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Showing posts from 2012

Vodafone: What price customer service?

Hello.  Once again, I’m having to blow some cobwebs away from this Corner of the Blogosphere, but none of us has time for excuses. This time, Vodafone can take the credit for my triumphant return.  It’s about all they deserve credit for, but I nonetheless feel that the wider world should enjoy this email from their customer service team, explaining why they are increasing the price of their contracts mid-term.
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Thank you for Contacting Vodafone Customer Services with regard to price increase.
I understand that you are concerned about the price increase. I apologies for the inconvenience caused to you as it effected the line rental.
I would like to inform you that the price increase is not in our hands. This is to be decided by the telecom companies. We have to increase the price to adjust with the competitors. The other telecom companies have already increased their prices due to inflation. The present inflation has affected many telecom companies and therefore to increase the …

American French

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One of my jobs for the next couple of days is to convert a paper I hope to submit for a conference in to U.S. English.  I have to begrudgingly admit that because the conference is in the U.S. I don’t have much grounds for complaint, but it seems like a bit of a tedious process for very little benefit (after all, are we really to assume that the international readership won’t understand use of the word “colour” in lieu of “color”?).  Hopefully it won’t waste a tonne* of my time.
Anyway, I saw a headline about the fast-food chain Chick-Fil-A yesterday and it has got me thinking about American English – or perhaps more accurately, American French – which is not as consistent in terms of pronunciation as one might expect.
For example, if I was from Maine, I might conceivably drive to Calais (pronounced “Callous”) in a coupe (pronounced “coop”).  I might then stop for some food – possibly some chicken fillets (“fil-ay,” apparently).  At some point I might also drink some herbal (“erbal”) tea…

Transport Research

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British Broadcasting Corporation vs British Airways and British Midland

The BBC News Page is currently displaying this headline:British Airways and BMI deal puts 1,200 jobs at risk.Anyone reading this could be forgiven for assuming that any job losses will purely be as a result of the BA deal.  They could also be forgiven for having sympathy with the unions, who are showing signs of squaring up to BA.But let’s stop and think about this, shall we?  Lufthansa is selling BMI, which is losing money.  Anyone buying it is likely to have to restructure it to keep it afloat, and if the BA sale were to have been impeded Lufthansa may have had no option but to cut its losses and close BMI down completely.I would accuse the BBC of being biased again, although I struggle to think of a good motive for such bias.  One wonders if it comes down to giving the unions (and by association their bankrolling of the Labour Party) some credibility.  Am I really that cynical?Here endeth the latest rant.

On Jesus’ Virgin Birth

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have been following the on-going dialogue I have been having with some atheists, since I picked up on the statement that the Bible is “the biggest fictional tale ever told.”  If not, you might be able to look back past my recent bout of Twitterrrhoea about easyJet and see something of what was said.I have to say that it was difficult to engage in a reasoned discussion, but there have been some interesting questions and issues raised and I thought I would share some thoughts here.It was suggested that I begin with answering the question “why do [I] think Jesus was in fact born of a virgin?”  I’m not sure that I ever said anything about my belief in the virgin birth; however it was a correct assumption to make and I shall answer the question without further ado.The bottom line is that I trust what has been written in the Bible.  I am not aware of any extra-Biblical references to the virgin birth (but I am happy to stand corrected), but in any ca…

On blaming the government for this blog

I read on the BBC News Page today that “John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, Karl Turner, MP for Hull East, and Labour Lord Toby Harris are among those who have called for Mr Maude to resign if it turns out his comments contributed to the burns accident suffered by 46-year-old Diane Hill.”Let’s get this straight.  Mr Maude – rightly or wrongly – told people to consider keeping a jerry-can of petrol in the garage.  He did not say anything about decanting it in the kitchen, with the cooker on.  Furthermore, this was not a command, it was a suggestion.  Mr Maude did not say “citizens found guilty of not buying and storing extra quantities of petrol shall be fined or banged up in jail.”  We can argue to the cows come home about whether his advice was necessary, but if you went out and bought petrol in a panic it was entirely your decision.  If you were following the news enough to listen to the government’s advice you would also have known that no strike had been set.I despair at the fact …

On lighting the blue touch paper

As you probably know, I can sometimes be quite provocative.  My recent tweet linked to my last post certainly seemed to have that effect.  On the positive side, I have really enjoyed seeing people engaging well with the dialogue, both here and on Facebook, and I have to admit that my ego has taken a small boost from the record numbers who landed in this corner of the Blogosphere.However, on reflection, I realise that some of you may have thought that I was being unnecessarily antagonistic – for which I apologise.  Hopefully if you read the post you realised that there was a context to it and that I am not casting sweeping aspersions on my atheist friends.I was also reminded that to make bold statements about atheists needing to practise what they preach leaves me open to accusations that as Christians we don’t always practise what we preach.  Which – sadly – can be quite true.  So, whereas I stand by the statement I made, I should be the first to admit that as a Christian I don’t alwa…

