Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Apocalypse Meeow and Other Worthless Opinions

In a moment of ennui yesterday I was looking at the Mi5 jobs board. Unfortunately they weren’t any vacancies for a sales director at Universal Exports, but it did strike me as somewhat odd that when specifying the preferred location one is presented with ‘Any’ or ‘London’. Given the only location is London, why bother with Any Location? I’d make a poor intelligence officer, wouldn’t I?

Back to mephedrone for a brief instant. I found this article on the New Scientist site yesterday; some factual reporting at last, as well as some popular myths busted.

There’s a legal high which in the UK was implicated in 9,031 deaths in 2008 – that’s 13.6 for every 100,000 in the population. Compare that to 11 deaths over 3 to 5 years where mephedrone was implicated (and present), but not necessarily a contributory cause, and only one where it was thought to be the actual cause of death. This legal high is alcohol and I want to know when the government is going to get round to banning it.

Surely the logic that holds for mephedrone should hold for any other mind-altering things. How about football matches? You can’t deny that footie fanatics are on a high when their teams are winning and achieve some incredible lows when the opposition ‘scores’ a goal. There are quite a few deaths every year at footie matches – many more than from mephedrone. Footie is in fact one of the worst drugs and is classed as an amfootiemene.

I saw a report in The Star (a comic I occasionally read at work) where a woman of low intelligence was ranting against mephedrone when her 14 year-old daughter was found slipping in and out of consciousness in a Tesco car park following a mephedrone and booze binge. She seemed blissfully oblivious to the fact that it was far more likely that her wayward kid was passing out through alcohol abuse than through any fault of the mephedrone. She didn’t even mention the vast quantities of booze her kid had managed to put away – presumably that was normal behaviour.

Apparently a bunch of Hutarees in the US are being charged with conspiring to kill police officers and wage war on the USA. Now the Hutarees are a bunch of apocalyptic, militant, Christians who think Christ is about to come back and reign over us in a thousand year Reich. Part of this misguided belief is that the apocalypse should actually be hurried along. To this purpose they proactively engage in destructive behaviour, believing it’s going to bring about God’s plan much faster.

These people and their ilk are extremely dangerous. Some apocalyptic cults (like the Hutarees) are openly dangerous, while others appear less dangerous, but can have just as destructive an effect. They believe, for example, that climate change is part of God’s plan, which leads to a fatalistic, passive acceptance and a lack of will to do anything about it.

Other apocalyptic cults believe that the UK’s massive national debt is part of God’s plan and hence refuse to face up to the fact that taxes are going to have to rise and spending is going to have to be cut. The UK Conservative Party seems to have a high proportion of these fanatics at present; they maintain they will – if elected – be able to hand out tax cuts and fund them from as-yet-unidentified cost savings that are logically going to have to mean cuts in the number of employees by the UK’s largest employer – the government.

What all the above proves is that some people will believe anything and both the newspapers and politicians prey on that fact.

I hear that the Large Hadron Collider is back in action, but rather than focus on the search for the Higgs Boson, scientists are now going to look for the even more elusive MP Brain Particle.

Given they’ve spent billions of pounds on equipment to smash particles together at 99.9% of the speed of light, couldn’t they have just shone two torches at each other and monitored what happened in the gap? Light travels at the speed of light – and two torches are quite cheap.

Talking of mad extremists, the UK government's strategy to prevent violent extremism has stigmatised and alienated possible Al Qaeda recruits, a committee of MPs has warned.

In a totally unrelated story, it could cost hundreds of millions of pounds to equip the RAF's new transport aircraft to fly in war zones, the Ministry of Defence has been warned. I suggest they hand it all over to Stelios Haji-Ioannou and get him to launch easyRAF, using redundant British Airways cabin staff to perform the usual duties.

Here’s another of those misleading news headlines: “Ops refused due to 'arbitrary cuts' say surgeons.” Well, if I go into hospital for surgery, the last thing I want is some scalpel-happy surgeon arbitrarily slashing my body to bits. You should be put in jail for that!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Stupid Cnuts

The plant food and 'legal high', Mephedrone, is to be made illegal in the UK. One can’t help but feel that this penchant for banning everything that could possibly harm us is like hanging up a large sieve into which water is running and constantly running around to try and plug the holes. It’s utterly futile and achieves no lasting change in behaviour – it’s somewhat redolent of King Cnut (or Canute) trying to command the waves to retreat – although Cnut was being ironic in his action. Politicians, however, do sometimes behave like stupid Cnuts.

Reported effects of mephedrone use include increased alertness, euphoria, excitement, feeling of stimulation, the urge to talk and openness (a bit like the effect shopping has on women). Side-effects include luxuriant growth, well-formed flower heads and deep roots. The correct dosage for mephedrone is 1gm in a 5L bucket of water and spread over an area of about 5 square metres. Then sniff, making sure you don’t inhale any soil or stones in the process.

Have a read of Professor David Nutt’s bit on mephedrone in the Gruniad.

Perhaps becoming an MP should be banned, as it tends to screw around with your decision-making abilities and makes you think you can do things that normal people wouldn’t be allowed to do, like fiddling your expenses beyond all reasonable bounds and believing yourself to be above the law..

We’re meant to be having an Easter meal over at the Caravans’ next weekend. Hay was wondering what we should have and mentioned that Lidl are doing rib-eye steaks. I suggested we should keep with the ethos of the season and have bunny followed by crunchy, chocolate-coated chicks for pudding.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

An Embarrassing Episode

Overheard in the Caravan:

Being somewhat enamoured of esoteric Japanese films directed by Akira Kurosawa, The Chairman had bought himself DVDs of Ran and Rashomon for his birthday. On Friday night he decided to have a marathon session of Ran, which lasts for 160 minutes. Hay went to bed early and, needless to say, The Chairman fell asleep after the first 90 minutes.

This conversation takes place the next morning.

Chairman:Can I watch Rashomon tonight?

Hay:Uhhhhhh - Oh God!. How did Ran finish?

Chairman:Dunno, I fell asleep.

