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OK, I'm going to try and present the facts as I see them in quite a simplistic way, for two reasons: one, I don't know many of the ins-and-outs surrounding this issue - just my gut reactions to what I have read - and two, there is always a grave danger of over-complication, which I shall try to avoid! There are two sides to the coin here: the cosmetics side and the pharmaceutical side. I believe there's a clear distinction to be made between the two, namely that cosmetics exist to make humans look nice, whilst pharmaceuticals exist to prevent humans from dying. Now, there is, so far as I can see, clearly no excuse for testing cosmetics on animals, and no excuse for killing animals in the process of developing new cosmetics. It's just morally wrong to kill another living being purely for the sake of our own vanity. On the other hand, we have testing new drugs on animals. Now, the thing is, that these chemicals have a much greater need to be tested thoroughly than cosmetics do. There isn't much danger that a cosmetic will kill someone, but an improperly-tested drug may well do. Should we test drugs on humans then? Of course not. But they need to be tested on living things to ensure that they do what we want them to do. It is a question of the lesser of two evils, and unfortunately in this case the animal loses every time. When science can come up with a way of testing drugs without using animals, then by all means, that should be used. The point is that such things need to be certified safe for humans, and this is the only way do it.
Almost everyone I know has got one of these (it's a student thing - you can pick them up for free almost everywhere now as long as you go on a contract). So what can I tell you that you probably don't know already? Well, this you will know already, but it'd be a poor opinion without it.. it's an extremely slender, generally well-put together, small, fairly light phone. The aerial is built in so you don't have to worry about it catching on bits of clothing, and the facias are interchangeable! Unfortunately, they cost at least £10 each, so you won't be doing that too often unless you use £50 notes as matches. I can't tell you much about reception, since it depends on the network, but it hasn't failed me very badly yet. But there are many other features on the phone - the ubiquitous games, compose-your-own-ringtone, not to mention the generally very useful but sometimes highly irritating predictive text input that (supposedly) makes it quicker to write text messages. What has been happening though is that the sim card seems to have been contacting very poorly with the insides of the phone - a number of times when I have switched it on it doesn't appear to know there's a sim card inside. Apparently though giving the phone a quick wrench solves the problem.. this cannot be a good thing! I realise that the more technologically minded amongst you will deride me for not having had the back off the phone and looked inside, but I'd rather not break it. And for someone who doesn't know a great deal about the things, it is very disconcerting to have it apparently randomly cease to work every now and again. So there! It is, generally, a very good little phone. It does everything you ask it to, and sometimes more. I just hope my problems are merely teething ones..
Paula Cole is immensely talented. There is simply no getting away from the fact, and I cannot for the life of me understand why she isn't more popular. This album, her first, recorded in 1994, is for the most part an album filled with emotion. Lush string arrangements accompany some songs; one track is just Paula and a very Tori-Amos-esque piano part; but all the tracks here are well-produced and come with a classy, clean-sounding finish. Stand-out tracks for me are Chiaroscuro, Black Boots (the piano-vocal track I mentioned above) and Our Revenge; Saturn Girl is also moody and cool. The lyrics are there to make you think, and think you do; all in all this is a masterpiece of an album, and I love it. See what you think.
I will be the first to admit that I absolutely cannot stand listening to boy and girl bands. Whether it be identically-sounding dance-esque numbers where the lyrics make absolutely no sense, or the dreary slow ballad numbers, which *always* seem to have videos where the band members get drenched in rain, the music is universally poor. In my opinion. Now, some other people (goodness knows why) seem to like listening to all this music. They go out and buy the records. They don't switch off the radio rather than listen to it. In fact, they sing along, and are quite happy in this. And who am I to tell them otherwise? They have made their choices and are happy with them. I have absolutely no right to tell them that what they are listening to is bad music simply because *I* think it is bad. Most of the opinions about this subject on here are saying that all boy/girl bands should be shot at dawn. But are they really harming anyone? It is as if such bands are personally insulting these people - and clearly they aren't. If your music is so much better, and you know it is (and in my opinion it is as well!) then just leave it at that. Don't force your opinions on others as well. In essence: leave everyone to their own devices, and maybe the world'll be a happier place..
