesus was not born on December 25th". Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but Christianity has never been based on the actual birthdate of Jesus. John 3:18 talks about people who believe in Jesus, not people who believe that he was born on the 25th of December.

Talking of ignorance, I found the BBC Ricky Gervais and Rowan Williams interview the other day. The full podcast can be found here and although I've not listened to it all yet, the trailer I heard implies that it would be well worth a listen. Ricky Gervais of course, is actually David Brent*, and Rowan Williams' voice is slightly comic but don't let that put you off. The reason I mention it here is that Ricky Gervais makes the remark that he doesn't believe in God because he's a scientist, which again, is ignorant. As a scientist myself, if there was proof that God did not exist I would not be a Christian. People need to remember that Atheism is just as much a faith as anything else.

And despite the positive comments in the first BBC Article linked above, there are, unfortunately, those who do aim to prevent religious expression in the name of "not causing offence". ThisBBC Article is equally worth reading.

Nonetheless, it is nice that Christians and non-Christians alike to enjoy celebrating at this time of year, and even if you don't believe, no-one should begrudge you enjoying yourself.


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*jester

return of the railway rant

For those of you who eagerly visit this corner of the Blogosphere in anticipation of another railway related rant your boat has come in again.

Yesterday, I was returning from work and on arrival at Horsham, the train did not divide as planned*. Instead, after a bit of bumping around, an abrupt announcement told us without apology or explanation that the whole train was going to go fast to Barnham without stopping at any intermediate stations and that those passengers requiring said stops should "leave the train immediately". So, a large number of passengers were then thrown out in to the freezing cold with a wait of more than half an hour for the next train. One wonders if Southern Railway actually cares at all about the people who pay to use their trains.

Although I can appreciate that it was not directly their fault, the general attitude of most of the Southern staff on the train and on the platform left a lot to be desired. Initially no-one offered any sort of apology or made any effort to help at all, and in some cases they were downright rude. It can’t be easy for them when faced with (understandably) irate passengers, but they didn’t exactly help the situation. Having been in Tesco's again earlier where one member of staff had answered my query with "Dunno" before ambling off, I'm starting to wonder what has happened to the concept of Customer Service in British society.** In my book, you might only be paid to dispatch trains or stack shelves, but you are still the public face of the company and I think that you do have a duty to help in whatever way you can. Besides, much as you might enjoy dispatching empty trains, who's going to pay you to do it?***

The excuse we eventually extracted**** from the Station Manager was that there was no conductor on board, which means that the train couldn't stop safely at stations with short platforms. This does make some sense, except for the fact that I'm fairly certain that one of the employees who threw us off the train in an insolent "not my problem" sort of way was in fact a conductor. Surely the nice people at Southern wouldn't lie to their passengers?

If you're a bit worried about me and want reassurance that I'm not alone in my rantings, or you get such a kick out of it that you crave more, then you might want to visit these sites for a bit of light reading.

http://www.trainfellows.blogspot.com/

Meanwhile, I'm grateful to the man who took the whole bundle of complaint forms from the Station Manager and actively handed them out to the shivering rows of passengers on the platform at Horsham. I will be sending mine off and hoping that the New Year dawns with yet more Rail Vouchers.
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*That in itself is annoying. I can see the reasons for it, but since the timetable change my journey has been 'enhanced' with a 10 minute wait at Horsham whilst someone faffs about joining and splitting trains.

** Despite comments like this, I am actually under 40.

*** The Department for Transport (DfT) of course. How could I forget?

****Like blood from a stone.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"are you on Dave's Facebook?"

So, I was in a posh London winebar. I happened to have a plate of chips in my possession and when I stood up to offer them around the (fit) birds flocked to me. The 'Aircraft Simulation' line worked like a charm and the evening flowed on well. But did I get her number? For some reason "are you on Dave's Facebook?" was the best I could muster. At least she is, I guess.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Metre High Club?

I couldn't help but notice yesterday that there is a condom machine in the Gentlemen's Conveniences on the Shop Floor at my place of employment.

It's left me wondering what amongst the flurry of engineers and partially constructed flight simulators would put someone in the right frame of mind and situation to have need of it. And as realistic as the sims can be, they can't be used for entry to the Mile High Club.

Admittedly I've not been looking for one, but it's also occurred to me that I've not spotted similar vending machines elsewhere in the building. I hope someone's not trying to say something about the difference between the engineers downstairs and the computer geeks who spend more time at a desk upstairs.

Defined by user

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Uncool

Uncool.

Adj. "Describes the man who, at the end of an evening in the pub with a member of the opposite sex, pays a visit to the Gents' and sees in the mirror that his shirt is just poking through the top of his zip. It is unlikely that he will have any idea of the length of time for which this was the state of affairs."

Disaster.

Defined by user

Monday, December 03, 2007

what do people do all day?*

Like it or lump it, what you profess to do says a lot about you; it's widely accepted, for example, that accountancy is synonymous with dull.

When I was studying physics, admitting to it was social suicide. It didn't take me long to realise that in normal (i.e. non-physics) company, saying that I was a physicist** was guaranteed to stop the conversation.

Perhaps surprisingly, being an applied mathematician in Bath didn't have quite the same effect, though I suspect that this was because everyone else in Bath also studies maths and I was therefore lulled in to a false sense of security. The response I generally got was "oh, another one then" followed by a roll of the eyes. At least the conversation continued normally***.

But now, it's all come good. When someone asks me what I do, I sometimes even enjoy responding with "Aircraft Simulation", As lines go it's not a bad one**** and if that doesn't clinch me the crown of most eligible bachelor in the village, I don't know what will.


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*My favourite book as a child, by Richard Scarry, had this title.

**which I was, apparently.

***Unless I was talking to someone who was socially inept.

****Surely it's up there with "is your dad a baker? Because you have nice baps" and "sit on my lap and we'll see what comes up".

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Free As A Bird?

The title of The Beatles song I have just been listening to seems an appropriate heading for my reflection on what has been quite a week as far as the issue of Free Speech is concerned.

Last Monday saw a very controversial forum at The Oxford Union on this very issue, with Nick Griffin and David Irving. 18 months ago I lived next door to the Union and if I still did I'd have been able to give you a live and exclusive account of the goings-on (and to nail my colours to the mast, yes I probably would also have attempted to attend the forum myself). As it happened however, any account I could have written would have just been lost in a sea of high profile news coverage, such was the scale of the protest.

We all know that I harbour a lot of contempt for protesters on the whole, and I am not about to make exceptions here. Although the event clearly attracted generic protesters from further afield than within a mile of Carfax (the BBC News page spoke of someone who'd come all the way from a university in Essex. *cough* waster *cough*), I was most amused by this quip I found just now in The Scotsman:

"You get a better class of political protester at Oxford University. Last week, when students broke into an Oxford Union debate to protest at the presence of the British National Party leader and a notorious Holocaust denier, one of the intruders commandeered a piano and shouted a question to the packed hall: "Wagner, perhaps?""

Joking aside, the whole article is certainly worth a read. I liked the point that
"
If the Oxford University is indeed the apex of intellect it professes to be, then where better to forensically dismantle some bampot fascist ideas and show them up as historically illiterate, morally indefensible and politically naive?".

Certainly the representatives from the Union made it quite clear that by giving Griffin and Irving a platform they weren't endorsing what they had to say. In fact, over the years the Union has hosted many controversial debates and speaker events, and any assumption that hosting or attending such an event signifies any sort of agreement with the opinions being put forth is nothing short of absurd. I think that I've said it before, but I find it insulting that some people don't trust the rest of us to be able to make up our own minds, and I find this apparently 'enlightened' group of people to be horribly arrogant.

As has been noted elsewhere, there is a certain irony to the fact that by fighting against free speech the protesters are as facist and undemocratic as that which they are protesting against. It's probably fair to say that many of them would have no hesitation in self-righteoussly proclaiming themselves as tolerant, and yet...*

It's clear that there are procedures in place to deal with people who cause trouble by what they say - just look at the fact that Irving spent time in jail for his denial of the Holocaust. With that in mind, if people choose to land themselves in hot water by what they say that should be their problem, but until they've said it we are in no position to judge.

In a slightly different manner, free speech has reared its ugly head again towards the end of the week, with Gillian Gibbons' imprisonment for the name she gave a teddy-bear. It's interesting to note that a lot of the comments on the BBC News page revolve around the opinion that it's "their country and she should obey their laws", something which in principle I very much agree with. (Though I wish we could stick to it here, because I'm fed up with "not being able to proclaim my faith" or silly things like "not being able to display an England flag" for fear of offending those who have moved here in recent years). What interests me, however is the fact that it has all arisen out of a law to prevent incitement to religious hatred. Firstly, as a casual observer, it seems that there is more hatred emanating from the "religious" (some of whom have been calling for Ms Gibbons' execution) than there was against them (it seems to have been a genuine, if a little ignorant, mistake, and nothing more). What is acceptable to say, and not acceptable to say in this instance seems to me to be quite bizarre. Secondly, as was noted in Friday's Metro, we have recently had 'religious hatred' laws introduced in this country. Let's hope that the slope is not too slippery...

