30 September 2010

Baroness Warsi and election fraud

Baroness Warsi has been interviewed in the current issue of the New Statesman by Mehdi Hassan. I have not read the article (it not being online and I still not feeling quite my best and thau with no plans to leave the house today) but going by his New Stateman blog it is clear that Warsi has made some serious but unsubstantiated allegations. about Labour electoral frud

…. the chairman of the Conservative Party and minister without portfolio, in this week's New Statesman, she makes a remarkable claim about the extent of electoral fraud at the last general election and

"At least three seats where we lost, where we didn't gain the seat, based on electoral fraud. Now, could we have planned for that in the campaign? Absolutely not."

This is the first time a senior minister has made such a blunt and specific allegation about the impact of electoral fraud on the general election result.

Can she reveal the names of those seats?

"I think it would be wrong to start identifying them," she says, but adds: "It is predominantly within the Asian community. I have to look back and say we didn't do well in those communities, but was there something over and above that we could have done? Well, actually not, if there is going to be voter fraud."

I asked Warsi if she believed the Labour Party in those three seats had benefited from the alleged fraud. Her answer?


Hmm to say “I think it would be wrong to identify them” is simply not good enough. If she has good evidence of fraud then it is her absolute duty to ensure that the evidence is presented to the police forthwith. If this is a case of hearsay or just sour grapes then she should not make such allegations.

I’m not saying that Warsi is lying. There were indeed cases of alleged fraud at the last election: for example in Two men were arrested in April on suspicion of electoral fraud in April, This took place in Halifax, a marginal seat where Labour did win.

And it is not hard to find example of convictions for electoral fraud here are a few from the last two years or so:

In 2008 Tory activist John Hall was fined £1000 after duping people to fill in proxy voter forms during the 2007 Winchester City Council elections.

Last year six men were jailed for sentences varying from fourh to forty months for election fraud during an election in the Slough Central ward in May 2007 where . Labour councillor Lydia Simmons lost her seat to Tory Raja Khan.

In April a former Tory councillor was found guilty of election fraud at Bradford Crown Court. Mohammed Saghir had fraudulently applied for five proxy votes in other people's names in the May 2008 local election.

Just a few weeks ago Five men, including two former councillors, were jailed for their parts in a failed postal votes scam intended to get a Conservative candidate elected in the 2005 general election. A newspaper investigation and police inquiry had unearthed a plot to get Tory candidate Haroon Rashid elected in the marginal Bradford West seat using hundreds of fraudulent postal vote applications. The five were jailed for between 11 and 31 months.

Hmm seems like there is a problem after all!

Even more fascinating Exoplanet news

Back in 2007 I put up a post about the discovery of an exoplanet Gliese 581c. At the time it was one of three planets discovered around the red dwarf star Gliese 581c which is just 20 light years from earth ( Just down the road in astronomical terms but for the foreseeable future it may as well be on the other side of the universe in terms of getting up close and personal).

Gliese 581c is close to the star’s so called Goldilocks zone (aka the Habitable Zone or HZ - the band around a star where water can exist in liquid form and thus amenable to life…. or at least life that may be remotely earth-like). At the time it was the smallest know extra solar planet was considered a possible location of extrasolar life.

Gliese 581 seems to be a goldmine for exoplanets: In 2009, 581d, a “super-earth” was found to be in the HZ; 581e, although beyond the HZ is at 1.9 times the mass of the earth the smallest exoplanet so far.

And there’s more!

According to today’s Guardian there is yet another planet , Gliese 581g , which is potentially habitable (being in the HZ) and of a similar size to Earth.

Gliese 581g, has a mass of three to four times that of Earth and takes 37 days to orbit the star. Astronomers believe it is a rocky planet with enough gravity to retain an atmosphere.

One side of the planet is always facing the star, much as one side of the moon constantly faces Earth. This means that the far side of the planet is constantly in darkness. The most habitable region of the planet would be the line between the light and dark regions.

The average temperature on the planet is estimated to be between -31 to -12C, but the ground temperature would vary from blazing hot on the bright side and freezing on the dark side.

"Our findings offer a very compelling case for a potentially habitable planet," said Steven Vogt, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "The fact that we were able to detect this planet so quickly and so nearby tells us that planets like this must be really common."

"The number of systems with potentially habitable planets is probably on the order of 10 or 20 percent, and when you multiply that by the hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, that's a large number. There could be tens of billions of these systems in our galaxy,"

This is utterly fascinating stuff. I can imagine that such discoveries will be come more and more commonplace.. I can only imagine what newer and more advanced telescopes will reveal.

Shame that we will never see them in the flesh though

At last!

Beginning to feel more human today. Colds are one thing but methotrexate and a bit of asthma thrown in makes the cold experience rather less present. At least I'll be back to work to sort out the month end accruals and transfer journals for the budgets I deal with. Strange to feel that it will be the last time as a civil servant....

29 September 2010

Iranian "King of the bloggers" sentenced to 19 1/2 years

For me Hossein Derakshan falls in to the category "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". From what I have read of his work ( mainly his Comment is Free articles in the Grauniad) he could certainly write utter rubbish.

What he certainly doesn't deserve is a huge prison sentence. 19 1/2 year prison sentence followed being convicyed of "cooperating with enemy states, making propaganda against the Islamic system of government, promoting small anti-revolutionary groups, managing obscene web sites and insulting Islamic sanctities,".

