Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Christmas Number One

What have we done? What have we done? It seems that we may have killed the charts. Forgive us father for we know not what we do. We only did it because we didn't want another Karaoke Christmas number one but all we have ended up doing is giving more money to Sony BMG and, therefore, Cowell. Who, by the way, is not evil as some have claimed, he is not interesting enough for that. It is banality that ruins through his veins not the dark, slow flowing juices of Beelzebub.

What am I talking about? I am talking about the battle for this year’s Christmas number one. A strangely arbitrary obsession that used to be reserved for novelty records, like Mr Blobby or that slowed down a bit Tears for Fears cover by Gary Joules (It was Mad World by the way, how soon they forget) or Cliff Richard. The Chart is compiled from sales of singles sold in the week before Christmas and is announced my Mark Goodier (does he still do it? It’s been a while since I listened, I can’t imagine that that much has changed.) That was the way it was. It was our little, never fully explained or understood, tradition, like attempting to choke small children by slipping loose change into their Christmas pudding. That was the way it stayed for many years and we were happy with that.
Then something large and dark loomed over the horizon but it was on ITV so we ignored it. Oh the Humanity. Oh our Hubris! Now every year we have which ever easily molded dullington has won the X-factor (other Cowell produced programs are available with similar outcomes. The man has even managed to make Susan Boyle marketable, which is something I suppose. Ignored her mental health but made her marketable) is pretty much guaranteed to get to the, almost mythical, number one slot.

For the last few years there has been some light campaigning to get some other records into this position, Leonard Cohen's original of Hallelujah or, my personal favourite, We're All Gonna Die by Malcolm Middleton. This year however, the campaign has really gained some traction. It started on Facebook and then moved on to Twitter. What is this record that has been chosen to try and take on the might of a Miley/Miley Cyrus cover (say what you like about Achy Breaky Heart but at least you knew how to pronounce her dad's name)? Why, it is a 17 year old rock classic, sort of. It is Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name of. Yes! This is the record for us. Let's ignore the fact that they are on Sony BMG, the same company as the X-factor single, and let's ignore the fact that we are going to tell people to buy it despite the fact that the last 2 minutes of the record is a rather angry, foul-mouthed man with dreadlocks screaming “fuck you, I won't do what you tell me”. Despite these things, it is the record for us!

At this point I need to mention, for the sake of balance that I have encouraged people to buy this song on Twitter, sorry. I have retweeted (oh, I feel a fool saying retweeted out loud) a few messages about it. In fact I have also bought it but, in my defence, I have also bought the Tim Minchin Christmas single, White wine in the Sun, as well, so that's all right then.

So for many years Television has been able to influence/rig, you choose, the charts, especially at this time of year but now social media comes of age by being able to do exactly the same thing that irony free people were complaining about. When I looked at the Itunes chart yesterday, Rage Against the Machine were ahead in the race. Does it effect me in anyway? No of course it doesn't. I'm a 35 year old man who likes Indie music that barely charts. And maybe we haven't killed the charts, maybe we have just helped it on its way, greased the slip way if you like. The Official charts company did a pretty good job in killing it off when they changed the rules so that any single track download counted for the Top 40 (is it still called that?) rather than a song that had been released as a single. In the long run it doesn't really matter, the Christmas number one has nothing to do with music, just look at the number of best of albums clogging up the album charts, it's about Christmas presents.

RIP the Charts and Merry Christmas to everyone.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


The BBC have removed some stuff from their website because they are being sued for libel by Carter-Ruck for the oil company Trafigura. Luckily the report from Newsnight is on YouTube, so here it is,

Feel free to put this on your website or blog or, maybe link to this from Twitter.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Diana Watch

Hello, how are we all? Good I hope. Busy in the run up to Christmas? I am a bit busy so I don’t think that I have time to do any of this writing nonsense at the moment, well not the usually Sunday one any way. I don’t think that anyone will mind that much will they? We can all come back to this a fresh in the New Year. If anything funny happens or occurs to me, fear not, I will tell you, just not regularly.
If nothing else happens may I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year xx

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Diana Watch

Oh, I've done something a little rash. I am a fan of a podcast called the Pod Delusion and I thought it might be nice to get involved. So I sent in an MP3 and I am on next week’s episode. Now this is a nice thing, someone else thinks that the piece I did was funny, but I've just seen the running order for next week. Oh my, there are some serious topics and some serious people on there and I'm not one of them. Suddenly I'm not so confident. Oh well, what's done is done. It's out on Friday and is available on Itunes. Really, this isn't false modesty; I'm a bit scared now. *SPOILER ALERT* Although if you read this blog regularly you will have already read the piece I submitted, it is the thing about Co-workers with colds.

In a country were being Gay is illegal you would have thought that that countries government couldn't have made it any harder (tee hee) or unpleasant for it's, already scared, homosexual community. But wait, what's coming over the hill, is it a monster? Well yes, kind of. The Ugandan Parliament is debating a private members bill that “prescribes life imprisonment for anyone who “stimulates the sexual organs” of someone of the same sex, with the death penalty for anyone whose same-sex partner is under 18 or disabled. It would allow people to be imprisoned for failing to report an instance of homosexuality.” (quote taken from here) That's life in prison or death. Nice.
I don't think I really need to go on about why this is not the correct course of action, in my opinion, for the Ugandans because if you are reading this then you are probably a nice person. The reason given by many politicians in that country for the introduction of this bill is that they don't want their country to be westernised. That's right, they claim that being Gay is a western problem and didn't exist in their country until we turned up and ruined everything. Now I do feel bad for the way the white man, especially the English white man, used Africa as his own but I don't think that that was our fault. The slaughter of thousands of people on the continent and the rape and pillage of it's resources, yes. Garnering an interest in soft furnishing amongst some of your man folk, umm, no, that wasn't us.
The bill also threatens the sanctity on confession because it states those in authority (A priest hearing confession) who do not disclose to the police knowledge of a homosexual activity with 24 hours of learning of it could face up to 3 years in prison. Now you would have thought that the Catholic Church would be up in arms about this, after all, the Seal of the Confessional is absolute and there are no circumstances (according to Code of Canon Law 1388) were the priest can break this privacy without instant ex-communication from the Church. However it seems that the Ugandan Catholics dislike gays more than they like their own rules as that have yet to make any statement on this issue at all. Also suspiciously quiet on this issue is the Arch-bishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Despite being head of the Anglican Church and, therefore, in charge of those Christians who aren't Catholics, he has, at the time typing this, said nothing on the subject. Members of his church want to put people to death for being gay and he says nothing, which is some great moral leadership right there. And Christians try and paint atheists as moral free.
Oh, and it seems that a lot of the laws count for anal sex between Heterosexuals as well.
The reason that I'm going on about the response of the Church to this is because, well, how can I put it, umm, it was their idea. Uganda is a very religious country. Most of their politicians are religious people. It is also quite poor although doing better then many of their African neighbours. Whilst the Government is spouting anti-Western rhetoric it churches are taking millions of dollars directly from Right-Wing American Churches and Church Groups such as the rather sinister sounding, “The Family” ( I believe that that was the name of a Dr Who baddie). The Family, also known as “The Fellowship”, also seem to have the ear of the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni. They are said to have cultivated a deep relationship with him. Many members of this group and others attended a conference in Kampala earlier this year were this law and other Gay related issues were discussed. One of the people who spoke at this conference was a man called Scott Lively. He is the author of a book called “The Pink Swastika” and he blames the holocaust on gay people. So as you can see he's a nice bloke and this is the sort of person influencing the Ugandan church and their politicians. Oh dear.

So Ofcom have released the list of the top 10 most complained about television programs and it makes surprising reading. The first thing that surprised me was (despite the Daily Mails best efforts) the lack of BBC programs on the list. Only Question Time made the list and that was the one with Dick, I’m sorry, Nick Griffin on. The rest are from commercial broadcasters, as you can see,

1. The X Factor (ITV 1): 5,975
2. Big Brother (Channel 4): 1,154
3. Britain’s Got Talent (ITV 1): 708
4. Celebrity Big Brother (Channel 4): 428
5. Question Time (BBC1): 364
6. Coronation Street (ITV1): 336
7. I’m A Celebrity…. (ITV1): 217
8. FA Cup 4th Round Replay: Everton v Liverpool (ITV1): 205
9. Jeni Barnett (LBC): 195
10 Boy and Girls Alone (Channel4): 183

The second thing that struck me was how few people actually bother to complain. Yes, nearly 6000 people put in the effort to phone or email Ofcom to moan about The X Factor but after that it drops off pretty quickly. In order to make the top 10 you only need to get 183 complaints. That’s hardly trying.
I think that it is entirely possible that Ofcom may have published this list a little early. I have heard that there are going to be some very offensive programs on over the Christmas period.
The BBC are planning on showing an episode of Antiques Roadshow were Eric Knowles goes mad. He smashes the vase that he is supposed to be valuing, rips off all his clothes and runs round attempting to find tin foil for which he can fashion a protective hat.
Over on ITV they have their own controversial programs. There will be a Christmas special of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway in which Dec forces his greased up, erect penis into the unwilling arse of Ant (I don’t actually know which one is which) and the public get to vote as to whether he cums inside him or on his face. (Too much?) You will be able to buy the tie-in game for the Wii just in time for the season of giving. And there is an entire episode of The Thick of It where no one swears at all.

