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Put Your Car to Work

September 14, 2010 – 1:35 pm

There has been a sudden splurge of car clubs over the last year - certainly in the London area.  A new idea has emerged in the car club vein, but this one allows you to borrow a neighbours car - for a fee - which basically gives a great source of cars to borrow and gives people who have cars but are not using them much a chance to make some money.

Formed in April 2010, WhipCar acts as a middle-man between the owner of a car and the person who wants to rent one.  They check all the cars that are being made available to rent to ensure that they are legitimate (actually belong to the person looking to rent it out and that the age and registration number of the vehicles are correct).  Similarly, checks are performed on the borrowers too.  No excessive driving license points tally or DD convictions allowed.

The idea is to allow those who don’t own a car, but who need one for occasional trips, to hire vehicles from those that do.

Car-owners can set their own prices but WhipCar give guidance as to how much to ask for.  Typical prices are about £8 an hour for a Vauxhall Astra type car up to £53 a day for your BMW 320i.  WhipCar arranges fully comprehensive insurance for both the lender and borrower for the hire.

Mensa Egg-heads to solve African Poverty

September 4, 2010 – 9:15 am

Mensa, the society for people who are good at IQ tests, have announced that they have been shining the beam of their collective intellect on some of the world’s most intractable problems, starting with African Poverty.

Entry to Mensa is strictly limited to those who can score in the top two percentiles on Cattell-type tests, and many like to imply that this correlates to useful human intelligence. Until now, Mensa’s most visible contribution to society has been providing puzzles for the newspapers, but after today’s announcement, it is hoped that might change.

Over the past few weeks, members of Mensa’s Global Problems Special Interest Group (GlobProb SIG) have been working together on African Poverty, and believe they have some interesting new insights.

GlobProb SIG leader, Jeff Horn, an IT consultant, summarised the issue as the process of turning ‘want’ into ‘have’. He explained, ‘we think we are able to do this in as few as three steps, changing only one letter at a time, and each time forming a new word. The answer is on page 45 of our findings.’

Another SIG member, IT consultant Justin Higgins, commented, ‘one of the first things we noticed when we sat down together was that I was sitting to the left of Jeff, but two spaces to the right of Gavin, so Tony had to sit between me and Gavin. And that you could find 30 four-sided shapes in the four-by-two lattice of the windows in the meeting room.

Other findings were that ‘African Poverty’ was an anagram of ‘Crave Profanity’ and ‘Frantic Overpay’, and that out of Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan, Chad was the odd one out, for having only one syllable.

Meetings have been held so far on the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 10th and 15th of this month, meaning that the next two meetings will of course be held on the 21st and 28th.

The group intends to release the full text of the findings just as soon as they figure out how to use the fax machine.  In the meantime they have invited others of very high intelligence to pay the £45 joining fee which will confirm how smart they are.’

(Thanks to our friends at NewsBiscuit for this article).

Attention - Drunks

March 10, 2010 – 12:49 pm

The Romanian village town of Pecica has a new approach to pedestrian safety and has set up some warning signs for motorists warning them of drunken pedestrians - the warning signs carrying the phrase “Cetateni Turmentati” translating to “Attention - Drunks” and picturing a pedestrian on his hands and knees with a bottle in his hand. It should be noted that attention to detail shows the drunk hasn’t actually spilled a drop.

The Mayor of Pecica - Peter Antal - said that the idea came after he visited town in Germany which did a similar thing. He said that after an alarming number of accidents involving rather annebriated people action had to be taken. He acknowledged that although the accidents are caused by the drunks, it is the motorists that need to take the precautions as the drunken pedestrians are “beyond caring”. The problem for the town essentially caused by a mixture the volume of traffic through the town and the towns vibrant nightlife, which sadly has resuled in fatalities.

Residents said they found the signs amusing.

What is “tax avoidance”?

March 8, 2010 – 12:55 pm

The government and its tax authorities are getting so short of cash that they have developed a special spin language to imply that not paying tax when the rules don’t require it is wrong, verging on immoral. Their key buzz word is “avoidance”, which is their technical mumbo jumbo meaning not paying tax where the law does not require you to pay tax. This is unfortunately (and dare I say deliberately) blurred with “evasion”, which is illegally failing to pay tax.

It could be argued that major accountants “tax planning” divisions shoulder much of the blame for bringing confusion between these two terms - just when a new piece of tax legislation comes along, these firms are quoted the following day with a multitude of ways of avoiding the measure.