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*The "Henry Ford" school of tolerance: You can have any view you like, so long as it's mine.



Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Worst. Helpline. Ever.

Last night I filled out an online application form, and was disappointed to discover this morning that it had been declined.

I decided to ring the Application Helpline to find out why and rectify the situation. They were "unable to discuss the in-house criteria with the customer" but did suggest that common issues are "not living for a long time at your current address" and "not being with either your current bank or job for a significant period".

"OK" I said. "Can I supply you with details which might help rectify that and verify my background?".

"No" said the voice at the other end. "What you put on your form is confidential, and we can't discuss it".

So I'm left wondering what this so called 'helpline' can help with. I'm also wondering why I bothered to verify my identity if they clearly weren't going to discuss anything with me anyway. Honestly, you stand just as much a chance as I did of getting something useful from them.

What a waste of time and space.

Friday, November 23, 2007

today's blogworthy person

I'm on a train, as usual, and I was minding my own business when my PDA asked for a Bluetooth Passkey. Naturally I declined this kind offer of being Bluejacked by some device known as "Highway to Hell" and switched the Bluetooth off.

When I looked up I saw a man with shoulder-length hair asking no-one in particular whether or not they had a Bluetooth phone. No-one responded and so he moved down the train and sat opposite another guy. This bloke did have a Bluetooth phone, at which point Mr Highway-to-Hell asked if he could send some files. The other passenger tried to bale out by saying he was getting off shortly but this was evidently not a problem. Judging by the music that started blaring and Mr Highway-to-Hell's excited "it gets better" comments, he was obviously trying to share some music. The other passenger however remained bemused and insisted he didn't want it before the train made its next stop. He couldn't leave quick enough...

Defined by user

Sunday, November 18, 2007

feeling vindicated

You may remember that a while back I was a bit angry with the BBC. Well, being "one of those people" I wrote an email* of complaint. I'm pleased to say that eventually the response I yielded included this:

Disabling “Run BBC iPlayer on Windows start up” means that the Library does not activate when Windows boots up. However, if you still allow peer-to-peer participation, your computer will still share programmes, and we believe this is what happened in your case, even though you may not have expected this. In light of this we have rephrased the advice that we give to users as we agree that this section could be confusing to some users.

So I do feel kind of vindicated. Even though they refuse to be responsible for the extra charges I encountered as a result of their poor labelling.

>>

*As opposed to a letter of complaint. How 21st Century am I?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

what a legend

This really cracked me up earlier.

"I thought, I've been mugged. How wonderful."

What a line...

Monday, November 12, 2007

me? I like my supermarket to have a Charcuterie

I'm not a fan of Tesco. I suscribe to the view that their ethos is not a particularly moral one, I've heard bad things about the way they treat their staff and I don't like the way that -more than most supermarkets - they appear to be agressively competing with and killing off the independent and local shops. Furthermore, I'm fairly certain that the BBC Whistleblower programme which showed past its sell-by date steak being minced and sold was not an especially unfair snapshot.

But, nonetheless, needs must, and I have had occasion twice recently to call in at the big Tesco's on my route to work. To say that it's not helped my impression is an understatement.

Last week, a member of staff putting some chewing gum on the shelf was unable to tell me if they sold Wrigley's Extra (which I presumed they did) and if so, where I'd find it. Then, today, I was assured (by a smartly dressed and apparently important employee) that I could buy stamps from the normal till, and not just from the Tobacco counter but found when I got there that he was wrong. So, having paid for my milk I had to queue up again.

I'm also wondering how their "helping you spend less" slogan is in any way honest. Firstly, to get to my milk (an everyday item) I had to walk past miles of presumably tempting and irrelevant offers and then, having found it, it cost me 40p for a pint. That's substantially more than I paid in the centre of leafy Bath. In Waitrose. Even the recent price rises across the board can't have made that much of a difference.

Anyway, you know what I think now. I've never bought anything from the Charcuterie, but it's nice to know that in the classier places it's there. And that the 'newspapers and magazines' section is just that and not 'news and mags'. Which really grates, even without being said in the Essex accent which suits it so well.

Meanwhile, hello again Dave. Nice to hear from you. I'll respond to your comment when I'm home and have the facility to do so.


Defined by user

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shed-tastic

I'm, as usual, on a train, and I have just passed a big industrial warehouse bearing the phrase "Shed To Let". This puzzled me because to say that it was a bit big for a shed would be in the running for understatement of the year, and the board was less cheap 'letting board' style and more like a corporate brand name. But then who would call their company "Shed To Let"?

Fortunately I won't be wasting too much time on this particular conundrum as I have just been distracted by a car driving down the grass verge on the other side of the railway. In the scheme of things, that's much more exciting...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Season's Greetings?

I was pleased to note that a discussion has at last started on one of my previous posts. I hadn't of course just wanted to wish you all 'Season's Greetings' but I'd wanted to provoke a reaction. Mission accomplished.

Basically, the use of 'Season's Greetings' at Christmas really annoys me. I want to be able to wish people a Happy Christmas and refuse to panda to the small minded atheists who play the "you might offend people of other religions" card to suit their own ideals. Besides, although 'Season's Greeting's' is theoretically a generic greeting, suitable for any time of year, and ultimately pointless*, most people associate it with Christmas, as per Chuck's comment. So it effectively says "Happy Season formerly known as Christmas". Again, how pointless.

Fear not, when the time comes, I will be celebrating Christmas and enjoying every minute of it.

On another note, further to my last post, I caught an earlier train today. Hence no man with laugh. Do watch this space though.

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*you may as well send a card which says simply "hello".

"the man with the laugh"

The anonymous comment on my last post was probably from someone who does not commute in the area, or who never catches the train in question.

For, as I am finding out, anyone who has ever caught this particular train knows about "the man with the laugh". Some avoid the first carriage because he annoys them. Others have told tales of an indescribable laugh, of his tendancy to knock back a few Stellas, and of the fact that if his phone rings it rings to the tones of his laugh. Small wonder, then, that I was disappointed not to encounter him yesterday.

Given my tendancy to be quite gullible recently, I'm slightly paranoid that I'm the subject of a big stitch-up, but I'm taking comfort in the fact that my sources are too numerous and eclectic.

Day Three In The Office, meanwhile. Ken was still ill, so no project per se, but I've been shadowing someone else today and found it extremely interesting. It's all good, then.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

so where's the man with the laugh?

So here I am in the front coach of the 17.21 ex London train. "You can't mistake him" I've been told. And yet, I sit here in relative silence. There's no laughter, not even of the 'normal' kind, and so it looks as though this particular legend has evaded me so far.

Meanwhile, Day Two in the Office was good. I met some more good people - including some more my age - and though the work hasn't yet picked up properly, I've had an interesting day.

Defined by user

Monday, November 05, 2007

station announcement

It would seem that they have taken to announcing any problems on the London Underground on the stations in this area during rush-hour. I did think at first that this was a useful thing for all those hundreds of people who were travelling in to The Capital; however, when the computer announcement advised passengers to "allow extra time for the journey" I raised an eyebrow*. I assume that anyone who is at the station to hear the announcement has already embarked on their journey and that they cannot suddenly allow more time. What a waste of computerised breath.

>>

*not literally. I don't possess that skill.

Defined by user

day one in the office

Sitting on the train now, it seems to be an opportune moment to reflect on my first day in the office. Sitting on the train is always a good time to reflect and blog, and coincidentally today was my first day in the office.

There was a clear lack of vibrance in HR, and form filling and other such necessesities of induction is never the most interesting experience anyway. I enjoyed being shown around though, and the people in my department all seem really friendly. I remain unconvinced that 'computer geek' is an ideal role for someone who thrives on being a 'people person' but I did really enjoy being introduced to everyone today.

For one reason or another I've not been given my part in a project yet, but I look forward to it, if not the stress which might at times accompany it.

So, the new phase in my life has begun, and I am no longer a student or a man of leisure. I wonder what my thoughts will be when I look back on this a few months down the line?

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Friday, November 02, 2007

journey of contentment

As I sit on the train between my earlier appointment in Belgravia and my afternoon appointment in Cheltenham, digesting my doughnut* and sipping my gingerbread latte, I'm feeling rather contented. The autumn sun is streaming in through the window and the colours outside look beautiful. I'm even enjoying the smell of hot brakes, although the ensuing stop and the fact we have just been passed by a freight train is less good.
The train is quite busy which makes it ideal for People Watching, one of my favourite pastimes. I've not yet identified any properly blogworthy characters, although someone further up the coach has an annoying ringtone or desire to play the odd bit of music through their phone. It's nothing worthy of a rant though.**

I find the phenomenon of being in such close proximity with lots of people whom I know nothing about and with whom I will never speak quite interesting. The girl opposite has been diligently reading an introductory book on Ancient Greek and making neat pencil notes on an A4 pad. Cultured Intelligence. I like that, although I suspect she might be slightly too young for me. I'm not sure, but it's all academic, because we've not engaged in a process of exchanging smiles. She only smiled at me the once when I boarded the train, which doesn't compare favourably with previous events recorded here.

