Friday, September 28, 2007

Smokers! You're Next

Despite being one of the biggest income earners for the ex-Chancellor (through Duty paid on tobacco products) and one of the least likely groups to be worrying the inevitable pensions shortfall in coming years (due to dying conveniently early) smokers are yet again being targetted by the Government.

Having introduced legislation in August to make public enclosed spaces 'smoke free' (which roughly translated means pretty much anywhere - for example outdoor platforms on train stations, outside King's Cross station, and possibly in your own Council house) there is news today that even smoking in your own car could be banned in the near future (smoking in company vehicles is already banned under the current legislation).

Okay, that's not *exactly* what it says, so don't panic just yet, but the Government seem to have gone from this position in May - where the Department of Health said there were no plans to introduce a ban - to this news item today, where smoking drivers would be charged if it is thought they were driving without due care and attention.

Funnily enough, smokers action group (now there's an oxymoron if ever I've heard one) Forest say "There's not a shred of evidence that smoking is a cause of accidents, or any more of a distraction than changing a CD or air-conditioning controls. They're treating adults as if we're all stupid. Our concern is that they say it's just a guideline now but within a year or two there will be people who say 'let's ban smoking while driving'."

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Backing Away From Blair

Gordon Brown seems to have been spending the past couple of days at the Labour Party conference telling people that nothing that happened over the past ten years was anything to do with him. Despite being the Chancellor himself, everything that happened before his coronation was entirely the fault of Tony Blair.

Interesting, some would say almost Stalinist, revisionist history there. 24hr drinking is "under review". Super casino plans are "being reviewed". Cannabis "shouldn't have been reclassified". Invading Iraq was "mistake". Surely it's not long before Tony Blair is airbrushed completely out of this new history?

On the upside though, Home Office Minister Tony McNulty - who I've quoted before regarding the DNA Database - has said that the reactions to the 7/7 bombings were a "mistake", particularly, "Mr Blair's argument that people must be ready to accept reductions in their civil liberties in the fight against terror". Shame none of you spineless twats said anything at the time the terror controls were actually put in place, isn't it?

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dear Mike Ashley

I've just got home from watching Newcastle at the Emirates tonight, and I have to say that disappointed doesn't really come close to expressing what I feel right now.

After the encouraging performance on Sunday, I had hoped that the manager (and I use the term advisedly) had realised that playing wide attacking players with two strikers was a "good thing"(tm). But no. And in retrospect I realise that me even thinking he'd had a revelation was just crazy. Sunday's result was a fluke and the previous game against Derby was more representative of his style of play.

Starting with just the one striker (despite the presence of two more elsewhere on the pitch) against a less than spectacular Arsenal central pairing was negative, but I can see the justification from a tactical point of view I suppose. Having Shola Ameobi (a right footed striker) playing outside on the left wing, while playing Charles N'Zogbia (a left footed winger) in a central position, however, is inexcusable.

For a supposed "master tactician", Allardyce has shown his inability to utilise the players at his disposal. Defensively we look as inept as we were last season while we still had Bramble. Our midfield is lacking creativity and width. Our attack seems to comprise entirely of the long ball over the top. This is not attractive football. More importantly, this is not successful football. Allardyce has won nothing, and this will continue unless the format changes.

His purchases, particularly £6million for Smith, have been questionable at best. Rozehnal is probably the only player he's bought who is fit to wear the shirt. Also, a quick question: did we buy Habib Beye as a right back? If so, why? He was out of position for most of the evening, being dragged inside and leaving plenty of space for Arsenal to explore down their left wing. This was spectacularly shown in the run up to a clear cut effort in the first half (where Bendtner missed) and the last goal (where Denilson didn't).

Seeing as there are far more talented managers available - and ones who may even want to join Newcastle at the first time of asking, rather than when the England job was definitely out of his reach - please consider removing the current encumbant from the post as soon as possible.


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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Self Promotion

Weirdly, not for me. But for Blogger itself. They've introduced a rather mesmeric feature called "Play" which is a slideshow of all the photos that are uploaded around the world onto Blogger.

Often interesting, sometimes weird, but cool to have running in the background.


Over 21? Yes, I'm 72

From the BBC, a report about a man who refused to confirm he was old enough to purchase alcohol - despite him being 72 - and was thus refused it.

He has complained at the "bureaucracy gone mad" but Morrison's explained that the particular store had to ask EVERYONE due to having previously been fined for selling alcohol to underage customers.

This brings to mind a visit to Chicago airport where I was asked to provide ID to buy a beer. I was, understandably, delighted. The legal drinking age in Illinois is 21 and I was in my early 30s at the time. This delight was unfortunately short-lived as the barman then asked the next customer for ID, and that guy was probably in his 80s!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I Can't Believe It's Been A Year!


Avast ye land lubbers and swab the decks! It be Talk Like A Pirate Day!