Hay:What a surprise. You do realise that you’re gong to spend the rest of your life trying to watch the last hour of that film?

Bob Crow, the RMT union leader initiating a crippling rail strike in the UK on election day, is said not to have been born, but walked out after nine months and three weeks after having failed to reach agreement with his mother over improved conditions and a longer contract.

Overheard in the Blue Zucchini Bistro, Tetbury:

Woman 1:I like that Blumenthal chef.

Woman 2: Mmmm – me too, but I don’t fancy going to that Heston Services on the M4 for his food.

Hay snogged Charles Dance yesterday in Tetbury. As you can probably gather from the above, we visited one of our favourite restaurants – the Blue Zucchini in Tetbury.

View Larger Map

Hay happened to notice Charles Dance sat a few tables away. The staff knew he was someone famous, but (being somewhat young) couldn’t quite name him. We left shortly after him and happened to see him peering into a charity shop window (eyeing a rather tatty nightie which seemed to have caught his eye). Hay approached him and asked if she could kiss him, to which he had little time to respond before Hay landed a smackeroonie on his left cheek. He commented that she’d made an old man happy, to which I responded that she made me happy every evening. The shame – my partner has become a stalker who does bizarre things in the middle of streets.

Hay in stalking mode.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich

In a surprise move Camelot has been sold to a Canadian company for £389m. Kraft, which currently owns Camelot through its ownership of Cadbury, is thought to be making this move so as to stick two fingers up to the UK by purchasing its 5th Century post-Roman heritage. As far as we know, the Round Table is to remain in England, but Excalibur may well be part of the deal.

Seeing the financial benefits of this move in swelling Kraft’s coffers, pundits maintain the government will shortly be selling off Stonehenge and Merseyside to a consortium of Japanese interests. They are rumoured to want to tow Merseyside to the Far East and position it off Okinawa as a sushi theme park. Naturally, the locals would all be exterminated first.

The problem of what to do about Greece’s debts has been solved by the Eurozone members at a Brussels summit – Greece will be donated to the Haitians as an act of charity (to all Eurozone members). Well, either that or Turkey will be invited to invade Greece.

Following from a Lloyd’s pharmacist refusing to hand over a customer’s contraceptive pills because the pharmacist is a Roman Catholic, pharmacists across the UK have been told they can continue to refuse to prescribe items that might clash with their personal religious beliefs. Pharmacists who are Christian Scientists will be free to deny their customers any medication whatsoever; Rastafarians will be able to simply ignore customers and continue smoking ganja while listening to reggae on their earphones; Jehova’s Witnesses will be free to deny you anything unless you accept a copy of The Watchtower and allow them to harangue you for an hour in a debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin and members of Celtic tribal cults in Scotland will be free to offer sticking plasters with which to affix a parecetamol tablet to your forehead for cases of headache.

Researchers have discovered that one in four boys can’t spell their own name by the age of five. Teacher, Radovan Zrbpastznwcz from Coventry, can’t think why this should be.

Need a present for a loved one? Why not buy your special person ‘Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich’, a beautifully illustrated book for the connoisseur spoon collector with a penchant for Nazi memorabilia.

Friday, 26 March 2010


Worrying news. Richard over at Falling Through an Endless Summer Sky went into hospital with a heart problem yesterday. He’s back home now and Faceboooking. Please leave a message of encouragement for him.

I was rather amused yesterday to find I’d had a hit on the blog from the Vatican City. I’m probably consigned to the 5th circle of hell now. What with the pope himself being implicated in the abuse row, I guess the Vatican is searching the internet for salacious comment.

Talking of religion, it’s Easter shortly; however, I do hate this Good Friday / Easter Monday thing – you go on holiday and immediately all the shops are shut. I’d much prefer Good Monday and Easter Tuesday, which would enable one to more easily take a full week off and have the preceding weekend to prepare for the dead period.

Osama Bin Laden is meant to have said that if the US executes the 9/11 mastermind, then any US citizen falling into Al Qaeda’s hands will also ‘meet their maker’. Perhaps the Americans should just hand over a few blank US passports to Mossad and have done with Bin Laden.

Dennis Hopper, who has been terminally ill since appearing in Easy Rider in 1969, is terminally ill, according to his publicist cum doctor. His wife, whom Hopper is divorcing, suspects that the terminal nature of his alleged illness is a cynical ploy to prevent a divorce judge questioning him about his assets. Some suspect that his impending death will also probably be a legitimate legal loophole to avoid paying tax. His wife has claimed that Hopper filed for divorce so that he could cut her out of her inheritance. Duh! Isn’t that what usually happens when you divorce?

Cider drinkers angry at the government's decision to raise tax on the drink are petitioning 10 Downing Street for a reversal of the policy. The problem is that they are all too smashed to write anything vaguely coherent and No. 10 can’t make head nor tails of their ramblings.

Here are the answers to yesterday’s conundrums:

  1. Yes, Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is correct and has been proven experimentally. Unfortunately I don’t have the space (luckily) to show the calculations.
  2. The time taken for a photon to travel from the sun to Earth depends on your frame of reference. If you were travelling with the photon, the time taken would be zero due to the time dilation effect at light-speed. Photons don’t age.
  3. Winifred Atwell’s ‘other piano’ has no rest mass, only invariant mass, as rest mass applies only to individual particles. It was a trick question – as if you didn’t know that.

Here’s an interesting fact. The mass of the plutonium in the Nagasaki bomb was 6.5 kg. About 1 kg of this mass was converted into lighter elements during the fission process. Of this 1 kg, approximately 1 gram was converted into pure energy and was lost from the overall mass. Now if one applies E=Mc2 to one gram of matter, the result is 25 GW.h, or 21.5 kilotons of TNT.

Remember the Mpemba Effect I highlighted some months ago? It’s concerned with the fact that warm water freezes faster than cold water. Seems some bright spark has cracked it.

An vaguely interesting video from a popular, contemporary beat combo.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Science Quiz

The Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council is funding a research project to see if ‘boffins’ can extract fuel from CO2 in the air.

Mmm – ain’t that carbon (which we experts call coal) and oxygen (in which coal burns).