David Cameron has announced changes that he would like to see in health and safety legislation. He doesn't like the culture which has grown up which forces children to wear goggles to play conkers and makes trainee hairdressers use fake scissors when practising.
Whilst he has chosen some slightly silly examples (although see how quickly middle class, Mail reading parents would sue their child's school if they got a bit of conker in little Tarquin's eye) I think what this really is is an attack on important laws that protect you and me at work. Tories don't like rules and red tape that restricts the ability of business to make money, especially if they have to spend some of that profit on making sure their workers don't get killed. If you are an 18th or 19th Century Mill owner then the Tories are the party for you.
Some of their true colours are starting to stick out under the hem of the frock of social justice and environment friendly policy that they have donned in order to get themselves elected.
White Collar crime in general, not just corporate manslaughter, is not taken very seriously in this country. May I recommend the excellent Radio 4 program “Thinking Allowed” which did a very good 3 program series on white collar crime. You can download them from Itunes if you can no longer get them from the BBC website. Listen to fraudsters try and convince you that the lose of their reputation is punishment enough for stealing millions of pounds, it is shocking, the arrogance of these people.

The Award for Story I Care Least About of the Week.

Some golfist called Tiger something crashed his car. Other things may have happened. Is this what our news coverage has come too? As Paul Weller once said “The public gets what the public wants”, do you want this?

The Award for A Continuing Very Dull Argument I keep having With People,

This week a work colleague had a meeting at the new Doctors surgery in Dorchester. I passed comment on the good lookingness of the building, “oh no” she said. When I questioned her, because she is wrong, she said “it's in the wrong place, next to those old buildings”. I was going to shout at her for being a historyless doofus but was stopped by another co-worker.
I have said it before and I will say it again, at one time all buildings were new. Once the Taj Mahal was new. Once St Pauls Cathedral was new. They were built next to buildings that had been there for a while and people had got used too. And look at our new surgery anyway, it's lovely,


I know that one of my readers doesn't like it and that might explain why she moved to Canada (We miss you xx)

We're off to a naming ceremony of our friends first born now. We're not really sure what this entails but we are about to find out. My guess was smashing a bottle of champagne over the poor little mite but let's see.

Have a nice week all, I'm off to build some nice new raised beds for my allotment.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Good People

So finally I have a woman to add to my list of good people. Don't blame me for the lack of ladies on the list, I asked you for suggestions and you said nothing so I assumed that there were no nice females out there. However, yesterday I was reading the Guardian and saw this fantastic woman,

Arianna Huffington

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Arianna Huffington. She is the founder of the Huffington Post, an on-line liberal newspaper, an author, a syndicated columnist and, more importantly, person who refuses to take any crap from Rupert Murdoch. This is the article I was reading when I decided that she should be on the list. She is my new favourite person.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Working with a Cold

You’ve all had it happen to you. You’re sat/stood at your workstation or however/wherever you earn your crust and a colleague wanders in hugging a hot lemsip (or own brand nasty lemon/paracetamol drink) and starts complaining about how bad they feel and how they’ve struggled in although they could die at any point.
There are social norms to be gone through at this point and I aim to go thought them with you.
As you co-worker begins to remove their coat there are 2 courses of action open to you. Option 1; help them off with their coat and encourage them to sit down, after all they are not well. This is the incorrect thing to do. You MUST use option 2. Option 2, tie them back into their coat and start, gently but firmly, moving them towards the door. There is nothing worse then working with someone who has a cold.
It has been proved over and over again (citation needed) that the common cold is the most self indulgent of all the minor infections. Self-conscious coughing, sighing every 5 five minutes until someone asks the soon-to-be-dead “what’s wrong?” to which the reply is “oh, nothing”. The correct response from the asker of the initial enquirer is, and I’ve checked "The Times Book of Modern Manners” here, “Well shut the fuck up then!”, but in a nice supportive way.
If you are the person who has the cold and thinks that going in to work is an act of martyrdom on a level with Martin Luther King, it isn’t. It just makes you annoying. “But the boss will give me a hard time if I don’t go in” is often given as a reason for turning up by those who think inflicting their snot on others is acceptable. I can assure you that you work mates will give you harder time if you do, especially if you infect them.
There are many studies (look them up) that tell us the amount of money sickness costs British business ever year (my favourite studies are the ones that show that Nurses have a higher than average level of sickness. Of course they do. They are exposed to very infectious things every day; some of them have to stick. And think about it, would you want your nurse coughing and spluttering all over you? No, no you wouldn’t) but no one every does a study into how many work days, and therefore money, is lost because idiots have come to work with a cold and spread it about. There you go University of the Pointless Study (that gets us in the paper) you can have that idea for free. Now get into the PR company office or estate agents and start counting the number of snotty tissues left lying about. Did you know that there are 7 million cold viruses in 1ml of infected snot? Think about that when you cough on someone on the bus or someone coughs on you (although that is not a legally strong defence if you punch the cougher straight in their sickness spreading face.)
To summarise, if you have an infectious disease then stay the fuck at home! Watch daytime television, mope around your own home and leave the rest of us healthy people alone. Oh and get well soon xx

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Diana Watch

I want to begin with a bird feeder update. As you know, because you read this nonsense every week and I thank you for that, I have a birdfeeder and it was being ignored by my local feathered friends and I was wondering how long I should wait before being offended by the tiny little feathery, ungrateful gits.
Well I no longer have to worry about this most modern of dilemmas as I have seen one bird on my new bird feeder; it was a Robin thank you for asking. Of course, just because I have only seen one bird on it doesn't mean that others have not been flocking around it whilst I'm not there or when I’m looking the other way (they are sneaky you know). Now, you may think that I am slightly deluded but just ask any good religious person and they will confirm that, just because no one saw it and there is no evidence for it, in fact there is evidence against it, does not mean that something didn't happen.

I am still keeping up with the “Diana Watch” element of this blog and I have for you one Daily Express front page photo of Princess Diana.

So NICE says we can’t have a bowel cancer drug that seems to work (a bit). This is an emotive subject and I can see both sides of the arguments. If you were dying you would want any chance of increasing the length of your life but is infinite cost ok? Of course it isn't. (Interesting side point, when NICE said no to the £30,000 a year drug the company that makes it offered to renegotiate the price. So that's not how much it costs then? Was it just a number you made up?)
You can't have this drug that has been shown to work (in some cases) on the NHS but you can have some homoeopathy at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital if you like.
The rest of us use evidence based medicine (but what's the evidence for that?) and we only use treatments and medicines that have been shown to work but one part of the Health Service is allowed to give it's patients little vials of water and sugar pills claiming that it will make them better with no evidence to support that statement. There is actually quite a lot of clear evidence to show that it really, really doesn't work and it's just silly.
So you can't have real drugs that have been shown to work but the NHS is more than happy to fund Quackery.
On the subject of Homeopathy, there was a Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee hearing this week that discussed this subject and you can watch it here if you like.
Boots the Chemist were represented at the hearing because they sell some homoeopathic products. Under questioning the representative from the company admitted that they had no proof that it works (not a great surprise there) but they sold it because their customers wanted it and believe it works. Well that's ok then, it not as if you are a trusted Pharmacy that is known for primarily selling medicines that have been shown to work then is it? Oh no, wait a second, you are! Even the anti-dandruff shampoo has to be shown to work before it can be advertised and sold as anti-dandruff shampoo but not so homoeopathic “remedies”.
Pure consumerism in action there. Sell stuff that is known not to work just because some people think it does and completely forget any moral element of separating people from their cash for a useless product. Here is an open letter to Alliance Boots for the Merseyside Skeptic Society.
If it works then let's test it, independently, with double blinded trials and then it can be regulated properly. I'd want in then because the money you can make from selling this stuff would be massive, it's so cheap to produce.

