Monday, July 09, 2007

New look Dreams and Daemons - Day 1


Politics


For several days now, the Telegraph has been urging us to sign its petition, calling on Gordon Brown to honour promises that we, the UK public, would be allowed a referendum on Europe in the event of more powers being conceded to Brussels.


Well, in what must be on one of the most dastardly acts by any PM in decades, Tony Blair, at the 59th minute of the 11th hour of his benighted premiership, did just that, allowing a failed Constitution to be resurrected as as Treaty, effectively selling the UK down the river. Borroso is telling Brown that he is duty-bound to honour Tony Blair's treacherous undertakings.


The Telegraph has 3276 responses its petition so far. I have not tried reading them all, but most needless to say are predictably against ceding any more power to the EU, which most folk see as intent on becoming a United States of Europe.


Whilst agreeing with much of what is being said about the arrogance of Brussels bureaucracy, its contempt for democratic processes, there's another side of the argument that is not being articulated. I have sent the following, with tongue in cheek, obviously, but I confess to wobbling on the assumption that we need to keep Europe at arm's length (supposing that were possible).


Here's what I've submitted:


"Why don't we just accept that we're a clapped out nation, thanks to comprehensive education, political correctness, over-taxation, uncontrolled immigration, corporate greed, social atomisation, gutter press and so-called reality TV, booze culture, knife culture, gridlock on roads, rail and utility privatization, government spin and dossier doctoring, imperial pretensions and self-appointed global policing, devaluation of university degrees, mismanagement of the NHS, squandering of billions of taxpayers' money on botched projects, overpriced public transport, rip-off consumer goods indistry, destruction of industrial base, national obsession with celebrity and trivia in general, dumbed down media, home-grown terrorists, break-up of the UK, unaffordable homes, record levels of debt, ASBOs a badge of strret cred, highest level of divorce in Europe, graduate debt .... sorry, I'll have to stop there - there's somebody at the door - probably a crooked utility salesman or distraction burglars.


Given that our country has been so thoroughly trashed in the last 20 years, can Barosso's EU Empire really do any worse ?



Why not give wholehearted membership of the EU a try ? Can things really get any worse than they are now, short of outbreaks of rioting in the streets ? Might things not become better in a fully-fledged United States of Europe ? Let's face it: the UK is a busted flush."



With this new format, using standardized headings (politics, humour etc) I've been a bit slow to realize how to exploit the format to best effect.

So far I've been entering text under the headings in any order, depending on which ideas come first, and leaving you, the reader, to hunt for new content.

That's hardly user-friendly now, is it ? So what I'm doing now is placing the most-recently updated heading at the top of the page.

So here's the most recent one to be updated: Moan of the Day, with star-billing for, da da,

lastminute.com.

Moan of the Day


Update Monday July 16


We finally received a reply from lastminute.com this morning. It was most apologetic for the delay in responding to our complaint ( see below). The misleading description of our Madrid hotel as having an "ideal central location" had been supplied, they said, by the hotel, which was unwilling to entertain any claim for compensation. We were pleased, then, to be told that as a gesture of goodwill, lastminute.com was returning £100 to our account, no less. That's actually a bit more than I was expecting, but I'm not complaining !


The hotel was called Confortel Suites. It's on a street called Lopez de Hoya in the Prosperidad district, on the north-eastern side of Madrid. The nearest Metro station, 10 stops from central Madrid was called Alfonso XIII.


Finding ourselves in the the outer suburbs was not our only complaint. After one night there, Jane was suffering dizziness and nausea, which we traced to a bad smell from the bathroom. I discovered that the wash-hand basin had been plumbed in without benefit of a U-bend.

We were moved to a different room, which was free of odour (despite having the same slaphappy plumbing). One assumes that the sink in the first room was closer to the main soil pipe.


Anyone considering a visit to Madrid may do well to consider giving Confortel Suites a miss - unless, that is, they like long Tube journeys, and the smell of drains.


Anyway our thanks to lastminute.com. They took their time responding, but finally recognized the legitimacy of our complaint. There are many things we weren't able to see or do in Madrid, especially in the evening, through being unwilling to make that long and tedious return journey twice in one day.

Original post



Be very wary of lastminute.com, especially its so-called "Secret Hotels" deals. That's where you don't know which hotel you will be in until after you have paid.

Now why would anyone willingly agree to such terms, you may ask ?

Because you can find yourself booked into a good, well-situated hotel at half or less the normal price. We used the "secret hotel" deal on our last visit to London, and found ourselves in the Holiday Inn near Gloucester Rd tube station - but then we were told that we would be somewhere in Kensington.

Perhaps as the result of that one good experience we lowered out guard, and tried the same deal in Madrid last month. Lastminute.com stated we would be "in an ideal central location... ideal for business travellers or leisure visitors".

We arrived at night, and had the jolting experience next morning of finding we were on the north-east outskirts of Madrid, a ten euro taxi ride to the centre, or 10 stops on the Metro, no less, needing a change.

