Thursday, 31 December 2015

Hydroelectric Pensioners

If we're going to get more winters like this, with torrential rain and widespread flooding, perhaps the government should start investing in hydroelectric power to offset the drop in solar energy from cloud cover. Channel the excess water away from existing rivers toward massive hydroelectric power stations, well away from population centres. Every cloud has a silver lining!

Ref the chap who shot his wife dead because she had Alzheimers - got me wondering why we don't see a surge in pensioner crime. When you think about it, they're near the end of their lives and have little to lose by risking spending their remaining years in the clink. At least they'll get fed and be warm. The blokes who did the Hatton Garden raid were pensioners after all, and either way they were on to a winner.

We were watching Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in TV last night.  The film was filled with period style (and I use the words advisedly) music, yet at the end there was the obligatory and totally incongruous pop song over the credits. Why on earth do film makers do this?

I'm convinced we're soon to see gongs, Ks and peerages issued for services to crime. There's hardly an area of human activity remaining where they're not issued. Some would say that giving Ks and peerages for large party donations is tantamount to rewarding crime anyway.

Reverting to the Hatton Gardens mob, how would you describe them? Bank robbers, burglars, or what? Technically, it wasn't a bank that was raided. Technically, burglary is related to the home. Technically, robbery is perpetrated against a person. More importantly, should the raiders be knighted?

Happy 2016 to my three readers! For those partaking in Dry January - WHY?

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Fiddling While Rome Burns

The Daily Mail is doing its usual thing of trying to whip up a popular frenzy by reporting that the 3 days a week chairman of the Environment Agency is holidaying in the Caribbean while the North is flooded out. The DM obviously misunderstands the roles and responsibilities of the CEO and the chairman. Naturally enough, the DM readership is equally ignorant.

In any case, I have no idea, and I doubt the EA does too, what anyone can do when the situation is unprecedented. Sounds very much like scapegoating to me. There are aesthetic benefits of living next to a river, but unfortunately there are always dangers too.

The Netherlands has addressed higher and higher river levels by giving space over to floodplains, rather than building higher and higher dykes, which they realise are ineffective. The appetite for that in the UK though is negligible, especially when so many houses have been built on floodplains.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Malrborough Lemmy

Lemmy dead? Unbelievable! He should have died decades ago.

Went to Marlborough yesterday to see the church of St John the Baptist at Mildenhall, a church interior that John Betjeman called the most beautiful in England (photos to follow). Unfortunately it was locked - a sad indictment of our times. On the way there we went past Silbury Hill, an Iron Age barrow on the A4:

I tried to snap a monument on a hill on the other side of the road, but it was too far away. Not sure what it commemorates, probably the mass genocide of a tribe of fuzzy-wuzzies in some God-forsaken part of the Sudan during the mid 1800s by a colonel Blimp.

Marlborough is a beautiful town in Wiltshire with stunning architecture and wonderful charity shops where everything is designer label and consequently three times the price of items in normal charity shops. I dare say you could bag a brace of 2nd hand Purdey shotguns in a charity shop there. Hay loves it for buying 2nd hand clothes and always manages to come back with some chic item that would cost several hundred pounds if brand new.

Most people in the town centre seemed to wear a uniform comprising the clothes townies think country people wear - flimsy, expensive, designer countrywear in the manner of 'London barrister goes country'. Lots of yellows, salmon pinks, pea greens, flat caps, Hunters, Rupert the Bear waistcoats - the kind of clobber that makes you look 20 years older than you are and is totally unsuited to life in the country (if you really do live in the country, everything you wear should be the colour of grass or mud, inherited from your father, repaired countless times and yet still falling apart). I was wearing my shorts and mucky topsiders (the ones Hay has been trying to throw out for the last 6 months). I said to Hay that I felt a slob by comparison - she retorted that I'd look a slob in Bootle.

There's a shop there that sells all this faux country clothing which is filled to the brim with Waitrose shoppers who drive 4x4s and must live in the middle of London during the week. Had to snap this sign on a Christmas tree in the shop:

Like a red rag to a bull! Well, being a bloke I just had to check.

Hay hates going round shops with me, accusing me of autistically barging past people and loudly denouncing, in a parsimonious northern manner, the exorbitant prices of wares in various emporia. She says she's going to develop a perfume called Badger Away that she can spray in my face and force me to go outside (I have an allergy to most women's perfumes and gasp for breath like an old steam train when exposed to them).

Here are the pictured of the church. As it was closed, the interior shots had to be taken through the windows, which were rather mucky:

Almost makes me want to be religious - if it wasn't for all the superstitious nonsense that goes with it.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Marking Reinvented Gods

Methinks it's about time we countered all this ISIS barbarity with a back to basics campaign on religion.

The Christian religion is simply too wishy-washy and filled with 'love thy neighbour' and 'turn the other cheek', which frightens no-one, especially not a hardened jihadi who is intent on severing your head from your body. Sadly, Christianity gave up on burnings and disembowelment many centuries ago, and I don't think today's crop of Christians are too eager to return there, except perhaps the fundies - but they're mad a hatters anyway.

No - we need to go back a few thousand years and get in touch with our ancestral, Norse, pagan gods; blood-and-guts gods that demand human sacrifice and get you all worked up into a berserker frenzy of wanton killing; gods with human foibles and with whom we can relate on a day-to-day basis; gods who revel in war - the bloodier the better; gods that frighten the hell out of yourself as well as the enemy. Hay thinks I've been watching too much of the TV series Vikings.

We were watching Countryfile yesterday and one of the presenters was showing us how rams carry an inked pad on their chests that rubs off on the ewes once they're mated. Hay suggested she should put a crayon on my chest so she'd know whether I'd been putting it about a bit in the village.

Sunday, 27 December 2015


Overheard at Hay's dad's:

Hay: "Research has shown that a brisk walk every day extends your life by seven years."

Hay's Dada: "Not if you choose to do it on the M4."

Made it to today in shorts with yesterday being particularly balmy. People in the local shopping centre looked at me as if I was an escaped lunatic.

Champagne, indeed any sparkling white wine normally disagrees with me and therefore I steer well clear of it. On Christmas Day I was persuaded to partake of a glass of Bucks Fizz at breakfast and within 30 minutes I regretted it. It felt like someone had inflated a balloon just under my ribs and it lasted well into the afternoon. A glass of Andrews before Christmas dinner, several burps and quite a few botty burps neutralised the effect, but the residue of the wind, mixed with the aroma of decomposing sprouts in my gut, plagued the assembled guests for the rest of the day.

