Why this Blog?

A place where I can lament the changing times; for eccentric comments on current affairs and for unfashionable views, expressed I hope, in cogent style; also occasional cris de coeur largely concerned, I regret to say, with myself.


I welcome your comments, so do please write. Please note however that all comments are moderated prior to publication. Whilst I fully appreciate that life can be frustrating, nevertheless, abuse, SMS language and illiteracy will not be tolerated!

Saturday, 30 August 2008


"A woman drove me to drink, and I hadn't even the courtesy to thank her." W.C.Fields

"He was a wise man who invented beer." Plato

"Work is the curse of the drinking classes." Oscar Wilde

There, three witty observations concerning drink. Plato's presence in my little list shows that, as of course we all know, there is nothing new in enthusiasm for drink. This is why for centuries governments everwhere have been able to tax the stuff - the same may be said for tobacco.

These days, those busybodies who feel they have a damned God-given right to poke their noses into our affairs - and who are usually part of those self-same governments who tax the stuff - are now trying to get us to stop , or as the French so neatly put it: "Consommez en modèration" (drink moderately) - this suggestion may be found in all advertisments for drink in France - including the finest vintage Champagnes, where for most of us "modèration" is axiomatic.

I suppose the end of deference and the decline of religion may be the reasons that the governments have now assumed this annoying rôle. Certainly in England and elsewhere in the 19th century, there were strong temperance movements. The following two cartoons come from a series intended to demonstrate the "slippery slope" that follows the first bottle:

Source: here

These were drawn by one George Cruikshank and are typical of the anti-drink campaigns of the time. I suppose the apotheosis of anti-drink campaigning was Prohibition in the USA. It seems to me to be scarcely credible that within living memory, a government would actually attempt to ban alcohol - of course by using the word "government" I do not include the islamo-fascist theocratic ones.

All of these meanderings were prompted by a thoughtful piece that appeared in the very long-established British magazine, The Spectator. The article "From Gin Lane to Faliraki" was written by Alex Massie in the blog The Debatable Land. The article contains some memorable quotations: "I've never seen anyone get stabbed the whole time I've been here" says one 21-year-old of some resort in Cyprus, where it seems that the British abroad (or at least those who visit such places) have managed to plumb even lower depths than ever.

I shudder with embarrassment at reports of British behaviour abroad and have always endeavoured to bely the image so freqeuently broadcast on the television.

Nevertheless the article attempts to demonstrate that drinking has been a problem for Britain for at least 250 years and given Hogarth's famous illustrations (e.g. "Gin Lane") this would indeed seem to be the case.

Many continue to wonder why other countries have not/do not have Britain's problem, but this may not be for ever. Even in rural France I have seen youths walking the street in the morning carrying the tin of ten percent lager so beloved of the layabouts in England. If this represents a trend, it is indeed a depressing one.

Until the next time

To Defend the Indefensible

Many times I have heard politically-correct persons defending all kinds of primitive practices and/or barbarism on the grounds of tradition. For example, why are orthodox Jewish and Halal butchery permitted in England? Funny that the animal-rights lunatic Nazis do not seem inclined to attack these loathsome practices, preferring to concentrate on scientific institutions. Perhaps it's because they are "traditional" - as Private Eye might comment: "So that's all right then." The Farm Animal Welfare Council, however has protested.

Now, consider this quotation:

"These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, said Saturday. "Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid." (Source IHT)

Yes well, this barbarian, unbelievably (or perhaps not...) part of Pakistan's legislature, was not referring to the sacred Muslim tradition of Halal butchery (and obviously not to the sacred Jewish tradition of Kosher butchery). No, he was referring to the burying alive of five women. This, barbarian Zehri considers, is condign punishment for the women having had the effrontery to want to marry men of their own choice. Obviously his definition of "immoral", no doubt for "cultural" reasons, is somewhat different from mine. The full report from the International Herald Tribune is here. In fairness I must add that many members of the Pakistani legislature were shocked at this statement - as one would hope of course.

There is much wrong in today's world as obviously I do not have to remind you, but "Tradition and Culture" are amongst the principle causes. Consider: Northern Ireland, Georgia, former Yugoslavia, Kenya, Sudan, East Timor and so on - ad nauseam.

Until the next time

Friday, 29 August 2008

Paintball Art - Instant Mona Lisa

A sort of Giaconda by paintball?

This is another Mythbusters presentation designed to demonstrate the power of multi-core processing.

Until the next time

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

More Surveillance - "Spychips"

X-ray photograph of "spychip' implants
Picture source: Lawanddisorder.org

I expressed a degree of outrage at the British Government's plans to capture every portable phone message, every text message, every instant messenger conversation, every webclick.

Now having seen this video, I feel that the plans are just part of a terrifying "jigsaw puzzle" which, when completed, will mean the absolute end of personal privacy.

The video is in French, but I am sure that all will be clear when you watch it. It concerns RFID - Radio Frequency Identification.

Coming soon to your town - if it isn't there already...

Until the next time.

Extra - Extra - Extra!

It seems that I have been asleep: please read this item - from 2004

Plenty more on this interesting subject here

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The "Goriller of 3B"

Image source: "Whizz for Atomms" (Willans & Searle
Pub William Collins Sons & Co Ltd 1973)

The magnificent specimen you see above is, as any fule kno, the splendid Nigel Molesworth, pupil at St Custard's. It is perhaps my favourite image of the young gentleman - he who has given me so much reading pleasure over the years.

Geoffrey Willans, who created the appalling - but equally entertaining - Nigel, died tragically young at 47, so the last book was published in 1959. As one who was a contemporary of Nigel, I rather feel that although in principle, Nigel is eternal, he is really a 1950s character.

The 1950s to me, and perhaps to you (if you were around then) was a time of great optimism, and much of this is reflected in the four books in the series. These were:
  • Down with Skool! A Guide to School Life for Tiny Pupils and their Parents (1953)
  • How to be Topp: A Guide to Sukcess for Tiny Pupils, Including All There is to Kno about Space (1954)
  • Whizz for Atomms: A Guide to Survival in the 20th Century for Fellow Pupils, their Doting Maters, Pompous Paters and Any Others who are Interested (1956)
  • Back in the Jug Agane (1959)
The titles and descriptions themselves provide a fine introduction to Nigel's eccentric spelling; "as any fule kno" has become a standard English expression, frequently found in press articles.

Willans was clever indeed: he managed an excellent and invariably funny blend of Nigel's brutishness and a veneer of British public-school classical education.

And it was Ronald Searle (creator of the girls of St Trinians) who produced the splendid illustrations. Here is Phineas Grimes the positively ante-deluvian headmaster, a magnificent piece of work:
Image source: "Whizz for Atomms" (Willans & Searle
Pub William Collins Sons & Co Ltd 1973)

Grimes, according to Nigel ,was ever keen to increase his income and to this end was alleged to run a whelk stall as a sideline.

There is an entertaining website for those who would like to share Nigel's skool experience; it is of course named after Nigel's skool: St Custard's.

Wikipedia has a good entry covering Nigel for those who would like a general background; there are numerous other sites too.

Proof that Nigel has outlasted his period may be found in a splendid parody Ho for Hoggwart's in which Nigel attends Harry Potter's famous school, written by Alice Dryden. It helps to kno Nigel a little (which is quite enuough!) first, but this is a very funny piece in its own right.

Tragically I cannot find a picture of Basil Fotherington-tomas "who skip around like a girly saying 'hello trees, hello sky'." He was just one of a rich cast of characters who together made my visits to St Custards so rewarding: Nigel, Molesworth 2, Fotherington-tomas, Grabber (jolly tuough), Grimes, Sigismund the mad maths master, and not to forget Nigel's best friend (who hav a face like a squished tomato) Peason, and of course Matron.

Until the next time

Sunday, 24 August 2008

How Sad is This? (Man with new Apple lap-top)

For once, words fail me.

Until the next time

Perfect Timing

Image source: here

With truly wonderful timing, Computerworld reports that the British Government has, in just one year, lost data relating to 4,000,000 people. Those affected include NHS patients, military recruits and numerous others in a breathtaking display of official incompetence.

That's right: this is the same British Government that is about to spend hundreds of millions of pounds capturing every email, text message, portable phone conversation and website visit made in the UK.

With these resources at its disposal, expect an exponential increase in "lost data."

You really couldn't make it up, could you?

Until the next time

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


Image source: Here

It is well known that Britons are leaving the UK in droves and have been for some years.

The latest scheme from the British Government suggests to this writer that the tide may actually increase - people will feel less oppressed in many countries that were perhaps previously thought to be repressive.

The scheme, which is incredibly ambitious, will be in words from this Gizmodo article, "[a] one-stop-shop database [which] will retain details of all calls, texts, emails, instant messenger conversations and websites accessed in the UK for up to two years."

The bill for the taxpayer will be colossal - well into nine figures, and this will be done without an act of parliament.

Democracy in action then, so that's all right isn't it?

I'm glad that I don't live there any more.

Until the next time.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Evidently I am not Alone!

Gizmodo reports that a survey of 3000 users has revealed that no less than a third have removed Vista and replaced it with XP on their computers; the article actually says "downgraded" but of course I cannot agree with this!

My past market research experience tells me that a sample of 3000 is statistically robust even in such a large "universe" so the results can be taken as representative.

There is a large number of comments following the Gizmodo article, I have selected one which brings back vivid, but not fond, memories of my Vista experience:

I had Vista for a few weeks before removing it. For me it draws a ridiculous amount of system resources but didn't perform any faster. With 2gb of ram it took longer to load aps than on XP with only 1gb. I did like the look of it but it seemed to me like that's all it was, an overblown facelift that really wasn't needed. They changed things around just for the sake of changing them to make them LOOK better. I was really drawn into it initially when I had heard about the ReadyBoost feature of using flash drives to be allocated as RAM, but quickly realized that the OS is so inefficient in regards to the usage of system resources that it was a necessity. But the biggest annoyance was dealing with crap like this:

Me: (drops file in the Recycle Bin)

Vista: Are you sure you want to do that?

Me: (clicks yes)

Vista: By doing this action you permanently delete this file. Are you sure you still want to do this?

Me: (click yes again)

Vista: Are you sure you don't want to hang on to this? You have plenty of space available I would hate to see you need it later and not have it. Do you wish to continue with the deletion of the file?

Me: (click yes yet again)

Vista: Maybe you should check with your neighbor Ted. He knows more about this kind of thing than you do. You should get his opinion first before proceeding. He is home right now. Go ahead and call him and then click yes or no.

Me: (clicks yes 8 times really fast)

Vista: First of all there is no need for an attitude. You want me to delete the damn file, I will delete the damn file, but I know that due to your response time you didn't bother to call Ted.....jerk.

Me: (format C:)

Until the next time

Saturday, 16 August 2008

"Have Some MIDORI M'dear!"

The rumour merchants have been very busy lately concerning a Microsoft development: a new type of operating system described in Wikipedia as a "managed code operating system". The Computerworld blog goes so far as to say that "Microsoft has serious plans to do away with Windows"... the blog goes on to quote one David Worthington as saying " [Microsoft is] carefully conceptualizing a way to move millions of users away from the existing Windows codebase and onto Midori, a legacy-free operating system."

Well, it is this writer's view that Microsoft has to act and act quickly in the face of new challenges: the increased market penetration of Linux and Apple's resurgence being just two. Apart from this we can expect further dramatic changes, with the arrival of new, small and low-powered computers that rely on the "cloud computing" concept of operation.

I am somewhat baffled at the choice of the name "Midori" - just as the choice of "Vista" as a name prompted some questions in my mind. Once again Wikipedia is my friend; there are lots of "Midoris"!

Happily for the cohesion of this post, it turns out that one Midori is a liqueur made from melons, whilst another is a porn star.

Have some Midori m'dear,
You really have nothing to fear,
There was Windows ME,
(which went down the drain)
And Vista's a dog,
(I won't use it again)
But Midori will triumph,
In two oh one three,
So have some Midori with me!

Until the next time

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Free Speech

Ah yes, Free Speech, that old chestnut. Enshrined in the articles of the United Nations, The European Union, part of the Declaration of Human Rights. And yet...

These thoughts have been triggered by a piece in Techcrunch concerning the arrests of bloggers.

Yes, that's quite correct: I did write "arrests of bloggers." The chart below taken from the Techcrunch article, shows how arrests have increased over the past few years:

Depressing, at least to me; whilst one expects to hear of arrests for the heinous crime of expressing oneself in such places as China, Iran and Burma, it came as a shock to hear of arrests in the USA, Canada, France and Great Britain.

I have written here, sometimes in strong terms, about this subject - this piece for example. I would have been depressed indeed had I found Denmark on the list!

Until the next time.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Particle Article II: Be Kind to Hadrons

A hadron (pronounced /hɑːdɹɒn/, from Greek ἁδρός, hadros, thick), in particle physics, is any strongly interacting composite subatomic particle. All hadrons are composed of quarks. Hadrons are divided into two classes, according to their baryon number [...]

The above definition comes from Wikipedia; if you would like to read more, here's the link.

The Large Hadron Collider Experiment at CERN, said to be the largest scientific experiment in Man's history, is scheduled to start on 10th September this year. Enormous sums have been spent in preparing the experiment which is expected to break significant new ground in particle physics.

Very slowly, the huge magnets which will control the beams are being cooled, the target temperature being about - 271.25°C or about 1.75° Kelvin. CERN has thoughtfully provided a web page where the descending temperatures may be monitored. Here's an extract:

You can follow the cooldown progress here. So much for the science side of things.

Inevitably, such a large and well-publicised experiment has resulted in a number of eccentrics, doom-sayers and crackpots coming out of the woodwork - this article for example, refers to a court case in the USA where those bringing the action have described the Large Hadron Collider as a "Doomsday" machine.

Finally the news of the experiment has instigated the forming of a pressure group: People for the Ethical Treatment of Hadrons:

All is explained in this article at BBspot. Tia Aumiller who founded the group said:

"There's a limited supply of hadrons in the universe. Do we just want to go around destroying them? What if we run out? What if the hadrons can feel pain? Will we look back at this hundreds of years from now and regret it? Kinda like we do with the killing of bacteria with antibiotics now."

LHC project boss Erich Stanhoffe responded (rather humourlessly I thought)

"We've got the wackos who think we're going to rip a hole in the universe, and the people who think our real purpose is to create a race of Dr. Manhattans, but this is just weird..."

I hope to be able to manage a few more posts here before "Doomsday"; meanwhile I had better get on to Lastminute.com to see of there's a ticket left for somewhere like Betelgeuse although I expect that the French Trésor Publique probably already has a branch there (it'll be next door to HM Inland Revenue & Customs, inter-galactic division, just across the road from the European Parliament offices).

Until the next time.

Snail Mail

Whilst there are those who would like to replace "Fast Food" with "Slow Food" congratulations are due to those at Bournemouth University who have developed the Snail Mail project, a most original idea in that it is simultaneously the blending of modern electronics with real snails to bring a service that might help slow the hectic pace of today's world...

The official launch took place yesterday and you can read all about the project at Boredomresearch's Realsnailmail website here and better still, you can send messages via the service, preferably I think non-time-critical ones! (I already have) since the Real Snail Mail blog reports that there is a backlog of 6000 messages. Fortunately the "workforce" of delivery agents now numbers 8.

Until the next time

Another Nice Clock

Courtesy of Gizmodo, here's another nice clock: the "Scopeclock."

Once again I would like one, but at $999, it is a little outside any clock budget I have!

Until the next time

DC Comics Blended with The Simpsons

Here's a bit of fun, courtesy of Springfield Punx, an amusing blog.

The blogger, Dean Fraser has managed to morph those DC super-heroes into characters from the famous town of Springfield; I think that Fraser's is a considerable talent.

Do visit Springfield Punx - Fraser has been very busy!

Until the next time

Is Windows on the Way Out?

Image Source: here

My regular readers will be fully aware of my views on Microsoft Vista. For newcomers (and I welcome all my new readers who have arrived recently - I hope I can persuade you to stay with my disconnected "jottings") I should explain that my views on Vista are not based on hearsay and prejudice, but on eight months' experience of this bordel of an operating system. The irony is that if I had listened to the hearsay, I would have saved myself a great deal of frustration and indeed, expense - I am now a content XP user. Simply type "Vista" into the search box at the top of the page to see the various pieces I have written about Vista here.

The many, many articles I have read online suggest that I am far from being alone although I should add that Vista has its enthusiasts and I suppose, apologists!

Well, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at Computerworld seems to think that Vista has sounded the death-knell for Windows. In this article he says:

"The company has tried to con — uh, convince — people that Vista really is a good operating system, with its painful Mojave Experiment Web site. The site crashed Safari on my MacBook Pro and wouldn't render on Firefox on my openSUSE Linux PC. When I finally did get it to show up on an XP SP3 system, I was told it was my fault that I was having trouble with Vista. That's a surefire way to make me want to buy Vista.

Windows has had a long run, too long really. It can't be twisted into an operating system that can handle a world where processing power may be on the desktop or in a cloud, and where networking is a given. Microsoft needs something different."

The article states that MS is developing something called Midori, which is apparently a completely new operating system, unlike Windows 7 which of course will be, as the article suggests "Vista SP4".

Once again, I suppose it's a case of "watch this space."

Until the next time.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

I Want One!

A slide-rule clock; I think that this is excellent and I would love to have one. It is in so much better taste than those nasty iPhone accessories I have been complaining about here!

Until the next time


In this case, nostalgia for an atmosphere - or ambience - I suppose you'd call it, that was before my time, but always seems to hold a certain resonance for me.

An excerpt from the 1941 British film "Dangerous Moonlight" starring Anton Wallbrook as a Polish concert pianist/fighter pilot. This is the first time I have seen any of this famous film and I hope to be able to find a DVD copy. The film is not famous for itself (it is a typical wartime raise-your-spirits effort, and sentimental to boot by all accounts) but for the excellent music composed by Richard Addinsell (who was also writer/accompanist to British institution, Joyce Grenfell).

The music is "The Warsaw Concerto": lasting just over eight minutes it is a little romantic gem and for me always strongly redolent of the "dark days of the Second World War." It is said that originally the producers of the film approached Sergei Rachmaninov for permission to use his famous Second Piano Concerto in the film, but he responded "Nyet." Happily Addinsell's creativity more than filled the gap.

Here is the original soundtrack version which I hope you will enjoy.

Until the next time

Yet More iPhone Bollocks!!

Could this be the ultimate iPhone accessory?

A diamond-studded leather case to protect your iPhone, price, $14,990.00; that is about 500 times the cost of the iPhone itself.

As some wag commented on the Gizmodo article that reported this particular piece of grossness, on the principle of "big ants have little ants/on their backs to bite 'em/little ants have smaller ants/ and so ad infinitum", one presumably buys a $234,000 case to protect the $15,000 one.

I expect they'll sell some: I heard this morning on the radio, that apparently EIGHT people bought the stupid "I am rich" non-functioning software that I reported on here so it would seem that we have not yet reached the bottom.

And to quote the eminently-quotable Phineas T. Barnum once again: "Nobody ever lost money under-estimating the taste of the public."

Until the next time.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

More on the iPhone "Bling Thing"

Silicon Alley Insider reports that the silly $1000 non-functioning gadget designed by Armin Heinrich, no longer appears on the list of available applications for the iPhone.

The article asks: "Did anyone buy it?"

Well, Valleywag.com inform us that indeed at least one person did; read about it here.

As Phineas T. Barnum famously remarked "There's a sucker born every minute."

Until the next time

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

More iPhone Bollocks

Here you are: if you have an iPhone you can cough up $999.99 to get a "work of art" that tells everyone you are rich.

I don't have any problem with the concept of riches; what gives me a pain in the arse is the absolute lack of taste of so many of the people who have money.

"Lifestyle"... pass the sick-bag. Gold bath-taps and identity bracelet anybody?

Story from Techcrunch here.

Until the next time.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Bicycle Strangeness - More Sunday Silliness

Despite being a keen cyclist as a teenager, I have no interest now, despite all the green credentials etc.; I have been put off somewhat anyway by the rise of the Militant Cyclist - I expect you know what I mean.

However from other times comes the following video which shows some really quite bizarre variants on cycles and cycling. It appears to be in Czech and since a number of the clips date from 1942 and '43 they are interesting historically for of course at that time Czechoslovakia as it then was, was occupied by the Third Reich.

Until the next time

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Particle Article

CERN from the air. The large ring is 27km in circumference
and shows the outline of the old Large Electron and
Positron Collider

Straddling the border between France and Switzerland lies the massive establishment known as CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research. Within a week or two, a vast experiment will begin, involving the operation of the Large Hadron Collider a particle accelerator all of 27km in length. Using magnets constructed to use super-conducting materials, which will be maintained at -271.25°C, or if you like, 1.75°K, protons will be accelerated to energies of seven trillion electron volts and then smashed together. The aim is to simulate conditions that prevailed a few micro-seconds after the Big Bang and to discover new particles including the elusive Higgs Boson.

If all the above is a little on the dry side for you, there are some stunning photographs of the colossal works going on at CERN. How about precision welding via a mirror?

The pictures above and many more all with interesting captions, may be found at the Boston Globe.

Finally those who wish to understand better the physics behind all this, may benefit from a bit of RAP from Alpinekat, a science writer who works at CERN...

Until the next time