Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Whine With Those Grapes John?

Just a few days ago the IOC president was making a big speech about how it is not the winning, it is the taking part but the American swimming coach was obviously in the toilet at the time because after his girl got beat by Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, he sucked up the sour grapes and accused her of drug cheating.
John Leonard described the 16-year-old's performance as 'suspicious', 'unbelievable' and 'disturbing' and said said Ye 'looks like superwoman and any time someone has looked like superwoman in the history of our sport they have later been found guilty of doping.'
The coach has been widely criticised for his whiny outburst with the Chinese calling him 'biased', the Australians calling the slur 'rubbish' and the British delegation saying his words were 'unwise'.
Not content with bitching about one Chinese swimmer, he then went on to upset the whole of China by explaining that they have a history of doping that should make us all suspicious.
True, one look at the list of Chinese athletes who have been caught doping at Olympics since testing started bear that out with China having..oh, 1 athlete caught.
Greece has had 9 athletes caught cheating which makes them the biggest Olympic drug cheaters and America are second with 8.
So Mr Leonard points the finger at China for suspected doping while his own countrymen are the second worst culprits in history. That's embarrassing.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Switching Sides

One of the most difficult things we can do is change our minds on a strong, long held belief so we seek out confirmation that supports our policies instead of looking for evidence that challenges what we believe.
That's why when someone does a complete u-turn they should either be applauded that they are brave enough to to hold up their hands and admit that they were wrong or welcomed with a 'took your time didn't you' comment.
That is the difference between science and religion, not many religious people study the evidence and think oh my, I've been wrong all this time and the whole God thing is a crock, what was i thinking?
Luckily for us scientists do which is why Prof Richard Muller, self described climate change sceptic, has looked at the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, and after a three year three-year study concluded that not only is the world warming but that it matches perfectly to the raised levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and 'it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases'.
So one of the thinning number of scientists left who kept up the argument that Global Warming is not happening has seen the light and as that affirms my beliefs so i like it.
Short of becoming a climate-scientist, all we can do is accept these things on authority and bow to the knowledge of people who are climate scientists and if the mainstream scientific opinion of places like the Royal Society, the Royal Institution, NASA, the US National Academy of Sciences, the US Geological Survey and the IPCC say the Globe is warming and it is due to mans actions, you have to be a glutton for punishment to continue to argue against them, especially if you are not a climate expert yourself.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Let The Games Begin

A few people mentioned to me yesterday that they were nervous about the Olympic opening ceremony because they feared something was going to go horribly wrong and we would end up looking embarrassed.
All the must-be-included traditions were there, the athletes parade, raising of the Olympic flag, the speeches and the cauldron lighting which were all observed dutifully which left us to play with the rest of it as we liked.
I may have grumped since we got given the Olympics about the cost, the sponsors, VIP traffic lanes, security and the G4S security fiasco but the opening ceremony made me temporarily mislay my cynical position.
Not all of it worked but a lot of it was bonkers filled with references to things only Brits would understand. I can imagine viewers in every other country asking who the hell Michael Fish is and why is he going on about viewers phone calls but that was what made it so special. We could have had all the British standards that the viewers outside the UK expected to see but the opening ceremony is meant to celebrate the host country and Danny Boyle did that, especially the bit about the NHS which must have made the Conservatives in the crowd a bit uncomfortable.
Apparently the section about British soaps and the lesbian kiss from Brookside was broadcast on Saudi Arabian TV, the first time lesbianism has ever appeared on its screens. Ooops.
Other classic moments were the cameras catching the German dignitary seig heiling his team as they paraded by, the woman who was only supposed to walk with the Indian Team to the mouth of the tunnel and then stop but decided to hell with that and carried on with them around the stadium which led to the commentators stumbling over just who the woman was.
The inspired idea of getting unknown young athletes who's glory days are yet to arrive light the flame and the amazing idea of the flame itself comprising of many smaller flames which lifted up to make one large one.
Wheeling out Macca at the end was a mistake and obviously there were some bits that didn't quite work but that just sums up Britain perfectly, a mixture of the brilliant and inspired and the downright awful.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

National Anthem Second Verse

Anyone watching the woman's Olympic football yesterday would have been treated to a shocking piece of oversight that sent jaws dropping to the floor and stunned a nation. No, not the South Korean flag being used to introduce North Korean players (although it was hilarious), the news that throughout the Olympics we will be using the first and second verses of the National Anthem.
After the first verse was sung with lung-bursting enthusiasm, the second verse saw mumbling, miming and humming breaking out across the crowd as the cameras panned around the stadium.
So obviously nobody knows the second verse of God Save The Queen but to confuse it even more, the second verse is actually the third verse because the real second verse is deemed not politically correct as it calls on God to scatter our enemies but not as offensive as the sixth that sees rebellious Scots being crushed.
Anyway, the official second verse that the organisers want the crowd and athletes to sing is:

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour
Long may she reign
May she defend our laws
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen

No fellow Brits being crushed or enemies being scattered, just a safe verse about pouring gifts on her as the backdrop to the stirring sight of the national flag of France rising slowly up the flagpole.
Makes me proud and we still have Boris Johnson at the opening ceremony to look forward to tomorrow and you just know he is going to set someone s hair on fire.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

From The Notepad Of Dave

Dear people of the UK

As you may have heard today, Britain is in its longest double-dip recession ever with the Office for National Statistics confirming a GDP drop of 0.7% in the second quarter.

As your Prime Minister, I feel obliged to remind you that the Chancellor, George Osbourne, the man charged with turning around the fortunes of the country and who holds all our futures in the palm of his hand, is a History graduate who's only job before joining the Conservative Party was folding towels in Selfridges.

Please be kind to him, he is still learning and he isn't the brightest.

Your Friend

D Cameron

PS..It's all Labours fault.

All Time Olympic Medal Table

One of the highlights of the Olympics is seeing where your country is in the medal table and it is no surprise to see the USA sitting at the top of the all time Olympic medal table with 2296 medals from 25 Games.
What is surprising is that the Soviet Union which hasn't even existed since 1991 is in second place with 1010 medals from only 9 Olympics.
Great Britain have competed in all 26 Olympics and have 715 medals which sees them 4th behind Germany.
Australia only just about squeak in front of another country that has driven off into the sunset, East Germany, who are 10th with 409 medals from 5 Olympics while China have only taken part in 8 Olympics and have 385 medals and Russia have taken part in 4 and have 317.
At the other end of the table there is a large amount of countries that have never been on the rostrum to receive a medal of any colour, countries such as Bolivia who have no medals from 12 Olympics and Malta who have returned empty handed from 14 of the games and Burma who have zip from 15.
So as it stands, the USA is the Worlds greatest Olympic nation, or so you would think but if you average it out between medals won and games taken part in, America walk away with 91 medals from each Olympics but the Soviet Union on average made off with a back pocket full of 112 medals from the 9 Olympics they showed their faces at.
So the Soviet Union are, or where, the Worlds greatest athletes followed by USA and then East Germany so maybe there is something in this Communism thing when it comes to developing top athletes. Or more likely something to say about the poor drug testing before 1991.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

What Has Changed In America Since 60s?

During a debate on American gun laws on an earlier post, a fellow blogger stated that he didn't recall any mass killings in the 60's and everyone he knew in Texas back then had guns. Then he posed the question what had changed in America between then and now?
Reading expert opinion on just why America has so many mass killings like the one in the Colorado cinema at the weekend nobody seems to be able to come up with a reason why young men, and it is usually young men, arm themselves and go on a murder rampage.
There does not seem to be a link between the shooters but some theories put forward are poor parenting, a 24-7 news cycle that brings instant 'fame', copycats, a culture that glamorises violence, a gun culture, violent films & video games, Americas involvement in wars, single mums, women working, divorce, lack of religion, pop culture, godless liberalism and right-wing hate-mongering.
Some of those theories may have a contributing factor but what most professionals do agree on is that the killer is mentally unstable and to answer q, the rise of mental illness is one of the things that has happened since the America he knew in the 60s.
The National Institute of Mental Health has some alarming statistics of the state of Americas state of mind, the most shocking being that an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans adults suffer from a mental disorder, a six-fold increase since 1955.
Obviously there were mentally unbalanced people back in the 1960s but the only mass killing i can find note of that decade was in 1966 and the University of Texas tower sniper. I found 5 single-incident mass killings in the 1980s, 13 in the 1990s and 13 from 2000 to 2010.
Looking at the NIMH website, the U.S. mental illness disability rate in 1987 was 1 in every 184 Americans, by 2007 the mental illness disability rate was 1 in every 76 Americans.
So the experts agree that mental illness is one of the major causes of these mass killings and the rate of these has risen along with the rate of mental illness so what has caused the rise in mental illness?
The NIMH site shows that the overwhelmingly treated mental illness in the 26.2% is depression which is described as a mental state or chronic mental disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, loneliness, despair, low self-esteem, and self-reproach.
Life today is fast paced and the younger generation do have pressures that we never faced in our youth. The pressure to do well at school, to gain a hatful of qualifications to improve their chances of landing a good job in a world where jobs are vanishing fast. The easy credit that can see debts spiral out of control, the constant fear of redundancy, the ongoing battle of being able to afford to just live in the World today and the line of rejection letters from employers for job hunters.
It is no wonder that depression is a major part of our lives and growing as populations expand and the recession continues to bite. The feeling of worthlessness and despair that must fester inside large swathes of the youth of today and you can maybe start to understand the mind set of someone who has given up on life.
The constant images of anti-heroes on our television and cinema screens and the edges begin to blur between reality and fantasy and if just one of those kids who has decided they have no future walks into a gun shop and walks out with an assault rifle as James Holmes did then you end up with yet another slaughter.
Modern life is not going to slow down, if anything the pace will get faster and the competition more fierce but the mix of mental illness, the stress of living in the modern world and easy access to guns is a lethal mix.
How to solve it is not an easy question, reducing the ease of how people can get hold of guns is the obvious answer to stop the gruesome conclusion but treating the symptom is not going to be easy because it calls for a wholesale change of our priorities and the way we live our lives and the pressure we put on our children that getting a good job and making a lot of money is the only measure of success.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Naming & Shaming Tax Evaders

Something that really got my back up about the austerity measures was the way that the Government attempted to demonise everyone but the people who were really conning the Government out of money.
We went through Civil Servants, students and the disabled sucking us all dry but it turns out that the richest 1% are stashing £13 trillion in secret offshore accounts to avoid tax. That makes the few million saved by removing the £30 a week living allowance received by student look like peanuts.
So now we know about it, what can we do about it because apparently tax evasion is legal, morally wrong but just a clever use of financial loopholes.
One Government idea, not the obvious one of closing the loopholes, is to name and shame them much the same way as comedian Jimmy Carr was outed as a tax avoider, paying 1% on his £3m annual income, and was fighting for his career which must have put the wind up a few people who saw what Carr was going through and wondered if they would face the same fate if outed.
My fear is that as Tory baiter Jimmy Carr was being hung out to dry, Gary Barlow, who was outed at the same time, was ignored by the Conservative Party, of who Barlow is a donor.
Would we just face a barrage of opposition donors who have evaded tax while the elite who slip a few pound to the Government slip under the radar? Every chance they would because no political party would volunteer to ostracise the people who pay their wages.
Still, the threat of being labelled a tax avoider would be toxic to any celebrity especially one that charge their fans a small fortune to see them in concert or play sport and live in splendour while not doing there share to dig us out of a hole just because they can afford fancy agents.
Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Gabby Logan, Guy Ritchie and Chris Hoy have all recently been forced to defend their tax arrangements.
About time the anger was directed at the right people but i can't see why tax has to be so complicated that people can tie the taxman up in knots, why not just fix a percentage for everybody so everyone pays the same percentage of tax on their income earned in the country?
No schemes that expand the base rate so more of your income is taxed at the lower rate, no write off's or carrying back losses to a previous years, just a standard flat rate for everyone with a massive financial penalty of 50% if you try to evade it. Why is that so difficult?

Welcome To England

England, where those feet in ancient time walked upon England's green and pleasant land according to William Blake but the only feet here over the next few weeks will be guests visiting our shores for the Olympics.
Just as Frenchman wear striped shirts and berets and Germans exist on a diet of beer and sausage, what can our visitors expect from the English and are the stereotypes even close? Allow me to give you a heads up on us English so you are prepared.
The most obvious one is that we drink tea by the gallon and that's true. I am drinking one now as i type this actually so expect to see us with a mug or a cup and saucer under our nose at all times.
The second obvious one is we apologise all the time and that's another true one but sorry doesn't always mean sorry when we say it. It could mean i apologise for spilling you tea but it could mean could you repeat that or then again it could mean i don't have a clue what you are talking about which leads us to number three, slang language.
The English have a perfectly good language but we do tend to use other words to mean something so for example a dog is a phone, Alan is knickers and plates are your feet. Don't worry, you will pick it up.
England is driven by class from the snobs to the chavs. If you have a big flash car you may think you will be applauded for working hard to afford such a delightful machine but not here, you will be called a flash git and someone will try and nick your wheels the second you stop at a traffic light.
Do mention the Second World War, we won that one so ignore the 'don't mention the War' mantra, mention it at every opportunity because we do.
There is usually confusion about what is Britain and what is England with most foreign people considering it the same thing. It isn't but it really annoys the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish and that's not a bad thing.
Finally you will see a lot of flags around, the English St George Cross and the Union Flag which you may think is very patriotic but in fairness, we have just not taken them down from the Queen's Jubilee.
So basically, to integrate yourself with the English while you are here, drink lots of tea and throw your empty cups at anyone in a big car while talking about the War and how much your plates ache and you will be fine.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

What the...?

I have never really paid much attention to the idea of 3d printing, it all sounded a bit too star trek for me but once the nuts and bolts have been explained it all sounds quite plausible.
Strangely, for such a future technology, the story starts 13 billion years ago when the Earth was formed and all the elements were created. Everything, i am led to believe, is created from a mix of these 92 elements in the periodic table such as water which is what you get if you mix 2 parts of hydrogen and 1 part of oxygen. If you get distracted halfway through and only put in one part Hydrogen with your one part Oxygen you get a metal called Holmium, that's how exact the whole thing is but all we need to know is that everything, from the chair i am sat on to the apple sat in my fruit bowl is made up from the 92 elements in a different mix.
So far so good, so the 3d printer inventors say, why can't we not have a printer that instead of holding ink, why not have it hold elements such as Oxygen, Helium or Hydrogen which can build up whatever we want.Wiki answers show for example that my apple is made up of calcium, Copper, iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium and Zinc so put all them together in the right mix and you have yourself an apple.
Armed with this knowledge i looked up the periodic table that i had avoided so skillfully at school and found there was 118 elements. Had Prof Brian Cox lied to me?? He said there was 92 and everything was made from those 92 and here there are 118 and some of those towards the end have names like Americium, Berkelium, Californium and Einsteinium.
Scientists, deliberately confusing things and that's why we end up with planets called Uranus.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Gun Games

Another mass shooting in America but i am not going to give my opinion yet again about America's gun laws. Partly because what America does with it's own laws is no concern of mine and partly because i spout my view about America's gun laws after every
one of their mass shootings.
What would unnerve me in a country where guns take over 31,000 lives annually and a further 100,000 suffer gunshot wounds, is that there is not even a rational discussion over gun laws. Rather there are attempts to instigate one but the 'cold dead hand' supporters shout down anyone who tries.
I have seen it on blogs, message boards and all over the internet where the natural knee-jerk reaction to anyone understandably uttering that America should look at it's gun laws in the immediate aftermath of another shooting is jumped upon by people quoting the second amendment and even advocating the laws should be relaxed so more guns are in peoples hands.
Even as the bodies from the Colorado cinema were still being carried to the morgue, there were speaking heads on the American news channels coming out with the well worn phrase about guns not killing people, people kill people and waving away any idea of even looking at the gun laws.
The President came onto the television and expressed his shock and sadness at events and said that the victims were in his thoughts and prayers which is probably all he could do because in an election year anything that even smelt of gun control would have been toxic with large swathes of voters.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, reported their annual revenue at $5.9 million in 2010. The National Rifle Association (NRA) took in $253 million from individual and corporate supporters the same year.
The US Congress has not approved any major new gun laws since 1994 and that law which banned certain semi-automatic weapons, expired in 2004.
'The gun enthusiasts and NRA are a strong force in American politics' said one political analyst, 'in the short term, these incident may give an opportunity to talk about gun control in an environment where people are listening, but in the long term, nothing will change' he explained which should concern your normal everyday American because I would have thought that anything that is responsible for 85 deaths a day, no matter what it is, should be up for discussion and not be immediately shut down by a rich, powerful lobby group.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Maggie Thatcher The Milk Snatcher

Quite ironic that the opening of the Olympics a week today will show an idyllic rural scene of the British countryside complete with farmers and cows in England's green and pleasant land just as the dairy farmers are up in arms and blockading milk processing plants.
Danny Boyle has a week to somehow shoehorn in angry farmers cursing and waving pitchforks as they protest the 2p a litre cut that is being forced upon them by the milk processors and retailers.
This comes only months after the last decrease, a combination that farmers' groups say has left them producing milk at a loss as it costs them 30p a litre to produce for which they will now receive 29p a litre.
Maybe Danny Boyle's opening ceremony routine can take us back to a time pre-1994 when the Government run Milk Marketing Board was still around to ensure that milk producers were guaranteed a minimum price for their produce.
So what happened in 1994?
Margaret Thatcher happened and she dissolved the Board leaving the dairy farmers in the hands of companies, those same processing and grocery companies who are now making billions and expecting the dairy farmers to be happy earning less for their produce then it cost to create it.
To add another level of irony to the story, Margaret Thatcher was known as Maggie Thatcher the milk snatcher back in her reign for removing free milk from school children, was the daughter of a grocer.
She may have been gone for a couple of decades but such was the the affects of her capitalist zeal during her time in power that it is still resonating today.
My next concern is that the disco floor they are planning to build on her burial site might not be big enough to accommodate the growing amount of people who will want to dance on it.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

China & Russia Veto The West Again

The UK ambassador to the UN called it 'inexcusable and indefensible' and 'they have turned their back on the people of Syria in their darkest hour' as Russia and China have vetoed for the third time a Western-backed UN resolution threatening further sanctions against President Bashar al Assad's government.
The crux of the problem is that the Western powers want to include including the threat of non-military sanctions under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
Russia contested the use of Chapter 7, with the country's US Ambassador Vitaly Churkin arguing that the wording opened a path to 'external military involvement in Syria'.
The US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said any talk of military intervention was 'paranoid if not disingenuous' although they would rather the resolution failed than remove the sentence that Russia and China object to.
Who can blame them because the West has a recent history of stretching UN Resolutions to fit their own military purposes. It wasn't that long ago that the Americans and the Brits were trying their hardest, and failing, to manipulate the wording of Resolution 1441 to justify attacking Iraq and the more recent episode in Libya when a Resolution regarding an no-fly zone somehow turned into the West acting as the air force of the Libyan insurgents.
So they have said loud and clear that they will block any resolution that does not include language explicitly ruling out some kind of military intervention but the West won't agree to it and that should make you wonder why are they so adamant that the use of force should be included?
If the West are so keen to help the people of Syria in their darkest hour and are not hell bent on reigning bombs down on Syria, then remove the line that is so offensive to the Russians and Chinese and get on with the business of helping them.
The alternative is to keep it in, keep having it thrown back at you and make yourselves look like you are only interested if you can bring along your bombers to the party.
Been there, done that, and watched you kill millions.

Tomlinson Verdict A Travesty

Occasionally there comes along a court case where someone you fully expect to be spending the next few years at her Majesty's pleasure walk free but today's decision to find Simon Harwood not guilty of killing newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests is staggering.
Video evidence shows the policeman hitting and shoving Tomlinson in an unprovoked attack and him falling to the ground. He then dropped dead 75 yards up the road just minutes later.
After a botched first post-mortem, a second said there was 'only one real possibility for the cause of death – that Tomlinson had died of internal bleeding after his elbow was pushed into his abdomen after being shoved to the ground by PC Simon Harwood'.
A third post-mortem agreed with the findings as did several other experts who gave evidence in support of the theory that the blame for Mr Tomlinsons death lay squarely on the policeman.
Surely even a policeman, and the police have a terrible record of being prosecuted when they overstep the line, couldn't escape justice with all that evidence and expert opinion against him?
Yes he can and he did when a jury today cleared him of manslaughter which makes it even more galling, that it was a jury comprised of members of the public that cleared him and it is anyones guess how they feel now that after the decision, Harwoods previous history that was deemed inadmissible as part of the trial.
A history that included previous violent behaviour and 10 complaints against him in 12 years. He even managed to escape a previous charge of violent behaviour by resigning as a police officer and then rejoining two days later as a civilian employee before returning to his uniformed role two years later.
Now the Metropolitan Police say that they are going to return to the original violent conduct charge that he escaped previously.
The Tomlinson lawyer Matthew Ryder asked 'How on earth did an officer with this record end up being in a position where he was using violence against Ian Tomlinson?' and that is a case for the police to answer.
What i can't understand is how the jury could have possibly reached the verdict they did when all the evidence was pointing towards the opposite decision.
My question to them would be if Harwood isn't guilty of killing Mr Tomlinson, who is because to my eyes one man attacked another one in an unprovoked attack which led directly to his death and if that isn't manslaughter then one of us obviously doesn't understand the meaning of the word.
A travesty of a decision and the Tomlinson families verdict of 'a joke' doesn't even begin to describe it and ranks alongside the Jean Charles De Menezes decision as another shameful day for our justice system.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Superior Athletic Gene Theory

It's always a controversial subject to bring up but with the Olympics looming over us this is the best time to ask the question: 'Why are all the best sprinters black American and Caribbean?'
American 200m and 400m Olympic Champion Michael Johnson thinks he may have the answer and it is all down to a 'superior athletic gene' in the genetic make-up of black athletes.
In his Channel 4 documentary, Survival of the Fastest, Johnson set out a case based on the idea that only the strongest and fittest survived the horrors of the slave trade.
His theory is that the gruelling walks across the continent to the waiting ship in the African ports would account for the weakest and feeblest and up to six months aboard a ship crossing the Atlantic would leave only the strongest and fittest when the ships arrived at their last port of in places like Jamaica. During one voyage to Jamaica in 1732, 170 slaves boarded the ship and only six got off.
Immediately your mind wonders if this was the case then why are no West Africans contesting the sprint finals but Johnson explains this by going on to explain how the tallest, strongest and hardiest were forced into breeding, like cattle, to produce a new generation of strong slaves.
Johnson, who undertook a DNA test during the documentary which confirmed he is of West African descent, pointed to the 2008 Olympic 100m final where of the eight finalists, three were Jamaicans, two came from Trinidad and Tobago, two were Afro-American and one, representing the Netherlands,
was born on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao.
Johnson's theory is backed up by Australian scientists who discovered that a gene named ACTN3 gave performance advantage to the muscles, providing extra power to muscle cells that are required for fast, short bursts of action and is more common in people of West African ancestry than in people
of European ancestry.
What is indisputable is that the Caribbean athletes dominate the sprints but whether it is down to the slave trade and the natural selection of the slave owners is debatable, but Johnson sets out a very strong, and plausible, case.

Monday, 16 July 2012

You Had Better Duck Hillary

Long gone are the days when a visiting American administration would be greeted on the World stage by shoes and tomatoes being lobbed at their heads.
Happy days, i still recall with fondness the sight of George W Bush cowering under a desk as a size 8 thundered against the wall behind him but alas, those days are gone and the parts that make up the American administration are now looked upon with respect and admiration.
Obviously nobody told the demonstrators who welcomed Hillary Clinton to Egypt by showering her car with tomatoes, shoes and water bottles while chanting 'Monica, Monica'.
Such is the change in the American view of the Middle East that the US secretary of state provided a pleasant focal point for anti-American demonstrations by opening an American consulate in Alexandria which was quickly attacked by local citizens chanting anti-American slogans.
She also, quite decently, stayed overnight in a hotel which provided a perfect site for the demonstrators to surrounded her hotel on Saturday night banging drums and burning American flags.
We may not have a George or a Rumsfeld bungling around the region anymore but as long as there is a representative of the American Government willing to turn up in the Middle East and try to bluster that they are that countries friends, there will always be a shoe winging it's way through the air towards them.

The Smarter Sex

Ever since the first male and a female amoeba evolved, there has been the conundrum posed as to which of the sexes is the more cerebral.
Personally, i have never seen it as a contest because the most beautiful relationships between a man and a woman result when we both address a problem as one, together as equals who respect each other and...hang on a second, what’s this from the world-renowned expert on IQ testing James Flynn? He's studies reveal that Women have higher IQ's then men. Woohoo, in your face penis owners.
Flynn examined data from western European countries, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Argentina and Estonia and found that for the first time in a century of testing, women are scoring higher than men on IQ examinations.
Until recently, women's scores lagged behind men's by as much as 5% leading some scientists (obviously male) to claim that men were inherently more intelligent than women.
Flynn, an obvious anomaly in the male form, cites that women have a higher potential for intelligence which is emerging as they are given more opportunities to compete in the world outside the home.
Of course it would be wrong of us to brag or boast that the fairer sex is also the smarter sex because, and let’s be honest, we all knew it anyway.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Jet Stream & Climate Change

I do sometimes find myself in the strange position of having to dampen down the more excitable sections of the climate change brigade.
Just as climate change deniers try to challenge me on global warming after a few days of unusually cold weather, i hear the same thing from environmentalists when the weather pattern fits neatly into our idea of a changing climate.
With the wet summer that we are having, the southerly slipping jet stream is being held up by some people on my side of the climate change fence as proof that we are right but i wish they wouldn't just yet.
Despite looking, there is an absence of proof from the climatalogists and scientists who study these things that the jet streams unusual movements are due to climate change and if they don't know with all their sophisticated equipment and expert knowledge, how can we?
Until someone comes out and states either yes or no and here is the compelling evidence, it is best to just be honest and state that we just don't know yet however strong our suspicions.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Summer Rain

In the mind of poets and romantics, Summer is all about those balmy nights and long lazy days where the warmth of the Sun gently caresses your skin and the sound of children's laughter fills the air.
This summer has seen more raincoats and wellies than bikini's and flip flops but did we really want yet another scorching summer?
I admit i am not in the majority but i am loving our 2012 summer of rain. That may sound strange i know but i enjoy the sound of it beating against my window, the glorious scents it throws out, standing beneath a tree and watching the drops falling from the end of the leaves and the way everything glistens and the puddles reflect the shop lights. Anyway, what are we missing? Let me tell you.
Sitting on the grass and slapping ants off your legs before running away from a large buzzing thing or the pain of sunburn and the sound of people wincing every time they move before a week of flaky skin to reveal their original pale skin colour.
There there are the nights when it is just too hot to sleep and after an hour of turning your pillow trying to find a cold spot you give up and resign yourself to spending the next day being cranky. Open a window and you have personally invited every midge, mosquito and moth into your home. Manage to fall asleep and you will wake up with your hair plastered to your face with sweat and having to peel off your nightwear that seems to have become part of your skin.
Third degree burns off the seats of your car, smoke from barbecues making your eyes water, other peoples body odour, sweating if you do anything more energetic than turn your head, men in budgie smugglers, women in bikinis 2 sizes too small and people sitting out in their gardens drinking cheap beer and thinking that we all want to hear their CD collection until 3am.
That's what you are missing Britain and i for one say thank heavens for that and keep on raining!

How We Hold The Power Over The Banks

Back in 2008 when the economy crashed, when the banks and bankers were being roundly condemned, one of the more ridiculous statements that was bandied about by the money men was that somehow, it was our fault. Apparently it was because we had been going to the banks to get loans and mortgages that we couldn't cover, living on the never-never and racking up debt and not caring that one day it would all come crashing down around our ears.
What drives me mad, apart from people refusing to take responsibility when caught red handed, is that we the public have all the power when it comes to greedy companies that continually punch us in the face and expect us to say thank you. The utility companies know they can ratchet up the price because we HAVE to buy their product, same as the banks who can mess around with the LIBOR rates, charge us for taking out our own money from cashpoints and send us a letter for £25 to tell us we are overdrawn and yet we HAVE to trust them with our wages, direct debits and standing orders and they know that.
The power we have is in our numbers but we can't seem to get our act together to punish the worst offenders. Take your electric supply, you have 5 or 6 main suppliers. Yes they collude together so they all put up their prices together so we think that we have no actual advantage from changing supplier but we do, we can cut them down at the knees if only we act together. If all, or a large majority of the customers of one company left for another supplier, their profits would crash and hitting them in the purse is what scares these big companies and when they see that we have got our act together and that we can hurt them, it would focus their minds remarkably.
If the customers of Barclay's moved their accounts to another bank, Barclay's would spiral down until it collapsed and we, the public, would have taught it and all banks a valuable lesson, that we no longer are the soft touch they have long taken us for.
Already half a million people have left the big name banks since the Libor scandal broke which is great but somehow we need to coordinate it so the pain is concentrated in one big bank at a time rather than it being spread thinly around the big names. If the local baker kept selling stale bread, you would find another baker and the first one would either have to improve his service or go out of business and that is what we need to do to improve the deals we are currently getting from the utilities and the banks.
We do have the power, we just need to concentrate it properly or we will forever be taken for mugs which is what they are relying on.

Friday, 13 July 2012

2012 High Cholesterol And Tooth Rot Games

The Olympic flame will be coming around my way next week but i have seen it regularly on the BBC over the last few weeks. A stirring sight as 8000 of the most deserving residents of the country are honoured with running 100m with the flame held aloft in a golden torch that they are then asked to shell out £200 for it they want to keep it.
Along with a group of body guards to make sure nobody dashes out from the crowd with a bucket of water, are the unmissable posse of vehicles plastered with the names of sponsors Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung.
Fair enough, they have paid a lot of money to sponsor the Olympics and if someone from Coca-Cola tries to hand me a free drink while i'm stood in the rain on the pavement cheering on the local runners, i can always glare at them and keep my hands in my pockets.
What i don't understand is why the International Olympic Committee have associated themselves with the likes of McDonald's and Coca-Cola, hardly the things that Olympic Champions are made of.
"The IOC only enters into partnerships with organisations that it believes work in accordance with the values of the Olympic Movement," a spokesman said which makes me wonder if i missed the bit in their manual where the values were described as being about obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
Health issues have also been raised by the London Royal Free Hospital who called it 'obscene that the Olympics has chosen to associate itself with fast food, sugary drinks, chocolate and alcohol when there is an obesity epidemic in this country.'
Even our Olympic boxing silver medallist Amir Khan has also criticised London 2012 organisers for allowing McDonald's to open its largest restaurant in the Olympic Park and if a man who has spent the last 8 years being hit in the head can see it why can't they?
The moment when it turned into farce for me was when it was discovered that toilet-roll holders, urinals, benches and even light bulbs in the Olympic arenas were having their manufacturers name taped over.
I'm just hoping that somehow, somewhere, there is a fiendishly clever ambush marketing plan being hatched by one of the sponsors rivals.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Why Is The Sky Blue, YOLO & Other Things

If you want to know the spirit of the times, i recommend Google which is an amazing tool for finding out what is on peoples minds if you only ask the right questions.

So type in WHAT... and the most asked question is 'What does YOLO mean?'. You Only Live Once

WHO reveals that the question most typed into Google beginning with the word Who is 'Who unfollowed me?' I assume this is a Twitter question and you can find out by going to Unfollowr @ Twitter or Qwitter

Where is next up and people are asking Where is Chuck Norris? He can be found at his website and the contacts page states that 'we love every email we receive at ChuckNorris.com and they are all important to us' so you can ask him yourself where he is.

IS asks 'Is will i am gay?' - I have no idea but apparently he was chasing Cheryl Cole a while ago so i would guess not.

When we ask WHEN we get 'When is Easter 2012?' It was Sunday, 8th April so if you forgot to buy eggs this year, make a note in your diary for Sunday, 31st March next year.

Tough question when we move onto WHY, 'Why is the sky blue?' - The NASA website explains that 'The three different types of colour receptors in the retina of the human eye respond most strongly to red, green and blue wavelengths, giving us our colour vision. Light energy travels in waves, Blue is short, "choppy" waves and red and green light travels in long, lazy waves. All light travels in a straight line unless something gets in the way and scatters it and sunlight reaching the Earth's atmosphere is scattered in all directions by all the gases and particles in the air. Blue is scattered more than other colors because it travels as shorter, smaller waves which is why we see a blue sky most of the time.

Finally, WHO IS Bansky which a lot of people wonder but as yet, nobody has unmasked him. We do know that he was born in 1974 and raised in Bristol, and trained as a butcher before becoming involved in graffiti. http://www.banksy.co.uk/

I don't really understand the sudden interest in Chuck Norris or Banksy and why so many people have lost track of Easter but they are the questions that the billion of Google users are asking.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Olympic Cheats And Skullduggery

I don't know how well publicised it has been but the Olympics are just around the corner so we can look forward to glorious triumph, heroic failure and honest athletes pushing themselves to the physical limit. Well, most of the time that is because past Olympics have shown us that there will also be a little skullduggery and cheating.
Cheating can never be condoned but you do have to have a little smile at what some of the past contestants got up to, like the 1904 marathon winner, Fred Lorz, who spent 11 miles of the race in a car.
To so blatantly cheat does take some large cojones and nobodies cojones were as large as the woman who came fourth in the 1936 high jump who turned out to be a man called Hermann. The Ukrainian sisters, Tamara and Irina Press, won five golds between them in 1960 and 1964 but such was the concern over their manly appearance and physique, compulsory sex-testing was introduced and the Presses promptly announced their retirement from sport.
In 1976 the Russian modern pentathlete, Boris Onischenko, was found to have rigged his fencing sword to register non-existent hits by rigging a switch in his swords handle that allowed him to score points.
Even the Paralympics has known scandal with 10 of the 12 players on the Spaniards gold medal-winning Paralympic basketball team turned out not be disabled at all and had their golds medals stripped but of course the biggest scandals now revolve around drug taking and the competitors gaining a chemical advantage but even when they get caught they have delivered some cracking excuses.
Usually it is diet supplement or a cold remedy that is blamed but when Olympic women's heavyweight judo champion, Judoka Tong Wen, was caught taking performance enhancing drugs, she blamed eating too many pork chops from pigs that had been treated with steroids.
Daniel Plaza Montero, a Spanish race walker won the 20 km walk at the 1992 Summer Olympics then tested positive for the steroid nandrolone and claimed the test result was due to oral sex with his pregnant wife the day before.
My all time favourite excuse goes to LaShawn Merritt who won gold in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics but was suspended after failing three consecutive tests straight after.
Merritt's embarrassing excuse was that he had been on a course of penis enhancement pills. Embarrassingly brilliant and we can only hope that if there are any tiny todgered athletes competing this time around, they use the socks down the shorts method of padding.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

This Is Just The Beginning

Evidence, if needed, that climate change is pummeling the World this summer is born out from the statistics regarding June which saw all sorts of extreme weather sending records tumbling.
To some the link between extreme weather and climate change is just not joined together in their minds or more dangerously, ignored but The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who track the weather data in the United States reported that the spring of 2012 'marked the largest temperature departure from average of any season on record for the contiguous United States.'
Dr. Jeff Masters, one of the meteorologists who is not afraid to put his head above the parapet, has frequently made the connection between extreme weather and climate change and cites the amazing statistic that 'across the entire Continental U.S., 72 percent of the land area was classified as being in dry or drought conditions and we’re going to be seeing a lot more weather like this, a lot more impacts like we’re seeing...this is just the beginning.'
Last month alone America saw one of the most powerful windstorms on record sweep across the country from Illinois to Virginia killing 26 and leaving up to 3.5 million without power. Nevada saw a record June high temperature of 90° and a record low of 24° with snow reported for the first time in June since weather records began.
Record amounts of rainfall fell in 24hrs in Maine, Minnesota and Florida but although America, ironically one of the worst polluters of the atmosphere, has been battered by extreme weather, records have tumbled all over the World.
The coldest temperature ever measured in the northern hemisphere during June was -29.9°C (-21.8°F) at Summit, Greenland while that same month a record June high for the southern hemisphere was reached at 38.7°C in Brazil.
A mountain top weather station in Austria measured its warmest temperature on record when 15.3°C was measured on June 30th while Zimbabwe measured an all time low with temperatures dipping to 1.6°C.
A heat wave in the Middle East during the first week of June resulted in the all-time heat record for Saudi Arabia when the temperature hit 51.4°C but in Australia the record minimum temperature for June werr observed at -11.0°C.
At the bottom of the Earth in Antarctica, the coldest ever temperature in the southern hemisphere and the world during June was -81.4°C (-114.5°F) recorded at Vostok on June 11th.
The warning words of Dr Masters that 'this is just the beginning' should be stamped on the forehead of every person who denies that the climate is changing and extreme weather is us reaping what we have been sowing for the past century and a half.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Can I Get...

Considering the weather lately, we have not been doing our usual thing and lounging around on the pavement outside the local cafe slurping lattes, rather we have been sat inside complaining about how we can't sit outside because of the weather.
A few weeks ago i overheard a young woman say to the cafe owner 'Can i get a coffee and a bagel please' to which the owner answered, 'no, you stay that side of the counter and i'll get it for you' much to the woman's confusion.
It made me smile because 'Can i get' just sounded so wrong to my English ears but since that occasion i have heard it more and more and maybe it's my age but it is really starting to grate with me.
Very rarely do i use 'May i have' which is probably the correct way to ask or things in a cafe or shop, usually plumping for the 'Can i have' or even 'Could i have'
but i would only ever say 'Can i get' if i was asking for permission to step around the counter and pour my own coffee or get my own Bacardi Breezer from the fridge behind the barman.
If someone said to me 'Can i get a glass of water' i would point themselves towards the kitchen tap and tell them what cupboard the glasses were kept in because to me, 'Can i get' means 'can i help myself to' which seems odd to use in a cafe or shop when you actually mean 'May i have' unless you plan to go behind the counter and help yourself.
When i asked the cafe owner about it he said that it only seems to be the younger generation that ask can they get something when they actually mean can they have something and it used to grate with him also but he just accepts it now. The thing he found surprising was that when he makes his little joke about them staying that side of the counter, they don't understand, as if saying 'can i get' is the correct way to ask for something.
It isn't so stop it.

Friday, 6 July 2012

America Could Have Been Canada

Americans were shooting off fireworks and celebrating their countries independence on the 4th and good luck to them although a quarter didn't know which country America was celebrating its independence from.
As a Brit i cannot tell a lie so for you 25% who don't know, it was the French.
Not really, it was us, and we would have won too if it hadn't have been for those meddling Frenchies but that is all in the past and America went on free from the chains of the oppressive British to land a man on the moon and give us Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
One can't help wondering though, if America had stayed part of the Commonwealth and been ruled over by the succession of Kings and Queens since mad old King George 3rd, what would have become of it?
Luckily, we know what would have become of it because Americans only have to turn their gaze north and there is Canada who is what America could have been.
A very nice flag, a decent ice hockey team and that's about it but very much liked and an all round and decent country. Yes, it is perceived as about as exciting as sitting in traffic but nobody has anything to bad to say about it. When was the last time an angry mob was on television burning the Canadian flag and calling for the death of the Canadian Prime Minister. Who is the Canadian Prime Minister anyway?
See Americans, you could have been Canada but you had to throw our tea into the harbour and do your own thing so it's your own fault you went on to give us brilliant music, great actors and some of the best television shows ever to appear on those little boxes in the corner of our rooms when you could have just paid the extra tax, drank our tea and recxeived a visit from Prince Edward every couple of years. Your loss.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Challenging Australia

When it comes to the Summer Olympics medal table, no country is going to top China, Russia or the United States so the race between the rest of us is for fourth place and Great Britain proudly sat there in 2008 much to the distaste of Australia who fancy themselves as a bit of a sporty nation.
That we not only finished above the Aussies but earned 5 more gold medals than them really hurt but not as much as the pain felt by the Australian sports minister who confidently made a bet with the British Sports Minister that she would wear a Team GB shirt at a public event if Britain finished above Australia in the medals table. Nice one, red white and blue suited her.
Not a people to learn from their past mistakes, the latest Aussie sports minister, Kate Lundy, has made the same bet with the British sports minister, Hugh Robertson.
If Team GB wins more gold medals, Lundy has promised to row across Eton Dorney in a British vest. But if the Australians triumph, Robertson has said he would dribble a ball around Australia House in an Australian hockey shirt.
Considering the Olympics are in Britain, we trounced them last time and it's Australia we are talking about, it is more likely that Lundy will be sporting the Union Flag on her chest while holding a pair of oars than Robertson wearing green and gold while trying to weave a hockey ball around traffic but stranger things have happened. Can't think of any off the top of my head but they must have done.
Now, if only we can keep the Australian athletes sober long enough to make our victory even more sweeter...

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Higgs Boson

'One of the biggest scientific discoveries of all time' said Prof Brian Cox while another described it as comparable with the moon landings with regards to importance so you would think such a monumental event would be on everybodies lips, but apart from high-fiving scientists, the whole thing seems to have been greeted with a nonchalant shrug by the rest of the population.
The problem is that we just don't really understand what the God particle, or Higgs Boson as they prefer to call it, actually is or what it does or just why it is important.
Mention the words 'subatomic particles' and most of us start willing our phones to ring which is why the BBC News had a go at explaining it with a handful of ping-pong balls, a bag of sugar and a tea tray which started off well until the words 'ubiquitous quantum field' honed into view and you could actually hear the millions of remote control buttons being clicked as televisions across the land switched over to the tennis on BBC2.
So still none the wiser then and flicking through the News channels, there are lot's of science type people having a go at explaining what a Higgs Boson is to people without degrees in quantum physics.
Surprisingly, it was the local newsagent who gave me the clarity i so needed towards understanding what it is.
"Well' he began 'everything is made up of atoms and there are these gaps between atoms but this Higgs chap said there can't be gaps between atoms, there must be something there so that's what they have been looking for and now found. It's the bits you can't see between the bits you can see'. Then he served me with my cigarettes, mentioned how Andy Murray should get to the Wimbledon final this year and went back to marking down some milk that was nearing its sell by date.
I don't know if what he told me is true but it sounded convincing and i repeated it to a friend later who boredly stirred his coffee, humoured me with a smile and pondered if Andy Murray was winning his quarter final match.
Science, when your greatest discovery can't compete with a dour Scotsman winning a game of tennis you know you have an image problem.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Mermaids Not Real Shocker

Remember a few weeks ago when the Centers for Disease Control told us there was no Zombie invasion imminent just before they went ahead with a large scale exercise in preparation for a zombie apocalypse, well another authority are now trying to tell us that Mermaids don't exist. Per-lease.
A recent documentary told the story of a scientific team's findings of mysterious underwater recordings and an unidentified marine animal
which had hands instead of fins and the hip structure of an upright animal.
Now along come the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and rubbish the idea that a half-man/half-fish creature exists.
The NOAA page here addresses the age-old question 'Are mermaids real?' and concludes that 'No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found'.
The documentary 'Mermaids: The Body Found' makes a case for the existence of the mermaid and provided a handy evolutionary guide which saw them branching off from a shared human root.
It also included some other evidence including sonar tests conducted by the US Navy during the 1990s and even tests actually conducted by the NOAA so although they deny their existence, they have conducted tests to try and find them.
Typical, just wait until i tell my talking unicorn about this, he will find it all so amusing.

Monday, 2 July 2012

News From Iran

What with events in Syria being all over the news, Iran has been slipping under the news teams radars recently but it isn't because nothing has been going on there, far from it.
The Iranian army has been on military exercises, showing off their long and short range missiles and announcing that it has in its possession powerful new anti-radar missiles that seeks and destroys radar sources.
The Americans have been moving extra ships and aircraft into the region saying their moves are defensive and aimed at preventing any action by Iran particularly as the EU oil embargo is due to come into affect.
The Iranians say the reverse is the case and they are testing its missiles to counter American aggression.
While both are saying that they are exercising their military because of the other, there is a dangerous build-up of forces in the tinder-box Gulf and the build-up carries the risk of a relatively minor incident sparking off an even larger confrontation.
The Gulf is a volatile area at the best of times and to throw into the mix such firepower, it seems a matter of when and not if the conflict begins.
The West have been keen to bring Iran and Syria to heel for a long time and this could be their opportunity to remove two anti-Western Governments, one of them the 4th largest oil producing countries which only the most naive would refute is a major driver behind the decision.
China and Russia have been the stumbling block to the West, refusing to sanction military action in Syria and are even rumoured to be arming al-Assad's military. Throw in the upcoming American election and a belligerent Israel which, when all put together, makes for a very complicated and potentially explosive situation which will dwarf the global affect of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Luvly Boys

Hello, who's this cheeky chappie on the left holding up some Christian paraphernalia for the camera. Why, it's one of those brave Syrian freedom fighting johnnies that we are backing as they battle the evil forces of the Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad.
Hey hero guy, are you brandishing that Christian Cross and vicars clothing to show the World that you may be a Muslim but when it comes to removing evil dictators, we are all as one and Muslim and Christians can stand together, shoulder to shoulder in a titanic struggle of good v evil or have you just ripped it off the wall of a Christian Church as you smashed it up?
Oh, you ripped it off the wall of a Christian Church as you smashed it up, i see. And urinated in the font. Hmmm...ok.
Any particular reason why you did that? Was there Syrian forces holed up in the Church which you had to flush out in a battle to the death? No, just a couple of elderly vicars you say, part of the campaign of harassment and discrimination that has seen thousands of Christians forced to seek refuge after an ultimatum from military chiefs from the armed opposition group.
You see lads, problem is, we are backing you to take over once Assad is gone and it's not easy for us to paint you as the good guys when you are smashing up Churches and forcing people from your cities on religious grounds.
Look, we will hush it up, pretend you are not Islamic fundamentalists maiming, killing and terrorising and keep telling the West that Assad is the evil one and you just concentrate on getting ready for Government, there's good boys.