Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 another year gone

Well 2006 is nearly done so here is my review of the year

In January 2006 I started this blog and my Fatboy returned with its new paintwork - oh and Charles Kennedy resigned and the leadership battle kicked off.

February came and my wife decided she wanted a bigger one! and we had a great result in Dunfermline.

March had hardly begun and Ming Campbell was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats whilst I maintained my record of never having voted for the leader. Reading finally achieved Premiership status after 135 years.

In April Reading took the Championship title before going on to break the all time points record for the division. Meanwhile Leeds qualified for the playoffs. Trouble in Thailand started to brew as the results of the election were annulled. And the bigger one that my wife wanted arrived.

May was not a good month. Leeds qualified for the playoff final and the right to play in the most lucrative game in world football and then promptly flopped.

The highlights in June were not Engalnd at the World Cup. At least I got to see Tracy Chapman in Bristol

By July I think I had lost the will to blog following the flops by Leeds and England respectively. Either that or I was too busy enjoying the good weather on my bike. I know that we did a wonderful tour on our Harleys around all our friends in the West Country.

The highlights of August included Reading winning their opening game in the Premiership and the South of England Harley Rally. Sadly I all too accurately predicted that the military might intervene in Thailand.

September brought the coup in Thailand, the sacking of Kevin Blackwell and best of all a week in Amsterdam.

October brought us an opinionated Chief of General Staff and much discussion about the way forward in Iraq. Reading took part in a blistering encounter with Chelsea where both of Chelseas goalkeepers were injured and much hot air was spouted by Mr Mourinho. Meanwhile the fourth manager in a month took over at Elland Road.

November I will remember most for two entirely different reasons. Firstly, the showing of the film An Inconvenient Truth at Newbury Corn Exchange and secondly the champagne launch for the Reading Wags charity.

In December Reading went joint third in the Premiership at one point whilst doom and gloom prevailed at Elland Road. Thailand continued to suffer with stockmarket turmoil, protest rallies and a secret special operations force.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy Missmas!


Happy Missmas - let me explain. My wife and I are what is commonly known as retreads. In other words this is our second marriage and we both have three kids from our previous marriage. Traditionally all six of our kids spend the 25th December with their other parent and so we celebrate Christmas at a different time. Add in the complications of Boxing Day on the 26th, one childs birthday on the 28th, New Years Eve on the 31st and New Years Day on the 1st and we finally settled on the 30th as the best day for our celebration. This had the advantage that the 29th was also free. This event was first christened Missmas by my wife a few years ago and the name seems to have stuck ever since. So yesterday was Missmas Eve and today is Missmas Day. My wife and I, our six children and two of their partners will be sitting down to a meal that as far as I can tell will consist of five different joints! Happy Missmas.

Friday, December 29, 2006

We finally pay off our debt today



According to the Times here today is the day that the United Kingdom make its final payments to the United States of America and Canada Britain will this week pay off the last instalment of the multibillion dollar loans that were secured from them under lend lease more than sixty years ago to help fund the war effort. The final payments will be the last part of payments totalling over 9.5 billion dollars which have been made over the last 56 years.

The other interesting point made in the article was that in 1950, Britain’s national debt stood at about 200 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Today the comparable figure is 36.8 per cent.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Looking for planets like ours



Corot was launched yesterday. Its mission is to track down Earth like planets outside of the Solar System. Corot which stands for COnvection, ROtation and planetary Transits) is capable of detecting small rocky planets of a similar size to our own. Presumably this is part of a long term plan to find us somewhere else to live once we have destroyed our own planet.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Secret special operations force deployed



According to The Nation here the Thai Cabinet has approved a fund of 556 million baht to pay for a 14,000 strong force to control protests. This force has apparently already been deployed from the 1st December across the country with a mission to quell unrest. This has raised a further controversy in that the approval for the funds to pay for the force was not sought until the 19th December well after the force started operating!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Doom and gloom



Doom and gloom all round at Elland Road as Leeds lost 2-0 away at Sunderland and now find themselves five points adrift of safety. Added to which Gus Poyet the assistant manager got sent off.

Dennis Wise was quoted on Radio Leeds as saying that he was not concerned and hope to bring in a couple of new faces during the transfer window. Rumours are that his transfer kitty may be as big as four million but I wonder whether he will have to let a couple of players go as well. Healy and Kilgallon seem the most likely to achieve a significant transfer fee. Whatever happens with regard to players leaving it is absolutely essential that Wise is a able to bring a few new quality players in as soon as the transfer window opens. If we can get them bedded in during January so much the better.

Other matters also appear to be distracting attention from the urgent business of attempting to stay in the Championship. Rumours have been circulating that Elland Road has been sold to new owners. The ground was originally sold to sold to Manchester businessman Jacob Adler in November, 2004, for around £8.5m with a 25-year lease for Leeds, with an option of being able to rent the stadium for an additional quarter of a century, and a buy-back provision for the club. The real identity of the new owners is not known although the club have now announced that the sale took place in March 2005 to Teak Trading Corporation, a company based in the British Virgin Islands. Allegedlyy this may be a front for a certain gentleman not unconnected with Leeds United to own the ground and take the rent from the club

