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Curb your Vituperativeness

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
27/Sep/2010

I was reading a story on the BBC News website about parents trying to force schools to ban certain books.

The article features a quote from an author who wrote a series of books entirely in text-speak:

"It is so revealing to me the vituperativeness they address me with. They are angry,"

I could make a decent guess on the meaning of vituperativeness but I decided to google it to confirm my suspicions. Out of the first 20 hits on Google, all but one were dictionaries or similar word-related sites, most of them containing the same definition (harshly abusive censure). Google only found 3870 results, suggesting it isn't a word which normal people use in everyday conversation. I suspect the author, Lauren Myracle, said it to prove she knows longer words than those used in text-speak.



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Daily Mail Time Traveller

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
17/Oct/2009

Proof that the Daily Mail is stuck in some kind of time warp. Apparently 1966 was only 33 years ago.

It was 33 years ago today...

The rest of the column discusses other events of the year, such as John Lennon claiming The Beatles were more popular than Jesus, and the England winning the World Cup.



A question in today's Daily Mail

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
24/Jul/2009
Q: When Halley's Comet reappeared in 1969, that winter a flu epidemic killed more than 60,000 people in Britain. In 2008 Comet Nostradamus (and others) passed by, and now we face a flu pandemic. Is this mere coincidence, or were the ancients right to fear comets as bad omens and bringers of pestilence? What other natural disasters have been attributed to comets?

An interesting question, and one which is wrong on almost every level. The question's author may be referring to the theory of panspermia, where micro-organisms or disease can be brought to Earth by comets. Unfortunately the question gets pretty much everything else wrong.

Halley's comet did not appear in 1969. It was around in 1910 and again in 1986. I can't find any record of a Comet Nostradamus. There is a bright comet every few years - they aren't that rare so claiming co-incidence doesn't really make sense. Also the Earth passes through comet dust several times per year. The major meteor showers are associated with dust and debris from comets. If comets were all full of germs and pestilence, then there would be major outbreaks several times per year.

At least the questioner didn't claim the world was going to end in 2012.



Another Welsh road sign

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
03/Nov/2008

I spotted this on the BBC News site. From the page:

When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed. Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated".

Welsh road sign



Tesco USA

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
08/Nov/2007

We were watching the BBC Breakfast News this morning and there was a story about Tesco opening a supermarket in the USA. We had the subtitles on because it wasn't easy to hear the reporter over the crunch of cereal.

The story was about Tesco trying to break into the American market by offering a range of affordable and healthy foods. We saw a customer carrying a punnet of fruit. The subtitles referred to the Man with the neck tureens. I suppose they'd be handy for carrying soup around...



What's a portion of fruit?

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
23/Jul/2007

According to a local news story, adults in Coventry know more about healthy eating than adults in other cities.

Seventy-five per cent of parents in the city understand about the recommended five-a-day fruit and veg portions, compared to just 60 per cent in Manchester and Liverpool, and 67 per cent in London.

Only nine per cent of Coventry parents could not name anything that counts as one healthy portion.

I'm sure the ignorant 9% must shop in our local ASDA, where the cake and biscuit aisles are twice the length of the fruit and veg aisles. But seriously, how could a so-called 'grown up' not be able to name a piece of fruit? Have they not heard of an apple? a banana? an orange? It's a miracle we aren't in the middle of a scurvy or rickets crisis.

Recently I've been finding it ridiculously easy to eat 5 portions of fruit during the day. A glass of juice, a banana, a few pieced of dried fruit, and that's it. Whenever Julian Graves have their half price offers, I stock up with assorted packets of dried fruit. 2 dried figs, 3 dried apricots, 5 prunes: not the start of the 12 fruits of Christmas but each counts towards the 5 portions per day.



Get a life, you sad ****ers

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
20/Jun/2007

Earlier this year, a sculpture was erected in the middle of a roundabout in Stratford-upon-Avon. It depicts an armillary, which apparently is some kind of ancient astronomical tool.

For some reason, this has sent the residents of Stratford into an apoplexy, with people shouting abuse at it and holding a protest at the site.

For Christ's sake, it's only a sculpture. It's not obscene or pornographic or anything which should warrant such vitriol. The worst it could do is liven up a dull roundabout. Get a sense of perspective. If that's the worst thing happening in Stratford at the moment, then you are a very lucky town indeed. Otherwise, you are all a sad bunch of bastards and you should get a life.



The Bin Police

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
12/Jun/2007

I remembered reading a news story recently about how local councils plan to introduce 'Bin Police' to enforce strict recycling policies and to stop people from throwing away recyclable material. I was wondering how such a policy could be enforceable when around here, people regularly throw rubbish into our bin. It happened again this morning when someone had moved our bin a few yards down the road and filled it with cardboard.

Funnily enough, when I tried to check a reference for the 'bin police' story, the only mention I could find was the new newspaper where I originally read it, the good old Daily Mail. Now I'm not too sure about the veracity of the story. You can sum up a typical issue of the Mail as follows:

OUTRAGE FOREIGNERS OUTRAGE LABOUR GOVERNMENT OUTRAGE IMMIGRANTS OUTRAGE RESTRICTIVE LAWS OUTRAGE ERRODING CIVIL LIBERTIES OUTRAGE DESTROYING OUR WAY OF LIFE OUTRAGE

displaying a journalistic flair for working itself up in a lather with very little regard for any actual facts. So I think I'll take the story with a pinch of salt.



Another food moron story

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
10/Jun/2007

Good old Mail on Sunday, carrying the baton of outrage... After yesterdays story about people not knowing the origins of foodstuffs, we now get a story about the new 'Whole Foods Market' supermarket which has opened in London. I really wasn't expecting two completely different stories highlighting food ignorance and apathy in Britain.

