28 April 2009

WW - Tree Paeony flower in decline

Sunlight on a bloom in decline. The bloom is from our species tree paeony - Paeonia lutea var. ludlowii. This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of Wordless Wednesday.

27 April 2009

Tree Paeony in bloom

This year's first bloom on our species Tree Paeony, Paeonia luteaa var ludlowii

Look! Free XXX Hardcore Porn

Britney Spears and Paris Hilton close up in sapphic embrace they may not be but these two had no objection to being photographed while doing the wild thing! Perhaps dogging is not quite the correct term here... Insecting? I suppose it would service a specialist animal porn niche...

Lily beetles are a huge pest. Their larvae will make mincmeat of lillies and fritilarias. Perhaps it was cruel but I squashed them shortly afterwards.

25 April 2009

Time for a short break

This damned knee is still giving me a lot of ag so perhaps time for a short blog break. I have set up some autoposts by way of an interlude,

This one is dedicated to Maddy at Whitterer on Autism who has created some wonderful Pi dishes (sic)

Photo Hunt - Protection

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is protection. The crow is probably my favourite bird. I have been pleased recently to hear their rasping caw of a morning as a murder descends on the roofs and chimney pots of the houses in our street. At times it is less a murder of crows than a genocide!

Sadly by the time I have worked out how to use the camera while balancing on crutches the crows seems to have thinned out in numbers, mores the pity... and the shots are not exactly great.

Crows have been the subject of much folklore, some good, but a lot more bad. Finding a dead crow on the road is good luck but crows in a church yard are bad luck, It was unlucky in Wales to have a crow cross your path but if two crows crossed your path, the luck was reversed. "Two crows I see, good luck to me" In New England seeing two crows flying together from the left was bad luck... and so on and so forth.

Given that crows were more often a harbinger of ill than good the people of Somerset at one time used to carry a protection against them. So what was this protection? Scroll down!














The humble onion! Don't as me how it worked!

The crow folklore was found here

While my cast is off, I am still tiring very easily. Please accept my apologies if I am still not doing as much visiting as normal

24 April 2009

Endangered spider manages to remain happy

Theridion grallator is by any standards a curious animal. Just a few millimetres across, it has developed bizarre markings giving it the appearance of a smiling face. According to the Telegraph scientists think the spider’s pattern evolved to confuse predators. It is under-threat of extinction in the rainforests of the Hawaiian island chain in the Pacific.

Dr Geoff Oxford, a spider expert from the University of York, said: "I must admit when I turned over the first leaf and saw one it certainly brought a smile to my face. There are various theories as to why the spider has developed the markings it has, one of these that it may be to confuse predators. When a bird or other predator first sees a prey item it has not seen before there is a moment before it decides whether to eat it or not. It may be that this spider has developed these variations to take advantage of this, in the moment the predator is deciding if it is food it may have the chance to escape. I don't think the smiling face is enough to put off a bird though, but it would be nice to think so. Not all happy-face spiders have such striking markings, and some are nearly all orange or all blue. The species is only found high in the rainforests of Hawaii and are under threat from the introduction of animals not native to the islands."

Dr Oxford, who has been studying the spiders since 1993, said that the unusual markings of the arachnid had made them a symbol of all of Hawaii's threatened wildlife. "They are ambassadors for all the threatened invertebrates, insects and spiders on Hawaii," he said. "Conservationists are using them to highlight the plight of native species and you can't go far on the islands without seeing them on T-shirts, baseball caps, post cards and even removal trucks.

"The Hawaiian fauna is being threatened by all the human-imported species of animals and plants that establish there each year. Sadly most of the plants and animals in lowland areas of Hawaii are non-native and one has to go up into the rainforest to find the native species."

A not so sullen teenager

Robyn is now 15 years young .This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

23 April 2009

Saint George - A modest proposal

St George is a very busy saint. Not only is he the patron saint of England he has this lot on his plate:

Portugal, Georgia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Agricutural workers, Moscow, Catalonia, Aragon,Majorca, Palestinian christians, Beirut, Butchers, Freemasons, Armourers, Field workers, Horsemen, Knights, Sheperds, Saddlers, Sheep, Horses, Syphilitics, Herpes sufferers, Soldiers and Skin diseases

The list is far from comprehensive Personally I think he is chronically overworked. In comparison St Patrick has a relatively easy time. Okay he has a lot of dioceses to look after but he is the national saint only of Ireland and Nigeria and his other duties focus on snakes. David only has Wales and doves!

There is no way that St George can look after all of these roles and give England the attention it deserves (let alone Georgia which possibly deserves a little more of his time given that the country is named after him and the flag contains lots of St George crosses...) I would not ask Bulgaria or Lithuania to find a new patron saint but some of his other functions could be given to less burdened saints. Perhaps St David could take on sheperds and field workers.

In addition St George could do with some assistants. England's first martyr, St Alban, would be the ideal deputy patron. Other saints could take a more active regional role. St Edmund could take on East Anglia, while St Cedd could have a higher profile in Essex. St Mary Magdalene in North Ockendon would surely experience an economic boom with thousands of pilgrims wishing to take the waters at the nearby St Cedd's well.

And so on and so forth. I don't expect things to change overnight but perhaps it would be far better to celebrate England's patron saint by reducing his workload than waving flags.