Well, we were not amused, needless to say, and said so at reception. But decided to put up with it, and not let it get us down, whilst resolving to lodge a strong protest to lastminute.com when we got home, and press for some compensation for the extra out-of-pocket expenses.

There's worse to come. It took a while to find a "contact us/complain" facility on the website. We finally found it, complained we had been seriously misled, that it had impacted on our enjoyment of our holiday.

Back came an auto-reply saying we might have to wait 28 days for our complaint to be dealt with. We sent a second message a few days later, saying we expected our complaint to be dealt with more speedily. It was, after all, a simple matter of misleading description - a hotel that is 10 stops on the tube from the centre is hardly "an ideal central location". It's as if one booked for a central London hotel, and found oneself out at Golders Green (yes, I've counted 10 stations from Picadilly Circus).

Apart from a second auto reply, we've had no reply as yet to our complaint, made some 3 weeks ago !

Lastminute.com would not exist if it were not for the internet. One has to take on trust the few words of description that one reads on its website. If lastminute.com betrays that trust, and then fails to respond to complaints posted through its own website facility, then it is guilty under the Trade Descriptions Act.

I hope through tags and feeds, Tradings Standards Office will be reading this, or the BBC's Watchdog programme, or anyone, for that matter, thinking of using the services of lastminute.com. That organization is taking huge liberties with its online customers, and spoiling folks' holiday plans. Do they really wish to gain the reputation of being a grubby organization?

Politics

Gordon Brown wants us to believe that spin has no part to play in his brand of politics. Yet his response the welcome MCB statement condemning the actions of the mad medic fire-bombers was to place an embargo on use of the terms Muslim or even Islamist when describing those who engage in suicide bombing. That was presumably a sop to the MCB line that condemns the media for describing as Muslims or Islamists people who wage jihad in the name of Islam. It is tantamount, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) claims, to describing IRA terrorists as "Catholic terrorists".

That is ridiculous: the IRA campaign was never about imposing a fundamentalist form of Catholicism on Ulster, even assuming such a thing existed. Nor did the IRA ever resort to suicide bombing, because its agenda was primarily political, not religious. Nor were there any Catholic priests urging the IRA to become suicide bombers, with promises of rewards of the flesh awaiting them in paradise, even if some priests were sympathetic to the aims of the IRA, if ot the methods .

If it is true that Gordon Brown has banned use of the M or I word, then that in my view is a depressing and dangerous concession to political correctness. It makes us all a hostage to fortune, allowing the MCB, if so inclined, to retreat back to its previous state of denial, but one that is enormously strengthened, and can then be presented as a propaganda coup. Brown's line should have been : "Now you're talking sense, and not before time. But let's not stop there. Let's get a few other things straight while we're about it".

By rewarding the MCB with the right to dissociate non-terrorist Muslims from what is done in their name, by extremists in their midst ( whose identities are often known, or suspected, but rarely if ever reported, because they are basically "nice boys") Brown is guilty, if not of positive spin, but of negative spin. But it's spin all the same, because by gagging his Ministers and others in Government, preventing them from telling it the way it is, he's putting an undeserved gloss on things, by default.

The Koran and hidiths are open to numerous interpretations, some of them involving indiscriminate slaughter of non-Muslims. For as long as misguided individuals, including (amazingly) hospital doctors, whose intended role was to save life, try their level best to kill us in the name of Islam, then we are entitled, indeed obliged, to describe them as Islamist terrorists. That sends a no-nonsense signal to mainstream non-violent Islam that it's time it put its house in order.

If the IRA had acted in the name of Christianity, we in the West (not just the UK) - Christians, other religions, agnostics and atheists - would have been out in the streets protesting furiously at their attempt to sign us up to their psychotic tendencies.

Gordon Brown has failed his first test, and by his own yardstick, namely his claim that spin is a thing of the past.

Personalities

Watch this space


Blog watch

This heading was intended as a bit of self-chivvying - to get me touring some of the millions of other blogs out there, and reporting back on anything that stood out from the background.

But I'm hijacking this title today for something different that may look like self-promotion (which it is) but is possibly a pearl of wisdom for fellow bloggers.

Down at the bottom of this page is my Mark II hit counter, the same as the one of Sarah Hague's (where I discovered it). If you click on it, you will find it gives an amazing amount of detail about visitors to this site, eg the site from which they have arrived.

An increasing number of visitors come to this site from Google searches, and the hit meter even reveals what people have entered into their search profile.

Yesterday I was toying with the idea of putting up a post on search-engine superfluity - a majority of folk enter whole phrases into Google, when as we know it ignores words like "from", "to", "in" etc unless part of a phrase within quotation marks.

But something else caught my attention that has left me absolutely gobsmacked, and not a little delighted too. Someone ( a visitor to this site, but I won't say who) had simply entered "conforama" ( the French furniture chain) and had been led to this site ? Why, I wondered ? So I entered conforama, and guess what ? Dreams and Daemons was on the second page of listings. All I had done was list Conforama among stores that sell dodgy imported goods. It was not singled out for particular attention.