On why atheists should practise what they preach

As a Christian, I often really enjoy engaging in discussion with atheists and agnostics about my faith.  Such conversations can be interesting, can broaden the mind, and can provide something of a challenge.  I feel that it is important to understand the reasons for choosing to be a Christian and to be open to questions.  Faith and worldview are two concepts which are very much entwined, and I adhere to the view that Christianity is – and needs to be to be taken seriously – a reasonable faith.I have some good atheist friends for whom I have a great deal of respect.  Their beliefs are well thought through, and we often enjoy some reasoned debate.  However, it has come to my attention that there are atheists out there with whom it is harder to have a reasoned discussion.  Only the other day, I decided to respond to a tweet (by someone I didn’t know) suggesting that the Bible is the biggest work of fiction ever, and the resulting dialogue became quite interesting.There were two others in…

Why Labour & the Unions are bending the truth about London’s new buses

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I am well excited about the fact that some of the New Routemaster buses are now in service in London.What is surprising, however, is the amount of negativity surrounding it.  Christian Wolmar, who styles himself as ‘Britain’s Leading Transport Correspondent’ tweeted yesterday asking if the new buses were anything other than a very expensive joke.My response to Mr Wolmar is that they are anything but a joke.  Admittedly, I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing one but there are some good reasons to have replaced the bendy-buses with them.As some of the passengers interviewed in this BBC Report noted, the bendy-buses were often known as “the free bus” because there were so many doors that it was easy to avoid paying and not get caught.  The cynic in me says that if Boris Johnson had made a thing about keeping these buses, Ken Livingstone would have run a campaign decrying the “Tory Free Bus Scandal.”  Prove me wrong, folks.Secondly, the len…

The truth is, I’m not a lesbian

I have to say that I quite enjoyed the sound bite from Radio 4’s Today Programme when Richard Dawkins and Giles Fraser were discussing religion.  I loved the delicious irony of Dawkins invoking the name of God, and the fact that Dawkins was caught out and blustered his way through quite an awkward moment.However, at the end of the day, I do actually think that Dawkins had a fair point.  The “right to self-identification” – as championed by Giles Fraser – is in principle an important thing.  What Fraser seems not to have grasped, however, is that there needs to be some meaning behind it.  I’m sure that he would be very keen for me to have the right to identify myself as a lesbian, but whatever box I tick or whatever I say about myself, it clearly isn’t true.In the same way, there are some definite truths about Christianity.  Yes, Christians don’t all agree on everything, but through the fuzziness there is a solid core.  I fear that Giles Fraser is proud of his “inclusive” and relativis…

The ugly duck(ling) billed platypus

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As a transport researcher, I have to accept that my job is not going to add to my sex appeal.  The fact that I spent some of Valentine’s Day reading about concrete probably says something, as does the fact that one of the more interesting things I was given was a National Rail Timetable (on loan for my work, I hasten to add, not as a romantic gesture).Yet, despite this, it is not unusual for some forms of transport to be described as “sexy.”  By normal people, too, not just geeks.  I’d almost be prepared to bet that at least one of you (all 11 of you who read this) has described a car as “sexy.”Believe it or not, High Speed Trains can apparently be sexy as well - I guess it’s all relative.  There is an article here entitled High Speed Trains as Sexy as Fast Cars, although as it comes from TreeHugger.com I’m not sure that I can suggest that it’s normal.  I’m also assuming that the writer had not been exposed to this:My eyes!

Lamenting the good old C of E

For those of you who know me, or who have been long-term visitors to this Corner of the Blogosphere, you will probably know that I am a Christian.  You may also know that although I don’t care much for denominational division that I usually attend an Anglican church.There is lots which is good about the Anglican church.  Personally, I like the breadth of styles it encompasses, the structure of some of the liturgy it offers and the fact that a lot of Anglican churches are at the heart of communities.  People relate easily to them, even if it’s just for weddings and funerals and the odd Christmas sing-song and the opportunities to share the Christian message and make a positive difference to those communities are theoretically huge.What a shame, therefore, that these opportunities are so often lost.  Admittedly, I don’t necessarily think much of the BBC’s standard of reporting, especially on this sort of issue, but I thought it sad that the headline for the Archbishop’s Christmas sermon…

On losing beauty sleep

On Saturday afternoon, I travelled on a South West Trains service to London.  I put my headphones in, turned on my MP3 player (The Verve, if you are interested) and fell asleep.  I`d not been asleep long when I was tapped on the shoulder by the guard, who wanted to see my ticket.  Of course, I obliged, but as he disappeared down the train I was not happy that my sleep had been disturbed.At one level, this was not unreasonable.  After all, it is my duty to have a ticket, and the guard`s job to check it.  But it was not a busy train and the guard passed back through the carriage several times during the remainder of the journey, so I question whether it was really necessary to ruin my nap at that point in time.  After all, I have often been on trains and watched the guard leave those passengers sleeping well alone.  I have also been on trains where it has been announced that "because the train is busy, if you wish to sleep please leave your ticket visible" which is not a bad i…

Transparent Benefits?

