31 August 2010

Working down a diamond mine

Robert Calvert with the Maximum Effect in 1986 (Maximum Effect were formerly members of Inner City Unit formed by Nik Turner a few years after his sacking from Hawkwind)

And the late, great Robert Newton Calvert is back

What makes the Internet worthwhile II

A little while ago the The Wellcome Library announced the launch of a digitisation project, to provide free, online access to its collections, including archives and papers from Nobel prize-winning scientists Francis Crick, Fred Sanger and Peter Medawar.

Content will include 1400 books on genetics and heredity published between 1850 and 1990, along with important archives including the papers of Francis Crick and his original drawings of the proposed structure of DNA.

Okay we will have to wait a while for this. Users will be able to access the repository in September 2012 but it is good to see that such work being made public. For me Sanger is possibly the greatest living Briton.

30 August 2010

If only we had leaders like this...

It looks like KCNA runs an "On this day" item This is from 27 August 1975...

"President Kim Il Sung gave field guidance to a cooperative farm in Anju City, South Phyongan Province.

On a snow-covered field he talked with a soldier-turned sub-workteam head about corn farming for a while. He asked the sub-workteam head about the way of transplanting the maximum number of humus-pot-grown corn seedlings per phyong (3.954 sq. yds).

With a poor knowledge of corn farming, he could not properly answer to the question.
Finding him at a loss for an answer, the President leveled snow piled up between furrows. He then taught the sub-workteam head a new method of planting the prescribed number of bunches of seedlings perphyong, drawing it on the snow.

Hmm I wonder if said sub-workteam head learned a lot more about agriculture at a gulag or the North Korean equivalent...

Carla Bruni "prostitute" slur by Iranian press

Carla Bruni, the wife of the French president, has been attacked by the Iranian press for was attacked after she signed a petition calling for the release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

An Iranian newspaper, Kayhan, which unsurprisingly is under control of the government, called Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy and also the actres Isabelle Adjani who is campaigning for Ashtina’s release, “prostitutes” in an editorial, while Iranian state television accused the former supermodel of “immorality”.

Hmm and sentencing a person to death by stoning is moral? The Iranian regime certainly has its priorities screwed (statement of the blindingly obvious part 3,779)

A new source of antibiotics?

The Telegraph reports that frog skins are possibly an excellent source of new antibiotics. Apparently scientists have long known that the skin of frogs contains plenty of powerful antibiotic. They haven’t been exploited so far as the substances are also often poisonous to humans.

However, a team at the United Arab Emirates University have worked out a way of modifying the chemicals to remove their harmful side-effects.

The team has already identified 100 new antibiotics including one that could fight the hospital superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria.

Frog skin is an excellent potential source of such antibiotic agents," said Dr Michael Conlon, a biochemist at the university in Abu Dhabi. "They've been around 300 million years, so they've had plenty of time to learn how to defend themselves against disease-causing microbes in the environment.”

Dr Conlon and colleagues have discovered a way to tweak their molecular structure, making them less toxic to human cells but more powerful germ killers. Similarly, the scientists also discovered other tweaks that enabled the frog skin secretions to shrug off attack by destructive enzymes in the blood.

The result was antibiotics that last longer in the bloodstream and are more likely to be effective as infection fighters, Conlon noted.
The antibiotic substances work in an unusual way that makes it very difficult for disease-causing microbes to develop resistance,

The scientists are currently screening skin secretions from more than 6,000 species of frogs for antibiotic activity. So far, they have purified and determined the chemical structure of barely 200, One substance isolated from the skin secretions of the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog — a species once common in California and Oregon but now facing extinction — shows promise for killing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. MRSA is a "superbug," infamous for causing deadly outbreaks of infection among hospitalised patients.

The skin of the mink frog, likewise, contains secretions that show promise for fighting "Iraqibacter," caused by multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumanni.

Well there you have it. Hopefully the secretions will give rise o powerful new drugs that will replace the antibiotics that have been rendered relatively useless because of bacterial resistance. The problem is that a lot of the frogs are either rare or facing extinction.

Here’s a good argument for conservation (How many potential drugs have we lost because of our destruction of the environment) Still I wonder how easy it will be to synthesise the chemicals rather than use the original sources…

29 August 2010

What makes the internet utterly worthwhile I

Much as I love the Poor Mouth it does not add much to the world’s knowledge (one or two photos aside perhaps). What really makes it utterly worthwhile is the vast amount of information and art being made available online.

Today’s Independent carried an item about one such collection, the Prokudin-Gorskii Collection which has been made available by the Library of Congress. The above photo is from the collection is of the last Emir of Bukhara

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky, was one of the earliest pioneers of colour photography. His collection of stills from Russia – taken between 1909 and 1915 – provide us with an astonishingly saturated window into a past that is usually only ever seen through a black and white prism.

For decades, the photographs remained hidden after they were purchased from his grandchildren by the US in 1948 and then stored in the archives of Washington's Library of Congress. But now, a century after Prokudin-Gorsky toured the length and breadth of the Russian Empire, his 1,900 photographs have been brought back to life and digitised for all to see.

and the incredible amount of detail Prokudin-Gorsky was able to capture," said Helena Zinkham, the acting chief of prints and photographs at the Library of Congress. "He wasn't the only one using this technique at the time but he was one of the few that did it very well."

Prokudin-Gorsky, a Russian noble and chemist who trained in St Petersburg, captured colour by using a camera that recorded three different exposures in succession on the same glass-plate negative. Each exposure, which would usually take anything between three and six seconds, was made with a different coloured filter in front of the lens: red, green and blue.

The triple negatives would then be laid on top of one another and placed in a projector that created a single, full-colour composite.
It is thought that Russia's first published colour portrait, taken by Prokudin-Gorsky

The photos are truly amazing and giving us a window into a world that is gone. It’s not the race haters, the pornographers or the lunatic conspiracy theorists that make the internet worth the effort, it is availability of collections like this.

