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After the farcical scenes that accompanied the Division 1 play-off semi-final on Thursday night, I'd like to express my amazement at the antics of the Birmingham City manager, Trevor Francis. Upset that the penalty kicks were going to be taken at the Preston fans end, he almost led his team off the field in protest, before allowing them to go back on and make a disastrous effort at the shoot-out. Firstly, I think the shoot-out was in the right place. There was no stand at the other end of the pitch. The spectators that had pain their money to watch the game would have had a perfect right to complain if the penalties had been taken 100 yards away, in front of nobody. Secondly, in any penalty shoot-out, somebody is going to be facing the opposition fans, so why complain? I've no doubt that Francis caused his players to be even more nervous before this critical time, and contributed to the downfall of his team. Trevor, you lost your bottle.
Up until recently I was a happy user of a 3210, but it lost it's little mind and I found that the best way to fix it was to upgrade. The upgrade cost 20 pounds, and Orange have a buy-back deal on the 3210 of 20 pounds so this seemed like a good deal. Unfortunately, the comparisons with the 3210 are not all good. The new unit has many more features, such as vibrating alert, a calender for reminders (excellent) and an extra 40 locations for phone numbers, but the unit itself has a far more 'cheap and nasty' feel to it. The keypad is less precise and the keys protrude a little too far from the case. When I tried to take the back cover off it was a real struggle with the catch, a far cry from the engineering of the 3210. These may seem small complaints, and they are, but it is a shame that the phone manufacturers are content to let their standards slip in this way. No doubt this is another step on the way to the disposable phone. On the whole, I would like to have the features of the 3310 in the chassis of the 3210 please :)
Halfway through this film my eyes began to close.... Slowly... Slowly... The stunning special effects had persuaded them to stay open for a while but even these visual tricks weren't enough to maintain my interest in a story which had started off in a cheap pulp sci-fi novel and was rapidly plummeting towards Scooby-doo land. 'Yeah, it was all make believe, and we woulda got away with it too, if it hadn't been for you meddling cyber-punks' Descartes first said 'cogito ergo sum - I think, therefore I am'. From this we see that all we know is that if one is aware, one exists. Anything else is merely stimuli from external sources that can be confused or distorted. This is hardly ground-breaking. The Matrix uses this as its main thrust, expecting us to believe a paper-thin plot about machines taking over the world ('Terminator', et al) and the most hackneyed cop out of any story - the unexplained 'chosen one'. I'm sorry but unless you are Star Wars, you're not going to get away with that. Even then, you're really stretching your luck. Enough of the plot - the acting might have saved it but Keanu Reeves is not the worst actor in the film. I don't have to add much to that, do I? I was disappointed by this film, after it had been strongly recommended. I'll trust my instincts more in future, I think.
When you sign up for a telephone from a cable company you can be sure of one thing - the service will never be terrific. You're always better off with BT for all their faults, they've got the network and the infrastructure to support their expansion and respond quickly to faults. However, the stingy nature of the BT SurfTime offer has created a good reason to opt for the cable service - unmetered internet access. When I moved house I terminated my BT contract and signed up with Telewest. The next month was the usual farce, with engineers turning up at the wrong time, phone numbers being incorrectly allocated and my service connected, disconnected and connected again with depressing familiarity. But - once you're over the initial nightmare of asking the cable telco to do anything more complicated than press a button, you're away. I've had a couple of problems with the blueyonder service, occasional authenication problems and suchlike, but I had the same problems with Demon. You have to run a pretty poor application called 'Gearbox' which establishes your connection and hangs around on your desktop (and irritatingly on your system tray) but it works and rarely complains. There are no limits to the amount of time you can remain connected and I've been forcefully disconnected by the network only a handful of times, and never while I had activity on the line. All in all the download speeds are fine, the service is very rarely engaged, and then only for a few tries, and the news feed carries plenty of groups. I would recommend this service to anybody that uses the internet for more than a few hours a week. Just be prepared for the initial incompetence while they set you up...
