Cameron to EU: I’d Like to Dispute This Charge

I find Europe pretty intriguing at times.

It’s apparent based on the recent secession vote — although it didn’t quite pass — that many folks in Scotland are not happy with the United Kingdom. Well, now it seems the UK is not too enthusiastic about the European Union (EU).

The EU recently presented UK Prime Minister David Cameron with a bill for over 1.7 billion Pounds — to be paid by Dec. 1. It’s an additional payment to the 8.6 billion Pounds the UK currently pays. Cameron was rather displeased.

“It is an unacceptable way to treat a country which is one of the biggest contributors to the EU,” he told the BBC. “We are not going suddenly to get out our cheque book and write a cheque for 2bn euros. It is not going to happen.”

Considering Germany’s also been butting heads with its European partners over its commitment to austerity, it seems there’s a lot of friction across the pond.

UK’s State-Sponsored ‘Love Nugget’ Program Aims to Keep Couples Together

Oh boy. The United Kingdom is getting a little touchy-feely with its taxpayer dollars.

A new campaign – sponsored by the Department of Education (who else?) – suggests small pieces of advice, dubbed “love nuggets,” for married and long-term couples looking to keep their relationships from ending in divorce or separation.

The program – which is being led by a charity called OnePlusOne and a few other family-oriented organizations – is sponsored by almost £3 million (current exchange rates puts that at just over $5 million U.S. dollars), according to a number of media reports in British news outlets.

The idea behind the campaign, according to the web site, is that the breakdown of couples and families is expensive and costs the state a whole lot of money. So, in order to help strengthen the bonds of matrimony (and coupledom), the Love Nuggets campaign offers a number of pieces of advice to help couples stay connected. The suggestions come from the public, but they are screened to ensure nothing naughty gets posted. Phew.

Here are a few:

  • “He surprised me by picking out my favourite horror movies and getting lots of munchies for a movie night in together.”
  • “My husband brings me breakfast in bed on a Saturday morning.”
  • “My wife always gives me a big hug when I get in from work.”
  • “We make each other cross words or give each other a book for long journeys.

I’m not making this up. But, I could: Can I get someone to pay me £3 million to write these “brilliant” pieces of advice?

You can see all the “love nuggets” at once, or spin the handy spinner on the home page to get three random suggestions for spicing up your relationship.

While I can appreciate the assistance for keeping your love life healthy and happy (wait, isn’t that what couples’ therapy or Cosmopolitan magazine is for?), this is a bit too far – and too much money – for a government that could be spending that money on actual education.

Anyone that’s been married or in a long-term relationship knows there are times when it can get dull. You’re busy dealing with work, family, children, life and paying attention to your spouse can unfortunately fall pretty far down on the list. But most of the criticism of this government-sponsored web site includes the notion that most people know the small acts of kindness they could show their partners – it’s the tricky, deeper issues such as finances or the pressures of raising children that can have the more devastating effects on a relationship. Pretending these “love nuggets” are a solution to the more serious issues facing couples today is just (as they say in Britain) mental.

Luigi Loves the Classics

So you still think Nintendo rots your brain? Well, for further proof that these are indeed some crazy, crazy times, the portable Nintendo DS now features the ability to download your own library of literature to take with you on the go. The UK’s Times Online explains the capabilities in an article aptly titled, "Mario Makes Way for Shakespeare in Harper Collins Deal":

The 100 Classic Book Collection ranges from Shakespeare and Dickens to Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. It will cost about £20 and will be available initially only in Britain.

Readers will turn the pages by brushing a finger across the screen. If the collection is a success, Nintendo may expand the range of books available.

Other technology giants are trying to gain the upper hand in the rush towards reading books on screen. The Sony Reader, which can hold about 160 titles, was released in September. Users can choose from thousands of titles to down-load from Waterstones’ website.

No word yet about the potential global portability of my domination of anyone who dares to challenge me in Super Tecmo Bowl, but baby steps are fine at this point. 

Some Good Economic News for a Change

Economic hardships aside, small and mid-sized companies in a recent survey expressed cautious optimism about their business prospects over the next year. They weren’t as positive about technology spending, to the chagrin of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), which conducted the survey.

Key results:

  • Eighty-five percent of the 772 companies in the U.S., Canada and U.K. plan to hire new employees; 54% expect revenue growth of at least 10%; and 40% are looking to add new business locations.
  • On the information technology side, 51% intend to spend more while 49% see flat or declining tech expenditures. This compares to 62% planning tech spending increases in the previous year’s survey.

It’s been reported for years that small businesses provide nearly all the net job growth. It doesn’t look like that is going to change based on these results.