Wednesday Jan 20, 2010

Of all the silly things to put on your guns

This is simply unbelievable.

Of all the stupid things to do. I am speechless - what a great propaganda tool.

How could the manufacturer do this and how could it slip past the military people purchasing these weapons?

Sunday Dec 13, 2009

Poor Tiger

Poor old Mr Woods.

I have to agree with a comment my father made recently, saying that at least we'll now be spared the nauseating Accenture ads he featured in.

It looks like this has now come to pass.

I always found the ads a bit baffling. Aside from their cringeworthiness, who were Accenture aiming them at, exactly? I would imagine that making the choice of which consultancy you chose to help your business would be made on something more than adverts placed at airports and in magazines. Sure, it's important to get your brand out there, but they were placed in areas I would have assumed were really only of use to more consumer oriented products and services.

It's what you do next that counts, Tiger and Accenture told us. I'm looking forward to the inevitable parodies people are going to be coming up with!

Wednesday Oct 21, 2009

Who's delivering my Amazon stuff?

My Amazon UK ordered book is on it way...

> using Deutsche Post DHL.

I was surprised to read this, as I remember Jeff Bezos praising the Royal Mail in the past, saying what an asset it was for the UK. No similar service in other countries, undervalued asset, etc etc.

A bit of digging followed and I came across these articles here and here. The articles and the comments are interesting.

From my privileged position I see the unions destroying things completely. Echoes of Britain's car industry in the '70s. I'm happy to be persuaded otherwise, but haven't seen any commentary that convinces me to change my mind.

Yes, the Royal Mail will have to make changes, but it's sink or swim. Striking and damaging what remaining business and goodwill you have left makes no sense at all.

Thursday Oct 08, 2009

Five years back at Sun

I've just had an email asking me to choose my reward for five year's service at Sun.

It's not an original thing to say, but time has flown by since I joined Sun Dubai in 2004. Previous to that I'd worked for Sun UK between Oct 1998 and July 2002, coming to Dubai to work for Sun's regional CDP in the years between.

I wonder where I'll be in five years' time? It's a shame there won't still be an independent Sun in 2014, but fingers crossed what's in its place will be successful. Unless I end up moving over to work for the competition in the intervening years, that is :)

Thursday Sep 03, 2009

A Portrait of Richmond

My father's photobook of Richmond-upon-Thames can now be pre-ordered on Amazon!

Monday Aug 24, 2009

CCTV's effectiveness

An interesting article on CCTV from the BBC.

Whilst back home for two weeks over the summer, I was shocked to see CCTV cameras absolutely everywhere, compared to when I left in 2002. I found myself wondering about the cost involved and their effectiveness.

I don't mind the odd camera here and there, but I found their new omnipresence a little unsettling.

There's a small shopping centre near my parents' house. When I was younger I used to try and avoid that particular area, as it was a bit run down with local yobs hanging around - if you locked your bike up to use one of the shops, you couldn't be sure it would be there when you got back.

The area now has a CCTV camera watching over it. Over the last year or two, the precinct seems to have attracted a fair amount of investment, with a German delicatessen, Italian ice cream cafe and some much smarter shops there than before. Even the fish and chip shop's\* pretty decent.

Does the camera's presence have anything to do with this, scaring off the local hoodies, or is this just economic regeneration which would have happened anyway?

\* The fish and chop is run by some Kurdish people. Prior to that, it was Chinese owned. I bet you the owners before that were Indian or Vietnamese, then Greek or Turkish Cypriots, with the first owners being British. Interesting how you can chart immigration trends in Britain by who runs the local chippy. I didn't check, but I wouldn't be surprised if the supermarket around the corner had a large Polish section :)

Tuesday Jul 14, 2009

Now I know how to describe my accent when speaking French...

I realise now that when speaking standard French, I am speaking with an authentic Jersey accent.

Instead of murdering Frog with my crushing English tones, I am simply echoing Britain's Norman heritage, still to be heard in the channel islands.

Eels sonn donjerurrr si lay chevo lay monj.

Bizarrely, this Jerriais news spot is followed by sections in Polish and Portugese. Modern Britain eh soopare, ness parr?

Thursday Jul 09, 2009

My father is no longer a terrorist

Great news about the Police being reminded there's nothing wrong with taking photos in public, via this article in The Register.

This means my father should no longer be under suspicion of being a terrorist and Mullah Omar's favourite photo blog can continue to flourish in peace.

Sunday Jun 14, 2009

Web 2.0 in pop?

Listenting to the Box Tops' 'The Letter' this morning, I found myself wondering when we're going to see more references to modern technology in pop songs.