More end times protection

Terrified by tsunamis or terrorism? Petrified by pole shift, pestilence or Planet X? If Anarchy gives you angst then US company Vivos may have the answer!

With a helpful countdown to 21 December 2012 on the site it offers deliverance from disaster… but at a price (naturally!)

According to the Independent Vivos has allegedly built 300,000sq ft of bunker space in the US and claims to have 5,000 Americans on its books. Though Europeans have traditionally been more reluctant to buy into the impending apocalypse, he believes the explosion in London's population of high-net-worth individuals has left the British market ripe for exploitation.

Robert Vicino, the founder of Vivos, which is building a "survival network" of upscale underground bunkers across the United States, will travel to London this week to announce the opening of his firm's first nuclear-bomb-and-asteroid-proof property in Europe.

It is understood that the bumker will be in a former military facility, though its exact location, like all Vivos bunkers, is secret (after all you can’t let the oiks in, can you?)

All well and good but part ownership of one of the Vivos bunkers costs $50,000 (£32,000) per adult, and $25,000 for each child. Nonetheless, Vicino calims:

"People have life insurance. We are selling something better: life assurance," he said. "Our places can survive a 50 megatonne blast 10 miles away; they can be submerged to a depth of 500ft, they can survive shockwaves, and electromagnetic pulses. They have medical facilities, libraries, security offices, gymnasiums, even prisons."

Well it does sound rather better appointed than the former Government bunker at Kelvedon Hatch (now a tourist attraction) but to be honest I am not scared of nuclear war megatsunamis or big asteroids (as if a bunker would be safe from one of those!). If Vivos could vouchsafe against the great mutant star goat that is going to devour us like it devoured the planet Golgafrinchon then I would cheerfully part with my $50k!

In the meantime I will stick to my towel and a book that says “Don’t Panic” in large friendly lettering!

Debt, Internal feuding and lawsuits? HAHAHAHAHA!

I must admit that news of the BNP in trouble is music to y ears. Yesterday’s Independent carried an article which indicated that the party faces a financial and political crisis with crippling debts and an internal rebellion which could spell the end of the far-right group.

The party has a deficit of at least £500,000 and could face up to 12 claims of unfair dismissal from workers who lost their jobs following the BNP's showing in the May elections.

Lee Barnes, the party's senior legal adviser until he resigned this month, yesterday described the BNP as a "dead brand" and claimed it was "technically insolvent". The Electoral Commission confirmed the BNP's latest annual accounts, due last month, have not been submitted and it is still investigating the previous year's records after auditors refused to sign them off.

Anti-extremist campaigners said the combination of financial difficulties and schism within the far right were proving a toxic combination for Mr Griffin, who earlier this month survived an attempt to force a leadership ballot. Sonia Gable, of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, said: "The BNP is in deep financial trouble, with debts it can never pay, and in the throes of its most serious internal political crisis since Nick Griffin became leader.

One senior BNP figure claimed the scale of the deficit is closer to £600,000 and said the party cannot find a bank willing to re-finance its debt, which is also being increased by the cost of fighting legal actions against Unilever, after the BNP used an image of a Marmite jar in an election broadcast, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over the party's alleged failure to change its constitution to allow non-white members.

And so on and so forth… Any news of the Bastard Nazi Pondlife’s discomfiture is music to my ears. I wish the rabble a speedy journey to oblivion. That said it’s not the end of the story. The EDL seem to have chimed with the baser instincts of far too many and may rise further. In that case it’s interesting to see hw a few intelligent people can rouse the rabble. I wish the EDL a speedy journey to oblivion too,

27 August 2010

he theme for the week's Photo Hunt is framed, What to choose? Here's another outing of a photo of a painting my dear friend Suzy Ripley did of the not-wife for me as a birthday present. The not-wife's father framed it beautifully but I don't have a pic of the frame (It is off the wall and in storage until we repaint)


I don't think that was Sylvester. Ted vanished off somewhere yesterday and wouldn't say where he went....

Now a fatwa on pets

The Telegraph reports that Iranian authorities have banned all advertisements for pets, pet food and other pet products.

The decision by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance apparently comes after the fatwa was issued by powerful cleric Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi.

In June, Ayatollah Shirazi declared dogs unclean, saying that dog owners were “blindly imitating the West” and that their devotion to the animals would result in “evil outcomes… Many people in the West love their dogs more than their wives and children,” he said.

I think that Ted, Greebo and Satan Cat may be paying an Ayatollah a little visit….

A rare sight

THe first time Bebe, Robyn and Boris have been photgraphed together. Not sure what Robyn is doing though!

26 August 2010

And the final guest avatar

Meet Greebo the , ahem, delightful little kitty-cat so beloved of Nanny Ogg in the Discworld books. Perhaps the most violent, smelly and downright unpleasant feline ever to grace the literary world he has would be quite prepared to give Mary Bale some cat counselling. Ted is mild by comparison!

Never trust a ballerina

The Guardian reports that a Russian ballerina who became a Nazi spy was responsible for one of the earliest allied defeats in the second world war after getting hold of the British campaign plan for Norway , according to historic security services files released today.

Marina Lee was said to have infiltrated General Auchinleck's headquarters at Tromso in 1940 The failure of the Norwegian campaign directly led to Neville Chamberlain's replacement by Winston Churchill as wartime prime minister.

MI5 learned of the claim in January 1942 from a captured German agent, Gerth van Wijk, who was working for the British inside Camp 020 detention centre in Surrey. He was told this "astonishing story'' from another captured agent called Von Finckenstein. Although corroborated by a second German detainee, KC Hansen, the file shows that MI5 was never able to establish the truth of the story despite pursuing its inquiries for a further six years.

Van Wijk said Von Finkenstein had told him the German General Eduard Dietl was almost defeated at Narvik and contemplated crossing the Swedish frontier to be interned with the rest of his troops.

Von Finkenstein later named her as Marina Lee, a married woman who had fled to Scandinavia, after her parents were "murdered by the Bolsheviks", where she had married a Norwegian.

"She was trained in Russia as a ballerina and in Oslo was for some time the head of a school of ballet. She is a highly valued and experienced German agent," he told Van Wijk. He also said that he believed she had gone on to work for the Germans in Spain, operating from the Ritz hotel in Madrid with a red car. He had a photograph of her but threw it into the sea with his passport when he was picked up by the British.

Hmm I wonder what became of her....

New Computer

Just moved over from a PC to a Mac and am getting used to it. Probably no more blogging today

25 August 2010

An embarrassment of exoplanets

The discovery of exoplanets is becoming more and more commonplace. Even though nearly 500 planets have been discovered so far new discoveries are hardly dull, routine news – well not for me they aren’t.

Still, we have gotten to a point where a new discovery has to be fairly spectacular to be a major news item. This is certainly the case with the discovery of a planetary system containing at least five planets orbiting the star HD 10180. The star, which is similar to the Sun, is 127 light years away, in the southern constellation of Hydrus.

Christophe Lovis from Geneva University's observatory in Switzerland was lead researcher on the study. He said that his team had probably found "the system with the most planets yet discovered.... This highlights the fact that we are now entering a new era in exoplanet research - the study of complex planetary systems and not just of individual planets," he said.

The High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (or Harps) at the European Sothern Observatory in Chile was responsible for the discovery. Harps measures the wobble of a star; this gives a measure of how much it is being tugged on by an orbiting planet.

Using Harp, Dr Lovis and his team were able to measure the star’s wobble this and break it down, in order to calculate how many planets were in the system, how great each of their masses was, and even the path of each individual planet's orbit.

HD 10180 is unique in several respects. It has at least five "Neptune-like planets" lying within a distance equivalent to the orbit of Mars, making it more populated than our own Solar System in its inner region. And all the planets seem to have almost circular orbits.

So far, the astronomers have picked up clear signals from five planets, along with two slightly "fuzzier" signals. One of these possible sixth and seventh planets was estimated to be just 1.4 times the mass of the Earth; if its presence in the system was confirmed, it would be the lowest mass exoplanet yet discovered. It is also predicted to be very close to its host star - just 2% of the Earth-Sun distance, so one year on this planet would last only 1.2 Earth days.

Now this is a spectacular discovery. It makes me wonder what will be next.

Note to Mary Bale: when in a hole stop digging

There is no way that I would put Mary Bale on a par with the evil bastard James Chesney and there is no way I would condone death threats against the cat binner but it was a cruel and nasty act against an animal that clearly just wanted a bit of affection. I’m not sure that trying to justify or minimise the act is a sensible move though.

"I really don't see what everyone is getting so excited about. It's just a cat," Bale is reported to have said. "I was walking home from work and saw this cat wander out in front of me. I was playing with it, stroking it and listening to it purr as it stood on a garden wall. It was very friendly.

"I don't know what came over me, but I suddenly thought it would be funny to put it in the wheelie bin, which was right beside me. I did it as a joke because I thought it would be funny. I never thought it would be trapped. I expected it to wriggle out of the bin."

"To think this video is being seen around the world is unbelievable. I'm a very private person and don't want to upset any members of my family. I don't know what my relatives will think, but to be honest I think everyone's overreacting a bit.

"OK, I shouldn't have done it, but it's just a cat at the end of the day. I don't think I deserve to be hated by people all over the world, it was just a split second of madness."

Err this is a country with a lot of public and private CCTVs and a communications system that can transfer information across the world in moments. A bit of grovelling contrition and perhaps a big donation to the Cats Protection League would probably have been a far wiser course of action.

If it had been one of my cats that was dumped in a bin I would have been bloody furious ( a hell of a lot more pissed off than I was when my car was stolen a few months back). Still I would like to see Mary Bale try to put Ted into a wheelie bin and avoid a trip to casualty with some heavy duty clawing!

Ah for a bit of William T

by William McGonagall

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou seemest most charming to my sight;
As I gaze upon thee in the sky so high,
A tear of joy does moisten mine eye.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the Esquimau in the night;
For thou lettest him see to harpoon the fish,
And with them he makes a dainty dish.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the fox in the night,
And lettest him see to steal the grey goose away
Out of the farm-yard from a stack of hay.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the farmer in the night,
and makes his heart beat high with delight
As he views his crops by the light in the night.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the eagle in the night,
And lettest him see to devour his prey
And carry it to his nest away.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the mariner in the night
As he paces the deck alone,
Thinking of his dear friends at home.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the weary traveller in the night;
For thou lightest up the wayside around
To him when he is homeward bound.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the lovers in the night
As they walk through the shady groves alone,
Making love to each other before they go home.

Beautiful Moon, with thy silvery light,
Thou cheerest the poacher in the night;
For thou lettest him see to set his snares
To catch the rabbit and the hares.

Got to McGonagall Online for all the McGonagall you will ever need!

24 August 2010

Casual animal cruelty

Lola the cat was stuck for about 15 hours in the bin before she was rescued. Someone has definitely not endeared themselves to the cat lovers of Britain...

Father James Chesney – Evil bastard


There have been plenty of scandals to do with the Catholic Church in recent years, mainly to do with sick scumbags and their predilection for kinds. This case does not relate to paedophilia but is no better.

According to the Irish Times Al Hutchinson, Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman, has today published a report concerning the IRA bombing of a village on 31 July 1972 and the involvement of catholic priest James Chesney

Nine people – five Catholics and four Protestants – died and 30 were injured after the no-warning car bombs exploded along the main street of Claudy. Three of the victims were children. No one was ever convicted for the bombings and the IRA did not admit the attack

Mr Hutchinson’s report, released today, endorses an allegation that at the time the RUC had top-grade intelligence that Chesney was a senior figure in the IRA gang that planted three bombs in the Co Derry village on July 31st, 1972.

Chesney was transferred to a parish in Co Donegal following secret talks between the then northern secretary William Whitelaw and the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal William Conway. He was never arrested or interviewed by police about the Claudy bombing or any other IRA activity. He died in 1980 aged 46.

