May 26, 2002

I have no idea why readers have been unable to locate this page. Perhaps due to the lack of activity!
More to follow soon.....
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May 20, 2002

Alarmed Me, an advertising campaign that should be changed.

USA - It has been brought to my attention that a home security company is currently running two very similar adverts on national TV here that are carefully scheduled to target the expected audiences.

This in itself is not unusual, usually, except I found it to be highly distasteful that the company should schedule the same scripted advert with an African-American family, during Oprah, and a white family during the following show on the same channel.

This is the first such instance I have found of this practice that gives me cause for concern. Why should the company feel it necessary to produce two identical adverts with different actors? Perhaps this is the result of a mismanaged original campaign.

This campaign was highlighted further as the Oprah show being aired was taking issue with racial stereotyping through the media.

The product concerned, Slomans Shield, the slogan 1-800-Alarm Me, well I am certainly alarmed!
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Bag this tax!

London: There are plans afoot it would seem for the government to impose a 9 pence (15 euro) tax for each plastic bag taken with the weekly shop. This has been calculated at an average cost of 60 pence per week.

No this is not a directive from the Department of Silly Ideas, but from the Environment department who have issues with the number of plastic bags discarded once emptied at home.

Plastic bags are a cheap method of advertising for the stores concerned, and clearly indicate the preferred store for the weekly groceries.

Perhaps British stores should offer paper bags used in the US as an alternative to the plastic bags, which are not that better quality than those I recall are currently used by the high street stores.

Will the consumers be given a choice of bags to use, colours, designs etc, to qualify for this cost? Will the stores remove their logos and slogans from the sides of the bags? What about the number of bags produced for conferences and exhibitions. Will the organizations concerned be charged this bag tax to continue the freebie gift bag?

I appreciate the thought is for the bags to be reused, but I am sure the consumers would prefer a better quality bag that will not split or tear before you reach your destination.

Link here for the stupid story of the week.... and its only Monday!

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May 16, 2002

Star Wars Episode II

Long, long time ago in a cinema far far away, I watched the first of the Star Wars films at the Gaumont Cinema with my brother Kevin.

At the time this was a must see film for any mid-teenager and his younger brother. We queued around the perimeter walls of the cinema and we found ourselves to be almost the last to be admitted for this matinee performance to the upset of the many lined behind us. This was not the opening day, or the day after, but sometime after the release in the UK during the school holidays. Our local cinema in North Finchley was playing to packed houses. So packed that being almost the last in we could not sit together in the stalls, so we sat on the floor at the back of the theatre and watched the adventures of Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo unfold.

For the 25th anniversary I returned with my wife to Barnet Odeon to watch the re-release of the film. This time we had seats.

Now we are stateside and I have just returned from watching Episode II on the opening night at our local multiplex for the latest episode. The line to enter the chosen screen at the multiplex wound its way around the entrances of the other screens 45 minutes before the start of the film. The crowd cheered at the start, cheered during the film and applauded enthusiastically at the credits. We even had great seats!

This blog will not spoil the plot for those of you who have not seen it. I am certain many other blogs will praise the film frame by frame.

George Lucas has a wonderful imagination and an eye to bring his vision to the silver screen. I found Episode II to be a captivating film, better in my opinion than Episode I. Attack of the Clones includes some stunning pieces that will forever be filed as classics. Within the first ten minutes my wife turned to me to tell me that without any doubt this will be added to our DVD collection when it is available.

Very few films can sweep you up carry you along and leave you on a natural high for some time after you leave the cinema, driven home and had a cuppa to discuss the scenes with my wife.

I now need to watch Return of the Jedi, to answer many of my questions. As for some reason I have never seen the sixth and final chapter.

I sign off with a question, WHAT IS the correct order to watch the films?
Answers please to MalcolmFriend1@aol.com

Finally, thanks to Mr & Mrs B for being wonderful company this evening.

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May 14, 2002

As Star Wars Episode 2 is less than 36 short hours away from opening at our local complex everything appears to be gearing up for another round from the mind of George Lucas. This is one that depending on your perspective will either amuse you or be taken seriously. I would not offer any further comment other than to suggest you check this out...

The Force Is With...Everyone
People of all faiths find meaning in the religion of 'Star Wars.'

You may not know it, but you're a Jedi--at least according to the dozens of Beliefnet members who compare their own faiths to the spirituality of "Star Wars." Link here for further info.

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Potters Bar Rail Crash – A Personal Viewpoint.

Last Friday I received more than a couple of emails from friends in the UK telling me that there had been a dreadful train accident at Potters Bar Station in England. I thank my family and friends for those emails, especially my friend Gordon who was the first to report this to me.

Potters Bar was our home-town for many years, and over the years commuted on a daily basis either north to Hatfield, past the location of the Hatfield train disaster a short time ago, and more frequently to the south into the City depending on who I worked for at the time.

Together with my fellow commuters we had sat in the waiting rooms that were reduced to a pile of twisted metal and shards of glass as the last carriage mounted the end of the platforms on Friday lunchtime.

We had walked many times underneath the bridge that was badly damaged showering brick and masonry onto the cars and pedestrians below. We were most sad to hear that this killed one local resident, the mother of a friend of a close friend as we have since discovered. While the damage to the bridge injured many others sitting in their cars.

As we watched the news reports here in the US, it was most odd sensation watching images from our old home 3000 miles away, interviews with traders we knew giving their accounts of what happened into our front room. A combination of homesickness and distress for the lack of information we craved to complete the picture as we have both family and close friends living in the town.

Was anyone we knew involved? Thankfully not, although it was some while before this information was available to us.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were hurt in this accident, and to the relatives and friends of those that were lost.

…And now the blame game starts.

What caused the accident? The most ridiculous statement I have read bolts within the points just to the south of the station under close investigation have been reported as being vandalized, tampered with or subject to poor maintenance.

Link to current BBC News Updates

Reader understand that there are 4 tracks running through the station, looking north, the left hand is the slow north line – for local commuter trains stopping at many of the stations into London and north to Welwyn Garden City a few miles north. The next track is the fast north track for the high-speed trains. This is the track that the train would have been traveling on. There is then a high-speed south and a local slow south track to complete the configuration. There are points to switch tracks at each end of the station, allowing faster trains to move from the fast north, onto the slow north platform, possibly stopping, freeing the fast north track for following trains.

Unlike Amtrak, there are several passenger trains passing through and occasionally stopping at the station each hour. During the rush hours, the commuter traffic is high and the speeds on the fast tracks are quick but not as fast as the middle of the day when this accident occurred. It is quite possible that the train was traveling at speeds between 80-100 mph through the station.

Due to the location of the points outside the station, the volume of trains passing over the points during the day I would argue that anyone would have either the opportunity or the motive to vandalize or tamper with the points without being seen.

I would strongly argue the point that this was due to poor maintenance, that the bolts had vibrated loose from passing trains and that the visual inspection was simply not adequate maintenance.

From my personal memory the journey south into Kings Cross and Moorgate stations was always bumpy, not simply the stretch of track to the south of the station, before we moved to the US there was a sizeable landslide at New Barnet, two stations to the south, yet the trains continued through the station at slow speed while the reconstruction of the banking was completed. This seemed a foolish act on the part of the railway, but I guess they know what they were doing, or did they?

So what is to be done, re-nationalize the railways? – Who knows, since Ladbrook Grove, Calpham Junction and the Hatfield disasters there has been plenty of opportunity to “get it right” and yet lives continue to be lost, in this instance at least one life of a passer-by rather than a passenger. The resignations of senior figures may be a gesture on the part of the agencies and companies involved, but I doubt that will solve the problem beyond a PR measure.

Regrettably I believe there are probably many other faulty rails, signals, and rolling stock that in a given situation could create another dangerous accident.

The already overpriced rail fares will continue to rise as the price of safety is passed to the commuter who will continues to run the risk of danger through maintenance errors.

One final thought, how many red signals continue to be passed by train drivers this week? If the answer is greater than one, then the railways, management and the government have not learned a single lesson from recent rail accidents.

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May 10, 2002

“Reality” Treasure Hunt

This is not a new game-show on Fox, but the successful conclusion to a hunt by scientists off Panama’s Pacific Coast.

A sunken galleon dating from the Spanish Conquest carrying a cargo valued at some $50 million has been found. The “San Jose” is reported to have sunk on June 17, 1631, after been sailing in the tropical waters for some twenty years, by crashing into rocks off one of the Pearl Islands in the archipelago of the Pearl Islands. Historians had been aware of the general location of the San Jose for some considerable time but following a similar discovery of another Spanish galleon the Vizcaina, (one of 4 ships that sailed Christopher Columbus' final voyage to the Americas in 1501), last November. A new search was initiated to document the exact position and the cargo of the San Jose.

Despite the romance of recovering the bounty, there are no plans to salvage either of the galleons, due to cost restrictions and the need for additional external funding. History indicates that the San Jose was loaded with up to und 700 tons of treasure originally bound for Spain.

Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards, more familiar as Dr. Mark Green from the drama ER left the cast last night at the penultimate episode of this current series. As readers in the UK are several episodes behind the current storyline I will not spoil the plot in London Chimes unless you want to link here and read for yourself.

I have followed this drama for five years now and simply want to recognize the talent of Mr. Edwards as a fine actor, and identify his final episode in the show as one of his best performances. It is my hope that an actor of his quality will not be away from our screens for too long.

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May 09, 2002

Two countries separated by a common language.

This is the first of a number of postings to this blog that I shall use to help Brits, especially those who are heading to the US either permanently or simply on holiday understand that America is very different from the UK. As a Brit who has lived in the US for the last 2 years I have many observations on this subject that I plan to share over a number of entries to this blog site.

Immigration at the airport. - You have arrived at the airport after a number of hours sitting on a plane. You should have with you 2 forms, a white customs form (one per family) and a green visa form (one for each visiting traveler) which you will be given by the stewards on board your flight. It is helpful to have the address of your place of residence while in the US on your person to fill out the green forms in full. The white customs forms will need to be completed for any goods you are effectively importing into the US for friends and relations. A simple description together with a dollar amount will be required. You have probably watched Airport on the BBC and the immigration stories from Heathrow (US can view this on the DWINGS channel). The INS officials are just as professional in their approach and the first point you may fall foul of them is in crossing the white line before they are ready to process your entry into the US. It is ALWAYS a simply courtesy to greet them with a Sir or Mam, politeness will go a long way to speeding your exit through the airport. They will ask for your passport and your green visa form, unless you already have a visa in your passport from the American Embassy that will be printed into your passport already. Hold onto your white customs form, - once you have passed through the INS officers, and found your luggage, the customs officers will take your forms, and possibly inspect your luggage before you move into the arrivals hall.

Tipping - Unless you are being met by a friend or relative you will probably need to use a shuttle or a taxi to be taken to your hotel or place of residence during your stay. Unlike the UK where you tip what you think is reasonable, never tip less than 15% of the total cost to your driver or if in a restaurant your server. In restaurants, server’s wages are minimal at best and are supplemented by the tips they receive. Whether you eat in a diner or a restaurant you will notice that generally the bill will be substantially less than you would pay for a meal of the same quality in the UK. If your server has looked after you, then PLEASE recognize this by topping up the 15% tip.

Drinks. - Not all restaurants are licensed to serve wines, beers and spirits.
In these premises it is permissible to take your own wine to the table purchased elsewhere. It is always a good idea when making your table reservation to ask of their license status. Where alcohol is sold the minimum age to purchase / be served with wines, beer and spirits is 21. The staff at the restaurant has the right to request to see picture identification to prove your age, - your passport will suffice, as this will have a picture and your date of birth. Alternatively you may wish to use your driving license, providing it contains your photograph and your date of birth. If you are unable to produce identification the restaurant will not serve you alcoholic beverages. If you look younger than your years expect to be “carded” to show your picture ID. This can be a flattering request to ladies over the age of 21. Please drink responsibly the tolerance by citizens of anyone who has drunk one over the eight is not as laid back as fellow Brits.

Check in to this web site for further updates on this subject from time to time. – if you like what you see, find it helpful or informative or interesting or fun. Perhaps combinations of more than a couple please write to me and let me know. If you have any specific questions on this subject please email me and I will include into a new blog entry on this web page. My email address is malcolmfriend1@aol.com

Feedback always invited, please email me.
My wife has also established her blog page, Lets Talk Friends and can be located through the following link
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This is a test link to the Fraziers family web site.
My brother-in-laws have established meritous blogs that are required link here.

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On the lighter side…

A streaker caused a security alert when he ran in front of the Queen's Rolls Royce during her visit to Newcastle-upon-Tyne yesterday. The young man bared his all to the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh before being led away by police officers on Tuesday. The royal couple were in the North East during the second leg the Queen's nationwide Golden Jubilee tour.

This shaggy-dog of a story even made an airing onto the early evening Fox Philadelphia News last night. – Probably because they had there was film footage of the act in question!

It was not so much the rude act that made my wife and I smile, as the classic look on the faces of these stout northern doddery old dears waiting to see the Queen to pass. A classic moment that comedian Les Dawson would have been proud of.

The Queen today was paying the first of four vists to the suburbs of London. Although the Queen resides in London for much of the time each year, official visits to the outer boroughs have been scarce at best. The Golden Jubilee tour will over the coming weeks address this and I am pleased to read that the Queen will be visiting my home borough of Barnet in early June.

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May 06, 2002

French Presidential Elections
It is with relief that citizens of France and the civilized that Chirac won 82% of the votes cast.
While a little revolution (in France) historically has been a good thing, this little revolution will not quietly slip into the night I fear. LePenn has alredy indicated his intention to run in the French Governmental elections.

I am currently having difficulty in including links into my blog. We are working on this so please bear with us.

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May 02, 2002

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My family have the following great blogs to review please check out

and a menu for the others can be found at

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May 1 – May Day Parades or Invitation to Riot.

I am old enough to remember watching news images of the May Day parade in Red Square. As impressive as it seemed to be to a small boy with the “rockets” in the depths of the cold war it was a stark reminder to the west of the power of Russian weaponry.
While in villages across Britain, May Day was marked by children of my age dancing around a Maypole a much more innocent and less dangerous occupation.

But that was then, and 35 years later May 1 parades appear to have taken on a new persona. In London it has been reported that 50 persons were arrested in marches that to be honest have become an invitation to riot and cause damage to private property. This year fast food restaurants and coffee houses were prime targets in the Soho district of London. (I presume McDonalds and Starbucks)

I recall in the last couple of years these “protestors” relaying the lawn on Parliament Square across the highway. Covering Churchill’s Monument covered with graffiti and a tufted mohecioan haircut and the worst atrocity of all daubing graffiti on the Cenotaph the national memorial to those servicemen lost in war in Whitehall. Yards from the entrance to Downing Street. The “protesters” planted cannabis seeds into Parliament Square that in time root and grew. While another group destroyed a McDonalds a short distance away. These acts to me were offensive for a number of reasons, not least that this damage to public property was allowed to go ahead unchallenged by the police only yards from the seat of British Government, Whitehall and the home of the Prime Minster.

In my professional capacity I have encountered these groups before, some reportedly with the “Reclaim the Streets” and similar direct action groups. From personal experience, I have found many to be peaceful protestors however they have been infiltrated by members of “rent-a-mob” who’s only agenda is assault, damage and destruction of public and private property among other acts of law breaking behavior.

Each year the formula is the same, the start of a peaceful environmentally friendly procession, a cycle ride perhaps to slow down the traffic in a central area – giving witnesses the impression of a carnival atmosphere. Then the trouble starts coordinated by leaders using cellular technology to prevent the police from penning them to any one area. This is the first of many flashpoints.

It would seem that May 1 in London this year was not as bad a previous protests. However, these direct action groups are prepared to execute these protests on any given date, as the City of London discovered 2 years ago, causing millions of pounds worth of damage to property.

In contrast yesterday over a million Frenchmen participated in political demonstrations either against LePenn or Chirac. With the Presidential elections imminent many it would seem were stirred into direct action to show their support against LePenn. Not since the late 1960’s had the numbers of demonstrators been this large.

I was surprised at the geographical areas supporting LePenn, specifically the areas south and east of Paris to the coast and eastern borders. Paris seemed pro-Chirac as while 2 marches were planned, the masses expected to support LePenn did not materialize. Needless to say the Police timed both marches to ensure they would not meet.
Chirac appears to have solid support in Brittany and the areas to the north and west of Paris.

A French representative close to Chirac has been reported to say that he has seen Chirac change in the last couple of weeks in reaction to the mood of the country. I met Chirac briefly, and the man that I have seen on his campaign trail this week is a much more reflective man than the one I remember. Should President Chirac win the election one thing is for sure. The French population are interested in politics, can be stirred into action. I do believe that Chirac is genuinely surprised at the depth of feeling of the voters and he will need to remember this week if he retains his office.

I advise readers to keep tabs on the lead up to the German elections next, due this autumn.

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