Thursday, January 30, 2014

This birdie's not for tweeting

Twitter is a funny business. You decide to “follow” people you know and also a couple of conservation organisations This way, you hope to keep up with your friends' doings and to stay abreast of what's happening to protect the world's wildlife. But three reasons have prompted me to pull out of Twitter:
1. You get endless postings or repostings (retweets) from friends of friends of friends who talk about things you don't know about or aren't interested in; or who talk in a metalanguage that resembles one of those West African creoles that enabled the white man to order the natives about.
2. All the postings on conservation matters are negative, gloomy, gutwrenching. Every one tells of another catastrophe, another wickedness, another species on the verge of extinction. It's the stuff of suicide pacts. The worst part of this is that I know in some cases that the dire predictions are not based on solid evidence: they are there simply to scare the shite out of us. It does the conservation/green movement no good at all.
3. The three Tweet friends that I love the most are raging intellectuals way beyond my capacity. They know recondite stuff, they use arcane vocabulary, they quote medieval Provençal balladeers, they offer pithy wisdom in languages that I can't even recognise. In short, they make me feel inadequate. They give me the sort of uneasy feeling that would cause a man to check his flies even if he were wearing a kilt.
So, it's goodbye to Twitter. I still follow Facebook, though. Just.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Children talking about marriage

I don't usually go for these "cute kid" postings, but this one seems to me to have a lot of wisdom embedded in it.
You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff.  Like, if you like
sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the
chips and dip coming.

Alan, age 10

No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to
marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who
you're stuck with.

Kristen, age 10

Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then.
Camille, age 10

You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the
same kids.

Derrick, age 8

Both don't want any more kids.
Lori, age 8

Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know
each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.

Lynnette, age 8

On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets
them interested enough to go for a second date.

Martin, age 10

When they're rich.
Pam, age 7

The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with

Curt, age 7

It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone
to clean up after them.

Anita, age 9

Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck.
Ricky, age 10

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Quick, drink up!

I bought a carton of cranberry juice and forgot about it for a couple of weeks, mainly because I don't like cranberry juice (gotta drink it, though, to put off the day when I end up in the bladderdaddy ward in Addenbrooke's). This morning, I gritted my tooth and opened it. The wording on the top caught my eye:
DISPLAY UNTIL  30 Jan 2014
BEST BEFORE     1 Feb 2014
Hell's teeth! Two days and it starts to deteriorate?!
I drank most of it anyway. Better than being catheterised. Just.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Virtual unreality

The smog in Beijing is now so bad that the authorities are posting pictures of the sunset, the only sighting of the sun most people are going to get during the winter.
A combination of traffic and indutrial pollution together with the extensive use of coal has led to this crazy situation.
And what is the message of these sunset postings? "If you can't experience reality, don't worry, we will provide you with a fun substitute"?
Life by proxy. It's scary.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


 Have you ever been trapped in a loop? Let me give you an example. We used to have an excursion programme for our students: Stratford, Stonehenge, Oxford colleges, that sort of thing. For our more techno-minded students, we would arrange visits to factories, mines, manufacturers and so on. As the school was close to Southampton, I phoned Fawley Oil Refinery to find available dates for a visit.

We're fully booked for the next two years, sir.”
No problem,” says I cheerfully. “Book us in for the first available day after that.”
Sorry, sir, we don't take bookings more than two years in advance.”
I could feel a loop coming on...
What if I phone you again tomorrow, dear?” (You could call girls 'dear' in those days).
Sir? But...”
The note of incomprehension in her voice said it all. I was trapped in a loop.
Never did book an excursion to Fawley Oil Refinery. Took the kids to London instead to see a Brian Rix farce; seemed appropriate somehow.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Comfort Trellis-style

The widow of Llanfairpg offers solace.

Dear Mrs Hollande, she writes, you too, dear? Another victim of men's lustings. I honestly don't know what the solution is apart from putting bromley in their cocoa. Try not to fret, dear, one day you'll be a widow like me and then it won't seem so bad.
Yours solidarily
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, widow. retd.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ebay 1 Old Scrote 0

I just bought a chimney mushroom on ebay.
But I will never see it.
If I am lucky I might get a refund, but the steps I need to take to claim the refund make Scott's trek to the South Pole seem like a stroll up the pub.
Please don't ask me to explain: I am cast down enough as it is by my inability to master something so simple as ebay.
Ask me, instead, why I wanted to buy a chimney mushroom.
Better yet, ask me what a chimney mushroom is.
Better yet, let's pour a drink and forget the whole thing.
Bloody Jackdaws.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A profound sense of something or other

Talking of mysteries, have a look at this, not a hardship if you are as dazzled by the female form as I am, though in this case I would like you to stop looking at their lovely legs and concentrate on the following little puzzle:
Labelling them 1 to 6 from left to right, put them in order of their weight from lightest to heaviest.

Ok, ok, you're smart and you smell a trap, the sort that QI indulges in. And you are right: these splendid ladies, despite appearances, are all the same weight, 154 pounds imperial.

Does that amazing revelation not give you a profound sense of something or other? In my case, it's the other.

Chuck it in here

I used to recycle my stuff at the village recycling station in various bins: paper in one, glass in another, alicans in another, plastic bottles (please flatten them) in another. Then I started to make trips to the big recycling centre in the nearby town because they also had bins for other recyclables (wood, metal, rubble, etc).
But now I have a wheelie bin with a blue lid courtesy of the local district council. And EVERYTHING (except organic waste) goes into it: paper, cardboard, glass, alicans, plastic bottles (please flatten them), metal etc....
Now, dear reader, I don't mind dumping everything in a blue-lidded dumpster, but I can't shake off the question that keeps buzzing in my head: how do they separate all this stuff when they get it to their Separator Plant (or whatever they call it)? Metal with a magnet perhaps, but how about the rest?
I'll be honest with you: I will go on saving the planet, singlehandedly if I have to, but my heart just isn't in it any more. Mysteries demoralise me.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

RIP Mikhail

"MIKHAIL KALASHNIKOV died on December 23rd, aged 94. But his 66-year-old invention, the Avtomat Kalashnikova, has plenty more shots left to fire. Developed in 1947 and first used by Soviet forces in 1949, the AK-47 assault rifle and its many derivatives are now used by the armed forces of more than 80 countries, and by freelancers in many more. No-one knows quite how many are in circulation: 100m is a reasonable guess. As a proportion of all the guns in the world—another number no-one can be quite sure about—Kalashnikovs probably make up more than one in ten of all firearms. Why does an ageing Soviet invention still dominate modern warfare?" [courtesy The Economist]

For an answer, go here. There's no doubt that it's the nastiest killer weapon since David slew Goliath, and not so different in that it is so basic that it can be, and is, used by children in African troublespots.

Paul-Félix Armand-Delille

He's the chap who deliberately infected rabbits on his French estate with the virus myxomotosis. And it worked. It wiped out ninety-something percent of his rabbits. Unfortunately for him and rabbits, the virus escaped and in a very short time devastated rabbit populations across northern Europe, including Britain. Poor old Paul-Felix, he's been hailed as a hero and vilified as a villain by turns ever since.
Poor old rabbits too. If you have seen a myxied rabbit, you will know what a pitiful sight it is. It seems that there is evidence that rabbits have developed a resistance to the virus, but there are still too many infected rabbits around for my taste. What seems to happen is that new bunnies are fine while they are above ground during the summer. But when they dive into the burrows in the autumn, they pick up the virus again.
One thing's for sure: we humans have no equals when it comes to buggering up the environment.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A load of you-know-what

Courtesy BTO Atlas

Here's a quote from an email sent to me recently asking me to sign a petition:

The barn owl used to be a common sight in the United
Kingdom, but now the birds have become increasingly
endangered. One of the biggest causes of barn owl deaths
is rat poison -- and the government isn't doing everything
it could to help them.

Before you rush out and shoot a farmer or your local MP, let me tell you that the above statement is inaccurate, unfounded and alarmist. In other words, it's a load of bollocks. I send Barn Owl corpses regularly to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Lancaster, and receive the results of their analysis. Yes, they test for rodenticides; yes, traces are often found, but nowhere near lethal doses. I do not know of a single case where rodenticide poison was the declared cause of death. The largest proportion of Barn Owl fatalities are RTAs. The main reason for the decline of Barn Owls in the UK was loss of feeding habitat and loss of breeding sites. From a low of 2000 pairs, the population has grown to 5000 pairs or more, thanks to sustained programmes of nestbox erection and the establishment of food corridors by pioneers like Colin Shawyer.
Of course we should continue to monitor the presence of rodenticides in animal corpses, and of course we should insist that the rules governing the use of poisons are strictly enforced, and of course we should always be looking for alternative methods of control.
But the reason I get so angry about petitions like the one above is that they bring the conservation movement into disrepute. I will go to war for the environment as long as I have breath, but I have no intention of winning spurious battles and then losing the war, particularly as I have no wish to be seen as an alarmist doom-mongering lunatic.
So there.
Envoi: 1913 was overall a poor season, which the Guardian reported as the species being on the verge of extinction. Silly Grauniad, get your facts right.

Monday, January 06, 2014

What was that you s-s-said?

Watched the film "The King's Speech" last night. it's about George VI's speech impediment and how it was cured. It led me on to speculation about the difference between stuttering and stammering. According to most authorities, the terms are interchangeable. Many years ago, I read (In Fowler's English Usage, I think) that there are only two words in the English language which were true synonyms: gorse and furze. So, as I am not ready to gainsay the gorse/furze argument, I poked around in my cerebral attic and came up, as you do, with a Venn diagram to demonstrate that the two circles have a huge overlap, but that there ARE situations when stutter seems more appropriate than stammer, and vice versa. Machine gun fire, for example, can be described as stuttering, but not as stammering. Go on, find some more examples!
Checking later in my trusty Chambers, I found a clue in the definitions. They suggesti that stuttering is primarily about difficulty with initial consonants, leading to repetition: t-t-t-tell it to the m-m-marines; whereas stammering is primarily about hesitation before uttering a word.

You'd think I would have something better to do with my time. But it's better than vandalising er er er telephone kiosks or molesting dwarves on their b-b-b-birthdays.