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Showing posts from 2009

JP talks expenses

I find myself this afternoon sitting very comfortably on a train as I
speed across the country. We all know what this means-I am finally in
a position to break the recent silence in this corner of the
blogosphere.The topic of the moment is the expenses scandal which is currently
gripping Parliament, and it would be rude for me not to pass comment.
Like most people, it would seem, I am not impressed with the way MPs
appear to have abused the system. Sorry if that disappoints you,
Alasdair.As many have already pointed out, all this 'within the rules' malarky
is actually missing the point. As public servants, MPs have a duty to
behave morally and fairly and it is questionable as to whether or not
some of the MPs embroiled in this scandal have done that. There must
be many examples of people in government who have been openly critical
about those who have sought to use loopholes in the law to their
advantage; shouldn't MPs be leading by example?Of course, there is also the question of w…

“you can’t blog that…it’s obscene!”

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The God Hypothesis?

I have been lent a copy of Richard Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion?”, and in this last few days I have finally found a few moments to start reading it. It will be interesting to see how strong his arguments are; Dawkins actually states in his preface to the book that if it works as he intends, “then religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.”  He alludes to the fact that there will be some who warn against reading the book, but I reason that if my faith is true then I should have nothing to be scared of.  For the record, although my bookshelf now contains a copy of “The Dawkins Delusion?” by Alister McGrath I intend to refrain from reading it until after I have finished Dawkins’ book.  That way, I will minimise any accusation that my thoughts and response to Dawkins may have been indoctrinated or contaminated.Well, so far, I have opened the book and put it down several times, and I am still not an atheist.  On some of those occasions I have actually read so…

Happy Easter

Jesus Christ Is Risen!Halleluiah!And for the Anglicans…He Is Risen Indeed!  Halleluiah!So what does this mean for you?

More on Hospital Chaplains

Following on from my earlier post, I have decided to write a more serious post about the funding of hospital chaplaincy.  I have already had a couple of comments on my views, and I’d like to justify my take on the matter.I’ll start by making it clear that my reasoning for NHS funded chaplains stems from more than the fact that I am a Christian, and a churchgoer myself.  Judging by some of the comments I have picked up on (see, for example, the BBC Have Your Say), there are a lot of ignorant people out there and that, perhaps more than anything else, is what has annoyed me.One of the arguments for cutting NHS funded chaplaincies is that ordinary vicars (and presumably leaders of other faiths) could go in to hospitals and visit members of their own communities and congregations instead.  I can’t give a definite viewpoint about other faith groups, but let me assure you that vicars already do that.  The majority of churchgoers will already have their own Christian pastoral support if they…

JP goes Lite

As is often the case, I have just found myself with some time to kill
on a station platform. Not because the train was late (for once) but
because I was. Gutted.Thankfully, the sun was shining (the weather was sweet, yeah) and
although there was no londonpaper to be found I did find a London
Lite. I never read the Lite, but every rule has the odd exception.I was pleasantly surprised by what I found on the whole. I liked
reading Apprentice Candidate Maj's claim that Sir Alan fired him
because 'he had a better beard.' The text column made me smile, and I
am tempted to visit Sweden again after learning that Stockholm has a
hostel made from an old 747.I did question one piece of journalism though. I found a headline which read'G20 victim's cop clash hour BEFORE he died.'Why the random emphasis on 'before?' In fact, why is the word 'before'
necessary at all in this case? Surely it would have been much more
newsworthy if the clash had occurred after his death…

Should the NHS pay for hospital chaplains?

Personally, I don't think that the NHS should fund treatment for lung
cancer. It should be funded by smokers. After all, they are the ones
who will probably need it more than anyone else. If they choose to
smoke that's their choice, but why should I have to pay more in taxes
because of their lifestyle choices?--
Sent from my mobile device

JP’s mind is left to boggle

I have just been perusing the BBC News Page, and there is a headline which reads “Outrage leads to bikini wax ban being ditched.”Obviously I am intrigued, but the link is apparently broken, and I am none the wiser.Do you think that someone at the BBC is having a laugh, or is there really bikini wax related outrage somewhere in the world at this point in time?

