Greg's Occasional News & Views

21 February 2010

Google Stop the Snow SearchSeriously now. Those of you in the arctic northeast need to help us out here – who do we need to contact to stop the snow? Just when we thought we could see the first glimpses of Spring beginning to emerge, it starts again.

I had imagined there might be a web site somewhere which handles these sorts of requests. However, of the “approximately” 109,000,000 sites Google presented in response to the query “how to stop snow”, none look particularly promising.

Google Results - Stop the Snow Search

 

Ms Playchute and I were just talking the other day about the tips of the daffodils beginning to show themselves and how walking the dog at 5.00 in the evening was no longer conducted in pitch darkness and naturally concluded that we were ready to turn the corner into Spring. Then, on Wednesday we had some intermittent showers of sleet and snow, which fortunately never amounted to much. On Thursday, however, after a similar start to the day we watched in mounting despair as the weather deteriorated and the snow attacked again. So, if someone could please forward the relevant web site or contact details we would be very appreciative.

It seems a long time ago now but if your Valentine’s Day was a fraction as good as mine we both had a fantastic time. My sweetheart pulled out all the stops and prepared a fantastic and romantic meal – small recompense for the “amusing” e-mail I dispatched to my loved one. Pork medallions wrapped in pâté in a pastry case and a delicious Jerusalem artichoke au gratin followed by a lemon tarte with ice cream, cherries and blueberries. All washed down with a half decent bottle of Graves. Absolutely fantastic.

I was at the gym the other day and was mightily impressed by the work ethics of one particular pair of chaps. I suspect these two have been shamed by their wives into joining the gym due to the excesses of the Christmas holiday period (and many other protracted periods of excess, to look at them). So, off they go to the gym to return home an hour or so later wearing the warm glow of a decently strenuous workout to the undoubted satisfaction of the two wives. What the wives don’t realise is that the “workout” these two put themselves through consists of (a) enter the changing rooms and get changed into shorts/swim trunks; (b) climb into the Jacuzzi; (c) simmer gently for twenty minutes or until the flesh is beet red; (d) emerge from the Jacuzzi; (e) get dressed and (f) arrive home telling the wife what a vigorous workout they’ve just been through. Now why didn’t I think of that?

I guess I am getting to be a “grumpy old man” but I was struck by the following nonsense:

The Kirklees (West Yorkshire, England) Environmental Health department cited farmer Ronald Norcliffe, 65, in 2008 for inadequate lighting in his barn, which inspectors said failed to meet the “psychological needs” of his one cow and her calf. In his formal appeal, heard in October 2009, Norcliffe noted (unsuccessfully) that he has had a clean record as a farmer for 30 years and that in fact, he still lives fine without electricity in his own house. After his defeat, Norcliffe’s lawyer sighed. “I still have no idea how much lighting is appropriate for a cow.”

I’m all for high quality animal welfare but what next? Will farmer’s soon be obliged to provide satellite television or broadband internet access for their livestock? How about a Jacuzzi to help reduce stress and anxiety?

The following also caught my eye this week. Hardly surprising being, as it is, about French wine.

France wine producers guilty of US scandal
A dozen French winemakers and traders have been found guilty of a massive scam to sell 18 million bottles of fake Pinot Noir to a leading US buyer.

The judge in Carcassonne, south-west France, said the producers and traders had severely damaged the reputation of the Languedoc region.

The 12 more than doubled profits passing off the wine to E and J Gallo under its Red Bicyclette brand.

E and J Gallo was not involved in the court case.

In a statement on its website it said it was “deeply disappointed” to learn its supplier, Sieur d’Arques, had been found guilty of selling falsely labelled French Pinot Noir.

‘No complaints’
The court ruled the 12 had deliberately and repeatedly mislabelled the wine as one of the more expensive varieties of grape in order to get a better price from E and J Gallo.

The Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir single grape wine is hugely popular in the United States.

French Customs officers spotted the swindle and called in investigators.

They found the amount of Pinot Noir being sold to Gallo was far more than the region produced. Some of those in the scandal were not even Pinot Noir producers.

The judge handed out suspended jail sentences ranging from one month to six months for the most prominent wine trader and ordered all the defendants to pay fines.

The fines ranged from 1,500 euros ($2,050; £1,300) to the top figure of 180,000 euros ($247,050; £156,500) for Sieur d’Arques. The judge said that the accused together made seven million euros in profits from the scam.

The judge said: “The scale of the fraud caused severe damage for the wines of the Languedoc for which the United States is an important outlet.”

A lawyer for Sieur d’Arques, Jean-Marie Bourland, told Agence France-Presse: “There is no prejudice. Not a single American consumer complained.”

A lawyer for three other defendants argued his clients had delivered a wine that had Pinot Noir characteristics.

E and J Gallo said it was no longer selling any of the wine to its customers.

So, the perpetrators were fined something like $2000 up to the largest fine of almost $250,000. Not a bad price to pay for a scam which made a profit of $9.5 million. Unless I’m missing something here, haven’t they come out on top (apart from the obvious damage to their reputation, of course)? I was particularly impressed by the claim by one of the lawyers for three of the defendants that they “had delivered a wine that had Pinot Noir characteristics.” Yep, that part is certainly true. It was red.

And as for the suggestion that “Not a single American consumer complained.” Come on, people! Even for an amateur like me, it’s not that difficult to tell the difference between Pinot Noir and Merlot.

And finally, finally, finally, I was delighted to read of the excellent security arrangements at a recent criminal trial in London.

There were no gunshots, kidnaps or car chases through London, it was instead a very understated escape. In the midst of a fourth criminal trial for a £1.75m armed robbery, Peter Blake walked unnoticed out of the door of the Royal Courts of Justice and failed to return.

Police and prosecuting sources privately voiced anger and frustration at the ease with which a man facing the first major criminal trial to take place without a jury in more than 400 years had gone on the run. Blake was one of four defendants charged over a robbery at Heathrow airport in 2004.

The sources pointed out that Blake’s bail application had been opposed by the prosecution on the grounds that he might abscond and because of the serious nature of the offences.

Suspicions were first raised when Blake did not appear in the dock after the lunch break on Wednesday. When he failed to show up again yesterday morning it became clear he might not be returning.

Yes, failing to turn up for the second day in a row might be a clue.

Love to you all,

Greg

 

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