Saturday, March 21, 2009

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?

Monday, March 09, 2009

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 things worked out like this, but I think I began to crumble the tablet above the water and had to deal with the floating compost.

Anyway, all’s well that end’s well.  I cleared up the mess and had a full pot of compost.

 

TGIWTP: The journey begins

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.

 

Sunday, March 08, 2009

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 not able to say “we know you’ve been putting money aside, but actually we’re going to take some of it away from you”.  So Fred might have earned the nickname “the shred”, but I think it would be wrong to try and alter any prior contractual agreement.

Secondly, we need to consider the reasons behind the outrage and the media coverage.  At the end of the day, large though the pension is, it’s a drop in the ocean compared with the overall losses felt by RBS.  The economic situation at the moment has landed the government in a bit of hot water, and by vilifying Fred Goodwin and working the nation in to a frenzy about his pension it conveniently moves the spotlight away from them.  Not only that, but it even makes the government appear caring and compassionate as they vow to act “in the public interest” and claw the pension back.  Doubtless the legal fees involved will almost nullify any (comparatively small) saving, but then I guess you can’t put a price on popularity with the voters.

I have to say, Harriet Harman’s comment that things could be overturned because the pension “wouldn’t be acceptable in a court of public opinion” is deeply, deeply worrying.  What sort of state is this in which rules can be changed on a whim?  The precedent which would be set if she were able to pursue that idea is very dangerous indeed.

What worries me as well is that there appears to be a complete lack of leadership amongst the opposition.  Where are the Conservatives (or anyone else for that matter) ripping this immoral government to shreds and giving them the kicking they well and truly deserve?  Why are Labour getting any score at all in the opinion polls?  Why are there so many people in this country who are obviously stupid or ignorant enough to even consider voting for them?

Finally, I enjoyed a lot of the banter in thelondonpaper about this issue, and I couldn’t have put it better than the person who wrote in and said that Gordon Brown will presumably also give up his massive pension, after the mess he has made.  It would, of course, only be fair.  Leadership by example and all that.

 

Saturday, March 07, 2009

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 journey with me as I undertake this exciting project.

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 away.  It looks as though it took them some time to fix it, but I was pleased to see that by the time I landed back in the UK I could access it again.