Friday, 31 July 2009

It's Friday, so it's conspiracy theory day

The answer to yesterday’s conundrum is that if you start with 10 and do the subtraction for numbers above 10, you’ll fast see a pattern emerging. It doesn’t take long to realise that there can only be 9 possible answers to the subtraction. It took me about 30 seconds to note the pattern and then maybe another 45 seconds to confirm it. These 9 numbers are then all seeded with the selected gift. The voice-over then tells you that you guessed a scarf, or a pair of cufflinks, or whatever – except you didn’t guess any of these; you derived a number which was seeded with the chosen gift. Simple really.

Why is it we never see films about German PoW escapes?

Why did Christopher Lambert never make it really big in films?

Did you ever watch the film Highlander? The makers certainly took some liberties with accents; a Scot with a French accent and an Iberian Egyptian with a Scottish accent.

This is part of Kennedy’s 1962 speech about the USA’s space program: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Does anyone know what the ‘other things’ he referred to were? Did he have a momentary lapse of memory?

Yesterday, and again today, I received a missive from friends about the swine flu vaccine. It is a conspiracy theory – and I suspect it was started by charlatans within the vitamin pill industry – stating that all the agencies of government in the USA are colluding to kill half the world’s population through mandatory vaccination with contaminated swine flu vaccine. The aim is to reduce the world’s population to sustainable levels.

Here’s my analysis:

  • The links provided in these conspiracy stories are invariably broken, or lead to crank sites. They do not lead to reputable and verifiable sources.
  • The levels of collusion required to effect such a policy would mean we would have achieved world peace and defeated world hunger decades ago.
  • People rarely check the truth of circulated stories and accept them at face value, especially if they contain elements of truth at the start and come from friends and relatives.
  • People love a conspiracy theory and so you can be 100% sure that those not having an enquiring mind will spread the meme.
  • If the allegations had a scintilla of truth, investigative journalists the world over would have them in the mainstream news quicker than you could say Jack Robinson. Proper journalists check the sources as their reputations are at stake if they get something wrong.
  • If the name David Icke is attached to any of it in any way, shape or form, then you can guarantee it's completely bonkers.

Icke believes in The Illuminati, a race of reptilian humanoids known as the Babylonian Brotherhood, and that many prominent figures are reptilian, including George W. Bush, Queen Elizabeth II, Kris Kristofferson, and Boxcar Willie.

I can well believe the bit about GWB, but not Mrs Queen and certainly not Boxcar Willie.

If you receive a copy of this conspiracy theory, my advice is to bin it and ask the sender to personally verify just 10% of it (preferably not the start, as that’s where truth may be insinuated to make it look plausible) before passing on crap that may cause harm.

Here are some links that perpetuate the meme. The first is a Facebook site, so you may not be able to read it if not on Facebook.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Thursday mind teaser

Someone sent me this today. It's quite intriguing. See if you can figure out how it works.

I took me about 2 minutes.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Wednesday Ramblers' Association

Overheard in the office:

Lyndsay: “Sammy – there’s a phone call for you.”
Sammy: “Who is it?”
Lyndsay: “A man.”

Overheard in the caravan:

Hay: “I can go for a week without a shower.”
Chairman: “So can I.”
Hay: “I mean without smelling like a midden.”
Chairman: “Oh.”

Yesterday I noticed adverts at the foot of my daily blog for vitamin C supplements to prevent swine flu. Listen up people – vitamin C is about as effective at preventing flu as crossing your legs. The only successfully tested prevention against flu is a vaccine, and there is no vaccine for the common cold. Medical flu preparations can only alleviate symptoms, they don’t prevent it in the first place, nor do they reduce the length of time you have it. Some of these vitamin companies need suing.

Thanks to Alan Burnett for this one. For those not in the UK, NHS Direct is the generic National Health Service telephone helpline.

We were watching the film “2001: A Space Oddysey” the other night. Anyone out there understand the ending, ‘cos I’m buggered if I do.

I’m thinking of starting a cult of personality around myself. It was pointed out by a friend that I first need a personality.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

American hegemony

Don’t you just hate it when you arrive in work at 6:30 and the network is down?

Following an announcement that Nadya Suleman, the mother of octuplets born in January, had signed a deal allowing her children to appear in a reality TV show, a judge in California has appointed a guardian to look after their financial interests. Suleman argued against the decision on the basis of it being an intrusion into her private life. So a reality TV show about your 14 kids (she already had 6 others and is single) isn’t an intrusion?

In 1970 Roald Dahl wrote a book called Fantastic Mr Fox. It has since been turned into a film – The Fantastic Mr Fox - which will premiere in London in October. The author was British; the book was set in Britain; the film is set in and shot in Britain; the film is being produced in the UK – and yet the voice stars of the film are almost all American. The makers have even introduced a character called Coach Skip, who has nothing to do with the book. It’s a bit like finding Mr Toad of Wind in the Willows has a Mexican housemaid and being introduced to Police Chief Wowalski as a character in a film of Noddy. It was bad enough when Disney gave Pooh an American accent. Harrumph!

A woman in England has been spared jail for committing 4 acts of bigamy. The judge said she was responding well to treatment and jail would serve no purpose. I wonder that the treatment is – divorce perhaps?