He had been in detention in Evin prison in Tehran since his arrest on November 1, 2008,

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, condemned the sentence. "This is the longest sentence issued against a blogger in Iran, and it is solely because of his opinions and blogging. The sentence is meant to send a chilling message to the Iranian youth to stay away from the internet in practicing their freedom of expression,"

A journalist working on a reformist newspaper before emigrating to Canada in 200,Derakhshan set up a blog , titled Editor Myself on i.hoder.com. It gained worldwide attention, particularly for his blog start up guides for fellow Iranians.

He was no stranger to controversy: in 2006 he became what must have been the traveled to Israel on his Canadian passport.

Shortly before his imprisonment Hossein Derakhshan began writing in support of of the regime, However this was not enough to save his skin.

To get an idea of Derakhshan's later work try this index at Comment is Free. Proof positive that a volte face will not save you from a regime like Iran's.

Even if I think much of the CiF writings are utter drivel (check out his critique of Persepolis for a corker of twisted logic!) there is no way the man deserve 19.5 seconds in custody, let alone the appalling sentence handed down by the regime.

Been a while since I posted some Darya Dadvar

Error rectified!

Burmese elections will be free and fair – official!

Burmese foreign minister keeps straight face when declaring elections will be free and fair!

Well according to Burma's foreign minister U Nyan Win who has declared that the junta is committed to a "free and fair'' vote in the upcoming national election on November 7; one which will be "a critical phase of its (Burma’s) political transformation process.''

In a speech to the UN General Assembly he said that more than 3,000 candidates from 37 parties would take part in the vote for 1,171 parliamentary seats.

"Such a large participation made it crystal clear that the elections become virtually inclusive,'' the minister said. "With its ample experiences and lessons learned in holding multiparty general elections in the past history, Burma is confident in its ability to conduct the elections in an orderly manner.

"Whatever the challenges facing us, we are committed to do our best for the successful holding of the free and fair general elections for the best interest of the country and its people.''

Well there you go. I bet you’re all convinced by U Nyan Win’s reassuring words… I know I am! I daresay some fellow leftists will continue to view the junta as a good anti imperialistic, anti American bunch, while, as usual, solipsist libertarians will not give a damn… Hiho

When I say reassured, I mean reassured that the man is talking bollocks. There are four words missing from this election: AUNG, SAN, SUU and KYI.

As for experience of multiparty elections, the vermin in charge of that blighted country have experience of ignoring any election they find inconvenient (to wit a 1990 landslide for Aung San Suu Kyi)

Come 8 November I can predict that the Union Solidarity and Development Party will be major winners. That this party is headed by Thein Sein, the current Prime Minister and thus beloved of the junta is a mere coincidence

28 September 2010

Echinops after the blooming


Still feeling rotten...

Rachida Dati puts, ahem ,foot in mouth

Erstwhile French Justice minister Rachida Dati seems to have managed to give Fance (and the rest of the world) a laugh when she made a slip of the tongue (fnur fnur) and accidentally used the word "fellation" instead of "inflation" in a television interview.

"These foreign investment funds are only interested in excessive profits," she said. "When I see some of them demand a return of 20 or 25 per cent, when fellation is almost non-existent... I say they are just trying to destroy businesses."

Ms Dati showed no sign of being aware of her lapse and pressed on with her interview with Anne-Sophie Lapix on Dimanche Plus, a current affairs show on the Canal Plus cable channel. Within minutes, a clip had been posted on Daily Motion, the French version of YouTube.

Asked about the incident in a radio interview yesterday, Ms Dati burst into laughter. "I was told about it afterwards," she said. "I was just speaking a little too quickly but if I've given everyone a laugh, then that's fine."

Ms Dati was exiled to the European Parliament in 2009 after falling out with Nicholas Sarkozy... Her next role? Perhaps the new French Ambassador to Rockall?

Ach it would be so easy for me t use lots of innuendo in this post but I will not deign to do so. After all one can be the consequence of the other….

27 September 2010

Swans Can't Find My Way Home

Cold and Methotrexate, a killer combination!

Well not quite a killer but one that is making me feel doubly like crap.

Three cheers for the visible reduction in my psoriasis but none for its immunosuppression qualities....

If I feel better later I will finish off a post I've been playing around with over the weekend, if not I'll be back tomorrow....

Aliens ate my Pershing!

We have come for your children, err weapons

Back in the 80s I often wondered whether we would see the 90s or if we would turn ourselves into a radioactive pile. The events of 1983 (Able Archer, KAL 007) in hindsight show how close we were to Armageddon, while the film Threads caused more than one lost night’s sleep.

But now it seems we were never in danger at all… if a group of former US officers are to be believed (honest!)

According to the Telegraph aliens have landed and deactivated nuclear missile systems, well at least the British and American ones anyway…

The unlikely claims have been compiled by six former US airmen and another member of the military who interviewed or researched the evidence of 120 ex-military personnel.

The information they have collected suggests that aliens could have landed on Earth as recently as seven years ago.

One of the men, Capt Robert Salas, said: "The US Air Force is lying about the national security implications of unidentified aerial objects at nuclear bases and we can prove it…. I was on duty when an object came over and hovered directly over the site. "The missiles shut down - 10 Minuteman missiles. And the same thing happened at another site a week later. There's a strong interest in our missiles by these objects, wherever they come from. I personally think they're not from planet Earth."

Others claim to have seen similar activity in the UK. Col Charles Halt said he saw a UFO at the former military base RAF Bentwaters (or Woodbridge… not that it matters really as Woodbridge and Bentwaters was a twin base) 30 years ago, during which he saw beams of light fired into the base then heard on the military radio that aliens had landed inside the nuclear storage area.