In December 2002, former PSNI assistant chief constable Sam Kinkaid, who reviewed the original RUC investigation, admitted there were serious deficiencies in that investigation and said the RUC were made aware of the talks. Mr Kinkaid apologised to the bereaved for how the police handled the investigation. His claims prompted the long-running investigation by the Police Ombudsman. The thrust of Mr Kinkaid’s allegations are backed up by Mr Hutchinson’s report.

Mr Hutchinson’s officers examined diaries belonging to Dr Conway which confirmed contact with him and Mr Whitelaw over Fr Chesney and correspondence between the RUC, which was led by chief constable Sir Graham Shillington, and the British government.
Mr Hutchinson’s report disclosed:

- Detectives believed Fr Chesney was the IRA’s director of operations in south Derry and was a prime suspect in the Claudy attack and other terrorist incidents.

- A detective’s request to arrest the cleric was refused by an assistant chief constable of RUC Special Branch who instead said “matters are in hand”.

- The same senior officer wrote to the government about what action could be taken to “render harmless a dangerous priest” and asked if the matter could be raised with the Church’s hierarchy.

- In December 1972, Mr Whitelaw met Dr Conway to discuss the issue. According to a Northern Ireland Office official, “the cardinal said he knew the priest was a very bad man and would see what could be done”. The church leader mentioned “the possibility of transferring him to Donegal...”

- In response to this memo, RUC chief constable Sir Graham noted: “I would prefer a transfer to Tipperary.”

- An entry in Dr Conway’s diary on December 5th, 1972 confirmed a meeting with Mr Whitelaw took place and stated there had been “a rather disturbing tete-a-tete at the end about C”.

Mr Hutchinson said there was no evidence that the police had information that could have prevented the attack. However, he said the RUC’s decision to ask the British government to resolve the matter with the Church, and then accept the outcome, was wrong. However, Mr Hutchinson said the decisions made must be considered in the context of the time. “I accept that 1972 was one of the worst years of the Troubles and that the arrest of a priest might well have aggravated the security situation,” he said.

As regards the role of Church and State officials, Mr Hutchinson said his investigation found no evidence of criminal intent on the part of any British government minister or official or any official of the Catholic Church. “The morality or ‘rightness’ of the decision taken by the government and the Catholic Church in agreeing to the RUC request is another matter entirely and requires further public debate,” he said. “Placing this information in the public domain in a transparent manner enables that debate to take place.”

I find it sickening that a piece of human shit like Chesney went unpunished. That said, given the explosive situation in Northern Ireland, perhaps prosecuting this scumbag may have made a bad situation even worse, certainly if Loyalist terrorists had declared open season on all catholic priests. Suffice it to say that the situation in Northern Ireland would have been far worse. Whitelaw was in a position I would not wish on anyone.

But putting Chesney in Donegal? That’s a bit like exiling a Romford criminal to Hornchurch! It is for the likes of Chesney that I hope there is such a thing as Hell. He deserves to spend an eternity in such a place.

Hitler’s less than Aryan roots

Not only was he (allegedly) down one in the nut department, genetic tests now indicate that Hitler’s ancestry may not quite have been as replete with “Ubermensch” as he would have liked.

According to the Telegraph Jean-Paul Mulders, a Belgian journalist, and Marc Vermeeren, a historian, took saliva samples from Hitler’s surviving relatives, including an Austrian farmer who was his cousin, earlier this year.

A chromosome called Haplogroup E1b1b1 which showed up in their samples is rare in Western Europe and is most commonly found in the Berbers of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.

Haplogroup E1b1b1, which accounts for approximately 18 to 20 per cent of Ashkenazi and 8.6 per cent to 30 per cent of Sephardic Y-chromosomes, appears to be one of the major founding lineages of the Jewish population.

It is not the first time that historians have suggested Hitler had Jewish ancestry. His father, Alois, is thought to have been the illegitimate offspring of a maid called Maria Schickelgruber and a 19-year-old Jewish man called Frankenberger.
Well there you have it...

23 August 2010

An election special, Blackadder style

One of my favourite scenes from the greatest comedy series ever

An oldie but a goodie

Bloody Methotrexate

While my knee feels better than it has since before my accident last year I've been prescribed a drug for my psoriasis. I can attest that even in low doses methotrexate is not much fun!

22 August 2010

The Crapper in the Rye

The BBC reports that a toilet described as once having belonged to US author JD Salinger has been put on sale on the online auction site eBay for $1m (£644,000).

The vendor says he obtained the "used toilet commode" from a couple who now own the former home of the Catcher in the Rye author. It comes "uncleaned and in its original condition", the ad for it states. "Who knows how many of [his] stories were thought up and written while Salinger sat on this throne!", it adds.

The toilet comes with a letter from Joan Littlefield, attesting that the toilet was removed during renovations to her and her husband's house in Cornish, New Hampshire, formerly owned by the reclusive author. She writes that they knew all the workmen who installed the toilet decades ago when Salinger had work done on the house.

The auction was still ongoing late lst night. Quite a few people had put in offers for the toilet. That said, I think I’ll pass on it and stay with the khazi we currently have...

And the next avatar

Sadly Beelzebub had to buzz off. Lord Vetinari, tyrant of Ankh Morpork, has stepped into the breach. He will be assisted by his dog Wuffles

20 August 2010

Photo Hunt - Numerical

The theme for the week's Photo Hunt is numerical.I had no idea what to put up for this theme so I had to strewth (as I imagine many will this week!) Today I tried out my new macro lens on another Toadflax brocade moth caterpillar (we had them first a couple of months ago and saw a moth last month).. well there was one of them and it looks a little like a number one....

Neptune’s (almost) full circle, sorry, ellipse..

According to Space.com, Neptune will be in opposition today. Big wow, I hear people say but tonight the planet will be returning close to the spot where it was discovered in 1846, marking its first complete trip around the sun since its discovery. It won’t actually complete its first orbit since being discovered yet until next year though

The planet Uranus was discovered more or less by accident in 1781 by Sir William Herschel, in the course of his search for deep sky objects. As time went by, Uranus' position wasn't quite what astronomer's predicted, and mathematical astronomers began to suspect that there was another planet out there whose gravity was influencing Uranus' motion.