It seems that all you read in the press may not be true. There have been several stories recently that seem to have been, let's say, a little exaggerated. Well, maybe even untrue.
We can start off a little gentle “misreporting”. MP Sir Peter Viggers got a duck house on House of Commons expenses didn't he? Well, no. I know it is only a technicality but he only claimed for it. He filled in a form and asked “might you pay for this?” and the Commons Authority said, “Umm, no. No we won't.”
But that was not how the story was spun in the papers. Ok it was a silly claim but it wasn't paid. When the Express reported it they admitted that the claim was refused but only sort of. They wrote “However, it is not clear whether he was in fact reimbursed for the duck home, as a Commons official wrote "not allowable" by the side of the claim.” So it was not allowed but they tried to insinuate that it might have been paid anyway. Nice.
Then there was that incredibly indecisive Gordon Brown (if you want to see indecisive hand me a menu. Get yourself a snack; this is going to take a while). He was asked about his favourite biscuit on a webchat he did for Mumsnet (for some reason this has become the communication medium of the moment as David Cameron has done it several times) and he didn't answer the question. The press laid into him. All of them. “He can't even decide on a biscuit. This man is a disgrace.” was pretty much what they went with.
The thing is it didn't really happen. Someone on Mumsnet did, indeed, ask Gordon about his favourite biscuit but he didn't receive the question. There was an IT problem at No. 10 and the question didn't get through so he didn't see it and so couldn't answer it. Not many of the papers reported that bit but the lady who runs the website/chatroom confirmed the techy problem.
Do you remember Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross? They rang an old man and left messages on his answering machine. There was a little bit about in the papers, I'm not sure that you would have seen anything about it.
Well it turns out that they probably didn't leave any messages on his machine. Well according to Comedienne Richard Herring who claimed to have heard this when recording “Never Mind the Buzzcocks”.
And then there are the things that they don't tell you. The News of the World was fined £800,000 this week at an industrial tribunal in a case bought by a former Sports reporter for that paper.
If you read most of the UK's daily papers you probably don't know this because they haven't printed it. This little interesting tit-bit is explained here by Alan Greenslade in the Guardian, the only paper that printed the story.
What isn't pointed out in that article, but is in the rest of their coverage of this story, is that the man at the head of the paper when this bullying was taking place is the same man who was in charge whilst the paper was hacking the mobile phones of people that you may have heard of. That man was Andy Coulson. He is currently the Tories Director of Communications & Planning. So he was fired from his paper for mobile phone hacking and now is found guilty of bullying, just the sort of person David Cameron wants to have around.

This is a plea really. Articles in most of the papers this week report that people in the UK is still not donating enough organs. Why not? You don’t need them, you’re dead!
There has been a very large rise, a doubling in fact, in Surgeons using organs from donors that are described as “marginal”. These include the elderly, cancer victims and those with a history of drug abuse. Now, I have nothing against any of these groups of people, actually some of my best friends are elderly, tattooed (higher hepatitis risk), cancer suffering drug addicts, (not fun to be with but they tick so many boxes), but I wouldn’t want their organs.
So to those of you who are not on the donor register, click here and go and do it.

The Award for Heart-warming Sports Story of the Week,

We have joint winners for this as I couldn’t decide between them.
Firstly Gretel Bergmann has had her German National high jump record restored after 73 years. On June 30, 1936, in Stuggart, she jumped 5ft 3in but this record height was removed from the record books by the Nazis because she was Jewish. She was also barred from the German Olympic team. She left Germany in 1937 and emigrated to America.
Whilst it has taken a little bit of time the German track and field association has decided to reinstate her record.

The other story is about Wigan Athletic (who are a football team, sort of). They played last weekend and they lost 9-1. That is not the heart-warming part, unless you are a Spurs fan (the team that beat them). No, the nice bit is that, after this thrashing, the players have said that they are going to reimburse all of their travelling fans who came to the match and who saw their team get royally spanked.

The Award for I’m Not Sure How I Feel About This,

In Nepal they have started their festival to the goddess Gadhimai. The celebrations included fortune-telling robots, a ferris wheel and stalls broadcasting music and offering tea and sugary snacks. Oh and they also sacrifice 250,000 animals. Yes, you read that correctly, I didn’t add any extra numbers. 250,000 animals will be slaughtered, including 10,000 buffalo. That is a lot of buffalo.
I’m not sure how I fell about it because whilst a lot of the animals will just be killed, at least the buffalo will be sold on and used for their meat and hide etc, so they are not going to waste.
If you are going to kill an animal in this coming week, the least you can do is eat it all up.

The Award for Changing It Everytime You Say it,

This goes to Radio 4 and the BBC in general. The family of Jean Charles de Menezes have accepted an undisclosed amount in compensation from the Metropolitan Police. I hope this helps to soothe their pain some what and that they understand that the entire country is sorry for the death of their son. I hope that they feel that they can move on with their lives. I also hope that news reporters can go back to not trying to think up new ways of pronouncing his name. I’m pretty sure that every time I have heard them try, they have said it differently.

Sorry to go on a bit this week. Hope you enjoyed my rambings and are going to register on the Organ Donor thingy, I'm off to obsess over my bird feeder.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Kate Moss Speaks

There was something that I forgot to mention yesterday. Kate Moss. She is a woman who is famous for looking quite good with a frock on and quite good without a frock on. That’s about it really. She has taken some drugs and had relationships with some “Rock Stars” but not much else.
One thing she has done, rather well if you ask me, is keep her mouth shut. She rarely gives interviews, she’s not one of those people who pops up on list shows claiming to remember something (I criticise but bills do have to be paid) that they were reminded of by a researcher. No, usually she is a little enigmatic.
It came then as a surprise to me to hear that she had been interviewed and had said something controversial. Now, let us first remember what she does as a job, she looks good in frocks. Small frocks mostly. The sort you only look good in if you are not too chubby. She said “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”.
Some have seen this as an encouragement for little girls to make themselves thin and it has appeared on some Pro-anorexia websites (there are such things? I thought it was a mental health issue but it seems it can be taught). The usually tabloid nonsense has been written about it as well with little irony, forgetting that they mock the chubby celebs every day and print pictures of stick thin woman saying how great they look on one day and then the complete opposite on another.
The thing that got me about the quote, though, was this; that is a very, very good line. Did she come up with that herself? Because if she did I have underestimated Miss Moss. I don’t care what you think about what she was trying to say, the full quote by the way is “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. You try and remember, but it never works.” i.e., I eat some crap too, but I care not. It is a great line. It’s witty, it’s succinct and I love it. Perhaps she has been working on it for her entire adult life and this is the one great thing she will say, well, that’s one more than most of us will muster.

And now a quick game of “who got the earliest Christmas Card?” I think you will find that it is me. I got one this morning. It’s the 23rd of November! To be honest it comes from a slightly odd elderly relative who always sends them very early but I think that this might be a record.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Diana Watch

So the sad news is that we had to have the cat put down on Tuesday. To be honest, it was quite an easy decision to make. She had become increasingly unwell and was barely leaving her chosen spot on the end of our bed. She became a sort of Miss Havisham character; always there in an upstairs room, an ever there presence, we would go up every so often to check that she was ok. That and she never wanted me to be happy.
Following the putting down of Pootle (named after a flump, which was a 70’s children’s TV program) I phoned my Nan on an unrelated topic but she asked after her. “How's is you cat?” she enquired
“Oh, we had to have her put down today Nan.”
“Oh dear but she had a good life”
“Yes Nan, yes she did”.
“Are you going to get another one?”
“Later on, yes.”
“Oh right” she paused for, unintended comic effect, “maybe you could get a nice a next time.”
Well thanks for that Nan, that really helped me get over it.

On Friday we received a hand written letter of condolence from the vet. This was very nice of him. He didn’t have to do this and had taken time out from his day to express his sadness at the passing of our cat. Nice man.
Although, thinking about it, his hand writing was very poor and he may have spelt the cat’s name incorrectly. Someone call the Sun, I am deeply offended by this obvious disrespect.

The Daily Mail managed to take perfectly reasonable scientific study and give it that unique Daily Mail spin.
For a long time people have known that plastics can leak chemicals that mimic Oestrogen. If fact there have been studies into the effects that these chemicals can have on fish, with some quite surprising results, boy fish turning into girl fish. This study, however, was into the effects on to the unborn child. The terrifying news is, drum roll please, that small boys don’t want to play with toy cars. As the Mail put it “Those exposed to high doses in the womb are less likely to play with 'male' toys such as cars. They are also less willing to join 'rough and tumble' games.” Later on in the article it makes the same point again, “The higher-phthalate boys were less likely than other boys to play with cars, trains and guns or engage in rough-and-tumble games such as play fighting.” It then went on to say that “They preferred 'gender-neutral' activities such as sports.”
Sports? So they still like sports then? Sports like Rugby or Football? So still quite physical and competitive then?
There are of course problems with the study, small sample size, only 74 boys, and “personalities” of the children were reported by the parents. No mention of the socialisation of the children either. But that is not my point, others can criticise the study, no, my point is, do the think the Mail meant, makes them gay? Do you? I do?
I may be suffering from a little confirmation bias here, I was looking for it so I found it, but come on. The number of references to “boys games” like cars, trains, guns and fighting and the use of the phrase “'feminising' the brains of baby boys”. I think an insinuation can be drawn.

It turns out that Ernest Shackleton liked a drink, as did the men he took with him on his unsuccessful Polar expedition between 1907 and 1909. A lot of whiskey was taken on this trip; well you need something to do on those long winter nights (lots of man together, lots of alcohol, a love, or least a physical activity to keep you warm, that dare not speak its name)
Anyway, back to the story, two crates of McKinlay and Co whisky were found 3 years ago, encased in ice and buried under Shackleton’s old hut.
New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust is hoping the do conservation work on the bottles and crates before putting them back in the ice under because they are planning on renovating the hut (that will be on the tourist trail I’m sure) but the company that now owns McKinlay and Co are wondering if they can get their hands on at least one of the bottles and have a bit of taste. Well you would, wouldn’t you? It’s been there a hundred years! I appreciate that alcohol freezes at a lower temperature then water but it is really quite cold there. It should have been preserved. There is only one way to find out.

Another story in the Mail, sorry, was one of its classic “I'm really offended by this”/”their trying to ban Christmas” nonsense. A Bishop makes up things and deliberately misinterprets the new Equality Bill so that he can be offended so that the Daily Mail to be upset about it.
To be honest it's boring as usual but more interesting than the article were the comments, One commenter said said “Having read the Bill, can't see word in it which threatens any religious festival, Christian or otherwise.
Which bits are you all referring to? Nick, Liverpool, 17/11/2009 19:44”.
This was massively voted down. Let's not let facts get in the way of a good (made up) story.
However my favourite comment, and very popular amongst the sort of person who reads the Mail was “The countdown to Sharia Law has started. WAKE UP BRITAIN !!!!!!
RUPERT, COLCHESTER UK, 18/11/2009 19:15”
I'm sorry, where did that come from?

It's awards time.

The Award for (at least trying) to Wake Some Americans Up Via the Medium of a Survey,

1 million US children go to bed hungry. That's all I'm going to say on the subject. Remember that the US is perfect as it was (if you are a Republican.) Bring on the, alleged, socialism I say.

The Award for Crime That Got Me Thinking of the Week,

In Peru 4 people have been arrested on suspicion of killing chubby Peruvians and rendering down their fat and selling it to cosmetics companies in Europe. How much is human fat worth you ask? Well it turns out that it is quite expansive. About £9000 per litre to be precise.
Now whilst killing people for their fat is a nasty thing to do (I'm not sure why I feel the need to point that out but I do) but you can sort of see their point.
There are lots of very, very wobbly people about. It seems that you will get a very good price for the self inflicted source of their wobbliness. And it's not like they can run off so they are easy to catch, oh and if they do try and run off, the strain on their poor, struggling hearts will be so much that they will keel over any how, thus saving you the effort of actually killing them yourself.
I'm not saying you should do it, just saying it might be profitable and not to hard.

The Award for Not Giggling Despite a lot of Provication,

This goes to every single newsreader in the country who managed to say “Cockermouth” over and over again without having a little chuckle. Yes it is a sad thing that someone died and that the town was damaged but it is a very, very funny name. When we drove past earlier this year and saw it's name on a sign we laughed at it and I've had a little chuckle each time it has been said on the news. They have even had to combine it with words like “flood” and “12 inches”, oh come on, that's funny.

Hope you all have a lovely week and that the rain stops.
One quick question before I go, how long should I wait before I’m offended by the Sparrows in my garden who don’t seem interested in my new bird feeder thingy? It been there over a week and I’ve not seen them on it yet. They are in my tiny, tiny garden but they are ignore it. Little gits.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Good People

So, a while ago I wrote a short blog on Good People. This was a pretty self-explanatory list of (at the time) 4 people who I thought had done goods things and had not really been celebrated properly for them. A quick reminder of the list,

Tim Berners-Lee, he is the man who enabled you to read this by inventing the internet and then giving it away for free for the good of mankind. He works at CERN with the Large Hadron Collider.

Adam Neate, he is an artist who recently gave away 1000 paintings by leaving them around various places in London. He had used bit and pieces that he had found in London for his art and this was his way of giving back.

Jimmy Wales, this man founded Wikipedia. Wikipedia only employs 10 people and everyone else is a volunteer.

Richard Reynolds, he runs the website which does great things and that I love.

Well we have a new entry. If I knew what I was doing there would be an MP3 fanfare here but I don’t so there isn’t. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Dr Tom Ord.

Dt Tom Ord

He has decided to give 10% of his earnings and all earnings over £20,000 to various charities and he will do this for the rest of his life.
He is an Ethics Researcher at Oxford University and has calculated that he will be able to give away £1 million, which he estimates could save 500,000 years of healthy life.
He has also set up a website,, so that other people can join and pledge.

I think that counts as a good person. I am still taking nominations for people to be added to the list by the way.

The Good People Gallery

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Diana Watch

I love this weather. Seas are rough and trees are blown on to railway lines meaning that I can't get to work for a shift that is not during my usual contracted hours but felt pressured into changing because some else, who my work clearly think is more important than me, if they didn't they wouldn't have asked me to change my contracted shift, for someone who is not contracted, could work. I'm not even sure that makes sense. Ah well.

The beginning of this week was taken up by one story. Gordon Brown's handwriting.
The poor man can't win really can he? He writes a letter to everyone who has lost a loved one in war. That seems to me to be quite a nice gesture (and it is no more that (a gesture I mean) because really there is no more he can do. Well, maybe make sure that the relative is financial secure but you get my point) at this difficult time. A hand written letter from the leader of our country expressing his sorrow at your lose and his thanks for the sacrifice made by the member of you family. It's a good thing.
One woman complains about the letter she received following the death of her son to the Sun newspaper (I use that term loosely) because his hand writing is scruffy. It also looks like he as spelt the name of her son incorrectly and that there are some spelling mistakes in the letter. The paper decides to run with this story as its front page. What their point is no one is really sure but that doesn't stop them.
Gordon Brown then apologises profusely and is said to be mortified. He also phones the lady concerned to apologise for any inadvertent offence caused and she records the conversation and releases it to the Sun again (anyone else think they may have approached her rather than she, them) and continues to complain. He says sorry 14/16 times on the tape and she claims that he didn't apologise.
I did not know, before this story broke, that Gordon Brown wrote to the families of soldiers that have died. This makes him out to be a reasonable bloke in my eyes.
If he did nothing he would be uncaring, just sending “our boys” off to die. If the letters were typed the response would be, “well, this is just the same letter he sends to everyone, he doesn't mean it, he just signs it.” He could never get that right.
No, he takes the time to write each one out in his own, admittedly scruffy, hand. Can I just point out that he does only have one eye and the working one isn't that good. So poor in fact that he has to use a thick tipped pen in order to see it.
The poor woman had recently been bereaved so Gordon was never going to win. It just had to sit and take it. You can't criticise or argue with those who have recently lost someone, it's just not done.
What was the Sun trying to say? Were they saying that Gordon Brown shouldn't be Prime Minister because his hand writing is bad? It seems likely that it wasn't that poorly spelt but, because of poor penmanship, letters were not correctly formed. If that is what they were trying to say then that is a little harsh being as it is his eye sight that is the problem. They seem to be saying that visually impaired people have no place in government. Nice people at the Sun.
You know that your hectoring and bully has gone to fair when even the Daily Mail doesn't agree with what you are doing.
Oh and as a fantastic postscript to the story the Sun spelt the lady's name wrong on their website and had to issue an apology.

One of the things I don't like about my local pub is the fact that they have 2 televisions on all the time. No sound and only some times do we have the joy of live subtitles, which are always funny. They seem to have Sky News on most of the time and so on a Monday, when we go to the quiz, we get to see, but not hear, a lot of this awful channel (for balance News 24 is pretty poor).
This Monday they were covering the commemoration of the Berlin Wall falling. It's been 20 years you know; ha, now you feel old.
Centre piece of this celebration (is that the right word, I think so) was a line of 1000 massive dominoes that had been decorated by artists across the country, falling like, well umm, dominoes. Half an hour of a couple of World Leaders and ex-World Leaders wondering round in the rain, under umbrellas was entertaining according the director of Sky News but when they finally got round to the dominoes, do you know how long they stayed on it? The main point of the day? After all that hanging around? 30 seconds. They showed 30 seconds of the dominoes falling. They didn't even wait until they had all fallen. Nope. It seems that their idea was “we have told you that this thing would happen and there it is, starting to happen. Right, back to the studio.” Very strange indeed.
But for your entertainment here it is (with non-English voice-over.)

Steven Tyler may or may not have left Aerosmith. This isn't the most important story in the world but the reaction of Joe Perry was quite interesting. He said that they were would be looking for a new singer. I'm sorry? You want to replace Steven Tyler? Now, I'm not the world’s biggest Aerosmith fan but even I understand that Tyler is an iconic front man. And this got me thinking, what does it mean to be a band any more.
Aerosmith are the Toxic Twins, I mean, can anyone, apart from hardcore fans, name the other 3 middle aged blokes that stand behind them?
Have you not made enough money Joe Perry? Do you really want to whore out the good name of your band to make a few extra dollars? I mean, Brian May and Roger Taylor wouldn't do that with Queen would they? Oh wait, that is exactly what they did. First of all they played on the awful cover of “We Will Rock You” by 5ive, then there was the musical and then, worst of all, they got a new singer. Paul Rodgers, who used to be in Free, stepped up to the plate and pissed all over the grave of Freddie Mercury. Full respect to John Deacon who wanted nothing to do with it and still doesn’t.
I understand that musicians want to continue playing together but I point you to the Joy Division/New Order model. Singer dies tragically young; you want to continue playing together, so you form a new band. You do not do a reality series on MTV to replace the only member of your band that anyone, including a lot of the fans, has every heard of, like INXS did. I think the Doors did something similar but they are rubbish so I don't care. I assume the remaining band mates do it because they want to show that the band was more then just the ridiculously attractive, charismatic singer. Yes, ok you wrote the songs but they brought them to life. You can replace a bass player (Arctic Monkeys) or a drummer (Guns N Roses) but not the singer. Although Axl Rose has tried the reverse of this by replacing the entire band and leaving just the original singer. That went well then.
You also get the ridiculous situation that the Sugababes find themselves in, the band name is no more than a brand and it doesn't seem to matter who is in the band, or if any of them were in the original line up. The Sugababes aren't the only band to have done this but they are the most recent. I think that the version of the Temptations that is touring at the moment has no original members in it.
A band is more then some musicians and the songs that they used to sing. If three girls get up and singer covers of the Supremes, are they the Supremes? Of course they aren't. They are just three girls singing some songs; see the Sugababes for an example. A band is the collective experience of a group of people. It is the chemistry between people who understand each other.

So what happens if the press constantly vilifies a whole profession over one, very unfortunate, case? Well it seems that the people who do it leave and not many people want to train to do it.
60% of British Councils are reporting problems in retaining staff. That is a 50% rise on the year before.
Following the death of baby P, or to give him his real name as our press refuse to, Peter Connolly, the British press worked itself into a rabid frenzy. They blamed everyone but they mostly went for Social Workers. “Why don't these uncaring Social Workers take more children into care rather than leaving them with their awful, awful parents?” seemed to be the thrust of many of the articles. Well the answer to that is because policy seems to be based, yet again (see education policy and drugs policy), on headlines and not on evidence or best practice.
Many years ago there was an outcry about the number of children being taken into care. It was pretty much the same outcry as we had this time, except it was the other way round. They were doing too much interfering. So the policy changed. They tried to keep more children in their homes with their families.
This went on for a while until, in one household, it all went very horribly wrong. So again we have a press outcry over the very policy that they wanted in the first place. This brings us round to where we are now, with stories about a massive rise in the number of children getting taking into care.

The Award for Most Surprising Headline of the Week,

I'm just going to give you the headline, if you want to read the story then click the link. The headline, form the BBC website, is “New warning on 'perfect vaginas'”. I don't know about you but I missed the old warning. Was there a meeting or an E-mail?
It sounds like the sort of headline you would get on newspaper in a 50's B-Movie about a perfect, yet deadly, fanny. If, of course, they would have used the word vagina and not some sort of amusing euphemism. Go on, send in your favourite lady part euphemism. A long time ago a patient referred to her front bottom as her “Mary”. This amused me an awful lot but I'm not going to tell you why and I'm pretty sure only one reader will know why. Enigmatic hey? Hello Kate xx (I mean no disrespect by that story by the way)

The Award for Most Fantastic Thing I've Seen in Ages,

Yes, it's a pop up book but look at the beauty,

The Award for the Funniest Thing I saw on Friday Evening,

This is a video of some dolphins. Not that funny you might think, but wait. Suddenly they swim slowly past some jellyfish and then hilarity ensues.

Every time I walk past my sleeping cat I have to stop and check that she is still breathing. Poorly sick cat is still holding on. Used to do the same with patients at work. The number of people who look dead when they are sleeping would surprise you.

Have a good week and I hope you survive the storm.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Diana Watch

So I had my swine flu vaccination on Tuesday and, unsurprisingly to anyone with a modicum of sense, not much happened. I had a bit of a sore arm and, as the Occupational Health Nurse Kerry said might happen when my body started to produce antibodies, I felt a bit hot and slightly achy during the early hours of Wednesday morning. To be honest I was reassured at the speed at which my body made me feel a little unwell.
I am telling you this because, as a not overly bright person, I had not considered what happens in my body when I had the jab but, because it was explained to me, it all made sense. Oh yes, that would be the standard response of the body to receiving a denatured virus (or part of a virus) or any other potential infection. It's not the infection; it's what the body does. But I wonder if those people who you meet (I met 2 yesterday) and claim that they had their flu jab and a day later they had the flu get this explained to them at the time of stabbing? The NHS can be a little poor at explaining itself sometimes.
Is it the lack of understanding of how our bodies function and how vaccines work that lets in all the anti-vaccine nonsense that is out there? Have you had a look at some of it? OMG! To the rational eye (most of me is rational but my eyes are especially so) it is so badly informed as to be hilarious but to the not so well informed it is spectacularly misleading and dangerous.
My favourite argument that the, umm....... let's for the sake of balance call them, charlatans and liars use is “Big Pharma is lying to you in order to separate you from your money”. Now I'm not here to defend GlaxoSmithKline and friends because they aren't the world’s most moral companies but I will say this, those who use this argument are always trying to sell you something of their own. Whether it be magnetic bracelets or a homeopathic swine flu vaccine(this lady, in the section called “Swine flu treatment and Flu Treatments”, even questions whether this strain of the virus is naturally occurring or created in a lab. She later goes for the complete set of nonsense cards as she claims that all vaccinations cause autism.), they are trying to get your credit card details.
If someone makes a claim on a website please don't just take them at face value, read around them a bit, learn something relevant. Now you are able to make a slightly more informed decision and if you are still open your wallet for snake oil sales men than it is Natural Selection at work. Intelligent design my arse.
If vaccines didn't work then the world would still be revenged by small pox and it's not. This may be simplistic but it makes the point rather clearly I think.
Please don't get me wrong, I am not criticising the people who buy this nonsense (well I am a bit), I understand their desire to be told that their incurable disease can be cured by some herbs and a wand. No, the people that I am having a go at are those who prey upon these desperate people with their many kinds of woo. Theirs is the cynical misinterpretation of science and logic in order to extract money from those who have been told that they have no hope and, in the case of Mediums, the recently bereaved. I mean, what sort of cunt tells the parent of a child who has died that they can talk to them but it will cost you money?

OMG! (sorry to use the expression again) They want to teach 5 year olds about sex and drugs! It can't be allowed to happen! And of course it isn't, despite what the Evening Standard or the Daily Express says.
The Government want to bring in a new plan for sex education in schools but it has annoyed the usual sort of people. This time, however, they are way out of touch. The new government plans, that do not include sex education for 5 year olds, have been discussed, and agreed with, many religious groups such as the Muslim Council for Britain and the Catholic Church.
So why bother complaining about them when the current lessons have worked so well. I mean, it's not as if we have the highest levels of teenage pregnancy in Europe or anything. Oh, now, wait a minute, we do.
The plans are to start teaching children, yes, as young as 5 (but as a vast number of parents have decided not to teach their children anything before they go to school such as how to use the toilet or cutlery it shows that some one should), about relationships in the most basic ways and learn about parts of their bodies. So what's wrong with that? Well, obviously nothing. Fuss for the sake of fuss. And the part about drug lessons for 5 year olds? I have no idea where that has come from. I was told about drugs and their dangers at school, were you?
The argument against seem to be that if we tell children about sex they want to do it. Interesting point. We don't tell children about smoking but they still want to do that and that is because they see others doing it. Our world is all about sex. Sex sells and lots of people want us to buy their stuff. We are surrounded by sexual images all the time so it is no wonder that younger and younger children find it interesting.
Let us have a look at the statistics from a country that teaches abstinence shall we? After years of falling, the teenage birth-ratein the US went up between 2005-2007, it is the highest in the western world. Many blame the “abstinence only” sex education bought in by the Bush Administration for this rise. Young people will have sex, we need to except this as fact, and what we need to do is to make sure that they have the knowledge to do it safely. Proper facts, sensibly discussed. Internet porn and playground chat is not a really that helpful.

We're going to be part of Europe, oh we're going to be part of Europe and if you don't like you won't get to vote on it anyway. Ha Ha Ha Ha.
Czech president Vaclav Klaus has ratified the Lisbon Treaty. This means that it will come in to force on December 1st. As you can imagine this had annoyed our right-wing press quite a lot and has pleased me so much.
One of the purposes of the treaty (apart from the streamlining of decision making stuff) is so that Europe can keep up with China and the USA who look like they could form a G2. The 2 superpowers trading as superpowers and leaving out the rest of the world. I'm not so keen on that as others seems to be. We need to do everything we can to stop this from happening. If we don't, the UK will become some economic backwater with no one taking any notice of us at all.

The Award For Answering a Question that Simply No One Was Asking,

This has to go to the Daily Star that bought us the Headline “Is Maddie a Muslim?” Way to link missing girl and disliked and misunderstood religion there.

The Award For Heart Warming Story of the Week,

The Actress Kate Winslet has won a libel case against the Daily Mail. Is there anything sweeter than a sentence that ends “ has won a libel case against the Daily Mail”? I don't think so.
They had printed an article disputing the amount of exercise that she did, well they didn't dispute it, they said that she lied when she said in an interview with Elle magazine, "I don't go to the gym because I don't have time, but I do Pilates workout DVDs for 20 minutes or more every day at home." How could they possibly know? No, really? How could they? They are quite obviously making stuff up. Why would they bother? Because they are unpleasant people, that's why.
Believe it or not, with every day that passes my views about the Daily Mail harden. With every hate filled, factually incorrect article that they print. I hate everyone that works there. They are responsible for crap that they print. Every single one of them. They cannot us the Nuremberg defence. By that I mean the “I was only following orders” defence rather than the “pawns and a rook” opening set of moves invented by Franz Nuremberg, Chess Grandmaster, in 1923, a chequered board genius and completely fiction character, made up for the propose of this joke. I want to make it clear that I'm not comparing them to actual Nazi's, just mentioning the excuse.
This week they published an article about an Asylum seeker dying in the back of a lorry and later in the day they had to remove most of the comments because, even they had been moderated by the paper, some people found them offensive. Now remember that this was cleared by the paper, one of the comments was, “one down, many more to go”
There is also an article by AN Wilson which described all scientists as arrogant. I'm not going to talk about the article because others have done it more eloquently then I ever could. It then pointed out, for some completely unknown reason, that another person who completely believed in science was Hitler. It also had a nice big picture of the moustachioed socio-path but later in the day the paper removed this picture. There is a very good article on the Poddelusion podcast about AN Wilson and his hypocrisy, I.E. comparing scientists to Hitler whilst he believes in Eugenics, having called for a woman to be forcibly sterilised in an article earlier this year.
One of the things that really annoys me about the paper is their lack of commitment to being offensive. A few complaints and they take stuff down. So do they really believe in the things that their own Journalists and Columnists are writing? I don't know but they are spectacularly inconsistent.

Sorry, I've been a bit ranty again this week. I will try and be concise and funny again next week.
For those who are wondering, the cat is still struggling on. Her kidneys my not be working but no one seems to have told her. She seems to be coping ok.
Hope you all have a nice week.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Diana Watch

We are going to start with a question and this one's for the ladies (oh god, I sound like some terrible RnB singer, although I'm not sure I actually know the names of any Male RnB singers). Has Wolf Whistling ever worked? Have you been walking down the street and some knuckle dragging cretin has whistled at you? And then did you think to yourself, that's the sort of man that I want to be with? Have you?
I only ask this because when we were sat in the pub on Monday evening waiting for the quiz to start and on a table close to ours were a couple of slightly worse for wear young men (I believe a birthday was being celebrated.). Every time a young lady walked past someone in the group let out the World’s most piss poor wolf whistle.
Of course, no good came of this. They did not leave the pub drippin' in honeys. In fact they left the pub because the bar staff stopped serving them as they were drunk and a bit rowdy.
My question, however, remains. Was it the weakness of the whistling that prevented the acquisition of lady love or the act it's self? I have to know.
Although there is always the possibility that they were actually herding sheep using a dog of some sort but this is a little unlikely given as it was in a pub, even if it was in Dorchester.

I know that my town is a little out of the way. Some may even say backward and those people would probably have a point but answer me this, does your town have the National Champion Town Crier? No, no it doesn't. And why is that? Because mine does.
Oh yes! For the third time in a row Alistair Chisholm has won the National Town Criers Challenge Cup. Can your town claim that it has this sort of quality living there? Well can it? No it can't. You may have Universities and Cathedrals and the such. You may have great shopping and excellent parks but we have the best Town Crier in all of the country.
You may be thinking to yourselves, “well there can't be that much competition for that sort of thing” and you would be wrong. Alistair beat 17 other completely pointless, tourist pleasing anachronisms for that title. I can see the posters now “Come to Dorchester and get shouted at by the best in the land.” It gives me a warm feeling inside.

We did paedophilia last week (if you'll forgive the expression) but for a new level in paranoia read this.
Although it does seem that it might not be as true as the papers would like to have us believe. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Somali pirates have kidnapped a British couple and their boat. Now, I'm not going to criticise the couple who did exactly what they were advised not to because they might be taken captive. No. what I going to mention is, who did the Pirates call to make a ransom demand? Was it Sky news? Was it ITV? Was it Dave? No, it was the BBC. Even Somali pirates think the BBC is great.
According to BBC news since this spate in kidnappings has started companies have sprung up to act as intermediaries between Governments and families on one side and the Pirates on the other. They will sort out all sorts of things, such as dropping of the cash and arranging the rather specific requests about the cash i.e. they like very specific denominations and from between certain dates. Isn't Capitalism fantastic?

I have a new hero. That man is Prof. David Nutt. He was the government's advisor on drugs until he was fired on Friday for using science and reporting it dispassionately.
He criticised Government for completely ignoring the advice that he has been giving them on many subjects but mostly on Skunk. He accused them of devaluing scientific evidence in general in the way that they deciding to ignore it and make policy based on the headlines they might receive.
Dr Les King, a part time advisor to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of drugs, has now resigned over the sacking of its head, Prof. Nutt.
Who is going do that job now? If you don't speak out then you are quite clearly a wuss and if you do then you are going to be fired. It is like the medieval sage who tells the King that he might loose the battle and he has you killed. What is the next sage going to say? “Oh yes my liege, you is like going to well win.” in order to keep his head on his shoulders.

So Jimmy Carr told a joke. Now, because the joke isn't actually offensive here it is, "Say what you like about servicemen amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we're going to have a fucking good Paralympics team in 2012."
Now I think that that is quite a funny joke but it is not offensive. It is not a joke about the injuries that have been suffered, nor is it making light of them. It is a joke about war and the way it affects people’s lives.
Our lovely tabloids seem to be trying to bring about a new Puritanism. I had thought that MP's would have learnt, after being made to look silly by Chris Morris and others, that if they didn't really know what they are talking about that they would keep their mouths shut but oh no. They are still rent-a-quotes and will be offended be anything in order to further their careers or up their profile. Whilst some MP's said some stupid things i.e. calling for Carr to quit, from what precisely?, the least thought though statement was given to the Daily Mirror. Diane Dernie, the mother of wounded soldier Ben Parkinson, said: "Soldiers are fighting for freedom of speech. I hope Carr remembers that when he makes offensive jokes ridiculing them." Yes they are. They are fighting for freedom of speech. So he can say it then? Think about what you are saying.
These people just want to be offended by something. They have no idea about subtext or subtlety of meaning. I assume that they think that Animal Farm is about some uppity pigs.

The Award for Funny Looking Bloke of the Week Whose Beard is Clearly Drawn On,

This really has to go to Colonel Gaddafi,


Another Sky-News-being-on-in-the-pub moment this. They had an interview with the noted bag of lunacy that is the leader of Libya on Monday evening but unfortunately the pub didn't have the subtitles on. This meant that the whole pub was transfixed by the plastianted face (like a Gunther von Hagens victim being operated by Jim Henson) of the former terrorist sponsor rather then barely being able to keep their beer down whilst guffawing at the paranoid dribble that he mistakes for coherent argument.

The Award for I Can't Believe They Still Have That Rule,

President Obama is to lift ban on HIV+ve people travelling to the US. Let's just run through that again. America still bans HIV+ve people travelling there. Still. And has done for 22 years. I'm sorry? I didn't know that they still had a ban. I mean, how backward are these people? Actually, don't bother answering that, it’s unfair. It’s not the people’s fault. Some of them are lovely I'm sure but their Country does seem to be a little, well, slow.
Whilst I was discussing this with Significant Other, she reminded me that a World HIV conference was held there but no one with the disease was allowed to travel to it. At least things are now beginning to change there.

The Award for Sad News of the Week,

The actor Norman Painter has died. He has been playing Philip Archer in the long running Radio 4 soap opera The Archers since 1950. He has also written over 1000 scripts for the programme. One of his wishes was to carry on working until he died and he got his way. He was in the studio 3 days before he died. His last episode will be broadcast on the 22nd of November. RIP.

So, just some British sports news to finish with. At the Cycling World Track Cup various Team GB cyclist have won pretty much everything. They have, yet again, shown that British cycling is the best in the world. Bow down before our pedals tiny people.

Hope you all have a nice week and I'll keep you informed about the health of my cat which has renal failure.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Email Trouble

So I forgot to tell you about a slightly odd and surprising E-mail exchange that I had last week. The E-mail pinging was between me and my MP, Oliver Letwin.
It all started, as so much does now, with Twitter. There was a tweet from someone asking us to send a letter to our MP before the last Wednesday’s debate in Parliament on libel law. There was a link to a prepared letter and then a website that directed you to your MP's E-mail address. So I did what they asked. Our libel laws are a little bit lax and do need some sorting out, so I cut and pasted the following letter,

Dear Mr Letwin,

Tomorrow there is a debate in parliament on the subject of libel reform.

English libel laws are being used to stifle scientific debate in the UK, to the point where many scientists are not bothering to make their opinions heard. Those that do criticise others are being heavily punished for doing so.

Medical doctor and journalist Ben Goldacre was recently involved in a libel battle following his criticism of a vitamin salesman who claimed that anti-retroviral drugs were ineffective in treating AIDS and offered his vitamins as an alternative. Despite the fact that Goldacre won, they still came out of it £150,000 poorer. The science author Simon Singh is going through a similar situation right now.

In 1961, the German paediatrician Widukind Lenz criticised the drug Thalidomide. By this time, at least 10,000 children had been born with birth defects. If he, and all other scientists since, had refused to make their criticism known for fear of legal action, the deformities may still be continuing today.

If we put a stop to criticism, we not only put an end to our ability to know which of our current treatments are effective and safe, but we also make it impossible to evaluate the treatments of the future.

We must do everything we can to reform our uniquely repressive English libel system.

The future health of everyone in this country and the world depends on it.

Martyn Norris

A little hyperbole laden maybe but it makes the point and so I sent it and thought no more about it.
So you can imagine my surprise when I opened my inbox ( not a uferism) to see a reply. “I'm sure it's just an automatic response thing” I thought to myself as I clicked on it. I couldn't have been more wrong.
It may have been an underling that wrote the reply but it contained this line,

I am more than willing to do some research of my own to remedy this lack of knowledge -- but I think I ought to start by meeting you, so that you can brief me first on what I need to be looking for.

By meeting with me? Oh no no no no. That wasn't supposed to happen. I'm an armchair grumpy. More than happy to fire of an e-mail or sign an on-line petition but meet my MP! About something that I know next to nothing! What to do, what to do?
There was only one sensible and rational thing to do. Treat it as I treat all my problems, ignore it. Which I did. For about a day and a half. Then I decided that I was being rude. So I replied, thanking him for the swiftness of his reply and the slowness of mine (I didn't mention that I was ignoring his reply) but admitting that I knew little about the subject but was aware of those high profile cases. I also used the line “By "public interest" I mean in a scientific way and not the Max Mosley way.” which I was quite proud of.
He, again, replied promptly (show off), saying,

“Clearly, there is a delicate balance to be struck between protecting individuals against highly destructive and unfair allegations and, on the other hand, permitting wide and open public debate about matters of genuine public interest including scientific issues of general importance.
I shall discuss all this with my colleagues in our Justice team and commission some work on the question of whether current or proposed laws are threatening to choke off important scientific debate.”

I have to admit that I am very happy with the service that I have received for my MP. It's a shame that he is a Tory but maybe the taxpayer’s money spent to repair a pipe under his tennis court wasn't a waste of time after all. Although I am intrigued by the Tory Justice Team. Please be wearing capes, please be wearing capes.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Diana Watch

I do hope that you all remembered that the clocks went back last night (this is only relevant for UK readers).
A quick award,

The Award for Having To Work On The Night That The Clocks Go Back,

This goes to my Brother who had to work last night. Oh and everyone else who had to work to but you didn't fill my phone's inbox with rant filled texts for most of yesterday.
A couple of years ago I worked the night the clocks went back and I can assure you that it is the single most depressing incident in my life.
Working at night is bad enough but just when you think you are making progress at getting through it, at 2am it suddenly becomes 1am again and you have to go struggle on for another hour. That and the fact that we didn't get paid for that extra hour. My Brother did get paid for it though so don't feel too sorry for him.

There is a story from last week that I forgot to put in. It seems the the Brass Eye special on the media's coverage of Paedophilia was, in fact, a documentary and not a biting satire.

I think that it was this program that lead to my most favourite Daily Mail headline ever “Ban This Sick Filth”. Anyway, on with the story.
Parents in the US are downloading maps that show them were registered sex offenders live so that their children can avoid these houses when they go Trick or Treating at Halloween (for a scared of anything non-Christian, atheists are evil and will eat your babies country, they really do go in for this Pagan festival in a big way), or at least were they used to live.
Umm, there are a number of things here. The first and perhaps must important one is that the maps only show registered sex offenders. So all over those who are not registered or have yet to be caught are not on these maps. There is also the point that the data is spectacularly out of date. People do move house you know. Can you imagine how you would feel if your house wrongly came up on one of these maps?
The other thing that fails to get mentioned in the hysteria (I don't think that that is to strong a word) is that for those unfortunate enough to be attacked, which is a very small percentage, most of the perpetrators will be people that the children know.
You wouldn’t know from the Media coverage of the subject but “Stranger Danger” isn't a very big danger at all, “Parent Danger” is a much bigger problem but you can't really do CRB checks on all people who want to or have children so it is not discussed.
If, however, you do and try and protect children with, say, a scheme that gets people who regularly have unsupervised contact with children, say by driving them to football practise or any other organised club, then it is nanny state-ism. There is no logical debate in this country.
If we did have sensible debate and used best practise and empirical studies to decide the best course of action rather than debating from our own entrenched ideological positions then we would have children's formal education starting at 6. But why would a Government listen to the most comprehensive review of Primary Education for 40 years when it ignores all the other reviews that it doesn't like the results of, even if it was a review that they started.

Oooh, and then there was “naked” body scanners at airports. They have been trialled for a while all over the world with no real problems but the idea has now been dropped because of fears about child porn. I'm not really sure what the problems are but the Daily Mail is and that's what is important. Again we have the mentality that if you see a naked child you are a paedophile no matter what the circumstances and context are.

I forgot to mention that there was 1 Princess Diana front page this week and yes, it was on the front of the Daily Express, how did you guess?

The Catholic Church seems to be offering place to C of E clergy who sort of want to convert because they don't want to serve under woman Bishops and because they don't like the Anglican Church's “liberal” views on homosexuality.
I have talked before about the church's sexist employment policy before but I will make the point again.
Can you imagine if a company said “we will only employ woman up to this lowly level”? Can you imagine the fuss that would be made if they decided their employment policy was based on societal attitudes from 2000 years ago? “Well Jesus only choose man for his disciples” is their argument, well true, but they also stoned people to death and nailed your “Saviour” to some 2x4 and left him their to die. Just interested to see which bits of the culture you are keen on. And the “liberal” on gays thing. Is the Anglican Communion liberal on Gay issues? That really depends upon where you’re starting from doesn't it. If you are of the view that they should all be killed (or Jan Moir) then not wanting them all to be killed is quite Liberal. However, if you are a nice person then the Anglicans can hardly be described as even close to liberal.
Remember, they are allowed to say and do what they want. To offend as many people as they like but woe betide you if you think you have the right to do the same. To argue against them. Point out flaws in their logic. They claim that you are being intolerant or just plain mean.

Your favourite institutions are under threat. The BBC and the Royal Mail.
The Tories are threatening to rip the heart out of the lovely BBC. I don't understand what their problem is. I understand why the Daily Mail hates it. It is a commercial rival and more people like it then them. They don't like the fact the BBC is pretty impartial and has a tendency to be reasonable even handed. It isn't judgemental. It isn't mean and unpleasant to people it doesn't like. In fact it is all the things that the Daily Mail isn't. But what do the Tories have against it? It's good to them.
Just a quick mention of Nick Griffin on Question Time. Yes he should have been on there and Bonnie Greer was fantastic. Jack Straw was rubbish though. I would have liked them to have given the ghastly man (Nick Griffin not Jack Straw) a little more rope with which to hung himself. Metaphorically obviously.
The BBC, however, was less than fantastic. They should have just got him on, done the programme and got him off. No more, no less. They have decided though to go on and on about it which does have him publicity rather than just being on the programme that just made him look like a fool. The KKK are “almost totally non-violent”, for instance.
What has been amusing has been the response of the printed media which has gone into over drive in pointing out how horrid Nick Griffin is whilst, at the same time, printing stories that seem to completely agree with everything that he says. I was going to put some links here too show you what I mean but a nice man has already done a blog about it, so click here to see it.
Me thinks they protest to much.
Oh and those who do protest against him, will you please behave yourself. I’m looking at you UAF. Stand there with your placards and shut up. Don't break into the BBC building. Don't hassle his car. He just gets the chance to play the victim again, which he does very well. The same goes to those who sent rude and offensive Emails to Jan Moir; don't do it. You undermine our argument. We need our behaviour to be beyond reproach so not to give them any ammunition.
We also need to fight their ill-informed argument with facts and logic.
Immigration, for instance, is vital for our economy. A survey released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) this week said that the population of this country will rise to 70 million in about 24 years time. This was wonderful news for the right wing press who were all over that bit of the study.
They do seem to have missed out some other demographic changes that were pointed out by this study.
The number of people over 90, for instance is set to quadruple. Who’s going to pay for all those years of pension and increased NHS costs? That will have to be yours, mine and migrant workers taxes then.
They then argue that we are all turning Muslim. Well there are 2.4 million of them. And how many of us are there? Well about 58.6 million of who aren't Muslim. I think we can take them if it comes to it. There also seems to be 46.2 million who describe themselves as Christians. Again, I think you have them out numbered.
“But they get all the council houses.” No they don't. We have covered this before so here is a paragraph from a Blog that I wrote in June,

“When the BNP were elected to a local council in on a ticket that was very similar to to Gordon Brown's rhetoric, a study was carried out to find out what percentage of council homes had gone to local people. Of the 12069 homes that have been allocated by the council, 12068 went to long term local residents. 99.9% of council housing went to local people and not immigrants. Proper engagement with people on issues raised by the BNP proved that the BNP are liars. This is how Gordon Brown should deal with them, not shift towards their position because it is easier. If you spend time with people, dealing with their problems in a sensible and grown up way, arguing your point, showing were they are wrong and they will come round to your way of thinking. Oh and build some more council houses as we haven't really built any for 30 years.”

Ok so that is that covered then. Racist are idiots.

Let’s move on to that other cherished institution the Royal Mail. You should love your Postman and support him or her in her strike.
I'll run through the reason quickly as I have gone on a bit this week. The things that you don't like about Royal Mail are not the workers fault.
Branches closing, that will be management. The loss of the second post, management's fault. Your post turning up really late, again, that will be a management decision that leads to that. The post office made £300million last year. Invest that in modernisation and not reducing jobs and pay.
And the Tory plan to privatise the poor thing. That is a very bad idea indeed. Yes, for ideological reasons but also because you won't get a better service.
Can you think of an 80's Privatisation that has resulted in a better service? Electricity? Gas? Trains? Have you got a better service? Of course you haven't. They strip it bare and run it as cheaply as possible in order to make the most amount money for themselves and the shareholders, not for you and me.

OK, that will do for this week. No awards this week because I have mostly been angry for the last 6 days. I was suppose to be seeing Morrissey tomorrow evening but now it doesn't look like that will be happening does it?
I'll leave you with a clip from “The Thick Of It”. The new series started last night but here is a clip from an earlier series.

Have a good week,

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Diana Watch

It was my birthday yesterday. I'm not the biggest fan of birthdays but this one was a bit worse than usual. I was 35. That is half of my 3 score and 10 which is my biblically mandated limit and as we know, the bible is fact and isn't made up in anyway.
If that wasn't depressing enough, the annual review of my life was actually worse than the year before. I think this may be the first year that this has happened. Last year, Married, House, Full-time employment. This year, Married, House, Barely what you'd call a job. Bugger. Really do need to sort that out.
I did, however, have quite a nice birthday. I had to work in the morning which may be the first time I have ever worked on my birthday but in the evening we did go to a Modern Dance thing. Now, as you know, I am not the biggest fan of modern dance but Significant Other wanted to go and I'm a reasonably nice bloke so off we went. The premise wasn't too good either. A dance version of One Flew Other The Cuckoos Nest.
It was with a certain degree of trepidation that I took my seat for the performance but it didn’t last long. The opening number was fantastic. The dancers had masks on the front and back of their heads and the lighting was such that it was hard to tell which way their bodies were facing. The effect was slightly unsettling as the shapes that they were making looked distinctly odd and inhuman.
There was some slightly dodgy acting near the beginning of the piece but luckily they dropped that and concentrated on the Street Dance. It was fantastic. It was by a dance company called Bounce.

Oh god, please make it go away. The expenses “Scandal” was really, really dull but “Scandal 2, The Revenge” (which is sort of a prequel.) is really, really, really, really dull. The amount of money is so small and it's all a bit pathetic.
I know that no one really feels sorry for our MP's but it does seem a little unfair of Sir Thomas Legg to change the rules retrospectively and to try and enforce a number that is completely arbitrary. How would you like it if the tax man wrote to you and told you that they had thrown a dart at a board and that was new amount that you had to pay. For the last 5 years.
And I say again. This is being used by the right-wing press to deflect us from the story that they have trouble covering. The Banks. OK, they are covering the bonus bits but they are ignoring the bailout.
The amount of money spent to support the banks last year would pay the MP's expenses for 4000 years. Yes that's right. 4000 years (no hyperlink for this, sorry. It was on the Radio4 program the Now Show. Yes, it's a comedy program but I think this fact is true.) Puts a little bit of perspective on it, doesn't it?

So are recessions all bad? Well that depends on whether you've lost your job or not I suppose.
There are one or two things that are better though.
The World's carbon emissions might fall by up to 3% due to reduced travel (cars and planes) and reduced production of the general crap that we buy.
There is also a study that shows that life expectancy actually rises during a downturn. Several reasons have been put forward for this including when the economy is expanding we get more stressed and we drink and smoke to excess. We know what this does for us.
There is something that may damage your health though. Army recruitment is up. The army think that one of the reasons is a “surge in Patriotism”. It's more likely to be their other reason though. Lots of people don't have jobs and the army will give them one.

Have you ever thought that newspapers might be a little less than truthful? That, maybe, they just don't check their facts quite as often as they should? That sometimes they just make stuff up, especially about celebrities because they can't be bothered to sue? Well this week there have been two stories that would confirm your suspicion.
Lily Allen won an undisclosed amount of money from The Sun this week after she sued them for Liable. They ran a story with the headline “Ranting Lily” in which, they said, she made unpleasant statements about Cheryl and Ashley Cole and the Beckhams. They said that she had made these statements in an interview with a French magazine called “So Foot”. Their problem stems from the fact that she has never been interview by this or for this football magazine so she didn't say those things. Oh well. It's not like she's going to bother to sue...... Oh she is, bugger.
A documentary film maker has been sending various made up celebrity stories to see if they will publish them without checking to see if they are true, and guess what? It turns out that they will. Which is nice of them.
My favourite story that they planted was about Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud. They claimed to be the wife of someone who was moving house for Sarah and said that she had books on quantum physics and a telescope. The Sun ran a story headlined “Sarah's a real boffin”. They claimed that she was “a secret stargazer” who had “mind boggling books about astronomy and quantum physics.” The article also had a quote in it that the film maker denies came from them.

It has been a good week for Twitter.
On Friday there was a really nasty article written by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail about Steven Gately. I'm not going to discuss that here because I think all that needs to be said has been said but if you haven't read it click here and to read Charlie Brooker's brilliant response, click here.
Some on Twitter said that this was a freedom of speech issue and it showed that there are limits to this. This is, of course, absolute rubbish. She has the right to say whatever nastiness she wants, maybe after his funeral would have been a little nicer, but I also have the right to criticise her. That is the way it works.
The unpleasant and homophobic nature of the article caused outrage across the internet and especially on Twitter because of the speed at which messages and links can be posted. None of this taking hours to write a blog rubbish, just a quick “have you seen this?” and a link and outrage is your uncle. That and links to the quite rubbish Press Complaints Committee pointing out which parts of their code that she broke. The problem is that the Editor of the Mail, Paul Dacre, is on the PCC Committee that decides on what their code is and the editor of the Mail on Sunday, Peter Wright, is also on the PCC. Conflict of interest anyone?

At the beginning of the week we had a very strange and complicated story that I think I will cover very badly but it's important so let's give it a go.
The Guardian reported that it had been blocked by an injunction from reporting something. They gave enough clues that some clever people were able to look back through Hansard to work out who had asked the question and what the question was. Links to the Guardian articles started to appear on Twitter, shortly followed by links to blogs that were publishing the full text of the question, these included Wikileaks and JackofKent.
So by lunch time of that day we all knew, despite the legal injunction, what the question was and what and whom it was about. It was asked by Labour MP Paul Farrelly and was about a report into the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast by an oil company called Trafigura.
By 2pm the legal company Carter-Ruck had dropped its injunction when it became clear that it wasn't working but they were still suppressing the report its self. Or so they thought. It was already on Wikileaks and the BBC had seen the report a while ago and where being sued by Trafigura following a Newsnight article.
Carter-Ruck were using something called a super-injunction which prevents media reporting something and even stops them reporting that they aren't allowed to report something. They have grown up from injunctions that stop people reporting on Family Court activities.
There point is very simple according to Mark Stephens, a partner at law firm Finer Stephens Innocent. "As the libel and privacy capital of the world, people are coming here [to London] to bully the media and NGOs into not reporting on their nefarious activities," he said.
The UK Parliament is protected by something called Parliamentary Privilege which means an MP can't be sued for saying things or asking things in the chamber and you can also report them freely without fear of legal action. So they should be able to ask what they want.
The action has, of course, back-fired on the oil company Trafigura because in their clumsy attempt to hide something that was already on public record, they have shone a really rather bright light on it instead. This has brought them all sorts of attention that they weren't getting before despite being responsible for the dumping of toxic waste in a poor country that didn't have the means to deal with the waste safely. And why? Because it was cheap. Endangering the lives of poor brown people is ok because it won't cost that much. In fact in an out of court settlement it will cost you about £1000 per person. All for cheap oil.
The free speech of our press (that the right wing press are super keen on that by the way so that they can print nasty things, see Jan Moir) can be suppressed by one Oil company and its legal monkey can stop us hearing about what's being asked in Parliament. Oh, I think we need to sort that out.

Some awards for the week,

The Award for Best Birthday Presents of the Week,

This has to go to Significant Other who got me a couple of Charlie Parr CDs and a lovely little Ukulele, which it turns out, is quite hard to play.

The Award for the Most Incredible Sporting Achievement of the Week,

Chrissie Wellington, whose British, well from Norfolk I think, has won the World Iron Man Championship for the third time.
I wasn't sure what the “Ironman” involved so I looked it up. I believe the expression that left my lips was “fuck me!”. An Ironman event consists of a 2.4 mile swim, then they do a 112 mile bike ride and then they top it of nicely with a quick marathon. See, my swearing is a little more exceptable now, isn't it.
Jenson I know how to loose a championship Button also competed in this Ironman. He described her time of 8hrs and 54 minutes as “a little bit scary”. She beat her nearest competitor by 20 minutes.

The Award for Most Unfortunate Goal to have Scored Against You of the Week,

It is very simple. This is from yesterdays Liverpool vs Sunderland game.

See the ball hit the balloon and fly past the goalkeeper. That has got to hurt.

Have a lovely week all. A bit of work this week but hoping to get to see “Up” at some point.