Archive for October, 2011

I’ve done the lot


In the far off days of the late 1980’s when I was new to full-time employment and my managers wanted to know more about me than they had observed they got me to take a personality test. One of the things it showed was that I am not a completer/finisher. Whatever strengths I may have, the patience to see something through to its completion, before some new project grabs my attention, it said is not one of them. This view was shared by later employers and from the middle of the 19990’s was something I tried to work to change I like to think that completing the visits to every European capital last year was one of the biggest and most public manifestation of this.

Well this week I finished something, I have now travelled the full length of Strasbourg’s Tram system. Despite visiting Strasbourg at least four times a year for a few years at the beginning of the last decade it wasn’t until a visit at the end of February 2007 that I first went on the tram here. They just didn’t go where I wanted to go so I didn’t use them. The first picture was taken on that first tram ride. It was from where the ‘Airport Navette’ met the tram as Baggersee to the stop nearest to our hotel, Port de l’Hôpital.

When I moved here it took a while for me to use the tram as I went most places on my bike. It is easy to see why Strasbourg is France’s most cycled and cycleable city as its flat and it has more metres of cycle routes than any other city in France. Once I did start using the trams, initially for the purposes of work, the first line I travelled in its entirety was line D, with the Rotunde at one end, which has the bus stop to get to IKEA and the restaurant of the same name where the ESC Alsace used to met when I first got involved with them, and Aristide Briand at the other which is where the bus stop is to catch the bus over the border to Kehl and into Germany. Line A was completed in the search of culture with the stop for the Zenith concert hall at one end, where I’ve seen Bob Dylan amongst others, and the stop nearest to the Illiade, where I saw Grand Corps Malade. Lines B and F pass in front of my home and are ones I’ve used some  of the longest although it was only on getting a contract in Bischeim that I went to the northern end of B and I travelled all but the last two stops of when coming back from working at the Université de Strasbourg but I have to admit that those last two stops were visited last year for the purpose of getting the line finished not in the normal use of the tram. Route F was introduced last November and most of the route was that of the old C so that one end is half way along route B and the other was a few extra metres and a new station which I caught a tram straight home after teaching someone. Tram E has only three stops not used travelling on the other routes. The first two I travelled frequently as it goes to the Council of Europe but it was only late last year that I went to the last station, again returning from work. Which leaves line C.

Last week I had to go to the port area of Strasbourg. The story of that day is for another time but to get there I had to take tram C to the terminus at Neuhof-Rodolphe Reuss. So, management at the former Berkshire County Council Education Department, as well as visiting all the capital cities of Europe, I have now travelled the full length of the Strasbourg tramway. Say this boy is not a completer-finisher now!

Just a word about the pictures. Apart from the first and the last they are the attempts I made to take my picture and include a tram and the Neuhof-Rodolphe Reuss tram stop sign.

Feeling Gravitys Pull


I’ve written about the conversion of my albums to MP3s before, but its OK this is not going to be another of those posts. I have just finished converting my R.E.M albums and, whilst listening to Fables of the Reconstruction as I converted it, was reminded of the great song titles on the album. As well as the heading for this piece there is ‘Cant Get There From Here‘, ‘Maps And Legends‘, ‘Life And How To Live It‘ and ‘Good Advices‘.

I wonder if there is a Masters Thesis in the number of marriages saved by the rise of the plastic toothpaste tube and the decline of the aluminium one? For some reason in the 70s and 80s it was regularly said that people in relationships were always arguing about where a person squeezed a toothpaste tube. Unless they both squeezed it in the same place I guess. The point was that a toothpaste tube squeezed in the middle from the beginning is supposed to be more wasteful, as, if you start at the end and squeeze towards the top it was supposed to get more of the toothpaste out of the tube. If you try to maximise the amount of toothpaste got out of the tube when it had been squeezed from the middle it had to be rolled from the end and it then cracked, leading to toothpaste coming out of all parts of the tube except the nozzle; making a mess as well as wasting the toothpaste. How much simpler things are now eh?

Except, except, except…… My shaving gel comes in a pack where the end that you squeeze is thinner and it gets wider at the end the gel exits the tube. It is designed with the part of the tube the gel exits from at the bottom. So gravity helps the gel down the tube and the design at the end means when you can no longer get anything out, it is empty. This is so much better than the packaging used by, for example, some lying Jew hating soap producers. When you can no longer get anything out there is still quite a lot in the bottom of the container, no matter how hard you squeeze or shake it there is always quite a bit left when you come to throw it out. I have taken to leaving it, and things in similar container like washing-up liquid, upside-down so that, when I came to use it, what remained was by the exit and came out easily without too much squeezing or shaking. I know my doing this is thought of as an eccentricity and is tolerated as such.

Is there another possible problem on the horizon? Could the way the new plastic tube is stored be the new ‘squeezed end or middle’ problem? When stored in a glass, to rinse the mouth with after, does the way the tube is put in the glass make a difference? Might it lead to all sorts of marital disharmony?

To explain. In good times, when the tube is full, it poses no problem. But, as the tube empties, and it gets more difficult to get the toothpaste out, storing it the way pictured means that gravity will move all the remaining paste to the bottom. Making getting anything to clean your teeth with long-winded and difficult. Whereas, if the tube was left with the large end and the exit at the bottom, gravity would make sure that when you came to squeeze it there was enough toothpaste to put on your toothbrush without taking a lot of time and effort. As I asked before, is this the new ‘squeezed middle/bottom’ marriage destroyer? Is this more important now that families are under more pressure because of the decline in living standards and well-being since the election of the coalition?

Frankly, surely, I think we are all much too grown up to get hung up on a toothpaste tube. We, well most of us eh,(No name no pack drill but lets just say, Reading and Labour) have moved on since the 1970’s. There are more important things than toothpaste and if it is a problem people will sort it out by talking about it won’t they?

The Lush Liars or a tale of Jew haters and soap


When I lived in Reading JTO attended the opening of the new Lush shop in an official capacity. I was really pleased at the discovery of it and have been a patron of it up to now. In particular I have showered every morning (Sorry Norm) in Happy Hippy gel and liked the vestful (Obviously that should zestful) wake-up it gave me. Until today. Today I finished the last bottle and will not be using it again. I have some soap and a face wash left and they will not be replaced when finished either.

Why not if these products give me pleasure? This article from August. It said that Lush will not open a store in Israel because they:

“don’t feel [Israel] is a safe environment to have a store. Would we want a shop where we couldn’t have a mix? We have a multicultural attitude to everything we do; we want everyone in the country where we are trading to be on an equal footing as far as basic human rights go.”

Israel has anti discrimination legislation covering employment and the provision of services  which cover race, religion, nationality, land of origin, sex, sexual orientation, political views, personal status or parenthood. So it would seem the reason they give is false. No doubt Lush use this same reason given above to not trade in a large number of countries in the world. Oh look (I’m not going to do them a favour of a link to their website) Lush trades in Saudi-Arabia where women cannot drive, don’t think about being gay and you are barred from the country if you are Israeli. As Harry’s Place points out, “discrimination is both legislatively and culturally enforced.” The company trade in other countries where they have “a shop where we couldn’t have a mix”

So why has Lush picked on Israel? Any other answer from them comes there none. In the absence of any justification for this ban on shops in Israel it seems like a straightforward case of antisemitism. So, as long as Lush behave like this they will not get my Euros. You would have thought soap manufacturers would have been a bit more sensitive towards hatred of the only Jewish state.

NB Following the comment below the words in red were added 21:33 13.10.11

Vote tôt, vote fréquemment


As everyone reading this will already know, voting in the first round for the election to select the presidential candidate for the Parti Socialiste has taken place today. As a result of confusion over who is eligible to take part in the voting I went along to see if I could vote. The message from my PS Député had said that the bureau de vote was at my usual polling station, the Ecole Louise Scheppler. The first photo was taken outside showing that it was set up just like it normally is when in use as a polling station. I went inside to register and to collect my vote at the first table inside the door. I had to show give them something to prove my identity, you can see my pink French driving license in front of the polling station staff, as well as the voting slips for the different candidates; Jean-Michel Baylet, Martine Aubry, Manuel Valls, Francois Hollande, Arnaud Montebourg and Segolene Royal. The box is for your donation of €1 and next to it is the envelope in which you put the slip with the name of your choice of presidential candidate. My name was not on the electoral list so I had to fill out my details on a separate piece of paper and sign it, pay my €1, take an envelope and at least two slips, I got told off for only taking the one of the candidate I wanted to vote for, and go into the polling booth behind the curtain on the left. I put the slip with the name of my choice into the envelope, putting the other I had had to pick up into the bin provided, and went to the second table with the clear ballot box on it. I again had to show my driving license and was about to fill in another piece of paper when I was asked if I was a French citizen, to which the answer was no. The man in charge of the polling station then had to phone for advice on whether I could vote and the answer came back that I could not. So, sorry Martine you lost a vote today. I will be surprised if there is a clear winner with more than 50% of the vote today so there will be a vote-off between the two candidates who get the highest votes today and it will be interesting to see how the votes of the candidates are then distributed. After my bit of fun last week with a vote on my biscuit eating prowess, I want to have a more serious election. If you had a vote, how would you cast it? As the title says, vote early and vote often.(Although again I have set this up so you can only vote once.)

