Sunday, February 24, 2008

Beginning the week with a quotation

Propagating the view that my blog is like buses - nothing for a while and then several posts at once - I'm going to pop my head up again, for one last time this evening.

Whilst reading the comments beneath the Times article I referenced in my previous post, I came across this:

"It never ceases to surprise me that apparently intelligent people, who ought to know enough history to understand the nature of socialism, nevertheless keep getting fooled."


I rather liked it.

Environmental Issues (again)

Not for the first time I'm worried about the fact that when it comes to the environment people don't always consider the big picture.

Today, for example, I read about Virgin Atlantic's headline grabbing First Commercial Biofuel Flight. Aside from the fact I don't see how a special plane running three of it's four engines on standard Jet fuel and carrying no passengers qualifies as "biofuel" or "commercial" I have big reservations about the whole thing. Last week I read in New Scientist that the draining of the Indonesian Peat Bogs for biofuel crops is one of the biggest causes of CO2 being released in to the atmosphere. It was noted that Indonesia isn't part of the Kyoto Agreement. Have I missed something or is it really as bad as it seems?

Then there are the new plans for the London Congestion Charge, supposedly with the environment in mind. If you were wondering why I'd never vote for Ken Livingstone here's one of many good reasons. This article in The Times says it all, really. It's annoyed me for sometime that Ken has changed his mind consistently about the whole issue, and with this latest daft proposal I can't see how it is good for congestion or good for the environment. There are an increasing number of adverts for cars which just squeeze under the magical 120g/km figure. I suspect that this figure is extracted under "ideal" conditions and that most of these cars would normally never achieve it in normal driving. Furthermore, your medium-sized diesel Fiat Bravo still chucks out various nasty gases and particles and still takes up space in London's streets. Will the new proposals reduce congestion? No. Will they help the environment? Probably not. Will they divert attention from the scandals Ken is involved in and win him a few cynical votes? Probably.

Meanwhile, my advice remains the same. Vote Boris.

Mmm, das sieht sehr sexy aus (Zwei)

After I wrote my last post, the couple opposite were mercifully interrupted by a child throwing a bottle of water everywhere. Normally that would have annoyed me as well, but on this occasion it was the lesser of two evils, as they say.

Anyway, this afforded me the opportunity to see if I was right, and before I got off the train I asked if they were from Austria (I had nothing to lose, after all). I was wrong, they were from Germany. Bavaria, to be precise, which does have it's own strong dialect, but even so. *JP hangs his head in shame at his inability to accurately detect Germanic accents*.

Friday, February 22, 2008

JP thinks a bit about American Politics

Like a lot of you, I'm sure, I've been enjoying keeping a beady eye on the build up to the American Presidential election. In some ways this is another good thing the Metro is good for, as it allows me to have my daily fix of such matters from the comfort of my train to work.

However - and perhaps you can blame the Metro for this - I'm fairly clueless about the policies upheld and promised by each of the various candidates, and therefore who I'd vote for if I could.

My thinking is that in an ideal world I'd probably be a McCain supporter given that the Republicans are the more conservative end of the spectrum. As far as I understand it, at least.

But then it seems to be generally accepted that the next president is likely to be a Democrat. I don't want to play the game of "voting for the party who's most likely to get power" but I probably should have an opinion about which of the Democrat candidates I prefer. Currently that's Mr Obama, without a doubt, though I have no positive reason for this at the moment.

Purely and simply, I don't like Hillary. She's up there with London's favourite sewer rat* on my list of people I would never vote for even if I could. Initially my reasons for this were no less superficial than "she's the type of loud American woman who really makes my skin crawl", though one or two things have recently given me a bit more substance. Firstly, it would seem that she's playing dirty politics more than most given that I read today her campaign has just taken a much more negative and vicious turn. If nothing else it all sounds a bit desperate to me.

Secondly, I read last week that she's been really critical about people who work in hedge funds with all sorts of unfounded "they do no work" claims. Now her own daughter, Chelsea, works in the field and a quick Google search reveals that this is not the first time she's been so negative about her daughter and her profession. If she can't display any loyalty to her family, why should I believe that she'll show loyalty to her party? Or her country?


Perhaps someone who's better informed than me would like to have their say using the comment option...

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*That'll be Ken then.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mmm, das sieht sehr sexy aus.

Speaking from (on going) bitter experience I have learned that one of the less desirable things to do after work is sit opposite an Austrian* couple who are evidently "very much in love". As ever, I'm on a train and it's not as though I can avert my eyes for their canoodling is clearly reflected in the window.