In the mid-1840s an Englishman named John Couch Adams and a Frenchman named Urbain Le Verrier independently calculated where this new planet would have to be located to have the observed effect on Uranus, German astronomer Johann Galle actually looked at the predicted location and discovered the tiny blue-green disk of the planet that eventually came to be known as Neptune. The date was Sept. 23, 1846.

Well there you have it..... At least it gives me a less than gratuitous reason for putting up a pic of the planet!

Old Boy

19 August 2010

Bella Ciao - Tehran

I;m surpised I missed this take on a famous Italian partisan song

Sacre Bleu!

From today's Telegraph

... and in the jar-o

There’s whiskey in the car-o

According to the Belfast Telegraph an Irish scientist has given new meaning to ‘getting tanked up' (groans) after perfecting a green way to fuel cars with Scotch.

The biofuel made from by-products of Scotch whisky distillation is just as effective as normal petrol and just as easy on the engine, which requires no modifications.

Professor Martin Tangney (45), from Macroom, Co Cork, has been working with some of Scotland's largest whisky producers at the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University. They have produced a clean, carbon-neutral fuel that can be blended with regular petrol to run an engine.

Prof Tangney said of his research project: “While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials such as whisky by-products. This is a more environmentally sustainable option.”

Ach I daresay there are people who thinks that this story come straight from stereotype central (along with the inventor of the nuclear shillelagh I’ll be bound!) It certainly does have useful applications – it’s far, far better to use by products than to screw things up royally by going down the idiotic route of turning over valuable land to growing biofuels on a large scale

I can’t see whiskey by products making a huge dent in the world’s thirst for oil but every little helps.

18 August 2010

Some paintings that will never grace the walls of North Norfolk District Council's offices

Prudishness alive and well in North Norfolk?

Artist John Vesty spent three months producing 22 paintings (wow that was fast!) and had arranged to display them for four weeks at the North Norfolk District Council offices in Cromer.

All but one of his oil paintings in the exhibition called 'Figures in Light' were nudes. According to the Telegraph he was left "baffled, irritated and disappointed" when his paintings were taken down by council officials after complaints that they were "offensive".

Mr Vesty said the council had raised no objection when the exhibition was booked in the first floor gallery at the council offices. He said he even emailed the council three sample photographs of his pictures so officials could see what was going to be displayed.

Karl Read, the council's leisure and cultural services manager, said the artwork had been displayed in an area used by many members of staff and the public. He said: "In this case we received a number of complaints from members of staff and union representatives who found the paintings offensive....This is not a case of political correctness. Rather, it is a balanced reaction to some members of staff finding the artwork offensive.

North Norfolk Artspace has put up a replacement exhibition by local artist Andrew Church, featuring scenes including Cromer beach and geese over Salthouse.

An example of his work was shown with the article and was not in any way offensive, well certainly not to my eyes. Sometimes it surprise me what offends people.. Hiho

Did an Irishman save Hitler’s life?

One of the very minor backwaters of WWI was the German attempt to form an Irish brigade from prisoners of war. Very little has been written about this story – the first I ever heard of the Brigade was in the early noughties when I bought a book by Adrian Weale called Patriot Traitors, by Adrian Weale. The book chronicled the lives and activities of Sir Roger Casement in WWI and John Amery in WWII. Both were convicted of treason and were hanged.

There is not much about the WWI Irish Brigade on the internet except for one excellent site Irish Brigade. That does make up for the dearth of information elsewhere.

Why am I interested in such a minor event? Apart from my predilection for the ripples of history, my grandfather would certainly have been one of the Irish POWs the Germans tried to recruit (as stated several times before My father Joseph XXXXXX was taken prisoner at Etreux during the BEF’s retreat from Mons. Etreux was where a few companies of the 2nd Munsters, along with some Hussars and Horse Artillery held up a whole German Corps for the best part of a day, thus putting vital miles between the German advance and the British retreat). My grandfather did not heed Casement and remained a POW for the rest of the war.

Interstingly the Belfast Telegraph carried an article on 6 August in which it stated that the memoirs of Michael Keogh, one of the Irish Bridage members, had just been published.

Dubliner Michael Keogh had an adventurous life. In 1906 he went to the United States where he studied engineering. He joined the 69th Regiment of the National Guard. In 1910 he fought in Oklahoma against Mexican invaders (the site says El Paso). He then went on to work on construction of the Panama Canal.

Returning to Ireland in 1914 (site says 1913) he joined the British Army (the 2bn Royal Irish Regiment) before being captured by the Germans in 1916 (wrong, it was 1914). While in captivity he joined Roger Casement's Irish Brigade.

The detailed accounts of Mr Keogh's life, written after his experiences, mysteriously disappeared while he was on his deathbed in James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown in 1964. According to his son Kevin (84), who lives in Swords, north Co Dublin, a man "dressed as a priest" took them from under his pillow two days before he died. The files were eventually found in the UCD archives and given back to the family in 2004.

The memoirs report a chance encounter with a young Adolf Hitler that changed the course of history. Shortly after the Great War Mr Keogh stayed in Germany. While serving in the German Free Corps (Freikorps), fighting against Communist rulers who had declared a short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic in April 1919, he recalls leading a military operation to save the life of the future German tyrant.
He had earlier met Hitler in September 1918 near Ligny on the French Border, where the pair were in the same Bavarian Regiment.

In his memoirs he describes how, as the officer on duty during the anti-Communist revolution, he received an urgent call about a riot involving 200 men and two "political agents", one of them being Hitler, in a nearby gym.

"I ordered out a sergeant and six men and, with fixed bayonets, led them off on the double."

Mr Keogh explained that two political agents, who had been lecturing from a table top, had been dragged to the floor and were being beaten.

