Monday, 31 December 2007

Wednesday, 2nd January 2008

Is expected to be the busiest day of the year for the "Fourth Emergency Service", the AA. The reason? Simple. People's cars and other motorised transport have been left unused over the festive holiday period and will not have been started in several days.

The AA will have to cope with 16 000 call outs for flat batteries- that's 70% more than on any other normal Wednesday morning. You may want to check yours before then if

“your battery is more than three years old, you are at risk as modern engines give few warning signs of impending problems.”

Good luck with that...and going back to work. ;-D

More Fines

Peterborough City Council (UK) is to charge supermarkets and shops for the cost of collecting and storing abandoned trolleys from streets. By doing so it hopes to get stores to improve their own security to prevent the trolleys from being taken. The cost of which, will of course be pushed down to the end users; you- the customers. Expect this scheme to be taken up by all councils in the future.

Why is it that the first option to rectify a problem is to make people pay or fine them? And if that doesn't work, it gets banned.

Riot on Stage

During the stage play of the children’s classic "Emile and the Detectives" in Volksbühne, Germany, it would have been highly appropriate to hear the classic Platter's song "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes". For instead of releasing stage fog for a scene, the theatre mistakenly released tear gas instead.

Several needed eye treatment but how does a stage production get its hands on tear gas in the first place?

Looking Back at 2007

We left our beloved Izola in May of this year and took the bus out of Slovenia to start our tour along the Adriatic coast of Croatia. The next four months saw us flit from undiscovered and peaceful little towns and fishing villages to popular, vibrant, full-on tourist engulfed holiday resorts, teeming with like minded folk in search of sun and sea.

My favourite area in Croatia has to be Istria and in particular Fazana. We stayed at Alberto’s superb accommodation: http://www.istra-holidays.com/ and it was so good we didn’t want to leave, even getting a surprise visit from the UK. Many thanks to “Rainy” & Jon who arrived on their matching Triumph bikes, bearing gifts of Marmite and BIKe magazine! We hope you enjoyed this enchanting little place as much as we did.

Further good memories came from returning to Trogir/Split, discovering Zadar and Vodice and our overnight cruise to Dubrovnik. That whole period was one big carefree holiday, as we had glorious, sizzling weather, met wonderfully friendly people and re-confirmed what an amazingly pretty and picturesque country Croatia really is.

I am continually astounded by folk who would rather fly for 4-6 hours to Greece or Turkey, when they have equally superb, clear seas, a dazzling hot climate and extremely good value for money to wine and dine. And all a mere couple of hour’s flight away, almost on the doorstep of the UK. Perhaps it’s a fear of the unknown or maybe it’s because Croatia dumped England out of the Euro 2008 Finals? (Snigger). Either way, have a look for yourselves and tell me I’m wrong? You’ll have to hurry though as Flickr only keep our last 200 photos available: http://flickr.com/photos/ktelontour/page10/

From Croatia we continued southwards into Montenegro and after Herzig-Novi, we ended up in Bar (how appropriate for ktelontour…) and met up with old chums from England; Nikki and Sanja. It’s always lovely to see chums and where the time went to, we will never now. It didn’t fly by as much as time travel and once again we left, ruing a lack of time. Guys, your generous hospitality will never be forgotten.

September saw us turning in land and travel into Bosnia to fulfil a promise we had made to ourselves by gong back to Mostar and seeing how the Old Bridge had turned out. On our last visit they had just begun the laborious task of rebuilding the bombed out wreck of a crossing, and we’re happy to report it has been authentically restored to its former glory. Of course, you’d probably know that as a certain Mr Michael Palin has been tracing our footsteps and filming some of the places we have visited to make a first class TV programme. He may have the BBC budget to support his adventure, we just get by on street smarts and our fiendish good looks…

Sarajevo was another find and possibly the best of this year. Not only did we have first class accommodation with Admir at his apartment http://www.homelidays.com/sarajevo/apartment-flat161452en1.htm but the city was inspiring. It is a truly fascinating place and whilst it often has had a sad history, it does not detract from offering a delicious prospect of differing religions existing side by side, with culturally diverse and wondrous architecture, sights and experiences. That, and it was just about the only city we never once got ripped of by taxi drivers. Those guys were honest as the day was long and worked just as long.

We left Sarajevo all too quickly but arrived in Serbia for a longer stay. Kraljevo was our home for the next couple of months in an apartment belonging to Olivera and Orhan whom we stayed with in Izola. Everything we could ever need was supplied in our new home, although food shopping tended to be limited in the supermarkets. Eventually we recognised we had to use local shops which specialised in fresh produce and thereafter everything became plain sailing. It was our first visit to Serbia and I would not hesitate to return, next time perhaps also to see the capital, Belgrade, which we didn’t quite manage on this occasion..

After Serbia we again ventured into a new country, this time Macedonia and to its main city, Skopje. Another top quality hotel with great staff enhancing our stay, and the city itself was wonderful. If you ever intend to visit (highly recommended) stay at the Hotel Square: http://www.hotelsquare.com.mk/ their updated website shows it off to its fullest glory and it really was a comfortable, good quality and well placed hotel.

That left our transfer into Greece at the start of November which we did via Thessaloniki and Athens/Piraeus and ultimately onto where we are now, Port Heli in the Peloponnese. The bigger cities were very much to our liking as there were hardly any tourists around at this time of year and we managed to get a most authentic view of Greek life as it is. C-h-a-o-t-i-c!

We’re here now until Easter 2008 and so far we’ve settled in very nicely thank you very much. Alan & Eve’s two bed roomed apartment is delightful: http://www.daltonsholidays.com/fulladview.php?property=770&page=1

Here we intend to rest up, recharge our batteries and plan our route for 2008, which will include Turkey, Singapore and Malaysia, if all goes well.. Those are the highlights, what of the downers?

The quite terrible forest fires we encountered on our transfer from Dubrovnik to Herzig-Novi. It wasn't the delay (the one hour bus ride turned into eight hours as we were stuck on the motorway whilst the fire fighters tried to contain the infernos) but seeing the destruction and devastation of the once mighty and proud trees, which were now no more than charcoaled and smouldering shrubs. Awful to witness.

Taxi drivers (with the exception of Sarajevo) are the world over the most blatant highwaymen you can have the misfortune to meet. They look at you with innocent surprise and then ask you if you know where the address is. Of course I bloody don't, because I have just arrived in your country, and that's why I'm asking the "expert".

You then get the usual charade of him sighing (it's always a him), scratching his head, asking his colleagues and then pretending to call the accommodation for directions. In realty of course, he's either asking his mum to put on his tea (they always live with their mothers) or calling his mates up the pub who piss themselves laughing at yet more lambs are led to the slaughter.

Finally, as if he is sacrificing his soul (I doubt any cabbie is born with one) he wearily asks you to jump in before he takes you on a mystery sight seeing tour (great; it's so dark you can't even see how many fingers you are sticking up at him) of the neighbouring cities before making a "U" turn back to the taxi rank and to the road a mere 50 metres away.

Utter bastards, but regrettably a necessary evil when arriving at pitch black o’clock with no idea where home is and you’re tired and hungry. Still, what goes around comes around and they will get theirs in due course, I’m sure.

Mosquitoes- another set of blood-sucking little gets and this year we did suffer a lot with multiple bites the size of dustbin lids. Nowadays it’s kill on sight for the buzzing little air borne blood banks, sod live and let live with this kamikaze breed of mini vampire.

Takeaway food. Whilst on the road we rarely had an opportunity to cook for ourselves and so had to continually dine out. It sounds like fun, but not for four odd months and particularly if it is all much of a muchness designed to keep the happy tourist fed on a budget. "Wold sir like chips with his chips?" It’s a treat to be able to cook one’s own cuisine, even the humble fish finger sandwich becomes a tasty morsel, and the times I would cry for some toast with Marmite- shameful really.

Best Western Hotel Rozos in Port Heli. Utter shit hole run by the surliest, rudest arsehole of a proprietor. Does a good breakfast though (even if the only "hot" thing offered was the coffee- another case of false advertising...). Currently an on-going “discussion” with Best Western Customer (Do We Really?)Care themselves, but they seem to be dragging their feet. Can’t blame them, how can you answer to a complaint where the odious retard of an owner has called you a liar? The outcome could be amusing, but we’ll see.

Not much to bellyache about over a fun packed 12 month period and if next year is half as good, we’ll be in for a treat. Let’s hear it for 2008.

More Piccies?

Aye. Check out Flickr for more shots around the area of Port Heli.