Mousse T gave a technically vague mention of sending a message through the internet 'but it rejected' , way back in '98. Since then I've not been aware of any songs mentioning something similar.

We need up to date lyrics along the lines of -

'Get me an online checkin for an aeroplane - my baby just sent me a tweet'.

'Hangin' on your Facebook status update'.

'Text and shout'.

...that sort of thing.

I think Girls Aloud would be a good group for a social media related ballad. I suggest a feisty 'strong women' type missive about removing an ex-boyfriend from your social networking circle.

Verse -


Don't poke me via Facebook 'cos I ain't gonna reply


The days of textin' me daily have all gone by


Your tweets mean nothin', your emails less


My heart's deleted you baby, I must confess


It's time for me to stand strooong


And wipe your from my liiiiife


You're nothing more to me no more than redundant bits on my hard drive.

Thursday Apr 23, 2009

Sun readers appear to drink a lot

I love the suggested amounts in The Sun's tax calculator.

Pints of beer (eg 10) a day

Bottles of wine (eg 8) a day

Bottles of spirits (eg 6) a day

Sun readers appear to be a thirsty lot.

Sunday Mar 01, 2009

Britain's number one terrorist

We paid my mother a surprise visit last week for her 70th birthday. Mrs Saul spent the weekend in Richmond and I stayed on for the week - one of the beauties of Sun and my job in particular being that I can work from anywhere. I'd planned to be at home in Dubai that week after back to back travelling, so being in London worked fine as well.

What I hadn't realised was that since last seeing my father he had become Britain's number one terrorist. Well, I exaggerate a little, but he did show me a slip of paper given to him after he had been stopped by some Special Constables whilst out and about taking some photos for his blog and the book he is working on.

Whilst taking some pictures of a house in Richmond he'd been stopped and questioned under a recent anti-terrorism act.

It's hard not to slip into a 'what's Britain coming to' blog tirade about things like this, but I will do my best not to.

I fully understand that the world is different today, that there are threats out there and that they have to be dealt with. What I can't understand is why we have to have legislation like this that intrudes upon and upsets perfectly honest people who are doing nothing wrong at all.

I simply don't think it's necessary to approach someone taking photographs and question them. I'm sure the two lady Special Constables in question weren't aggressive or rude, but I got the feeling from my father that they could have handled the situation better. He was upset by the incident and he shouldn't have been put in that position.

Do we really need a special act to empower the police to stop people in this way? Would a friendly word from a passing policemen not have been enough? Do we need Special Constables to actively stop and question people in the first place? Do these laws simply end up harassing normal people whilst failing to identify those who are actually intent on doing the country harm?

I also understand that you have to be reasonably even-handed. You can't simply target bearded gentlemen in traditional dress carrying point-and-shoot digital snappers whilst ignoring white Englishmen wearing casual weekend clothes holding a pricey Olympus with a telephoto lense. The heart of the matter is whether you really need to question people doing this kind of thing at all? Would people staking out an area for a terrorist attack do so in broad daylight? Even if they did, do you need a special law to have a word with them, turning the incident into a formal episode, when a quick chat and discretionary follow up would do?

When things like this happen, I can't help feel that those people who wish the UK ill have actually won.

During my visit to London I was also struck by the number of signs on buses, trains and public areas telling us what we can and can't do. One new law in particular struck me as odd - the banning of alcohol on public transport. I commented on this when it was being floated by Boris Johnson, but hadn't seen the 'results' of it being made law, in the shape of large warnings on buses and in the Tube.

Noone wants to sit on a bus full of drunken boozers sipping out of 3 litre bottles of White Lightning, but were there not laws in place already that deal with anti-social behaviour of one kind or another? I have no particular need or desire to drink on public transport, but never noticed it being a problem in the past. If it was, I'm sure it was dealt with by the police under their existing powers at the time.

I was left with the impression that we were all being told, very specifically, what we can and can't do, when those things were rather obvious anyway, with existing, appropriate legislation already in place for when people stepped over the line. Maybe that's needed in a society that's made up of people who are recent arrivals and need to be guided, but Britain - and London in particular - have had waves of immigration for many years without any particular issues that require specific new legislation.

The reaction to current problems seems to be akin to that of sticking speed cameras up everywhere. Perfectly law abiding motorists get fined via CCTV for minor transgressions that cause no harm, or thanks to being caught on camera doing 33 in a 30 zone, whilst those who really cause havoc simply carry on as before.