Postscript: I wish I had thought of this earlier. I could have taken action as per Liz's comment and sent this as a letter to the Mail (in purple ink of course!). Otherwise it would be the sort of thing my poltroon of an MP, Andrew Rosindell, would go crazy for, I'm sure

The Gashlycrumb Tinies in full

Edward Gorey at his finest. Enjoy!

Transfusion - Nervous Norvus

22 April 2009

Jesus in a Kit-kat and on a terrier's arse

As well as what ifs and alternate history scenarios I love simulacra. I was please to find out that Monday's Metro had a picture of Jesus appearing in a Kit-Kat bar. Personally I thing this is an excellent simulacrum - right up there with the Nun Bun- but nothing can compare with the appearance of Jesus on a terrier's arse:

Go to Get Behind jesus to find out more about Angus. Well God is supposed to be everywhere so it was inevitable that a simulacrum would appear on a dog's ring piece!

Pius XII would have resigned papacy if kidnapped

I am very fond of “What ifs?” and alternate histories. Okay a lot of ideas may be ludicrous but they still can be fun to consider. Even more interesting of course are real life rather than speculative contingencies. Telegraph carries a report on what the Vatican would have done if the Pope had been arrested by the Nazis during WWII.

According to documents in the Vatican's Secret Archives Pope Pius XII told senior bishops that should he be arrested by the Nazis, his resignation would become effective immediately. The bishops would then be expected to flee to a safe country – probably neutral Portugal – where they would re-establish the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and appoint a new Pontiff.

"Pius said 'if they want to arrest me they will have to drag me from the Vatican'," said Peter Gumpel, the German Jesuit priest who is in charge of researching whether Pius should be made a saint, and therefore has access to secret Vatican archives. "the person who would leave the under these conditions would not be Pius XII but Eugenio Pacelli" – his name before he was elected Pontiff – thus giving permission for a new Pope to be elected.

Hitler had considered kidnapping the Pope but this is the first time that details have emerged of the Vatican's strategy should the Nazis carry out the plan."It would have been disastrous if the Church had been left without an authoritative leader," said Father Gumpel. "Pius wouldn't leave voluntarily. He had been invited repeatedly to go to Portugal or Spain or the United States but he felt he could not leave his diocese under these severe and tragic circumstances."

Vatican documents, which still remain secret, are believed to show that Pius was aware of a plan formulated by Hitler in July 1943 to occupy the Vatican and arrest him and his senior cardinals. On 6 September 1943 – days after Italy signed the September 3 armistice with the Allies and German troops occupied Rome – Pius told key aides that he believed his arrest was imminent.

SS General Karl Otto Wolff was told to "occupy as soon as possible the Vatican, secure the archives and art treasures and transfer the Pope, together with the Curia so that they cannot fall into the hands of the Allies and exert a political influence." Some historians have claimed that General Wolff tipped off the Vatican about the kidnap plans and that he also managed to talk the Fuhrer out of the plot because he believed it would alienate Catholics worldwide.

Consideration is being given to the canonisation of Pius XII and these revelations will be seen as an attempt to bolster the case for declaring him saint. Pius’ role during WWII is, to say the least, controversial ( a huge understatement!) but for another time

21 April 2009

Getting my leg back into action is going to be a slow grind

The Cast has been off for nearly a week and is still very stiff and painful. While I can get about with the aid of crutches, I can't go very far without pain and tiredness. I also find that if I sit at the computer for any length of time my knee seizes up.

Visiting and commenting is going to be rather light for a while although I hope to keep the drivel flowing here!

Still I've got the makings of a cool scar so all is not grim by any means...

High Rise - a Hawkwind tribute to J G Ballard

WW follows

Flat block
Of two dimensions
Neon totem pole to the sky
Keeping scores of people stacked up so high
Above the ground
But all they can hear is the sound
Of the wind in the antennae
It's a human zoo
A suicide machine

Of concrete cube shaped
A flypaper stuck with human life
Caged up rage
Swarming hornet hive
Tear out the telephones
Rip up the pages of directories
And wreck all these
High speed lifts and elevators
Be a sabotage rebel without a cause

High rise
Living in a high rise
High rise
Living in a high rise
High rise
Living in a high rise
High rise
All stacked up in a high rise block

High rise
Living in a high rise
High rise
Living in a high rise
High rise
Living in a high rise
High rise
All stacked up in a high rise block

Of human blood shape
Tentacles of human gore
Spread out on the pavement from the 99th floor
Well somebody said that he jumped
But we know he was pushed
He was just like you might have been
On the 99th floor of a suicide machine

High rise
Living in a high rise
High rise
Living in a high rise
High rise
Living in a high rise
High rise
All stacked up in a high rise block

High Rise appeared on Hawkwind's 1978 album PXR5 (which has just been re-released by the Cherry Red Atomhenge label afterbeing unavailable for a ridiculously long time). The song was apparently inspired by Ballard's 1975 novel of the same name.

Lyrics are by Robert Calvvert who is, of course, featured as my avatar

WW - snowdrops

This is a photo of some snowdrops, honest! This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of Wordless Wednesday.

20 April 2009

BNP members called “illiterate", "liars", "oddballs" and "troublemakers” ....... by the BNP!

A British National party internal document leaked to Searchlight magazine is urging its members not to set up official party blogs in the run-up to this year's European elections because "they can't write proper English" and "get carried away with conspiracy theories",

According to a Guardian report the document also says that some BNP members are "oddballs", "Walter Mitty characters", "compulsive liars" and "born troublemakers.

