Monday, December 26, 2011

Bizarre Freedom of Information Requests - really!

Many people think about things. You know - deep and perplexing issues - like how could a council help Santa - the Santa - and his reindeer if they crashed in Cheltenham, England. Why Cheltenham, England, one might be asking oneself. Most likely because a person living in said geographical location for whatever reason (perhaps while visiting the local pub springs to mind) may be concerned that Santa and his entourage could end up in a bad accident. Go know!

Still another request was what percentage of Hampsire County Council's drawing pins are actually stuck in pin boards. This request is tricky in my opinion. First of all, the request should have been narrowed down to a specific day and/or time because pins can be removed and new pins replaced depending on who's in charge and the reason for sticking said pins in the boards in the first place. But I digress.

These were two subjects that made the Local Government Association's list of the top 10 most bizarre Freedom of Information Requests of 2011 in England and Wales. Here are some more ponderings:

- somebody wanted to know whether the West Devon District Council about its preparations for helping soldiers defend against Napoleon's marauding hordes.

- Both Leicester City Council and Bristol City Council were asked about their readiness for a zombie attack

- Cornwall Council was questioned as to how much money it had paid to exorcists

- The Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service were queried as to what plans are in place to deal with an alien invasion

- Meanwhile, the number of holes in privacy walls between toilet cubicles are found in public washrooms and council buildings was asked of the Cornwall Council

In excess of 197,000 requests for information were made this year alone, with authorities spending £31.6m on responding to the querents.

There's a good photo of Santa and one of his reindeers here:

Word has it when asked as to whether he has had any close calls while flying over Cheltenham, Santa couldn't recall but mentioned his GPS has misled him from time-to-time.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Upon having the bathroom?

Just finished posting or sharing a complaint on Facebook and decided to carry it over here. Actually, it's more of a rant. Again. Perhaps I've shared this before but since it is happening with increasing frequency, it's noteworthy and mentionable. What is really upsetting - at least to me - is that this practice is becoming more and more frequent and socially acceptable. Frequently, I get the urge to yell out: "she's on the toilet! Call back!"

Today while meandering through a mall in late afternoon and after one too many coffees, had to use a public bathroom. So I close the door behind me and as I'm getting ready to sit down, I hear a voice in the stall beside me (are female separations called stalls one wonders?) talking away animatedly. Wasn't sure whether the voice was addressing me so I listened for a minute and then realized by the topic that the person was on her cell phone while - well - peeing. This led me to wonder whether the conversation was a continuation of one that began prior to using the washroom, or perhaps she was on a long distance call but I digress. Surely the call could have continued after she had completed what she set out to do. It also can't be very hygeinic to use a cell phone while doing...whatever.

As a matter of fact and interest, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London, conducted a study that revealed a lot about people doing...whatever and cell phone usage. Researchers analyzed 780 swab samples with 390 from cell phones and the people who used them in twelve cities in the U.K. Findings revealed that 16% of both hands and phones were contaminated with E. coli, potentially illness-causing bacteria that is fecal in origin. Think about that the next time you absolutely have to discuss...whatever.

Related to this, I'm also amazed how people aren't afflicted with neck problems given their propensity to stare downward at cell phones and texted messages while walking. It would be interesting to know whether health professionals are dealing with afflictions related to these practices. Anybody know?

Still, it's perplexing as to the need to be connected all the time. Not in the bathroom, okay? We really don't want to know.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

X-Factor judges getting nasty and silly

As is the case with numerous TV viewers, I'm watching "X-Factor (USA) having read a lot of hype about the British version. Another reason is that the powers-that-be put Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul on the same show even if their continuous bickering is for effect and to increase the show ratings, as was the case when they peformed the same routine as judges on American Idol.

The only thing I'm familiar with in as far as X-Factor judge, Nicole Scherzinger, is that she was a singer with the Pussycat Dolls and the winner of the 10th season of Dancing With the Stars. Not sure if this accomplishment is something that should be added to her resume but I digress. Obviously, when putting X-Factor together, they decided that her presence would be a draw. Then we have LA Reid whose credentials as a record executive, songwriter and record producer make him a good choice and addition to the show. Not that Simon Cowell is a slouch in this area. Last is the "presenter" as the Brits call it, Steve Jones. Nothing much to say about him other than I find his style distasteful. Period.

The X-Factor differs from AI in that once the elimination process is completed and the field narrowed down, singers are categorized and the judges become the mentors. This concept in itself is enough to create competitiveness among them given their day jobs of creating musical personalities. It does, however, make for fun TV watching.

So Simon Cowell eliminates all of Paula's contestants after which Paula gets revenge by eliminating one of Simon's pet female singers aided by LA Reid and Nicole S. The show is turning into a "revenge-factor 101" as the judges denegrate each other's singers as a means in which to hang on to their own group contestants. As Simon pleaded - actually pleaded - with TV viewers to vote for Melanie Amaro (one of my favorites btw) to "keep her out of the pirhanna pool." "Ya gotta love it - Cowell actually begging viewers to retain one of his singers! We all know who he's referring to when he used the term, "pirhanna pool." To show you how this has become shark infested waters, judges have taken to directly psyching out the singers as a means to achieve a weak performance. What is it that they say... 'revenge is a dish best served cold?' As I recall, Cowell dissed Abdul's singers and choice of singing material. Ditto for Scherzinger. As mentioned, anything to increase the ratings, which it appears are not what they hoped they would be.

In the end and although it may not have the sophistication of an X-Factor (more like a kindergarten), I'll definitely opt for Ryan Seacrest's style as show host introducing the contestants, over a pompous Steve Jones. The latter is a thoughtless and insensitive oaf, IMHO.

They're promoting American Idol already and count me in as one who will be watching. Sometimes genteel is the way to go.