UPDATE: At 23:35 there has just been an announcement from the Headquarters of the Parti Socialiste. Around 2.5 million French people voted in the primary which is more than double what was expected. As a result the computers have crashed and a definitive result will not be available until late tomorrow morning, around midday. The announcement claimed that around half the votes had been counted. A 24 hour news channel at the same time was saying that on 1.9 million votes counted the estimated results were:

  • Francois Hollande                        38.9%,
  • Martine Aubry                               30.6%,
  • Arnaud Montebourg                     17.3%,
  • Segolene Royal                                 6.8%
  • Manuel Valls                                     5.7%
  • Jean-Michel Baylet                          0.6%

All the candidates have given their speech to the people of France with Manuel Valls being the only one to declare their hand and call upon his voters to support Francois Hollande, who gave a speech which, deliberately or not, aped Mitterrand. X-Factor Versione PS France continues for another week.

Easy listening


A few months ago I wrote about how I had started converting my vinyl collection to MP3 files. I had hoped to have the task done by the time I left at the beginning of July to work in the UK for seven weeks. That was a laughable ambition. I had thought I had around 100 albums, LPs, whatever you call them. Once I started I realised how low this estimate was and revised it to around 300. Today I reached about half way. I have converted UK 80s/90s and those from the 60s and earlier which has added up to 140 albums. Leaving 80s/90s international and 70s to be done.

As I have converted the albums to MP3 I have spreadsheeted them meaning that for the first time I will have a catalogue of the records I own. Unlike young men portrayed in books by the like of Nick Hornby I was never the sort of sad boy who went through their books or records organising them and then cataloguing them, I never had to worry about how to alphabetise them. The most organised my records ever got was to sort into decades, and that only happened as it was the best way to distribute them around the piece of furniture they are now stored in. My books have historically been split between fiction and non-fiction, although since the recent purchase of new bookcases I must admit the fiction has been organised alphabetically by author and the non-fiction into general categories like sport, politics etc.

What have I learnt?

I seem to have lost my copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico. More seriously, in the first piece about this project I wrote about  my love as a late teenager/twentysomething of the doors. I have also written about being a Germanophile. As I had converted all the original albums by the doors to MP3 I didn’t bother with converting the two Best of the doors compilations. But, it was only when I got to the doors this week and made the decision not to convert them, that I realised I had bought the two doors compilations whilst on an exchange visit to Osnabrück, so it’s the German’s fault! On the same visit I bought a Jimi Hendrix compilation album which I converted this week and really enjoyed listening to on the way to, and back home from, work on Friday.

Being particular about things I have learnt, such as, today I converted The WhoLive at Leeds‘ and in my memory the band were really loud and heavy. However, listening to it as I converted it I heard much more light and shade, the use of quiet as well as noise which surprised me. Then searching for the album cover for the Yardbirds single collection I discovered it was for sale for $9-99 on eBay and for £12-95 on a site called Those Old Records.

UPDATE:  Something I had been thinking about saying but forgot whilst writing this concerned something I had heard whilst listening to Jimmy Savile’s Old Record Club. For the life of me now I cannot think why I might have listened to it, certainly not enough for it to have left a mark on me. During the programme the listener would get marks for getting the name of a record or the singer right. The question would be posed before the track started. There would be bonus points if you remembered the parts of the song’s title that were between a bracket. I have been reminded of this whilst typing the titles of so many songs featuring part of the song in a bracket, like Chuck Berry’s Nadine (Is it You?). My inner Jimmy Savile is saying to me “Nadine, open brackets, Is it….”  Now, is that enough for a scarred childhood?

