Friday, June 30, 2006

The Stag Do - Part I

Guess what?? Yup! This weekend I am invited to a stag do.
Problem is . . the guy who is getting married doesn't drink and the stag do doesn't cater for any of us watching the England team playing in the World Cup.

This brings me to ask you all a question:
What has happened to the good old normal stag do???

Organising a stag do used to be so easy.

Invite some guys
Go to pub
(Maybe have a stripper)
Drink until you drop
Wake up next morning with a traffic cone in your bed and no recollection as to how it got there or what happened the night before.

Now this has become a whole new ball game.
It is not a stag night anymore but a stag weekend - preferably in some far-flung country or at least the furthest extremeties of your own country.
Activities have now to take place from Go-Karting over Paint Balling to Mountain Climing.
Unless the average bill for each and every invitee is over £500 ($1000), the future groom and his best man are not happy.
And to top it all they then look at you in disgused if you get legless, as 'they don't drink alcohol'!!

Well, I will let you know on Monday how things panned out!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Do you sink siss is funny???

I thought this might bring a smile to your face:

Two English football fans were relieved to see a policeman after scouring the streets of Cologne in search of their hire car. They'd forgotten where they'd parked, but luckily had jotted down the street name and wondered whether the officer might know it.
Unfortunately not, reports the Ananova news agency.
The name on the paper was Einbahn Strasse - One way street!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Batteries not included!

Funny thing this ‘growing up’, isn’t it?!
When I was 15, 20, 25 years old, I was just ‘Me’ and didn’t have to concern myself with other people’s opinions, arrangements or plans. Nor did I care what anyone thought of me or whether anyone was pleased or displeased about what I was doing or how I was handling stuff.
Fast forward now to a few years later and I still don’t care but . . . now everybody thinks I should care and is making decisions for me.

So now I don't make the decisions but I am then accused of causing all the trouble.
Confused??? Yeah, so am I!
Let me give you an example:

Invitation arrives from Kylie for birthday party on Saturday.

Ring Kylie and ask her what time and who is invited.
Say that I will probably be there
On the day see how I feel and either go or don’t go


Invitation arrives via conversation to wife on phone for birthday party on Saturday.
Wife accepts on my behalf!

Tell wife I don’t know if I want to go.
Be called a spoil-sport.
Ring Kylie and enquire about party. Say that I will probably be there
Kylie: “Your wife has accepted!”
Me: I am not my wife!”
Kylie: “What do you mean by ‘probably’?”
Me: “Well, you know . . probably!”
Kylie: “That’s not good enough!”
Me: “OK, I won’t come! Definitely!”
Wife: “You can’t do that, ring back and undo this!”
Me: “What if I don’t want to go?”
Kids: “That’s not the point! You have been invited and Mum has accepted!”
Me: “Yeah! I have not agreed to this!! And anyway, an invitation is something you accept or reject – unlike a command!”
Wife: Goes off in a huff.
Me (ringing Kylie): “What time is the party?"
Kylie: Don’t know. Sometime that day!”
Me: “Who is invited?”
Kylie: “Anyone who wants to come!”
Me: “Whom have you invited?”
Kylie: “Nobody in particular but most people know about it!”
Me: “Looks like I am coming after all (my wife says)”
Me: (speaking to ‘most people’ and finding out that nobody does really know what is going on, if they are invited or what time this is supposed to happen) rings Kylie
Me: “Nobody knows what is going on!”
Kylie: “Yes they do, it starts at 5 p.m. but you can come anytime from lunchtime onwards!”
Me to Kids: “This is the worst organised party ever! Nobody kno . . . . . "
Kids: “That’s right! Be negative! Far be it for us to want to enjoy ourselves! Might as well stay here and not go! (Translate: If we do not go to this party we will not speak to you for weeks but only growl at you and everybody will hear about you being a mean-spirited b*stard for the next two decades).”

This Saturday I will therefore go to a party I don’t want to go to at a time I don’t really know, meeting ‘most people’ (even though I don’t know how they will show up without invitation and idea of time or place) and doing . . .well, I don’t exactly know what until whatever time under the unspoken thread of
“If you are going to be miserable and spoil it for everyone, there is going to be hell to pay”!

Whatever happened to freedom of decision making? Have I become a robot?
Man without choice for sale! Batteries not included!

P.S.: Did the wife and kids enjoy the party??
The wife spent most time in the kitchen helping out and washing dishes. The kids did not go as they got a better offer on Friday night!