The good news is that as I've been rambling we have passed the freight train again. Apparently the delay was trespassers on the line, which has annoyed me. It will annoy me much more if I miss my connection but for now I shall make do with saying in an annoyed and self-righteouss way "some people".

Anyway, I shall stop rambling for now and sit back wondering why the bloke across the way has a holder for his beer can. It doesn't seem to be the type to keep the beer cool, and therefore seems to be a rather pointless accessory.

Bye for now.
>>

*Krispy Kreme Original Glazed. mmm.

**Sorry for the disappointment.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

season's greetings

Season's Greetings from JP

Friday, October 26, 2007

beard watch

The title of this post might be seen as a little misleading (if I'm allowed to state that in the current political climate), because the beard is no more. For the time being, at least.

It actually went in the middle of the week, before I had viewed the recent survey results. I'm not sure why, really. It had begun to annoy me slightly, but I think if I am honest, the main reason was my vanity. Making the most of the good weather had helped me to start to tan well, and I perhaps didn't want to risk starting work with a comparatively white chin. Keep that to yourself though.

Anyway, as far as the survey is concerned, I'm pleased to say that this time around the results agreed with my predictions. Even if those predictions meant not being a hit with the ladies. That said, if you were the girl who went 'mmm', and you're unmarried and beautiful, you should drop me a line. "I'd regrow my beard for you anytime" surely isn't the worst chat-up line I've ever thought of.

angry with the BBC

It's been a while since I had a good rant, but having returned from my holiday the opportunity has arisen. Not a moment too soon, some might say.

Whilst I was away, my computer was on a timer, set to come one and off on occasion and get on with a few things for me. Videoing the Grand Prix, for example.

Unfortunately, despite explicitly ensuring that the BBC iPlayer software was not set to come on automatically , it appears that a component - the 'Delivery Manager Service' - ignored that particular instruction. This meant that huge volumes of data were transferred to and from the internet for the benefit of other BBC "customers" at my expense* and an email was received from our ISP explaining that we were near our usage limit. I made arrangements for the computer to be disconnected from the 'net, but alas it wasn't soon enough to stop us exceeding the monthly upload/download limit, and charges have been incurred.

Such deviousness and unsolicited use of the internet is bad for any bit of software, but from the BBC it's very disappointing, and completely unacceptable.

Judging by the angry forum posts, I'm not the only one who's a little bit annoyed by this.

So, I now share Shreyas' ill feeling towards the BBC and when I get around to updating it, the blacklist will soon feature the BBC. No horse is sacred, or whatever the phrase is meant to be.

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*technically not my expense in this case, but the expense of the billpayer in the house in which I currently reside. And yes I do ask them for permission before entering phone-in competitions. Or at least, I would if I did. As it were.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Good Times Had By All

I've just spent the weekend camping in West Wales, and it was awesome. The weather was gorgeous and I really enjoyed being on the beach*, playing cricket, messing about in inflatable boats, and even swimming. Nice. I was also introduced to the world of (amateur) golf, which I enjoyed very much and embarked a bit of walking. We also spent an evening on a beach, with a fire, some marshmallows and some bananas stuffed with chocolate and wrapped in foil. A Good Combination. I didn't burn my hand this time, though I did somehow slice my finger painlessly, drawing copious amounts of blood.

It was great to catch up with good friends in the process, and I think that the title of this post really says it all.

>
*in swimming shorts, not speedos. Sorry for any disappointment this may cause.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

to shave, or not to shave, that is the question

Making the most of being a man of leisure for just a short while longer, I have decided to "experiment" again with my facial hair. We're not talking full beard or dodgy 'tache, but something cultivated*; along the lines of what you should see in my photograph.

For want of something more meaningful and mature, I have decided to use this latest development as the basis for my new poll (see right), even though I suspect I know what the outcome will be, and will probably take no notice if you're a bloke**. Vote now.

>>
*In theory, at least.

**Don't feel as though I'm discriminating purely on gender here. If I knew you were old, married or ugly your opinion probably wouldn't count for much either.

test results

As I promised just a moment ago, it's time to return to the theory I was testing.

That theory was, quite simply, that "everyone has an Uncle John". However, even in the spirit with which it was meant ("most people have an Uncle John"), my poll has proven me wrong. Even if you present the figures in a big way ("47.36% of people have an Uncle John"), they just don't back up my hypothesis.

If I am honest, there was no basis at all for my hypothesis save for the fact that I know a lot of people who have an Uncle John*. I even have an Uncle called John myself.

Basis or no basis, however, I still have to admit that I was wrong. Better luck next time, as they say.

>>

*one of my friends must, I'm sure, have several Uncles called John

rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated

Despite John's concerns, I am pleased to announce that I am not dead. Though you could be forgiven for thinking so, because I haven't blogged in over a month - a new record for me - and I just left things hanging in mid-air. Although there's nothing like a good cliff-hanger, I suspect that those of you who still bother to tune in have given up wondering long ago what theory I was putting to the test, and whether my survey proved or disproved it. I'll come back to that in a moment.

I have a lot of reasonably plausible excuses for my absence from the Blogosphere - finishing a dissertation is a good one, as is moving house. I also quite like 'being in a period of transition', and I am yet to get back in to some sort of routine. It is also fair to say that I have been spending my time on other things recently. Including fast cars and aeroplanes*. Well, you would, wouldn't you...

Anyway, one can make excuses until the cows come home. A bad workman blames his tools, and all that. But the fact is, I'm back. Spread the word**. Have a party if you're so inclined. And let the good times roll...

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*technically it's just one fast car and one aeroplane, and I wasn't driving either. Furthermore, I've spent more time messing with computers than I have living in the fast lane (literally), but somehow that's just not as cool.

**Please. My ego needs it. Send a few emails. Talk about it down the pub. Get a T-Shirt printed. "Every little helps".

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

testing a theory

After some absence caused largely by Blogspot technical difficulties and the fact that I have had better things to do (like my on-going dissertation) I am pleased to announce the presence of another poll in the sidebar. Yay.

This one is simple, doing exactly what it says on the tin*. I should probably also clarify that I am asking whether or not you have an uncle who is called John and that 'Uncle John' is not slang for part of the anatomy (a la 'John Thomas') or a practical commodity (a la 'Little John'). As if I'd ever be so immature anyway.

So, what are you waiting for? Vote Now.**



*Like Ronseal. Except here it's less of a tin and more of a post title.

**Open to readers across the blogosphere.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

on hiring a transit van


transitvan
Originally uploaded by JP1984.

Developing a tradition of posting blurry photos which may resemble something if you squint hard enough, this advert was drawn to my attention and I thought that it was worth sharing.

I have no need of a transit van at the moment, but I was nonetheless intrigued by the fact that one of the services they purport to offer is 'Bank Jobs'. I wonder how that fits in with the assertion that they are 'friendly and flexible'?

If you're planning to rob a bank and cannot decipher the cunningly smudged contact details, please get in touch and I will see what I can do. For a small commission I'd be delighted to help, and just think - it might enable me to afford a proper camera or a new phone...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Boris? JP says "yes"

I know from one of my polls that some of you are already minded to vote for Boris in his campaign to be London Mayor, and will so cast that vote if you are eligible. I hope that the rest of you have since seen sense, and will join me in supporting Boris. If you were in the ignorant/clueless category, click here.

The reasons to vote Ken out are mounting*, but if you're still dithering about doing the right thing, you should check out Boris' speech. It's rather good.

So, the message is simple. Back Boris, and if you're lucky enough to be able to vote, don't waste the opportunity. To quote from the BBC,

Anyone registered to vote in London, irrespective of which party they support, can vote in the ballot which closes on 26 September. The result is due to be announced the next morning.


*EDIT: As Alasdair notes, this was a slightly spurious link, because I have no proof that Ken is to blame for the current Tube strike, and the post was more a rant about Bob Crow, anyway. However, Ken must have been involved somehow, and he is certainly one of those 'socialists' I loathe.

The fact is however, I have certainly heard quite a few negative comments about Ken, and a quick Google search revealed a few more unhappy bloggers. He's known to be "not everybody's cup of tea". I for one am not happy with the extortionate Tube fares, nor am I a fan of the new buses.

Interestingly, it is an article from The Guardian which gives me another good reason not to vote for him (if I could). Evidently it seems that he is demonstrating his ability to be economical with the truth, and his need to "spin". Threatened by Boris, are we Mr Livingstone?

the effects of Communism on London

Need I say more?.