TGIWTP: Planting the Sarracenia seeds…

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As everybody knows, if you are going to grow something, it is a good idea to plant some seeds.There didn’t seem to be that many seeds in the packet, and extracting them from the sides of the plastic bag they came in was easier said than done.  No wonder the packet says that this is a ‘More Care’ plant.The seeds were also very small (with woodchip on the wall), but I’m fairly optimistic that at least two were planted.  The final step in the beginning of the project was placing the pot in a clear plastic bag and putting it in the fridge.  The photographic evidence hopefully shows that I managed this.According to the instructions, the pot should remain here for approximately four weeks, but it could be six to eight weeks before seedlings appear.  Presumably the wait will be a bit longer if I didn’t actually plant anything, but we live in hope.Do come back again soon for more shots of the compost filled pot in the fridge.

TGIWTP: In the beginning…

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As you might have gathered from the previous post, the first step to growing your own Insect Watertrap is to place a tablet of compost in to a cup of water and wait for it to swell up.  The lack of drama was disappointing, but after a short while there was some evidence of swelling – as you can see in the first photograph.With hindsight I possibly should have had a bit more patience and waited a bit longer, but me being me I moved on to the next instruction:“when [the tablet] is fully saturated, crumble it into the pot until full.”This was more challenging than you might have reasonably thought, as demonstrated by the second photograph.  The tablet did not crumble easily at first.  It appeared to have an outer layer much like a teabag, the remains of which can be seen on the table between the cup and the pot.  If you look closely, you will see that I had to hurriedly place the pot on a saucer, and there was a great deal of what one might call saturation.  I’m not entirely sure how thi…

TGIWTP: The journey begins

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Peering in from the edge of the Blogosphere, there is much to be excited about as I finally embark on my Great Insect WaterTrap Project.  The first post has a new acronym and a video.Unfortunately, if you view the video, you might be inclined to say that it’s all downhill from here.  The instructions on the back of the packet begin with“Put the tablet of compressed compost in a cup filled one-third with water.  The tablet will swell up…”As the video shows, I did I was told (although my one-third might have been a bit approximate).  Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed by the lack of drama and swelling of the tablet.  If you found the video to be a bit of a let down you will know what I mean.

pension related banter

In true JP style, I’m at least a week late wading in to the fray, but I can’t resist passing comment on the recent saga about Fred Goodwin and his pension.Don’t get me wrong, I do think that £700,000 is a lot of money and can well understand the resentment felt by many; especially at a time when it contrasts markedly with the financial situation many find themselves in.  However, I am not going to put my flag in the camp which is there asking for him to give it up.I have several reasons for this, and I am going to start with considering how the pension fund is built up.  Most company pension schemes – and I would imagine this includes RBS – work on the principle that an agreed amount is paid in to a fund whilst the employee is contracted to work for the company.  When the employee retires or leaves the company, the pension fund will have accumulated a value accordingly.  The amount paid in to the pension fund is not performance related.  If an employee screws things up the company is …

JP’s Great Insect Watertrap Project

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A while back now, (on a very cold January day, I recall) I went to a zoo.  In fact, in recent years I’ve been to several zoos, but in the shop at this particular zoo (somewhere near Cambridge) I found a package marked “Grow Your Own Insect Watertrap”.  Attracted by the prospect of a new horticultural challenge, and the cool ‘EATS INSECTS’ label, I made a purchase.As it turns out, I needn’t have gone all the way to the cold zoo somewhere near Cambridge because the address on the back of the packet tells me that the supplying company is just 2 miles from my house.  You live and learn.Anyway, for various reasons I’ve not yet got around to embarking on the project.  I think possibly I was subconsciously scared by the fact that on the scale of things this Insect Watertrap has ‘More Care’ label, but my excuses include a lack of time, and “not being the right time of year”.But now it is the right time of year, and I am going to postpone the challenge no longer.  Do check back regularly and j…

Observation Number Four

As I mentioned in a previous post, I very much enjoyed going to church in Shanghai.Predictably, I didn’t allow enough time to cross the city and was a bit late.  When I got there I was initially turned away because the room was packed out.  I explained that I was unable to attend either of the afternoon services and managed to wangle my way in – where I had to squeeze up against the back wall because the room was so full.  Almost every bit of floor space and wall space was occupied.  The service I went to, at the hotel in Hong Qiao, has only been running for a few months and yet is already so popular that plans are afoot to start a second morning service to cater for demand.  This growth – despite some of the restrictions which seem to be in place – is certainly something to be thankful for.

