Lance Armstrong

Armstrong - one of the greatest liars of all time

I’ve just had a phone call from Lance Armstrong’s agent and, apparently, he wants to sponsor  this site. All I have to do is give a clean blood sample and he’ll pay me a load of money.

Lance Armstrong is one of the greatest liars of all time, second to Jimmy Savile. Like Savile, he conned us big style and, like Savile, we all kind of knew.

Savile was creepy, Armstrong was beyond human but the questions that remained unanswered when these two odious individuals were in their so-called ‘glory days’ are almost as criminal. The bigger the lie, the more they’ll believe it.

I am not putting Armstrong in the same league as Savile – I just need to make that clear. Armstrong is not evil, he’s just fundamentally flawed as an individual, Savile, however,  is a monster.

This morning like millions of others, I watched the Armstrong interview with Oprah Winfrey, and although there is a part of me that respects such a candid outpouring, what amazes me is how devastatingly composed he is. This composure just begs the question: what else is he lying about?

There’s a lot more to this and I suspect there will be many more revelations in the years to come. Lance Armstrong is right when he says his confession has come too late: the lie he has told is just so monumentally massive that it’s hard to get your head around. How can a man win the biggest prize seven times and get away with it?

Lawyers knew, they knew the extent of the lie and they took the money. Armstrong sued everyone who stood in his way. Journalist David Walsh knew the truth and his paper got sued. Armstrong’s relationship with the mirror must have been remote.

Armstrong eventually told the truth because he simply could not ignore the fact that the evidence around him was so compelling. He did not volunteer this information because of some sort of Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus enlightenment. He did it because he had to. The game was up.

The lie was so big that we didn’t really want to hear the truth. So many turned to Lance Armstrong for inspiration, yet that inspiration was founded on deceit and I don’t know if cycling will ever truly recover from this – Bradley Wiggins is leading the sport’s recovery, winning the Tour de France as a clean rider. Of course, I don’t know that for sure, but one suspects that this mess has scarred the sport so badly that it should deter even the temptation to cheat.

I don’t know what to think about Armstrong. Does one forgive and accept the contrition, or do you continue to nail this man to his own personal cross? One finds it difficult to find a place to forgive liars, but we all have to accept that we’ve all told lies, they are just not as big as Armstrong’s. Watching Armstrong, we all see a bit of ourselves in him: the white lies we’ve told and the big fat ones. I just hope we don’t ignore the truth because, without getting over-trite, the truth does set you free. Armstrong’s story proves that.

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Brand wheels

The beginning of another pointless brand wheel

Currently, my company is urging us to create ‘brand wheels’ and if there is something else out there that wastes more time, I’d like to know about it.

Middle-management bell-ends are responsible for this and the reason they ask teams to construct brand wheels is because they, absolutely, have nothing better to do.

For the ill-informed, a brand wheel is a thing that’s designed to give employees real focus about what they are doing and help teams create better working environments. It is, of course, utter utter bullshit.

When someone starts talking about brand wheels – I’ve had to do two of these in my lifetime and another one is now beckoning – I start praying for illness. I want the kind of disease that’ll be long enough to disengage me from this laborious, pointless process.

It’s little fun and I’d rather nail my penis to a desk than go to another brand wheel construction, but if you are interested here’s what happens:

Large companies, that are usually top-heavy and full of overpaid tossers with car parking spaces nearest the office, get teams of their workers to take time out from their daily duties and think about constructing a brand ‘wheel’. It usually takes the best part of a day but longer if everyone’s really bored with their jobs.

So everyone congregates in a meeting room. On the whiteboard a circle is drawn and the idea is to fill it with appropriate words in a bid to establish what the company stands for and what its aims are. Hopefully, by recognising the traits in the brand wheel the company can see its strengths and weaknesses and react accordingly.

So, the circle is drawn – usually by the person who secured an A in GSCE Art – and a person with the nicest handwriting is assigned to write down what people shout out. Early in the proceedings people shout expletives in a bid to demonstrate how hernia-inducingly funny they are but once everyone has accepted that this is a serious task ‘for the good of the business’ and more importantly, job security, the brand wheel starts to roll.

After three hours the centre of the wheel details a set of agreed core values. Generic tosh like ‘quality, integrity and good customer service’ is always in the centre regardless of whether it’s a cricket bat factory or a bakery, while the outer segment of wheel details the ways in which these core values extend throughout the business – you’ll get things like, ‘Bert’s good at talking to the clients an’ that’ or ‘Tanya’s good at bringing in cake.’

Once completed, the brand wheel is polished up by a designer who’s a bit of a whiz with InDesign and it’s handed to the managing director who pins it up on his or her wall.

Then everyone gets back to doing exactly what they did before.

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Road signage

Simply no idea

Last week the Government announced that it wanted to ‘de-clutter’ the UK’s roads of pointless signage.

This, I think, is a fine idea. There’s too much crap to look at when you are driving. It also distracts you when you are trying to check Facebook, texting or writing emails on your iPhone at speed.

Each day I drive past a sign that says ‘Sign not in use’ – an utterly pointless addition – and that tells me that somewhere along the line we, as a country, didn’t have enough things for people to do so we put things up so that later in the line we’d have to take them down again.

The de-cluttering idea is nothing new, however. The Dutch got ahead of the game after it became abundantly clear that if you take away the motoring equivalent of safety blankets the world would be a safer place.

Hans Monderman, Head of Road Safety for the Northern provinces of the Netherlands in the 1980s, studied incident reports and conventional traffic engineering and he found that a different approach is needed. As a result of his research he set up three ‘naked’ road schemes.

In Drachten, a 17th century Dutch village, a busy intersection handling more than 20,000 vehicles a day featured a gamut of road markings and signs until it was replaced with a roundabout with no lane markings or kerbs separating the street and pavement. By encouraging drivers to communicate with eye contact rather than conventional signals and signs, casualties reduced.

Then, in a busy street used by cyclists, pedestrians and cars in the village of Makkinga, Monderman removed all traffic signs and markings. As a result traffic speeds were reduced to less than 20mph and injuries fell by 10 per cent in the three years following the redesign.

In Oosterwolde, Monderman got to work at a busy intersection, again removing all traffic control features. Speeds and casualties were also reduced.

The same results were achieved at a reworked intersection in Christiansfeld, Denmark, and now people in cars, on foot and on bicycles rely on eye contact as the key safety measure. In the two-and-a-half years since the completion of the scheme, the intersection has experienced no serious incidents.

Last to the party, predictably, is the UK. This country finally caught on and subsequently introduced a shared space scheme in a town called Poynton after a monumentally long study that featured leading questions like 1) ‘Do you like road signs an’ that?’ and 2) ‘Do you keep your mouth closed when you are eating?’

After collating the results from both residents in the area Poynton District Council decided that yes, the town would be a safer place if they removed signs saying: ‘You are what you eat’ and ‘You’ll take someone’s eye out with that’.

Now, Poynton residents drive around people not through them, which sounds great, but Poynton is a duller place for it. I might move in to see if I can run people over without being sued.

Thing is, there’s enough right-wing idiots complaining about nanny states and I don’t wish to add to that complement of dimwits but these examples do underscore their point.

I don’t want to sound like a well-known motoring journalist with stupid hair and bad jeans, but we don’t need road signs. Never have, never will.

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Reading on the toilet

It's all wrong

I’ve been given two books this Christmas. One about Greg Wallace and the other is a book about Christianity.

I will read both, but not at the same time because that’s just confusing.

My chosen location for reading will be in my front room. If I’m feeling particularly saucy, I might choose to read in bed.

This is normal, grown-up behaviour.

There are those, unlike me, who will elect to read their Christmas gifts in the lavatory. These are people without self-respect/household seating/noses and if this is a scenario you recognise then I suggest you change your habit.

Why? I hear you ask, Darren.

Well, let’s nail this down. When you need to go to the toilet your one and only task is to release your waste into the bowl, do the necessaries, then leave, closing the door behind you. Of course, conventional wisdom dictates that patience pays off: arise before the taper has kicked in and there will be disastrous results that’ll mean a date with the Domestos and a hasty change of underwear.

If you have followed normal toilet protocol you will have resisted the urge to multi-task. Expanding the mind is acceptable during this process, however. Maybe, in mid-flight you’ll consider your existence, explore your spiritual side – perhaps – and then pray that no-one will visit your toilet within the next ten minutes because if they do, they’ll know full well that the quite horrific odour has been generated by your unfeasibly large turd.

We live in a civilised society where Thomas Crapper blessed us with an invention – the flushing toilet. Prior to this, folk would sit on a bowl, release and then dispense… out of the window. They didn’t stay there and pick up a copy of the Times travel supplement while enjoying the aroma of their own shit.

This modern-day phenomenon should stop and if you are reading this on your iPhone, iPad or other purported time-saving devices while sitting on your WC, then shame on you. Wipe, pull up your garments, flush and decamp to a comfortable chair in a room that smells of roses.

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