Is this Ken's fault? I wouldn't be surprised if it was, but we all know that I wouldn't vote for him anyway so I'll not rant about him this time.

Instead, yet again, it's Bob Crow who is the target of my wrath*. Words almost fail me, and most of those which don't are unprintable. I note from Wikipedia that this joker was a member of the British Communist Party, and he embodies perfectly the assertions made about Communism by George Orwell in Animal Farm. Although you could argue that because the disruption is so widespread that all Londoners are - in fact - being treated equally, what we actually have is someone who will abuse his position and do all he can to get what he wants, regardless of the effects on anyone else. Bob and his cronies are enjoying a few days holiday at the expense of disruption and inconvenience for the vast majority, and it's far from 'fair' or 'ideal'.

The sad thing is, however, is that although most people would probably agree with my sentiments about the workings of Communism, there are probably quite a few so called 'socialists' who like to appear as caring and sharing but really would also not stop at much to get their own way at the expense of others**. People really should practise what they preach once in a while.



*I hope he's scared.

**Unless "others" means animals.

Friday, August 31, 2007

HSBC? JP says "No".

The observant amongst you may have noticed that whilst I was waiting for some simulation results yesterday I updated my Black- and Whitelist.

HSBC now feature on the blacklist, for misleading me about my overdraft limit, wrongly applying charges to my account, sending me several conflicting pieces of information and advice, and - finally - scrapping the Interest Free Graduate Account Overdraft I was promised when I signed up to their student account. Oh, and their Customer Services people are useless. My first complaint yielded some patronising and irrelevant advice on how to pay in a cheque, and my follow up to this was not even acknowledged.

Judging by conversations I have had with others, and this article, I am by no means alone. Despite the apparent 'U-turn' alluded to by the BBC I still lack any faith in HSBC at all and look forward to taking my custom elsewhere when I have finished my course.

So, if you're looking for a student bank account, and want JP's top tip of the day, it's simple. Don't bank with HSBC.*


*As a man of principles I'd also advocate avoiding NatWest ( for their ID Policy) and I've not heard great things about Barclays, either. Hmmm.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

train strain

It might be said that I talk a lot about trains. Some might even say that I talk too much about trains, though it can't really be helped. Besides, if one reads closely, it can be seen that I rarely talk about the train itself. More often than not the train is my preferred way of getting from A to B, and seldom do I ever find a better combination of something to say and time in which to say it than when I am sat back and watching the world go by.

Of course, I have been known to have a few train-related rants, and usually, as in this post, the incompetent Department for Transport (DfT) is the deserving focus of my anger. I've never really subjected you to my rants when the train is late and overcrowded, or when I am squashed in a seat not designed for human beings, but this is probably because I vent my anger at the Train Company concerned. If my complaint is justified they might furnish me with free travel vouchers, which is much more satisfying (if not so good for my ego) than knowing that a few people have read my ramblings and possibly felt a bit of sympathy.

Nonetheless, it was reassuring recently to stumble upon I Hate First Great Western and First Late Western. Reassuring because there are obviously people who commute in the same area as me who would certainly empathise and offer sympathy if I shared my rants, and reassuring because here is proof that there are people out there who talk about trains more than I do. Being the sort of person that I am, it's also nice to have a bit of an insight in to the lives of fellow commuters.

As a result I have also started reading In Defence of First Great Western, which gives some interesting perspectives from 'the inside', and some more reassuring evidence that there are others who sometimes feel the need to rant like I do. I quite like this blog because it opens up a world behind the excuses so often used to fob people off, and provides an interesting view on the complicated workings of the railway industry.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

which of you blokes is male?

Whilst waiting for my train home I like nothing better than to cast my beady eye through the Metro*. Today I was drawn towards the advert for Virgin Media, in which they are announcing that they were Number One in a Customer Satisfaction Survey. I don't blame them for shouting about such a surprising fact, though and I dread to think what experiences people have had elsewhere. It's not exactly stating the obvious.

What is stating the obvious, however, is the rather amusing small print. After learning who conducted the survey and how many respondents there were**, the reader who bothers to continue is rewarded with the following disclaimer. "Your experiences may vary".

What would be the point in surveying people if we all thought the same?


*Trains and a 'quality' rag. A winning combination for those who are easily pleased.

**2706. If you were wondering.

Defined by user

Monday, August 20, 2007

picking up where I left off

It seems that as I enjoyed my train ride along the top of the Dawlish Sea Wall and up the Teign Estuary I negelected to notice that part of my last post got lost in the ether. I think I must have been sidetracked by the raft-race* and the shipwreck I saw, not to mention the beautiful scenery. So, for those of you, like John who have felt The Cliff Hanger Effect, and been checking this page at every opportunity**, I am delighted to inform you that the next installment is finally here.

Well, ish. Friday's Metro is a bit 'last week' now, and I've lost the flow I was in at the time. Basically I was amused by the fact that the picture had blatantly been an attempt to cash in on the 'celebrity culture' but rather than getting a famous young musician, 'musician', actor or upcoming footballer they'd gone for the upcoming footballer's girlfriend. Which is no more impressive than saying that "I live next door to the person who walks the dog with somebody really famous."***

My weekend, incidentally, was amazing. I saw Dartmoor at its best (or worst, depending on your viewpoint). I enjoyed a walk on Saturday in the middle of a moor so bleak that the prison we were close to was no more than a shadow in the midst. I also enjoyed excellent company and wonderful hospitality. Arriving after a slightly delayed train journey on Friday night to views of the moor in the fading light and the promise of red wine, fillet steak and curly fries was just fantastic.


*The height of excitement.

**I've not checked, but if it's boosted my viewing figures (and therefore my ego) I should do it more often.

***If my neighbour does know somebody really famous, I am unaware of this fact.

Friday, August 17, 2007

more joys of train travel (you know you love it, really)

I've just changed trains in Exeter and at the station I met someone I know and haven't seen for ages. I love it when I meet people in this manner, and it's a small world (as I often say). Is it me though, or does it happen to me more than most?

Other highlights of my journey so far include seeing some Americans being totally clueless as to how to open the door and get off the train I'm now on, and finding a copy of the Metro.

I know, it's a rag, but I love it. I was particularly amused by the front page picture showing someone collecting their A'level results. The aim has obviously

Monday, August 13, 2007

more trouble for Heathrow

I have just been reading the BBC News article about the protests at Heathrow, and the associated Have Your Say page. Which, for once, is pleasantly free from unnecessary capital letters (IDIOTS) and poor spelling.

It might not surprise you to know that I don't have much time for these self-righteouss tent dwellers, and I am disappointed that in the name of a "peaceful protest" they are seemingly being allowed to dwell illegally on Imperial College land (wasting police time, money and resources in the process). If you ask me, they should be thrown out, now. End of. Doubtless someone will cry "deplorable" and "irresponsible" but I was quite amused by the comment by the guy who wondered if he could get away with doing 33mph in a 30 Zone by claiming to be "protesting peacefully". There is some logic there.

I find these people extremely selfish, and they will doubtless inconvenience lots of holiday makers despite assurances that they won't; apparently they are only targeting BAA. That's like closing a supermarket and claiming that those who wish to shop there won't be inconvenienced.

I also feel that they need to get their science right. Let's see some hard facts rather than random claims of "more air travel will lead to dead babies". I don't doubt that we should be working to be responsible and curb our effect on the environment, but as far as I understand it air travel is not as big a factor as people make it out to be. It's just an easy target. Why aren't people protesting that China is building two coal power stations a week?

I also think that the effects of Heathrow's planned expansion - and the alternatives - need to be considered. Will not expanding curb air travel? Probably not. Instead, pressure will mount on other airports, in this country and abroad, and expansion will doubtless take place somewhere. Furthermore, the holding time for aeroplanes above Heathrow will not be reduced. Correct me if I am wrong but a plane in a holding pattern still outputs Carbon Dioxide.

Like others on the Have Your Say page, I am also keen to know how the illegal campers who came from abroad got here. Did they fly? I'll also bet that those who weren't so hypocritcal came by car or bus. Possibly not one which had been well maintained and certainly one which would have given off Carbon Dioxide and other nastier gases. If you're so concerned about limiting your Carbon Footprint, why didn't you stay at home?

Finally, am I alone in wondering what sort of idiot buys a house in the Heathrow flight path and then thinks it's perfectly OK for them to complain about the noise?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

that "country house on the outskirts of London"

I had a wonderful day with friends in London yesterday, the highlight being my visit to The Palace. It is well worth a visit, and I really enjoyed it. There is a lot to see, and to take in; and you can't fail to be impressed with a lot of the decor. I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that the chandeliers in the ballroom are a massive 11ft tall, and the general attention to detail is staggering. I really liked the picture galleries and the way in which etched glass roofs allow for a good amount of natural light and mirrors are used to build up a feeling of space.