Hay is threatening to investigate a number of local care homes for the elderly with a view to having me placed in one.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Gratuitous and sporadic rants

Sporadic rants today.

Ever noticed how a male suit is tailored on the premise that men never raise their arms above the horizontal? The minute you do the whole things goes hideously out of shape.

A parliamentary committee is criticising the UK government for having reacted far too slowly in setting up the swine flu telephone helpline. That’s like criticising them for being too slow in setting up an elephant stampede telephone helpline, or a nettle sting helpline – something which simply isn’t necessary. Most intelligent people know when they have flu and they also know that going to the doctor is a total waste of the doctor’s time as the condition will clear up in a few days.

As for prescribing antivirals over the phone for whoever wants them, I can’t believe the stupidity of this approach. Most of the people who will take them won’t finish the course or will take them mistakenly thinking they will prevent an infection, which they won’t as they’re not a vaccine, and as a result the swine flu strain will become resistant – just as bacteria are increasingly resistant to antibiotics through needless overuse.

So – to sum it all up, a swine flu telephone hotline serves no purpose other than to stop hoards of congenitally stupid people clogging up doctors’ surgeries, which seeing as that hasn’t happened yet means it was not set up too late.

I think there’s good cause for prosecuting some sections of the media for stirring up needless panic. If someone in a crowded cinema were to shout: “Fire!” for no good reason and people died in a stampede, they would rightly be prosecuted – regardless of their claim to free speech. Even if no-one died they would still be prosecuted for causing needless panic. Free speech must be limited when the effects of that free speech become dangerous to the public – as with the media spreading panic about swine flu.

Do you find all this sanctimoniousness hand-wringing about the dwindling number of WWI veterans getting your goat? My father once told me that he found all this hero-worship senseless due to the fact that the people who went to war were not heroes; they were ordinary people who simply had no choice but to go – they were conscripted and the consequences of not going didn’t bear thinking about. He said that the real heroes were those who won VCs and the equivalent, and while proud of his campaign medals from WWII he treated them as nothing more than recompense for having been forced to be there. No, while not decrying what these people did, the overwhelming majority of those who went to war in WWI and WWII did not make willing sacrifices – they were either willingly sacrificed by politicians, or went to their deaths through plain naivety. In the words of Karl von Clausewitz, war is an extension of politics by other means – it is also a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs as it’s an admission that politics have failed.

Why does the mob want to make heroes out of ordinary people? Why does the mob turn celebrities into demi-gods? The mob is hideously fickle – it creates heroes one minute and turns on them the next. The Duke of Wellington feared the mob for that very reason and never pandered to it or listened when it was adulating him. Did you know that he is called the Iron Duke not because of anything he did at Waterloo, but because he fitted Apsley House, his London residence (which at the time had the prestigious address of No. 1 London), with iron shutters to stop the mob breaking his windows.

We were watching Nigella Lawson cook some muck on TV the other night. Hay commented that given the ingredients she was using it would be cheaper to take your guests out to dinner.

About a month ago I had a problem with my Barclay’s debit card and couldn’t get money from an ATM – a Barclay’s ATM – yet I’d had no problem anywhere else in purchasing goods. I duly sent off for another card, but due to the problems associated with changing all the numbers on Amazon, e-Bay, PayPal and several other e-services which hold my debit card number, I decided to continue using my old card until I hit another problem using the card. A month later I still hadn’t had a problem - despite using the card at least a half dozen times a week – until I went to a Barclay’s bank to draw out some cash. Now the only answer I can arrive at is that while banks champion Chip & PIN, they don’t actually use it themselves and continue to use the magnetic strip in their ATMs.

Scientists in Switzerland have developed a new chocolate which doesn’t melt below 55 degrees C and is ultra-low in calories. That probably means it isn’t chocolate at all and more likely a revolutionary new type of plastic.

Here’s an idea for a TV reality show which cashes in on people’s penchant for home make-overs: a TV programme offering to cost-effectively reduce people’s home energy consumption by 40 or 50%. The problem is that the makers would end up using the same products time after time, which wouldn’t necessarily make good entertainment. With decorative make-overs you can use a plethora of suppliers.

The gap year – what’s the point? I find the concept incredibly self-indulgent and middle class; something done by parents who buy Waitrose Essentials cut lilies along with their Waitrose Essentials pate de foie gras and Serrano ham. I suppose it’s a reward for a child taking two years to achieve the intellectual equivalence of a slug before progressing to the arduous task of having a 3 or 4 year holiday at university and learning what an A-level student of 30 years ago would have known before going there.

I was horrified to find over the weekend that Timothy Spall, whose father was a postal worker and mother a hairdresser, has a son called Rafe. I thought only inbreds and people who shopped at Waitrose called their children Rafe. Rafe is apparently in a relationship with the unfortunately surnamed Elize du Toit.

Did your know that Kirk Douglas is a blogger?

Friday, 24 July 2009

Family Friday

Beastly sorry - haven't had time to post. I'll leave you with my father and grandfather.