I thought that Austrian people were stereotypically prude but I might be mistaken. Unhelpfully though, as I think of stereotypes the thought has just passed through my head that the girl repeatedly kissing the bloke opposite might have hairy armpits.

Sorry folks, I just had to share that.

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*I think they're Austrian. In between the 'mmm' and the giggling I can definitely hear 'German with a heavy accent'.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Shouldn't you be taking the plank out of your own eye, Mr Darling?

It's an all too regular feature of this blog that I rant about the government interfering with the running of the railways and then laying the blame for anything which isn't right squarely at the foot of the Train Operating Companies.

Fortunately, angry though I was with Mr Darling's "First Great Western should get a grip on the franchise or risk losing it" (..."because we want to run the trains ourselves"),
someone else has done the ranting for me on this occassion.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

humorously unhelpful?

I was reading a book at work today (about C++, he says, hoping not to sound like too much of a geek), and I came across this helpful little tip about ANSI:

"ANSI...is pronounced "antsy" with a silent 't'".

Friday, February 08, 2008

before we get to Sharia Law...

...I want to talk about this article in which a gay man has won a £47,000 payout after not being offered a job as a church youthworker. It might not surprise you to know that this has really annoyed me.

Quoting from the article,

"In his evidence to the original tribunal, Bishop Priddis said anyone in a sexual relationship outside marriage would have been rejected."

As it says further down, this is the crux of the matter, not sexual orientation. On this basis, the fuss made by Stonewall was misguided, and thanks to their campaigning (and doubtless the media portrayal) we have an incident which makes the church appear homophobic, when it wasn't.

Now, you might or might not agree with the idea that anyone in a sexual relationship outside marriage would have been rejected. But it's part of the teaching of the church, and as I've said before, I feel that it's important that leaders do their best to be exemplary. No-one is perfect, but as people so often cry "Christians should practise what they preach".*

Again, you might or might not agree with that. But remember that other faiths - Judaism and Islam included - have similar, if not more stringent rules and ideals and you should be careful what you say before you single out Christians.

In this case I am also appalled by the large payout. Given that the issue never appeared to be sexual orientation in the first place, I think that to have sued a charitable organisation** for a large five figure sum was absolutely wicked. It certainly doesn't fit with the characteristics one would expect from a church youth-worker...


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*No-one ever asks Christians to practise what they preach "but only when it suits me".

**It should be noted that in many cases, church youth-workers do far more than "church" work and often contribute greatly to the wider, secular, community.

starting the pre-empted debate

Those of you who read comments on this blog will note that Dave has made reference to the comments made by Rowan Williams about Sharia law. Unfortunately I've not yet had time to read up properly on it, and my beloved Metro wasn't up to the challenge of equipping me for educated debate. Blame the fact that I've been very busy in the last couple of days*.

I'm bound to wade in and have my say at some point but in the meantime I'd like to start with what Dave had to say.

"Interesting. If ever there was good evidence as to why any religiously biased character shouldn't be allowed anywhere near Parliament, this is it."

Like it or lump it, atheists are also "religiously biased". Food for thought...

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*And the fact that Dave agreed with me for once on something; I've been in a state of shock.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

don't scare me with your driving, or I'll sue

I read in the paper yesterday that some of the passengers on the BA flight which crashed at Heathrow last month are to sue - "for developing a fear of flying, and possible hearing damage". Is there nothing which some people won't sink to in this increasingly greedy and unfortunately sue-happy society?

Following a discussion over lunch at work, I'm happy to concede that if injury - e.g. hearing damage - has incurred then it would be nice if some money was available to cover any necessary treatment costs. But doesn't travel insurance cover that? Or the NHS? Besides, I'm sceptical that anyone suffered hearing damage in a crash which didn't involve a sudden drop, and which many passengers just assumed to be a heavy landing.

As for "fear of flying", see the title of this post. If that's the trend you wish to embrace...

Personally I think that if you buy a ticket to transport you at 500 miles an hour at a height of 35,000 feet then you've got to accept the risk that goes with it. Flying might be the safest form of travel, but no-one can guarantee complete safety 100% of the time.

I think that if there had been deliberate negligence or malicious intent then it would be different, but it doesn't seem to be the case here. It amazes me that the full accident investigation has not yet been completed and people are still playing the 'blame game'. Some theories behind the accident include birds or dodgy fuel, and you can't exactly hold BA accountable for that. Besides, having spent an hour this afternoon practising my 777 landings in a full training simulator I have nothing but respect for the BA pilots who bought the plane down safely in the event of last minute failure.

Someone quipped at lunch today that "well, BA can afford it, they make millions".

Well, if you scare me I'll note that "you can afford it, your car is more expensive than mine".

Monday, February 04, 2008