Apparently, the BNP does not allow members or units to run websites or blogs which use the BNP logo or party name in their title, preferring "apparently independent sites exposing the wrongdoings and failings of the old parties and making subtly favourable reference to the BNP”

Calling BNP members oddballs, liars and troublemakers is mild and comes nowhere close to my opinion of them (start with shit stains and work downwards). However, I never expected to see the BNP describe its members in such a way. Such candour is refreshing!

J G Ballard RIP

I was sorry to read that one of my favourite authors J G Ballard died yesterday after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 78.

19 April 2009

No Mor Karbasi for me tonight

I have a ticket to see Mor Karbasi at the Jazz Cafe in Camden tonight. Needless to say there is no way I can go what with my knee in the condition it's in. Shame, I was really looking forward to seeing her.

Hawkwind - Sentinel

A new song showcased on last year's tour (and on recent datss too). A new album is due this year. Definitely somehing to look forward to as well as the 40th Anniversary shows in August

Airscape at long last!

At long last You Tube has footage of what is my favourite Robyyn Hitchcock song and definitely a song that would be ion my Desert Island Discs list.

18 April 2009

The Daily Mail view on cervical cancer vaccines depends on where you live

For me, Ben Goldacre’s weekly Guardian column Bad Science is essential reading. This week he asks a pertinent question, to wit “Is it somehow possible that journalists wilfully misinterpret and ignore scientific evidence, in order to generate stories that reflect their own political and cultural prejudices?”

The issue is illustrated with reference to the Daily Mail and to a blog called The Lay Scientist.

Daily Mail in Britain

Last January the Mail reported on the deaths of two girls following the cervical cancer vaccination. Reading beyond the headline showed that the cause of death in either case “could not be identified”. According to the European Medicines Agency "No causal relationship has been established between the deaths of the young women and the administration of Gardasil” (the vaccine in question).

On 6 April, under the headline, How safe is the cervical cancer jab? Five teenagers reveal their alarming stories the Mail focused on the severe side effects experienced by these five girls and mentions that (according to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority) 1,300 out of the 700,000 girls vaccinated in 2008.last year had officially reported an adverse reaction of any kind.

Although the article states that this “is a tiny proportion of the girls who have upped their protection against a dreadful disease” the thrust of both of these articles is to cast doubt in the minds of its readers about the safety of the vaccine.

Daily Mail in Ireland

Perversely the Daily Mail is campaigning vigorously in favour of the vaccine. On 29 January the Mail published an article under the headline Join the Irish Daily Mail's cervical cancer vaccination campaign today The Mail called on the Irish Government to reverse its decision to axe its cervical cancer vaccination programme stating that the vaccine combined with the recently rolled out cervical cancer screening programme would cut deaths by 80 per cent.

Goldacre’s jaundiced view is that in Britain the Daily Mail raises questions about cervical cancer vaccine because it is about a government promoting promiscuity (therefore it causes paralysis and other symptoms); in Ireland the vaccine is withheld by penny-pinchers, so it is a lifesaver. I can’t help feel that there is some truth in his take on the different approaches in Britain and Ireland. After all how often do papers manipulate facts (scientific or otherwise) in accordance with their own political affiliations? The Guardian and Observer are of course not exempt from this either.

Ah well, at least the Mail does not describe the vaccine as “Labour’s new sex jab for schoolgirls” as the Express does...

Photo Hunt - Purple

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is purple. This from the hebe that blooms at odd time all through the year

17 April 2009

Not so much as a gene pool as a damp smear

On Wednesday the Times carried an article about research into the downfall of the Spanish Habsburgs. A study led by Gonzalo Alvarez, of the University of Santiago de Compostela showed how inbreeding drove one of Europe’s most celebrated dynasties to extinction. (One comment asked the following “Will Dr Alvez be producing any more 'research' stating the obvious?? How about a study demonstrating that water is wet?”) Still it amuses me to paraphrase the article and add some background plus pictures of the pulchritudinous princes and princesses.

Joanna the Mad

The first Habsburg monarch was Charles I (Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) who ascended the Spanish throne in 1516. Although his father was known as Philip the Handsome, it is perhaps ominous to note that his mother Juana is known to history as Joanna the Mad.

Philip IV

He was succeeded by Philip II, the Philip III, neither of whom look as if they would land a role playing banjo in Deliverance. However they did seek to consolidate their royal house with consanguineous marriages which contributed to the famous “Habsburg jaw”. The jaw can be seen distinctly in the next monarch Philip IV who married his niece.

Charles II of Spain

The final Spanish Habsburg was Charles II who was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a sickly, disabled and mentally retarded man. Known as El Hechizado (The Hexed), he was short and weak, and suffered from rickets, intestinal problems and blood in the urine. He had learning difficulties, a large head relative to his body size, and his two wives reported that he suffered from impotence or premature ejaculation. Dr Alvarez’s team said that his symptoms would have been well explained by two recessive genetic disorders: combined pituitary hormone deficiency and distal renal tubular acidosis.

The Habsburg family tree (or should that be pillar?)

That Charles II may have suffered from genetic illness in perhaps to be expected: he was so inbred (see above!) that his risk of inheriting a genetic disease was comparable with that of a child born to a brother and sister or father and daughter, maybe greater.