Addiction to a web site? This has got to be some kind of amusing self-deprecation, yes? If there really are people out there that feel that they are *addicted* to a web site like dooyoo, that they would suffer actual depression if they were deprived of it, then they should not be allowed to use a service like the Internet - it's just too dangerous. In the past the socially inadequate would find proper pastimes like trainspotting or role playing games to pass their time away. To think that these people are now populating useful services like dooyoo is worrying in the extreme. I am aware that this opinion might cause some consternation amongst the anorak-clad, but for those of you with some independence of thought left - beware. Use this site in the manner that it should be, as an honest opinion forum, and don't get dragged into the psuedo-social side. For pity's sake don't be persuaded to go to any event where you might meet other posters. There's a reason why these people use the internet to arrange their social lives. In conclusion - keep it real, everyone.
There has been a lot of praise for the England captain for the new spirit shown by the England team of late - certainly some players (Caddick, Hick) that had appeared to be out of the reckoning have been recalled with some success. How much of this is down to the captain is open to question, though. Remember in 1999 England played one of the most dismal series in living memory against an average New Zealand team (99* from Tudor in Birmingham notwithstanding) and that was *before* the new coach, Duncan Fletcher came onto the scene. Darren Gough is on record as saying that Fletcher has revitalised his enthusiasm for Test cricket, and England won the vital Lord's test with Stewart at the helm - not Hussain. I am of the opinion that Hussain may be far more of the monkey than the organ grinder in this set up - and if he doesn't pick up his test form this Winter he may not be facing the Australians next Summer.
It would be a brave man that predicted the outcome of this series. England, fresh from their long-overdue triumph over the West Indies, go into this series with heads up and genuine optimism. This is not unjustified, as the Pakistan team are always inconsistent but they have some of the best players in the world and can destroy any team on their own pitches. One only has to look at the talent available to them in the bowling department - Saqlain, Mushtaq, Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib - not an attack to take lightly. With Anwar at the top of the order and a resurgent Inzamam in the middle the Pakistani team is strong indeed. England can still win the series - they have a strong seam bowling line up - but must score more consistently. Hussain is a worry at three, and must surely drop down the order if his poor run continues, but we can hope for more success from youngsters Trescothick and Vaughan in this series. It's going to be interesting.
Last year it was very close between Kevin Phillips of Sunderland and Alan Shearer of Newcastle for the top-scorer prize, but even though I'm a Sunderland fan I can't see Super Kevin clinching it this season. Shearer will score plenty, but I don't see him as top scorer either. Thierry Henri is the bookies favourite at 11/4 at Ladbrokes, with Owen at 3/1 close behind, but if you want my advice you'll take a punt on young Alan Smith of Leeds this year. At 14/1 he's generously priced and if Leeds challenge for the big prize again this year he'll be one of the top strikers of the season.
There has been a growing lobby amongst the middle classes for the de-criminalisation of cannabis for some years. The Independent newspaper has been in favour of this for over five years, the police often express the view that the pursuit of users of cannabis is an unnecessary drain on resources, and there are many sufferers of arthritis and other painful conditions that have proclaimed a use for the drug in alleviating their suffering. Still, there are reactions against these opinions. Why? Because the large majority of the public have been fed mis-information about drugs and their use for generations. Whilst governments have scooped vast tax revenues from tobacco use, they have criminalised users of other addictive drugs to appease the masses. It's time for the hypocrisy to stop. Any person experienced in the use of drugs will tell you that the moderate use of cannabis is no more likely to harm you than a few pints of beer. Any person experienced in the use of drugs will also remind you that someone intoxicated with cannabis isn't going to try to fight you, or urinate on your garden, or beat up his wife. Compare that with a drunk, and you'll wonder where the real evil lies.