Observation Number Three

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I was in Shanghai for Chinese New Year, and noticed that in the more Westernised areas the “Happy New Year” decorations often included references to Christmas.  Indeed, on at least one occasion my lunch was accompanied by a rendition of “Silent Night” and other such carols.I would imagine that this is because there is little concept of what Christmas actually is.  Perhaps we take it for granted in the UK that most people have at least a basic understanding of the significance behind some of the celebrations.  In China, however,  I get the impression that “Christmas” is just viewed as part of our New Year celebrations.  There are evidently many, many people who have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ, and who know nothing about the hope which faith in him brings.  One presumes that Observations One and Two are to some extent responsible for this.

Observation Number Two

I found an English speaking church in Shanghai, and I very much enjoyed it (more on that later).  However, I’m not sure that the local regulations, which dictate that the  “international English Service is open to foreign passport holders only” reflect the idea of religious freedom that the Chinese authorities might claim exists.

Observation Number One

Before I went to Shanghai, I was quite intrigued to know what life would be like behind the Great fireWall of China.  Were there really restrictions on Freedom of Speech?  Would I be able to blog? Would I be able to get the BBC News Page?  The limited amount of research I did suggested that although things had at one time been quite restrictive things were now opening up.  At first glance, my experience tied in with this idea.  I can’t compare it with life before the Beijing Olympics, but it is said that things have improved since then.  One of the restrictions I read about was about not being able to comment on blogs, but as I surfed from Shanghai I encountered no such limitations.  I could blog and comment.  I could get my fix of the BBC News Page.  Steve Zodiac could get his fix of Facebook (before he got his comeuppance, of course).Interestingly, however, www.biblegateway.com was apparently suffering problems and I couldn’t access it at all, from work or the hotel, whilst I was aw…

*yawn*

It's perhaps inevitable that life immediately after a period of travelling is going to seem comparatively dull. But a couple of instances this week have made me wonder if things are worse than I realised. Firstly, I was in the canteen on Monday lunchtime having the usual "how was your weekend?" banter with my colleagues. On this occasion, come to think of it, banter is probably the wrong word, because the initial conversation consisted of little more than the odd mediocre "meh". I then chipped in with "I bought some new cycling shoes on Saturday!" This wasn't a word of a lie; I am the proud owner of some new cycling shoes*. However, the reaction I got implied that if that was all I had to say about my weekend** then my life must be monumentally dull. Incidentally, as a bloke I am well aware that getting excited about shoes (even those with a purpose) is Not The Done Thing, but everyone makes mistakes.Then yesterday, I was chatting to someone on Fa…

Steve Zodiac is back in the game

Did anyone actually miss me?

JP is annoyed with Vodafone

I'll spare you the details, but let's just say that I'm unhappy with
the fact my last two bills have been very spurious and very wrong and
that all the Customer Services have managed so far is a set of stock
emails explaining that paper billing has been activated on my account.
I don't care whether I see the bill online or on A4 paper-excessive
money has still been disappearing from my account.

JP is about to indulge in a G&T

Cheers.

Billie Jean is not my lover

Given the continuing absence from Facebook, I'm experimenting with
blog post titles as a way of sharing my status with the world. If
you've missed it when I pop up on your mini-feed with the odd
observation or cryptic take on the way I feel then you may now rejoice
that all has not been lost.

JP disappears from the face of the book

Last Thursday, I updated my Facebook status.  It was something about visiting the Hang Yan Fu Wu Bu for an ice-cream break.  For those people who stalk me on Facebook but otherwise have little contact with me these days, that was the last they will have heard.  Later that evening, I attempted to log in again, and received a message explaining that my account had been disabled by an administrator.
"Shurely there'sh been a mishtake" I thought to myself, before sending an appropriate email to the appeal address I was given. But then later on, as I lay in my window ledge bath and gazed out over the Shanghai skyline it dawned on me. Some time back, and for no really good reason that I can now think of, I may just have updated my details to include "Steve Zodiac" as a former name.
Oh dear.
So, over a week later, and I'm still Facebook Disabled - with all sorts of mixed feelings as a result.
Part of me is very disappointed.  I've evidently completely vanished from…

there's no snow on the line here

Picking up on Starkey's comment about "China Rail" I thought I would post this video of the Shanghai Maglev, which I took on my way to work last week.
This isn't one of these "London to Brighton in 5 minutes" high speed videos, it's real-time footage.  Believe it or not, however, I covered 30km.
Compare this to Southern Railway, where my 21km commute takes over half an hour.  Even off-peak, the Shanghai Maglev is cheaper and I'm pretty sure that if it did snow here it wouldn't come grinding to a halt.
It makes you wonder where it all goes wrong in the UK, though on the plus side I do get a free paper and time in which to read it.  You've got to love the Metro.*
>> *and thelondonpaper, of course.  No commute home should normally be complete without random photographs of the lovely Kelly Brook.