Meanwhile Reading twice came from behind to record a historic away draw at Chelsea. I watched the game on Sky and I can honestly say that a draw was probably a fair result. Jose Mourinho even thought that it was a fair result so perhaps Reading deserved to nick all three points!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sawadee Pee Mai


or Merry Christmas to my English readers. Todays Guardian advent link is here. This take you to a part of a site called santa.net. This part tells you how to say Merry Christmas in loads of different languages. Have a good one.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Guardian advent 23rd December


Todays link is here. This site tells you all about the history of Christmas Cards. Apparently the first commercial Christmas card was made in Britain in the 1840s but it was not until 20 years later that the greeting card business was established. In the Victorian era when a person paid a formal call on a friend, it was customary to leave a visiting card as a reminder of the visit. These cards were typically small, about 2 by 3 inches. In 1860, Charles Goodall & Son, a British publisher of visiting cards, began mass producing cards designed especially for visits at Christmas. These Christmas and New Year's visiting cards were the forerunners of greeting cards and were decorated with simple designs such as a twig of holly or flowers.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Government backs mad Reading Council scheme

According to the BBC here Reading Borough Council will receive £6.5m from central government next year to develop its transport strategy. According to Reading Borough that is enough to enable it to proceed with its barking mad plans to convert its Inner Distribution Road (IDR) into an anti-clockwise route.

Details from Reading Borough Council of their plan to make the IDR one way can be found here.

Local Liberal Democrats have opposed the scheme and the Leaders of the Liberal Democrat Groups on Reading Borough Council, Wokingham District Council, West Berkshire Council and Oxfordshire County Council issued a joint statement on this back in September prior to the meeting where Reading Borough decided to proceed with this scheme. The joint statement read as follows:

Liberal Democrat Councillors from Reading, Wokingham, West Berkshire and South Oxfordshire all believe that the proposals by Reading Borough Council's ruling Labour group to turn Reading's inner ring road (the IDR) one-way are flawed and need to be put on hold to allow essential consultation to take place to see if the scheme is viable in any form.

It is clear that Reading has not seriously considered the objections that were submitted formally and with due process.

Many of these are concerned not just at the hopelessly inadequate consultation process, but on the significant increase in traffic flow the IDR plans will have on neighbouring communities. Labour-controlled Reading Borough Council has not fully evaluated these, nor has it produced proposals for mitigation.

The lack of engagement with the public for Thursday's council meeting has been consistent with the Labour-led council's failure to respect the legitimate concerns of citizens and groups in Reading and neighbouring councils.

The Liberal Democrats are the only major party which has opposed the one-way IDR from the outset. We all share concerns about this scheme which ducks the key transport issues affecting Reading today

Leeds escape points deduction


I had been concerned that Leeds were facing a potential points deduction after they included six loan players in their squad for the game at Burnley on 28 November. I guess as they lost the game anyway a points deduction might have been a bit harsh so I was delighted to see that they have been fined £2,000 and £1,000 of that is suspended.

Thai shares back up


According the BBC share prices in Thailand rose 9% as trading began on Wednesday recovering from a sharp fall on Tuesday when trading had to be suspended briefly. That fall was a reaction to new rules restricting foreign investment aimed at stemming the surge in value of the Thai Baht. After the market turmoil the restrictions on foreign investments were lifted hence the rise in share prices.

Guardian advent 20th December



Todays link takes you here. Believe it or not this takes you to the MySpace page for Father Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Thai stockmarket and currency crashes



According to The Nation here the Thai stock market has fallen by nearly 15 percent. This follows moves by the Bank of Thailand to limit currency dealings. Foreign investors bringing in cash worth US$20,000 or more will now need to park 30 per cent of the amount in financial institutions. The money will be fully returned if the cash is taken out of the country after one year. I am glad that I only bought a small amount of Thai Baht at a rate of about 63 to the pound and put the rest in Sterling travellers cheques as the rate is now 69 to the pound!

Guardian advent 19th December


Todays link takes you here. This is a site with hints and tips on Christmas recycling. Sadly the tips on food, drinks, presents, decorations and wrapping may come a little late for some. It would have been better had the Guardian picked this for an earlier date but some of the other sections on recycling Christmas Cards and Trees will still be helpful.

Thailand expat paradise

Interesting piece from the BBC which can be found here. As they say it is a friendly Asian holiday paradise. But like anyone emigrating to anywhere in the world the reality of living there full time can be somewhat different. If you have UK based income and assets providing a secure income then living at the Thai cost of living will be realtively easy. But if you do not have that income backing and need to earn a living then you will be earning Thai level wages and living at the Thai cost of living - something to think about before upping sticks and moving full time to this beautiful country.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Guardian advent 18th December


Todays link is here. This takes you to a page with a quiz about Dickens Christmas Carol. See what you can remember - I scored 4 out of 10. Not good.

Blogging to peak

A report from the BBC here indicates that according to Gartner blogging is set to peak in 2007

Apparently the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million and apparently 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs. They believe that most people who might want to start a blog have already done so.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Guardian advent 17th December




Todays link is here. This takes you to a site with a picture showing you how to use Furoshiki. According to Wikipedia Furoshiki are a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that were frequently used to transport clothes, gifts, or other goods. Although possibly dating back as far as the Nara period, the name, meaning "bath spread", derives from the Edo period practice of using them to bundle clothes while at the public baths.

