Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Tuesday 31/03/09

Joy from Texas happened to alight on my site yesterday and left the following comment: “As a Texan I'm proud that our state has stepped up to inform students not just of the Theories of Evolution but also to expose them of a Creationist Teaching. What is everyone so afraid of? I believe the Biblical account of creation.”

Joy, what I’m afraid of is unsubstantiated opinion, as that’s all it is, being passed off as science and a whole generation of students thinking creationism has any validity as such - otherwise why would it be in the science curriculum? By all means teach creationism in religious studies or the history of philosophy, but there is not one shred of evidence or science behind it, so it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be a part of a science course in any modern society.

If you do want to teach creationism then you must also respect other creation myths, which have equal validity as a metaphor, and teach them also. Elephants all the way down, as they say. I have no problem with that, so long as it’s left in the religious education curriculum. Evolution (or the modern synthesis), on the other hand, has overwhelming evidence to support it to the extent it is accepted as fact by any rational thinker, including the leaders of every major Christian sect.

If you choose to ignore all the evidence and remain convinced Texans haven’t evolved, then that’s your choice. I suppose George Bush does kind of support your theory.

I’ve just become aware of a new board game that’s sweeping the market. It’s called Vatican. Make sure you get yours for Easter.

This is an extract from the reviews. QUOTE:

AT THE ROLL of a dice a cardinal's chances of becoming Pope can be boosted or destroyed. That's the scenario in the impeccably researched board game Vatican, in which players take the role of cardinals vying for the throne of St Peter.

During the course of their "careers", players "Take a Stand" on weighty theological and moral issues, including contraception, clerical celibacy or the campaign to have the Virgin Mary proclaimed co-redeemer. The race begins as soon as the previous papacy ends, sometimes in bizarre circumstances. "The Pope dies when the popemobile rolls over after hitting a truck carrying bananas. Your earlier warnings that the popemobile was unstable are now seen as evidence of your sound judgment and you gain additional support," reads one card.

Players must seek to climb the ladder to spiritual perfection while simultaneously avoiding the "Cesspool of Sin", by not, for example, committing the "Sin of Gluttony: at a papal banquet, you have three helpings of cannelloni". Thankfully these sins can always be expiated with a trip to the confessional.


Rabid racist, actor Sir David Jason, has been forced to apologise for a joke he made on Absolute Radio. Despite no complaints having been made to the station, an Absolute spokeswoman said the joke was "unacceptable". She continued: "We consider the views of our listeners to be very important and have received no complaints about these comments.” What!?

The joke was what do you call a Pakistani cloakroom attendant? Jason’s punchline was the aged and superannuated Mahatma Coat.

Now I’m not surprised this joke was considered highly offensive – everyone knows Mahatma is an Indian term for a spiritual adept and not a Pakistani name. No doubt Muslim leaders the world over will boycott re-runs of ‘A Touch of Frost’ and ‘The Darling Buds of May’, calling for a fatwah against our living national treasure.

Sir David Jason

Mahatma Coat was not apparently available for comment.

I got this joke from an Indian site and deny all responsibility for it:

Two guys, an Indian and a Pakistani, are out walking together one day. They come across a lantern and when they rub it a Genie pops out.
'I will give you each one wish, that's two wishes total,' says the Genie.
The Pakistani said, 'I want a wall around Pakistan so that no neighbours or infidels can come into our land.' With a blink of the Genie's eye, 'POOF' there was a huge wall around Pakistan.
'Hmmmm', the Indian asks, 'I'm very curious. Please tell me more about this wall.' The Genie explains, 'Well, it's about 150 feet high, 50 feet thick and completely surrounds Pakistan. Nothing can get in or out.'
So the Indian says, 'Fill it up with water.'

To redress the balance, I got this one from a Pakistani site:

American scientists dug 50 metres under the ground and discovered small pieces of copper. After studying these pieces for a long time America announced that the ancient Americans 25,000 years ago had a nationwide telephone network...

Naturally the government of India was not that easily impressed. They ordered their own scientists to dig even deeper. 100 metres down, they found small pieces of Glass and they soon announced that the ancient Indians 35,000 years ago already had a nationwide fibrenet.

Pakistani scientists were outraged. They dug 50, 100 and 200 metres underground but found absolutely nothing. The scientists concluded that the ancient Pakistanis had wireless systems.

Tesco is opening banks at some 30 outlets. Rumours suggest that the bosses will get bonuses in the form of 30m Nectar points.
West Midlands Labour MEP Michael Cashman says he will raise the hole in the pension fund of pottery firm Waterford Wedgwood with the government. While he’s at it he should also highlight the crack in their marketing and examine the chip in their remuneration policy, although his eyes may glaze over.

Local communities in England and Wales are to be given the chance to decide what punishments offenders sentenced to community service orders should face. It is believed that the options include;

• Being pelted with rotten vegetables in the stocks,
• A good thrashing with a horse whip,
• Appearing in the next Big Brother series,
• Being branded, or
• Getting a job.

Canadian researchers have discovered that an electronic spy network, based mainly in China, has infiltrated computers from government offices around the world. The UK government is understandably worried, as it could undermine the entire parliamentary expenses system by opening it to Chinese scrutiny.

I hear that the Argentinians are wanting to open up old wounds again in respect of the Malvinas (aka the Falklands). Gordon Brown has stated that they’re not up for negotiation, unless Argentina is willing to fund UK MPs’ expenses, in which case he’s sure a deal could be done. Brown emphasised the importance of self-determination, on the basis of which Cuba has just lodged a territorial claim on Miami. I wonder if the Argentinians would accept Hull instead?

A scheme to improve attendance and behaviour at schools in Wales is to be unveiled by the Welsh Assembly government. Organisers are just hoping that someone from the Welsh Assembly will actually turn up to talk about it.

This one’s a bit old, but a famous and respected judge in Australia has been caught out telling a series of porkies in an attempt to get out of a speeding fine which would have cost him a few quid. His fibs grew into lies which grew into perverting the course of justice, resulting in a two year jail term and his reputation being trashed. He claimed someone else, currently living in America, had been driving his car, but it was discovered that this other person had been dead for 3 years. He then went on to compound the error by saying it was another person of the same name, who also turned out to be dead. He even implicated his mother. It was when he claimed to be God that the authorities became a tad suspicious, as God doesn’t drive.

The Commission for Catholic Education has given the go-ahead for Catholic grammar schools in Northern Ireland to set entrance exams. I should imagine that pupils will be tested on their ability to suspend belief in the laws of physics as well as their ability to unquestioningly obey medieval notions of morality and not use condoms. There is an incentive to passing – if you fail you’re burned at the stake as a heretic.

Irish Grammar Schools Entrance Exam Orals

"No, I said revolution, not evolution."

Brother Ignatius concluded that Matron’s innovative hiccups cure would never work on O'Grady Minor.

Members of the Religious Studies faculty prepare for the new intake.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Monday 30/03/09

Still can’t seem to shake off the AdSense adverts for c-a-r-a-v-a-n holidays - they must be a permanent feature due to the mention in my profile (note I'm trying to disguise the word so as to fool AdSense).

Three Unfunnys yesterday, offset by a three Guffaws and a smattering of Laughs. I guess the comment on Goody touched a few raw nerves – although my main target is those who willingly fund and promote people like Goody, rather than unfortunate people like Goody herself.

I stand by my comments though, even if some find them uncomfortable. It does however show how celebrity culture polarizes the country into those who find it distasteful and those who revel in it. As a nation we seem to be heading toward celebration of the mediocre, if not the downright tawdry - we award A* to pupils for merely knowing the basics; we accept the worst customer service in the civilised world; responsibility has been replaced by rights; striving has been replaced by the just acceptable; quality has been replaced by enough to avoid too many complaints.

When government actively promotes a culture of where everyone gets a prize for simply entering the competition then everyone will accept garbage, and there’s an old IT adage which states ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’.

Here’s another example of intellectual vacuosity. Sir James Dyson has had his plan for an engineering academy in Bath turned down in favour of an institution to teach entrepreneurship sponsored by Dragon’s Den star, Peter Jones. For a start you can’t teach entrepreneurship, secondly this country is in dire need of engineers and thirdly you need things to sell before you can do any selling – unless you’re capitalising on celebrity. The reason given by the Learning and Skills Council for preferring Jones’ plan over Dyson’s is that the LSC would get more publicity from someone who is on prime time TV. Is that a case of dumbing down, or what? Next it will be Max Clifford announcing the creation of the Jade Goody Burberry Chair of Public Engagement in Celebrity Culture at the University of East Angular. Whatever happened to meritocracy?

Talking of celebrities, Madonna has started her search for a new accessorised kid to adopt in Malawi to match the one she already has. I wonder whether she’d be willing to adopt Russell Brand, or even Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt? Rather than adopting the whole of Malawi, why on earth can’t she just sponsor a couple of families in Malawi instead? Or how about building a school or two? Even a few wells might find favour with the locals. She probably thinks it’s her right.

The police have paid for an advertising campaign to inform the public about the Policing Pledge. Rather than spending £3.5m telling the public the bloody obvious during the biggest recession since the war, they’d be better advised telling the police about what their responsibilities are, which if you read the pledge seems to be exactly what we’ve always expected of the police and what they actually did before the 1980s. £3.5m would go a long way toward paying for a few more police, who I note are now being told to patrol alone, rather than hunting in pairs – which is a positive step forward and instantly doubles police coverage.

To be honest, I can’t remember when I last saw a policeman on the beat. Whether walking the streets is an efficient use of resources might be a moot point, but seeing the police certainly makes people feel safer, and much of the problem with crime today is to do with perception, rather than actuality – especially among the elderly.

Conservative Party leader David Cameron, speaking at a Cardiff conference, said that if elected, the Conservatives would seek to reduce family breakdown by reducing the pressures that help cause it. One presumes he means a complete ban on money, kids, sex and by association that also means infidelity and adultery. Of course he’d also have to ban immaturity, intellectual incompatibility and cultural differences. It might also be an idea to ban any men who are not mind readers from getting married too. Finally, toilet seats are going to have to be welded down and any male forbidden to go within 100 metres of a loo that a female might happen to use. A tall order by any measure.

I wish Gordon Brown would give Cameron a fiscal stimulus.

It’s a bit late to mention Home Secretary Jacqui Smith facing questions after her husband mistakenly claimed the cost of two adult films on Commons expenses. However, it’s a bit rich for Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik to say she has been compromised by her husband when he’s done an excellent job of compromising himself through his own actions with 24-year-old Gabriela Irimia of the pop music double-act The Cheeky Girls.

Went for a walk yesterday and wandered around the local quarry where Hanson, who own it, have a number of offices. The photo below shows an innovative use of their own product in the construction of an office on the site – 200mm chunks of limestone in gabion cages as cladding. Highly effective and stylish.

I wonder, however, what the lifespan of the galvanised cages is. You wouldn’t want to be anywhere near one after it had rusted through or else you’d be caught up in an avalanche.

Hay had a go at defluffing my ears and nose yesterday, however I rejected the offer of a Brazilian and a bum bleaching as a step too far. She’s off to Dublin today, but she’s not sure how she’ll cope with the jet lag. She’d dreading it as she has to mix with a bunch of Dutch and Swedish people who seem to have an incurable genetic urge to book a bicycle the minute they step off the plane and cycle everywhere.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Sunday 29/03/09

Bollocking Alert!

You know the feedback thing at the bottom of the posts – the one that says Unfunny, Laugh or Guffaw? I didn’t put it there for the benefit of my health you know. I’d be grateful if more of you buggers would actually use it, as feedback on what interests and amuses you all is all that keeps me going. Writing this blog isn’t exactly a philanthropic gesture!

Bollocking Over!

So far, AdSense has earned me the grand sum of $0.83. The context-sensitive adverts obviously aren’t producing any adverts of relevance to my readership, so excuse me for a few seconds while I insert some context to produce ads more suited to you all.

  • Cakes
  • Handbags
  • Shoes
  • Chocolate
  • Diamonds
  • Dawkins
  • Champagne
  • Llamas
  • Menopause

Handsome is as handsome does. What? Does anyone have the vaguest idea of exactly what that bit of Yoda-speak means? I’ve heard people use it many times in a mystical manner, but never had a clue as to what they were on about and didn’t press the matter. Thought they were slightly deranged.

We’ve booked a barn in Cornwall for New Year and invited Hay’s sister (Michelle) and her partner (Perry). The only problem is that one of us has to use a bedroom with bunk beds. Perry suggested we swap halfway through. I agreed, but neglected to tell him that as far as I’m concerned it will be halfway through the last day.

Hay was rather amused by my toasting acrobatics yesterday morning. I was toasting some crumpets but the toaster is so deep that you have to flick the crumpets into the air and try to catch them before they disappear back into the bowels of the toaster. Took me about 20 attempts yesterday and Hay was creased with laughter. The problem is that the toaster is quite light and therefore I have to use my left hand to stabilise the toaster and my right hand to perform the flick. Once flicked (and the ‘action’ of the flick is not great and hence the crumpet only peeks out, rather than leaping out) I have to use the flicking hand to perform the catch. Obviously I have to improve my crumpet catching skills.

I was reading about Trevor Horn, at whose studios in London both Robbie Williams and Take That are recording separate albums. Horn was co-founder, along with Paul Morely of Art Of Noise. What I didn’t realize was that Horn was also half of Buggles (Video Killed the Radio Star) and he replaced Jon Anderson as lead singer of Yes for some 8 months; however, to be fank, anything post Relayer simply wasn’t Yes. Did you know that Rick Wakeman’s son, Oliver, is in the current Yes lineup?

On doing a bit of leisure research on AoN I came across this from Paul Morely: “I loved the name Art of Noise so much that I forced my way into the group. If over the years people asked me what I did in the group, I replied that I named them, and it was such a great name, that was enough to justify my role. I was the Ringo Starr of Art of Noise. I made the tea. Oh, and I wrote the lyrics to one of the loveliest pieces of pop music ever, Moments in Love. When Trevor and I left, they became a novelty group who had hits with Tom Jones.” Wonderful!

AoN’s album The Seduction of Claude Debussy is one of my all-time favourite albums. It was described by the group as the soundtrack to a film that wasn't made about the life of Claude Debussy. If you’ve never heard it, buy it immediately on Amazon.

That internationally renowned arbiter of good taste, Russell Brand, has been talking about Jade Goody. He said: "When Big Brother 3 made her famous, she was vilified in the papers and bullied in the house, but through her spirit she won people back round and became a kind of Primark Princess with perfumes and fitness videos and endless media coverage - because people were interested in her. They remain interested." The masses are also interested in H Samuel jewelry, The Sun, Argos, shopping centres and MacDonald’s.

He went on to say that people liked her for her authenticity and accessibility. No – they liked to watch a road crash in action. She was certainly authentic, but her sole purpose in life was to push herself into everyone’s face. Not making herself accessible was not an option – that was how she made money from the terminally dull having nothing more intellectually stimulating to do than watching soaps.

That’s a bit harsh, you might think, but if everyone went around seeking fame and adulation by portraying themselves as vacuous leeches then the world as we know it would not exist. I posit that she gave more to society while a dental nurse than at any subsequent stage. More women going for cervical smears following Goody’s diagnosis was nothing more than unintended and accidental collateral benefit, and once the Warholesque broo-haha over Goody dies down there will be no lasting legacy in that area, or any other. The terminally dull voyeurs will move on to the next road crash.

Hay was equating sleeping in the same bed as me as sleeping with a dog on your bed. I upbraided her about this and queried her practice of occasionally allowing the cat on the bed. She replied that a cat is clean. I shot back that cats are filthy, as they’re covered in spit.

As many of my regulars will know, I’m an ex matelot with a good number of years before the mast under my belt. I’m still in the marine market, but have been selling navigation electronics, IT systems and satellite communication equipment into the market for the last 20 years. The current Holy Grail within the maritime market is an anti-piracy device, and a couple of weeks ago I heard about the simplest and most elegant solution to the problem of piracy – nets trailed in the water in the vessel’s wake. Any fast launch coming up from behind a vessel (the best angle of attack) would immediately have its propellers tangled in the nets. Such a simple and cost-effective idea – I’m surprised no-one ever thought of it before.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Saturday 28/11/09

Not having had any life insurance for over 5 years, the subject is not really something that has concerned me all that much. However, with building a house and the responsibility that confers, of late I’ve once more been pondering the consequences. Smokers understandably pay through the nose for life insurance – as I did when I last had some. However, I wonder what the situation is for people who vape or use nicotine inhalers. The test that is performed for life insurance is a blood test, which identifies nicotine, which before the introduction of e-cigarettes and replacement therapies was a key indicator of whether someone smoked and hence was at risk of smoking related disease. However inhaling nicotine through vaping or the use of inhalers is not in itself dangerous and is not carcinogenic, therefore one must assume that the life insurance companies will have to bring in new tests to identify smokers.

Scientists have by all accounts perfected a model whereby they can calculate whether a relationship will succeed. It’s based on tracking some 700 couples over 12 years and is touted as being 94% accurate.

Hay and I were discussing the findings and came to the conclusion that we’re perfectly matched. Our relationship is typified by lots and lots of humour, a deep mutual respect and unquestioning trust in each other. There is not a single no-go area for conversation – as anyone who has followed this blog for a while will probably have guessed. We both fully involve the other in every aspect of our lives.

I can truly say that in the 3 years we have been together we have not exchanged a single cross word (although I did go into a man-sulk once). Another indicator of compatibility is that we’re both passionate about the same things – except for desserts, and chocolate, and scotch, and shoes, and keeping clean, and keeping healthy, and …… All joking aside, neither of us feels superior or inferior to the other – we are true equals.

I suppose we complement each other such that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and we both support each other in all our endeavours. That said, we both remain complete individuals in ourselves and don’t feel at all incomplete without the other.

It’s a few days from April and 3 months since the Oldborough Retreat was meant to have been won. Still the Gambling Commission is sitting on its fat arse and not making a decision on the very issue it was set up to make decisions on. Bastards – I don’t know how they can draw a salary and sleep.

Here’s an amusing story I heard this week and mentioned in the comments section of another blog. A chap who was suffering from severe Déjà vu (and had done most of his life) was advised by his doctor to see a specialist, but he kept refusing as he was convinced he’d already seen one. It’s apparently a true story.

The Texas Board of Education (mentioned yesterday) eventually voted through loopholes for creationist teaching. An amendment calls for students to analyse and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the complexity of the cell, phrasing that rings of the intelligent design irreducible complexity argument. Another amendment requires students to analyse and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data on sudden appearance and stasis and the sequential groups in the fossil record. These issues are commonly held up by creationists as arguments against evolution, even though the scientific community disagrees. An amendment to the Earth and space sciences curriculum requires the teaching of different theories of the origin, age and history of the universe. The board voted to remove from the standards the statement that the universe is roughly 14 billion years old. Anti-evolutionist Don McLeroy, a dentist and the chair of the Texas State Board of Education, said: "I disagree with these experts. Someone has got to stand up to experts." The man’s clearly certifiable and those words just prove it. I wouldn’t like to use him as my dentist – he’s probably self taught and read how to do dentistry in the bible.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Friday 27/03/09

You know those clickable sweetener dispensers? Doesn’t it annoy the hell out of you when you get one that chews up the sweeteners rather than popping them out whole?

Belgium – anyone know what it’s for? I can’t, for the life of me, understand why the country isn’t simply split into two and handed over to the Netherlands and France. The Flemish and the Walloons detest each other, so why stay locked in a relationship? De Gaulle claimed that Belgium was invented by the British to annoy the French. The Flemish are basically Dutch, having all the usual Dutch virtues, whereas the Walloons wish they were as civilized as the Dutch, but are really French, possessing all the usual French sins. Won’t go any further for fear of offending someone (but since when has that stopped me?).

Here’s a funny one. Earlier this month 300 square kilometres of the Southern Atlantic was experimentally seeded with six tonnes of dissolved iron in order to trigger a bloom of phytoplankton. It was fully expected that the phytoplankton would extract carbon dioxide from the seawater and drag carbon down to the seabed once they died. The bloom doubled its biomass within two weeks, but the plankton didn’t have time to sink. Instead the bloom attracted a swarm of famished shrimps who snaffled up what for them was a free lunch. Seems it’s back to the drawing board as far as trying to seed the oceans to to turn them into a carbon sink. Could be a great way of catching shrimps though.

I sometimes take a look at the geography of my readers via the FeedJit thingummy and wonder how accurate it is. I simply can’t believe, for example, that one of my readers lives in the middle of the Kingston Bypass in Wimbledon, or that another is looking at the blog from St Thomas’ Hospital in Lambeth. How about Heathlands Rd in Liskeard? Would that be you Brian? Someone is apparently viewing from the middle of a railway track in St Helens. However, the Pièce de résistance is the reader in Russia, which if FeedJit is to be believed is sitting slap-bang in the middle of the Kremlin.

Put your hand up if you live in 18 Horseshoe Bend Rd in Gympie, Australia. No takers? Nah – I suppose not – who would want to own up to living in that district! How about Lakeshore Ave in Oakland California? Nepian Street Ottawa anyone? I once worked for a company based in Ottawa – weird setup; my boss was in Ottawa and my staff were in Ottawa too, but I was based in the UK. Played havoc with my daily routine.

The UK government has again said it may take action on very cheap alcohol, as a report shows high levels of teenage binge drinking in the UK. The only countries in Europe worse than the UK are Bulgaria and the Isle of Man, where everyone is pissed all day long. The key age group identified is those between 15 and 16, which obviously comprises kids that are still at school.

Now in order to gain access to alcohol, these kids must be using something we experts call money. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that their likely source is parents, in the form of pocket money. There is a possible argument that they can be earning the money through weekend jobs, but I would argue that a teenager who can actually raise him or herself from their bed and hold down a weekend job is not typical of those who will blow it all on booze. For the sake of argument let’s agree that pocket money is the main source – then I wonder whether researchers who suggest a minimum price of £0.50 per unit have ascertained the average level of pocket money and worked out whether that level of pricing is going to make any difference whatsoever. Even if it does, I’d hazard a guess that kids would just put pressure on their parents for a raise.

Of course the other way of tackling this is to enforce existing legislation. It’s illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 18, so why not simply close down any pub or off licence found selling to under-age drinkers, along with imposing stiffer penalties for those kids found in a drunken state in the streets? Something like several weekends of community service in old people’s homes. That should be enough to put them off. I would propose they get remission for informing on their supplier.

A conservative MEP’s speech addressing Gordon Brown in the European Parliament has gone viral. However, if you listen to the speech it doesn’t add much to the debate and is merely someone having a rant (albeit eloquently) at Gordon without any evidence to back up his claims, which is very easy to do. It’s just more sound-bite politics. Don’t get the impression that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Labour supporter – I’ve never voted Labour in my life. What I do realise as I get older is that no single political party has a monopoly on the truth and all parties, just like religions, are subject to dogma. Politicians are trained by the system to see things in either black or white – and they rarely are.

Speaking of dogma, there’s going to be a crucial vote today by the Texas Science Board of Education as to whether Texan children should learn about creationism in science lessons. There are eight pro-evolution members and seven creationists on the board. The chair of the board is one Don McLeroy, who is a young earth creationist, meaning he’s totally bereft of any semblance of rational thought and it’s actually criminal he’s on the board in the first place. It’s a bit like having an astrologer setting climate change policy. He states that the US National Academy of Sciences statement on evolution is a "theft of true science" and neglects "other valid scientific possibilities". He believes there are weaknesses in the theory of evolution, but given the overwhelming evidence for evolution, his belief is simply a dogmatic denial of scientific fact, and a position of faith.

While on the subject of religion and right-wing attitudes, I heard a rather ridiculous comment from the Daily Mail this morning while listening to the Today programme on the way into work. Gordon Brown and Buckingham Palace have discussed plans to change the rules of succession to the throne, primarily the 1701 Act of Settlement, which bars heirs to the throne marrying Catholics. The Daily Mail is quoted as saying: “Removal of the Act of Settlement would threaten the position of the Church of England, England's state religion since 1534, when Henry VIII broke with Rome. It would be a further blow to Christianity and leave a major constitutional problem.”

Firstly, as far as the Daily Mail is concerned, Catholics are obviously not Christians (and probably don't even qualify as life as we know it). Secondly, the Act of Settlement is discriminatory and as such has no place in the 21st century. Thirdly, at a time when neither the monarch nor the church have any real power, does it actually matter who the heir to the throne marries, as long as it’s not someone who is French?

The Act of Settlement actually bars the monarch from being an atheist, as it says the monarch "shall join in communion with the Church of England".

It’s all a load of pretentious bollocks anyway, as it never ceases to amaze me how many people will change their professed faith when the offer of a number in the queue to the throne is dangled in front of their eyes.

I hear Madonna is going to adopt another child from Malawi. The woman won’t be satisfied till she’s adopted every damned child in the country. She’s clearly a few Hobbits short of a Fellowship.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Thursday 26/03/09

If I suddenly burst into American, please forgive me. My spell-checker has decided that it’s American and I can’t figure out how to get it to think it’s English again. I don’t even seem to be able to add the English spellings to the dictionary.

Overheard in the caravan:
Hay is lying in bed listening to Farming Today, where she hears that the UK is running desperately short of carrots; the Chairman has just walked into the bedroom after having a shower.

Hay: “We’re running out of carrots.”
Chairman: “Want me to call in at Lidl on the way home and get some?”

Had a complaint about the format for the Blog Comments. Seems someone prefers the pop-up comments form, as commentators can then continue to read earlier posts without having to load the whole page again. Would appreciate any feedback from regular commentators.

Been receiving death threats from Finedon and Irthlingborough following Tuesday’s post.

Was having another joyful discussion with someone on the Facebook atheist forum yesterday. The subject was fear of death. The woman in question could not understand how anyone could not be afraid of death – even atheists. I had to explain that for some, if not fit and healthy, death comes as a welcome relief. Add to that the fact that as you get older you realise that as both a species and individuals we’re doomed to repeating the same mistakes over and over again. With that realisation comes cynicism, in spades. If everyone suddenly became immortal then we’d end up as a race of immortal cynics – it just doesn’t bear thinking about. Or is that just me being cynical? It’s somewhat depressing to consider that the sole benefit immortality could bestow on you is that you’d live long enough to get a Tata Nano to 75mph.

One of the contributors to the above discussion mentioned a book called Tau Zero, the plot of which involves some people who are trapped in a spacecraft with a malfunctioning drive that is propelling it to close to the speed of light and can’t be closed down, the result of which is that they’re hurtling into the distant future due to relativistic time dilation. The disconcerting aspect of the book is that the humans leave earth at a time in the future when it’s ruled by the Swedish Empire. That prospect alone is enough to make one welcome death. A world of eco-freaks, 102% income tax, enforced sex and a lot of brooding over the meaning of life in a very tangential Ingmar Bergmanesque manner. A hideously bleak prospect. I’ve already lost the will to live – let’s all kill ourselves now….

If you manage to last the course and drag you eyeballs to the bottom of today’s post, you’ll see I’ve added Google AdSense to my blog to ascertain whether I can make some money from it. Can’t see it producing a single penny, but you never know. What I’m more interested in is the intriguing associations AdSense makes with the subject matter of my blog (the ads are meant to be contextual). The first group of ads I saw on yesterday’s post produced ads for a bad breath remedy, holidays in Cornwall and mobile homes. The next loading of the site called up one for a charity called Concern, which I’ve never heard of before.

The charity Grandparents Plus says grandparents who care for grandchildren should be recognised for their contribution and be paid tax credits and given granny leave if they work. What facile crap! In that case let’s all have a mutual hug-in and recognise each other for everything we do and thereby cancel out all debts and get on with living responsible lives where we all do something without the thought of what we get back being uppermost in our tiny minds.

I’m incensed! I think I’ll write to my MP and demand tax credits for looking after my cat. How about a tax credit for my blogging, which provides a very important and much needed service to people who need a lift in their pitiful and humdrum working day? If parents want to pay their own parents for looking after their offspring, it should be a private arrangement and not yet another reason for the government to step in and dole out taxpayers’ money on more benefits.

On Sunday evening Hay was woken by some kids screaming a car up and down the main road. On Monday she discovered that her sunglasses had been nicked from her car, which she’d carelessly left unlocked outside the family compound. On informing the police, they asked whether there was anything worth fingerprinting and if there was to bring it to the police station in Staple Hill in Bristol – about half an hour away. Now it’s very unlikely that any dabs are going to result in the capture of a major international sunglasses theft ring, however, the prints may highlight the activity of some local recidivists and cast light on other more serious crimes that may have taken place (or have yet to take place) in the local area. Are the police interested enough to send someone round? No! One has to lug all the evidence – including the car - into the middle of Bristol on a day off or next Saturday. It beggars belief. Do these people know that the police force is there for us, not as a back-to-work scheme for terminally indolent teenagers.

One of Hay’s colleagues suggested she contact the local young farmers and get them out hunting the perpetrator in their pick ups with shot guns. It’s no wonder that vigilantism is becoming rife. Good God – I’m sounding like a Daily Mail reader. Yulia Tymoshenko wouldn’t stand for this treatment!

I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but here in the UK the humble 100W incandescent lightbulb (my American spell-checker friend wants to make it two words) is a thing of the past as the government tries to convert us to energy-efficient lighting. However, New Scientist informs me that light-emitting textiles for lampshades are soon to hit the market. Dutch electronics firm Philips says it will be three to five years before the first lamps based on thin sheets of printed polymer LEDs make it into homes. I’ll even be able to wear a flashing suit of many colours. That’s a suit that flashes in many colours, not a suit in which to flash.

I was pouring water into the kettle this morning and noticed that the water coming out of the tap was a bit more watery than usual – and wetter too. Do you think the authorities are mixing it with something to make it go further?

A chap in Thailand has rescued a kid from a ledge after donning a Spiderman outfit. Given he just happened to have a Spiderman outfit lying around at work he’s obviously a member of the Thai version of Fathers 4 Justice.

Here’s a good story: a teacher who secretly filmed a school’s attempts to dupe Ofsted inspectors for a Channel 4 documentary, and thus expose a flawed system, has been found guilty of unprofessional conduct by the General Teaching Council. The council said she breached the trust of pupils and abused her position. They added that covert filming was permissible only under ‘exceptional circumstances’ which they deemed this case not to be. The paradox of this ruling is that a High Court judge had previously refused to issue an injunction sought by Leeds City Council, ruling that the programme served important public interests. Now a judge is of the opinion that the filming was justified in the public interest, whereas the GTC thought not. Surely a judge trumps a quango, does he not? I wonder whether the teacher concerned can take this to a tribunal?

The Duchess of Cornwall is in the news for having bronchitis. Hay thinks she never looks comfortable doing the public engagement thing and seems more like a ruddy-faced farmer’s wife in a posh hat. I’m sure she’s rather be out gardening in old clothes or mucking out a herd of Aberdeen Anguses, or whatever rare breeds Prince Big Ears farms.

The Archbishop of Cadbury, Rowan Atkinson, has warned that God will not intervene to prevent humanity from wreaking disastrous damage to the environment. How the hell does he know that with such certainty? If the Old Testament is to be believed, God used to interfere in the minutiae of daily human life all manner of annoying ways and wasn’t above coming to the aid of the Hebrews on several notable occasions. Egypt and Jericho spring immediately to mind. How about Sodem & Begorrah? I don’t think Rowan has been studying his bible.

While on the subject of the Church, I’ve recently wondered whether there are any innovative priests out there who would adopt an invention I’m thinking of taking to market. You know how the traditional way of blessing in some denominations is to scatter holy water around, which can be very messy? Well my idea is to sell pre-blessed torches which a priest can then shine across the congregation, bathing it in holy light. It would produce enormous efficiencies in any priest’s work rate. I would propose these holy torches be blessed by the head honcho of each denomination, thereby ensuring only the most holy of holy light.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Wednesday 25/03/09

I think I’ve been had. That bloody New Smoke freebie hasn’t turned up yet, not that I was 100% certain it would. If I don’t receive it in the next 24 hours, then the advert over on the right is going to be defaced.

Yesterday I was reading about a new deal for gas between the Ukraine and the EU (as one does) and spotted a photo of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. I’m now going to show how shallow I am. My God – she’s a babe! Kind of puts Anne Widdecombe and Harriett Harman well into the shade. She has been dubbed one of the most beautiful women ever to enter politics. She also has one of the most sophisticated personal websites I have ever seen for a politician.

Here’s a wallpaper from her website of her on a motorbike. Not bad for 48, is she?

And another of her as an earth goddess. I’ve suddenly become religious!

She’s got my vote and I want to become Ukrainian.

Mentioned her to Hay last night and she started harrumphing all over the caravan muttering about her probably having had a facelift and using loads of slap. Tymoshenko’s hair braids have become a bit of a trademark, but the burning question of the day is whether she’s a true blonde (there are images of her as a brunette). Her daughter Yevhenia married Sean Carr, shop owner and lead singer of totally unknown Leeds heavy metal group the Death Valley Screamers. I’ll bet Yulia was ecstatic over that bit of news.

Talking of hair, a new member joined my gang yesterday – one Gino. I finally tracked him down to a UK website specialising in something to do with laser lighting. You can see him here – 2nd slap-head down and 3rd most follically challenged of the group. Quite an amusing site, and the company looks fun to work for too (I wonder if they need a marketing expert). They need to look at their gallery page though (and one or two other pages), as it doesn’t work. The family name of Gino and his brother (who both started the company) is Malocca. Given the company is based in Hertfordshire they are obviously the Hertfordshire Maloccas and not the County Monaghan, County Louth, County Wexford or Leicestershire Maloccas.

Gino – if you want an ad here for your company, then speak out. Looks like there's going to be a sponsorship vacancy tomorrow.

China is reported to have blocked the YouTube video-sharing website because it has been carrying video of soldiers beating monks and other Tibetans. I didn’t need the Chinese government to do it for me - Firefox has blocked it since last week. Firefox keeps telling me I have the wrong version of Flash and then when I follow the instructions it’s still totally non-responsive. I’m led to believe that it’s a compatibility problem between Mozilla and Google/YouTube which neither company seems willing to fix. Perhaps someone techknowledgeable will illuminate me – and not with a laser.

It seems old Cornish habits die hard. Three British divers from Cornwall being tried in Spain have admitted stealing treasure from a shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean in 2002. They were recovering tin ingots from the wreck of a Dutch vessel, but strayed onto another Spanish wreck.

There’s a small town in Nebraska called McCook where the residents want to take possession of the state’s redundant electric chair and turn it onto a tourist attraction. The chair has apparently been used to terminate some 15 people in its illustrious career. I find the whole thing quite shocking.

School caterers in the UK say nutritional guidelines designed to make England's secondary school meals healthier are restrictive and cannot work. The complaint is that the guidelines restrict choice because designing school menus would be too time consuming, with the result that pupils will simply reject school food and buy lunch on the high street. Why is there this obsession with choice? When I was at school we had a choice – eat it or bring a packed lunch. At boarding school there was even less choice – eat it or go hungry. And when was the last time you saw a school within spitting distance of a high street? I suspect the real reason they don’t want to give kids healthy meals is because cooking them consumes more time (and hence expense) than mass produced frozen chips, burgers and pizzas. They may even have to hire cooks, rather than microwave operatives.

One of my customer complaints yesterday came from Kapgaf, who said he (I say he, as jokes about farts and admissions of having the attention span of a gnat seem to point in that general direction) was raised near The Towans in Cornwall, where Hay and I spent the weekend. On the road to Hayle from The Towans is a pub called The Bucket of Blood, and I’m intrigued how it got its name. I suspect some biblical reference, but would be grateful of any enlightenment from students of pub names. It’s one of those pubs where you walk in and all the conversation suddenly dries up and everyone stares at you. Sent shivers down my spine and there was something of The Whicker Man about the place.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Tuesday 24/03/09

An incident at a factory in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, has led to nitrous oxide spreading across the area and strong winds blowing the gas towards the towns of Finedon and Irthlingborough. In between fits of uncontrollable laughter, local police told people to keep their doors and windows closed. They then proceeded to book a troupe of pink elephants for loitering with intent. I believe, but cannot confirm, that some local comedians are thinking of doing a gig there.

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, was first synthesized in 1775 by English chemist Joseph Priestley. He called it phlogisticated nitrous air (must have been related to Stephen Fry) and was evidently delighted with his discovery. While rolling on the floor with laughter he giggled: "I have now discovered an air five or six times as good as common air... nothing I ever did has surprised me more, or is more satisfactory. Ha, ha, ha!"

Finedon is listed in Wikipedia. Quote: “There's plenty to do in Finedon, there are many places to eat and drink, places for kids to enjoy & many shops. Kids of any age can enjoy the swings and climbing frames at the park in Finedon. There is also a Recreation Ground in Finedon for people to walk dogs, play on the play area and have Picnics!” Deep joy! I’ll bet they’re in dire need of a good laugh in Finedon after all that swinging and dogging.

The entry for Irthlingborough is just as activity-packed. Seems the ideal place to calm you down after a visit to a funeral.

The Tata Nano is about to be launched in India. If you look at the spec, it’s basically an enclosed motorbike. However, with a top speed of 75mph, a fuel consumption of 56mpg and a 0-60 time of just short of infinity, it’s the perfect 2nd car for those who aren’t consumed by images of their car as either a measure of their wealth or a penis extension and are prepared to wait till the Heat Death of the universe to reach a decent motorway cruising speed. Because it’s so cheap it’s forecast to have a hideous effect on the 2nd hand car market, which here-to-fore has been enjoying a resurgence.

It seems that Mormons in Utah are starting a campaign to have polygamy legalised. From my perspective the only argument against polygamy is one based on religion. However, that has to be balanced with the fact that argument for polygamy also comes from religion – it just happens to be a different religion to the dominant one. The argument them comes down to who has the greater right to claim knowledge of something both simultaneously claim to be revealed truth but is manifestly and logically nothing more than a matter of opinion. Basically it comes down to a pissing contest between the sects having differing interpretations of the same book.

Oscar Wilde once said that bigamy is having one too many wives, whereas monogamy is exactly the same.

MP, Tony McNulty, has been claiming a £24k housing allowance for a constituency house which is only some 8 miles from where he lives and is inhabited by his parents. The mantra from every British MP now is: “I didn’t break any rules.” No, he didn’t – neither did the boss of RBS, Fred Goodwin, who has retired on more money that you or I will ever see. While McNulty is definitely not guilty of breaking the rules, he is, however, guilty of cynically manipulating the rules to his benefit and scamming the tax-payer. Unsurprisingly, McNulty has a history of voting strongly against a transparent parliament.

Now that their expenses are coming under scrutiny, some MPs are calling for their salaries to be linked to those of GPs or head teachers. I’d like to see their justification. Anyone can be an MP with absolutely no qualifications and no continual professional development. To be a GP or head teacher requires years of study and training.

Heard something on the radio this morning about proposals to tax alcopops out of existence. Would you not agree that if kids have a taste for alcopops and the prices are put up to deter them from consuming them, then they’re highly likely to move to proper alcohol? It just seems obvious to me that the policy is ill conceived and bound to fail – or am I missing something here?

A formal complaint about Google's Street View has been sent to the Information Commissioner. Privacy campaigners in the UK cited 200 reports from members of the public who are identifiable via the service and claiming Street View has caused "clear embarrassment and damage". Wow – a whole 200! I wonder how many of those reports are by people who simply like to complain. I’d hazard a guess at well over 50% and more likely about 85%.

Hay and I were discussing marriage the other day. The cost of a registry office marriage is £30 each in advance and £43.50 on the day. That’s a fraction of the cost of getting wills drawn up to cover all eventualities if one or t’other of us kicks the bucket and makes any transfer automatic. Pragmatism may rule the day.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Monday 23/03/09

The government has released files on alleged UFO sightings from the 1980s. One report concerns a woman who was approached by a tall, blonde alien with a "Scandinavian-type accent" near Norwich in 1989. He apparently told the woman that he was under strict instruction not to tell anyone he was an alien but couldn’t resist the temptation. In any crowd there’s always one who has to give the game away - isn’t that just typical? I must admit it’s rather depressing to discover that aliens are just like humans – but Scandinavian. Could it be that Abba are aliens?

If I had £1 for every Norwegian who had told me he was an alien (especially after a litre of Akvavit) I'd have about £6 by now.

Had a massive surge in hits on Saturday. Someone had listed the blog on a service called www.stumbleupon.com, which more than doubled the normal traffic. Any enlightenment from the techknowledgeable would be welcome.

The school run is hitting the news with ministers trying to find ways of stopping over-protective yummy-mummies clogging the streets around schools. Why don’t they just ban non-resident parking anywhere near schools? I used to walk 1.5 miles to my primary school and cycle 3 miles to my secondary school. Why can’t kids these days walk, cycle or get the bus?

Here’s a conundrum for you; the law does not specify an age when a child can be left at home alone, however, parents commit an offence if leaving the child at home alone puts him or her at risk. Now it’s commonly accepted that leaving a child of under 13 at home alone constitutes a punishable offence, yet it’s perfectly acceptable to send a child out to play all day unsupervised. That’s slightly illogical, as it’s saying that it’s the location where the child is that determines whether it’s an offence or not – and a child’s own home is probably one of the safest places in the world for it to be. When I was a kid I would be out all day playing with friends and my mother had only the vaguest idea of where I was – that was the way of the world in those days, but it worked and produce a generation of kids who weren’t afraid of their own shadow.

We went to Cornwall at the weekend and stayed in a place called The Towans, which is amazing, but for all the wrong reasons. As far as town planning regulations are concerned, the place is the equivalent of the Wild West. The place looks like planning anarchy is the order of the day. Mock Nouveau Riche next to 1940s suburban next to Park Home impermanence next to clap-board summerhouse. I’m certain the local council is blissfully unaware of the place, or else it’s a university PhD research project for the Department of the Urban Environment to see what happens when all planning restrictions are lifted.

Right next to the ‘village’ is what must be the world’s largest caravan park. Acres and acres of holiday caravans as far as the eye can see. If you saw this number of caravans in Russia you’d think it was Magnetogorsk. Here are some pictures I took:

That last one is the view from one of the serried ranks of caravans.

Despite the whole complex looking something like the set of ‘The Great Escape’, the individual caravans are actually quite nice inside and more than adequate as permanent accommodation for a couple or a small family. Perhaps places like this are a solution to illegal immigrants and refugees; more than adequate housing, but a place you wouldn’t really wish to remain in if you could possibly avoid it (although for some immigrants these places might look like heaven on earth).

Why is it that we’re all obsessed with bigger and bigger houses and status symbols?

Here's another image from my Statement Parking Competition:

To see what I mean, look at the lines that form the parking bays.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Sunday 22/03/55

Yesterday I mentioned Google Street View and how is could possibly allow crims and terrorists to reconnoiter locations without arousing suspicion. Hay and I have produced a list of what we think should be considered suspicious people or activity.

• Young (or old) person,
• Male (or possibly female),
• Black or Asian (white only if male),
• Wearing any form of sports clothing,
• Congregating in groups later than 1,
• Wearing a beard – especially if male and Asian,
• Wearing sunglasses if not sunny,
• Sporting any form of tattoo or piercings,

Please feel free to add to the list.

Overheard yesterday in St Ives, Cornwall: The Chairman and Hayley are looking around a shop where everything has been reduced to £1. The Chairman is looking at a stand of sunglasses, which were previously priced at around £12.

Chairman: “Hey, I feel like buying the lot. I could sell them on eBay for at least a fiver each and make 400% margin.”

Hayley: “Good God, sometimes you can be such a scabby northerner. I can just imagine you in a Liverpool shopping centre; one tooth in your head, roll-up dangling from the corner of your mouth, dressed in a tracksuit and selling knock-off stuff from a suitcase.”

I think I may have stumbled on a gap in the market. Whereas I can buy a pair of +1.25 spectacles for driving at under a tenner, I can’t buy a +1.25 pair of sunglasses, meaning I can’t wear sunglasses at all without either putting my normal specs over the top (which I sometimes do, regardless of how ridiculous it looks), or buying an expensive pair of prescription sunglasses. Never really thought about it before. Surely someone must be servicing this need for cheap sunglasses having proper lenses for driving/reading. Come to think of it, and having struggled with finding the correct terminology, what is the name for a pair of sunglasses with a reading/driving lens? They’re not prescription sunglasses, as they are bespoke and not off-the shelf.

My ten year-old son coined a new word yesterday (at least one I’ve never heard used before) – techknowledgable. I think it’s fantastic. We should all adopt it and spread it and hope it enters popular useage.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Saturday 21/03/09

Finally managed to get Google Street View working, and as luck would have it here’s a house I owned in London some 15 years ago. All told I can stand right outside 3 places I rented in various parts London throughout the late 80s and early 90s. If Google can do some decent places then I won’t even have to go on holiday anymore – I can simply take a trip with Google Street View. The only problem I can see with it is that thieves and terrorists can now reconnoiter potential target areas without the hindrance of looking suspicious.

Thank God our place isn’t covered by Google Street View yet, and being off the beaten track is unlikely to every get there anyway. If it did feature the kampong and the caravan, then we’d have to clear up the tarmac pile, the old mattresses, the burnt out car and the many upturned prams.

Heard this morning on The Farming Programme: “On the scale of beef, pork or lamb, it’s only small potatoes.”

Sunset over St Ives Bay yesterday evening:

Remember Prince Big Ears’ misleading adverts for his exorbitantly expensive tinctures under the Duchy Originals brand? The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has stepped in and upheld a complaint that the claims were misleading and the firm must change the wording of the website adverts.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Friday 20/03/09

On Wednesday Sean Hodgson walked free after 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Had the UK still retained the death penalty, this would not be possible. It is precisely for this reason that I am against the death penalty in general. I have to admit to having no problem with the death penalty being used in specific circumstances where guilt is 100% certain (i.e. where there’s speed camera evidence, when I receive poor service in a restaurant or when I simply don’t like the cut of the accused’s jib) – but those instances are rare.

I often wonder whether people would be so willing to convict (as juries) if there were to be a balancing system whereby if it was subsequently proven that there was a miscarriage of justice (i.e. a fit-up), then the sentence would be carried out on the jury itself. There would probably be a good few less strident Daily Mail readers calling for the death penalty.

More fun on the atheist Facebook forum yesterday. Some chap asked why Christians have such a massive issue with homosexuality. I felt compelled to reply that it’s not just Christians and I’d wager that a decent sized proportion of atheists are also homophobic, as atheism isn’t necessarily synonymous with rational or liberal thought. The main difference, however, is that with atheists you know it’s just plain good old bigotry and they at least have the decency to not dress it up in theological dogma and pass the buck to God.

The UK government’s chief scientist, Prof John Beddington, has warned that growing world population will cause a "perfect storm" of food, energy and water shortages by 2030. He maintains that demand for food and energy will jump 50% and for fresh water by 30%. Climate change will simply exacerbate matters in unpredictable ways. He added that improving agricultural productivity globally was one way to tackle the problem, as 30-40% of all crops are currently lost to pests and disease before they are harvested. He’s looking for more disease-resistant and pest-resistant plants along with better harvesting procedures.

I find it disconcerting that no-one mentions fewer people as a viable solution. However, that would damage state pensions, which rely entirely on exponentially growing populations. We’re getting ourselves into a right pickle. Pretty soon we’ll have to start saving for our own retirements, or even go back to the extended nuclear family where the oldies live with the productive youngsters.

For any new readers, I live in an extended family. We all live on a kampong; Hay’s parents (the Caravans) live in the main house, her sister and partner live in the annex next door, and Hay and I are about to build our house in the adjoining field (and are currently living on-site in a mobile home). The benefits are huge:

  • There’s always someone at home to receive parcels, facilitate utility readings or let in the repair men.
  • We have between us the use of 5 cars, so if one breaks down we can usually be assured of a lift or borrowing another.
  • We don’t have to travel miles and take out a whole day to visit relatives on Hay’s side – they’re all on-site.
  • There’s a mutual support network.
  • The Caravans don’t have to worry about becoming infirm.
  • We can all gang-up against the neighbours and intimidate them, thus preventing them applying for Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.

Google Street View is meant to have been launched in the UK. Buggered if I can find out how to use it, or even find it. Google the facility and you are led to a help page which is about as useful as fishing rod in a snowstorm. It shows world places where Street View is implemented, but the UK appears to be devoid of any such locations, despite the news saying otherwise. Doubtless the paranoid will be writing to their MPs and the daily Mail to protest about invasions of privacy. It will be fun to see who has their house removed from it – I know of at least one couple who will be huffing and puffing with righteous indignation.

Actually, if you click on this link you’ll see a photo of our drive (or unmade road, as I prefer to call it). Haven’t a clue who took it, but it is rather nice. Our family compound is at the end of that driveway, just over the common. You can’t quite see the barbed wire and sentry towers.

A Nottingham postmaster in Sneinton, Nottinghamshire, has said he will refuse to serve people in his post office if they cannot speak English. This is based on the simple and inalienable fact that he couldn’t serve them if he couldn’t understand them. He said that he had turned away about six customers after they wasted his time and infuriated other customers because they couldn’t understand English. The stance is understandably very popular with the locals. The Postmaster’s name? Deva Kumarasiri, who moved to England from Sri Lanka 18 years ago!

One customer, Mohammed Ahmed, disagreed. He said that if people come here to work, it's their right to stay, even if they can’t speak the language. Afzal Sadif from the Nottingham Racial Equality Council said Mr. Kumarasiri's stance was unacceptable and one can't force English on people.

Yes you can! The Brits have been doing it for centuries! More than half the world speaks it. It’s the mark of a civilised country.

Why is it that everyone coming to the UK is so consumed by their rights and no-one ever mentions obligations. There again, have you ever heard Col. and Mrs. Blimp trying to be understood in a foreign country – even if they have lived there 20 years? The thing is that when speaking to the Fuzzy-Wuzzies, the Brits speak louder and slower, which miraculously makes them understood. If that fails, putting a vowel on the end of every word most certainly works in the vast majority of cases. Johnny foreigner, on the other hand, just speaks faster and starts waving his arms, which only serves to make him even more unintelligible.

There was a video clip of Mr. Kumarasiri being interviewed, but I couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying – attrocious Nottinghamshire dialect.

May take a rest from posting over the weekend (note the word ‘may’). Hay and I are off to Cornwall to see my boys and celebrate me attaining the age of 54 on Sunday.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Thursday 19/03/09

The French (among others) have had a go at Pope Benedict XXXXXXXXXVIII’s pontification (if you’ll forgive the expression) on condoms not being a solution to combat the HIV/Aids epidemic in Africa. A foreign minister is quoted as saying: "While it is not up to us to pass judgment on Church doctrine, we consider that such comments are a threat to public health policies and the duty to protect human life." I would contend it is EVERYONE’s earthly duty to pass judgment on illogical and harmful dogma, regardless of its source.

Rebecca Hodes of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa said: "His opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans." Can’t argue with that.

Only yesterday I was corresponding with someone in South Africa who said Jacob Zuma, the probable next President of SA, takes showers to prevent AIDS. That’s about as effective as Sellotaping an aspirin to your forehead for a headache (which I have actually seen done in Africa when I was at sea).

I was reading a BBC article about a study that shows how terminally ill religious people are, paradoxically, three times more likely to opt for intervention and treatments in a last-ditch effort to prolong life than the non-religious – even if those interventions reduce the quality of life dramatically. The conclusions are that either they are uncertain whether there is in fact an afterlife, or they think they’re headed straight downstairs to visit the eternal Guantanamo Bay.

I posited these conclusions on an atheist Facebook group yesterday. For some inexplicable reason it’s infested with religious people who keep telling me I’m going to burn in Hell forever, despite them not being able to back that up with unequivocal evidence that would satisfy our legal system. To be fair, it’s also infested with atheists who want to do nothing but shout and stamp their feet in a similar manner. Anyway, one person in Japan came back and made the bald statement he was not afraid of death. He made it in capital letters, so one presumes he felt strongly about it. I had to ask him to qualify the statement, as in order to gain any intelligence from it I needed to know whether he was:

1) Religious,
2) Non-religious, or
3) Already dead and helpfully communicating from the other side that death is OK and he’s enjoying it.

Talking of the terminally ill……. Bugger it, I won’t, except to say OK Magazine has already published Jade Goody’s tribute edition with the headline 1981-2009. I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s quip that: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” when he read his obituary, which had been published by mistake. The news of the passing of Natasha Richardson, who gave joy to so many, will pass with a whimper, whereas I’m certain we’ll receive communiqués from the other side on the part of Jade for many months to come.

I’m having enormous fun on this Facebook group discussing a variety of philosophical concepts, like free will and it’s juxtaposition with omniscience, predestination and prophesy. It’s quaintly paradoxical how the vast majority of religious people seem to think free will and prophesy are mutually compatible and simply haven’t sat down and thought logically about the implication of each on the other. There again, few religious people actually take the time to study the religion they profess – and more importantly, its history and the milieu in which it developed. If they did, they would more as likely have second thoughts.

Reverting back to the Pope and his African trip, he warns of a threat to the Catholic Church in Cameroon from evangelical movements and from the "growing influence of superstitious forms of religion". The words pot, kettle and black spring to mind. Lee, over at the Hen Buddhism blog, has a nice chart showing the demography of belief in evolution vs creationism. The US is interestingly placed one position above Turkey. I know the Pope has come out of the closet and said evolution is compatible with Catholic doctrine, but it was said rather reluctantly and it took the Vatican rather a long time to find the right weasel words, which still aren’t unequivocal.

Had a look at PETA’s (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) website this morning. Seems they’ve been protesting about pig farming outside Jamie Oliver’s restaurant – that’s protesting outside Oliver’s restaurant about the condition pigs are kept in, not protesting about pig farming taking place outside Oliver’s restaurant. This is an extract from their site:

“Going vegetarian has never been easier. The explosion of vegetarian foods means that you can pop everything from bean burgers to veggie 'sausages' into the microwave and finish the meal with frozen nondairy 'ice cream'. You can order a latte with soya milk in the neighbourhood coffee shop, enjoy a veggie burger straight from the barbecue and stock your kitchen with wonderful products we could only dream of 20 years ago: flavoured rice mixes; a whole host of microwavable ready-made meals; soya-based 'cheeses', 'cream', 'mayonnaise' and 'milk'; and imitation meat products that can be used on their own or in your favourite recipes.”

Hardly a mention – if any – of just plain, wholesome vegetables. They seem to want to tempt people into veggiedom with pre-processed crap you sling in the micro. They then paradoxically go on to extol the health benefits of veggie diets. There again, if you are the kind of cook who uses nothing but the micro in meal preparation, even pre-processed veggie food might stand a good chance of producing an improvement in your health. The problem is that microwave divas are the least likely to want to eat healthily in the first place. Given the way Hay cooks, I don’t think I’d have too much of a problem going veggie, as her veggie recipes are simply to die for. However, giving up the odd bacon butty would be a step too far. I do believe I was intelligently designed as an omnivore – if the Pope is any authority.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Wednesday 18/03/09

There doesn’t seem to be much around worth commenting on. Need some controversial subjects to analyse, like my spell-checker’s propensity to replace analyse with analyze when there’s no such word as analyzis.

There’s been a mass outbreak of skipping at work. Seems everyone wants to shed the winter plumage. You should see some of the hi-tech skipping ropes – swing counters, vanadium handles, plastic-coated titanium ‘rope’. For heaven’s sake, all you do when skipping is jumping up and down. It doesn’t need any bloody equipment; it’s like buying a treadmill to go running when the road is perfectly adequate.

Pope Benedict XXXXXXXXXXXXVIII, who is making his first papal visit to Africa, has been speaking about the HIV/Aids epidemic sweeping Africa. He called it "a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem."

While it is agreed that sexual abstinence, being what he proposes as a solution, is a sure fire way of halting the epidemic, one can’t help feeling that he’s divorced from reality if he thinks people in Africa will abstain from sex. As that’s a given, what else does he propose? One presumes nothing, as it’s obviously a plague from God for some heinous sin, like leaving the video recorder on stand-by overnight.

Abstinence from sex certainly hasn’t stopped the spread of Catholicism among the clergy, showing it’s not a genetic affliction. Perhaps one day science will find a cure, although I’m more hopeful of a cure for AIDS and cancer being found first.

Marc Ravalomanana, ex president of Madagascar, had said he was handing over to the military during a radio address in which he announced his resignation. That comes hard on the heels of him announcing that he would die with his last remaining guards if necessary. One suspects his personal guards were perhaps less than enthusiastic at the prospect and had a word in his ear.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said Moscow will begin a comprehensive military rearmament from 2011 to increase the combat readiness of Russia's forces, particularly the strategic nuclear forces. Perversely, this comes at the same time that Gordon Brown announces he going to cut Britain’s nuclear arsenal. It would appear that Russian politics is all about demagoguery. The social critic and humorist H. L. Mencken, known for his "definitions", defined a demagogue as one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots. That kind of covers most politicians, don’t you think?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Tuesday 17/03/09

I commend this article to you from the New Scientist about the French physicist and philosopher of science, Bernard d'Espagnat, who won the Templeton Prize (the largest annual prize in the world) for his studies into the nature of reality and the concept of a hypercosmic God.

President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, has said that France will rejoin Nato, thus ending 40 years of self-imposed non-participation. When de Gaulle notified Lyndon B Johnson to inform him that France had decided to withdraw, he told Johnson that all American service personnel would have to be removed from French soil. Johnson replied: "Does that include those buried in it?"

A motorcyclist has been jailed for 10 months and banned for two years after reaching speeds of up to 150mph in Devon. He also had a loose seat and the bike's mudguard was held on with bootlaces. He compounded the felony by admitting to not having a licence or insurance and failing to stop for police. If I were the magistrate, I’d order his legs to be broken – or possibly amputated.

Regarding proposals to impose a minimum price on alcohol, it transpires that any such move could be illegal under competition laws.

Were you aware that the sex trade in new Zealand was legalized in 2003? I certainly wasn’t. Have a look at this BBC item and decide for yourself if liberalization isn’t the way forward. I’m glad to see there are some sensible people in government, albeit at the other end of other world.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Monday 16/03/09

Saw this unsupported statement yesterday:

I felt like putting a sign next to it saying that man made the Church, and it’s been evolving ever since, having split into a number of widely differing species.

Overheard in the Caravans’ house last night:

Perry: “I change my car oil regularly. Well, I don’t actually change it.”
Chairman: “Well what do you do then? Pray over it and hope for transubstantiation to take place?”

It was so nice yesterday that I did a first cut of the lawn. Hay’s mother decided to get the paintbrush out and do some touching up, but she got told off by Caravan for using the paint inside out; the light side of the paint should have been on the inside, not the outside.

The Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, wants the government to set minimum prices for alcohol in order to combat binge drinking by poor people. I say poor people, as that is the only section of the population that would be affected. Ever since Saxon times we’ve have a proud tradition in this country of drinking to excess.

Residents of Ludford, who have been tending an area of land opposite their houses for over 20 years, are campaigning for it to be designated a village green. To qualify for village green status land must be used for a common pastime – in the case of the villagers, they cite gardening. However, a council lawyer said that gardening is a necessity, not a hobby. I’d like to see that opinion tested in court.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Sunday 15/03/09

Earlier in the week there was a rather distasteful demonstration by a group of 20 or so Moslems against soldiers who had just returned from Iraq. Protesters held placards saying "Anglian soldiers go to hell" and "Butchers of Basra". David Davies, MP for Haltemprice and Howden, is tabling a motion to give personnel in uniform the same rights as people claiming protection from abuse under the Religious Hatred Bill. Listen to this radio interview with him and a Moslem demonstrator. A masterpiece of demolition logic on the part of Davies.

Have you noticed how all the supermarkets now have their own budget equivalents of Tesco’s Value range? Sainsbury has the Basics range and Morrison is also Value. Waitrose seems to be getting in on the action too with Essential Waitrose, however the John Lewis Partnership is keen to point out that Waitrose Essentials are not budget items (naturally). Whereas Essentials in most people’s shopping bag would include basic items such as bread, toilet paper, etc., Hay and I were wondering what Waitrose shoppers would consider to be Essential and came up with the following:

• Essential Olives
• Essential Brie
• Essential Chardonnay
• Essential Asparagus
• Essential Organic free-range venison sausages
• Essential Dried porcini mushrooms
• Essential Cut lilies
• Essential Pate de fois gras
• Essential Tofu

Saw this sign yesterday when we collected Hay’s new car. Spot the deliberate mistake.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Saturday 14/03/09

Are the Continuity IRA perchance part-time BBC continuity announcers?

Managed to get through the whole of Red Nose Day without a single person haranguing me for money. Mind you, that’s par for the course. Even if someone did manage to ask me the answer would be no, as I rarely carry cash around with me. I can literally go from one month to the next without touching the stuff. Guess I’ll have to phone in a donation.

Hay had a full check-up yesterday. She’s pleased as Punch now as she was told she has the metabolic function of a 29 year-old. Not bad for someone who is 44. I’m quite excited that I have a 29 year-old partner!

Take a look at this video on the accelerating pace of technology and information. On first seeing it I felt somewhat overwhelmed and even motivated by our achievements and the rate of progress. In a way I felt quite hopeful that mankind could solve anything that was thrown at us. However, when you look at the progression, it’s all to do with speed and not necessarily quality. I now feel more apprehensive than motivated. As the video says – what does it all mean?

I want to start a pressure group that lobbies for the inclusion of spurious characters in web and e-mail addresses. Just imagine how much more creative web addresses and e-mail addresses could be if we were allowed to include the humble ampersand. You could have a sensible e-mail address for a couple – Geoff&Gillian@MonRepose.com, for example. How about including character string 32 – the extremely useful white space? The above address could then be Geoff & Gillian @ Mon Repose.com – eminently more legible.

What plonker decided to throw out half the characters available on a keyboard when it came to using the internet? I can understand the slash and backslash as they are used for navigation within directories, but not others, except possibly from the perspective of some of them being used as instruction symbols within programming languages.

Benyam Mohammed will doubtless be justifiably (from a legal perspective) claiming compensation for being tortured. According to his claims he was in Afghanistan to see Muslim countries with his own eyes and to cure a drug problem – having gone there with no visible means of support. Now if I has a drug problem, the last place I’d go to have it cured is the very country that is the very source of the majority of the world’s opium and where drug addicts were regularly topped by the Taliban in a zero tolerance regime. The NHS can cure you quite adequately at no cost to yourself and without you risking being beheaded by a pyjama wearing beardie with a bandage round his bonce and an AK47 over his shoulder.

He is then caught in Pakistan boarding a plane to the UK with a forged passport. Why on earth would he need a forged passport and try entering the UK under another name when he was already a citizen of the UK?

Regardless of whether one agrees with torture under extenuating circumstances or not, I can’t believe people were put in Guantanamo without plenty of circumstantial smoke being around, even though there may have been no evidential fire. That’s the problem with terrorism – the normal standards of evidence don’t necessarily apply. I don’t think it’s wise to play by the rules all the time, because sure as hell your fanatical enemies won’t. Sometimes circumstantial evidence has to be enough - you just have to try and ensure that those who engage in clandestine or underhand operations are managed by a responsible agency rather than being freelance. Even James Bond with his licence to kill had political masters.

There again, if you do engage in torture, then perhaps it’s a bit facile to become a signatory to a protocol that says you don’t. Better to let the enemy guess and not sign anything that’s unequivocal. In a way, the Americans are engaged in a propaganda effort – officially denying they use torture, but allowing the leaking of information about torture being used. It makes the enemy think twice.

The argument that torture doesn’t work simply doesn’t wash if you read the evidence of state torturers of the past, like Paul Aussaresses, Paul Van Vuuren and Gideon Nieuwoudt. The only people you hear saying torture is not effective are those who have never tortured or been tortured. If it didn’t work, then Sheila Cassidy would not have identified priests who had helped Chile’s socialist opposition.

The first secret of effective torture is not divulging to the victim exactly what you want to hear. If you tortured me and told me to admit to a killing or being a wizard, I’d tell you exactly that. If I didn’t know what your preconception was I’d have greater difficulty second guessing you. The second is to try to avoid torturing someone who is blatantly innocent, as they will admit to anything.

Later: just realized I sound like an expert torturer with ‘previous’. There again, I’ve been married twice and seen experts in action.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Friday 13/03/09

Not sure what’s happening to Blogger. I can no longer copy and paste from Word into the Blogger editor when using Outlook. Firefox allows me to copy and paste, but screws up the formatting, stripping out line breaks. It also refuses to accept some of the HTML carried over from Word, and so it takes several HTML deletions to publish - as well as buggering up the font size (as you can see).

Do you use Facebook? Have a look at this – it’s really hilarious.

Here we go, ministers are starting to talk about e-cigarettes, which probably means a ban looming on the basis of zero evidence.

A Scottish GP has lost his bid for chocolate tax to help combat obesity and diabetes and the proceeds to be used by the NHS. What a plonker! As if chocolate alone is the cause of obesity. What about Wigan kebabs, chips, fatty burgers, salt, sugar and fat added to almost every pre-processed food – and finally, simply eating gargantuan portions worthy of John Prescott? In any case, since when has a tax actually been hypothecated? The logical way to combat obesity is to levy VAT on all food and direct the revenue toward obesity treatment and anti-obesity drugs. That would have the added benefit of providing jobs, as well as in the longer term enabling us to eat anything we wanted without the associated guilt.

If the government wants to do something to combat obesity now, then introduce a charge for any medical treatment which is a direct result of obesity. That way the rest of us won’t have to suffer because of a few lard arses who can’t stop stuffing their faces. Smokers (and possibly dipsomaniacs) should be exempt, as the extra tax they pay funds the NHS to the tune of several times what they cost in treatment. That’s only fair and the reason the government can’t afford to ban smoking outright.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting rather fed up with do-gooders telling me what is and is not good for me and initiating social experiments to change our habits. How the hell have we managed for so many millions of years without social manipulator busy-bodies interfering in our lives?

Scientists at MIT are working on lithium-ion batteries that charge in seconds, rather than hours. That’s just what we vapers need for faster charging of our e-cigarettes and e-cigars (especially our New Smoke products, which I must remember to tell you all about some day soon). The upshot of this story is that we could feasibly run hybrid electric cars that can be re-charged at filling stations in practically the same time it takes to fill your car with a tank of petrol, get asked whether you want the school vouchers, have one of half a dozen loyalty cards or want a VAT receipt, go for a pee (or if female, stand in a queue for 10 minutes), and order a paper cup of over-priced coffee comprising mostly foam from a truculent assistant with all the customer service skills of Genghis Khan following a raucous night out on the steppes consuming vast quantities of fermented mares’ milk.

Bernard Madoff, the chap charged with running a $50bn Ponzi scheme, has pleaded guilty (is there such a word as pled?) to all 11 charges. That’s rather refreshing – someone actually admitting he is a crook. Would it be cynical of me to say that I foresee a brilliant future for him in politics? It’s not as if being 70 puts him out of the running – look at Bob Mugabe; 85 and still going strong. The only problem is that Madoff’s sentence might make him several hundred years old by the time he comes out of prison.

Remember my post of a few weeks ago about men navigating by geometry and women by landmarks. Well, experiments with chimps have shown that they also use man’s geometry-based navigation system. Men and chimps seem to be indistinguishable, whereas women are on a totally different planet of the apes.

A certain woman is in the news just now. Formula 1 magnate, multi-billionaire and hobbit stunt-double, Bernie Ecclestone, was divorced by his statuesque, 50 year-old, ex model wife, Slavica, on Wednesday. They’d been married for 24 years. She’s reported to be just under a foot taller than him, and a billion quid better off. Well, he is 78, and getting your mem-sahib to divorce you is a neat way of avoiding death duties. I believe the term is ‘velvet divorce’. Oooh, there’s me being cynical again.

Talking of billionaires, Bill Gates has moved from 3rd to 1st in the Forbes Rich List, but only as a result of the global economic crisis and the stock market crashing. The previous numbers 1 and 2 had more invested in shares than Chairman Bill. The top three are in software, investments and communications, in that order; thus the business to be in is communicating software investments, or possibly investing in communications software. Running a Ponzi scheme would get you near the top too. Ruining banks would not make you a billionaire, but it would give you a damned good pension.

Lord Ahmed, who was involved in a fatal crash minutes after sending text messages on Christmas Day 2007 and jailed for 12 weeks for sending and receiving text messages while driving on the M1, has been released by the Court of Appeal. So a lord was freed by some other lords who felt the need for "exceptional" personal mitigation. Mmmmm. The excuse he made was that being locked up would could "irreparably and permanently" damage his ability to carry out community work in the future. Why couldn’t he do community work with offenders in prison?

Jose Mourinho is being investigated for allegedly punching a Man Utd. fan. Isn’t that what everyone does to a Man Utd. fan?