Don’t much fancy the idea of stoking up the car’s coal furnace every morning and warming it up for a good half hour before setting off to work. I’ll need a bogey on the tow bar to carry a supply around with me.

Hay knows all these people quite well – she worked with the Energy Portfolio at the EPSRC till recently and credited her PhD in bio-chemistry to the brilliant work done by Dr. Frank Marken and his group.

I want to start a science debate.

First question; is Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity correct? Please give all calculations in your response.

Next question; how long does it take for a photon emitted from the sun to reach earth?

Last question; what is the rest mass of Winifred Atwell’s ‘other piano’?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Culpable Clergy & Keeping Your Kids Safe

Overheard in the caravan:

(Hay and The Chairman are watching a TV item on the circadian rhythm.)

Professor Thingumie: "The body clock can be modified by the natural hormone melatonin, which is produced by a gland in the head."

Chairman: "That’ll be the melon gland then!"

Hay: “Yes, most men have one of those in their heads – actually, instead of a head.”

I see a redundant Archbish of Cadbury – Jim Carey – is getting in on the debate about gay people being married in church. He says that plans for civil partnership ceremonies in churches could result in some clergy being prosecuted.

Heaven forefend that members of the clergy should be prosecuted for holding antiquated and discriminatory views. It’s a bit like racists crying foul when prosecuted for what they consider to be deeply held beliefs – beliefs that usually turn into deeply held convictions …. for racial abuse. Next we’ll have the pope saying clergy shouldn’t be prosecuted for kiddie fiddling.

I’m getting a bit tired of it all to be honest. I think gay people should perhaps just found their own churches, develop their own irrational belief systems and have done with it. It’s not as if they are alone in this – Hay and I are wondering how the hell we’re going to persuade our local vicar (who is a woman) to marry us when we’re both atheists. I hasten to add that it’s not the religious ceremony that we’re after, but the connection with the local church itself, as that’s where the vast majority of Hay’s relatives are. I’m not sure if we can simply hire the church and get some itinerant druid to perform the ceremony and sacrifice a small child on one of the gravestones of Hay’s ancestors.

Doctors in the UK are saying that smoking in cars should be banned so as to prevent 300,000 children a year being treated for asthma. Smoking campaigners maintain that their cars are their own private spaces and they should be free to poison their children by whatever method they choose within their own personal spaces.

If they ban smoking in cars, then I think the natural extension should be to ban MacDonalds in order to prevent God knows how many kids becoming lard-arses and being treated for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Did you know that the best way of preventing your kids from getting all kinds of nasty diseases is to simply keep them away from other kids?

Just heard that the government has banned cluster bombs. It doesn't affect me personally, as I've never really felt the urge to use them, but think of all those who use them on a daily basis and how they will be inconvenienced.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Winifred Atwell's 'Other Piano'

Winifred Atwell’s ‘other piano’ is a regular butt of jokes in our household. When we have two of something, one of them is referred to as ‘my other’ whatever it is.

Winifred Atwell was a pianist who was very popular in the 1950s / 60s and was renowned for her honky-tonk, boogie-woogie playing style. She has a battered old piano which used to go on world tour with her and was affectionately referred to as her ‘other piano’. “Winifred Atwell will now play her other piano,” was a famous saying.

Above is a clip of Winifred, but I’ don’t think she’s playing her ‘other piano’. However, what she’s playing is called Five Finger Boogle, which today (sadly) has an entirely different meaning and would get one censored if one tried to do it on TV.

Apparently Richard Stilgoe is the proud owner of Winifred Atwell’s ‘other piano’.

Here's a selection of the ales available at The Rising Sun (see Sunday's post).

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Evolution of the SAS Jedi

Paul Keetch, MP for Hereford (the home of the SAS), has been exhibiting signs of advanced stupidity. He has complained that Google has images of the SAS HQ on Street View. Before he mentioned this to the world, I’m sure 99.99999% of us were blissfully unaware that you could actually see the SAS HQ on Street View – not that it mattered anyway as all you Have to do is walk down the relevant street. Now everyone from Kabul to Pyong Yang is in the know and is probably this minute targeting it for a nuclear strike.

Methinks this plonker he should be sacked while retaining full pension rights and an entitlement to a substantial redundancy payment amounting to a decade’s salary (plus expenses and a moat).

In 2009, it is alleged that Keetch was having an affair with the ex-wife of the author Cameron Spence. Queried about this, he replied: “I categorically deny I have been in a long-running affair with this woman whose name you mentioned. The allegations are untrue." He declined to comment when asked if the statement was true without the phrase "long-running".

Keetch’s website boldly states: “KEETCH THANKED FOR PLEDGING TO "DO HIS BIT" FOR BRITISH ARMED FORCES.” Read the piece and you’re still none the wiser as to what exactly ‘doing his bit’ actually means. Possibly he’s referring to Irene Spence.

Some anencephalic unemployed zombie in Southend has received an apology from the local Job Centre after they told him to remove his hood. He claims he’s a Jedi Knight.

Chris Jarvis, an unemployed Jedi of 31, said: "I am a Star Wars follower. It means following the way of the Jedi. Someone with their own religious views is allowed to wear what their religion says."

Apparently he plans to sue for discrimination. I thought Jedis were fully employed in fighting evil, and thus he’s surely claiming benefit under false pretences. He’s recorded as saying that he only became a Jedi so he can wear his hood, in which case I’d question his commitment to his faith. It’s a bit like saying you want to become a priest because you have a cassock fetish; although thinking about it I suppose many priests (especially RCs) take the cloth precisely for that reason.

Chris – my advice is to grow up, get a job and stop sponging!

You know how everyone has replaced their traditional old windows with those hideous UPVC jobbies? I’ve through of a new idea for the renovation of old cottages – UPVC thatch! Good, or what?

Hay has come up with a new theory of evolution. Rather than explain it, I’ve represented it in the compilation image below (left to right):

I guess it kind of makes sense.

I tried multi-tasking yesterday; answering an e-mail, making a cup of tea and lighting the fire. The fire went out and the tea stewed, but the e-mail got answered. I got distracted by having to concentrate on my breathing.