Not sure those socks my grandfather is wearing are strictly uniform!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Emergency swine

The British government is launching a swine flu emergency hotline in order to alleviate the burden on the National Health Service. Doubtless it will suffer the same fate as the normal emergency 999 service and end up being swamped by people calling about their lost pets, how to find a taxi after midnight and complaining about shoddy service in shops.

Today I'd like to commend another blogger to you; Alan Burnett. Alan unfortunately comes from the wrong side of the Pennines, but we won't hold that against him. In the last few days Alan has blogged about his descent into deafness in a most humorous and well written manner. Page down to this Monday's post, where he starts the story and read from there. I guarantee you'll be hooked.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Killer performance art

An idiotic artist by the name of Simon Faithfull created an ‘art work’ by attaching an office chair to a weather balloon and setting it free over Hampshire. A video camera was attached to the chair to record the images, as well as a GPS so it could be recovered once the balloon bursts and the chair made a re-entry.

Here’s what the Telegraph’s art correspondent had to say about it:

You watch, in horrified fascination, as a generic office chair rises 18 miles (over South East England) dangling from a weather balloon.

The sound of static is ritualistically punctuated by a bell-tolling noise (which is actually sending back a GPS signal) as the chair twitches vulnerably in an environment where there’s no oxygen and the temperature is minus 60 degrees. Suddenly there’s a violent spasm and a leg hurtles off into the void.

“At that point, the pressure has burst the balloon off camera,” Faithfull says, “and the chair is actually falling. Only you can’t tell because there are no reference points.” While captivating at its most basic, physical level, Faithfull’s work also speaks of the futility of human attempts to escape “the trivial, the mundane and the self”. And also of the beauty in the soul’s constant attempts to soar beyond “the forces of everyday reality”.

To me it speaks of the danger of a bloody great 20 kilo (if it’s an ounce) office chair ploughing through someone’s skull at terminal velocity after hurtling through the atmosphere from a height of 18 miles - and the artist’s futile attempt to get a grip on reality. Christ - is the man totally insane? He needs locking up as a public nuisance!

A man in Australia burst into flames when he was shot by police with a Taser. He was carrying a can of petrol and a lighter at the time and had been sniffing the petrol. The police suggest that the lighter caused him to erupt in a ball of flame. Mmmm, strange that – you’d think it was the 50,000 volts from the Taser!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The end of civilization - and bananas

I’ve heard it all now.

Here in the UK some scientists are calling for the closure of schools at the start of the new term in September in order to reduce the spread of swine flu.

  1. If swine flu is going to kill no more people than seasonal flu – which is what we’re all being told – then surely that’s an argument for closing schools every bloody autumn.
  2. Where do these scientists think the children who are not attending school are going to go? In the vast majority of cases both parents will work full-time, meaning some holding facility is going to have to be created where the kids can be dumped. Such facilities already exist – we experts call them schools and there are a good number in each town and village within handy reach of most parents.

I simply can’t believe no-one has pointed out the ridiculous nature of this suggestion.

I’m incensed at the lack of responsibility being shown by the media over swine flu. If you were to believe the stories in the press then we’re all doomed and civilization is going to come to an abrupt halt this autumn.

I read an amusing headline this morning in a world trade news report concerning the fact that Ecuador has suspended trade talks with Colombia, Peru and the EU, alleging unfair tariffs on its banana exports. It said: “Ecuador, EU in banana split.” What made it amusing is that the publication concerned is noted for being rather staid, and hence the headline writer probably didn’t even realise that the headline contained humour.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The philosophy of chili sauce

The sanctimonious brigade have been at it again – this time in Scotland. Scottish ferry company, Caledonian McBrayne, has started a Sunday ferry service between Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis and the mainland, but a bunch of Keep The Sabbath Sacred fundies want it stopped for no better reason that they want to impose their philosophy on everyone else. No-one is forcing the fundies to use the service on a Sunday, so what’s their problem?

The danger in using philosophy as a moral guide and wanting to impose it on others is that there is not a single important question that philosophy has answered - ever. Answers are the realm of science; philosophy teaches people how to think – and you’d think that as a consequence it would also teach people to be open-minded. The problems occur when people adhere to a particular philosophy as if it were objective truth, which it isn’t – it’s one opinion, amongst many.

Oh – for the Irish reader who alighted on the blog searching for references to Lingham’s chili sauce at Tesco’s – you can only get it at the larger Tesco stores now.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Malmesbury Abbey

Went to Malmesbury again yesterday as the shop where we get our spices and sauces was closed last Sunday and we were running desperately short of Lingham's chili sauce, sambal manis and Ras El Hanout.

While there I thought I'd have a quick shuftie around Malmesbury Abbey, which is one of those places that Henry VIII dissolved in 1837 in order to pay off his cronies. Half the abbey is in ruins, not because of Henry's predations, but because the tower collapsed in 1500, taking half the building with it. What's left has been restored - and it's free to go in and look around. Well worth the effort if you're in the area and like a bit of history.

Athelstan, the first king of all England, was buried there. His half-brother, Edmund, was killed just up the road from us in Pucklechurch, probably on that nasty bend in the road that I've mentioned in a previous post. Edmund took over the throne when Athelstan died, but lost most of the kingdom that Athelstan had built up.

A magnificent vaulted roof.