The next shelf to be converted was to have been my collection of 70’s records but as I’m going to Australia soon (did I mention that?) I thought it would be better to convert the non-UK 80s/90s which, as well as most of the REM albums worth listening to, includes Australian bands the Go-Betweens and the Triffids I was a big fan of in the 1980s and I’ll be able to listen to them whilst travelling around the country. It would have been better to have them on our last visit when we went north of Brisbane, where the Go-Betweens came from, and to places out in the countryside in Queensland which is the area the wonderful song Cattle and Cane was about:


Similarly the Triffids would be more appropriate for being out West where they came from but this is another one that has to be listened to, although I don’t think Tasmania will be so much like this:

Through the gap in the space-time continuum to a disturbing alternative reality


Today has just been getting more and more bizarre. First up the Daily Mail, Sun, Sky News and Guardian, as a result of a mistranslation, published that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito had lost their appeal against their conviction for murder. (Report of the error here) It seems they had misunderstood that the judge announced Amanda Knox had been found guilty of libel for the judgement in the murder case. The Daily Mail suffered the worst backlash in the twitterverse because they had sexed up the story with details about the reaction to the judgement etc which were false. I publish a screenshot of the original version of the story on the left with a later version of the story on the right. If ever there was an example of the value of having someone who can speak the language available when a story breaks, then thank you for providing us one.

Then, speaking at her Conservative Party Conference, the UK Home Secretary attacked the Human Rights Act for stopping a criminal being deported from the UK because they have a cat.(here) On being challenged about this she insisted her speech had been fact-checked. Unfortunately as Human Rights Blog and many others had it, that wasn’t the case and even the Barristers working for the man who got to stay in the UK said it was not because of the cat. It has already morphed into catgate, although I prefer it being refered to as catflap and has been the major subject from the journalists covering the conference since her speech, with plenty of paw jokes.

As if it couldn’t get any more strange the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition chose the moment that the Conservative Party were attacking each other over a cat  to go  on the offensive against the Prime Minister for his failure to stop Chocolate Oranges being sold by the tills in shops. WTF? I also agree with the wisdom of Norm.

It does seem as though the news media world has, as the Doctor might say, slipped through a gap in a space-time continuum into an alternate reality, a very disturbed one at that.

Vote early, vote often


One of the things I like Twitter for is that it allows people to share things that are interesting, challenging or just a laugh. In the past I wrote about my accumulated Management wisdom, which amounts to:

  • Do it now,
  • Get it right first time,
  • When something’s not right it’s wrong.

This blog has had a manifesto since it started but it doesn’t have a mission statement, I don’t really think it needs one. If it did then one way to get one is the ISMS Mission Statement Generator©. I don’t know who pointed me towards it but it has created a mission statement for this blog:

We will strive to sponsor iconic e-business with internal impact for the benefit of our organisation and other public services.

Then this week I was pointed to the web economy bullshit generator. In the past I have studied management theory and other similar subjects and this would have been invaluable. So, we need to “…enhance sexy e-commerce, streamline real-time e-services and aggregate bricks-and-clicks ROI.”

The weather for the past couple of weeks has been beautiful here, as many places. The first picture is of the cathedral taken from rue d’Austerlitz, next to the Au Canon restaurant earlier this week. The blue sky shows what a beautiful afternoon it was, in the high twenties as it seems to have been forever. However, at the same time the trees have started changing as can be seen from the second picture where a brown leaf made it into our hall.

As I wrote about just over a month ago, I am a Germanophile, and my study of the language included taking part in an exchange with a pupil from a school in Osnabrück. It was on these two trips that I discovered the pictured biscuits which are a couple of plain ‘rich tea‘ type biscuit as a sandwich with a chocolate cream between them. They were not regularly available in the UK at the time. The times I have been to Germany since I would often buy a packet of the biscuits. One of the things I noticed on moving here was that the biscuits were available in my local co-op. I have been very restrained and have not bought them regularly as when I do I tend to eat a number each time which would not be good for my weight. Thursday I did buy a packet. I have never had a poll on this blog before. The first one is on the subject being talked of up and down the country. Vote, vote, vote. Oh, by the way it is set up that you cannot vote often.

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