Sunday, November 27, 2005

License to Bore.

Well, my previous prediction of an epic alcohol-fueled crime wave was wrong. At least for Cambridge. It seems that most pubs in Cambridge couldn't be bothered to extend their opening hours. The few places that have applied for extended hours only applied for a one hour extention, until midnight. So nothing has changed, really. This is such typical Cambridge nonsense. Even when they're freed from the overbearing hand of the University (which has managed to scuttle plans for a bowling alley for three years because it would "distract the students") bars and pubs are still fearful of extending their hours. In this town, it doesn't pay to be on the University's bad side. And for that reason alone, the new licensing laws have had essentially no effect in Cambridge.

It's All Our Fault.

Recall, if you will, my rantings about Cambridge JobCentre Plus. Oh, those wasted hours spent with busy signals and unanswered calls. Well, it seems that I wasn't the only one. According to a BBC report, nearly two thirds of all calls to JobCentre went unanswered during the months of April - September. The culprit? Us:

ONE million callers to a new automated phone line for benefit claims failed to get through over the course of six months earlier this year.

The CMS system, operated for Jobcentre Plus by the US computer company EDS, allows people to register their details before being called back days later by an official to go through their application in full.

But a BBC investigation found that about one third of calls to the computerised lines between April and September went unanswered, with the proportion of unanswered calls rising to two-thirds at a call centre in Sheffield.

Apologies to the British bureaucracy. That'll teach them to do business with a bunch of bloody yanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Servings of caffeinated beverages I have consumed while living in the UK:

Coffee: Approx. 500
Tea: 4

Currently consuming tea number five, the first I've actually brewed myself. I think there's something to be said for tea. It's more of a comfort beverage than coffee, and the tea brewing process itself is actually quite soothing. First you boil water, then pour it over the tea, wait five minutes, add sugar and milk to taste. The whole process takes about ten minues, and for this reason tea drinking would never work well in the United States. Tea is a productivity nightmare. The process takes far too much time and contributes nothing to the economy, and the end result is more soothing than stimulating.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Winter Has Arrived.

There's been frost on the ground every morning since Tuesday. The days are growing shorter up here, eight degrees south of the Arctic Circle. There are long shadows at midday, and the sun sets at 4:30 in the afternoon. It's been an unprecedented week of no wind and no rain, and it's forecast to continue on like this well into next week.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pub chucking-up time.

Britain has a drinking problem. As countries go, it's like the pleasant co-worker who's great fun until he's had one too many, at which point he'll start telling you his interesting views on minorities, demands to know why you're looking at him like that, and then fall off his bar stool whilst attempting to attack you for saying imagined nasty things about his mother.
11:10 PM, any night of the week. This is when the chaos begins. Ten minutes ago, every pub in the land threw all of its patrons out into the street. Some of them will stumble off home, but some of them won't. For them, it's too late to call it an early night and too early to go home, and so what's a bored, half-drunk, semi-employed football hooligan to do? On a good night, he might careen down the street singing some godawful modern britpop drinking song ("I GEH KNOKH DHAHAHA BAGGHH AGHH GEEH UH AGAEEEH!") whilst stealing the lids from the rubbish bins on my street. On a bad night, he'll vomit, then break something, then break someone. Frequently it'll be another drunken moron that gets broken, but it isn't rare for innocent bystanders to be attacked.

So now the government has decided to change the licensing laws, allowing pubs and bars to stay open much later. Starting next Thursday, local councils will be able to regulate the pubs in any way they like. In many areas, this will result in pubs staying open until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Keeping the pubs open longer, the theory goes, will reduce binge drinking and violence, thus restoring a modicum of order to the lawless, yob-ridden city centres of Britain.

Allow me to explain: The 11:00 closing time for pubs means that you've got to do all of your drinking for the night before that time. That means drinking quickly. Drinking quickly gets you very drunk. Generally the Brits also do their drinking before dinner (restaurants stay open later than pubs.) So they're getting drunk on an empty stomach. The idea is that extending the opening hours of pubs reduces the need of the clientele to drink quickly, thus reducing the drunkenness, spreading out departure times, and avoiding the roving drunken mobs that appear everywhere immediately at 11 o'clock.

This brilliant idea has the potential to do more damage to Britain than anything since the plauge. And I support it wholeheartedly. My reasoning is fairly simple:
Most people will adapt to this just fine. Those who aren't raging alcoholics are unlikely to become AA case-studies because of the rule changes. But the yobs won't adapt. They won't slow down. Suddenly freed from the confines of the 11:00PM alcohol curfew, they will simply drink at a high rate for longer periods of time. The drunken rioting will worsen... for a while. But then something wonderful will happen. Many of the hardcore violent drinkers will die of alcohol poisoning or be beaten to death by the mobs of angry neighbors and overworked police that will soon surround every pub and bar. Many more will simply slash each other to pieces with broken bottles. Few innocents will be killed, because everyone will be too frightened to leave the house. I figure there will be a two to three month crime wave of epic porprotions until this sorts itself out. Then perhaps the rest of us can get some peace.

Unfortunately, all of this comes too late the rubbish bin lids of every house between 55 and 127 Hills Road. They are forever lost.

Six to Twelve Weeks My Ass.

It just doesn't make sense. It took exactly two weeks for DWP to deliver my NI number. Which means that they did nothing whatsoever with my application, aside from stamping APPROVED across it in large block letters. What happened to this business of my proof-of-work being insufficient? What about the discrepancies between the explanations of my travel dates and the information on my passport? I could be a murdering benefits fraud terrorist, for all the government knows. Not that I'm complaining.

Continental Yurp.

So now I've posted the pictures from my trips to Europe, but haven't said much about these lovely adventures. There is a good reason for this, aside from general laziness. The problem is that any time I try to go beyond β€œit was pretty,” I end up rambling about the psychology of the Holocaust and the idiocy of the European Superstate, so for now you'll have to settle for this:
Europe – It was pretty. But the food was not as good as I'd hoped.

If it ain't Baroque...

Here are some as-yet-unlabeled pictures from Germany and Austria, wherein Nong cavorts with a cardboard cut-out of Mozart, and musical instruments are abused by German tour guides. And this definitely ought to be the basis for some sort of inspirational "Praise Jesus" poster.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Photos from my recent trip to Barcelona are here.

I'll write more about Barcelona when I've got a chance. Pictures from Germany and Austria will be here soon!