The wall at the end marks the limit of what's left standing, the tower having been beyond the wall. The wooden contraption at the end is where the mullah casts his spells, although I'm not that familiar with what goes on in these buildings.

The box above - or watching loft - looks for all the world as if it's a '60s addition constructed of breeze block. It's apparently where the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer.

This is a set of magic wands used by the mullahs. I think they keep them in a glass case to stop the magic leaking out. Recipe for disaster, if you ask me - any old passing warlock could easily nick them.

In the middle of the picture is where the collapsed minaret stood.

This magnificent doorway is covered in delicately carved protective ritual symbols and magical incantations.

This is a peek through a gate into the Abbey Gardens, which cost £6.50 to enter (hence I didn't go in) and apparently quite an attraction. There was a notice forbidding photography, so I was wary of being approached by a pack of habit-clad Plymouth Brethren in wrap-around sunglasses with shoulder holsters and communicating by bluetooth.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Family history

It's just nice to know that my grandfather has a place on the web. He's never been here before you know, so it's a new experience for him. Please make him feel welcome.

It would be nice if you could click on him a few times, just to improve his Google ranking so he shows up on an image search.

Johannes van Bergen
09 April 1882 - 03 May 1947

Friday, 17 July 2009

A sense of perspective

Tried the piezo-electric gas lighter thingy on the ears last night. The secret is to allow some gas to blow into your ears before igniting it, rather than delicately playing the flame over the surface of your ear. Once ignited using the aforementioned method, a great fireball erupts outward at incredible speed, incinerating any hair in its path before having insufficient time to roast your skin. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it beats the Zippo; however the smell of burnt hair doesn’t half linger. Hay wouldn’t come near me all evening and accused me of smelling like a burnt jute sack.

Swine flu related deaths in the UK have climbed to 29. Based on the 55,000 reported cases that’s a mortality rate of 0.05272727%, which extrapolated over the 60m inhabitants of the UK comes to some 31,600 projected deaths.

Now it has been estimated that there are 36,000 deaths per year in the UK from ‘normal’ seasonal flu, however, the 36,000 figure has no science behind it and is seemingly plucked from the air, as flu is rarely, if ever, listed on a death certificate as a prime cause of death. However, it’s at least an educated guess, so it’s worth bearing the figure in mind. This suggests to me that swine flu is no more dangerous than seasonal flu, and as usual it will be the elderly, the young and those with underlying respiratory problems that will be chiefly at risk.

I heard the CMO, Sir Liam Donaldson, say on the radio that the predicted deaths related to swine flu are between 19,000 and 64,000, which averages out at 41,500, only slightly higher than the 36,000 guesstimate for normal flu. Kind of puts things into perspective – something the newspapers sorely lack in their sensationalist headline reporting.

The real danger is if swine flu mutates into a virulent strain of man flu.

I’ve heard it said that those worst served by the British National Health Service are the very poor and the very rich. It’s not immediately obvious that the very rich are ill served, but when you think about it they have the money to put into untested and very expensive non-NHS medicine and quack cures peddled by the unscrupulous and thus don’t really use the NHS at all.

Talking of sensationalist newspaper headlines, the Daily Mirror has this week called the UK soldiers who died tragically in a recent roadside bombing in Afghanistan ‘the bravest of the brave’. What then does that make the holders of Victoria Crosses and George Medals?

Several high-profile authors are to stop visiting UK schools in protest at new laws requiring them to be vetted to work with youngsters. The Home Office says the change, being introduced from October, will help protect children from paedophiles (my spell checker once more tells me that the Americans can’t spell). Anyone who has "regular" or "intense" contact with children or vulnerable adults will by law have to sign up to the Vetting and Barring Scheme from November 2010. "Regular" is defined as more than once a month and "intense" as three times a month or more.

On that basis every parent, uncle, aunt and grandparent should be made to register. It’s a well known fact that children are at higher risk of abuse from family members than strangers.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Of cars and hair and sealing wax

Note (12/01/10): This post seems to be attracting a lot of attention by readers in Holland and Belgium. Can someone please explain why?

Collected my old car from the garage yesterday. For £350 I had a 2nd hand door fitted and sprayed, a full service and the cam and alternator belts changed – the latter being £150 on its own. The rip-off merchants used by the insurance wanted £1200 just to fix the door. Given I got £900 for it and paid £100 back to the insurance to reclaim it, I’m well up on the deal. Seeing as I know the car intimately, that is has 20k fewer miles on the clock than the newer LPG powered one I bought and has packets more oomph, I’m going to get rid of the LPG car despite it being about 20% cheaper to run. After all, what’s the point of having a large Volvo estate if you’re going to fill half of the carrying capacity with a bloody great LPG tank?

I was checking on the hitcounter stats yesterday and found out someone had alighted on the blog by searching for “brothels leominster hereford”. How the hell that Google search resulted in a hit on my blog is a complete mystery.

Other search gems included:

• alloy wheels stolen in reading Berkshire
• sweden clogs -admin –hasbeens
• jodie marsh zoo 29/05/09
• bubble screen lambretta sx tv
• testiculus danglus

…and several variants of searches on National Beard Week.

You lot are really weird!

