I really have nothing to say

When I don't write a blog entry for a few days, it will always be for one of two reasons. Either, my life is so damn busy, and full of exciting and magical things, that to write a blog entry would impair into time that could be used curing world poverty and swimming the English Channel all before breakfast. Or my life has been so dull, I just have nothing to say. This time it was definitely the latter, so don't expect too much from this blog entry, it could really be rubbish. Even worse than normal. In fact, if I was you, I wouldn't even bother carrying on reading.

I'll start off with changes made to the website. If you read the last blog, you'll know that I've been able to develop some kind of slideshow for the homepage. Initially I was planning for this, to have somewhere between 5 and 10 photos showing in a cycle. My top travel photos, just to give people who sign onto the site for the first time, an instant insight into what this site is about. Somehow though, 5 to 10 photos, has since become 79 photos. The more I scoured looking for my favourite travel photos, the more I found that I wanted to showcase. And I ended up with a cycle currently sitting at 79. Again, if you read the last blog, you will know that the captioning system that I developed, was somewhat thrown together seeing as my limited knowledge of Java didn't allow me to do anything better. This system meant that each photo had to be edited individually with a caption, resizing and adding in a background colour corresponding to that used on the homepage. Bottom line, it takes a while. And I spent pretty much a whole day, editing these 79 photos and adding them into the website. Obviously I was testing this on an offline version of the website as I was doing this, but the problem with testing something offline, is it doesn't give you an accurate picture of how long something will take to load, once it is online. So I eventually finished adding these 79 photos to the homepage, but as soon as it's online, I of course realise that all the photos are preloaded, meaning that while all 79 photos are loading, the rest of the homepage is put on hold. The bottom-line, there's no way I can hold 79 photos on the homepage if I expect it to load in anything like an acceptable amount of time. If I logged onto a website, I wouldn't expect to wait 5 seconds for the page to load, so I can't expect any different here. So although I haven't done it yet, I'm probably going to have to limit this slideshow to about 20 photos. So that was pretty much a day spent editing pictures, that I'm now going to have to delete. A little frustrating, but it comes with the territory of teaching yourself how to build websites I guess. Sometimes, you just have to learn the hard way.

The other change I've made, is that I decided that to push people towards the guestbook, there should be more than just the green button on the homepage. So I scoured Google looking for images I could use to attract people to the guestbook. First I came up with this picture of a guestbook.
It was a nice picture of a book I suppose. It lacked originality though. You could find that on a thousand websites on the Internet. So next I found this picture of a polar bear. It was cute, and girls always do whatever you say next to a picture of something cute like a baby or a puppy, so if I put a picture of a polar bear there, I figured every girl who came onto the website, would end up signing the guestbook, just because that's what they do if you wave something like that in front of their faces.
Cute baby polar bear
But then I realised, who the fuck am I kidding. Does a picture of a fucking baby polar bear, really sound like me? Fuck me, I don't know what came over me. In the end, I scrapped the polar bear and settled on this.
I really think it buys into the personality and philosophy of this website. If this website was a picture, that would be it. I made my decision and I stand by it. Now to sit and watch as the guestbook signings start flying in.

Now onto travel. First off, I eventually got round to sending out an email to everyone who's addresses that I had, who need accomodation for the Winter. I only did that yesterday, and so far I have 2 replies. Both from guys, so it might be in my interest to turn gay for the Winter if things carry on like this. They seem willing to try and sort something out though, so with any luck, I can have a place sorted before leaving the UK in a few weeks.

Speaking of which, there have been a couple of things I've found out since I last wrote, that could affect my arrival dates. Firstly, I've noticed that the first day of skiing in Whistler is November 27th. I can get a 3-day pass pretty cheaply, so to get in the skiing practice I desparately need before starting at Panorama, I would have to co-inside with the dates of arriving Whistler 26th November, and leaving on the 30th. This would move everything back, as I had previously planned on arriving at Panorama on the 29th after a couple of nights in Banff. Though I don't actually have to be at Panorama until the 3rd of December, so I could still do that, and just arrive on the 2nd. That would probably be of the condition that I have accomodation of some degree sorted by that point, which may not be too easy as I may have to be there in person to sign for it. If that's the case, then I guess I should arrive at least a week before I start work, bypassing the skiing opportunity in Whistler, and instead hope to get some practise in before I start working. I need to look into accomodation a bit more before finalising my dates. By all accounts, Winter accomodation in Invermere isn't yet readily available.