Happy birthday to me!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Sign of the Times

I ran across a road sign story yesterday and tried to find a couple more – and succeeded.

This road sign below was put up by Swansea council workers. The English wording had been sent off to a translator by e-mail and whoever sent it off didn’t bother checking what came back.

The Welsh says: “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”

The next one proved somewhat confusing for those who are bilingual and positively dangerous for those who only read Welsh.

The Welsh says: “Pedestrians look left.”

This final one was confusing for everyone.

The reason was that the wording is Welsh, but the sign was put up in Scotland.

It’s perhaps about time all these dual English / Welsh signs were consigned to the dustbin as an exercise in futility.

Talking of signs; I shall today be luncheoning at the sign of The Rising Sun near Lacock in Wilts. Having an early birthday party (it's tomorrow).

View Larger Map of The Rising Sun

View Larger Map of Lacock

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Electric Sport Relief Leaf

Have you heard about the new Nissan Leaf electric car? Apparently it does about 100 miles on a full charge. Brilliant! They’re going to build some in Sunderland in the north east.

Currently I can get up to Southport to see mum, leaving at 6am and returning just after lunchtime, all for a cost of a tank of petrol – say £65.

If I were to use the Nissan Leaf I’d have to stop off at Cannock Services (about 94 miles) and wait for 8 hours to recharge the battery. That would take me to 4pm, by which time I’d probably feel a bit tired and want to bed down for the night in the local Premier Inn at a cost of around £75, plus another £30 for a meal.

The next morning I’d set off again at 6am and reach Southport at around 8am latest; however, I’d have to charge the battery again for another 8 hours – it’s now 4pm (no lunch) again and I’d need a bed for the night. This time, however, I’d choose to head back to Cannock and risk the traffic – with the attendant problem of my battery not lasting the distance. Another overnight stay in Cannock will clock up another £105 in accommodation and evening meals.

I’d set off early the next morning at sparrow’s fart and arrive home having spent 2 days on the road – and at least £210 the poorer. God alone knows how much the 4 recharges would cost, especially with the way electricity prices are going.

Nah – not for me thanks. I wouldn’t even be able to get as far as Chipping Norton and back in a day. In any case I wouldn’t want to be trundling up and down the motorway in what is essentially an invalid carriage with four seats.

We were watching Sport Relief last night (an annual charity even in the UK), We saw Naseema and Aseema from India who sorted through rubbish to earn their crust. Hay and I came up with the idea of sending the Caravans down to the local Sort-It centre every morning to earn their pensions and enable them to be productive members of our commune (and yes, I did donate to Sport Relief).

Friday, 19 March 2010

Dusting Tull

I heard a story on the news yesterday about a little old lady who had been burgled. She phoned the police, who said they would be round shortly. Being of the house-proud persuasion she then proceeded to clean up the mess the burglars had made, did a bit of dusting and got out the best china for when the police arrived. Naturally, by the time the police did arrive, all the evidence was in the bin and any fingerprints had been wiped clean.

Saw Tull last night – and it was magical. Ian Anderson introduced some woman with a piano at the start and she then took a full 45 minutes out of the schedule. I was a bit miffed, as despite the fact that she was quite good (a cross between Kate Shush and Barney Simon), the tickets clearly stated that there was no support act, and I didn’t pay to come to see her. Perhaps Jethro is slipping her one, as they say.

The audience was a hoot; more grey mullets than on a fishmonger’s slab and more AC/DC T shirts than at an electrician’s convention. All were of a similar age group to myself.

Ian Anderson (who was at pains to point out that he had a 34 inch waist) was disgustingly lithe for a man of 62 and did his trademark one-legged stance many times.

They kicked off with some old stuff before majoring on more recent work from their considerable oeuvre. About two thirds of the way into the set Anderson disappeared, leaving the band to do their own thing, which turned out to be a self-indulgent hard rock number written by Martin Barre, with lots of drum solos. Not really what you expect from Tull.

A rather marvellous number called Budapest then assaulted my ears which mixed old and new, progressive and folk, the end of which seemed to herald a finale. However, to much rapturous applause they then launched into Aqualung – what we had really come to hear. After about two minutes of applause, they returned to the stage to do Locomotive Breath, which sent the crowd into paroxysms of delight.

There are some bands you go to see in order to listen to their new stuff. With Tull it’s simply to relive your past, so naturally that’s all you want to hear, which must piss the band off enormously.

All-in-all a good night and well worth 25 quid (we were at the back), although Anderson’s voice was noticeably under strain toward the end.

PS - where have all the bloggers gone? Everyone seems to be shutting up shop and closing their page.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

World Music? Lord, What a Load of Junk

Well, that’s the pope’s speech written. Glad I got that out of the way. Latin is such a bugger – I find I’m never quite sure of the declensions.

The political parties here in the UK are in a bit of a lather about the tax status of a chap by the name of Lord Ashcroft - the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party and a billionaire. He’s what’s called a Non-Dom, or non-domiciled for tax purposes, meaning he avoids paying tax on his overseas earnings. He was created a lord on the understanding that he’d start paying UK tax, but it would transpire that this undertaking was not actioned (a word my spell-checker seems to have a problem with, but I don’t).

If you ask me, the Conservative Party can easily defuse the situation by promising free tax avoidance lessons for all.

Some DJ who championed World Music has died. World Music is a term I never really got top grips with. I have always assumed it is a bit like a weed; i.e. a flower, but in the wrong place. Any explanation is welcome.

Two teenagers have died, allegedly from using mephedrone, a so-called ‘legal high’, although this is yet by no means certain. Despite inconclusive evidence, the mother of one of the boys is quite understandably, although totally illogically, calling for action to stop children having access to the drug, saying: "If that means making it an illegal substance, then that's how it should be."


Methinks expecting it to disappear through banning is no more than an exercise in wishful thinking. Since when did banning any substance lead to its elimination? All that will happen is that the criminal fraternity will add it to their list of wares.

