All entries for June 2006

June 28, 2006

Clothes swap….for men!

Writing about web page /caseyleaver/entry/clothes_swap_party/

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

I was thinking we men should have our own versions of Casey's Clothes swap.

Then I realised it wouldn't be much fun swapping 30 identical pairs of blue jeans, 30 plain t–tshirts, 30 vaguely similar pairs of trainers and/or regulation black shoes.

Oh, and don't forget the standard issue white shirts and dull ties.

Hurrumph.


June 26, 2006

A 'paradigm–change' in lazy PR

Writing about web page http://www.prweb.com/releases/2006/6/prweb403544.htm

Uggh – I didn't know people still used phrases like

"even more excited by their next paradigm-changing solution for retailers"

Sounds like the worst sort of BS generated renta–quote.

Also in the same release:

"available exclusively from the media geniuses at Izly Ltd,"

What self–referential guff.

Horrid horrid horrid


Lessons learned for England

Ok, so this is what I reckon we learned from the game against Ecuador.

1. Ashley Cole is coming back into form and played a blinder – thank f**k for that.

2. Robinson does not seem to be the world class keeper we were lead to believe he was (though to be fair he has not had much to do over the last 4 games)

3. (and I never thought I'd say this) Hargreaves seems to be delivering on the pitch rather than just on paper. A better replacement for Neville than Carragher who would be better employed at the centre of the back 4 rather than on the right

4. If we play 4–1–4–1 we need to make sure we get ball to feet rather than still playing as if Peter Crouch was up front rather than Rooney. The number of times England pinged the ball high to the front man only to see it go to the opposition was depressing. Every time Robinson kicked it forward rather than passing it into midfield we cried with frustration. The formation depends on passing through a team – not passing over a team.

5. Lampard has not turned up. Will the real Frank Lampard please stand up. What is wrong with the lad. Better move Beckham into the middle and put Lennon on the right…

6. Lennon and J. Cole are the major threats at the moment. Boy, did Lennon look good on the ball. Both he and Cole have been the most threatening players for England so far. Gerrard seems to labour in obscurity when he plays with Lamps, so with the above point in mind – drop Lamps, stick Beckham in the middle (for his free kicks), let Gerrard roam forward to support Rooney with Becks hanging back to provide the incisive pass with Lennon and Cole marauding up the wings.

7. Carrick looked solid enough

8. Terry had a bit of a mare, but I would still support his inclusion thanks to his mammoth defending in the previous 3 games.

9. We will get beaten by better teams at the moment

10. We have to thank our lucky stars that Portugal lost three key players last night to injury or suspension – phew…

11. but…. the other Portuguese players are still rather good, and let's not forget the presence of Big Phil

12. Sven needs to learn to drop players – remember everyone thought it would be Jimmy Greaves leading England to victory in '66 only for him to be dropped. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the individual for the good of the team.


June 23, 2006

Whaling and the ethics of meat

The debate on Whaling recently has interested me in terms of the ethics of eating meat – a subject I am fairly passionate about.

You see, there is a great deal of unease for many people, and I include myself here, about the idea of eating whale meat. However, if I hold true to my statements on meat–eating then I should have no problem with chewing a hunk of blue whale, right?

Well, no actually – and I am not sure why.

Let's take the first comment – many whales are endangered species and so to fish for them would be threatening their very existence. Ok, I am fine with this and am happy to say no to eating whale in this instance, and would apply the same rule to any animal or plant – if it's endangered then it's a no–no. Cod is a good example of something I look to avoid as the fish stocks have taken a hammering.

However, this lead me to my next thought, if it is not endangered, is it then ok? If the whale population is big enough to sustainably fish then by my reckoning we should be all enjoying juicy whale steaks.

Hmmmm. Not so easy now – I don't know if it is my western tastes imposing themselves here but I still feel uncomfortable about this. Perhaps I expose myself as a horrendous hypocrite here. Is it because I am unprepared to eat something widely recognised as a beautiful and intelligent creature? Well, pigs are pretty smart and I eat those. Pheasants and Deer are beautiful (pretty dumb though…) and I eat those. So why am I reticent about eating whale, or for that matter dolphin.

Is there a distinction between animals farmed and those in the wild that I feel is a problem – well, I'll eat wild boar, fish, pigeon and other game – so that's not it.

Perhaps this is all cultural and if I sat in a Japanese restaurant and was presented with a hunk 'o' Minki I would I would shrug and tuck in.

I just don't know as yet. If I am to stick to the principles discussed in previous posts then by all rights I will pick up the knife and fork and go for it. I am just not sure I am quite ready to take that challenge.

(no doubt, the whales aren't lining up to test me yet either!)


June 22, 2006

Wine lakes

There is a lot of debate in the press today about the EU's decision to grapple with the overproduction of wine.

The problems that face the european wine industry have been well known for quite a while and it will be interesting to see how the EU plans to tackle the issue.

There are many reasons for the current situation – falling markets for european wine; strong competition from New World producers free of the shackles of over–regulation and restrictive practices; the changing tastes of traditional export markets for wine; the intransigence of certain nations to adapt and change.

It's worth a bit of history at this point.

The EU wine legislation is based on a system of controls introduced by the French that was orginally designed to act as a gaurantee of authenticity. At the time there were many dodgy outfits churning out cheap crap and selling it as the finest claret. The AC system was introduced to try and provide an element of authentication for wine so that consumers could buy a bottle in the knowledge that it was what it said on the tin.

Over the years the AC laws have grown to lay down what you could grow, how you grew it, how you made the wine and what you could say about it.

The system was not designed as a system of ensuring quality, just the geographical source and production methods used. The difficulty is that the AC rules have become associated with 'quality' but that there is nothing really that says any given AC actually acheives any particular standard.

The problem for Europe is that the system has stifled innovation and that the New World producers who can operate outside of such regulation have been able to experiment and drive markets in a way that European winemakers have struggled to do.

In Italy, for example, a number of Tuscan winemakers had to spend years outside of the AOC system making very high quality wine that had to be labelled 'Table Wine' because they didn't fit the rules. In the end a new designation of 'IGT' was established in recognition that the wines were out–performing many AOC wines – both in terms of quality and price.

The difficulty here I guess is that in the EU the debate is always – how can we change the system, how can we ammend the regulations – never how can we improve the wine.

At the heart of this dilemma is the idea of craftsmenship and industry. For the big New World brands wine is an industry, in Europe it's more often treated as a craft – full of tradition and methods of practice that only change slowly.

And here I am going to now leap to the defence of the AC system – without it Europe would no doubt have lost many rare varities, many great wines and the kind of cultural and regional differentiation that makes European wine truly great and interesting for the connesiuer. You can argue that the current situation is about fashion – that people will come round again to the european way of making wine. I dread to think of the damage that could be done to the heritage and art of winemaking by chasing the market demand for fruity plonk.

Waiting for the market to come round to your way of thinking is a dangerous business practice, however. Europe has to change its wine laws to survive. The Australian and Californian experience demonstrates that you can have both mass–market industry and innovation alongside specialist producers of high quality product. Europe needs to acknowledge that its markets have changed and they need to change with them.

This has rambled a lot and I am not sure I can draw any conclusions as to how to go forward. My brain says business demands that you meet the needs of the market. My heart says wine is special – it's an art, a craft of generations that should be protected and celebrated.

Having said that I am not the average consumer – my wine purchases tend to be £10+ and I would not balk at paying an awful lot more for a bottle. I am the kind of person who sees a bottle of Mouton Rothschild for £250 and thinks – hmm, that's a good price. In the end I am not the type of consumer who is going to decide the future of european winemaking – that will be in the hands of the sub £5 brigade filling the aisles of Tescos.

Damn this is difficult problem…


June 21, 2006

For Sale! Dining table and 4 chairs

For sale – dining table and 4 chairs.

Dining Table

Chairs have blue cloth seats.

All yours for £115 – reasonable offers accepted.

Buyer collects.

WarwickBlogs gets first refusal before I eBay this.

(note that the nice bowl is not included)


June 20, 2006

Advice for graduates entering the workplace #2

Accountancy is not a career – it's a lifestlye choice.

Advice for graduates entering the workplace #1

Comic sans is not a good font for reports, presentations or in fact anything else.

Nor is it a good idea to use the script font to 'sign' your emails.

These things suck and will make you look like an eejit.


Motivational Theory #1

"No matter how crappy things seem, be thankful you're not in Swindon"

(nb. if you are in Swindon then no power on Earth can help you…)


June 16, 2006

England fans – who do you fear?

So, we are into the second round of group stage games. Having seen all the teams in the competition who do England fans fear – who looks like a contender?

On current performance I think England have a lot to be worried about. There are quite a few teams with more pace and purpose than us at the moment. If we can't find a way to let our midfield boss the game then I fear for the worst.

I worry about Ecuador who look pretty tough – more resiliant than Germany, though would you want to play the Germans on their home turf?

Spain look pretty hot as do the Czechs. As for France and Brazil – BRING 'EM ON!

Seriously though – this is looking like the most open and competative world cup in years. It is also the most attacking, though it saddens me that England seem to be playing the defensive minded game more commonly associated with the Italians of the 80s and 90s rather than the expansive fast game we know and love.

A note on Rooney and why he is so important (and Lennon too) – the T&T coach said at half time that the England movement was very predictable. This is the problem with Crouch and Owen at the moment – they run in straight predictable lines, staying in the channels. This is easy for defenders to deal with.

Rooney runs across defenses and moves in a way that pulls people out of position – he is a lot less predictable and creates spaces for the likes of Beckham, Lampard and Gerrard to do their thang. Lennon did the same thing, pulling the T&T defense towards the corner and giving both Beckham and Gerrard the space and time to make an impact.

You have to be disruptive at this level – disruption and confusion is what creates opportunity. Predictable lines and pedestrian pace is all too easy to defend against.

And just to pimp my podcast sideline a little – link

I think I might go back to Henry after the group stage and see how his predictions stack up – France and Brazil not looking so hot now huh!


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