The Habsburgs’ poor prospects were further compounded by an extremely high rate of mortality in infancy and childhood, which may also have been a result of their inbred character. Half of all royal children died before the age of 10, compared with 20 per cent of children born in ordinary Spanish villages in the same period.

Ah well the death of Charles II did lead to a war which gave a certain John Churchill the chance to shine as one of Britain’s greatest ever military commanders. Err perhaps that is not the best of endings!

Some more of Mad Madge's poetry

It is always a pleasure to post some of Margaret Cavendish's. Although dead for 335 years her reputation is such that she is as well and fondly regarded as William Topaz and McIntyre, the cheese poet. Here is one of her science poems.

The Circle of the Brain cannot be Squared

A Circle round divided in four parts

Hath been great Study 'mongst the men of Arts;

Since Archimed's or Euclid's time, each Brain
Hath on a Line been stretched, yet all in Vain;
And every Thought hath been a Figure set,
Doubts Cyphers were, Hopes as Triangles met;

There was Division and Subtraction made,
And Lines drawn out, and Points exactly laid,

But none hath yet by Demonstration found
The way, by which to Square a Circle round:
For while the Brain is round, no Square will be,

While Thoughts divide, no Figures will agree.

And others did upon the same account,

Doubling the Cube to a great number mount;

But some the Triangles did cut so small,

Till into equal Atoms they did fall:
For such is Man's curiosity and mind,
To seek for that, which is hardest to find.

Ted on watch

This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

16 April 2009

I think I'll shut up about my knee

Major Phil Packer was seriously injured in Basra on 19 February 2008. He lost the use of his legs and was originally told he would never walk again. On 26 April, however, he plans to start walking the Flora London Marathon route on crutches, a feat that will take him two weeks.

Major Packer hopes to raise £1m for Help for Heroes.

As I said in the title, I will shut up about my leg!

Fox Hunting and sea eagles

A fox hunts during a Yelllowstone winter.

Turn the sound off and watch!

I know that these films are nothing new but they are still amazing.

15 April 2009

Thar’s red mercury in them thar sewing machines

Although it’s highly debatable if it even exists red mercury is a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream. Not only does it (allegedly) allow the creation of a fusion bomb without the need of a fission bomb, it can be used as a paint to create stealth aircraft, find treasure and ward off evil spirits.

The BBC reports that Saudi police are investigating a hoax that has seen people rushing to buy of all things old-fashioned Singer sewing machines for up to $50,000 following rumours that they contain traces of red mercury.

According to the Saudi Gazette trade in the sewing machines has been brisk across the country. Several tailors shops have had their machines stolen. People have been holding mobile phones up to the machines, believing that they could be used to detect the presence of red mercury.

An interior ministry spokesman said authorities were trying to discover who had spread the rumours. "We have to find out who started this hoax. People hope to make profit," he said. "This is no different to cases of citizens who put their money in untrustworthy schemes."

We were given an old Singer sewing machine some time ago. It’s currently out in the shed but now that I know it contains red mercury I think I’ll create a weapon of unimaginable destruction and hold the northern hemisphere to ransom.. I will do as soon as I think up of a good Bond villain name and practice phrases like “No Mr Bond I expect you to die”. Then the world will be min ALL MINE MWUHAHAHAHAHA

Sir Alec Jeffreys criticises goverment over DNA records

It’s hard to imagine that it was just 25 years ago that Alec Jeffreys had the inspiration that allowed him to develop DNA fingerprinting, something that has become one of the most powerful tools in forensic science. At the time I was in the final year of my Physiology and Biochemistry degree at Southampton University, but I digress. In today’s Guardian Professor Jeffreys, warns that the government is putting at risk public support for the DNA national database by holding the genetic details of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

Jeffreys, has condemned the government for keeping the details of everyone arrested, regardless of whether they are later convicted. He said he was left "almost speechless" by reports that the government planned to respond to a recent European court ruling - that storing innocent people's genetic details broke their right to privacy - by simply removing their profiles from the database but keeping the original DNA samples.

"I have significant concerns there [about the size of the database], he said. That database is currently populated by an unknown number of entirely innocent people. It is not possible to get an accurate number but it appears to be hundreds of thousands. My view is very clear that if you have been convicted of a crime then you owe it to society to be retained on that database for catching in the future should you reoffend. But the retention of entirely innocent people is a whole different issue. There is a sort of presumption here that if they haven't committed any crime now, then they will in the future."

Professor Jeffries believes DNA fingerprinting was a valuable technology and investigative tool which had enjoyed considerable public backing; his concern was the loss of that support. "My genome is my property. It is not the state's. I will allow the state access to that genome under very strict circumstances. I have met some [innocent] people who are on the database and are really distressed by the fact. They feel branded as criminals and I would feel branded as a criminal."
Police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland routinely take DNA samples from everyone arrested on suspicion of committing a recordable offence, which are then added to the national database. In Scotland, DNA records are destroyed if someone is acquitted, apart from in a small number of serious cases.

Professor Jeffreys dismisses the Home Office argument that keeping the genetic details of everyone, even those acquitted, helped solve other crimes. "If you just dumped a few hundred thousand people at random on to the database you'd get the same effect," he said. "I have never seen any argument in favour of England, Wales and Northern Ireland being the only countries in the world to retain the DNA of entirely innocent people. There are serious issues of discrimination and stigmatisation of branches of society that are over-represented on the database."

I agree wholeheartedly with Sir Alec. There is no good reason to retain DNA samples or profiles where there is no charge or the charge is dropped. On this occasion the Government should comply with the European court or bring English law (and Welsh and Northern Irish law) in line with that in Scotland.

Well the cast's off

and stratght away I found myself catching up on weeks of scratching! The operation looks to have been a success but I can hardly bend my knee, I can't raise my leG and my quadriceps feels morE like a blancmange than a muscle.

Now for lots of physiotherapy... Hiho

14 April 2009

WW - Head

From the British Museum. This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of Wordless Wednesday.

13 April 2009


The cast is still on (hopefully only for a couple of more days) but at least I'm done having to inject myself with Clexane

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to find a vid of someone demonstrating a clexane injection on Youtube. The only difference was that my belly is rather larger, hairier and male!

Orang- utan numbers get a boost

According to today’s Telegraph orang-utan numbers have been boosted after a team surveying forests nestled between jagged, limestone cliffs in eastern Borneo island counted over 200 orang-utan nests.

This , indicates a "substantial" number of the animals, accordgin to Erik Meijaard, a senior ecologist at the US-based The Nature Conservancy."We can't say for sure how many," he said, but even the most cautious estimate would indicate "several hundred at least, maybe 1,000 or 2,000 even".

There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 orang-utans left in the wild, 90 per cent of them in Indonesia and the rest in neighbouring Malaysia. The countries are the world's top producers of palm oil and rainforests have been clear-cut and burned at alarming rates to make way for lucrative palm oil plantations.

The steep topography, poor soil and general inaccessibility of the mountains appear to have shielded the area from development, at least for now, said Meijaard. Its trees include those highly sought after for commercial timber.

Conservationists say the most immediate next step will be working with local authorities to protect the area and others that fall outside of national parks. A previously undiscovered population of several hundred also was found recently on Sumatra island, home to around 7,000.


A parody of the first movement of Beethoven's 5th symphony. Well I enjoyed it!

12 April 2009

A McGonagall poem for Easter

The Crucifixion of Christ

Then Pilate, the Roman Governor, took Jesus and scourged Him,
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and thought it no sin
To put it on His head, while meekly Jesus stands;
They put on Him a purple robe, and smote Him with their hands.

Then Pilate went forth again, and said unto them,
Behold, I bring Him forth to you, but I cannot Him condemn,
And I would have you to remember I find no fault in Him,
And to treat Him too harshly 'twould be a sin.

But the rabble cried. Hail, King of the Jews, and crucify Him;
But Pilate saith unto them, I find in Him no sin;
Then Jesus came forth, looking dejected and wan,
And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the Man.

Then the Jews cried out, By our laws He ought to die,
Because He made Himself the Son of God the Most High;
And when Pilate heard that saying the Jews had made,
He saw they were dissatisfied, and he was the more afraid.

And to release Jesus Pilate did really intend,
But the Jews cried angrily, Pilate, thou art not Caesar's friend,
Remember, if thou let this vile impostor go,
It only goes to prove thou art Caesar's foe.

When Pilate heard that he felt very irate,
Then he brought Josus forth, and sat down in the judgment-seat,
In a place that is called the Pavement,
While the Blessed Saviour stood calm and content.

The presence of His enemies did not Him appal,
When Pilate asked of Him, before them all,
Whence art Thou, dost say from on High?
But Jesus, the Lamb of God, made no reply.

Then saith Pilate unto Him, Speakest Thou not unto me,
Remember, I have the power to crucify Thee;
But Jesus answered, Thou hast no power at all against me,
Except from above it were given to thee.

Then Pilate to the Jews loudly cried,
Take Him away to be crucified;
Then the soldiers took Jesus and led Him away,
And He, bearing His Cross, without dismay.

And they led Him to a place called Golgotha,
But the Saviour met His fate without any awe,
And there crucified Him with two others, one on either side,
And Jesus in the midst, whilst the Jews did Him deride.

Then Pilate tried to pacify the Jews, they felt so morose,
And he wrote a title, and put it on the Cross;
And the title he wrote did the Jews amuse,
The writing was, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.

This title read many of the Jews without any pity;
And the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city;
And the title was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin,
And while reading the title the Jews did laugh and grin.

While on the Cross the sun refused to shine,
And there was total darkness for a long time;
The reason was God wanted to hide His wounds from view,
And He kept the blessed sun from breaking through.

And to quench His thirst they gave Him vinegar and hyssop,
While the blood from His wounded brow copiously did drop,
Then He drank of it willingly, and bowed His head,
And in a few minutes the dear Saviour was dead.

Then Joseph of Arimathea sadly did grieve,
And he asked if Pilate would give him leave
To take the body of Jesus away,
And Pilate told him to remove it without delay.

Then Joseph took the body of Jesus away,
And wound it in linen, which was the Jewish custom of that day,
And embalmed his body with spices sweet,
Then laid it in a new sepulchre, as Joseph thought meet.

But death could not hold Him in the grave,
Because He died poor sinners' souls to save;
And God His Father took Him to Heaven on high;
And those that believe in Jesus shall never die.

Oh! think of the precious Blood our Saviour did loss,
That flowed from His wounds while on the Cross,
Especially the wound in His side, made with a spear,
And if you are a believer, you will drop a silent tear.

And if you are not a believer, try and believe,
And don't let the devil any longer you deceive,
Because the precious Blood that Jesus shed will free you from all sin,
Therefore, believe in the Saviour, and Heaven you shall enter in!

Perhaps this was better posted on Good Friday but better late than never. Don't forget McGonagall Online for all your William Topaz needs. Happy Easter!

Photo Hunt answer.

My entry for yesterday's photohunt was in fact a snowdrop. Congratualtions to Mrs Mecomber who came closest to the correct answer

11 April 2009

Arms of Love

REM butcher one of my favourite Robyn Hitchcock songs

I Wanna Destroy You

The Circle Jerrks cover of the Soft Boys classic. One of the very few Robyn Hitchcock covers I can think of. Backing vocals were provided by Debbie Gibson

Photohunt - Triangle

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is triangle. Again I don't have a lot that fits in wth the theme. This is the nearest I can get. Can anyone guess what it is?

My cast means that I still can't spend too much time at the pc so please bear with me. Hopefully this will be the last weekend I wear the damned thing!

10 April 2009

Purists decry fancy dress at Lord's

Err..... From today's Times

Netherwood Hughes RIP

Netherwood (Ned) Hughes who died on 4 April aged 108, was one of the last surviving veterans of WWI. Born in Great Harwood Lancashire, Hughes spent most of his working life as a mechanic and driver and, in June 1918, he was called up, like every other driver in Great Britain, to perform that role in the British Army. He was still in training when the war ended.

There are now just six known WWI veterans alive.

Who spiked my cat food?

This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

09 April 2009

Bushmeat is a girl (chimp’s) best friend

Although diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, new research shows that female chimpanzees eschew compressed carbon in favour of raw muscle and are willing to exchange sex for it.

According to the BBC, Cristina Gomes and colleagues, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, have determined that chimpanzees will enter into "deals" whereby they exchange meat for sex, according to researchers. This has a distinct benefit for males as those that are willing to share the proceeds of their hunting expeditions mate twice as often as their more selfish counterparts.

The long-term exchange, so males continue to share their catch with females when they are not fertile, copulating with them when they are. "By sharing, the males increase the number of times they mate, and the females increase their intake of calories," said Dr Gomes. "What's amazing is that if a male shares with a particular female, he doubles the number of times he copulates with her, which is likely to increase the probability of fertilising that female."

Previous attempts to record the phenomenon failed, because researchers looked for direct exchanges, where a male shared meat with a fertile female and copulated with her right away. "We looked at chimps when they were not in oestrus, this means they don't have sexual swellings and aren't copulating" said Dr Gomes. "The males still share with them - they might share meat with a female one day, and only copulate with her a day or two later."

Michael Gurven from the University of California in Santa Barbara studies human behaviour in communities of hunter-gatherers in South America. He told BBC News that the direct link between success in hunting and reproduction highlighted by this study could "help in our thinking about humans." He added that the nature of this exchange of meat for sex is "kind of like pair bonding in humans, because it's long-term.

Once again, I have no comment. I simply found this fascinating.
It’s been a long time since I posted about Charles Munyaneza, Celestin Ugirashebuja, Emmanuel Nteziryayo and Dr Vincent Bajinya. (See my earlier posts Genocidaires in Suburbia, Genocidaires Still in Suburbia, Genocidaires no Longer in Suburbia? and Suburban genocidaires in extradition hearings

The BBC reports that the men have won a High Court battle to halt their extradition to Rwanda to face mass murder charges. Senior judges ruled that there was "a real risk" they would suffer "a flagrant denial of justice". The court also ordered the four men, who have been held in custody since December 2006, be released.

Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Sullivan, sitting at London's High Court, allowed the appeals by Dr Bajinya and his three co-defendants against the extradition ruling by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith because, the judges said, there was evidence that defence witnesses in Rwanda were afraid to give evidence in the men's favour.

They refused the Rwandan government, represented by the Crown Prosecution Service, permission to appeal to the House of Lords against their ruling. The judges' decision is thought to be the first time an English court has ever blocked an extradition request from a foreign government on the grounds that it would violate Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguards the right to a fair trial.

Anti-genocide campaigners condemned the court's decision, saying that it sent a message to the Rwandan people that the suspected killers of their families could "walk free with impunity". Dr James Smith of the Aegis Trust, which campaigns against genocide told the BBC that the UK government should change the law to allow British courts to prosecute crimes against humanity.


The allegations against Bayinja were the most serious. He was allegedly a member of the governing MRND party, and present at a key 1993 meeting in a stadium in Kigali at which the anti-Tutsi "Hutu Power" movement was said to have been born. Bayinja is then alleged to have attended a series of "genocide meetings" in Kigali and become a leader in the Interahamwe militia. He set up roadblocks in the Rugenge area of Kigali, ordering the militia to kill anyone they suspected of being a Tutsi.

Charles Munyaneza was bourgmestre (mayor) of the Kinyamakara commune. He was accused of organising the training of the Interahamwe militias and supervising road blocks to identify Tutsis. Emmanuel Nteziryayo, was bourgmestre of the Mudasomwa commune, and allegedly handed out weapons, oversaw roadblocks and once drove Tutsis to a police station to be killed. Ugirashebuja, was bourgmestre of the Kigoma commune. He was accused of organising road blocks, urging Hutus to kill Tutsis and distributing guns.