P.S.S.: Did you enjoy the party?
I spent most of the time holding on to a glass of warm beer and listening to Tarquin?? telling me about how he single-handedly dismantled a Landrover and put it back together again! The sun had not even set when I was already wondering what the earliest time would be to suggest leaving!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ode to Jameson

This post is dedicated to our very lovely but ever so slightly mad dog, Jameson.
He is a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, a dog originally used for guarding, droving, herding, hunting and for controlling vermin populations. Today however he is used mainly as companions and seen at dog shows.
The Wheaten is a medium sized dog with a distinctive silky, gently curling coat that gives a natural, unfussy look.
The Wheaten is an intelligent dog that is quick to learn, but he can be stubborn and independent – especially our example. He has a strong personality and a sense of fun. As long as he is included in everything we do he is a happy companion.
He does keep us on our toes by occasionally misbehaving, but is generally high-spirited in the nicest possible way.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is known to be less aggressive in nature than that of other terrier breeds. He loves to jump up to greet you and can keep up with the best of joggers. His temperament is such that he considers a stranger a friend he hasn't met yet. He could be classed as an alert or watchful dog but apart from his bark he would be pretty useless as a protection dog I think.
We found that consistency in training and positive reinforcement work much better with Jamie than shouting at him. There is definitely some of the character of his ancestors in Jameson in the desire to herd or hunt which is why we try to keep him away from livestock.
He loves water and will jump into the sea or a small river if he has half a chance.
Jamie clearly sees himself as a vital part of our family and is happiest when we are all together. If he suspects that you might leave he will lie on your feet or look at you with his big eyes, pink tongue hanging out and just being too cute to ignore.

Well, Jamie, this post is for you, my little friend!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Still my Koala gently weeps!

Now be honest! How often have you listened to the Radio or watched the news on TV only to be presented with some (seemingly) useless fact derived from some (seemingly) useless research program and thinking:
Wow!! Who in his (her) right mind has sanctioned to spend time and money on finding this out?!?
Yeeeees! . . . There it is! We all can remember incidents like this.
Here are some of my favourite examples:

Men who use Laptop Computers could be unwittingly damaging their Fertility, experts believe.
Funnily enough, so could ‘riding a bike and slipping off the pedals, thus hitting your family jewels on the bar’, ‘smoking’, ‘drinking’, ‘nude sun-bathing’ or ‘getting kneed in the groin’ to mention just a few.

Dr Ben Moore at the ANU has discovered that Koalas like the Leaves of mid-sized Eucalypt Trees.

Really??!! I could have asked a couple of six-formers to sit in front of a zoo enclosure to come up with this news and now that we know this, what are we going to do with the info?
Hello?! Koalas-R-Us? Yeah, your eucalypt trees suck!"
"Yeah, they are too big and the koalas are complaining! Get your act together or we’ll buy them off . . . eehhm . . crap! . . . you are the only supplier!

Likewise in the wild, are we putting signs up reading
Koalas stay off these trees! They are not ready yet! They need to mature! Have a Grolsch instead!'

Dr Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University concluded the study of which day of the year is most depressing and found it is 24 January.
Hmmm! Let me see . . . ! If you are not prone to depression, then frankly you wouldn’t give a fig, right! On the other hand if you are a manic depressive, then you surely don’t need some academic Herbert to tell you that 24 January would be a jolly good day to kill yourself!
Is it me???

The Durham University scientists research into what is the luckiest colour in sport concluded it was “Red”.
As a Tottenham Hotspurs supporter I should now immediately demand that such teams as Liverpool and Manchester United get 10 points deducted for unfair advantage, sporting as it is a red shirt. Amazing though, since up to now the concept of ‘luck’ always struck me as . . . well . . random!
Sorry, Sir, you were unsuccessful in getting this job! You have the right qualifications and come highly recommended but candidate B, useless as he is, is wearing red shorts! You just couldn’t compete with that!

According to a study by Vale Researchers, the chemical tributyltin oxide (TBT), used in paint for the bottom of large vessels to protect against barnacles, may cause hearing difficulties in whales and other mammals.

