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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Cats that look like Hitler


May I introduce you to an excellent website. I first looked at it after they reviewed it on the BBC's Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

www.catsthatlooklikehitler.com really amused me. To think that there are so many cats that look like Hitler amuses me somehow.

Can they not let someone else have a go?

I'm in France this weekend and by all accounts the French are going a bit mad for sport. They have reached the World Cup Final fairly unexpectedly and now the lesbian-grunting Amelie Mauresmo has reached the Wimbledon final. They also have the Tour de France this week. I'll be watching the World Cup final somewhere in Paris this weekend and hopefully there will be pictures to follow - my guess is that the French will be celebrating.

All credit to them though. The French are doing very well at the moment in everything. Britain inevitably compares its sporting success to its neighbour with an almost identical population but I don't think I would swap all this sporting success for the 2012 Olympics that London beat Paris for 12 months ago.

With England out of the World Cup in the quarter-final I didn't know who I wanted to win. Could they not all lose?

The Germans have really grown on me during this tournament. Obviously I have not been over but I them going out actually brought a certain amount of sadness which I never thought would happen!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Amsterdam

I've just got back from a midweek trip to Amsterdam - well I say just, I actually got back on Friday but I felt I needed a bit of a rest. We flew out from the brand new snazzy Doncaster airport on Tuesday morning.

I thought I would use this as a picture post but then I looked back and I didn't have any pictures of the city. I don't know how it happened but this is the best of a bad bunch. I hope some of my friends have got some pics so I can add to them. Please bare with me on the picture post thing:



Kate on the top and the sexy Sue(bottom)



There's me on there looking all happy and the lovely Liz asleep on the plane.



We booked to stay on the hostelboat Anna Maria II. We had read the reviews and it basically said that it was clean and cosy which is fine for about £17 a night. What we didn't anticipate was the acrobatics that we had to display to get around the boat. We had to fit two rather large lesbian ladies through what looked like midget doors and to get to our room (and vice versa to the shower/toilet) had to walk along the narrow edge of the boat and climb over the egde but we managed it anyway.

One of the more amusing moments of the holiday was when Liz was sat out on the top deck of the boat having a fag and Sue went to the toilet - Liz then looked down and saw what can only be described as Sue's brown fish. It was pretty disgusting that the place pumps raw sewage out into the river but only us would find it amusing and not want to leave - no-one else seemed to have noticed and I'm sure it can't be legal. The pic below surely can't be legal either? Amazingly the censored version and that was my view when I woke up in the morning.

Liz's muff.

We tried out some cultural stuff like the Rijksmuseumm which is full of Rembrandt's and Dutch history kinda paintings which was good apart from the weird bit at the end where they lit up a painting and started trying to bring it to life with music and lights - they should keep trying on that one. It was also a bit more fairly priced at 10 euros than the Van Gogh museum which we had originally gone to see which was a whopping 20 euros.

The Red Light district was good fun. Liz's face was a picture when she first saw a prostitute - it was sort of a cross between shock and glee. She was also convinced that some of the prostitutes fancied her but I think that is doubtful. The erotic museum was much fun with a twisted Snow White area with a sexual version and a fetish room at the top where you could take your own pictures and a (plastic) woman wees on your head in a bizarre water feature.

The bars and stuff were ok but I think we missed out a bit because we went in midweek - there would probably have been more on at the weekend.

The cities streets and canals are charming and I genuinely could have spent much longer there which is rare for me to say because I usually get bored quite easily. The coffee shops (no coffee sold) were an experience and Liz particularly enjoyed the Ben & Jerry's cafe. We went there on the day of the England v Trinidad & Tobago World Cup game and had our faces painted red and white, and we watched the game in a packed English pub. It was a great way to watch the game and made Peter Crouch's late header all the sweeter.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Net helps to open Belarus' curtains

A while back, for my assessment work at uni I contacted some bloggers to ask for their opinions on the impact of the internet on the Belarussian elections. I hadn't been able to publish the article on the blog until all the marking procedures were done with, but they're all done now so as promised, here it is:

A quiet revolution has been stirring in Minsk. The US labelled Alexander Lukashenko’s regime the “last true dictatorship in Europe” and called for change in Belarus. After years of media repression there’s a new way of communication that has made a difference to those who want reform.

Communities of opposition activists have been building on internet sites like LiveJournal, Blogger and Flickr, which provide a crucial way to get around the barriers that Lukashenko put in place.

Television, radio and newspapers are under state control so follow Lukashenko’s every word, and in his twelve-year rule he has almost entirely abolished independent media.

Despite this, on 19th March President Lukashenko received 82.6% in the presidential election, but the results have been rejected by many Western nations. The US and EU placed travel and financial penalties on the former Soviet republic after an estimated 500 people were detained by the authorities following a five-day protest against the poll.

Including those arrested were Mariusz Maszkiewicz, a former Polish ambassador to Belarus and Alexander Kozulin, a runner-up in the election. It is widely believed that riot police used unnecessary violence and tear gas in their response to the protests.

Foreign journalists from Poland and Ukraine who attempted to report the election from inside the country were also targeted and detained while other foreign reporters have been expelled.

But internet groups like the one on LiveJournal have helped to galvanise protesters against the regime. During the protests thousands of people gathered at Oktyabrskaya Square in Minsk in a small ‘tent city’ to protest the fraudulent presidential election, demand a new vote and support the opposition. The state-owned media either ignored or misrepresented the protest, and much of the virtual discussion took place in Belarusian LiveJournal communities.

Veronica Khokhlova, who translated LiveJournal posts from Belarussian to English on globalvoicesonline.org, said: “I think that the internet has been very important for the activists and that the lack of access to information has played a very negative role in the election.

“LiveJournal and its communities have been a way to coordinate many activities; they serve as a means to spread information but also provide certain anonymity which means relative safety [from government forces].”

Surveys suggest that just 18 percent of Belarussian people have access to the internet either at home or at work, which means that less than two million of Belarus’ ten million citizens have access to the internet.

But at the end of 2005 it was estimated by the Belarussian Association of Journalists that the total circulation of independent press was just 200,000, meaning that the internet could potentially have twenty times the audience as the independent press.

Sales of independent newspapers became even more difficult in the run up to the election with subscriptions banned, newspaper kiosks ordered not to stock them and tens of thousands of copies seized. But the internet has given a lifeline to the oppressed campaigners.

“Though it is hard to estimate how many of those who are using the internet are seeking or finding political information there, even with a rather small portion this should mean that the internet is of an importance which is comparable to that of the printed independent press” said Belarus blogger Tobias Ljungvall.

News websites such as Charter-97, which is available in Belarussian, English and Russian, led the online campaign for democracy. The website had a banner across the top of the website reading ‘we want a new one!’ referring to the election. The words are printed against denim – the material that protesters hoped would be the symbol for the ‘denim revolution’.

However, a revolution similar to that of the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine in November 2004 is unlikely to happen in Belarus after the election which Lukashenko still insists was fair.

Although at its height protesters numbered around 10,000, bitter winter temperatures and a fear of the regime saw numbers dwindle to around 1,000 who were dispersed with force. The Belarussian army may have been able to move 1,000 people away from the main square but they might have had more trouble displacing the 50,000 assembled in Kiev.

The Belarussian elections got a few headlines in the West, but reporting was largely speculative and nothing on the scale of the Ukrainian elections in 2004. For a country of a similar size and facing similar democratic problems the coverage in the UK has been poor.

Other internet news sites such as Belorusskiye Novosti, Belorusskiy Partizan and the br23.net blog which operates in English and Belarussian have provided some news and reports on the human rights violations in Belarus but much is based on rumour and personal reports rather than traditional journalistic news writing and facts.

The internet is not as free as you might believe in Belarus. Independent websites have complained of attempts to censor and block them so many of the sites are hosted abroad to bypass the censorship.

Since the protests have quietened following the arrests, users on LiveJournal have continued to stage smaller acts of defiance including urging for readers to honk their horns as they pass Oktyabrskaya Square, wear black and hang black ribbon out of their windows at Lukashenko’s coronation. LJ user ‘hondurazian’ suggested that people let free paper origami boats with messages at the Svisloch River embankment.

Experts are unsure as to how much impact the internet has had on Belarus. It is doubtful that if another entirely democratic election were to be held tomorrow then Lukashenko would lose. But if the kind of press freedom that other Soviet states have got can’t be achieved in Belarus then the internet could just be the way to spread knowledge and lead to his downfall in the future.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Update

I've not posted for a few days because I've been busy with a number of things.

Last week was the end of my deadlines for uni so I was busy finishing off those and this week I have gone back to the hospital I worked in before to do some more note-taking at boardroom level. It's pretty grim at the moment with the workforce review but Chesterfield are coping better than most hospitals, despite the cut in nursing staff.

The best news of the week is that I had the cast off my foot. I went in on Monday morning to have it taken off and it was just minging underneath and I had to go up to start work just after! The consultant told me that I would need to use my crutches for another couple of weeks while the muscles in my foot strengthen again but in reality I hadn't been using crutches for three weeks anyway and I wasn't about to start then.

I soon found that I was just carrying around my crutches though so I took them back to the stores and I'm walking around fairly normally now.

More good news is that I have a job for the summer. It's at an electrical wholesalers near my house in Chesterfield and I'm working for the finance director in there. It doesn't look like the stuff I have done before but I'm sure I'm more than capable. The money is a bit crap but the hours are 12 - 4.30 so I'll still be able to have a good social life - what else do I do between 12 and 4.30 apart from watch Deal or no Deal?!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Out and about


Today was the first time I've been out and been entirely independent on a trip to town since I broke my foot. My walking is much better and I just want to get the damn cast off now - which is happening next Monday.

I had to go into town today for a job interview. The job I expected to have is the one that I had last summer as a Public Relations Support Officer at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, but my position has fallen foul to the NHS budget cuts. I would have felt bad taking a nurse's job but I'm not too happy with Tony B for doing this in the first place. Chesterfield Royal was one of the best performing hospitals in the country and now are having to make cuts for the sake of other crap hospitals over the UK. It's really bad for staff morale and I don't know how they can make cuts like this after the progress that has been made.

One scheme that Tony has funded is free public transport for the over 65s. It's a really nice idea in theory and probably a vote-winner with the greys but in practice it really doesn't work. My interview was at 9.30 in Chesterfield town centre and at 9.24 a big Jamaican pensioner came onto the bus bigging it up. OAPs get free bus travel after 9.30 and the traffic lights changed three times before she had finished arguing over the time, and whether she should have to pay the 35 pence fare up to the hospital. In the end she decided to pay a smaller fare to get just to the town centre but I was a bit miffed as I probably have even less money than her as a student and had to pay £1.20 for a mile trip.

I had my interview and there was almost Russian like bureaucracy with the amount of paperwork I had to fill in. The annoying secretary looked very confused when I handed over my British passport with a Russian visa in - I left her with that confusion.

My interview went fine and I went over to the job centre. It was Monday morning and the town's unemployable had come out again in the vain hope of finding work. I had always found the job centre quite helpful before but the butch lesbian that stopped me on the way in today was quite rude and told me to go and use the phone instead of impeding the helpless, obviously not in those words.

I don't know what the point of this post is. I guess I'm a bit mad that I'm job hunting for the fourth summer in a row. Employers are really hostile towards students and it's not easy to get work. I definitely need some but it looks like another summer of crappy office work for me - and that's if I'm lucky.

I really enjoyed my job at the hospital last summer so I'm a bit gutted that that has fallen through because I thought it was almost a cert. The woman on the bus annoyed me too - besides making me late for my interview I suppose there are further political problems with the government spending money on things that are nice but unnecessary (free buses) but making cuts on something which is entirely necessary and in need of more, not less funding (NHS).

cheesy pic from ebullpen.com

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Chavtastic


President Chavez has announced that he is coming on a private visit to the UK. No it's not the king of chavs but Venezuela's left-wing, verging on dictatorship Hugo Chavez.

Chavez has been a fierce critic of the US who want him out, and doesn't like Tony Blair too much (but we won't hold that against him). Chavez is meeting up with London mayor Ken Livingstone and I just hope it's not another George Galloway/Saddam moment.

I speak to a few young Venezuelans online and they generally think Mr Chavez is a nasty piece of work. Not quite evil but the elections are rigged and the country is still poverty stricken despite its vast oil reserves.

This could be a bit of a PR blunder. Maybe we should hire the same PR company as Russia?!

Pic from home.pages.at

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

An hour in a wheelchair

I am coping quite well with my broken foot. I haven't touched my crutches in a week and my friends have been really good with taking me out in their cars and stuff. I can walk quite freely on it now, although it hurts when I go a long way because the cast rubs against my toes; so much so that I nearly shoved Suzanne's (unused) tampon down it the other night to stop the rubbing!

Anyway, on a trip to Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield I went and got a wheelchair because it's quite big and I didn't fancy walking when I could be pushed. It proved to be a really enlightening experience.

The man behind the desk offered me either one that could be pushed or one that I could operate myself so I thought I'd have a go at the one I could operate. My dreams of some amazing electric wheelchair with a gearstick were quickly dashed when he brought out one where I had to turn the wheels.

I soon got the hang of it but a number of things struck me. It's just so awkward! Everything is a chore and you can't browse shops at your leisure. You can just about do it if you know what you want and where you have to go for it but it's not easy.

Some of the shops are so packed that you can't get round the displays and you have to reverse and go the long way round. If you want to look for your size in clothes you literally have to put yourself into them to try and get to the back of the rail - then they all fall off and you end up looking an idiot.

Also, when I was in HMV I wanted to look at the Knarls Barkley single at number one but I couldn't reach it -I could only reach number three, and I didn't want Beatfreakz! You also regularly get in other shopper's way, they get in your way and you have to turn round and go back. It's all very impractical and this is at one of the country's leading shopping centre's, that prides itself of their disabled facilities. It's not Meadowhall that's the problem - it's the displays in the shops. I don't know how wheelchair users would cope on the cobbles in Chesterfield.

I could see how it could work if they had a shop for people in wheelchairs with wide aisles, easy to reach clothes rails and large changing rooms - that might make a fortune because people in wheelchairs would flock to it! You heard it here first....

I tried to do as much as I could myself but Paul insisted on pushing me in the shops. At one point I thought he was pushing me, but actually he wasn't and it was just a slope. I went flying down the corridor like Tanni Grey-Thompson and it was rather difficult to stop - no wonder people in wheelchairs usually take it steady. I think I'll leave you with that image.