Monday, 28 June 2010

A day in the life of Simon Jenkins

A day in the life of Simon Jenkins, writer of nonsense and target of spoof blog posts (the reasons for this are explained here), I hope you enjoy it.

Science, rubbish isn't it. I mean it's all numbers and relative risk. It's impenetrable quantum physics nonsense about Particle Duality. I mean really, can something really be in 2 places at once? Of course it can't, how stupid. Can that tree over there be in somewhere else whilst I can see it? No and, while I'm at it, Schrodinger should be reported for his abuse of that cat. I mean putting it in a box is just cruel.
I, like many other people who don't understand something, find my lack of intellectual fitness no hindrance to criticising it. In fact I find my own lack of understanding as a justification for hating something.
Whenever I see a science story on the science stuffed BBC or in a newspaper it is as if someone is ringing a bell somewhere and I cannot help myself but dribble slightly and write an incredibly smug and, in my not at all humble opinion, very witty column saying how rubbish it is and how much money is wasted on research into stupid things that I don't understand and, therefore, don't think are of any use.
Obviously I spend my time trying to avoid anything scientific. I am awoken everyday by my clock radio that has an Ipod connection and have a nice cup of tea from my Teasmade. Breakfast and a shower and then I get dressed. Only natural fibres for me nothing man-made.
Then on to check me E-mail and the Daily Mail website to see what I should be offended by and should complain about. Yes, I except that this is a bit sciencey but it's hardly the LHC is it?
It is hard to avoid science in modern life but it can be done and by the time lunch rolls around I have worked up a bit of an appetite. It's usually a microwave something for me. I can have whatever I like to eat because my local Waitrose has absolutely everything, all year round, it's brilliant!
A short nap after lunch is required, I am getting on a bit you know, but after that I ready to go again. A slight headache has developed so a quick trip to the medicine cabinet is required. Sorting through the packets of tablets, pushing aside the Permethrin cream and my PPI, I find the aspirin and take a couple.
It is a lovely day so I go for a short work, not for too long though, a column won't write it's self, I'm not Richard Littlejohn.
Down by the river the views are lovely, ducks and swans paddling around, raising their young. They don't need science to have a lovely life. I take their picture, as I step over a dead duck, on my digital camera. I get some lovely pictures on it, no idea how it works though, can't imagine that any part of it won one of those pointless Noble Prize things.
Key in the lock to let me back in the house and disarm the burglar alarm. Cup of tea and a little rest before getting on with some work, well maybe an episode of Quincey on ITV4.
Some ill-informed typing does get done without the need to do any research and then it's dinner time, meat and 2 veg (from around the World again) as you would expect with a cheeky little Chilean red.
My evening usually consists either of my Miss Marple box set on Blu-Ray or Radio 3 on my DAB and then to bed. As my head hits my hypo-allergenic pillow I think about how much science I haven't used that day and how it has no effect on my life. I fall asleep smiling at the certainty with which I hold my views and the ridicule I pour upon others who search to find the answers to questions that I can't even imagine. A tamazepam helps me to sleep and to over come the terrible emptiness that gnaws away inside me.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Diana Watch

 Good news, it's not just the Express that prints pictures of Princess Diana on their front page, sometimes other people do too. Look, here she is on The Times,


I'm in a bit of sports frenzy at the moment what with the World Cup, Wimbledon, Cricket and a Grand Prix this weekend as well. I am barely leaving the house at the moment which is a shame because the weather is lovely.
 Depending on when you read this England are about to play Germany or have played Germany in the World Cup so I say this*, Come on England/Well played England/Not out on penalties again/Well, they were the better team on the day/That ball is awful, so light and round. *delete as appropriate.

Have you seen Star Wars? What do you mean no? Stop reading this, go and buy it on DVD and watch it and then continue reading otherwise you won't get the next reference.
 You know that bit in Episode 4 when the Death Star destroys Alderaan and when it happens Obi-Wan says he has felt a disturbance in the Force, like 1 million people cry out at once and then were silent? You remember that bit? See told you this would mean nothing to you if you hadn't seen the film. Anyway, that's how I felt when I heard the Nadine Dorries and David Tredinnick had managed to weasel themselves onto the Science and Technology Committee. 1 million Geeks, Nerds and Skeptics cried out at once and then were silent. Well until they got their breaths back from the collective scream and started Twittering and blogging about this adoration.
 Now I know that to get onto a committee you have to want to get onto that committee but surely there should be some sort of test to see if you are qualified to pass judgement on the subjects the committee will discuss, in this case maybe GCSE science. Here come the Dark Ages, austere Dark Ages at that.
 I would go and hide in a cave until it is all better but for the fear that Prince Charles would be there extolling the virtues of this kind of architecture.
 This however is not a time for retreat, the morons are strong but we can be stronger. They may have one or two people now on the inside and Prince Charles is still interferes more than a constitutional Monarch should (I know that technically he is not yet the Monarch but he should be practising the sort of opinion withholding that his mother does so well.) but this is the perfect time for the rational people to strike back. Let them witter on about how Surgeons don't operate under a full moon because it effects blood clotting or how a foetus can punch it's way out of a womb (maybe she was misquoting a Chuck Norris joke), they get some attention for themselves and look silly but then the way is open for sensible people to correct them and look, well, sensible.

 Remember when strangely faced Michael Gove was trying to sell us all the idea of Free Schools? Do you remember how we heard the word “Sweden” more times then the Divine Comedy album Fin De Siecle? Sweden, Sweden, Sweden, Sweden. 
 He point was that Sweden used the free school system and it was bloody brilliant. What we needed was some sort of study that could tell us if he was right or not.
 What's that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? No, it's a study about the Swedish free schools system and guess what, they are not as good as Tory Boy (and I mean that in an unpleasant way) has been making out.
 A report, published in Research in Public Policy, has found what we all thought. Those that do best from this sort of system are pupils from educated, professional homes. Report author Rebecca Allen from the Institute of Education has found that "The impact on low-educated families and immigrants is close to zero," well that's ok, this Government don't really seem to like them anyway. The report went on, "The researchers also find that the advantages that children educated in areas with free schools have by age 16 do not translate into greater educational success in later life.”
"The evidence on the impact of the reforms suggests that, so far, Swedish pupils do not appear to be harmed by the competition from private schools, but the new schools have not yet transformed educational attainment in Sweden."
 So the evidence shows that this system does not help ALL pupils but only those from the right sort of family, so why do this? It seems that this Government (mostly the Tory bits) are making the decisions on ideological grounds rather than based on evidence. That would explain the budget, a small mention of which later.
 First they refuse to introduce proper regulation of landlords despite the fact that their trade organisation thinks that it is a good idea and now they cap housing benefit. People will be forced to live in cheap, unpleasant housing that may well be dangerous and there will be nothing that they can do about it.
 Run free little markets, run free. Don't you worry who you hurt, you just go and have fun, make as much money as you can for a very small number of people.

Far be it for me to criticise the mighty BBC but I do feel that they went for the salacious angle of this story when they went with the headline “GP admits viewing pornographic images at Dorset surgery.”
 Now that is a very stupid thing to do but this GP was up in front of the GMC, it can't have just that can it?
 Well, the person who wrote this piece seems to think that it is important, or at least the most interesting to the sites readers. If you read on, however, you learn a little more about how spectacularly inappropriate this Doctor was.
 In paragraph 3 we learn he may have been “drunk at the surgery in 2007” and may accessed patient records whilst suspended in 2008 and 2009.
 In paragraph 5 we learn he was accused of  “inappropriately touching three female colleagues”. Paragraph 6 brings news of a webcam he set up  in his surgery and we finish with paragraph 7 that tells us that “Dr Vadas also faces allegations about his care of eight patients and is accused of making threats against a witness”.
 Really I don't thing that the porn thing matters that much, it just made a better headline.

Let's get on with the Awards as we all have more important things to do with our day,

The Award for Massive Insanity of the Week,

Jim Corr from the Corrs (you remember them, 3 cloned women and some bloke, he was the bloke) seems to have become more than a little mad.
 Thank you to Michael Marshall on twitter for pointing everyone towards Jim Corr's website which is filled with pretty much every conspiracy theory you have ever heard of and many you haven't. The man is a loon.
 This is what happens if you hang around with 3 beautiful woman all the time that you have to keep reminding yourself are your sisters and you shouldn't be looking at them like that.

The Award for Incredible, Passionate, Refusing to Loose Sporting Achievement Of The Week,

Yes, yes England played pretty well on Wednesday against the Slitheen (and may also do so again today) but that doesn't even come close to our award winner.
 Nicolas Maihut and John Isner played an epic 5 setter at Wimbledon this week.
 There is no tie-break in the 5th set at these championships so you play on until somebody is ahead by 2 games.
 The first break points didn't come up until the 101st game of the set. Yes you did read that right. The score was 50 games all. At this point they had been playing for nearly 9 hours, over 2 days.
 Until Wednesday the longest match at Wimbledon had lasted 6hr and 9 minutes, the 5th set of this match alone lasted longer than that.
 The 5th set ended 70-68 after 11 hours and 5 minutes of play. It was played over 3 days. Both players served over 100 aces. It was just incredible.

The Award for Fantastic Misdirection Of The Week,

David Cameron was so very proud of the Conservative Party restoring the link between pensions and earnings, so proud in fact that he mocking Labour during Prime Minister's Questions for not doing it whilst they were in office.
 Is it such a great thing? I mean, it would have been a great thing when earnings rises were high and inflation was low. I wonder what it's like now?
 Well, George Osborne announced that public sector pay will be frozen for a few years and, as we all know, the general economy is a bit fucked and many private companies have frozen pay as well.  What about inflation you ask? Inflation is creeping up, well it's about 3.4%, down from 3.7% the month before but still higher than it was.
 So it seems that inflation is higher than the rise in earnings. The increase in pensions for your Granny is going to be less under the Tories than it would have been if they had left the system alone and yet they trumpet this a “progressive”. Welcome to our brave new world.

The Award for Getting More Than You Bargained For of The Week,

 So you are in Canada and you decide to steal a lorry. You think, that looks like a nice lorry and the keys are in the ignition, I'll have that one. Really you should check the back of the lorry to see what's in it shouldn't you? No, you're in a hurry, after all you are nicking it, you are sure whatever is in there will be easy to sell on the black market later on. Just take the truck.
 After the crime is committed you have time to see what's in the lorry. As you approach the doors you notice that it seems to be making some rather odd noises. With some trepidation you open up the lorry only to be faced with a a Bengal tiger called Jonas and camels named Todd and Shawn.
 If you are the person that stole them would you mind terribly giving them back to Bowmanville Zoo in Ontario, they are a little concerned for their animals.

No real mentions for BP this week, oil still floods out into the Gulf of Mexico and they have finally decided to put someone else in charge of capping the leak, but there is a video on YouTube that claims to be footage of some sort of oily rain. I, obviously, can't confirm it's validity but have a look yourselves,

 The sun still seems to be out in Britain and it confuses us, although it could be the Tardis burning up I suppose, because it rarely happens we feel we should make the most of every last second of it despite the fact that we know our skin will turn pink, cause us a lot of pain and then peel off. I did see a man on Weymouth seafront on Friday wearing only Speedos and trainers, this is not a good look.
 I wish it would rain a little bit, I'm fed up watering the allotment.

Anyway enough of my moaning about how nice the weather is here, have a nice week all.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Guerrilla Gardening

I’m not sure if this should go on the Allotment blog or my general one so I’ve put it both, I’m not sire what I’ll do in the future.

 So I've been doing a little more Guerrilla Gardening. There is some bare soil near my house and so I had put plants in it.

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 On the Guerrilla Gardening website there is a section on how to create seed bombs but I didn't want to do that. The small area is “looked after” by someone who is a supposed professional but can't tell the difference between weeds and plants and has already removed other things that I have planted there that were in flower. This then would need some stealth and cunning. And then I had a thought, plug plants.
 I still have some trays left from some Lobelia that I had bought and would be perfect for my little plan. There was a packet or two of wild flower seeds hanging about, under the sink I think, so a little compost in the tray and a sprinkling of seed on top. Now water in and leave for a few weeks, with some regular water obviously, and then you will have little pods of wild flowers that you can plant quickly and with minimum fuss.

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 Under the cover of darkness, well the middle of a Sunday afternoon anyway, I went over to my little plot around the tree and to the bare earth patch that I wanted to bother and within 15 minutes my work was done and my little plugs of wild flowers were watered in. Give it another couple of weeks and they will be flowering and giving a little joy to all who see them, well that's what I rather egotistical hope.

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 Oh and for the person who regularly returns this area to bare earth I have made these little signs,


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Diana Watch

So do they think I am a sucker? This person was so keen to get my money that she e-mailed me twice on the same day,

 “Trust & Good Faith. I am Mrs Sara Faraj, I am 62 years old from Kuwait, I am
suffering from along time cancer of the Lungs which also affected my hearing
ability and my brain.  My husband died in a fatal motor accident. Since his
death I decided not to re-marry, I sold all my inherited belongings and
deposited all the sum of £23M GBP and Two Trunk Box (Family valuables/
Personal Jewelries) with a Private Bank & Securities. I need you to help me
carry out my charity work. Reply through my private”

 Londoners, are you devoid of all human kindness?
 We came to your quite nice city yesterday and, as is my want, I tried to make people smile on the underground. All you have to do, if you want to join in, is smile at people first, it's not very hard to do but it is pretty much imposable to win the game by getting them to smile back. You lot really don't like to smile do you?
 Yesterday, as others pushed to get onto the grubby little train before allowing those getting off to do so making the whole affair much more difficult than it needs to be, I paused to allow a lady with a pushchair time to get on without getting squashed. I would consider this normal behaviour but judging from the reaction of this lady it's not normal in the London.
 “Thank you, thank you very much. That's really kind of you, thank you.” She seemed surprised as if this had never happened to her before. So I ask again, Londoners, are you devoid of all human kindness?
 We were in London for the opening of a new shop. Significant Other is a keen knitter and is very taken with a shop in Islington called Loop. They have recently moved premises to a slightly more prominent part of the borough and they opened for the first time yesterday.
 They were offering free gift bags for the first 100 customers. Who knew that so many chubby women had such pointy elbows? Bloody hell, these people had absolutely no respect for personal space. This was a shop for the socially inept; it was like Games Workshop for these with jumper bumps.
You can read a more positive view of the visit here as Significant Other has blogged about it.

 Enough about the fun bits of my week, how about some news.

And so familiar Tory policies start to leak out. Last week we had David Willets trying to make sure that only rich people could go to the best Universities and now we have them dropping proposed Labour Government legislation that would have seen Landlords and Letting Agencies properly registered and regulated.
 The purpose of this regulation was supposed to offer some sort of protection from shoddy treatment for those of us who rent but this is not the free market way. Oh no, you and I exist to get ripped off and fucked over by already wealthy people.
 The new Housing Minister Grant Shapps said “It would be difficult to put together and expensive”. So what? I don't care! People need and deserve protection from less honourable rich sorts of people.
 I am not the only who is a little pissed of by this, Ian Potter, operations manager of the Association of Residential Lettings Agents, said: “We are extremely disappointed with the Housing Minister’s decision to scrap the previous Government’s plans for the regulation of letting agents. This move risks seriously hampering the improvement of standards in the private rented sector, [its] reputation and the ... role it plays in the wider housing market, as well as failing to protect the consumer, who has nowhere to go when there is service failure or fraud.” Even the people who represent Landlords think that this decision is poor, that's how bad it is.
 Whilst I'm having what could best be described as a moan the Government have also started a review of health and safety legislation under the guise of reducing red tape.
 Before the election campaign David Cameron had said that he wanted to do this and sighted well worn, Daily Mail type, examples of Elf and Safety gone made. One of his examples was schools making the pupils wear goggles to play conkers. If it was true that that would be a bit ridiculous but it of course it wasn't. One headmistress did it once. So when the review was announced you would have thought that they wouldn't have just gone with cheap, Daily Express-lite, examples wouldn't you. Oh no.  When interviewed by the BBC Lord Young, who has been asked to carry out the review, used this example, under current laws “firemen could say they wouldn't go to a fire because it was too dangerous”, umm, I don't think they can.
 His point was that the Emergency Services should be exempt from H&S laws because they are "paid for doing a job that involves risk", well to a certain degree I would agree with him but should they be exempt from all legislation? Of course not, that is silly.
 The real problem with area of law is not the law it's self but they why that some use it and the Government, to their credit, do want to clamp down on Ambulance chasing and some rather excessive personal injury claims. It is fear of these claims that forces councils and schools into over zealous interpretation of the rules, erring on the side of excessive caution. But again this must be watched.
 We, the small people as Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP Chairman, might describe us, (there is a man who needs to get his statements cleared by PR person before he says them. If you are in a hole, stop digging is the phrase but this really doesn't apply to BP, maybe because they think there might be oil at the bottom of that hole.) do need to have some protection from injury because someone couldn't be bothered to do their job properly.
 Health and Safety laws exist to stop us being exploited and put in danger by bad employers. If you are doing a dangerous job then the HSE is there to make sure that you are protected correctly.
 It does seem that the Government are, again, trying to make laws to aid rich people increase their profit margins at the cost of the workers, comrades!
 Best I join a Union I think.

It's awards time again. I have been trying to get Stephen Fry to present these but I haven't had a reply yet so you'll have to put up with me again, sorry about that.

The Award for Really Not Understanding What the Fuck You Are Saying,

 Thursday's Daily Express confused me no end. Apparently yoghurt can help end the “misery” of hay fever. Before I carry on I do feel sorry for those with hay fever, it's horrible, now back to mocking a “newspaper” for idiots.


 The paper claimed that a new study showed that yoghurt can help stave off the effects of pollen by “boosting the immune system”. WTF?
 1, You, as long as you are in reasonable health i.e. not immunocompromised, you can not “boost” your immune system, and 2, as far as I'm aware, the reaction you get from some pollen touching your mucus membranes causing your eyes to stream and your nose to run is a massive over reaction from a really rather active immune system, if anything your immune system needs deepening down.
 The article persists with this false premise all the way through. To be fair to the researchers involved I think it was probably the Express that misinterpreted some paper or other rather than some bad research, however the only way that I can think of that yoghurt may help those who suffer from hay fever is if they completely smoother their faces in it therefore making it impossible for the pollen to get though. Effective but impractical. 

The Award for Short-Termism of the Worst Sort 2,

 Rarely do we have a repeat of an award (I think it may have only happened once before) but this week is one of those weeks.
 On Thursday the Government announced that it was going to drop or postpone about £2bn worth of  stuff announced by the last lot. Some of these cuts are perfectly reasonable I suppose if you don't have any money left but one of them stood out from the others.
 A company called Sheffield Forgemasters was promised an £80 million loan to help buy a 15,000 tonne press. Now not being versed in such things I have no idea what that is but I do know that it would have used to make specialist parts for nuclear power stations and would have provided up to 400 jobs. If fact it would have been so specialist they would have been only the second company in the world to make these parts. That's second company in the WORLD, not country but WORLD! Jesus, what are the Government thinking?
 Oh and and they seemed to have axed the rather excellent free swims program for children and the over 60's. Oh and the refurbishment plans for Libraries. 

The Award for Thing That Has Made Me Laugh More Than Anything Else This Week,

 I know it's lazy to just put YouTube videos on here but this really is very funny,

The Award for Best Radio Program About Numbers and Statistics,

Ok, so I am assuming that there isn’t a great deal of nominations for this rather specific award but I give you the winner, Radio 4's More or Less.
 If a person makes a claim using statistics or numbers and someone points it out to them, they will investigate it to find out whether it is correct or not.
 Last week Lord Digby Jones, head of the CBI, claimed on the Today programme that we should stop having a go at banks because they pay 25% of all tax that the Treasury receives. Is this true they asked? Umm, no. Their own investigations showed that if you were incredibly generous to the banks they pay about 12.5% of all the tax, still a large amount but 50% less than Sir Digby claimed. Was he available to say where he got his made up figures from? Was he bollocks!
 This week the Daily Telegraph was caught out. They published a story that claimed that we are all paying £4000 per year for public services pensions. They said that this figure came from the new Office for Budget Responsibility.
 Now, one of them, I'm not sure which one although my money is on the newspaper, got this quite wrong. The actual figure is £400 which is considerably lower. They have now changed this on they on-line edition but have not, as fair as the programme is aware, printed an apology.
 You can download past episodes from I-tunes, they really are great and not in anyway dull.

The Award for The Easiest Joke of the Week,

Outside of a church in MONROE, OHIO stands, or at least stood, a really big statue of Jesus. I mean really big, 65ft big. Some have referred to it as the “Touchdown Jesus” as his arms are held aloft in a similar pose as to that taken by an Umpire/referee in American Football just after someone scores a touchdown.


 Anyway, it cost about $250,000 to build and has stood there since 2004 offending no one, unless they were cursed with eyes.
  It seems, however, that it was not people who were offended by the oddity, oh no, because on the night of the Monday the 14th of June there was a thunder storm and the statue was struck by lightening and burned down. A much higher force seems to have taken a dislike to this depiction of his son and decided to do something about it.


This giant erection was insured though for a cool $500,000. If you were at the insurance company you now that you would love to be the one dealing with this claim and then refuse on the grounds that the lightening strike was an “act of God”, you know you would.

The Award for Thing I Want Most This Week But May Have Difficulty Trying To Hide From Significant Other,

At London’s International Fine Arts Fair you can buy may a beautiful objet d’art but one will stand out form the others. It is significantly cooler and much, much older than everything else there. It is the fossilised skull of a Tarbosaurus bataa, which is related to a T-Rex I’m told.
 It is being sold by a bloke from down the road, well Dorset-based fossil dealer Chris Moore, for the  perfect reasonable £125,000. Now I am good for it but I was wondering if one of you could lend me it for a short period? Anyone? Hello? Is this thing on?

 Have a good week my freinds, I am hoping to make jam tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Diana Watch

If the subject line of an E-mail is “REGARDS” and then claims to be from a bank, am I right to assume that it is phishing?
 It continues “Dear Friend, Compliment of the day to you my name is Garry Loopy finance manager Bank of Scotland, I am contacting you to seek your partnership in a pending business project which i have here in my hand and ready to be executed without hitches,
Please if you are interested do respond back to me via email:”.
 I’m right, phishing.
 Most people just use the “Report Phishing” button on their e-mail, others however take things a little further, Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Thank you to my friend Matthew Coffin for that website, he’s a Doctor you know, yes that’s right, Dr Coffin. What? It’s not funny. He’s a fine GP.

I was pretty sure that pretty much all the world was aware that Elton John is gay. I was certain that if I travelled to the deepest parts of the Amazon jungle and played the locals a clip of “Rocket Man” two things would happen, 1, they would immediately worship me as a God for being able to summon up music from nowhere and 2, they would say that the bloke singing it definitely likes men.
 It seems, however, that my completely reasonable assumption may have been wrong (that is not a phrase that I type lightly.) It is possible that confirmed and committed homophobe Rush Limbaugh might not be aware of Elton’s gayness.
 Rush has got married for the, oh fuck knows, 23rd time or something and there was some entertainment. It is rumoured that he paid the lover of show tunes and promoter of civil partnerships about $1million to play at the wedding.
 For some reason I am thinking that the weddings invites stated a very clear dress code, everyone was asked to wear white, including the hood.
 To be honest I was surprised by Rush's choice of star turn at his wedding but I was really very disappointed with Elton's decision to do it (I’m sure my chastisement will sting him). It has become quite clear to me that Elton will sell out everything he believes in for money. Who cares what the paranoid, conspiracy toting bigot says as long as he has the cash.

 Some of the British press have been accusing the Obama administration of anti-British rhetoric, which I have to say I haven't noticed, I have just seen people who want to get a private company to clear up the mess they have made, but how have these papers dealt with this perceived attack on this green and pleasant Isle?  Why, with anti-Obama rhetoric that's how,


It is the grown up thing to do.
Although it does seem that BP may have done the decent thing and may have decided to with hold their dividend at least this time whilst they try and clear up the massive mess they have made.

Ok, so it might be possible for the fox attacks twins story to be true but what was fantastic was the beyond parody was the response of a local counsellor who was on the lunch time news on radio4 saying how he plans to deal with the fox “problem” and the huge amount of pictures in urban gardens that newspapers where able to print. One even went with “Is this the fox that attacked to children?” I don’t know right wing tabloid newspaper; the thing with foxes is they all look the same to me.
 Now, according to an expert in urban wildlife who was on the Today program he had only heard of 2 cases of foxes attacking children in their own homes, 1 of these turned out to be a German Shepard dog and the other was a cat.
I’m not saying that it didn’t happen exactly as the mother said it did, after all the children were admitted to hospital with some blood on them, I’m just saying that the calls for culling and the turning of the urban fox into a bigger threat to our way of life then the Taliban may have been a little tiny bit of an over reaction.
 To be honest the Press’ reaction to this story was beyond parody simply because it has already been parodied in The Simpsons. It was in an episode in which a bear wondered into Springfield for the first time ever, resulting in moral panic and the introduction of a bear tax to pay for the bear patrols. It may have been the first outing for the “Won’t somebody please think of the children” line, although I’m sure there is a Simpsons geek who will correct me on that.
 Oh and while we are talking about animals being picked on for just being themselves can I draw you attention to the Pod Delusion player just there on the left of the screen because it has a piece from me about the proposed cull of badgers in Wales, it’s quite good. Although since my piece went out the Badger Trust has decided to appeal the decision of the High Court and the Welsh Assembly has postponed the cull.

Is it time for some awards now? I think it is,

The Award for Short-Termism of the Worst Short,

Financial speaking Britain is in a little bit of a hole. We don’t have very much money to spend on nice things like hospitals and social services because some bankers ruined the economy (that doesn’t get mentioned as often as it should, we had to bail them out and they caused a recession, it’s their fault) and some cuts need to be made.
 We could spend less money on the NHS but that wouldn’t be very popular despite the fact that saving could be made be closing some services and merging others which would increase the quality of the service  but we can’t be bothered to explain that clearly to the voters and we just give in to whoever shouts the loudest. How about the Army? Merging it with the other services? Best not, that might be seen as not supporting our boys. Well can anyone think of a group that, despite the fact that they are really important to the long term prosperity of our country, no one likes? How about students? Brilliant!
 In an interview with the Guardian, David Willetts said that the cost of hundreds of thousands of students' degree courses was a "burden on the taxpayer that had to be tackled".Educating young people is a burden! Are we to assume that looking after the sick and elderly will become a burden!
 Ok, I’ll calm down a bit. I admit that there are some problems with further education. Some might say that the huge numbers of courses that are available, some of which are not the most intellectually challenging subjects you could imagine might be one of those problems and the slightly arbitrary Labour pledge to get 50% of young people into universities may have placed some extra strain on the system without an increased level of funding to match the rise in students number might be another, but to describe future Nurses, Doctors, Engineers, Designers, Teachers, Scientists etc as a burden? How else does Mr Willets think we are going to make money as a country unless we have the people to design and build products of the future?
 I know that it is easy to mock a Tory but it does seem that Mr Willets only wants rich people going to university. The paying of tuition fees is, in my opinion, wrong. If you get a decent degree and then a decent job you will pay more tax in the long run. You are paying back what you have taken from the state. Ok, some will not get great jobs and will not pay that much tax but is that a reason to make their lives even worse by starting their working careers with large debts?
 Well they only have to pay back their student loans when they start earning over £15,000 a year, is the return argument. That really isn’t a lot of money; it is £1,250 per month. I used to earn this, just, before tax, when I worked fulltime as Nursing Auxiliary, a job that required no qualifications at all, let alone a degree.
 He also suggested a free market on tuition fees with all Universities charging what they liked. This would, of course, mean that the best places would charge more so that only the very wealth could realistically go to say Oxford or Cambridge (some would say it is like that now) and the lesser places would charge, well umm, less, thus creating a 2 tier education system.
 It didn’t take them long before they started proposing policies that were aimed at helping the rich. There are some other stupid ideas such as, from the BBC Website, “the idea of students studying for a degree at any university in England, with lectures and classes being held at their local further education college or other institute.” Who is going to teach these lectures? As most colleges are full, where are the lessons going to take place? Oh it's just silly, really silly.

The Award for Services to Making Me Jump Up and Down A Bit,

Supergrass are to split up. They played their last show in the UK on Friday. I have had a soft spot for Supergrass since their first single “Caught by the Fuzz” and have loved them ever since. Bye Bye Supergrass, I will miss your excellent 3 minute pop soongs.

The Award for Best Football Related But Not World Cup Related Song,

Oh and for those who really don’t like football but do want to see the rather pompous way that it is reported on/advertise mocked a bit, here is some Mitchell and Webb,

Things that didn’t make it in this week,

Hydrogen fuel cell cars come to Britain, at last.

26 years after the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal vented poisonous cyanide gas into the air which killed an estimated 15,000 people (some estimates are considerable higher) and effected a further 500,000, 7 Indian Managers were found guilty of culpable homicide due to negligence. They have been sentenced to 2 years in prison.
 This has caused outrage in India and around the world. None of the US managers who worked for the company at the time were in court.

I hope you all have a lovely week. Try not to work to hard; it’s not good for you.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Oil, Oil Everywhere

Ah, do you remember how it used to be? Smoking was good for you, women knew their place, and oysters had “never had it so good.”

Oh how times have changed (for the better by the way).

Some progress has finally been made with the massive oil fountain on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico but oil is still pouring into the sea and Tony "The Gulf of Mexico is a big ocean. The amount of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume" Hayward, BP’s Chief Executive, is coming under increasing pressure, quite a lot of it from President Obama. He has said that if Mr Hayward worked for him that, with their poor response to the crisis and as series of slightly offensive statements such as “I want my life back” which has been seen as disrespectful to the memory of the workers who died when the rig exploded, he would fire him. He also wonders whose ass he can/should kick,

 A question that will be investigated will be do BP do enough to stop the oil reaching the shore, some think not,

BP has also announced that it is going to set up a new company that will take full responsibility for the clean up operation. It is to be run by an American in an attempt to try and stop some of the anti-British sentiments that have allegedly been following from the US.
 Whilst the company will be separate from BP its finances will come from the mother-company.
 Is this an attempt by the company, as they claim, to concentrate on the disaster or is it an attempt, by under funding a separate company, to limit the direct financial impact on BP. Only time will tell.
  In the meantime oil still pours out of the well and continues to wash up on the coast.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Diana Watch

“I didn’t get into Vet School so I became a Doctor.”

Has there been a Princess Diana based front page this week? Of course there has,

but the Express also distinguished themselves on Wednesday by completely ignoring the devastation being caused to the Gulf coast of America, the animals and fish that are dying and the peoples whose livings are being destroyed such as shrimp fisherman. They even ignored the rather poor response of BP to the situation, they instead went for the incredibly selfish, self centred approach, how does it effect you pension? 

 Because BP is such a massive company and makes so much money in profit and pays such massive dividends it has a disproportionate amount invested in it by pension companies. If these people had any decency at all they would put pressure on the board of this company to sort their act out, to make safety and the environment the top priorities for BP rather than the pursuit of naked profit, after all shareholders exist to hold the board to account, in theory.
 Despite polluting the Gulf of Mexico and being landed with the enormous bill to clean it up, as they should be, which has all helped to contribute to some of the worst PR that BP has ever had they decided to compound it a bit more by paying a very large dividend to it shareholders, probably to try and keep them quiet.
 BP have made some success this week in trying to stop the oil flooding out of it's pipeline (let's try and stop saying “spill” as I spill a drink and that only makes a small amount of mess, this is a little more significant) by cutting through it and managing to fit a cap and they have started to siphon some of the oil away to ships on the surface but still not as much as is leaking into the sea.

It really hasn’t been the most cheerful of weeks in the news has it, what with Israeli forces attacking an aid convoy and the shootings in Cumbria.

 What we have learnt this week is that real people behave much better than people who work for 24hr news channels and newspapers. On the whole the members of the public that have been interviewed have behaved with dignity and respect and seem not to have a bad word to say about Derrick Bird,  meanwhile those doing the interviewing have pushed for more and more lurid details.
 The levels of speculation have also been at stratospheric levels, I have heard about 5 different reasons for why Mr Bird decided to shoot all of those people none of which seemed to be based on any facts.
 I was surprised that there seemed to be a psychologist’s viewpoint for every newspaper’s pre-existing narrative, which was nice. “Have you got a point of view that you would like reinforcing with the help of a professional? Then call Rent-a-shrink, we will say exactly what you want us to, as long as the price is right.”
 There has also been some awful commentary in pretty much all of the papers with is summed up in this nasty, pointless piece in the Telegraph titled “There's no rush, but can we all agree that Derrick Bird had no business owning guns?” No, no we can’t, hindsight isn’t a clause in the gun licences that he held.
 The thrust of this article seems to be that he wasn’t the right sort of person to be owning a gun and by that, and the fact that the “writer” of this piece felt it necessary to describe Mr Bird’s house as “a mid-terrace house in a not very rural English village”, I think he means not posh enough.
 So we have had people say that he shouldn’t have had a gun licence because he stole something in the early 90’s, everyone should have a gun and then passers-by could have shot him and now, not posh enough to own a gun. Ah the British media, home of reasoned debate.
 Oh and Richard Littlejohn managed to get Eastern European immigration, who he accused of gun smuggling (please don’t click on that link as it is to the Mail’s website and they don’t deserve the traffic), into his piece about it and be rude about the Police Officer who did the Press briefings and Chief Police Officers in general, what a man and by man I really mean uber-twat.

 I really don’t want to go on and on about Israel because someone will accuse me of being anti-Semitic which I am not, maybe a little anti-Zionist but even then I would concede that Israel has the right to exist but it does not have the right to occupy parts of other countries or murder people on aid convoys.
 The Israeli blockade of Gaza started following the Israeli show of strength that demolished a large number of buildings and infrastructure last year. This includes a sea blockade which may or may not be legal which is what the aid convoy was trying to break.
 They were attacked in international waters which many have seen as state-sponsored piracy but if the blockade is legal than they are within their rights to have boarded the ships if they thought that they were carrying weapons etc which is the now standard Israeli Government response to pretty much any situation.
 One of the things that are not being allowed into Gaza is building materials, such as cement. This does seem a little harsh as the Israeli conscription army (that, by the way, is the reason that so many Israeli Army operations go wrong, pissy teenagers with guns, although they claim that it was Marines that stormed the boats) flattened a lot of it but it may fall into the hands of terrorists. Now, if the grumpy Ambassador had pointed out on Radio 4 that Hamas regularly build tunnels for smuggling into Egypt and Israel then at least it would have been a relevant argument but he didn’t, oh no, he said, and I quote, “They could use it for weapons”. Really? Could they? How? Are cement bombs as scary as this man thinks? Probably not if I’m honest. If you wonder around your local arms fair it is unlikely that you will see many hand grenades made of cement. They would sort of look like a pebble. Oh no, wait it all makes sense now!
 As you know, the reason for Jews demanding their own state is because God gave them that land in the Bible and they believe the Bible to be literally true, well the bits that suit them anyway. Also in the Bible is a story where David (tiny little boy who, for the purposes of this metaphor, or is it an allegory, will be representing Gaza) defeated the massively overpowering Goliath (for this metaphor/allegory Israel) using only……..wait for it……… a pebble! As this definitely happened (the Bible is literally true remember) then it seems that the Ambassador may have had a point. They could fashion little bits of the cement into to “pebbles” and use them as weapons!

The Award for Best Direct Action Against Direct Action,

A couple of weeks ago I told you about a protest in a Dorset village that wanted a by-pass. They were using the pedestrian crossing constantly to back up the traffic. Genius way to make a point I thought but it seems that someone else didn’t.
 Superglue has been placed around the button for the crossing so that the villagers can't use it.
  Now that is a little rude as it is not just these protesters who use the crossing it is the whole village on a very busy rude but not to worry, it will be replaced and the protests will continue.

 The Award for Being a Really Great Car (although the Beetle is my Favourite)

VW Camper van is 60 years old. I love this car/van, I don't know why.
 My brother and I stayed in one once that we had borrowed of off a friend of mine and we went to the Reading Festival. Coming back from the festival at 6 o'clock on a Bank Holiday Monday morning on a roundabout on the outskirts of Reading and the clutch went. We pulled up into a B&Q car park and made a cup of tea on the stove. There are worse ways of spending time.
 I will own one, one day. Maybe.

The Award for Fake Outrage of the Week,

The Daily Mail does like to be offended by many, many things. It also has certain woman that it is obsessed with, usually because they are successful and they don't approve of that sort of thing. If you combine these to things you have....... Lady Gaga doing her normal stage show.
 On the same night as the Cumbrian shootings she was playing in Manchester. Part of the show involves the character she plays throughout the performance being killed. There does seem to be quite a bit of blood. Oh the outrage! Is this the sickest show ever? Does she not know that even Corrie postponed an episode?
 Well to be honest she probably didn't know that. I think that it is a little unlikely that Lady (oh yes, first name terms you know) spends her time lying on her hotel room bed, dressing gown on, coke cans in her hair, watching News 24.
 And why pick on her anyway? Did they complain about every cinema in the country that showed movies with gun violence in them that night? Like arse did they. Did they complain about the 14 episode of CSI that channel 5 showed that night? Of course they didn't. They only did it so that they could have more pictures of Gaga in their stupid paper.

The Award for Making Excuses and Forgetting That Everyone Playing in the Tournament is Disadvantaged, If At All, In The Same Way,

I am pretty sure that at the last World Cup we had exactly the same story as this. Some people are complaining that the newly designed ball that they are going to be using at the World Cup. It's too light and moves about in the air too much, we did have this complaint at the last competition didn't we?
 The new ball is made from 8 panels of synthetic material that is glued together and is, supposedly, a perfect sphere and this is, apparently, very good.
  To be honest I just want some good games, oh and while we are talking about the World Cup a brief mention for Theo Walcott. He was taken to the last one for some reason, maybe children flew for free on BA, but he didn't get a game and now that he has come of age, if you will, has he been picked? Has he bollocks.

 I hope that you have a good week.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Bad Coffee 3

 I have a question for people who sell coffee for a living (by this I mean the companies not the poor person standing around behind the counter barely earning minimum wage); have you ever actually tasted coffee? I only ask because I have had several very bad cups of coffee this weekend.
 I, as you know, have spent the weekend at the Hay Festival and have been paying a lot of money for things but does the cost of things relate to the quality? Hell no.
 A standard coffee and a cappuccino that actually managed to taste of nothing at all. Now, come on, you have to be impressed by that. Ground coffee was used and milk (and chocolate dusting powder stuff in the cappuccino) but still they tasted of nothing. How is this possible? Aren't there laws of physics that cover this sort of thing? I really do resent paying any amount of money for coffee that tastes of nothing.
 I promise you that I am not being snobbish amount these things, I use instant coffee a lot at home but it tastes of something. When I make ground coffee it really tastes of something wonderful.
 The third bad cup of coffee I had this weekend was no real surprise as it was served to me in Pizza Express. A double espresso was ordered and duly supplied to me. If you put 2 teaspoons of instant coffee in a very small cup and added some hot water this is pretty much what my beverage tasted like, so much so that I think that it is strongly possible that this is what happened. At least it tasted of something I suppose but this is not what an espresso should taste like.
 The important question is where does this put them on the table? Well let's have a look,

 1) TGI’s, Tower Park, Poole
 2) Wetherspoons, Dorchester
 3) Pizza Express, Hereford
 4) Service Station somewhere in the North that I can’t remember the name of
 5) Toni and Guy, Dorchester
=6) All the coffee served at the Hay Festival
=6) Slug and Lettuce, Bournemouth.

 It wasn't all coffee drinking at Hay though, there was also some avoiding of rain, oh and some people giving some talks and taking questions. The most interesting and entertaining speakers, that we saw, were Andrew Marr, AC Graying, Greyson Perry, Amanda Galsworthy, Robin Ince (actually at a different festival down the road), Giles Coren, Adam Hart Davis and Audrey Niffenegger, fantastic, one and all.
 The only downside of the festival for me, if you ignore that tutting and pointy elbows of those who suffer from Middle Class Entitlement Syndrome, was camping. I hate camping. I understand that it is the only way that we can afford to go for 5 or 6 days but what really galls me is that Significant Other really likes it.
 We went to the End of the Road festival a couple of years ago she had never camped before. My plan was that we would camp, it would be cold and rainy and rubbish, she would hate it and we would never have to do it again. This didn't work, she bloody loved it.

 I do have a question for the people of that area, what is it with you and rude shop names?


Ok, so the owner of the Daisy Chain may not know the sexual connotation of their name and, maybe, the owner of the Scissor Sisters hairdressers may have heard of the band but not that it is a slang term/euphemism for Lesbians but there is no excuse for The Spread Eagle.