Thursday, 31 October 2013

All Hallows Eve

Since our earliest ancestors, we have wondered what secrets are held beyond our own death. On Halloween night the veil between the living and the dead is at it's thinnest so take my hand and let's take a walk into the darkness, but whatever you do, don't let go because hidden in the darkness are things that the living are not supposed to see.  

Barbados, late 18th Century, and the lifeless body of Elizabeth Elliot is laid to rest in the family tomb before an enormous blue slab of marble is pushed across the entrance to seal the tomb.
A few years later, falling on hard times, the Elliot family sold the vault to the Chase family and the first member of the Chase Family to be buried there was Mary Anne Marie Chase who died at the age of two in 1808.
Her small lead coffin was placed in the vault alongside Elizabeth Elliot's and the marble slab was pushed back into place where it would remain for four years.
In 1812 Mary Anne's older sister, Dorcas, died and her coffin was added to the vault and a month later the head of the family, Colonel Thomas Chase, committed suicide but when the pallbearers opened the vault a grisly sight met them all. Inside the tomb, both of the little girl's coffins had been seemingly thrown about and were lying in a haphazard fashion on the vault's floor but Elizabeth Elliot's coffin was untouched.
Blaming grave robbers, the two coffins were straightened and the body of Colonel Chase was added before the vault was sealed once more.
Four years later, the vault was once again opened to admit the body of eleven year-old Charles Brewster Ames and again, with the exception of Mrs Elliot;s, the coffins inside the tomb had been thrown about. 
By now, the story had begun to spread around the island and 52 days later when Samuel Brewster was due to be buried, the vault was inspected from the outside for anything out of the ordinary.  The found that the vault was airtight and watertight and that nothing could get in or out however, upon opening the tomb, once again they discovered that the coffins had been violently disturbed, all except Elizabeth Elliot's.
By this time, the news of the moving coffins had reached the ears of Barbados' governor, Lord Combermere, who ordered that the vault be inspected and made impenetrable from the outside. He then ordered that sand be sprinkled on the floor so that footprints would betray any human or animal intruders.  Finally, the governor's seal was placed into the fresh cement of the vault seal as an added precaution. 
For two years this is how the vault remained until slaves working on a nearby field heard strange noises coming from the vault.
To quash rumours of restless spirits, Lord Combermere ordered the vault to be opened but as the marble slab was removed, the crowd gasped as what was revealed was the coffins once again moved around and some laying on their edge. There were no prints in the sand so no-one had entered the vault.
To avoid further panic, Lord Combermere ordered the coffins be buried in a churchyard and the vault left empty and that is how it has stood for the past 200 years, nobody daring to tempt fate by allowing a family member to be buried there.

Maybe the disturbances were caused by earthquakes, hoaxers or maybe the vault was prone to flooding which had lifted and dropped the coffins as the vault filled and emptied of water. Possibly the answer lays with something more sinister that stepped onto our side of the thin veil.
Sleep tight and don't worry that sound outside, it's just the wind. Probably.  

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Lou Reed Who?

The newspapers have been filled with people declaring Lou Reed as a musical genius and influencing all manner of artists who came behind him.
To me and almost everyone i have asked, he was the guy who sang a few lines on the 'Perfect Day' BBC Charity single and 'Walk on the Wild Side' but after that i draw a blank.
As a man who was such a wide influence on punk, Rock, Grunge and pretty much everything, he has a pretty small repertoire of well known songs.
I just don't understand it, i see him as a very minor player in the wide scheme of musical things but maybe i somehow managed to completely miss his tremendous impact while he was alive which judging by his record sales, most of us did.
If only a few more of the people currently gushing over what a giant of the music scene he was said so when he was alive, he may have sold a few more records and more people wouldn't need just two fingers to count the Lou Reed songs they know.   

Putin The Most Powerful Man On The Planet

Using the criteria of the amount of people they have power over, financial resources they control, influence in more than one sphere and how they wield their power to change the world, Forbes have come up with the '72 people that matter from the 7.2 billion people on the planet'.
This years top dog and owner of a badge with 'The Worlds Most Powerful Person' on it is Russian President Vladimir Putin who bundled aside the flailing U.S. President Barack Obama out of the top slot.
Forbes justify placing the man who couldn't necessarily be described as a humanitarian by pointing to how he has 'solidified his control over Russia while Obama’s lame duck period has seemingly set in earlier than usual for a two-term president'.
Admittedly Putin is certainly doing a better job for Russia than Obama is doing for the USA but then the third placed man, Xi Jinping of China isn't doing a bad job in his homeland. The Pope is fourth and fifth and the most powerful woman is Angela Merkel, just ahead of Bill Gates.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is 11th while a surprisingly long way down the list is UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Former US President and dress spoiler Bill Clinton is 43rd just ahead of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in 46th.
Putin has had a good 2013 while Obama has had a stinker but at least we can now expect more action photo shoot of Putin the Powerful with his top off very soon, probably wrestling a shark or something.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

US Considering Not Spying On Friends Anymore

The White House is currently evaluating whether to end surveillance programs allegedly targeting the leaderships of allied nations.
The White House said Monday evening that it was conducting an internal review on its surveillance programs, which include the monitoring of allied foreign leaders, to be completed by December.  
As Obama told Angela Merkel that he wasn't aware that her personal mobile calls were being listened to and then it was revealed that actually, the National Security Agency told him about it in 2010, i would trust him about as far as i could throw a piano but at least they are considering whether to carry on listening in to private phone calls.
Which is nice of them but i wish Obama had gone with the 'I was helping Santa to see if you had been bad or good' excuse as i suggested.