Lesson learned - no more champagne for me. Told Hay to slap me if ever she sees me drinking the disgusting stuff again.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

The Crusading Van Bergens of Old Sodbury

I detest The Sound of Music, but for some inexplicable reason Hay decided to watch the true story of the Von Trapp family on TV yesterday, and what a bunch of screw-ups they were. Maria Von Trapp was a domineering, religious fanatic with a Messiah complex who destroyed the lives of her kids. Got me thinking if I could get my kids together and reform the Singing Van Bergen Family of Old Sodbury. Perhaps not.

Hay happened to video me while I was watching the programme with focused attention. You have to turn up the sound to hear the programme.

We watched the Carols from Kings Bollege Bambridge yesterday. We were wondering what happens to the boy sopranos when their voices drop. I suppose they give them a dog and a few copies of the Big Issue and send then out on the streets.

Reading what Justin Welby and the Pope have been saying about ISIS, I wonder if another crusade is in the offing. Herod was much misunderstood - how would you react if you were told you were going to be deposed by a toddler?

Someone has come up with a theory that Putin was behind the bombing of the Russian jet so as to justify hitting Syria hard. I wouldn't put it past him - it's a bit like the theory that the Daily Mail was behind the Tunisia and Sharm attacks to bring down the price of holidays.

Christmas is such a wonderful time. Just going into the new temples is a joyous experience; the vaulted gothic ceilings of Tesco, the Romanesque Lidl aisles and the Rococo beauty of a Sainsbury's checkout. If only Buonarotti was a live today to decorate them.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Statuesque Palestinian Spoilers


Hay: "When are you going to take the recycling out? You've walked past the box 4 times already."

Chairman: "I'm sorry, my psychic gene is malfunctioning. As you put the recycling box by the door, my entirely logical assumption was that you were going to take it out when it stops pissing down with rain. Perhaps I should try the same strategy in spring and just put the mower on the garden in the hope you'll mow the lawn." 

I do wish the BBC news would stop printing spoilers about the Queen's Christmas Speech.

I hear it's illegal to celebrate Christmas in Brunei. Wonder if it's illegal to celebrate Yule? When you think of it, 90% of what we do is pagan and not Christian - the tree, the holly, the giving of presents, the stuffing of ourselves, etc.

Cecil Rhodes is causing some consternation among wrong-headed, revisionist university radicals. If his statue is to be removed, then it logically follows that virtually every statue in the UK should be removed:
  • William the Conqueror - foreign bastard who came over here taking all our aristocracy jobs,
  • Winston Churchill - a vociferous racist who sanctioned the bombing of Dresden,
  • William Wilberforce - an anti-slaver who wanted to convert all the Hindus to Christianity,
  • Lord Nelson - very anti-French and a womaniser,
  • Duke of Wellington - vociferous womaniser who treated his wife abominably,
  • Cromwell - anti-monarchist and the architect of draconian Irish suppression,
  • George I - couldn't even speak English,
  • Richard I - Islamophobe,
  • Robin Hood and Hereward the Wake - terrorists,
  • Countless bishops - profited from the slave trade and owned plantations.
The list is endless.

While you'd expect university students to be a bit on the clever side of the intelligence Poisson curve, this is shows just how much they are lacking in essential wisdom and plain common sense. I'd love to delve into these students' antecedents and see how many of their grandparents or great-grandparents were racist, homophobic or sexist. I'd wager just about every one of them would tick all three boxes.

Heard something on the news yesterday about indiscriminate Palestinian attacks on Israelis. The Israelis blamed it on incitement by Palestinian leaders; Palestinians blamed it on continually frustrated peace efforts on their part. I guess they mean such peace efforts as Hamas demanding the complete elimination of Israel and sending the occasional hail of home-made missiles into Israeli territory, the latter of which is the usual precursor to kerfuffles between Palestinians and Israelis.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Pass the Rover Parcel - Hic

Hay's dad's forte is not parcel wrapping. He adheres to the utility theory of wrapping; if it's going to be thrown away anyway, then why bother making it all fancy?

The news has been filled the last couple of days with stories about an upsurge in cases of alcoholic poisoning, but there seems no effort on the part of our government in finding out who the hell is putting this poison in our alcohol, especially with it being Christmas and so many of us about to partake of this particular medicine. Could it be an ISIS plot?

We were watching an old episode of Endeavour last night, which had a 1960s Rover P6 police car. Now did the police have the 2000TC or the 3.5L Buick V8? I strongly suspect the latter (makes more sense in a police car), but I can't find a definitive answer.

Just in case I run out of thoughts tomorrow, a Merry Brianmas and a Happy New Year to all those with not enough to do (and hence reading this drivel - possibly while sat in their office and watching the clock).

A parting thought - if Buddhists are so enlightened, why has there never been a female Dalai Lama?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Mods & Rockers

Apropos of yesterday's suggestion of a publicly funded UK newspaper that has nothing but unbiased news, we could call it the British News Paper, or the BNP. Oh, perhaps not!

I wonder what Chris Rea is doing at the moment?

Gave up on the idea of modding the Spitfire rocker cover with an oak plinth and mounted it above one of the downstairs doors:

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Bread, Circuses and Christmas TV

Prime time Christmas Eve TV on Channel 4 and what are we presented with? - an hour of bloody Jamie Oliver showing you how to cook your Christmas dinner. A bit damned late if you haven't got it organised by then! 

The promise was that more TV channels would give us more choice. The only problem is that choice is between dire TV and absolutely abysmal TV, especially on the channels funded by advertising. The same advertising budget is now spread among a plethora of TV stations, leading them all to chase the lowest common denominator - programmes that are cheap to make and appeal to the terminally dull and the brain dead for whom the apogee of aspiration is for their children to appear on X Factor. Most would be perfectly happy being entertained by the old BBC transmission test card. It's said the UK population is being dumbed down - it's been lobotomised!

It's not interesting, it's not informative and it certainly isn't entertaining. Bread and circuses - although even that reference would be lost on most TV watchers. If there's one, cogent argument for keeping the UK TV licence fee, it's commercial TV. In fact, there's an argument for a national newspaper licence to fund a decent newspaper that reports news, rather than celebrity gossip.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Crowdfunded Rivers of Tree

Hay decided to to the "tree" over the weekend using her upcycled eBay mannequin that's been languishing upstairs for a couple of years (thanks for the concept, Lizzie Huxtable. Lizzie is the wife of an old school friend from the late 60s).

