Saturday, January 26, 2008

Structured Settlements

This is a little understood part of the financial world, the way in wihch you can sell a structured settlement. Another word for the same practice (although with subtle differences) is viaticals.

OK, so that's made no sense to anyone at all. Think of it this way. You get an insurance payout say, or have a pension being paid to you perhaps. But instead of that weekly or monthly check you'd prefer to have the money in one lump sum now. A more formal description is here.

Essentially what you're doing is trading a stream of payments for a lump sum now. The buyer of the stream of payments and the provider of the lump sum is doing the opposite of course. Again, you can click here for more details.

But if this is something that you want to do how do you actually go about it? How do you make sure that you're getting a good deal? One suggestion would be that you start with Settlement Quotes LLC. Click through there to see their site. If you tell them of the details of your structured settlement they'll be able to get you quotes on what the lump sum will be.

Thomas Delgado

No, really, this is taking the piss. He cannot be serious about this, can he? Really?

A Spanish driver who collided with a cyclist is suing the dead youth's family $29,300 for the damage the impact of his body did to his luxury car, a Spanish newspaper reported on Friday.

Businessman Tomas Delgado says 17-year-old Enaitz Iriondo caused $20,500 of damage to his Audi A8 in the fatal 2004 crash in La Rioja region, the El Pais newspaper reported.

Delgado, who has faced no criminal charges for the incident, wants a further 6,000 euros to cover the cost of hiring another vehicle while his car was being repaired, El Pais said.

The youth had been cycling alone at night without reflective clothing or a helmet, according to a police report cited by El Pais.

I mean I laughed when I read it: but not that funny laughter, that one you get when someone tells you a good joke.

No, the disgusted kind, the "Awwww, noooo" and then a chuckle. It's not enough to kill the kid (and the driover has already been found at fault for driving too fast that night), he's claiming damages about the incident. He might even have a case in law but no, this is simply not the behaviour of a gentleman.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Truth About Martial Arts

Now this really looks rather interesting, a site that attempts to tell us the truth about martial arts. Put out of your mind for a moment all that rubbish about Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, unless you're willing to spend 15-20 years training up you're not going to get anywhere near to that level of skill: and you certainly won't be able to do retakes like they could.

So a much more sensible idea would be to take a free road test of the close combat training system offered by world expert Chris Prizzo. He's a world leader in self defense (which is of course what you want to know about. You're not interested in balletic kicks and makingyourself look good, you want to know how to disable an attacker for long enough that you can get away) and as I sway, you can test his system for free just by clicking through one of those links.

So why not try it out? Captain Chris' close combat, nothing to lose and a great deal to gain.


So, you're a convicted car thief and joyrider. You've got to go to a special class for convicted car thieves and joyriders. Yes? Got the basic set up? It's also freezing cold out there and you've got no transport except shank's pony. So, what do you do? Got it yet?

A group of teenage car thieves took a joy ride to a court-ordered counseling program aimed to keep them away from stealing cars, Winnipeg police said on Tuesday.

The four suspects, aged 16 and 17, were attending the counseling program in the Canadian prairie city as part of a court order relating to previous auto thefts, said Detective Sergeant Kevin Kavitch of the city's stolen-autos unit.

A local newspaper suggested the teens had stolen the car because it was "too cold to walk" to their court ordered training program, although Kavitch described it as a crime of opportunity. Winnipeg daytime temperatures dipped to -40 degrees Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit) last week, with wind chill.

Yup, that's right, you steal a car to go to your class on how much of a naughty buy you are for stealing cars.

Honestly, some people.

Matchmaking Service Reviews

Yes, we've all got used to using internet personals to spice up the possibilities of our love and romantic life. But thie thing is, it's really rather difficult to work out which of the sites to use. There are so many of them, some geared to such tiny niches as to be valueless to most, others so general that finding someone special on them would be impossible. And paying to join all of them to test them would be ruinously expensive.

Fortunately, as is so often true, markets have a way of solving these problems: someone steps in to offer you a guide throuh the various options. Which is exactly what this matchmaking service site does, offering reviews of the different sites. For example, here's their review and here's the Lavalife review.

If you're thinking of joining in the internet datin revolution, it's an extremely useful site telling you where it might be best for you, with your own special interests, to start.


Jokes are copyright now?

"Tonight Show" host Jay Leno got the last laugh Wednesday in his legal battle with the creator of numerous joke books filled with stolen gags and punch lines.

The publishers of such compendiums as "Jokes to Go," "Comedy Thesaurus" and "The Funny Pages" vowed to immediately stop printing and distributing the books in a settlement with Leno and fellow comedians who sued author Judy Brown.

Under the legal deal announced by Leno's lawyers, Brown and her publishers also agreed to pay monetary compensation, and she apologized to the entertainers whose jokes she copied. Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

That's a very weird decision indeed. Most odd. You can copyright writing, of course, and you can copyright music, but a stand up joke? I'm not really sure how that decision cvould have been reached. Most especially as so much comedy is in the timing of the telling, the method of expression, rather than the jokes themselves. Sorry, I don't understand this.

Leno acknowledged much of the material attributed to him originated with his "Tonight Show" writing team.

"On behalf of the tremendous and talented group of writers we have at 'The Tonight Show' and many other hard-working comedians, I'm very glad we've been able to stop this practice once and for all," he said in a statement.

OK, that I understand: he's paid good money for those jokes and doesn'twant someone to use them without paying him. But I still don't understand the legal basis of the ruling.

