Tag Archives: lists

The analytics of age

Someone has pointed out that my blogs need to promote ATOM more and re-reading some of the articles I have posted I can see that I wander off-piste rather a lot (ha, managed to get a sporting reference in straight off the bat; ooh there was another one).  Anyway this week my lead subject is Google Analytics.  It’s brilliant and I’m now an expert so if any of you want to better understand who is interested in what you have to say on your website I’m your man – if you have any really grown-up questions I have my wing man all prepared, step forward the mighty Matt ‘the stat’ Birch.  I have one criticism of Google Analytics and it concerns an Americanism.  At this point I have to say that I don’t share the common hatred of all things American.  I actually think they do some things very well, like, for example, peanut butter.  On Google Analytics the dates are upside down, month followed by day followed by year.  Now that is extra-specially dumb and I don’t think I need to explain why.

While on the subject of stats another one I came across was the description of a 31 year tennis player as a veteran.  Ouch.  Seven minutes 32 seconds later I discovered another horrid stat, a child laughs 300 times a day and an adult 15 times.  Now here is a promise, if you can spare thirty minutes to visit our office I promise the combined efforts of our jolly team will ensure you exceed your daily quota of giggles.  And before Mighty Marek of MMI fame comments below, it won’t be due to the work we present to you.

Talking of being a veteran at age 31, I woke up this morning seriously worried about where my life is heading.  Last year you may remember I was raving about the Maccabees brilliant new album; Wall of Arms (is album still a word?).  Now the Maccabees are a serious indie band, a little bit off the radar, so I felt very comfortable being an admirer.  This year I can’t stop playing Midlake and it’s horrible.  They are beardy sorts playing electronic folk and I can’t believe I just owned up to liking them.  I sense punk mark two is just around the corner to save me.

Tavistock College

Spot the difference

Princetown jail

Which is the school, which is the prison?

In mentioning the music I grew up with I am often accused of being a public schoolboy. I actually attended Tavistock Comprehensive School on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. My school often got mistaken for Princetown Prison which lay around ten miles away.  I have just realised that my American friends did something else stupid, name an Ivy League University after an English prison (there is a spottable flaw in my argument).

Apologies for finishing on sport but following the 6 Nations rugby tournament I was trawling the reviews to try and get a better understanding of why England under-performed.  It wasn’t so much the losing it was the total lack of ambition.  Good players like Delon Armitage have somehow had all of their confidence surgically removed by the England coaches.  Jack Rowell the legendary Bath coach of old was pretty scary if you under-performed but he was a cuddly teddy bear of a man compared to the brooding Martin Johnson.  Armitage was so obviously out of form yet managed to start four of England’s matches while the bang in form Ben Foden sat warming the bench.

Anyway, enough of being an armchair critic, this is what a gentleman called Miles Kington concluded on the subject of England rugby: ‘Was William Webb Ellis really the first Englishman to pick up the ball and run with it?’ Probably not, but he was almost certainly the last.’

And now for something completely different, to try and rid myself of my alarming drift into folk I’m going for top 5 punk songs this week.

  • Beat on the Brat; Ramones
  • Anarchy in the UK; Sex Pistols
  • White Riot; Clash
  • Alternative Ulster; Stiff Little Fingers
  • Germ Free Adolescents; X-Ray Specs

I would be staggered if anyone out there can beat this list of classic anti-establishment songs but feel free to have a go.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Observations

Stop Press: The Great British Cheese roll cancelled!

Competitors in the annual cheese rolling race on Cooper's HillI was going to dedicate the whole of my blog to the very sad news that the annual ‘madder than barking mad’ Cooper’s Hill (near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK) Cheese Roll has been cancelled.  The race involves a giant Double Gloucester cheese being set loose from the top of Cooper’s Hill and competitors charging down the hill after it. The first person over the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheese.