Holy crap!! Really???!! I always thought that two thirds of our entire planet was made up of water. For all you geeks out there, this equates to 225.707 million sq ft of water!! Even if you would take all the bottoms of all the ships and placed them together in the middle of this vastness of ocean, you’d not even spot it on the horizon. Someone is having a laugh, right?!!
I reckon that some whale dude ignored his wife’s calls and then blamed it on the ships.
W’as happ’nin’ ma man? You disrespecting me?
Na, I couldn’t hear you, love! Your sweet voice didn’t bounce of dem barnacles as it used to!”.
Hey, guess who is paying for all the above research?? Yeah! You and me, that’s who!!
Here is some other type of research I could suggest – just as useless but what the hell:

Does binge drinking affect your balance?
Does using your mobile phone 24/7 increase your bill?
Does lack of oxygen eventually kill you?

Don’t get me wrong, research is vital for us to understand and be able to action many things but in some cases the only cheque that should be given should be a reality check.

If you can think of some useless research you have come across, why not click on the COMMENTS’ tag just below this line and add it there.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

“I ain't got Time to take no fast Train”

Joe Cocker (amongst others) sang a song called “The Letter”, which went a bit like this:
'Give Me A Ticket For An Airoplane
I Ain't Got Time To Take No Fast Train
Oh ,The Lonely Days Are Gone
I'm coming Home
My Baby She Wrote Me A Letter'

I can truly say my vote is with “the fast train” as everything about airports and their concept of bundling people ready for transport irritates the smeg out of me!
It starts way before even getting to that place. Most airports are conveniently placed next to a congested motorway and you have to set off 5 hours before your flight in order to make it on time through the traffic jam.

Then, when you arrive at the airport, which incidentally has the equivalent road system and sign posting of an explosion in a mattress factory and leaves you as confused as a hungry baby in a topless bar, you have to park your car 2 miles from the terminal and drag your suitcases onto a bus and back off at the other end. All of this for the princely daily car parking fee of ‘loads-a-pounds’, increasing the cost of your holiday by 25%.
The bus driver - a very helpful man (NOT!!!) eventually drops you off at the terminal to find your own trolley. By now you are sweating like a bomb disposal expert with hiccups and this is even before you enter the building!!
Airports are busy places and some people do the stupidest things there.
Obstacle 1 is the check-in desk:
Its bad enough having to put up with delayed or worse still cancelled flights, youngsters running amok in the departure lounge and the general incompetence of airport staff but when you on top of that have to deal with the real bozos and air heads, it tends to lead to a completely new level of frustration.

Let’s start with baggage trolleys. These things aren’t difficult to operate, so why do some people insist on dumping them in stupid places and why do they continually nudge you with them when you’re waiting to check in. It doesn’t speed the process up, does it??!!? You’re not going to get to the desk any quicker by shunting me with that thing!! By this time I already want to punch someone!! A crackling voice over the tannoy says something like:
All sardines wishing to go to Paris, would you please squeeze into your tin now!"

Okay you’ve checked in and you’re flight is on time so you head off for departures and go through airport security. Unfortunately a lot of people have deposited their brains as well as their suitcases! Why do people stand in the queue for the security check for 15 minutes and then remove their coat and empty their pockets only when they get to the security scanner? You have to stand there and watch as person after person does this! When they get to the scanner they look surprised when they are asked to remove their coats even though they have just stood and watched the same happening to every firkin’ person before them.

This just annoys me no end, don’t they want to get to the bar? The sad thing is, you have to go through all this again at the other end when you make your way to the baggage reclaim area only to be faced with lemmings that crush up as close to carousel as possible in the hope that they can snatch their luggage before anyone else.

Now . . this conveyer belt snakes up and down the room for miles, and yet they just must cram themselves right up to the door where the baggage falls onto the belt. Why do they do this? Do they think someone is about to run off with their duty free if their bag has to move more than three feet away from the door? Having shown various people various documents and having been fleeced by customs officers of your foldable comb (this could be used as a lethal weapon!!) you are now free to find Gate 89 which, as everyone knows, is always the furthest gate away and the signs politely advise you to allow half a millennium to get there!
After some heated discussion between some sick dirt-bag of a moron and the cabin crew over him wanting to squeeze a 2-ton bag into the overhead locker the plane takes finally to the skies.
Welcome to United Morons on your 45 minute flight to Paris!

Well, not me!!!
By that time I am sitting on the Champs-Elysees sipping a cool beer having taken the train which incidentally stops in the centre of Paris rather than at Charles De Gaulle airport 20 miles (45 minutes) away!

Monday, June 19, 2006

I now pronounce you man and beast!

Dictionary result for the word “Family
“A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of two parents and their children.”

