Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Don’t Want to Play

Olivia's birthday party

I don’t feel like blogging today. Or working, either. I think I’m feeling a bit tired and in need of a holiday. Of late I’ve been writing too many grants and had too much on my plate. Even the usual escapist thoughts of planning the next Monte Carlo rally seem onerous.

I’ll try to post something interesting tomorrow. In the meantime here’s a pic taken at daughter Olivia’s 21st birthday party last week. O is looking great as usual despite that rather dubious top but hell, she’s officially an adult now and can do what she likes (and would waste no time telling me so if I dared suggest otherwise). I’m looking distinctly dissolute (please don’t say drunk -I was driving and being quite abstemious); I’d like to blame the camera, the angle, the lighting etc but I suspect this is my real appearance. Oh, well…!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Pastafarians

him
Sketch of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Deity by Bobby Henderson

As I said on previous occasions, I mostly keep away from controversial topics on this blog however I can’t resist a post on the following “religious” matter:

Now that George Bush has announced that he thinks Intelligent Design should be taught in schools I’m starting to despair as to where this whole religion thing is going. For those of you not resident in the United States, Intelligent Design is nothing more than creationism in a party frock. However the school boards of some states want Creationism/Intelligent Design taught alongside Christianity in their comparative religion classes and dismiss evolution as ‘just a theory’. It comes with no surprise that Kansas is leading the charge. Now as a scientist I have to raise my hand and point out that evolution is not a theory but a pragmatically verifiable fact. I’m also tempted to point out that if Intelligent Design is behind the construction of the Universe why did we end up with the Kansas School Board?

Having said all this I’m reprinting the letter below from Bobby Henderson making a case for representation of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster that seems just as valid as Intelligent Design.

OPEN LETTER TO KANSAS SCHOOL BOARD

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design to be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence. What these people don’t understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.

I’m sure you now realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory. It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the discretion of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this, and unfortunately cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t.

You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.
piratesarecool4

In conclusion, thank you for taking the time to hear our views and beliefs. I hope I was able to convey the importance of teaching this theory to your students. We will of course be able to train the teachers in this alternate theory. I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

Sincerely Yours,

Bobby Henderson, concerned citizen.

P.S. I have included an artistic drawing of Him creating a mountain, trees, and a midget. Remember, we are all His creatures.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Happy Blogging Birthday!

It's a year today since I tentatively submitted my first post to Blogger, mostly as a technical exercise to see if I could do it. Since then this column has taken on a life of its own and I've developed a kind of blogging personality as dictated by choice of topics and so forth. Some of this is guided by the fact that I don't write anonymously and so I won't criticise employers (goodness, I'd have some stories to tell if I did), I refrain (often with some difficulty) from bad language and I tend to steer clear of highly contentious topics such as politics and religion. There are too many great political writiers out there and in any case I've no wish to attract unwanted troll activity -life is abrasive enough already.

So in the past 12 months I've learned how to post photographs (Flickr, the host service I used tells me that I've used 200 in my articles), how to do some basic HTML manipulation and carry out Google bombing. I really would like to fiddle with the site a bit more but right now I just don't have time so I'm using one of the made-to-measure templates I found on Blogger. I've made 183 posts in the past 365 days and I seem to have a fairly regular readership, excluding the sad surfers who are looking for Sarah Beeny pictures. I've had 6,585 hits since I added the counter thingy, and all but a couple of hundreds of these visits have been since going public with the blog back in February with the Monte Carlo Rally reports.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all for visiting. Please continue to drop by and feel free to leave comments (preferably polite). Blogging over the past year has been an interesting, exciting and therapeutic process for me and I'll do my best to keep you entertained in the next 12 months.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

My Cloning Experiment

Primal scream

Olivia+Dad 1984
My “8-year-old” is 21 today! Hard to believe it’s been over two decades since the Orwellian year of 1984 and I was a terrified father-to-be awaiting the arrival of a squealing infant. While I can state categorically that bringing up a child is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, all concerned seem to have survived the process with flying colours. And the process whereby the bawling blob (above) develops into an intelligent, reasonable and (on most occasions) a quite delightful human being (below) has been amazing to observe.

Happy 21st Birthday, Olivia!
(no, I'm still not going to buy you a sports car)
Birthday party

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mo Mowlam

Just a short note as my nose is applied firmly to the grindstone fixing my “Small Print” fiasco. I was saddened to read of the passing of former Labour politician, Mo Mowlam, earlier today. She was one of the genuine stars of the Party and will be remembered primarily as the architect of the Good Friday agreement. She brought about this remarkable achievement by listening to both sides and gaining their trust: a textbook study in conflict resolution. She had fought a brain tumour for a decade and eventually lost her battle at thetragically young age of 55. Her death comes less than two weeks after Robin Cook which is really too much.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Observations on Site Traffic

I've been monitoring my site traffic quite carefully since my "CNN Newsmodels" lark last week. Some odd things have been going on:
  • On the day of the post my site traffic doubled
  • None of the hits were due to searches for these CNN ladies although I had one today for Rudi Bakhtiar who seems to be everybody's favourite.
  • I've had lots of hits from referring websites that seemed to appear in a three hour window. Many of these were Spanish and Portuguese and there was at least one about which I had no clue of the language used.
  • None of these referring sites had linked "Mad Dogs and Englishmen"; this was very mysterious and I had no idea what was happening until today. I think Dawn at Webmiztris has figured it out and commented in her usual colourful manner. These hits were probably coming from people hitting the "Next" button on blogger. But why did this happen in a three hour period and why have I never seen it before or since?
  • I've got a feeling there's spam in the air. The other thing I've noticed this week though thankfully not on my site, is spam appearing in the Haloscan comments.
  • I'm still getting a steady trickle of individuals looking for photos of Sarah Beeny. Now listen you sad bastards, wander over to see Caratacus because for awhile at least he had posted some pictures of her naked although I can't speak for the authenticity of these shots!! Now no running and will the last person out please close the door...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Small Print about the Small Print

Dance of Death
The Priest from Hans Holbein's "Dance of Death"(1528).

Today I received an ominous looking email entitled "format problems" from the Center for Scientific Review at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). On reading it through it appears that my plague grant application has been returned to err, plague me. Sorry. It seems that I have transgressed the rules of formatting and hadn't read the small print about the small print. While I'd used the correct font (boring old Times Roman) in the correct size (11pt), my line spacing was too dense (10pt instead of 11pt). I'd done this to comply with the page limit and made it by about half a page. The good news is that I've been given a week to re-submit. What a hassle. In all my years of submitting applications to NIH, I've never heard of such a thing. And it's not as if I'd reduced the document down to a microdot; it really does look quite normal and is easy on the eye. I can't believe that somebody has been so anal retentive they've actually measured, with a ruler, the number of lines per inch (I submitted hardcopy tree-ware). Oh well, nothing to do but knuckle down and fix it: the one thing I've learned over the years is that government bureaucrats are always right.

Oh, and one more thing. The last person to die of plague in Britain was a Mrs. Bug of Suffolk in 1913. Not many people know that!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Caveat Emptor

Bexley press release

I've mentioned Henley Classic Minis in previous posts. My experience with them was unsatisfactory to put it mildly. Unfortunately I was reminded about their shortcomings by an email from a reader last week. Previously I had cited a link to Bexley Trading Standards describing the above prosecution. The page has now been removed but Bexley have sent me a copy of the press relaease pertaining to the matter so here it is for your perusal.

So if anyone is thinking about dealing with this company, I must emphasise the old saying caveat emptor -believe me the above horror story is just the tip of the iceberg. And should anyone want to discuss their situation with me, just drop me an email (wjwmorrow@yahoo.com)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Top Tottie Challenge 2: The CNN “Newsmodels”

Recently Andrew Marr, the BBC's outgoing political editor, suggested that newsreaders are paid too much money for merely "reading an autocue". His comments were supported by John Humphrys, host of BBC Radio 4's Today programme, who said reading the news "isn't work" and "requires no brain". Indeed on this report on the BBC site there was a picture of Channel 5’s Kirsty Young who reportedly earns £500,000 a year. A low blow perhaps…? Well to those of you who might think Ms. Young to be a self-aggrandising strumpet, you really ought to take a look at this collection of flibbertygibbets that adorn US TV screens on a daily basis, so behold I bring you the CNN “newsmodels”:
paul.christi
Christie Paul
bakhtiar.rudi
Rudi Bakhtiar
meade.robin
Robin Meade
costello.carol
Carol Costello
zahn.paula
Paula Zahn

Have you ever seen such a perfectly manicured bunch? I don’t want to think about what they earn but I’m sure their collective annual income would be enough to pay for a NASA manned mission to Mars. And for those of you who demean Kirsty Young, I can assure you she is an intellectual tyrannosaurus compared to this lot. A particularly annoying trait is that they seem to be primed to flirt with the camera and the upshot is that horrific news stories are often delivered while grinning inanely. The phenotypically perfect Rudi Bakhtiar is the worst offender. I’ll stop short at calling her vacuous but the terms “hot air balloon” and “jumpstart” do spring to mind. CNN refers to all these women as “journalists”. Well I may be unkind but their penetrative interviewing skills seem to be on the level of “Do you think Mel will be thrown off Survivor…?” and “What’s your star sign..?” I’ll make a bit of an exception for Paula Zahn who can play the cello quite well but she’s still no Jeremy Paxman. Hence the expression (not mine) of “newsmodels” because their sole purpose is to present news while looking as attractive as possible.

I have no doubt that these ladies are used to decorate the CNN studios and get the viewer ratings up -rather like I’m trying to do with my own site traffic! Except that CNN is deadly serious. My concern now is that these Newsmodels have a huge fan base of humourless males who I don’t think will take kindly to my jibes and I won’t be surprised if there is a bit of Troll activity on my Comments. At least we could have good knock-about fun with Sarah Beeny.

OK, let’s see what that does for site traffic...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Worried

secretbunker

Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bombing. On Monday it was reported that Iran restarted its nuclear program: Europe has issued a warning and the US has been sabre rattling for some time. And Lord only knows what's happening in North Korea. I’ve given up guessing what a logical outcome might be; my instincts tell me this is all going to end in tears. I just hope we won’t have to play hide-and-seek to find the shelters…

Oh, and while we are considering the planet being reduced to a mass of radioactive white ash, look out tomorrow for Round 3 of the Top Tottie Challenge.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I've Created a Monster

Now look everybody this is becoming ridiculous -I really have created a monster! As regular readers will know I first enquired about who Sarah Beeny was sometime ago because of Scaryduck’s seemingly prurient interest and because I was feeling out of touch with popular culture in the UK. When I mentioned her on this site the number of hits I received increased six fold, for awhile at least. Most came from perverts individuals doing Google and Yahoo searches on SB. I commented on this observation on a couple of occasions and suggested that the mention of her name as a keyword could increase internet site traffic. Since I’ve observed the Beeny Effect on several occasions. This is the phenomenon in which otherwise normal, rational, men go quite loopy at the mention of her name.

Last week I wrote that the inordinately sensible Andy Merrett cloned my site traffic experiment. Now I’ve discovered that things have become even sillier. The excellent Caratacus from Down Under, who normally writes very scholarly and pointed political commentary, seems to have dislocated some of his neuronal synapses and has been up to mischief with PhotoShop and some dodgy third party images, I suspect. Furthermore he has thrown down (to me, ergh) a “Top Tottie Challenge” gauntlet. OK, Mate, yer on. I’ve been promising another Top Tottie post for some time so I’ll get to it. Watch this space but be warned, there will be no shenanigans with PhotoShop here (I can't afford it) and anyway I'm not that kind of blogger...

Note I’ve just checked Caratacus’ site and he’s toned things down a bit from yesterday which may or may not be a shame depending on your point of view…

Monday, August 08, 2005

Weekend Roundup

IanBell

I couldn’t restrain a cheer when I read that the crew of the trapped Russian submarine had reached the surface safely. Along with many others, I feel these real-time dramas very acutely and I’m still horrified by the Kursk disaster five years ago. Well done to the Royal Navy rescue team who saved the day and a note to the Russian Navy: Chaps, you really do need to invest a bit in your own deep sea rescue equipment...!

This weeked in the 60th anniversary of the nuclear age. As it happens, I visited Hiroshima 22 years ago, almost to the day. Unfortunately the picture of me ringing the Bell of Peace has been lost to posterity. Never mind. The place was profoundly moving and my memories are very vivid as is the sentiment that these weapons should never be used again. Unfortunately I don’t feel very confident that this will be the case…

The untimely death of British politician Robin Cook ay the age of 59 was shocking. I always felt he would have made a much better candidate for Prime Minister than Tony Blair. He was always eloquent, persuasive and erudite. Although his principled stance against the Iraq War killed his career with New Labour, to me he stood out from others with less backbone (Jack Straw and David Blunkett, please call your offices). RIP, Robin, you will be remembered.

Farewell also to Peter Jennings who has been the face of ABC News ever since I first came to America. Mr Jennings moved on the the Great Newsroom in the Sky after a short battle with lung cancer.

Finishing on a brighter note, congratulations to the England cricket team for beating the Aussies at Edgbaston in the second test. This performance seemed like vintage stuff when Ian Botham et al. clawed victory out of the jaws of defeat 20 year ago. Now lets see if Michael Vaughan and the boys can carry off the Ashes….

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bloody Hell! Do NOT try this at home...!

glock24a

I've seen more rubbish written about guns, from both the pro and con camps, over the past month than I could have believed possible. I'm going to keep my views on this complex and emotive subject to myself for now but do take a look at this and this...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Imitation (They're Back...)

kirstiesarahchart

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well in checking the log of visitors to my site I note that a gentleman by the name of Andy Merret has replicated (with all due acknowledgement) my internet traffic experiment by posting the names of Kirstie Allsopp and Sarah Beeney on his blog to get his hit rate up. Andy, who is arguably even sadder than me, plotted a pie chart to show the realtive popularity of these two ladies (the winner is, apparently, Sarah Beeny by a very convincing margin). Good job Andy, thanks for visiting my site and also for the plug, but you really should get out more.

Oh, -and watch out for a variant of this experiment coming here soon...

Dishshevelled

Plague Years
Well you'd look like this after no more than 6 hours sleep in 48 hours...!! But the T shirt is the point here (and the back is even funnier; global plague outbreaks with dates are listed like a rock band's tour). The grant has gone. Sort of. There was a glitch with Fedex right at the very end so I hope it gets to NIH on time. It looked really good though so everyone keep your fingers crossed. The review will be in November and I should have a decision in early December. Anyway I'm heartily sick of the whole topic and I'm going to take the rest of the week off to catch up on some personal stuff. Oh, and by the time I get the result on this proposal I have at least two more grants to write. Ergh!