I have to say that I also found it fairly surreal, and can't quite believe that this time yesterday I was stood by the table at which HM the Queen hosts her banquets.

After the visit, and a stroll through the gardens (with lush ice cream from the Royal suppliers) we enjoyed the sunshine in Green Park, followed by a few drinks and a meal in Chinatown. At a Chinese restaurant, surprisingly. The food was good, and if you're interested in this sort of thing, Jasmine tea is now on the list of "teas I like".

It's a small world after all...

...It's a small world after all,
It's a small world after all,
It's a small, small world.

Some of you may have read Jordan Gray's recent comments on this post, this post and this one.

As Jordan pointed out, there is a hilarious sequence of co-incidences involved here:

"* I write a random comment on The Times website;
* you respond to my comment in particular on your blog;
* we meet each other and become friends on Iona;
* I find the response on your blog by complete accident."

Anyway, having enjoyed getting to know Jordan on Iona it is great to hear his point of view, and he's got some good things to say. I should probably concoct some sort of response to the various debates at some point, but for now do go and take the time to read his comments.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"A Christian Hell. The Worst Kind of Hell."

The poster I encountered in Bristol and blogged about in my last post for your viewing pleasure has got me thinking. Not the bit about throwing some questionably exotic shapes - though I was pleased to see the phrase used - but the bit referring to Hell. Hopefully, given the title of this post, that won't surprise you.

I wouldn't know whether the Christian Hell is the worst type of Hell - and neither would you - though in the strictest sense of the definition I think that it is the only Hell, so I guess that it could qualify. As a Christian, I would define Hell as a place of eternal separation from God, and I would suggest that this is A Bad Thing. Especially if the imagery used in the Bible is anything to go by.

I suspect, however, that the promotor of the 4th Anniversary of the Great Row Boat Rave was thinking along other lines. Christians are renowned for preaching hellfire and damnation more than most, and often perceived as making people feel guilty more than most. So, in that sense, maybe it is the worst type of Hell.

The thing is, as a Christian, I have never condemned anyone to Hell. It's God's job to judge, not mine. What I can say however is that with the message of the Christian faith being the option of reconciliation with God then there must be an alternative - eternal separation from Him. Now, no-one is perfect, and I don't doubt that some of the street preachers out there are perhaps a little extreme or misguided, but ultimately their aim is to promote the good news - and the importance - of God's offer of forgiveness. Making people feel guilty should not be part of the mandate, and if I have ever done that, I apologise.

The fact is that we have all fallen short of God's standards, no matter how good you think you are, but the offer of reconciliation with God is there if you want it. So, next time you feel the need to whinge about Christians being judgemental and condemning snap out of the victim mentality for once and remember that the choice is yours.

Giant Row Boat Rave


Giant Row Boat Rave
Originally uploaded by JP1984.

'Four years ago some idiots put on a rave. It was a rave like no other. They described it as deranged fairground music for it was like riding a psychedelic carousel that took you up to the ninth cloud upon high and then right down to the depths of a Christian hell. The worst kind of hell.

They thought it was fun, but by and at the cost of their own minds they endeavoured to make people extremely happy. The people danced, cheered and watched in awe as a small group would throw some questionably exotic shapes.

It was stupid, very stupid, and so time was taken for rest and sanity. That is until it was officially proclaimed...

"Stupid is fun you boring t**t, so put down those crocs and shut up as you will not go elsewhere for a chill as we are all just trying to chill out but first you will 'ave it and f***ing 'ave it you will, right now!"'



I found this poster in Bristol after I walked there on Saturday. It was in the new building area near Temple Meads, and I was greatly amused to see that someone else had used the term "throwing some shapes", Or, to be more precise, "throwing some questionably exotic shapes". Pleasing.

I think that it's advertising the fourth anniversary of a rave known as the 'Giant Row Boat', but other than the date (Sat. 4th August) information seems to be scarce. Did anyone go? Was it any good?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

your regular fix of on-train action

Whilst watching the world go by, I have just been treated to an automated message advising me to buy a ticket before I board the train, or else I risk paying a penalty fare. Now that's all well and good (and I have a ticket) but making such an announcement on board is akin to printing "do not turn upside down" on the bottom of a box.

Or, for the bus fan(s) amongst you it's the same as the tip up seats on the bus I travel on for part of my commute. Every day I read "These are tip up seats" proclaimed by the sticker attached under the base of the seat, and visible only when the seats are 'tipped up'. Well I never.


This packet may contain nuts.

Defined by user

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

famous for my pogo stick

As part of my research, I am investigating something known as the Shannon Limit. It is a theory put forwards by Claude Shannon* about the maximum amount of data which can be transmitted through a noisy channel.**

Whilst reading up on it, I have found a list of other things Shannon was famous for, and number two on the list is - wait for it - "a gasoline-powered pogo stick". The mind boggles slightly, but how very cool!

I'm sure that the number one thing on the list, "his electronic computer working with roman numerals" was terribly clever, and exciting if you have cultivated facial hair and thick spectacles but personally I'd have stopped at the pogo stick, because it just sounds so much better. It's funny how the more useless achievements are often the ones which grab the attention.

What would you like to be known for?

*Funnily enough. The Shannon bit, I mean. There's no suggestion in his theory that he had to be called Claude.

**That's probably all you need to know, but if you do know more do let me know, as I might find it useful.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Boris emerges victorious after poor turnout

Thank you to all who voted in my first poll. The turn out didn't match well with my weekly viewing figures (and it matches even less if it was one of you who voted 21 times) but it was nice to see a good mix of opinions, and even nicer to see that Boris technically triumphed by two votes.

I think I'm going to use this week to find out a little more about my readership. Not in a "I want to spy on you and thieve your credit card details"* sort of way but in a "I'm quite interested in some general trends" way. (In my best Marcus Bentley voice) Vote now.

*In case there was any doubt I am too nice to contemplate that.

Friday, July 20, 2007

one wave short of a shipwreck

Part of me is very glad indeed that I worked from home today. I've had quite a nice time, as it happens, and had I not become engrossed in my work this afternoon you might have heard how I really appreciated my little shopping trip before lunch to the butcher, the baker and the, ahem, greengrocer, along the main street in an area which I am becoming increasingly attached to. I also enjoyed the most delicious rump steak for dinner, which in many ways made not being trapped in Swindon even sweeter.

Of course, I feel very sorry for everyone who has been stuck by the flash floods, but there is a part of me that isn't pleased I worked at home. Part of me longs to have been in the chaos, in the thick of the action. Part of me wants to be in the crowds at the station, and not watching them on TV. Part of me longs to know what it's like for a commute to turn in to being stranded overnight, and I feel that I should experience it now, whilst I am young and have nowhere I desparately need to be rather than when I am old and saddled with responsibility.

Just think, yours truly could have been there, blogging live from the scene, soaking up the atmosphere and sharing it in a way which TV never can. Instead I'm blogging from my living room, with nothing more to interesting or unusual to say than "I'm about to go to the pub". Still, it beats staying in on a Friday night and changing my bank, I guess.

Am I going slightly mad?

3 days left to vote!

Come on, cast your vote in my new poll now if you haven't done already!

adding some shiraz and some shafizz to the blogosphere

I was quite sad when my housemate Shreyas moved on to pastures new at the beginning of the month.

I am however delighted to announce that he has started a blog, which is well written and gives an interesting perspective on life in London.

Another item on the list of (also updated and amended) links to other parts of the blogosphere. Hello, Shreyas.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

snapshot on a social scene

I'm stood next to a group of elegantly dressed women who are drinking bubbly, eating nibbles and indulging in animated conversation. A bloke has just passed through carrying a beer. It's like being a fly on the wall at a classy social occassion.
I'm not however at a country house or classy hotel. As with all good blog posts, I'm on a train. So rather than accusing me of gatecrashing, join me in enjoying the randomness of a party at 125mph and share my appreciation that despite overcrowding, and rain outside, my commute home is actually rather pleasant.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

unsolved mystery

So, I'm on a train (keep reading...) and we've just stopped at Cam & Dursley. Immediately after pulling out of the station we came to a sudden and abrupt halt, and after a couple of minutes three teenagers were led through the train whereupon the guard and driver popped the rear doors open and helped them climb backwards out and down on to the trackside, whereupon the driver walked them back on to the platform. As the guard passed back through the train, my attempt to find out what was going on was met by an abrupt "nothing" and "we'll be on the move again shortly, that's all you need to know. Get back to what you were doing."

I'm inclined to say that the teenagers weren't fare dodgers, because they weren't escorted in a manner which suggested they'd done something wrong. They also didn't look the type, but I'd have said the guard was friendly until just now so let's not judge by appearance.