And whilst we're on the subject, Flickr has now issued version 3.0 for uploading your photies: Shiny and new Flickr

What We Won't Be Seeing This Year


"Experts"* tell us that every single snowflake is different. As ever when I hear that* term, I begin to question their words of wisdom and I wondered about this a bit more. To confidently be able to make such a statement that would have to presuppose that each and ever snowflake has been analysed to determine that they are indeed individual.

Let's even assume that that is so, what of future snowflakes? Who's to say that one or two will turn out to be identical? Further, have they kept all the old flakes for comparison? I think not, so I challenge them to prove it.

Never, ever argue with a stupid person because it will always drop down to their level...




It Feels Really Odd

To walk around in only a T plus a light jumper/sweatshirt during the day. This is probably the last thing you'll want to hear as you shiver back in the UK, but even though we are at the end of December, we are getting temperatures that creep into double figures, averaging in the mid-teens.

We do get our fair share of predicted rain however, although luckily the weather forecasters here are just as inaccurate as in England. :-)

Sunday, 30 December 2007

TLAs*

MP3s account for more internet traffic than any other file type. So, whilst we are familiar with the term and everyone uses them, does anyone know what "MP3" stands for?

MP(EG-1 Audio Layer) 3

Ah, but what does MPEG mean?

Moving Picture Experts Group

Hello? Anyone out there?



*Three Letter Acronyms...

30th December

Is today's date and exactly five days since Christmas. Which is why you will see Easter Eggs already on sale. Despite Easter still being three months away, Woolworths is already stocking them with a quote: "We always sell Easter eggs as soon as Christmas is over as a lot of our customers like to be organised. We've done this for 50 years."

How about we just leave all the Christmas stuff on the shelves in readiness for next year?

Bigger, Better, Boringer [sic]

Pilfed from today's Times:

How the US Electoral System Works

What is the Iowa caucus?

It’s the gathering of individuals to discuss policies and express preferences about candidates for the presidential election. People meet in schools, libraries, churches or individual homes. Anyone who will be 18 by the time of the presidential election can attend, although you usually have to register with the relevant party to participate. At Republican caucuses, each person simply picks the candidate they favour. At Democrat caucuses, people split into groups supporting the various candidates. If a candidate fails to get 15% of the total, those people must realign with another candidate. The popularity of candidates determines how many delegates they are allocated to attend the parties’ national conventions, which choose the final presidential candidates.

How does it differ from a primary?

In a primary there is a more straightforward and secret vote on potential presidential candidates. At an ‘open’ primary, anyone can vote for any candidate; at a ‘closed’ primary, only registered party members can vote in each of the party contests.

Why does Iowa have a caucus and New Hampshire a primary?

Both states have a tradition of being first out of the blocks in the presidential race, and kept seeking to move their dates forward. So in the 1980s they struck a deal: Iowa would hold the first caucus and New Hampshire the first primary.

How does the electoral process then unfold?

Each state holds a primary or caucus, which decides the delegates to be sent to county conventions and then the national conventions of both Democrats and Republicans. Super Tuesday is the name given to the day on which a large number of states hold primaries or caucuses. In 2008 it will fall on February 5, when 25 states will take part. In the summer the Republicans and Democrats hold national conventions to endorse one candidate as their nominee for the presidential election. The frontrunner, however, may have become clear well in advance.

What happened after previous Iowa caucus results?

Since 1972, the final nominee for both Republicans and Democrats has always been among the top three candidates in the Iowa caucuses. In 2000 George W Bush won the Republican race and went on to win the presidency. In 2004 John Kerry, who became the Democrat challenger, won in Iowa and became the Democrat candidate, only to lose the presidential election to Bush.

All clear? Anyone still breathing?

Am I a Piss Head?

Take the test to find out by asking yourself the following questions and answering them as honestly as you can:

1. Do you lose time from work due to drinking?

2. Is drinking making your home life unhappy?

3. Do you drink because you are shy with other people?

4. Is drinking affecting your reputation?

5. Have you ever felt remorse after drinking?

6. Have you got into financial difficulties as a result of drinking?

7. Do you find yourself in bad company or in a bad environment when drinking?

8. Does your drinking make you careless of your family’s welfare?

9. Has your ambition decreased since drinking?

10. Do you crave a drink at a definite time of day?

11. Do you want a drink the next morning?

12. Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?

13. Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?

14. Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?

15. Do you drink to escape from worries or trouble?

16. Do you drink alone?

17. Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?

18. Has your doctor ever treated you for drinking?

19. Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?

20. Have you ever been to a hospital because of drinking?

If you have answered YES to any one of the questions, it is a warning that you may be an alcoholic.
If you have answered YES to any two, the chances are that you are an alcoholic.
If you have answered YES to three or more, you are in all likelihood an alcoholic.

Personal score of a maybe to one, so who's up for a pint?




Questions compiled by Dr. Robert V. Seliger for use at John Hopkins University Hospital, Baltimore, in deciding whether patients are alcoholic.) Copyright © Recovered Alcoholic Clergy Association, 2000

Final Score For 2008


No, this is not some photo shopped trickery, this is the real deal and here's what happened:
Spurs went ahead before Reading levelled and then went in front, 1-2. Tottenham equalised, Reading restored their lead but Berbatov completed his hat-trick to level scores at 3-3, only for Reading to go 3-4 up.
Again Spurs equalised and then finally went ahead after a penalty was saved, and then Berbatov got his fourth and Spurs' sixth in the 83rd minute. Phew, what a game to see on Match of the Day.
Southend crash 3-1 away to Doncaster and slip back to 10th spot well out of the running for promotion at this point. Fingers crossed the Blues find their winning ways for the start of the new year and get back into contention.

Get a Move On

Here's one for you commuters and fans of the M25, in a traffic jam, the centre lane typically moves the slowest.

Not if you're riding a bike it doesn't...

Saturday, 29 December 2007

The Name's Bond, James Bond


To help commemorate the centenary of the birth of James Bond creator Ian Fleming, the post office is to launch six extra-long UK stamps on 8th January 2008.
Each stamp has been lengthened to show a number of different Bond novel covers, with first-class stamps featuring Casino Royale and Dr No. The 54p stamps reveal the covers of Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever and the final 78p pairing depicts For Your Eyes Only and From Russia With Love.

Cool, but I wonder how often 54p & 78p stamps actually get used?

Going Underground

Hands up if you were one of the estimated 4.17 million passengers who travelled on the tube on 7th December, this year? If so, congratulations you are a record breaker, because it has beaten the previous record of four million on December 8 2006.

Perhaps you should buy the "Guinness Book of Records" (a book we all have at least one copy of and eagerly peruse on Christmas day and then never again) and check to see if you're mentioned?













No, please don't- I just made that up, OK?

2008- The Beijing Olympics

China is organising classes in cheering aimed at preparing Chinese sports fans for the Olympic Games next year. The courses in celebrating correctly are part of a broader campaign by the Chinese government to encourage what it calls "civilised behaviour" during the Olympics, including no queue jumping or spreading litter. Volunteers are being trained on the finer points of cheering- including when to clap and the importance of avoiding unsporting behaviour.

Perhaps England can introduce something similar for its forthcoming 2012 London Olympics? It could start with teaching people to give a toss about hosting the games...

Nah, there's not enough time left for that.

Is This Your Vehicle, Sir?

A motorist has been fined £30 for defrosting his car outside his home because he left it unattended with the engine running- he was prosecuted for the offence of "quitting" after the vehicle was spotted by Dibble.

Plod blurk knocked on the door of the Mercedes' owner home at 08:20 am and advised him he was committing a crime. The chap told him that there was no way of stealing his saloon car because its windows and doors could be locked while the engine was running.

It cut no ice (ha!) and he was fined with sound advice of: "Every year we appeal to the public not to leave their cars running unattended on frosty mornings as they are easy pickings for thieves."

I am astounded. Truly.




A copper out and about over the Christmas period? You are having a giraffe.

Lighting Up in a Roundabout Way

One of the most common New Year's Eve resolutions is to pack in the fags. With the Government's support and help since the smoking in public ban was introduced in 2007, it should be made even easier for the poor suckers (sic) and yet there is even more help at hand for you lucky people.

Currently smoking in a company car is verboten, but the rules are blurred; possibly due to smoke getting in one's eyes. Smoking tobacco products is banned when passengers are carried, which means taxi drivers cannot smoke, however, sales representatives can light up if they are the only person using the vehicle.