Cheap Office Supplies

OK, so we all know how to save money using coupons on the things we buy for home: that's not to difficult, you simply get the local newspaper and clip out the coupons. As and when you go shopping you use the coupons and save the money. Very good, all very simple.

However, it's rather more difficult to work out where to find the coupons you might be able to use on office supplies and business products. The local newspaper is unlikely to carry them, after all. It's also very tough to find out where you can get coupons and discount codes for the online stores. After all, you can't send the paper coupons down your modem, can you?

Which is what makes this site so great. They're into cheap office supplies, discount business furniture and deals on computer printer ink cartridges and their site does just what it says on the tin there. They help you find the good deals which are out there on your office and business supplies. How they do this is also delightfully simple.

They maintain a database of the online coupons and discount codes that are available. For example, here are their WalMart coupons and their Office Depot discounts. So if you're about to buy something from those (or many other) stores, you simply go to their site and see whether they can save you money. And it's all free, of course.

And even better, you don't have to scour the newspapers, nor clip anything out of them. Well worth checking out.

Snail Mail!

I know, we techno-types have been calling it snail mail for decades. Why send a letter when email is so much faster?

But it's actually true, incertain circumstances, that a snail could in fact deliver the letter faster than the actual mail service:

An IT worker, after receiving a letter on January 3 that was sent on December 20 as priority mail, calculated that a snail would have made it even faster to his home than the letter.

Daily Gazeta Wyborcza said Michal Szybalski calculated that it took 294 hours for the letter to arrive at his home. He also said the distance between his home and the sender was 11.1 kilometers.

Given the distance and the time, the speed of the letter was 0.03775 kilometers per hour. Szybalski calculated that a garden snail travels at around 0.048 kilometers per hour.

Now all we've got to do is work out how to get a uniform and a mail bag onto the little critters....

Oh, and stop them eating the glue off the stamps.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

UK Credit Cards

Now for something a little different, directed more at our UK readership than anyone else.

We all know that the are hundreds, if not thousands, of varations of credit cards forced upon us all the time. Annual fee, no annual fee, zero interest transfers, lower rates on balances, points mkae prizes cards: th list of alternatives is endless. But, of course, that leaves us with the problem of which credit card (or cards) to actually use. You don't want to apply for a credit card if someone else is offering you a better deal now, do you?

For example, if you were thinking of switching cards you would want to research all about interest free credit cards, rather than having to pay on a balance transfer, wouldn't you? And you certainly don't want to take the first offer that appears through your letter box.

Fortunately there is a solution. Click through any of those links and you'll be taken to a site which aids you in comparing all of the different offers and thus enables you to makethe right decision for you.

Turkmenbashi Bashed

The last ruler of Turkmenistan was a Grade A, primo nutcase. Not content with simply stealing all the money and building statues of himself everywhere, he banned Turkmen women from marrying abroad, renamed one of the months of the year after his mother, generally drove the place even further into oppression and poverty (and after the Soviet rule, that was tough) and in what was perhaps the least objectionable of his rulings, banned the circus and the opera.

Turkmenistan will end its seven-year ban on opera and the circus introduced by the Caspian nation's former eccentric leader, state media reported.

Saparmurat Niyazov, who cultivated an elaborate personality cult during his 21-year rule, died in late 2006 of a heart attack. He banned opera, ballet and the circus, saying they are "alien" to Turkmen culture.

The new leader, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has sought to promote a softer image for the gas-rich nation bordering Iran -- and reversed some of Niyazov's most eccentric policies.

Late Sunday, state television announced his plans to reopen an opera house, resume circus shows and build a cinema in the capital Ashgabat.

OK, wonderful, he's dead and they're changing policies. Unfortunately, the poverty remains but they will now be allowed to see fat birds warbling and clowns. An advance, if not all that much of one.

Wedding Photography

It's not all that often that someone comes up with a truly new idea in something as old as wedding photography but has actually managed it. It's not just a new idea either, it's looks like an entirely crackingly good one.

The last new idea in wedding photography was the idea of putting disposable cameras on all of the tables. Over and above the official photos, there would thus be a huge seris of informal snaps, you know the sort of thing: the bridesmaid getting to know the ushers really rather well, the darling neice geting at the champagne, all the normal things that happen at weddings. The problem is, whiole the newly weds get these all developed, they never actually do anything else with them. Only the official photos end up being spread around friends and family.

This is where comes in and as I say, I think it's an exxcellent advance in wedding photography . All of those disposabloe cameras are collected, all the pictures taken are developed (ofcourse!) and then they're uploaded and a secure digital album on hte web is created. Thus sharing wedding photos is as simplae as emailing someone the URL.

An excellent idea and one where I wish them every luck: they deserve to do well with it.

Disclosure Policy

Banning Haggis

Why, I mean, really, why? Why try to get haggis unbanned?

Scotland is considering lobbying the United States to lift a ban on haggis, hoping to boost sales of the sheep-stomach-based national dish.

The U.S. banned imports of Scottish haggis after Britain's outbreak of mad cow disease, which is linked to the human brain illness Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Scotland's government insist its haggis -- which usually contains the heart, liver and lungs wrapped inside a sheep's stomach lining -- is safe and wants the ban lifted.

Put aside the stupidity of the US response in the first place: mad cow disease affected cows, haggis is supposedly made from sheep.