Since giving up smoking last October I am no longer in the habit of carrying a Zippo around on my person, which renders me unable to accomplish some basic aural topiary.

When I smoked, once every couple of weeks I would take the Zippo to my ears in order to singe the copious quantities of ear hair I started to sprout since hitting my late forties. As you will appreciate, it was a delicate operation involving cupping my ear in one hand from behind in order to eliminate the potential for setting my Barnett on fire once the ear fuzz went up in flames. Too much ear fuzz and the resulting conflagration could easily turn my ears into pork scratchings, thus frequent singeing was a necessary precaution to prevent too much tinder accumulating in my lug holes.

The curtain of hair from my eyebrows that occasionally threatens to obscure my forward vision is kept in check by occasional strimming with the beard trimmer, but rather than once or twice a year, this now has to be accomplished fortnightly.

Avoidance of suffocation through an excess nasal hair is performed with a neat little electric cutting gizmo which you stuff up your hooter every now and again and give a twirl. However, it’s not very good on ear hair and I need to find a better solution - one that’s as efficient as the lighter. Perhaps the gas / piezo-electric doofrey we use to light the gas cooker hob would do the job. Must give it a try tonight.

Just thought you’d want to know all that.

Had a shave of the neck area when I got home yesterday evening. Given I dry shave the neck can occasionally itch and sting abominably, so I applied some Polo cologne / aftershave, which I’ve had for some 5 years or so (don’t tend to use foo-foo much since my early 40s). It ponged awfully, so to cover the ming I applied another aftershave my elder daughter bought me a year or two ago but have never used. The resulting concoction was rather nasty and Hay commented that I’d better have a shower or else visitors might think she’d had a cheap bloke in her bed.

I see Sophie Dahl is to front a new BBC cookery show next year. Hay wonders why, as she’s renowned for avoiding the stuff like the plague. She used to be a size 16 or 18 model and then slimmed down to a size 6 or 8, yet being 5’ 11” tall. Her actual surname is Holloway, her paternal granddaughter being actor Stanley Holloway. Clearly she thought her maternal grandfather’s name would have more cachet. Her boyfriend is the musical midget munchkin, Jamie Cullum.

We had the TV on as background while Hay was cooking and I was composting today’s blog – suddenly I noticed Seasick Steve on the box doing his thing with his trademark 3 stringed guitar. He’s one of the few interesting musicians.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

We have a furore in the UK about the so-called ‘injustice’ of the elderly having to sell their homes to pay for long-term care. What, in the name of all that’s holy, is unjust about someone selling their home to pay for their own care – providing their spouse doesn’t get kicked out of it. If they’re moving into a care home then it’s not as if they’re ever going to get to live in the bloody place again. This expectation that the state (i.e. we taxpayers) will fund every damned thing from cradle to grave really annoys me – it panders to greed, particularly the greed of children of the elderly who see their inheritance as their God-given right.

If you have assets, then you pay - and assets must be checked to ensure people don’t give their homes to their kids just before going into care. Anyone proposing free long-term care for the well-off elderly would lose my vote immediately, as I pay enough in tax as it is and have no wish to subsidise people’s inheritance.

I think there’s even a case for making the children of the elderly liable for all care costs, with only those failing a means test having the right to state funded care – much as the Child Support Agency means tests non-resident parents for child maintenance – herald the Zimmer Support Agency. If the children of the elderly then have to sell of their parents’ houses to fund care, then so be it.

In the winter of 1947 the author Dennis Wheatley penned 'A Letter to Posterity', which he buried in an urn at his country home. The letter was intended to be discovered some time in the future but was actually found in 1969 when that home was demolished for redevelopment of the property. In it he predicted that the socialist reforms introduced by the post-war government would inevitably lead to an unjust state, and called for both passive and active resistance to it.

"Socialist ‘planning’ forbids any man to kill his own sheep or pig, cut down his own tree, put up a wooden shelf in his own house, build a shack in his garden, and either buy or sell the great majority of commodities – without a permit. In fact, it makes all individual effort an offence against the state. Therefore, this Dictatorship of the Proletariat, instead of gradually improving the conditions in which the lower classes live, as has been the aim of all past governments, must result in reducing everyone outside the party machine to the level of the lowest, idlest and most incompetent worker.”

The above list of things you can’t do without the permission of those in power also includes assisted suicide. Even your body and life belong to the state.

It’s incredible to think that comment was written 62 years ago - it could have been written by a social commentator today. Seems little changes.

It’s Folly House Gig season again and we’ve already sent out invitations to all the locals to head off potential noise complaints. We’re combining it with Caravan Mummy’s 70th birthday. As usual, Perry’s group The Expressions will be the headline act in the Michael Jackson Memorial Tent – well, actually it’s the only tent – well, more of a small gazebo really. Following these gigs I always make a decision to learn an instrument by the time of the next gig so I can join in, but never get round to it. Looks like it’s going to have to be air guitar again this year.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

What pleasure do monks have? Nun!

I was listening to the religious programme Beyond Belief on Radio 4 on the way home last night. The subject matter was poverty and one of the speakers was a Jain monk. Jains take a vow of poverty and are not even allowed to stay in one location for longer than two weeks in case they become attached to the place – attachment being bad for the spiritual self.