It's personal cars that are the grey area and naturally, if there is any chance of anyone being able to enjoy themselves, the Government just has to lock down any loop holes. Around five million people use their own cars for work.

At the moment, smoking is prohibited if the vehicle is mainly used for work; but not if it is mainly private and this is what will be reviewed to clarify the law in 2010. Smoking at the wheel is also now being deemed as a distraction in the updated Highway Code, which could mean smokers may be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention.

It's not looking good for anyone who likes a chuff whilst on the move- the smart money is on all smoking in motorised vehicles to be banned in the near future.

Oh Dear

In an attempt to go "upmarket", ITV have signed up Paul Merton to host a new Saturday night "comedy" format. Couple that with them considering Piers Morgan to replace Michael Parkinson (my toe nail clippings would be an improvement but compared to Morgan it's close) as the channel’s chat-show host, and I can't see them attracting many new viewers aside from people who think "Help I Am a A Self Attention Seeking Whore, Please, Please, Please Give Me A Contract And Get Me Out Of Here" is riveting material and who think Eastenders is a documentary on real life in London.

No wonder the Government can nanny the state at will, if this is the resistance citizens put up. Happy viewing in 2008, comrades.

Around the World in 80 Clicks

Can't get hold of any "Bin Laden's Bombs" and no idea what to do to celebrate the arrival of 2008? Why not take up the suggestion put forward by Computing Which? and let the mouse take the strain by completing an around the world virtual tour? The team at the computer mag have compiled a list of the 80 best webcams out of the thousands around the world and here are some of their suggestions:

The Alps
www.swisspanorama.com

RussiaEarthCam Moscow
http://www.earth-cam.com/russia/moscow

ItalyLive views of and from Mount Etna
http://tinyurl.com/2y3skb

Tanzania Kilimanjaro Webcam - Africa’s tallest mountain peak
www.kilicam.com

South Africa Video from leading game reserve
http://tinyurl.com/39bkj3

Egypt Pyramids
www.pyramidcam.com

Syria Damascus - life in the capital
http://tinyurl.com/233w41

China Factory cam - Live images from a Chinese factory
http://tinyurl.com/2qt4hj

Antarctica British Antarctic Survey Webcams - real-time images from the Antarctic
http://tinyurl.com/2gpaby

Brazil Santos cam - Views from large port in Sao Paulo
www.exibir.com/camevid/

Not All Aboard

Only nineteen airports will be able to lift the limit on the number of items of hand luggage one can take aboard a plane on 7th January 2008. Currently, only one piece is permitted unless airports can prove they can cope with the extra baggage without affecting "security" and several can't; Gatwick being one of them.

It Must Be Santa

A would-be burglar had to be rescued by firemen after he became stuck in a chimney trying to break into a hotel. Staff arriving for work heard the man groaning and raised the alarm. The guy had been stuck there for about ten hours.

Good.

WAKE UP!

The family of a man hit by a car and mistakenly declared dead has sued over the error, claiming it led to injuries from which he may not recover.

I don't usually sympathise with people who sue at the drop of a hat, but this poor chap was left in a body bag, in a morgue, for two hours. Happy New Year, fellah.

Happy New Year

With a bang.

Firecrackers called “Bin Laden’s Bomb” have been seized in the northern Philippines as Filipinos seek ever increasing louder, more powerful bangs to welcome in the New Year and with it traditionally, to drive potential bad luck away.

Health and Safety Nazis are recommending other ways to celebrate, including blowing trumpets or banging pots and cans, as bangers and similar, can easily maim or kill. Since 21st December, 102 people have already been injured by firecrackers and one even by a stray bullet. That's just one week!

Regards “Bin Laden’s Bomb” they may have a reasonable point though, it has the firepower of five grenades! I'd still like one.

Wifey Having a Blonde Moment



Not quite our balcony scene on Boxing Day...can't stand Pepsi...

The Greeks Have a Saying For It

Having crabs in the pocket

Meaning: being miserly, not wanting to spend money

Having your pockets full of crabs would obviously make one rather reluctant to put one's hand in.

Green horses

Meaning: nonsense, absurdities

Apparently an "acoustic orthography" (an exact sound alike) of the Ancient Greek phrase meaning to act unreasonably or nonsensically.

Having eaten one's bread

Meaning: dead or at death's door, having had one's chips

Black humour as there comes a time when one is unable to eat anymore bread (food) and the phrase is always used in the third person, past tense; ie "he had his last breads". In this manner the departed will not take offence.

Funnily enough, in English we use "bread" too, as he is brown bread = rhyming slang for dead. As is "toast", also another word for dead. What is it about bread being equated to death?

Fox Hunting

Since the "ban" a few years ago, Boxing Day saw 314 organised hunts being conducted across the country, with about 300 000 people attending and numbers going up all the time.

Personally I can't abide fox hunting or the excuses trotted out by the people that enjoy the "sport" but with popularity rising year on year, are people finally defying the Government? It also seems no one is in a hurry to enforce the law. Facts, pilfed from The Times:

Hunting & The law

>> Hunts can chase rabbits and rats with dogs but they cannot hunt mice, hare or squirrels.

>> A huntsman can go out with two dogs to flush out a fox from cover to protect farm animals, crops or other property although the animal must then be shot. If three dogs are used however that is against the law.

>> A hunt can send hounds below ground to flush out a fox to protect game birds. Yet it is against the law if the same hounds flush out a fox to protect lambs, chickens or even a ground nesting bird such as a stone curlew.

>> A person can walk his dog but must not let it chase a squirrel, mouse or bird.

>> A hunt can use a pack of hounds to flush out a fox if it is then killed by a bird of prey such as a golden eagle or European eagle owl.

>> The Hunting Act came into force on February 19, 2005. Anyone in breach of the law will be dealt with by magistrates' court and liable to a maximum fine of £5,000.

>> A prison sentence would only be considered if fines were unpaid or for persistent offending.

I Kid You, I Kid You Not

Friday night at 22:30 we have "Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh"

Tuesday morning at 07:15 we have "Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back"

Go figure- and this is all on terrestrial TV, not cable or satellite...

2020 Vision

Researchers predict that by 2020 all forms of communications, including internet, phones, television and radio, will be entirely transmitted wirelessly.

Sometimes, All I Need is the Air That I Breathe

WASHINGTON—In an unexpected reversal that environmentalists and scientists worldwide are calling groundbreaking, President George W. Bush, for the first time in his political career, openly admitted to the existence of carbon dioxide following the release of the new U.N. Global Environment Outlook this October.

The announcement has wide-ranging implications for exhalation, club soda, and photosynthesis.
"Carbon dioxide, a molecule which contains one atom of carbon bonded with two atoms of oxygen, is a naturally occurring colorless gas exhaled by humans and metabolized, in turn, by plants," Bush told a stunned White House press corps. "As a leading industrialized nation, we can no longer afford to ignore the growing consensus of so many experts whose job it is to study our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is real."


Because carbon dioxide, which was first described by 17th-century Flemish physician Jan Baptista van Helmont as a gas he referred to as "spiritus silvestre," has long been denied by the Bush administration, the president's speech was widely hailed as a victory for advocates of empirically established scientific fact.

"This has been a major step forward for national basic-chemistry policy," said longtime CO2 proponent and eighth-grade science teacher Linda Mattson. "By taking this brave stance, Bush has opened the door for the eventual acknowledgment that other molecular compounds, such as H20, for example, may in fact exist as well."

Many of those whom Bush has long considered to be his most loyal followers, however, have expressed disappointment with the development.

"There is nothing about any 'carbon dioxide' in the Bible," said Rev. Luke Hatfield of Christchurch Ministries in Topeka, KS. "What's next? Claims that so-called 'fossil' fuels come from mythical creatures like dinosaurs? This has been a sad step backward for our nation."
A White House spokesman was careful to categorize the announcement as "cautious," and reiterated that the president is still not ready to take any position on the existence of polar ice caps, ozone, or a controversial idea held by many scientists and often referred to as "weather."


Repeated in its entirety from "The Onion" as it made me chuckle. Lots. :o)

The Local Nativity Scene





Is quite big...

Friday, 28 December 2007

Rossi is Most Concerned



Taking the SS beastie out for a "thrash" earlier today. Note the safety gear- a pair of Ray Bans...

Today

Around the world, one million light bulbs will burn out.

Balls Control

"Beautiful game, beautiful girls."
Announcer at the opening ceremony of the women's World Cup in China, mispronouncing Fifa's slogan, "Beautiful game, beautiful goals"

"I'll bounce back - I'm not one to lie on a beach."
Steve McClaren, before getting ready to jet off to Barbados

"I don't think any of the Croatian team would get into our team."
Michael Owen gives his verdict on England's subsequent 2010 World Cup draw.