"The two on the floor were in danger of being kicked to death. I ordered the guard to fire one round over the heads of the rioters. It stopped the commotion."

The group of soldiers managed to haul out the two injured politicians.

"The crowd around muttered and growled, boiling for blood," he added. "The fellow with the moustache gave his name promptly: Adolf Hitler.hey had come to the barracks as political agents for the new National Socialist German Workers' Party."

Keogh returned to Ireland in 1922 but went back to Germany in 1928 where he stayed until 1936. He died in 1964.

Pity he didn’t let Hitler get beaten to death.. who knows what course history would have taken...

The book in question is “With Casement’s Irish Brigade”. I certainly feel a purchase coming on

17 August 2010

Lost Confederate POW camp rediscovered

A watercolour of Camp Lawton

CNN has a fascinating article concerning the rediscovery of a Confederate POW camp in Georgia that was built to replace one of the most notorious POW camps in history.

The discovery of the exact location of Camp Lawton and dozens of personal artifacts belonging to its Union prisoners is one of the biggest archaeological Civil War finds in decades according to federal and Georgia officials.

Outside of scholars and Civil War buffs, few people have heard of the Confederacy's Camp Lawton, which replaced the infamous and overcrowded Andersonville prison in autumn 1864. For nearly 150 years, its exact location was not known, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Georgia Southern University said.

Life at Lawton, described as "foul and fetid," wasn't much better than at Andersonville, with the exception of plentiful water from Magnolia Springs. In its six weeks' existence, between 725 and 1,330 men died at the prison camp. The 42-acre stockade held about 10,000 men before it was hastily closed when Union forces approached.

There are no photos of Lawton and few visual stockade details, although a Union mapmaker painted some important watercolors of the prison. He also kept a 5,000-page journal that detailed the misery at Camp Lawton, which was built to hold up to 40,000 prisoners.

"The weather has been rainy and cold at nights," Pvt. Robert Knox Sneden, who was previously imprisoned at Andersonville, wrote in his diary on Nov. 1, 1864. "Many prisoners have died from exposure, as not more than half of us have any shelter but a blanket propped upon sticks. . . . Our rations have grown smaller in bulk too, and we have the same hunger as of old."

The impending arrival of Federal forces during Sherman's March to the Sea soon forced the Confederates to move the prisoners elsewhere, including Florence, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. In early December 1864, Union cavalry found the empty prison, a freshly dug area and a board reading "650 buried here." Outraged, troops apparently burned much of the stockade and the camp buildings, and a depot and a hotel in Millen, which was a transportation hub.

Many of the state park facilities -- including a pool, houses and the main office -- sit atop the prison site. Some earthworks, long known to visitors and historians, survived. The artifacts will deepen the knowledge of the tough daily life of prisoners and guards alike, said a historian who has completed a manuscript on the camp.
Until now, Andersonville was the sole POW camp in the South to capture the public's attention and imagination. Besides the camp's own horrors, Clara Barton made Andersonville famous through her extensive campaign to have POW graves found and soldiers reinterred at a national cemetery. The prison's commandant, Henry H. Wirz, was hanged in 1865, the only man to be hanged for war crimes during the Civil War.


Andersonville was a hell-hole in which one quarter of its inhabitants died of disease, malnutrition or perhaps actually stepping over the deadline, a word coined by Wirz and which had far more terrible consequences than it does today.

I am no expert on the American Civil War, my knowledge of the conflict is moderate but a long way from being extensive. That said it is interesting as it is in many ways a precursor for the modern style of warfare. That a major, but ephemeral site such as this was lost for nearly a century and a half is a surprise to me. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating discovery

Hitler didn’t have any balls at all?

Today’s Grauniad has an interesting on Hitler and his relationship with his army comrades.
Unpublished letters and a diary written by veterans of Hitler's wartime regiment are among newly unearthed documents that challenge previous notions about how the conflict shaped the future dictator's views.

The documents overturn Hitler's subsequent portrayal of his unit, the List regiment, as united in its intolerance and antisemitism, with Hitler "a hero at its heart". They challenge long-held views on Hitler's supposedly brave war record, revealing that frontline soldiers shunned him as a "rear area pig" based several miles from danger. The papers also disclose that List men saw Hitler as an object of ridicule, joking about him starving in a canned food factory, unable to open a tin with a bayonet. He was viewed by his comrades in regimental HQ as a loner, neither popular nor unpopular.

Perhaps no other individual has been more scrutinised than Hitler, but research on the List regiment by Dr Thomas Weber, lecturer in modern history at Aberdeen University, has unearthed new evidence.

Within the Bavarian War Archives, Weber discovered papers undisturbed for almost nine decades. Elsewhere, he found unpublished letters and Nazi party membership files, and traced Jewish veterans of the List.

Hittler served as a runner but, armed with new evidence, Weber realised that historians had not distinguished between regimental runners, a relatively safe job, and battalion or company runners, who had to brave machine-gun fire between trenches. Hitler was the former, a runner at regimental HQ, several miles from the front, and living in relative comfort.

Speaking of Hitler's famous first-class Iron Cross – the second class was a relatively common award – Weber said that this was often received by those in contact with more senior officers, typically those posted to regimental headquarters, rather than combat soldiers. Drawing on an unpublished diary by a Jewish List soldier, the documents also indicate a lack of widespread, virulent antisemitism.

Hitler's Iron Cross was recommended by Hugo Gutmann, a Jewish List adjutant, but Weber discovered that when Gutmann was incarcerated by the Gestapo in 1937, List veterans enabled him to survive. Gutmann referred to a prison guard who took risks to help him, saying: "As a good Catholic he despised the Nazis." Another List ex-comrade helped Gutmann to escape to America.

Weber also unearthed evidence to show that "the veterans of the List regiment did not – as maintained by all Hitler biographies – unanimously support Hitler after the war. Weber found that few frontline List soldiers became Nazis, whereas several regimental HQ staff became prominent in the party.

Weber concludes that Hitler, who worked for a leftist government after the war, became violently nationalist and antisemitic after Germany's postwar and post-revolutionary economic and political crisis.His research will be published next month in Hitler's First War, by Oxford University Press.

I know that Hitler’s life and times have generated a humungous biographical output but this book sounds like it has found a new and genuinely interesting angle on one of history’s greatest (and well documented) monsters.

As for Hugo Gutmann, that is a story worth a post or two in its own right...

The not-wife turns 36 again

The not-wife is 46 today

16 August 2010

Heroic tweets of glorious leader and shing Juche path

According to the Telegraph the DPRK has rather surprisingly gotten on the Twitter bandwagon! The secretive regime has begun micro-blogging under the name @uriminzok, with a number of posts pointing its followers to anti-Seoul and anti-US statements on the website. Uriminzokkiri.com

I can’t read the tweets, they being in Korean but the website can be translated using Google’s translation function

On this site we find out that Songun is brilliant in August (if it is brilliant in August then it must be blinding in mid-winter)

At 08,12 there is a link to the tweet Complement each rub the sophistry of the absurd

With translations like that I will be back. On the other hand the KCNA manages to commit atrocities on our language without the aid of a translation function!

Essex Man was alive and well in Norman Britain

The not-wife and I finally got around to watching one of those many programmes that get recorded on V+ in the hope that we eventually eign to view them. The programme in question was Domesday which, unsurprisingly, dealt with the subject of the Domesday Book

It was a programme well worth watching if for no other reason that it introduced me to a resident of late 11th Century Essex - he being Humphrey Goldenbollocks!

According to this site the Domesday books makes this reference in its account of the holdings in the Hundred of Dunmow in Essex: 1.hid.træ.qm.humfrid. aurei.testiculi.inuasit.sup.rege, which is translated as "1 hide of land, which Humphrey Goldenbollocks annexed in the King's despite".

Mr Goldenballs was not alone - in Chafford (also in Essex) there was Rob.inuesrat also known, apparently as rob.lasciuus which is translated as Robert the Perverted and Robert the Lascivious respectively.

One can only wonder how Humphrey Goldenbollocks got his name. It the days before Argos jewellery and sovereign rings perhaps he was held on to his bling by pinning it to his nuts....

Mr Crowley

15 August 2010

Crowley’s “abbey” goes on sale

A little while ago the Telegraph reported that this tumbledown building in Sicily is up for sale. What makes this ruin interesting, is not just it’s marvellous location but its former owner- Aleister Crowley. This building used to be Crowley’s Abbey of Thelema

The cottage, near the town of Cefalu in Sicily, contains explicit, erotic frescoes of men and women entwined together, painted by Cambridge-educated Crowley when he lived there in the early 1920s. The frescoes also include naked devils, satyrs and serpents.

The estate agents that are selling the property, which has been abandoned for years and is overrun with bushes and long grass, have suggested that it should be turned into a museum devoted to Crowley's extraordinary life.

He called the house the Abbey of Thelema and turned it into a kind of commune, where daily life revolved around yoga, adoration of the Sun and the study of his own mystical philosophical writings. Eventually his libertine tastes so offended Mussolini's fascists that they expelled him and his lovers from the country in April 1923.

I wonder how much it will go for. I daresay it will be rather more than you would pay for a “fixer-upper” I certainly wouldn’t buy it for the Crowley connection but I am sure It will be sold to an enthusiast

Photos for this post are from Amprodias and were taken by Frater Kybernetes

Simpson Snack Simulacrum

My thanks go to Skuds for sending me the link to this item in the Brighton Argus last week

Pub regulars opened a bag of crisps and found themselves staring at the silhouette of Homer Simpson.

Drinkers at the Caroline of Brunswick in Ditchling Road, Brighton, were stunned when The portly star appeared on top of the bowl when the lunchtime snacks were poured out.

Landlord Peter Thornton, 42, said: “As a Simpsons fan, I was delighted to bag my own Homer. I’m a fan of crisps."

Well there you have it. I suppose that it is rather fitting that he appeared on a high fat, high salt content pub snack!

Are the BNP in meltdown? Please say it’s so!

Yesterday’Guardian reported that The British National party's sole representative on the London assembly has resigned the party whip. Richard Barnbrook (who lost his Barking and Dagenham council seat in May when the BNP were routed) is understood to have taken the decision in protest at the increasing tensions within the organisation.

Barnbrook told the assembly he had resigned the BNP whip because of several serious allegations circulating within the party and has called for an "independent internal investigation" to be carried out before he returns to the fold. He is understood to remain a BNP member.
Tensions have been growing since May's general election when the BNP failed to make its promised breakthrough, and the council elections where all but two of its 28 sitting councillors
standing for re-election were beaten.

"The BNP seems to be unravelling," said Nick Lowles from Searchlight. "Griffin has sacked or suspended over 30 critics and Barnbrook's decision seems to suggest the party is on the verge of full-scale revolt."

Ah such news is music to my ears. I look forward to reading further stories of the BNP’s implosion with utter relish!

14 August 2010

Humour of the Cork/Kerry sports divide sort of thing

A song showing the mind of the average Corkonian

Every Cork man and woman knows that Cork is the Omphalos of the world. Dublin on the other hand.....

Rory Gallagher

The first of a few Cork-related posts for the day

This week's avatar is...

We must say farewell to Sergeant Pluck, who has spent far too mch time away from his crusade to save us from becoming part bicycle adn welcome our new avatar, Cthulhu.

He may be dead but dreaming but he has graciously accepted the temporary post of avatar, if only to enable him to eat our souls and sit in triumph on a throne made out of human skulls...

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

12 August 2010

Another Morning Glory

And for the benefit of JD

el quitasol

Not what I want to read a day before an operation!

The BBC reports that a new superbug has entered UK hospitals. The bug is resistant to even the strongest antibiotics.

Bacteria that make an enzyme called NDM-1 have travelled back with patients who went abroad to countries like India and Pakistan for treatments such as cosmetic surgery. Although there have only been about 50 cases identified in the UK so far, scientists fear it will go global.

