Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

TapIraq Hoaxes

2 Sep 2014 10:19 by Rick

The following is a HOAX.

Christians in Northern Iraq are calling for urgent prayer backing as they’re in great danger – serious threat of beheading of all Christians in that area in a few hours. Please forward this request to your praying friends on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ” Thank you and God bless you.

And I am fairly sure that this one is a hoax too

Urgent Prayer Request For Christians Dying in Northern Iraq
Sean Malone who leads Crisis Relief International (CRI), sent the following message Friday night [29/8/14]:
“We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically. This is the city we have been smuggling food too. ISIS has pushed back Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) and is within 10 minutes of where our CRI team is working. Thousands more fled into the city of Erbil last night. The UN evacuated it’s staff in Erbil. Our team is unmoved and will stay. Prayer cover needed!”

Crisis Relief International does not exist, it is called Crisis Response International.

You may ask “Why do you pursue these hoaxes so fervently. There is no doubt that there is a humanitarian crisis in Northern Iraq. What does it matter if the details are not quite right, God knows”

Well my answer is that truth is not served by falsehood, however often repeated. The objective of the people who set these hoaxes running is to undermine the truth of the situation. They will be rejoicing if the message reaches the mainstream media before being discovered. And all these little things undermine the truth. The thought planted is that if this one is a hoax, then perhaps the whole story is untrue.

So, please do some basic checks before posting on—Google is your friend (other search engines are also good). These organisations do not send out messages like this by text message.

And do look at the web sites of the organisiations working there (including the ones above) and pray around what is true.

TapGloucester Road – Year 4

25 Jun 2014 15:25 by Rick

Well, I may have been a bit slack posting stuff to this blog recently, but I have managed to keep up my survey of shops on the Gloucester Road for a fourth year running (use the search to find previous reports).

The good news this year is that there are fewer empty shops, we are told that is a sign of an upturn but we will see. It is down from 33 last year to 24 this. There has also been a bit of movement with businesses moving around and a few that have come and gone within the 12 month period.

The gains have been in charity shops—up from 12 to 15—and restaurants up from 51 to 58. The latter possibly due to the relaxing of planning laws. The number of take-aways has, however, apparently fallen from 29 to 27. A few properties have reverted to residential but the overall mix has stayed fairly constant.

We also now have two “Head Shops” which pretend to be like their counterparts in Amsterdam but, of course, can’t sell marajuana. They and another shop will presumably try to exploit an apparent demand for electronic cigarettes, “legal highs” and paraphernalia. We will see if that is what the street wants.

It has been good to see a high profile for many of the shops in the local newspapers and magazines.

Again I have attached a PDF of the full survey and I have highlighted all the significant changes from last year.

TapVirginMedia Pricing (again)

1 Aug 2013 10:02 by Rick

Following on from my post from 2009, the situation is still the same – but different. Technology has moved on and back in March I was having a number of service issues together with discovering that, once again, I was being overcharged. The issue there was that I was on 20Mb Broadband which was not a service that is offered to new customers so it was not possible to find the correct price but my argument was that it certainly should not be a higher price than the current 30Mb service. Again, like the banks, a case of legacy customers being left behind and over charged. The solution to that was to change to the current Broadband L (30Mb) offering and with that came a spanking new Modem/Router which also fixed my service problems. Subsequently, since I am now at home for most of the time, I have upgraded the phone service as well.

So, having got the first uncomplicated bill in July – I have checked it.


This shows a bundle price of £26.40 + the line rental to a total of £41.39.

Going to their web site, which is quite good once you figure out how to work it and convince it that you are not an existing customer (because that only gives you upgrades), I found the “Build your own bundle” page. Entering Broadband L, Phone XL + Caller Display gives me…


The grand total of £39.74 – an overcharge of £1.65.

Back on the phone (free), this time the girl I got was intelligent and, slowly working her through their own web site to get the page I was seeing, I convinced her and her supervisor that I was correct. They will credit the £1.65/month backdated to March. The explanation that it was a one off error not systematic is hard to challenge even if it is not plausible.

The moral—Check and Complain, but you do need to be sure of your facts.

TapGloucester Road – Year 3

12 Jul 2013 10:42 by Rick

For the third year I am publishing my survey of the businesses on Gloucester Road which I started in 2011. I am not sure how I am going to be able to do this in the future as I no longer travel up the full length every day.

Over the course of the year 41 of the 427 commercial properties have undergone significant changes, either by the businesses closing, opening or moving. Not such a high turnover as last year but still significant.