Scottish Idiocy?

You might be pleased to know that the BBC News page hasn't entirely slipped from my radar, and I picked up on this saga earlier from my Oriental vantage point.
I was particularly intruiged by this comment:
"Most people here are proud that the prime minister is a Scot and believe him to be the right person to get the UK through this global economic crisis."

Most people where, exactly?  Not anywhere in my vicinity, that's for sure.

where have all the cowboys gone?

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So go the lyrics of a rather catchy song.  I had spent a week in Shanghai wondering something similar actually, though in my head I was thinking of people in general and not just cowboys.  The part of town in which I am resident has been remarkably quiet for somewhere which is apparently home to 20million people. I know that it's been a bit of a holiday season out here, but even so it did feel a bit empty.
At the weekend, however, I went downtown, and my questions were answered.  This is where everyone has been hiding.  All 20million of them.  Really.

the other side to life

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So we've seen the view from my lofty vantage point, and I've talked about feeling sophisticated as I indulge myself over breakfast.  I even alluded to the fact that on some scale I might be "posh".
Before I get too carried away with my delusions of grandeur, however, let's bring things back down to the ground floor and remind you what I've been eating for dinner on a fairly regular basis.
All things considered, however, they have been surprisingly satisfying.

Eye on Shanghai

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Murky though it can be, I do love the view I get when I open the curtains in the morning.  It's not got classic natural beauty,  but it is certainly quite impressive.  
There's that bottle-opener building again, look.

Knowing me, JP, knowing you Miss Yu.

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(A-ha!)
I'm becoming well settled here now, to the extent that I am on first name terms with the girl who serves breakfast in the lounge. It's got to the stage where my fresh orange juice is on my favourite table by the window almost as soon as I walk in through the door.
I was kicking back contentedly this morning however when a slightly disturbing thought occurred to me.  Here I am lapping up the lifestyle and feeling quite sophisticated, but am I actually completely deluded?  Have I become little more than a posh version of a certain Radio Norfolk presenter?


better than running for the train

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The last photo of the day is this slightly poor quality one which I took whilst having breakfast this morning.  It was all rather leisurely and certainly much more pleasant than running along in the rain in hope of catching a train.  Of course, the downside is that I had to go without a copy of the Metro, but you can't have everything.
It's a long way to fall from these dizzy heights, and by contrast dinner this evening consisted of a Pot Noodle in a make-shift office.  Very nice it was too.

Gong He Xin Xi!

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If you're going to arrive in China for the first time, New Year's Eve is a good time to do so.  Last time I was abroad I missed out on the fireworks, but this more than made up for it.  The attitude to health and safety here is quite refreshing, and there were fireworks being let off everywhere - on pavements, from balconies... I very much enjoyed the display outside the hotel at midnight, and was pleased to have been pelted slightly by shrapnel.  It very much added to the whole experience.

Pu Dong

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The number of people who've stood in the same spot and photographed the same skyline must be huge, and you're probably wondering why you wasted your time coming to this part of the Blogosphere when you could have found the same view on Google.  Still, as cityscapes go it's quite striking and an interesting thing to encounter whilst on a sort of jetlag-relieving outing.  Apparently the building which looks like a bottle opener is the second tallest building in the world.  Not that I'm name dropping, or anything.

High Table

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Can you hear me, when there is no sound?

One of the well known disadvantages of text based instant messaging is that some things just don't get conveyed.  Body language is a classic example.Admittedly, if I am typing on a keyboard I am unlikely to be performing the legendary "swim" but you will still be none the wiser about whether I am waving my hands around animatedly or being a bit more reserved.Interestingly, however, I discovered in a recent conversation that it is quite possible to convey sound in an entirely text based dialogue.   Things proceeded thus:>
- I need to make that "eeeeh" noise that you apparently make
- what eeee noise?!
- ooo
- eeeeh
- i geddit!

