Sunday, December 19, 2010


Good film on ITV tonight
"Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix"

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I got it all wrong!
Only one (Tesco Mary) got binned!
The real sadness was that Tesco Mary was infinitely better than Cher Lllllloyd who - as per bloody usual - dissolved into tears. Not one of the judges came out with the line "I have to base my decision on what I've just heard..." because Mary was sooooooooooo much better. Hypocrites.
Still, Rebecca and Matt are through. Cher will be binned first up. One Direction will go next. Then Matt to give Rebecca the crown.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Isn't it getting exciting?
The only real talent (Rebecca) is still there. Matt struggled through tonight. Tesco Mary was her usual clubland self. One Direction were, as ever, one-dimensional and Cher Lloyd again demonstrated that she was a one-trick pony. Two go out tomorrow.
Please, God, let four be kicked out to cut short the misery.


I have nothing against the people of Qatar. I teach several Qatari students, sponsored by Qatar Oil. They are, without exception, lovely people and good students.
But why Qatar for the FIFA World Cup?
No stadium worth its salt, temperatures totally unsuitable for football (even at night), no history of the game there, no fan base, no football infrastructure at all. Nothing. Rien.
My guess is that the nation of Qatar is quite a bit poorer this weekend and certain gentlemen belonging to various levels in FIFA might be a fair bit richer.
Only a guess.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

British Summer Time

I firmly believe in Greenwich Mean Time. That we tinker on with "our" time every Spring and Autumn is, I feel, abominable. I hold dear to my heart the idea that the day should be divided by noon and there should be as much daylight before noon as after. That we have the situation that, in "Summer Time" days, the afternoon/evening is much longer than the dawn/morning is, I believe, spiritually wrong.
A colleague was rejoicing in the extra hour in bed that we "gained" by putting our clocks back to GMT last weekend. I have spent hours this week finding and putting back clocks. There are clocks, it seems, in everything we have. Not just the fake carriage clock on the bookcase but computers, microwave, video, TV, DVD, oven, toaster, kettle...... Everything has clocks.
I have gained nothing. Clock-changing takes time. Lots of time. I remember that I wasted the same length of time around the Vernal Equinox putting my clocks forward (and thereby losing an hour into the bargain). This horological time-wasting must be costing the country millions of pounds.
The Anglo-Saxons (as per usual) had it right. The Sun rose at 6, crossed the southern meridian at noon, set at 6 and was as far "set" as it was going to be at midnight. In summer the daylight "hours" were longer than the night-time hours. In winter the positions were reversed. Only at the equinoxes (equi=equal nox=night) were day and night the same. Good old Anglo-Saxons.
How I wish it was still the Dark Ages.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Love it!

What if there are no hypothetical questions?
(Heard on the radio; can't claim originality. Damn)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Higher Education Rip-Off

I know I go on a bit about our Universities, but they really do deserve it.
A colleague's daughter is in the third year of a Business Management degree. She has four hours on her timetable. Three on Monday, one on Tuesday. That's it. That's what she pays her fees for, that's why she has taken out the loan (to be repaid until hell freezes over), that's it. Four hours. Three former students came to see me this week. I asked how it was going. Lectures? Over 450 students packed into a lecture theatre designed for 50 fewer, a lecturer who emerged at the front at 5 past the hour and mumbled for the next 50 minutes. No microphone used. Nothing either heard nor understood. Seminars? Between 70 and 100 students in a seminar. Ridiculous. What kind of "interaction" is that? That is not a seminar; it is still a lecture. Every student I talk to has the same opinion of their University staff: they couldn't care less.
“A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students.”
John Ciardi