He said: "I believe that the security services of both the United States and the United Kingdom have attempted - both then and now - to subvert the significance of what occurred at RAF Bentwaters by the use of well-practised methods of disinformation." (Ah the Rendlesham forest thingy…..)

And so on and so forth. I suppose the Aliens did the same in the USSR and Russia, China, France etc but would have come a right cropper when they tried to deactivate the Andorran arsenal!

26 September 2010

being a poor tribute to John Milton's bawdiness

There once was a young man from Wilton
Who had am'rous designs on a Stilton
but a slighted Caerphilly
had him sent to the pillory
and was rogered to death by John Milton

Aye thang you!

Milton and some bawdy verse

Last week the Independent reported that academics at Oxford University struck gold when they discovered a poem by John Milton while sifting through their archives.

However if you think that the work is another Paradise Lost you will be disappointed. the work is an innuendo-laden ditty titled "An Extempore Upon A Faggot", was found in the university's Harding Collection, the world's largest collection of popular poetic anthologies and songbooks.

The handwritten poem appears to have been signed by Milton but is written in a style utterly unlike his own, and does not tally with his status as an epic poet, polemicist and scholarly man of letters.

"To see the name of John Milton, the great religious and political polemicist, attached to such a bawdy epigram, is extremely surprising to say the least," said the discoverer Dr Jennifer Batt. "The poem is so out of tune with the rest of his work, that if the attribution is correct, it would prompt a major revision of our ideas about Milton. It is likely that Milton's name was used as an attribution to bring scandal upon the poet, perhaps by a jealous contemporary."

The poem came to light as Dr Batt trawled through the Harding Collection, which is owned by Oxford University's Bodleian Library. It had been read before, but nobody had noticed that Milton's name had been scrawled at the bottom.

And here’s the poem in question:

Have you not in a Chimney seen
A Faggot which is moist and green
How coyly it receives the Heat
And at both ends do's weep and sweat?
So fares it with a tender Maid
When first upon her Back she's laid
But like dry Wood th' experienced Dame
Cracks and rejoices in the Flame.

On the other hand it is not unknown for poets to write bawdy verse – they have been doing that since before the days of Catullus. As for the works of John Wilmot, the libertine earl of Rochester….!!! Still some poets do so more discretely – It was only in 1998 that TS Elliot was confirmed to be the author of the Ballad of Eskimo Nell, while there is some evidence that John Knox actually wrote The Balle o’ Kerymur with the intention that it be part of his seminal work The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women

25 September 2010

Congratulations to Miliband Minor

Congratulations to Ed Miliband. To be honest I thought David was thedead cert so what do I know!

Anyway, with no disrespect to Harriet Harman, we now have a leader who can take the fight back to the Toalies

A haiku tribute to sea slugs and their discoverers

Professor Robin Gill is one of the great unsung heroes who have truly enriched the human existence. He cannot be compared with say Fred Sanger (the scientist who is without doubt the greatest living Briton - and the only living double Nobel laureate). That is like comparing a pineapple with a mango (both wonderful in their own way) but his mangnum opus Rise Ye Sea Slugs touches the heart and soul of anyone who owns a copy (or who has borrowed a copy or has just seen it on a bookshelf or on a coffee table)

Rise ye sea slugs is a collection of 1,000 haiku on the subject of the sea cucumber

It is in tribute to this great work and of course to Jeff Goddard that I give you this haiku

In tiny ocean

Sea slug lives peacefully

Brings joy to Goddard

Bah! my haiku are worse than my poems and not in a McGonagall or MacIntyre "so bad they're brilliant way"

Ah well, back to dirty limericks for me....

Sea Slug Scientific Serendipity (I do love the smell of alliteration in the morning

A nudibranch if not the species in question

I remember someone defining serendipity as looking for a needle in a haystack but finding the farmer’s daughter. This definition will hold for many but for a naturalist perhaps serendipity is finding a new species in your back yard (so to speak)

According to Science Daily this is what happened to Jeff Goddard, project scientist with the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara.

Goddard was working in the tide pools at Carpinteria Reef, in Carpinteria State Park, Calif., when he found a new species of nudibranch. Recognizing it as new, Goddard carefully documented the living specimen before preserving it and sending it off to Terrence M. Gosliner, an authority on the taxonomy of sea slugs at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco

Gosliner named the new sea slug after Goddard when he described it -- and one other newly discovered species of California nudibranch -- in the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences.

Not much of a story if you are not interested in sea molluscs of the gastropode sort but I would be as pleased as Punch (but only half as handsome, sadly!)

It does provide an excuse for my next post too

24 September 2010

Photo Hunt - Natural

The theme for the week's Photo Hunt is natural. I could have gone off into the countryside to photograph some hatural landscape but that hardly exists in England - the landscape you see has been carefully (or carelessly) created by human hands over centuries.

The same goes to a lesser extent in Ireland. You try to take a photgraph of a mountain top and some early Irish men put a cairn on top of it! I give up

The photograph is similar to others I have posted here. It is of one of the two Paps of Anu just inside Co Kerry

For the attention of Crushed

Whatever else the Poor Mouth is it is not a message board for other parties. If anyone wishes to pass on a message or warning to someone else please use another medium.

Do not drag this blog into whatever has gone on (and may well be going on) between yourself and certain others. This is not my concern and not the concern of those who read this blog.

The comment you left earlier has been deleted; all similar comments in the future will be deleted. Please do not attempt to raise this with me through any other medium as any attempt will be ignored.

Good skin news

Two hospital appointments in two days... This time with my dermatologist. Again the specialist was pleased with progress and has rewarded me with an increase in my methotrexate dosage... WOO HOO!