The question is, therefore, why did we stop and why did they leave the train in that manner? Can you imagine what would happen if trains stopped outside the station every time someone realised they had missed their stop? Back in West Sussex, where short platforms mean that one cannot always alight from their coach this would cause chaos. JP's current theory is that perhaps the front doors aren't working and the guys had been inadvertently trapped on board. I might test this when it's time for me to get out, though either result wouldn't be conclusive proof.

Alternatively, maybe they were Russians...

Defined by user

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

why tanning easily is an asset

I was on the bus* the other day, sporting the beginnings of a tan which I had developed during my recent visit to Weymouth.

There were a group of girls sat near me, who - despite what I'm about to say - I think were Spanish. As the bus lurched along in the usual manner I became aware that they were looking in my direction, and after a small debate one of them said loudly "Italiano?"

I proceeded to smile and utter that I wasn't, in fact, Italian. Although this raised a smile, it also appeared to cause much embarrassment for the girl who'd asked the question.

Fortunately my stop wasn't far away, so any awkwardness was short lived. I'm not even sure what possessed me to respond in the first place; despite my dark skin, good looks, and ability to be as animated as the best of them I fear that my lack of style would have given it away without the need to open my big mouth.

Brushing that small detail aside though, I do regret not being able to speak Italian; maybe I should learn before it happens again and the girl(s) in question happen to be stunning...

*Yes, a bus. Not a train. For once.

Defined by user

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sunday, July 15, 2007

in response to the holy father

Those of you who bother to read the comments on this blog will know that Ross recently flagged up this article and asked me what I thought about the claims that only the Catholic Church is the "proper church". So, let the debate begin.

My first reaction was that this is a bit of a pointless argument, and yet another distraction from the important, but simple truth of the Christian faith.

In essence, the Christian faith is based around the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the acceptance of that as the way in which we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. As I have said many times before, belief in Jesus Christ is the key factor. We've all fallen short of God's standards, no matter how much of a 'good life' you arrogantly or otherwise believe yourself to lead. No amount of 'good deeds' can compensate for this. Equally, if you're prepared to turn back to God nothing is too bad to prevent you from being restored in a relationship with Him - consider the thief on the cross next to Jesus or the Parable of the Prodigal (Lost) Son.

Now of course, what you do and how you choose to live your life is still important. Christians generally try to live up to God's standards in the way in which we conduct or lives; partially out of love for God, and partially because faith without action doesn't say anything.

Does going to church, therefore, have a bearing here? I think going to church is vital - not because you'll burn in hell if you don't - but because it is important to meet and spend time with other Christians, and because it provides a good environment in which to worship God, to learn and be challenged and to pray, for the world and for others. Does it matter which church you go to, though? It's often been said that there is no such thing as a perfect church, and that is probably true. The important thing is that a church teaches and adheres to the Christian Gospel, and to God's teachings. Without such a baseline, it is - dare I say it - pointless. How are Christians meant to support one another in living out and sharing their faith if the church is not clear on what that faith is? Beyond that, whether you prefer to worship God in silence, with hymns, in an ornate building, in a 1960s hall, with incense or otherwise is really a case of personal preference.

What strikes me is that variations in style (and to a certain extent, teaching) are cross denomination. One might not always find every extreme in both Protestant and Anglican churches, but there is certainly a good cross-over. As alluded to in the article from The Times therefore, the issue raised by the document about the "proper church" really boils down to recognition of the authority of the Pope. Now maybe I'm wrong, but I thought Jesus said "I am The Way, The Truth and The Life" and "Believe in Him who sent me and you shall have eternal life". He didn't say "Believe in me and accept the authority of the Pope", so, in terms of what the Christian Gospel is really all about, it's a moot point.

So, there we go. A lengthy, but hopefully useful response.

If you want a further take on it, I thought this post from Dave Walker was brilliant.

a new record!

On 12th July, apparently, 51 people landed in this corner of the Blogosphere, which is a new one-day high.

If you were one of them, thank you for massaging my ego.

oh I do like to be beside the seaside


Weymouth
Originally uploaded by JP1984.

Yesterday I travelled to Weymouth and enjoyed a quality day with friends in this rather attractive Dorset resort.

My camera is terrible and so the photos aren't particularly representative, but suffice to say that for much of the day the sun was shining (the weather was sweet, yeah). So much so, in fact, that I was secretly rather pleased with the fact I might have come away with something resembling a sun-tan. Vain, moi?

It was so good to see Stan and Josh again, having not seen them for ages and we enjoyed delicious fish and chips for lunch, a stroll to a coastal fort, a walk along the quaint quay, a trip across the harbour in a rowing boat and an ice-cream on the beach. We also encountered the best example of a Dorset accent I think I've ever heard. I'd only been to Weymouth once before when I was younger, and certainly I was really taken with it when I went yesterday. The quayside is lovely, with a good few places to eat and drink, and a mixture of classy yachts and fishing trawlers moored up. Unsurprisingly, the presence of a (sadly seemingly un-used) railway line running through the street was a highlight for me, but keep that to yourself. I really liked the beach as well; the sand had a nice texture to it, and the sea was warm (though I didn't swim, alas).

Going back to my attempts at photography for a minute, does anyone know what feathering means? The problem with using jargon on this sort of sign is that one might contravene it inadvertently. Apologies to all involved if you saw me feathering yesterday, it was unintentional. I suspect, however that the looks I got yesterday were due to the fact that I did at one point take my shirt off*. Either that or the fact that I had trouble pronouncing "that's lovely, thanks"; I think the girl in the ice-cream 'hut' (?) thought that I was so happy with the ice-cream she'd just served me (which was very nice) that I'd just declared my undying love for her.

As ever when I'm in such company there were many classic quotes which emerged from the day. My favourite, however, came not from Stan or Josh, but from the Punch and Judy show I caught a few minutes of.

"It's like Morris Dancing, only there are people watching".


*Don't judge me, I'm not that offensive. Certainly not as much as the guy outside at the cafe who'd rolled his shorts/boxers up in to something resembling Speedos.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

answers to all the world's problems

Whilst I am blogging prolifically, I thought I would mention the fact that amongst the usual searches for 'Circus Mondao' and 'JP's Cake Corner' (for which you probably want Kake Korner) I have discovered that someone landed in this corner of the blogosphere after searching for 'answers to the world's problems'. If that was you, I hope I was able to offer you more than the usual oh-so-funny "42".

Changing the subject, thank you, Ross, for the link. I've not read it yet, but I like the sound of some interesting debate...

in my beautiful neighbourhood

As I walked home - still without a musical accompaniment per se - some lyrics popped in to my head, which in theory at least, suited my thoughts. (The ones at the time, not the same thoughts I'd needed lyrics for earlier).

Unfortunately, however, Space's classic was sarcastic and talks about a neighbourhood populated by serial killers and the like. My neighbourhood on the other hand contains things such as nice houses and a quaint-but-useful shopping street. As I walked through it I genuinely did think it was beautiful, in a 'I really like living here' sort of way.

if I post the letter, will she send me free rail vouchers? (epilogue)

I have to admit that I'm not entirely sure what epilogue means, but it seems to be appropriate here.

I've learned that Damien Rice's lyrics can be quite apt, but despite having a particular song in my head I've not listened to it since. I've also discovered that there are times, such as now, when there are surely appropriate lyrics out there, and your MP3 player is to hand, but yet you sit on the train in silence...

if I post the letter, will she send me free rail vouchers?

I opened the 'First Group' envelope eagerly on Saturday morning, and was devastated to find that my latest and greatest letter of complaint to First Great Western had yielded no free rail travel vouchers. My goal of £100 over recent years is as far away as it ever was. I think it's because I started my letter with a compliment* about one of their staff, but I'm still disappointed, especially as their 'apologetic' letter was pathetic.



*By compliment, I'm referring to the fact that the standard of service offered was good (more on that if/when I relay my latest train story) not that they were fit.

starting the day with a smile

This article greatly amused me this morning. I have to admit the fact that he 'shaved his head and trimmed his goatee 'with a view to becoming 'belle of the ball' (whatever that means; all I can say I was surprised that the article then mentions a girlfriend) amused me as much as the fact he got the date so wrong. Getting the date wrong sounds like an easy mistake to make, as well...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

finally...

...a good reason to vote for David Cameron.

I'm really pleased to see that the idea of marriage is being supported by politicians, and that it has been recognised that 'the current tax system "does not recognise the benefits of marriage" and "disincentivises adults from openly living together..."'

Labour of course are whinging:

'Ed Miliband said Mr Duncan Smith's proposals would "discriminate against some children" in its tax policy, adding: "I don't think it's right for politicians to come on and preach."'

Discrimination, discrimination. There are very few circumstances in which laws can be set which don't favour some slightly more than others, and I don't care much for the unnecessary and fruitless beauracracy trying to avoid it brings.