Less than one generation ago – i.e. when I was a boy – everyone I knew (and I mean everyone) had a Mum and a Dad and maybe some brothers or sisters.
Dad would go to work in the morning, suitcase or lunch-box in hand and not return until the evening whilst Mum looked after the house, the shopping, the washing, the ironing, the cooking, the hoovering and a million other things, including us kids when we got back from school.
So . . . Dad was in charge, Mum was second in command and we kids respected and obeyed them (well, most of the time at least!).
Jump a mere 40 years into the future and what the Smeg has happened???
Most children’s father, mother or both are a.w.o.l. (absent without leave) and do not care about their offspring at all. If you are lucky and can find a complete set of ‘the family’, then you will often find that Mum is out working and banging on about equal rights, Dad is also out working and complaining about the b#tches at work. Cooking is done by McDonalds, Pizzahut and the microwave courtesy of Tesco, Asda and Morrisons.
The kids won’t move out until they are 37 years old (“We cannot get on the property ladder and you can’t make me leave!!) and most parents don’t even seem to realise that their kids have long grown up, since they ‘haven’t really talked much lately’ and have forgotten who is in charge.
But mostly there is no Dad (or Mum) anymore. Dad (or Mum) thought that Mum (or Dad) would look after the kids. Mum (or Dad) (ill supported by the government) went to work and thought that the school would look after their kids. The school thought that the parents are still together and look after the kids and the government just keeps on passing laws to ensure that no one can look after the kids who can now sue their parents and their schools for as much as touching them. If these children however go wrong, then parents are suddenly responsible!!
To summarize:
Family life starts out well but our crazy life style soon unravels the family into a group of individual parasites grappling for position and materials insisting that they all have rights rather than privileges. Here then comes the real Kvetch of the day!
Not happy with messing things up along the way, the government has totally caved in on what they will permit in the first place! Today you do not need to marry in a church or, failing spiritual belief, in a register office – no!! – you can jump out of an aircraft and get married hurtling naked, with a naked registrar, towards earth whilst saying your vows. Alternatively you can do the same under water or on a roller-coaster ride. Anything goes! You dream it up – they will facilitate it – and – it’s legal!! Yes, Sir!!
Not enough???? Do not fret! Now men can marry men and women can marry women!!
Hi, little one! Where is your Mum and . . . eeehhm . . Mum??
Since there is no passing on of original genes of a married couple (and God only knows where gene material originated!) sentences like: “You’ve got your Daddy’s eyes!” or “You get your patience from your Mum!” will never be heard again. On the positive side, both ‘parents’ and kids can blame their biological contributor for most things and get away with it!
The old fact of wisdom that ‘blood is thicker than water’ will no longer apply and the bond between ‘parents’ and children will be as thick as water!
So, in another 40 years time, what will be???Mum and Uncle? Dad and daughter? Fred, Jeff, Harry and Monique??
What if Gemma feels a twinge of passion for Hector, the Rottweiler or Shepherd Sam has a special bond with Shona, the sheep??
I pronounce you man and beast"??

Friday, June 09, 2006

Stab me!! Stab me now!!!

Only speaking for myself I can honestly say that if I had a £10-note for every useless or overblown meeting I have ever attended, I now would be almost as wealthy as the Sultan of Brunei.
My way of staying awake at these droning sessions is to take a fork with me and stabbing myself in the leg at opportune moments but my lovely sister-in-law has a much better and more amusing way of dealing with the problem at hand.
Here is her suggestion:

Do you keep falling asleep in meetings and seminars? What about those long and boring conference calls? Here's a way to change all of that.

1. Before (or during) your next meeting, seminar or conference call, prepare yourself by drawing a square. I find that 5" x 5" is a good size. Divide the card into columns - five across and five down. That will give you 25 one-inch blocks.

2. Write one of the following words/phrases in each block:
* Synergy
* Strategic fit
* Core competences
* Best practice
* Bottom line
* Revisit
* Expeditious
* To tell you the truth (or "the truth is")
* 24/7
* Out of the loop
* Benchmark
* Value-added
* Proactive
* Win-win
* Think outside the box
* Fast track
* Result-driven
* Empower (or empowerment)
* Knowledge base
* At the end of the day
* Touch base
* Mindset
* Client focus(ed)
* Paradigm
* Game plan
* Leverage

3. Tick off the appropriate block when you hear one of those words/phrases.

4. Then you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout "BULLSH!T!"

Testimonials from satisfied "Bullshit Bingo" players:
"I had been in the meeting for only five minutes when I won." "My attention span at meetings has improved dramatically."
"It's a gas. Meetings will never be the same for me after my first win."
"The atmosphere was tense in the last process meeting as 14 of us waited for the fifth box. The speaker was stunned as eight of us screamed 'BULLSHIT! for the third time in two hours."