On the other hand, since it can screw up the liver, there's no alcohol for me in the foreseeable future....

Bebe in stern mode

23 September 2010

Inky bloaters

The title track of a truly wonderful album from one of Essex's finest!

Rajna - Epidauros

From France

Ataraxia - Ochram

Good Knee News

Went to see my consultant today who is very pleased with the way my knee has improved after the arthroscopy last month.

It certainly feels good not to need a walking stick and to climb and descend stairs without it hurting like hell!

I even got photos of the meniscus layers to keep as a souvenir... (to be scanned and posted in due course!)

22 September 2010

Are humans less sophisticated than a choccy biccie?

Today’s Guardian has a leader item with a droll title relating a comparison of humans with choccy biccies…

US researchers have just completed the DNA sequence of Theobroma cacao, the fruit of which provides us with he raw material for chocolate and cocoa. Cacao joins more a growing list of species where scientists have completed the genetic sequence.

It was only in 1995 that Haemophilus influenzae became the first free living organism to have been sequenced. It is truly amazing how far things have come (and how far there is to go too)

But perhaps we should not be to smug… Cacao seems to have 35,000 while wheat DNA is believed to contain 40,000 genes. The human genome contains less than 25,000…. The mind boggles!

Yes I know that the number of genes is a specious measurement but let’s face, who of us doesn’t know someone who would be out thought by a Club biscuit!

On His Majesty’s Transvestite Service

Today’s Telegraph has an amusing curious item today concerning an MI6 agent, Lt Col Dudley Clarke, who was arrested in a street in Madrid “dressed down to a brassiere as a woman”,

Clarke had been running a GCHQ deception operation in Cairo using the cover of a newspaper reporter and had traveled to Madrid to meet Hamilton Stokes, the head of the MI6 station there. After leaving Stokes on October 17 1941, he was arrested by the Spanish police dressed, for no reason ever explained, in women’s clothing.

He at first told them he was a novelist studying the reactions of men to women in the streets and then that he “was taking the feminine garments to a lady in Gibraltar and thought that he would try them on for a prank.”

“This,” reported the British Embassy in Madrid to London, “hardly squares with the fact that the garments and shoes fitted him.”

The police were inclined to believe that Clarke was a “homosexualist” Stokes reported, but the German secret police, the Gestapo, alleged he was a spy.

After four days in custody he was eventually released and returned to Cairo where he “went on to have a brilliant career in deception,”

The tale is recounted in the first authorised history of the Secret Intelligence Service.

I wonder if the book has more tales of transvestite derring-do? To Samarkand in silk stockings? Berlin in a basque? I hope that the book is full of salacious tales!

21 September 2010

Alea jacta est

Today I received information on the amount of money I would receive if I left the government department I currently work for. Unlike the lazy pres stories it was not six years' pay (I wish!); it wasn't the three years quoted by other hacks but it was sufficient to make leaving worth considering. There were other considerations but these I will mention next month.

As of 22 October I will no longer be a civil servant.

That said I will need to find some sort of work next year.

A fine 70’s athlete simulacrum

James Henderson of Oswestry, had a major shock when he discovered the image of David Bedford (or perhaps Steve Prefontaine) on one of his socks

“It was a massive shock to me,” he said. James said he and his friends decided to travel around Europe as part of a 10-day holiday. He said he had spilt bleach on one of the socks while at work and somehow ended up taking them on holiday.

But the image of David (or perhaps Steve) Jesus did not appear until the end of his travels.

David Bedford

“It was on the last day of my holiday and I took my shoe off and there it was,!” he said “My friends were sitting next to me and I called them over and their reaction was the same. It was a big shock to them. I am not especially into 70’s athletics but it was a shock.I have heard it all the time that people are finding images of athletes in weird and wonderful places but it was a surprise that I found one.”

or perhaps Steve Prefontaine

James has kept the sock and is still deciding what to do with it.

Appearances of athletes is becoming more and more common. Last year the image of former Olympic 800m champion Steve Ovett appeared on a cow’s udder in Rutland while just last week Long distance legend Lasse Viren was found on a pork pie purchased at a Lidl in Batley.


Today is the day that I finally come to the crossroads. I will have a few days to make an important decision althought it is one I feel I am being pushed towards.

20 September 2010

Bloody Methotrexate... yet again

Bloody drug makes me feel like utter shite. Will be back tomorrow

Commemorating the last sin eater?

I had not heard of sin eaters until I read Master and Commander, the first of Patrick O Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin books Master and Commander. It came as a bit of a surprise to read that the very last of them lived on into the 20th century.

According to the BBC the grave of the last known sin-eater in England was at the centre of a special service in a Shropshire village churchyard after campaigners raised £1,000 to restore the grave of Richard Munslow, who was buried in Ratlinghope in 1906.

Sin-eaters were usually among the very poor who were paid to eat bread and drink beer or wine over a corpse, in the belief they would take on the sins of the deceased.

Believers thought the sin-eater taking on the sins of a person who died suddenly without confessing their sins would allow the deceased's soul to go to heaven in peace.

The custom was prevalent in the Marches, the land around the England-Wales border, and in north Wales, but was rarely carried out anywhere else. It had largely died out during the 19th Century

Strangely Mr Munslow was a well-established farmer in the area rather than a beggar and of course survive to the 20th century.

Fascinating stuff… well I think so!

19 September 2010

O'Donnell drivel is for fun, perhaps profit, but not for power

It was the fate of Daniel O'Connell to be the Great Liberator. We O'Donnells may differ by just one letter in name but we differ by a veritable ocean in power and influence.. It is the lot of the O'Donnell to be a drivelator, not a liberator.

