31 March 2007
1. The UK's national time signal is accurate to within 1,000th of a second of Coordinated Universal Time.
2. Drinking, drug-taking teenagers are in the decline in England, according to a survey by the Information Centre.
3. The average water temperature of the UK's rivers and lakes is 5C in winter, 18C in summer.
4. Eight of the 10 most crowded train journeys in the UK are outside London. [That did surprise me when I saw it earlier in the week; but then note they are measuring overground trains, not the London Underground.]
5. The average duvet is home to 20,000 live dust mites. [I'm surprised that's all; I would have expected the number to be 100 times bigger!]
6. Designer discount retailer TK Maxx is called TJ Maxx in the US. [Try to understand the importance of this.]
7. Having a baby can cost you up to two months sleep in the first year. [I would have thought that continues for something like 20 years, doesn't it? Though never having been selfish enough to have children I wouldn't know.]
8. Chimps and bonobos differ from humans by only 1% of DNA and could accept a blood transfusion or a kidney. [I knew the 1% difference in DNA, but hadn't realised the implications for transplants. But why a chimp would want a human kidney baffles me.]
9. Britain's peat bogs store carbon that is equivalent to 20 years' worth of national industrial emissions.
10. Dogs can seemingly perform the Heimlich manoeuvre (a technique for helping someone who is choking). [I have this bizarre picture of a coiffed miniature poodle trying to do the HM on an 18 stone rugby player!]
Getting to Know Me Better
What time did you get up this morning?
As it's Saturday I had a nice lie in, following a late-ish night. Didn't get up until about 09.45. On work mornings it is anything between 6 and 8am depending on what my schedule is.
Diamonds or pearls?
If I must, pearls, but I’d much prefer tanzanite or amber.
What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
I keep telling you I don't do films, so it'll be no surprise when I tell you the last time I recall going to the cinema was to see Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Pictures at an Exhibition in 1973! It was on with a film by The Strawbs which was really why we went.
What is your favourite TV show?
Channel 4 TV's Time Team. Three days of serious archaeological investigation condensed into an hour of TV. Usually interesting even if they do dig too many Roman and pre-Roman sites for my interest.
What do you usually have for breakfast?
I used not to do breakfast, other than a large mug of tea. However since I've been told I'm diabetic I do try to have something, even if not the ideally balanced breakfast the medics would like. So now it's that large mug of tea with some fruit, yoghurt or toast.
It's probably a toss-up between Indian and Italian.
What food do you dislike?
Egg custard is my biggest hate. Not over keen on milk puddings. And I don't like meat and sugar (meat and fruit is OK as long as it isn't sweet as well).
What is your favourite CD at the moment?
Pink Floyd; Wish You were Here. But you could choose almost anything from late Beatles or 70s Pink Floyd, Yes, Caravan.
Morning or night person?
Neither. I don't generally survive much past 11.30pm, though I can get a second wind after midnight. And I'm useless at getting up in the morning, as was my father before me.
Whatever I fancy at the time. Choose from: smoked salmon, chicken & avocado, bacon, prawns.
What characteristic do you despise?
Most of all management lies and politics. Being a cynic I see through it all. I also hate people who know it all, who have to be right, or think their God's gift.
Favourite item of clothing?
Nothing. I wear as few clothes as I can as much of the time as I can. We both spend a lot of our time at home wearing nothing; or a t-shirt and jeans in the middle of winter. Fortunately our house is naturally warm so we don't have to waste energy on heating it; the heating thermostat is set at about 20C. But then I'm not one to feel the cold and never have been; when I was young and playing cricket I was always the first to discard a sweater and the last to put one on. Now I have a good covering of blubber.
If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be?
Difficult. For a "do nothing" holiday I fancy a naturist village by the sea in a nice sunny area of France (and I mean a real village; none of this Cap d'Agde rubbish). For a sightseeing holiday I rather fancy Japan. And travel has to be by magic carpet, door to door.
What colour is your bathroom?
Favourite brand of clothing?
I've already told you I don't wear clothes if I don't have to. In consequence I don't couldn't care less about brands. Vain I am not.
Where would you retire to?
Probably Dorset, South Devon or Norfolk, although I suspect we’ll stay where we are.
What was your most memorable birthday?
My 21st. It's about the only one I do remember. I was given a coffee percolator and in road testing it got caffeine poisoning.
Favourite sport to watch?
Cricket, as long as it isn’t this one-day rubbish played in pyjamas. But then I've lost tough with cricket as I got disillusioned quite a few years ago with the way the game was being run and bastardised as a marketing exercise.
When is your birthday?
What is your shoe size?
10 or 11 depending on the cut; I have very broad and deep feet.
Two cats and lots of fish (tropical and pond).
What did you want to be when you were little?
When I was really little I hadn’t got a clue; I was always worried that my friends all knew they wanted to be engine drivers or whatever when I didn't even know how to start thinking about the problem. By the time I was 15 or 16 I knew I wanted to do scientific research, which I achieved if only briefly.
What is your favourite flower?
Hmmm, probably daffodils and lilies.
What date on the calendar are you looking forward to?
The one when I get that big lottery win and retire.
What music do you like?
Almost anything before Bach and 60s/70s pop/rock.
Your Favourite Book?
Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. But then you knew I'd say that.
That's it. I'll tag Kelly, Jilly, Sue, Noreen, Misty, Chris. Either post your answers on your weblog and add a pointer in the comments here, or post your answers as a comment.
28 March 2007
26 March 2007
23 March 2007
It seems Defra and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) are worried that the parakeets will start out-competing native songbirds for food and nest sites and possibly, as their numbers increase, cause economic damage to fruit crops. However the RSPB website does admit that there is currently not a problem and that the birds have protected status; but it is reported that the RSPB is prepared to consider culling the parakeets, they say only as a very last resort.
These are wonderful, colourful and cheeky birds - albeit they can be a bit noisy and they're not native to the UK (they come from the Himalayan foothills in India). Although I don't see them often in my part of west London (not enough really big trees nearby, despite it is quite a green area) they do pass through my garden a handful of times a year. Personally I would be sad to see them disappear or even be culled.
19 March 2007
The mountains of treacle
Grow up to the skies;
The mouldings of jelly
Grow fat in pigsties;
But my toothpicks, my toothpicks,
Stay tiny and slight,
No wonder my job
It is stressful and shite.
I might improve it, but it'll do for a start. :-)
18 March 2007
This quiz measures eccentricity compared with the normality of Joe Public. Do not confuse eccentricity with a lack of inhibition. Also eccentricity has no relationship to social class or gender; true eccentrics can come from any social class.
Answer the following questions. You have to be scrupulously honest in your self-assessments. You could even get your partner or friends to score you as a check – or just for fun!
Score one for each YES answer.
- You don’t/won’t/haven’t had children because you’ve deliberately decided not to.
- You don’t have a car/motorbike.
- You can’t drive a car/motorbike.
- You regularly read books; difficult books not pulp fiction.
- You have more than 250 books in the house.
- You decide what you believe regardless of what the media/government says.
- You passionately believe in freedom of speech. (You may not agree with someone else’s view but you will defend to the death their right to hold and express that view however uncomfortable it may be.)
- You do not have a mortgage.
- You do not have a bank loan or overdraft of any sort (and have not had one in the last 3 years).
- You pay off your credit cards in full every month.
- You live in the smallest house that you need, rather than the largest you can afford.
- You grow some of your own fruit and veg.
- You were taught to think for yourself and make up your own mind and you still do.
- You sleep in the nude.
- You regularly walk around your house in the nude. Have an extra point if you regularly go nude in your garden.
- You sleep in the same bed as your partner every night.
- You talk to your partner about meaningful things like history, literature and your beliefs.
- You value your money; you don’t spend money you don’t have; you regularly save a significant part of your income.
- You have no more than two baths or showers a week.
- You don’t take foreign holidays.
- You don’t fly places as a leisure activity.
- You regularly eat food in strange combinations, or a peculiar order, because that’s what you like (eg. celery, strawberry jam and Marmite sandwiches; pudding before main course). Have an extra point if you’ve ever done this in a restaurant rather than at home.
- You do whatever you like/enjoy rather than what you think others expect of you and regardless of what they may think.
- You enjoy this country as our heritage.
- You take an interest in things around you like nature, history, architecture.
- You can name 3 or more breeds of these farm animals: one point for each of cow, pig, sheep, chicken.
- You do as well at University Challenge as the student teams do.
- You know and use unusual words like: antediluvian, peripatetic, antepenultimate, opiate, apiary, verisimilitude, febrile. (If you don’t know what all these mean you don’t score; definitions below.)
- You try to get things repaired before you succumb to buying a new one.
- You don’t have net curtains at your windows.
- You can draw, paint, sculpt or embroider and do it regularly for pleasure.
- You never watch soap operas or game shows on television.
- You don’t play golf.
- You ignore fashion and buy new clothes when you need them, not just because the season’s colours have changed.
- You don’t buy gadgets or boys’ toys.
- You wear a hat as part of your normal street attire. (Baseball caps, motorbike/cycle helmets, turbans and hoodies don’t count.)
- You keep an unusual pet. (Dogs, cats, fish, snakes, rodents, chickens, canaries don’t count. Parrots, llamas, goats, monkeys, Michael Jackson do count.)
- You spend less than £100 on your partner (or if single each of your children, nieces, nephews as appropriate) at Christmas even though you could afford to spend more.
- There is one unusual thing about you which makes you stand out. For instance: you are habitually known by an unusual nickname (Ripples, Binki); you always wear fluorescent green eye shadow; you always carry a gent’s umbrella in your rucksack. (Tattoos, piercings and dyed hair don’t count.)
- You habitually turn down free food, free gifts and “bargains” because they are not things you want/need.
- You have a pre-1960 car which you still use for everyday travel.
- You have retained a childhood/youthful interest long past what is generally deemed an appropriate age (eg. you’re still youth hosteling or camping in your 60s). (Score 2 points if you can honestly say you have more than one.)
- You have an unusual hobby like breeding daffodils, bellringing, playing church organs or learning Cornish. (Score 2 points if you can honestly say you have more than one.)
Score one point for each YES answer; the maximum score is 50.
43-50 A true eccentric’s eccentric. One of the best.
32-42 Definitely eccentric. You’re the sort of person of whom it is said “They’re mad”.
20-31 You have the potential to be eccentric but you need to sharpen your skills,
0-20 Boringly normal.
antediluvian. Occurring or belonging to the era before the Biblical Flood. Extremely old and antiquated.
peripatetic. Walking about or from place to place; traveling on foot. One who does a job which takes them from place to place.
antepenultimate. Coming before the next to the last in a series.
opiate. A sedative narcotic containing opium or one of its derivatives. Something that dulls the senses and induces relaxation or torpor.
apiary. A place where bees and beehives are kept, especially a place where bees are raised for their honey
verisimilitude. The quality of appearing to be true or real.
febrile. Feverish (as in when you have 'flu).
Oh and just for fun I measured 39 on this scale.
16 March 2007
Let's say it again: "declarative living". I'm sad to say I've never heard so many round things in my life. And me who is so often a second-wave early adopter of new technology too. I really cannot see the point, with a passion. Please someone explain to me the purpose of living in the pockets of someone the other side of the globe who I've never met (and likely never will meet) 24/7?
It seems to me this is all about depersonalising and dumbing down everything -- the modern opium for the masses -- and selling us crap we don't want or need to keep us occupied and not thinking or meddling with what the "great and the good" want to get up to next. (Iran, anyone?) It is false progress. [There's a whole new topic on "false stuff", but that's for some other time.]
What worries me (possibly even more) is that in the last few months I seem to be turning into a Luddite like my father before me. Only father (who died last year at the age of 86) started being a Luddite before the age of colour TV. [How he never had apoplexy I don't know as I discovered going through his papers after he died that he had belonged to an organisation against the introduction of digital computers -- and this back in about 1970! Then I went on take my career in IT.]
Don’t get me wrong. I love things like flickr, weblogs, conferencing (ah the good old days of bulletin boards; been there since before PC was born!) and IM. I just don’t get this "let’s wear our whole lives on our sleeves all the time" stuff. I mean, why am I interested in real time that Kelly is cooking spaghetti or looking for her boots? Why would anyone be interested except Kelly and maybe the dog? Where does all this stop and privacy start?
But debating this with Kelly and others on her Kellypuffs weblog has made me think more about this. Indeed that is the good thing about the passion being expressed: it does make us think about what we are doing, what we really believe in and what is actually important. And each one of us will come up with different answers to those questions -- none of which are intrinsically right or wrong; they're just right or wrong for us at this time.
I guess where I'm really at is: just because we can do it, doesn't mean it is worth doing or that we should do it. Developing the technologies may be an interesting (even useful) research exercise, but that doesn't mean it has to/should be unleashed on the great unwashed as if it were the next best thing to sliced bread.
For me it would be more to the point if the effort the IT industry is putting into all this pseudo-progress-stuff was focused into something actually useful for humanity rather than just generating more CO2 to no purpose.
Grumpy. I've had this horrid fluey coldy virus on and off since last November (see here); can't shake it off. Now on the second round of antibiotics in the hope they'll kill off the edges so I can kill off the rest.
2. When is the last time you went to the doctor?
Yesterday. See above. But then as I have type II diabetes I get checked up on by the medics far too often.
3. Ever broken a bone?
Nope, but come pretty close a couple or three times.
4. Ever had surgery?
Yes, several times, tho' nothing horrid or really major: appendectomy, sinus operation, arthroscopy on both knees (at different times), bladder exam, fingernail removal, vasectomy. Didn't enjoy the appendectomy 'cos it was a long time ago and anaesthetics weren't so good so I felt grim afterwards. Most of the others have been interesting experiences though. Now how sad is that?! :-)
5. When is the last time you were in a hospital?
Last August when I had a fingernail permanently removed, although it was only day-care and under (heavy) local anaesthetic.
[Brought to you courtesy of Friday Fiver]
15 March 2007
Weird. Very Monty Python. It suggests a whole new set of meanings for that lovely piece from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony ... You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you! ... I mean, if I went around sayin' I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they'd put me away!
13 March 2007
There was a news item on Monday about the books which people start and never manage to finish. The actual survey itself covered both fiction and non-fiction, but the way it was presented on breakfast time TV anyone would think that there was only fiction. Anyway, why does it matter if one never finished a book? Why the fetish that starting a book means you have to plough on to the bitter end. I don’t read a lot of fiction these days (yes, I know I should) and many of the non-fiction books I do read I never do finish – many of them I never start properly either but dip into them, and again, and again, which works for me and is I think just as valuable.
Anyway what books have you started, never to finish? I’d be interested to know. Here are a few of mine:
- JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit. Don’t think I ever got past page 2.
- JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings. I once managed to get as far as page 50 in something like four attempts.
- Mervyn Peake, Titus Alone. Final volume of the Gormenghast trilogy. I gave up half way through as it was just too depressing and I couldn’t face any more.
- Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace. That old favourite of never finished books. Admittedly I was trying to read it at age 14.
- James Joyce, Ulysses. Another favourite of the never finished. I read most of it but found the last part tedious in the extreme, but again I was reading it in my teens.
- DH Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Another I tried reading in my teens and found so deadly boring.
- Salman Rushdie, Satanic Verses. Another favourite of the never finished list which I bought because I object to being told what I can/can’t read. I don’t think I got as far as page 20.
Some of these appear on the “official” list. And they are the only ones from the list I’ve even tried reading, with the exception of Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves which I only ever dipped into and found boring.
Here’s the BBC News report with the top 10 fiction and non-fiction lists.
12 March 2007
The night is silent, and in its silence dreams are hidden
Love me because without you I can do nothing, I am nothing
You shine in my heart like the moon in the night sky
Let us enjoy our love as long as we may
A magical night of bliss begins and ends with a kiss
11 March 2007
At the end of last year, we voiced the fear that we are being exploited by viral notices for the purposes of propagating themselves (16 December 2006). Lindsay Brash observes that the notice we mentioned then -- "Please do not remove this notice until 23rd July" -- "demonstrates the rapid evolution of viruses and the sophisticated tricks they can employ on their hosts. By stating a date, the notice fools humans into thinking it must be legitimate, and they let it be."
In fact, Brash goes on, it's even cleverer than that: people "are so gullible that they are not likely to remove it until some time after the stated date. But by then they will forget when they first saw it and, to be safe, leave it until the next 23 July. Fantastic!"
And in James Penketh's school there is a notice with an even more subtle survival strategy: inducing complete cognitive breakdown. It reads "Take no notice of this notice. By Order." If he took no notice of this notice, he asks, "would I know to take no notice of it?"
Justin Needham, meanwhile, has found an example of the suicide notice: "Please leave these facilities as you would wish to find them". Every time he spots one, he writes, "I am tempted (and sometimes succumb) to tear it down. That's better, just how I wish to find the facilities -- with no patronising notices."
04 March 2007
Biometric ID cards will include fingerprints, plus eye or facial scans. Proposals to fingerprint children aged 11 to 15 as part of new passport and ID card plans are being considered.I can choose not to have a passport (for instance) and thus not have my biometric data recorded. A child under 16 cannot by make such a decision as, by law, they are a minor and thus they cannot give their consent. Surely no-one should be fingerprinted, or have any other biometric (including DNA) information taken without their explicit consent.
Under existing plans every passport applicant over 16 will have details - including fingerprints - added to a National Identity register from 2008. But there was concern youngsters could use passports without biometric details up to the age of 20 ... This could happen if they are issued a child passport between the ages of 11 and 15, which would be valid for five years.
The challenge that officials have been asked to find an answer to, is how do you make sure that people who are 16 and over have got biometric details recorded in their passports.
Shadow home secretary David Davis said the proposal "borders on the sinister" and added it showed the government was trying to end the presumption of innocence. "This government is clearly determined to enforce major changes in the relationship between the citizen and the state in a way never seen before."
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said "It is a measure of ministerial arrogance that plans are being laid to fingerprint children as young as 11 without having a public debate first.
Campaigners have long battled fingerprinting of children in schools, a practice they estimate happens in about 3,500 establishments. From this month guidelines from privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner will urge schools to get parental consent before taking biometric data. But under the Data Protection Act schools do not have to seek parental consent, and calls to outlaw the controversial practice have been rejected by the government.
Yet again this government seems to be ignoring both existing, long-established, English law and our civil liberties on the spurious premise that it will help in the "war against terrorism". We need to resist this at every turn.
Here's a picture of the full moon I took last night about an hour or so before the eclipse started. I was spectacularly unsuccessful with the shots I took of the early phases eclipse, and I didn't then try the totality as I couldn't get a good clear view.
However here are a few good shots of the eclipse from various of my contacts:
From fotofacade: www.flickr.com/photos/fotofacade/409230083/
From andyp_uk: www.flickr.com/photos/andypiper/409225738/
From Colin Barnes: www.flickr.com/photos/collicky/409277977/.
02 March 2007
I guess probably Saturday: usually don't have to get up early, can stay up late, and there's another weekend day to come.
2. What was the best weekend of your life?
I really don't know. I should of course say the weekend Noreen and I got married (27 years ago) but as we'd arranged the whole wedding ourselves we were so knackered the whole thing was just a blur.
3. What weekend of the year is your favorite?
Easter is always good 'cos it's a 4 day weekend. Bank holiday weekends are good too. Otherwise I really don't tend to differentiate between weekends.
4. Do you have any weekend routines?
Yes, too many. Noreen and I still treat weekends much as we did when we were students. Switch off on Friday night; have a few beers. Saturday is for shopping and the such like with decent food (whether in or out) on Saturday evening. Sunday is for working; not now doing coursework but for doing housework and similar chores. I tend to use Sundays for fish maintenance, paying bills, doing literary society paperwork, etc.
5. Describe your ideal Saturday night.
Relaxing with good food and wine in a quiet Italian or French bistro with Noreen and possibly a couple of friends.
[Brought to you courtesy of Friday Five.]
01 March 2007
Marketing the buzz word in today's business world is MARKETING. However, people often ask for a simple explanation of "Marketing." Well, here it is:
1. You're a woman and you see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and say, "I'm fantastic in bed."
That's Direct Marketing.
2. You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy. One of your friends goes up to him and, pointing at you, says, "She's fantastic in bed."
3. You see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and get his telephone number. The next day you call and say, "Hi, I'm fantastic in bed."
4. You see a guy at a party; you straighten your dress. You walk up to him and pour him a drink. You say, "May I?" and reach up to straighten his tie, brushing your breast lightly against his arm, and then say, "By the way, I'm fantastic in bed."
That's Public Relations.
5. You're at a party and see a handsome guy. He walks up to you and says, "I hear you're fantastic in bed."
That's Brand Recognition.
6. You're at a party and see a handsome guy. He fancies you, but you talk him into going home with your friend.
That's a Sales Rep.
7. Your friend can't satisfy him so he calls you.
That's Tech Support.
8. You're on your way to a party when you realise that there could be handsome men in all these houses you're passing, so you climb onto the roof of one situated towards the centre and shout at the top of your lungs, "I'm fantastic in bed!"
That's Junk Mail!