- yes, that one!
- the noise i don't actually make
- yes>You may be relieved to know that the context was not in the slightest bit risque, but it is difficult to explain if you don't already know what sound I am talking about.  It would seem that such sound transmission is a bit like encryption using a pre-sh…

Tesco sink to new low

It's been well documented in this Corner of the Blogosphere that I'm not a massive fan of Tesco.  I've had quite a few poor experiences, and as a result, my expectations - especially of their staff - were already quite low.
Today, however, they excelled themselves and if there was a category below Rock Bottom, my expectations of their "customer service" would drop firmly in to it.  I popped in this afternoon and they demonstrated such incompetence that it defies belief.
I was on my way home and thought that I would swing by for a USB charger for my new telephone.  I knew that Tesco sell them and went straight ot the appropriate aisle.  Unfortunately, there were in-car chargers and AC adaptors galore, but no USB chargers.  Undeterred by this I went to the nearby service desk and asked the lady behind the counter if they had any in stock.
"Universal USB phone chargers?" she said, before staring at the computer screen in front of her.  After a while she follo…

Papa's got a brand new bag!

Actually, it's more "JP's got a brand new phone (and he's trying it
out)" but I had to inject some soul in to the post somehow.
As that rather obscure Bon Jovi song starts, "James Brown?! If James
were here...it'd be a hit!"

A BBC News story to warm your hearts

As you know, I'm generally quite a fan of the BBC News Page, and I thought that this story was an absolute gem.  If you've not already read it, I promise that it will put a smile on your face.

I'd wear Speedos for you any day

One of the good things about returning to work is the joy of picking up a copy of the Metro each morning from the blue container now so conveniently sited in the waiting room* at the station.Today I read that Danny Cipriani upset Kelly Brook on a recent holiday they had together.  Apparently he insisted on wearing baggy shorts when she wanted him to wear Speedos.Fool.>>*Before you wonder if this really is the JP you know and love, rest assured that I've not suddenly developed a habit of arriving at the station in sufficient time to need the waiting room.  Rather, the waiting room forms part of the entrance to the station and the new position of the Metro container here means that I don't have to worry about not having the time to trek along the platform for my copy before I bundle on to the train.

JP's Cake Corner

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I have been going through my photographs over the Christmas/New Year break, and I have found a few skeletons in the closet.  One of my favourites is this photograph of the cake which a friend and I made for someone's birthday whilst we were all at university together:



This was taken just after we'd returned from celebrating the end of someone's exams with a cheeky pint to discover that we'd not done a great job of greasing the tin.  I'd love to say that it was better when we'd glued it back together with apricot jam and iced it, but I'm not so sure.  Perhaps it's good that I don't have any photographic evidence of the finished article.

On the plus side, I don't think I'd laughed so hard in ages.

JP talks rail fare rises

Here we are folks, this is what we've all been waiting for.  The first train related rant of 2009.  Stress balls at the ready...Obviously, I'm in favour of the rises.  I don't mind paying more for my commute, because the government has shown that it can be prudent with money.  At a time when we should be concerned about the environment it's very wise of them to reduce investment in the railway network.  Besides, the increases have been offset by the fact that the VAT reduction saved me 2p on my cup of coffee at Victoria recently.It's too early to say for definite whether or not I can actually expect an improvement in the level of service, but in the unlikely event that I begin to find standing up for most of my journey home a bit wearing I will obviously complain to the train operating company concerned; they don't have much of an excuse with our pro-Rail friends in charge at Number 10.  The government, of course, makes it very easy for them to offer the servic…

JP has a lovely bunch of...

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...grapes, apparently.  Actually, this is why the aforementioned stress ball is fun.  When you squeeze it, this happens:

Nice.

JP takes a chill pill

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If you are an avid reader and have been keeping up with the comments recently, you will know that Dave advised me to 'take a chill pill'.  He probably isn't the only one to have considered offering such advice, although to be fair this Corner of the Blogosphere does get a disproportionately large amount of my ranting and frustration.  If my only contact with you is through this blog then you probably have a worryingly distorted view of me, but never mind.
Anyway, the point is that my stocking contained a stress ball.  Comme ca:

It's not quite a chill pill, and if this stops me from ranting then there will be even less action here in 2009 than there was last year, but it's fun nonetheless...

Happy New Year!

As I'm about to indulge in a bit of a Blogging spurt, I don't think much else needs to be said here.  I hope and pray that 2009 is a good one.