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The United Kingdom

This afternoon, I am going to teach a class of Chinese students all about what we might loosely call "Britain".
The individual nations are OK. England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales. Ah but. Northern Ireland is a province and Wales is a principality. England and Scotland are nations though. With a monarch. The same monarch. A United Kingdom. Our Elizabeth II is, of course, Elizabeth I of Scotland. I know they will ask "What is the United Kingdom?" I'll stutter out England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Then they'll ask "...and the British Isles?" and I will chuck in The Irish Republic and probably the Isle of Man. But what about the Channel Islands? I think they are called Bailiwicks. Not sure. Part of the UK? Not sure. Back to the Isle of Man. Not sure. They'll ask what is the difference between Britain and Great Britain. Again, not sure. Does the UK include Northern Ireland? Not sure. How are the Channel Islands part of the EU? Not sure. How come they can be tax havens. Got me. Not sure.
I'm in for a great lesson where, ultimately, they will know exactly what I know. I know that I don't know.
Did Berwick ever make it up with Russia?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cheryl Loses It: Shock Horror

I normally rate Cheryl Cole. True, she is a bit of a professional Geordie, but relatively sweet and harmless. Then she loses all reason.
Two of her three choices for X-Factor were a joke. One couldn't sing and couldn't sing (tonsilitis) and another couldn't sing and couldn't sing (nerves). I can't recall their names. One will be eliminated in Week 1, the other in Week 2.
Gamu Nhengu. That's who should have gone into the last 12. I hope someone spots her and signs her quickish.

Friday, September 24, 2010

University League Tables

Ah! There we are. Damn. Delft University of Technology is above us!
There are just over 17000 universities in the world. The THES recently published a booklet detailing all sorts of league tables for universities but, of course, the "overall" table is the one that everyone looks at. Just like in football. We could have a Goals For league table to highlight the strong attacks or a Goals Against league table to highlight the strong defences. But we don't. We look at the overall points that these teams, with their strong bits and weak bits have
The universities that really intrigue me are those in the lower reaches. Who is 17000th? We aren't told. God! What a hell-hole that must be! Degree shops, lectures cancelled or lecturers late, exorbitant fees for an inferior product, courses cut for lack of funding, poorly qualified staff teaching vast numbers of increasingly poorly qualified students, crumbling buildings apart from the Business School and the Vice-Chancellor's new admin block with marketing dominating everything. Medium over message every time.
I'm glad I don't work somewhere like that.


I get emails (all the time!) that end with...
The information in this email is confidential and may be legally privileged. It is intended solely for the addressee. Access to this email by anyone else is unauthorised. If you are not the intended recipient, any disclosure, copying, distribution or any other action taken in reliance on it, is prohibited and may be unlawful. If you believe that you have received this email in error, please contact the sender. Etc. etc etc etc.
Globally, this legalese must be having a major impact on bandwidth. Truth is, we never have enough bandwidth so adding this to nearly every effing email must come at a hell of a cost worldwide.
Why can't we just add in a hyperlink to a page that gives all this guff? There would not really be a page there; no-one would ever go there.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


BBC again.
Ewan McGregor and his brother Colin did a very good retrospective on the Battle of Britain a few nights ago. They both ended up flying around in a truly ugly two-seat Spitfire (which the RAF never used) but, overall, it wasn't bad.
Ewan (or his script writer, let's be fair) did make one horrible gaffe.
He was describing the tensions in the upper ranks of Fighter Command as the Battle got more and more desparate and highlighted the feud between Keith Park (OC 11 Group) and "Douglas Bader who commanded 12 Group".
During the Battle of Britain, Douglas Bader was a Squadron Leader commanding 242 Squadron based at Duxford and a small part of 12 Group. Air Vice-Marshall Leigh-Mallory - not Bader - was Park's opposite (in more ways than one) in charge of 12 Group based north of London. As it turned out, most of Bader's theories were simply wrong. Thank God we had AVM Keith Park in charge of 11 Group (in whose skies most of the Battle took place) and not Leigh-Mallory or (worse!) Bader.
The outcome might have been very different.
PS: Park also "won" the other crucial defensive air action of the war - the Battle of Malta.