To test out the new shop, they sent two people along:
Food writer Tom Parker Bowles, and the woman who shot to fame by shoving burgers through the school railings during the Jamie Oliver school dinners campaign. She claims to be championing freedom of choice when she really seems to mean freedom to feed unhealthy crap to their kids, freedom to fail to educate them about healthy food, freedom to encourage bad eating habits which will eventually kill them

There were some good quotes from her in the article. She seemed puzzled as to why more than one cheese existed, having only ever bought cheddar herself:

As for all those goat's cheeses, you must be kidding. Who would want to eat something that smelt of goat?

Hmmm. When even chavs-choice supermarket Asda manages to sell goat's cheese, how can someone who shops at Morrison's be so sceptical of it. I don't think Goat's cheese smells of goat - that's like saying ordinary cheese smells of cow. I don't know if she's been mis-quoted by the paper but when I read that I thought: 'what a moron'.

Further down the article she expressed incredulity that anyone would buy bread with fruit or vegetables in. Has she never heard of a fruit loaf? or bread with onions in? (I was going to mention olive bread but that's obviously foreign muck and she wouldn't be interested in that)

I won't say much about Tom Parker Bowles experience in the shop, suffice to say he seemed to drool over most of the specialist foods and liked the place.



Oh my God, I'm surrounded by stupid people

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
09/Jun/2007

There is a story in today's Daily Mail which reports how most adults have no idea where food comes from. According to the article, adults were asked if they knew whether the ingredients used to produce certain foods could be produced in Britain.

22% of adults didn't realise that sausages and bacon could be made from 'ingredients' produced in Britain.
One third didn't know that the same was true for omelettes. The article didn't elaborate whether they knew that omelettes were made from eggs or not. According to a similar study of children, which was also mentioned in the article, bacon comes from sheep and cows lay eggs.

OK, this was in the Daily Mail which is famous for it's We're going to Hell in a hand cart school of journalism but it's frightening to think that there are so many stupid adults in the country. Actually, a quick stroll around the streets near here would let you know that there are a lot of stupid people around, but even stupid people should know where bacon comes from.



Concrete Centre

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
24/May/2007

icCoventry has a news story about the latest Lonely Planet guide to the UK which criticises Coventry and it's overabundance of concrete.

The ring road comes in for some criticism and granted, it's not pretty to look at and not fun to drive on (confusing junctions where you have to pull off to stay on the ring road, mostly grade-separated junctions but with one roundabout thrown in for extra confusion). Its big advantage over other ring roads in other towns is the separation - traffic using it is kept away from traffic in the city centre.

The complaint about the concrete city centre is probably fair. The area around the fountain in the precinct is a typical ugly town centre shopping area. The tower where Smithford Way meets Corporation Street is very pedestrian unfriendly, blocking the middle of the "road".

The book deservedly praises the Cathedral and the Transport Museum. The area around the Museum (including the Whittle Arches and Lady Herbert's Garden) is how a modern city centre should look. There are still a lot of medieval buildings in the centre but they are mostly hidden away which means the first impression is of 'modern' buildings.

Heading outside the path of the old town walls, you get the two medieval streets which lead away from the city. Spon Street has been 'prettified' and should be on any tourist's itinerary. At the opposite end, Far Gosford Street is much more run down. Both are home to a wide selection of pubs and restaurants.

I'm not sure whether I'm trying to defend Coventry here. The city has been my home for nearly 3 years now, and it certainly isn't perfect. There are many plans to redevelop a lot of the uglier parts of the centre so Coventry may eventually become a city to be proud of.



Bad news for the Bacon Sandwich

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
17/Apr/2007

The tastiest foods always seem to be the worst for you. Now there's another reason why bacon and other cured meats are bad - nitrites used in the preserving process can lead to an increase in lung disease.

I really like the occasional bacon sandwich but my bacon, ham and salami consumption has dropped in the last few years. I think i'll stick to chicken from now on...



Kurt Vonnegut 1922-2007

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
12/Apr/2007

It's always a bit sad to read about the death of someone if you were a fan of their work. I read a lot of Vonnegut's books while I was in my 20s, starting with The Sirens of Titan. His most famous book, Slaughterhouse 5, was inspired by his experience of the fire-bombing of Dresden and is usually mentioned alongside Catch 22 as one of the greatest anti-war novels.



Wrong type of pollen on the line

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
04/Oct/2006

A few years ago the latest excuse for late running trains was the wrong kind of leaves on the line. Apparently a leaf weighing a few grams could stop a hundred ton train because it would cover the sensors making the trains appear invisible to the control room.

This year they've excelled themselves by chosing a smaller item to blame. Pollen is now stopping trains on the Cambrian line between Birmingham and Aberystwyth by clogging up the radiators of the diesel engines.

Read more about this on Google News.



Llid y Bledren Dymchwelyd (Welsh Bladder Trouble)

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
16/Aug/2006

When I was publicity officer for one of the university societies in Aberystwyth, everything had to be bilingual and we had to get all emails and publicity materials translated into welsh. I was warned not to use any machine translators on the Internet. This is a good reason why you shouldn't:

Cyclists have been baffled by a new road sign which warns: "Your bladder disease has returned."
The sign - in Welsh - was meant to tell them to dismount at roadworks. But council chiefs made an error using an online translator and confused the words 'cyclists' and 'cystitis'. Amended signs are now being put up as soon as possible in Penarth, near Cardiff.
Welsh speaking cyclist Matt Lloyd, 27, said: "I thought someone was having a laugh. I've never even had a bladder disease."

I read this in the Metro newspaper on the train this morning but the story was also covered on the BBC News website, where they have a picture of the sign as well.