On the subject of whether or not politicians should "preach", Mr Milliband perhaps has a point at one level. But on the other hand, politicians should be prepared to stand up for their views, and lead by example. Apparently Christian Gordon Brown decimated any chance he had of my voting for him when he commented that 'religion is a private matter' and wouldn't be drawn on his beliefs. How sad that the country is in the hands of someone so gutless.

a question of grammar

In my last post, I quoted the annoying technician working in the vicinity. However, in keeping with my style, I blanked out the f-word; to have left it out completely would, I feel, have lessened the effect of the quotation.

In doing so, an interesting question has arisen. I preceded the word by "an", as one would if they said "effing". However, the technician preceded by it "a", because he didn't exactly say "effing" per se. So, arguably, "an" is incorrect, but to have written "a" wouldn't have seemed right either.

What do you reckon?

it's as if the guy in The Office is in the office

Despite the fact that Ricky Gervais is quite probably something of a joker in real life, I am a fan of his. Although I find it too cringeworthy to watch in anything other than small doses, I love The Office, and as I spend time in the corporate world I am starting to learn that in parts it's quite accurate.

Today, a few cubes away, there has been a technician who sounds just like the computer geek so well stereotyped in one episode. A couple of well placed partitions have so far prevented me from seeing if the resemblence extends to looks, but unfortunately they aren't much of a barrier to his loud and annoying voice.

Just like the guy in The Office, he seems to be taking his time ("I'm not an f***ing miracle worker") and despite such humble statements he sounds fairly full of himself.

If you've not seen the episode in question, do, and then you'll appreciate the smarmy drawl which I find quite irritating.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Worst Name Ever

On the bus just now on my way to the station I saw an advert for 'Jamiroquai - the most authentic Jamiroquai tribute'. It could have been a clever line, but then I unfortunately noticed that it actually read 'Jamirrorquai...'

Hmmm.

Talking of names, my perusal of tonight's TV guide in The Metro taught me that there is a new TV Show revolving around planning weddings for those couples who are too busy or otherwise put no effort in. My initial thought that perhaps such people should reconsider their intent was quickly superceded by my wondering whether or not 'Wedding Planner James Love' had a coincidentally appropriate surname or a badly chosen stage-name. I won't be watching the show, however, so it's kind of academic.

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sing for absolution

As I blog from the comfort of my train home, it has occurred to me that a new comment on my blog no longer massages my ego and assures me that someone has visited this corner of the blogosphere and lapped up my ramblings. Instead, it instills fear as I wonder what I might have gone and said or done.

In the last few posts I've gone and insulted the council without knowing my facts, been inadvertantly accused of homophobia, accidentally incited homophobic debate and faced accusations of deplorable behaviour.

Well, I guess we can't all be perfect.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

freelove freeway

After my well documented (page 7) failed romance on a train, I had the opportunity to try my skills at pulling whilst on the move in another context recently.

I was being driven by my friend Ben in his Audi along the M4 when we overtook a gorgeous girl in a VW Polo. "Get her number, get her number!" said Ben as I stared more than perhaps was polite or necessary. Unfortunately, getting the telephone number of someone in another car whilst you're both moving at motorway speeds requires ingenuity at the best of times, and my mind was pre-occupied at this point (she was hot). So, as she pulled off at a junction and we sailed on she was lost forever in the midst of time...

Ben, however, assured me that it was possible to get a phone number in such circumstances, and said something about "showing your telephone". This now had to be put to the test, and as luck would have it, an opportunity arose almost immediately as we drew alongside a beautiful brunette in a Renault 5. I would say "shame about the car" but then on reflection I like a bit of French chic and, let's face it, it wasn't a Daewoo or a Micra. Anyway, that's not the point. How did I get on with my quest?

As you can imagine - even in a bit of traffic - we weren't alongside for long so it all happened quite quickly, and it happened like this. After ascertaining that the occupant of the car was a good looking girl I retrieved my phone from the passenger door bin, and waved it around spasmodically, just long enough to get an odd look. Even though she stayed behind us on the motorway for quite a while, I think it's fair to say that I knew instantly I had not been successful. All I can say is that at least it was Ben's car and not mine.

I'm tempted to challenge Ben to demonstrate his theory, but his long term girlfriend might object. The determined part of me is tempted to prove myself that it can be done, but let's face it, it's probably easier to pull on a train and I've not managed that yet.

So, there you have it. Another non-story.

Still, all's well that ends well.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

hello john

It's time to welcome a new face on my links page - Sir John Stark MMath.

If you're in Bath you'll probably know John already (who doesn't?) and his diary* is well worth a read. He even has quite an amusing recent story about trains (see, I'm not the only one!)**.

So, hello, John.

*Some people just don't do the word 'blog'. Shame on them.

**In case you were worried, or suffering withdrawal symptoms, I do have another train story in the pipeline. You'll have to wait though because it's good enough to enjoy telling in person, and I want to be able to milk that.

it's all in the wording

I saw a bizarre advert on Facebook yesterday which made me smile, but not for the right reasons.

It read

Healthy, aged 18-45, native English speakers (women on birth control) needed for Psychiatry Dept study.

The use of brackets struck me as particularly odd. The implication is that all "healthy, aged 18-45 English speakers" are specific instances of "women on birth control", as it is written in the way that one might say "Nokia 6820 (a mobile telephone)".

Furthermore, as a native English speaker, aged between 18-45 (note the correct use of grammar there), I might see what appear to be the main criteria and apply. The bit in brackets appears to be a bit of an afterthought, although something tells me that men - on the pill or otherwise - might not be what they are looking for.

addressing some criticism

It seems as though my last post has sparked some controversy. I can't say I am surprised but even though I did clarify and expand on my views in response to a comment, it is perhaps evident I need to offer further clarification and explanation.

Firstly, to reiterate, I am not being homophobic. I can't speak for Scott, or others who choose to comment, but they are entitled to their opinion. After being quite vociferous in the past about Free Speech I am afraid that I am still very reluctant to moderate comments, but for those of you who need a disclaimer, "some of the views expressed are not necessarily my own".

Secondly, I have no problem with the Gay Pride march being included in the news; it was after all a big event. It is the way it was included, which sparked the last post. At one level, to include something in such an irrelevant way does not demonstrate the high standards of journalism I'd like to see from the BBC, and - ultimately does not do the march justice.

My main point, however, is that it was included in the headline article where the terrorism had otherwise pushed everything else back or out of the news completely, and I couldn't help but wonder if this was a reaction to the pressure which civil liberties groups might have otherwise exerted.

Obviously I have no proof, but - as my comment on the previous post details - I am fed up with civil liberties groups who so often have their own agenda in the name of 'equality' for all, and I object to the fact that the media might feel the need to succumb to them.

As I outlined in my last comment, many members of the groups in question are heterosexual and I am not having a go at anyone based on their sexual orientation.

Neither am I questioning the idea of equality; I'm purely arguing against the use of the term for selfish motives beyond what is necessary and the promotion of self righteousness.

At the end of the day, it was a (controversial) observation and subsequent comment on Saturday night's BBC News; feel free to continue the debate but from my PoV it's time to move on and go back to being a little more light-hearted.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

the mopeds were blessed by the Bishop of Norwich at the Cathedral

Sometimes you hear something out of context on the radio, and the mind boggles.

civil liberties cynicism

Last night I was watching the BBC News, feeling the shock and the disgust that many of you were also doubtless feeling about the recent attempted terrorist attacks. Anything I might wish to say about them will follow in due course, but this post is purely about the BBC reporting.

Part-way through the news, they cut to London and started with a whole spiel about the Gay Pride march which also took place yesterday. It was so completely irrelevant to the headline in question that my reaction, along with that of those I was with was initially "have they cut to the wrong video?" As the article continued it became clear that they hadn't, but the question of why it had been included there still remains.

Obviously, in ordinary circumstances, the march would have made the news without question and the cynic in me says that if the terrorism had been allowed to push it out of the headlines completely - as it did with everything else - the so called Civil Liberties groups would once again have been banging their drum and kicked up a fuss. Feel free to disagree, but nothing about these silly groups would surprise me any more, and the pressure that they have been known to exert in the media is outrageous.

Friday, June 29, 2007

there is such a thing as a free loo-roll

Sometimes when I go shopping it falls to me to purchase items for the shared house in which I live. You know, things like bin bags, washing up liquid, and - as was the case yesterday - loo-roll.

The member of staff in Sainsbury's who handed me a free pack of loo-rolls as part of a promotion couldn't have timed things much better therefore. Unfortunately her ability to pyschically read my shopping list stopped there, before she was able to also find me free pasta sauce, cereal and other more interesting items. Still, free loo-roll is better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick.

I also disproved another famous saying this week, after a BBQ at work proved that there is after all such thing as a free lunch.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

another rant at the jobsworths in the council (a post which does exactly what it says on the tin)

Nim - if you want to skip this, feel free.

