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!