Thursday, 30 December 2010


Ok, I am going to stop posting on here and use my website properly. I am going to use it as on opportunity to bring all my interweb stuff to together, blog, allotment blog and podcast will all be together. Thank you to everyone who has read me here.
 The URL for the website is

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas Songs

So it's nearly Christmas (I'm sure you already now that but it you don't, it's in 3 days time so best you go and buy some presents) and I have written some songs, well 2. Just the words though, I have stolen the tunes. It's just a bit of fun.

How about this to the tune of “We Wish a Merry Christmas,” it's called “We wish you would find that Boson,”

We wish you would find that Boson,
We wish you would find that Boson,
We wish you would find that Boson with your big round machine.

We need to find out what gives us all mass
Then we can blame something other than many mince pies.

Oh bring us the conditions
oh bring us the conditions
Oh bring us the conditions for the beginning of time

We won't know until we smash them
we won't know until we smash them
we won't know until we smash them at immensely high speed

We wish you would find that Boson,
We wish you would find that Boson,
We wish you would find that Boson with your big round machine.

And this one to the tune of “Frosty the Snowman”, it's called “Humble the Woo Man.”
For a little background on Jim Humble may I suggest you have a look here and here.
Anyway on with the songs,

Humble the Woo Man was a very naughty man
with his cooked up facts and his made up church
he became a massive pain.

Humble the Woo Man is a Miracle they say
he made some claims but the skeptics know
that his science was astray

There must have been some magic in the odd things that he said
cos when typed and flapped his mouth, his believers danced around.

He said “it's mostly oxygen and something that's in salt,
it'll cure most things in the world and is very sanely priced.

Humble the Woo Man wasn't believed by everyone,
when a boy named Rhys bought up concerns
they tried to shout him down.

Humble the Woo Man caimed it wasn't bleach
but the FDA and the ASA
seemed to disagree.

Ok, the last one is a bit of a work in progress but it's fun(ish).

There is a nice Christmassy DORC podcast here which is quite fun. I hope you all have a lovely Christmas.

Monday, 13 December 2010

BAN THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Do you have a small, ignored extremist organization? Do you want to have more publicity than you deserve? Then you need Theresa May!

All you have to do is make a couple of stupid statements about Islam, threaten to burn a few copies of a religious book and then say that you are going to come to Britain to talk to some barely literate racists and the Home Secretary will do the rest!

Have we really not learnt that banning idiots such as the Pastor Terry Jones (no, not the ex-python) from our delightful shores does more to increase their profile than just allowing them to land say they stupid things to a bunch of idiots and then go home again?

There are of course many intellectual arguments to be made for this being a freedom of speech issue and other will make them more coherently and succinctly than I but I will say this, if we have the freedom of speech that we are supposedly having to defend from nasty terrorists who are jealous of our way of life, than this self-promoting, tiny minded douchebag must be allowed to come here and spout his misinformed nonsense to a bunch of people so stupid that they can’t even decided on a decent haircut, “Oh, I went for the skin head too, we look like twins.” And then comprehensively ignored.

Perhaps another example is needed here. Without the hysterical reporting would you have heard of Islam4UK? They wanted publicity for their silly group and decided that the best way to do it was to go to the repatriation events for British Serviceman in Wootton Basset and shout offensive things and, maybe, have a bit of a march. Now that was a plan.
 Every news organization in country said that these people were awful and that they should not be allowed to say such terrible things about “our boys” whilst simultaneously broadcasting hours of footage and interviews with their leader Anjem Choudary say those exact things on national television. If they had just ignored him then only the poor people unfortunate enough to be within ear shot of him in Wiltshire would have had to suffer this duffus.
When Islam4UK was banned as an organization for saying stupid things did they go home and think about what they had done? No, they changed their name and carried on but now they have better press contacts.

The same goes for this idiot Jones, if he hadn’t have received wall to wall coverage for threatening to burn some books then I would never have heard of him and neither would you, unless of course you are one of the tiny number (50 people according to Wikipedia) that actually go to this dickwads church.

Do you want to know a fun fact? Neither of the 2 groups mentioned here actually did the thing that they threatened to. Terry Jones Church didn’t burn any Qua’ans and Islam4UK didn’t go ahead with their march but they got a spectacular amount of free publicity for themselves, their stupid organizations and ideas and all from people who say that they shouldn’t be allowed to say the things that they are saying.

So should Mr Jones come here? If he wants too, yes. Should he speak to the barely sentient members of the EDL? If he wants to, yes. Should we cover him and his visit in every single news outlet that we have? No, ignore him and he’ll stop.

I’ll leave you with this thought; did Radio 1 banning “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood stop it from getting to number 1 in the hit parade?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

It's Like Being Told There's No Santa

This is a snippet of the conversation that took place between LibDem MP John Hemming and Radio 4’s always brilliant Eddie Mair on Tuesday’s PM. Mr Hemming’s constituency office had been occupied by student protesters who where more than a little pissy about his party’s U-turn over their definite pledge not to increase tuition fee,

EM: How are you going to vote on Thursday?
JH: At the moment I’m very likely to vote for the increase simply because we cannot reward the bad behaviour from today. I have … [interrupted]
EM: Just a second. Part of your thinking might be to punish protesters?
JH: The problem you’ve got is this. If you reward this form of behaviour, if it has any effect which is a positive effect, you’re encouraging the behaviour in the future.
EM: Part of the reason you’re going to reach your decision is based on the protests?
JH: Part of the reason has to be based on the protests because I cannot allow that to influence me in any favourable manner whatsoever.

And that was it; if you’d have listened very carefully you could have hear my heart breaking.
I have hung on as long as I could and have tried to understand their role within the coalition but I just couldn’t do it any more. I am no longer a Liberal Democrat.
Well, in spirit I am I suppose but in a direct, financial, card carrying way I am not. I have cancelled my membership of the party.  I still share many of the goals and ideas that the grass roots members hold dear but I feel that we all have been let down/betrayed by the leadership.
 I did not vote for and give money to a party that wanted raise tuition fees, part privatise vast sections of the NHS, make massive cuts in public spending (including welfare cuts, cuts in local council budgets, rise in state pension age and, oddly for Tories, cuts in Defence spending), constantly attack, undermine and take money from the BBC, sell off forests and not punish bankers who got us into this position in the first place (I mean a 0.05% levy is nothing, 0.75% would pay off the deficit) yet that is what they are enabling the Tories to do.
  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the party is a collection of people with different ideas and points of view and that it is not there just for me and it’s not as if I signed up to all of their ideas 100% but I definitively did not vote for the Conservative party which is what we have. I struggle to find any LibDem influence on the policies of the coalition.
 I want to make it clear that this is not just a childish, knee jerk or petulant reaction to the situation but it is a consider action, the tuition fees debacle was just the cherry on top of a less than tasty looking cake and Mr Hemming was the straw that broke this mixed metaphor’s back.
 This brings a new problem, who to vote for next time? Suggestions on a postcard please.

To cheer myself up, let’s do some awards,

The Award for Worst Short Cut of the Week,

This has to go to who ever decided that it might be a good idea to take Charles and Camilla home from the Royal Verity Performance through the middle of a riot.


They didn’t look happy, although they had just seen Michael McIntyre and Cheryl Cole so what can you expect?

The Award for Best Use of Police Time of the Week,

We keep being told that we face multiple terror treats from absolutely everywhere but, as usual, we look without rather than within. Thank the Lord then for the police of Oxfordshire. These dedicated officers are never taking their collective eyes off of the metaphoric ball.
 What dedicated cell of terrorist fundamentalists have they broken? Was it Al-Qaida, the Real IRA or ETA? Umm, no, it is the type that advertises it’s self on Facebook and is organised by a 12 year old of course.
 Nicky Wishart, a pupil at Bartholomew School, Eynsham was interviewed by Thames Valley police and the school was contacted anti-terrorism after he was planning to picket David Cameron's constituency office.
 He was taken out of his lessons and, speaking to the Guardian, said: "In my lesson, [a school secretary] came and said my head of year wanted to talk to me. She was in her office with a police officer who wanted to talk to me about the protest. He said, 'if a riot breaks out we will arrest people and if anything happens you will get arrested because you are the organiser'."He said even if I didn't turn up I would be arrested and he also said that if David Cameron was in, his armed officers will be there 'so if anything out of line happens ...' and then he stopped."
Scaring 12 year olds, nice, you must be very proud of yourselves. Sleep soundly in your beds British citizens of the UK because your Police force is here to protect you (by abusing their power, illegally, possibly, interviewing a child and insinuating threats of violence).

In the run up to Christmas time is precious (my mince pie production line takes up a lot of time) and this is true for nearly all of us so not much blogging or podcasting for a little while. There will definitely be no blog next Sunday because we will be in that London. We are seeing Robin Ince’s 9 Lessons and Carols for Godless People on Saturday evening and are very much looking forward to it.
Have a lovely week.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

So Bribery is OK Then?

Ah, the children of Dorchester how my respect for you grows. Wednesday night saw the town’s late night Christmas shopping event. Charity stalls and the like lined the street (and one stall from some church or other that claimed to be “Radically Inclusive”, what the hell does that mean? Am I a member against my will?), good cheer abounded, live music played out and it was fun.
 Half way up the high street was a puppet show. A puppet show that was trying to link the virgin birth of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ and….. wait for it…… the X factor. A bit of a stretch, “and Jesus had the X factor” well, that’s a no from me what do you think Cheryl?
 Despite the lure of free mince pies it had basically attracted three under 5’s, some cold looking parents and a dog from the Save the Greyhounds stall just down the road. Dorset County Museum, on the other hand, which had some people dressed up as Sci-Fi characters was rammed.
 Now some may say that this is because it was very cold and the people were just in the museum because it was warm, I on the other hand would like to think it was a proof that Dorchester’s children care far more for Daleks and Darth Vader than they do for the sky fairy.

So we wanted be hosting the World Cup in 2018 but lost out to Russia, bit of a shame but hey, we would only have complained about it endless anyway.
 So what was it that lost us the bid? If you read the Daily Mail, which I really hope none of you do, then it may have been the video presentation to FIFA from the FA that was the problem.
 The video attempted to show how the Premiership is the biggest and most supported league in the world, and this lead, in the words of the Mail to a “very un-English presentation”. By this they seem to mean it has lots of people who aren’t white, well that’s the insinuation from the photographs they have chosen to illustrate the article with.
 The article opens with “Gosh, didn't we look global. So multicultural, so diverse” and then goes on to complain about the lack of clichéd stereotypes in the film and as we know, there is nothing that the Mail likes more than a clichéd stereotype.
 They also complain about the soundtrack of the piece which is Elbow’s One Day Like This. To quote the Mail “Someone remarked that the lead singer sounded as if he was yawning.” Now, they can be as racist as they like (obviously they can’t that is just a joke) but I will not except any form of criticism of the lovely Guy Garvey. You have pushed me too far this time Daily Mail! I am writing a stern letter to your Editor, now where is my favorite green crayon?
 The other theory is that it was the British press that lost us the bid. Note how few people are saying, “maybe the bid wasn’t very good or maybe FIFA wanted to go to Russia because they hadn’t been there before”.
 Anyway back to the villain of the peace, our press. We have a free press in this country and this, when all things are taken into consideration, is a good thing so if the BBC wants to run a program that claims that FIFA officials took bribes then it damn well should and if the Sunday Times wants to claim that too then hurray for them.
 Both organizations were attacked for running/broadcasting their pieces, some going as far as to call them “unpatriotic”. Is exposing corruption unpatriotic or do these people want us to turn a blind eye to illegality?
 If this week has shown us anything it is that the British Establishment (I don’t think I have ever used that phrase before) really doesn’t mind a bit of bribing if it directly effects us. Corruption when it is by Afghans, bad, corruption by FIFA, we’ll turn a blind eye to it, they might give us the World Cup.
 It is an all pervading attitude as well. One of the things to come out of the Wikileaks thing was that British Trade ambassador Prince Andrew doesn’t mind a bit of bribery and is rather resentful of it being investigated. It is reported by Tatiana Gfoeller, Washington's ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, that “he railed at British anti-corruption investigators, who had had the 'idiocy' of almost scuttling the Al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia" and he criticized Guardian journalists - "who poke their noses everywhere" - for investigating the deal. Should we investigate corruption? Apparently not because we are involved. Good to know.

 Some awards now for this chilly week,

The Award for Clearly Being Set Up By Your Daughter of the Week,

Celebrity fainter and not a Doctor Gillian Mckeith claims not to have a television yet a producer Nick Johns claims that she wanted a DVD player so that she could watch the X-Factor because she was missing it but that is just an aside. No, no, the fun part comes in an interview with her daughter. Skylar McKeith-Magaziner was interviewed on This Morning and was asked about whether or not her mother had seen the program before to which she answered "No, we don't actually have a TV, so I've just seen some clips, but she has never actually seen the show." Fair enough I suppose but it might be an idea to do a little research, although Gillian is not renowned for doing research. Do you see what I’ve done there, I’ve insulted her work!
  Anyway later in the interview Skylar says “Um, well, I kind of forgot about the bushtucker trials”, so she had seen clips of the trials but neglected to tell her mother. Oh that is funny.

The Award for Mass Straw Man Creation of the Week,

This week saw the launch of a campaign by some Christians called “Not Ashamed” which claims that Christians are being discriminated against or barred from involvement in public life. It is supported by Bishop Michael Nazir Ali and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey. That is LORD Carey. He is 1 of 26 Bishops of the Church of England sit in the House of Lords simply because they are Christian bishops.
 Anyway, what evidence did they present? Umm, none. Obviously humanist groups thought that this was slightly silly. The British Humanist Association said “The increasingly desperate attempts to work up a victim narrative of “Christianophobia” by these activists have no basis in reality. The assumption behind it is that there is a groundswell of discrimination and persecution of Christians in Britain, but this assumption is false. Time and again the various claims of discrimination against Christians that have been tested in the courts have been assessed by impartial judges and found baseless.”
 “Discrimination against non-Christians is in fact far more widespread than discrimination against Christians, and Christianity is still overly privileged in the UK. In almost one third of our state schools, preference is given to Christian parents in admissions over non-Christians, and to Christian staff over non-Christian staff.”
 Not a surprise that they think that this is silly but what about other Christian groups? Surely they will be on side, well no and stop calling me Shirley. (RIP Leslie Nielson)
 Christian think tank Ekklesia said that there is ‘no evidence’ to back up the ‘Not Ashamed’ campaign.
 Ekklesia Co-Director Jonathan Batley commented, “Christians should not be ashamed of our faith but nor should they be afraid to listen to others and learn from them.  What they should be ashamed of however, is the reputation that they are developing for exaggeration, misleading people and discriminating against others.
‘Since 2005, when we first predicted the growth in claims of 'persecution', we have been closely examining individual cases and what lies behind them. We have found no evidence to back up the claim of the 'Not Ashamed' campaign that Christians as a group are being systematically marginalised in
Britain. We have found consistent evidence however of Christians misleading people and exaggerating what is really going on, as well as treating other Christians, those of other faith and those of no faith in discriminatory ways.”

Well that will be enough seriousness I think.
This week saw the death of Leslie Nielson who I was a bit of a fan of but what clips to show? How about many?

Have a great week. Oh and don’t forget the podcast, you might like it.

Sunday, 28 November 2010


Over heard as we came out of the cinema this week, “That made no sense to me, although I haven't seen any of the other Harry Potter films or read any of the books.”

 It's been another great week for those that bring you your news, Britain has entered Weathergeddon. Last week it was Royal wedding news and this one has ended with endless pretty pictures of the English countryside covered in a thin but beautifying layer of snow.
 The 24hr news channels have dispatched poor correspondents to various snowy hilltops and motorways to tell us how dangerous the driving conditions are which always leaves me with the question, how did you get there? This is the closest most of them will get to that coveted War Correspondent post so rather then delivering a considered, dispassionate piece to camera whilst the unit with which they are imbedded are taking fire they get to stand by the M62 just outside of Pontefract making out that they are Scott of the Antarctic,
 Those really are some mixed messages that they are sending out, see how pretty it is out there but don't go out, you will die. The snow is back and this time it's personal.
 Our newspapers get really very excited by the cold weather but especially the Express.


 There are 2 reasons for this, 1) they are able to trot out the meaningless argument, “well, if we've got all this snow then global warming is clearly made up” (although the Met Office disagrees) and 2) most of their readership is so very old that the cold might actually be a problem.
 Yes, the cold can present some problems, especially for the elderly, but please, calm down, it's not “The Day After Tomorrow,” it's just some snow.

 Let's do some awards now,

The Award for Pointless and Meaningless Survey of the Week,

 What happens if you ask a load of xenophobes who read a xenophobic newspaper that feeds them xenophobic stories everyday, many of which are untrue, whether or not they want to be in Europe or not?


The Award for Being Sarah Palin of the Week,

 I have some advice for the Democratic Party, let it happen. Get on with doing your thing and if the Republicans want to nominate the awful Palin person then so be it. The more she interviewed and comes under the spotlight, the more she will be shown to be an idiot. Which Korea is your country friendly with Mrs Palin?

 If you point out that she is an idiot you will strengthen the resolve of those who are thinking about voting for her and you will just come of as the class bully. Just let the people find out for themselves. Tea Party nutters will vote for her anyway so ignore them; concentrate on what you want to do. Can you imagine the an Obama/Palin debate? Those wavering voters will be put off by her. What you have to worry about is a reasonable Republican candidate.

The Award for Just Being a Massive Douchebag of the Week,

Well you have a choice for this one. You can either have Bryan Fischer, a right-wing Christian journalist, who criticised the giving of the medal of Honour, America's highest military honour, to U.S. Army Sergeant Salvatore Giunta because he saved the life of several colleagues.
 Sgt Giunta is said to have ‘exposed himself to withering enemy fire’ as he helped a wounded colleague to safety and rescued another who was being dragged away by Taliban insurgents.
 This however is not good enough for self proclaimed “Christain” Fischer who claimed that the medal was being “Feminised” because it was given for saving people rather than killing enemies. Mr Fischer, who writes a column for the American Family Association, said “When we think of heroism in battle, we used to think of our boys storming the beaches of Normandy under withering fire, climbing the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc while enemy soldiers fired straight down on them, and tossing grenades into pill boxes to take out gun emplacements.
That kind of heroism has apparently become passé when it comes to awarding the Medal of Honor. We now award it only for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them.
So the question is this: When are we going to start awarding the Medal of Honour once again for soldiers who kill people and break things, so our families can sleep safely at night?’
He added: ‘Our culture has become so feminised that we have become squeamish at the thought of the valour that is expressed in killing enemy soldiers through acts of bravery.' Tosser.
 Your second choice is Joe Rehyansky. He is a part-time magistrate and Vietnam veteran of Hamilton County, Tennessee. In writing for the conservative news site The Daily Caller he seems to have suggested that it might be a good idea for Lesbians to serve in the army, with their “medical and administrative specialties”, because all those strapping young men will be able to “cure them” and “bringing them into the mainstream.”
 He said “it fell to men to swing through the trees and scour the caves in search of as many women as possible to subdue and impregnate – a tough job but someone had to do it”. Umm, “subdue and impregnate”, does he mean force themselves upon? Does he? Does he mean that straight men should rape lesbians? It does seem that way.
 Does he think that gay men should be allowed to join up as well? Don't be silly. He said that the “promiscuity” of gay men, together with HIV, would have “the potential for disastrous health consequences” if gay men were allowed to join up. “Gays spread disease at a rate out of all proportion to their numbers in our population and should be excluded from the military,” he argued. He then went on to say “Shouldn’t the overwhelmingly straight warriors who answer their county’s call be spared the indignity of showering with other men who achieve lascivious enjoyment from the sight of those lithe naked bodies, and who may be tempted to seek more than the view?”
 Two things from that sentence, 1) he seemed to enjoy typing it a little too much if you ask me. “lithe naked bodies” indeed and 2) “ overwhelmingly straight warriors,”? Now, does he mean in general or individually? Are most soldiers straight or are all the soldiers mostly straight? Is he saying that everyone in the US Army is a little bit gay? All those buff man in uniforms, it could turn a man's head. Anyway, tosser.
Hat tip to Carmen D’Cruz on twitter for pointing me in the direction of that last story.

The No Shit Sherlock Award of the Week,

Massive stoner and all round lovely bloke Willie Nelson has been arrested for possession. Does this come as a surprise to anyone really? Seriously, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. When doesn't he have dope on him? The arresting officer said that his suspicions were aroused when the bus pulled into a routine checkpoint and he detected a distinctive odour. Of course he did, Willie Nelson was on it. It's a little bit ingrained now.
 See, drug laws just don't work. He has been arrested a number of times but has this put him off? No, no it hasn't. It is not a deterrent. Prohibition just doesn't work. If it did then we would have any problems with drugs.

 I think that will do for this week. If you have been protesting against the cuts this week, either the various student ones or in Dublin on Saturday, well done you. And there was beginning to think that we all getting a little political disengaged. You make me proud.
 People are angry Mr Cameron because their lives are being effected by the actions of a small number of bankers who have suffer but not at all and when they try and exercise their legal right to protest they are treated like criminals by the police and press.

Have a great rest of week and enjoy the snow but if you have an elderly neighbour, make sure they are ok.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Diana Watch

At the beginning of this lovely week that has just gone to wherever it is that time disappears to, I was thinking of changing the name of my Sunday posts.
The “Diana Watch” thing stated out as a simple table on my Myspace page (remember them?) that logged the number of times that the “People’s Princess” mysteriously appeared on the front of British newspapers every week despite having died some 9 years before.
I only did this because I found it sort of odd that she (however nice she seemed to be) was still making the front pages. Although, to be fair, most of those front pages were on the Daily Express. And it sort of grew from there.
As I said I was thinking about changing the name because it was starting to look a bit silly. Then Prince William stepped in to the breach to save me from having to think about a new title, 3 cheers for the Prince, hip hip hooray, hip hip hooray, hip hip……why am I the only one doing this? Is it because about 2 minutes after the second inline to the throne announced his betrothal to Katherine (now referred to as Katherine when journalists ask her questions but Kate in print. It seems that she likes to be called Katherine and not Kate so could the massed ranks of the British media do that please, show some respect for the poor girl’s wishes, after all, you are going to ruin her life in all other ways) the coverage had become so all consuming that you were more then a little bored of it?
Now please do not get me wrong, I am happy that 2 young people want to get married, it’s nice (for them and their families), but the coverage has been so intense that it has almost made me wish for some sort of natural disaster or terrorist scare so that 24hr News can cover something else, even just for a second.
Anyway, it lead to a little flurry of Diana related front pages, it was the ring choice what done it.

The Star is not a paper that has bothered me before. I know that they like boobs and printing pictures of boobs and that they are owned by the same man that owns the Express, Richard Desmond, but apart from that, not much. Oh and they are really bad at fact checking and sometimes print stories from comedy news websites as real stories (see here for details, oh and the original story is still up on their website. Warning that link may contain boobs)
Most mornings I hit the Sky News website for one reason, they have a little section that has that mornings newspapers front pages on it, it’s very useful as you can Right-click and save them should you need them for some reason.
So there I was on Thursday morning when I was presented with this,


Now the basic parts of the story may be true, some boys threaten/bully another boy using the medium of Facebook. The reasons given for the bullying may also be true, although that doesn’t sound like the thought process of any 12 year old that I have ever met who has not been strongly influenced by a grown up or two. This story may be 100% accurate with no exaggeration, no bits made up, no facts given a prominence that they don't deserve but even if it is all true the headline is appalling,
Just read that again, Muslim Thugs Age Just 12 In Knife Attack On Brit Schoolboy. Now this happened at a school in Coventry and it seems that all the children involved in the incident were born in England and therefore English. The article gives us no reason to believe that they aren't.
So what it seems the Star is saying is if you are a Muslim you are not, and cannot be, British. I don't think I'm reading too much into it. Muslim thugs are a defined group and Brit School boy is a separate defined group.
This shocked me if I'm honest but they were kind enough to show me that it wasn't just a one off.


Just there in the top left hand corner, “Christmas “nicked” by Muslims”.


View the article on the papers breast filled website and it has the headline “CHRISTMAS IS HIJACKED BY MUSLIMS AND HINDUS”. These damn funny religions are just like the Grinch it seems. But is it true? Ummm, no.
To quote from the article “Councillors were so anxious not to offend other faiths that they decided to share the Christian display with lights to mark the other celebrations.” and that's it, that's the story. No mention of Muslims at all. Ok it's a bit of a weird decision by the council given as Eid ended on Friday (I think) and Diwali finished 2 weeks ago but that's not the point. There was no pressure from any religion or community group to do this, it was just a council decision and yet somehow this has become “Christmas nicked by Muslims”.
I believe that headline to be a lie. A deliberate attempt to stir up tension between communities. What the fuck is wrong with these people?
Is this sort of thing worth a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission? Probably not. The PCC rejected a compliant about a similarly misleading story in the Mail this week; you can read about it here on Tabloid Watch.
So you can lie as much as you like in British journalism as long as it’s about the little people.

Some awards then I think,

The Award for Being Total Douche Bags of the Week,

Do you want to execute Gays for being gay? Well good news, the UN doesn’t mind. To quote from “A UN General Assembly Committee just voted to stop including sexual orientation on a list that protects people against discrimination-based arbitrary executions.”
Welcome to the 21st Century, it's OK it execute Gay people again, next up, burning witches at the stake and the return of the inquisition, all now expectable to the UN.

The Award for Unnecessary Intrusion of the Week,

Did you think I was going to leave the Express alone?
Most of the papers ran the same little intrusive article after David and Samantha Cameron visited the school that their son Ivan attended whilst he was alive (the Mail's is particularly voyeuristic). Strangely enough, as I believe it was the first time they had been to the school since he died, they were a little upset so pictures of them crying accompanied the story.
So far, so intrusive, however the Express went a little further, front page and refusing Samantha the dignity of even using her proper name. Mr Cameron gets called David but she, I assume because she is a woman and therefore not worthy of dignity or respect, is referred to be some silly media nickname.


I cannot express (see what I did there) to you how much I hate every single person who works, in anyway, for that nasty, unpleasant “newspaper”.

Lots of complaining and moaning this week, sorry. Will try and be a little more cheerful next time.

Ok, maybe just one funny thing. This has been doing the rounds on Twitter this week and it might make you laugh. It contains some strong language and things that you may find offensive but all the rude and nasty bits were written by people who profess to be Christians. Here is Richard Dawkins reading out some of the hate mail he has received over the years,

I hope you all have a good week.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Ann Widdecombe is not a National Treasure, she's a very nasty woman.

Once a year I have to out myself as a fan of Strictly Come Dancing and now is that time. I like dance, that is all.
 OK, maybe I should write a little bit more than that.
  There is the distinct possibility that one of the most horrid people ever to enter British politics is starting to be thought of favourably.  Ann Widdecombe is not, and never will be, a national treasure. It's not just because she is a Tory, it is because she is a particularly unpleasant person all round.
 I could just leave it at that but some younger people may just think that she is a shrill voiced, humourless joyspoiler but wait my little naive friends, she is so much less.

She is anti-abortion and seems to have problems with embryonic stem cell research whilst not fully understanding the science behind it. Scientists didn’t want to create a human/animal hybrid Ann.
She advocates only the Police Stopping and Searching only Asian and Black people because “there is a certain form of person who is a danger to society and that sort of person are more likely to fall in to that category then others” despite the fact that most terrorism offences committed on these shores are by White Irish men.
She supports Homophobia as long it's by Religious people (It's free speech you know.)
She supports tougher drug laws.
She seems to think that the Church of England apologising for the Crusades and slavery “makes them look silly”.
She believes in censorship.
She is one the idiot MP's who wanted Terrorism suspects detained for 42 days despite no evidence that it would help investigations in any way.
She is against political parties trying to help get more women into Parliament.
She seems to agree with PETA on some things (they even gave her an award).
She insisted that Tories "throughout the Thatcher period" had always cared about the poor.
In 2007 she earned £310,000 above her parliamentary salary.
She writes for the Daily Express.
She was opposed to the repeal of Section 28.
She is a climate change denier.
She left the Church of England because they started ordinating woman.
In 1996 she defended the Governments policy of shackling pregnant women with handcuffs and chains when in hospital, even when giving birth.(turns out that Hannsard says that bit is not true despite what I read else where.)

And on top of all of this, SHE REALLY REALLY CAN'T DANCE!

Although on the plus side she is against fox hunting.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Diana Watch

Look, it's very simple, if you don't password protect your Wifi I will use it, hence here we all are. Hello from Kent! Come on in the water's muddy.

I think that I may be becoming a little paranoid. Every time I see a story in the press about changes to the NHS all I can see is a concerted conspiracy to dismantle it by a government that values profit over all over things. It's a subtle(ish) accumulation of things, some within the white paper and some coming from outside.
GP's, who have already been technically privatised and are run for profit, will take over commissioning from the PCT's. They already ignore standard NHS terms and conditions for their staff and, in a letter to the BMJ, it has been pointed out that Foundation Trusts will be also be able to ignore Agenda for Change but that is not really my point here.
The Government have announced this week that NICE will be stripped of it's powers to say which treatments should be available on the NHS and GP's will decided for themselves which drugs they prescribe without any guidance.
A new treatment comes on to the market and NICE review it. Does it work? Is it cost affective? Show me the evidence! If it works then you can prescribe it within the whole NHS and if it doesn't then you can't. Sounds like a good idea to me.
This simple idea has got rid of the “system” that existed before where some Health Authorities prescribed some drugs and others didn't. The press hated it, quite rightly (here for instance is the Daily Mail on that very subject. The first paragraph reads “Patients with cancer, heart disease and mental illness are being denied drugs and lifesaving treatment thanks to a postcode lottery of care in the NHS”), and it was nicknamed “a postcode lottery” i.e., where you lived effected what drugs you could have. It was agreed that this was a bad idea and we needed a centralised system and some joined up thinking and that is what we got.
NICE has been controversial in some areas of the press because they have restricted access to some really expensive, not very effective (or least not any better than existing treatment) drugs, mostly for cancer treatments. In fact, it is the same press that was critical of the postcode lottery that existed before (here for instance is the Daily Mail on that very subject. The first paragraph reads “The scandal of patients being denied drugs just because the NHS rationing body decides they are too expensive will end, ministers have declared.”).
I have a question for these people, what would you do? We don't have unlimited amount of money so we can't do everything, so give us some ideas, all you do is complain and criticise but never offer any alternatives.
Oh, as an aside, a lot of those charities/patient advocacy groups that get quoted in the papers are set up/funded by Big Pharma companies to act as lobbying organisations for certain drugs and treatments.
There are some important practical points in transferring prescribing decisions to GP's such as how do you expect them to keep up with all the new drugs that come to market? There are hundreds of studies a year and they are not always as open and straight forward as they should be. When do they think GP's have time to read all these studies? Aren't they supposed to be seeing patients? If they only read the abstracts of the articles/studies because of time pressures then they will be lead astray as many article abstracts have been shown to misleading.
Anyway, back to my rambling point. So a private company can already set up a GP consortium and now they will be able to prescribe which every drug they like, ignoring such boring, unimportant things as evidence.
This is were my worst case scenario thinking bought me. There is very little standing in the way of a GlaxoSmithKline opening a chain of NHS GP surgeries and prescribing only GlaxoSmithKline drugs. “Have you been to a Glaxo surgery before?”
OK, at the moment there are still a few hopes to be jumped though and barriers to be crossed, fords to be ummmm, forded and boxes to be ticked, but they are mostly PCT based. So we are safe at the moment because the PCT's are quite useful and no one would want to get of them, oh hang on a minute.....

That is all for this week as I'm not really supposed to be doing this.
There will definitely be no blog next Sunday (I know I said that last week but things change) as we will be in Nottingham I think for some art event or other, not sure if I'm honest but I will take pictures and if they are ok I will show you. Have a great week.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Diana Watch

Happy Halloween! I do hope you are going to be watching some scary films or doing something else to celebrate. If you have children you better be dressing them up and taking them out trick or treating. It's fun people. Oh and the Mail has a tendency to publish stories about its evilness so it must be good. Oh and Express columnists don't like it either. It just keeps getting better and better.    It is also a good excuse to make things and do some fun cooking.  Significant Other has carved a pumpkin and we are going to cook a nice dinner.
 We went to a friend’s house on Friday evening for dinner and a scary film and they had decorated the house for the occasion. I say again, it's fun.
 Do we not need some fun in our lives currently run by Politicians who cut everything and joyspoilers who say things like “Trick or treating is just an American thing, we shouldn't do it”. No you are getting it mixed up with the Iraq war. Stop it. Oh and it's not a very good argument either. “Well we didn't do it in my day. It's a very new thing.” I did it a couple of times when I was little and that was a very long time ago.

Sometimes people make some rather interesting leaps of logic. In an interview with Dorset magazine local artist and stone balancer Adrian Gray says people have made some rather interesting suggestions about how he does what he does, which is balancing a stone on another stone,


Anyway some of the suggestions include glue, blu tack and velcro. They are not just balanced then? Oh no. In fact in an interview with our awful local paper's weekend magazine he said that some one even asked him if he was working in an area of low gravity. It seems that this distortion of the rules of the universe was more likely than some well balanced stones.
 This desire to believe/make up incredibly unlikely, physics defying things over perfectly sensible, rational explanations never ceases to amaze me about our species. I know that sciencey types are criticised for taking the mystery out of things but knowing what makes a rainbow doesn't make it any less beautiful. I know, to some extent, how Mount Fuji was formed and how the white stuff on the top was made but that doesn't mean that pictures of it don't take my breath away (haven’t quite got round to seeing it in real life yet). It is a joy to behold. I can look at the evolutionary path of my cats and they are still cute. Significant Other may have a common ancestor with the chimpanzee but she is still pretty and attractive.
 Knowledge doesn't make things less mysterious (despite the insistence of the Insane Clown Posse), it helps us to see all the things that we don't know. When I read a book it tells me a very small amount of information and shows so much more that I don't know. The more I learn the more I realise that I don't know and how much more there is to find out about. Why make up more stuff? To quote from Tim Minchin's excellent poem Storm “Isn’t this enough? Just this world? Just this beautiful, complex Wonderfully unfathomable natural world? How does it so fail to hold our attention That we have to diminish it with the invention Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?”
 You see it all over society, odd leaps such as “Big Pharma is not always as honest as it could be so therefore is bad and that means that all Alt. Med. Treatments must work!” I'm sorry? “What is that light in the sky? There are plenty of things it could be like a Chinese lantern or something but it is definitely a UFO”
 Our press are very good at these sorts of logical side steps. It's an easy, space filling story for them. Man see UFO, man see ghost etc. Why bother finding out the truth when this is really an inconsequential story and they didn't bother finding out the truth about anything else they had written.
 Take this story in the Sun from September, “Ghost spotted in Cumbrian Pub”. A CCTV camera picked up what could, to a stupid person, be a ghost. The Sun is kind enough to have added the video footage to the website so that you can clearly see that it is a fly on the lens of the camera. An out of focus fly I grant you because the camera is focused on the room a long why behind but definitely a fly. You can see its wings move for fucks sake. Do they consult anyone who might tell them this? No, no they don’t but they do ask a “Medium” who, strangely enough thinks it's a ghost.
 Or maybe take at look at this picture that the Sun published (sorry to have to make you visit the Sun’s website to see it but they have copyrighted it and I can’t find it online). Is it a ghost? No, it's Anakin Skywalker from the Phantom Menace. Photo-shopped a bit but it’s definitely him.


There is a point to this slightly bad tempered rambling.
 Most news outlets have covered a completely ridiculous story this week. “Has Belfast film-maker found time travel evidence?” asks the BBC website. No, no he hasn't. Now would you mind reporting the news?
 Ok, maybe a bit more depth. A man was watching the extras on his Charlie Chaplin box set) that is an exciting life) and saw some footage from the Première of 1928’s The Circus. I'll let him explain what happened next, “As I sat back to watch it I realised in the first 30 seconds there's A lady strolling by with her hand up to her ear which looked quite familiar in today's society. So I wound it back and watched it again, zoomed it in and slowed it down and got other people in to check it out. Everybody had the same reaction - it looks like she's talking on a mobile phone." Well that much is true, it does sort of look like she could be on a mobile, if it wasn't 1928, but it is so she isn't. Does he leave it there? Umm, no. "My initial reaction was that's a mobile phone, they weren't around then, my only explanation - and I'm pretty open-minded about the sci-fi element of things - it was kind of like wow that's somebody that's went back in time." Two things here, 1, learn to speak properly and 2, how is that proof of time travel? She looks like she is on the phone. It's not that she is centre shot waving her Iphone about. And then he says the classic credulous line, “A mystery like this one, bottom line I don't think we're ever going to find out” No sir you are wrong. Just because you don't have the intellectual rigour to work it out doesn't mean that others shouldn't of can’t. Hearing aid, scratching face, not wanting to be filmed, pick one!
 Ok, I'm being hard on this fucktard, he is allowed to think that if he likes and he can even tell his friends about it if he wants but why all the coverage? Just put “Time Travel Charlie Chaplin Mobile Phone” into Google and see how many hits you get. How many of them offer an explanation for this nonsense? Very few. Most of them just print his remarkable leap of logic. Surely we deserve a bit better than some blokes opinion reported as news.

Sorry, I've rambled on again. I wasn't going to do this I seem to remember saying. An award now I think.

The Award For Just Trying Really Hard To Moan About Stuff That Really Doesn't Matter Of The Week or The Mountain Out Of A Molehill Award,

Have you survived clock-o-gedden? Well as you are reading this I suppose you have. If you read yesterdays Daily Express you would have thought it was the end of the world. “Britain in gloom as clocks go back” was the headline. The opening line of the article is “Britons face a day of chaos tomorrow as the clocks go back an hour”. It's a Sunday, who cares! Calm down Express “writing” person.
“A third of us will oversleep” again I say, so, it’s Sunday. They continue, “20% will wake up to a cold house after forgetting to change the central heating timer.” says the next line, that's an odd statistic. Oh hang on; what's that in the next paragraph? “Research by energy company Npower....” ahhh, it makes a bit more sense now, it's a bad and pointless PR survey piece but with an exciting Daily Express doom-leaden twist. I'll ignore the rest of it then.
 If you want a bit more on Bad PR, try the Michael Marshall's blogposts for the Merseyside Skeptics.

As I mentioned it earlier, here is the whole of Tim Minchin's Storm.

 Maybe no “Diana Watch” next week as we are off to Kent but we'll see. Have a great week.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Daily Express and Foreign Aid

Now, it would be fairly easy to portray those who “write” for the Daily Express as unpleasant, small minded, borderline racist, xenophobic, black-hearted tossers who think that because our economy is having a bit of a downturn at the moment it’s perfectly acceptable for our, comparatively, very rich country to withdraw from the world and slash the Foreign Aid Budget. God forbid that we should help people who are actually starving to death or dying from easily preventable diseases when we have think about delaying Trident for a little while.
 It would be easy for me to do that but why should I when they are quite capable of doing it themselves. Here’s today’s front page,


Stopping people from dying is a “scandal” apparently. But surely this is just a one of aberration; it can’t be a campaign can it because that would be appalling? Well, here are 2 front pages from last week,


As I said before, I don’t have to make them look bad because they are bad and they are not ashamed by it.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Diana Watch

So, some very rich mostly men destroy our economy by not fully understanding how banking works (I hope that it was that and not that they did know what they were doing because would be very upsetting indeed) and now some rich people are telling us that we are all in this together and all our public services have to be cut. I over simplify (there are quite a few millionaires in the Government, 18 in the cabinet, but there were quite a few in the last one as well) but you get my point.
George Osborne told Parliament how we (and I say “we” because it certainly isn't “them”) are going to pay down the national debt that we didn't cause. Cutting child benefit, BBC to take on the cost of the World Service, the Foreign Office will see it budget cut by 24% and cuts to the armed services were all on the list.
The navy was hit quite hard in the review and will loose its flagship, the aircraft carrier the Ark Royal. It will be decommissioned this year, 4 years earlier than planned. However, due to “interesting” contractual reasons it is though that cancelling the 2 new aircraft carriers currently being built would be more expensive than completing their build so that order will be finished. We will then be the proud owners of 2 shiny, new very big boats that we can't afford to put planes on. Many ideas have been put forward on what to do with some flat topped ships, most seem to involve NATO aircraft using them, but can I make a suggestion? England is bidding for the 2018 World Cup and I think that we need some sort of gimmick or novelty idea to draw some attention to ourselves and that's where the Aircraft carriers come in. Yes we have some great looking stadia, like that one that Arsenal play in and the Manchester City one (I know nothing of football hence my support of AFC Bournemouth), but can you imagine a game of international football played on the deck of a moored, planeless Aircraft carrier? Or, for later round games, a boat at cruising speed in the English Channel? Come on, that would be entertaining. Ok, I agree there might be one or two problems but nothing that can't be sorted out. We are a resourceful people.
Back to the cuts. Various benefits will be cut and there will be yet another crackdown on benefit cheats. Whilst this plays well in the right-wing press, who think that no one should get benefits except them, it rarely saves that much money. Well, about £1 billion per year, ok, I accept that this is a quite a large amount of money but compare it to the amount that is paid out by the HMRC error. That is £4.2 billion.


And how does the government intend to help the HMRC sort out this problem and make it more efficient? Why, by cutting it's budget by 15% of course. Brilliant. Oh and this is the department that supposed to enforcing our tax laws and making sure that our biggest companies pay their tax bills, yes Vodafone I am looking at you.
Over all it was a spending plan the Margaret Thatcher would love.
A report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies said that the spending cuts would affect the poor the most. They described it as “more regressive than progressive” but massive disappointment Nick Clegg claimed that the IFS report was “distorted nonsense.” He may have a bit of point but when it suits him, ie before the election, the IFS was a respected Think Tank that said that the LibDems economic plans were the most credible, well that's what he claimed in a speech to the RCN on Tuesday the 27th of April 2010. It's easy to accept peoples opinions when they agree with yours isn't it Nick.

One of the other things that was cut was the Severn Estuary Tidal barrier. It was going to cost £34 billion and provide about 5% of the UK's electricity or enough for all of Wales.
There were good arguments for and against the building of the barrier, it's a low carbon technology that would have been reasonable effective at generation Vs the cost (it is quite high but it would have powered an entire country) and some possible damage to bird life. Of course the reason it was dropped was the price and only the price. More specifically the fact that it was a Government backed scheme.
We will build some nice new big, expensive nuclear power plants instead because Government don't have to play for them directly. Not because they are safe or efficient but because the initial cost will be met by someone else. Well except for the £5 billion subsidy to fast-track the building of the reactors that was agreed by the last Government but will be paid for by a slight increase in ours bill. Oh and the cost of decommissioning the plants. On this point the estimate for the current stations is around £70 billion to be met by the tax payer. With the new plants there is supposed to be a scheme where by the companies running them has to put some money aside each year to pay for it but given the difficult to know nature of the problem and the unpredictability of long term costings, any short fall will be picked up by the tax payer. Oh and then there is Deep Geological Storage, an untested technology, which is estimated to cost £10 billion. It is not cheap.
The problem with comparing the various costs of different types of generating is that it is really hard to do. It is hard to get the information and, unless you are an expert in such things, when you have the information it is really hard to understand. Here for instance is a Nuclear Power Generation Cost Benefit Analysis. WTF? And so it is almost impossible for me (I don't know about you) to have an informed opinion. Which is best? I don't know.
David Cameron is slightly obsessed with his Big Society where he can see the chance to save money (getting people to do things for free that used to be jobs that people were paid for) but where it is actually a good idea he says not word. Why do we need massive central power generation? Oh of course, profit. Can't interfere with the making of profit of power companies can we.
I've said it before and I will say it again. Micro, not macro, generation is the way forward. A few changes to the planning regulations would save us thousands of tonnes of CO2 a year and a power station or 2. Simple things such as all new domestic properties to be triple glazed and to have solar panels on the roofs. We currently pay quite well for feed-in tariffs. All those pointless and wasted rooftops. How about all of that space on top of factories or super markets? Some solar panels and a few wind turbines and they are generating most of their power. It can be done and it can be done easily but there is inertia within Government. If we are all generating a bit then power stations will have to generate less. It's quite simple.
Shall I tell you of my invention? Well it's an idea for an invention really. All that water flows off of your roof and into your guttering and then into the down pipe. What if there was a series of tiny generators in the down pipe? Well it's how hydro-electric plants work, only smaller, but if everyone was doing it. Loads of power. Alright it is a bit crappy but it might work.

I have rambled on a bit as usual, sorry. And so to some awards,

The Award for Story Clearly Made Up By Script Writers of the Week,

The UK's newest and most sophisticated submarine was carrying out a crew transfer with a surface vessel in the Kyle of Localsh when it ran aground. It has the finest sonar and stealth equipment and is called the Astute. The name alone is funny enough but there is another level of humour. The tug that was used to pull the World's most advance submarine free is to be decommissioned under the spending cuts announced this week. Is this not a story line from Yes Minister?

The Award for Doing Well in a Minority Sport That Doesn’t Get That Much Coverage of the Week,

As there is still a persistent rumour that we are not very good at sport I feel that I need to carry on pointing out when we have done well. In that vein, well done to Beth Tweddle, Louis Smith and Dan Purvis who have all won medals at the World Gymnastic Championships.

That is enough I think for one Sunday. Have a lovely rest of week. Oooh, and don’t forget the podcast as well.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

A Lucky Find

I was browsing a local second hand bookshop the other day trying to find a title that wasn't authored by Dan Brown, a harder task than you might imagine (it seems several million people can be wrong but they realize this by the end of chapter 3 rather than when they are standing in the queue waiting to pay. If you are not sure about the quality of the novel that you are about to purchase you can carry out this simple test. Hold the book somewhere you can see it. Look carefully at the front cover, the spine and then the back cover If the words Dan Brown appear at any point (whether that be as the author or in a quote from a review i.e. “if you loved Dam Brown then you'll love this..” or “..the new Dan Brown,,”) gently place the book back where you found it, go home, sit quietly for a moment and think about how close you came to intellectual death. Maybe you could tell your friends who, seeing how close they came to loosing you, will buy you a drink.)
I was looking through some of the older works in the shop when I spied a battered old tome. The leather binding was fraying and the gold embossed title down the back was difficult to make out. Was it? No, it can't be, can it? I removed it from the shelf and tried to wipe some of the dirt off. A musty smell arouse from it as I opened it to the title page. A deep joy filled me to my very core! It was! It really was!
I held the hallowed book in my hands. They trembled slightly like a frightened vole or a nervous virgin bride on her wedding night might. It was a very rare 1839 copy of “Keeping the Poor in their Place” by Valentine Slaymaker. The volume was subtitled “exploiting those who deserve it or how to keep the mud of your boots by walking on the backs of prostrate oiks.”
Well this excited me greatly, as I am sure you can imagine. In that rare group of people who sit happily in the intersection of the Venn diagram that shows Economists and Bibliolaters, as I do, this was a book that was talked about in hushed, reverential tones. It's revolutionary theories and it's total disregard for human dignity in the face of profit making is legendary. Yet here it was with my slightly sweaty fingers fondling it's content.
As I leafed through the pages of this almost mythical edition dust coated my fingers. Everything pointed to this book being a first edition. I was suddenly having a very good day.
The chapter headings alone indicated the polemic direction of this publication, titles such as “The Poor as a Source of Fuel” and “War is Good for Keeping Their Numbers Under Control and for Profit” didn't really hide the political leanings of the author.
As I read on further something started to dawn on me. I was beginning to recognize some of the ideas. I had heard them before and quite recently as well but I couldn't put my finger on it. So I read on.
The chapter on education, for instance, rang a bell somewhere in my over stimulated brain. Mr Slaymaker's argument was that only a very basic level of literacy was necessary for the poor as their minds could actually be damaged by trying to learn too much. They also had no concept of accruing money so there was no need for them to fully understand finance. (He also has a sub-section on how to entertain the poor and the best way to do this. They could be sated with regular minstrel shows it seems. The better minstrels, he advised, would say that they were singing for their mothers who had recently died of plague, whether or not it was true it was not important, it would get the crowd on their side.)
Higher education should be reserved for those who could afford to pay for it as well. He argues that there only social mobility the country needs is the aristocracy moving from Town to the Country when the weather gets warmer.
Another chapter about “The Natural Sciences” makes the case for private investment, and only private investment, in carrying out experiments. To quote the great man “Why should the working man's hard earned taxes (of which only the poor should pay as large companies should be allowed to keep all of their monies as they invest it, thus creating jobs in sustainable sectors such as tulip bulb speculation) be wasted on finding things out when we already know all of the things that we need to know. God is responsible for all that we don't know and can't understand. The inquiring mind is an ungodly mind.”
He continues by saying that he has nothing against Gentleman Scientists because they have their own money to waste but their work is of no relevance. He gives a for instance, “I have heard of one so-called scientist who is getting his son to play an oboe near a snooker table upon which he has placed any number of earth worms. I ask of you, what can this possible tell us other then whether worms like Vivaldi or not?”
I'm sure you can appreciate how this sort of rhetoric was sounding eerily familiar but still from whence I had heard I could not tell. I continued to flick through the book.
I was checking for damage or defacement that may effect the price that I would pay when I came across some scribblings on the inside of the front and back covers. Most of the childish style script was unreadable and in some sort of crayon but from what I could make out it was a declaration of ownership. It seems that the book had once belonged too, and was well thumbed by, someone called Gideon Osborne.
Who was this mysterious man with the very posh name? We shall never know. Just another one of life little mysteries like rail ticket pricing or where the LibDems backbone has gone? Where is he now I wondered?
I am now, of course, the proud owner of this historical oddity and I regularly read though it having a little chuckle at it's outmoded political sentiments.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Diana Watch

2 tweets from my brother from Thursday morning.

“It's at this point of the morning I wish I'd been lazy and driven in to work rather than cycle”, followed 57 minutes later by, “In ambulance on way to hospital having been knocked off my bike. Suspected broken leg.”

He had indeed broken his leg, in several places, but the rest of him was fine. Friday afternoon for him consisted of a rather long surgical procedure to put all the broken bits of bone back into some sort of order using chisels, drills and various bits of Meccano (orthopaedic surgery is not the most delicate of affairs). And now begins, what might be but then again may not be, the long road to recovery.
I just want to say thank you to everyone who helped him. All the people that helped at the scene and to the ambulance crew. To the A and E staff, the ward staff and even the surgeons who I have been known to mock from time to time. Thank you all so much.
I know it's pointless because none of them read this but I think everyone should know that most people aren't twats and are actually quite nice and the NHS is fucking brilliant and I love it, warts and all. OK, maybe not the warts.

Did one of our papers some how manage to get a picture of Princess Diana on the front page? Of course they did but can you guess which one? Of course you can because it was the Express,


My question to you on this lovely Sunday morning (well it's lovely here) is, who would work for NICE? Really, why would you? You just can't win and you have to interviewed by the enormo-twat that is John Humphrys (He was born in a Welsh town called Splot apparently, I think we have discovered the seat of the Humphrys anger, his home town has a stupid name.)
Their latest kicking from the press came after they did what all proper scientists, skeptics and, to be honest, right thinking people should do, they changed their minds, and therefore advice, in the face of new evidence.
In 2007 the organisation decided, with the help of advanced computer modelling and complex algorhythms rather than the more powerful personal anecdote, that the evidence for the prescribing 3 drugs, Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl, for early to moderate Alzheimer’s disease was not strong enough for them to recommend them and so they didn't. This caused a bit of a fuss at the time because the drugs had been available before and they are not that expensive, the figure being bandied around is £2.80 per day. Some even went as far as to call NICE cruel, which was a little harsh. The evidence was weak so they were withdrawn from NHS prescribing, as it should be (they were still available privately though). We practice evidence based medicine, that is the way it works.
This week, following the consideration of 17 new studies (well according to NICE anyway so dispute this), it seems that the evidence base has shifted in favour of these drugs and so the decision was changed. Now that we know that they work and that they are safe and cost effective then now they can be prescribed. Personally I don't see what is wrong with that but, as I have complained about before, our press does not cope well when faced with a nuanced argument and they see changing your mind in the face of new evidence as a sign of weakness. It is reported that you were wrong rather than the situation has changed.
In British politics it seems that the worst thing that you can be accused of is a U-turn and the press, most of whom haven't shifted any of their ideologically views since some time during the reign of Queen Victoria, usually attach the word “humiliating” to the phrase U-turn just to reinforce their point. And so it was for NICE. The Telegraph had “Alzheimer's u-turn by Nice to allow drugs for mild cases” and the Mail went with “Alzheimer's victory for the Mail: Now just £2.50 can buy a life after U-turn on drugs banned by NICE”, in fact every paper I have looked at on-line (so not The Times then) called it a U-turn.
One of the interesting things is the wide range in the numbers that various papers said were effected by this decision. The Telegraph said “around 80,000”, the Guardian had “Tens of thousands”. The Mirror used the figure of “465,000” people, whilst the Mail claimed a rather vague “Hundreds of thousands”. The Star had something about boobs.
According to the Financial Times this change will cost the NHS £13 million per year so I ask the question that many have asked critics of NICE (including on the Pod Delusion podcast a few weeks ago, Episode 53 I think) what would you do? Rather than just carping on all the time put yourself in their shoes. It is a limited drugs budget and to spend £13 million on these drugs you would have to stop spending it on some other drugs, so which patients, who can all bring a miserable story and sad faced picture guaranteed to get them into the next round of the X-factor, would you tell they couldn't have their drugs? Come on journalists who do nothing but criticise others, what would you do? The likelihood is you will choose something that is close to you because a member of your family has suffered from it and excluded other things because, perhaps, you think that they are self inflicted and shouldn't be treated on the NHS. This is why something like NICE has to exist, to remove to emotion from decisions such as this and consider them in a purely rational, scientific way.

As usual I've rambled on, let do some awards,

The Award for Turning Out Not To Be An Arse (Possibly. Although it may have been for publicity but does that matter in the end, isn't the outcome the important thing whatever the motivation)

If you write a letter to your favourite film star you probably don't expect him to reply, after all Jim'll fix it hasn't been on television for years. You also probably don't expect that film star to turn up at your school either although that is exactly what happened to Bea Delap.
She wrote to Capt. Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean films asking for help with a mutiny and he, err, turned up to Meridian Primary School in Greenwich, London. Whilst he didn't help the children with their mutiny, Capt. Jack (played by Johnny Depp) did offer the children some excellent advice, always remember to brush your teeth.

The Award for Best Line of the Week,

One of the rescue teams has managed to break through into the underground chamber where the Chilean miners have been trapped for the last 66 days. A Journalist excitedly asks Chilean mining minister Golborne "how are the miners?", who replied "a lot calmer than the journalists." Nice.

That will do I think. The usual degree of rambling has been achieved and now I must stop, there are sick people to visit. Off to Devon now to visit our god daughter who's not been well either but the NHS made her better also, damn they are great and not just because they employ me.
Have a super fun week.