Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lord Levy Arrested Again!

As funny as it was when he was arrested the first time, Lord Levy has been arrested again - this time on suspicion of conspiring to pervert the course of justice - in regard to the "Cash for Honours" enquiries.

Obviously not as funny as when Blair was questioned, but given that there's always a hope that Blair may still stand trial for war crimes, Levy's probably as funny as it's going to get for a while.

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X-Ray CCTV Cameras

Okay, so the Home Office is denying this, but today's report in The Sun about plans for X-Ray CCTV Cameras has set me thinking.

First of all, how many people really believe that these cameras - if they do exist, work and don't actually give the entire population cancer - would actually be used to look at suspicious-looking swarthy men? If the proportion of men employed to view the footage is as high as it is in the security industry in general, I think that may affect what they're looking at: boobs.

Secondly, who owns the footage? Seeing as CCTV imagery is often seen on TV shows - without any apparent agreement of those involved in it - do I own any images that I appear in? And if I had children, would I own any footage of them until they were 16 or 18? And if I did, would I be arrested for having naked images of minors?

Thirdly, and this point is made on the BBC's coverage, how do you police this? If you happen to see someone carrying a pistol under their clothes on Oxford Street at 11am on a Monday, how long does it take the (presumably armed) police to get to that same person? If you have that many armed police floating around waiting for a call, then surely the amount of police on the streets is high enough for you not to really need the X-Ray CCTV cameras in the first place.

Fourthly, if anyone who says "if you've got nothing to hide, then you've got nothing to worry about", could you please send me naked pictures of yourselves to post on here?

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Trade Fair, Play Fair, Not Fair.

Yesterday, I went to the ATEI/ICE Trade Fair at Earls Court. Not particularly exciting, and nothing new from last year's. The one thing that surprised me, though, was the presence of Eric Cantona. Yes, THE Eric Cantona. He is some large investor in some French online gambling outfit, apparently. The consensus of opinion amongst the women I was standing next to is that he is looking "well fit".

Left there and went, via a bar, to the pub quiz at The Mucky Pup. Genius picture round this week, twenty pictures of everyday objects or well-known faces or places and you had to write down the opposite of what they were. Except you didn't. At half-time, Nick comes round saying "give me your picture round back and I'll give you a clue" then comes back round with a completely blank version of the round and you had to list all the things in the correct places.

We got all 20, which is significantly higher than the 7(+-2) objects that Psychologists say we can remember (Miller, 1956). There were some interesting answers that other people gave, instead of a light house, rocks and pebbles (although the link to rocks was understandable) and instead of the Taj Mahal, a black taxi (which I can't see a link for at all).

Despite scoring 117, we still only managed third, but were only 1 point behind second. The team sat behind us (and this seems to happen all too frequently) won, with a massive 125 points. Generously, they did say afterwards if any of the music had been post-2000 or any of the questions had been on celebrities (as they have in previous weeks) then they wouldn't have done anywhere near as well.

Tomorrow, I'm heading off to Cornwall for the weekend. Hopefully the weather will be a bit better than it has been of late, and hopefully Becca/Bob will be feeling a bit better than she's been recently as well. I'll try to persuade her to let me take a few photos for her blog, but I think it'll depend on how she's feeling.

Newcastle obviously won't be playing this weekend (and I blame Keiron Dyer completely for that) so I won't have to keep trying to find the scores out on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fear The Tattooist

As someone who has no tattoos or piercings, this made me laugh. I suspect that my opinions of how funny it is would change should I ever go under the needle.

From The Register;

"A young Argentinian footie fan who decided to celebrate his love for Boca Juniors by having the team's logo tattooed on his back paid the price for not adequately researching the body artist's own allegiances.

The tattooist was, unknown to the unnamed teen, a follower of rival club River Plate, and accordingly substituted a penis for the Boca Juniors' crest."


Monday, January 22, 2007

A Tribute To Penny Laing

This should have been posted on Xmas Eve, but as I was just thinking about Neil Best, I thought I'd post this as well.

Penny Laing was murdered on Xmas Eve 1989, glassed in the throat in a Newcastle nightclub, and bled to death just outside. I was at home when I heard the news report on the radio that day, my mother screamed, horrified by the news.

When we'd lived in Annitsford, we'd known her and her family well. They lived on Front Street and her dad had a farm shop opposite the Post Office. He also rescued someone from the old cinema when it caught fire. Penny was in the same class as me all the way through Primary School. I once bet her 5p that Christopher Columbus's real name was actually Cristobel Colon.

The guy who killed her, Stephen Craven, left the country straight away (his dad paid for the flight) and was arrested when he came back. He protested his innocence, despite the evidence being pretty damning and witnesses actually seeing him, but was convicted in 1991. He appealed the sentence in 1993 and having the appeal turned down, appealed again in 1995. In 1997 it was referred to the Court of Appeal and eventually dismissed in 2000.

Eleven years and three appeals later, he's still protesting his innocence, despite DNA evidence from Penny's boyfriend's shirt meaning a billion to one chance it not being him. According to this report, he has been released from prison on a life licence.