But the real problem isn't that, nor the fact that haggis itself is entirely disgusting. It's that haggis isn't in fact made from sheep at all. It's made, as the name suggests, from hte haggis, a rare animal. It has legs longer on one side than the other so that it can run around hillsides very quickly. What makes it so rare is that males and females normally have the longer legs on opposite sides, meaning that meeting for long enough to form any meaningful relationship is difficult: thus leading to their rarity.

Quite why the Scottish Government wants to increase the hunting of such an endangered creature no one is quite sure.

Free Credit Card Machines

One of the most annoying things about trying to set up a retail operation is that most customers now want to spend their money by credit or debit card. OK, well, that's not annoying: but having to pay for the equipment you need to take the cards is. It can be quite a chunk of change, too, just when you don't need it: before you open and when you're obviously the most stetched for cash.

However, this has now changed for Total Merchant Services (TNS) has woken up to the competitive advantage they can get by advancing the machine to the new merchant: that's right, they'll provide the credit card machine for free. Obviously, for them, this works, as it gets your loyalty: and clearly, it works for you because you don't have to buy the credit card machine . All in all it looks like a good deal. Check it out.

Disclosure Policy.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fu**in' Australians

Quite literally so:

Two in three Australian travelers are either members of the notorious Mile High Club or would like to be a member, a survey showed Monday.

Asked if they would consider a mid-air sexual encounter, almost half of 1,110 people surveyed wanted an adventure, while 12 percent already had mile-high membership wings.

"People are obviously looking for more stimulating entertainment than a movie or a CD when traveling by plane," global marketing manager Paul Fisher said.

Well, whether it's more stimulating than watching a movie is really rather down to who you're doing it with: certainly it doesn't usually take as long. But 12% already claim to be members? I'm surprised that 12% of Austalians have ever even been on an airplane....

As to my own membership or not....well, I've usually flown with my wife, which makes the CD of somewhat greater interest than it would to those who fly unaccompanied.

Visiting New Zealand

Of course, everyone wants to be like their parent sin one way or another but one of the ways I want to emulate mine is to take an extended trip to New Zealand. We've got a large extended family over there (including one distantish cousin who was actually an All Black) so it would be really rather nice to go over and see them all.

As well, of course, as wanting to see the country itself, for it's supposed to be gorgeous, as the photos show.

OK, well, getting there: it's a long way away from anywhere else at all, so it's not somewhere you'd go for a weekend. Better to go for a real trip, 6 weeks or so, and make the most of the travel.

That also means that it's not sensible to just go to one place: so here's some guidance as to the major cities and where you might stay in them: New Zealand Hotels, Auckland Hotels, Wellington Hotels, Christchurch Hotels.

I've been lucky, in that I do actually have the money to go: what I don't have is the time. Rather need this travelling internet stuff to get better, perhaps ina year or two I'll be able to travel and work at the same time. Then, I'm off!

Bad Credit Offers

We've all dreaded it at some point or another and far too many of us have suffered from it: bad credit. The thing is, knowing how bad the effects of it can be, what can we do about it?

Well, strangely, the best thing you can in fact do is to borrow more money but to make sure that you pay it back, on time, this time. The other reason to look at bad credit offers is that you might actually need to borrow money for another good reason, like a new (er) car or something.

So, if you do have bad credit, you might want to click through that link above. That's a site which can help you to decide which offer might be the best one to take, rather than simply relying upon the first one to come in the mail being best for you.

You might also be interested in having a look at your credit report. You'll be surprised how often bad credit is the result of a mistake that's been made in the system rather than something directly your fault.

And even if it is, there's a very useful section describing all about credit repair. All in all it's a very useful site and one well worth checking out.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dumb Criminals

Good grief! If you're going to do something illegal it really is quite sensible for you not to actually film it, you know? It provides the authorities with the evidence they need to convict you, so it really is a very silly thing to do indeed.

A 19-year-old Chinese student recorded the killing and dismembering of her married lover by her boyfriend, local media said on Friday.

The second-year student in the southwestern province of Yunnan, her boyfriend and another male accomplice had all been arrested after the killing last month, the Southern Metropolis Daily said.

The victim, 39, was a married manager at a local highway and bridge building company, the newspaper said.

The girl, who was from a struggling family in the capital Beijing and met the victim as a nightclub hostess, filmed as he was killed and his body was cut into "hundreds of pieces," the newspaper said.

"The dismembering was both out of hatred and aimed at making the body unrecognisable," the report said.

Given the way things work in China at present those three will now all be shot.In the back of the head. And possibly, if they still do it, their families billed for the bullets used.

And all because they had to have a filmed record of what they were doing. Stupid, stupid.


Now this is pretty interesting, using the idea of social networking to find out which sorts of wine you might enjoy. It's not actually social networking, as they don't suggest that you interact directly with the other people, but it's using the same basic idea.

You go onto the site and register, then you provide the details of the sort of wines that you enjoy. You might say merlot, or chardonnay, (or even red or white wine) or perhaps you'd be a little more picky and say "vinho verde" or white port.

So what the site then does is goes through the other users of the site and sees who shares some or all of your tastes. Then, and here's the interesting bit, it then recommends back to you the other wines that those people with similar tastes to you enjoy.

So what you get is the accumulated wisdom of brands, years, wine types and so on of those who seem to have a similar palate to yourself.

A very interesting idea actually. How well it will work in hte long term will depend almost entirely upon how many join the site. The more do so, usefulness will rise exponentially.

Those Smoking Bans Explained.

One of the wonders of recent years has been the way in which smoking bans in pubs and restaurants have been imposed across Europe. The authorities have almost never taken the view that it is up to individuals, and they've usually simply banned smoking indoors to the detriment of the civil liberties of customers and proprietors. China might show us why:

Beijing's first smoke-free restaurant chain faces going out of business after its customers deserted it in droves after the ban was enforced, state media reported on Friday.

The Chinese are the world's most enthusiastic smokers, with a growing market of more than 350 million, making it a magnet for cigarette companies and a focus of international health concerns.

The occupancy rate at Meizhou Dongpo, a chain serving the spicy fare of southwest Sichuan province, had dropped to "about 80 percent of that enjoyed by other restaurants across the street" after it banned smoking in October, the China Daily quoted its manager as saying.

Given a choice, the customers would rather go somewhere where they can smoke.

Of course, to liberals like us, this shows that the bans are wrong: if people want to do something, they should be allowed to do so. Unfotunately, our rulers think differently: if we want to do what they think we shouldn't. we must be banned from doing it.

Sightseeing in Berlin

Despite the fact that it's nearly twenty years since the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, and the way in which hundreds of billions of $ have been spent on makingthe East look better than it did, it's still worth going there to see what socialism accomplished. The incredible feat of making Germans poor. The East of the city is still encircled by stack a prole worker apartments which we in the west wouldn't house rabbits in, let alone human beings.

Well, that's if you're a political and economic geek like I am. more rational people might want to take one of the sightseeing tours in Berlin. It is an amazing city, after all.

You might also want to click through here to find out about accomodation in Berlin. It's not the easiest of cities to find somewhere reasonable to stay so you probably will need that help.

Disclosure Policy

Snakes on a Plane!

Yes, yes, we've heard about life imitating art, but this is ridiculous:

Vietnam has seized more than a ton of ratsnakes found aboard a Vietnam Airlines flight from Bangkok, the second time in about a month such snakes were found in air cargo to Vietnam, state media said on Friday.

The snakes -- scientific name Ptyas Mucosus and a protected species -- were found in more than 60 boxes that arrived in Hanoi's Noi Bai airport on Thursday, the Vietnam News Agency quoted officials as saying.

The point being that teh Samuel L. Jackson movie, "Snakes on a Plane", was not art, it was tripe, bubblegum that amused fo the first 15 minutes or so and then grew increasingly tedious.

So, err, universe? I'm afraid you've got to shape up out there. If you're going to imitate the cocaine driven maunderings of a screen writer's mind, could you at least do so with adecent script? Like Butch Cassidy or something?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I Think We Already Knew This

About Columbus and Syphilis:

New genetic evidence supports the theory that Christopher Columbus brought syphilis to Europe from the New World, U.S. researchers said Monday, reviving a centuries-old debate about the origins of the disease.

They said a genetic analysis of the syphilis family tree reveals that its closest relative was a South American cousin that causes yaws, an infection caused by a sub-species of the same bacteria.

"Some people think it is a really ancient disease that our earliest human ancestors would have had. Other people think it came from the New World," said Kristin Harper, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University in Atlanta.

"What we found is that syphilis or a progenitor came from the New World to the Old World and this happened pretty recently in human history," said Harper, whose study appears in journal Public Library of Science Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Worth noting that we don't think it was Columbus personally who brought it back: we know he didn't die of i and the disease was so virulent at that time that we do know who did die of it.

But that's the very ppint. Yes, there has been some controversy over this point but the vvery fact that it hit Europe with huge intensity immediately after Columbus' return has always been very strong evidence that his ships did bring it back. Even if it pre-existed in Europe, he brought back a different strain.

Well, yes,

Working out how your dog speaks will indeed be a useful method of working out what it is that he wants:

Hungarian scientists are working on computer software analyzing dog barks that could allow people to better recognize dogs' basic emotions, Hungarian ethologist Csaba Molnar said.

Molnar and his colleagues at Budapest's ELTE University have tested software which distinguishes the emotional reaction of 14 dogs of the Hungarian Mudi herding breed to six situations: When the dog is alone, when it sees a ball, it fights, it plays, it encounters a stranger or it goes for a walk.

"A possible commercial application could be a device for dog-human communication," the scientist told Reuters.

I mean, I see the point, but won't you hav to learn Hungarian to be able to use it?

As someone who has actually tried to learn Hungarian in the past, I think I would rather learn how to bark actually.

Affiliate Marketing

I think we've all tried Affiliate Marketing at one time or another as a method of boosting (or even creating a) our income from a blog. But the hassle that goes with it is simply too large. You end up trying to manage 20 or 30 different programs, some of which you can run together, others you can't, revenues are way too low to pay for the learning curve, it all just becomes too much.

However, what PepperJam has done does seem to have over come most of the problems with Affiliate Marketing , as they've got hundreds of marketers working through just the one interface. This helps hugely in making your time dealing with the system effective at actually making you money.

I'm in hte process of checking out the details of their offer and I'd suggest, that if you're serious about making money from your blog that is, that you click through one of those two links above and see what they can do for you.

Disclosure Policy.

The full press release:

Pepperjam Announces Launch of Next Generation Affiliate Marketing Network

Pepperjam, a two-time Inc. Magazine fastest growing company and industry leading full-service internet marketing agency, today announced the launch of Pepperjam Network, a proprietary next generation affiliate marketing network.

If you are an advertiser or affiliate and would like to sign-up for Pepperjam Network please visit

“Pepperjam Network represents an evolution in affiliate marketing. The creation of Pepperjam Network represents eight years of research and development and the combined ideas, feedback, and intelligence of hundreds of affiliate marketers and advertisers. Pepperjam Network will forever change the face of affiliate marketing by putting power back in the hands of affiliates and advertisers to build long-term, profitable partnerships through better communication tools and transparency,” said Kristopher B. Jones, President & CEO of Pepperjam.

Among a variety of affiliate marketing enhancements, Pepperjam Network addresses the two primary shortcomings of other existing affiliate networks, namely (1) poor, unreliable communication tools and (2) lack of affiliate transparency. With Pepperjam Network, affiliates and advertisers can communicate in real-time via Pepperjam Chat™, thereby providing a reliable communication system to build stronger, more profitable partnerships. Pepperjam Network also provides advertisers with an unprecedented measure of affiliate transparency, which helps to establish trust, protect brand integrity, and lays the groundwork for open, long-term, profitable relationships.

Pepperjam Network also introduces pepperjamADS, which is a first-ever affiliate marketing widget that affiliates can use to serve customized contextual ads from one or multiple Pepperjam Network advertisers at the same time.

Pepperjam Network was designed to make the experience of affiliate marketing profitable and educational, with the goal of allowing affiliates and advertisers to truly understand and maximize the critical affiliate marketing channel.

Unlike the traditional networks, Pepperjam Network uses Web 2.0 technology to provide affiliates and advertisers with an easy-to-use, cutting-edge interface designed to facilitate and optimize the affiliate marketing process. For instance, Pepperjam Network offers industry leading source-level tracking and reporting - this robust technology is especially beneficial to search marketing and sophisticated super affiliates that want to take advantage of the most up-to-date technology available to track commissions at the keyword level.

Here is just a sample of what many industry experts are saying about Pepperjam Network:

“Even after all these years using Commission Junction on the merchant and affiliate side, I still find it terribly clumsy to find what I want. With Pepperjam Network it is quick and easy. Pepperjam Network is what an affiliate network would look like if it were built from a wish list from both the affiliate and merchant perspective,” said Shawn Collins, Cofounder of Affiliate Summit.

“As both an advertiser and a affiliate, I am on the lookout for affiliate marketing systems that meet all our company’s needs. Pepperjam Network is without a doubt the most comprehensive, practical and useful affiliate marketing system I have seen to date. Pepperjam Network demonstrates that it is possible to combine style with substance in a network that provides site owners and advertisers with tools and resources to increase their bottom line,” said Joel Comm, New York Times Best-Selling author and CEO, InfoMedia, Inc.

About Pepperjam:

Pepperjam is an industry leading full-service internet marketing agency offering marketing services and advanced technology in the areas of pay-per-click, search-engine optimization, affiliate marketing, and online media planning and buying. The company was founded in 1999 by internet marketing expert, accomplished speaker, and published author Kristopher B. Jones. Pepperjam has received numerous awards and achievements, including recognition by Inc. Magazine for two consecutive years as one of the fastest growing privately-held businesses in the United States. Learn more at

That Didn't Last Long Then....

They only announced that they were going to use these words last week:

Proposed new lyrics for Spain's national anthem have stirred national divisions rather than pride and have been scrapped, the Spanish Olympic Committee said Wednesday.

Spain's "Royal March" national anthem has been played without words since 1978, when lyrics approved by right-wing dictator Francisco Franco were ditched.

With the Beijing games approaching, Spain's Olympic committee held a competition to find new words for the anthem rather than see its athletes hum along or chant "la, la, la," as has long been the case.

Spanish opera star Placido Domingo was to be the first to sing it.

But the winning version was leaked and met derision in the Spanish media and among members of parliament responsible for approving the lyrics.

That's pretty good for a national anthem you know. Even Italian governments and French Constitutions usually last longer than a week.

Perverts' Charter

This is good to know:

Recording secret videos of sex with your partner is not illegal, Italy's supreme court has ruled.

Rome's highest appeals acquitted a 49-year-old man who, unbeknown to his girlfriend, had recorded and kept films of them having sex.

It overruled two previous verdicts which had given him a four-month jail sentence.

The woman had agreed to the man using a video camera to project live images of them having sex on to the bedroom wall, but did not know he was recording the action.

The court acquitted the man because he had not distributed the films to other people.

Something of a perverts' charter though, isn't it?

Anyway, a replacement for one of the great lies of the 80s I think ("I only use cocoaine as a recreational drug") as we update thenm for the 00s. No, of course I'm not recording, darling.

Location, Location

As we all know there are only three things, in the old saying, which are important about real estate: location, location and location. While it's a cute point to make, it's not entirely true: things like the cost of finance (the mortgage rate to you and me) are also important.

But sticking with the location point, the US is a huge place and there is not in fact just one national real estate market. Rather, there are a series of regional, State and more local ones. Some can be booming while others are falling, finance rates and availability can be wildly different across them.

Just as an example of this (or if you need to know the differences) try this service from National Relocation. Information on Illinois Real Estate, on Indiana Real Estate or on Indianapolis Real Estate. If those aren't the areas you're interested in then you can plug in any zip code and look a the information for one that you are.

Mortgage rates, moving companies, rentals, agents, foreclosures, they're all there and available for you to search through. An excellent and inclusive database.

The Germans

We all have this idea of the Germans being hugely law abiding citizens, people who will stick to hte regulations no matter what.

Photographer Frank Blum puffed contentedly on a hand-rolled cigarette in a cafe in central Berlin, blatantly ignoring a ban that went into effect in most of Germany this month.

"I'm smoking because no one's stopping me," Blum, 43, said from behind his laptop, one of a dozen customers happily smoking without fear. "The cafes aren't making it difficult."

Blum is just one of many disobeying a law banning smoking in public places -- cafes, bars, restaurants and night clubs -- in force in Berlin and 11 other German states from January 1.

Hmm, it appears that stereotype might need a little revision then.

However, there is one very good reason why the German authorities are being ver lax on enforcement here: there's still memory of the last large scale attempt to get Germans to stop smoking. A campaign started and pursued by one A. Hitler. Touchy subject really.

Terry Pratchett Was Right!

One of the repeated jokes in hte Terry Pratchett books is that clowns are not in fact funny: they are menacing, scary creatures with no redeeming features at all. It appears that children actually agree:

Bad news for Coco and Blinko -- children don't like clowns and even older kids are scared of them.

The news that will no doubt have clowns shedding tears was revealed in a poll of youngsters by researchers from the University of Sheffield who were examining how to improve the decor of hospital children's wards.

The study, reported in the Nursing Standard magazine, found all the 250 patients aged between four and 16 they quizzed disliked the use of clowns, with even the older ones finding them scary.

"As adults we make assumptions about what works for children," said Penny Curtis, a senior lecturer in research at the university.

"We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable."

Universally disliked by children, eh?

Another repeating joke in the same books is that it isn't just the children that hate mimes: everyone does, In fact, everyone agrees that the punishment meted out to them is entirely just: being thrown into the City's scorpion pit. There's a public policy which I think a lot of people could get behind actually.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

LED Lighting

It's amazing how a change in technology can change behaviour: even though the day job is associated with hte lighting industry I still find it difficult to grap the changes that LED lighting are bringing to people. They use so little energy that whether you've got them on or off, or whether you use them year around, really makes very little difference. In this they're quite different from incadecents, halogens or even fluorescents.

For example, a string of 2,000 LED christmas lights can be left on for 8 hours a day, 365 days a year, and the total cost in electricity will be about $50. 13 cents a day, or if you prefer, less than 2 cents per hour that you have them on.

It's almost not worth reaching over to turn them off at that price, isn't it?

And at that price, you could use such lights for much more than just the Christmas decorations.

Disclosure Policy

Teenage Pregnancy

This is really a rather good little part of the story:

Biology is destiny, and the brutally unfair outcome that adolescent sexuality can produce will never change. Twenty years ago, I taught high school in a town near New Orleans. There was a girls’ bathroom next to my classroom, which was more convenient for me than the faculty one on the other side of campus. In the last stall, carved deeply into the metal box reserved for used sanitary napkins, was the single word “Please.”

Whoever had written it had taken a long time; the word was etched so deeply into the metal that she must have worked on it over several days, hiding in there on hall passes or study breaks, desperate. I never knew who wrote it, or when, but I always knew exactly what that anonymous girl meant.

Yup, you do know exactly what she meant. An excellent anecdote in a column, bringing the whole point alive.

Blitheringly Obvious

Good grief! This is the lead story in the New York Times? Seriously, this is the best they can do?

As leaders in Washington turn their attention to efforts to avert a looming downturn, many economists suggest that it may already be too late to change the course of the economy over the first half of the year, if not longer.

Of course it's too damn late to change anything in the next 6 months.

Interest rate changes take 18 months to work through into the broader economy. Tax changes won't be made until the next budget year, the same is true for fiscal stimulus through higher spending.

So how come something that is blindingly obvious to anyone who has ever cracked open a macro textbook becomes the lead story in the New York Times?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A New Way to Buy Gold

At various times and in various places buying gold has been anything from extremely simple to near impossible. There have been times when it was illegal for a US citizen to own gold, for example, and there have been other times when the very coins of the country were made out of it, so that possession of $10 meant you had gold.

Now it's all got a little easier with the introduction of BullionVault. Essentially what they offer, in the firrst place, is a glod trading market open to individuals which provides the same thing the banks and the professionals have had for decades. A simple system of warehousing the gold so that when you buy, you can just get a certificate, you don't need to worry about taking physical delivery or transport or insuring it.

They've also got an extensive gold research section which can be extremely interesting. I love digging around in those sort of bits and pieces, sometimes you can come up with real nuggets of investment advice. And, of course, no such site or service is without gold charts. Hmm, perhaps I should have looked at that earlier: gold's jumped $29 intra day.

If you're interested in investing in gold this is an interesting place to start

Dog Shoots Man

This is, of course, sad, to one meaning of the word sad.

A Houston-area man was killed in a hunting accident after his dog stepped on a loaded shotgun in the back of a pick-up truck, triggering a blast that pierced the vehicle and the hunter's leg, a local sheriff said.

Perry Price, a 46-year-old math teacher, shot a goose on Saturday then put his gun in the back of the truck where the dog was waiting to retrieve the bird.

"I've been in law enforcement 20 years and this is probably the strangest one I've had," said Chambers County Sheriff Joe LaRive.

Investigators found paw prints and mud from the dog, a chocolate Labrador retriever named Arthur, on the shotgun, LaRive said.

Actually, it's sad not just that he died, but sad that there is (was?) such stupidity in hte world. The first thing you're taught about gun safety is that if you're not going to shoot it right now, immediately, it should be broken (if a shot gun) or the safety on (if a rifle). Anything else is simply nuts, and leaving a loaded, closed, shotgun where a dog might triggerit isn't just sad, or stupid, it's insane.

Dating Services

OK, so we all know that the Dating Service has now moved online. It's no longer to be found in hte classified ads at the back at the back of the local Alt magazine. Nor is it in the newspaper columns anymore and who tries to pick people up in a bar anymore?

Now while this all makes it much easier for us, there are still some new problems to contend with. Which of the myriad dating services do you actually use? How can you tell, before you part with your money to sign up with one, whether it's the right one for you? OK, there are a few obvious signs, if you're heterosexual you probably don't want to sign up for something with "gay" in the title.

But beyond that, what you really want is a Dating Service guide really. A site which reviews the different sites and then tells you what each of them is like, who the target crowd is and what you'll expect to find on the site. Which is exactly what you will find if you click through that link there. A guide to the different online personals and dating sites.

For example, if you're into adult dating, that is pretty much the sex bit without the dating bit, there's a number of different services for you. Or perhaps gay or lesbian dating is for you?

Wherever you are on the spectrum of human sexuality and relationships there's certain to be a site catering to you, and this guide will help you find it.

Avril Lavigne Settles.

I have to admit that this really doesn't surprise me.

Punky pop star Avril Lavigne has reached a settlement in a lawsuit that accused her of plagiarizing her summer hit single, "Girlfriend."

As a result, claims that '70s rock band the Rubinoos were ripped off have been dropped. Songwriters Tommy Dunbar and James Gangwer charged that Lavigne's boppy track sounded suspiciously like their 1979 single, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend."

Rubinoos lawyer Nicholas Carlin says a confidential settlement has been reached but could not comment further. A spokesperson for Lavigne could not immediately be reached.

A settlement does not necessarily indicate an admission of copyright infringement.

Lavigne has said she'd never heard the Rubinoos song, while her manager, Terry McBride, has said he consulted a musicologist who found no similarities between the songs.

Still, McBride admitted he would consider settling the matter out of court to avoid a costly legal battle.

I've heard both tracks (at The Rubinoos websote) and there's no way on earth that she couldn'thave heard it, nor copied it. Itmight not have been a conscious copying, but essentially, it's changing the song from a male singing it about a girl to a girl singing it about a man. That's not enough to not have to pay royalties.

Sex on the Job

Having sex while on the job in uniform is apparently not compatible with remaining a policeman in the UK:

A senior police officer who admitted to having sex while on duty has been fired, the police watchdog confirmed Tuesday.

Inspector Masood Khan, 41, who worked for the British Transport Police, was dismissed over his tryst with a 43-year-old woman in a room at Gatwick Airport railway station in July 2006.

At a misconduct hearing Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to one charge of "discredit" under the Police Code of Conduct after originally facing three charges, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said in a statement.

The charge read: "On 23rd July 2006 whilst on duty and in uniform at Gatwick Airport and holding the rank of Police Inspector and duty officer for the London South area of the British Transport Police, you brought discredit upon the police service by having sexual intercourse with the complainant."

The officer, of Coulsdon, south London, had been cleared of criminal charges last August after a trial at London's Southwark Crown Court.

Reports at the time said the inspector had met the woman through an Internet dating Web site,, and had believed he would be off-duty when he arranged to meet her.

This will of course come as something of a surprise to American policemen. If weare to believe the latest research from Steven Levitt that is, fp he points out that a prostitute in Chicago is morelikely to have to give a freebie to an oficer for not arresting her than she is to be arrested.

Maybe they just do the blackmail off duty?

Press Release Distribution

Have you ever wanted to know how to get your PR out there? How to get your news releases onto the newswires? In short, have you ever wanted to find out about press release distribution ?

Good, we can help you with the information. For what has happened in recent years is that instead of the whole industry being based on the physical technology of the newswire (or of the telex machine) it's now done over the internet. This makes it both cheaper for you to get your news out there and also gives you many more outlets to get it to (no longer are publishers limited by the amount of paper they have on hand).

Simply click through the link up above there and you'll be able to find out all about what can be done to distribute your PR.

Disclosure Policy.

Snigger, Snigger

A Polish man got the shock of his life when he visited a brothel and spotted his wife among the establishment's employees. Polish tabloid Super Express said the woman had been making some extra money on the side while telling her husband she worked at a store in a nearby town.

"I was dumfounded. I thought I was dreaming," the husband told the newspaper Wednesday.

The couple, married for 14 years, are now divorcing, the newspaper reported.

But the thing is, why are they divorcing? Is it because she was working as a prostitute? Or because he was visiting a brothel? Which is worse as a betrayal of the marital trust and vows? Sex for money or sex for pleasure?

Something of a tough moral question there.

You're Fired

For *Not* Smoking. This i9s both very amusing in its own way and a wonderful example of why most countries haven't tried to tackle the problem this way.

The owner of a small German computer company has fired three non-smoking workers because they were threatening to disturb the peace after they requested a smoke-free environment.

The manager of the 10-person IT company in Buesum, named Thomas J., told the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper he had fired the trio because their non-smoking was causing disruptions.