Bits from an old, fake Christmas tree (I would have preferred some real tree fronds, but it's an austerity Christmas this year), some lights, a few peacock feathers, droplets from an old chandelier, some baubles and some of Hay's clothing.

Here's the build process from Saturday to Sunday:

Then yesterday she deconstructed it and did a rebuild, replacing the pashmina with some red velvet:

I wonder if we can get crowdfunding for next year's Christmas?

It's my turn next year, so I'll try to come up with a concept based on the old rotovator...

We went out to dinner on Saturday night. The couple at the next table had brought their four children; one was called Shannon (another was called Mallory). I wonder why people name their kids after rivers but seem to avoid perfectly nice names like Parrett, Mersey, Ribble or Ouse.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Mother Sunlight

In the last week, measured Saturday to Saturday and as per the solar panels, we experienced the least sunlight since moving into the house in April 2013. Click to enlarge the image below and inspect the yellow area. We generated only 4.88 KWh for the week.

Given we haven't yet reached the solstice, the coming week could again break the record. Might see the resurgence of rickets in school kids from the lower socio-economic stratum. I remember when in the 60s we used to sit in front of sunlamps once a week for 20 minutes in our underwear in primary school.

Hay took some white wine vinegar out of the cupboard yesterday to make some poached eggs for breakfast (a bit of vinegar in the poaching water helps the egg bind to itself) and was horrified at what she saw. It was like some amoebic jellyfish:

I had to explain that this was the holy grail of vinegar makers, a clump of acetobacter - or a vinegar mother - and is highly sought after. Just get some really cheap red or white wine (or even cider) - the dregs from the night before perhaps, add some to the mother with a bit of water and keep 'feeding it' on a weekly basis. It's a bit like making a sourdough starter, but takes around 10 weeks. Here are some instructions.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Secret Santa

Solar powered Secret Santa present:

Friday, 18 December 2015

Nut Screws and Bolts

Bought myself a basic metal detector on eBay. It was delivered yesterday and am now hunting for the Old Sodbury hoard. This will give me hours of fun in the rain and wind, but the only things I'm finding are rusty nails, washers and bolts.

The boys in the cabin have invited us to their Christmas Office Lunch at the pub up the road today as a way of saying thanks. I think it's we who should be thanking them for all the free humanure compost.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Short, Honest John

Still in my shorts. It's increasingly looking like rig of the day at Christmas will be shorts too.

I listened to John Major talking about Europe and the referendum yesterday. At last a voice or reason from a politician. I always liked and respected John Major, but he was ill served by those around him. He's one of the few people you could call an honest politician.

Screaming, tantruming kids in supermarkets. Give their mums a break this Christmas - you never know, they may just be trying the 'ignore strategy' in the hope the kid gives up.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Christmas Stilton & Red Cabbage

I prepared my Christmas Stilton yesterday. You need an empty Long Clawson Stilton pot and a full pot, which can be bought from Lidl for just under £4. I know it's expensive, but it's simply the yummiest Stilton around, despite being made from pasteurised milk - very umami. Also buy a couple of crappy Stiltons from Lidl - the Valley Spire stuff is adequate. Now empty the Long Clawson jar, leaving a bit in the bottom of it, then put some of the scooped out Long Clawson in the bottom of the empty jar. Slice up the Valley Spire Stilton and share it between the two Long Clawson pots, putting the remaining Long Clawson Stilton on top. Leave for a week (out of the fridge) and you'll end up with a couple of delicious pots of creamy Stilton.

I'll be doing my Dutch red cabbage later this week. A whole red cabbage, sliced thinly, a couple of medium onions, also sliced thinly, two or three apples, sliced thinly. Alternate layers in a slow cooker, add some red wine vinegar (a couple of good sloshes), some brown sugar (about a tablespoon of dark Muscavado), a few cloves (or ground cloves), cinnamon, nutmeg, a few bay leaves and a big dollop of butter. Slow cook for at least 12 hours on low, adding some sultanas in the last 4 hours. Add more vinegar, sugar or spices to adjust the taste, but you should end up with Christmas in a pot. If there's too much liquid, boil it down and add a bit of cornflour so it coats a spoon and makes the cabbage glossy.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Pheasant Prayers

A big, plump pheasant has adopted our garden and has been hanging around for a couple of weeks now. He's far too big to be worried about the cats, but I suspect he's an alcoholic. It appears to me that what's attracting him to our place is all the apples lying on the floor, which are gently rotting and turning into cider.

I spotted this image on Facebook over the weekend:

It appears to be taken in the aftermath of one of the WWII amphibious landings - either Anzio or Normandy, but given the image shows American soldiers taking communion on what I presume is a Sunday, it can only be Anzio, as they occurred on a Saturday, whereas Normandy was on a Tuesday. Only an educated guess.

It's a pretty powerful image, but it also shows (to me at least) the futility of religion. No doubt the soldiers are giving thanks for a safe deliverance from the storming of the beach, but what about all those who died in the landings? Luck is the only thing that saves you in a battle such as this, and praying to God is like giving him thanks that the sun comes up each morning - no amount of praying will ever have an effect on it whatsoever.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Fitness Trackers

I just hope no-one buys me one of these newfangled fitness tracker watches for Christmas. I wear my dad's Omega Seamaster self-winding watch, which he bought in the 1950s or 1960s - every couple of days I have to take it off and give it a good shake, as in the normal course of events I don't even do enough moving around to enable it to stay wound up.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

A Grievance of Humanure

What's the collective pronoun for a group of menopausal women? At the Christmas party we went to on Friday evening, it was suggested by one wag that it should be a 'grievance'. 

Hay emptied the composting loo in the cabin yesterday - this is 3 months' worth of humanure:

It minged a bit, but nowhere near what I was expecting. It has been tipped into a composting bin in the garden to rot down completely, ready for spreading on the bushes and flowers next spring.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Happy Holidays, Kriss

A lot of people are getting very upset about the seasonal greeting of 'Happy Holidays', maintaining that this is a Christian country and the correct expression is Merry Christmas. We'll leave alone the fact that Christmas now seems to extend from mid October to February, but personally I couldn't care less what people call it.

Times change, as do traditions. It used to be called Yule and also Saturnalia, just as Easter was once the festival of Eostre. Christians merely superimposed their newfangled festivals on pre-existing ones - it was much easier than trying to set up new holidays, especially when you were a bit hazy about the dates. That said, I'm certain most would not have complained about having some additional days off work; mind you, that wouldn't have gone down too well with the feudal landlords or the church, which was also a very large landlord.

As for this being a Christian country, recent surveys have disproven than. Less than 50% now identify themselves as Christian (still a sizeable section of the population, but in terminal decline), yet only 6% are regular churchgoers.

Then there are those who maintain our laws are based on the 10 Commandments. Which ones - Exodus or Deuteronomy? I don't know when we last stoned adulterers or jailed people for coveting, but the principles espoused by Jesus were being taught by Buddha some 500 years before Christ even appeared on the scene.

Imagine a conversation in the year 350AD:

Druid No.1: "What's this new greeting people are using for Yule - Merry Christmas?"

Druid No.2: "I know. This land has been pagan for 4,000 years and then these bloody immigrant Romans bring in a new tradition. Disgusting!"

Druis No1: "I wouldn't mind so much, but it was only a couple of hundred years ago they brought in those other gods - Jupiter, Neptune and the others. Can't they make their minds up? Have they no respect for tradition?"

Druid No. 2: "You mark my words - it'll be those damned Saxons from over the water next. I hear they're having some economic problems and want to migrate. Coming here, taking all our jobs!"

Humans have an innate desire to keep things as they are - to surround themselves with like-minded people, to treat their house as their castle, harking back to halcyon days (which were anything but halcyon). This need to keep things fixed and immovable could also be the root of the belief in an afterlife where you just exist in an unchanging environment, meet up with old buddies and perpetually yarn about the good old days forever. Oh, and moan about the influx of new souls (I don't doubt that if heaven does exist that there will be Muslims, Poles and what-have-you there) who want to change everything and destabilise the status quo. Status Quo - I mean the rock band - an apt analogy; the same old stuff.

I wonder if heaven has a special section reserved just for people who lived in Old Sodbury and were born in the mid 1950s? That truly would be heaven, but only if they were from a certain socio-economic stratum and went to public school...

Talking of Christmas, we managed to get through our Christmas card list yesterday and posted them all off. I thought about selecting a few addresses at random from Google Maps and just sending the people at those addresses a Christmas card saying: "I don't know you; you don't know me, but I thought I'd send you a Christmas greeting." Might just do it, but locally and closer to Christmas.

While doing the cards, I wrote one for Chris, our postie. Hay informed me his name was Stu, not Chris. Now I've been calling him Chris all year and he hasn't gainsaid it once. In fact, it was Hay who told me it was Chris, but apparently she was thinking of the previous postie. Anyway, problem sorted - gave him his card and told him that he might have been confused about me calling him Chris all the time, but, as he could gather from my Dutch surname, I hail from across the water where the word 'kriss' is a familiar term, like 'mate'. Not sure if the bought it...

As for the correct seasonal greeting - you call it what you want to call it and I'll call it what I want to call it. Problem solved!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Early Christmas Present for Katie

I've changed by mind about Donald Trump - he really is stupid. I heard he called Katie Hopkins a 'respected columnist'.

A year ago I purchased a WWII Spitfire Griffon engine rocker cover. It was in a pretty bad state and actually contained body filler to give the impression of it being in a reasonable condition - the filler was hidden under paint. I din't have much hope of being able to restore it.

I took it to the guy who fabricated our humungous cooker hood (and a few other stainless steel objects around the house) to see what he could do with it. It's taken him a year (in between his proper jobs) and this is the result:

It's by no means perfect and is pitted all over, but it's good enough for me as a decorative piece for the house.

Being made of aluminium there was no practical way of him smoothing out the pitting without the possibility of ruining it completely. Added to that, oil had seeped deep into the pitting, making it difficult to get paint to adhere without bubbling in places when in the oven. Anyway, he persevered with a powder coating. He was somewhat embarrassed about charging me for the work due to it taking so long and not being perfect, but we'd agreed on £50 and so that's what I paid him. Well worth the result, if you ask me.

Now to mount it on a nice piece of oak and find a suitable space for it on the wall somewhere.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Social Networks

People complain that other people constantly have their faces buried in their mobile phones. However, isn't it just an extension of the fact that we're a social species?

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Definitions of Train Timetabling

I was listening with half an ear to the radio yesterday morning when there was a discussion on terrorism in the light of the Leytonstone knifing. The discussion centred on whether it was an act or terrorism, a hate crime or a knife crime.

Terrorism is a difficult thing to define; it's a bit like art - we all recognise it, but it generally defies accurate definition, as one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.

I've heard it described as 'the use of violence in achieving a political objective', which sounds a lot like Clausewitz's definition of war - a continuation of politics by other means. You could add the tag, 'within the context of a democratically elected government', but then what about violence against the population of a totalitarian regime, whether it be by that totalitarian regime itself or a subsection of the population against the rest of the population, who themselves are powerless to effect change?

I've thought of a new definition for the pursuit of power through a cynical appeal to the lowest common denominator: Trumping. I can't believe Donald Trump is a stupid man; what he is is an arch manipulator - a demagogue. Some people are easily led and you only have to read the comments sections of the on-line version of the Daily Mail to realise that.

Tyson Fury (yes, it's actually his real name); should he be deleted as a BBC Sports Personality of the Year list? It's a bit offering Hitler a prize for making the trains run on time.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Flood Christmas

That's the Christmas presents wrapped - the three households in the family kampong all conspired to limit ourselves to a tenner a head this year to prevent present envy and simplify matters. Hay has started planning the Christmas 'tree'. Most of the Christmas food has been bought and anything with a use-by date of before the 26th is in the freezer. We all agree we hate Christmas with the exception of the social aspect. TV is at an all-time nadir, the shops will be zoos and all forms of transport will be a nightmare. 

I wonder if the floods are a Godsend to certain sections of the population and parliament - flood defence barriers can be erected all over the country, doubling up as anti-migrant barriers. 

Monday, 7 December 2015

Leytonstone Extension

I find it incredulous, but not at all surprising, that the popular right wing press translate a 3 inch knife used at the Leytonstone stabbing incident into a machete. That's not to say a 3 inch knife isn't dangerous, but it shows the hideously poor standard of reporting these days.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Christmas Shoes, Sheds & Shorts

Hay is desperate to get me to throw out an old pair of shoes, which I am resisting to the best of my ability.

You can possibly see her point, but they're comfortable and great for knocking about in around the garden.

Called in at our High Street charity shop yesterday and was sorely tempted by this, purely for the nostalgia value.