Despite the drug having been around since 2007, it has been implicated in only 3 reported deaths – these two and one in Stockholm - and even these are not conclusive as God alone knows what was added to it or what else was taken. Many more deaths have been attributed to cigarettes, alcohol and even aspirin or hair dye. Should we ban them all? No, of course not.

Unless you can guarantee to cut off all sources to something then banning it is as effective as using the power of prayer and is in itself a form of denial.

Off to see Tull perform tonight.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Normal Service

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Beastly busy at present perparing the pope's speech for when he comes to the UK.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Grassing Up a Pack of Drink Drivers

After successfully managing to persuade me to send my mother a bunch of flowers a week early by misinforming me about the date of Mothers’ Day, Hay has successfully managed to compound the error by arranging a bunch of flowers for her own mother to arrive next weekend. Seems she has problems with calendars.

I keep seeing adverts on TV saying that British Gas is reducing its prices. That’s nice of them, what with summer coming and all that. I guess they’ll put them up again in time for next winter.

400 lawnmowers have been stolen from a lorry in Gloucestershire. Police are hoping someone will grass up the thieves. OK, I just couldn’t resist, but the story is true.

The UK government is considering reducing the drink-drive limit to 50mg of alcohol. It is suggested it would save 65 deaths a year and save the economy £120m. I wonder what the knock-on loss to the drinks, pub and restaurant industries would be, not to say the decrease in tax revenue? I’d hazard a guess at twice the saving, as is usual in these circumstances. In the drive to eliminate all risk from everything, we’re gradually being turned into a nation of soulless automatons.

Aligned to the above, Professor David Nutt, former science advisor to the UK government, is behind plans to launch a new drink that provides the same effects as alcohol, but with an antidote that you take before driving. Science once more comes to our rescue.

Hay has been accusing me of not doing enough cooking. Yesterday I presented her with a slice of toast and a banana in bed and told her never to accuse me of that again.

David Cameron is claiming that images of him in Tory election posters have not been airbrushed.

If not, then they’re using 15 year old images, if you ask me. It has become a national sport here in the UK to satirise Cameron election posters. Here’s my contribution:

I particularly like this one someone has come up with:

I wanted to redress the balance with a satirised Labour election poster, but I can’t find any yet.

Politicians’ wives are now getting in on the PR act and opening up to interviews, as if I’m vacuous enough to vote for someone because his wife is the right dress size, can do a heavenly confit de canard or is best mates with Philida and Aloysius Tungsten-Carbide.

A jogger in Alaska was killed when a pack of hungry wolves, well, did what hungry wolves generally tend to do when they come across a lone retard out jogging in the middle of wolf territory. The ‘authorities’ are now hunting the wolves, presumably to put them out of their hunger and to ensure the local population of a hamlet is safe from future attacks. Why can’t they simply ensure the wolves don’t get ravenous in the first place by leaving the occasional present out for them in the shape of a carcass? People then won’t get attacked and a pack of wild wolves remains undisturbed by human encroachment into their natural habitat.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

I'm a Hostage to Technology

I went up to Southport yesterday to see mother. On the way back I couldn’t find my mobile, thinking I’d left it at a garage in Ormskirk where I stopped to take on fuel (as it transpired, it had actually fallen out of my pocket and was lodged between the seat and the transmission tunnel).

As I was already a fair way into the journey I though I’d phone Hay and ask her to call my mobile with the possible view to whoever found it sending it to me by post. On arriving at a motorway service station and finding a phone box, I suddenly realised I didn’t know Hay’s mobile number. In fact, the only phone number I know is my own. I had absolutely no way to contact her – I didn’t even know the Caravans’ landline number.

Rescue eventually came in the form of the satnav, which happened to have all the relevant phone numbers stored in it. The episode made me realise just how reliant we have become on mobile phones and especially the address books. We no longer remember long phone numbers like we did years ago – we merely look up names. We're hostages to technology.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

We Made It

Well, seems we're in Street View; however, the image is a year old as the house footings now cover where the caravan was.

View Larger Map

Come in and have a look around.

Friday, 12 March 2010

The Emperor's New Clothes

I thought I’d be lost for words today, but The Culture Show on TV last night rescued the day.

Some artists and art critics can be so far up their own arses as to be teeth. The presenter, art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, was commenting on some woman’s vacuous artwork and said it was redolent of Kazimir Malevich’s ‘Black Square’.

Kazimir Malevich’s ‘Black Square’

‘Nuff said?

Malevich’s 4th incarnation of this sold for $1m in 2002. I just hope it wasn’t any of my pension schemes that sank money into this modern interpretation of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Actually, I fooled you all. The above is a fake made by my own fair hand. I bet you couldn’t tell the difference though.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Cooking With Tyres

Good God! Sophie Dahl has reinvented herself as a celebrity chef. They’re really dredging the bottom of the televisual barrel now. As if we don’t have enough gastronomy programmes on TV as it is.

Winnie Mandela (who is a bit of a cook herself and at one time advocated the tyre and petrol BBQ) has reportedly been criticising her ex husband. Apparently she said that name Mandela was "an albatross around the necks" of her family. I would have thought it would be relatively simple for her to revert to her maiden name of Winnie Madikizela, but then she wouldn’t have half as much influence, would she?

Talking of cooking; Overheard In The Caravan:

(Hay and I are watching Nigel Slater cook a pudding using plums.)

Chairman: “We must use the greengages this year. Last year they all came at once and we didn’t have much chance to use them.”

Hay: “Yes, the plums and greengages all rotted on the trees last year.”

Chairman: “Greengages? Have we got greengages?”

Hay: “Yes, the very ones you just mentioned just a second ago. I really worry about your memory at times. You haven’t got goldfish genes, have you?”


(Hay and I are watching a programme about some new theory concerning mothers and foetuses being in competition.)

Narrator: “From the first few seconds the father’s sperm has to overcome a series of booby-traps set by the mother’s body to ensure only the healthiest sperm reach the egg.”

Chairman: “The first one is what we experts call The Headache.”

Hay: “The father has some good defences himself. The most impressive is what we women term The Fart, which is almost on a par with The Snore in efficacy.”

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Want to Buy a Pyramid?

There was a story in the news yesterday about an anti-gay senator in the US coming out as being gay. When questioned about his previous vehemently anti-gay stance, he maintained it was because he was representing his constituents and that’s the way he knew they wanted him to vote.

It’s a nice idea of a politician voting the way his constituents want him to vote, but it does sound a tad disingenuous and I don’t know whether I believe him or not. Given he’s standing down later this year there’s not much time for this to be tested.

While on the subject of discrimination, a registrar who refused to perform same-sex civil marriages has had her case for religious discrimination by the local council for censuring her thrown out of the UK courts and is threatening to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.

She maintains that her rights are being trampled over by someone else’s rights – and that can’t be right. What she fails to recognise is that same-sex marriage is a legal right and that being homosexual is not a choice. Her belief, however, is a choice and no more than an opinion – one among many and one I'm sure her spiritual leader - one Jesus Christ - would not condone. He wasn't discriminatory, if my memorty serves me right.

Mike Judge, from the Christian Institute, which backed her case, said: "Christians are being pushed to the sidelines of public life. Our nation's highest court has effectively told them their concerns are not of general public importance." Well, you’re right there Mike – not when they’re illogical and founded in pure bigotry.

The Christian Institute has published a document called Marginalising Christians. An extract states: “This growing sense of intolerance felt by Christians is made all the worse when they face hostility in the name of ‘equality and diversity’. Christians wonder why they are not being treated equally and why diversity does not include them.” Perhaps it’s because they themselves are one of the most discriminatory and intolerant bunch of people in society – all in the name of a God who, by any standard, seems spectacularly bigoted. What goes around comes around, as they say.

A bloke in the UK is being sent to jail for a pyramid selling scheme. Apparently he made £34m and conned thousands of people who each bought into the investment for around £4,300 each.

Now call me stupid or call me old fashioned, but didn’t all these people at least conduct a local property search through their conveyancer to check this guy owned these pyramids in the first place? It can’t be too difficult to check on ownership, after all there can’t be too many pyramids in the world. What would anyone want with a 4th Dynasty Middle Kingdom Egyptian burial mound or Mesoamerican Classical Period ceremonial temple anyway?

We were watching a Horizon TV programme last night about dark matter. Horizon has taken to long, drawn out graphics sequences, lots of ethereal music and a very slow voice-over delivery. They eke out 15 minutes worth of programming over an hour. Makes you want to shout; “Oh, just get on with it and get to the bloody point.”

Off to see Jethro Tull at Colston Hall in Bristol a week on Thursday! Can’t wait.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Government Pirates?

Here's an example
of why women hate retired men with little to do.

Below is an interesting photo I purloined from this month’s Safety At Sea International magazine. Now look at the photo before you look at the caption. If I saw these buggers approaching my vessel I’d shoot first and ask questions later – mistakenly.

270,000 UK civil servants are to go on strike over what I think is an unfair reduction in their redundancy entitlement. This is before what is likely to be a large round of public sector redundancies.

The leader of these civil servants is Mark Serwotka. In the election campaign for the leadership of the PCS union, Serwotka had pledged that he would only accept an average member's wage. When told that this was not permitted by the rules of the union, he took his full wage, but donated everything above an average member's wage to the union strike fund. He has since gone back on this pledge and in 2007 received £82,094 in salary as well as £26,104 in pension contributions and a £2,245 additional housing cost allowance.

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Sin of Questioning

I love this cartoon. Interpret it as you wish.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

I Believe.....

You know it never ceases to amaze me what people are prepared to believe and accept as fact.

Yesterday I received two identical e-mails from friends of mine containing the same fallacy. The e-mails had the subject: “You’ll never guess who her father is,” and contained various images of the glamour model Emma Atkinson. At the bottom of the e-mail was the punch line that she is the daughter of the comedian Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean).

I don’t know why, but I naturally distrust information that comes via e-mail. I’m just a natural skeptic and have an insatiable need to confirm things I’m told by other people. It infuriates Hay sometimes, as I’m never off the internet.

Anyway, it came as no surprise to me that Gemma Atkinson and Rowan Atkinson are totally unrelated. People seem quite happy pass on this misinformation without first checking it for veracity. I guess this is why there are so many fake virus e-mails filling up the internet.

One particular friend of mine never fails to pass on fake virus e-mails, despite me having told him how to check them out and every single one of his ‘warnings’ having been a false alarm.

The human being is naturally credulous – a word you will not find in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Keeping Your Distance

Overheard in The Dog:

The Chairman, Hay and the Chairman's mate, Phil, are in The Dog pub having dinner. Phil is recounting a trans Atlantic voyage towing some massive buoy in a tug.

Phil: "You wouldn't believe the distance across the Atlantic at 4 knots."

Chairman: "Yes, it's exactly the same distance at 20 knots."

Friday, 5 March 2010

My Wives Don't Understand Me...

It would seem large sections of the British press have been castigating the South African President’s domestic arrangements with respect to the number of wives he has. My God, the press is an intolerant lot. Why do countries with a Christian heritage feel desperate need to push so-called ‘Christian values’ down the throats of all they come across and belittling those having different traditions?

Yes, Jacob Zuma is a bit of a buffoon, but not because of his polygamy. Condemn polygamy and you condemn a large proportion of the world. It’s not as if we in the UK, with our large Muslim population, are totally unfamiliar with the concept. According to the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook, of 1231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous. 453 had occasional polygyny, 588 had more frequent polygyny, and 4 had polyandry.

Personally I can see nothing wrong with polygyny. It obviously works in many parts of the world and, as long as a polygamous marriage is not an enforced one, the benefits are huge. The so-called ‘family values’, trumpeted as the panacea to all our ills by the political parties in the UK, are multiplied enormously in a family having a large support network for the children.

The Daily Mail had the effrontery to call Zuma a sex-obsessed bigot. The Daily Mail calling anyone a bigot is like Jacob Zuma calling Robert Mugabe non-reflective. The newspaper is renowned for its bigoted stance on a number of issues and its readers form the backbone of the UK’s intolerant tendency. I’d like to hear the Daily Mail call King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Bin Abdulrahman Bin Faisal Bin Turki Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud a sex obsessed bigot. He has 4 wives and 22 kids.

The only reason bigamy is illegal in the UK is because of the dominance of Christianity within our laws – and it’s totally illogical. The Bible actually condones it under certain circumstances – see Deuteronomy 25:5-10 - although I’d doubt many Christians would know that as they have a habit of not actually reading their scriptures fully and only quoting select bits.

I love this quote I saw today: "The world is made up of different cultures. In some societies men think about having lots of wives and humping absolutely anything that moves, while in other societies they just get on with it."

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Charity Start At Home

Remember my idea to use the money we would normally spend at work on Christmas cards for each other for charity instead? Yesterday we got a letter from the school we donated the money to:

Hello Everyone,

We were very pleased to see Andy yesterday to hand over our £60 that you kindly raised for us.
Today we went out on the bus to go shopping in Plymouth to spend the money. We chose to buy some DVDs, books and a CD out of the money.


Top 20 Collection

17 Again

Alvin and the chipmunks
Nanny McPhee


The hungry caterpillar

Dear Zoo


She rocks

Thank you again
Rebecca, Josh, Freddie, Megan, Sophie, Ben, Kieran and Gary (+ the staff)

I now feel rather smug, but then I’ve actually done something to help others less fortunate than myself. I’m also feeling immensely self-satisfied that 100% of what we collected went direct to the school – not that I’m decrying the sterling work that many charities do. If we all took charity into our own hands, the sad thing is that many deserving people who currently receive charity donations would no longer receive them – so perhaps I shouldn’t really feel so smug.

The UK veteran politician Michael Foot has died at the age of 96. Strangely enough I was thinking about him not 2 days ago and wondering if he was still alive. I looked him up on Wiki to check. Bugger me, 2 days later he’s dead. Synchronicity? I’m currently thinking of someone else, but unfortunately they’re not on Wiki and thus the hex won’t work.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Proof - Or Any Proof...

This was posted by Anonymous in response to my post yesterday; I think it worth featuring:

It's interesting how skeptics always use the scientific / clinical trial approach when arguing against homeopathy; and now you've compared it to the idea that 400 years ago, we thought the earth was flat; but it never occurs to you that maybe science doesn't no everything about the properties of the universe or matter - for that matter - and that maybe clinical trials are limited by what science understands now?

Perhaps you could explain to me then why water, when frozen at different altitudes exhibits unique crystal structures - then when thawed and re-frozen at much lower or higher altitudes, it maintains the same original crystal structure? Perhaps you could explain why the ultra-violet spectrum water exhibits microscopically is unique based on the homeopathic substance present in the dilution?

The truth is, there are very good reasons why homeopathy doesn't work in clinical trials. The main one is that clinical trials don't work in homeopathy!

The fact is, homeopathy requires individualized diagnosis and treatment - it's not a one size fits all method. Equally important, it requires a completely different definition of the term "works". What works? How does it work? What to expect?

You're free to go on filling your body with chemicals and believing everything the pharmaceuticals are feeding you... keep drinking the cool-aid. Ultimately, what I'm suggesting is that you are the one with your head buried in the sand. You are the one ignorant of the facts.


Anonymous: It’s not at all interesting that sceptics use the scientific / clinical trial method of testing – it’s eminently logical as that’s how we test claims. What’s really interesting is how the magic brigade persists in maintaining that magic defies testing. The argument that the test is not applicable to whatever brand of magic is being touted is a bit hackneyed and frankly intellectually bankrupt. It’s the favoured cry of the religious zealot.

Trials of efficacy have nothing to do with the applicability of science to what is known now. It’s binary – either it works (beyond placebo), or it doesn’t. It’s a basic double-blind, randomised trial and not some wild thought experiment from the outer realms of theoretical particle physics.

I have found nothing on t’internet about your ice crystals, so please point me in the right direction for the research; however, I fail to see the relevance. The ultra violet thing is, I presume, something to do with the paper by Manju Lata Rao, which has been refuted a number of times – see Dr. Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog for an example from 10 years ago. Seems not all was as it appeared and two graphs that were meant to be different (and the proof) were in fact the same when subsequently analysed. In essence, part of the result was faked, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

Those who promulgate nonsense have a habit of finding one initial paper that supports their thesis and then neglect to look at the mountain of follow-up research that fails to replicate the results of that single paper. It suits their purpose to use science when it supports their view, but ignore it when it doesn’t. It’s called bias and is a perfectly natural human condition.

I’m not particularly a fan of Big Pharma, as they have a lot of ethical questions to answer, but so do homeopaths and all who knowingly purvey sugar pills for profit or make unsubstantiated and potentially dangerous medical claims. Pharma does make big money, but given all the testing that has to be done the cost of developing drugs that are proven to save life and be safe is phenomenal. It can cost billions to develop a single drug and that cost has to be recouped at a profit in order to fund the next round of research. For every drug that makes the grade, hundreds or thousands fall by the wayside.

No-one in the UK can afford to criticise the cost of medication – we get charged £6 odd by the NHS for something that would cost you a fortune if paid for privately. Yes, it’s clawed back in tax, but it’s a drop in the ocean when shared amongst us all, rather than being levied solely on those in desperate need. Without Big Pharma you could say goodbye to any research into cures for cancer or AIDS and a lot of people would be dead long before their revised lifetime following treatment for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Having said that, there is an argument to nationalise the big drug companies; however, government is spectacularly unwilling to do that as there would be an ethical conflict of interest when the research is being scrutinised by the same body that’s doing it – i.e. the government. In any case, innovation only thrives in a competitive environment, and we all know that the dead hand of nationalisation stifles any innovation. No drugs of any significance came from the former Soviet Union or China.

James Randi offered $1m to anyone who could prove homeopathy works. The prize has yet to be claimed, despite many attempts. Surely someone among all the practitioners can prove it works?

Science has never claimed to know everything – there are areas science will never penetrate; any scientist will tell you that. That’s why science exists – to push the boundaries of knowledge beyond their current limits. Sometimes science charges up blind alleys, sometimes there’s a paradigm shift. Many times the old guard conspire to prevent publication of stuff that refutes their long held views on which they established their reputation; however, the scientific method triumphs in the end.

The real mystery is why placebo works at all, and no-one has yet come up with the full answer. The placebo effect must not be dismissed, as it’s an important weapon in the medic’s arsenal; however, it must not be used as a first line of defence, as it only works in a small number of cases.

So – bring on the proof and I will believe. To date that has been conspicuously lacking. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof – or simply any proof beyond anecdote.

On another matter; yesterday I took possession of some clove flavoured e-juice for my e-cigarette. Heavenly and most excellent! Reminds me of Indonesian kretek cigarettes, to which I was addicted at one time.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Homeopathy - The Memory of what was it?

My good friend Richard over at Falling Through an Endless Summer Sky sent me this yesterday. The link is to the original article.

Homeopathic medicine is nature’s tonic.
By Fiona Phillips 27/02/2010

Once again a “lack of scientific evidence” has been used to argue that something a lot of people believe in doesn’t work. This time, it’s homeopathic medicine.

The scientific evidence is that thousands of people use homeopathy because it works. I’ve used belladonna when my children have high temperatures and it’s always effective.

Whether it’s a placebo or not, who cares? I think it’s better than stuffing some pricey chemical concoction down their necks and hoping for the best. Like thousands of others I buy homeopathic medicines instead of going to my GP for a prescription for a proprietary brand loaded with scientific evidence and side-effects.

It saves the NHS a fortune. The more people who do that, the lower the drug companies’ profits are. And that’s why homeopathy has been deemed not to work.

Normally I wouldn’t comment on some drivel from the intellectually challenged who write in the Mirror newspaper, but as I have little else to do just now except demolish facile arguments even a five year-old could tackle, I thought I’d analyse what this air-headed yummy-mummy-who-lunches has to say:

  1. The fact that hundreds of years ago the vast majority of people believed the world to be flat is not scientific evidence that it is or ever was flat. The fact that millions of people read their horoscopes on a daily basis – and believe them - does not make astrology a science. I suggest Ms Phillips gets herself a dictionary in order to look up the words scientific and scientific method and then places a bet on the 4:30 at Kempton Park.
  2. The scientific fact is that homeopathy has been proven not to work in clinical trials because it simply doesn’t work beyond the placebo effect. No-one can prove otherwise, despite the claims. If it does work, then where are the peer-reviewed papers and the clinical trials data? The only evidence is anecdotal, and we all know anecdote is worth shit as people embroider the ‘evidence’ to the extent it becomes a veritable Bayeux Tapestry of Chinese whispers. No-one is going to admit to having been stupid enough to be duped and that it didn’t actually work.
  3. A derivative of belladonna, donnatal, is a prescription pharmaceutical, approved in the United States by the FDA, which combines natural belladonna alkaloids in a specific, fixed ratio with phenobarbital to provide peripheral anticholinergic/antispasmodic action and mild sedation. As a dilution to 30C (homeopath-speak for having no belladonna in it whatsoever) has no proven efficacy for anything, except quenching your thirst and slimming – and even then it’s only effective for the latter on your wallet or purse.
  4. If she’s using a preparation of belladonna, either she believes it has an active ingredient, or she doesn’t’. If the former, then why is she administering deadly poisons to her kids without a psychiatrist in attendance; if the latter, then why is she doing it at all? Either way, she’s either criminally insane and should be in jail, or a fool.
  5. People do not generally stuff pricey chemical concoctions down their throats and ‘hope for the best’; if they have a reasonable level of intelligence they can be certain in the knowledge that, unless there’s a serious underlying problem or the problem has been misdiagnosed in the first place, the remedy will in fact work in the vast majority of cases - there is at least 15 years’ worth of clinical trials and post-prescription event monitoring backing the facts (the latter having been introduced as a direct result of the thalidomide disaster). They are tried and tested and proven - they are not allowed on the market unless that is the case (unless they are homeopathic of course).
  6. Yes, homeopathy does save the NHS a fortune; unfortunately a lot of money is quite inexplicably spent on homeopathic preparations by the NHS – this is what has to stop. There’s nothing preventing ill-informed, stupid and dull people buying homeopathic preparations, if that’s their choice, but public money should not be wasted on ineffective remedies. You might just as well offer horoscopes on the NHS.
  7. Ms Phillips should not confuse homeopathy with herbalism. Herbs do work and a lot of pharmacological preparations – such as asprin - are synthesised herbal remedies – synthesised solely because it’s cheaper to make them that way in bulk. Herbal remedies work because they actually contain an active ingredient – unlike homeopathic remedies, which are pure water. If Ms Phillips wants to spend several days pounding willow bark with a mortar and pestle to produce an analgesic, then that’s her prerogative, but you won’t find me doing it – I’ll pay a few pennies for an asprin.
  8. You should never really start a sentence with the conjunction ‘and’, especially if you allegedly have an MA in English – it’s intensely irritating. A conjunction’s whole purpose is to join two parts of a sentence. But don’t necessarily believe my word for it. OK, I’m being intensely annoying now.

Monday, 1 March 2010


I was going to write a piece on how to solve the dual problems of world hunger and world peace, but I decided to make a cup of tea instead.

We were watching Country Tracks on TV yesterday, primarily because the programme focussed on the River Avon (of which there are several), whose source is just up the road in Acton Turville.

There was an item about the Severn Gorge and a bunch of conservationists were bemoaning the fact that the place had become overrun by several species of tree. Earlier in the last century sheep and rabbits inhabited the slopes and the intense cropping ‘managed’ the environment. What they wanted was to turn back the clock and have the place as it used to be – complete with sheep.

However, they seemed totally oblivious that the current ecology is totally natural and what they wanted to turn it into was originally a highly manufactured ecology created by man and his flocks of sheep. I found their attitude totally bizarre.

In a shock report the Food Standards Agency has discovered that popcorn, coca-cola and toffees sold in cinemas are not in fact endowed with the health-giving properties everyone thought they possessed.