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.

Defined by user

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.

Defined by user

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.