It struck me that this peripatetic monkish lifestyle is incredibly self-indulgent, as it is almost totally reliant on the charity of others to fund one's personal spiritual development and enlightenment. Worse than that, those who follow this lifestyle choice trick the general populace into subsidizing them by telling them that their acts of charity are good for their own spiritual development.

Taken to its logical conclusion, this philosophy is predicated on a permanent existence on welfare benefits emanating from those who are probably least able to provide it, something we in the west frown upon due to the lifestyle being unsustainable if everyone were to adopt it. A monastery-based monastic lifestyle, on the other hand, is sustainable as monastic orders are self-sufficient, having little almost no reliance on charity, except as a conduit for passing it on to the poor.

Been reading a couple of interesting books recently; The Biology of Star Trek and The Physics of Star Trek. Both are written not from the position of Trekkie geekdom, but from what could and could not be possible according to science.

I think everyone would love to have access to Star Trek transporter technology; however, if my mass were to be converted to energy for the purpose of light-speed transportation, it would release the equivalent of about 1,800 1 megaton nuclear bombs, clearly rendering the action of beaming me up (Scotty) a bit of a nightmare to say the least. If that isn’t enough, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle would render any transported me a veritable jigsaw puzzle at the destination. Transporter technology simply ain’t going to happen – ever.

Another favourite theme of Star Trek is beings made of pure energy. These are not possible as sentient, intelligent life-forms due to the fact that intelligence requires memory, and memory requires matter in order to store and process information. This also has consequences for the continuation of one’s personality after death – it simply can’t happen, as the soul (if it can be proven to exist) is by definition immaterial and therefore incapable of storing memory. Additionally, energy travels at light-speed, so anyone who was converted to (or evolved into) a being composed of pure energy would immediately dissipate at the speed of light – literally disappearing in a flash.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Male display activity

Hay wants me to have surgically removed the spray attachment which she’s convinced, by the amount of mopping up and swabbing she has to do in the loo, I must obviously have attached to the end of my willy. Saw this in Malmesbury yesterday. Showed Hay the pic when I got home and said she’d buy one to install in the loo and see if it worked for me in terms of stopping me spraying the entire room whenever I go for a pee.

We were talking about male beard aggression the other day (as opposed to female beard aggression). Hay noticed how as the annual school reunion approaches, or any event at which there will be a reasonably large gathering of men, I tend to allow the hair on my upper cheeks to grow preternaturally long. She’s of the opinion that it’s an intimidatory, alpha-male, silver-back, virility display thing, whereas I explained that it’s a naval tradition – people in the navy who are able to grow hair on their upper cheeks tend to sport just a tuft of hair on each upper cheek.

"Shaving was a custom of the Macedonian military, taken over by Hellenic and Roman society. From then on the beard becomes a philosophical status symbol, a sign of non-conformism." - Peter Sloterdijk, Critique of Cynical Reason.

"A woman with a beard looks like a man. A man without a beard looks like a woman." - Afghan saying.

Ever wondered why almost all men with beards shave their necks? Adam’s apple fencing is why. You can’t engage in a display of Adam’s apple fencing with another male if you have a hairy neck as it hides the feature.

Sunday anxiety - are you a sufferer? If I don’t get up early on a Sunday and do something I get extremely anxious, knowing that I’m going to work on Monday. As far as I’m concerned the weekend is over by 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. Douglas Adams described it perfectly as the long, dark teatime of the soul. Hate it and can’t wait to retire – or at least get a job I actually enjoy doing.

Took Hay’s sister and mother to Coleshill in Wiltshire yesterday. Tried to get a meal at the Radnor Arms there, but was told by the surly girls behind the bar that they were full, despite there being at least 4 empty tables and it being only a quarter to two in the afternoon. In the past I’ve visited the Vine Tree at Norton when the place was closed, but was nonetheless welcomed by the landlord and offered a glass of wine when I accidentally walked in thinking it open. Some places, like the Radnor Arms in Coleshill, simply don’t deserve to succeed if they treat punters like vermin.

On the way to Coleshill I spotted this Mormon church, which looked suspiciously like a mini Tesco – you know the corporate Tesco superstore look; pointy white wooden spire and red brick? The Church of the Latter Day Tesco - hideous.

Saw a headline in one of the Sunday papers saying the police are going to be forced to admit a quota of gypsies (or travelers, as they were described in the headline) into their ranks. How the hell are they going to do that when the buggers don’t stay put in one location longer than a month before being moved on by either the local council or the police themselves? Also I can’t see police superintendents allowing their staff to dump old mattresses, prams and burned out cars on police premises.

I know this story is from the Daily Mail, but apparently 13 doctors are mounting a legal challenge to the verdict of suicide on Dr David Kelly. Excellent news.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Miserlou virus.

Finally managed to shake off the ‘My Sharona’ virus, but it was touch and go for a while and I wasn’t sure I’d recover.

Hay suggested I use the ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ virus in order to chase out the ‘My Sharona’ virus, but the cure, although guaranteed to work, is worse than the disease itself.