Two games no points

Reading went down 2-1 at home to Blackburn and leeds lost 1-0 away at Ipswich

The Sporting Life report on the Reading Game can be found here and they pretty much have the game spot on. Both teams were not brilliant in the first half but Reading definitely had the better of it and deserved to go in at half time 1-0 up. In the second half Blackburn were a different team. Whatever they had in their half time certainly worked whereas Reading must have had sleeping tablets in theirs. They were absolutely awful. This is probably the worst I have seen them play for a long time and they can have no complaints that Blackburn ran out eventual winners. They were on the back foot from the off and continued to gift chances and miss passes left right and centre for the rest of the half. All not helped by a spat between Doyle and Sidwell at the end of the first half and a further one between Murty and Little in the second half. However, everyone can have a bad day at the office now and then and it is important not to forget how far this team has come and just how good they are.

And so to the Leeds game. The Sporting Life report can be found here. I was not there (obviously) but leeds current predicament can be summed up by picking out three short sentences from that article
  • Ipswich dominated first-half possession.
  • Leeds had to wait until the 38th minute for their first shot.
  • Nicholls let his frustration get the better of him in the 84th minute when he received a second yellow card and was sent off.
Things need to get a bit better and soon or we are headed to Division 1. Wise has improved things a lot and shipped out some of the dead wood already which just shows how far we had fallen from last season. We need to pick up some points in the next couple of weeks and some handy trading in the transfer window in January will also be required.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Guardian advent 16th December



Todays link takes you here. Crazy Frog cover of Last Christmas on You Tube. Nuff said!

Democratic control of Senate hangs by a thread



I have not seen this reported anywhere on this side of the pond but according to the Washington Post here Senator Tim Johnson a Democrat from South Dakota is critically ill in hospital recovering from stroke like symptoms and emergency brain surgery.

Were he to fail to take his seat in the Senate a replacement would be nominated by the Governor of South Dakota Mike Rounds. Governor Rounds just happens to be a Republican. In the new Senate the split is currently 51 Democrats (including 2 independents who say they will vote with the Democrats) and 49 Republicans. If the Governor were to appoint a fellow Republican this would tie the senate 50 50.

In such a situation the casting vote would go the President of the Senate - otherwise known as the Vice President of the United States one Dick Cheney!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Guardian Advent 15th December



Todays link takes you here. It is a list of all the Christmas Number 1s since 1945

The track at the top of the singles chart on 25th December is an annual source of speculation and intrigue. The winner tends to be thoroughly soppy, wonderfully nostalgic or utterly jingoistic!

A technical note; the Christmas Number One does not always synchronise with the dates elsewhere as they refer to 'week ending' chart dates. These are the real Christmas Number Ones!

The singles chart did not begin until 1952. The Christmas Number Ones prior to 1952 are based on sheet music sales. The artists listed for those hits are the ones mainly responsible for popularising the song .

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Guardian Advent 14th December



Todays link takes you here. This takes you to Ontario Farm Grown Christmas Trees and everything you could possibly want to know about Christmas Trees including the history of Christmas trees and some great educational stuff about how the Christmas Tree Farm operates.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Guardian Advent 13th December



Todays link is here. It takes you to Santa Con UK. Apparently UK Santacon 2006 is on 16th December and the meeting place will be announced soon!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Guardian Advent 12th December



Todays link is here. It takes you to a quiz where you can answer some questions to determine your Christmas Style. It turns out mine is : Boringly Normal.

Christmas is all about Christmas. Sometimes that means enjoyment, sometimes that means survival. You pick the bits you like and get through.

You think about presents in terms of the recipient, and try and be a little bit original and creative, or at least get them something you know they'll actually use. Your gifts make perfect theoretical sense but sometimes go underappreciated.

You tire of the excessive consumerism of the season, but you contribute your bit - you spend more than you expect, but you don't see yourself as adding to the problem. You think you aren't influenced by advertising or media, but you are (a bit).

You are probably middle class. You probably own a jumper. You may well read the Guardian. You have straight hair. Your children write thank you letters, and if you don't have any, you do it yourself.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Guardian Advent 11th December



Todays link is here. The BBC Gardening website gives you a step by step guide to making your own wreath.

From bad to worse

Last week Leeds failed to beat Barnsley.

This week we lost 1-0 to Derby see report here. By all accounts both from this report and from reports on WACCOE we were lucky it was only 1-0. Although we improved a lot in the second half we could have been four or five down at half time.

Then comes this report that Leeds fielded six loan players in the game at Burnley when only five are allowed under league rules! Apparently we cannot count.

Thank goodness Dennis Wise is still confident and was quoted as follows We're doing OK, you know, I was pleased with the performance. The crowd wasn't pleased after the first half, but they realised the players had given it a real go in the second and unfortunately it didn't run for us. We've got the squad to get out of this, and I'm sure in January we'll add a couple more. There are certain people we've earmarked. Time is far from up, there are plenty of points to be had and if we keep performing the way we are things will change.

I sure hope so but I am not convinced by Shaun Derrys claim that we could do a Crystal Palace and end up in the play off places.

Protest rally passes off

The protest rally in Bangkok yesterday appears to have passed off peacefully. According to the Bangkok post one thousand protesters turned out yesterday demanding the departure of the Council for National Security (CNS) and the interim government led by Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont. They were also demanding the return of the 1997 constitution and fresh elections.

The article goes on to say that the protesters plan to rally at Sanam Luang every Sunday from now on, and other anti-coup groups will hold similar demonstrations on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Nation reported that a number of anti-coup protesters were prevented from travelling to Bangkok to join the demonstration at Sanam Luang. Buri Ram police intercepted and detained 41 men dressed in black who were heading for yesterday's Bangkok demonstration. They were taken to a police station where their details were taken. They were then encouraged not to attend the demonstration.

The Nation also reported the number attending the rally to be as high as 3,000.

It will be interesting to see how this develops if these protests continue every week

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Guardian Advent 10th December


Todays link can be found here. This is a link to the Poinsettia pages. Amongst which can be found the legend of the Poinsettia.

A charming story is told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy.

"I am sure, Pepita, that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes," said Pedro consolingly.

Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel.

As she approached the alter, she remembered Pedro's kind words: "Even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes." She felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.

Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.

From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season.

Today, the common name for this plant is the poinsettia!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Do not insult the King of Thailand


If you do so in Thailand you are in big trouble. The Swiss man shown above has been arrested for allegedly insulting the monarchy by painting over images of Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

He was caught on Tuesday on surveillance cameras spray painting over portraits of the king with black paint in several locations in the Mae Hia sub-district of Chiang Mai province. He was arrested on Wednesday night and faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

Apparently the military have also launched a separate investigation into the incident suggesting Rudolf may have been hired by someone opposed to the September 19 coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Guardian Advent 9th December



Todays link takes you here. This is a website all about Mistletoe. You can find out all about the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival. I was amazed to read that there was loads of mistletoe, and all very-heavily berried. I was led to believe that Mistletoe was in such short supply that anyone buying was almost criminally guilty of killing off a plant that was in severe decline.

Apparently not so. The site goes on to say that with the glut of mistletoe prices are low - normally they expect in the region of 700 - 800 entries at the first sale... this year they received 1,100 lots. Quality mistletoe was selling at 50p - 70p per pound - about half what it makes in some years.

There is even a specialist Mistletoe Consultancy called Mistletoe Matters which provides information on all aspects of mistletoe in the UK.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Guardian Advent 8th December



Todays Link is here. My favourite so far! It takes you the website for The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. Great story and the best animation of all time.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Guardian Advent 7th December



Todays link is here. This takes you to the website of the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre and tells you all about Britains only herd of Reindeer. You can even adopt one if you so wish. The one above is called Crann.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bureaucracy gone mad


Story from the BBC here. The basic story is that the good people of Embsay, in the Yorkshire Dales are organising a village Christmas party and they have now been told they must carry out a risk assessment of their mince pies - or their festivities will be cancelled.

The local council has told them that posters will have to be displayed at the warning villagers the pies contain nuts and suet pastry. The cocoa content and temperature of the hot chocolate must also be checked.

The organiser is quoted as saying "Everything we do, from putting tinsel up to providing refreshments has to be assessed. We have to consider the dangers involved, that someone might choke on their mince pie or have a nut allergy.”

Craven Council's director of community services, Jonathan Kerr, said: "We support these community events and we try to help local communities organise them and make sure they are as safe as possible."

At some point somewhere in the future we are all going to wake up to the reality of the mad world we now inhabit (where children cannot play with conkers and Christmas decorations are banned from offices) and someone is going to have to work out how we can redraw the lines in such a way that we are not all constantly wrapped in cotton wool and yet we protect people from genuine and serious dangers.

Guardian Advent 6th December

Todays link is here. You think the lights above are tacky? You needs to see these ones on this You Tube link. You have been warned.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Guardian Advent 5th December



Todays link is here. This takes you to a site which shows the life of Jesus as a timeline. There are four different ways to view it. You can see the major events in Jesus’ life, from his birth to his death and resurrection. You can also look at his parables and soundbites, and at his miracles. Each version of the timeline has plenty of links which lead to the original stories of Jesus, written in his own time by his first followers.

Greenham Common and the Starfruit

This flower is the Starfruit. I have to say I had never heard of the Starfruit until the other day.

Named for its star-shaped fruit, this pretty, aquatic flower has been hanging on at a handful of sites in southeast England for the last decade. However this year, not a single plant appeared in the wild, meaning that Starfruit could be facing a very real chance of becoming extinct. The main cause of Starfruits decline, and the main threat to its future, is the disappearance of ponds in the countryside, particularly in pastures where cattle trample the mud as they drink.

Now Greenham Common is at the centre of efforts to save one of the UKs rarest flowers classified as endangered and a priority species on the UK Governments Biodiversity Action Plan. It has all but disappeared in Britain but on Tuesday 28th November, a group of conservationists made a last ditch attempt to establish a population at Greenham Common.

The restoration of the common has created a series of muddy pools that the livestock use for drinking and wallowing in. The Starfruit seedlings and seed, which the conservationists planted below the surface of the ponds came from the Millennium Seed Bank.

Fingers crossed this is one that can be saved.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Protest Rally on December 10th

According to The Nation here there is an anti coup rally planned for Bangkok on 10th December

Clearly the new government is still concerned about pro Thaksin elements out in the regional administrations and their potential support for such a protest rally.

The rally is officially billed as a rally against the military coup and the interim government. Network leader Ji Ungpakorn said his group was entitled to protest dictatorship and the junta could not stop them. "We announce here that we will not negotiate with any dictators because they have no legitimacy. Their power was acquired undemocratically,'' he said.

The military will need to exercise extreme caution in dealing with this protest rally if things are not to get out of hand. The rally is an opportunity for pro Thaksin elements to take on the government and turn up the heat and I fully expect that to happen.

Guardian Advent 1st to 4th December



The Guardian have come up with the idea of their own Christmas Advent Calendar where every window links to a Christmas related web site

1st December takes you here to a page about the German Xmas Pickle ornament!

2nd December takes you here to a page with the lyrics of well known carols.

3rd December takes you here to the polar bear webcam in Manitoba

and

4th December takes you here to the Met Office site for predictions for a white Christmas.

Iraq Strategy



So what is our strategy going to be in Iraq over the next year or so? Perhaps more correctly the question should be what is the US Strategy going to be in Iraq over the next year or so?

According to the BBC Donald Rumsfeld urged a shift in tactics just two days before he resigned.

He admitted that the US strategy in Iraq was not working well enough and called or "a major adjustment".

It was also clear that contrary to his previous pronouncements he was actively involved in tactics and strategy that should more rightly be being decided by the military commanders and was proposing some troop withdrawals in order to pressurise the Iraqi forces to "pull their socks up". The memo suggested reducing the number of US bases in Iraq from the current 55 to 5 by July 2007.

Most interestingly the memo also contained other proposals which included "setting a firm withdrawal date and pushing an aggressive federalism plan to move towards three separate states - Sunni, Shia and Kurd." In a previous post I highlighted an article in the Guardian which looked at eight different options for the way forward and I stated then that "I suspect that the outcome will be option 6 (break up of Iraq) whether or not the tricky question of oil revenues can be resolved or not. The country is virtually in the throws of a civil war in any case and there are clearly areas which are likely strongholds for each of the Kurds, Shias and Sunnis." It gives me no great pleasure to find support for this view from Donald Rumsfeld of all people.

Meanwhile Kofi Annan is quoted by the BBC here as saying "the situation in Iraq has become much worse than a civil war"

James Bakers Iraq Study Group is due to report this week and it will be fascinating to see what it recommends.

Whatever, it says I still believe that we are facing a Balkans type situation in Iraq and without the presence of a single "strong man" type leader the inevitable result will be the break up of Iraq into a probable three state solution. Whether it happens in the short term or the longer term is the only point open for debate in my opinion.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Joint third!!


Reading are joint third on the same number of points as Arsenal, Liverpool and Portsmouth! Ok they are actually sixth. But sixth is still absolutely bloody amazing. Virtually all of the pundits predicted that this team would get relegated and most of them had Reading down for 20th spot. To be fair most Reading fans would have probably gone for a bottom five finish and settled for seventeenth. Now they are mostly wandering round with dumbstruck grins wondering how long this can go on for.

25 points after 15 games is incredible. Yesterday Bolton succumbed 1-0 yesterday as Kevin Doyle struck again and Reading deservedly took all three points with their fourth win in a row.

Renditions of "we are all going on a European tour" to the tune of Yellow Submarine were also heard on a couple of occasions as life at the Madejski Stadium gets more and more surreal

Added to which the Barclays Premiership top scorers list which read as follows :
  • Doyle Reading 8
  • Drogba Chelsea 8
  • Kanu Portsmouth 8
  • Rooney Man Utd 7
  • Saha Man Utd 7
  • Barry Aston Villa 6
  • Bent Charlton 6
  • Henry Arsenal 6
  • Johnson Everton 6
  • Kuyt Liverpool 6

Hard to believe that this is the same club that just under eight years ago got beaten 6-0 at home by Bristol Rovers

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Uncyclopedia!!

Anyone seen this take off of Wikipedia?

It describes itself as "the content-free encyclopedia that anyone can edit"

The entry for Harley Davidson includes the line "1991: Terminator 2 premiers. Harley-Davidson stock climbs to $52,061/share."

The entry for Leeds United will not be repeated here!

The entry for Sheffield on the other hand will where it says the following under Sport : -

Sheffield is currently home to one football club, Sheffield Wednesday, so named because the club moved to Sheffield from the greater city of Wednesday a few years back. This proved to be a horrible bat-fuck insane acquisition for Sheffield as it destroyed the citys good name in the lower leagues of english football.

There is a second,definatly worse team, the so-called "Sheffield Utd", pronounced "Sheffield You-tee-dee". It has the people from Barnsley and Leeds supporting it but no true Sheffied people.

It has recently been confirmed, however, that anyone claiming to support Sheffield Wednesday is merely undergoing severe delusions, and will soon wake up demanding to know the square root of 3.

The home page of the Uncyclopedia can be found here

Friday, December 01, 2006

1.5m barrels of oil energy per sq km!

Interesting piece from the Guardian about the vast quanitites of free energy available from the desert. Every year the sun pours down the equivalent of 1.5m barrels of oil of energy for every square kilometre!!

The piece posits that covering just 0.5% of the world's hot deserts with a technology called concentrated solar power (CSP) would provide the world's entire electricity needs, with the technology also providing desalinated water to desert regions as a valuable byproduct, as well as air conditioning for nearby cities.

Europe could build a new high-voltage direct current electricity grid to allow the easy, efficient transport of electricity from a variety of alternative sources. Britain could put in wind power, Norway hydro, and central Europe biomass and geo-thermal. Together the region could provide all its electricity needs by 2050 with barely any fossil fuels and no nuclear power.

This would allow a 70% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production over the period.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Voluntary code for blogs?

According to this report from the BBC Tim Toulmin (director of the Press Complaints Commission) has said that Blogs and other internet sites should be covered by a voluntary code of practice similar to that for newspapers in the UK.

I cannot see how this would work in practice. Presumably those who sign up to it would be most likely to stick to it in any case and those who would not stick to it would not sign up. To say nothing of the fact that there is always the option for someone to sue for libel in any case.

This story is also covered here on Libertarian Home

Autumn temperatures to hit new high

More evidence of global warming (as if we needed it) from Mondays Guardian.

Apparently average UK temperatures for September, October and November look set to break the 12C mark for the first time.

The previous highest temperature for autumn in central England was 11.8C, set in 1731.

A spokesman for the Met Office said it is "virtually certain" that this autumn will be the warmest for 300 years, and the forecast for the next few days is for further mild weather.

The spokesman also said it is "possible" that 2006 could be the warmest year on record, despite the cold spring.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Koh Samui killers get life

The two Thai fishermen who raped and killed Katherine Horton on Lamai Beach in Koh Samui on New Years Day have had their death sentences commuted to life in prison. I am not in favour of the death penalty at all but I know that this decision will not be popular in Koh Samui. The decision is due to be announced by the court in Surat Thani.

3 Points dropped but not unexpected

Leeds dropped three points away to Burnley last night but the result was not unexpected given the relative positions of the two teams going into the game.

Perhaps the critical moment in the game came when Hayden Fox (who is rumoured to be being offered a longer contract) was sent off early in the second half. Goals from Gifton Noel-Williams and Andrew Gray put Burnley 2-0 up although David Healy pulled one back late on as the game finished 2-1 to Burnley

Despite the defeat the consensus on the message boards seemed to be that this was the best we have played for quite some time. Heart, passion, commitment and skill was shown by the team as a whole.

Dennis Wise was quoted as follows “"There was nothing between the sides, we competed well, we knew we would frustrate them and we did frustrate them. The lads worked very hard and believed they could get something out of it even at 2-0 down.”

Also worth bearing in mind that as recently as six weeks ago or so this would have been a 5-0 or 5-1 defeat!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Martial law partially ended

The Council for National Security has agreed to lift martial law in 48 provinces although it stays in place in 28 other provinces including Bangkok and some other provinces that are considered to be Thai Rak Thai plus the southern provinces where there have been long running terrorist problems. It is a start I guess but I wish they would get on and lift martial law throughout the country.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Life beyond the relegation zone

In the case of Reading well beyond the relegation zone as Reading find themselves pushing for Europe in seventh place with twenty two points and twelve clear of the relegation. This follows a run of three straight wins, the latest of which was a 1-0 win at Fulham on Saturday. Reading were everybodys favourites for relegation at the beginning of the season but are proving that prediction wrong big time.

Meanwhile signs of a small revival at Leeds continue following Saturdays 2-1 away win at Plymouth. Leeds climb out of the relegation zone at last. The midweek visit to Burnley will be very tricky and next saturdays game against Barnsley already has the look of a six pointer.

Thailand Part 10 -Koh Samui Big Buddha


The Wat Phra Yai temple is the home of Koh Samui's most famous landmark the Big Buddha. Most visitors will come to marvel at the sheer size and beauty of this remarkable statue at some point during their holiday even if they do not go anywhere else. Visible from several kilometers away and even from the air when arriving on or leaving the island the Big Buddha sits 15 meters tall and was built in 1972 by the local society to give visitors a place to pay respect to The Lord Buddha.

If you want to know more about Koh Samui there are some links here

Amazing Samui for hotels, bookings etc

Koh Samui.org for all sorts of information

Weather in Koh Samui click here (currently around 28 to 30 C)

On-Samui.com

Thai Photo Blogs

Guide to Thailand

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Switch to eco bulbs


Great piece in last Sundays Observer about whether or not we should switch to eco bulbs.

According to this piece compact fluorescent light bulbs use five times less electricity to do the same job and produce 60-70 per cent fewer CO2 emissions than normal lighting. I was also amazed to be told at the Green Tea in Newbury (which followed the showing of "An Inconvenient Truth") that if every household fitted one of these bulbs we could shut down one power station!

Some good examples are shown here and here and given the green score for our household we will be stocking up on these.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thailand Part 9 - Koh Samui Boat House




The Imperial Boat House Hotel is a lot more reasonably priced than the Tongsai Bay and this is where we are staying on our next visit.

The blurb from their website which can be found here read as follows :

"Set on beautiful and unspoiled beach of Choeng Mon on the northeast coast of Koh Samui,The Imperial Boat House Hotel comprises 34 authentic teakwood rice barges converted into international standard luxury suites,as well as eight low-rise accommodation wings. The hotel is just four kilometers from the island's international airport."

Their factsheet can be found here.

This hotel is in a relatively quiet location but fronts straight on to the beach. The hotel prices are not unreasonable but the beach hosts a wide variety of good cheap restaurants. The nearest big town is Chaweng which is about 10 minutes ride away - near enough when you want it and far enough away when you don't. There are two great pools here - the one with the divers in is nearest to the beach. The other pool is quieter and when we go early next year our room will open out on to this pool. The other great thing is that there is a PADI diving school on site so maybe we will attempt to get our open water diver qualifications this time.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Passports and ID cards


Apparently three million Britons have already been issued with the new hi-tech passport, designed to frustrate terrorists and fraudsters although frankly I find this total somewhat amazing given that I renewed mine earlier this year specifically to avoid the new type for as long as possible.

According to this article in the Technology Guardian the new passport is about as secure as the proverbial chocolate fireguard. The new passports incorporate tiny microchips to store the holder's details and a digital description of their physical features. These techno wizards were able to extract all the data from the chip using just the information printed on the passport.

And they say the data on ID cards will be secure!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

How green are you?

How green is your household? You can find out by going to http://www.greenscore.org.uk/ and completing their online GreenScore questionnaire and see what results you achieve. Then see their tips to help you improve your score.

My green score was 45% - not very good in my opinion

My Energy Score was 19% - Tips can be seen here

My Water Score was 55% - Tips can be seen here

My Rubbish & Shopping Score was 22% - Tips can be seen here

My Transport Score was 41% - Tips can be seen here

I was particularly surprised by this last score given the number of cars and motorbikes in our household and the fact that we take a long haul flight at least once a year.

You can also measure your carbon dioxide emissions here

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Smart Homes

Smart enough to eat our rubbish according to this article in Sundays Observer

The article highlights the need for a new generation of buildings constructed in a totally different way to our current housing stock. These buildings would "be wireless rather than cluttered with the electrical paraphernalia of a typical office or home, drawing 'whatever energy they can from their own environment' via geothermal, wind or solar energy. Such buildings would be lit by natural daylight harnessed through 'light pipes' channels up to the roof designed to let light flood through rooms. The buildings would have their own waste recycling on site".

Meanwhile the report goes on to say that the "Institute for Public Policy Research has published a report calling for Britain to become a 'zero waste' country, where rubbish is recycled or reused instead of dumped in landfill sites. It says taxes should be applied to disposable products such as razors and cameras, encouraging people to buy more lasting products. The study argues consumers should learn to repair and reuse items rather than throwing them out, as well as recycling more. The think-tank report wants manufacturers to be compelled to design durable products that can be reused rather than throwaway plastic that will need regular, and profitable, replacement"

The report also "recommends that councils should charge householders for taking away non-recyclable rubbish : Britons throw away more than 300 million tonnes of rubbish every year and recycle less than half of it."

All these things will involve a certain amount of pain but the sooner we start tackling these sort of issues the better.

Homes that are more self sufficient and chew up less energy and material material resources has to be the way to go.

As for manufacturers designing durable products - great idea but I somehow cannot see this happening. One of the problems is that so many everyday items are uneconomic to repair even if you could find somehow with the know how to do it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

WAGS


The Wives and Girlfriends of footballers are pretty famous for living it up and flashing the cash. During the World Cup this year there were almost as many stories about the WAGS and their behaviour and spending habits as there were about the fitness of various England players.

So it is really nice to see a group of WAGS raising the cash instead of splashing the cash. The Wives and Girlfriends of the Reading Footballers have got together under the banner of the Royal Families charity, which was set up by Amanda Hahnemann and Karen Murty (wives of goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann and captain Graeme Murty). They aim to raise sixty thousand pounds throughout the season for local charities.

We went to the launch event last night at the Madejski Stadium. The Champagne tasting night was the first of six fundraising events organised by the WAGs so far and raised over Thirty Two Thousand Pounds!

At least nine first team players were at the event (a fact which delighted my Reading fanatic son who came with us) and they took part in the event with great enthusiasm. At least two Reading players won the bidding for some of the auction items. Ibrahima Sonko walked away with a weekend break in Iceland and Steve Sidwell was seen leaving the event dwarfed by the two giant cuddly dogs he had bought in the auction.

Hats off to the Royal Families for a really positive initiative.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Blackwell to sue

Kevin Blackwell is to sue Leeds United for compensation after failing to negotiate a settlement with his former employers. According to Ken Bates “Blackwell was dismissed for negative comments made in the press about the club's finances, not for poor results”

Right! Well he should have been dismissed for poor results but then he should be compensated for being dismissed unless there were performance clauses in his contract

The League Managers Association lawyers have investigated the newspaper article upon which Leeds are basing their claim and have advised that Blackwells remarks did not breach the terms of his contract.

Rumours continue to circulate with regard to whether or not Blackwell actually signed the three year contract he was offered and whether or not the contract might be deemed to be signed in any case as he continued to work beyond the end of his old contract and was paid at the new rate.

What happened next?

To be honest I do not know what happened next but for some reason this photo caused great mirth in our household. I see similar photos also appeared in a couple of todays nationals.

Suggestions so far
  • Fingerpainting
  • Making elephants out of playdoh
  • They all had their hair cut
Please feel free to suggest you own

Postcode lottery

According to this piece in The Guardian last week there is a row brewing over the use of postcodes by local authorities.

The basic process is that a planning application is submitted for a house or a road and is then approved. The council then creates the basic address and sends it to the Royal mail where the Post code is added. Because the accurate data that councils use contains post codes and geographic information from the ordnance survey they end up paying to use data which they helped to create in the first place.

An example given in the article goes as follows "When a local authority puts its schools admission system online, as required by the e-government programme, it must pay Royal Mail if it wants to allow residents to search for a school by postcode."

Apparently this is not new and the charges have been in place for years. The latest row has been triggered by a proposal to double the charges to local councils from October next year.
It seems that battles over copyright and revenues from address data have ruined previous attempts to create a single national database of addresses.

The logical conclusion is that local authorities want to charge the Post Office each time they make use of the basic part of the address if they are going to have to pay to use the Post Code. And surely the Royal Mail wants everyone to use the accurate post code to help them to deliver post correctly. What next? If I give my house a name instead of a number can I charge other bodies for using that name. Surely it is fairly fundamental data which should be available free of charge and something should be done to make this data freely in the public domain.