Today I discovered a visitor from Adelaide in South Australia, and wondered if it was the splendid "Bearsy" who, along with his missus Boadicea makes brilliant contribution to My Tel ( which I still read, but no longer post to).

But then I looked at the Google search profile from Adelaide. It was simply "places to visit in Madrid". When I keyed it into Google, I found my recent post on Madrid there on the very first page of listings !

Why you may ask is a personal blog with a modest Technorati ranking appearing so high in Google searches ?

I think it's because of "info-mass", my own variant on the term "bio-mass". This blog has been going for some 9 months during which time I've posted on a wide range of topics that through tags have linked to hundreds of other sites. Google rankings are apparently determined largely by one's web of linkages, and as the months go by, a site like this acquires a progressively higher profile.

The moral then, to fellow bloggers, is to be patient, take a long term view, keep posting, and as time goes by one gets picked up by the search engines, attracting more and more visitors, creating more hits and links, attracting more visitors etc etc. It's in effect a virtuous circle.

There will be some who judge a site purely by the number of comments. I won't pretend that I'm indifferent to the relative paucity on this site, but I hope these few words will demonstrate that success or otherwise in blogging can be measured by more than one yardstick.



Living in France

Buying and selling property in France can hit one with much larger expenses than in Britain, especially estate agents fees. last week I was quoted a whopping fee of 6% to sell a small guest apartment, which is a five figure sum in euros !

In fact, I'll probably let it out instead, but it was an opportunity to try direct selling through the internet. I keyed in "Antibes property" into Google to get a high-profile listing, paid my £59 last Friday for an ad with 4 photos, and it appeared yesterday:

http://www.frenchpropertylinks.com/frenchpropertyextradetails.asp?property=PremierAdvert1167448M6


I'll let you know if and when there's a response.

Already the firm has emailed to warn of crooks who offer to buy the property without viewing it. They weren't specific, but we've heard that it typically involves persuading gullible folk to accept cash, which is counterfeit, needless to say.


Lifestyle

Watch this space

Money matters

"Olympics Budget is out of Control" was the title of an article by Brendan Carlin in today's Telegraph (Tue 10th). Here's the first comment that went up, from your truly, NTS:


"Calculated per competing athlete, of which there were some 11,100 at the most recent (Athens) Olympics, a bill for £9bn represents well over three quarters of a million pounds per sprinter, long jumper, javelin thrower etc.

There is simply no justification for this level of expenditure, especially as it comes every 4 years, and is foist in the first instance on cities rather than entire countries.

London should be the last old-syle Olympics. There should then be a permanent site, carefully chosen for clean unpolluted air (which rules out a number of previous venues, Athens included).

We should now swallow our pride, and propose a belated sharing of the 2012 Olympics with Paris, or perhaps Madrid and other failed contenders.

The disastrous way in which London came to be selected with a blank cheque from Blair, Brown, Livingstone and Coe, is a signal lesson in what happens when Parliament cedes too much power to the Executive. The media also failed to exercise proper vigilance, preferring instead the easy headlines to be gained from the narcissistic showbiz presentations that took place in Singapore. "



Humour
Cannot resist plagiarising a joke that appeared from a contributor on Damian Thompson's Telegraph blog:

I can beat that one
peterNW1 10 Jul 2007 00:03

St Peter decides to take the day off to go fishing, so Jesus offers to keep an eye on the Pearly Gates for him. Jesus is not sure what to do, so Peter tells him to find out a bit about people as they arrive in Heaven, and this will help him decide if he can let them in. After a while, Jesus sees a little old man with white hair and a white beard approaching who looks very, very familiar. He asks the old man to tell him about himself. The old man says, "I had a very sad life. I was a carpenter and had a son who I lost at a relatively young age, and although he was not my natural child, I loved him dearly." Jesus looks closely at the old man, "How would you recognise your son"? "He has holes in his hands and feet". Jesus wells up with emotion. He throws his arms around the old man and cries, "Joseph!" The old man replies, "Pinocchio?"

2 comments:

Gigi said...

Yes - the keywords that lead to my blog often make me smile... lots of people have searched for 'magic mushrooms'. Stranger still, are the requests for 'haemorrhoid cream for wrinkles', 'Simon le Bon house where he lives','my breasts split (sic) over the top of the corset' and...plain, boring old French Windows. It all makes for a fascinating insight into today's society, doesn't it?

ColinB said...

Hiya Gigi

Re your comment under Blog Watch: I agree entirely with your comment re "fascinating insights". Some have already said in the past that hit counters can be a bit sneaky in what they reveal about visitors. That's why I choose to keep mine visible (even if it is a duplicate, and snuck down the bottom of the page).

But it IS visible, and I've said on more than one occasion that it's there, monitoring comings and goings, to avoid the charge of snooping. Folk who post to Sarah's under "Anonymous" also ought to know that too, even if there's more than one in Toronto who thinks that "Anonymous" conceals their identity.

Oooooh!

But you have to admit it's fun, and highly educational to boot. It's the internet equivalent of candid camera, at least while there are folk still part way up their blogger's learning curve.

Remind me again: what's the meaning of "insufferable" ?