The charges against the men were extremely serious and should have been tested in a court of law. This will not happen now unless the Government were to introduce appropriate legislation, which is unlikely. Now it seems that four men who were likely involved in a foul act of butchery will never have to answer

08 April 2009

Rocket launch grabbed from N Korean tv by Xinhua

On Monday the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported the successful launch of North Korea’s first satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 (aka Lodestar). According to KCNA the satellite “is sending to the earth the melodies of the immortal revolutionary paeans Song of General Kim Il Sung and Song of General Kim Jong Il”.

The launch was is described as being “symbolic of the leaping advance made in the nation's space science and technology was conducted against the background of the stirring period when a high-pitched drive for bringing about a fresh great revolutionary surge is under way throughout the country to open the gate to a great prosperous and powerful nation without fail by 2012, the centenary of birth of President Kim Il Sung, under the far-reaching plan of General Secretary Kim Jong Il. This is powerfully encouraging the Korean people all out in the general advance

Not surprisingly, the good people of the Korean F**kwit Association exploded in paroxysms of delight: Dermot (sterling fellow) Hudson said “Congratulations to the DPRK on the successful launch.This is the fruit of the independent national economy,self reliance and Juche.It is a gunshot signifiying the building of a great prosperous powerful socialist nation. The US imperialists and great powers who lorded over the world once have been proved useless and impotent LONG LIVE THE DPRK! LONG LIVE JUCHE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY! LONG LIVE THE WPK ! LONG LIVE THE GREAT LEADER COMRADE KIM JONG IL! MANSE MANSE MANSE!

Australian member Yuchen Wank went even further saying “I dreamed this unforgetable moment last night, with some glorious images of Mao and Stalin. With other pictures appeared in my mind, which associates with those bloody capitalist exploritation, opression, injustice and corruption in my own country, I actually cried! But this was a happy cry! Love you, the DPRK!

Today’s Times has a an interesting satellite image of the launch which shows smoke from the rocket across the forested hills and the fiery trail of the object.

Contrary to the North Korean media Four of the countries (USA, Russia, South Korea and Japan) monitoring the skies for the signs of the satellite have reported no sign of it, or its music. According to the US military, the rocket failed to separate at the second and third stage. It flew over Japan and ditched in the Pacific after a journey of 2,000 miles.

It depends what North Korea really wanted out of the launch. If it was the vain prestige of becoming the 13th spacefaring nation (joining, in chronological order, the USSR, USA, Canada, France, Australia, Japan, China, the UK, India, Israel, the Ukraine and Iran... oh and the ESA too) then the launch was an utter failure. Or perhaps it was, as suspected, a cover for a ballistic missile test. Whatever the reason it distresses me that North Korea can spend good money on a space programme but can’t afford to employ some decent copy writers for KCNA!

A disgrace

This footage of Ian Tomlinson, the man who died at last week's G20 protest in the City of London first appeared on the
Guardian website. It is now all over the press and the blogosphere. The footage was shot by a fund manager from New York who was in ­London on business, said he had attended the protests out of curiosity. He said: "The primary reason for me coming forward is that it was clear the family were not ­getting any answers."

It was not long after this assault that Tomlinson died of a heart attack. An official police statement on the night of his death made no reference to any ­contact with officers and described attempts by police medics and an ambulance crew to save his life after he collapsed – efforts which they said were marred by ­protesters throwing missiles as first aid was ­administered .

Whether the actions of the police precipitated Mr Tomlinson’s heart attack or not, the actions of the police in the footage were an utter disgrace. The officer who downed Mr Tomlinson is simply not fit to wear the uniform.

07 April 2009

WW - Geranium versicolor

Another view of one of my favourite plants from our garden. I can't wait for it to be in bloom again. This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of Wordless Wednesday.

Addendum: This is a species geranium (as opposed to a zonal pelargonium which are commonly and erroneously called geraniums). The common name for G. versicolor is the pencilled Cranesbill. It is native to southern Europe

06 April 2009

The hand of a Pulsar

Science Daily carries a report on an image made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory at the centre of which is a very young and powerful pulsar, known as PSR B1509-58 (B1509 for short).

The pulsar, which is just 12 miles in diameter, is responsible for a beautiful X-ray nebula that spans 150 light years. Astronomers think that B1509 is about 1,700 years old and is located about 17,000 light years away.

According the the report the combination of rapid rotation and ultra-strong magnetic field makes B1509 one of the most powerful electromagnetic generators in the Galaxy. This generator drives an energetic wind of electrons and ions away from the neutron star. As the electrons move through the magnetized nebula, they radiate away their energy and create the elaborate nebula seen by Chandra.

Finger-like structures extend to the north, apparently energizing knots of material in a neighboring gas cloud known as RCW 89. The transfer of energy from the wind to these knots makes them glow brightly in X-rays.

My knowledge of pulsars and X-ray nebulae is minimal but wow what wow what an amazing image!

Source: Chandra X-ray Center (2009, April 5). Young Pulsar Shows Its Hand. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 6, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2009/04/090403181503.htm

Ankh-Morpork in Wincanton

Wincanton already has an affinity with Ankh-Morpork, the site of many of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels: in 2002 it became the first town ever to twin with a fictional place (although an attempt by Basildon to twin with Hell in 1974 was rejected by Beelzebub on the basis that Basildon was just too unpleasant).

Now it seems that Wincanton is taking things a step further.: according to the Independent (and many other sources) Wimpey Homes has named two roads in the town's new "Kingwell Rise" development after street names from Pratchett's Discworld series. Around 30 residents will be able to Peach Pie Street or Treacle Mine Road.