Energy Companies Conning Us All

It is always nice to see those who will let people die as long as they make a profit being held to account and its the turn of the big six energy suppliers who are in front of a Commons Committee justifying the latest round of price increases.
The usual reasons have been trotted out with the wholesale price and green levies as the two common reasons that they have been forced to add an average 9.1% to the price of their customers fuel bills.  
The Wholesale price argument quickly fell over as industry regulator Ofgem showed that wholesale prices have risen by 1.7%  which should add just £10 to the average household bill.
Then there are the 'green levies' which have become the latest justification and which the Government are looking into scrapping. 
The Green Levy is 5% (£33 on the average £1,255 bill) of which 2% goes towards renewable sources with the rest being used on installing better utility meters, loans for insulation and replacing boilers of those in fuel poverty and the Warm Home Discount which is paid directly to vulnerable and low income households.
As the fuel companies don't see the 5% green tax anyway, losing these won't effect their profits but will bring a screeching halt to renewable energy and removing the little help that those already suffering in fuel poverty receive, no wonder they are keen on it, a way to look good by reducing their customers bills which doesn't touch their profit margin.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, the managing director of small, green energy firm Ovo Energy, said he was confused by the big energy firms justification for the hefty price rises, saying that he felt that the firms were 'simply charging the maximum price they feel they can get away' and he has it spot on.
The prices are high, because the energy companies put them up knowing customers have little choice, they have to pay it and by acting in unison, the big six know that the vast majority of customers won't switch because who is there to switch to if all of them put their price up together?   
The focus should be on the ridiculous profits the energy companies seem to be making and that is where cuts should be coming from, although that obviously won't please the shareholders.
Coming from a Prime Minister, with three former energy executives acting as advisors, who advice to keep down fuel bills was 'to put on a jumper', not much help coming from that direction so if Labour want to make sure of taking the next election, they should go along with the 80% of the population who support nationalising the fuel industry in this country.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Britney New Weapon Against Pirates

The Royal Navy have a terrible new weapon in the ongoing war against Piracy, Britney Spears.
A CD of Britney's greatest hits are being employed by British naval officers in an attempt to scare off pirates along the east coast of Africa.
Merchant naval officer Rachel Owens said: 'Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most. These guys can't stand western culture or music, making Britney's hits perfect. As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can'.
The Navy refused to confirm reports that the original choice of using a Susan Boyle CD contravened the Geneva Convention and was condemned as cruel and inhumane torture by Human Rights Organisations.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Hurricane St Jude Coming Sunday Night

Seems a bit unfair that it is America and China who are doing the most to rubbish the atmosphere but it is the UK that is getting the consequences in the shape of a Hurricane about the flatten the southern half of the country.
Que sera sera as the French say so it's time to batten down the hatches and make sure everything that can be picked up in 80+ mph winds and deposited through your living room window is tied down because the small hope that it will miss us has been dismissed by the MET Office, its coming and it's gonna be big.
There were hopes the huge storm brewing over the Atlantic Ocean would miss the UK, and sweep instead through the English Channel but meteorologists are now certain it will strike the south west of England and could leave a trail of destruction with winds speeds in excess of 80mph gusting north-east across the country, causing structural damage, widespread flooding and bringing down trees and power lines. 
Advice from the MET Office is to keep checking the forecasts as the Hurricane, named St Jude, approaches and only travel only if your journey is necessary but if you are on the roads, take a fully-charged mobile phone and warm, weatherproof clothing as roads may become blocked.
They also advise staying away from windows, skylights and glass doors and have a supply of torches and extra batteries handy in case power lines are downed and if power is lost, turn off major appliances to reduce a power surge when electricity is restored. 
Stay safe everyone and with a bit of luck a tree will fall across the entrance of work and we get an extra day off work.

The Five Eyes Alliance

Who is spying on who has been big news lately and quite rightly America is taking the flak for it but with the revelations that America have been hacking into the personal phonecalls of World Leaders dominating the news agenda, a fantastic nugget seems to have slipped through relatively unnoticed which should have received a bit more coverage. 
The news that the United States, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada operate something called 'The Five Eyes Alliance' which is as conspiratorial as it sounds.
There are certain sorts of spying you're not lawfully allowed to do on your own citizens but this is easily circumnavigated by getting someone else to do it for you so having American spy agencies voting on Brits and Britain's spying agency snooping on Americans gets around the pesky laws that stop a Government from spying on their own citizens.
The information from each of the 'Five Eyes' is pooled and the Australian Government pull out the information regarding their citizens phone calls, emails, Facebook entries, Internet browsing history and the Canadians take information on Canadians, the Brits on British citizens and so on until each Government have all the information they require on their own citizens, only they never spied on them to get it, someone else did which lawfully is okay. 
Of course the defence has been that this is all required to keep us safe which beggars the question, does listening in to phonecalls of Angela Merkel mean she is a suspected terrorist, that someone overstepped their already loose bounds or that the whole 'doing it for your safety' is a load of guff?
Whatever it is, the fact that the Americans are taking it in the neck while the Canadians, Brits, Australians and New Zealanders keep their head down about what they have been up to is being drowned out by other revelations is working out so far.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Does Obama Regret Winning Election?

As if the US President has not got enough on his plate dealing with an angry Angela Merkel over listening in on her mobile calls, it has now been revealed that she was one of 35 World Leaders who had their personal phone calls tapped by the NSA. 
Things do seem to be unravelling pretty quickly for President Obama with international anger over US government surveillance and even its staunchest Middle East allies making sounds of a change in their relationship.
Obama has had to deal with the angry German chancellor as well as equally annoyed French, Brazilian and Mexican leaders, all of which have been recipients of US spying.
While attempting to placate angry Europeans and South Americans, Obama was also been on the receiving end of a shellacking from Saudi Arabia this week who joined Israel, Jordan and United Arab Emirates in signalling a shift in its relations with the US over its unhappiness at its attempted reconciliation with Iran and the refusal to get involved in Syria.
John Kerry has also been in Pakistan this week to try and build fences after drone attacks succeeded in killing more citizens than jihadists.
A European official said the disclosures had jeopardised standing transatlantic trade deals amid anxiety that the US surveillance gave it an advantage during talks.
With the revelations that more World Leaders where targeted and with thousands of revelations still to come from the Snowden files, Obama must be starting to wish that he had lost the last election and it was someone else answering the White House phone.  

Hurricane Coming

I don't know what is going on with the British weather lately but it cannot be described as boring.
I woke up Sunday morning to hear of a tornado sucking out doors and windows a few miles along the coast  and Sunday afternoon saw a cloudburst that threw down the rain so fast that we couldn't hear our Satnav  instructions and the windscreen wipers couldn't clear the windscreen quick enough for us to see where we were going, forcing us to pull over until it slowed.  
The rest of the week has been brilliant sunshine and temperatures 10 degrees above where they should be which sparked off an electric storm on Tuesday night of such ferocity that it could have been a horror movie special effect.
Then this morning, my MET Office app flashed up that we are expecting a hurricane to flatten us on Sunday night/Monday morning.
It actually called it a 'severe storm' originally but they have since been upgraded it to a hurricane as winds exceeding the 74mph threshold that tips it into hurricane territory are expected.
Eddie Carroll, Chief Forecaster at the Met Office, said: 'There is still a chance this storm may take a more southerly track and miss the UK, bringing impacts elsewhere in northern Europe, but people should be aware there is a risk of severe weather and significant disruption'.
The caveat from the MET office is that 'the forecast of the track, the timing, and the intensity are still open to change' so it may hit us or it may hit France below us, it may be a hurricane, it may just be a bit windy but all the maps they are currently showing has the South Coast, and me, directly in the firing line of 80mph plus winds. 
Exciting and a bit scary at the same time.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Sail on Silver Girl

When you're weary or feeling small, when tears are in your eyes there is a new remedy, music and one song in particular especially good for when time are rough and friends just can't be found according to a survey by Lloyds Pharmacy, help if someone stamps on your toe.
Apparently, 40% of people who suffered from pain reported that listening to music helped music helped to relieve symptoms with Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' the most soothing followed by Robbie Williams's 'Angels', Fleetwood Mac’s 'Albatross', 'Easy' by The Commodores and Elton John's 'Candle in the Wind'.
'People in pain should try to find some activity to get fully engaged in' said David Bradshaw of the University of Utah Pain Management Centre, 'and listening to music is excellent for that because it can involve both thoughts and feelings if you can get absorbed in the music'.
I do have some experience with music and pain, only the other day i had a terrible bout of earache but it strangely went away instantly as soon as the Mariah Carey song finished on the radio. 
Good choice on Bridge Over Troubled Water though.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

JesusWeen

As if it isn't bad enough that Christians are trying to reclaim Christmas and Easter from Santa and the chocolate giving bunny, they have another celebration in their sights and this one hasn't even got a sniff of God about it, Halloween.
Fresh on the heels of the crackpot idea that some bible folk have that telling your kids about Santa will lead to your kids becoming anorexic alcoholic drug abusers, there is a movement to reinvent October 31st as a Christian gift giving festival to replace dressing up as a vampire and eating sweets and they even have a catchy name for it, JesusWeen.   
According to the JesusWeen website, 'We are the Light of the world and God is counting on us to get His job done' and it all started in 2002 when Pastor Paul Ade had the brainwave of handing out Bibles to the kids knocking at his door expecting gummy bears and fun sized bars of  Snickers.
Not put off by spending the next 3 weeks picking egg shells off the front of his house,  JesusWeen was born and Pastor Abe is now the proud owner of a 'global initiative to ensure non-Christians receive educational materials about Jesus'.
My gut feeling tells me that given the choice between receiving a Bible or a tub of Mars Bars, their would be a room full of Bibles left over but as always with religion, its the parents who will be ramming Jesus down little Tommy and Tanya throat while all their friends are ramming sweets and chocolate down theirs and which of those do you think will be most resentful to the parents, not the kid who is so sticky that they are having to prise the cat off him i can tell you.  
Fair enough if you Christians think Halloween is evil and sinister but you have enough religious days even if nobody actually knows what they are for so leave Halloween alone and just don't let them dress up as the devil, don't give your kids a bible instead because that way lies the madness of thinking JesusWeen is ever going to catch on.   

Darkest Place On Planet

When people from the city go into the country, when the sun goes down you can't fail to hear the cry of 'Wow, look at all those stars' coming from the darkness as eyes that have only known streetlamps and car lights when darkness falls.
Last August we went to the darkest place in England, Exmoor, for the Perseid meteor shower and were rewarded with a great light show until the clouds took over but as dark as Exmoor was, and you find out just how dark when you have to find the toilet at 1am, where on the planet would we have to go for the darkest it could possibly be?
The darkest place on the planet would probably be somewhere in the middle of the Pacific ocean but it's hard to look up when you are being sea-sick over the side of a ship so where would we have to go on land?
Luckily, the International Dark-Sky Association put the third darkest place on the planet in the British Isles in Galloway Forest Park, South West Scotland.
The IDA use a sky quality meter (SQM) scale to measure darkness which ranges from 0 to 25. You would get a reading of 8 in the middle of a major city whereas a 24 would be measured in a photographer's dark room. 
Based on this scale, Galloway has a darkness rating of 23 but the two darkest places on the planet are Cherry Springs State Park Pennsylvania, USA (SQM 23.14) and the darkest place where you can keep your feet dry on land is Lower Smokey Valley, Nevada, (SQM 23.69).
With a SQM of 21, Exmoor is on par with Death Valley but North Devon probably has a bit more of a hospitable climate and less of those sun-bleached cow heads cluttering up the place.

Disussing Ai

Not that we should be overly concerned about it but the Artificial Intelligence bods including Ai experts, scientists and legal experts are having a get together this week in Brighton to go through the possible implications of intelligent systems.
'We're interested in considering the ethical and societal impact of such systems," says Alan Winfield, professor of electronic engineering at UWE Bristol, 'It is time to make some crucial decisions but if we get it wrong, there are consequences right now'.
One of the areas up for discussion is driverless cars and just how much of the driving should be left to humans and prosthetic limbs which will soon be outperforming our natural limbs, raising new concerns that the technology could become available to individuals who may wish to trade in their healthy body parts for a prosthetic limb.
My biggest concern, other than the Artificial intelligence taking over in Hal 9000 style, is that they will give robots human-like faces which is creepy. I wish they would introduce some code of practise where robots are supposed to look like robots with square heads and blinking red lights about their persons and not duplicate human features.
Also, if they can all sound like Steven Hawking's speech synthesiser it would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

WTF Christmas Albums

When it comes to this time of the rolling year, thoughts naturally turn to which Christmas CD should we have in our car this season?
Last year i discovered the excellent Bowling For Soup's 'Merry Flippin' Christmas' album so i have been on the hunt for any other hidden Christmas gems.
I did discover a few that could best be described with another four letter word that isn't 'gems' such as 'Roseanne Barr sings the Christmas Classics', 'A Brutal Christmas' (you have not heard 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman' until you have heard it performed on a thrash metal guitar) and we can only hope that the man who thought 'A Redneck Christmas' was required is currently languishing in prison for crimes against humanity.
Then there is the 'Hokner Kazoo Orchestra album', 'Christmas with Colonel Sanders' and the cheerful sounding 'Christmas on Death Row'.
As tempting as it is to hear 80 of our favourite Christmas songs played by a Kazoo Orchestra, i will carry on looking thanks.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Mother Nature Blowback In South Dakota

The point about climate change that seems to get overlooked is that extreme weather events become more and more common with each year, extreme weather events like the one in South Dakota where a massive winter storm dumped snow as deep as five feet in some areas and killed tens of thousands of livestock.
This plays into two of my favourite themes, climate change and vegetarianism.
While i feel sad for the cattle and ranchers, some of who have lost their livelihood, there does seem a certain amount of Mother Nature hitting back as meat eating is contributing to climate change and the changing climate is what caused this devastation.
It also seems odd hearing people commenting on how terrible it must have been for the cattle although the cattle were soon to be crammed into lorries and transported to a slaughterhouse where they would have faced brutal and prolonged suffering in the killing process. However they went, by freezing to death or having a bolt shot through their brain or their throats slit and left to painfully bleed to death, the end result was lots of dead cattle.
Now that the White House is open for business again, maybe climate change should be moved up the political agenda and the useful idiots who deny it replaced with politicians who take on board what 99% of the climate scientists are saying and actually want to prevent scenes like this becoming a regular occurrence.

Priorities Wrong As Crisis Averted

I don't know if i didn't really notice them and they were there all along but the American Republican Party does seem to have more than its fair share of Whackjobs.
I was watching an interview with a Tea Party member and realised within 5 seconds of her opening her mouth and ranting about nobody wanting Obamacare that she was insane, absolutely and certifiably mad.  
I'm sure there are Democrats who are just as crazy as George W Bush, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Michele Bachmann and the laughably deranged Tea Party members but i do look at the right wing of American politics and think to myself that if any of these people ever got elected, America and the rest of us are doomed.  
The financial crisis has been kicked into the long grass and the sticking plaster they have laid across it will have to be removed by February 2014 when it can all start again but while all the shouting has been about raising the amount of America debt, i have not heard anybody saying anything about reducing it.
The bottom line is America, like most countries, pays out more than it brings in so it will always be in deficit and that needs to be tackled.
While the right wingers will rant and froth at the mouth about the size of the American Civil Service and blame the poor and unemployed and look at ways to reduce the already paltry amount they receive, there are many more ways that America can cut what it spends and the first thing to look at should be military spending. 
The $6 trillion spent on the ineffective War on Terror has left a massive hole in the financial spreadsheet as has the massive cost of military spending.
In 2011, the U.S defense budget was $664.84 billion which accounts for approximately 43% of global military spending.
The 2012 budget is 9 times larger than the military budget of China and is more than the next twenty largest military spenders combined.
We know that America gets involved in wars on a frequent basis, as far back as i can remember it seems to be permanently preparing for the next one, but does America need such a huge military presence? To put it another way, is it morally right that it should continue spending as much as 5% of its GDP on the military while arguing over the introduction of healthcare that will benefit as many as 60 million of the poorest Americans? 
Then there is military aid it hands out to other countries, $5 billion a year to countries including Israel, Egypt, Colombia, Pakistan, Jordon, Mexico and Poland. 
It boggles my mind that American leaders will threaten to force the country into shutdown and recession over helping people but nobody is saying hang on, what about if we cut the amount of money spent on weapons and systems that have no justification from any threat that we are likely to face? 
As the Tea Party nutjobs will probably say, if they didn't spend it on that, they would probably blow it on something frivolous like the healthcare for the poor and nobody wants that.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Welcome To The Newly Privatised Royal Mail

As most people will know, i view privatisation with the same esteem that i hold having my thumbs squeezed in a vice.
They tell us it will bring down price and increase service but in reality the service falls through the floor and the price goes up. Take a look at your next electric, water, gas, phone bill or train ticket and that will testify that it doesn't bring greater efficiency, benefits to the customer,  bring the best prices for the consumer nor improve the service.  
Royal Mail has been a private company less than a week and the CEO is looking at rising the prices.    
Moya Greene explained 'We are very proud of the value that we provide for 60p, but we also know that in that field, where we have structural decline on the letters side, we have to be very careful about pricing. We are very pleased that if you compare our prices to other countries in the European Union, we are at the low to middle of the spectrum'.
Asked by a journalist if that meant a price rise was imminent, Greene replied: '"Well, stamp prices didn't raise last year'.
Not even the decency to let a week go by before revealing the intention to sting their customers.
Shame nobody asked how The Royal Mail made a profit of £403 million last year but the very first act of the newly privatised company doing the exact same job with the exact same number of people is to put prices up to be competitive.
And there you go, that's privatisation for you where shareholders, profits and salaries are paramount and customers are just a means of paying for this with sky high prices and awful service.

Monday, 14 October 2013

So You Want To Be An Author

There is a saying in Iceland 'Everyone has a book in their stomach' and as every tenth Icelander is a published author, it is probably true for them but almost everybody i know has at some time considered, or have started, a novel.
Everybody thinks they have at least one novel in them but the whole process of writing a novel is long and laborious. I had a go once but my novel quickly became a novella and then a short story and then a forgotten couple of Word documents on a floppy disk which has long been recycled into milk cartons by now.
So if you did clear the decks to have a six month shot at writing a novel, whats the best genre to write?
The Harris Interactive report shows that out of every 10 books sold, 8 are fiction so you had better postpone that idea for your autobiography until you have a few books under your belt.
Of the fiction books sold 48% were Mystery, Thriller and Crime novels with the next popular genres being Science Fiction (28%) and Romance (21%).   
So there you are sat with a blank Word document and the cursor blinking at you and have a great idea to hit all the bases for what people like to read with a Romantic Crime Thriller set on the International Space Station but how long should it be?
Some of the greatest books ever written were not long books by any stretch. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is only 30,000 words, A Christmas Carol is under 29,000, The Great Gatsby 47,094, Of Mice and Men has 29,160 words, William Golding considered Lord of the Flies complete after 59,900 words and The War of the Worlds by HG Wells is only around 61,500 words long.
Six months later you emerge blinking from the bedroom with calloused fingertips and a classic 80,000 word novel saved to your desktop, what next?
According to Bowker Market Research, e-books accounted for 14% of books purchased last year, paperbacks for 41% of book sales while spending on hardcovers fell to 39%. With the proliferation of e-book readers, the digital media market is set to overtake sales of more traditional 'dead tree' methods.
You got your book and you decide to make your book available to download and a quick Google search reveals there is plenty of software available which allows you to publish your story directly to Kindles (Amazon sales 70% of all ebooks) so it's just a matter of sitting back and waiting for Hollywood to contact you to negotiate the film rights.     
Good luck and please note that if you have the idea for a romantic crime novel based on the International Space Station, it's already gone.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

What Can China Do About American Economics?

The American dollar is currently the reserve currency which means it is held in significant quantities by international governments and is commonly used in international transactions.
What goes with reserve currency status is something called 'exorbiant privilege' which means due to their own currency being the international reserve currency, Americans can purchase imports and borrow across borders more cheaply than persons in other nations because they need not exchange their currency to do so, an advantage in excess of $100 billion per year according to the book 'From world banker to world venture capitalist: The U.S. external adjustment and the exorbitant privilege'.
As the financial deadlock continues in America, and as the debt ceiling deadline grows closer, China is making noises about America getting its house in order, and as it hold 22% of American debt, it is right to be worried. So what can China do about it? Good old Max Keiser explains.

China understands what is at stake and has increased its gold holdings and has instituted controls to prevent gold from leaving China. Should the world’s second largest economy and one of the world’s greatest trading nations decide to tie its currency to gold, demand for the yuan would increase and demand for the dollar would decrease.
In practical terms this means that the world’s great trading nations would reduce their holdings of dollars, and dollars held overseas would flow back into the US economy, causing prices to increase and considering that there is an equal amount of dollars held outside the US as inside the US, prices will leap.

In short, Americans will not only be unable to borrow a library book or get into Mount Rushmore, all the shop prices will go through the roof.
That $6 trillion Congress costed has been spent on the War on Terror is starting to look mighty expensive and not just in terms of lives lost, reputation or Worldwide instability, but America could actually be looking at the end of its time as the tallest poppy.

Gareth 'Sick Note' Bale

If i was a Real Madrid fan i would be wondering just what my team had spent £86 million on because they
haven't seen much of Gareth Bale since they signed him, just 132 minutes so far.
Tottenham and Arsenal have come out of it very well, Tottenham have the increased bank balance and because Real Madrid had to balance their books, Arsenal got Mesut Ozil who is living up to his label of being one of the greatest midfielders playing today.
Now is has been announced that Bale is suffering from a 'small chronic disc protrusion' or a 'lumbar disc hernia' that is usually only cured by an operation, an operation that will keep him out for at least three months.
He is currently sidelined with a torn muscle in his thigh and you do wonder if the Spaniards looked at his previous medical history before shelling out the record fee.
Tottenham don't care, they have got and spent the money already and it cannot be denied that if he stays fit, Gareth Bale can be an amazing player but it's the 'if he stays fit' bit that should be worrying Real Madrid fans. Meanwhile, thanks for Ozil, he's great!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Cyclone Phailin

The pictures of Cyclone Phailin battering the East Coast of India are heartbreaking because you just know peoples lives are being to be destroyed and even lost by the time it has blown itself out.  
12 million people are in the path of the cyclone which forecasters have likened its size and intensity to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the US Gulf coast and New Orleans in 2005.
Seven people have so far lost their lives to the category five cyclone, the highest such rating and the US Navy's weather service said wind speeds at sea were gusting at 195mph.
'If it’s not a record it’s really, really close' said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, 'You really don’t get storms stronger than this anywhere in the world ever. This is the top of the barrel'. 
Shamefully, there are some people who still deny that extreme weather events like this are all part of the warming planet, preferring to ignore the advice of almost every climatologist on the planet warning an intensification of weather events and deliberately ignoring the evidence.
While they have spent the last few decades denying it, this is the devastating evidence that things have changed and people have been dying are now dying in even larger numbers because we did little or nothing about it.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Climate Change Tipping Point Dates

Using 39 climate models developed by climate scientists from 12 countries, researchers at the University of Hawaii, have pinpointed when the tipping point of climate change will hit many of the major countries and the extremes of weather due to global warming will become the norm.
This list calculates the year when local temperatures will exceed historical extremes recorded in the past 150 years if there is no change in global carbon output.
So when will the extremes that we currently put down to a warming climate come to a nation near you?
Give or take five years, the tropics will suffer first the unprecedented climate change effects with the Jamaican climate due to tip in 2023, Haiti 2025 and then the African nations will begin to flip over to hotter temperatures with Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Gabon, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo all tipped into a new, warmer climate by 2030.
The USA will stop considering droughts, floods and heatwaves as 'extreme' in 2046, the same year as China and a decade earlier than the United Kingdom who are due to suffer the same fate in 2056.
The dates fated for the major countries when climate change extremes are the norm are:

Jamaica  2023
Haiti  2025
Indonesia  2025
Nigeria  2029
Mexico  2031
Colombia  2033
India  2034
Egypt  2036
Iraq  2036
Kenya  2036
Japan  2041
Australia  2042
Chile  2043
South Africa  2043
Italy  2044
China  2046
Thailand  2046
USA  2046
Brazil  2050
UK  2056
Russia  2063
Iceland  2066

Privatisation Doesn't Work: Example 498,597

As mentioned previously, Winters coming.

From the BBC 22 May 2013: 'Energy supplier SSE has reported a rise in annual profits on the back of cold weather, despite recent disruption to services and a fine from regulators. The company reported adjusted pre-tax profits of £1.4bn for the 12 months to the end of March, up 5.6% on last year'.

From the BBC 10 October 2013: 'Consumer groups are predicting that the UK's other major energy suppliers will raise prices after SSE announced an 8.2% increase in domestic bills. SSE said that the rise reflected higher costs of buying wholesale energy and paying to deliver it to customers' homes'.

Renationalise everything. EVERYTHING!!

God Or Satan More Evil?

Here's one for you.
In the Bible texts, the evil Satan is acknowledged to have killed 10 people while the loving God killed a total of 10,000,000 including 7.5 million men, women and children in a great flood.
So if God was the one with the larger taste for blood, why is it Satan is the bad guy?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Badger Cull

Six weeks ago licences were awarded culling Badgers 'over a period of not more than six consecutive weeks' due to evidence that badgers fleeing culls spread Tuberculosis so lets see how the great Badger killing session went.
Last year the Government cancelled the cull at the last minute because they suddenly realised  that there were almost twice as many badgers than they had previously thought.
This year, after failing dismally to kill the number they sought to destroy, at the end of the cull they suddenly announce that there were actually far fewer badgers than they had thought, and therefore the number they needed to kill was actually 2000 less.
This means that they have now decided that this means the cull was actually a roaring success since they have apparently killed the 60% they needed to kill if they use the new 'revised' lower figure.
In spite of this, they still want to extend the killing for another 2-3 weeks.
Methinks someone is lying.

England For The English

Back in the 1980's and 1990's the Republic Of Ireland football team went through a phase of picking non-Irish players for their national team.
When asked where in Ireland he was born, Andy Townsend replied 'Peckham' and how the English mocked them for picking a bunch of players that couldn't get into the England team and that's why i think what Jack Wilshere said about being English to play for England is right.
The Arsenal midfielder said: 'Only English people should play football for England, if you live in England for five years it doesn't make you English. If I went to Spain and lived there for five years, I'm not going to play for Spain' which was a response to the idea that Manchester United's Belgian midfielder, Adnan Januzaj, could play for England if he passes Fifa's five-year residency requirement.
Lennox Lewis and Greg Rusedki may have wrapped themselves in a Union Flag but they were Canadian which is why they were not as loved by the British public as Frank Bruno or Tim Henman even if they were both much better athletes.
The England cricket team is made up of South Africans and Australians and the British Athletics teams are gaining Americans and Africans as athletes seem to swap nationalities like they change shorts and i don't want to see that in football.
If you are German, you play for Germany, if you are Swedish you play for Sweden and if you are English then you play for England, it should be that simple.
The only reason it is being mooted at all is because of the dearth of English talent coming through the ranks, the under 21's, 20's and 19's stank the place out in the summer tournaments but poaching other countries players and slapping a Union Flag in their hand is not the answer, improving the training of the younger players is because this is treating the symptom but not the cause.
The young players will still suck and not be able to get in the England team because of non-English Englishmen blocking the way which is exactly the same argument people make who moan about the Premier League being full of foreigners.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

USA Car Boot Sale

As America prepares to fall off a financial cliff, the UK has been given an upgrade by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for economic growth by more than any other major economy.
So it's boom time for Britain but spare a thought for poor America who will soon have to sell off the family silver to keep its head above water.
It would be wrong to take advantage of Americas fall from grace but what the hell, we could pick up some real bargains with our newly buoyant economy in the American car boot sale.
I have always quite liked the Statue of Liberty and America needs the money so dangle a couple of £50 notes in front of its face and it could be finding a new home in Whitby Bay welcoming the poor and tired huddled masses to Yorkshire.
For a handful of tenners we could probably pick up Disney Land, not because we necessarily need it but it would really annoy the French and the Golden Gate Bridge would look great spanning the Solent between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.
The George W Bush library could probably be snapped up for loose change, not as if there are many books in there, and a couple of fivers in Hollywood's top pocket would get us Johnny Depp and Sandra Bullock, or the new landlords at the Queen Vic in Eastenders as they would then be known. 
Before we let China and Russia pick over what's left, (with a bit of chisel work the four Presidents on Mount Rushmore could easily be Lenin, Putin, Yeltsin and Gorbachev), the offer of a bed and an evening meal should be enough to engage the services of former American politician, Dick Swett, who with a name like that was born to be in the Conservative Party.
The cheque is in the post so wrap it all up in bubble wrap and have it here by the weekend. Appreciate it, have a nice day.

Monday, 7 October 2013

No Jeans In Iran

It is outrageous that Iranians are not allowed to wear jeans as Binyamin Netanyahu told us today.
What sort of a country would not allow it's citizens to wear jeans? I blame the Ayatollah, he is the real power in Iran. I'm with you Benji and i agree that as you said, 'If the Iranian people had freedom, they would wear jeans'.
No jeans, no freedom and as Benjamin is an honest, well researched and intelligent leader, i'm going with him on this one because if he knows so much about the Iranian Nuclear Program, i'm sure he can be trusted to know what Iranians are allowed to wear and not make himself look a pillock by saying such stupid things without checking first.
In protest, here's a picture of the dastardly Ayatollah being questioned by a suppressed Iranian boy, probably asking why he isn't allowed to even wear jeans in...bugger, that's awkward.

Blackout Warnings Just In Time For Winter

I am sure it is just a coincidence that as the protests against fracking continue and the obscene amounts the gas and electric companies charge, the same companies begin warning that there is a chance that supplies may well fall short in the coming colder months and blackouts cannot be ruled out.
'The difference between peak demand and available supply were tighter than we have seen historically' announced one company in a perfect bit of scaremongering just as we enter the busiest period for their supplies.
Expect the call to be for more fracking farms and how we really need those nuclear plants and no mention of how the companies have not invested in more or larger storage facilities which of course cost money and that would hit the profits of the privatised utility companies who prefer to line the shareholders pockets rather than do what they are actually there to do.
As the country is about to launch a wide house building venture, why not make it regulation that each newly built house must incorporate solar panels so not to add a further drain to the national grid and could even sale any surplus to it or failing that, stick them on top of Government buildings and retail outlets like they have mobile phone masts.
Why must the demand be met by fracking or nuclear when we are surrounded by waves, have more wind than most and have more than enough places to hand solar panels from?
If the utility companies can't provide a proper service at an affordable price, then renationalise the lot of them.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

All Time Winter Olympic Medal Table

The counter on the Website for the XXII Winter Olympic Games tells me it is 123 days, 19 hours, 14 minutes and 15 seconds to February 7th and the Opening Ceremony in Sochi, Russia.
I do like the Winter Olympics, all that snow and cow bells, but being Great British i try to avoid looking at the Medals table because we normally have to look a long way down the list to find us.
It is no surprise to see Norway sitting at the top of the all time Olympic medal table with 303 medals from 21 Games.
What is surprising is that the Soviet Union which hasn't even existed since 1991 is in fourth place with 194 medals from only 9 Olympics.
Great Britain have competed in all 21 Winter Olympics held so far and have 22 medals which sees them 21st behind the likes of more snowy climates such as Austria, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia but a record of slightly better than one medal per Olympics is fine especially as it is better than Australia who languish in 26th place with a paltry 9 medals from 17 Winter Olympics.
Another country that has driven off into the sunset, East Germany, are 10th with 110 medals from 6 Olympics while China have only taken part in 9 Olympics and have 44 medals and Russia have taken part in 5 and have 91.
At the other end of the table there are a large amount of countries that have never been on the frozen rostrum to receive a medal of any colour, countries such as Cuba who have no medals from 19 Winter Olympics and Guyana and Sri Lanka who have both returned empty handed from 16 of the games and Singapore who have a big zip from 15.
So as it stands, Norway is the Worlds greatest Winter Olympic nation, or so you would think but if you average it out between medals won and games taken part in, leaving aside the Unified Team which was the Soviet Union mid-break up, the USSR walked away with 21 medals from each Olympics but the Germans on average make off with the back pocket of their lederhosen full of 19 medals from the 10 Olympics they have showed their rosy cheeked faces at.
So the Soviet Union are, or were, the Worlds greatest snow and ice related athletes followed by the Germans, then the East Germans, Russians then the Norwegians. 
As these games are being held in a city that has a humid subtropical climate and considering that on 7th February last year Sochi was snow free, holding the Winter Olympics in a place that might not have any snow might prove to be a plus for us Brits.

Diana The Movie

Brave attempt by film director Oliver Hirschbiegel to deflect away why his film 'Diana' has flopped so badly in Britain.
'I think, for the British, Diana is still a trauma they haven't come to terms with' was his explanation which shows he never really had a handle on the Diana phenomenon here.
When i heard she died, i was sad for her and her family as i am sad for any person who i hear dies in a car crash but at the time of Diana's death, she was on another downward slope of the roller coaster ride she had with the public.
Like most posthumous memories of those in the public eye, Diana's reputation has undergone a massive rise since her death but those of us old enough to remember her pre-August 31, 1997, remember her differently from the sugar coated Queen of Our Hearts nonsense that people like Hirschbiegel seem to be foisting upon us.  
I haven't seen, or have any intentions, of watching the film but from the critical reports i have read it's quite shockingly bad, not just the acting, but the story which whitewashes her many failings and paints her as a Mother Theresa type hugging orphans and spraying rays of sunshine wherever she went.  
I would say the reason his film flopped so badly in Britain was because we know the Diana story and this wasn't it.

Untrustworthy Americans

Iran’s top leader said he has not prohibited talks with the U.S. but urged caution with any possible dialogue, describing the American government as untrustworthy.
'I said earlier this year that I’m not optimistic about talks with the U.S' said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, 'Americans are untrustworthy and illogical. They are not honest in their dealings.'

In short, he trusts the American Government about as far as he could throw a piano. To be fair, he does have a point. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

The Problem With Time Travel

The problem with Time Travel is all these annoying paradoxes that crop up such as the the Grandfather Paradox where if i went back and killed my grandfather i wouldn't be born to go back and kill my grandfather so he would still be around to give birth to one half of my parents who would give birth to me who would then go back and kill him.
Headache stuff i agree but cynics say that if time travel was possible then why are we not  meeting our fellow humans from the future?
My usual answer is along the lines of how do you know we aren't, it isn't as if they will be wearing a t-shirt advertising they were part of a school-outing on a year 2013 day trip.
I am beginning to develop a new theory though around city regeneration.
Here's the science bit. The building where i live was built in the 1970's, before that it was a row of shops and before that a factory making brooms. If i developed a time machine in my kitchen and went back 50 years, i would turn up amidst tins of spam or 100 foot in the air because time moves but the machine will stay in exactly the same place.
If a professor makes a time machine in his laboratory in Milton Keynes, if he goes back any further than 1967 he will find himself sinking in a field because Milton Keynes wasn't there. If he decides to go forward in time he may well find himself sat on the outside lane of a motorway that's been built since.
There cannot be many places on the planet that a time machine can be built and can safely shift backwards and forwards while staying on the same level of ground (might end up mid air or in a hill) or guaranteed a safe landing (might end up in the sea or a train track) so the places where the school kids from 2114 can end up are very limited.
Of course if you manage to land on your Grandfather then that's a whole other problem.

How A Coffee Killed Tens Of Millions

Life, it is said, can turn on a sixpence but i have been reading an amazing book that showed how a cup of coffee changed the World.
It's 1914 and Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand is being driven around Sarajevo in a open-top car but among the crowd was Gavrilo Princip and several other members of the Black Hand all armed with grenades, keen to assassinate the Austrian.
As the motorcade passes, the first member throws his grenade but misses and injures several pedestrians and the people in the cars behind.
The assassins disperse amidst the chaos and Gavrilo Princip went to a local cafe to mull over the debacle with a hot cup of coffee.
Meanwhile, the Archduke instructed his driver to go to the hospital to visit the people who were injured by the grenade. The driver got lost and drove aimlessly around the streets of Sarajevo until they just randomly happened to pass the cafe where Gavrilo Princip was sitting outside cupping his coffee.
To make it even more of an early Final Destination film, the driver not only drove past the cafe, but realised he was going the wrong way and began to slowly reverse past it again.
Not believing his luck, Princip walked up to the car and shot the Archduke and his wife dead.
This led to World War One which led to German Reparations and the financial crisis in Germany which allowed Hitler to be elected who caused World War 2 and America dropping the Nuclear Bomb which resulted in the Cold War which led to wars in places like Vietnam, Korea and Afghanistan.
Amazing to consider that the majority of the horror and death of the 20th Century may not have happened had Gavrilo Princip sat inside the cafe, had ordered a cold drink instead of a hot coffee he had to wait to cool down or the driver had just kept going or even knew where the hospital was.
Tens of millions of lives turned on that sixpence and it all stemmed from one man wanted a coffee that afternoon.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Qatar 2022

I do find it amazing that at no point during the World Cup process did someone say 'hang on, won't it be a bit hot playing a football tournament in the desert during summer?'
It is only now, after the decision has been made and the stadiums are being built that the brains trust that runs World Football think about the 50C heat and want to mangle the football fixtures to play it in Winter for the footballers, and supporters, safety.
FIFA are meeting this week to discuss how they could move the tournament to November to avoid a clash with the Winter Olympics but rumours of corruption continue to swirl around the bidding process and there is an ongoing investigation by the ethics committee into allegations of vote swapping and bribery by the confederate members, some of who have since vacated their position.
Fifa's president Sepp Blatter has already admitted that there was 'direct political influence' on the members of the Fifa executive committee who made the decision to vote for Qatar and conceded a vote-swapping pact existed between Spain and Qatar.
The UEFA President has also hinted that the then French President Sarkozy, pressured Platini into voting for Qatar as a Qatari vote would oil the wheels towards a Qatari family purchasing PSG.
Throw in that Australia are pressing for Fifa to compensate the country for the £25m in public money that was spent on a summer bid, the easiest thing to do would be to re-run the whole 2022 election but for whatever reasons, FIFA seem adamant the conversation should be about when the World Cup should take place rather than what they should be discussing, whether it should be held in Qatar at all.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Pop Songs Ripping Off Classical Tunes

Song writing should be easy. I dislike poetry intensely but a song is pretty much half a poem with a few lines repeated again and again between a couple of four or five line verses.
The problem i have is i sing like a donkey with its head in a bucket and any original tune i get in my head quickly morphs into something well known so writing a song i have never really given any serious thought to, other peoples are much better. 
That is exactly the conversation i was having today with a music teacher when i mentioned the bit about any original tune rapidly degenerating into something else and she casually beckoned me to follow her to a conveniently placed piano and told me to name the song.
She began playing the Elvis tune ' Can't help falling in love with you' and then the classic 70's love ballad 'All By Myself' by Eric Carmen.   
I guessed correctly and she nodded and said what about these and then played exactly the same tunes again, this time they were not a classic 70s ballad and a heart tugging ditty from the shaky hipped one but a turn of the last century concerto by Rachmaninoff and an 18th Century Orchestral arrangement.
The knockout blow was 'Go West' but not by the Village People or Pet Shop Boys but by Johann Pachelbel's and called Canon in D Major and played slighly faster.
Apparently, pop stars have been ripping off classic tunes for decades, either speeding them up, slowing them down or just crossing their fingers that nobody notices that the music is lifted directly from the middle of some symphony or other.
Barry Manilow and even Billy Joel have used half known classical tunes in their songs but it was Green Day's Basket Case which done it for me, they just sped up Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D Major, the same song Go West is, replaced the violins with guitars and drums and sang a song about cracking up and being paranoid.
Of course it doesn't solve my problem of sounding like a frog in an upturned bath tub but i'm sure i could download some free software and add a few guitars and drums to a bastardised version of Finnicule Finicula (one of the best tunes ever created) and write a classic Christmas song.
I probably couldn't actually but someone could and arguably the hardest bit of the song, the tune, is already done for them. 
Gutted about that Eric Carmen song as well, completely ruined it for me. Shame on you Eric.