Tuesday, October 31, 2006

If your other name's Rigsby, I'll buy you a drink

n.b. I got this site from Daniel Finkelstein, who got it from a chap called Chris Dillow.

I love maths and numerology. So let's play a game:

Think of a number between 1 and 100 (go on then, pick that one if you must).
If your number is the same as any of the following equations, you are a winner!

Christopher Griffiths x Paris Hilton
Jimmy Riddle + Donald Duck
-- I'm not making this up --

{Arthur Crown + Jesus Christ + Brian Banana + Henry Horse + Jane Eyre + Margaret Thatcher + er, William Wanker - Kevin Keegan} Cleveland Cleveland

Click here to get the numbers and play the game

So, did you win? Congratulations if you did. Commiserations if not, but don't be blue - at least your name's not Cleveland Cleveland.
On a seasonal note, there are 5 Hal Owens - I hope you have a good'un!

  • p.s. Can you imagine the notice in the paper? "To Mr and Mrs Duck, a son, Donald"
  • p.p.s. According to the site, there are 22 Wayne Rooneys in the USA. Perhaps Steve McClaren should investigate to strengthen his squad?
  • p.p.p.s. If you're one of the 4 American Leonard Rossiters, or one of the 5 Hattie Jacques, and you're ever in Portugal, the vinho's on me!

Monday, October 30, 2006

The sword is mightier than the pen

My cousin, who is a fairly handy fencer, would attest to the accuracy of the statement above. And anyone who has tried to slice an apple with a ballpoint would also agree (much better to use a rapier, like Dogtanian).

So I don't know why some people keep insisting the situation is the other way around. Maybe the Chinese government is right on the issue of censorship - if the people can read everything on the internet, what's the point of having a Ministry of Information? Perhaps the plebs realise that ignorance is bliss. After all, if a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, then what the hell does that make a lot of knowledge?

Some do-gooders at Amnesty International have started a campaign to roll back the good work of censors around the world (they don't seem to care about the jobs these fine people do). By all means visit this site, but if you sign its pledge, you could be putting hard-working Burmese censors and their families on the streets.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Magpies 1: for Sorrow

The end of the Roeder?

Following Newcastle's failure to beat Charlton this evening (0-0 at St James Park) I predict Glenn Roeder will be sacked as the Magpies' manager if he doesn't come up with a victory next week against Sheffield United.

If Freddy Shepherd does pull the trigger, I think the next man in the hotseat will be called Alan - most likely Curbishley, but possibly Shearer.

Magpies 2: for Joy

Congratulations to Maidenhead United on getting through to the first round of the FA Cup for the first time in 35 years!

Following today's 1-0 victory over Merthyr Tydfil in the final qualifying round, the Magpies will play Stafford Rangers on 11th November. A long-awaited return to the main draw for a team that played in the first ever FA Cup way back in 1871 (and made the quarter finals a couple of times in those early years).

Friday, October 27, 2006

If you want real value for money, vote Sinn Fein!

The Times reported yesterday that Falkirk's Labour MP, Eric Joyce, was the most expensive in Britain. Mr Joyce racked up a total of £175,000 worth of expense claims (including travel costs, office staff costs and other such things). The paper also listed several other prominent MPs (including Messrs Blair, Cameron and Campbell) with their overall expense claims.

This is all well and good, but I think a fairer analysis of the value for money should assess the cost of the MP divided by the number of constituents. So I have done some calculations.

The total cost of MPs expenses last year was £86,779,772. Divide this by 646 constituencies (in the 2005 election) and the average expense total is £134,334.

The total number of votes cast in the 2005 election was 27,110,727 - on a turnout of 61.3%. This gives a total number of constituents (not including children, prisoners, life peers etc) of 44,236,308. Divide this by 646 and you have an average of 68,462 constituents per MP.

So the average cost of expenses for an MP per constituent is £134,334/68,462 = £1.96

I don't have the energy or time to calculate all individual averages, but I thought I'd look at some interesting ones. Eric Joyce's expenses per head are above average at £2.28, but much less than those of Angus McNeil, SNP member for the least populated constituency, which are a whopping £5.24. By contrast, Andrew Turner on the Isle of Wight (the most populous constituency) costs a mere £1.22 per head. However, the clear winners in the value stakes are Sinn Fein's MPs (not even a biro listed in their stationery costs), with Pat Doherty only costing 63p per person.

I've tabulated the results below, and thrown in my hometown MP, Theresa May, too. It seems she's a lot cheaper than her shoes.

MP Total Expenses Constituents Cost per person
Eric Joyce, Falkirk, LAB £174,811 76,762 £2.28
Andrew Turner, IOW, CON £132,208 109,042 £1.22
Angus McNeil, Western Isles, SNP £113,101 21,585 £5.24
Pat Doherty, West Tyrone, SF £38,049 60,398 £0.63
Theresa May, Maidenhead, CON £96,241 63,947 £1.51
Average £134,334 68,462 £1.96

If you want to look at the figures more closely, try this webpage or download a sortable Excel sheet from the Times. Election results available here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Torres Vedras? Wear the fox hat.

I thought I'd stick in a little bit of info about the town I'm contracted to live and work in for the next few months...

Torres Vedras (pronounced Torresh Vedrush) is about 45km north of Lisbon and about 12km from the sea. Check it out on google maps. I'm one of around 20,000 people who live in the town itself, although it feels a little larger to me.

Why does it feel larger? It's an important regional town, administering the surrounding district, so it's quite busy and there's a decent selection of shops and services (you know the sort of thing - market, McDonalds, castle, haven't found the sex shop but I'll keep looking). This is the town's website.

Any history? The settlement at Torres Vedras (T.V.) dates from Roman times, but the town is most famous for the Lines of Torres Vedras, a series of fortifications built by the Duke of Wellington to protect Lisbon against Napoleon's marauding armies in 1809-12. I believe the castle was originally built by the Moors, but it's been added to and altered over the years.

Any culture? Quite a bit, it seems. T.V. has, according to its own website, the most Portuguese carnival in Portugal (this takes place in February each year). I expect I'll be forced to join in and wear a false head, like a shorter version of Jaws in "Moonraker". The town also hosts an annual festa, which in fact starts tomorrow. This includes includes various cultural events, but the main draw is the World Accordion Festival, featuring musicians from across the globe. The whole shabang finishes on 11th November with the city golf tournament.

Anything else? One of the best things about T.V. is its proximity to Lisbon, and one of the most interesting things about the journey to the capital (no, really) is the opportunity to see the different methods of harnessing wind energy over the centuries. There are many modern wind turbines spinning at various speeds, but you can also see several traditional windmills that may have ground the flour to make the bread before the days of electricity.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My money's on the big white fella

Just when you thought reality TV couldn't get any more absurd, the bods at ITV have come up with a whizzer new idea: Big Brother meets Wildlife on One, in a programme called "Extinct".

The format, it seems, is a literal interpretation of the "Survivor" concept, for endangered species - although rather than the different creatures being forced to work together to complete a variety of tasks, their cases will be championed, a la "Great Britons", by different celebrities. Of course, if the animals could learn to work together to build a fire or a beach hut, as in "Survivor", they probably wouldn't be so endangered in the first place, but that maybe another matter.

The choice of eight species to vote for seems to be a triumph of the telegenic: Hyacinth Macaw, Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Elephant, Leatherback Turtle, Mountain Gorilla, Orang-Utan, Polar Bear and, of course, the Giant Panda. This is somewhat in contrast to the celebrities lined up to speak on their behalf - the likes of Michael Portillo, David "Poirot" Suchet and Graeme le Saux among others. Portillo, in fact, asked us to vote for Queen Elizabeth I in the top 10 of "Great Britons", but only got her into seventh place. Perhaps he'll have better luck with the Hyacinth Macaw.

The winning species in the poll will get 50% of the prize money, with the other half divvied up among the losers. The article doesn't say how much this is likely to be (or what they'll spend it on), but it will be taken from the premium rate phone calls the viewers will make to vote for their favourite. Thus if it's a ratings disaster (shurely unlikely, given ITV's recent track record...), the whole exercise won't really help anyone.

Although a laudable attempt to tap into the typical British viewer's love of animals, I think it's a shame the show won't be speaking up for some less glamorous varmints or any which are native to the UK (such as the Peregrine Falcon, Red Squirrel or North Sea Cod). I suspect the Polar Bear may come out on top, not because it's any more deserving than the others, but because its human representative is Anneka Rice. I foresee a triumphant return to TV for Ms Rice, much like the one Noel Edmonds has made (rather creepily if you ever watch the show) with "Deal or No Deal". There's nothing the people like more than an 80s revival, especially if there are lots of close-ups of Anneka's behind as she chases the bears across the frozen wastes of Svalbard.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Russian Wolfhound

Hello all,

This is my first posting on my new blog. Knowing me, it will probably be my last. However, I will try to update the thing regularly-ish with my views on life, the Universe and everything else.

As it says at the top of the page, I will endeavour use this space to savage the pompous, growl at the overzealous and wag my tail friskily at things I like (which could just as easily be outstanding achievement on the cricket field as girls in short skirts). I'm not actually sure what all that means, but I'll probably be making pithy comments about things I see in the news (that's wot bloggers do, innit?) and having a go at Sepp Blatter and Ruth Kelly as often as I can manage.

Even if that's not your cup of tea, please bookmark this site and pop back sometime soon,