Yes Michael, which team is going to the Euro 2008 tournament?

"He'll be like a father figure to him."
Jamie Redknapp on the relationship between father and son Peter and Kasper Schmeichel

Christmas Post

An American man who died in October has "stunned" friends and relatives by sending them Christmas cards, two months after his own death. He sent 34 handwritten cards, signed by himself, giving "Heaven" as the return address.

It was of course just a hoax he had planned before he finally checked out but I reckon he must have sent them from the UK, for last Christmas...

Father Frost

Who's that then? The same dude as Saint Vasilios, mentioned recently, for Father Frost is the Russian version of Santa Claus and he's been making the headlines in Mother Russia.

An advertisement for Eto electrical stores recently stated that Father Frost did not exist. The Federal anti-Monopoly Service declared the ad had broken rules for advertisers not to discredit parents and teachers, because if Father Frost did not exist, it implied that parents were not telling the truth and so undermining childrens' trust in them. The ad therefore "induces negative relations between children and parents" a spokesperson said.

The Russian government has since banned the television advertisement and all the kids can rest easy again.

It's More Than Me Job's Worth

The average gross annual earnings for all full time male and female workers working in the City of London are £73 587, which puts the City of London at the top of the UK earnings league. Average earnings in the City of London are 261% of the average gross pay of £28 210 for all full time male and female workers in the UK. These figures were published in 31st July, 2006.

In the period 2005-2006, the number of number of council employees earning salaries of more than £100 000 had gone up from 429 in the previous year to 578- an increase of a third.

Global Warming?

Ty this quiz and maybe lose a few misconceptions?

The Global Warming Test

I managed 8/10...

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Big Up To Slovenia

Our fondness for Slovenia is barely disguised. We love it dearly and it is by far the best country we've been fortunate to have discovered on our (as yet) short travels. So it always cheers us up when this tiny country (population of 2 000 000 {+ 2, us}) makes the news and this time it's making huge headlines.
As of 1st January 2008, Slovenia will become the the first new member of the European Union to hold the rotating presidency for the next six months. It's a big task and great honour for any country to take the leading role, let alone one of the smaller members and I confidently predict they will make it a resounding success.
They have already opened the Brdo Congress Centre (see above), the main venue for presidency-related events. The high-tech facility, which cost 15.00 € million to construct, has a hall for 550 people and a multi-purpose conference room for 200 people and it will host up to 130 events over the half year tenure.
Despite costing more to to build the conference centre than anticipated and the total costs of the presidency predicted to go over budget by approximately 62.00 € million than originally forecast, officials insist that the costs are nevertheless reasonable, particularly as Slovenia will benefit from its increased profile in Europe.
Lets hope so and cheers also to The Slovenia Times where I borrowed the piccie and the details.

Two More for the Euro

As of 1st January 2008, both Cyprus and Malta give up their currencies and introduce the Euro. Bear it in mind if you intend holidaying there soon.

Surely Not?

The Government has once again backtracked over demands for an independent inquiry into the mistakes made in the run-up to and ensuing aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. Ministers whilst having hinted repeatedly that an investigation would be held after British forces leave the country, instead now change tack, in the hope of "moving on" in Iraq rather than looking back at what went wrong.

Asked if an inquiry would take place after British troops withdraw, the Foreign Secretary, replied: "I am obsessed with the next five years in Iraq, not the last five years in Iraq."

Yes, mate- total cop out. Again.

BA to Kick Butt

Heathrow airport's new Terminal 5 is scheduled to open in three month's time and with it passengers will face a tough new zero-tolerance policy.

Be in the queue for security at least 35 minutes before the flight or count as a "no show".

The only exception to the 35-minute rule will be travellers on standby, who get an extra five minutes' grace to allow for the fact that their seats are assigned only after check-in formally closes at "minus 45".

British Airways, the exclusive tenant at the new terminal, is attempting to improve its woeful punctuality record. Despite it's rather pathetic target of ensuring 52% depart on time, it is currently seeing fewer than one in three flights taking off by its allotted time.

I wonder how they will monitor/enforce that though? Time stamps at check in? Jobsworth and clipboard marching up and down the queues? GPS tagging system? The mind boggles.

If Ever There was a Reason

For dumping the whole charade of knighthoods, it must be this; you can now be honoured for being an arse-kissing crawler.

Michael Parkinson who is somehow called a chat show host, and who thankfully retired this month, is to be knighted in the New Year Honours.

It serves you all right, particularly as Mrs BLiar is up for some kind of Mickey Mouse badge too.

Higher Standards and Years for Driving Test

Another story in our continuing series of "sticking-your-beak-in-on-the-grounds-of-safety" sees the rumour that the driving test age will be increased to 18. Learners will still be granted a provisional driving licence at age 17, but must then complete a 12-month training period before they can take their test and drive alone, under the new plans.

Most people will have to spend at least 500 hours mastering key skills- under the current arrangements, some new drivers pass their test after spending only 100 hours behind the wheel.

It is estimated that this will prevent up to 1 000 deaths and serious injuries and up to 7 000 casualties a year.

Under a separate review, the Government will also look at a zero alcohol limit for newly-qualified drivers of all ages for a year after they pass the test. Novice drivers found behind the wheel with alcohol in their blood would be forced to retake their test.







Britain is one of very few EU countries to allow 17-year-olds to hold a full driving licence.

Power of the People

Were you aware that local councils are at perfect liberty to completely ignore any and all petitions from its citizens, irrespective of how many sign? Of course you were, which is exactly why nothing ever gets changed and councillors remain free to implement ridiculous rules, taxes and generally interfere in your private affairs.

Help may be at hand though as proposals to devolve power to the grass roots are published today which could mean town halls will be forced to take action on local petitions that have as few as 250 signatures*. The plans will allow residents to trigger changes in council policy covering areas such as drug dealing, antisocial behaviour and rubbish collection. If the council ignores the petition or the response is unsatisfactory, the community can trigger a "scrutiny committee hearing" where the issue can be debated and an action plan decided.

Cor- anyone fancy starting one up about the abolition of GATSOs? :-D

*250 people, or 1% of the local electorate.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

The train was quite crowded as a US Marine walked the entire length looking for a seat. However, the only seat left was taken by a poodle belonging to a well dressed, middle-aged, French woman.

The war-weary Marine asked, "Ma'am, may I have that seat?"

The French woman just sniffed and said to no one in particular, "Americans are so rude. My little Fifi is using that seat."

The Marine walked the entire train again, but the only seat left was under that dog.

"Please, ma'am. May I sit down? I'm very tired."

She snorted, "Not only are you Americans rude, you are also arrogant!"

This time the Marine didn't say a word. He just picked up the little dog, tossed it out the train window, and sat down.

The woman shrieked, "I'm horrified. Someone must defend my honour and put this American in his place!"

An English gentleman sitting nearby spoke up, "Sir, you Americans seem to have a penchant for doing the wrong thing. You hold the fork in the wrong hand, you drive your automobiles on the wrong side of the road and now sir, you seem to have thrown the wrong bitch out the window."

I like this because I can't stand poodles.

Well, I Never

Every 24 hours the human race consumes approximately two billion insects.

I hope the majority are mosquitoes...

A Belated Christmas Present

I must be dreaming. A Spurs game that had six goals scored in it and we got the majority? Get away! We stuffed not just the turkey but also Fulham, 5-1 at White Hart Lane and the win sees us storm into 13th place.

This win was Tottenham's eighth under new manager Juande Ramos, and whilst I was (and still am) a fan of Martin Jol's, it is obvious to note the improvement under the Spaniard. It was also heartening to see the return of skipper Ledley King, who completed 73 minutes after a serious knee injury.

Are we turning the corner? I have no idea, but I will still relish a much needed win until we get our arses kicked sometime soon again.

You Know You're getting Old When...

After speaking to our old friends yesterday, a couple of snippets were gleaned that demonstrate that we are all reaching that happy area called "middle age".

Pals that used to tear up the high street, ride big fast motorbikes, have the odd punch up, drink till the wee hours of the morning and generally party like there was no tomorrow, now feel it is quite acceptable to marry, settle down and have kids.

Worse still, one now has his own allotment and grows fresh stuff and another goes fishing and writes a weekly column about it in the local newspaper!

Guys, if this had been 2008, your names would have been mentioned. You escape by four days...




However, to redress the balance one mate has now bought himself a Maserati and another is planning to join us in Singapore for a beer later next year! *yay*

Boxing Day Chez ktelontour

I think we must have spent the entire day on the telephone to our friends and family back in the UK/Germany and we had a marvellous time. Through the miracles of modern technology; namely Skype, our laptop and a good broadband connection we surprised a fair few people with our festive greetings from Greece.

It was quite amazing how many people still recognised the dulcet tones after an absence of twenty odd months and it was so good to catch up and chat. I think one or two were surprised to hear that we were even still alive, but they held it together well.

Here's to a superb 2008 to you all and maybe one day we'll meet up for real. Somewhere?

New Year's Resolution

At this time of year one is expected to reflect on the ups and downs, the good and bad and assess the highlights and low points of the year. Then, if one is willing, it's time to make some resolutions for the forthcoming 12 months.

Can't be arsed with all that crap- we're happy and doing the things we want to do, so why change stuff that can't be improved? But one thing that did occur to me, was that in 2008 I will use names more often on the Blog. Up until now I have tried as best as I can not to name names directly in an attempt to respect people's privacy.

It's not as if we're dishing the dirt or revealing anything of note aside from the odd birthday or passing on thanks, so in 2008 we'll start to see some more names being dropped which in turn should make things a bit more personal.

Hope everyone approves, but if you prefer to remain incognito, no problem- drop us a line and we'll keep you away from the limelight.

Best Western Update

I forgot to keep you advised on developments, mainly because there haven't been any. So, I therefore decided to wish my chums at Customer Services (Care?) a Happy Christmas and find out what was happening since I had requested a manager look into my complaint. Here are the two replies, received Christmas Eve:

Thank you for contacting Best Western International.

I do apologize for any inconvenience and/or delay this may have caused you. Your information has been forwarded to a supervisor in which you will be responded to shortly. I do appreciate your patience in this matter.

If we can be of further service, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

Sincerely
Customer Care
Best Western International

and the follow up a few moments later:

Thank you for contacting Best Western International.

As previously advised, your email has been sent to my supervisor for review. Due to the holidays, my supervisor is out of office until January, 2nd.

Sincerely

Customer Care
Best Western International

No more until the New Year, but should I not receive a response in good time, I will take my concerns to the CEO and see what he has to say.

Anybody lost the will to live yet?

The Year of the Pig/Boar (Ding Hai)

*


Is what 2007 is for the Chinese and it began on 18th February. Next year (for us not far off, but for the Chinese it starts on 7th February 2008) is the year of the Rat- Wu Zhi.

Far be it from me to disagree, but I think they've got it wrong, for this year has definitely been the year of the Mosquito- Blood Sucking Bastard. All down the Adriatic coast we've been eaten alive by the little sods and still it continues.

How can I get bitten by the little feckers on Boxing Day? One on the toe, one on the ear and one on the arm. It would have been more but it made the fatal mistake of whizzing past the other ear and woke me with its high-pitched, whining buzzing. I responded with outright violence and spilled blood. Most of it mine, alas*.

I know Greece is milder than most of Europe at this time of year, but this is ridiculous.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Galopoula and Vasilopita

If you're wondering what the title is all about, welcome to my world and the Greek language. It translates to stuffed turkey and a New Year Cake and is the traditional fare for the time of year.

Turkey is turkey is turkey and I'm sure you're already all sick to the back teeth of the word, so instead we'll concentrate on the vasilopita instead. This is a cake and is brought out on New Year's Eve which is by far more celebrated than Christmas itself. The cake can be a Madeira sponge, sweet puff pastry with nuts or a savoury version made with meat, but all variants will contain a coin hidden amongst the baked ingredients.

Once cut, there is a strict order of serving: the first piece for Christ (the Orthodox Church is very big here), the second is for Mary (see previous comment) the third for the Saint Vasilios (Santa Clause to you and me) the fourth for the house, the fifth for the head of the family, the sixth for the mother and thereafter a bit for each kid. A separate slice is also set aside for all absent members of the family.

Whoever gets the coin is said to have special success in the coming year.

A PC Calendar

Is out, which highlights Britain's continuing madness to keep playing the white man's game (sic) for fear of offending minorities. It contains such fine examples as:

- An Employment Law Advisory Service which warned that just sending a Valentine's Day card to a colleague could backfire because it could constitute an "unwanted sexual advance".

- A school who banned children from cheering for their team on sports day - in case those who came last felt humiliated.

- Another school where parents were not allowed to attend sports day at all, to spare their children from embarrassment if they lost.

- Of officials in Blackpool who were deployed to ensure donkeys working on the beach had a full hour off for lunch in accordance with European Union rules.

- Details of an event to mark the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar on the Thames during which the actor playing the military hero was forced to wear a lifejacket.

- During Ramadan, the NHS boards in Greater Glasgow and Lothian were reported to have banned staff from eating at their desks to avoid offending any Muslims who might have been fasting during the month.

Where will it all end?

Plod Unhappy

It appears that the Filth are a tad upset that company owned cars used by staff who are caught speeding are not getting points on their licence.

There is a loophole you see.

Earlier this year, legislation under the Road Safety Act (2006) was brought into force to increase the licence penalty from three to six points for registered vehicle keepers who do not disclose the driver. It did not however increase the maximum fine for the offence, which stayed at £1 000.

Now a grand is not all that much to a big company who rely on valuable employees whose work relies on driving around the country, so they are refusing to name the guilty drivers and instead, happily pay off the fine.

The miffed the vice-president of the Police Superintendents' Association, said: "This brings the law into disrepute."

Ah, diddums...

The Road to Hell

Is how Chris Rea described the M25 in his song and for many it sums it up most accurately.

However, good news may be to hand as the powers that be have decided not to push ahead with the option of allowing motorists to use the hard shoulder at peak times (an idea I have never really supported- how would emergency services gain access in the event of an accident?) but instead they will begin a road expansion programme to widen the M25.

Mind you, it ain't going to be cheap. Converting hard shoulders for traffic use costs between £5-£15 million a mile, whilst widening a 63 mile stretch (the M25 is 118 miles "long") will cost £79 million a mile.

Now I wonder who is going to foot the bill for that little project...

2008 Technology?

If you think that technology is good now, stand by for laser televisions, invisible USB cables and the world’s smallest computer hard drive, measuring barely more than an inch. All are due to be unveiled at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Mitsubishi is due to introduce its laser TV, which could eventually replace plasma and LCD technology. Laser TVs are essentially an evolution of projection TVs, using a trio of lasers (red, green, and blue) instead of an incandescent lamp. It is claimed that they will ultimately be lighter, cheaper and longer-lasting than current plasma and LCD televisions, while also displaying more colours and using less electricity.

Other items making the headines include wireless USB and HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) systems (made possible with ultra-wideband technology) that could make expensive cables redundant and the world's smallest hard drive, developed by Samsung, which at 3.3cm (1 1/3in) allows a vast amount of storage in a device as small as a mobile phone.

Exciting times ahead.

This Time Last Year

Was our first Christmas "away", but it wasn't really as we'd flown back to surprise our families and visit England one final time. So that makes this Christmas our first one away and I have to say it's been delightful. With no one to please but ourselves, it has been stress free, simple and easy going.

One of the biggest headaches is usually what to buy as presents. That was solved by buying absolutely nothing and it was so successful, we will be buying a load more nothings next year too.

The next big worry at this time of year was cooking the big meal. Again, problem solved by not cooking. The only treat I had was a full blown "English" fry up for breakfast (although I grill not fry everything possible except for the eggs) because we have all the ingredients to hand; including Heinz baked beans. Delish, and more than enough to see me through until the evening where I further indulged in all the snacky crap that is so bad for you. Well, it is Christmas after all and the cheese board was mouth watering.

Entertainment was the aforementioned "The Polar Express" film and a good book (just finished "The Private Eye Story" and now starting Tom Sharpe's "Wilt in Nowhere", the last of the trilogy) and the entire day just happily skipped along at its own pace with us tagging along for the ride.

We have only a rough idea of where Christmas will see us next year, but we're rather hoping it may be Malaysia. Wherever it may be, the idea of a laid back day similar to the one we enjoyed yesterday really appeals and hopefully what we will get, no matter where we land.

Today, as per tradition, will see me become more energetic and take out the SS machine for a ride. It was always a good time of year back in the UK as the roads were empty and a refreshing blat on two wheels was an ideal way to blow away the cobwebs. Then, a bit more of the same I think- I've still got half a tin of beans in the fridge...

Birthday Burds

Many happy returns of the day to two lovely girlies in my life. Both Trix and Hel were born on Boxing Day, a few years ago, and continue to make the world a happier place to live in. Missing you both, but hoping you have a super time.

The Polar Express

Was our big Christmas movie and shown at 21:00 running until 23:15. I mention this to again highlight how Greek TV schedules its family/kids' films (the UK would air this around 18:00 or perhaps earlier) and to give you a further example of how long the ads run over here. The film lasts 100 minutes, yet the above timings allow for 35 minutes of advertising!

So, onto the film, which despite being released in 2004 we had not seen and were very much looking forward to. It did not disappoint.

The animation was way past first class with attention to detail in the breath-taking category. I lost count of the number of times I uttered "unbelievable" or nudged wifey in the ribs with "will you just look at that!" Like she could do anything but?

Going against tradition, the film was not stuffed full of "names" either. The only real voice of note is that of Tom Hanks and whilst you may think he only provides the vocal tones of the Train Conductor (and if you ever need to see what Hanks would look like if reproduced by CGI, this is it), he also takes on the roles of the "hero boy", the tramp, the boy's father and Father Christmas to boot. He does Santa particularly well as at one point I was convinced it was Donald Sutherland!

What of the story then? Ideal for a Chrimble flick where turkey, trimmings and an overdose of booze leaves the thinking process hovering between comatose to free-fall. Put your brain in neutral as you uncover the plot of the hero boy not quite sure if the man in red does really exist and then getting a train to the North Pole. Will he meet Santa there, or is it just make believe?

It's that simple and if you can avoid the shards of toffee that will get stuck to your teeth due to this over sweetened sugar bowl of a flick, you will just be mesmerised by the art work. Just grit your teeth, sit back and think of the children- you'll love it.

Boxing Day Binmen

Aye, they emptied our our bins and cleared away the rubbish again today.

I hear that some places get this service once a fortnight in England- and you have to pay extra for it. Plus over Christmas they won't start again until Easter...

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

What Everyone Needs at This Time of Year

Batteries. They can make or break your Christmas, no question. However, did you know that the average rechargeable battery can be recharged only 50 times before it can hold no charge whatsoever?

ktelontour- a wealth of utter bollocks-but-handy-snippets.

More Festive Cheer

Shoppers got a pleasant Christmas Eve surprise when a couple of brothers handed out $100 (~£50) bills at a shopping mall on Long Island. As usual, Plod got called in because security staff were concerned that the hand outs might cause a scene or involve counterfeit notes.
Happily though, the Rozzers found a simple case of good Christmas charity where calm prevailed as the businessmen, aged 45 and 41, just gave out their money to whom they thought needed it. Apparently the two brothers do this anonymously every year because they've been blessed and just want to give something back.

A lovely Fairy Tale in New York one might say...

Prost!

It seems that the once great nation of beer swillers is losing its taste for the lagers it is so globally famous for. Per-capita consumption of beer in Germany, once the world's largest consumer of the drink, fell by 3.5 litres in 2007 to 112.5 litres; the eighth decline in the last nine years. In the 1980s, it peaked at 156 litres.

The main reason is "demographics" but Germans are also drinking more non-alcoholic beverages and it has now fallen behind the Czech Republic and Ireland in the drinking league.

However, beer consumption did rally once in the last nine years, lat year in fact, when Germany hosted the World Cup. The presence of ktelontour is purely coincidental...

Respect Mah Authoriteh

(For fullest effect the title has to be said in a Cartman voice.)

You think our poor English refs have it bad?

What with being accused of being blind, being man handled and jostled by screaming players and having their parentage constantly being brought into question? Perhaps they'd like an opportunity to react as one Malaysian referee did, after he gave out a red card to one player in a local match that had turned a bit unruly.

The referee, who was also a policeman, ran to his patrol car to get his gun and then repeatedly shot off rounds into the air to restore calm.

Unfortunately for him, senior Dibble have taken a dim view of his tactics and he was was taken into custody for suspected misuse of firearms.

It must have been fun whilst it lasted though.

It's All About Timing



Right place, right time, right on.

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words. Here's 2k...



From one extreme to another...

Happy Birthday Noel

An inspirational name for a birthday boy born on Christmas. Hope you still get double presents and have a great day.

Incredible

We have just had our bins emptied on Christmas morning!

Monday, 24 December 2007

Xmas Tip

No matter how nicely you wrap Toblerone, people will always know what it is.

We're Living Longer

And thus becoming a burden to the state as we require more medical help in our older years and we demand longer pensions*.

Here's a solution. Actively encourage smoking. People will die earlier and the country saves pots of cash. Simple.

*There are two jokes contained within this post. This is one of them...

Staying With the Green Theme

Despite official Government* advice to avoid flying within Britain, domestic air travel has risen by a third in recent years. In reply to demand, new routes are starting between destinations that are fewer than 200 miles apart and which are connected by rail and trunk roads.

If you've read the previous post (or the one after this as it always comes out arse about face), that is hardly surprising. Coupled with ridiculous costs of travelling by train and ever increasing fuel prices, it would take a moron* to suggest otherwise. An example? OK, try this: A return airline ticket in the morning peak time between London and Manchester costs as little as £80 while the standard class open return train fare is £230. And you don't have to book sixteen years in advance.

The only consideration our caring leaders have to the environment is how to spin it to their advantage and tax us even further.

Keeping it Green

How can a Government so staunch in support of public transport and continually pestering citizens with advice on leaving personal vehicles at home to "help the environment", allow no trains to run for over 48 hours?

After 20:00 tonight, you will not be able to get a train until after 06:00 on 27th December, so if you don't have access to a car, you will miss out on visiting your longer distance family or friends, the big Premiership football matches and of course the post-Christmas sales.

Britain is the only major European country that will be without a rail service on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. On Christmas Day most European countries have a Sunday service; there will be three trains an hour between Berlin and Frankfurt.

Makes you proud to be British, particularly as the Department for Transport today begins an “Act on CO2 ” campaign encouraging motorists to reduce vehicle emissions over Christmas. Yeah? HOW?

Square Eyes

Television screens have increased in size over the past two years and are set to carry on growing. Currently, average TV screen sizes have grown from 25 inches (62 ½ cm) to 30 inches (75 cm) and they will be 60 inches (150 cm) by 2015.

Well, they did warn us that watching TV is bad for the eyes...

Less Shops, More Security

The owners of Heathrow, BAA, are to respond to criticism over long delays and queues at security checkpoints by reducing the number of shops in terminals to make additional space for more...security checkpoints.

Half the "fun" of airports are the shops to keep you slightly occupied whilst waiting for your delayed flights- particularly as you are expected to arrive four days early to contend with the extra security measures that are in place.

Pin Heads

The Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa has just inscribed the text of the Hebrew Bible on to a surface less than half the size of a grain of sugar.

It took nanotechnology experts an hour to inscribe the 300 000 words on the piece of silicon.

Now can someone be kind enough to explain why to me?

Happy Belgians

Or are they?

The Belgian parliament has backed a new interim government by 97 votes to 46 which ends (for now) a six-month "crisis" that prompted speculation that the country might split into its Dutch and French-speaking regions.

I wonder what happens when the deadline runs out?

Yet Another Indulgence

Webcam views over Bielefeld.

Bielefeld, Does it Really Exist?

My home town and where I was born. I love going there, I have my happiest memories there and I will hopefully one day go back and settle there for part of the year. I was recently surfing the net and thought I'd "google" Bielefeld and see what came up. I was amused to see it is the centre of a conspiracy theory. Here's the low down from Wikipedia:

The Bielefeld Conspiracy (in German, Bielefeld-Verschwörung) is a running gag among German Internet users, especially in the German Usenet. It is generally considered a satirical story rather than a hoax or an urban legend.
The story goes that the city of Bielefeld (population 330,000) in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia does not actually exist. Rather, its existence is merely propagated by an entity known only as SIE or IHNEN (THEY or THEM), which has conspired with authorities to create the illusion of the city’s existence.
The theory basically asks three questions: 1) Do you know anybody from Bielefeld? 2) Have you ever been to Bielefeld? 3) Do you know anybody who has ever been to Bielefeld? Most people are expected to answer 'no' to all three questions, and if they don't, they, or the person they know, is said to just be part of the conspiracy.
The origins of and reasons for this conspiracy are unknown. Speculated originators include the
CIA, the Mossad or aliens who use the Bielefeld University as a disguise for their Space ship.[1][2]
The conspiracy theory was first made public in a posting to the newsgroup de.talk.bizarre on May 16, 1994, by Achim Held, a student of computer science at the University of Kiel[3]. From there, it spread throughout the German-speaking Internet community and has lost little of its popularity after more than 10 years.
In a
television interview conducted for the 10th anniversary of the newsgroup posting, Held stated that this myth definitely originated from his usenet posting which was only intended as a joke. According to Held, the idea for the conspiracy theory formed in his mind at a student party while speaking to an avid reader of New Age magazines.[4]
There are a number of conflicting theories about the reasons behind the joke's gain in popularity, the most popular being a flame war between Usenet admins and the Bielefeld based Z-Netz BBS about text encodings.
At least five reasons for the popularity and wide spread of this myth can be identified:
This theory can be understood as an
allusion to the popularity of conspiracy theories, a cultural phenomenon that became well-known in Germany with the broadcasts of the U.S. television series The X-Files (German: Akte X) in 1994, right around the rise of this theory.
Another possibility may be that this is a play on the typical conspiracy theorist
mindset, which tends to posit questions that may be hypothetical in nature and react based on the answer of the person to whom the question was directed. Often, conspiracy theorists will tend to brand disagreement as "brainwashing".
Bielefeld is located at the center of an otherwise rural region in the middle of Germany, it has few historical landmarks or buildings (due to heavy bombings in
World War II,) and therefore few obvious tourist attractions and no widely known federal offices or institutions, which gives Bielefeld little to no public exposure. The local 'dialect' in and around Bielefeld is Standard German,[citation needed] which makes it impossible to recognize anyone from Bielefeld by their dialect (Something that Germans are used to doing since almost all areas of Germany have easily distinguishable dialects, which usually are even recognizable when someone attempts to speak High German.) Due to all this, most Germans rarely hear of Bielefeld in the news and can't remember having ever met anyone who speaks the 'Bielefeld dialect' (since there is none), and therefore have no clear image of the city in their heads.
Bielefeld lies on the highly important route between the
Ruhrgebiet and Berlin, with one of the busiest Autobahn routes in Germany (the A2) and the ICE railway line DortmundHannover(–Berlin). However, the Autobahn passes only through the outskirts of the city and Bielefeld's railway station, although located in the city centre, has been under constant renovation for years,[citation needed] giving it a suspiciously provisional feel, so a lot of people pass through Bielefeld without actually seeing any significant or 'solid' parts of the city.
Due to a mapping flaw, the
Satellite image and the street map of Bielefeld were misaligned in Google Maps' hybrid view, placing most of the street map of Bielefeld into a forest area nearby.[citation needed] This flaw was corrected in October 2006. It is unclear if this was an intentional easter egg on Google's side or a genuine mistake.
The city council of Bielefeld tries hard to generate publicity for Bielefeld and build a nation-wide known public image of the city. Even after 13 years however, the mayors office receives numerous phone calls and e-mails each day which doubt the existence of the city.[citation needed]
In 1999, five years after the myth started to spread, the city council released a press statement titled Bielefeld gibt es doch! (Bielefeld does exist!). However, the statement's publication date —
1 April 1999 (April Fools' Day) — was ill-chosen as it gave conspirationalists yet another piece of material to put into their speculations.
Despite all the efforts, the city still has a solid reputation — for obscurity. This obscurity is at a degree seldom found in a city its size, and had made it the butt of jokes even prior to the rise of this myth (compare the nearby city of
Hanover for an example of an even larger city with a similar fate).

Obviously this will not be of any interest to anyone else, but such is life. ;-)

Barbecued Bird?


Our next door neighbours earlier, getting ready for the big Christmas meal. We counted at least four huge turkeys which they had plucked all themselves.

Carol Singing

The tradition is still going strong, even in Greece, although they have a different take on the format. Back in the UK it's usually in the dark evenings, in the cold, whereas here it seems to kick off early in the morning in the brilliant sunshine.

We had a ring on the bell a mere 20-30 minutes ago and soon the recognisable tunes of Christmas carols where to be heard trilling away. Sadly for our early song birds (it must have been before 09:00), wifey was still in bed fast asleep, having stayed up to watch all the films until three o'clock this morning, and I was having a particularly explosive encounter on the bog following yesterday's curry*. So neither of us were able to make the door, which sadly meant no reward for the kids and nor did I find out which language the carols were being sung in. The melodies were the same, but were the words in Greek or in English?




*See? I told you the curry was a good 'un...

I Didn't Know That

And I bet they would have preferred it that way. A list of intriguing facts disinterred by the Freedom of Information Act, with thanks to The Times. A long read, but take it a bit at a time over the holidays:

»Ministers and MPs were claiming thousands of pounds on taxis as part of £5.9m in expenses for travel
»The Thatcher Government concocted a plan to search for the Loch Ness monster using a team of dolphins
»Foreign diplomats – who have diplomatic immunity – were accused of rapes, sexual assaults, child abuse and murders while working in Britain
»The Government agreed a £1.5m bailout of one of the most troubled schools in its flagship city academies programme ten days before the 2005 general election
»People charged with certain criminal offences in Warwickshire are 30 per cent more likely to be convicted than those in Bedfordshire. The figures showed huge variations in performance of the Crown Prosecution Service
»Politicians are spending £2.2bn a year of taxpayers’ money on private management consultants
»Ted Heath was once offered concert work by Idi Amin of Uganda. The eccentric dictator made his offer in a 1977 telegram
»Ian Huntley was officially “eliminated” as a suspect six days into the investigation into the Soham murders
»Thousands of women are getting breast enlargements, tummy-tucks and nose jobs on the NHS
»Tax inspectors are routinely offered bonuses to encourage them to collect as much money as possible
»Weapons used by paratroopers on Bloody Sunday have ended up in the hands of the army in Sierra Leone, paramilitary police in Beirut and even in an Arkansas gun shop
»Seventy-four police officers serving with the Metropolitan Police have criminal records
»Senior civil servants in the Home Office were paid more than £2m in bonuses despite the scandals that have engulfed the department
»The Prime Minister wined and dined celebrities at the taxpayer’s expense at his country residence, Chequers. Guests included Esther Rantzen, Trevor Brooking, Elton John and Des O'Connor
»Killings carried out by strangers have increased by a third since Tony Blair came to power
»Government advice at the time of Prince Charles’s divorce from Diana suggested that his marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles would be illegal
»A clandestine British torture programme existed in postwar Germany, “reminiscent of the concentration camps”
»Britain helped Israel to obtain its nuclear bomb 40 years ago, by selling it 20 tonnes of heavy water
»John Prescott met the US billionaire Philip Anschutz as the businessman’s representatives were aggressively lobbying the Department for Culture, Media and Sport over the progress of the gambling bill and plans to build a supercasino
»The NHS has been giving girls as young as 13 contraceptive injections and implants that make them infertile for up to three years, in an attempt to cut teenage pregnancies
»The Prime Minister took trips costing more than £1.2m over four years from 2002 on RAF jets allocated to the Royal Family and government VIPs, including those for holidays abroad
»Police in England and Wales spend £21m a year on interpreters
»Britain has extradited four times as many people to the US as have been sent in return since the introduction of fast-track extradition
»More than 1,000 girls aged 14 and under had abortions in a single year
»Alastair Campbell thought that it was a “barmy” idea for Tony Blair to appear on the Simpsons show in 2003, but that Mr Blair could be seen to “seize any opportunity to promote Britain”
»The Metropolitan Police spent £900,000 policing illegal street meetings by the cleric Abu Hamza and his followers
»The Yorkshire Ripper probably committed more crimes than the 13 murders and seven attempted murders for which he was convicted
»Six British military policemen died at the hands of an Iraqi mob in Majar al-Kabir because nearby reinforcements decided it was too dangerous to rescue them
»Health tourists received free NHS kidney treatment worth about £30,000 a year, potentially competing with British patients for scarce transplants
»DNA tests showed that, since 1998, 3,034 men had been wrongly named by mothers as fathers of children for whom they had claimed maintenance. The taxpayer had to repay these sums
»Robert Maxwell was being investigated for war crimes and was to be interviewed by police just before he drowned
»In 2004 the BBC paid £15.5m in staff bonuses when it was planning to cut more than 3,000 jobs
»Rich landowners top the league of EU farm subsidy payouts
»The railway stations that provide the worst facilities for passengers were revealed in a National Audit Office document
»More than 300 babies a year are being left with brain damage because of oxygen starvation caused by lack of proper care at birth
»Countries with poor human rights records and those on the front line in the War on Terror, including Iraq, were targeted by the Ministry of Defence as the most lucrative places for British arms companies to sell weapons
»Weapons and ammunition are being smuggled into Britain by coalition forces returning from war zones
»Restaurants belonging to Britain's leading fast-food chains were branded “extremely poor” by health inspectors
»Ministers were given prior warning that a postal voting scandal was looming just before local polls that sparked claims of stolen votes
John Birt, Tony Blair's key adviser in Downing Street, identified the abolition of National Service as a significant factor in the “exponential” rise in crime over the past 50 years
»Illegal immigrants are getting into Britain by enrolling on university courses, obtaining visas and then failing to turn up to study
»A former No 10 adviser lobbied the Government to relax gambling laws and pave the way for valuable casino contracts on behalf of Kerry Packer, the Australian billionaire
»Cherie Blair became the first Prime Minister's spouse to be given a government car and driver for her personal use
»A cache of more than 300 weapons, including air pistols, swords and an improvised flame-thrower, were seized from schoolchildren in one year
»Police were instructed to let off offenders with a caution if they commit any one of more than 60 types of crime, ranging from assault to some types of theft, criminal damage and underage sex.
»More than 700 nurses and doctors were disciplined for drink or drugs at work in the past ten years
»Plans to turn Britain into a “world leader” in internet gambling were drawn up by ministers
»In one year hundreds of 10»year»old children were charged with crimes including serious sexual offences, robbery, actual bodily harm and assaulting a police officer
»Lord Falconer was dragged into a dispute over plans for a supercasino at the Millennium Dome when it emerged he had met representatives of the US billionaire behind the venture 13 times
»Two hundred serving police officers have criminal records for offences that include assault, breach of the peace, theft and vandalism.
»Documents suggested that one in 15 officers has broken the law
»The full extent of the damage caused by “Black Wednesday”, when in 1992 Britain fell out of the ERM, was revealed
»Humphrey, the Downing Street cat who mysteriously disappeared in 1997, had not been put down but had been sent to “a stable home environment where he can be looked after properly”
»Documents from the mid1980s showed how Mark Thatcher was paid commission for a Middle East building contract for which his mother had lobbied
»Previously secret health inspections of some of Britain’s most prestigious restaurants revealed criticisms of some of those run by Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsay and Raymond Blanc
»1980s school dinners could be the cause of three young Welsh people’s deaths from the human form of mad cow disease
»The Elgin Marbles were damaged by two schoolboys fighting in the British Museum in 1961. One of the boys fell and knocked off part of a centaur's leg
»Some NHS dentists earn up to £250,000 a year in fees, as demand for those who have remained in the public sector increases
»Greg Dyke asked to be reinstated as Director General of the BBC a week after he was sacked over the Hutton report