Santa has set up his shed in the High Street too:

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I'd ditched the shorts and was back in long trousers for winter. Things changed within 24 hours though and I went back into shorts again. I'm seriously thinking I'll be wearing them on Christmas Day, along with my comfortable and battered old shoes.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Spartacus Consequences

No - I'm Sir Lenny Henry!

Cut through all the complexity of who is fighting who in the Middle East and you end up with Muslims of all persuasions basically saying; "Stay the hell out of our affairs, or you'll regret it." What do our governments do? They get deeply involved and weigh in. 

Friday, 4 December 2015

It'll Be Over by Christmas

Have we won the war against ISIS yet? I do hope it's over soon, as it's reckoned that just one sortie by one aircraft costs a just tad over £1m.

Seems it will add up to a helluva lot of money when you realise that the terrorist network being attacked is global, is funded globally and obtains its weaponry globally (or from the local chemist shop).

Time to buy shares in defence contractors, methinks. They've been having a tough time of late with lots of lay-offs due to defence budget cuts. Just saying....

Anyone know who's leading the Lib-Dems these days?

Spotted this on Facebook today - very amusing. An old people's home of the future.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Syrian Bombing of Zenda

Decision day on the bombing of Syria.

I do hope the MPs consider this carefully. Personally, and for reasons I've articulated before, I'm against it. For the purpose of clarity I'll reiterate them:

  1. Bombing is indiscriminate - civilians will die as a result. Anyone who nay-says that is not on the same planet.
  2. Bombing on its own will achieve nothing lasting - that requires boots on the ground and there seem to be no plans for that, or indeed anything else. 
Consequently, the bombing proposal smacks more of knee-jerk revenge and populism than part of a calculated strategy and will definitely make the UK a target for some reprisal on the part of ISIS as well as making things worse in Syria.

Additionally I keep imagining this conversation between David Cameron and a Syrian citizen (not one affiliated to ISIS).

Cameron: "We're going to help you by bombing the shit out of your country."

Syrian: "But that means I risk being killed by your bombs. Can I come to your country while you're doing this?"

Cameron: "No!"

Just finished reading the books 'The Prisoner of Zenda' and 'Rupert of Hentzau' by Anthony Hope. What ripping yarns from the old tradition. Loved every minute of them and recommend them to anyone. Got them in a Readers' Digest anthology from eBay for £6. Perfect for a BBC costume drama series.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Fat Olympic Kitty

Kitty went to the vet on Saturday for her annual worming (it's prescription only and this necessitated a face-to-face) and was found to be a bit obese - something I've been saying for months but about which Hay has been in denial. This called for a new dietary regime - the vet advocated reducing the amount of meat-based cat food and supplementing it with guinea-pig food, which is predominantly bulk, claiming the benefits of its success with other moggies.

It was my turn to feed her yesterday and when she came to me miaowing at lunchtime I dutifully offered her a handful of guinea-pig crunchies. Her look was priceless - it was as if she was saying; "This crap doesn't fool me one bit, I'm not a guinea-pig, where's my bloody meat?" Needless to say, she never touched it.

The Chairman hears that the Old Sodbury Parish Council has followed Hamburg's lead and said 'No' to the 2024 Olympics. Can't say I blame them.

Monday, 30 November 2015

The 42 Days of Christmas Plumbing

It's bloody Cyber Monday now!

TV is riddled with Christmas adverts and Christmas themed films; during our Sunday walk we noticed several houses having already erected their fake Christmas trees; the Sunday supplements are littered with Christmas food ideas. When, I ask myself, is the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' going to be rewritten as 'The Forty-two Days of Christmas'? I'm fully expecting to see a Christmas Bruce Lee film retitled 'The Way of the Pudding'.

Talking of plum pudding, spotted an advert on TV the other day for an outfit called Victorian Plumbing. Not a name I'd choose myself - it conjures up images of lead piping, cesspits and antiquated sanitary arrangements. Their marketing department needs putting against a wall and shooting. All this Christmas business when it's still November is obviously making me channel my inner fascist. Might go and get a copy of the Daily Mail...

Overheard while Hay is giving the Chairman a hug:

Hay: "Oooh, I just caught a whiff of my old uncle Pops about you!"

Chairman: "Did he smell of stale urine and Germolene too then?"

Hay: "No - styptic pencil, Lifebuoy Soap and pigeon lofts."

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Overheard at the Surgery

The Chairman is getting his annual flu jab at the surgery. After administering the jab, the nurse asks:

Nurse: "Do you have any problems balancing - do you fall over?"

Chairman: "No."

Nurse: "Memory problems?"

Chairman: "No."

When leaving the car park:

Hay: "Where are the car keys?"

Chairman: "How would I know?"

Hay: "Because I gave them to you not 5 minutes ago!"

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Overheard Sham

Overheard during the news:

Hay: "Is Hilary Benn still an MP? You don't hear much of him."

Chairman: "Why shouldn't he be? Just because his father was high profile, it doesn't mean to say he has to be; my old man was a nice bloke, it doesn't follow that I'm necessarily a nice bloke."

Hay: "Very true."

Apparently, last week the head of the BBC rejected calls to drop the use of the term ‘Islamic State’ in reports and using 'Daesh' instead, saying that the BBC must be fair to Isis in its coverage of the terrorist group. 

Fair? Give me strength - the BBC's policy of presenting all sides with 'fairness' has meant every crack-pot notion from the MMR scare to lemon juice cures cancer gets the air of publicity and legitimacy. What happened to common sense? There are times when bias is actually necessary, and those times are when facts are questioned.

Daesh stands for Dawlat al-Islamiyah f'al-Iraq wa al-Sham - their own name for themselves. Perhaps we should just call them Sham.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Eye of God Drone - The Verdict


Got the replacement bits for the Eye of God drone the day before yesterday and had another go at flying it. Here's my pre-Christmas verdict:

Nice to look at and a reasonable price, but some very basic design flaws; 

1. The landing skids are black and just four sticks - this means they are extremely difficult to find if they drop off (which they do at every conceivable opportunity), especially if they stick into soft ground and become detached. They should be a different colour (as should the underside of the unit) and made into two pairs with runners, rather than four individual sticks. I painted mine red after spending more time hunting for detached skids than flying the unit. 

2. If you switch off the control the rotors keep turning for at least 4 seconds, resulting in numerous fly-aways if radio contact is lost. I lost mine for 24 hours on the 2nd test flight. Managed to locate it at dusk as the LEDs were still flashing weakly. 