A Tribute To Neil Best

I realised the other day that two people from my year at school had already died: Penny Laing and Neil Best. While I was thinking of this, I looked on Google to remember when Neil died and discovered one article about him.

I knew Neil from our time at Middle School together - many moons ago - in Fordley, Northumberland. He was an entertaining kid: pretty damn intelligent, amazing at sports, funny in a good way, and actually a genuinely nice person. The swine!

Neil was a big lad, but incredible at football. There was talk he could have gone on and become a professional - like one of his team-mates at Junior level, a certain Alan Shearer - but he was content with playing locally in and around Newcastle.

He married Kelly (nee Ainsley) - who I'd lusted after when we were much younger - and had two children with her, Joe and Will. It was not long after they were married that I last saw Neil, playing a quiz machine in the Social Club opposite where my brother used to live in Dudley. He played a lot of quiz machines, and created quizzes for The Bridge Inn when he used to work there.

My brother rang me to tell me that Neil had died. I was at work and read the whole story online. I had to go home after reading it. While I couldn't make it back for the funeral, it seems like a lot of people did. There were people all the way from Dudley to Seaton Burn cemetary. I visit his, and Penny's, grave every time I go back up North, to pay respect and remember childhood.

Neil died on Feb 5th 2003 from a blood clot that had worked its way around his body from a bruise in his arm to his heart. He was found dead at home by Kelly. He was too young to die.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Bandwagon Jumping

As you're probably aware (if you're from the UK or India) there's been a row about alleged racism in the Celebrity Big Brother house. I haven't seen a second of this show - or any of the previous two or three series - so I'm not going to comment.

This apparently logical approach doesn't seem to be that obvious if you happen to be a Labour MP, though. From the 16.30 entry on the BBC's Political Diary;

'Environment Secretary David Miliband is the latest government heavyweight to jump into the Big Brother row.

He has used his blog to declare "Shilpa in, Jade out" - a sentiment which seems to be gaining ground in Westminster, as elsewhere.

So, the minister is a fan of the programme then? Well, no, apparently not.

"OK, so I don't watch Big Brother, but we are all entitled to an opinion," he declares.'

And here's my opinion of you Mr Miliband, I've never met you before, but I suspect you to be a bit of a twat. Better still, I'm actually entitled to suspect you're a twat. Thanks!

You twat.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Scam Alert!

Not one to normally pass these things on, but I was in B&Q earlier today and was very nearly a victim myself, so here it is.

Just through the doors, an old bloke wearing orange came up to me and asked if I wanted decking. Fortunately, I managed to get my punch in first and that was the end of it. But I pass this on as a warning to everyone to be on their guard.


Coming Second

Nothing vulgar, it just seems appropriate.

Came 2nd in the quiz last night after a couple of weeks of not doing very well at all. The regulars (me, Suzi and Jamie) were joined by first-timers Nat & Ryan, and between us we got all of the picture round correct. The usual shambles in the music round contributed to us failing to win, but a decent second place earned us £10 and a bottle of wine.

Newcastle came 2nd last night as well. Only in much more shambolic style.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Post On Becca/Bob

Just had an email from Becca's dad, Peter, saying that while the brain tumours aren't getting any worse (one is actually getting better), she is starting to feel quite tired. Which isn't a surprise as she's been fighting like a trooper for 18 months now.

So have a read here and send her something to cheer her up (and spur her on) to the address listed further down her blog.


Burning Crusade Launch A Farce

Went to HMV this evening with my flatmate so she could buy the new World of Warcraft expansion, Burning Crusade. I went as the launch was at midnight and she was a bit wary about travelling home alone from the centre of town. Needn't have bothered as it turns out.

We got to HMV at 10.30pm, there was a small queue out front, probably a couple of hundred people. But, when we tried to join it, we were ushered round to an alleyway. Where the rest of the queue was. All the way up the side of HMV, to the next road, then, all the way along the road at the back to the next junction. Probably over 1500 people, maybe many more.

So, joined the back of the queue. Which didn't stay the back for much longer, as a lot of people turned up for when the doors were due to open at 11pm. At 11, the queue lurched forward as they were letting in the first lot of people. We moved all the way along the back road to the top of the alleyway. Then, after about 30mins, we'd got down to nearly the bottom of the alleyway.

Then we stopped.

And we never got any closer to the front.

After a while, some employee came round asking if anyone had wristbands as they would be the only people guaranteed to get in and get a copy, and everyone else should just go home. What wristbands? There was no mention on either the HMV site or the WoW Europe site about getting wristbands to guarantee admission. No mention of limited supply of games, either.

HMV and/or Blizzard seemed to have massively underestimated the demand for the game. There weren't enough copies of the game in the store, and the store had reached maximum capacity with an hour to go before they were allowed to sell any of them.

Now, the thing is, Blizzard knows how many people play, as every customer has to pay a subscription. And there's over 9 million people worldwide. From a connection based analysis they should be able to work out how many people play in the UK and roughly how many of them live around London. I'd suspect it would be more than 1500 people, which would suggest that HMV should have had more copies in stock.