Having been "on a diet" for the past thirty five years and largely failed (cunning use of "largely" there) I think I have come up with a clever way of losing weight.
Cat poo, as you will certainly know, is considered a delicacy by dogs. This is because cats are quite inefficient when it comes to digesting food and what comes out is (yum!) still "food" in the broadest sense. Then there are tapeworms. These bad buggers grow right the way along our intestines using our partially digested food as their own. Let's combine the two ideas...
Insert into the intestine a tube running the whole length from stomach to bowel that takes a goodly proportion of the slop we pump out of our stomachs. Say 25%. Anything that goes down this "tube within a tube"* will not be absorbed into the bloodstream via the intestinal wall and - like cat poo - our faeces will have 25% undigested stuff. I'm not suggesting you then feed it to your dog, but you would certainly lose weight pretty quickly. In my egotistical style I'm calling this the Timworm®.
You know where you heard it first.
*It would need to be held clear of the intestinal wall by projections of some sort. I would think that PTFE might be a good material.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Prize Giving

Last night I was in the audience for the Newcastle upon Tyne Church High School Annual Prize Giving at The Sage, Gateshead. My six years at this school as a teacher were the happiest in my career and it always brings a lump to my throat when I go back to events like this.

The purpose of these few lines is not, however, to laud the independent education system (although I do) or to congratulate the staff and students of this fine school for another great year (again, I do).

I write simply to note how much I am in awe of my wife's organisational abilities. Whoever reads this (hello, again) keep this in mind. If ever you need a really big, complex, costly, involved, time-critical and important event staged, then call my wife.
Amazing woman.

Gareth Malone: Hero

I watched Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School for Boys with a great deal of enjoyment. I often bash on here about the whole hunter/gatherer differences thing betwixt men and women. Gareth rammed this home beautifully. He made the boys into hunters and competitors. He activated tribalistic sub-memories by getting their Dads involved. He had them outdoors burning up energy. He did everything that a little hunter would love to do. The really clever thing was that he based it all around reading. Hero.
Needless to say, it worked.
It just goes to show that when our safety-obsessed, risk-averse, competition-free, namby-bloody-pamby education system is run for boys as well as girls, boys flourish.
Go Gareth!

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins.
He might be a nice bloke, but I can't stand him.
I read "The Selfish Gene" recently and I have rarely read such self-serving crap in my life. He twists and distorts any science he wants to fit his own rather strange idea of the modus operandi of genes. I'm a scientist myself (and a bloody good one in my day, even if I say so myself) and I was so angered by his arrogance that I had real trouble not burning "The Selfish Gene".
His "The God Delusion" is very similar in its cant. He is messianic in his refutation of God. He makes it an article of faith to believe him. He sets himself up as a martyr for his cause. You can see where I'm going with this, I'm sure.
The thing that sticks in my throat MOST about Dawkins is that he believes that we, civilisation, now, in 2010, have the answers; that our "science" is right, factual and true. Utter bollocks. In 500 years they will laugh heartily at what we believe now, just as we do about those flat-earthers and geocentrists of five centuries ago. His arrogance knows no bounds. I bloody well hope that I don't come across him in Heaven, although the likelihood (since I will be there - I hope - for the rest of eternity) is pretty high.

The Reformation

I'm having another go at the BBC here. Sorry about that.
It is the reporting of the Pope's visit that has me vexed.
The BBC made a big thing of Pope Benedict shaking hands with a female clergywoman in public. So what. She was properly ordained in the Church of England. The last time I checked, the Pope was not a member of that particular branch of Christianity. Of course he shook hands with her!
Then there was the blindingly obvious statement that there are "major doctrinal differences" between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. Well, yes. There would be. Otherwise we wouldn't need to use any words in front of the word "Church". I'm glad these differences exist. It gives us a choice. I'm sure that major differences exist between Waitrose and Tesco (and the like).
They will be telling us that Islam and Christianity (of whatever flavour) have major doctrinal differences next.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Spitfire Women

Readers of my blog (hello!) will know that I am very keen on the RAF being remembered correctly for what Fighter Command did in 1940 (viz. saved civilisation) and what Bomber Command did in 1940-44 (viz. provided a bloody Second Front to aid our Soviet allies).

Imagine my interest then when a programme is currently being advertised on the telly all about the "Spitfire Women" (based on the book of the same name). In the trailer it claims that the Battle of Britain could not have been won without these women delivering fighters to the front-line squadrons.

Now why did they have to spoil it?

I am a huge admirer of the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) and of the women who delivered all manner of aircraft from factories and repair facilities to RAF bases throughout the war. However, to say that the Battle of Britain could not have been won without them is to do their efforts a major disservice.

The efforts of the ATA were heroic. Nearly 90% of the ATA pilots were men (shock!) and they delivered the vast majority of the aircraft. They were mainly ex-BOAC pilots (and the like) too old to fly modern combat aircraft. The very small number of female pilots were glamorised in the Press because they were so few in number. The beautiful Diana Barnato - one of the first women into the ATA - didn't deliver her first Spitfire until mid-1942. The first front-line fighter (a Hurricane, incidentally) delivered by a woman was in mid-1941. The "Spitfire Women" did not fly Spitfires to the hard-pressed RAF in the summer of 1940 and thus turn the tide in the Battle of Britain.

So why come out with this tripe?

I have the utmost respect for all of that small band of women who resupplied the RAF with fresh fighters and bombers. I couldn't have a higher regard for them. So why does some idiot on the BBC think it right to tell lies about them? Why, also, are the efforts of the rest of the ATA (i.e. the men) largely ignored. Do we so have to rewrite history to "big up" the part that womankind played in our survival between 1939 and 1945 that we overlook the men? Women played their part in the Second World War in a myriad of different ways. But they didn't man (pardon that atrociously sexist word) the submarines and destroyers fighting the Battle of the Atlantic, the Lancasters and Halifaxes being massacred over Germany, the trenches, tanks and guns in Europe, North Africa and Burma.

The BBC besmirches the memory of them all, women and men.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

General Guidance for my Generation

If you're too open minded, your brains will fall out.
Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before.
Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.
If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.
Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of cheques.
A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.
Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.
No husband has ever been shot while doing the dishes.
A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.
Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places.
Opportunities always look bigger going than coming.
Junk is something you've kept for years and throw away three weeks before you need it.
There is always one more imbecile than you counted on.
Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends.
You should not weigh more than your refrigerator.
Someone who thinks logically provides a nice contrast to the real world.
Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves for they shall never cease to be amused.

Not original. Thanks to several contributors.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Burning the Koran

Just don't.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Binning Cats

Just back from holiday and the story that hits you is Mary Bale dropping a cat into a bin.
So many things were wrong here it is difficult to begin.
First off, why would anyone have a CCTV aimed at their wheelie bin? Madness. This kind of kit is quite costly and it seems bizarre to spend that kind of money on the off chance of catching a cat-binner.
Then there's the bin itself. Mary (who is not colour-blind, I am assured by reliable sources) dropped the cat into a green bin. Oh my God! Where was the brown bin (for organic waste) or the blue bin (for recyclables. See "101 Things to do with a Dead Cat" for inspiration). The woman clearly has issues about the council's approach to recycling.
Then there was the "backlash". Mary is - according to many - "worse than Hitler". Let's look at the evidence: Woman drops cat into bin; Man masterminds global war and organised genocide. Yes; I can see where they are coming from here. Evil Mary!
Finally, I think it was wrong of her to drop a cat into a bin.
There. I've said it.

Friday, August 13, 2010


A friend and colleague is an astronomer. A very good one too, by all accounts.
Last night (August 12-13) he drove (with some like-minded friends) to deepest, blackest Northumberland to watch the annual display of the Perseid meteors. (As a way of comparing enthusiasm, I looked out of my bedroom window a couple of times and thought "sod it; cloudy").
He was sorely disappointed, seeing only four meteors when - literally - hundreds will have been flashing across the sky above the cloud tops.
It does leave me to wonder at the human species. A highly intelligent man (plus friends) are prepared to travel many a mile and sit there in the pouring rain waiting for a break in the clouds so that they can see the occasional grain of sand left behind a comet's wake flash across the sky as it is atomised by our atmosphere.
I find that quite wonderful. Inspiring. Insane.
Astronomers: optimistic enthusiasts all.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Ass is a Law

Can't quite get my head around these two when put next to each other.