3. Range is reasonably good - further than my Syma X5C. 

4. Insufficient charging cables - you can only charge one battery at a time. Of the two USB cables supplied, one was faulty and didn't charge the screen and camera. Also everything that needs charging has a different connection - bad design - they should all have the same connector. Also, the two chargers supplied work in opposite ways; on one the LED lights up when the battery is charged, on the other it goes out when the battery is charged - illogical. 

5. On my  unit the FPV screen was installed upside down. Easy enough to rectify, but not what you'd expect from Quality Control. 

6. One Key Return is pretty basic, but what you'd expect when you realise the drone doesn't have GPS. If you change the orientation in flight, it won't return to you - it just flies backward from the orientation it's in. 

7. Camera is narrow lens, making FPV very difficult. Its main use is finding the damned thing after a fly-away - you at least have an idea where it is - like this from yesterday.

8. The LEDs on the unit are so bright that you can't see the on-off switches on the unit or the camera properly. They don't need to be so powerful, but I guess it's good for night flying. It could, however, be my early-stage cataracts that are diffusing the LEDs and blinding me.

9. The instruction manual is almost completely unintelligible (Chinese and English, with the English being very, very badly translated - probably by a computer). No instructions for One Key Return, or several other key features. 

10. Be careful when removing the rotors - there's a washer that falls out and you could lose it easily. Also, the rotor is held on by a grub screw in the side of the shaft (rather than through the top), which has to be seated exactly, but blind, as you can't see the hole in the shaft when the rotor goes over it and there's a lot of vertical play. Took me 10 minutes to get it back on. 

11. Be careful when removing a motor - don't take it out if you just want to inspect it, as the process needs a good tug, which is enough to part the wires. Use pliers on the body of the motor, if you can, rather than pulling on the thin wires. 

12. The motors are remarkably fragile and in just 3 days I managed to trash 2, simply by the rotor being stopped by an object (the Syma's motors are much more robust). Fitting the rotor guards is a MUST if you don't want to damage the motors on the first flight.

13. Because the charge point on the camera is so tiny, it's very easy to insert the charge connector upside down, which will kill the battery, and the battery is not removable unless you open the camera and unsolder it. 

14. Every attachment has such a flimsy connection to the main unit that the whole thing just falls apart on anything other than a perfect landing - the battery case, the skids, the rotor guards, etc. Some parts simply fall off with no encouragement.

15. Flying the beast is almost impossible. The speed in each direction is dramatically different and losing control is very simple. Same goes for up and down - up is bloody fast, whereas it can be difficult to get the damned thing to land. Nowhere near as controllable as the Syma X5C, which I can just chuck around in the sky with abandon.

All-in-all it seems a bit rushed in order to get it to market before Christmas. I would not give this to a small child as a present - it would be the quickest was to lose £70. Definitely a Dad Toy.

One tip - write your mobile phone number on it in marker pen before you first fly it, as I guarantee you'll end up with a fly-away. 

Another tip is to buy a couple of spare batteries for the drone itself and the screen. You might also want to buy a spare camera battery in case of failure, but you'll need to do some soldering to remove the old one and replace it. 

Good customer service though - they have been most helpful in ironing out some issues and sending me parts that were faulty. The main problem is the shipping delay due to the manufacturer being in China. No doubt someone will start stocking them here - and hopefully with the issues ironed out.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

High Castle Tenancy Scam for Birds

Idly looking into the middle distance of the garden yesterday I spotted a green woodpecker, a chaffinch, a wren, a robin, a fieldfare and the ever-present gaggle of magpies, jackdaws and blackbirds. We have quite a diversity of wild birds here.

Following my plan to move into consultancy, I have received two phone calls within two days from some scam outfit wanting to assist me with regards to the change of tenancy on my business premises, specifically with the electricity supply. The fact I work from home and have lived here for 3 years seems to be lost on them. These people obviously trawl Linked-In for new business pages and then target the owners with offers of unnecessary help, for which they charge a fortune.

Despite it being notoriously difficult to unsubscribe from, Hay has persuaded me to sign up for Amazon Prime for the trial 30 days. I was swung by the availability of Doc Martin, which I only discovered for the first time (purely by accident) a week ago on ITV3. We're now busy going through all the series (currently halfway through Series 2). It's not at all what I imagined it to be and I find it very amusing. Hay loves it as she spends most of the time doing diagnoses of the cast's illnesses (with a 100% hit rate so far). Hay's desire to subscribe was based on the availability of 'The Man in The High Castle' by Philip K. Dick, who wrote 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - aka Blade Runner, although I'm starting to lose interest, as the characters are gross caricatures.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Kitty Stardom

I simply can't understand why yesterday's video of Kitty didn't go viral. What more do you have to do other than just videoing your cat?

Seems we're less likely now to be threatened by ISIS than by being threatened by a nuke from Putin. It seems his strategy of feigning an alliance with the West and then purposely goading the most volatile member of NATO (and one that should never have been a member anyway) is working. The seeds of dissent having been sown, the possible expulsion of Turkey from NATO as a consequence looks to be on the cards. Scrap Trident? I don't think so!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Kitty Pudding Action Video

Given all the cat Tweets in Belgium, I thought I'd offer up an action video of Kitty:

OK, not much action going on today.

Boffins have managed to quantum entangle particles at room temperature. It's about time they focused on something more impressive, like cooking a Christmas pudding or turkey at room temperature.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Say a Little Prayer

Digital Cinema Media has refused to screen an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer. The reason given was that DCM thought it has the potential to upset some cinemagoers of a different faith, or no faith at all, and because of that they have a blanket policy of showing no religious adverts. In that way they are treating all faiths the same and not discriminating. The Church is a bit upset.
  1. The advert was to be shown before the new Star Wars film, which itself is a film about the Jedi religion! Double standards?
  2. The advert in question is for prayer - surely that would bring the church into conflict with the Advertising Standards Authority? Imagine if everyone started advertising woo-woo!
  3. Had the advert been on behalf of Islam, then I'm certain there would have been uproar (probably from the Christian element).
  4. It could set off an advertising war between faiths with the result that we are all bombarded with proselytising religious adverts before watching a film at the cinema or even while watching TV. With the amount of Christian, quasi-religious advertising blatantly masquerading as consumerism on TV at the moment, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was Christmas or something!
  5. I think the Church has basically misunderstands the power of advertising. The purpose of an advert is to keep your product to the forefront of the mind of the target, who is already in a frame of mind to purchase a product you're advertising. The advert merely guides them to you product, rather than that of a competitor. Somehow I don't think people shop for religions in the way they do for cereal. There again, perhaps they do.
I think DCM have taken the right decision - just don't show any woo-woo cult adverts. The intellect can be a wonderful barrier to woo-woo and advertising.

May the Force be with you...

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Failed Videos

Well, today's offering was going to be a montage of drone videos of sunrise over a frosty Chipping Sodbury, but the video failed to record this morning when I went for the Sunday papers.

Instead, here's Chipping Sodbury on a wet morning last week from opposite ends.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


While reading the book 'Trains and Buttered Toast', a collection of John Betjaman's BBC radio broadcasts, I came across a snippet about equality, which he defined not as some Utopian, Marxist ideal where all are forced to be equal and dumbed down in everything, but equality of opportunity - what you do or don't make of the equality of opportunity is down to you.

Yesterday a friend sent me this YouTube clip, which is worth watching and says it all:

Friday, 20 November 2015

Classical Shorts

The yellow rose in our garden is still producing flowers, the crocosmia I planted in September for next year are coming up, and I'm STILL in shorts. It may all change next week though.

Classical Gas. I love it, but am I the only person who thinks it was completely ruined by the horns in the middle, which gave it a hideously kitsch quality? The start is sublime; when the orchestra comes in it sends a tingle through me; when the trombones come in it's ruined and I want to switch off. It does recover, but the damage has been done.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Faux Outrage

A comparison of two cartoons was made in the Independent. One from Nazi era Germany and the other a recent one from the Daily Mail:

I don't have to tell you which is which. However, the knee-jerkers were out in force calling for the condemnation of the Daily Mail. Much as I detest the Daily Mail, I see no problem with their cartoon - the differences between the two are stark. The only similarity is the theme of migrants and the use of rats, but the rats are being used for entirely different purposes.

Rather than seeing what's actually present in the DM cartoon, those condemning it are seeing only what they want to see so they can huff and puff with self-righteous indignation.  Their brains are firmly tuned in one direction only; to see racism in everything.

In the Nazi cartoon the borders are closed; in the DM cartoon the border is open. In the Nazi cartoon the migrants (Jews) are rats; in the DM cartoon the migrants are infiltrated by rats - the reference obviously being to terrorists, and after the Paris attack no-one can now deny that the terrorists are using the migrant/refugee path to gain re-entry. The only things missing from the DM cartoon are the suicide vests and Kalashnikovs, which the rats should be carrying. I'll grant one of the migrants is carrying what appears to be a Kalashnikov, but look at his headgear - he's an Afghan, and virtually all tribal men in Afghanistan own a rifle (did you know that in a effort to stem gun culture, the Afghan government has banned toy guns?). One is even a plutocrat, by the looks of it.

In these days of Tweets and sound bites we appear to have lost the ability to critically analyse anything in a focused manner and have the attention span of a gnat. The knee-jerk rules!

Regardless of the intent of the cartoon, is it any less offensive than the Charlie Hebdo cartoons?

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Sinister, Gung-Ho Battery Cyber-Attack

Bomb the hell out of ISIS, and what then? A Caliphate, by definition, depends on territory for legitimacy in the eyes of recruits. Boots on the ground are needed to recover territory, but what happens to the PoWs? Normally they'd just go home after a war, but what do you do with tens of thousands of stateless fanatics who can't go home and won't give up; put them in Guantanamo Bay, give them to Assad and turn a blind eye? Who gets the territory, Assad, the rebels? These are questions that need asking before we go all gung-ho. It's called setting a strategic objective and is something governments, spouting rhetoric in the rush for votes, are poor at doing.

Yesterday Hay and I were chuckling over the throw-away comment we heard in a Welsh country pub during our canal holiday. It's worth repeating - imagine a pub pundit holding court and saying to his mate, in a pronounced Welsh accent; "All these suicide bombers - I'd cut their bloody hands off. They wouldn't do it again!"

All this talk of ISIS launching cyber-attacks. Could be just the boost employment needs - get rid of all on-line services; banks, supermarkets, etc. have to start employing more people; a return to beer mat tax disks that are a visible reminder of when to renew them; cheques get lost in the post; the pace of life slows down again. Heaven!

I have two batteries for my e-cig. At any one time one of them is on charge. Yesterday I had occasion to top up with e-fluid (a strange name for a physical liquid you put into these devices; by rights it should only exist in the ether, but there you go). I uncoupled the inhaler from the battery, topped it up - and promptly forgot where I'd placed the battery. Now I always get slightly panicked when I can't find my 'dummy', but I calmly went over to my spare battery and used that. While screwing the inhaler into the spare battery I found myself muttering (somewhat gleefully); "That'll teach you to go and get lost!"

I noticed that the Duke of Cambridge is left handed when he was shown signing some book of condolence on the news last night. He had that awkward left-handed style that looks like a crab signing its signature. Can we allow a left-hander to be our king? Too sinister for words!

Thomas Knackerlaquer, the BBC weatherman, was spot on last night with storm Barney. Still can't help feeling they need to choose more dangerous sounding names for these wrecking storms.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Laksa Radicalised Cat Bouncer

I've seen quite a few Facebook posts complaining that while people here are quite prepared to overlay their Facebook profiles with Tricolores, no-one superimposed their photos with the Kenyan flag after many people died in a terrorist attack there earlier in the year.

The explanation is quite simple - most of us here know some French people; very few of us know a Kenyan. Our reactions are defined by our social circles and the impact on those social circles - something that happens in my immediate family is of far greater importance to me than something that happens to someone else's family; my extended family is more important to me than an unrelated family; ad infinitum. A perfectly natural and human reaction - the closer the epicentre, the greater the empathy; the further away, the more the empathy is diluted. We are, after all, a tribal species. I feel no guilt over it. In any case, who I empathise with is my business.

It would be an interesting social experiment to see how many Kenyan Facebook profiles are overlaid with the Tricolore. Very few, I'd wager. I suspect the motivation of the comments concerning this issue have more than a whiff of sanctimoniousness at their root. Well, either that or just trolling.

It's that time of year again - performance reviews. I've already warned Hay she's about to get her 360 degree review. She warned me she'd organise a new job for me - bouncer at an old people's home.

If you win the Postcode Lottery, do you have to share your winnings with the half dozen or so houses sharing your postcode?

We were watching one of Jamie Oliver's 15 minute meals on TV on Sunday afternoon - Thai chicken laksa. It may well have taken 15 minutes to prepare, but the shopping trip must have taken an hour and just getting the ingredients assembled must have taken another 25. You'd get Waitrose Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (a new syndrome in the DSM) just finding the ingredients.

We think the neighbour's cats, which we call Blackberry and Orange (not their real names - although what's a real cat name? I doubt they call each other by name), have become radicalised. They believe they're part of the Catiphate, as they recognise no boundaries and walk into our house like they own it. Kitty is rather nonplussed about their presence, seeing it as an incursion on her domain - she's obviously a cat that is 100% for democracy and want's tighter border controls. Whether migrants, refugees or just plain invaders, she has no truck with Blackberry and Orange.

Monday, 16 November 2015


In response to yesterday's post, a friend put the following image on my Facebook page, and I saw it again later in the day (in a different guise) on another friend's page:

The intent is to portray Islam as a religion of peace - would that it was. However, having read the Quran from cover to cover (and it's even more turgid and infinitely repetitive than the Bible), I smelled the faint whiff of apologetics and cherry-picking, although not with that intent in mind on the part of those who posted it.

You can find references aplenty, but here's what WikiIslam has to say about the quote:


This verse cannot be found in any printed copy of the Qur'an, regardless of whether or not it is in the original Arabic or in one of its many English translations. The reason for this is simple: the verse in question does not exist.

What is actually presented by apologists is a distorted, out-of-context and misleading paraphrasing of the following verse: 

On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person - unless it be in retaliation for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew all mankind: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all humanity.

Its Context:

This verse is written in past tense (Ordained, not Ordain) and clearly does not apply to Muslims but to "the Children of Israel" i.e. the Jews who, according to Islam, received an earlier set of scriptures. In fact, it is mistakenly referencing a rabbinical commentary found in the Talmud as if it were the words of Allah.

Also, when the clause which allows killing is reinserted and the passage is read in context with the following two verses directed at Muslims (notice the reference to Allah's messenger and the switch to present tense), what first appeared on the surface to be a peaceful message, is in actual fact a warning to non-believers:

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter; Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case, know that Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.


In this instance, as in many others, it is the apologists, not the skeptics, who are misinterpreting verses and quoting them out of context. A simple reading of the verse and those that surround it makes this clear. In the Islamic world, those who propagate their non-Islamic faiths or publicly criticize Islam are often harassed, imprisoned and even executed by their communities or their governments, under laws against "spreading disorder [mischief] through the land" and apostasy. 

If verse 5:32 means what some apologists claim it to mean, why are they so reluctant to quote the verse accurately rather than presenting a misleading paraphrasing of what they wished the verse had said? 

Furthermore, why are moderates unable to silence fellow Muslims on an intellectual level by using that very verse? They are unable to because their claim is false, and (as proven by the actions of many) anyone who is familiar with the Qur'an already knows this.

I make no comment but merely present the facts in context, and context is all as far as the fundamentalist fanatic is concerned, as that governs his or her actions.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Denying The Premise

People are getting on their high horses about Muslims in the wake of the Paris atrocities and tarring all Muslims with the same brush.

Let's get it straight - ISIS is comprised almost exclusively of those who have embraced a fundamentalist mindset. Not all Muslims, in fact not even a large minority are of a fundamentalist mindset. Those fleeing Muslim countries are escaping the very people who are committing the same atrocities within their own countries. Yes, when people start to migrate, for whatever reason, there will be fifth columnists within their ranks. That's a problem, but not a reason to shut the door on genuine refugees. It's a failure of the sorting procedure. Whether genuine refugees should be allowed to stay permanently is another question.

You simply can't argue with a fundamentalist, whether that's a Muslim fundamentalist, Jewsish or a Christian one from a religious perspective (they are all hateful bigots). They know their religious texts better than you and can point to every word that supports their argument - you just have to listen to Anjem Choudury to understand that; his arguments are a tour de force of infallible logic.

The classic trap is to start the argument on the believer's terms by saying; "OK, so if we accept this is the word of God...," which is the absolute 'argument from authority', and then proceed to point out where the antagonist's arguments fall down from within that predetermined perspective - that of the believer and his or her texts. That sets you on a path that's a hiding to nothing, as for every word you point out as advocating love and peace, they will point to ten that point in the opposite direction. Religious texts in the Abrahamic tradition are littered with atrocities performed by early adherents, as the religions were forged in wars against the unbelievers and spread by war.

However, for the fundamentalist's argument to hold any validity you must first accept the premise - that of their religious text being the immutable word of God, rather than the confused, subconscious ramblings of some self-righteous, self-appointed prophet with a Messiah complex. Deny that premise and the whole edifice crumbles. Ergo, you cannot argue with a fundamentalist at all if you are a believer - you're simply setting yourself up by walking into a trap. Moderate Islam, like moderate Christianity, while practiced by the vast majority, is a wishy-washy, de facto heresy, and that's what arms the fundamentalist.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Homeopathic Carcass Says it All


Hay: "Can you nip over to my dad's and ask him for that chicken carcass he has in the freezer as I'm making soup today?"

1 minute later.

Chairman:"Brian, I've come for your carcass."

Hay's Dad: "A bit premature, aren't you?

I was listening to an item on Today on Radio 4 yesterday morning about the use of NHS money on homeopathic treatments. The advocate for homeopathy stated that three of four research papers had concluded than homeopathy was not a placebo, including a recent paper by the prestigious Robertson Institute in Glasgow. I took the trouble to look up the Robertson Institute paper and here's the conclusion:

Medicines prescribed in individualised homeopathy may have small, specific treatment effects. Findings are consistent with sub-group data available in a previous ‘global’ systematic review. The low or unclear overall quality of the evidence prompts caution in interpreting the findings. New high-quality RCT research is necessary to enable more decisive interpretation.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, although he could have been being economical with the truth by obliquely inferring that the Robertson Institute's paper was the one of the four that did not support his position. Seems you can make any old statement on radio these days, claim it as irrefutable fact and get away with it without being challenged. 

Here is the most popular story from the BBC website yesterday. Says it all, really - what a shallow nation we are:

However, the stories have changed somewhat dramatically overnight! My guess is that, in a knee-jerk (but totally understandable) reaction, all European borders will be closed forthwith to any refugees/migrants, or whatever you want to call them.

A quick peek at some of the varied skies round here over the last week: