Thursday, 29 December 2005

Blair and Straw and torture

Tim Ireland has set a new challenge on his "Bloggerheads" blog.
What is the biggest and/or boldest lie Tony Blair or Jack Straw has told regarding their use, awareness and/or tolerance of torture?
This draws mainly on the documents produced by Craig Murray, previously Ambassador to the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan and now a writer and broadcaster. The gvernment has been trying to gag Murray, particularly over the documents which you can read by following the link above. Interestingly the site asks that everyone copies the documents to their own site. At first vew this contradicts the idea that on the web we would link rather than duplicating material but in this instance the proliferation of these documents is a form of mass defence.

Tuesday, 27 December 2005

Going down in flames...........

No it's not the old joke about the French WWI flyer (I will not tell that joke on this blog!) but it's an Open Source Flight Sim, yup a fully sorted flight simulator for the PC that's available free on the Internet. It's a weighty download at +85Mb but it's fun - I've mastered take off and flying about a bit but ultimately I end up spread across the Californian landscape. It is able to download landscape details, airports and the weather in real time while you are flying and the planes available range from the Wright Brothers Flyer to a UFO as well as the Cessna that most people start real lessons in, the F16 and Boeing 737. Loads more to download including Concorde, Spitfire and Hurricane.

I'll not large this app up any more suffice to say that the link is
here - enjoy!

Slack blogging

Another photo of the village with snow - saves me waking my drowsy brain to think of something incisive or interesting to say.

Oh, one thing - I treated myself to "Return of the champions - Queen + Paul Rodgers" and watched it today. While Paul Rodgers isn't Freddie he can belt out a tune and they bung in some of his own stuff too. Damn fine stuff and the old Queen classics are given a "rockier" feel.

A photo of the Christmas tree outside The Mermaid, taken today - still some snow on the roof!

Some science

A study conducted by UCLA's Department of Psychiatry has revealed that the kind of face a woman finds attractive can differ depending on where she is in her menstrual cycle.

For instance, the study found that if she is ovulating, she is attracted to men with rugged and masculine features. However, if she is menstruating, or menopausal, she is more prone to be attracted to a man with scissors lodged in his temple and a cricket bat jammed up his bum while he is on fire.

Further studies are expected.

Monday, 26 December 2005

Weather update

The heavy rain earlier this evening has turned to snow, it's lying on the lawn but not on the road yet. Sitting here I can hear it hitting the fire. The forecast is for heavy snow tomorrow and snow showers Wednesday and Thursday so it should be fun! I have 4 litres of milk, plenty of veg and meat and more booze than you could shake a stick at. Those not getting their own snow can click here to make a snow flake!

Turkey update

Well it seemed to work well - the turkey was certainly not as dry as others I've cooked. I've started the washing up - there's still plenty to do if anyone fancies helping out. Loads of lovely presents and some quality time with my family, difficult to know what more anyone could want really. Snow threatened for this week but I have enough food to survive a nuclear winter so it shouldn't be a problem.

I hope everyone got what they wanted :-)

Saturday, 24 December 2005

In case anyone wondered...

The turkey is in the bucket :-)

Merry Christmas!

And if you live in a country that doesn't know what Stella Artois's better than Budweiser from AB :-)


Not stopped being a Domestic Goddess today! All presents wrapped (except the one that hasn't been delivered - whoops!), Turkey soaking in brine (recipe here) - it's in a bucket in the kitchen hearth with a tray on top and a case of Stella on the tray to keep the damn thing submerged, veggy stuffing for pepper cooked (Jemma is a veggy), sprouts par boiled - they will be finished with chestnuts and cooked en papilotte, parsnips and sweet potatoes peeled - to be honey roast with rosemary, wine in the fridge, camera on charge, a litre of port waiting to be opened (when everyone else has gone!), loads of logs next to the fire, candles everywhere ready to be lit, new table cloth and napkins on the table, holly cut and branches round the house, decorations up, still loads of washing up to do but that's me for today.

Wherever you are in the world I wish you whatever you wish for yourself at Christmas and I hope you get what you want rather than what you deserve ;-)

Friday, 23 December 2005


Just received a Christmas card from abroad. It is addressed to:
Nigel Gibson
Within crawling distance of The Mermaid
and Barry (the postie) delivered it correctly!

Thursday, 22 December 2005

TBL's blog

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has started a blog! His first posting attracted 455 comments and was overwhelmed so comments have been turned off! Those who don't know who TBL is can check him out here on Wikipedia. In a nutshell, without his work we couldn't blog and we wouldn't have the WWW.

Not just me

I wasn't the only one singing carols last night.

The carol service in Parliment Square went ahead and raised £300 for charity and nobody was arrested. It seems that singing carols isn't a political demonstration and thus falls outside the act. Tim Ireland (the organiser) has a write up here with links to the BBC coverage and a piece in the Independent. Maya Evans, the woman convicted of breaching the act by reading the names of British soldiers killed in Iraq, was also there.

Mulled cider

Tonight I tried mulled cider - I may never go back! The stuff is available here, find Monks Mulling Cider. It's absolutely lovely and just so tasty. We had it heated to warm us after wassailing outside The Mermaid around the tree and it's restorative powers are such that I'm sure it would heal the common cold and any number of other afflictions. Those old enough to remember Lily the Pink's Medicinal Compound will know of what I speak.

Wednesday, 21 December 2005

Remember fisking?

The act of critically debating a posting. Well following the ID decision there has been a good deal of commentary from both sides and one pro-ID writer - a Mr Witt - has been firmly fisked at "Heaven is not the sky". This isn't a rant or a slagging (in the old fashioned use of the word) but a reasoned response which clearly draws on a detailed reading of the judge's 139 page decision. "The Questionable authority" draws together a range of sources responding to the lawsuit (that's where I got the other link) and The Panda's Thumb" has some good stuff too.

Before we get carried away with the idea that this is a US phenomenon -
BBC 2003 and also in 2004. I can't find any follow up to these stories but it seems probable that individual schools in the UK are also teaching creationism at least alongside evolution if not as the sole theory. The difference here is probably that LEAs don't control the curriculum and in independent schools (or academies) and faith schools there is more latitude for this type of teaching but the latter piece suggests that some teachers feel uncomfortable with it (but not, I'd guess, all). I don't know how much a school costs nowadays but if I could afford one the first rule would be no ManUre paraphanlia and we'd teach the truth about great Mancunian football teams :-)

Happy Solstice!

Today is the Winter Solstice (at about 18:30 GMT) . The winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun is at its lowest point in the sky, and the elevation at midday appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice.

Hence the origin of the word solstice, which comes from Latin solstitium, from sol, "sun" and -stitium, "a stoppage." Following the winter solstice, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter and those of us who feel happier with a little sun on our back will start cheering up. Pagan's celebrate Yule today, this is the origin of the Yule log which is ceremonially burnt today and should smolder for twelve days (Twelth Night ring a bell?) before a ceremony to extinguish the flame. Pope Gregory I told missionaries (590 - 604) that it would be easier to convert people to Chrstianity if they were allowed to retain their old festivals and the outward signs of paganism hence holly, mistletoe, mulled wine and so forth. These all played a part in celebrating the end of the old year (the Holly King) and welcoming the growth of the new year (the Oak King). If anyone wants to learn a little more about these links you could start here.

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Waving or drowning?

Oh dear, poor old (young actually) Ruth. We know she tried her very best but it wasn't really good enough was it? Even Beefy Prescott, and he's in her gang, wasn't a fan of her latest idea and now she's started laying down smoke and turning as fast as possible in the opposite direction.
She [also] admitted that her white paper lacked clarity, and that she was responsible for confusion over terminology describing trust schools as self-governing schools.

Battling to save her reforms from being thrown out by Labour backbenchers, she also argued that local authorities will be given new powers to inspect the admission arrangements of any expanding or new schools before they are given approval.
Oh dear, a fighting retreat it is then. Check out the Education Guardian for a blow by blow.

Following on from..........

....... the FSM card.
In Pennsylvania Judge John Jones has said (today, 21/12) that "intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes in the Dover school district. Judge Jones is pretty damning about the members of the school board who imposed ID on the schools.
"It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."
I don't for one moment think that this is the end of the debate but
"Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom,"
should mean that at least some children can learn science. Except, of course, it used to be unconstitutional for the NSA to bug US citizens without proper legal safeguards............

Monday, 19 December 2005

Sunday, 18 December 2005

Everyone should believe in something

And I believe I'll go and have a pint :-)

Some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over.........

"Nach kurzer Ruecksprache mit seinem russischen Linienrichter entschied der Schiedsrichter zum Tor fuer England"

Mit schoen Gruss und vielen dank nach Bluefluff! (With thanks also to Kenneth Wolstenholme, Tofik Bakhramov (the linesman), Geoff Hurst and the British Embassy in Berlin where the English:German football glossary is to be found)

Saturday, 17 December 2005

More of the same?

This came out during the week but I missed it.
The government wants Britain's national staying-on rate of 70%, one of the lowest in OECD countries, to rise to 90% by 2015 as part of a 10-year timetable during which 14 new diplomas, covering vocational subjects such as engineering, plumbing and healthcare, will be phased in.
Now Ofsted suggested that the problems with schools is that they are not supporting those with poor literacy or numeracy skills and I've already mentioned the money being thrown at those who leave school without these basics sorted out.
The full piece is here and it's not easy to see who, apart from the government, is actually supporting this move. From head teachers to the Chambers of Commerce nobody has a positive word for the proposals and the Head Teachers Association point out how difficult it would be to offer 14 new strands at all schools. Once again it looks as though government policy is "League Table" driven and with little regard for the delivery mechanisms, people engaged in actually working in schools, the employers or - it seems probable - the students. Of course it will be a political success because any failings will be due to the teachers and all the cash being injected will be the headline rather than the paucity of thought behind the spending.


I'm guessing that you don't all keep up with RFID news (radio frequency identification) so you might have missed the piece about the Swedish bank considering putting RFID tags in banknotes.

Am I the only one who finds this idea rather disturbing? Isn't it bad enough that we are captured on CCTV wherever we go? That we can be tracked by the signal from our mobile phones? Soon the banks - and anyone else who has access to this information - will not only know how much we have in our pocket but also where we spend our cash - they already know where we use our credit/debit cards.

Open invite - let's sing carols together!

Okay, up front - you know I can't be there as I will be elsewhere but I plan to suggest to the crew I'm with that we give at least some to the same charity.

You are cordially invited to a public carol service in Parliament Square at 6pm on Wednesday the 21st of December 2005.

Now boys and girls you should be aware that under Blair's socialist dictat it is likely that singing devotional songs is illegal and this is why that site carries the following disclaimer:
Please note that if you attend this carol service, it will classify as a spontaneous demonstration (of faith, hope, joy and/or religious tolerance) and there is a possibility that you will be cautioned or arrested under Section 132 of the Serious and Organised Crimes and Police Act 2005.
Orwell couldn't have made this up! Carol singers nicked under the Serious and Organised Crimes Act??? At least Maggie needed you to be trying to close a coal mine before she sic'd SO19* on you!

I am so tempted to skip the village stuff and head into town, in fact an arrest would be cheaper than getting a cab back! I also think that if I'm ever going to get arrested it really would be cool to get done for singing carols, my mum would be overjoyed (Heather - any thoughts?)

*For our non-UK based readers - SO19 are the armed response team from the Metropolitan Police (London). Most UK forces have armed response units, usually called "Trojan Units" - their cars are identifiable by large orange circles in the rear quarter-lights - and with the permission of senior officers they can unlock the weapons' safe in the vehicle and use the H&K or whatever they find therin ("Yo boys, It's Christmas! An RPG!!!!"). Most plods in the UK have the nous to realise that if they are tooled up 24/7 the game gets tougher and the blaggers will also go equipped so the cycle escalates. I'm prepared to bet a great deal that the people singing carols on the 21st will not be carrying!

In fact the next time you chaps in America are larging it up about how effective the death penalty is you may wish to consider the correlation between everybody and their dog having a gun and the murder rate - dunno, maybe I'm the first one to spot this and mention it but.........KILLING PEOPLE IS WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hope to everything that there is no confusion there!

Friday, 16 December 2005

Here it is!

I have few purposes in life. I'm a simple soul who does and does and that's that.

One of my few purposes is, each year, to remind people of the NORAD Santa Tracking service. This year I've also found some
background gumph but the main event is here. If you haven't used this in the past I implore you to give it a go. As Santa crosses the world his movements are tracked and recorded and broadcast with voice-overs from all sorts of people (Ringo one year was my favourite). If you have children it's even better but if you still embrace the child inside yourself give it a spin - and as Ang and Fonzie and Cheri and Mouse are paying the bills in their tax dollars it's free on this side of the Atlantic! :-)

The eBay song

If you haven't heard the eBay song it's worth listening to. If you wish to sing along here are the words:

The "eBay song"

A used ... pink bathrobe
A rare ... mint snowglobe
A Smurf ... TV tray
I bought on eBay

My house ... is filled with this crap
Shows up in bubble wrap
Most every day
What I bought on eBay

Tell me why (I need another pet rock)
Tell me why (I got that Alf alarm clock)
Tell me why (I bid on Shatner's old toupee)
They had it on eBay

I'll buy ... your knick-knack
Just check ... my feedback
"A++!" they all say
They love me on eBay

Gonna buy (a slightly-damaged golf bag)
Gonna buy (some Beanie Babies, new with tag)
(From some guy) I've never met in Norway
Found him on eBay

I am the type who is liable to snipe you
With two seconds left to go, whoa
Got Paypal or Visa, what ever'll please
As long as I've got the dough

I'll buy ... your tchotchkes
Sell me ... your watch, please
I'll buy (I'll buy, I'll buy, I'll buy ...)
I'm highest bidder now

(Junk keeps arriving in the mail)
(From that worldwide garage sale) (Dukes Of Hazzard ashtray)
(Hey! A Dukes Of Hazzard ashtray)
Oh yeah ... (I bought it on eBay)

Wanna buy (a PacMan Fever lunchbox)
Wanna buy (a case off vintage tube socks)
Wanna buy (a Kleenex used by Dr. Dre, Dr. Dre)
(Found it on eBay)

Wanna buy (that Farrah Fawcett poster)
(Pez dispensers and a toaster)
(Don't know why ... the kind of stuff you'd throw away)
(I'll buy on eBay)

What I bought on eBay-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y

Snow fun!

Another that isn't scary (honest Kat!) - Enjoy!

No excuses

I rarely send Christmas cards and theer are a number of reasons, Firstly I'm an atheist Buddhist/Humanist so however much I enjoy time with my children and seeing their faces when they open presents the whole religion stuff doesn't float my boat and secondly it's a good deal of expense which uses up my valuable resources (money and time) and really means little to most people. I tend to get cards from people who don't know me well enough to know that I don't send them (there are exceptions!). Christmas cards make the card manufacturers and postmen wealthier and while I have no problem with Barry the postie getting some overtime I honestly think that Hallmark et al already have enough brass. I usually get a couple of cards each year which invite me to call in if I'm ever in the area but I have no idea where these people live - no doubt that's much as they planned it!

So here is my Christmas greeting to everyone who wastes a little of their life reading this drivel :-)

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Oh come all ye faithful!

Diary dates boys and girls! As those who have looked at the Bishopsbourne pages on my web site will know that The Mermaid has a large Christmas tree outside the front door at this time of year (at other times of the year there are Christmas trees growing across the road but don't let EchoMouse know because she will go to great lengths to hunt trees!).

Next week, on the 21st, we have carol singing round the tree. Last year it was wonderful, after a few carols outside everyone piles into the pub and it's mobbed and bouncing with everyone singing along to the piano and accordian - a great way to start the festive countdown.

On 12th night, the 6th of next year, the mummers will be performing at The Mermaid. For those who don't know mummers are travelling players who perform a traditional folk play. For details of mumming try
this site.

So there you are chaps - two dates that you should really try to make!

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Education funding

Bluefluff has flagged up Austin Mitchell's wonderful blog and one posting caught my eye. For those who don't know Mr Mitchell is the Labour MP for Grimsby who doesn't always follow the party line. Add to that his past career as a journalist and he's usually good value in print or interview.

Of course Austin has some views about the Education White Paper proposed by Ruth Kelly. Here is a flavour of it;
None of the assertions made about academies, specialisation, the benefits of business or any other involvement is based on accurate, tested research. There is no research to tell us what parents (all parents) really want and nothing at all to tell us what the poorest and the underprivileged want and need and how we can motivate them. So the White Paper is like the architect's sketch drawings for a new building: a beautiful unreality with idealised people sketched in.

The view of the White Paper is that empowering pushy parents, essentially middle-class ones, will improve the lot of the underprivileged and inadequate. It won't and can't.
Probably not what Mrs Kelly would want in her mailbox from a loyal member of her party. Grief, she'd probably not be overjoyed to get it from a member of the opposition party.
Mitchell's piece articulates many of the issues and does so from the perspective of someone with access to local schools and parents.
I doubt if our parents will man parent committees or play a dynamic role. A widespread lack of interest will give power to the prejudiced, the anal neurotic and the pushy. Our parents don't want to run schools. They are a changing group. Their involvement fluctuates. Schools want to work closely with parents but don't want to be ruled by them and the parents have no desire to do that. Unlike you, they trust the teachers.
He - probably correctly - suggests that schools with middle class, pushy, parents will reap benefits but others will suffer. He cites schools in North East Lincs which cannot attract good school governors.
The improvement in education so far is largely due to more money. There are no positive proposals for increasing this. More personalised tuition for literacy and English will bring in £250 and £335 (elsewhere cited as £350) million for two years. What is needed is a further increase in teacher numbers to provide personalised teaching. Can we really provide tailored education, working through smaller groups and one to one tuition without far more staff, more assistants, and much more money?
And so it goes. I'd love to see the reply.


Your Seduction Style: Ideal Lover

You seduce people by tapping into their dreams and desires.
And because of this sensitivity, you can be the ideal lover for anyone you seek.
You are a shapeshifter - bringing romance, adventure, spirituality to relationships.
It all depends on who your with, and what their vision of a perfect relationship is.

Monday, 12 December 2005

Winter comfort

As the temperatures fall cycling can be uncomfortable but George (in Bavaria) has sent me a photo of this wonderful idea to keep the nether regions snug in the snow. Scrummy!

Saturday, 10 December 2005

What did you do today?

Well I went to a really interesting meeting about PROWE and it was headed up by Anne Hewling. It was very interesting but a long day because the meeting finished at one and I went and saw a really good mate of mine who is doing whale impressions until next month when she will pop. Then I collected my great matey to take her to her sister's in RTW. That was hard driving through fog and traffic and took far longer than it really should have. Home now ranting in agreement with Kat and swooning at Fonzie's dedication at egg slinging :-)


I was at school in the age of black and white. I'm still in touch with one guy I went to school with, he's my longest serving friend and for that alone he deserves far more than life has slung at him but in a world without natural justice or an all powerful diety we get what we get.
We used to have a little ryhme that we'd repeat long before we set out on the adventure of life outside the safety of home and parents and so forth.

I like cider
Cider makes me fart
When I fart I'm happy
When I'm happy I work
When I work I make money
When I make money I buy cider
I like cider..........

Now that I'm older I recognise that this is recursive and I also enjoy drinking cider because it's a great way of killing a thirst :-)

Friday, 9 December 2005

Retro games

Now those of us who have been knocking around PCs for a while have probably played some PC games. Back in the dim and distant past before SimCity 3000 and the real big heavyweights we played platform games and here are some sites where you can grab the originals and they run under XP! Try DukeNukem (1, 2 and 3D) from DOS Games. The first version came out 14 years ago and is still a lovely example of the genre, play each version in order and you will see how they developed. Commander Keen is also cool and great for younger people as there are some lovely "baddies" but no real violence - and try handling the pogo stick! Wolfenstein is also there with Heretic and Return of the triads - real classics before the advent of Doom and Quake and the real blockbuster first person shoot 'em ups.
My good buddy Big Dave in Pembroke is a fan of Pushover and what's not to like? It's a puzzle game featuring an ant and rows of dominoes that have to be arranged in the correct way to be knocked over with a single push - I promise that I'm underselling it and it can be very adictive (Fonzie - if you got a buzz out of those eggs you have to try this game!)

Thursday, 8 December 2005

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

........ the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) said the initiative was not working, despite the "extraordinary" amount of money the government had spent on it.
So how much is an extraordinary amount of money these days? Well according to the ALI it's 2 billion quid. And what initiative has failed despite this healthy lump of change? Well it is "Skills for Life" a project announced a couple of years ago to try and deal with the problems we face because some 50% of adults in this country do not have adequate literacy and/or numeracy skills. Of course these tend to be the same people who are being shafted by life in general and are those that the government likes to refer to as "disadvantaged" but those who David Sherlock, the Chief Inspector of the ALI, has pointed out are being let down by the state edcation system. He goes on to say that
"We cannot get away from the fact that the adult learning sector is distorted to deal with the shortcomings of our schools system. Until we deal with our failure to properly equip so many young people for adulthood, let alone successful careers, we cannot hope to build a world-beating adult skills strategy."
Whoops! Of course what does Mr Sherlock know? He's just a bloke paid to inspect adult learning in England. No. If you want the authorised version along comes Skills minister Phil Hope (You couldn't make that up could you?),
"We are on course to meet our target of improving the skills of 2.25 million adults by 2010."
I'm not the world's best at sums but if we divvy up two billion between two and a quarter million it's about 890 quid each (isn't it?)*. Now that's going to get you a few hours of decent tuition I promise, in fact if anyone wants to bung me 450 quid I'll happily help them study to get through English and IT GCSEs or similar, but I think the major flaw in all this is that as more people become numerate even more of us will ask what the hell the government is doing spending our money in such a stupid manner.

* According to Wikipedia an English billion is 10^9


Here's some stuff to consider:
  • Stuff 1. An organization I'm doing some work for haven't paid me because their system has messed up. My +GBP 1k will arrive towards the end of December - a couple of months late - and might not have arrived at all if I hadn't chased it.
  • Stuff 2. Got the result for this year's course and I passed which means that I'm now officially 2/3rds towards an MEd.
  • Stuff 3. I'm going to MK on Friday to join a group of people loking at how we might use online technologies such as WIKIs to support colleagues - should be fun!
  • Stuff 4. Tomorrow (Thursday, 08/12) is the 25th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon.
So there ya go - stuff is cool!

Monday, 5 December 2005


Sorry I've been quiet but a combination of "Man flu" last week plus some work plus Calum over the weekend have kept me away from the blog. Normality will disappear soon and I'll be back!

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Macca tack

Sir Paul McCartney has said he will boycott China because of the way dogs and cats are treated there. I saw a snippet of the film that has brought this about and I agree that it wasn't nice, animals that we consider to be pets were treated very badly by people keeping them for the fur trade.

Sorry Paul but this is facile. Don't go because China denies people the right to religious freedom, don't go because of the restrictions on free speech and a free media, don't go because of the endemic torture and ill treatment of people thrown in jail without charge for months on end before being brought before courts which are not independent of the ruling party, don't go because of the ongoing occupation and pillage of Tibet, don't go because 77% of the people executed in the world in 1993 were killed in China and on a single day, 9 January 1993, 356 death sentences were handed down by Chinese courts, don't go - please don't go. But please don't go for the right reasons and whatever we think of fluffy bunnies and cats and dogs placing them above human beings is just plain wrong.

Sunday, 27 November 2005

Idle blogging

I feel rubbish, my cold has finally hit with a vengence and it's taken most of the day to get my stuff in a pile enough to get myself bathed and fed let alone plugging in any logical thought. Anyways - Twenty Major saves the day with an absolutely crackingly jolly post which doesn't have his trademark language but does show his humour and (whisper it) some posh words that might risk him losing his crown as a foul-mouthed ejit. Grab it here.

Saturday, 26 November 2005

How much????

Ministers have hailed the £386m Excellence in Cities scheme as a key initiative for some of the poorest parts of the country but the evaluation for the Department for Education and Skills found that GCSE grades had not risen. [Rebecca Smithers, education editor, Guardian Education,
Call me cynical, call me a dyed in the wool sceptic and remind me that hindsight is always 20:20 but having had some involvement in this project I feel able to offer a few thoughts.
A DfES spokesman insisted that the evaluation only covered the period up to August 2003."This research ... doesn't reflect where we are now. In 2005, the rate of increase in GCSE performance for Excellence in Cities areas is nearly twice that of other areas for the fourth year running - up three percentage points on last year."
EiC was rolled into Aimhigher just over a year ago so, just like the shell game, it's going to be harder to draw conclusions from the data following the integration of these projects. Don't forget that funding for Aimhigher is another substantial lump of change.
The Excellence in Cities (EiC) programme was introduced in 1999 to provide extra money and support for struggling inner-city schools. Schools taking part in the scheme have been awarded £1bn with a further £700m committed over the next 18 months. [Polly Curtis, Guardian Education, 11/10/2004]
Hang on! My maths isn't great but I can already see a difference between the numbers being bandied around!EiC joined schools together in twons and cities. the aims included sharing good practice and, if possible, "expert" teachers. It included the Gifted and Talented activities and thus we can muddy the waters even more - pick from that list to determine what, if anything, is improving the performance of pupils.Big wads of money are mentioned by successive Ministers but much of this funding goes into admin and paying people who don't meet school age children unless they are their own. Most schools used the money for EiC coordinators to pay existing teachers for additional responsibilities but didn't give them additional time to carry out extra tasks. The administration of these schemes - at school and college level - is very time consuming and aimed at offering an audit trail rather than actually having a positive impact on the outcomes for the students involved.I don't think anyone doubts that education in this country can always use more money, particularly in inner city "sink" schools but why spread the money so thinly? In order to rope in the grammar schools they also received funding yet most have results suggesting that they cannot really improve the outcomes for their pupils. In my experience there is little or no articulation between schools regarding the G&T status of ppils, they move from primary to junior and then to secondary and college with their SATs scores (sometimes) but rarely with any additional information about the "whole" person. Sadly this government is "initiative driven" - it must make more sense to give the money to the professionals appointed to run the schools, the head teachers, and let them get on with it!

Friday, 25 November 2005

George has gone

Sadly but inevitably George Best has died. Although nobody can be surprised by this there is still a sense of loss, I admit to having tears in my eyes as I write this. I've mention Best already and some of what he meant to me growing up during his time at United and his death feels like the loss of part of my past.

If I hear one more sanctimonious arschloch saying "He brought it on himself" or "What a waste of a liver" I think I'll sceam! We all die. Some a nice, tidy death in a nursing home and some a horrible death screaming at the inequity of it all. If your not being born you're busy dying. George made mistakes, we all do, and he probably had regrets but who doesn't? Nobody can doubt he lived a full life and crammed far more into his 59 years than many people who live a good deal longer.

Gone but not forgotten.

Enya Vs Godzilla

I know that Twenty Major isn't everyone's cup of Guinness but his posting about Enya Vs Godzilla is a blinder!


WIKI is given to mean What I Know Is......... And the biggest embodiment of a wiki is Wikipedia, a "public good", an encyclopedia written and owned by the masses.

This concept of a public good goes way back to the start of the Internet culture and the gift economy. Unfortunately you guys aren't paying me to give you a lecture on the culture and history of the web (occasionally I turn a shilling in such pursuits) so here's a freebie curtesy of John Naughton who found it elsewhere. An aside - if you want to read one book that is a great read and explains how we got here in the wired world grab a copy of Naughton's "Brief history of the future", one of the finest books of the genre and written so damn well I'd kill for a fraction of his skill - except that as a "sort of" Buddhist I won't kill and as an employee of the Technology faculty of the Open University killing a guy that high up in the faculty may be a bad career move.

Anyway - I say that a lot by the way - John has found a super-cool way of searching Wikipedia because that baby is getting so big.

LumRiX is based on some sort of clever doings or other but let the propeller-heads worry about that, it's just very quick and that's the other thing that wiki means :-)

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Chocolate teapots

During a bit of badinage with my Canadian friend, El Mouster del Echo (just practicing my Brazilian Carrie :-)), the subject of chocolate teapots came up (as it would).

Now we all know that people residing in the Americas don't drink tea, they sling it in Boston Harbour and go off in a hissy fit that ends up with them inventing rap music, Coke Cola, Intelligent Design and stories about WMD but I digress. Sadly there is a place in my head for name of the leader of the rebels at Boston too - Samuel Adams esq.

Anyway - here's the nub of it. I've found a smashing site which features a proper scientific test of a chocolate teapot. It's wonderful. Find it here!


Just over ten minutes ago the licensing laws in this country changed again! Now in a political coup from the "Lunatics have taken over the asylum" school of planning Tone and co are also banging on about "responsible drinking" so we now have a two-tier system.

A high ranking plod was interviewed last week. Standing in a pub, sipping a glass of water and standing next to Charles Clarke - probably there to make sure that if the policeman went "off message" he could give him a thump and restore New Labour order - he explained that nasty little scrotes who go out and get bladdered on a few lager tops are the problem but upstanding pillars of society such as himself would welcome the chance to enjoy a glass of wine on the way back from the theatre or cinema. I may have missed the details of how people will be assessed on entering the pub - two doors maybe? Upstanding citizens in the snug and leery binge drinkers in the vault? perhaps you can only get a drink if you show the stub of your theatre ticket or the programme?

"Sorry sir, seeing that film only allows half a bitter and out by midnight"
"Opera at Covent Garden Sir? That'll do nicely - pull up a comfy chair, I'll crack open the Bollinger, you can stay all week, would you like to meet my wife?"
No plans to change the licensing laws at The Mermaid you'll be pleased to know.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

Brilliant quote

Radio Five are broadcasting from Sizewell B as nuclear power is such a hot topic right now. Interviewing one of the guys there he said that the standing joke is that the station could be run by one man and a dog. The man is there to feed the dog and the dog is there to bite the man if he touches the controls!

University accused of bias against Christian schools

From the NY Times

According to an evangelical Christian school the University of California is discriminating against students from that school and they are taking the university to court. A spokesman for the university said,
"All we are saying is that unapproved courses cannot be submitted to satisfy the requirements for entry."
The argument appears to be that some of the courses taught at Calvary Chapel Christian School simply don't meet the requirements of further study at the university and given the current debate about Intelligent Design it's probably easy to see how that might happen. How on earth can someone who has studied ID then go on to study Darwin at a higher level? Angie has a posting about the University of Kansas offering a course entitled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies" as a response to the state Board of Education adopting new science teaching standards which treat evolution as a flawed theory.

It looks like this one will run and run!

Every generation.........

.......puts a hero up the pop chart. [Paul Simon, Bubble Boy, Gracelands]

Suddenly the Internet is causing problems with homework.
Technological solutions alone will not be enough to prevent children using the internet to cheat in their coursework, a government adviser has said.
and this is clearly a new threat!

Some years ago, back in the days of black & white, I submitted a piece of school work which I based on an article in the "Radio Times". Now, of course, I know that all academics are across every piece of work in their sphere but not then because I got a pass! Of course in those days I might also have popped down to Longsight library and selected a few choice phrases, suitably bowlderised, and slung them into my homework but I can't now - the library is a social centre.

Is any of this new? Is, once again, the Web the issue?

I helped Calum do his homework this weekend. It was "Solids, Liquids and Gasses" - not too tricky really, I can deal with molecular agitation and endomorphic and exomorphic reactions. I can explain the Carbon cycle and how plants use C6H12O6 and CO2 in photosynthesis and we played some great games discussing how soot comes from logs and the relationship between ice and steam and how heat releases the scent from candles. We also covered one of his favourite topics - steam engines and how energy is released from coal to produce motive force.

Were we cheating? Am I just another "middle class" parent giving my child a leg up? Who knows - but the web ain't any more a problem than the libraries that we used or the Readers Digest or anything else. And my father would be overjoyed to think that I'm middle class :-)

In my world academics have to stop shouting "foul" and accept that there is nothing new and the Web is no more a threat than anything else. Stop bitching and accept that it's out there and happening!

Pat Tambrin is 66 and a grandmother.
Magistrates heard police raided her home and recovered seven cannabis plants, cultivation equipment and 17g of the drug in her kitchen.
Pat has denied growing cannabis though the evidence appears, to my untutored eye, to be pretty damning and thus the case will go to Crown Court.

At first glance this may seem harsh, little old lady growing a bit of weed is crushed beneath the jackboot of police oppression but I say No! Cannabis is given to be a "gateway drug" and if we let her get away with seven plants now who knows where it might end? In a few years time she'll have thousands of acres of Northumbria given over to opium poppies and the economy of the golden triangle will collapse. The regeneration of war torn Afghanistan will stall and US and British soldiers will be there for generations because the economic heart has been ripped out of that benighted land. Chinese Triads will also suffer and the knock on effects on the cuisine of this country will be catastrophic. Legitimately employed drugs mules will be forced to claim benefits as the need to bring in these noxious drugs collapses. BA will probably have to cut flights and Customs and Excise will be laying off staff.

Of course, if she's paid her Poll Tax she should escape jail! Read the BBC's take on this here.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Get tough on the unhealthy

A poll of more than 2,000 people by private health provider Bupa found 34% supported charges for treatment for people who smoke, drink or are obese.

More than four out of 10 favoured some sort of penalty for people they considered to have self-inflicted health problems.

And 8% said people who led an unhealthy lifestyle should be denied treatment.
The BBC precise of this report is here.

My own view? Well let's ignore for one moment the additional revenue HMG currently gains from smokers and drinkers and look at some of the other issues we might address in this way - and don't forget that the new licensing hours kick in this week. Clearly anyone foolish enough to eat junk food should be excluded too and carcinogenic effect of eating meat has been know for a while so vegetarians only? Being born poor is just stupid so we should select by postcode and, a personal bugbear, Sun readers are often beyond help so lets charge them if they get ill too.

In fact my own view is that the best way of sorting this is that anyone over the age of 25 who doesn't have at least a degree should pay more for health care - big win this as it ties in nicely with HMG's drive for a better qualified workforce.

So there you have it - two policies for the price of one - and you know they followed my lead on nuclear power so if you only have a couple of GCSEs my advice is get studying and don't get sick or have a traffic accident or make the mistake of being born with a congenital defect or working in a high risk employment sector. If you feel that you may be a little off colour in the next few years best sign up for a Masters degree soonest as "qualification inflation" means that soon a BA or a BSc will only get you a couple of Asprin and you'll be sent to the back of the queue.

Monday, 21 November 2005


A possibility of snow by the weekend? Of course this is all because of global warming but I'm wondering whether Mouse might be able to email her SUV over? I live in a valley - today the fog didn't clear so Britain was cut off from Bishopsbourne - and so snow makes it tricky getting out as it's all uphill whichever of the two little lanes I take. Nice chance to show another photo of the snow here in March :-) Give the image some clicky-clicky to see the big one.

Sunday, 20 November 2005

HMG listens to Nog!

The UK is unlikely to meet its 2010 target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20%, the government's chief scientific advisor has admitted.
Sir David King is the chief scientific gadgy quoted here on the BBC site. He then goes on to support my advice to build nuclear power plants, by 2101 we'll only be producing 4% of our energy requirements from nuclear plants. Of course Sir David hasn't mentioned reading my blog and no doubt will pretend that he thought this up all by himself - as if!

Saturday, 19 November 2005

Spooky car advert

Here is a spooky one you...........make sure you read the story before watching the video.............

Strange but interesting. This is a car advertisement from Great Britain. When they finished filming the ad, the film editor noticed something moving along the side of the car, like a ghostly white mist. They found out that a person had been killed a year earlier in that exact same spot. The ad was never put on TV because of the unexplained ghostly phenomenon. Watch the front end of the car as it clears the trees in the middle of the screen and you'll see the white mist crossing in front of the car then following it along the road....Spooky!

Is it a ghost, or is it simply mist? You decide. If you listen to the ad, you'll even hear the cameraman whispering in the background about it near the end of the commercial (so make sure you have the sound on at a level you can hear it). A little creepy but pretty cool!

The file is a wmv (Windows media player) and is just over 800k. Click here to download it.

John Timpson

John Timpson has died aged 77.

Timpson and Redheadwere what made the Today programme compulsive listening every morning and millions of us laughed, gasped and screamed at the radio as they brought humanity, humility and humour to current affairs broadcasting. They managed to ask the questions we all wanted asked and didn't shirk from grilling heavyweight politicians. Timspon also wrote some lovely books and they focussed on the oddities and eccentricities of this country.

Friday, 18 November 2005


Last night was bloody cold and today wasn't much better. I went to the car at 17:15 and the external temperature (according to the display in the car) was -1, I had to de-ice the screen before I could move. I'm sitting next to a listed sash window and a draft that started life on the Russian Steppes is streaming under the curtains and freezing my left arm. The central heating is on and the fire is also burning, Calum is here for a couple of days and he loves the fire - as do I - so we always light it.

Anyway. I hate being cold, I now have two duvets (one winter, one summer) on the bed and the heating might be on until March - we had snow in March this year! If all this stuff about global warming is true I think I'll do my bit by driving at 100MPH and burning fossil fuels at every opportunity (but not on the fire, logs are cleaner and look better). Stuff a 3 degree increase in average temperatures - I don't want them to fall below 16 even in winter!

I think we're losing

From Timothy Garton-Ash's piece in the Guardian:
The erosion of liberty. Four words sum up four years. Since the attacks of September 11 2001, we have seen an erosion of liberty in most established democracies. If he's still alive, Osama bin Laden must be laughing into his beard. For this is exactly what al-Qaida-type terrorists want: that democracies should overreact, reveal their "true" oppressive face, and therefore win more recruits to the suicide bombers' cause.
Of course we all know that this is typical left-wing liberal bleeding heart stuff. Everyone in the UK knows that if we ignore the "Prevention of Terrorism Act", the fact that we cannot hold a political demonstration near our elected representatives and that those same representatives wish to take powers to hold, without charge, "suspects" for 90 days then our liberties haven't been eroded at all! And although the Patriot Act in the US allows for the government having the power to access your medical records, tax records, information about the books you buy or borrow without probable cause, and the power to break into your home and conduct secret searches without telling you for weeks, months, or indefinitely I'm sure it's all in the best interests of everyone..... unless they have dark skin and a beard (both of which I have).

Gotta go - someone is at the door..............

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

On being a Northener

Now there's a place in Wigan a place you all should know
A busy little factory where things are all the go
They don't make Jakes or Eccles Cakes or things to stick on walls
But night and day they work away at Uncle Joe's Mint Balls

Sitting on the shelves opposite where I'm writing this is a small red tin. On it is the smiling face of a gentleman in a top hat.

The chap is Uncle Joe and the tin contains his world famous mint balls. Mike Harding, a very famous and very, very funny Northern chap, celebrated this wonderful delicacy in a song, the first verse is quoted above. The chorus is (all together now):

Uncle Joe's Mint Balls keep you all aglow
Give 'em to your grannie and watch the beggar go
Away with coughs and sniffles, take a few in hand
Suck 'em and see, you'll agree
They're the best in all the land

Now this led me to thinking about how else those of us lucky enough to be born in the North of this wonderful land can be distinguished from the poor beggars born elsewhere. Sterling Times A - Z of Englishness quotes Cecil Rhodes ""To be born English is to have won first prize in the lottery of life" but most of us know that being born in, say, Slough really doesn't work as well as being born in Lancashire.

Northerners are generally well spoken and rugged (the blokes are rugged too), we are fearless (find "Napolean's Retreat from Wigan" in the poems section of Mike Harding's site) and resolute. We support the underdogs - 30,000 used to turn up at Maine Road when City were in Division three - and retain our sense of humour no matter what, remember that Manchester and Liverpool are both in Lancashire whatever the Boundary Commision claim.

But what else distinguishes us from the rest? Is it the tradition of liberalism that gave birth to The Manchester Guardian? Is it our inherent work ethic which meant that we were the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution? Is it our generous welcome to all those who want to settle in the North - it's no coincidence that in 1908 a New Zealander and a German were working in Manchester when they invented the Rutherford-Geiger detector of single ionizing particles, still known as the Geiger Counter.

Those unfortunates who don't know about the North West of England could do worse than visiting this site to find out a little more about the area.

And yes - I have a flat cap :-)

The antidote to A207

Some time ago I posted a link to Dr Anne Stott's wonderful blog published to support students studying an OU course, "A207: Enlightement to Romanticism". I've now been pointed to the antidote! It's at A207 Study Help and is wonderfully irreverent and probably helps people like me who tend to remember things if they are bashed at me in a number of different ways; humour is a great tool in learning and understanding, and Anne has mentioned this blog on her's!

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Blair abolishes elections

I spotted this link on Memex 1.1. Well worth a visit :-)

Foster review of FE.

Further education was "the neglected middle child" between schools and universities.
The words of Sir Andrew Foster in the report commissioned by the government to look into the FE sector. The full report is here and here is the BBC report. Frankly I'm sure anyone who has worked in FE will suggest that Sir Andrew is following the theme of the week and stating the bleeding obvious - I hope they make this an Olympic event because it seems that our present leaders are able to find world beaters at every opportunity.

Classrooms without walls

Here ya go then - the scourge of teachers the length of the country, mobile phones, are set to take centre stage in teaching and learning! This report in the Guardian looks at a project being tried in Islington. Just another fad or a real opportunity for some "joined up" learning?

Peter Drucker

Peter Ferdinand Drucker, management consultant, born November 19 1909; died November 11 2005
If you haven't heard of Drucker go and learn about him - a special guy in management theory who also made sense!

Monday, 14 November 2005

And again..............

Up front - I admit that I exceed 70 MPH on the motorway when conditions allow. It's not unknown for me to exceed the speed limit by a significant amount when there is no traffic around and the road is dry and in good condition and visibility is good. I spent a year living and working in Germany where I learnt a good deal about driving quickly and safely on motorways which only have speed limits when the road is wet and while I make no claim to being a good driver I've never been involved in an accident on a motorway and the UK motorways are statistically the safest place to drive in the country. But now HMG are considering clamping down on motorway speeding in the name of global warming.
This piece in the Guardian discusses a report commissioned in September, 2004. The part which piqued my interest is:
Officials acknowledge that any move to force the 15 million motorists who currently exceed the 70 mph speed limit to slow down would be "politically sensitive", but they say it would save significant amounts of carbon dioxide pollution. Engine efficiency falls quickly beyond 70 mph.
Do all cars suffer from this decline in efficiency beyond 70 MPH? I have a feeling that BMW, Mercedes and Audi might have something to say about this! What about the latest generation diesel HDI engines?

I am not suggesting that this is a crock of rubbish but yet again the information we're being given is "dumbed down" to a level that Sun readers will accept and this process assumes a level of comprehension far below what I'd suggest is the average in this and any other country in the developed world.

I think we need to move away from the conditioned response that anything which saves the planet by reducing global warming is automatically good to one where there is a reasoned debate about balancing the needs of the planet with the needs of society. And I'm sure that there is no intention of filling the government's coffers with the windfall from enforcing motorway speed limits - that would simply be cynical wouldn't it?

Grasp the nettle. Stop generating power using fossil fuels, build nuclear power plants or gas fired plants (I know that gas is a fossil fuel but it's cleaner than coal and also doesn't have the same transport on-cost) and generate more power from renewable sources. Stop importing cheap, "dirty" coal from Poland to fire Drax (850g CO2 per kWh). 27 of the 30 dirtiest power plants are coal fired and four of them are in the UK according to WWF (that includes Drax) and Friends of the Earth (in a BBC report) point out that coal fired stations emit three times the volume of greenhouses gases that gas fired stations create.

According the the government report;
Stricter enforcement of the 70 mph limit, the document says, would save 890,000 tons of carbon a year - more than the biofuels obligation and many other listed measures put together.
Drax alone generates 16.49 million tonnes of CO2 each year, and for the sake of this argument the difference between tonnes and tons is immaterial. We can't simply close the coal fired stations, we still need the power, and how ever they are replaced there will be CO2 emissions but let's start looking at long term solutions rather than short term gimmicks. WWF have a wonderful summary page on Drax which looks at the effects of replacing Drax with another coal fired plant, a gas fired plant or renewables - and uses the number of cars taken off the roads as a comparison.

Am I being selfish and greedy when I drive at 80 MPH? Possibly. Am I endangering the plant? Possibly. If all of the 15 million who travel above the speed limit slow down will it cut CO2 emissions? Certainly. Will it make as much difference as a long term plan for cleaner energy generation? No. And is it a long term solution to anything - not even close. Look at power generation, a coherent public transport infrastructure, sensible planning, a real commitment to cutting greenhouse gas and stop messing about.

This latest suggestion is like changing the wiper blades when the engine blows up - or rearranging the deck chairs on The Titanic.

Saturday, 12 November 2005


Tough game today. Canterbury played in their change strip of blue and without their first choice scrum half as he broke his arm playing against London Welsh last weekend. At start of play both teams were unbeaten in the league and it wasn't too difficult to see why - grief but the tackles were flying in! This was hard, grinding rugby from both packs and towards the end of the game many of the forwards, on both sides, were moving no faster than walking pace. Canterbury scored their only try from a charge down in the second half and it brought the scores level with little more than 5 minutes to go, they'd been behind for much of the game, but Richmond drove for the Canterbury line and despite heroic cover play on their own line Canterbury were ground down by a series of penalties and Richmond won by a converted try.

And it was damn cold on the touchline, Calum managed to eat three small pork pies and four Chuppa Chuppa lollies as well as his Diet Coke while I had the other three pies and a coke and a coffee during the second half - it was 50p but for the chance of getting warm I'd probably have paid much more! November 26th is the next home game - against Ealing - and I'll be wearing my thermals.

Friday, 11 November 2005

Music again

I've just seen Green Day on the TV, they did American Idiot. I know I'm far too old to be tapping my feet to this stuff but I really like that track and the lyrics actually seem to say something other than most of the mindless pap currently filling the airwaves (or so I'm told - I've only just heard that Take That have split up!) Yes - it's a jolly little song indeed.

Desert Island music

I should be finishing this marking but many of us know that anything is usually better than marking a difficult script so here's some thoughts on music for a desert island:
  • Dylan - Blood on the tracks
  • Dylan and the Band - Before the flood
  • Bowie - Live at the Towers
  • Sinatra - Live at the Sands
  • Lynard Skynard - One more from the road
  • Alice Cooper - From the inside
  • The Who - Who's Next
  • The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • Led Zepplin - Remasters (Okay I know it's a cheat as it's a compilation but it's my bloody list! :-))
  • Springsteen - Born to run
  • The Doors - LA Woman
  • Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery
  • Steely Dan - Aja
  • Al Stewart - Year of the cat
  • U2 - Under a blood red sky
Writing this I realise that I really cannot go to this mythical desert islands because of all the music I've not put on the list - I've just quickly counted and there are over 200 cassettes, the same again in CDs and 60 LPs here and it would be easier to take them all and make sure I have a connection to Amazon or similar so that I can keep buying more so, sorry, if anyone thought you were getting rid of me - I ain't going!

Thursday, 10 November 2005

What file extension are you?

You are .doc You change from year to year, just to make things tough on your competition.  Only your creator really has a handle on you.
Which File Extension are You?
(Yes - I should be working but...........)


Vince Furnier has been all over telly and the radio over the last week or so because he's working in this country again. Lovely bloke, his dad was a vicar and he's a committed Christian too. He doesn't drink and he's never done drugs, been married for 20 odd years and for a bloke of 57 he's in good nick. Great family guy, member of the local PTA, his daughter works with him, and he also takes a pet or two to work with him. Oh, and he has an honorary doctorate from a Christian university, Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. Top stuff!

His name isn't Vince anymore though - he changed it by deed poll some years ago so you might know this chap by his stage name and if you ever get chance to see him in concert I'd grab it with both hands - Alice Cooper live is simply awesome.

One eyed undertaker

This evening I went over to Maidstone to sort some technical problems with Rowan's headphone/microphone combo. Being distracted I went the wrong way and had to travel through Canterbury during the rush hour. Glaciers move faster!

I'm not a stress bunny anymore so I chilled with some sounds that I haven't listened to in ages.
They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy,
She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me.
I can't help it if I'm lucky.
How good is that?

And then my mind moved to all these things going round about the last book you read or the last CD you bought. I'm not playing that game but I now have a list of CDs I must have if I am ever stuck on that desert island, and you can keep the Bible, read it already and I know how it ends. The complete works of Shakespeare and the menu from the local Indian free delivery restaurant please. For my luxury? Well I guess that Joanna Whalley or Cheri Lunghi are out of the question?

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

More science for you

Now don't say I didn't warn you but............

According to this article at the New Scientist site looking at mucky pictures can make you go blind!

Monday, 7 November 2005

Stating the bleeding obvious

So we have adverts saying that if we save 20% of our energy usage we will help reduce CO2 emissions. Let's just deconstruct this a little shall we? It assumes that any reduction in energy usage is directly related to CO2 but this isn't so. If all the energy available is generated by nuclear power the the CO2 output is almost non-existant. And any reduction in energy usage will (by their reasoning) reduce carbon dioxide emissions so why this magical 20% figure?

The UK is responsible for 4% of the world's CO2, the US generates 25% of the CO2 output. The UK led the world in the development of renewable energy sources but messed up big style on all fronts and we now buy the technology we developed - and we have the NIMBYs who want cheap, non-CO2, energy but rail against wind farms and nuclear power. And in terms of global warming the effect of the thermal islands caused by large cites is far and away greater than CO2 production. The argument that man is actually changing the rate at which the earth's temperature is also not completely made - we are currently (officially) in an ice age and when the last one finished and the ice melted leaving this sceptered isle cut off from the mainland of Europe it had nothing to do with CFCs or light bulbs. The Met office cannot predict weather patterns much beyond 7 days ahead so the idea that they can say that the global temperature will have increased (or decreased) by x or y degrees in 100 years is a little thin isn't it?

The best way to make your fridge more efficient is to make sure it's full - I recommend Stella Artois and champagne. The best way to reduce energy consumption is to make sure that the fridge is near where you sit so that you don't have far to travel to it.

Sunday, 6 November 2005

Nude Brits shop while drunk

I'm sure we all have moments when we read a piece of "research" and think - "That's just a statement of the bleeding obvious!" So it was when I read about BLOTO on The Register. I work online much of the time and I've certainly been "working" while in a state of undress and sometmes while with drink too - who hasn't? And the idea that we might buy things online that we otherwise wouldn't seems a bit silly - I really needed that three-legged dining table and the painting of a Spanish Lady might still be wrapped up but I'm sure I'll find somewhere suitable to hang it - okay the signature isn't Van Gogh as I was led to believe but I know it'll retain its value!

Saturday, 5 November 2005


Okay - I admit it, I have a strange sense of humour at times.

I use Mailwasher Pro, a superb bit of kit that checks my email accounts every three minutes, downloads the headers, decides if it's someone I should be getting mail from, flags the spam and marks it for deletion and (when appropriate) bouncing. Those deleted are added to the blacklist and forever consigned to being ignored and told that I've moved/married/died/gone away or whatever is appropriate to stop them sending me adverts for extensions or Viagra or whatever. On a separate note - if you get a bounce notification from me you should ring and let me know. I once put a customer on the blacklist by mistake and nearly lost a few quid because Mailwasher convinced him that I was living a life of crime on the Costas!

Anyway. The preview pane in Mailwasher is text based rather than HTML. To dodge round heuristic spam protection most spammers put random text in the mail and bung the advert in as an image. Because Mailwasher ignores images I just see the text and frequently this is a terse "Get a capable HTML mail client" but increasingly the random text is interesting. It's philosophy or jokes or ramblings of amazing complexity (it has to make some sort of sense or the heuristic filters flag it as spam). From tonight's crop "Many difficulties which nature throws in our way, may be smoothed away by the exercise of intelligence" really made me think and sometimes there are long screeds of stuff that is really cool. "Life is governed by an economic system in which the production and consumption of insults tends to balance out" is probably true and I make no comment on "Never take a wife till thou hast a house (and a fire) to put her in".
The moral? Spam might be more useful than you think!

Thursday, 3 November 2005

Cows with guns

If this isn't one of the best SWF animations with music I really don't know what is. Check out "Cows with guns". It runs about 6 minutes but is brilliant - certainly best with broadband I'd have thought.

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

12 x 7

On Monday we took Rowan and six of her friends to the local ski centre for Rowan's birthday party, it was rearranged as she was a bit under the weather when it was first planned. Despite the weather they had 45 minutes on the snow tubes and after large plates of junk food they hit the toboggan run - in driving rain. Seven 12 year old girls really do make a large amount of noise! The photo is Rowan on a snow tube.

More sheep stuff

I seem to have found everyone's level so here's another sheep photo from yesterday. A couple are helping themselves to some grass from my garden (the good stuff is elsewhere! :-)) while the others are checking my car. As I took this a sheepdog was sent to keep them out an it did a handbrake turn on my garden as it directed them off down the road.
The second shot shows the dogs turning the sheep towards the field so that they don't make a dash hard left up the hill towards the main road or along the lane to the left of the sign - this is towards the cricket ground.

Tuesday, 1 November 2005


Another number - this time it's the number of sheep who have just passed my door! They came past at 14:00 heading from Bourne Park to the field at the end of the terrace. I didn't count them - I asked! :-)

Sunday, 30 October 2005


Calum and Jemma stayed on Friday and Jemma and I formally watched a film rated "15" together - don't anyone get the idea that she's not watched 15s before but now she can watch them properly. Thus we spent Friday watching "The Life of Brian" - great fun.

Saturday was rugby and Jemma really didn't enjoy it but Canterbury were superb and brushed aside Worthing in a really tough game. As a payback for making her go to watch we had a couple of hours shopping in Canterbury first and I upgraded my mobile so that she could have the old handset, she had damaged hers in a "phone down toilet" incident - I'm now the proud user of an SPV C550! Next weekend Canterbury play London Welsh in the cup and that's going to be very tough and the weekend after Richmond visit Cardy Field for a top of the table clash (see how I can drop into sports journalise?? :-))