Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Continuation of Politics by Other Means

Had a trawl around Blogland last night. It never ceases to amaze me how the most banal of blogs attract scores of fawning comments, yet anything remotely intelligent, intellectual or thought provoking attracts hardly a single one. I suppose that’s why programmes like Big Brother and all these so-called reality shows have such a following. Should I dumb down and start giving agony uncle advice and talking about star signs?

Not sure if you, like me, have a problem with this Chilcot enquiry into the Iraq war. I don’t remember any public enquiry after WWII when Britain wantonly declared war against Germany for no good reason other than Germany invading Poland. Was that legal? It’s not as if we were directly threatened. I don’t recall protests on VE Day and calls to bring Chamberlain or Churchill to book for sending millions to their deaths.

I was under the impression that if you won a war it didn’t matter a jot as to whether it was legal or not – it’s called ‘might is right’. All this hand-wringing and navel gazing seems a tad self-indulgent to me and exhibits a predilection toward bowing to the most vocal minority – like those 12 people who complain constantly to the BBC and manage to get shows taken off-air.

When it comes to war, legality and morality are totally disconnected. No war can be morally justified and legal justification is a fudge at best and nothing more than an agreement on definition. War happens and is sometimes necessary, regardless of the morality or legality.

If was wasn’t surrounded by all these codes of conduct and war became total war involving the entire nation, then governments would perhaps be less willing to declare war in the first place, as the consequences would to be too hideous to contemplate. As it is the electorate is insulated from actually doing anything, which makes it very easy to send people to their possible deaths in some Godforsaken corner of the world. It only causes problems when those against whom you wage this war bring the fight to your country through the auspices of terrorism, which is sometimes the only tool left to them. That’s when all the soul searching and scapegoating starts.

It seems that the hoi polloi are allowed to change their collective mind but governments are still to be held to account for decisions made years ago – decisions the great unwashed mostly supported at the time and which the politicians were voted in to make by proxy on behalf of the electorate. The buck stops with the electorate. However, you can’t hang an entire electorate and so you have to find a scapegoat in the form of a politician.

What I find acutely disturbing is the protests by parents of soldiers who died. Soldiers fight wars and by dint of that they occasionally run a small risk of getting killed. You don’t sign up because you simply want to see the world and have an easy time sunning yourself in Nicaragua or skiing in Norway – if you want that you join the Merchant Navy, like I did. Their protests smack more of a desire for revenge following the death of a child – a quite natural feeling on the part of a parent but one which was not given vent to in the aftermath of other wars we declared in the past. It wasn’t considered British and you bore your loss with stoicism.

Never mind about the Iraqis and Afghans, it’s about time Britain had another war with the traditional enemy it is genetically predisposed to fight – the FRENCH.

My good friend Richard over at Falling Through An Endless Summer Sky made an amusing comment on my post of yesterday and I’m going to plagiarise it (I did tell him I would). You know you’re getting old when popes start to look younger.

Hay was on a course during the week to do with adverse drug reactions. She and her fellow delegates were presented with a case study of a 23 year old woman who kept fainting for no obvious reason. The task was to diagnose the problem and find the root cause. I laughed my socks off when Hay told me that it turned out to be liquorice abuse.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Poor Education

Seen the latest offering from Apple?

It will never take off – far too large for a mobile phone.

Got trapped for 30 minutes in a virtual automated call-centre system yesterday. I was trying to speak to a human at the UK DVLA (Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency), but none of the options applicable resulted in termination of the call to an operator. I kept pressing buttons on my phone as instructed and went into a permanent feedback loop. Emergent system behaviour instigated by the unexpected – a wish to speak to a homo sapiens.

One thing I discovered was that the manual intervention option is usually left till the very end, meaning you have to have the patience of Job and listen to all the blurb and marketing spiel before you can pass go and collect £200. This is because the object of the exercise is to prevent you from speaking to an expensive resource.

Talking of customer service, I had a customer meeting yesterday which necessitated me having to wear a suit. I don’t have many meetings, preferring instead to do business over the phone, and thus when I do wear a suit it now feels somewhat strange; so strange in fact that I forgot to do up my fly before leaving the caravan. Additionally I’ve been growing my beard since Xmas and it’s just at that explosion-in-a-hay-loft stage. The end result was the head of a tramp superimposed on a cool cut-out suit. I looked like a dosser who had just been given a smart suit by a well-off charity donor.

The poor! Apparently 30% more students from poor homes are now going to university than five years ago. I’d like to know what the government is going to do about this lamentable state of affairs! We can’t have potential DVLA operatives, road sweepers and shop assistants getting above their station and obtaining degrees. The consequence of this is that we’re going to have to import yet more disreputable Johnny Foreigners from Poland to do the menial jobs.

