31 October 2010

More metal from around the world

Another Purgatory with a female vocalist - this time from Thailand

From Sri Lanka - Funeral in Heaven

And Funeral in Heaven talking about the Metal scene in Kandy

Rather softer and more commercial is Arbovirus from Bangladesh

Who says vegans have to be fluffy?

Nothing to do with Halloween, this post. While my taste in metal is rooted in the NWOBHM of thirty years ago I have a soft spot for Arch Enemy. When I first heard this song I had no idea it was a female vocalist - until I saw the official video on a cable music channel.

Bela Lugosi's Dead

Why do I post this song every other Halloween?

30 October 2010

An apocryphal tale for Halloween

From the About Urban Legends newsletter. Utter pish of course but still funny!

Police arrested Patrick Lawrence, a 22-year-old white male, resident of Dacula, GA, in a pumpkin patch at 11:38 p.m. Friday. Lawrence will be charged with lewd and lascivious behavior, public indecency, and public intoxication at the Gwinnett County courthouse on Monday.

The suspect allegedly stated that as he was passing a pumpkin patch, he decided to stop. "You know, a pumpkin is soft and squishy inside, and there was no one around here for miles. At least I thought there wasn't," he stated in a phone interview from the jail.

Lawrence went on to state that he pulled over to the side of the road, picked out a pumpkin that he felt was appropriate to his purposes, cut a hole in it, and proceeded to satisfy his alleged "need." "I guess I was just really into it, you know?" he commented with evident embarrassment.

In the process, Lawrence apparently failed to notice the Gwinnett County police car approaching and was unaware of his audience until officer Brenda Taylor approached him. "It was an unusual situation, that's for sure," said officer Taylor. "I walked up to (Lawrence) and he's...just working away at this pumpkin."

Taylor went on to describe what happened when she approached Lawrence. "I just went up and said, 'Excuse me sir, but do you realize that you are screwing a pumpkin?' He got real surprised, as you'd expect, and then looked me straight in the face and said, "A pumpkin? Damn...is it midnight already?"

The sacred heart chicken nugget simulacrum

Yours for jut $10k on ebay

Apparently it still comes with the Chick Fill A box so I'm sure it's a bargain....

Duchess of Cornwall unhurt by kitten

catsA few days ago the Telegraph ran a story with the headline Duchess of Cornwall Mauled by Kitten. Okay the mauled was in inverted commas but still I thought I would read of some hideous injury meted out by a spitting bundle of feline aggression

Sadly it appears that all that happened was Lucy, an eight-week-old tabby, dug its claws into Camilla's jacket and refused to let go.

The incident took place during a visit to the Battersea Dog’s Home.
When the royal walked into a socialising area for the cats and saw four kittens she said ''Ah sweet, is this the whole family here?'' and began mothering them and picked them up.

The playful kitten was held against the Duchess' chest then began disappearing behind her neck and as Camilla tried to prise Lucy free she dug her claws in prompting the royal to say ''I think she's attached to my collar''.

Gah! No screams and not a drop of blood to be had. Damn I feel cheated! Ah well If a cat can look at a king it can surely stick its claws into a duchess!

29 October 2010

Photo Hunt - Dark

The theme for the week's Photo Hunt is dark. This photo may have blurred but does it reveal the darkness that lies beneath...

FTSE 100 Bosses say “Fuck austerity”

Britain has a shaky economy (okay the last stats were better than expected but let’s see what happens as the State contracts massively) high levels of unemployment with far more to come, an economy) and all around belt tightening. After all the Government are saying we are all in it together.

But perhaps someone should tell that to the heads and directors of the FTSE 100 companies who act as if austerity is just for little people. Yesterday’s Guardian reported on research undertaken by Income Data Services which indicated that boardroom pay rose by 55% over the last year when bonuses and share options are taken into account.

Incomes Data Services, who conducted the research, said bonuses paid to directors of FTSE 100 companies increased by 34%, while basic pay rose by 3.6%. The amount of money waiting to be disgorged from long-term incentive schemes soared by 73%, to a total of £259m, and share option gains leapt by 90%.

Steve Tatton of IDS said the report suggested that companies returned to "business as usual" once the recession ended. "It seems the days of earnings restraint were short-lived. It is as though the recession never happened," Tatton warned. "This time last year a number of companies actually reduced their bonus ceilings. Twelve months later it appears as if these measures have been reversed, with around 40 companies reporting higher bonus scheme maxima," he added.

The average FTSE 100 chief executive now earns £4.9m a year.

Now how many of these august men and women have backed the Government’s assault on the poorest and most vulnerable.

To rephrase a quote misattributed to Marie Antoinette their attitude is clearly a case of” Let them eat shit”

Tidy this sofa, slovenly scum

Boris is not pleased at the amount of stuff I leave on the sofa as it impedes some quality stretching

28 October 2010

My new career will not be plumbing

As luck would have it the toilet stopped wanting to flush just as I have the time actually to attend to it promptly (and not in a few weeks or months as is my usual timescale). The diagnosis was quite simple thanks to the internet. The diaphragm on the siphon was damaged

So off I trot to B&Q for a new siphon. I manage to find the plumbing aisle withing 15 minutes of looking and I manage to pay for it using one of those satanic self check out things, even though it initially rejected every single note I had on me.

After much swearing and wd40, the cistern was detached, the old siphon removed, the new one hammered into place and the cistern replaced )Note to self. Hell will freeze over if I ever use one of those blue blocks again. They form a vile sludge at the bottom of the cistern and it will be ages before I can remove the bloody stains off my hands!).

Surprisingly the not-wife is pleased that I at least tried and stuck wit it...

All would have been well had I not forgotten to replace the big rubber uberwasher thingy that seals the gap between the cistern and the business part of the toilet so off it all came again. This time I had the bright Idea of emptying the cistern more speedily if I undid the overflow pipe. This would have worked I hadn't damaged the seal creating a nice steady leak around the pipe....

So back to B&Q and a new overflow pipe set was purchased which I managed to re fit with some cursing and after three goes I have a toilet that flushes and doesn't spill water onto the bathroom floor .

Somehow I think I can put plumbing on to the list of new career path along with gigolo (except for short sigted women or bears how have lost all self respect), proffesional footballer, prima ballerina and Secretary General of the UN....

sunne in splendour again

Another autumn day in the garden

27 October 2010

El Fansafetee

The Telegraph carries a story regarding the Spanish police’s genuine concern for the safety of prostitutes who tout for customers on a rural highway outside Els Alamus near Lleida in Catalonia.

The girls have been told to don the yellow fluorescent bibs or pay fines of 40 euros (£36) under road traffic laws.

Police claim the sex workers on the LL-11 road are not being specifically targeted because of what they do but because they posed a danger to drivers. The women are in breach of 2004 law which states pedestrians on major highways and hard shoulders must wear the high visibility garments.

A spokesman for the regional police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra said: "In the past couple of months the prostitutes have been fined for two reasons: for not wearing the reflective jacket and for creating danger on the public highway."

Well there you have it….. Personally I think it is utterly commendable to consider the safety, not only of the girls but of other road users too.

Ghost Poppy III

26 October 2010

Cleggawber says to councils “Please don’t sack people so fast – something will turn up”

Nick Clegg on walkabout

Despite the fact that councils are to face huge spending cuts over the next few years, the Government is advising local authorites not to be too hasty in making compulsory redundancies over fears that local authorities are moving prematurely to sack staff.

According to the Guardian the Local Government Association said this week that around 100,000 local government jobs would be lost as a result of the comprehensive spending review.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said: "How local authorities are anticipating these cuts is wildly different from one place to the next. Sheffield City Council is making massive efforts to deal with a very tight settlement and minimise enforced redundancies. Go to other places and you get a reaction that 'it's all the government's fault and I'm going to reach for the redundancy notice'.

"What we need to do is to play our part in central government, to try and show local authorities and others that they shouldn't immediately start issuing redundancy notices for savings that they can phase in over four years and where, through voluntary redundancies, natural wastage and so on, maybe the pressure isn't quite as great as they initially think it to be."

Maybe the pressure is not as great as it could be? It sounds as if Clegg is emulating Mr Micawber with the view that something will turn up,. Local councils facing huge cuts have little option but to shed staff and in huge numbers.

Perhaps Cleggawber was thinking of another quote form the same character:

Welcome poverty!..Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end!

Mutual confidence that Clegg has the Ministerial car and the trappings of office until his party faces meltdown in a few years time

A small indication of ministerial attitudes

Not long after the current shower took power the new ministers issued new guidelines on submissions in my former department.

One of the things that struck me about their attitude to public servants was to require that submissions sent to them should not be addressed to them in person but to their titles. This was a change from the previous administration.

Clearly being elevated to the position of a Secretary, Minister or Parliamentary Under Secretary of Stater meant that they were now among the exalted; far too (self) important to be adressed by something as mundane as their real names.

Arrogant pricks

A second poppy ghost

25 October 2010

The Ghost of a poppy

A late and hardy poppy in bloom today. And there are more to come given the number of buds

Iain Duncan-Smith is a ……

It says something about Cameron that he wishes to prune what he sees as dead wood from the public sector. And yet he finds it in his heart to provide comfortable employment for two particularly useless Tpry party leaders in his cabinet. One is William Hague who was so effective at leader that he managed to advance the party’s standing by just one whole seat in the 2001 election. He is now Foreign Secretary

The other former leader, Iain Duncan-Smith, was so useless that the tories did not dare even let him lead the party into a general election - so bad that even the odious Michael Howard was seen as preferable.

Cameron has rewarded Duncan-Smith’s utter uselessness by making him Work and Pensions secretary. Last week he decided to emulate a previous Chingford MP by sounding macho abut the unemployed…

Last week he said last week that Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales was an example of a place where people had become "static" and did not know that if they got on the bus they would be in Cardiff an hour later, and could look for work there. "We need to recognise the jobs often don't come to you. Sometimes you need to go to the jobs,"

Today’s Guardian states that Research by the Public and Commercial Services union while there were 1,670 unemployed people and 39 job vacancies in Merthyr, all temporary and part-time. The equates to 42.8 unemployed persons per Mcjob. In Cardiff the position is better but with 15,000 people in Cardiff chasing 1,700 jobs (8.8 persons per job).

The vast majority of vacancies in Cardiff were temporary and part-time, mainly unskilled labouring, for just one or three weeks' duration.

Among the permanent jobs was work in a casino or bars. Neither offered help with journeys home afterwards and the last bus out of Cardiff leaves at 11.06pm, the union pointed out. "Workers from outside the city might be able to get the bus to work, but they would not be able to get home," said a spokesman.
"These figures prove it is not a question of people not being willing to work, there simply are not enough jobs for them to do – and there are unlikely to be any time soon because of the government's plans to cut public spending, including cutting 15,000 more jobs in the Department for Work and Pensions."

Duncan Smith said on Friday after the union criticism of his comments: "The unions are showing themselves to be totally out of touch with reality with these pathetic remarks. They seem to be suggesting that anyone who commutes to work is somehow doing the wrong thing.

"I would suggest they apologise and recognise that ordinary, decent people want to improve their lives and do the right thing for their families and so value work and get on the bus."

It’s one thing to go out and look for work but if there are no jobs (or the jobs are impractical like the casino ones) The PCS also noted that there are fewer jobs available in the whole of Wales than there are unemployed persons in Merthyr and Blaenau Gwent. Some may be able to get out to other parts of the country but many, for a variety of perfectly good reasons, simply cannot do that.

If there is a dearth of jobs now I shudder to think what the situation will be like as the public sector sheds staff

But back to Duncan-Smith. It did not matter to him that his comment was crass given the dearth of work in Cardiff. But why should he give a damn? I doubt the man has any real concern for the people who rely on welfare through no fault of their own. Far more important to be seen to be hard on the vulnerable

the floating train seat

The commuter is oblivious to the terror that lurks behind....

24 October 2010

Israel delivers crushing blow to Iran

Tensions in the Middle East could lead to war at any time but perhaps there is an alternative to military conflict.

According to the Washington Post an Israeli has broken the record for most simultaneous games of chess played by an individual on Friday, seizing the title from a chess master from Iran.

Alik Gershon played 523 people, moving from board to board in a Tel Aviv plaza. He started Thursday and finished overnight, winning 454 of the matches, losing 11 and drawing in 58.

The previous record was set last year by Iranian champ Morteza Mahjoob, who played 500 opponents at the same time in a Tehran arena.

The new record holder acknowledged the tensions between the countries. "Hopefully this is the only war we are going to have with this enemy, ever," Gershon said.

This is not the only Guinness title to be drawn into Mideast politics.
Israel has a long-running competition with Lebanon over who can make the world's biggest plate of hummus, which is seen as a national dish in both countries.

The record has changed hands several times. Lebanon is the current holder, after making a 10-metric-ton plate of the chickpea dip earlier this year.

Palestinians have also tried to set Guinness records Children in the Gaza Strip now hold records for the most people simultaneously flying kites and dribbling basketballs: 3,000 and 7,000, respectively.

If only conflicts could be settled this way. I like the idea of warring sides lining up against each other and going for world records. I doubt that anyone would begrudge the Iranian Revolutionary Guards going for the synchronised stuffing ferrets down the trousers record!

Perhaps the competition element could be widened with the leaders of nations in conflict should be brought to the United Nations HQ and, given a horse collar and told to gurn. The General Assembly can then vote on the winner…


An Anglo-Saxon Hospital?

According to the Indy archaeologists have uncovered what may be the site of Britain's earliest hospital.

Radio carbon analysis at the former Leper Hospital at St Mary Magdalen in Winchester has provided a date range of AD 960-1030 for a series of burials, many showing evidence of leprosy, on the site.

A number of other artefacts, pits, and postholes also relate to the same time, including what appears to be a large sunken structure underneath a medieval infirmary. Previously, most historians and archaeologists thought hospitals in Britain dated from after the Norman conquest of 1066.

Once again this is interesting stuff. I only wish I had something remotely witty to say at the end of this post...

23 October 2010

Not the Judean People's Front

Still a much loved scene from a much loved film

A last look at my former place of employment

I posted this in April. At the time I did not identify the building. It is a detail of the Home Office headquarters in 2 Marsham Street. It is part of Seacole Building taken from the corner of Marsham Street and Great Peter Street.

2 Marsham Street was where I worked since it opened in early 2005. As buildings go it was a pretty comfortable working environment but at the end of the day a business is not it's buildings but the people who work there.

I was fortunate in the main to work for some good people. My last team was a good and friendly bunch.I will miss working with them. They will have a hard time helping to make the cuts enforced by appalling spending review. I fear, as "back office" people it will hit them very hard.

I am relieved not to be part of that process.

22 October 2010

Twenty Five Yars

Last day

I've tied up as many lose ends as I possibly can, I've done my best to put down on paper a lot of stuff that I carried in my head; where I could make a difference I've left the budgets I advised on in reasonable shape (for this year anyway...).

Today I'll make my farewells to people, some of whom I've worked with for over 15 years, go for a farewell lunch with my unit and then I will hand my pass in and part company with a Department that has employed me for a few days short of 25 years. Then I'm off to the pub to celebrate with some of the others leaving tomorrow. The sad thing is that I'll be the sober one as I'm banned from alcohol thanks to methotrexate

And then? We shall see

On the blog front normal posting and visiting will resume in a day or so

21 October 2010

Bebe ponders my fate

There better be good cat food for us when you're dole scum, human

Fiday cat blogging is a little early this week

A New world order based on humanity and justice? Pah!

The more I see of Hugo Chavez and his international grandstanding, the more I loathe him. Now, according to a Washington Post report he and Ahmadinejad are united in efforts to establish a "new world order" that will eliminate Western dominance over global affairs.

Iran's state TV quoted Ahmadinejad as saying "Iran and Venezuela are united to establish a new world order based on humanity and justice,"

Much as I despise many of the actions Western nations have perpetrated and continue to perpetrate across the world, there is nothing that the vermin leading Iran have to offer to the world in terms of justice and humanity.

Clearly Chavez is far too blinkered in his hatred of the West to care that he cosies up with some of the most repressive scum around. Perhaps Venezuela would be better off without a fool like him.

20 October 2010

Jesus only two more days of work to go

It's only becoming a reality that come Friday afternoon I part company with my Department. I am part of a trickle going, in the coming years it will be a torrent. I have no faith in the government's "hopes" that the private sector will take up the slack, especially since hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs

Ah well, I intend to enjoy a few months of doing some of the things I've been putting off. I have a few photo ideas which I really do want to see if I can realise.

Jesus or a tooled up Dalek?

This wonderful simulacrum was reported in the Winston Salem Journal. It was discovered by Bill Johnson after a fallen cherry tree limb was cut up.

My first impression was of a Dalek who had replaced the standard armament with something rather more potent!

19 October 2010

Half a million public sector jobs to go.

Perhaps it was done accidentally on purpose or perhaps he is an idiot but Danny Alexander allowed two pages of tomorrow's spending review to be photographed as he left the Treasury building today. This is reported in the Guardian

From what can be read the coalition expects 490,000 public sector jobs to be lost by 2014-15 as a direct result of its spending cuts, Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, has

The document also proposes that public sector employers should try to strike deals to cut hours to reduce the level of redundancies.

The forecast is based on the estimate of the Office of Budget Responsibility, the new independent body set up by the coalition to publish independent forecasts on jobs, growth and borrowing.

It also says "Government will do everything they can to mitigate the impact of redundancies." This will be done by creating conditions for private sector growth, encouraging pay restraint and reduced hours and supporting employees facing redundancy so they can find work in the private sector.

The government hopes that the private sector will keep its promise to take up the slack in the labour market caused by the large shedding of public sector jobs.

HOPES that the private sector will take up the slack? What about the hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs that will also go as a consequence of these cutbacks? These cuts seriously risk throwing the UK into a double dip recession – Look at what’s happening in Ireland

These cuts have as much, if not more, to do with ideology rather than the deficit. I have just three days to go before I part company with the Civil Service. I know that this is a big risk and sooner or later I will have to find a new job in what is (to say the least) and depressed job market. But I don’t envy my colleagues who are facing three years looking over their shoulders to see if they are the next for the chop.

We will know the outcome of the Spending Review in all its horrors tomorrow.

Yew berry

Below decks at Trafalgar

The Temeraire meeting its ignominious end

I will freely admit that I have a fascination for the history of the Royal Navy, especially tits exploits during the wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. I can quite cheerfully devour naval histories by the (jolly)boatload!

Unsurprisingly, the great majority of contemporary accounts come from those who walked the quarterdeck rather than those who lived in the lower decks (midshipmen excluded). It is always good to read accounts from ordinary sailors

Today’s Guardian reports that eyewitness written by Robert Hope, a 28 year old sailmaker who served on the Temeraire

In a letter written to his brother John in Ashford he said:

What do you think of us Lads of the Sea now, I think they won't send their fleets out again in a hurry

Hope described how his ship engaged the Spanish four-decker Santissima Trinadad, alongside Nelson's flagship Victory, but was soon caught in a firestorm, surrounded by French ships.

When five more of the enemy's ships came upon us and engage us upon every quarter, for one hour and sixteen minutes, when one struck but being so closely engaged that we could not take possession of her at that time, two more seemed to be quite satisfied with what they had got so sheered off, but the other two was determined to board us. So with that intent, one dropt on our starboard side called the la Fue (Fougueux) and the other dropt on our larboard side called the Doubtable (Redoubtable), they kept a very hot fire for some time. But we soon cooled them for in the height of the smoke our men from the upper decks boarded them both at the same time, and soon carried the day.

Quintin Colville, curator of naval history at the Royal Maritime museum, said: "It instantly demolishes the cliched view of life below decks as villainous and ignorant – this man was obviously highly educated, and he gives a most vivid and lively description."
Colville says Hope would have joined a gun crew for the battle.
"The gun deck would have been a vile place, terrifying, deafening, highly dangerous, with great splinters flying from where the balls hit – we think of a splinter as something under your fingernail, but these could be chunks of wood two feet long that would disembowel a man."

We had forty three Killed and Eighty five wounded, and twenty seven drowned in the Prizes.

Counted when Smoke Cleared away Seventeen Prizes and one all on fire, but we have only got four into Gibraltar, for a Gale of wind came on the day following that we was obliged to scuttle them for they was so very leaky.

The letter ends with tender greetings to his sister and father:
… please to let him know that I am arrived in England for I long very much to hear from him.

The letter has remained in the family until now, treasured. It cost us a considerable amount of money, but it was worth every penny," Colville said. "This is such a rare thing, a voice from the lower decks. It will be very well used here – and eventually we hope to be able to flesh it out with a full biography of Robert Hope. We don't know what happened to him in the end yet, but he survived 21 October 1805”

Utterly fascinating stuff!

18 October 2010

Dead cephalaria bloom

But I'll be back next year!

Homer is catholic - Official!

While the Church of the Latter Day Saints cheerfully claims the dead retrospectively by baptising them into their church, I’ not sure that it has ever gone as far as claiming a cartoon character as on of its own.

But it would seem that the Catholic Church considers Homer Simpson to be a good catholic boy… According to the Telegraph the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's daily paper, caries an article headlined "Homer and Bart are Catholics:

"The Simpsons are among the few TV programmes for children in which Christian faith, religion, and questions about God are recurrent themes," according to the article."The family "recites prayers before meals and, in their own peculiar way, believes in the life thereafter".

It quoted an analysis by a Jesuit priest, Father Francesco Occhetta, of a 2005 episode of The Simpsons, The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star, which revolved around Catholicism and was aired a few weeks after the death of Pope John Paul II.

The episode starts with Bart being expelled from Springfield Elementary School and being enrolled in a Catholic school where he meets a sympathetic priest, voiced by the actor Liam Neeson, who draws him into Catholicism with his kindness.

Well there you go. I shudder to think what Fr Occhetta would have thought if he had seen the episode where Marge and Homer get addicted to sex in public places!

17 October 2010

A sublime pain index

QI is a wonderful tv programme which has intriduced me to so many fascinating facts and subjects, including .tmesis (an abso-bloody-lutely great word!), Little Titch, the Jumping Frenchmen of Maine or Thomas Midgley the scientist who gave the world CFCs and leaded petrol.

Last Friday the porgramme introduced me to entomologist Justin O Schidt who has devoted his life to cataloguing pain induced by insect stings. He has created the Schmidt pain index which ranks insect pain from 0 (little effect) to 4 (bloody awful!). As a good and conscientious scientist he has endured all the pain himself. What's better is his absolutely delightful descriptions of the pain?

Here is an extract published on Wikipedia:

* 1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.

* 1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.

* 1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.

* 2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.

* 2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.

* 2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.

* 3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.

* 3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.

* 4.0 Pepsis wasp: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.

* 4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.

I doubt there is a scale that describes its subjects in such a glorious way! Justin O Schmidt is truly a scientist among scientists!

Trafalgar - THE TRUTH!

The 205th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar is on Thursday. It is truly one of the highest points in the Royal Navy's long and rich history.

The Battle of Trafalgar was a crushing victory. Under the command of Lord Nelson (supported ablu by Sir Cuthbert Collingwood and the Earl of Northesk) 33 Royal Navy vessels (of which 27 were ships of the line) took on 41 French and Spanish ships (of which 33 were ships of the line). 22 French and Spanish vessels were captured or destroyed; no Royal Navy vessel was lost.

I was therefore rather perturbed to find this item while looking through the Napoleonic Guide. Apparently the article was originally published in the French newspaper Le Moniteur. Clearly this turns our perception of the battle on its head!

The English fleet is annihilated - Nelson is no more. Indignant at being inactive in Port... Admirals Villeneuve and Gravina resolved to put to sea and give the English a fight... Nelson did everything to avoid a battle, he attempted to enter the Mediterranean, but we chased him, and caught him off Trafalgar. The French and Spaniards vied with each other to get into action first. Admiral's Villeneuve and Gravina were both anxious to lay their ships alongside the Victory, the English Admiral's ship... In vain did the English Admiral try to avoid action but the Spanish Admiral Oliva prevented his escape, and lashed his vessel to the English flagship. The English ship was one of 186 guns; the Santissima Trinidad was but a 74.....

... We fought yard-arm to yard-arm, gun to gun. Three hours did we fight in this manner, the English began to be dismayed... two ships, one French and one Spanish, boarded the Temeraire....We rushed to the flag-staff and struck their colours...

Meanwhile Nelson still resisted. It was now a race to see who should first board and have the honour of taking him; French or Spanish. Two Admirals on each side disputed the honour and boarded his ship at the same moment.... Villeneuve flew on to the quarter-deck and with the usual generosity of the French, he carried a brace of pistols in his hands. He knew the Admiral had lost his arm, and could not use his sword so he offered a pistol to Nelson, they fought, and at the second shot Nelson fell... Meanwhile 15 English ships of the line had struck, four more were obliged to follow their example and another blew up. - Our victory was now complete, and we prepared to take possession of our prizes, but the elements were by this time unfavourable to us and a dreadful storm came on.

....At length when the gale ceased, 13 of the French & Spanish line returned safely to Cadiz; the other 20 have, no doubt, gone to some other ports and will soon be reported. We shall repair our damage as speedily as possible and then go again in pursuit of the enemy, and afford them more proof of our determination to wrest from them the Empire of the Seas, and to comply with his Imperial Majesty's demand of Ships, Colonies and Commerce.

Our loss was trifling while that of the English was immense... Having acquired so decisive a victory we wait with impatience the Emperor's order to sail to the enemies shore, destroy the rest of his navy, and thus complete the triumphant work we have so brilliantly begun.

Well there you have it –everything we believed about Trafalgar is obviously wrong!.

To be honest I thought this report was hilarious, especially the crap about the duel between Nelson and Villeneuve!

16 October 2010

Some Radio Birdman

One of many underrated Aussie bands from the 70s and 80s

Some more Jack or Jive

When my settlement comes in I think I will treat myself to a chunk of Jack or Jive's back catalogue.

Rinderpest no more

It’s been 30 year since smallpox has been eradicated from the face of the earth, Although polio has been on the brink of eradication for some time and dracunuliasis is not far off, the UN reported last week that it is now confident that a second disease is now no more.

The disease in question is then cattle disease rinderpest.

Rinderpest was once prevalent in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. When the disease arrived in Africa at the end of the nineteenth century between 80% and 90% of cattle and buffalo on the continent were killed.

The eradication of the virus has been described as the biggest achievement in veterinary history and one which will save the lives and livelihoods of millions of the poorest people in the world.

Dr John Anderson from the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) at Pirbright, UK, who has been involved with the eradication programme, said: "For too long people have been involved in controlling diseases and not actually dreaming that it is possible to eradicate a disease from the world. And with Rinderpest we did."

The latest FAO progress report on the rinderpest eradication programme said: "As of mid 2010, FAO is confident that the rinderpest virus has been eliminated from Europe, Asia, Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, and Africa."
These are the regions afflicted by the viral disease in the recent past.

Dr Anderson and his colleagues at the IAH helped develop a simple way to test cattle to see if they had the disease. The test, which was developed with the support of the UK's Department for International Development, was designed to be used by local people in the field and to give reliable results within minutes. It proved highly effective and the technology has been rolled out across Africa.

This was particularly important in the later stages of the programme when pockets of the virus remained in war-torn areas of southern Sudan and Somalia. Experts, he said, would train locals - so called 'barefoot vets' - to recognise the disease and administer vaccines. They would work with nomadic tribesmen in the regions and vaccinate herds "on the move".
Rinderpest is one of the most lethal cattle diseases known to science.

Typically, seven out of 10 cattle infected with the disease would die. But in the 1960s, veterinary scientist Walter Plowright developed a workable vaccine, allowing the disease to be brought under control. But to begin with there was little to no co-ordination. Individual countries and groups of countries would attempt to vaccinate cattle, suppressing the disease for a while. But it would then re-appear.

Progress was only made once large unified projects were established to tackle the disease.

"It's an enormously important achievement because it highlights what can be done by people working together," Dr Baron said "It has also taken a disease which has been a huge threat to the livelihood of people and removed it."

A formal announcement on the eradication of rinderpest is expected to be made by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) next year.

This is excellent news. It goes to show what can be done when people have the will,

14 October 2010

A bit more Hawkwind

Lighter posting for a week or so

I am heading fast towards not being a civil servant anymore. Quite a few colleagues are heading fast towards the same situation. We decided to leave of our own accord with a reasonable settlement (but nothing like the figures touted by lazy hacks) rather than be part of the impending cull where the settlement will be a lot worse.

Needless to say I have a lot of loose ends to tie.

To be honest it's only now that the reality of my decision is hitting home. I don't regret the decision but still....

Ah well roll on signing on (for the NI credits), relearning how to write a cv, brushing up on some rusty skills and more time (for a while anyway) for photography....