A man has been ordered to pay more than £1500 after he admitted drowning a grey squirrel, the RSPCA said today. Raymond Elliot, 58, of Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, was also handed a six-month conditional discharge after he pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. He was ordered to pay the RSPCA's prosecution costs of £1,547 at Burton-upon-Trent Magistrates' Court last Friday.

A police officer who was filmed pushing a man to the ground during the G20 protests will not face charges over his death. Ian Tomlinson, 47, died after being caught up in the clashes on 1 April 2009 in the City of London. Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said there was no prospect of conviction because experts could not agree on how Mr Tomlinson died.

Thank God the copper didn't kill a squirrel. Justice would NEVER have been done.

This is a crazy country.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The news today, read by the ever-lovely Susanna Reid, told us that only 11% of the Police Force were actually "front-line". That, she said, was "one in ten".
It is actually 1 in 9 (= 11.1%).
Just for future reference...
1 in 10 = 10%, 1 in 9 = 11.1%, 1 in 8 = 12.5%, 1 in 7 = 14.3%, 1 in 6 = 16.7%, 1 in 5 = 20%
You know the rest.

July Weather

I have a very low opinion of meteorologists. From what I have to suffer on TV (four times per hour on BBC 24) it is obvious that they would have trouble getting yesterday's weather right never mind tomorrow's. I rate them well below astrologers and only slightly higher than rune-casters.
This prejudice was amply confirmed this morning whilst watching the local weather "forecaster" telling us that, in Cumbria, the hosepipe ban is still in force and there are several flood warnings for the region.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Working like a Trojan

The other day, someone commented that I worked like a Trojan. I took objection to this. As far as my memory serves, the Trojans were the smug bastards who lounged around within the walls of Troy, only to be winkled out by the ever-industrious Athenians and their hollow horse (MTGG for short).
Maybe the person delivering the compliment thought I was a smug bastard.
This is beginning to make sense...

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I snore.
Like a wounded hippo gasping its last strangulated bellow, I snore.
This happens as soon as I am asleep; often just before (which wakes me up).
I have tried sprays and little sticky clips on my nose. Useless.
I have also tried a thingy that goes in my nose and makes me look like Va'aiga Tuigamala. I sleep better (more air) but just as noisily.
I now have a gumshield thingy that brings my lower teeth forward about 10mm and stops my flobbly airways thingies resonating when I breath. I combine this with the thingy in my nose.
This works, but I have a tendency for it to drop out. I think I need some sort of over-the-head device to keep my mouth closed at the same time.
I am, in summary, turning into Darth Vader.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Here come the girls...(not)

Please don't take this as a tirade against womankind.
I am seized by a sense of profound disappointment here.
In 1988 we changed from overtly boy-friendly O-Levels to equally overtly girl-friendly GCSEs. Out with terminal exams, in with coursework and modularity. As expected (oh come on!) girls have done really well in education since then and have outstripped boys on results day for many years now. The gap is ever-widening and will never close whilst the system is so repeatedly and unfairly skewed towards girls. I know, I know; boys had it their own way for ages. That's not my point.
Our universities are extraordinarily girl-heavy. Girl:Boy ratios of 60:40 or worse are quite common. I think there is something of an embargo on giving the true figures much air time. It would shock the Y-chromosome bearing part of the population, I'm sure.
So, since 1988, we've had a girl-friendly system and those 16 year-olds who took their GCSEs then are now 38. They got their degrees (the bulk of them) in 1993 and have been in employment since then. They should have made their mark by now. They haven't. What's happened? What have these girls* done with all this educational supremacy?
There are women now at every level of government, commerce, the professions, the law and industry; far more than there used to be, all riding the GCSE/GCE wave. What do we - society - see from this dramatic shift towards female-dominated intellectualism.
In my view, nothing.
Nothing is better. Government isn't better (there were plenty of female snouts in the trough labelled MP's Expenses. Hazel Blears for one.). It is almost certainly worse. Commerce isn't better (unless banks crashing and deep recessions count as "better"). Society is not a kinder, more considerate entity. Women as lawmakers have been a significant part of the Blair/Brown kakistocracy that gave use nearly 4000 new "offences" in ten years. Idiots!
After 22 years it seems a little facile to yet again bleat that it is "mens' fault". It can't be. There are more women with influence, education and an inside track on the infrastructures of power than ever before.
When is all this influence going to count?

* I use "girls" here with no offence whatsoever intended. It saves me writing "girls/women" each time. I don't like using "females"; I find that quite derogatory. If you are still offended, go read another blog.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Germany 4 England 1
The dashed hopes of a nation are encapsulated in that line.
These hopes were ALWAYS going to be unrealised. We are, let's face it, shite at football.
The results speak volumes. USA 1-1 England, Algeria 0-0 England. We should have massacred both of these teams. With Bozo the Keeper and a toothless strikeforce the USA result is easily explained. Algeria? OMG. What a dull game. Duller than old lead.
Then - rejoice in the streets - we beat Slovenia 1-0. Slovenia? Those two million nice people just t'other side of Austria. Since when did Slovenia become a footballing nation that we were proud to beat? Again; we should have taken them apart.
So - second in the group behind USA - we limp to the second round.
Germany. The first decent team we've met after being in the easiest of groups.
0-1 (aargh) 0-2 (more aargh) 1-2 (oh. hope) 2-2 (rejoice!) 1-2 (again) 1-3 (gloom) 1-4 (despair)
I just hope the "Lampard-goal-that-wasn't" makes up a little bit for 1966.
It won't, I suspect.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cut or Tax?

So, HM Govt is faced with the biggie. Cut or tax?
Every year of my life I have watched wasters getting away with it.
Every second of the Labour Government I watched special interest groups and uber-Quangos soaking up my money. I watched an economy become dependant upon taxes.
Cut, Dave; CUT!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Becoming Old and Confused

Things beginning with i- are starting to puzzle me. I was happy enough with my i-Pod although the advantages it holds over the old minidisk system are, in my view, vastly overrated. I can scrape by with the i-Player, especially when linked to Auntie through my Wii. How cool is that?
Now, i-Phone. Don't have one. Probably never will. Daughter number 1 has such kit and loves it. Presumably she bought the "Make me love this phone" app (or is it ap?).
Now we have the i-Pad.
I think not.
A piece of hardware looking for a niche, I think.

What next? Let's use up those vowels...
i-Pod, i-Pad, i-Ped, i-Pid, i-Pud

We have the first two. The i-Ped, I'm guessing, would be something to do with walking. A small device to send electric current down one's legs (a la Galvani and the frog) to help one walk. The i-Pid (pronounced eye-peed) would be good for my generation as our sphincters fail. Keep those urges to urinate under control with an i-Pid.
The i-Pud?
Apple crumble.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Stable Government

So. Here we are on Tuesday. We had the election last...when was it now...Thursday. So that's Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon without any discernable government whatsoever. Hang on! I thought we needed a stable government. I'm looking around my beloved UK and I'm not seeing troops tear-gassing rioters in the streets. A latter day Kristallnacht has not happened. The FTSE had a good day yesterday, I believe. I need to look harder to find the terror and panic.

Found it!

Etched into the faces of every self-serving stuffed-shirt MP are the same lines of anguish. They are all mouthing the same mantra of "strong stable government" and they are all terrified that we find out the "thing" that must not - ever - be revealed.