I remember visiting Richmond Police Station in 2001 to present my licence after receiving a speeding fine for a situation which, had a real member of the traffic police been present, would never have ended up with me getting three points added and 80 quid taken off me. When I left the police station, someone was smoking a joint at the bus stop ten metres away. Maybe there should have been a sign on the bus shelter reminding people that illegal drugs were illegal.

When you see this kind of law breaking on a regular occurrence, it's infuriating to hear of your old dad being stopped and questioned for taking some photos of the town he's lived in for so many years.

This blog post from Bystander about new legislation sums up the situation very well.

Saturday Feb 28, 2009

Apostrophe standards upheld

I was pleased to see this sign when home in Richmond last week. Quite a different approach to Birmingham council's.

Just unbelievable. What is so hard about the apostrophe? Its some'thing people just do'nt understand.

Standards are being upheld north of Birmingham though. Apparently signs to Everton and Liverpool grounds mention 'football stadia'.

Sunday Jan 18, 2009

Goodbye, Tony Hart

Here's Tony Hart's obituary at the BBC.

I used to love watching his programmes with my sister. We would always have tea and biscuits after school and watch Children's BBC before homework. Thousands of British children will have grown up watching him show us how to be creative. Rather like watching cookery programmes, most of us probably never tried out what he was teaching us to do, but it was always fun to watch.

Amazing to think he served with the Ghurkhas.

I wonder if, in the age of on-demand TV, DVDs and internet downloads, there's a place for the Tony Harts of the future?

I can't get to YouTube at the moment, as I'm in Riyadh, but I will find a choice episode of Morse to link to in a future post.

Thursday Jan 15, 2009

Buses for Africa

An interesting article here from the BBC, about the Ivory Coast building its own buses (albeit based on components from Iveco).

This comment caught my eye -

"In Europe the technology is very sophisticated with lots of electronic devices. In Africa we don't need this. We just need robust buses because our roads are not very well done like in Europe. This is an African design for Africa."

This is something I've commented on here before. Many of the countries I visit have roads filled with what you might call 'serviceable' cars. By serviceable, I mean vehicles that a decent mechanic can repair and maintain without having to buy a proprietary diagnostic computer system from the manufacturer, or having to stock up on tonnes of electronic gadgetry simply for the key to be able to turn in the ignition. Most of these vehicles are pre-1995, not particularly luxurious but still going strong.

A Lebanese Liberian Toyota importer I met in Ghana (sorry, I'm showing off a bit here) told me that older model Toyota pickups fetch a much better price than the current range - the previous generation are simply tougher, last longer and are more reliable. It's interesting to see a market where a ten year old secondhand vehicle can be worth more than its three year old younger brother.

I wonder how much electronics is really needed and whether there's a market for European vendors to produce more basic vehicles, both for Europe and elsewhere? How about a Mercedes S class or Range Rover for Africa?

I believe that Land Rover and other manufacturers have versions of their basic 4x4s that are for the Africa market only. The reason they are 'Africa only' is that the electronics have been removed - that doesn't mean simply providing manual rather than electric windows, it means removing some of the electronics involved in engine management. The result is a more reliable car, but one that is more polluting and wouldn't meet European and US standards. At least, that's what I have heard from people in the know.

Some European vendors are definitely manufacturing more solid, less complex vehicles for sale outside Europe. South Africa has a VW factory producing what are essentially Golf Mark 1s with an updated interior, as well as a VW van from the same era. They aren't expensive and are still fairly basic. I am sure that VW don't sell these in Europe so as to avoid cannibalising their more recent and more expensive models. This is understandable. I am sure they would sell extremely well if they were available, particularly given the current climate. Maybe we'll start to see some brand new, right hand drive new/old Mark 1s appearing on the streets of Essex. Kevin and Gary would be souping them up in no time.

What will be on the roads of, say, Casablanca in twenty years' time? Will the 1970s Mercedes 200 taxi still be going strong whilst Europe's scrapheaps are full of Mercedes' 1990 to 2010 models? Or will Casa's roads be filled with the cars currently driving around Europe? Will simpler models, stripped of electronic unreliability be sold directly to Africa or will electronics keep their place but become more reliable and easy to maintain?

Tuesday Jan 13, 2009

Grinding French

I really enjoyed speaking French with the partner and customer in Tunis last week. Although I'm always frustrated by how much worse my French is compared to when I left university, I do feel that my fluency has improved over recent months, thanks to regular trips to North Africa.

I've also exchanged a few emails in French with the customer - nothing very complicated, but a good chance to force me to polish off my written skills as well.

My French speaking colleagues are always very polite to me, but I can't help feel that I'm murdering their mother tongue somewhat with my grinding sentences. Still, I seem to be getting my message across, which is what it's all about, n'est-ce pas?




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