Saturday, November 29, 2008


Those adverts about informing on your neighbourhood benefit fraudsters are a bit scary. What if you were wrong? How are we supposed to find out what benefit they are on in the first place to ascertain whether they are benefit frauds? I honestly don't know if any, or all, of my neighbours are on benefit. Furthermore, I don't want to know. What's it got to do with me?
Privacy, quite clearly, is becoming an obsolescent concept.
From what I can tell, our Civil Service (an oxymoron if ever there was one) have a massive system already set up to administer the "welfare state". It surely doesn't need to rely on a nasty old curtain-twitcher across the street with a spiral bound notebook from Woolies (RIP) and a pencil she nicked from IKEA.
What might be a shed-load of fun is if we ALL responded to that stupid advert by dropping someone in the clarts who was, blatantly, not guilty. That would flood them out with false leads.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bus Lanes

I hate bus lanes. Inner city traffic congestion is caused by bus lanes. My taxes paid for these largely empty ribbons of tarmac and I'm not allowed to use them. And buses; what's that all about! Never full. Three grannies and two students at best; running intermittently to places where people don't want to catch them. Since road damage goes up as the fourth power of axle weight we should be banning buses, not encouraging them. Anyway, they cost a fortune.
Then there's taxis. Since when did "bus" and "taxi" mean the same thing. Taxis are not small buses. They are not "public transport". Get out of the bus lanes!
Time for a beta-blocker, I think.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


The albedo of an object is the extent to which it diffusely reflects light from the sun. The Earth has an albedo of 0.29 (i.e. 29% of incident sunlight is diffusely reflected back into space). At present, the Earth is warming up. If the Earth's albedo increases to 0.30 we will reverse the warming process and Earth will cool down - it is that finely balanced.
So here's a plan: Let's pump seawater on to areas that are completely unused and essentially useless and let it evaporate. Deserts; about 30% of the Earth's surface. I'm thinking Sahara, Gobi, central Australia, the "Empty Quarter" in the Middle east and the Kalahari for starters. When the water evaporates (this by itself will cool the Earth) it will leave behind a highly reflective layer of salt. More sunlight will be reflected, the Earth will cool down, we will all be saved. Yay!
Since deserts do very little for the planet at the moment, it would be a pleasant change for them to be actually useful. That 1% increase in albedo might just do it.


They say that if you ask five economists about anything you'll get six different opinions. I think that old aphorism more or less sums up the mess we are in at the moment. With all the brain-power and experience at capitalism's disposal we have managed to screw up the whole global financial system. It beggars belief.
I was also astounded to hear that we might actually end up with deflation in the economy. Apparently this is even worse than inflation. I just don't see it. Petrol prices are deflating at present. I don't see much of a problem in this. Food prices will probably deflate too. Good. Energy prices - the greatest rip-off we face today - may also come down. Excellent.
On balance, the stuff about deflation being bad is probably a load of tosh. Even if it isn't, we are being told this by exactly the same people who got us here in the first place. I don't know how they've got the cheek!

Friday, November 21, 2008


We all know about the square on the hypotenuse but it was only recently I found that the semicircle on the hypotenuse equals the sum of the semicircles on the other two sides. Presumably the equilateral triangle on the hypotenuse etc. etc.
Except - I suspect - it doesn't.
Pythagoras' Theorem only works with planar figures. On the larger scale (say, parts of the surface of the planet) the sum of the angles in a triangle is not 180o and I imagine that the square on the hypotenuse thingy is a bit of a non-starter too.
Of course, the greatest gift that Pythagoras gave us was an understanding of music.
They don't tell you that when you are trying to play F#m7 for the first time.
I'm going to have a look at the inverse square law over the weekend. It all looks a bit cosy to me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Organ Donors

The NHS and the Government are wringing their hands over the low level of potential organ donors. Here's a simple solution.
Instead of all these opt-in/opt-out schemes, why not make it desirable to be an organ donor. My scheme works like this: The only people who can receive an organ from someone else are those who are prepared to donate an organ of their own. Obviously, all those who need organs would join such a list straight away. But all those who might, some time in the future, need an organ would certainly be tempted to prolong their longevity. If we were denied the right to a life-saving transplant because we were not prepared - under different circumstances - to donate one of our own organs we could have very little to complain about.
You know where you heard it first.

Baby P

What really disturbs me about Baby P (not his real name) is exactly that; it's not his real name. Having robbed this beautiful child of his life, the evil bastards that killed him have robbed him of his very existence. Nobody knows him. Nameless child.
And we will soon forget.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Strictly Come Democracy

I am really enjoying "Strictly Come Dancing". I don't watch the show; I just love the ranting in the media about John Sergeant. The judges just don't seem to be able to accept that this talentless (in dancing terms) pudding of a man has a genuine following. My hope is that the more the judges and the media rant, the stronger his vote will become. Sergeant is, quite clearly, a two-left-footer. But it doesn't stop him being popular and that is where the rules of the game kick in. I don't know what the judges are bitching about to be honest; the business model for these shows is based on the number of calls coming in. They seem happy enough to take their inflated salaries from the income generation.
Over on the "X-Factor", similar things are happening with various factions launching missiles at Diana Vickers and her laryngitis. Let's be fair here, Diana is the ONLY contestant with any talent.
The others are doomed (I hope).

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Jean Charles de Menezes, Victoria ClimbiƩ and Baby P all have a lot in common. The authorities were all following procedures developed to deal with exactly the situation they weren't in. Banging several bullets through a defenceless man's skull was obfuscated as "the Police did nothing wrong". The murder of two children in Haringey was the result of all sorts of people actually following detailed procedures: social workers, doctors, health visitors, police.
Our obsession with procedures is linked directly to our fear of litigation. If something is to be done, it must be done by "The Book". The Book might be the untested ramblings of a complete moron. No matter, it is The Book.
We will eventually forget that something called common sense might have prevailed in these cases. We are expected to believe The Book and subsequent public inquiries.
We will, I am sure, learn to live with our doubts and then, soon enough, learn to live with the lies.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Whenever I am in northern France or Belgium I like to call in at the local Commonwealth War Cemetery (there is always one nearby) and pay my respects. I stand there in Flanders Fields in tears silently raging at the utter futility of the 1914-18 war and the loss of so many young lives. Tyne Cot near Passendael shredded me.
Every November 11th, we have Rememberance Day, or Armistice Day as it was. I am annually shocked by the comments that come out of people, but particularly this year. One man intoned that everyone should be forced to wear a poppy. He might as well have insisted that we all wear armbands. A more general opinion is that these boys gave their lives for our freedom. No they didn't. They were slaughtered simply to maintain the status quo. The 1914-18 war was nothing to do with fighting for freedom. It was a massive failure of politics and diplomacy that degenerated into a "defender's war" where massacre was the inevitable price of outdated generals fighting the wrong war. 1939-45 was totally different and had to be fought.
Yet on May 8th we will watch the anniversary of VE Day go by without a flutter.
Next time you are near Arnhem go to the Oosterbeek cemetery. Well worth your tears.

Monday, November 10, 2008

British Racism

Trevor Phillips claims that Britain could not repeat Obama's feat of getting a black or Asian to the top of the political tree. Phillips is the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, so he he should know; yes? No. He is most assuredly either mis-quoted (I hope) or wrong (I guess).
Britain has already had a woman Prime Minister, unlike the US which has never even had a female Vice-President. So we don't have a mental block on that one.
Also, Britain has never had segregated schools, buses, restaurants and the KKK. We've got the National Front but they aren't in the Ku Klux Klan's league. We've never had a George Wallace figure. Enoch Powell? Not even close.
I think Phillips might just be a bit cosy within his victim culture. Claiming that racism is rampant is part of his job, after all. It does exist, but on a minute scale compared to the USA of forty, fifty years ago.
Get over yourself Trevor; let your people go.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pandemics: Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!

I'm lucky to be here. I might be the only survivor of the many great pandemics that have swept the globe in recent years. These pandemics were, each and every one, meant to wipe out vast numbers of us. I've survived the lot!
"Mad Cow Disease" (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) should have taken me even if John Gummer didn't actually ram a burger into my face. Then I escaped AIDS. Phew. I haven't contracted MRSA or Clostridium difficile and I have dodged the bullets on Lassa Fever, Ebola Virus and anything to do with the nastier forms of E.Coli. I survived Edwina's curried eggs and, by skillfully avoiding birds with a cough, I think I might be clear of Avian Flu.
Ninety years ago, just as the 1914-18 War was closing, "Spanish Flu" ravaged through war-weakened Europe, killing as many as the war itself. It "preferentially" killed young, fit people. The same poor bastards who had done all the fighting in France and Flanders, only this time it killed their wives and girlfriends too. That was a bona fide pandemic.
I know that new diseases frighten the life out of epidemiologists but they do cry "Wolf!" a lot. Just like in the story, a real wolf will arrive one day....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

King's Dream

The dream was that his children should not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.
We are much closer today.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Danger! Latin!

Oh God help us.
The thought police have now banned Latin. No more quid pro quo; no more ending your lists with etc.; no more using e.g. for for example for example. The rationale is that thick people feel intimidated by Latin in sentences and, since we are all required to be thick these days, Latin has to go.
Let's take the linguafacists to a logical conclusion here and carry out the linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing on our dictionaries. Good old Germanic words in our language; that's what we want. Let's get rid of all the horrible loan words that are polluting our dictionary and just use modern Anglo-Saxon. Let's get rid of kangaroos, aardvarks, bananas, algebra, ginseng, semtex, yacht, bungalow, autumn, sauna, beef, pork, amen, goulash, banshee, all operas in Italian, bamboo, kiwi, checkmate, sputnik and the thousands from Greek and Latin (virtually the whole vocabulary of Science).
Oh dear. We are starting to look a bit threadbare round the nouns.
Well, obviously. As ever, the idiots in charge have missed the point entirely. We don't need to know that e.g. stands for exempli gratia. We use it because it stands for for example. I'd bet that 99% of the population are happy with using e.g., i.e. and etc. without ever knowing what they are in Latin.
Presumably we will have to bin all our Status Quo and Ultravox CDs too.
Perhaps we should have done that already.

What's in a name?

We all know that a Rose by any other name would smell as sweet and that a Chrysanthemum by any other name would be easier to spell. But there are some odd ones out there, you know.
The patron saint of travellers, Christopher, is a case in point. He famously carried Christ across a river. Indeed, Christopher comes from Greek and means Christ-bearer. What was he called before Christ needed carrying? Sticking to New Testament stories, Saint Veronica was the compassionate woman who wiped Christ's face on his final journey. Veronica translates from Latin as True Image (vero icon) and this name was given to her - presumably - after the miraculous appearance of Christ's face on her towel. What was she called before her kind act? We know that Caligula was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus and I applaud the abbreviation, but when did Ivan become Terrible, was Katherine always Great, was Richard born Lionhearted?
Will George W Bush be simply remembered as Dubya?