There is an interesting article on the BBC News this morning about a family on benefits and how they will be worse off under the proposed benefits cap.At first glance, it is very easy to feel sorry for the family.  He is unable to find a job (and it is fair to assume that he has been trying to do so) and she is unable to work.But then I read some of the comments and looked at the breakdown of spending in detail.  £15 a week on Sky TV? A substantial amount of beer and cigarettes?  Now, maybe I shouldn’t be so judgemental about what people spend their money on, but the comment about “eight people having to choose between eating and heating” doesn’t exactly hold water.I’d also speculate that some of the teenagers have a part-time job.  Additionally, although we’re told that some of the children are from previous marriages, we’re not told anything about how much time they spend living with the other side of the family, nor what “maintenance” they might receive from them.  I don’t feel tha…

Big News

I have just read the leading paragraph of a BBC article on the new Bond film.  Apparently, the first official image from the film has been released and “actor Daniel Craig is shown wielding a gun and sporting stubble.”How is this any more news-worthy than the fact I brushed my teeth this morning?  Honestly, I’d almost be prepared to bet that more people have commented on my own facial hair in the last month (I had a beard, which I have now shaved off) than care about the fact that Daniel Craig has been photographed with stubble.In the same way that “the name’s Bond” is usually followed by “James Bond,” much about a Bond film is fairly predictable.  There will be a villain, a fast car, a girl who is hopefully quite attractive and Mr Bond won’t die.  Sorry if I’ve just spoiled the new film for you, but the point is that it is probably quite difficult to come up with some truly surprising news about the new film.  However, someone somewhere could surely have said something other than “he…

Suits you, sir!

I am intrigued by the debacle over Fred Goodwin and his knighthood, or lack thereof.  There is an interesting article in The Telegraph which suggests that it is nothing but a political game and a “capitulation to mob rule.”I am equally intrigued by the farce over Stephen Hester and his bonus.  At one level, I don’t disagree that the bonus seemed a bit outrageous in this time of recession, but we need to get some perspective.  Firstly, like it or not, it is true that if you want the best people you have to pay for them accordingly.  I’m sure I can hear voices of disagreement, but if you’re not going to object to the fact that football managers get paid several times what Mr Hester was paid and most clubs will pay handsomely for their players then you’re not being consistent.  Similarly, I have no time for those Union bosses who whine, without even suggesting that they should cut back on their own six figure salaries.Secondly, whereas we may be right to acknowledge the fact that there h…

On the right to bear arms

We currently have an American guest in our house, which is always fun.  Amongst other things, I very much enjoyed the excuse to be a tourist in London at the weekend, and it is quite fun to mock her.One of the things which seems to have surprised her is the fact that most of our policemen are unarmed.  At one level, this makes me proud to be British, and I am proud of the fact that arming our policemen is not deemed necessary.Somehow the system works – we never hear of situations where hindsight would suggest that having more armed police would have been a good thing.  This is presumably partly because gun-crime rarely happens in front of the police and so whether they are armed or not is irrelevant.  But there must also be an element of being able to control a situation so that it doesn’t get out of hand.  Certainly we tend to have a strong objection to taking a “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude, even when it is arguably unavoidable, such as when Jean Charles de Menezes was…

High Speed 2

I have been asked quite a bit recently about what I think of the plans for a new high-speed railway line between London and Birmingham, and so I thought that I would blog about it.  I appreciate that this may not be of interest to everyone, but then when is that ever the case with my contributions to the Blogosphere?As a Transport Researcher, I should probably know more about some of the hard facts than I do, so I apologise in advance if you think that you’ve got a more educated opinion than me.  However, on the basis of what I do currently know, I am not hugely in favour of the scheme.  My reasoning can be broken down as follows:CapacityThe biggest argument for building High Speed 2 is capacity.  It is argued that the current transport links (chiefly the West Coast Mainline and the M6) are overcrowded and are not going to cope with predicted future travel demand.  This is probably very true, but is all of the predicted future demand necessary?  In an age when we need to be thinking a…

Easy on my soul

According to the BBC, “Work-averse students, corner-cutting journalists and people who simply enjoy wasting time online are in for a testing day.”I’m sure that there have been times in the past when someone could have argued that I fitted all three categories, but let’s gloss over that.  I’ve not blogged in a while and you’re bored because Wikipedia is on strike, so let’s just try and make the best of a bad situation.I should probably comment on said strike, just because it would be rude not to.  If I’ve had the pleasure of your company in this corner of the Blogosphere before, you may well think that I have an aversion to going on strike, as if saying the word to me is like waving a red rag to a bull – and it is fair to say that I’ve not had much time for some of the recent strikes.*Perhaps surprisingly, however, I’m in favour of the stance Wikipedia is taking, despite the irony that I had intended to spend some time on it this morning brushing up on some basic concepts from a report…