The other thing affecting my travel plans regards the Seahawks game vs the Redskins I was planning to attend on November 23rd. I wasn't aware of Ticketmaster's ticket exchange when I purchased my ticket to the Eagles game, but was alerted to it in the confirmation email. Essentially it said that if I no longer needed my ticket, I would be able to sell it on, on this exchange. Despite buying this ticket as an international customer, they neglected to mention in this email, that you have to hold a US bank account to receive the funds from the sale. I've been in email contact with Ticketmaster to see if there is any way around this. They have been typically unhelpful, but the upshot is no, there is not. So I've now emailed the Seahawks directly, to see if they are willing to do anything about this. I've offered the option of a direct swap for a ticket to the Redskins game. As yet, I am yet to receive a resonse. And I doubt I will. It was a long-shot emailing them in the first place. But this affects my plans, because I was planning on using the money from the Eagles ticket, to buy the Redskins ticket. Then, the only additional cost would be the $50 return bus journey from Vancouver to Seattle for the game. If I can't get the money for that ticket however, then the cost will be around $60 for a match ticket versus the Redskins including all administrative fees, plus the $50 for the bus journey, totalling $110. If I can't get the $60 back for the Eagles game, then that's not worth worrying about. It's a sunk cost, and nothing can be done about it. I was aware that was a possibility when I bought the ticket. But I'm really not sure I'm willing to spend a further $110 to go to a game that we have a realistic chance of losing. I saw a Hawks game at Qwest Field in '06. It rained and we lost. Now I'm sure not every game is that depressing. But I'm 50/50 if I'll be willing to spend a further $110. And it would help out my travelplanning if I wasn't being dictated to by the date of this football game. We'll see, but if I'm unable to salvage any of the funds spent on the Eagles ticket, the way we're playing so far this year, I'm not sure if I'm willing to spend the money to go for the Skins game. $110 would probably buy me 4 CFL game tickets once the season kicks-off again next Summer. And although the quality of player in the CFL might be lesser than the NFL, I've been to 6 CFL games in the past, and on it's day it's a more exciting game. I just think that might be a better outlet for my money. So we'll see. It may mean that my plans are no longer dictated to my the date of the Skins game though, which in a really, really long-winded way, is the point I was trying to make.

When I wrote my last blog, I had just had my new digital camera delivered. When I spend £140 on something, it means more to me than my own offsping would. That being said, I wasn't willing to go out with it, without a decent carry-case, which had been ordered, but not arrived. Not willing to go out with my camera, last Sunday, more for the exercise than anything else, I went and scouted a few places where I could go with my camera to get some good test shots. So I walked up Richmond hill and through parts of Richmond park. What I took from this more than anything though, is that despite going to Richmond Park countless times recently, I had never noticed this paving. St.Pauls Cathedral, 10 St. Paul's Cathedral 10 miles miles. You know I never thought the centre of London was so close. 10 miles is nothing. Partly to test out my camera on monuments and landmarks, and partly just because I've never done it, now on my exercise to do list, along with cycle to Brighton, is walk to London and back. I always view that a healthy human can indefinitely walk 30 miles per day. That's only 7 and a ½ hours walking briskly, or 10 hours having a stroll. When I always ask myself how long it would take me to walk somewhere, I always consider that I would be able to walk 30 miles per day. I don't think in any way, shape or form, 30 miles per day would exert more stress on the human body that it could handle. The Trans-Canada Highway is 4,860 miles. So I think it's walkable in 162 days. What I'm trying to say, is with St.Pauls Cathedral only being 10 miles from Richmond Hill, I could walk into London, around to some famous landmarks, and walk home again, easily within one day. So for the exercise, for the photo opportunities, and just because I've never done it, that is now on my list of things to do before I leave for Canada. And who knows, if it goes well, then maybe I'll walk the Trans-Canada Highway soon.

Anyway, got a little distracted there, the camera case finally arrived this morning. I was planning on waiting until tomorrow until I went out with my camera because it is forecast to be a nice day. But I got back from the gym this morning and the sun was shining, so I went out to take some test-shots as follows.