This seems to me always to be one of those subjects that everyone knows about, but doesn't really want to discuss in any great detail, for fear of being labelled an environmentalist! But here goes anyway. One of the problems involved in prevneting climate change has to be the governments of the various countries. Governments are reluctant to do anything about the environment because it will bring them into conflict with industry, which is a Bad Thing for a government - and even if one tried very near the start of its term, it would still be struggling to recover from indsutry hating it as it neared the end. Democracy dictates that governments have relatively short terms; I'm not saying we should live under a dictatorship, but one problem with democracy is that governments will lack resolve to take decisions that are unpopular in the short term, but will ultimately benefit the country. Another problem is apathy of the people. I know a lot of people who would say 'I'm not going to be around when all this stuff starts happening - so why should I care?' when asked about the environment. It's a perfectly valid point and a very difficult question to answer. We are moving in the right direction. Gordon Brown cutting tax only on low-sulphur fuels is a good case in point - balancing helping industry with helping the environments. International climate change conferences happen occasionally, and despite the fact that most countries appear to ignore their particular pollution quotas, at least such conferences are happening - at least there is some recognition that soon there could be climate change that is tangible, and we should at least TRY to do something about it. But more can always be done, and, as in my title, people across the globe who are in positions of power need to start pulling their fingers out and getting on with changing attitudes for the better. Personally I care about my descendants. I wa
nt them to live, if not in a completely clean and perfect world, then in one which is at least as good as the one we are in today. Do we not have a responsibility, having taken advantage of all the planet's resources, to pass something on ourselves?
Christmas. It's a Christian festival which celebrates the birth of Christ, having its origins in a pagan festival. It's a chance to reflect on what has happened during the year, to get together with family and catch up, to think about what happened 2000 years ago. Christmas. Or, the months of November and December, when the adverts for Christmas things begin to appear on TV, and when supermarkets introduce their 'Christmas' aisles. Sometimes they wait until after Bonfire Night, but not always. All it is, is an excuse for us all to spend lots of money on each other, in the form of lavish presents, and for various companies to boost their sales figures a bit - essentially a mutual help thing. Both of these are obviously fairly extreme views compared with the seemingly indifferent attitude of most people. But every year, the Christmas stamps come out a few days earlier, and the wrapping paper appears a few days earlier, and so do the adverts, and Christmas gets extended back a little. Why? Because various companies want to cash in for a little bit longer. Simple as that. In my opinion, we shouldn't start thinking about Christmas until Advent. That's the start of the season according to the Christian calendar, and this after all is what the whole thing is supposed to be about. To start any sooner does indeed reduce it down to a very commercial level - and if society cannot appreciate that there is more to life than shopping, something is very very wrong.
It was painfully evident after the more recent train crash at Hatfield, the third major one in recent ones, how the tabloids were baying for the blood of various train company executives - be they from Railtrack, GNER, or any other company which remotely had anything to do with it. The argument apparently goes that trains, as a public service, should be utterly, completely safe, and people should be able to travel on them without any risk to them whatsoever. The thing is that this is actually true. Statistically speaking the number of people that have died on train journeys compared to the number of people that have taken train journeys is very, very, almost negligently small. Now I realise that this is a very callous way of looking at things, to simply dismiss deaths as a random error, and I don't like it myself - so I'll present another argument, and come back to this later. Trains, to state the obvious, are machines. They run with moving parts - and as any engineer will tell you, things that have moving parts will go wrong eventually, it's a fact of life. No machine is totally perfect. Admittedly there are things that could be done to make them better, but you're never going to attain a state of affairs where a machine never, ever breaks down. For instance, early warning systems to stop trains if they go through red lights is an improvement which could/is being made. But there's no way you can do anything about a rail that happens to break, short of massively increased inspections, which causes delays to passengers. The point is that whenever you use any form of transport there is a trade-off between convenience and risk. Cars are more convenient than trains, and so the risk is higher. In trains you are supposed to have a dedicated driver, and so on, and so the risk is less. But there is still risk there, and you implicitly agree to take on this risk when you get on the train. You know there is a small chance somethi
ng could go wrong. I agree that improvements could be made. Improvements can always be made. But if the trains were made much safer, there'd be fewer of them, because half the track and trains would always be stopped somewhere awaiting safety inspections. It's the same argument as saying that reducing the road speed limit down to 20 or 15 would save lives. True, but no-one would ever get anywhere. Where do we stop? Let's not go overboard on safety - there can be such a thing as too much. Sense is what's required here, and I just hope the government and rail managers don't bow to the tabloid frenzy that is fuelling all this hype.
I won't insult your intelligence by telling you what the main attraction at Pisa is. Well, actually I have to mention it to get some points across.. The tower is, of course, breathtaking. White, leaning over so far you convince yourself it's about to topple, perfectly constructed. Unfortunately, at the moment it also has two enormous steel cables holding it up (which sort of destroy the romantic illusion) plus a building site all the way around. They're trying to stabilise it, and stop it falling over and destroying all the touristy stalls opposite - all of which is well and good, but as I say, it makes for slightly less impressive photos. What else is there to do? Well, you can look at the cathedral and the baptistery, which along with some museums and the tower occupy the rather too perfect piazza to the north of the town - the Campo dei Miracoli. However, both of these were built in the same vein as the tower. Once you've spent time gazing at that, the cathedral and baptistery seem almost something of a let-down, being fairly standard in their construction. You can pay to go in them, but we thought that almost £4 was rather too much to ask. Anything else? You can play dodge the tourist (there are, of course, literally thousands of them), and you can wander along the street traders' stalls set up along the opposite side of the road that goes along the front of the piazza. To be honest, if all you've heard of Pisa is the tower, it's all you're likely to hear. It's a perfectly nice, sleepy Tuscan town, but apart from the one spot, there is nothing there! An afternoon is all you really need.
Having recently spent a couple of days in Vienna in the course of a tour of Europe, I can honestly say that it is one of the nicest cities I have ever been to. Combining the efficiency and good sense of Germany with Italian warmth and hospitality, every street radiates an atmosphere of culture and good living. The main shopping street, the Kärnter Straße, is a case in point. Completely cobbled and pedestrianised, it leads from the cathedral square, Stephansplatz, down to the Staatsoper, the state opera house. There are hundreds of little cafés in the street where you can gorge yourself on Viennese cakes, and always there is some sort of music playing - we had two men in black tie playing the violin. The range of shops is great and the atmosphere is relaxed and happy - we twice went out of our way just so we could walk down this street again. As for the sights, they are many and varied. The cathedral, St. Stephans, is fairly impressive but you have to pay to get into most of it. The imperial palace, the Hofburg, in the centre of town is very large and splendid, reflecting the past grandeur of Austria and Austria-Hungary. You can get a tour of some of the state rooms for what is actually a reasonable price; also in the complex are many museums, such as the modern art museum, and a museum of musical instruments; also here are the crown jewels and treasury, which are well worth a visit. We didn't have time to see the Lipizzaner riding school, but they train from 10am to 12am most days and are supposed to be excellent. Of course the other thing you should do is see the Schönbrunn palace. The summer residence of the old imperial family, it is an enormous place, comprising a huge palace (two different tours available, fairly reasonable price with audioguide included), beautiful gardens, an enormous fountain and, at the top of the hill to the back of the palace and gardens, the Gloriette, a fine triumphal arch-type affair. Also here is a larg
e zoo, palm house and various other features, all of which you must pay to get into. Highly recommended; allow a day to give it full justice. Getting around is easy as long as you can work out the metro system, as, being extremely well-connected, it should take you everywhere you want to go. Hourly, daily, weekly and more tickets are available at good prices. We also visited a clock museum (free entry on Friday mornings), a Dali museum, and managed to get standing room tickets at the Staatsoper for £1.50. We stayed at the youth hostel, easy to get to by metro; like most youth hostels, it was basic but comfortable enough, and it did very cheap meals. The city has it all. A veritable culture-fest, which is easy to get around in, and has plenty of things to occupy you. When (not if) I go back, it'll be for at least a week. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone.
Occasionally a film is released that you think you're going to love before you go and see it. More occasionally, the film lives up to your expectations. But it is truly a rare film that makes you immediately want to run back into the cinema and see it all over again. This film absolutely oozes class, the perfect thing to watch on a summer's evening when you're leaning back on the sofa feeling generally superior about the world. It tells the story of Kathryn and Sebastian, seasoned manipulator of people and seasoned ladykiller respectively, and half-brother and sister, who make an original bet. If Sebastian can bed the new headmaster's daughter, a self-avowed virgin who is waiting for 'the right time', then he will be able to have the one person he has never been able to: Kathryn. And if she wins, she gets his prized green vintage Jaguar. The scene is set, and everything progresses well for Sebastian, until something very unexpected happens. He falls in love. This is an extremely black comedy, which nonetheless leaves you feeling at the end as if you're about to burst into tears. It's likely to appeal to you more if you have a cynical sense of humour - there are plenty of things which aren't, at first glance, obviously funny, but require thought (and a second viewing!). If such things will draw you to a film, then the presence of Sarah Michelle Gellar playing Kathryn will draw plenty of males, whilst Ryan Philippe as Sebastian will have the ladies swooning.. All in all, this is a classy, sexy film, filled with beautiful people playing the very worst (or is that best?) kind of mind games with each other; and the ending is truly tragic. A classic.
Let's be perfectly frank. The Euro is, was and probably shall continue to be for the foreseeable future, a political project, perpetrated by narrow-minded European politicians who have dreams of their names being set down in the history books. Now that's over, let's look at it from a more logical perspective. The claim is that it will be good for, well, essentially everyone in the economy. It will eliminate exchange rate worries for exporters and governments. It will increase competition by making it easier to compare prices. It will bring interest rates down in the UK, it will increase employment. Rubbish. The pound will be fixed against currencies - just like in the ERM - except this time it will be irreversible. We will lose a valuable way to release pressure in the economy. We will also lose interest rate control, which is another valuable economic weapon. It will bring interest rates down to levels unsustainable and unsuitable for the UK - just look at the example of Ireland. And if anyone will really go to Calais to check the price of bread in France, please tell me. It's a bad idea. We have the most liberal, well-balanced economy in Europe. Why spoil it?
I signed on at Manpower in Winchester almost immediately after I got back from university this year. I was officially on their 'books' - before I got sick of waiting and got my own job - for about a month, and in that time I was only offered two jobs, or assignments as they are properly called. One was a night shift at a mail-order firm, and the other was something involving chickens and an industrial vacuum cleaner. Not a wide and varied selection there, I think you'll agree. I did take the night shift job - it was for one night only -and I did find that what the company did, they did efficiently. I was telephoned the day I was to have the job, and went down to their office, where I was sat down, filled out various internal and tax forms, and then given my official signing-on book etc., that you get when you do your first assignment. They gave me very clear instructions on how to get to the place, what my hours would be (although these in fact turned out to be wrong!) and who I was to report to. Afterwards, the money came through exactly when they said it would, and the payslip promptly after that. So all in all, they've got this side of things about right. But this is exactly the problem. It's no good getting all the niceties right if you can't actually get someone any work in the first place. This may just be a problem that I and most other people seem to have had this summer, and they did at least get me some work, so I'll reserve judgement for now, except to say that the lack of any offers wasn't overly impressive. If you know they can get you work, then they are a great agency to go to. But check beforehand.
My mum bought her Golf 1.6 CL in 1989 and it has recently passed on to me - and I can honestly say from first-hand experience that this is a very very good little car. The car has to date done about 50,000 miles. Now, I realise that that's not as many as it could be (one careful lady owner, and all that) but the car has only broken down twice in this entire 11-year period: once when rain got into the engine due to a blocked vent and killed the battery, and once when the accelerator jammed open, which was eventually traced to a manufacturing fault. Not bad considering the problems that some people have with cars that are seven or eight years younger. It starts first time, every time (without wishing to sound like a salesman) and this particular model is powerful enough to feel fairly comfortable overtaking in. Ours has also passed its MOT every time. I can get at least 35 mpg from this engine, which is just as well with current petrol prices, but be warned that insurance may be higher because this is a desirable car. I make no comment on the servicing charges, because everyone seems to have their own ideas on what is a good price for servicing.. All in all, if you can find one reasonably cheap, then this is a well-built, solid, reliable car, which will go on and on for ever (or so I'm told). Let's hope new generation Golfs are as good in ten years' time.
OK, I'll admit it, finally. I do own Britney Spears music. In fact, not one, but two albums. Half of you have probably already turned away in disgust, but I'll put my argument anyway, for the benefit of the other half of you. The problem with much of the music around today is that it is morbidly depressing. Travis, Radiohead, Coldplay, some of their songs sound, on occasion, very miserable. You know what I mean, if you hear one of these songs on the radio, you won't, generally, be singing along by the end, because it's just not the type of song that you feel happy about. And that's where Britney comes in. Occasionally, I think, we all have to have a need for happy, lively, bouncy music; to cheer us up, or to keep our good mood going, whatever the reason may be. Now, I'm not saying by any means that she is the best singer out there. But she can hold a tune at least, and she has ridiculously good songwriters. Even the most die-hard of her haters have to admit that her songs are catchy and happy. And that, in a nutshell, is why I like them. Fine, there is less musical talent than there could be. Fair enough, she doesn't write her own songs, or play an instrument, or whatever. But it's harmless, inoffensive, upbeat pop music - and sometimes that can be a very good thing.
I've heard a lot of things said about this site that really disparage it quite a lot, and which simply aren't true. The most usual charge levelled is that there are no tracks available to download from bands of note. This is, of course, true - but only because mp3.com is one of a seemingly dying breed, the lawful and above-board MP3 site. It only puts up tracks when it has permission to do so, which I think is an extremely commendable thing to do. The site is, in fact, an excellent hunting ground for new material. If you're feeling bored with the bands you've heard of (and everybody else has heard of) then go to this site and you will find a wealth of material split into various categories. Just browse away, let your imagination run wild, and find something you really really like. Plus, you can sound very musically informed when you tell all your friends about this great new band that none of them have ever heard of. Seriously though, this is a good resource. It caters for all tastes, jazz, classical, blues, pop/rock, everything. The downloads are generally pretty speedy and don't break very often - and you get the chance to widen your musical tastes, broaden your horizons if you will, which is always a good thing. Try something different for a change.