Science Saturday – Redox Reactions

Redox ReactionsNo, not Detox, but Redox, which is shorthand for describing the actions of Reduction (gaining electrons) and Oxidation (the loss of electrons) which contains the majority of chemical reactions. As electrons jump from atom to atom, they carry energy with them, and that transfer of energy is what makes all life on earth possible.

The clever guys from crashcourse put together this extremely informative, but not too challenging, video which helps explain the fundamentals behind every chemical reaction that takes place on Earth, giving rise to both you and me, how the combustion engine on your car works, or, how the battery powers¬†your smartphone or laptop which you’re probably watching this on.

Mind bending? Just press replay….it’ll all be clear in the end ūüôā

Moscow Metro – My Favourite Thing About Moscow

Moscow Metro Komsomolskaya_2Moscow’s metro system has got to be the only public transport system in the world that can be described as the most beautiful transport system the world has ever known. Built in 1935 – and still being expanded – it was described by Joseph Stalin as the “People’s Palaces” due to its sumptuousness in an era that was all about austerity and supposed conformity amongst the¬†proletariat.

Given that Moscow is for me almost my third home (Amsterdam and Dublin playing the roles of one and two), one of my favourite day to day experiences in Moscow is riding the metro to and from work. Why? Well, because there are so many unique insights about Russian and Moscow life that one can observe, or, in my own unique way, contribute, that make riding the metro fun. For example….

….I am always amazed and how many bookworms you’ll see on an average commute. It used to be the case that folks would have their head buried deep in the pages of a good book. These days, however, the paper has given way to a myriad of e-reader devices. A Russian classic is almost always typical fodder for your average Muscovite commuter. But some, busy practicing their English, might have either their English textbooks open in front of them as they busily fill in the blanks with a pencil, whilst the train jumps and shudders along the bumpy Soviet built tracks. Or for the more fluent readers, they might be found with the likes of a Barbara Cartland or a John Grisham novel in hand.

Moscow Metro_2

The other thing I love about Moscow’s metro is the¬†sheer¬†beauty of if. As I said earlier, it was described as the People’s Palace, and a day underground would easily explain why. Nowhere else would you find¬†numerous¬†murals, stained glass walls, bronze statues, kilometres of marble or vaulting arches as in Moscow. Not all the stations are glorious, I’ll admit, but the larger stations and the ones named after key people from the USSR’s history are all beautifully decorated. I have found myself exploring the underground with camera in hand for hours and hours just soaking up the beauty, the works of art and hidden secrets of this metro system.

Moscow Metro Kievskaya_2 Moscow Metro Kievskaya

The carriages are always busy…..except maybe after 9pm. Which means that seats are always at a premium. But I always enjoy watching young Muscovites readily standing up and freely giving up their seats for those who are more in need….an elderly Babushka, with bags full of produce, on her way to the market to sell her¬†homegrown¬†treasures, an expectant Mother who’s tired and wilting from the summer heat and the lack of A/C in the carriages, or a parent with a young child who would ordinarily get crushed in the ensuing transit of people at every stop, jostling to get on and off the carriage, rushing to catch their connection. Muscovites happily stand up and offer their seat for those who are in more need of it that they. I’ve lived in many places in the world where nobody would even bat an eyelid at the Babushka standing in front of them, about to collapse under her heavy burden.

If you happen to be travelling on the metro in or around 18:00, you’ll begin to notice the traditional “checking-in” of the troops. It’s a daily quirk of Russian life I have grown to enjoy watching as I make my way home.

Moscow Metro

A platoon commander of the local Militsia (Russian police) will make his rounds to the various stations his officers are based. Their task is supposedly to ensure a constant police presence at each station and discourage petty crime (pickpockets, graffiti etc) but they are never anywhere to be seen except for when their commander is due on his rounds. They will walk in a group, up and down the platform in full dress uniform until the commander arrives, at which they will approach him in full Russian-style goose step, stop and salute him. They then hand over their report books which he dutifully signs and then dismisses them and moves on to the next station. It’s a daily ritual that in my mind rivals the changing of the guard at the eternal flame in the Kremlin, and something to watch out for if you ever take the metro.

Russians, and Muscovites in particular, are not renowned for their public displays of expression. Yes, there is busking, but nothing like the quality or quantity found in London’s Underground….probably because it’s not tolerated by the boys in blue I mentioned earlier. So I always get a bit of a buzz when I wear my earphones and start humming a banging tune to myself and take notice of the funny looks I get from the locals.

