Friday, October 18, 2002

Returned from oblivion.

Hockey (or Ice Hockey, if you will) is much on my mind at the moment. When I grew up in New York I was a big New York Islander fan. Unfortunately, they were absolutely crap when I lived there. It was only after I left that they won the Stanley Cup years in a row. And then, I returned to the US in 1997 and the isles were on the skids again. I come back in 2001 and the next season they make the playoffs.

So, after the misery of English football this week I was cheered - in my draft prep for the play-by-mail league I'm in - to see that streaking has made it to the NHL. Methinks too much Molson.

Monday, October 07, 2002

Hyde Park on a pleasant autumn Sunday afternoon. What could be better?

Met up with friends I knew from my Washington DC days for brunch and whatever. A rather average experience in an average Belgian stylee bar in Old Brompton Road - we missed breakfast/brunch. Some terrible things happened to pubs whilst I was in DC. I'm talking about Wetherspoon-isation. Pubs were bad enough before with all that horse brasses rubbish, fat ancient pub dog and fat ancient regulars. But, now too mny have become bland "themed" beer shops. The local one to my office makes great play of the real ales they serve. Too bad they don't know how to keep the beer. "Keep beer? What's that mean? We shift product, we don't want to keep it."

I digress.

It was a day of reminiscing about old times in the home of the freeworld. My friend is back here with his American wife. He's now studying for a Masters in Communication at LSE (former home of radicalism) whilst his wife (formerly of the Discovery Channel) looks for work to support him.

I love his stories about his other half's family. It seems one of her uncles - a native of the "beautiful" Ozarks - owns about 300 guns of various descriptions. By my reckoning that's a small arsenal. And, I think that includes assault rifles, handguns and possibly things that lob large-ish projectiles.

From the Oklahoman, the story of Miss Oklahoma who came second in the recent Miss America "beauty" pageant.

Although the Miss America contest is steeped in beauty pageant tradition, it is about more than just looks, she said. The judges want the winner to be talented, smart, a good spokeswoman and attractive.

Even the swimsuit competition shows more than what the contestants look like, she said. It demonstrates a healthy lifestyle, discipline and confidence.

"It takes a lot of guts to walk out in front of 20 million people in a swimsuit," she said. "It's about a well-rounded individual. It's about the whole package."

Yeah, right.

Friday, October 04, 2002

8 tons of cannabis found growing in US National Park. And, the police burn it? That's one big reefer.

Well done, Scaryduck for winning the Gruaniad Weblog compy. I shouldn't won of course. Or maybe I should've entered.

I rather liked this an article in the St Paul Pioneer Press about pedestrians having to waive green flags to cross the street.

Loved the bit in the article when an SUV drives straight through the crossing. Is it just me or does everyone hate SUVs (apart from SUV drivers)? The idiot who desinged these fuel guzzling, air pollutin' monsters should be forced to try and cross Route 7 at Tysons Corner on a Saturday before Christmas.

But, I shouldn't be too harsh on SUV drivers. Afterall, the poor lambs have lost the use of the muscles for using turn signals.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

[If I were an online test, I would be The James Bond Villain Personality Test]

I'm The James Bond Villain Personality Test!

I live in a fictional world of spies and blonde women with ridiculous names, and I like to give people plenty of options. Although whether they're villainous is not optional.

Click here to find out which test you are!

N.B. - unfortunately the link to the James Bond test is broken. Boo! Hoo!

My university had a bridge to nowhere - a relic of the aborted master plan for the campus in the 1960s. Now I see that Northampton has a bus stop to nowhere. I was intrigued by the picture accompanying the article. There appears to be someone wating for a bus at the phantom stop!

Just back from two days at the Civil Service College. I was on a Creative Thinking course. Hard to tell my boss that I spent a good part of Tuesday on my hands and knees stapling coffee cups to a sheet of paper! When I go over to Blog Spot Plus, I'll put up a picture of something else I did.

Every time I go on courses I am struck by the diversity and intellect of my fellow civil servants. Hey, I know we get a bad rap - tea ladies, bowler hats and all that stuff. But, the modern Civil Service is very professional. Not only that, given that there are 400,000 of us there is a wide range of jobs. Many of those use words like "customer" and "service" which you would never have heard when I joined in 1985.

Back at work to a ton of e-mails and paper, crises left, right and centre. I guess that's why I get paid big b- er, come to think of it I don't get paid big bucks. Don't get me started on pay issues. Okay, I'm reasonably comfortable. People like nurses are criminally underpaid. All I'd like is a fair shake. The last few pay settlements have been alright, but management are always out to screw us. It's made worse by the loss of Civil Service wide terms and conditions under Thatcher. This particular chicken came home to roost with the creation of DEFRA from the old Min of Ag and Fish and the Environment Protection Group from DETR. MAFF employees at my level were earning about 5-10% lower than DETR colleagues. Hence, loads of DETR people made a hasty retreat - leaving DEFRA for DTLR now ODPM and DfT (are you following this?) There was a mighty scrap with unions to get pay harmonised, but it's still a mess and could all come tumbling down with the next change of government machinery.