Most Addictive Game

For those of you who remember Line Rider, this game, Ramps, will be relatively easy. There are 33 levels, however, and it does get progressively more tricky. I've managed to complete it and unlock three of the five passwords that give different cheats. The more points you get, the more cheat codes you get.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Some Light Relief

A team behind a fake Viagra scam have been jailed today reports the BBC.

I'm presuming these hardened criminals are facing stiff sentences.



NUFC Fail To Perform

Apologies to people who read this who can't stand football, this will be an epic rant on the failure of Newcastle United to beat Derby County this evening in the Premiership.

I have never liked the appointment of Sam Allardyce at Newcastle. Didn't think we needed to sack Glenn Roeder, as we should never have had him as the manager in the first place. Roeder was brilliant at being what he was originally paid to be: in charge of the Academy. He only got the manager's job because Fat Freddy Shepherd (FFS, handily) was stupid enough to previously give it to Graeme Souness, a man who once famously declared he didn't believe in tactics.

So, FFS hires Sam Allardyce - who, I'd like to point out, turned the job down before we appointed Souness - just a short time before selling the entire club. I like to think that this wasn't just a parting gesture designed to destroy the club so he could buy it back cheaper than he sold it for, but given the purchases and tactical decisions made by Allardyce so far, I'm not entirely sure.

Maybe I missed the day we bought a creative wide midfielder. I remember clearly the selling of Dyer (not missed, and spectacularly injured playing for West Ham) Luque (not missed either) and Nobby Solano (very much missed, apart from his trumpet playing). I also remember us buying Joey Barton (who may well be unavailable when he stops being injured due to being in prison for assaulting an ex-team mate) Geremi, Alan Smith and Abdoulaye Faye - none of whom are renowned for their creative passing - joining Nicky Butt(!) and Emre, who can pass but doesn't seem able to run.

So at the minute, we have James Milner as the entire creative output of midfield. We could have Charles N'Zogbia on the opposite wing. Could have, but he's currently playing at left-back covering the seemingly permanently injured Celestine Babayaro. Where Jose Sanchez Enrique (bought over the Summer) has gone is something of a mystery. N'Zogbia is not a defender. In much the same way that Titus Bramble (not missed) was not a defender. But N'Zogbia has his uses upfield, so there the similarity ends.

Bought plenty of other defenders as well this Summer, notably at centre-back: Rozehnal (who has looked good but really should have scored three this season rather than the none he has) and the Brazilian Cacapa, both of whom take preference over one of last season's bright spots, Steven Taylor. Habib Beye came in on deadline day to bolster options at right-back (probably due to the injuries sustained by the previous two choices - Stephen Carr and Peter Ramage - in the same game), but started this evening on the bench while Taylor (a centre-back) played right-back instead.

And I clearly remember the signing of the Fat Aussie Bastard himself, Mark Viduka. Never been popular on Tyneside, so it was something of a surprise when he dragged his lardy arse up from Teeside to look out of breath/condition/position in the black & white stripes. Particularly surprising when we had a returning to fitness Owen to partner Obafemi Martins up front. And Shola Ameobi.

So as I say, we may have signed a gifted creative midfielder, but I obviously just don't remember when. Or who. Or why they're not playing when it is blindingly apparent that we need some width. Alan Smith, despite his inability to tackle, strange similarity to Eminem and past affiliations with Leeds & Manchester United - all of which naturally endear him to the Newcastle public - just isn't suited to wing play.

If we have no wing play, then all the attack has to go through the middle of the park, which seems to mean lumping it up to Ameobi/FAB/Martins and hoping Owen's wheel shaped legs are spinning quick enough to get onto a knock down. If we have no wing play, then the opposition's full-backs can get forward and put crosses in for their forwards. If we have no wing play, essentially, we're doomed.

I was hoping that when the new owners came in, they would sack Allardyce and bring in someone that plays the sort of football we in Newcastle like to watch. But no. Given how badly we played this evening, however, it may start to cross their minds.

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Northern Rock

I used to have an account with the Northern Rock when it was a Building Society. I closed it after they de-mutualised and then sold my shares. If I still had an account with them, I'd be using the money in it to buy shares now. Lots of them. The price is 30% lower than they were last week, and they're losing their stupidest customers. Double bonus.

Let's be clear, if you are a Northern Rock customer and you have less than £30k in your account(s) then leave your money where it is. You will get your money back, even if something astounding happens and the bank closes. If you have more than £30k in the Northern Rock, well done for having the cash, but you should spread the additional funds over other banks.

There's no point whatsoever in getting up at 3am to clear £1500 out of your account.


Friday, September 07, 2007

I Think I Have The Answer

In this article on the BBC's website, "the RSPB said it was a mystery as to why red-throated divers had done so well.

Its numbers have risen from 935 to 1,255 breeding pairs in 12 years.

However, in Shetland the population has dropped from 700 pairs to 407."