The fact is, they know I’m not a native just from taking one look at me. So I already stand-out. But when you start to tap the handrail in sync with the beat of the song playing on my iPod, or quietly hum the tune to yourself they’ll look at you as if you’ve just grown and extra head from shoulders and asked them out for a pint. It’s my little way of contributing to the weird and wonderful collage of people that make up the commuters on the metro. Mind you, they give the same looks to the “Jesus Freaks” who get on preaching and looking for donations to whatever cult or church they are collecting money for.

Moscow Metro Ploshad Revolutsii_2There’s one other thing I love about Moscow’s metro above all, which probably actually frustrates the shite out of the average tourist….Cyrillic Sign-Posts. Unlike its Sister metro station, St. Petersburg, which has directions in both English and Russian, Moscow ONLY has directions written in Cyrillic. And I love this. It gives me a feeling of having super powers, being able to travel anywhere in Moscow and never getting lost, just because I can read and find my way, especially when there are multiple exits and I need to choose the right one or face an additional two kilometre walk from the other end!

It’s not all roses and fairy dust though. There are things I don’t like about Moscow’s metro, like the amount of black/grey snot that fills my nose after only spending 15 minutes going from my apartment to the office. And it’s a sticky kind of snot that won’t shift no matter how hard you blow.

Moscow Metro Novoslobodskaya

And then there’s the¬†stinky body odour, made even worse during the summer season, but it’s always there. I can understand the BO problem in the evening…..but in the morning? Honestly, do they not know what a fecking shower is for?

And then there’s the begging Babushka’s. They are not limited to the metro stations, you’ll find them in the underpasses under all the major roads too. And it’s not the begging that bothers me, more the fact that these are people who have been discarded by their government and their people, despite the¬†sacrifices¬†they made for their country. They have had to resort to begging because they can no longer live in the worlds 2nd most expensive city on their meagre $300 a month pension. It’s all the more upsetting when you think that they are someone else’s Grandmother. Who reading this would feel comfortable in the knowledge of their Granny was out on the street panhandling just to make ends meet.

Not to end on a down note, but Moscow’s Metro system really is a unique, fascinating and fun way of exploring Russia’s capital and her people. Go on….buy a ticket ūüôā

Moscow Metro Komsomolskaya

Dumb Americans And Their Guns

The Daily Show Once again those crazy Americans and their love for guns has made for good cannon fodder (excuse the pun) for The Daily Show team when one gun nut and his idiotic logic made for hilarious viewing. Gun control is once again a hot topic in the United States, after 2012 seemed to be rife with mass shootings. Very recently, a bill failed to pass in the U.S. senate, which would have allowed for mandatory ‚Äėdeeper‚Äô background checks. Correspondent¬†John Oliver¬†made a trip down under to interview former Prime Minister, John Howard and to find out how Australia managed to bring in laws to combat their history of mass shootings and gun related crime…..because of course, gun control as a concept would NEVER work…..at least not in America. It never ceases to amaze me why Americans are so attached to need, this right, to own and brandish a gun. Rather than setting about laws to prevent people owning a gun, why not attack it from a different angle and regulate the sale of ammunition. In the US, ammunition can be bought over the counter in grocery stores for fucksake! It might be the same deal in Canada, I don’t know. But you don’t¬†hear¬†Canadians going on and on about how their founding fathers made the country what it is with the help of a gun, not do you hear them spouting off about rights enshrined in a constitutional amendment!


BulletsBullets_2

Sarah Palin – Thicker Than Pig Shit

sarah palinSarah Palin was in the news today, with yet show-piece which only serves to show the rest of the world how STUPID she really is, and how STUPID Americans who would actually vote for her also are.

What did she do this time? Well, she has called for an outright invasion of the Czech Republic, a stable, law abiding Eastern European sovereign state and member of the European Union, because she clearly never paid any fucking attention in Geography class. But then again, how many Americans do you know who could actually place the Czech Republic on a map, or for that matter, even know that it used to be part of a now non-existent country known as Czechoslovakia! Exactly my point.

Anyway, an article from dailycurrent.com , forwarded to me by my good friend Tim Kussmaul, shows exactly how stupid Palin is as it’s clear she got the Czech Republic mixed up with Chechnya.

The article is as follows

In an interview with Fox News, the former governor of Alaska said that although federal investigators have yet to complete their work, the time for action is now.

“We don’t know everything about these suspects yet,” Palin told¬†Fox and Friends¬†this morning,¬†referring¬†to Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who allegedly carried out the Boston Marathon attacks. “But we know they were Muslims from the Czech Republic.

“I betcha I speak for a lot of Americans when I say I want to go over there right now and start teaching those folks a lesson. And let’s not stop at the Czech Republic, let’s go after all Arab countries.

“The Arabians need to learn that they can’t keep comin’ over here and blowing stuff up. Let’s set off a couple of nukes in Islamabad, burn down Prague, then bomb the heck out of Tehran. We need to show them that we mean business.”

Although hosts Steve Doocy and¬†Gretchen¬†Carlson applauded Palin’s jingoism, they¬†immediately¬†attempted to rectify her multiple geographic errors.

“Well Islamabad is the¬†capital¬†of Pakistan, which isn’t Arab,” Carlson corrected, “and Tehran is the capital of Iran, which is predominantly Persian. But I do see your point.”

“Also Czech Republic isn’t really an Arab or even Muslim country, I don’t think,” Doocy added, “but otherwise what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. I think most Americans wish Obama would step up and lead on this one.”

Palin, however, didn’t take kindly to being corrected and defended her analysis.

“Steve,¬†that’s probably one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever heard. How is Czech Republic not a¬†Muslim¬†country? You saw those brothers, they were Islamic and they were Chechen!”

“Yes there were Muslim and they were ethnic Chechens,” Doocy started, “but they¬†grew up¬†mostly in Kyrgyzstan¬†and the United States. And more importantly,¬†Chechens¬†don’t come from the Czech Republic, they come from¬†Chechnya, which is part of Russia.”

“What’s the difference?” Palin responded. “Isn’t¬†Russia part of the Czech Republic?”

“No, the Czech Republic is a¬†separate¬†country. It’s part of the European Union and a¬†strong¬†NATO ally,” Doocy noted. “But heck, why not? Let’s invade. What could go wrong?”

“Yeah and while we’re at it,” Carlson added,¬†“let’s call the Queen of England and see if the U.K. will join us.”

In a statement released after the interview, Palin attacked¬†Fox News¬†and its “pro-Islamic” and “pro-geography” bias.

“This is just another case of the politically correct liberal media refusing to tell the truth about radical Islam,” she¬†said.

As Tim rightly asked when he emailed me the link, where else than in the USA can a person with such a terrible universal education be seen as a serious politician. Quite right Tim. My answer, I have no fucking idea.

Dutch Customer Service – A New Low

head-in-sand

Anyone who has lived in Holland for more than a week will tell you straight away that their first bugbear of the Dutch is their complete ineptitude and empathy for anyone whom they consider a customer and the severe lack of anything that remotely resembles proper customer service.

It’s the first thing that annoys people of the Dutch, even before the swathes of red tape and¬†bureaucracy¬†makes their lives unbearable during the whole registration¬†debacle¬†that¬†accompanies any move to Holland.¬†And one could even consider that this exercise of registering with the authorities would also appropriately fall under the guise of customer service, albeit performed by the overpaid Dutch civil¬†servants¬†who perform this mind numbingly, but oh so important to the Dutch local government, registration process. But the tactic akin to the fabled Ostrich head-in-sand approach to customer relationship management is a talent that the Dutch have made all their own.

I’ve slowly, but still unwillingly, grown to accept the slowness of Dutch waitresses, her getting the order wrong, the cold meal served at my table because she was too fucking busy updating her Facebook to deliver it to my table, or the fact that I have to ask her eight fucking times for a refill of beer, or when she tells me to go and order it myself at the bar because she’s too busy!

I’ve slowly, yet temperamentally, gotten used to the fact that every fucking shop the length and breadth of the country shuts¬†its¬†doors at 6pm every weekday evening. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a large city, you are then lucky that you can avail of a¬†meagrely¬†stocked Albert Heijn (Dutch supermarket chain)¬†whose¬†doors remain open until 8pm on a weekday. But¬†woe betide¬†you if you forgot to do your weekly shop on a Saturday, when the shops are usually jam packed with Cloggies, fighting like buck toothed monkey’s over the last sliced pans of bread, because everything is shut on a Sunday and you’re shit out of luck if you’ve no food in the house!

I’ve slowly, and grudgingly, grappled with the oh so Dutch concepts of ONLY being able to make a hair appointment ON THE SAME DAY that I want my hair cut. Clogic‚ĄĘ¬†(Cloggy Logic) is clearly at work here, because it seems to make perfect sense to Cloggies that one should only make¬†one’s¬†hair appointment on the day one wants it cut, and seems to perplex them something no end when one suggests that perhaps it would be more convenient for ME if I could choose the date and time in advance and have them ensure that someone is available and that I don’t have to wait around for ages for my turn. And this is but one such example of Cloggy Calendar Management.

For a nation that never does anything¬†spontaneously,¬†like going for some beers with your mates at the drop of a hat, and who lives and dies by their diary, how they fail to see the need or even acknowledge the need to be able to plan around a customer’s needs is mind boggling!

And I’ve slowly accepted –¬†and choose treatment anywhere BUT the Netherlands –¬†the piss-poor customer service associated with anything that involves a doctor, or healthcare in general, in this country. Pharmacies that shut on weekends, preventing any way of refilling a prescription until they reopen on Monday, or that they¬†follow¬†the same prescribed rules associated with shopping hours along with the rest of their¬†shopkeeper¬†brethren. Doctors who prescribe¬†paracetamol¬†as a cure-all for everything, including, but not limited to, Cancer, HIV/AIDS, detached retina’s, broken limbs and the H1N1 Bird Flu.

But I literally exploded this morning after an event that was the last straw on this camels back. You see, Herself and I returned from a wonderful trip from the very beautiful city of Valencia. A city that is not only beautiful to behold, but whose residents are warm, friendly and only too ready, willing and able to help out their fellow man, and provide said man (or woman) with prompt, friendly service, at what I must add importantly, are VERY reasonable prices.

Upon our return, we had to pick up our furry family member from the kennels. He’d been incarcerated there for the length of our short but relaxing holiday, and it was time we broke him out of the joint. The only problem was, the Joint he was staying at had a collection time which expired at 12:00. I arrived three (count them, one, two, three) minutes late to which I was informed that they were closed, they refused point blank to even entertain the idea of allowing me to collect the dog because they were too busy having lunch (a crappy cheese sandwich eaten with a fucking knife and fork no doubt) and I could collect said dog at 13:00 when they would start working again.

I flipped! It was the proverbial final straw on this particular camel’s back. I was like a caldera whose pressure has reached maximum and went fucking nuts. Finally, one hour later, Herself went in, exuding her usual grace and gravitas and collected the dog. Except that these fuckers decided to add insult to injury and had the audacity to charge us for a FULL EXTRA DAY, because I was three minutes late. Can you fucking believe it?

What grates on me is the fact that we are NEW CUSTOMERS. In every other civilised country, companies do everything they can to build up a good relationship with their clientele in the hope that their customers will return time and time again. For a new customer, a one-time minor offence like being three minutes late would normally be tolerated. Hell, I’d even hold my hands up and welcome a mild chastising and apologise over my tardiness. But no. The Dutch, in their typical Cloggyminded “Customer is always WRONG” mindset decided that ours was not a customer¬†relationship which¬†they value, and let’s fuck with the newbies!

Which says a lot about why prices are so fucking sky-high in this country in the first place. It’s as though companies here couldn’t care less if customers come and go, because they’ll compensate for the lack of a constant customer base by ripping everyone else off on a one time event only. So because a Dutch company is so incompetent,¬†or has chosen to hire fucking morons who’ve been tasked with job of being the living, breathing corporate face of whatever the brand image they are purportedly marketing, everyone else gets the runaround and fucked royally in the ass, both on price and on the sheer harrowing experience of it all.

It’s small wonder how this fuckwit infested country even manages to keep afloat in the first place. Oh, I remember how…..because the government is in on the act too. They charge 52% income tax for fuck all in return, all the while rip-off merchants like those palming off horsemeat as beef steaks or hiring Eastern Europeans as modern day slaves on¬†asparagus¬†farms get nothing more than a slap on the wrist whilst being told Punch and Judy style that “You’re a very naughty boy” and health insurance executives announce profits increases of 500% year over year, all the while the health insurance coverage for your average Jan is reduced further and further each and every year.

Fuck Me!!!! Honey, book us a flight back to Spain, will you?