Worrying interference

This story from the BBC is in some ways the most worrying story I have seen about Thailand post the military coup.

A Thai composer has said that the country's military backed government has threatened to ban his opera. Apparently officials spoke to him days before the opening of Ayodhya concerned about portrayal of the death of demon-king Thotsakan on stage. The officials told him that any misfortunes which befell those in power would be blamed on the opera.

Putting aside for a moment the rights and wrongs of the military coup in the first place this action seems somewhat extreme. The military coup leaders have promised to lift many of the restrictions as soon as possible. They have promised to draft a new constitution and put it to a referendum. They have promised new elections next October. And yet they feel the need and find the time to take an interest in the minutiae of cultural matters.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bush understands

At least according to The Nation here. Well I guess there is a first time for everything.

According to The Nation "Despite Washington's disapproval of the coup that usurped power on September 19, US President George Bush said yesterday he understood the situation in Thailand and shook hands with military-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on the sidelines of the Apec leaders summit"

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont assured the Apec leaders that the country would "proceed along the democratic path" and would "try to put the draft of the constitution to a referendum later on."

The US had criticised the military takeover in Thailand, saying the move was a step backward for democracy. Washington has suspended parts of military cooperation as well as bilateral free-trade negotiations, pending the election of a new government.

I know which of the two lines I prefer and which is more likely to keep the coup leaders to their promise with regard to fresh elections.

Reading win and Leeds slump

Reading easily dismissed Charlton 2-0 yesterday afternoon. Reading played well within themselves and had they been more ruthless should easily have been 2-0 up at half time and could have run out winners by 4 or more. Charlton fought hard but without ever really threatening the Reading goal. Reading played well but lacked a certain amount of quality in the final third. Still, 13 games played and 8th in the table with 19 points - nearly halfway to the much talked about survival target of 40.

Match report from The Observer here.

Meanwhile Leeds got thrashed 3-0 by Southampton at home and it sounds as if both Healy and Crainey had poor games. Dennis Wise was quoted fairly bluntly after the game as saying "I will bring players in and players will go. It's best to keep it at that." Seems fair enough to me - there have to be changes!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Strategy advisor arrogance

I do not know if anyone else saw this piece of breath taking arrogance displayed by Matthew Taylor - Tony Blair's outgoing chief strategy adviser.

He stressed that he was speaking as a "citizen" not as government spokesman - funny how his comments managed to get reported then!

He criticises the internet for being used to encourage the "shrill discourse of demands" that dominated modern politics.

I wonder who all these people on the internet are?

Who are all these people with blogs and web sites?

Perhaps just perhaps these people are citizens too albeit ones without the ability to get themselves reported in the main stream media because of a government position they hold!

He goes on to say that we have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government - what arrogance. If successive governments had not had such centralising tendencies then local communities might have been given the power, responsibility and resources to do more for themselves. Instead we live in a country where the general assumption is that we should do everything centrally. The national government controls more and more and if it does not directly control something then it will set prescriptive targets and standards that leave very little by way of choice for those who are delivering whatever service locally

Part of the problem according to him is the "net-head" culture itself, which was rooted in libertarianism and "anti-establishment" attitudes.

And what precisely is wrong with this Mr Taylor?

Unless of course you are always pro establishment and anti libertarian yourself.

In my opinion a lot of the problem is an electoral system that does not work, governments which tend to centralise everything and a media which by and large panders to the government agenda. When it does not pander to their agenda it is more interested in sex scandals than in the real issues which concern most of the people in this country. I suspect a lot of bloggers are fairly frustrated with the inability to get their message to the government of the day via the media or the ballot box and hence have found an alternative outlet for their frustrations

What a surprise.

The Weather Pixie


I saw the Weather Pixie on another Liberal Democrat blog and could not resist adding a couple to my blog. Towards the bottom of the sidebar you will find the UK time and a weather pixie for the nearest site to Reading and the time in Koh Samui and the nearest weather pixie for Koh Samui.

Oh and the weather in Koh Samui is currently 81F.

Thailand Part 8 - Koh Samui Tongsai Bay




Quite simply the best hotel on the island as far as I can see. We picked it for our honeymoon and didn't regret that decision at all. The prices are more similar to European prices but the hotel, the service, the villas and the food are out of this world.

The first photo shows the beach area. The Tongsai Bay has a totally private beach which is only accessible from the hotel grounds. There are two swimming pools, one down by the beach area and one higher up - this one is a half moon eternal pool and is absolutely beautiful to swim in.

The final shot is from the deck of a Grand Villa. We honeymooned in one of these and it was the most luxurious accommodation I have ever stayed in. The bed appeared to about the size of two Super King Sized beds, the dressing room and bathroom areas were vast and then you step outside to a huge suspended deck area with stunning views.

The description from the Tongsai Bays own website is as follows :

Tongsai Grand Villas are on the hillside facing seaview of Tongsai bay. Each has an area of 135 m2, divided into the open-air terrace plus living area of 81 m2 and the air-conditioned bedroom of 54 m2. The unique open-air terrace features a bar, a bathtub for bathing al fresco and a gazebo where guests could sleep outside if they wish (mosquito nets provided).

and yes we did use the gazebo and bathtub

Anyone who wants to know more should click here for their website.