So, what you're saying is, there's about 600 less birds in the Shetlands, and about 600 more birds in the Highlands? Yep, that's some mystery isn't it? I mean it's not as if they could have just flown from the Shetlands to the Highlands is it? Being birds. In Scotland.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Criminal Mastermind At Work

This just tickled me. Kid breaks into some community centre place, and, well, makes his signed confession while doing it!


Perhaps I'm Reading This Wrong

Found an article on Slashdot about an American military plane (B-52) flying over the US with nuclear weapons attached under the wings. So far, so not unusual I thought. Then the kicker: the weapons were only noticed when the plane landed, and for the 3.5hr traveling time were unaccounted for and not missed by the airforce base the plane had taken off from.

The BBC reports the incident but doesn't mention something that was raised on Slashdot, namely that the base the plane flew to is a staging post for flights to the Middle East. The tin-foil hat brigade are split over whether; the fact the nukes weren't missed was because there are so many nukes being transported for use on Iran, or whether; they were moved and then this story leaked deliberately to let Iran/Iraq/Russia/Terrorists know that the US is prepared to use nuclear weapons again.

Now I'm somewhat against the Bush administration's sabre-rattling efforts and their constant attempts to bully the rest of the world into their version of capitalist consumerism (see the late Bill Hicks's routine about America being the Sheriff in the movie Shane, forcing the shepherd to pick up the gun, before shooting him because "he had a gun", sorry this was the only version I could find) and either of the above scenarios scares the crap out of me.

The one that scares me the most, however, is that this was - as is claimed by the USAF - a mistake made by a ground crew when loading a plane. Because for that to be true, the USAF's procedures for the storage, release and movement of nuclear weapons is less secure and rigorous than most company's stationery cabinets.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

And So It Comes To Pass

The BBC is reporting the comments of Lord Justice Sedley who says that the current DNA database - which holds DNA from crime suspects and scenes - is "indefensible". At this point I was happy. Then I read the next paragraph, where he added that it would be fairer to include "everybody, guilty or innocent" on it.

He said the only option was to expand the database to cover the whole population and all those who visit the UK. "Going forwards has very serious but manageable implications. It means that everybody, guilty or innocent, should expect their DNA to be on file for the absolutely rigorously restricted purpose of crime detection and prevention."

As I've said previously, it's not the provision of a national DNA database which causes me problems when it's used for crime solving purposes. No, it's the access granted to various organisations that have nothing to do with crime fighting that causes me the most fear.

The UK already has the biggest DNA database in the world, and it's growing by 30,000 samples a month. Everybody who has been arrested for all but the most minor infraction remains on the system regardless of their age, the seriousness of the offence and whether or not they were prosecuted.

Professor Stephen Bain, a member of the national DNA database strategy board, warned expansion would be expensive and make mistakes more likely. "The DNA genie can't be put back in the bottle," he said. "If the information about you is exposed due to illegal or perhaps even legalised use of the database, in a way that is not currently anticipated, then it's a very difficult situation."

The Government position on this appears to have moved slightly from a firm "no" to this from Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, who said there were no plans to introduce DNA profiling for everyone in the UK, but "no-one ever says never".

Well I do matey, and if you want my DNA you're going to have to wait until I'm dead to collect it, because I'm never going to give you it when I'm alive.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Arrested For Being Falsely Imprisoned

As you may know I don't often link to other people's blogs, but I've been reading this one guy's journal about his recent visit to a Circuit City in Ohio.

Seems (as you will discover if/when you read the blog) he was asked to produce a receipt for his purchases after he left the store. He refused to do so - which he is well within his rights to do - and was then stopped from leaving the car park by two members of Circuit City's staff. He (not the Circuit City staff) then calls the police to resolve the situation, and after not providing a Driver's License (despite not being in a motor vehicle at the time or being the driver of the one he was a passenger in) was arrested, despite apparently not having committed a crime.

There are some interesting points made in the Slashdot comments about how being forced to show a receipt on exiting a store is - despite being effective social engineering on a grand scale - actually illegal, and raise some valid questions about when shoplifting actually occurs. Which is apposite as some friends of mine were recently accused of shoplifting while carrying goods they intended to purchase around our local supermarket.

Mostly though, it's an fascinating look at how the US has become some kind of Orwellian/Kafkaesque nightmare - where the citizenry has gotten so used to the invasions of power into their everyday lives that when someone actively stands up for their rights, they're arrested.

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Monday, September 03, 2007


Been playing Scrabble on Facebook a lot recently. Check the words out in this game.

And yes, they are all acceptable words


I Know Most Of You Know This Already

I also have another blog which is about a friend of mine who died earlier this year. It's actually a celebration of her life and her fight against the metastatic melanoma, rather than being a morbid recollection of her last days.

The reason I'm mentioning it now is, Bob's sister (Sam) is going to be running the Great South Run on behalf of CANCERactive in October and is looking for sponsors.

If anyone can donate, please click on this link then scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter the name Sam Williams and the amount. Or ring their office on 01280 821211 if you find t'interweb not secure enough.


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