Accurate information is hard to come by, but the tradition is at least 200 years old. Each year the event has become more and more popular with contestants coming from across the world to compete or even simply to spectate.  Last year 30,000 people came to watch and it is very funny with a capital F. It’s a sort of giant roly-poly where grown-ups get to re-enact their childhood game of rolling down a gentle slope in the local park.  In the grown-up version competitors hurl themselves off the top of a one-in-one hill and career over in a series of ever more elaborate triples with double twists thrown in at regular intervals.

So who banned this festival of fun?  The meanies at Health & Safety or as they are better known the Ministry of making up silly rules to stop people enjoying themselves.  OK, so due to the steepness and uneven surface of the hill there are usually a number of injuries ranging from sprained ankles to broken bones and concussion. However a first-aid service is provided by the local St John Ambulance (Gloucester, Cheltenham and Stroud Divisions) at the bottom of the hill, with a volunteer rescue group on hand to carry down any casualties who do not end up at the bottom through gravity.  This to me sounds like job done, having played a lot of rugby if ever the St John’s Ambulance was called onto the field, the injured party magically leapt back to their feet before the medic arrived.  At Bath Rugby we had a brilliant first aider called Pete Pothercay (definitely the wrong spelling, sorry), he had a magic sponge and the ability to heal broken legs at the sprinkle of a bit of water.  Thinking back he was actually the forerunner of Harry Potter.

So where is all of this local Brit stuff going?  Well, my daughter Florence Prosser has a brilliant suggestion, relocate the cheese rolling to Big Red (a massive sand dune near Hatta).  Wouldn’t that be fun?

And so to my second story of the week.  For all of you who thought the Japanese have the monopoly on extreme (bordering on seriously dangerous) reality TV shows you are very wrong.  The French have just entered the contest and the Eurovision judges have given their latest game the full ten plus two bonus points.  The game, conjured up by a game show creator, invited contestants to a Mastermind-style knock out contest.  In the French version of the game the contestant was strapped into the chair but rather than being a comfortable black leather version it bore more relation to the variety used in American states that don’t trust lethal injections.  The quiz master was one of the contestants, they all asked a question and if the victim in the electric chair got it wrong they pulled a lever which administered an electric shock.  Also each time a question was wrongly answered the voltage was increased, ouch and ouch again.  Towards the end, the contestant was told by the game show host that the next shock they administered was of near fatal proportions.  Refusal to pull the lever resulted in eviction from the game – 82% pulled the lever!

In truth the person in the chair was an actor and there was no electric shock involved.  However this social experiment demonstrated the power of reality TV and that people in power follow the same behaviour patterns whatever their nationality.

On that sober note it’s time for a jovial top 5.  Best comedians not including my mate Roy ‘The Legend’ Palmer who could make me laugh at a joke he had already told me 20 times or  David Trick whose after dinner speeches always had most of the audience under the table by halfway through.  At this point I have to admit that I can’t remember the names of the comedians the Laughter Factory, Dubai, bring out every month so I am going to have to go for TV comedians.  I’m sorry so many are yesterday’s vintage but I’ve been away from home for too many years.

  • Michael McIntyre
  • Tommy Cooper
  • French and Saunders
  • Eddie Izzard
  • Cast of Mock the Week (Dara O Briain, Hugh Dennis, Andy Parsons, Russel Howard, Frank Boyle, Rory Bremner)

I’m eager to be enlightened…please add your comments.

1 Comment

Filed under Observations

Cream always rises to the top

I was in one of those ‘nothing interesting has happened this week’ moods when up popped the Oscars followed by Forbes Richest People in the World list.  The thing that caught my eye about both was women (I hasten to add not the party numbers the celebs were donning for the Oscars).   Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win Best Director for the Hurt Locker and it was made especially brilliant as she was previously married to James Cameron (who was widely tipped to pick up all the gongs going for Avatar).  In addition there are exactly six women on the ‘richest 100 people alive’ list.  None of these women are self-made; they all inherited their fortunes from their Dads.  How can this be?  At my school girls were much cleverer than boys especially in anything to do with creativity.  Given that they do so many things better than men they should be the ones inheriting the earth instead of which boys grab everything going.