The people who are hard-core gamers, the people who Blizzard really rely on for their monthly income, are exactly the sort of people who would have queued for HOURS to get their hands on the game. These are the people who will no doubt be cursing both Blizzard and HMV for a completely wasted evening.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Men's Clothing

Is it just me or is it universally dull at the moment?

I've spent a bewildering day in the local retail palace - Wood Green's Shopping City - and unless you're either a teenager or like dressing like one, there's not a lot out there.

Admittedly there are a lot of sales on - and if I was going skiing or to a funeral, then there'd have been lots to choose from - so any stock that's half-decent is shoved into a tiny corner and looks relatively expensive in comparison to the rest of the tat. But the half-decent stuff is barely even that.

Do I want a zip up sweat top thing? No. Shame, as I could've chosen from about 30 slightly differing styles. Do I want jeans with un-authentic ageing or something sprayed on them? No. Again, there were about 20 different brands offering the same thing. T-shirt with the brand name on it, that's designed for a teenager, and will only succeed in making me look fatter than I am? No thanks, but I do admire the choice you've offered me.

Smart-casual (oxymoron) is possibly even worse: polo shirts (don't own a horse or want to look like a banker), long sleeved plain coloured t-shirts (not with my barrel chest, thanks), thin jumpers (why? and no thanks, I'm Northern) and chino type trousers (I said "no" in the 90's and I'm still saying "no" now).

Does anyone know of anywhere a man in the mid/late-30s can actually buy something that doesn't make you look like you're desperately hanging onto your youth, or at the M&S/River Island end of the market, that you're actually 50? I'm stuck with a lot of clothes I bought FIVE years ago and jeans I buy from Asda.

I may have to contact one of those daytime shows and see if they can do me a makeover. Or, for the die-hard folly of it, one of those extreme makeovers where they also give you free plastic surgery.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

How Safe Is Chip & PIN?

As I don't have a bank account, this information is provided as a public service. Enjoy.

Okay, a bit of background first. Chip & PIN was brought in by the card issuers to reduce the amount of fraud that they were financially responsible for. Any fraud now taking place is the responsibility of the retailer and not the card issuer. This, I'm sure, is delightful for the card issuers, but not so much fun for the shop owners.

As you may be aware, retailers who provide the convenience of payment by card don't get the full amount that you pay. There's usually a commission charge that the retailer gets hit with, and this system was in place before the introduction of Chip & PIN.

So, with great fanfare, this new and supposedly secure system was introduced. You put your card in, the retailer types in how much you have to pay, then you enter your PIN and the transaction is either confirmed or rejected. No chance for fraud there, apparently.

Apart from people looking over your shoulder to see what you've typed in. Or, if you have bad eyesight - and you having to stand at arm's length from the machine so you can see the figures - the whole queue of people get to see what you've typed in. And once they know what you've typed in, they - or an accomplice - can mug you outside and steal all your money.

Because retailers have faith in the machine, they don't even check the card now. All you need to know is the PIN. So if a white woman appears at the terminal with a card in the name of Mr Attapattu, the shop aren't going to be any the wiser as long as she knows his PIN number. No physical inspection of the card takes place.

And because customers have faith in the machine, if they get a rejection from the machine, they'll either try the PIN again, or try again with a different card. If it still fails, all the retailer has to do is apologise, blame the technology or the banks, and everything is fine.

But what happens if that terminal you've just put your card into - which reads all the information on the chip and the magnetic strip automagically, and you've just given your PIN to - isn't actually a real Chip & PIN terminal? What if it's sole purpose is to extract card information from everyone who uses it? Would you be able to tell?

Well, according to the manufacturers, of course you would! Anyone tampering with the machine would make it externally obvious that something was up.

Think again.

You'll note how the person appears to be playing Tetris on this. There's also a handy video showing it off in its true glory. These people are white hats, there's no reason to suspect the black hats haven't been exploiting this type of hack for months.

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Taking The Piss

Thieves have stolen a urinal from a city pub. Genius.

When we were in Edinburgh many years ago, we managed to nick two brass pushplates, a self-closing mechanism (from a different door) and pretty much everything on the table from a Pizza Hut just up from the Gilded Balloon where we were working at the time. To be fair, Jim had just fixed their Ice Cream Machine, so we considered it a kind of bartering. A bartering process that they weren't aware of, yes, but bartering all the same.

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A Pretty Good Bonfire

I was talking the other day, and came up with something that sounded almost Buddhist in its style, see what you think:

"This is but a field and we are nought but trees. No matter what we achieve, nor how great we think we are, when we die, the field will think only that we make a pretty good bonfire".

I think I'm either going mad, or I need more caffeine.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Becca/Bob: New Year, New Hope, New Post

Received yesterday from her Dad, Peter, a new post letting everyone know that despite the best predictions of the NHS - that she should have died over a year ago - Bob is fighting on! She had a pretty good Xmas, and actually found time to do some more knitting, and some cooking.

Keep sending your money to her though, as she's visiting Dr Callebout on 12th Jan so there's a chance the £5k a month cost of her treatment may go up even further!


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