When I came back from a short break in West Wales, I found that my housemate had had a bit of a clear out; the wine-bottles which had decorated our shelves, the jars which had been rinsed out and the cardboard from a few packing boxes lay ready to be put out with a very full box for recycling.

Last night, helped by a friend, I duly put the recycling out on the street for collection this morning.

Upon my return from work this evening I found that the bottles had gone, as had some of the cardboard, but the recycling box remains full, and there is still some cardboard to be taken.

This is quite puzzling...

a) Is it that today was not recycling day after all, and there is an oddball thief in the area?

b) Was it just glass which was collected today, and some cardboard just happened to be taken for good measure?

c) Are those the council employs to collect the recycling jobsworths like the rest of them, such that they couldn't be bothered to collect it all?

I suspect c, but that still leaves me the problem of dealing with that which has been left behind.

Do I...

a) Leave it out in the rain, on the basis that today might not have been recycling day after all, and they may come tomorrow?

b) Take it back inside, wet and soggy that it now is, and watch as the recycling truck passes by moments after I do so?

c) Move it down the street, and blame the neighbours - who are a bit weird anyway - for the rubbish?

I could ring the council but

a) Unlike the man who recorded the answering machine, I don't have all the time in the world. I certainly don't have the time to listen to a list of departments, only to find that everyone is out to lunch until next Tuesday and won't speak to me anyway.

b) Even if my call did happen to coincide with their opening hours it would be irrelevant. Past experience tells me that whatever they suggested would not take effect for months.

Interestingly, when it comes to tax, these people suddenly demonstrate that they can be efficient. One of my housemates is due to move out shortly (sadly), just days after his status as a student at the University expires. Already he has been chased up by the council to ensure that he pays tax for this period, which amounts to a whopping £40. Criminal is the word.

Of course, the money fleeced from us won't be used to employ someone who will actually collect my recycling, neither will it be used to fund a replacement for the tortoise drawn cart I assume was used to deliver my recycling box. Oh no, it will go to cover call-me-Gordon's bottomless pit, just long enough for someone else to get the blame.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

'fighting fire with fire'

The good news is that soon-to-be-deaf girl is no longer such an irritant.

The bad news is this is because there are now some loud Welsh people on the train, who are drowning her out a bit.

On balance, this isn't so bad as I quite like the Welsh accent, and it's quite funny listening to what they have to say. One of them evidently auditioned for the X-Factor, and although "they didn't really tell her exactly why she was unsuccessful", the short rendition which silenced the rest of the carriage gave me plenty of ideas as to why that might have been. Worryingly though, they did apparently tell her that she "wasn't loud enough". To do what, exactly?!

Whilst I have been writing this the guard has just told the girl behind that she will need to change at Carmarthen. She won't be getting off soon then.

I'm now wondering how she's managed not to drive her travelling companion mad. When she answered her phone just now she even left her music blaring in one ear. Come to think of it, said travelling companion (who could be her boyfriend, poor bloke) may also be contributing to the noise, but he's sat directly behind me and I'm not about to contort myself to, ahem, eye him up.

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at risk of being a grumpy old man...

...I need to rant about the girl sat behind me on the train (where else?) and this corner of the Blogosphere (where else?) is a good outlet for my venom.

Her personal stereo* is very loud, and it's driving me to distraction. I gave her a glare but the net result is that she has now donned her sunglasses (despite the grey sky) and is doing the whole "I'm so much cooler than you" pose. Which she probably is, but that's not the point. Sorry, darling, I don't find it very attractive.

Boomchaboomboomchaboomchaboomchaboomboomcha...

Annoying, isn't it.

*Yes, I think I probably should have said iPod/MP3 Player but 'personal stereo' is more 'grumpy old man' I feel.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

och, I'm back

Well, I've been back from Bonnie Scotland for a week now, actually, but I've been a bit busy since then.

As my mother discovered when she visited a while back, Scotland is not as wild or backward as one might think ("they have a Marks and Spencer's in Inverness!") and Sam and I had a wonderful few days.

We spent the first two days in Edinburgh staying with our great aunt, which was fantastic. I think I've paid tribute to her before in this corner of the blogosphere, and her legendary status was confirmed when it transpired that the random Edinburgh couple who sat next to us on the journey North actually knew her (I kid you not). On arrival she took one look at my Grade 2 'style' and exclaimed "what's with the hair?!", and it was nice to see that all was well.

Edinburgh, I have decided, has JP's seal of approval and I did enjoy seeing the sights. We packed quite a lot in, including an exhibition on tartan which turned out to be really interesting, and a trip to the Dynamic Earth, which is well worth a visit. Unfortunately we also had to endure passing by the Parliament Building, which was an assualt on the eyes. I still cannot understand how the expense could be in any way justified, but I'll save my rant for another time.

We also had the pleasure of meeting two second cousins - one from either side of the family - in the same city, which was great.

We then continued North to Inverness. For the first night we stayed with my mum's cousin, which was fantastic. As in Edinburgh we were completely spoiled, and very well looked after. Dinner ("an easy meal") turned out to be smoked salmon, followed by venison and washed down with plenty of wine. The conversation flowed ( though my mum would probably have killed me for pronouncing 'garage' as "garidge" at one point) and we had a lot of fun.

The next day took us to Loch Ness, and Urquhart Castle, which was very interesting. We had a very pleasant cruise on the loch, and although my implication that I saw the monster might have been a bit misleading, we did see the mobile library which is home to a full time 'monster hunter'. Weirdo. We also saw the staging being erected for 'Rock Ness' which sounds as though it would have been worth going for the name alone.

'The Kitchen' was an excellent place to stop for dinner, set back from the river in this rather attractive small city, and we then enjoyed (or endured, depending on your perspective) a historical tour. Finally we hit Hootenanny's for the best in live music, and very much enjoyed the entertainment provided by Houghmagandie.

All good things must come to an end, and so we returned home. I am now working on my dissertation, which I am finding very interesting. Unfortunately a commute of 1 1/2 hours takes its toll, so I must crash now. Plus, having just seen Hazel Blears claim to be an honest politician and Alan Johnson smugly champion a good record of "investment in public services" (*cough*) I think it's time I shut up before I enter 'grumpy old man' mode again.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Issues of censorship

It has come to my attention that there may be a glitch in the system because I was accused of censoring comments. I have not done this at all recently and would only very rarely see the need to do so. So if you have been trying to be pro-Guardian or whatever I can only apologise and hope that such glitches do not continue to impair your freedom of speech.

Meanwhile I have been out on Loch Ness today, but you'll have to wait until my return to see my photos of the monster.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

the epitome of efficiency

If you're a long established reader of this blog, you may remember me having a rant about my local council. Specifically, I complained about the fact that my recycling box 'would arrive within four weeks'.

I am now pleased to report, ladies and gentlemen, that I arrived home today, a mere 10 weeks on, to find my recycling box. It seems that our council has developed the knack of stretching time-scales as well as the truth. I'd honestly assumed that we'd been forgotten about and was preparing to endure the council switchboard after my exams. I'm quite thankful that I don't have to call them now, and even more so that I don't pay tax. If it takes so long just to deal with a simple, and routine, request for a recycling box imagine how much is wasted on faffing around* elsewhere.

*and believe me, I know about faffing around.

Monday, May 28, 2007

hypocrisy down under

I apologise for perhaps re-opening a can of worms, but this article reminded me of the recent fuss about the legislation to prevent gay people from being turned away from hotels and other public places. It was, if I remember correctly, generally seen as outrageous that someone could ban someone from such an institution based on their sexual orientation.

Down-Under, things are evidently a little bit different.

"The Victorian state civil and administrative tribunal ruled the Peel Hotel could ban patrons based on their sexual orientation."

So, where are the Human Rights and Civil Liberties folk, who should be decrying such an outrageous ruling? Not out protesting, because they "welcome the decision".

Now if you read the whole article, it is apparent that there has evidently been some trouble and this should be prevented. But to attempt to solve the problem by banning heterosexuals just defies belief. It's 'bigoted' and 'intolerant', you might say and as a heterosexual man I feel that there is a grossly unfair stereotype being upheld. We've all heard the arguments which begin "being gay doesn't mean that..." and so in the same vein I should point out that being straight doesn't mean that I will behave abusively (towards anyone) in a pub.

The issue of whether or not it is right to ban someone based on sexual orientation is (or should be the same) whether that orientation is straight or otherwise. The fact that Civil Liberties groups (and others) are not opposing, but even supporting this ruling screams hypocrisy and as ever makes a mockery of the supposed 'liberty' and 'tolerance' they like to think they stand for.

I think I will end by considering this:

"Civil liberties groups said homosexuals should be allowed to relax in places without fear of bullying or intimidation."

Fine. And Catholics should be allowed to make choices about adoption which fit in with their beliefs and religious conscience without fear of bullying or intimidation.

Fair's fair.