While on the subject of girls my brilliant wife Sally is involved once again in a very worthwhile cause.  Trekking through Lebanon in aid of refugee and orphaned children.  You can follow her progress as she trains, raises money and gets stuck into the challenge on her blog: trek for lebanon.  I’m a huge fan of Lebanon but I don’t buy into Beirut being the Paris of the Middle East.  It’s simply not true, the people of Beirut are incredibly friendly and they know how to welcome guests and party like it’s always the weekend.  Parisians by contrast live up to their stereotype and then some!  At this point I have to mention a dark secret that has haunted me for many years.  The second greatest Britain ever, as voted by a BBC Poll in 2002, actually had a strong claim to be the greatest Frenchman ever.  Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Dad was French and he was educated at Lycée Henri-Quatre in Paris.  Fortunately no-one French has ever read my blog so my secret should be safe.

Turning back to Sally, she has received generous support from companies like Unilever, MBC, Emirates NBD, Emirates Leisure Retail, MMI and BASF.  In these difficult times it’s great to see companies still actively helping good causes.  Banks here seem to struggling a bit and if HSBC is anything to go by I’m not surprised why.  I mentioned last week about things happening in threes, this is my last week’s tale of woe with the aforementioned world’s local bank (can somebody please explain this slogan?  It’s absolute dogs-do on the simple premise that they are a big, impersonal, multi-national with absolutely zero personal service).

HSBC embarrassment number one.  My cash point card (AKA ATM card), wouldn’t work in HSBC cash point machines.  The advice from HSBC – try it in a National Bank of Dubai ATM; it worked!  You might say smart for offering sound advice but for goodness sake it’s absurd that you can’t get your money out from the people you bank with.

HSBC embarrassment number two.  I couldn’t transfer money through online banking from my UAE account to my UK account, their advice was try before 2 p.m.  It worked, meaning HSBC’s 24/7 internet banking service only operates for around 6 hours a day.

HSBC embarrassment number three.  Internet banking again, I couldn’t get various functions to work.  When quizzed a representative of the bank told me that their internet banking service only works properly with Windows XP, in other words two operating systems ago.  Jeepers, get a new IT department.

I was going to do top five banks but I ran out of ideas after none so having tried and failed to get a car loan from HSBC (they don’t do car loans for companies anymore) I’m going to do top 5 cars of all time.

  • Jaguar E-type
  • Aston Martin DB9
  • Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe
  • Citroen DS 19 (when I was a kid I loved going to France to watch Citroens’ trick of rising when the hand brake was released)
  • Mini Cooper John Cooper Works

Which model turns your head the most when inhaling the smell of petrol and burning rubber?

Leave a comment

Filed under Observations

Our brilliant boys in khaki

I decided at the beginning of the week to shake things up by restricting myself to simply reproducing the best quotes from around the world.  One day in and it was already game, set and match to Dubai Police with two crackers neither of which require further comment (although I will slip a few in).

Dubai Police Chief, Dahi Khalfan Tamim, urged Meir Dagan, the director of Israel’s Mossad, to “be a man” and admit that Israel stands behind last month’s assassination of Hamas chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Good on you Mr Tamim and come on Mr Netanyahu, front up, we all know you did it.

I don’t know if Mr Tamim is familiar with London buses but this is what a Dubai Police representative was quoted as saying in 7Days about the latest murder in Dubai.

‘Sometimes we wait weeks for a murder and now three have come along all at once.’

In my world everything happens in threes, and my advice to everyone is if there have been two plane crashes, wait for a third before setting forth, unless of course you are flying Qantas.

Changing the subject completely, did you know that Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix all died aged 27?  This came up in a recent quiz that my wife won by scoring 10 out of 10 in the literature round (misspent youth) and my reason for mentioning it is the BBC’s crazy proposal to axe 6 Music.  It actually costs less to run 6 Music than the BBC pays Jonathan Ross to play silly pranks on the daughters of national institutions.