Dumbing down the education system to the extent such that nothing more academically arduous that simple attendance guarantees you a degree in some crappy subject having as much value to society as a bog brush is not the way to increase social mobility. In fact it brings education into disrepute and devalues the currency for all. The upshot is that a degree is no longer a guarantor to escaping poverty – it now has the same value in the eyes of employers as the old City & Guilds qualification.

When I was young a degree guaranteed you a well paid job. These days some 10% of UK university graduates will still have no job after 6 months. I didn’t choose to follow the university path, which I occasionally regret; however, I can’t complain about the life I did lead as it gave me other skills which have stood me in good stead – skills I would not have learned in a university environment, such as leadership, bartering, dealing with petty officialdom, how to bribe effectively, negotiating with prostitutes, juggling multiple girlfriends in multiple ports, etc.

Thursday, 28 January 2010


A French parliamentary committee has recommended a partial ban on women wearing Islamic face veils. If women want to go around covered in blankets then why shouldn’t they? After all, if it was alright for Michael Jackson’s kids then it should be alright for anyone.

If the veil were to be banned in the UK, then the practise of putting a blanket over the heads of heinous criminals as they are led into and out of court would also have to be curtailed. Criminals would additionally be forbidden to wear balaclavas and stockings over their faces while in public places, such as banks, post offices, jewellery shops and convenience stores.

The one item of clothing I would like to see banned in the UK is the short T-shirt, jumper or cardigan that displays fat women’s muffin tops. These symbols of female oppression are a disgrace, especially when the women are sporting chav stamps (lower back tattoos). In fact, I’d vote for the mandatory wearing of niqabs or burkas by these women to prevent unwarranted assaults on the eyes of men.

How about banning the flip-flop, more commonly know throughout the seafaring community as the Chinese seaboot. The flip-flop is the standard footwear of Chinese seafarers the world over from the tropics or the poles and is the single largest cause of foot injury aboard ships.

Other names under which the flip-flop masquerades include;

  • Chinese safety boot,
  • Chinese snow shoes,
  • Chinese hiking boots,
  • Chinese desert boots,
  • Chinese running spikes and
  • Chinese ice skates.

What item of clothing or footwear would you ban?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Woe, Woe and Thrice Woe

According to statistics released yesterday the UK is now officially out of the recession. Our economy grew by 0.1% in the last quarter, and given that the error could be as much as 0.5% either way, I’d say the pundits are being as premature as a 6 month baby.

How come it takes two quarters of shrinkage (I hate the term negative growth) to be classified as being in recession and only one of growth for the economy to be said to be out of a recession? It's a bit like saying two steps back and one forward results in an overall forward movement.

I dare say that, like me, the vast majority of you reading this have been totally unaffected by the recession. It was a non-event. You may have cut back on your spending as a knee-jerk reaction, but you probably didn’t really need to – thereby contributing to the depth of said recession and retail businesses going bust.

If you have a mortgage then you’ve benefitted from the lowest interest rates since the Jews forbade usury; if you have savings then you most certainly haven’t benefited - but at least you’re not in deep debt by virtue of having a nest egg.

If you took advantage of the car scrappage scheme then you probably had to borrow money to buy your new car – and contributed to the nation getting even deeper into debt, a key contributor to this problem in the first place.

Some, if not most of you, had to forgo your annual inflationary pay rise last year – but seeing as inflation was negative you lost nothing and may have in fact gained slightly.

A very small percentage of you may have lost your jobs, and it is those people who will have been affected – and deeply.

Have your taxes gone up? Have interest rates gone up horrendously? The number of unemployed is actually smaller than during the last round of mass unemployment. All in all it hasn’t been too bad – yet.

Listen to the comments from the hoi polloi in the press and the BBC news website and you’d think the recession – which was world-wide phenomenon – was solely due to Gordon Brown’s policies. He may be an important and influential man, but even his policies cannot alone cause US banks to fail, and it was in the US that the house of cards began to cascade due to the sub-prime mortgage fiasco.

Some people are totally ignorant of fact and allowing them to vote is like giving a stick of dynamite to a baby. Ask them precisely how Gordon Brown’s policies caused the recession and they’d be stumped, as they’re merely trotting out unfounded pub dogma and haven’t really thought about what they would (or could) have done differently without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

Yes, tighter regulation of the banks would have been a good idea, but ask yourself who deregulated everything in sight initially? It certainly wasn’t Labour. Also, when things are going well and the economy is booming it is a tad illogical to put the brakes on with no good reason – and the reasons to do that don’t become apparent till the wheels fall off due to circumstances beyond your control.