Once you've visited the Tombola site, you will probably go back to it again and again. Where else can you get a free chance to win a few hundred quid? The games don't keep you hanging around like many quiz sites so you don't rack up the phone bill, and the lottery syndicates gizmo makes you feel that you should *really* collect your free ticket every day. I have never won a bean on this site, and have no connection with it whatsoever except as a regular subscriber, but I still think it's a well-designed site. They have obviously started to make some money by providing competition pages for Virgin and Sport.Com amongst others, and good luck to them. So come on chaps, give me the four gold bars tomorrow, eh?
Today (Monday 2nd July) sees Pete Sampras take on Jonas Bjorkmann at Wimbledon. Sampras is hot favourite to win this game but his injury may restrict his mobility, and if so his opponent is well equipped to take advantage. Seeds have tumbled in this year's championships, leaving few players with the grass-court game to go all the way. Agassi, Henman and Phillipoussis are the other contenders, and at least one of those will go out today as Henman takes on the Greek-Australian. Bjorkmann is blessed with a fantastic serve-and-volley game that could take him all the way, providing he gets past Sampras. At 33-1, he's the best bet so far.
The only way to reach people in this country is to hit them in the pocket. An electorate that is so apathetic about the democratic process in this country that it only manages to get 30% of it's voters out on polling day can have little complaint if their elected representatives use more direct methods to get their attention. The roads in this country are congested from 5am to 8pm in many areas, and the country is choking on airborne pollutants. There is still much to do. The rail companies, far from helping matters are increasing their fares, making public transport an expensive option. Cycle lanes and bus-only roads are still the exception rather than the norm. Unfortunately the traffic problem is here NOW. Parents are still driving their child the mile to school, when they could quite easily walk. People still drive the 500 yards to the shops. This behaviour must be stopped, and if people won't pay attention to words, they will be subject to the action of increased duty on petrol. Try voting next time.
Poor old Mark Ramprakash. Of County Cricket batsmen, only Graeme Hick is more feared amongst the bowling fraternity, and only Hick has been the subject of more debate regarding his England selection. Ramprakash has been given a fairly uncompromising brief by the selection committee, open and succeed, or don't play at all. Now, after the Lord's test against the West Indies, he is under scrutiny again having failed to make a significant score in the series so far. This is harsh on a batsman that has only this season been given the task of opening the batting. I believe that Ramprakash must open for England in this series, and the tour of the sub-continent, before we can judge him a success or failure. If he does not make his mark by then, it's goodbye Ramps, and thanks.
Having lived in Birmingham for four years, and having been a visitor to most major cities in this country over that period, I have to say that Birmingham is the least ambitious, least attractive and least *fun* of all. If you want a good night out then you are advised to head to Broad Street - where a gentlemen out with his friends is less likely to gain access to any of the so-called nightspots than a tiger in a shirt and tie. The pubs on Broad Street are quite frankly embarrassing. The architecture reminds you how ugly pre-cast concrete can *really* be, the museum is not worh visiting unless you have *nothing* to do on that wet Sunday, and the only entertainment to be had is the amusing antics of the football teams of the region who insist that one day they will win a competition of some sort. This will never happen. Do yourself a favour - stay away!
After a season which could never have been predicted beforehand Sunderland fans can be forgiven for feeling ambivalent about their teams performance last season. Top three in December was unexpected but very welcome, but Sunderland fans are never satisfied, and many were calling for new signings to help make a push for the top, or at least to secure a place in Europe. Peter Reid and the management were not persuaded, and the team went through an horrific period without a win for what seemed like eternity. An upturn in fortunes at the back end of the season kept us in the top half though, and we can look forward to an interesting season to come. Players that we missed last year such as Bould and McCann will be back, and surely Reid must strengthen his cover in midfield and defence if Sunderland are to challenge for Europe again. Top priority though in the long term plan is to remain a Premiership club, stay on top of the Mags and the Smogmonsters, and build slowly to what will surely be a magnificent title winning season in a few years time. Yes, the Maccams are back, and this time they've no return ticket.