Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jim Thome - Nice Guys Can Finish First ...

Jim Thome is probably one of the nicest men in baseball, heck, he's probably one of the nicest men in sport, period. This week he hit his 600th home run.

The Minnesota batter was 40 this year, still hitting strong, and is only the eighth player to hit 600 home runs in the major leagues.

His behaviour off-field acts as a contrast to that of many sportsmen - in a 2007 poll of 464 MLB players, he was voted the second friendliest player in a tie with Mike Sweeney. He is putting every single one of his 10 nieces and nephews through college. He's just a quiet-spoken, ordinary guy from Illinois who happens to have a great bat.

Nice guys can finish first.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rock, Paper, Politics Blog : Housing ...

The Rock, Paper, Politics blog to which I contributed last month is themed this month on the huge issue of Housing in the UK : particularly in the news when those who are currently just 'charged' with involvement in the London Riots (and elsewhere) are already facing eviction from their local authority housing.

As a volunteer with YMCA I see the rough end of the housing issue most days, dealing on a regular basis with former homeless persons of all ages, for all reasons, trying to get back to leading a new life with a place they can be safe in.

I know one young man who lived in a shed for 8 years; another that couch-surfed for 3 years; another that spent a year sleeping in a Sainsburys Car Park. I know many others that have left unstable homes or had to leave through domestic violence.
Some have lost their homes and relationships through alcohol, or drugs, but a shocking number have become homeless simply through poorly though-out or badly applied government regulations and legislation.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sports: Football vs Cycling ...

Well, one game in to the Premiership and already we have too much attitude, diving and feigning, simulation, physical assault, trying to con the referee, claiming innocence when you're booked or sent off, managers blindly defending their players regardless of circumstances and TV pundits doing the same.

And that's just in one game (Arsenal vs Newcastle) ...

Meanwhile Mark Cavendish was today winning the London-Surrey Cycle Classic in style, a man revered in Europe as a superstar. He is utterly dominant in his sport - and the fastest man in the world on two wheels.

There are several reasons why sadly cycling will probably never be as popular as football in the UK, never grab the headlines, and never receive the recognition it deserves; It's because:
  1. It doesn't have any balls;
  2. It last for longer than 90 minutes;
  3. It doesn't have any balls;
  4. It's complicated;
  5. It doesn't have any balls;
  6. When cyclists get (really) injured they get back on the bike and get on with it. 
When football players grow a pair and 'man-up' I'll watch it a bit more, until then, most football players need to hand back their 'man-cards'.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Even The Italians Are Chasing Tax-Dodgers - Why Not The UK ... ?

Finance Minister Tremonti &
Berlusconi to balance Italy's books
Italy has for long been seen by 'Northern' Europeans as a maelstrom of corruption and chaos. It's economy is rife with waste and bureaucracy. Tax dodging - and outright fraud - is the second national sport behind football. Last year it cost the state the equivalent of nearly $142bn (£87.5bn).

Now even the Italians are finally getting the message - both companies and individuals who illegally evade tax are to be considered as the parasites that they are.

The Italian government has commenced a hard-hitting campaign to tackle the issue, and show that it is serious about getting the country's finances in order - and the nationwide campaign doesn't pull any punches.
"Think what you could do with 100bn euros [£87.5bn; $142bn] - build 600 new hospitals or a million new homes - or triple spending on security."
The underlying message is summed up by another slogan describing tax dodgers as "parasites on society". The aim of the campaign is to shame tax evaders into declaring their real income, boosting the government's coffers and helping to stave off financial ruin.

Despite the taxman's best efforts, experts say up to a quarter of the economy goes untaxed, much of it ending up in foreign tax havens.

In the UK, the biggest villains are VodaFone, Boots, and of course the entire Phillip Green Empire (I refuse to acknowledge his knighthood). And if you shop at these stopres or use these company's services, you are supporting that parasitic behavious. The main problem in the UK, however, seems to be an under-funded HMRC and Government unwillingness to even discuss the issue in Parliament.

An Epic XKCD Cartoon on Cancer ...

I love the XKCD site, it's cartoons are sometimes highly thought-provoking and sobering. Like this one., called 'Lanes'.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Fellow American.. An Anti-Islamaphobic Film Project ...

With Islamophobia rising in many countries, not just Norway, the UK, and mainland Europe, but also in the US, an American film project has started to adress the issue in the US.

I recall after 9/11 American news reports of people of many faiths - not just Muslims but Sikhs, Hindus and others - all getting the blame for the attacks.

Islam is so misunderstood - and feared - by those of others faiths, or no faith at all.
'My Fellow American' is a film project in the United States devoted to recognizing that Muslims are our neighbors. They are part of the national fabric that holds our country together. They contribute to America in many ways, and deserve the same respect as any of us.
This is an excellent idea and I think we could do with this in the UK. Any film-makers want to think about a project like this?

To know our Muslim communities, know this: Tariq Jahan, who lost his son along with two others, in a racially motivated attack in Birmingham amid the riots, In the depths of grief, showed supreme dignity and spoke eloquently of the need for peace and calm. In London, Muslim residents came out in force to protect their communities in the midst of rioting and to ensure that locals were taken care of. That is the Islam that I have come to know.  

You can also check out the project on FaceBook here, and follow their Twitter Feed for updates. They also have a very good YouTube channel.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

London & UK Riots ...

Hello Rioters.

Look at yourself, now back to me; now at yourself, now back to me ... !

Sadly, you aren't me; but if you stopped using antisocial behaviour and started using the job centre - you could be like me.

Look down, back up. Where are we? You're at an interview, with the man you could work for ... !

What's in your hand? It's an application form to that job you need. Look again...the form is now money!

Anything is possible when you get a job.

I'm at a desk.

[I don't know the source of this - but it's a piece of genius]

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

If You Park In A Cycle Lane ...

... I hate you.

It's one of my real bugbears when cycling in London, drivers who park - or even just stop - in a cycle lane, or even worse, on a cycle superhighway, forcing me out into the lanes of traffic who are taking no notice of cyclists... why? because WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE CYCLE LANES.

Now the mayor of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, a keen cyclist one would presume, has a fool-proof method for dissuading these drivers, as you can see below...

Yes, that's a small armoured car he's driving. Over the car. Perhaps not subtle but he gets my vote. The car, was bought specifically for the stunt, a promotional video to ensure car drivers knew the rules.
"In the past few days, expensive cars have been illegally parked in almost this exact place – a Rolls Royce and a Ferrari," says the mayor's narration to a promotional video. "What should the city do about drivers who think that they are above the law? It seems that a tank is the best solution."
 Full article here from the Guardian website.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Virgin Active London Triathlon ...

The Tri is usually an epic event anyway, but when it's not only in London, but the worlds biggest, ever, triathlon event, you just have to be there. The Virgin Active London Triathlon, with over 14,000 competitors, was held in London Docklands over the weekend, and was truly epic.

Around 55,000 spectators are estimated to have watched the action on Saturday and Sunday, which included Sprint-Tri, Super Sprint, Olympic and Olympic Plus distances, with 80km bike rides taking in Billingsgate and scenic central London all the way to Westminster.

Sir Richard Branson (well, of course) and dozens of other celebrities took part in the event, which also saw the culmination of the British Triathlon Super Series.
“I think I broke the rules, not sure I should have swum backstroke but it was good to have got around.” - Richard Branson
The weekend saw participants from 36 countries, ranging in age from 14 to 75, swimming, cycling and running through the heart of London.

Sadly I did not compete, even in the short 'Sprint' Triathlon, but as a very keen cyclist, I was pleased to be part of a Marshalling and Stewarding Team mainly concentrating in the bike Checking, Racking and Transition Zones. Exhausting, but good fun.

Calm before the storm
The weekend started off on the Friday with layout and set up, creating the bike racks, marking out and building the run carpeting for the swimmers as they exit the water on the way to the swim-bike transition.

Saturday 8 a.m. and the event was busy right from the gun. All day through to close, the Transition area was packed with competitors either racking in preparation for later Saturday or Sunday, others starting off on their events, and others exhaustingly collecting their items from transition after completing their Tri.

Mens Elite get a red carpet
Lots of celebs around, including Nell McAndrew, who is seriously gorgeous, smiley and giggly in real life as you'd expect. Saturday was manic. Sunday was more of the same, just even more so.

The Mens Elite Race was won by Britain's Ritchie Nicholls in an excellent 1:45:37 and a Brit also won the Womens Elite race, Jodie Stimpson setting a time of 1:56:48. You can read a full report of the 'Elite' races here, but just like the London Marathon, it's just as much about the amateurs, the charity competitors, the madcaps and the first-timers. All those results are here.

Melanie Chisolm
Nell McAndrew
Particularly amazing was Melanie Chisholm who proved she was still 'Sporty Spice' by coming in as first female in her race.

I didn't actually get a lot of time to watch the competing - too busy - but I'll catch up with it when Channel 4 show their program at 7am on Sunday August 14th (stupid time to schedule it)

Full racks on Saturday
The only down side of the weekend? I love my cycle (even more now it's at least partially rebuild after my crash) but checking in all these pro bikes just made me green with envy all day long. Beautiful machines, almost all of them, (except the Barclays Hire Bike that someone chose to ride!) and a wide variety of bikes all day long, from really well-build amateur machines to pro rides costing tens of thousand pounds. Pure bike porn. It made me realise than my Claud Butler is showing it's years.

Still, a smile from Nell McAndrew made up even for that.