If the UK has suffered more than our European counterparts it’s because we courted the money men and attracted them to London. When we did so, there were no Cassandra-like cries from anyone that this was a particularly bad idea on par with invading the Sudetenland or giving women the vote.

The Equalities Commission has reached the devastating conclusion that the gap between poor and rich is wider than ever. It doesn’t take an A* maths GCSE student to work out that if everyone gets percentage pay rises then the gap is bound to widen with time. Actually, an A* maths GCSE student probably wouldn’t realise that as I don't think percentages are covered till university these days.

I wish someone could explain to me what's intrinsically bad about having rich people. Providing their money is circulating through the economy and creating jobs, then what's the problem? What's important is that the poor are able to sustain themselves, not how much the rich earn. Concerning yourself with what the rich earn is called envy. Anyway, doesn't the bible say that the poor are blessed in some way - along with the cheesemakers?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Flying Dutchmen

Overheard in the caravan:

Chairman: “I see some woman is on trial for taking her patients’ pethidine. Isn’t that the Truth Drug?”

Hay: “That’s sodium pentothal, although there’s no such thing as a Truth Drug really; it just relaxes you and you lose your inhibitions. Alcohol could be called a Truth Drug.”

Chairman (simulating a drunken slur): “Have I ever told you that I really, really love you? I want a kebab!”

While visiting my brother over the weekend he showed us a DVD of a documentary he’d recently seen on TV about 322 Squadron, a highly unusual WWII RAF squadron comprised entirely of Dutch airmen. The pilots of 322 Squadron flew Supermarine Spitfires and were employed in shooting down German V1 Flying Bombs before they could do any damage to (presumably) Liverpool docks. In recognition of their wartime service, 322 Squadron was reformed under the auspices of the Royal Dutch Air Force at the end of the war.

Now 322 Squadron was based for a time early in the war at RAF Woodvale, which is just outside Southport and where my mother lived. She joined the WAAF at the outbreak of WWII, was posted to RAF Woodvale and actually appeared in the documentary for a few seconds.

Here’s a still from the documentary showing mum resplendent in her WAAF uniform and sporting the blondest hair I’ve ever seen. She must have been around 20 when this was taken and had obviously cornered the wartime market in peroxide coupons. She was engaged in a bit of horseplay with the airmen and one had just knocked her cap off.

My bother and sister-in-law showed me their wedding video from 1974, which they had also had transferred to DVD. An 18 year-old Chairman Bill appears briefly. Ignore the long hair - it was 1974 after all. (Warning, this report may contain flash photography).

Today is their 36th wedding anniversary. As you can see from the image below, the vicar, who rejoiced in the name of the Reverend Howard Starr, was a stunt double for Gregory Peck in his role as Capt. Ahab in the 1956 film adaptation of Herbert Melville’s Moby Dick. The white streaks in his hair and beard were genuine.

It’s a pity I didn’t manage to sneak into this shot below, as it was the only opportunity to get a picture of me, my old man and my brother all in uniform at the same time. From this time onward we were never all home simultaneously.

Mum looks as if she’d be more at home standing alongside Leonid Brezhnev on a balcony in the Kremlin reviewing the massed troops and armoured divisions of the USSR in Red Square during a 7th November parade. I also seem to remember there being a lot of mullet haircuts and dark blue velveteen suits being sported by 20 something men. The video contained numerous long dead aunties swathed in enough animal skins to send PETA into paroxysms of apoplexy. The future first Mrs Chairman was a bridesmaid, but I daren’t show you what she was wearing.

Talking of videos. primatologists have given video cameras to a bunch of chimps and the video they shot is to be screened on TV tomorrow evening. I was under the impression that had already been done and the result was Big Brother. Big Brother went even further by having chimps actually watching the TV show in their homes around the country.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Church, Children, Retirement and Sunlight Soap

It would appear that the church wants to have a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to having to adhere to human rights legislation; they want to be free to employ only bigots – or in their words, ‘people who have lifestyles compatible with church beliefs’.

Went up north to see family over the weekend. My niece handed me an 8 month old child to look after for a few minutes. I’d almost forgotten how to drive one of these, but having operated four of my own at various stages throughout my life I soon got back into the swing of things and within a few minutes had it gurgling contentedly.

I am so envious of my brother - he retired from being a marine engineer toward the end of last year. While on leave he was constantly employed in fixing mechanical things for his three daughters - boilers, cars, etc. He now devotes his time to avoiding having to fix things for them and pursuing a life of leisure.