I have floated this suggestion at work and the unanimous verdict is to try it at the next 'Bla-Bla' session.
Any comments telling the firefly what your experiences with (and solutions to) pointless meetings are will be most appreciated.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

'We have all the time in the world!' - You are so wrong, Mr. Armstrong!!

Last night I saw a program on BBC2 entitled ‘Five Disasters Waiting to Happen’ which gave a grim prognosis for the scenarios we could be faced with if what is known as a ‘CO2 tipping-point’ is reached.
The theoretical events, broadcast as news items, show how London is trying to cope with a huge sea surge on the Thames; how Paris is preparing for another heat wave similar to the one which led to 15,000 deaths in 2003; and how cities such as Mumbai and Shanghai are failing to tackle a future of erratic monsoons and the threat of typhoons.
Most disturbing for me was the fact that everyone around the globe tries to bandage the sore rather than addressing the root cause of it all.

Above: The sweet river Mithi as it is now!

In Mumbai (Bombay) the once sweet Mithi river has turned into a stinking, infested swamp due to various irresponsible human actions, such as putting up walls, etc.
After a rain disaster the authorities (under pressure) decided to dig out the riverbed to allow a better flow. Where do you think they dumped the highly toxic mud?? Onto the mangrove parks which is like the lung of that area.
Mangrove ecosystems which exist along the Mithi River and Mahim Creek are being destroyed and replaced with construction. Hundreds of acres of swamps in Mahim creek have been reclaimed and put to use for construction by builders. These ecosystems serve as a buffer between land and sea. It is estimated that Mumbai has lost about 40% of its mangroves between 1995 and 2005, some to builders and some to encroachment (slums). Sewage and garbage dumps have also destroyed mangroves. The Bandra-Kurla complex in particular was created by replacing such swamps.
And this is just one example of utter stupidity driven by poor legislation, poverty, greed and short-sightedness.

Here you see a plane landing at Mumbai on a runway which has been built, diverting the river by 90 degrees. The filth and the slums along the river are clearly visible!

Are we in Britain any better??
Hardly! As we speak developments below the Thames barrier are going up in the knowledge that these will flood in the future and cause destruction, devastation and most likely deaths.
I remember that in the year 2000 the environmental experts gave us 30 years to clean up our act or face the consequences.

Six years on and we haven’t even started to be serious about it.
T.S. Elliot put it well when he said:
This is the way the world ends ... Not with a bang but with a whimper.

Anyone feeling whiny already?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

That well-known film "When Henry met Sandie"

Surely I cannot be the only one suffering from this strange affliction?!
What am I talking about??
Names of companies, names of products, names of films, names of places but mostly and predominantly names of people! I just cannot remember names! First names, surnames – even if my life depended on it, I’d still draw a blank 99 times out of 100.
This is bad news, as I prefer to greet people or talk to people using their names, as it is far more personal and friendly. Instead I am restricted to skirting around using language such as “you” or (as if to joke) “the man to my right” or “as my friend over here was saying” – and all because I just cannot remember whether the person who was only introduced to me two seconds ago is called George, Brian, Trevor or Elvis.
Before you ask . . . Yes! I have tried everything from word association to memory games but without the desired success.

Example I:
Colleague: “ESU – meet Brian!
ESU: “Hello, Brian, pleased to meet you!
Right, Brian! Brian, Brian, . . . Brian like the snail in Magic Roundabout! Good!!
Five minutes later
What was his name?? Dunno!! Eeehhhmmm, eeehhmmm. . . (bright spark in frontal lobe) Magic Roundabout!!
ESU: “So then, Dougal, how did you get here?

Example II:
ESU: “Hi, Gary, meet Gill and John!
Gill: “Gill and Tom!
ESU: “Right, sorry, Sue and Tom!

Incredibly and most annoyingly I can remember numbers indefinitely.
Phone numbers including dialling code for example – tell me once and I’ll still remember it in a few months time.
I know my credit card numbers (the long ones across the middle of the card) and their expiry dates and their security codes without ever looking at the cards themselves.

Surely that must be far more difficult then remembering a simple name??!!?
If anyone out there has got any good tips, I’d sure be glad to hear them!