We don't actually need them.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Election

As a lifelong Liberal (the Democrat bit was added later and I've never been that fussed) I confess to being cheered and saddened by the election. Cheered by the Parliament being hung; saddened that the Lib Dems didn't make bigger inroads into the Commons.
The only really obvious thing to come out of the election is that some sort of proportional representation is long overdue. The number of voters it takes to secure a seat is quite illuminating.
The DUP come out best. Although we had the fun of watching Robinson lose his seat (...and here's to you Mrs Robinson) they do best of all. Every seat "cost" only 21027 voters. The Labour Party come in second. Every one of their 258 MPs cost 33350 voters. Compare this to the 34989 voters it took to elect each Conservative MP and you can see why Cameron was so cheesed off. If he had had to pay (in voters) what Labour paid for their seats he would have has 321 - very close to the magical 326.
Plaid Cymru and the SNP deserve a mention here. Each Plaid seat cost 55131 voters; each SNP seat 81898. Using Labour as a "voters per seat" benchmark, Plaid should have had 5 seats, the SNP a whopping 15.
Then we come to the Lib Dems. My favourite bridesmaids. Every Lib Dem seat cost 119788 voters. If they had been Labour voters they could have expected 204 seats with that many voters.
A lot of voters don't vote Lib Dem because they don't like wasting their vote. You can see why.
I also feel really sorry for the Greens. They would have had 9 seats under the same "voters per seat" as Labour.
If we went for simple proportional representation, with every vote contributing to a big "pot" from where MPs would be drawn we would have ended up with a parliament that looked like this:

Con 252
Lab 203
Lib 161
Oth 34

The supposed massive downside that sticks to this type of vote is that it ignores "local interest". Not so, as it turns out. The parties from norn'ir'n would stull have approximately the same nomber of seats (do you like my Ulster accent?). Similarly, Plaid and the SNP do pretty well out of this method.
MPs then get assigned to constituencies. That would be fun - to see who we would get. Of course, what we would always get is a hung parliament. Good. Let's see a bit of concensus and compromise rather than the antagonistic, hostile way that things are done now.
Dream on.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I turned 55 today. So I'm closer to 60 than 50. Bugger. There is so much I want to do.
That said, the "so much I want to do" is more suited to who I am now than who (if ever) I was.
I want to finish my novel. I want to work out the vibrational force fields of metal dinitrogen species. I want to see a lot more of the world.
I now have a fedora.
I can do stuff in a fedora.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Defence from Air Attack

The recent events in Iceland have me thinking. I regularly feel sorry for the poor sods huddled out in the rain having a fag (in the British sense). Society hates them. I'm sure they hate each other. And themselves. Now, we can put all that hatred into defending our airports from the dreaded (and largely mythical) Al Qaeda. I noted - with mounting excitement - that the RAF was suspending its flights around the UK with its much-vaunted Typhoon fighter until the volcanic ash has settled. Ash. Ash? Ash! The penny dropped.
At each airport in the country I would build strategically located smoking areas atop huge fans. The ashtrays would never be emptied in these areas, allowing for a good build-up of ash and butts (in the British sense) within days. At the merest whiff of Nasty Al attacking we would turn the fans on. Ash et al as far as the ionosphere! Admittedly my "Strategic Ash Initiative" would paralyse air transport across the globe but - hey - the smokers would feel good about themselves and everyone would smell like they do.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

General Elections

Are you enjoying it so far? I am. I just love watching people lie through their teeth in the name of democracy. Watching Brown smile, watching Cameron try to appear cool, watching Clegg trying to make himself visible; it is all great fun.
My greatest joy will be election night. I will lie in bed with some uber-strong coffee on tap and watch the results come in. The anguish, the triumph, the predictions, the explanations for why the predictions were so bad; I love it. I love it all!
My darling wife, who has far more sense than me will be asleep.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Prof S J Bell Burnell

I watched a very interesting programme last night about Prof Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. In 1967 she discovered pulsars. When I first "met her" I was an undergraduate (she is 12 years older than me) and she was NOT receiving a Nobel Prize. Neither was I, so we had that in common. She, however, should have been crowned Nobel Laureate. Instead, her PhD supervisor, Tony Hewish and the group head, Martin Ryle took all the plaudits. Cheeky buggers! Tony Hewish had the neck, last night, to point out that there are "captains and crew" in these things. Even after all these years, I still think the lass were robbed.
How different my own experience. When I used to come up with "stuff" as a graduate student, my supervisor (Prof Jim Turner FRS) and the other academics in the group (Prof Martyn Poliakoff and the late Prof Jeremy Burdett) used to argue black was white to find the cracks in what I was doing. When they were convinced it was OK we wrote papers and got them published. Jim and I are the senior authors on my first publication. I published my second paper with me as the sole author. Thank God I didn't work for Ryle and Hewish! Thank God I had the enormous honour and joy of working with Turner and Poliakoff.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hunters and Gatherers

I was amused to read that "man flu" might have some basis in fact. Presumably a load of blokes were asked how they felt when they had a cold and the median value was "really shite". For women the mid-point was "shite" so - QED - men suffer from a different "intensity" of flu-like symptoms.
I am always intrigued by studies like this. They all have a unique way of stating the totally bloody obvious. Men and women are different. When it comes to behaviour, most of it - I feel - can be traced back to our hunter-gatherer roots. Men hunt, women gather. Boys play with guns, girls play with dolls. Not always, not exclusively; obviously. But on average, true. Nearly every difference in behaviour that I have ever discerned between men and women can, I think, be traced back to one of us being a hunter and the other being a gatherer. It explains virtually all of our physical differences and - I think - our sociological differences too.
So the next time some ethno-socio-bio-psycho-anthropologist comes out with some utterly banal bilge that yet again proves that women have bumpy jumpers and men don't like asking for directions just remember: Hunters and Gatherers.


I like Spring. I like the name. I like the idea. I like that Robert Hooke has a Law about it. I like the fact that supposedly unthinking organisms have a pretty good idea of when it starts (viz. snowdrops) and ends (viz. tulips). I love the fact that on the Equinox the Sun is directly over the Equator. I know this happens in late September too, but the Sun is heading south then and it merely signals the coming of Winter. That said, I like Autumn too. I'm always a bit surprised that we have only four seasons. I believe the late-mediaeval Dutch used to have six. They were probably smoking something.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Run that by me again...

Let's see if I've got this straight.
We (taxpayers) own nearly all of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

They made £4000000000 loss last year.
They are paying out over £1000000000 in bonuses.
These bonuses are to retain their "talented staff" who would otherwise leave.
Am I missing something here. Let's do that again.

They made £4000000000 loss last year.
They are paying out over £1000000000 in bonuses.
These bonuses are to retain their "talented staff" who would otherwise leave.
Nope. Still not got it.
Run that by me again...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Chorus for Corus

"Ring of Iron"

I know of no other songs about Middlesbrough and its surrounding steelworks

It's all around the town, all around the town
It's all around the town, this hard ring of iron.

There's smoke up in the sky; Smoke up in the sky
There's smoke that's black and chimney stacks; As far as the eye can see

There's shipyards to the north; Chemicals to the south
Factories, stills and rolling mills; Right down to the river's mouth.

So it's out of town I'm bound; Out of town I'm bound
It's out of town I'm bound; And I'll break this ring of iron.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Join the BNP!

Great news; anyone can join the BNP. So let's do it. Every fair-minded black and asian citizen in the UK should now be filling in their application forms. The BNP is no size. Decent non-racists could completely flood it very easily. Then change it. Change it for good.
Then disband it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Happy New Year/Lent/Easter and Two Birthdays

Goodness. February. Late February.
Where did December go? And January?
I blinked and missed wishing you all (assuming that it isn't JUST me who reads this) a merry Christmas, Happy New Year, [insert jovial adjective] Hanukah, Happy Birthday to two, Pig out Pancake Tuesday, Don't Eat Meat Ash Wednesday and probably quite a few more.
I'm back.