I eventually decided to expose myself to the ‘Miserlou’ virus, the effects of which are not too bad, and it worked. It did, however, take a triple dose of the 'Miserlou’ virus to effect a cure. The ‘Miserlou’ virus, while extremely potent, is short lived, having a half life of around an hour.

Here’s the contemporary Dick Dale version:

Here’s Dick Dale playing his 1963 version:

And finally an authentic Greek version, it originally having been a Greek song called 'Misirlou' composed in 1927:

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Is there an antidote?

I feared I’d lost the ability to rant yesterday, but I saw a news item about a sweetshop owner who had been asked to remove his billboard outside his shop and exploded in incandescent and apoplectic rage, huffing and puffing with righteous indignation. It quite upset my chakras my chi hasn’t been best pleased since.

The owner in question displays humorous spoof headlines on a billboard outside his shop to entertain his customers – headlines such as “Crawley Girl Gives Birth to Pitbull" and "Local Youths Abduct UFO", which I find both inoffensive and acutely humorous.

A police spokesman said: "While passing on routine patrol last month an officer did have a friendly conversation with the shop owner. At no point did we suggest that he could be arrested - although if there was a law about having a dodgy sense of humour, there might well be a case.”

Dodgy sense of humour? DODGY SENSE OF HUMOUR? There’s nothing dodgy about the shop owner’s sense of humour – at least the bugger has one, unlike the killjoy bastard who complained.

A spokesman for Horsham District Council said: "We can confirm that the council has received recent complaints about what has been written on the A-board outside the shop. As a message posted there was considered to be potentially offensive, a street scene officer from the council asked for its removal."

Potentially offensive? I’ll tell you what is definitely offensive - self-appointed arbiters of the potentially offensive – that’s what’s offensive! If someone is offended, then let them complain and articulate (if they can) a valid reason for being offended – then, and only then is action justified by the guardians of the public morals.

Right-wing dictatorships send people to prison for what they may ‘potentially’ do, not democracies. Democratic rules should apply to potentially offensive material – let there be demonstrable and testable proof that offence is taken before a decision is made to restrict someone’s freedom.

Been bitterly pissed off at work this week. I’ve been crying out for some form of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for a couple of years now – or even just a contact management system; a simple PC-based database system with a half decent front-end would do. What have the power that be decided? To apply the full might of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to the task, which is like using a JCB earth mover to cut your toenail. For the cognoscenti, it’s Efacs fronting Prophix, which gives you an idea of the complexity and unsuitability.

The problem is that we’re a large conglomerate with an Italian parent and the policy is that one-size-fits-all, so they’ve adapted what is essentially a front end to a financial reporting system to make it look like a CRM system, and it just doesn’t work. Like the earth mover analogy, it’s overly complicated, ponderously slow and doesn’t actually provide the functionality we people at the coalface need. We’re told that anything bought from outside (i.e. a dedicated, purpose designed, commonly available, off-the-shelf package for a few thousand quid) simply will not be supported by our IT department – who as far as I’m concerned has become the business prevention team.

Whereas I would have simply bought in something like the ACT contact management system, the company has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on an internal development that’s taken two years thus far and is effectively unfit for purpose. It’s utterly incomprehensible. The phrase ‘lions led by donkeys’ comes to mind.

For God’s sake – we’re still using Lotus Notes as our e-mail tool, which in a fast moving sales environment is plain stupid as there are no APIs to web-based sales aids (Plaxo, Linked-In, etc) because so few people actually use Lotus Notes anymore. It’s as friendly as a cornered rat. The problem stems from our parent being hush-hush, where security is paramount, and Lotus Notes is the best system for such environments – however, my part of the business is not involved in the hush-hush bit at all.

Rant over.

Had occasion to dispense some wisdom yesterday to a fellow blogger. It wasn’t my wisdom, I hasten to add, but that of Petronius Arbiter, one time governor of the Roman province of Bythynia. However, it goes to show how the same old problems keep coming up to plague us.

“We tried hard – but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situations by reorganising –and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.”

Sound wisdom, although it has to be said that there are occasions when reorganisation is a distinct necessity.

Hay and I went out for a Moroccan meal last night - I wanted to cheer her up as she's not at all well of late. On returning home we switched the TV on to be presented with an episode of Guitar Heroes. The Knack were on and unfortunately I caught a dose of 'My Sherona' and haven’t been able to shake it off since. It must be one of the most infectious songs ever written and I don’t think there’s an antidote to it. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Am I cured?

Nothing to say for 2 days in a row! Could it be that I'm cured?

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Funeral of the BNP

Watched about an hour of the the Michael Jackson gig on TV last night. It was a wonder they hadn’t dragooned David Dimbleby in to do the sombre voice-over for BBC2 (why does my spell-checker spell it as somber?). I have to say though that Mariah Carey just annoys the shit out of me with her self-indulgent vocal gymnastics. Stevie Wonder’s and Lionel Richie’s sets, however, were sublime – but what else would you expect from such consummate professionals, even if they do dye their hair. Lots of shouty civil rights people yelling at the audience though; they must take lessons in how to be loud and how to turn an event into a rally – no matter how incongruous or inappropriate the occasion.