While in this morbid mood it’s worth mentioning the sad demise of Michael Foot although he did have a very good innings.  Throughout his political life he managed to pull off the trick of being a highly-respected, much-loved, left-wing politician.  Best quote by Michael Foot “Men of power have no time to read; yet the men who do not read are unfit for power.”   Also much loved was Mo Mowlam who was an absolute star in sorting out the mess in Northern Ireland and was played brilliantly by Julie Walters in a recent Channel 4 biopic.  Sheer quality all round.

Bits and bobs to finish off:

The winner of the lyrics competition was Dani Connell, who promised me she didn’t use Google.  Most controversy was caused by my 18lb trout story; honest guv it was a big ‘un.

Rio FerdinandPicture of the week – Rio Ferdinand, England Football Captain.  Makes you proud.

Buy of the yearX-Mini, a brilliant mini speaker for your computer or iPod.

I’m afraid it’s going to have to be a top 8 this week as the top three spots are taken by the Prosser girls so in positions 4 – 8 come the next most beautiful women, in no particular order:

  • Angelina Jolie
  • Penelope Cruz
  • Beatrice Dalle (Betty Blue)
  • Lily Allen
  • Halle Berry

Leave your comments in the box and press submit otherwise I’ll take your silence as tacit agreement with my view of life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Observations

Capitalism, huh, what is good for, absolutely nothing

A double whammy to start, misquoting Edwin Starr and being so extreme I’ve turned into a red under the bed.  Thank goodness Joseph McCarthy is no longer around to turn me into an enemy of the state.

What prompted this bout of extremism and seriousness from such a jovial blogger?  Two stories to be precise, Kraft’s take-over of Cadbury and Royal Bank of Scotland making a huge loss while paying big juicy bonuses to rich people.

I’ve been itching to give my view on Kraft’s take over but wanted to let my egg throwing at the television impulse to subside before commenting. My argument with the Americans taking over Cadbury is not a nationalistic tabloid-style rant but rather about values.  They actually lived by the mantra that their employees are their biggest asset and looked after them accordingly.  Now where have you heard that before?  It comes immediately after maximising shareholder value in the anaemic statements CEOs make on their antiseptic websites.  Cadbury was founded in the 19th century by Quakers who cared more about their biggest asset than about shareholder value.  In 1893, George Cadbury bought 120 acres of land close to their factory in Birmingham and planned, at his own expense, a model village which would ‘alleviate the evils of modern more cramped living conditions’.  By 1900 the estate included 313 cottages and houses set on 330 acres of land.

My second clinching point in this tale of Kraft greed is that Cadbury make great products while Kraft make horrid ones.  They couldn’t say it in their prospectus but it’s the real reason why Kraft wanted Cadbury so badly that they were prepared to pay loads more than Warren Buffet told them was sensible.  To illustrate my point Cadbury’s Flake or Dairylea cheese triangles anyone?  Having convincingly won the battle and the war I have to own up to being a big fan of Dairylea cheese when I was growing up.  This heavily processed, not as nice as plastic-tasting ‘cheese’, was every small boy’s fishing bait of choice.  I still look back on catching an 18lb Rainbow Trout in the River Tavy many years ago with great fondness.  Before you ask, the rules of the river meant I had to throw the fish back and it was the pre-digital camera era.

Moving swiftly to the RBS debacle the morality of this story is so bleedin’ obvious I won’t bore you with more one sentence.  A business that makes losses of 3.6bn and was bailed out by the ordinary tax payers of Britain to the tune of 24bn shouldn’t pay bonuses of 1.3bn to very rich people.  If they don’t get a bonus apparently the very smart investment bankers they employ will leave in high dudgeon, now that is great news because they are obviously absolutely useless at their jobs.  Hopefully they will head off to some American bank and advise Kraft on their next take-over target.

Finally, I can’t help commenting on the latest twist in the John Terry saga and throwing in an aside on the Ashley Cole breaking news. Hats off to Wayne Bridge for refusing to tear the  England football team apart and Craig Bellamy for stating the obvious, JT is obviously a very unpleasant piece of work off the pitch.  Now Craig Bellamy is unpleasant on the pitch and sometimes a prat off the pitch but at least he does lots of charity work for kids in Sierra Leone which he pays for out of his own pocket.

Top 5s for this week; song lyrics.

‘I am a weapon of massive consumption’

‘Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, Stuck in the middle with you.’

‘Me, I’m just a lawn mower, you can tell me by the way I walk’

‘War, huh, yeah, what is good for, absolutely nothing’

‘He will never be left on the shelf,  Cos Kevin he’s in love with himself’

Correctly name all 5 artists and you could win an ipod shuffle (first right answer out of the hat) – just fill your answers in the box below and press the submit button or e-mail kp (“at” symbol) upandatom.biz.  Sorry, prize only applies if you live in the UAE.

Leave a comment

Filed under Observations

Breaking news – Islamic finance is not going to save the world

I was watching Mock the Week last week and apart from it being absolutely brilliant – topical, insightful and funny – it dawned on me that there are lots of news stories popping up on a regular basis that make you sit up and wonder.  With this in mind and having seen how other people nick stuff from newspapers to put in their blogs here is what caught my eye.

First up the very sad story of the Georgian luge rider who died at the Winter Olympics when he came off the track at nearly 100mph and hit a metal pylon.  These guys and girls are barking mad and I just watched the skeleton which looks the same as the luge – throwing yourself down a mountain on a tea tray – but with skeleton you do it head first.  Luckily you get to wear a helmet.  I hate to say it, but for anyone doing the skeleton there is a big elephant-sized clue in the name!  Back to the luge, the International Luge Federation, Vanoc and the police investigation has concluded it was the athlete’s fault.  I look the other way whenever I detect the aftermath of a car crash, a sort of back to front rubber-necker, but I couldn’t help but notice the metal pylon he hit was totally missing the sort of protectors you see on a set of rugby posts in a local park.  Oversight seems a very weak word when extreme negligence is bang on the money.

For a full report click on: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/lizziegreenwoodhughes/2010/02/tragedy_of_terrifying_whistler.html

At this point I need to mention that on the mad dogs and Englishman principle we are good at head-first down mountains.  Well done to Amy Williams for winning Britain’s first winter Olympics gold since forever – she comes from Bath and her training track goes down the side of one the grassy hills that surround this most beautiful of cities.

Back to a local story and the strange case of the missing in action saviour of the world’s financial system – Islamic Banking.  Now I’m one of the millions that struggles with the concept of Islamic Banking but got very excited when I was told it means you won’t be charged interest on loans. As a result I was first in the Tamweel queue when I was thinking of buying a property.  I swotted up and listened very carefully and as a result discovered you pay profit rather than interest and the very sad news is the profit rate is set at about 100 times what you would expect to pay in interest.  Now we’re told Nakheel’s struggles to repay a 4.1bn Islamic bond in December were the result of the inherent risk aspects of Islamic banking.  Quoting from Arabian Business:

Islamic bonds, known as sukuk, are governed by Shariah laws, which ban the payment of interest and stipulates agreements be based on the transfer of goods or services. Commenting the chief executive officer of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Tirad Mahmoud, said “When you put a deposit with the bank, we don’t say, ‘This rate is what you are going to get.’ We say, ‘This is the expected profit rate. If anyone says there is profit without risks, they are not telling you the truth.”

For the full article click on: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/581583-adib-chief-islamic-banking-not-to-blame-for-nakheel-woes

On a less serious note (or so I thought when I first saw the story) was Andy Powell’s exploits in a golf buggy after the Wales v Scotland rugby international.  Now I remember the glorified stories of Willie John McBride’s 1974 Lions Tour when they trashed hotel rooms across NZ and invented the 99 call which was the signal for an all-in televised brawl (a sort of WWF but for real).  I’ve also been involved in various rugby tours which included behaviour such as borrowing a sheep from the local farmer and bedding it down for the night in the coach’s bedroom.  What made me smile were all of the old players pitching in to call Andy Powell an idiot for behaving like they used to do.  ‘People in glass houses shouldn’t take clothes off’ springs to mind.

For full details of Andy’s exploits click on: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/feb/14/andy-powell-golf-buggy-wales

To end in the traditional way here are my top five vocalists of all time.  I presume that you agree with my choices as I wasn’t contradicted last week.  Or do you…?

  • Ozzy Osbourne
  • Edwin Starr
  • Johnny Cash
  • Florence Prosser
  • Aretha Franklin

4 Comments

Filed under Observations

Filling the government’s coffers

So much went on last week that I don’t know where to start.  Having given it much thought I’ve decided to, once again, solve Dubai’s ills in a single dramatic stroke.  For those of you who will call for me to be pelted with eggs I’ve got a less controversial alternative.

I’m really sorry (for myself as well) but the UAE has to bite the bullet and introduce income tax – at this point I’ve ducked for cover as the first egg has come winging my way.  The simple fact is they have to raise money to extricate themselves from the mess that they’re in and stealth taxes sneaked in under the radar just give the legion of mini-moaners too many opportunities to stamp their foot and cry foul.  What I’m suggesting is a flat rate of 10% on all earnings over AED 10,000 a month, for example, if you earn AED 15,000 you will pay AED 500 a month in tax.  There will be those who baulk at this so let them get in a huff, pack their bags and get used to paying at least 30% (59% if you live in Denmark).

Now at the very beginning I mentioned an alternative and very cunning it is too.  An on the spot fine of AED 500 for everyone who uses a mobile phone while driving.  For all of you who are thinking this is a drop in the ocean I noticed 54% of the drivers waiting at a traffic light this morning were on their mobile.

With Dubai’s problems solved I’m tempted to get up take the applause and exit stage left.  Resisting this urge, Toyota’s troubles caught my attention.  I read news of the recalls with interest as I wanted to learn how the biggest car manufacturer in the world handled a crisis.  After all they probably employ the best, most expensive crisis management consultants in the world.  The sort of people that advised John Gummer that he should attempt to feed a hamburger to his four-year-old daughter Cordelia at the height of the mad cow scare.  Unless I’m missing something their initial response was to hide for as long as possible and hope it went away.  As we all know, this tactic doesn’t work as there is something called the press who love a good story involving people behaving badly.

Now, I’m not a PR expert but as I read the stories of Toyota owners’ scary experiences with stuck accelerator pedals I was a little put off buying a Toyota.  This state of mind existed right up until I heard an interview with a consultant on BBC World Service.  He said, and I nearly quote, he would still buy a Toyota because he knew what to do if the accelerator pedal stuck to the floor.  Now call me old-fashioned but my first instinct would be to buy a car where the accelerator pedal responds to what I wanted it to do.  Anyway, his solution was ingenious – if it happens, resist the urge to hit the brakes and stick the car into neutral.

Another a big event from last week was the launch of the first Massive Attack album for over 100 years.  On first listen courtesy of Spotify it sounded promising if a little bit like all of their other albums, which leads me nicely to this week’s top 5; best bands from Bristol.  Unfortunately I could only think of three (Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky) and if I widen the net to Bath I have to include Tears for Fears.  Taking my cue from Massive Attack I’ve decided to do the top 5 vocalists that I would like to hear on one of their tracks.

Gil Scott Heron

Bobby Womack

Matt Bellamy (Muse)

Lily Allen

Amy Winehouse

What would be your choice?  Ok, ok, all my blog readers in the South West can tell me their best 5 bands from Bristol.

Leave a comment

Filed under Observations