Some really interesting stuff amongst that lot. I love the end of year reviews- it inspires so much confidence amongst our high flyers in public life...

Fish Fingers V Prawns

We continue to be amazed at the cost of certain things in the supermarket; both in how reasonable some items can be and also to the contrary. The title gives the clue in this case.

15 fish fingers in some places can b as much as over 5€ (~£3.50) and yet a frozen 1kg bag of tiger prawns can be bought for 7€ (~£5.00). It doesn't take much cerebral calculation to determine the better deal, and so yesterday we made our "Christmas" meal, a couple of days early. King prawn curry, with a separate dahl dish (red lentils) accompanied by basmati rice.

We're fairly competent in the kitchen department and can rustle up most things, including a passable curry, but with the wonders of modern technology at our finger tips, it's seems churlish not to take advantage and download a demo. We found the perfect recipe and watched with mounting salivation and then had a go.

It's one of the best meals we've scoffed this year. And yes, of course I am modest... Anyway, try it for yourself and if you can't get all the ingredients, swap, omit or add a few that are available or to your taste. For example we added spinach and yoghurt and it came out a treat:

Video Jug

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Christmas Box

It is customary at this time of year to offer a gratuity to people who have offered services over the last 12 months. Milk(wo)men, newspaper delivery kids, bin (wo)men and similar, all usually benefit from a generous public willing to tip a few days before Christmas.

So what about the refuse collectors who have had their collection times decreased from once a week to now once a fortnight? Not only has the change in frequency really alienated many householders, but how will they be able to collect if they are 14 days away from the 25th?

Non To le Fags

Even France can't escape the meddling interferences of the "we know what's best for you" do-gooders, as the 1st January, looms large and with it the arrival of the ban on smoking in public. As of next week, it will become illegal to light up in bars, restaurants or nightclubs or as the French term it, "places of conviviality".

Despite an annual smoking-related death toll of 65 000, many French continue to see smoking as chic, sophisticated and romantic and even when a 1991 law ordered cafes and restaurants to provide non-smoking areas, it was largely ignored.

To the French smoking is viewed as "chic, sophisticated and romantic" and of course, they would know all about that.

Whilst we're at it, places you may wish to avoid if you enjoy a cigarette:

  • United States: 22 of 50 states have comprehensive smoking bans, including California (1998) and New York (2003).
  • Canada: Nine of 13 provinces have comprehensive smoke-free laws, starting with Northwest Territories (2004).
  • Ireland: Comprehensive smoking ban since March 2004.
  • New Zealand: Comprehensive smoking ban since December 2004.
  • Sweden: Comprehensive smoking ban since June 2005.
  • Scotland: Smoking banned in enclosed public spaces since March 2006.
  • Wales: Smoking banned in enclosed public spaces since April 2007.
  • England: Smoking banned in enclosed public areas since July 2007.

A Happy Christmas Tale

45 inhabitants of a remote village in northern Spain have just won the lottery and will share share £158 million between them. The winners said they planned to travel, pay off their mortgages and "see what luxury hotels look like inside"- one modest woman said she wanted a food mixer.

Locals hope the win will help the village to survive after years of depopulation. One resident said: "For many people here this will mean they can retire in the village or open their own business." Doesn't that make you feel all warm and good inside?

Christmas Cards

I've never been a fan of them. From my school days through to my working experiences when held captive in an office environment, they have always been ghastly, sordid little indicators of a popularity competition amongst one's peers.

The cards themselves were meaningless rectangles of glitzy pap, fluffy cotton wool balls of snowy scenes and glimmering gaucheness of faux festivity. All that glitters is not geld, but it is for the manufacturers; at least it once was. Thankfully the public seem to be seeing through the illusion and sales of Christmas cards bought in High Street shops has dropped by 20 million in the past two years.

The reason is for the emergence of technology that allows people now to send an "eCard" - an electronic greeting sent over the internet or by mobile phone and increasingly popular with people who say it is easier, cheaper and more environmentally-friendly than traditional cards. And of course, with the track record of the post office, at least you know it's going to get there in time too.

Now, if I can just work out how to suspend the laptop up on a bit of string...

That's BIGski

Stand by for the world's biggest structure, a £2 billion “city inside a building” which is due to be erected in Moscow, where cash is no concern. Almost 1 500 ft into the sky and housing up to 30 000 residents, the Crystal Island will contain more floor space than any other building on Earth. It will be twice as wide as the Millennium Dome, nearly double the height of Canary Wharf tower, and there will be 27 m sq ft of floor space; four times as much as the Pentagon building in Washington.

As well as 900 apartments and 3 000 hotel rooms, the project will include an international school for 500 pupils, a cinema, museum, theatre, sports complex and dozens of shops. Parkland around the complex will offer cross-country skiing and ice-skating in the winter. It could be completed within the six years.

It's in the Post- Somewhere. Maybe

Yes, another dig at the post office. With Christmas being a rather popular time to send parcels and cards, you'd think that they'd be ready for it. But no, once again we are facing the same dilemma.

Already 1.2 million letters and parcels are estimated to have been lost in the Christmas post and some suggest the figure could top two million. Postwatch said Royal Mail’s (flash re-name for post office) most recently available figures indicated that it lost about 1 million items a month.

In response to this, Royal Mail said yesterday it was "no longer publishing figures on the amount of mail it lost because the information was commercially confidential."

Or you are covering up your deplorable record under a cop out clause?

Working Mothers

And yet another backward retreat by the Government.

Millions of stay at home mothers will miss out on a full state pension after the government revised plans that would have given them equality with working women. The mothers will now not be entitled to a full pension because they won’t have paid National Insurance contributions during the time they took off work, and despite the government saying it wanted to allow them to make one-off payments to cover up to nine years of missed contributions, it emerged last week that this plan has been quietly dropped.

Go McBrown- another great move to help your dwindling popularity.