As George Orwell knew, language defines the debate. The term “avoidance” plays right into the hands of HMRC. The correct phrase of course is “tax compliance” - it being rather unlikely for the government or HMRC to object to people engaging in “tax compliance”.

Breaking Wind

August 4, 2009 – 8:42 am

I was in the pub yesterday when I realized that I desperately needed to break wind.  Luckily, the music was really, really loud, so I timed my fart with the beat.

After a couple of songs, I started to feel better.  I finished my pint and noticed that everybody was staring at me.

Then I remembered - I was listening to my iPod.

Big Bad Boss

July 27, 2009 – 12:41 pm

Feeling a bit peeved off with your employer?  Time to get revenge and make some cash a the same time.  All you need to do is grass them up for their illegal copyright infringing activities.

It’ll probably be good for your blood pressure too.  Health, wealth and happiness.

Alabama Taliban Ban “Porn” Wine Label

July 27, 2009 – 11:54 am

Alabama Beverage Control Board saw fit this week to ban a wine product from restaurants and retail establishments becuase it believes the label on the bottle to be pornographic. 

The offending label is pictured here at great risk to myself for displaying such “filth” on my website.  ;-)

Bill Leigon, President of Hahn Family Wines which produces Cycles Gladiator Wine had a different view point saying that the label “bears a replica of an antique French poster created in 1895 to advertise bicycles. It features an artistic rendition of a nude woman flying alongside a bicycle across a star-filled night sky.”

“To say that this wine label is pornographic is ridiculous,” Leigon said, “It’s a classic piece of art from the late 1800s and originals are sold for as much as $50,000.” The winery has decided to pull the brand from Alabama rather than revise the label. “It’s not a pornographic label, we are not going to change it, we are going to withdraw from the state and it’s a shame that the citizens of Alabama are going to lose the opportunity to enjoy our delicious wines.”

Stephen Fry - the Game?

July 16, 2009 – 9:49 pm

“Lawks - I’m a game! I’m so honoured I’m in danger of succumbing to a spasm.” The words of Stephen Fry when he discovered that Glasgow based games developers T-Enterprise had created a game inspired by Fry’s illegal download of the popular Hugh Laurie TV show House.

Read the rest of this entry »

Do you Twitter?

July 8, 2009 – 2:23 pm

Recently I have been looking into this whole Twitter phenomenon that’s hit the globe. One problem I had was that it seemed like an ideal candidate for having on a mobile phone, but using the web interface was a bit combersome.

Luckily I stumbled upon Twikini.

Twikini is a Twitter application that runs on Windows Mobile devices and provides an excellent interface to the world of Twitter. You can post your own updates (a bit of a basic!), set your location, reply, retweet, mark as favourite and even email other people’s tweets. Additionally, it has an interface to the phone’s camera and uses Twitpic to Tweet pictures pretty seamlessly.

Another great selling point for this application is that it seems to have rather a small footprint (for those non techy people out there, basically the program is pretty small and when it is running it takes up relatively little of your phones memory) which is pretty important to me.  It also loads very quickly - so quite quickly after powering up your phone, you can be tweeting ’till your heart’s content.

Twikini can be downloaded direct to your phone from here, or you can visit the product’s website.

Why is soup so filling?

May 27, 2009 – 1:23 pm

It’s been known for generations that soup can be filling - but have you ever thought about why? I mean take the ingredients of soup and have them as a meal - it’s just not as filling as having the soup itself. What I mean is cook a handful of veg (say) and drink a glass of water, and it will be less filling than if you were to cook the veg in the water and blend it down into a soup.

So why?

The answer is in the stomach. In an investigation into this, researchers have found using MRI scans and ultrasound, that after you eat a meal the valve at the bottom of the stomach (phloric sphincter) holds back food so that it can be digested. So with your two meals (the cooked veg with a glass of water vs the veg soup) both are held back to be digested - with the exception of the glass of water which the valve allows to pass straight through. The result is that eating the soup leaves a greater “bulk” in the stomach, which takes longer to be cleared that the veg and water equivalent.

When the stomach empties, calls in the stomach wall release a hormone called ghrelin. This hormone causes you to feel hungry and makes you want to have something to eat. So, by eating soup, you stay “full” for longer, this hormone is delayed in its release by up to an hour and a half and therefore you don’t feel hungry for longer.

A great practical application of this is if you wanted to eat less (say to lose weight). Eat soup.