Wonderful news for British National Party supporters; a study has found that illegal immigrants do not queue-jump the indigenous UK population when it comes to being offered social housing. Thank God that this myth, which the BNP perpetuate, can at last be laid to rest. Now they will have to start articulating the real reason they don’t like immigrants – because they have the sheer nerve and effrontery to be different.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Busy, busy, busy

Again I have little time to post (off to Christchurch in a few minutes), so I'll leave you with some more photos of the motors at the Heddington Steam Rally last weekend.

Had one of these (Triumph Dolimite Sprint).

Wish I had one of these (Bristol).

Had one of these, but a 110 rather than a 60. Called it Battlestar Galactica.

Lust after one of these.

Morgan 3 Wheelers .


Had one of these, but in Wolsey Hornet livery.

Rebuilt more of these than I care to remember - 4 at least.

This one's a bit of a bugger to drive - keeps wanting to take to the air (WWII Rolls Royce Merlin engine).

Monday, 6 July 2009

Lord of the Flies

Got bitten on the calf by some damned bug on Saturday – probably a horsefly. While I have good calf definition and have legs resembling those of a rugby player, the effect of the swelling made me look as if I’d contracted elephantiasis or had had one of Arnie Schwarzenegger’s legs sewn on in place of my own.

We went to Heddington yesterday to see Eric and his wife. Eric has previously received attention in the blog – he’s an excellent baker, a bagpipe player of note and a wood carver, although none of these skills are used to generate income, which seems a great pity.

Below are some of his wood carvings. The first is an unfinished carving of the back of the head and derriere of a naked woman. The object of the finished work is to fix it to a wooden door and create the illusion of the woman walking through the solid door.

This next one is a staff he made from a cherry bough. Unfortunately the photo does not show the intricate work along the shaft.

We went to the Heddingon Steam Rally, where I saw the following rather amusing sign.

I’ll finish with a somewhat incongruous drag-tractor from the rally.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The Great Wall of Old Sodbury

We demolished yet another stone wall yesterday, which has yielded plenty of building material for the embellishment of Badger's End.

The sheep were removed from the field too, and Mick (the farmer next door) came round to give the field a short back and sides.

Thoughts this week have been turned to roofing materials. I took a few shots of barn-style buildings earlier this week while in Basildon, althought perhaps Beefeater and Harvester restaurants in Essex are not the ideal templates of contemporary rural style. They do, however, provide a guide to what colour roof tiles would be aesthetically pleasing.

I think I prefer the dark brown, which is in keeping with the barn in Berkshire on which we've based our design (below - click to enlarge).

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Axis of evil

I have discerned an axis of evil among my readers.

If you look at the map of hits on the Feedjit thingummy you’ll see a very definite pattern starting in Stockholm and passing in a graceful arc through Malmo, Berlin, Munich, Milan, Nimes, Montpellier, Figueres and Caceres before finally crossing the Atlantic.

Zurich slightly spoils the arc, but I know for a fact that the Zurich hit is virtual and actually originates in the Cotswolds.

What is the meaning of this pattern? Is it an avid reader engaged in a European tour? Is it readers communicating telepathically along magical ley lines? Perhaps a defensive ring of readers preventing me accruing an Eastern European readership?

I must try to extend the eastern marches of my European empire.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Dilbert, satnavs and art

Been in sales and strategy meetings at HQ for two days solid. Occasionally we’d have a short break from the meeting so that we could go to our computers and e-mail each other. Ludicrous when you think about it.

On the way back from Basildon to Old Sodbury my satnav advised me to take a detour off the M25 due to congestion ahead. I ignored it. Guess what happened? Yes, 200 yards after the junction the satnav advised me to turn off at the traffic came to a standstill.

Finally managed to reach the M4, upon which the satnav advised me to take another detour to miss a section near Slough. This time I took the advice and ended up in a stationary queue on a country road alongside the M4. The traffic on the M4 was trundling past at a steady 50 MPH. After 10 minutes a eventually doubled back for 2 miles and rejoined the M4 without having any further problems.

It would appear that where satnavs are concerned you should make a decision, and then reverse it at the last minute.

I’ve decided to make a break with my dinosaur past. While I am extremely comfortable with degrees centigrade, metres and litres, I have never managed to move away from miles per gallon when it comes to fuel consumption – despite the fact we’ve been purchasing the stuff in litres for donkey’s years. This weekend I’m going to change the settings on the car’s computer to indicate miles per litre.

Haven’t had much time to observe the world news over the last couple of days, so commentary is sparse today. I did notice, however, that artist Antony Gormley is to start exhibiting people on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square today. To me it seems an utterly pointless celebration of the dull and mundane, which has come to typify modern art and the clamour for celebrity and self-promotion. I’m with Brian Sewell in that much of what passes for modern art belongs in a circus side-show.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Broom Cupboard Photos

Haven't had time to write a post today as I'm off to HQ at sparrow's fart for a couple of days to be shouted at by my boss for no accountable reason, other than it makes him feel good to blame someone else for his own inaction. Been there before and it's like water off a duck's back.

Instead I'll exhibit one of the photos I found on my work mobile when inspecting it last night. Don't usually use it for photographic work, and hence stuff gets left there to rot.

By the time this is publised I'll be somewhere between Old Sodbury and Basildon.