I am content to put the power of drivel to (perhaps) good use in the production of a blog which has been read by literally dozens, and enjoyed by almost as many (I hope). It is my pleasure to use the power of drivel to entertain and sometimes uplift and/or educate.

Rosie O'Donnell

I have no problem with fellow O'Donnells who use the innate power of drivel to make money even if their own brand of drivel is most definitely not to my taste. Examples here include Rosie O'Donnell, who I consider as funny as a Police Academy film, and Daniel O' Donnell and his anodyne warblings. If they can make money from their meagre talents then so be it.

What frightens me is the O'Donnell that uses their drivel in the pursuit of power. I know that this drivel is a not uncommon trait among persons seeking power but for this O'Donnell the level of drivel goes far beyond the pale:

"They are -- they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains. So they're already into this experiment."

I know that the quote dates back to 2007 but it should preclude Christine O'Donnell from even running for a bus, let alone the senate!

My thanks to Bryan for drawing this to my attention

A youthful Ofra Haza

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Still the best Pirate Instructional video on the web... Enjoy!

18 September 2010

International observe a hazy disc night

Tonight is International Observe the Moon Night

More details here

The Solitude of the Moon - Forough Farrkhzad

All the way in the dark,

A somber breeze was flowing in the air,

and lonely crickets were yearning:

“Hey moon, generous moon…”

All the way in the dark,

A row of the trees with their full of desire sighs,

like devotees of mysterious gods

were constantly pleading:

“Hey moon, generous moon…”

All the way in the dark,

Fireflies were blazing in a moving ring

And there, thousands of mourning souls

in the veiled live side of the soil

were whispering:

“Hey moon, generous moon…”

And there, all the way in the dark

a captive fairy in seize of the shades

in a silent, green bog was listening to young frogs

they were all singing:

“Hey moon, generous moon…”

All the way in the dark,

The moon was burning in flames

The moon was the loneliest soul of the silent night.

The moon was bursting

in his golden grief

in an eternal dark.

By: Forough Farokhzad

Translation: Maryam Dilmaghani

From Maryam Dilmaghani's wonderful site Forough Farrokhzad The Sad Little Fairy

It being International Observe the Moon Night tonight.. more to follow

17 September 2010

Photo Hunt - School

The theme for the week's Photo Hunt is school so what am I doing showing a photo of a big rock in a field?

Actually I am not stretching the theme one little bit. The rock, which is located in the Millstreet County Park in Ireland, was the site of a hedge school.

A hedge school was a rural school in Ireland that existed mainly in the 18th century when catholic schools were forbidden under what were known as the Penal Laws, which placed severe restrictions on the rights of Catholics and "dissenters" (protestants who were not part of the Anglican church).

In the absence of a formal education system the hedge schools continued well into the 19th century. They did decline after the introduction of National Schools (primary/elementary schools) in 1831.

In reality most hedge schools were located in barns or in other places out of the elements. This one is relatively unusual

Uber litigant

I know that some people can be zealous litigants. Examples include Trafigura and Alisher “Jabba the Uzbek” Usmanov who use the courts to delude themselves that they have a reputation that is anything other than in the gutter. Oh sorry Jabba gets his lawyers to shut down websites...

But none come close to Jonathan Lee Riches who is currently guest of the Commonwealth of Kentucky as a consequence of phishing. According to the Telegraph he fires off four legal petitions a day to courts in Kentucky and has also launched cases across the country.

His targets have included former President George W Bush, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, and the singer Britney Spears. He once sued Stevie Wonder and the Dave Matthews Band in an attempt to halt a festival in Tennessee because he didn't like the music.

He has also tried to launch cases against Somali pirates, Plato and Adolf Hitler.
He even filed a lawsuit against the Guinness Book of Records, which he said was to prevent him being called the most litigious man in America.

In his petition for Riches v. the Guinness Book of Records, he admitted: "I've filed so many law suits with my pen and right hand that I got arthritis in my fingers, numbness in my wrists, crooked fingers. I got bags under my eyes for sleepless nights suing the world."

The US Attorney's Office in Kentucky said the persistent lawsuits were "a waste of judicial resources" and eat up court time that could be used for legitimate cases.
Prosecutors have now filed their own lawsuit asking for Riches' outgoing prison correspondence to be screened by a court employee, and any frivolous legal filings stopped.

Well I suppose it helps while away those long hours in the penitentiary but he is a vexatious litigant to the thirteenth power!

Before he is officially stopped I would like to state that he is obviously a loser with a laughably small appendage.

Jams O Donnell is contactable at the following address:

c/o Clayton Claw Cleaver Clementine of the Third Gland,
Póg mo Thóin Cottage,
County Lout,

Boris is not happy...

... theat he didn't get fed within a nanosecond of is first demand

16 September 2010

A bit of Mahsa Vahdat

Am not in a very good mood but I should get some information next week relevant to the cross roads I have mentioned

Get a tasteful souvenir of the Papal visit.

but not here! My thanks to Liz for reminding me of the Ship of Fools website and its Gadgets for God section.

This tasteful little "Benedictaphone" is available for a few quids from pixmania. Perfect if all your taste is in your mouth!

Parasol mushroom II

14 September 2010

Meanwhile in a Mexican cave…

For centuries a group of indigenous people asked their gods for bountiful rain by stunning the cave's fish with a natural plant toxin. Once the fish have succumbed, the Zoque people scoop them into baskets for eating. Live Science scientists have found that the practice has impacted on the fish's evolution.

Perhaps unsurprisingly those fish that are resistant to the anaesthesia survive to pass on their genes, while the others simply die

The religious ceremony is held in the Cueva del Azufre at the end of the dry season during the holy week before Easter. The Zoque grind up the toxic, carrot-shaped roots of the tropical barbasco plant and mix them with lime to form a paste, which they wrap in leaves. They place the bundles about 110 yards (100 meters) into the cave to poison its waters and anesthetize fish, which the Zoque believe are gifts from gods that inhabit the underworld. The collected fish supplement the meals of the Zoque until crops are ready for harvest.

Michael Tobler, an ecologist from Oklahoma State University Tobler and his colleagues were in the area investigating the Atlantic molly (Poecilia mexicana), to figure out how these fish made their way from the surface all the way underground. And once in the dark reaches of the cave, Tobler wondered how they survived in the cave system despite the presence of toxic hydrogen sulphde there.

They learned about the ceremony in 2007 and so to see whether it influenced the evolution of these fish, the researchers collected specimens from the annually poisoned waters as well as areas upstream that hadn't been affected by the ritual. They next placed barbasco root toxin into tanks holding the fish.

Fish exposed to the annual ritual indeed proved more resistant to the toxin than fish that lived elsewhere, able to swim in poisoned waters for roughly 50 percent longer. As such, the poison from the ceremony apparently has over time helped select fish that can tolerate it — fish that cannot get captured and killed by the Zoque.

Ironically the fish do not seem to be good eating: "We actually got to eat some of these cave fish," Tobler "They're not very good, by the way.”

Religion aiding evolution who’d a thunk it?

Evolution in action?

Last month National Geographic carried an interesting item which may well be an example of evolution in action Scientists are decoding how a species of Australian lizard is abandoning egg-laying in favour of live birth.

Along the warm coastal lowlands of New South Wales (map), the yellow-bellied three-toed skink lays eggs to reproduce. But individuals of the same species living in the state's higher, colder mountains are almost all giving birth to live young. Only two other modern reptiles use both types of reproduction.

Evolutionary records shows that nearly a hundred reptile lineages have independently made the transition from egg-laying to live birth in the past, and today about 20 percent of all living snakes and lizards give birth to live young only.

One of the mysteries of how reptiles switch from eggs to live babies is how the young get their nourishment before birth. In mammals a highly specialized placenta connects the foetus to the ovary wall, allowing the baby to take up oxygen and nutrients from the mother's blood and pass back waste.

In egg-laying species, the embryo gets nourishment from the yolk. The mother forms eggs, but then retains them inside her body until the very last stages of embryonic development. The shells of these eggs thin dramatically so that the embryos can breathe, until live babies are born covered with only thin membranes—all that remains of the shells.

Both birthing styles come with evolutionary tradeoffs: Eggs are more vulnerable to external threats, such as extreme weather and predators, but internal fetuses can be more taxing for the mother. For the skinks, moms in balmier climates may opt to conserve their own bodies' resources by depositing eggs on the ground for the final week or so of development. Moms in harsh mountain climates, by contrast, might find that it's more efficient to protect their young by keeping them longer inside their bodies.

Interesting stuff!

Spider II

13 September 2010

For the Christmas stocking: a bipolar toy?

Previously I have recommended giant microbes, a solid silver circe (for the Opus Nazi person in your life) and St Sebastian pin cushions as perfect Christmas stocking filers. Now Time has come up with another ideal gift

German toymaker Paraplush has designed a new line of toys with an assortment of psychiatric disorders. The company advertises stuffed animals who suffer from a range of mental illnesses (bipolar disorder, depression, multiple personality disorder) and even come packaged with a personalized medical history and treatment plan.

"'Patients' include Dub the turtle with severe depression, Sly the snake who suffers from terrifying hallucinations, Dolly the sheep with a multiple personality disorder and a crocodile with an irrational fear of water," Each mentally ill Paraplush toy, retails for around 30 Euros

Well there you have it. I hope that the toys come with suitable plus medication too and access to a psychiatrist doll….

Instant Jesus, just add toast

A Vermont man has solved a major problem that besets all too many people in this topsy-turvy world. Try as we may we can never find a crap simulacrum when we need one. But fear not, Galen Dively III of Walden, Virginia, has introduced a toaster that sears the image of Christ on each and every slice it toasts.

Retailing for $39.95, the toaster uses patented radiated heat technology to toast the face of Christ on any variety of daily bread. Dively has ordered an initial run of 3,000 units from a factory in China and believes the toasters will be a big hit with church and school groups. His company, Burnt Impressions, also has plans to create Virgin Mary and Star of David toasters.

Dively believes that he is serving a higher purpose. "I consider it cheap PR for the Lord," he said.

Cheap PR or not it does mean that a saddo like me gets another simulacrum rel;ated post for what laughingly passes as a blog


A late starter

12 September 2010


One of the Autumn catch of garden spiders

Iranian regime comes kicking and screaming onto the 19th Century On this occasion anyway)

The Iranian authorities have announced that it has suspended the sentence of death by stoning against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

Madame Asthiani had been sentenced to die in this barbaric manner after being convicted of adultery. She also has been charged with involvement in her husband's murder. Adultery is the only crime which carries the penalty of death by stoning in Iran. The death penalty for murder in Iran is by hanging. The lawyer said Ashtiani might receive 15 years' jail if convicted of being an accomplice to murder.

The announcement came a day after European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the stoning sentence against "barbaric beyond words", the latest in a string of criticisms

Here’s hoping that this is the last we hear of someone being sentenced to die in such a brutal manner. Sadly I fear not….


On 12 September 1940 teenagers, Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon Coencas, (and Marcel's dog Robot) discovered the Lascaux cave.

Located near the village of Montignac in the Dordogne the cave contains some of the best now images of Paleolithic art. It was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in1979

The cave contains nearly 2,000 figures, which can be grouped into three main categories — animals, human figures and abstract signs. Most of the major images have been painted onto the walls using mineral pigments, although some designs have also been incised into the stone. Many images are too faint to discern, while others have deteriorated.

Over 900 can be identified as animals, and 605 of these have been precisely identified. There are also many geometric figures. Of the animals horses predominate, with 364 images. There are 90 paintings of stags. Also represented are cattle and bison, each representing 4-5% of the images. A smattering of other images include seven felines, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and a human. Among the most famous images are four huge, black bulls or aurochs in the Hall of the Bulls. There are no images of reindeer, even though that was the principal source of food for the artists

The most famous section of the cave is The Great Hall of the Bulls where bulls, equines and stags are depicted. But it is the four black bulls that are the dominant figures among the 36 animals represented here. One of the bulls is 17 feet (5.2 m) long — the largest animal discovered so far in cave art. Additionally, the bulls appear to be in motion.

A painting referred to as "The Crossed Bison" and found in the chamber called the Nave is often held as an example of the skill of the Paleolithic cave painters. The crossed hind legs show the ability to use perspective in a manner that wasn't seen again until the 15th century.

Since 1998 the cave has been beset with a fungus, variously blamed on a new air conditioning system that was installed in the caves, the use of high-powered lights, and the presence of too many visitors. As of 2008, the cave contained black mould which scientists were and still are trying to keep away from the paintings. Efforts to remove the mould have taken a toll, leaving dark patches and damaging the pigments on the walls.

I have never been to Lascaux but I have visited a cave in the Pyrenees which has impressive examples of prehistoric art (although we were only allowed to see reproductions, the originals being far to delicate to stand up to the damage that visitors would do),

Even if we may never have the chance to see them they are truly a vital part of our communal heritage.

11 September 2010

Robyn Hitchcock - The Autumn Sea

Robyn Hitchcock by Jonathan Demme

From Demme's film Storefront Hitchcock. Hitchcock subsequently appeared in his remake of the Manchurian Candidate as double agent Laurent Tokar
Well the infection in my wrist is clearing up and the bandages are off the scratches across my fingers which look nasty but are healing, but the hand still aches and I don't have much movement in my wrist,

I was thinking of writing something about 9/11 but I know I would have sidetracked in to a rant about the odious crap written by Ward Churchill on one hand or the rubbish spouted by the tinfoil hatted truthers on the other hand.

What took place on that day were vile acts that cannot be excused or explained away.

Normal service will be resumed shortly. In the meantime a potential cross roads looms closer. More on this later

10 September 2010

Photo hunt - got the subject wrong!

The theme for the week's Photo Hunt is Anniversary, it being the ninth anniversary of the appalling acts of terrorism that took place on 9/11 2001.

To be honest I had it in my min that the theme was memorial and not anniversary. I don't have a decent anniversary photo of any kind so I'll just have to go with a memorial instead.

My eye was drawn sometime ago to the war memorial at Liverpool Street Station to commemorate the many lives of young railwaymen who died during WWI. At the bottom is a plaque to a Captain Fryatt. For a long while I meant to find out who he was.

It was only a couple of months ago that I finally remembered to look him up. Charles Fryatt was a merchant navy captain during WWI, commanding railway packets between England and Holland. In March 1915, while in command of the SS Brussels he ran down the Submarine U33 which had surfaced with the intention of sinking the Brussels. The U Boat crash dived and escaped.

The following year the SS Brussels was captured by German destroyers. Fryatt was arrested and tried for attacking the U-33 the previous year. He was found guilty of being a "franc tireur" (effectively an unlawful combatant) and sentenced to death. He was executed by firing squad.

His murder caused international outrage at the time.

09 September 2010

Crucifixion in Louisiana

And the simulacra keep on coming! This one was found on a telephone pole in rural Louisiana.

According to the Telegraph The resemblance was reported by drivers on Highway 26 in rural Jeff Davis parish.

It didn't last long, however. After it came to light officials acted quickly, in case someone tried to climb it to be closer to Jesus.

Mike Heinen, a local electrical manager, said: “We were getting to that one but since it had such notoriety we went and cleared it up today. For public safety concerns we don’t want anybody trying to climb the pole or trying to touch the vines.” He said a church might be a better place to go looking for Jesus.!

Ah well!

Some Mor Karbasi

A bit of Souad Massi

On the mend

The deep scratches on my fingers are healing well but the bits on the wrist are still looking angry. Hopefully I will be back to normal in a couple of days. In the meantime enjoy the musical interlude

08 September 2010

and Satan cat again

a mad mental bastard ready to do the malkie on you

Hand still hurts like hell

He may be BEELZE-BOB but I didn't think a cat could do so much damage yo my damn hand! normal service will be resumed when I can use my right hand

07 September 2010

Bloody Satan Cat

No posts of visiting for a day or two. I had a run in with Satan cat while tryng to extricate Boris from a fight. As I shooed Satan Cat away, he locked on my wrist and hand and proceeded to rake and bite. I had to lever the little bugger off by the scruff! And then he just stood his ground spoiling for a fight!

One trip to the polyclinic later, I have a bandaged hand and a course of pills that liik like they re more suited to a rhino!

06 September 2010

Spudship Enterprise?

Meanwhile the http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1308820/Monster-veg-grower-shows-world-record-breaking-potato-shaped-like-Starship-Enterprise.html Mail has an item about a humungous potato which weighs in at over 8lb (About 3.3kg).A veritable monster but the headline and the copy gives the impression that this fine tuber somehow looks like the Starship Enterprise

Err I think not even if it had taken a huge kicking off the Klingons (pre-Khitomer), Romulans, Cardassians and the Dominion!

On the other hand perhaps they were referring to the Enterprise D after saucer separation...

God I need to watch less telly...

While I wouldn’t give its political stance the steam off one of my micturations the Telegraph is a great source of strange and curious news items. Sadly, like any other paper, it can create a news item from nothing.

In today’s paper there is an iteml about a dread inspiring plant appearing in a Yorkshire garden. While not quite a triffid the plant was called a Devil’s Trumpet and described as deadly poisonous.

Basically the plant in question is a Datura. It may be an unusual species of the plant and the genus may be a rarity in North Yorkshire but Daturas are hardly a rarity in this country/ We have grown the plant several times from seeds purchased from the excellent and utterly reputable firm Chiltern Seeds…

It is deadly poisonous though!

Well there you have it: a non-story about a non-story. I do waste my own and both my readers’ time!

05 September 2010

Basket Case - Warren Zevon, not Green Day

I've always meant to find out what Basket Case sounded like ever since reading Carl Hiaasen's novel of the same name. The song is a Zevon/Hiaasen collaboration. Was it worth it? well I quite like like it... it does feature a late, great singer songwriter and the chronicler of Florida's seamier side (even if steroid- addled, corrupt ex cops are not buggered to death by dolphins every day... but that is Native Tongue and not Basket Case!)

An underground society

Trapped underground for a month a group of Chilean miners may have found a way to survive while waiting for a rescue that may be months away. The miners trapped underground I the San Jose mine in the Atacama Desert have each taken on specific naming a "priest", a "doctor", a "poet" a "TV presenter" and a "foreman" within the group.

"They are completely organised," said Dr Jaime Mañalich, Chile's health minister. "They have a full hierarchy. It is a matter of life and death for them… The worst scenario would be one of the men suffered severe psychosis for being trapped so long and attempted to claw their way out of the mine. As long as they are kept busy with defining roles we hope to avoid it."

The oldest member of the group Mario Gomez, 62, has taken on the role of spiritual leader and urges the men to pray daily in the makeshift chapel he has created in a corner of the subterranean chamber.
His job has been aided by 33 mini bibles and rosary beads for each of the men sent from the Vatican this week with a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI and lowered into the mine with the daily supplies of food and medicine.

Another of the miners, Yonny Barrios Rojas, 50, is using knowledge gained on a nursing course he attended in the mid-1990s to administer medicines to the group including vaccinations against tetanus, pneumonia and flu and performing daily health checks.

Victor Zamora has penned a poem describing the first 17 days they were trapped down the mine without contact with the outside world. "It's a moving piece of work especially from someone who until now had no inclination to write," explained Alberto Iturra, a psychologist at the site. "Each is finding their own role and their own way to express themselves and we think that is very healthy," he said.

While engineers above ground continue the rescue operation to bore a 2,297 feet escape shaft to raise the men, the miners themselves have been told they will play a critical role in rescue. The miners must prepare themselves to ensure they are fit to work as the drill gets closer. They men will need to move an estimated 4,000 tons of rock and earth that will fall into their chamber as the rescue shaft is cleared.

Luis Urzua, the 54-year-old leader of the shift, has mapped out the chamber in preparation for the mammoth job required in the final stages of the rescue, which could take as long as three to four months. He will also organise the men and oversee the work when the time comes.

I hope for the sake of these men that their society holds together. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be where they are. I do not know if I would have their strength of endurance. Here’s hoping that their rescue is as quick as possible

Peter Pan creator NOT implicated in child deaths

NOT Guilty!

Yesterday’s Telegraph carried a news item that at allowed those of us who loved the tales of Peter Pan to breathe a huge sigh of relief! The LAPD has cleared Peter Pan creator J M Barrie of any link to the mysterious deaths of two babies in the 1930s. Police had discovered their mummified remains in a locked trunk belonging to a JM Barrie.

The bodies were discovered last month when two women were clearing out the abandoned basement of an apartment building.
The corpses were wrapped in sheets and hidden in two doctor's bags among crumpled copies of 1930s newspapers and other belongings from that decade.

The only clue to the babies' identity was the name J M Barrie on the steamer trunk's lid. Investigators announced last week that, after reading correspondence from relatives left in the trunk, they had identified the trunk's owner as Janet M Barrie, a Scottish-born nurse who had worked in Los Angeles after her family emigrated to Canada (and not Kirriemuir’s most famous son James M Barrie… or second most famous son if you rate AC/DC over Peter Pan.. Bon Scott having been from said town too!)

Coroners have been unable to determine how the babies died but said there was no signs of trauma or that they were aborted. One had apparently reached full term while the other was much smaller and could have been a foetus or born prematurely.

Among the theories being examined by police is that Miss Barrie had children but that they did not survive or were aborted. Another possibility, said officers, is that they were babies she helped deliver in the apartment building who later died.

Whatever the reason it is heartening to know that the more famous J M Barrie was not involved. This is not the first time that such a misunderstanding has taken place. Last year partly consumed human remains were found in a Galloway cave which bore the graffiti “S..n Bean woz ere”. It was only after extensive interviews and forensic analysis that police concluded that the Bean in question was Sawney and not Sean!