Archive for July, 2009

MP resigns in fury

I notice, in the Saturday newspapers, that Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay has resigned in fury over ministers allowing the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States to stand trial for hacking into their military computers.

Whether Gary really has a serious disability or not, and whether he intended only to find details of UFOs or had a more sinister intent has nothing to do with my blog today.

I was disgusted with the noise that MacKinlay is making. Resigning as an MP at the next election will not really be a problem for NuLabour as they will be having a huge weed out anyway. I would have been more impressed if MacKinlay resigned immediately causing a new by-election. After all, its only a loss of a few months pay, and he is 60! Only by leaving immediately would he have made any impact on the present leadership.

No Mister MacKinlay — I am not the least bit impressed at your rantings and ravings. They will have absolutely no effect on anybody. Did you really expect the public not to see through your half-hearted stance!

Ampers

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Education in the UK

I read with interest that the government has decided, in its wisdom, that the reason middle class and working class children are losing out in the top jobs is because of elitism!

There is one thing we can be sure of, and that is elitism has no place in this election of our members of Parliament. They cannot see that it is their disastrous attempts in education that has caused youngsters in government schools to fail through life. Parents of the very well off, and this includes many Labour MPs, send their children to private schools to ensure they get a good education.

One does not have to be very intelligent to know if schools fail in one sector then those pupils will do worse in life. Whereas, the schools that excel with their teaching ensure their pupils have the best start in life.

MPs must look closer to home for the reason why this “elitism” exists.

My solution is simple, improve standards and disciplines in government schools and you will see middle-class and working-class children getting their equal share of the top jobs.

Ampers.

PS I have dictated this using Dragon NaturallySpeaking software and have to admit it is now making my life a lot easier! Especially since I’m about to launch a community newspaper.

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Antwerpen

I have just come back from a weekend in Antwerpen. It is a lovely city and for places to see and visit, you will find a lot to read at their Antwerp site on Wikipedia and its sister site Wikitravel.

One of the best restaurants is Het Pomphuis. We ate there on my birthday. A lovely leisurely meal, with absolutely no pressures. The food was delightful and the service impeccable. Attentive without being intrusive. The waiter took charge of our bottle, and was there to top up our glasses whenever they needed topping up. And he made our bottle last with about six or seven top ups throughout the meal. This was the type of restaurant one reads about in establishments a hundred or so years ago.

We had a three course meal with a bottle of wine, then a glass each of dessert wine with our sweet, and coffee afterwards. The bill came to 150 Euros but you could easily go to 300 Euros. Not cheap by any means but if you look at the “value for money” this comes up very high on my list. To get there from the centre? Taxi 15 Euros, three buses go by from the centre, or you can walk it in about 45 minutes.

Public transport is by means of bus, tram or larger tram they call their Metro. Tickets are E1.60 each if you pay the driver, if you buy at the bus stop it is E1.25 or you can purchase a ticket for ten journeys which work out at 0.80 cents a journey. Once you activate the ticket you can make as many changes as you wish during the hour from the first ticket activation. I give you an example. From our hotel, there was a lovely cafe five stops away in the old town. We could go there, have a coffee, and return to the hotel with the return journey not being charged for.

Our hotel was a four star hotel called the Plaza Hotel in Charlottalei (the name of the street, and also Metro station). The hotel people had a sense of humour. They gave me room 69 as I was 69 when we arrived. I had visions of them moving me to room 70 on my birthday, but thank goodness it didn’t happen! Room 69 turned out to be a junior suite but we weren’t charged extra which I thought was very nice, as was the box of Belgian chocolates they placed in my room on the day.

As a little footnote, we saw the package advertised in one of the package trips to Europe deals, but as we are over 60 I checked prices separately. And we saved £140 between us by booking Eurostar and the hotel ourselves. The Hotel was the same but as we were older, we got a better deal on Eurostar.

All in all, a very enjoyable weekend and one I would recommend. You don’t have to go “four star” but if you want to be pampered…

Ampers

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I’m a sniper

eBay doesn’t really like snipers as it eats into their profits. But my expenditure is more important than their profits.

Let me explain.

Now that I have retired and no longer get all the “men’s toys” from various PR companies who used to court me when I was a journalist, I have withdrawal symptons.

However, Pam (my long suffering wife) and I have come to an understanding. I can still play with my toys if I sell some of them on eBay and use that money for buying new ones.

Bless her little heart!

Anyway, this is what I do. And I have developed a style which is very successful. As a journalist I can compose my Auction details page to make the product sound exceedingly exciting. But when I buy, I look for bids which are written by people not as competent with descriptive adjectives. Naturally I check how many transactions they have made to date and what percentage of their feedback is positive.

It works and I invariably sell my toys for more money than I pay for them.

But what do I mean by sniping?

There are companies outside of eBay where you add the Auction reference number and the maximum amount you want to pay for the item. The sniper software keeps an eye on the bid and a few seconds before then end of the auction, slides in your bid at the minimum next level. This is the first time that anyone on eBay knows of your interest, so you don’t bump up the auction price.

I use EZsniper and have been using them successfully for a year or two now, saving myself considerable money. EZsniper is an American company who went commercial, after being in development for a year, on September 13, 2001, two days after 9/11.

Starting with a core of dedicated beta testers, they have now grown to over 500,000 users in their EZsniper database.

Since their beginning they have delivered millions of bids saving users millions of pounds. They have since expanded their service to include about forty auction sites in addition to all of eBay’s sites (around the world) about two years ago. This expansion has been well received by international users who can read the site in 17 languages.

I have spoken to the people at EZsniper and they have informed me that they have a major innovation coming very shortly. I just can’t wait to see what it is.

eBay also own a bank called PayPal which is quite complex to use, but very useful if you take the time to work your way through all the services and additions they add to make your transactions as painless as possible.

Finally, not everything that eBay touches turns to gold. They evidently didn’t use EZsniper when they purchased Skype (the company) as they paid well over the odds and now they want to sell it. It will make a loss of hundreds and hundreds of millions!

Ampers.

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Public Services

Can you afford private medicine and private education for you and yours? If not then, to put it bluntly, your fucked! (Excuse my French!)

Take schools, for example. You may be sending your children to one of the few excellent comprehensive schools but, unless you are in a predominantly non-immigrant area, you are fortunate.

However, if your school is in one of the many hundreds, if not thousands, of areas where there are massive immigrant populations – some London borough schools have pupils of over thirty different “first languages” then education there has to slow down to enable these pupils to catch up with their English.

This means that, by the time your children leave school they could be at the least, a year behind Public school pupils, and at the most, two years behind! Not a very comforting thought.

And what about the National Health Service. A fellow blogger – probably one of the most successful bloggers in the industry – Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) – has this to say about his experiences with “swine flu” a day or so ago…

“The government says the UK has moved from the ‘containment’ to the ‘treatment’ phase of Swine flu as the number of people catching swine flu continues to rise. The Fawkes family are in London for another fortnight, before we head for France. 4 year-old Miss Fawkes is in day two of displaying possible Swine flu symptoms: high temperatures, tummy ache, headaches and a dry cough.

“Last night a worried mother took Miss Fawkes (who had a temperature of 39.1 C / 102.3 F) to the paediatric A & E unit of a London hospital where she was given a mask and told to go instead to a walk-in unit. The walk-in unit told her there was a four hour wait and that she might as well go home and see her GP. This morning the GP’s receptionist said that they could not have a suspected case of Swine flu in the waiting room and she was to go home.

“So in the last 48 hours we have been unable either to get our daughter tested, which is causing anxiety, or obtain a prescription for anti-viral drugs. Bear in mind we have a two year-old daughter as well. We are now trying to get a private prescription…

Pasted from: http://order-order.com/2009/07/03/swine-flu-update/#comment-182039

Isn’t this absolutely disgusting? A young family with a four year old suspected of having the “swine flu” with another two year old child in tow, and they get treated like this.

MPs aren’t worried of course, they can afford private medicine, and can afford private schooling. Those who, being Labour, have to send their children to comprehensive schools no doubt pay for private tuition for them!

And don’t we all know they’ll find a way of getting us, the tax payer, to fund this “expense”?

Ampers

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