13 October 2010

Tory supporters on a porn spree in May?

Now here is something that never occurred to me, but then I am not involved in scientific research.

According to an item AOL News there is a hypothesis (the Challenge Hypothesis) that indicates testosterone levels rise when someone wins something and also when someone has a vicarious sense of victory (he says , rather me says, mangling a hypothesis that deals with far more than just this!)

Patrick and Charlotte Markey wanted to test the hypothesis in a new way and certainly found one.

According to the abstract of their paper in Evolution and Human Behavior “Changes in pornography-seeking behaviors following political elections: an examination of the challenge hypothesis” it would seem that supporters of the winning party in an election access more porn that the loser. The study examined:

whether or not individuals who vicariously win a competition seek out pornography relatively more often than individuals who vicariously lose a competition. By examining a portion of Google keyword searches during the 2004, 2006 and 2008 US election cycles, the relative popularity of online pornography keywords searches was computed for each state and the District of Columbia the week before and the week after each election. Consistent with the Challenge Hypothesis, following all three election cycles, individuals located in states voting for the winning political party tended to search for pornography keywords relatively more often than individuals residing in states voting for the losing political party.”

However, Markey concedes that he can't say for sure that the Challenge Hypothesis is causing the uptick in porn clicks. It could be that people are just happier following an election and need a, um, release. But the Markeys' study cites another which shows that people don't have more sex when they're happy. If anything, they have more sex when they're sad, as a means to become happy.

Patrick Markey plans to test his idea again after November, after the US mid-terms elections

Hmm I wonder if hordes of Tory supporters went online to search hard for the full frontal photos taken of Margaret Thatcher just after the 1987 erection (Sorry I shouldn’t be rude about the late Denis T). Lib Dem voters almost certainly searched high and low for the near mythical David Penhalagon/ Jo Grimmond fisting photos…

…Perhaps I need a life….

One thing is for sure, it would be a travesty if the Markeys do not get an IgNobel for this fine work


12 October 2010

Some dogs see the doughnut; others see the hole!

According to the Guardian scientists seem to have found that some dogs have a more gloomy outlook on life than others. This finding comes from a study by Bristol University researchers into how dogs behave when separated from their owners.

Dogs that were generally calm when left alone were also found to have a "dog bowl half full" attitude to life, while those that barked, relieved themselves and destroyed furniture appeared to be more pessimistic, the study concluded. The more anxiously a dog behaved on being parted from its owner, the more gloomy its outlook appeared to be

Michael Mendl, the head of animal welfare and behaviour at the university, and his team studied 24 animals at two dog homes in the UK varying in age and bred.

They began the study by going to a room with each dog in turn and playing for 20 minutes. They returned the next day, but this time left the dog alone for five minutes, during which the scientists recorded the animal's behaviour with a video camera. The footage was used to give each dog an anxiety score.

A day or two later, the dogs were trained to walk over to a food bowl that was full when placed at one end of a room, and empty when placed at the other. When the dogs had learned the difference, the scientists tested the animals' underlying mood by placing bowls in ambiguous positions – in the middle of the room, for example – and noting how quickly each dog went to the bowl.

The dogs that had been most anxious in the earlier test were slowest to approach food bowls placed in or near the middle of the room, suggesting they expected to find the bowl empty. The less anxious dogs ran to the food bowls

Well there you have it. Are there dogs that really think the world is crap, rather than a bowl of cherries? I don’t know. I know that cats do not have the same issues – they know that their servants will provide a full bowl (or else!) and they don’t give a damn about being left alone

Kim Jong Cartman opposes DPRK dynasty

Kim Jong Cartman, sorry Kim Jong-nam is the oldest of Kim Jong_il’s sons. Aged 39, he lives with his wife and family in Macao, the former Portuguese colony. On a $500k per annum allowance.

Cartman was the the Dear Leader’s anointed successor until he blotted his copybook (rather he dipped the whole damn book in the ink!) in 2001 when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false Dominican Republic passport. He had, reportedly done so in order to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

According to today’s Telegraph it seems that he does not now approve of th North Korea’s hereditary principle which is grooming his 27-year-old half-brother Kim Jong-un to be the next leader.

"Personally I am opposed to the hereditary transfer to a third generation of the family," Jong-nam told Japan's Asahi TV Network in an interview conducted in Beijing on Saturday.

Although disapproving of the hereditary principle, Jong-nam, said he would continue to support his brother from afar, hinting that he had no plans to return home after his brother took power.

Little brother

"As a matter of course, I think it was my father who made the decision. As I have had no interest in the matter, I don't care at all," he said. "I hope my younger brother will do his best to make the lives of the North Korean people affluent. For my part, I am prepared to help my younger brother whenever necessary while I stay abroad."

Jong-nam also maintain a second property in Beijing and make visits to Bangkok and Moscow….

Mm is this a case of sour grapes? But perhaps the grapes are not so sour as to see his allowance cut off...

Shiva's Headband!

I have a version of this song on Texas Flashbacks, a six album set of 60's Texas garage bands. I never thought they would still be around!

11 October 2010

Mr Marr, Mr Pot and Mr Kettle

Yes I know I am far from being the first to blog this but I just couldn’t resist

Andrew Marr has taken a swipe at bloggers stating that "Most citizen journalism strikes me as nothing to do with journalism at all.”

He went on to say: "A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting. They are very angry people… OK – the country is full of very angry people. Many of us are angry people at times. Some of us are angry and drunk… But the so-called citizen journalism is the spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night”

But it’s not all bad: "It is fantastic at times but it is not going to replace journalism… Most of the blogging is too angry and too abusive. Terrible things are said online because they are anonymous. People say things online that they wouldn't dream of saying in person."

To be honest Marr is not too wide of the mark – a lot of blogs are ranting dross (or in the case of the Poor Mouth just dross!). But saying that a lot of bloggers are deficient in the pulchritude department is a bit rich Mr Marr!

Mr Pot and Mr Kettle?

A Banksy take on the Simpsons

Banksy reworks the Simpsons intro in a typically subversive manner. Make of it what you will!

10 October 2010

China celebrates Liu Xiaobo Nobel Prize with arrests and error messages

There is no doubt that Jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace prize – far more worthy than, many previous laureates. Needless to say the Chinese authorities were not best pleased.

There is little prospect of his being released from prison but now, according to the Globe and Mail, his wife, Liu Xia, has been placed under house arrest having been allowed to visit him over the weekend to tell him he was now a Nobel laureate, she is also prevented from using her mobile phone….

But not prevented from using Twitter…. “I’m under house arrest. I don’t know when I can meet you guys. My mobile phone was broken and I have no way to take calls,”
Many Chinese likely still have no idea that Mr. Liu has become the country’s first resident Nobel laureate. Those Chinese media that did make mention of the award ran only a small article from the official Xinhua news wire that quoted a foreign ministry official saying the award could hurt ties between Beijing and Oslo.

In a sign of how anxious Beijing is to prevent any public rallying around Mr. Liu’s award, police broke up two small gatherings of dissidents who had hoped to celebrate Mr. Liu’s victory over the weekend.

Nonetheless, news of Mr. Liu’s win – and the contents of Charter 08 – continued to spread online among China’s 420 million Internet users. Though search terms such as “Liu Xiaobo” and “Nobel Peace Prize” return only error messages, some Chinese internet users bravely reposted the contents of the Charter 08 for others to read.

“The government will certainly try all means to block [the news of Mr. Liu’s win], but we are in the Internet age, so it is impossible to block it completely,” said Wen Kejian, a Hangzhou-based writer who was among the first to sign Charter 08 when it was published in December 2008. “The Nobel Prize will surely help more people read and know what Liu has done, and to hear about Charter 08.”

I will add no glib comment to this article

Another bloody outing for Spirit of the Age

This time live in Ostrava in 2008

09 October 2010

Tory policies on health and poverty revealed


BBC News 24 is reporting that the rescue of the miners trapped in the San Jose mine could be just days away now.

Rescuers have now drilled through to the chamber where the miners are trapped. According to the BBC the timing of the rescue now depends on whether the shaft needs to be lined before the men can be brought to the surface.

The mine owners will have a lot of hard questions to answer when the dust settles, so to speak.. (and a huge lawsuit), but in the meantime here's hoping that the ordeal of these brave men is over soon

08 October 2010

Photo hunt - stripes

he theme for the week's Photo Hunt is stripes. Here is a stretch on the theme. The photo was taken two years ago in Kerry in Ireland. If not quite striped the land is striated.

Boris - the grounding continues

We thought that keeping Boris in in the evening would cure him of his excursions to see Izzy the Mastiff (the crossing of a busy road being the issue, not his affection for a huge dog)... WRONG!

All he did was head out later and wait for Izzy's late evening walk. Now he's grounded at night too. Hopefully he will forget about long trips or perhaps a love that dare not purr its name will find a way yet....

07 October 2010

Jesus in me... again

A woman in Greer, South Carolina found this simulacrum in an MRI scan.

Ach I'm not even feeling up to making a cheap joke about it... bloody methotrexate!

Congratulations to Mario Vargas Llosa

It's good to see that one of my favourite authors has been awarded this year's Nobel prize for literature.

I would rate The War at the End of the World and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter among my favourite novels.I am very fond of many other of his works too.

It was a delight for me in 1988 o 89 when working the passport controls at Heathrow's Terminal 3 to have him come to my desk.... One of those "I'm not worthy" moments!

As for politics? A polite agreement to differ is order....


05 October 2010

Andre Geim, a true star of science

This year’s Nobel physics prize goes to Russians Andre Geim and Konstantin. Novoselov for their "groundbreaking" work on graphene, a material with amazing properties.

Graphene is a flat sheet of carbon just one atom thick; it is almost completely transparent, but also extremely strong and a good conductor of electricity. Its unique properties mean it could have a wide array of practical uses.

The researchers, along with several collaborators, were the first to isolate the layers of carbon from the material graphite, The breakthrough could lead to the manufacture of innovative electronics, including faster computers, according to the Nobel Prize Foundation.

Dr Novoselov, 36, holds British and Russian citizenship and is the youngest Nobel laureate in nearly 40 years. They first worked together in the Netherlands before moving to the UK. They were based at the University of Manchester when they published their research on graphene in October 2004.

But there's more...

Geim is one of a tiny handful of scientists who have won both a Nobel and an Ig Nobel prize.

Ten years ago, he and Sir Michael Berry from the University of Bristol were jointly awarded an Ig Nobel prize for their experiments using magnetic fields to levitate live frogs.

A Nobel and an Ig Nobel? Surely Geim is one of science’s true heroes. Move over Newton, Einstein et al, we have a new star n the firmament!

Further Echinops decline

Sanctions? Felt Nowt!

AFP reports that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has challenged the West to put more pressure on Iran, which he said would fail to make any impact on the Islamic republic or its atomic programme.

In an address in the northeastern province of Golestan, he said that during last month’s US visit people there "were insisting that the sanctions have affected us."

"And I, on your behalf, insisted and told them 'The sanctions have had no effect, and whatever the heck you want to do in the next two years, do it now so we see what you are capable of',"

Is that what he wants? Okay then that’s what he should have… He will almost certainly end up eating his words!

04 October 2010

And now a new British Nobel laureate

After British triumphs at the Ig Nobels it has been announced that physiologist Professor Robert Edwards has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on in vitro fertilisation.

He, and the late Dr Patrick Steptoe developed IVF technology in which egg cells are fertilised outside the body and implanted in the womb.

The groundbreaking work led to the birth of the world's first test tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1978.

Louise Brown as a baby

Mike Macnamee, chief executive of Bourn Hall, near Cambridge, the IVF clinic which Prof Edwards founded, said: ''Bob Edwards is one of our greatest scientists. His inspirational work in the early '60s led to a breakthrough that has enhanced the lives of millions of people worldwide.

''Bob Edwards is held in great affection by everyone that has worked with him and was treated by him. I am really pleased that my great mentor, colleague and friend has been recognised in this way.''

One of his proudest moments was discovering that 1,000 IVF babies had been born at Bourn Hall since Louise Brown.

A spokeswoman for Prof Edwards said he was not well enough to give interviews.

A hearty congratulation to a man whose work has brought joy to many thousands. I hope that he is well enough to accept his prize.

Echinops as the seeds blow away

A pretty Sunflower

03 October 2010

A million little blows against the empire?

I am not a big reader of the comments sections of any paper – In the main they are a collection of crass articles with even crasser comments aimed a angrying up my blood as Grandpa Simpson would say.

That said I did see an article in the Guardian’s Comment is Free section that did pique my interest. It was written by Saeed Kamali Dehghan and titled Iran and the power of small acts of resistance

The article takes its cites a recently published book by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson: Small Acts of Resistance: How a Bit of Courage, Tenacity and Ingenuity Can Change the World which Denhghan describes as “ an admirable collection of well-chosen, and sometimes under-reported tales of resistance from different countries around the world, including my own home country, Iran.”

I feel a purchase coming on. It sounds like an interesting read But can little acts of resistance work? Can you bring down a brutal regime peacefully?

My initial thought is that in themselves small acts, be it crying Allahu Akbar from a rooftop and such, are not going to bring down a brutal regime but they can certainly help galvanise dissent towards the formation of a larger and wider movement. That may well be a trite view of course!

I have ordered copy now. It may give some food for thought for some less drivelsome posts here... Perhaps time to look back at a protest dear to my heart, that of the Rosenstrasse women and others too…

The authors of the book apparently say: "Some people are ... brave or deluded enough to believe that change is achievable, if enough people only believe that it can be achieved. They think change is worth taking risks for – even when there is no certainty of the outcome. Those are the people who have made extraordinary change possible in the past"

It would be nice to think that this could be applied universally... Perhaps it can

More Jack or Jive

As with last night's post this is from their album Kenka. Having finally remembered my spotify account details I've been giving this album a listen and I certainly feel a purchase coming on! If their other albums are as good then other purchases will surely follow!

It makes you proud to be British

Education and research in Britain may be under threat but it is heartening to see that our research can still cut it with the world’s best

It is with absolute pride that I can report that Britain has proved its supremacy in scientific research after landing no less than FOUR awards at the annual Ig Nobel awards ceremony at Harvard University.

Researchers from across the UK were honoured for achievements that included proof that swearing relieves pain, a means of collecting whale snot with a remote-controlled helicopter and the first documented case of fellatio in fruit bats.

The ceremony, hosted by the Harvard-based journal Annals of Improbable Research, took place last night with the much-coveted prizes handed out by real Nobel laureates. Recipients were allowed a maximum of 60 seconds to deliver their acceptance speech, a time limit enforced by an eight-year-old girl
Commenting on the strong showing of UK scientists this year, Marc Abrahams, the master of ceremonies, told the Guardian: "The nation may agonise over its place in the world, but in this one thing at least, Britannia rules."

Please be upstanding for the playing of Barwick Green, the TRUE National Anthem as we celebrate these Ig Nobel triumphs

Biology prize

A description of the sexual antics of the short-nosed fruit bat earned the award for Gareth Jones at Bristol University and collaborators in China. The team showed that females who performed oral sex on their mates copulated for longer. "It is the first documented case of fellatio by adult animals other than humans to my knowledge, and opens questions about whether female animals can manipulate males via sexual activity, perhaps in this case to improve their chances of successful fertilisation," Jones told the Guardian. He planned to demonstrate the behaviour at the ceremony using puppets.

Peace prize

Awarded to psychologist Richard Stephens and others at Keele University for confirming that swearing relieves pain. Stephens, who began the study after striking his thumb with a hammer, found volunteers could tolerate more pain if they repeated swearwords rather than neutral words. He suspects that "swearing induces a fight-or-flight response and nullifies the link between fear of pain and pain perception".

Engineering prize

The task of monitoring dangerous bugs in whales at sea is a formidable one. Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and others at the Institute of Zoology in London developed a way to collect fluids ejected from whales' blowholes by attaching petri dishes to the underside of small, remote-controlled helicopters and hovering them overhead.

Transportation prize

Working with Japanese scientists, Mark Fricker and Dan Bebber at Oxford University used slime mould to model an effective railway network. In the experiment, cities were represented by porridge oats that were linked to one another as the slime mould grew. "The Ig Nobel awards are great. They are a wonderful vehicle for putting some science into the public domain in a fun and interesting way," said Fricker.

The other winners Iand we salute these too!) were:

Medicine prize

Psychologists Simon Rietveld and Ilja van Beest at the University of Amsterdam share the award for discovering that breathing difficulties brought on by asthma can be alleviated by repeated rollercoaster rides.

Physics prize

Awarded to Lianne Parkin and her team at the University of Otago in New Zealand for demonstrating that people are less likely to slip over on icy footpaths if they wear their socks outside their shoes instead of inside.

Management prize

To Alessandro Pluchino and team at the University of Catania for demonstrating mathematically that companies work more efficiently if staff are promoted at random.

Public health prize

Awarded to Manuel Barbeito at the Industrial Health and Safety Office in Maryland for scientific studies that found microbes cling to beards, making more hirsute men a potential laboratory hazard.

Chemistry prize

For research in 2005 that overturned the long-held belief that oil and water do not mix, the prize was awarded to Eric Adams at MIT and others, including researchers at BP.

Economics prize

Awarded jointly to the executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, AIG and Magnetar for "creating and promoting new ways to invest money – ways that maximise financial gain and minimise financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof."