Monday, December 29, 2008


I have just enjoyed a wonderful Christmas. Both my daughters are home and are well. My wife (at her very best around Christmas) and I have escaped from the stresses of work for a few days and are much the better for it. My mother and mother-in-law are in good health and clearly enjoyed Christmas Day which we all celebrated at my brother's house (with my sister-in-law and my baby niece) along with my sister and her family. We all ate a little too much; nobody drank to excess. We had a wonderful time coping with family banter around a large table. I missed my Dad (he died in March) but we exchanged some lovely memories of him between us all. Boxing Day was an equally pleasant occasion; smaller, at our house. The other days have been spent curled up with books, seeing friends, enjoying a well-earned holiday. Presents? Of course. Some really good presents from people who actually thought about what I would like. Likewise, me to them.
But I have to say, in all honesty, that Christmas without the people around me would be truly awful.
The perennial description of Christmas as a greed-based, over-commercialised, erstwhile-Christian excuse for gluttony and drunkenness is not recognised in my house or my family. We love Christmas for what I hope are the right reasons.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Before 9pm we get a lot of words (especially with programmes featuring Stephen Fry and/or Joe Kinnear) "bleeped out". You can still see that they are saying f*** (or whatever) but the noise coming from their larynx is obliterated. Interestingly, the phrase "cock-up" seems to have crossed some borderline into acceptability (i.e. it is said on the BBC News), although "cock", as used by James May, has not. Strange.
I worry about "new wave" swearing. Is "minger" a swearword? I was told recently that "minger" was harsh but just acceptable whereas "munter" wasn't. I was, duly, abashed. I wonder will "chav" ("charver" up this end of the UK) transform into a genuine "four-letter-word"?
Those "this will shock you" FCUK shirts are pushing it I always think. That said, I would love a t-shirt with "CNUT: Our Danish King" emblazoned on the front. That would turn a few heads.
I do like new or hybrid swearwords. The brilliantly descriptive "fugly" is a wonderful example of a hybrid swearword. But is it a bleepable swearword? I know not.
I have, in truth, just thought of an excellent, instantly bleepable hybrid. But I dare not write it. It is not yet 9pm and I would not like to offend.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Life: Quantity versus Quality

Every piece of advice that comes out of our Nanny State seems to focus on prolonging life at all costs without a second glance towards the real issue, the quality of people's lives. Admittedly, "quality of life" is a difficult parameter to measure, unlike "quantity of life" which is simply Date of Death minus Date of Birth. But surely to God we are not so facile as to believe that a long life automatically equals a high quality life.
When I read of the massive increase in Alzheimer's cases with our oldest citizens having to sit through fifteen years of absolutely nothing happening before their bodies finally pack in I am overcome with sadness. Far, far better to bid them farewell much earlier when they could appreciate the goodbye. Our memories of them would be far better for it.
So next time HM Government warns you off that bottle of beer and bag of chips (with extra salt) just remember, it is a lot better than staring at a wall all day and not knowing you are staring at a wall.
Quality or quantity? Quality every time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Possibly Feeling Stupid

Returning to Global Warming for a mo (then I'll shut it for a while; promise); I wonder have the ecofascists considered the possibility of being wrong? As you know I agree with the obvious fact that the Earth is warming up, but I am most vehemently against the wholly unproven assertion that atmospheric CO2 is causing it. All we are doing by adding CO2 to the atmosphere is making it easier for plants to grow. Instead of 3 molecules per 10,000 they now have 4 that they can do something with.
If I (amongst others) have got it right, the CO2 lobby are going to look seriously stupid in a couple of years time. CO2 levels are not going to go down (India and China will see to that, and good luck to them) but the planet is going to cool eventually. What about all the money we've spent on carbon footprints, carbon taxes and a hundred other initiatives that use "carbon" as an adjective? My God, they are going to look like a massive waste of money in a time when wasting money is a genuinely terrible idea.
If we start to cool down with CO2 still going up then every ecofascist in the world is going to have to get their escape plans sorted. I am looking forward to the careers in ruins, the pointless projects abandoned and their hollow rhetoric being roundly ridiculed. They deserve it. The "scientific method" has been trampled by these self-seeking fools. The sooner we realise that and get back to doing properly argued and tested science the better.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


A mortgage (literally a "dead pledge") dies as a contract when it is paid off or repayment fails. I don't have a mortgage any more. We took ours out in 1981. In those days you had a proper interview with a Battleaxe Mk.1 from the Building Society. She scrutinised salary details very closely. She could (and did, to others) say "No". We went through interest rates as high as 17% at one stage. We never missed a payment.
We are obviously returning to those days but in the meantime we have thousands who are financing mortgages that they can't afford in houses that aren't worth anything like what they paid for them.
Who's to blame? The ones who borrowed the money or the ones who were prepared to lend amounts that were clearly unsustainable. I'm just glad it isn't me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Memorials to Stupidity

A dozen bunches of flowers tied roughly to the railings, a partially-deflated balloon doing its best to be less dense than air, a teddy bear garrotted by a nylon tie. We see them every few miles these days. They are stark reminders that in the battle between pedestrian and car there is only ever one winner.
I pass three of these memorials daily. One is barely fifty metres from a set of traffic lights - and safety. The second and third are at places on a motorway that no-one should attempt a crossing, but these too are less than a minute's walk from a safe crossing point. One is virtually adjacent to a subway.
Nearly always, the victims are teenagers "chancing it" across a too-busy road.
I offer no solution to this problem, only my profound sympathy for those left to mourn their loss.
Please be careful.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Warming Other Globes

Now here's an idea. Tell your friends. It hasn't been done yet but it might answer once and for all the vexed question of what is causing our global warming.
As you know, I believe that carbon dioxide has absolutely nothing to do with our global warming. Our globe warms and cools because of a combination of solar activity and the Milankovic cycles. Well, I've come up with a test.
If solar activity is the global warming culprit it will be warming other globes too. Venus (closer to the Sun) and Mars (further from the Sun) will also feel the affects of solar activity, just like us. Venus is a bit of a dead loss because it has no built in "thermometer". But Mars - now there we have a really good inbuilt thermometer: Martian ice caps. If the Martian ice caps are growing/shrinking in sympathy with the Earth's mean temperature (or the Earth's ice caps to use the same measure) we can be sure it is the Sun that is causing global warming and not us. There. Problem solved.
When you've measured the changes, let me know. I expect an acknowledgement.

Irish Referenda

You can't say "no" to Brussels, it seems. The Irish tried and have been told "wrong answer, try again". I'm no expert, but when the Irish people - some of the most politically savvy in the world I would suggest - say "No" it is because they mean "No".
I hope the next referendum is an even bigger "No". Not because I'm against the Lisbon Treaty (I'm actually quite a fan) but because the democratic process is much bigger and much more important than the beaurocracy of the EU. If a nation votes against something in the only process that even approximates to true democracy - the referendum - their choice should be recognised and respected.
So come on Ireland! If I promise to vote for Eoghan Quigg will you promise to vote "NO!" and uphold democracy for all of us?

PS: I know Eoghan is from Northern Ireland. I'm still in shock from Diana Vickers bombing out.

Congestion Charges

I don't want to come over as all Clarksonesque here but you have to ask: Why on earth is Manchester bothering to vote on a congestion charge? What will they do when the turkeys don't vote for Christmas? Run the vote again, no doubt [see Irish Referenda].
If only someone in the lying, festering, corrupt system that we laughingly call democracy would have the decency to admit that congestion charges are just another way of ripping hard-earned money out of our hands, I might be tempted to vote yes purely because I was in shock. But they won't. They'll tell us a shed-load of lies and expect us to believe it. In London the average length of a journey to work has increased since congestion charges were introduced. Well done. Use buses, I am told. A single bus causes more damage to the road than 50 cars. The typical engine in a bus produces more pollution than 10 cars and it runs all day instead of just two half-hour bursts. Absolute madness. And where does all the money go? Certainly not on our transport infrastructure. Our roads are a disgrace. Have a look at your road markings next time you are out and about. You will be doing well to find any. Happy motoring!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cigarettes, Whisky & Wild Wild Women

I don't think the jury is actually out on this any more: Cigarettes are harmful. Be that as it may, until they are made illegal we should get off smokers' backs. The next small lurch towards making them illegal comes with the suggestion that vending machines might be scrapped. For God's sake! Either do it or don't do it. We have been dithering now for 40 years. If they are SO bad, ban them. It could be the tax revenues. Ciggies bring in a LOT more than the NHS spends on treating the harm that they do [my thanks to GC for this research]. Or perhaps it is just the JPs, GPs, VIPs and MPs that like a smoke. Probably.
If we ever do get round to banning smoking we can be sure that the guns will then turn on other targets. Alcohol? Motorbikes? Toy guns? Darts? Sucky sweets? ad infinitum...
Lad's mags are yet another pointless target. As if "Rebecca Loos Naked" in big letters wasn't a clue, the lesbimafia want everything from Nuts to Practical Mechanics stuck on the top shelf with a big sticker on saying... Well what, exactly? "You'll go blind" perhaps.
At 5'8" the top shelf is already out of my reach. Tall teenagers are OK though.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Meat and Alcohol

Jo Brand once poses the rhetorical question: "If we aren't supposed to eat animals, why are they all made out of meat?" She has a point, you know.
Vegetarianism has always been a bit of a non-starter for me. We are not supposed to be vegetarians. Look at our teeth, our digestive system, our enzymes. Omnivores; that's what we are. We have all the anatomical traits of omnivores. Eating only plants is a choice driven by squeamishness.
For much of the human race, alcohol falls into the same category. We are equipped with specialised emzymes to be able to cope with alcohol. So drink it! It seems a shame to waste all that alcohol dehydrogenase. In the far East we humans made our water fit to drink (and hence cut the death rate) by boiling. That's where tea became important. In Europe we cleaned our water using the antiseptic properties of alcohol in ale, lager, beer - whatever.
Bacon sandwiches and Guinness - it's great being a human.

Enhancing the Brain

I was intrigued today to hear of a range of new "brain enhancing drugs" being developed (at great cost, no doubt) that will get us going in the mornings. Apparently, these drugs will make us more alert and able to think more clearly. If they are proven to be safe (a process that will take a few years and many millions yet) they might dramatically change our society. The effect is similar - they say - to having a strong cup of coffee.
So forget the drugs.
Have a strong cup of coffee.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


It's hard not to get poetic about snow. For a start, "snow" rhymes with loads of things. Then there is the complete and utter beauty of the stuff. Snowflakes; beautiful. Every one different, so we are told.
But hang on.
Britain has an average rainfall of about 900 mm. That's a sheet of water 209,331 km2 in area, 900mm deep. That's 1.8 x 1011 m3 of water every year. That's 1.8 x 1017 cm3 and there are 20 raindrops to 1cm3 so that gives us 3.8 x 1018 raindrops annually. If only one in a hundred of these raindrops falls as snow (it is probably a bit more than this) then we still have 3.8 x 1016 snowflakes every year. The land mass we know as "Britain" has existed in its present form for about 450,000 years so in that time, 1.7 x 1022 snowflakes have landed on British soil.
Now call me unimaginative, but I think that in 1,700,000,000,000,000,000,000 snowflakes there may be a good chance that two were the same. Britain is only a tiny fraction of the surface of the Earth that gets snowed upon. The total number of snowflakes that have hit the planet must be massively higher. No two the same?
I think not.