More than 1,000 of the town's residents voted for the two names from a shortlist of 14 Discworld references suggested by Sir Terry, after Wimpey opened up a public online poll.

Sir Terry said he was delighted by the idea that his fiction had penetrated reality in this "joyful" way and was delighted by the notion that Wimpey had decided to take a further step into his world. "It's a lovely idea, to do something for the sheer joy and incongruity of doing it," he said. "I have to say well done to Wimpey for having the guts to do this. It's nice that an organisation should unbend and join in the fun. These are nice names, even though I say it myself. Personally, I'd pay good money to live somewhere called Treacle Mine Road."

Councillor Carrot Ironfounderson, a former Mayor of Wincanton, said: "The link with Discworld works extremely well for our town, helping to boost the local economy. I even know of three families who moved to Wincanton because of this quirky connection. It is wonderful that the roads at Kingwell Rise have been named in this way and it certainly beats the dedications to local dignitaries and village worthies we usually see."

Havelock Vetinari, the regional sales director for Wimpey, said he was inspired by a shop opposite his office, Discworld Emporium. "I went in and saw a whole new world. We wanted to find a way to honour the twinning of the town. When we suggested this to Somerset Council, they loved it," he said.

I would love to live on a street called Treacle Mine Road. One thing I can guess is that the Whorepits was not included in the list of 14 Ankh-Morpork streets!

05 April 2009

Shell in court over Saro-Wiwa execution

In 1995 Ken Saro-Wiwa swore that one day Shell, the oil giant, would answer for complicity in his death in a court of law. On 26 May his dying wish is to be fulfilled.

According to today’s Observer, Shell and one of its senior executives are to face charges in a New York federal court that in the early 1990s they were complicit in human rights abuses in Nigeria. If found liable, then the company could be forced to pay hundreds of millions of pounds in damages.

Saro-Wiwa campaigned on behalf of the Ogoni people, leading peaceful protests against the environmental damage caused by oil companies in the Niger Delta. There was worldwide condemnation when, along with eight other activists, he was hanged by the Nigerian military government in 1995 after being charged with incitement to murder after the death of four Ogoni elders. Many of the prosecution witnesses later admitted that they had been bribed to give evidence against Saro-Wiwa, who was a respected television writer and businessman.

Lawyers in New York will allege that Shell actively subsidised a campaign of terror by security forces in the Niger Delta and attempted to influence the trial that led to Saro-Wiwa's execution. The lawsuit alleges that the company attempted to bribe two witnesses in his trial to testify against him. Members of Saro-Wiwa's family will take the stand for the first time to give their version of events, among them his brother Owens, who will allege that Brian Anderson, managing director of Shell's Nigerian subsidiary, told him: "It would not be impossible to get charges dropped if protests were called off." Anderson is fighting the action.

Saro-Wiwa's son, Ken Wiwa, said: "For 14 years we have lived with the memory of a father, an uncle, a brother, a son executed for a crime he didn't commit. We have daily reminders. It's painful to live with a monstrous injustice. To wake up one day to finally get our day in court is tremendously satisfying. Part of the reason for the original protest was the way Shell behaved. Ogoni people made their living farming and fishing, but Shell was using open waste pits and oil pipelines criss-crossed the land. These polluting activities were put on top of a delicate ecosystem. It destroyed people's ability to sustain themselves. That's the impact of Shell and, when people tried to protest, they were brutally repressed."

Shell described the executions of the Ogoni 9 as "tragic events carried out by the Nigerian government in power at the time".

Jenny Green, a senior lawyer at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, said: "Mosop [the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People] was formed to stand up to multinationals and the dictatorship that acted hand-in-hand. This is a significant moment, because it says you can't act with impunity."

For more information on Ken Saro-Wiwa’s life and legacy, go to Remember Ken Saro-Wiwa

Even more proof that chocolate is good for you

There have been quite a few good news health stories about chocolate. Now it seems that it can aid mental arithmetic. According to the Telegraph mental arithmetic became easier after volunteers had been given large amounts of compounds found in chocolate, called flavanols, in a hot cocoa drink. They were also less likely to feel tired or mentally drained.

Prof David Kennedy, director of the brain, performance and nutrition research centre at Northumbria University, and a co-author of the study, said that chocolate could be beneficial for mentally challenging tasks. "For things that are difficult to do, mentally demanding things that maybe crop up in your work it could help," Prof Kennedy said.The flavanols, part of a group of chemicals called polyphenols, work by increasing the flow of blood into the brain.

For the study 30 volunteers were asked to count backwards in groups of three from a random number between 800 and 999 generated by a computer. The findings show that they could do the calculations more quickly and more accurately after they had been given the drink. The findings also show that the volunteers did not get as tired doing the calculations if they had been given the cocoa drink, despite being asked to do them over and over for an hour.

The researchers gave the volunteers a total of 500mg of flavanol, an amount too great to be found naturally in the diet, researchers said that people should ensure that they have lots of flavanols, also found in fruit and vegetables, on a regular basis.

Prof Kennedy added: "The amount that you are giving is more than in the diet but there is quite a lot of evidence that general amounts are protective against declining function and that kind of thing. "The more fruit and vegetables and things that are high in polyphenols the better that is for your brain in the long run

Hmm now I have yest another excuse to eat that bar of Green & Blacks... and that one, and that one....