Just to sidetrack quickly, I just that second had a phone-call from Corcoran Parker. I'll get into that in a second, but it was literally as I was just typing. And I've also just had an email from the Seahawks, who clearly didn't read the message that I sent them, because their suggestion, was why not sell the ticket on Craig's List. Which would be great apart from the fact you need my credit card to pick it up on gameday. I'll have to see if there's any way to get around that, and then maybe I can sell it on.

Anyway, here's a selection of the test shots that I took. I'll leave the click-through versions at full-size to give an idea of quality:

1) This is Twickenham rugby stadium taken from Richmond Hill, with no zoom.
Twickenham rugby stadium from Richmond Hill

2) This is the same photograph, taken at 18× zoom.
You can see what a difference having that zoom makes, which is exactly why I bought the camera.
Twickenham rugby stadium from Richmond Hull

3) A deer at 18× zoom.
A deer in Richmond Park

4) Another deer at 18× zoom.
A deer in Richmond Park

5) Duck pond, taken hand-held.
Ducks in the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park

6) A tree, also taken hand-held.
A tree in the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park

I also took a 5-ish minute video of some deer at 18× zoom, that I'll be adding to the videos page when I have a second. For now you can get to it by clicking here. I'm quite pleased with how good video actually looks. Though you can't zoom in and out whilst shooting which will be a little limiting. It goes at least some way to compensating if I decide against buying a camcorder though.

This morning I go to the gym as normal. I've pretty much given up home with Corcoran Parker for this Summer, and have settled on the fact I'm not going to work until I get to Canada. So to my surprise, I finish my workout, and I have a voicemail from Vicky. Of course I was in the gym when she called, but that is just God. He's decided that under no circumstances will I be in the right place for work this Summer. This time it was the extra 30 minutes cardio I'm doing everyday that meant I missed this call. Of course when I call her back, the job is gone.

But just then as I was writing, I get a call from Rachael (at about 19:00 for fucks sake. What are they even doing in the office still?). I now have a fun day stuffing envelopes tomorrow all set up. Yay. The problem is, I agreed to look after my dog tomorrow, and I have no idea what time I have to do that. I think it is in the evening. But my mum isn't picking up her mobile, so this could be awkward. It'll be too late to cancel the placement tomorrow now, so I'll just have to hope this works out ok. I'm sure God doesn't want me to work a second all Summer, so he'll block this placement somehow, but as things stand, 14 hours from now, I'll be stuffing envelopes for 9 hours. Whoopee!

Now you can't turn on the news at the moment without hearing about the financial crisis. And I find the US's proposed Wall Street bail out absolutely fascinating. The government is proposing to take $700 billion of taxpayers money, giving nothing back, and using it to help waiving companies on Wall Street. By my calculations, that's $2,121 per person in the US. These are firms, which have been heavily profiting in the past from at the expense of the US public, now needing $2,121 from every citizen to bail them out. And the taxpayer receives nothing in return. I don't know why people stand for it. They should at least expect a share in the company surely? How many people in the US will have lost their homes because they couldn't keep up with payments in the past? And did the banks help them? Did they fuck. Now the banks are the ones struggling and the people are the one's who have the power to help... and it looks like they're going to. Does no one else see why this is a problem? In times the banks were making huge profits, if people were struggling, they were discarded. Now the banks need help, and they expect every citizen to reach into their pockets and bail them out... I hate the world we live in.

Sticking with money, just 2 days ago I transferred £3,000 of savings to a Bradford and Bingley account. And today they announce 370 job cuts. Maybe that wasn't the smartest move on my part. I was aware that they weren't in the best shape, but I hadn't realised it was this bad. I don't think it's time to panic just yet, but I really can't afford to lose £3,000 if something happens to them. What are the fucking odds though? 2 days after I move £3,000!

The EU has also been grabbing my attention in the past few days. The EU is one of the few political issues where I sit on the fence. I actually don't stand strongly in favour or against European membership, which is rare for me. I'm normally very outstanding in my views. But I can see both the positives and the negatives on EU membership. And despite having spent many hours studying the issue during my degree, I'm still undecided. This week saw the positive and the negative face of EU membership.

Firstly, the negative. A European court adviser has backed the compulsory retirement of those over the age of 65. To me, this is just Europe meddling where it is not wanted. Who the fuck are Europe to say to people that they have to retire? If a man's job is his life, why should they be forced to leave it? Similarly, if they will be financially better-off living on their pay than a pension, who the fuck are Europe to tell them that they should live a life with less amenities? One more person retired, is one less person paying income tax and one more person the state has to support. Why should Europe make this retirement compulsory if it isn't even wanted by the employee? It's just Europe sticking its nose in where it isn't necessary. Not every person is going to be a delinquent by age 65, so if they are willing and able, why shouldn't they carry on working?

On the other side of the coin however, Europe has made a couple of positive rulings this week. As you can probably tell when you read these blogs, there are a few industries that I have a real beef with. One is the energy market as you may have guessed over previous weeks. Another is the telecommunications industry, for their obscene charging. Have you ever asked yourself, how much it costs Vodafone, for example, to send a text? Not a penny. If you send 1 text or 1,000, the cost to Vodafone is virtually the same. Similarly, have you ever asked yourself why phoning abroad is so expensive? Does it cost the phone company any more to send your call abroad? Not in the slightest. So when you get charged 50p to phone abroad, or 10p to send a text message, it pisses me off because all of that 50p, or 10p, is going straight into the pockets of Vodafone. So the EU proposal this week to regulate further the costs of using mobile phones abroad is very welcome in my eyes. Although there is concern that the phone companies will regain this profit from the domestic market, it is still a step in the right direction and makes up somewhat for the whole old people retiring thing. The EU also made some positive steps this week in ensuring that the UK achieves pollution targets. Viewing the environment as the single most important issue in the world today as I do, I strongly commend the EU for this action as well.

Now if you read these blogs regularly, you'll know my stance on our democracy and capitalism. And just to prove how faulty it is, George Bush said in his speech in the early hours today, UK time: "Democratic capitalism is the best system ever devised." What more proof do you need? He then went on to blame irresponsible individuals for causing the current crisis. I could literally days picking apart why Bush's statement is so wrong. I won't, but I just want to demonstrate quickly, why, in my eyes, the market system can never be a success.

During my business degree, it was drilled into my head that for a market to operate, there needs to be perfect competition, and perfect knowledge of consumers. If both of these factors are in place, then consumers will buy the best products at the best value, and inefficient firms will go bankrupt. That's fine. Perfect knowledge is an unachievable concept, but you can get pretty close. What the text books neglect to tell you, and where I have the problem, is with what happens next. As the inefficient firms one-by-one begin to fail, the industry will end up with an oligopoly of the most efficient firms. So basically a result of perfect competition, is imperfect competition. It is an unsustainable concept. Just look at all the 118 numbers. How many of those now remain from the number of businesses that started up when directory enquiries was deregulated? Not many. But the problem with oligopolies, is collusion is unavoidable. If a business is to act in the interest of their shareholders, even if no words are shared between rival companies, neither will lower prices unless absolutely necessary. It may be unintentional, but to be responsible to the people who invested in your company, you have to be irresponsible to the consumer. This was just proven with the telecommunications example I used earlier. Mobile phone calls have virtually zero variable costs, yet prices remain high. Why do you think all call centres are relocating to India now? Because it costs them not a penny more to redirect the call all the way to India, than to have it answered in the UK. Telecommunication has no variable costs, but their prices remain high. Collusion in the market place. In fact if any company announces significant profits, it just proves that they are charging unnecessary prices, and the market place has failed. What I am trying to demonstrate, is that even if an industry starts out with perfect competition and perfect knowledge, the concept is wholly unsustainable. And therefore, the market system can never work in favour of the consumer. We live in a system that quite simply, can never work. Bush eluded to irresponsible individuals. Wrong. These individuals are acting within the market system, doing what the market says: incresing profits for shareholders. According to the market, the only irresponsible thing these people could do, is not act in the interest of the shareholders. The market place simply doesn't work. And on a large-scale, it simply never will. As long as we live in this system and it remains regulated as it currently is, then consumers will forever be getting screwed in the market place.

Just today the Archbishop of York referred to short-sellers as "bank-robbers." I hate to break this to you John, but they're just Capitalists. They're playing within the rules of the market system, which simply states, "I will do best for myself, no matter of the consequences to others." Why else is it that those most successful in the market, are the cut-throat individuals who make profits at any cost, whether it be to the consumer, or to the environment. You'll never see a nice man conquer the market-system, because nice people cannot succeed in capitalism. It is exactly why I have chosen not to get involved in a career in business now I've finished my degree. I just don't want to be a part of it. The whole concept sickens me. It's easy to blame these individuals. But you can't blame the individuals when they're working with the rules of the system. In this instance, it's simply a case of don't blame the players, blame the game. If you don't like the way people act, then change the rules of the game. Get away from capitalism. Simply, it will never work.

Just before I move on, it has been the labour party conference this week. I can't remember who it was who said this, possibly John Hutton, but someone said exactly what I've been saying recently about energy companies... that if they can't act responsibly, then they should be renationalised. If you can't renationalise them, then tax them so heavily that their profits go back to the people. I disagree with the second sentence there. If you can't renaitonalise them, then change the system so that a company does not have more power than a democratically elected government. As much as I fault our democracy, it's still better to have the government in control than a business. I just thought I'd throw that in here.

On the eve of what could potentially be a day of fucking work, I have to say, I don't actually regret having a Summer of unemployment like I should. Economically, of course it has cost me. But I've learnt over this Summer, how to truly be economical. You think there's inflation now? Tesco Value curry sauce, 4p. And it tastes pretty good. And when you feel like splashing out, Tesco Value meatballs are surprisingly tasty, if a little overpriced at a whopping 30p. And I've learnt to live on spending zero money with the exception of food. And value food at that. I travel under my own power for example. And with Brighton now with my realm of cycling over a day, and Central London within my realm of walking, why will I ever have to pay for transport again for any distance less than 30 miles? I was always tight before. But I think this Summer has really taght me to be froogle with money to another degree. That being said, I need to get on and do classy things that you working folk do seeing as I might actually have a day of work tomorrow. Shave, that kind of classy thing, so I'll wrap things up now.

Speaking of rap... have you ever actually listened to what they're saying? It's just poetry for people who don't want to look like nobs, but somehow involves even less brain cells. All you do is pick a word that rhymes, and put it in. It doesn't even make sense. I was listening to Snoop Dog who's done some rap single for Prime Time on NFL Gameday (which is the only reason I was listening to it), and he's talking about football, before suddenly saying he'll sit on his couch and eat a ham sandwich, just because sandwich rhymed. How do kids idolise these people? "I was watching football then I sat down on my couch and ate a ham sandwich." That doesn't take talent. I was writing that kind of thing at aged 4. It's just poetry, but easier. At least poetry sometimes actually makes sense. Fuckin eh what is the world coming to?

Oh one more thing, it was Spurs vs Newcastle last night. I tuned into that game, just because I love to see these 2 teams struggle. They're the 2 teams in the league, that everyone loves to see fail, just because their supporters are all such disillusioned idiots. Every year, you hear Spurs fans chiming on in the Summer about how they're going to break into the top 4. And every year they fuck it up. Last year they didn't even finish in the top half of the table, yet I still had to spend all Summer listening to their supporters chiming on about how they were going to be top 4 this year. It's brings a smile to my face seeing them bottom. And the only set of supporters in the country that can match Spurs for their disillusioned expectations of their team is Newcastle, with their fans always banging on about how they're a top side, despite not winning a trophy for over 50 years. And now they sit second bottom. I'll be honest, I just tuned in last night to see one of those two lost. It was bitter-sweet in that one also had to win. But it is joyous to me to see both teams struggle like this. No other team in the country has fans, quite so dumb.

Just to finish off, I've now been rejected by Abbey for a credit card a second time, so I guess they did get both my applications. I might apply again... maybe third time lucky. You'd think Party Poker would learn, but they have just given me another $10, titling the email, "We've missed you." You'd think they'd learn at about the 7th attempt of giving me free money, it isn't making me top-up again. But as long as they keep on giving me money, I'm willing to gamble it away. And if I hadn't caused myself enough pain from running 14 miles the other day, now one of my toe nails has turned black. And in my experience, that means it's going to fall off. Just as my last one has almost grown back that I injured playing American football last december. I guess this is what happens when you run 14 miles in a pair of trainers that you bought 2 and a ½ years ago, because they were 70% off. Probably should have invested in some proper running shoes before I did that one. With the help of a pair of scissors, at least my blisters are gone now though! And just finally, I've always said that I started teaching myself HTML back in December. Well I was looking over my Amazon records a couple of days ago, and it turns out I didn't order my teach yourself HTML book until January 8th... so there you go. I've actually only been working for this trip for about 9 months... still not good.

That's me really done now. I have to get ready for work tomorrow! How depressing.

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