NDM-1 can exist inside different bacteria, like E.coli, and it makes them resistant to one of the most powerful groups of antibiotics – carbapenems which are generally reserved for use in emergencies and to combat hard-to-treat infections caused by other multi-resistant bacteria. Experts fear NDM-1 could now jump to other strains of bacteria that are already resistant to many other antibiotics. Similar infections have been seen in the US, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands and international researchers say that NDM-1 could become a major global health problem.

Aargh! Why did I read this a day before my knee op!!!!!!! On a more serious note it is a stark example of natural selection in action

10 August 2010

Britain’s oldest home?

The Telegraph reports that archaeologists have discovered what is believed to be Britain's earliest house. It is so old that when it was built Britain was still part of Continental Europe.

The circular structure near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, which dates back to the Stone Age 8,500 years BC, was found next to a former lake. It predates the dwelling previously thought to be Britain's oldest, at Howick, Northumberland, by at least 500 years.

The team said they are also excavating a large wooden platform made of timbers which have been split and hewn. It is thought to be the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe.

According to the archaeologists, the site was inhabited by hunter-gatherers from just after the last Ice Age, for between 200 and 500 years. They migrated from an area now under the North Sea, hunting animals including deer, wild boar, elk and auroch. Although they did not cultivate the land, the inhabitants did burn part of the landscape to encourage animals to eat shoots and they also kept domesticated dogs.

Dr Nicky Milner of the University of York said: "This is a sensational discovery and tells us so much about the people who lived at this time. From this excavation, we gain a vivid picture of how these people lived. For example, it looks like the house may have been rebuilt at various stages. It is also likely there was more than one house and lots of people lived here.

"The platform is made of hewn and split timbers; the earliest evidence of this type of carpentry in Europe. And the artefacts of antler, particularly the antler headdresses, are intriguing as they suggest ritual activities."

Another one of those stories to which my only response is “Wow!”

Iranian regime can now check if they know their arses from holes in the ground

The Telegraph (amongst others) has reported that the Iranian regime has devoted resources to building mass graves for American invaders. The graves are apparently close to the site of war graves for the dead of the long war between Iran and Iraq.

General Moghadam, the former deputy chief of the Revolutionary Guards said "The mass graves that used to be for burying Saddam's soldiers have now been prepared again for US soldiers, and this is the reason for digging this big number of graves,"

Gen Moghadam's claims are thought to be a tangible that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is increasingly reliant on the Revolutionary Guard for political backing, is feeling the heat of international diplomatic pressure over his aggressive posture on Iran's uranium enrichment programme.

Iranian businessmen both inside and outside the country say the economy is suffering, while President Ahmadinejad's many enemies from within the ranks of his own conservative faction in the leadership are frequently outspoken on his domestic record across the board.

There is plenty of other bluster from Moghaddam but it is extremely unlikely that the US, if it were to attack Iranian nuclear sites, would send in land forces to Iran so this is noting ore than a pointless bit of dick swinging by the Iranians.

Even if I long for my friends to be rid of their political and religious masters I still think that an attack on Iran by the US would be an idiotic move.. There is plenty of anger against the regime. An attack might see that evaporate rather than crystallise further.

Another Morning Glory

09 August 2010

A strange hybrid Morning Glory

We had never seen a Morning Glory like that one before. Sadly it was in the fridge in water until I got home so it was looking a bit ragged by the time I got to take this pic

Strange reparations....

The Fortean Times breaking news service is a gold mine for blog posts. Today it carries a report from the Korea Times concerning what is euphemistically described as a “Japanese AV star”

Apparently Suzuki, 24 who is claimed to hold a doctorate in Sino-Japanese history, is having sex with Chinese students as a way to apologize for her country's invasion of China.

She said "We have to respect history and cannot obliterate it. I want to cure the wounds of Chinese with my body, and I am practicing this by having sex with Chinese students in Japan," she said. "I think it is psychological compensation to them. Actually, Chinese students treat me more friendly and comfortably than Japanese."

The Sun

Unsurprisingly it is a hoax
Suzuki herself has refuted the story totally pointing out that she’s a high school graduate and has never even attended university, let alone earned a doctorate. The only part of the story she seems to agree with is the fact that she’s appeared in adult videos.

Sex for war crimes? It is certainly something that could set a precedent for reparations at the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague! I’m not sure who would want a quickie with Radovan Karadjic though....

The largest Picasso goes on display

42 years after it was bought for the nation, the largest canvas designed by Pablo Picasso has gone on display at the Victoria & Albert nuseum

The theatrical front cloth measuring 10.4 metres (34ft) by 11.7 metres was carefully installed as part of a show examining the Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev and the dance company he founded, Ballets Russes.

Dramatic front cloths were used to help quieten the audience at the start of performances. "It was there to establish a mood," said Pritchard. "It was never meant to be seen for very long. The front curtain goes up, an overture is played and you see what is essentially a vast painting. It wowed audiences."

The canvas featuring two without-a-care women racing along a Brittany beach is a copy of Picasso's painting now in the Musée Picasso in Paris, Deux Femmes Courant sur la Plage, executed by a theatrical scene painter.

Pritchard said: "Diaghilev really liked front cloths. He liked the opportunity to get audiences settled for a production. When he saw Picasso's original painting he thought, 'That's just what I need.' "

It was first used during the 1924 Ballets Russes season in Paris, coinciding with the French capital hosting the Olympics that year, and became the opening front cloth for performances of the ballet Le Train Bleu. After two seasons it was folded up and was stored until a Paris exhibition in 1939 and then was unseen again until its auction in 1968 when the ballet critic Richard Buckle bought it for £69,000 and gave it to the nation.

The show, Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes 1909-1929, will aim to show the company in all its splendid glory and explore his collaborations with everyone from Coco Chanel to Igor Stravinsky, as he determinedly strived to create the best, the most amazing total theatre.

The show opens on 25 September... a date for my diary, methinks