Germany introduced non-smoking rules in pubs and restaurants on January 1, but Germans working in small offices are still allowed to smoke.

"I can't be bothered with trouble-makers," Thomas was quoted saying. "We're on the phone all the time and it's just easier to work while smoking. Everyone picks on smokers these days. It's time for revenge. I'm only going to hire smokers from now on."

My word you've got to admire the man's courage there!

And of course, this is why the other governments haven't taken this route. The aim is to stop people smoking, not to allow people to smoke if they wish. So of course the smoking has been banned rather than allowing epople to make choices as he hsa done.

Bet you change the rules soon though.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Chris Anderson and the Fremium Model

Chris Armstrong (he of the Long Tail idea and book) has somenew ideas about how the economy is going to develop, what with (as he calls it) all this "fremium" going on.

That is, with goods and services being provided free to hte consumer, the cost of production either being carried by advertising or by premium users subsidising the free ones. Of course, this isn't an entirely new idea, TV and radio have been free to consumers ever since they started. But it is moving out into other areas, changing more of the economy, as Google is proving.

There as excellent interview with him at the 123-reg blog which is well worth reading. I was extremely impressed with his last book (I reviewed it for one of the newspapers and said so) and I wonder if his next will be as good.

Disclosure Policy.

Fake Viagra

Yes, yes, I know, weall get emails offering us fake Viagra and Cialis all the time. And there's a booming global trade in it:

French customs officials have intercepted a shipment of 224,000 fake Viagra and Cialis anti-impotence pills worth 2.4 million euros ($3.5 million), the Budget Ministry said Monday.

The copies of the bestselling drugs were found on December 18 during a search at the French capital's main air hub at Roissy, in a freight cargo on its way to Brazil from India.

"Branded Powergra and Erectalis, each box contained, in fact, four tablets in the characteristic shape and color of Viagra or Cialis pills," Budget Minister Eric Woerth's office, which is also in charge of customs, said in a statement.

"The companies Pfizer and Eli Lilly, which respectively own the Viagra and Cialis brands, quickly confirmed the counterfeit nature of these products and the 224,000 pills were seized," Woerth's office added.

But the thing is, for some 30% of people who take the fake drugs they'll actually work. There's something called the placebo effect, you see, which means that that number around and about 30%, will have the correct reaction to a drug if they're simply told what that reaction should be.

You think you're going to get a hard on, you might well do, pills being fake or not.

Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that you should buy the cheaper fakes: if you know they'renot the real thing then it doesn't work.

Even Criminals Have Standards!

This story is really rather badly written:

Illegal betting syndicates in a northern Malaysian state have refused bets on the number of the hotel room where an ex-government minister was allegedly filmed having sex, the New Straits Times said on Monday.

You get the feeling that people were trying to bet on which was the number of the hotel room, and that's not it at all.

Bookies in Perak declared the number 1301 off-limits in a numbers game, disappointing punters who had hoped to make a killing on the room where former health minister Chua Soi Lek was purported to have been taped engaging in sexual acts with an unidentified woman.

Chua resigned after the video was widely circulated in the southern state of Johor.

"We are not taking any more chances this time around," the paper quoted an unidentified source as saying.

"The last time we accepted bets after a particular set of numbers was published on the front page of a Chinese daily, we were badly hit and lost several million ringgit."

The report said illegal syndicates in the state lost millions of ringgit in 2006 when the death toll figure of bomb blasts in an Egyptian resort won first prize.

In that incident, some bookies only managed to pay winners 20-30 percent of their winnings while some did not pay at all.

What they're actually saying is that they don't want lots of people betting on the samenumber. For the point about running a numbers game isnot that you try and guess which numbers are chosen, just that you want everyone else's choices to be distributed, so that you can make a profit whichever number comes up.

You see, criminals do have standards: they're entirely happy with anything that makes them money.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Full Tilt Referral Code

This is interesting, I didn't think any of the poker sites were still taking US based players. But I was wrong, as this site dedicated to reviewing and providing coupons and codes so that you can get a better deal from the poker sites tells me. For example, go here to get a Full Tilt referral code, or perhaps a Full Tilt Poker referral code would be better?

And as I say, yes, they do acccept US players and yes, you can bet on the games (stakes seem to go from 0.25 to $2,000 or so so you can go pretty high stakes if you want to.)

The site itself provides a great deal more information that just that of course. They review a whole load of different sites, tell you what's good (and bad of course) about all of them. There are also any number of deals that you can get through them, like this No Deposit Bonus. If you're looking for a poker tabkle to belly up to in a virtual sense from your living room then this would be a very good place for you to check out. There's even, if you can believe such a thing, an Ultimate Bet bonus code as well.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Keurig Coffee Makers

As we continue to get this new (to us) house sorted out it is getting close to hte time when I get to have my office redone (which, given that I work from home, is an important matter). I've got my little wish list of things, a wood burning stove, really decent lighting and two new big screens for the computers. But, for one like myself who spends the day pounding a keyboard, the really vital thing is a keurig coffee maker.

No more of that scraping the burnt stuff out the bottom of the pot, no more making do with insant, I'm going to have a keurig coffee maker so that I can have a cup of steaming hot fresh java, made by the cup. Should get the caffeine in the bloodstream rate up to acceptable levels, eh?

So, the only question left is which keurig coffee maker should I have? There is that range of options you know, so which do you think I should go for?