While on the Wirral we visited Port Sunlight, which is a shining example of what an enlightened employer can do for his workers. Well worth a visit.

Has anyone else noticed that Blogger hyperlinks seem to have a will of their own when it comes to displaying them? Somethimes they show in full Technicolor and at other times they simply disappear (although the links are still operative and show when you hover over the text).

Friday, 22 January 2010

Beans, beans, good for the heart, the more you eat the more you - feel good

Soya milk. 'Tain't natural. I mean - how do you milk a bean?

Hay wants to get a cat and call it Phlogiston. I want a German Shepherd and call it German Bight, or a cat and call it Fisher.

Last night I downloaded some software to manage my Blackberry and use it as a modem - 250 odd megabytes. The software to manage my Nokia is only 33 megabytes. Some manufacturers are so wasteful with other people's computer space. Also why is it that when you use your mobile as a modem for your laptop, the speed (despite being nominally greater than 100 or 300 kbps, depending on service provider) is slower than the old fashioned 32 kbps dial-up? I guess web developers have become blasé and are no longer as parsimonious with their code as they used to be in the days of dial-up.

What's up in Blogland? Very few people are updating their blogs at present. Blog fatigue?

Do people still call their boy children Gerald?

I wonder if Gordon Brown has given consideration to nationalising the banks? The system would simultaneously be highly regulated and make money for the benefit of the country, thereby reducing taxation and the overdraft.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

New Wonder Diet - Eat Less!

The Royal College of Surgeons in the UK has stated that patients awaiting obesity surgery are being turned away and having to wait till they become even more obese before being operated on. On the BBC Radio 4 news the story mentioned that these surgical interventions are necessary when diets don’t work.

Hang on! When has a diet never worked? I suppose a cake diet is not exactly conducive to weight loss, nor a pizza diet, but a proper diet that ensures there’s less energy going in that being expended must work by virtue of the laws of thermodynamics, which have proved remarkably stable for the last 15 billion years.

If these people are obese and get even more obese while waiting for the surgery, then there’s only one logical explanation – they’re stuffing their fat faces and lying through their teeth about being on a proper diet. We all know how we deceive ourselves when it comes to attempting to eat less - oh, one more gateaux won't harm me.... Go on then, one more Wigan kebab (3 pies on a stick) won't hurt...

Given the number of compensation claims following weight-loss surgery due to some fat bastard exploding when prodded by a scalpel, I am not at all happy with tax revenue being spent on these procedures. It is well within the capabilities of all of us to lose some lard. To expect the tax payer to fund an operation to correct your inability to exercise some self-control is taking the piss.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Clapton Is Innocent

I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine, Richard. Some of you may know him as The Irascible Fairy - he makes the odd comment on my blog. Richard has terminal cancer and is having a tough time since his final chemo session came to an end. He feels abandoned and wants to scream at the world. Please help cheer him up at his new blog, Falling Through An Endless Summer Sky. I've put a link to him in my Blog List.

Moving to other matters; if both Bob Marley and Eric Clapton shot the sheriff, then just who did shoot the deputy? This question has been worrying me for some time.

Also, is it possible for both Marley and Clapton to have fired the fatal shot at exactly the same instant? Surely one must have killed the sheriff and the other merely pumped a bullet into a dead body?

I’ think I’ll start a Facebook campaign to get Clapton off the charge. Please join and let's see if we can get justice for him.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Turkeys Voting For Christmas

Been bereft of an internet connection at home since Saturday. Hopefully we'll be back on-line by tonight.

Bankers are saying they are going to move out of the UK and pundits are complaining that the UK will lose its pre-eminence as a financial centre. Well, if the benefit of being a prime financial centre is occasionally having a budget deficit the size of a minor solar system, then another country is welcome to the financial services sector.

Japan Airlines (which shares many of British Airways’ structural problems) is about to declare itself bankrupt. Meanwhile British Airways staff are about to vote for a strike. The words turkeys, voting and Christmas come to mind.

Suicide bombers are once more in the news in Afghanistan. Any religion whose sacred texts can be used to justify death-dealing extremism is not worthy of being followed. In the secular world (at least in the UK) one cannot justify death by using an extreme version of the secular legal system, precisely because the legal system does not allow extremes. A religion is no more than a code of behaviour, and hence a spiritual legal code. If that code can, in any way, shape for form, be used to justify evil, then it should be banned. That means the banning of all Abrahamic religions.

A couple of days ago the Boy Cameroon came up with an election pledge that under a Conservative government only the brightest university graduates would be allowed into the teaching profession, and they would be paid commensurate with salaries in the private sector.

Firstly, teachers are not badly paid – I should know, I was married to one for the best part of 10 years.

Secondly, having a bright mind does not automatically make one a good teacher. I have known some very bright teachers whose ability to enthuse their pupils was akin to that of a slug. As stated in a post from last week, nine tenths of education is encouragement. The best teacher I ever had didn’t even have a degree.

Thirdly, the link between the ability to control a classroom of 30 odd teenagers and the academic achievement of the person exercising such control has not been demonstrated, let alone proven.

Yet more ill-conceived and populist crap from our political classes.

Monday, 18 January 2010

The Middle Class Vote

Happy Birthday Hayley - I love you more with each passing day.

Overheard in the caravan:

Hay: “What kind of dog would you like when we finish the house?"
Chairman: “I’m coming round to the idea of a dog from the animal rescue.”
Hay: “OK, but I don’t want a dog with mental health problems.”
Chairman: “You mean binge lapping and an out-of-control Bonio habit?”

Our Prime Minister, Gordon Broon, has stated that he’s going to target middle class voters in the forthcoming General Election and create more middle class jobs than ever before. Hay and I cogitated on this one and came up with the following Labour Party election manifesto.

  • Using the pensioners’ winter fuel payment model he will make flower-arranging and golf lessons more widely available,
  • Brown will increase the number of Waitrose supermarkets around the country such that no-one live more than 12 miles from one,
  • Cut lilies and pate de foie gras to be a right and not a privilege,
  • He will set up a government funded dinner party help-line, paid for by reducing social security benefits to the poor,
  • Media studies to be compulsory at school for all children,
  • The government will outlaw the disgraceful and discriminatory situation of actually having to own a yacht in order to become a member of a yacht club,
  • Astrologers will be made to improve their forecast accuracy to a minimum government standard,
  • Compulsory neutering of benefit cheats and spongers,
  • All supermarket fruit and veg will be guaranteed to look perfect, no matter the wastage,
  • A programme will be initiated for the wholesale demolition of slums, like Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle,
  • Islington to be linked to Jersey and become an off-shore tax haven,
  • The introduction of a 4x4 and MPV scrappage scheme for all MPVs and 4x4s over 2 years old,
  • 7 x 24 opening for all M&S stores,
  • Free after-school Mandarin, violin and public speaking lessons for under 10s,
  • Reiki master-classes, Feng Shui sessions and flower arranging classes to be tax deductable,
  • Alternative therapies such as magnetic bracelets, aromatherapy and yogalates to be provided on the National Health Service (I must admit I thought yogalates was a piss-take, but Hay assured me it exists),
  • The government will guarantee your right to have it all without making a single sacrifice,
  • A guaranteed 60 minutes a day of ‘me time’ for all women,
  • State subsidised Clive Christian kitchens,
  • All children of poor people to be sent to work at age 10.

On Saturday evening we went out to dinner at the Upton Inn at Upton Cheyney and ended up getting caught up in The 2010 Great Fire of Upton Cheyney. We were chatting away waiting for the first course when we noticed a lot of people migrating from the main room toward the bar area. This coincided with a marked increase in the smell of wood smoke which permeates the whole place. A few minutes later one of the bar staff went past carrying a jug of water, which he replenished several times. About five minutes further into the evening we heard the sound of sirens and the manager came to our table to tell us that if the building had to be evacuated then we should repair to the car park. It transpired that the chimney had caught fire. The place now smells even more of wood smoke than it did before. The place is highly recommended; a three course meal for two with two bottles of wine and tip was £80. Have a look at their Facebook page for details.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Worzel Gummidge Hair

Finally managed to make it to work yesterday. While in the gents’ I noticed someone had left behind something called the Fat Fish Max Wax Styling Stick. Intrigued as to what it was I opened it up to find a stick of what could only be described as medium-soft candle wax. Still having no idea as to its use I looked it up on the web, learning that it’s a hair styling preparation that is meant to give you that ‘just got out of bed’ look.

Why go to the trouble of smearing a candle all over your Barnett when all you need to do to get ‘just got out of bed’ look is simply to get out of bed? Why should anyone even want a look like a bloody scarecrow? Rather than a ‘just got out of bed’ look, it’s more of a ‘what a prat I am’ look. I wouldn’t go anywhere near a centre of population containing more than 3 inhabitants with my ‘just got out of bed’ hair; it would scare the horses and children.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Leading Church Intellectual?

I was reading a very interesting piece yesterday on Canon Dr Edward Norman, one time Canon Chancellor of York Minster and an ecclesiastical historian. He was castigating the C of E for contributing to its own demise through a wishy-washy liberalism that has the synod wringing its hands and coming to compromises over every conceivable issue from women priests to the acceptance of homosexuality, alienating vast swathes of hard-liners within the Anglican Communion in the process.

He left the C of E a few years ago and defected to Rome. His thinking can be summed up by the following statement. "Cathedrals can be a hindrance as well as an aid to faith," says Norman. "They can lead people to luxuriate in emotion. I'd rather they were convicted of their sins."

A hell-fire and brimstone hard-liner then. But he’s right about the C of E imploding under the pressure of its lack of inner conviction. However, that lack of conviction and willingness to debate dogmatic doctrinal issues and expose them to the harsh light of rational critical analysis is probably the greatest contribution to the inexorable move of the UK population toward agnosticism and atheism. Dogma is shown to be based on misogyny, homophobia and the irrational and needless extrapolation of fundamentally flawed and muddled 1st, 2nd and 3rd century scholastic thought that sought to fuse Judaism with Greek philosophical concepts. The C of E is probably the best advert for the atheist holy trinity of Darwin, Dawkins and Dennett.

Dr Norman (among others) has been called a leading church intellectual; however, I would postulate that the phrase ‘leading church intellectual’ is an oxymoron, as religion is certainly not an intellectual issue, but a matter of faith in the supernatural – or the dupe-ernatural, as I like to call it. Blind faith is not an intellectually tenable position.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Working from Home

An earthquake hits Haiti and kills thousands. Clearly the Haitians have done something hideously annoying to God; perhaps breaking one of the dietary laws, like eating shellfish, or refraining from stoning their adulteresses.

We hear so much about strident Muslims that it’s nice to read a heart warming story about one who went out of his way to return several thousand dollars to an old lady who inadvertently left if in his taxi in New York. Mind you, the story probably has bugger all to do with him being a Muslim and more to do with him just being an honest person. I am aware of many devout Christians who are as dishonest as can be.

The weather has hit us hard here – I’ve been working from home for the best part of two weeks.

Here’s a snowman I started making, but then lost interest in.

I tried moving my car last night, but to no avail. This morning the milkman made the mistake of venturing up our lane and we now have an abandoned milk float across it, so I can't get the car out even if I could persuade it to move.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Chavtastic Hotel Holidays

Seems Channel 4 is looking for a terminally ill person to donate their body for the ultimate reality show which will follow the mummification process.

Hay and I want to buy a faded Victorian hotel in some seaside resort and set up our own holiday business. We want to call it Chavtastic Hotel Holidays. Guests will benefit from the following:

• Take away of your choice in your room on arrival,
• Four-poster pine bed with plastic accident protection cover,
• Complimentary copy of Heat Magazine in your room,
• Complimentary fake tan,
• Safety deposit box for your bling,
• One free sessions at the in-house tanning parlour and nail bar,
• Stiletto spike repair service,
• Karaoke in the bar,
• 5-4-1 Barcardi Breezer offer,
• All-you-can-eat hang-over breakfast buffet,
• Sunglasses rental for morning-after,

For those of a musical bent, I recently ran across Chill Radio on the satellite TV system. Give it a whirl – there’s an interweb player at the website.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Catholic Science

I was researching Reiki yesterday.

In March 2009, the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a decree halting the practice of Reiki by Catholics, including Reiki therapies used in some Catholic retreat centres and hospitals. The conclusion of the decree stated that; "Since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health care facilities and retreat centres, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy."

I was under the impression that the whole of Catholicism was contrary to scientific evidence; after all, they investigate reported miracles with all the rigour of astrologers or alchemists. Should Catholics therefore stop practising?

Monday, 11 January 2010


I love this quote by the novelist Anatole France; "Nine tenths of education is encouragement."

I thank both my teachers at school and my parents for having encouraged me to start the quest for knowledge. I learned infinitely more after leaving school than when attending, as the aforementioned people had sown the necessary seeds. Thanks to them I shall never complete my education.

Yesterday I learned that, counter-intuitively, water at 100 degrees centigrade can freeze faster than water at 35 degrees. It's called the Mpemba Effect.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Chairman's Sunday Sermon

Yesterday’s post got me considering creationism and how it flies in the face of indisputable fact while wearing the beatific smile of holy certainty based on fallacy and self-delusion.

It’s a fact that one’s religion is primarily determined not by critical analysis of all available religions, but by the dominant religion within one’s geographic location and, most importantly, by the religion of one’s parents. If you’re unlucky enough to be born in a Muslim country then you are guaranteed to grow up a theocratic fascist believing in all manner of contradictory and irrational superstitions; creationists and believers in Intelligent Design live mostly in the more conservative southern states of the USA; Buddhists thrive in Thailand; Jews in Israel and Jewish families the world over, Russian Orthodox congregations flourish in Russia and Russian émigré communities; if you were born in Italy then you’d be guilty of being a miserable sinner steeped in Catholicism, etc.

Religion therefore has nothing to do with genuine enquiry concerning the ultimate truth of reality but everything to do with establishing one’s cultural and familial identity. Evolution (ironically being the very thing creationists deny) has predisposed us to value acceptance by and membership of the group above everything else – in more barbaric times this was a matter of pure survival; if you didn’t belong to a group you would probably die.

It therefore follows that adhering to the cultural religious groupthink, no matter how high-minded or utterly bizarre, has an evolutionary benefit that is greater than using rational faculties and accepting observed facts that could negate the veracity of the groupthink and risk putting oneself outside of the protection of the group or clan. It may mean the difference between life and death – quite literally when it comes to some of the more barbaric religions where apostasy could mean a death sentence. In the less barbaric religions it can at the very least mean family ostracism and having to fend for oneself, which to the less socially robust is anathema.

Religion is not alone in being an area where humans show a predilection to self-deception and irrational behaviour – you can find myriad examples in politics, economics, sociology, education, etc. The irrational groupthink of one’s milieu reigns supreme if you are intellectually lazy, crave the approval of the clan and fear ostracism.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World

I love this spoof news report from The Onion, a website I occasionally turn to for a good laugh.


Members of the earth's earliest known civilization, the Sumerians, looked on in shock and confusion some 6,000 years ago as God, the Lord Almighty, created Heaven and Earth.

According to recently excavated clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform script, thousands of Sumerians—the first humans to establish systems of writing, agriculture, and government—were working on their sophisticated irrigation systems when the Father of All Creation reached down from the ether and blew the divine spirit of life into their thriving civilization.

"I do not understand," reads an ancient line of pictographs depicting the sun, the moon, water, and a Sumerian who appears to be scratching his head. "A booming voice is saying, 'Let there be light,' but there is already light. It is saying, 'Let the earth bring forth grass,' but I am already standing on grass."

"Everything is here already," the pictograph continues. "We do not need more stars."

Historians believe that, immediately following the biblical event, Sumerian witnesses returned to the city of Eridu, a bustling metropolis built 1,500 years before God called for the appearance of dry land, to discuss the new development. According to records, Sumerian farmers, priests, and civic administrators were not only befuddled, but also took issue with the face of God moving across the water, saying that He scared away those who were traveling to Mesopotamia to participate in their vast and intricate trade system.

Moreover, the Sumerians were taken aback by the creation of the same animals and herb-yielding seeds that they had been domesticating and cultivating for hundreds of generations.

"The Sumerian people must have found God's making of heaven and earth in the middle of their well-established society to be more of an annoyance than anything else," said Paul Helund, ancient history professor at Cornell University. "If what the pictographs indicate are true, His loud voice interrupted their ancient prayer rituals for an entire week."

According to the cuneiform tablets, Sumerians found God's most puzzling act to be the creation from dust of the first two human beings.

"These two people made in his image do not know how to communicate, lack skills in both mathematics and farming, and have the intellectual capacity of an infant," one Sumerian philosopher wrote. "They must be the creation of a complete idiot."

Friday, 8 January 2010

A Right Balls Up

Ed Balls, the UK’s Children’s Secretary (and why do I smile whenever I hear his name?), wants secondary school pupils to learn Mandarin. He points to the economic benefits of having a grasp of Mandarin when doing business with China.

While I agree that Mandarin is used a lot in China and for some inexplicable reason appears to be quite popular there, most Chinese (and people of all other nationalities) seem to learn English in order to engage in international business.

In the 60s I learned Latin, French and Spanish, with a smattering of Japanese from a Japanese girlfriend in later life. Despite an early career at sea and a subsequent career in international sales (including the far east), I have never once used any of these languages in anger as everyone I have ever dealt with was keen, if not desperate, to demonstrate their knowledge of English. What I can say is that a basic knowledge of Latin (I never progressed beyond the basics) made it easier to learn French and Spanish and to understand more about the origins of many English words. Dutch, having been my first language, enabled me to understand the basics of most northern European languages – however, I never had occasion to use that knowledge either.

How about schools teaching our pupils how to spell and write in English, as well as teaching them basic arithmetic? Now there’s an aspiration to aim for – one which seems to have eluded a lot of schools, despite them churning out pupils with ten or more A* grades, yet lacking the ability to write a decent job application letter or play a game of darts without a calculator.

Last night Hay and I were coming up with the old names for new disorders:

  • Bi-polar Disorder = Madness
  • ADHD = Naughty Kid
  • Post-Natal Depression = Baby Blues
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder = Shell Shock
  • Morbid Obesity = Lack of Self Control
  • Clinical Depression = Melancholy
  • Dyslexia = Lazy
  • Learning Difficulties = Slow
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease = Smoker’s Cough
  • Lactose Intolerance = Fussy Eater
  • Vegetarian = ??? (there weren’t any)
  • Vegan = Non Human Alien
  • Swine / Bird / Asian Flu = A Seasonal Cold
  • Total Allergy Syndrome = Neurotic
  • Aspberger’s Syndrome & Tourette’s = Rudeness
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome = Not Enough Sleep
  • Benzodiazepine Dependence = Drug Addiction
  • Münchausen Syndrome = Hypocondria
  • Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy = Child Cruelty

Did you know there’s something called Foreign Accent Syndrome? I think my younger daughter has it; since moving here from Southport via Reading she’s started speaking with an awful Yate accent. I suppose it’s all to do with a need to assimilate and be accepted. I’ve embarrassed her countless times about it, but my jibes fall on deaf ears.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Chairman's Election Manifesto

  1. Votes only for those having attained a minimum educational level. People who vote on important issues concerning the public finances without understanding the basics of mathematics are using their vote fraudulently.
  2. MPs who fail to deliver on political manifesto promises to be barred from standing for public office for a period of 10 years.
  3. A minimum age limit of 40 on all people who wish to stand for parliament.
  4. Outlaw strikes. If you don’t like the conditions of employment, find another job. Unions were useful when people were not as mobile as they now are; today unions are an anachronism.
  5. State pension only for those earning below £15,000 p.a. All others to fund their own pensions.
  6. All drugs to be legalised. Our existing drugs policy causes most of the drug problems and crime we have today.
  7. Outlaw competition between schools – all schools in the state sector should be of the same quality. If a school is not up to scratch, sack the failing teachers. Working for the state should not be a guarantee of a job for life.
  8. Take all public schools (UK nomenclature) into the state sector.
  9. If you have a complaint against the NHS, there must be a mandatory cooling-off period of 6 months.
  10. At the age of 18 all people to be given a choice between private and NHS treatment. No change is allowed thereafter.
  11. Child benefit to be means tested and payable only to those who are on minimum wage or unemployed.
  12. All religions to be subject to truth-in-advertising laws.
  13. All call-centres outside our national boundaries to be outlawed. Also all call-centres not responding within 2 minutes to be heavily fined.
  14. No divorces will be granted without prior mediation.
  15. All legal services involving the courts (especially those involving family courts) to be free at the point of delivery.
  16. If you go in a home for the elderly your offspring are liable for all fees. If they are unwilling to pay, then all your assets are liquidated and your kids get nothing.
  17. All employed people to take out compulsory personal liability insurance.
  18. All reality TV programmes to be banned.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Grim Reaper

Apparently we’re to get an additional Bank Holiday in June 2012 to celebrate Mrs Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It strikes me that it might be a bit presumptuous to be making plans two years ahead for a woman who is 83.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Going Soft

We’ve gone all decadent and soft. Hay’s sister bought us an electric blanket for Christmas and we actually used it – heavenly.

Spotted this sign outside a chapel in St Ives while we were on holiday. Thought it rather funny.

The various political parties in the UK are starting to make their pie-in-the-sky promises in preparation for the election. The latest bribes for votes ploy by the Boy Cameroon is to give women the option to have their babies at home. This bit of political lunacy is supposed to be in the interest of offering women choice; in my opinion it’s between offering the choice of increasing the risk of death while denuding the NHS of much needed resources, or having your baby in an environment where every conceivable assistance is at hand and resources can be applied across many more mothers simultaneously. Of course the taxpayer is going to have to fund this while simultaneously funding the existing and massive budget deficit; however the hoi polloi are generally too stupid to realise this.

My vote would go to the party that committed to cutting public spending by not giving massive hand-outs to the middle classes who don’t need them anyway and focusing public money instead on where it’s really needed. The ill, the homeless and the poor, however, don’t generally sway the vote.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Water Saving Devices

Ever wondered where your drinking water comes from? This was spotted in a motorway service station gents' loo urinal.