There has been a slight increase in the number of empty shops up from 30 to 33 over the year. The houses/apartments between 148 and 156 are now complete but a large development is underway at the old baths. The empty block by the Baptist Church continues to be a gaping hole.


The mix of types of business is virtually unchanged but some prominent spots have been revived. It is good to see the Hobgoblin back in business but sad to see Cameron Lee & the bike shop close down. Bishopston Trading will be closing partly due to its own success in improving the lifestyle of the community in India where their manufacturing was done. We have gained a new optician, a couple of fashion shops and a vets but lost Blockbuster video rental

Again I have attached a PDF of the full survey and I have highlighted all the significant changes from last year.

TapYour tipple – revised

29 Nov 2012 19:03 by Rick

Since I wrote the original article on alcohol tax and prices nearly two years ago things have moved on a bit. The big idea now is that the minimum over the counter price, after tax and everything, should be 45p per unit of alcohol. To save you reading the original article again, a unit is calculated as 1% in 1 litre of liquid. So using these figures this is the revised table.

3.5% beer—pint—Minimum over the counter price 90p
Flandres 2.6% gnats—250ml bottle—Minimum price 29p
Special Brew 9% fighting juice—500ml can ==> Minimum price £2.03p
A nice 14.5% Rioja—75cl bottle—Minimum price £4.89
Budget 30% vodka—70cl bottle—Minimum price £9.45
Bacardi 151 death wish—litre—Minimum price £33.98

I haven’t had a chance to check current supermarket prices yet, but it will make a significant difference wiping out cheap wine. I will update later.

TapThe continuing story of Gloucester Road

7 Jul 2012 13:19 by Rick

As promised I have continued my survey of the businesses on Gloucester Road which I started last June.

Over the course of the year 55 of the 421 commercial properties have undergone significant changes, either by the businesses closing, opening or moving. I think this is a very high turnover, though I have nothing to compare it against.


An improvement has been a reduction in the number of empty shops down from 38 to 30 over the year. That is partly due to the demolition of the unsightly block between 148 and 156 – new apartments are being built there which is a loss of trading but will be a big improvement to the appearance. The empty block by the Baptist Church is still there but looking much tidier and other renovation work is underway so the future looks good.


The mix of types of business is largely unchanged with still over half being Retail (A1). The proportions of types of trade has remained much the same, just moving about a bit. Restaurants & Cafés are up a bit from 45 to 50 but a lot of the increase has been at the upper end of the road where they were not so concentrated already. As far as I can tell (as the applications are not as visible as for planing) the numbers and types of alcohol licences have remained the same. The numbers of branches of National chain stores is higher but that may be partly accounted for by my recognising more of them. This year I have also marked shops from local and regional chains where I have been able to identify them.

Again I have attached a PDF of the full survey and I have highlighted all the significant changes from last year.

There is now an informal local history group under the leadership of Chris Wallace who has created a web site devoted to the history of Gloucester Road. I have contributed my data and in June, when the weather was better, I completed a photographic survey of every commercial building which I still need to edit and submit.


2 Apr 2012 17:35 by Rick

One advantage of traveling by bus is that I get to read the paper in the morning.

The disadvantage is that it is the Metro.

So the double page article this morning looked like it would be their usual fare—titilating comments about the invention of Otto Titsling with statistical detail on sizes and suitable pictures etc. But I was wrong. Apart from some of that stuff from the subeditors in the form of big circular bullet points, the remainder of the article was remarkably sensible. It seems that as a nation we are good at recycling quality outer clothing via charity shops but think that they don’t want underwear. In the case of the ladies brassier, they do. It is a valuable and prized commodity on the third world second hand market and Oxfam are trying very hard to aid women in Africa by making a special effort to supply some of the demand.

So, ladies:— sort through your drawers and pass any serviceable but surplus over the shoulder boulder holders to your nearest Oxfam shop where they will be gratefully received.

TapThe S.S. Great Britain arrives in New York

31 Mar 2012 23:33 by Rick

Breaking news 28 August, 1845. I was reading Volume 1, Issue 1 of Scientific American today and this article was at the head of page 2.

The text reads…

This mammoth of the ocean, which has recently arrived from Liverpool, has created much excitement here as well as in Europe; being in fact the greatest maratime curiosity ever seen in our harbour. She was built by the Great Western Steam-Ship Company, at Bristol, England. Her keel was laid in July 1839, and she was launched in July, 1844, with her engines and machinery on board. She is composed entirely of iron, which renders her perfectly safe against accidents by fire, and even an explosion of her steam-boilers could not sink her, as she is divided into five different compartments, each being thoroughly water-tight, so that in case of accident even one perfect division would float the vessel and cargo. The length of the keel is 290 feet; total length 322 feet; beams 51 feet; depth 32 feet 6 inches. She has four decks, the upper one being flush and is 308 feet long; the second deck consists of two promenade saloons, one of which is 110 feet long by 22 wide. The third deck consists of dining saloons, the first of which is 96 by 30 feet. The saloons are 8 feet 3 inches high and surrounded with berths of which there are sufficient to accommodate 252 persons. Her burden is 3,600 tons, and her engines are capable of working 1,000 horse powers. She has four engines united, which with the boilers, weigh 540 tons. The main shaft is 28 inches in diameter in the centre, and 24 inches in the bearings, and weighs nearly 16 tons. The power of the engines is applied to the single submerged propeller, on the screw principle, and 15 feet 6 inches in diameter. The engines and boilers occupy a space of 80 feet in the middle portion of the vessel; the boilers are heated by 24 fires, and will contain 2,00 tons of water. She has six masts, four of which are hinged for lowering when head winds set in; the masts are made of iron having iron wire rigging, so that very little surface is presented to the resistance of the atmosphere; the quantity of canvas carried, is about 4,900 square yards. Upwards of 1,500 tons of iron have been used in her construction; her draught of water is about 16 feet, and the displacement of water equal to 3,200 tons.

The great Britain was visited while at Liverpool by 33,000 persons, and probably by an equal number at London. During the few days since her arrival at New York, she has been visited by about 12,000 people, who have paid 25 cents for the gratification. If there is anything objectionable in the construction or machinery of this noble ship, it is the mode of propelling her by the screw propeller; and we should not be surprised if it should be, ere long, superceded by paddle wheels at the sides; as there can be little doubt that such an improvement would increase her speed to 18 miles per hour, and render her the swiftest ship on the ocean.

A modern photograph of her, restored, can be found here.

TapSpam Timeshare Phone Calls

9 Mar 2012 12:58 by Rick

I expect everyone gets these occasionally, but the situation is worse if you are already a timeshare owner as we are. The calls we get are from people like Bonus Week Breaks and The Gift Company who claim to know you and also claim that they are either part of or affiliated to RCI. RCI are the exchange organisation we belong to, another one is Interval International. (don’t the web sites look similar—the phone number is the same as well! Another one I have found is The Ultimate Holiday Package.)

I complained to RCI about this (knowing at the back of my mind that it was all bogus) and got this reply (extract).

We would advise you to always ask the caller for your RCI membership
number when receiving any calls regarding your timeshare. We are aware
some of these companies are referring to themselves as RCI. If they can
not provide you with the information you request i.e. membership number,
deposited weeks in your account, etc, we would advise you to terminate
the call. We have no control over these calls but we are gathering
information so that we can pursue these companies and put an end to any

Please be advised that RCI uphold the Data Protection Act and we do not
pass member information to 3rd party companies. We are at a loss as to
how these companies have retrieved your personal details.

The answer to the last question is that they got the information from some of the resorts who are less fussy about their clients privacy.

We are, in general very satisfied with our timeshare experience but the nuisance of these calls has tempted me to get our phone number changed.

MindTimeshare has an article about these companies and other Timeshare frauds.


19 Dec 2011 09:57 by Rick

Although they say that everything on facebook is there for ever, in practice the visibility of any one item is very transient. This fantastic rap came up on Radio Free Babylon last week and has already dropped off the front page. I think it is worth preserving so I reproduce it here (with thanks and slightly improved formatting). All credit to the original authors.

We’re reformed. We’re fundamental.
We’re traditional. Experiential.
We’re Shakers. We’re Quakers.
We’re Baptists. We’re Trappists.
We’re Friends. We’re with the Brethren.
We’re addicts. We’re reverends.
We’re insecure. We’re not so sure.
We’re being cured. We’re not so pure.
We’re Charismatic. We’re problematic.
We’re Latter Rain. We feel your pain.
We’re old fashioned. We’re progressive.
We’re laid back. We’re aggressive.
We’re a throwback to the fast track.
We’re with the Jew—and He’s with you.
We’re disciples. We’re students.
We’re careless—and imprudent.
We’re sinners. We’re winners.
The air seems thinner. We’re at the dinner.

Where you’ve been and where you’re gonna be is not for us to see.
What you did and what you’re gonna do is not what qualifies you.
Is it true that we’re just what we perceive—or what we think we believe?
We’re just trying to finish the float—and there’s room in the boat.

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