Friday, May 27, 2005


The Americans did not flush the Koran down the toilet.

How do I know this?

Have you ever tried flushing a book down the toilet? Well my kids have; as well as small toys, toothbrushes and coins. And none of the buggers flushed.

The Koran is a big book too. It's not exactly The Sex Life of The Pope is it? (apparently that one has been flushed down the loo).

Guantanamo bay is famous for humiliation and mistreatment of prisoners and human rights abuses. It's not famous for unfeasibly large toilets.

A simple picture of the toilet where this is supposed to have happened would have nipped this one in the bud.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Pissing in the Wind

"The bill would wipe out the availability of the PTC to any wind project located within 20 miles of a coastline, military base, national park or other highly scenic area."

Lovely! I think I'll book my holidays at Fariford again this year and send my friends postcards of the B52s.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Price of Condoms

Customer: "How much are those condoms?"

Pharmacist: "They're £4 a packet plus tax"

Customer: "Forget the tax, I'll sellotape the bloody things on"

Waste of Time?

I'm no more a lover of foxes than I am a lover of toffs in red jackets.

This isn't about hunting.

Attempting to prosecute these toffs is a complete waste of time. What were The Crown Prosecution Service (or whoever it is who decided) thinking? It's totally pointless.

Unless, of course, it's to put more money into the pockets of already-wealthy lawyers.

Surely they've got better things to do?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Singing Lesson

I had my first (and probably only) singing lesson on Saturday.

The teacher Fiona said that the crucial thing is breathing. It brought to mind Peter Ustinov telling a funny story about Tito Gobbi saying the secret was not to ‘breathe from the stomach’, but to ‘breathe from the fore ‘ed’.

I stood and practised the breathing technique while Fiona enthusiastically clutched my rib cage to make sure I was doing it right.

The problem is that thinking about your breathing is a bit like thinking about your heartbeat. It’s all a bit, well, automatic. When I’m singing on stage, I have enough trouble remembering the words and where my fingers go next on the fret board without worrying about how and when I’m breathing.

She says I’ve got a great voice and that I really should have it professionally trained.

Of course, she believes this to be true and it has nothing at all to do with touting for future business or anything.

The Answer is 26

This may help some people. It may be possible to contract cancer from just one cigarette. If you smoke 20, you are more likely (maybe 20 times more likely). If you smoke 20 every day, you are more likely still. I don't know the mechanics of this (maybe nobody does), but the numbers speak for themselves and will average themselves out in the long run. Consider this:

These statistics are from Action on Smoking and Health

  • 114,000 people are killed every year from smoking related diseases
  • 12 million people in the UK smoke (6.5m men; 5.5m women)
  • The average consumption per smoker is 14 a day (15 for men; 13 for women)
  • Therefore 61.3 billion cigarettes are smoked every year in the UK
  • There is one smoking related death for every 537,894 cigarettes smoked
  • The chances of winning the jackpot on the National Lottery are 13,983,816 to one.

This means that for every single cigarette you smoke the risk you are running of contracting cancer averages out at about 26 times higher than the chance of winning the jackpot with a single lottery ticket.

If you smoke 20 a day, it is the equivalent of investing £3,640 on the weekly Lottery.

I hope your number doesn't come up.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Power of Maths

Maybe mathematics can save lives.

When I was young, there used to be x-ray machines in shoe shops. They were a big hit. We used to love to see our feet inside our shoes.

They don’t have them any more.

The dangers of x-rays weren’t understood. Now they know there is no safe level, and hospitals now avoid x-rays unless they are definitely required. The danger is that they will cause cancer.

The way I explain this to my children is by using the analogy of the lottery. Each x-ray buys you a lottery ticket where the deadly prize is cancer. The bigger the dose, the more lottery tickets you ‘buy’. If you buy only one or two lottery tickets, you’re very unlikely to win, but it may happen.

Perhaps if we tried to dissuade people from smoking by using the same analogy it may have some effect? The odds of winning the jackpot on the National Lottery are about 13 million to one. If you know the number of people who smoke, how many cigarettes they consume and the incidence of lung cancer, it must be possible to estimate the number of equivalent National lottery tickets each cigarette represents for the “cancer jackpot”.

I’d like to know what that number is. I bet it’s more than one.

I’m going to find out. It may just save a life one day.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Disposable Nappies

For many years disposable nappies have been the bete noire of the environmentalist.

Millions of the bloody things clogging up landfills and wasting resources.

Well now, the Enviornment Agency, of all people have conducted a full life cycle study and come to the conclusion that there is "little or no difference" between the environmental impact of disposables and washables.

Now thousands of parents will be feeling less guilty.

Life Changing Day

Yesterday was supposed to be the day to change your life.

Today, a close friend of mine is returning to hospital for a diagnosis. They have discovered lumps in her lung and in her brain. She is currently well and cheerful and doesn't appear to be aware of the very grave situation she faces.

Last night we had an evening full of laughter. It was her son's 35th birthday. We celebrated it at a very tacky Chinese restaurant in Quedgely (no, that's not near Camberwick Green) adorned with full-size illuminated multi-coloured plastic palm trees. Good for a laugh.

Today is another matter.

I won't be posting about this again unless it is good news.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I Told You

Good Lad!

China v USA

I really don't understand this.

Perhaps some readers can enlighten me.

If the Chinese currency is pegged to the dollar (and has been since 1994) how come it's undervalued and gives Chinese firms a major advantage?
If it's undervalued, then surely the US dollar is also undervalued (as it is pegged to it)?

And if the Chinese revalue (by 40%), wouldn't this mean that all the millions of Chinese imports for us and the USA would be 40% more expensive? And as everything we seem to buy these days comes from China, wouldn't that mean inflation and terrible recession?

I really don't understand it. I can't get away from the feeling that it's just around the corner.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Go Get 'em George

Today George Galloway is appearing before a US Senate committee. It should be fun.

He has been accused of having dodgy oil dealings with Saddam Hussein. The report to me reads more like a Daily Mail article than a serious analysis.

But forget about that.

Galloway himself claims that he asked to have input to the report before it was written. This is denied by the committee.

But forget about that.

The committee itself made no attempt to contact Galloway before going to print. This is not in dispute, and it stinks. I don't know about you, but hardly anything raises the hackles more than Americans going on about promoting 'freedom' and 'democracy' like they are the only ones who understand it, and like they alone are bringing peace to the world.

Go get 'em George.

Monday, May 16, 2005

I Take It Back

I'm playing at the annual Jakefest in Edinburgh.

After my recent post, I was reluctant to find out the cost a return rail trip with two adults and two teenagers.

With a Family Railcard, the total cost (Stroud to Edinburgh) is £113.10.

Well blow me down.

Friday, May 13, 2005

M5 Junction 14 Update

You'll be pleased to hear the M5 J14 traffic lights are switched on.

But only outside the rush hour.

When you stop there at a red light at 3am when there's no-one about, you'll remember me.

That's how I want to be remembered.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Waggle Dance

I find this enchanting. Science like this makes nature even more awe inspiring.

Coincidentally, I've just finished reading Five Boys by Mick Jackson. A delightful story of the exploits of young boys in rural England during wartime.

Half way through the book The Bee King appears: a bee keeper who captivates the boys, Pied Piper fashion and has them "waggle dancing" down the main street.

The purpose of the dance was not suggested however until the sixties.

M5 Junction 14

I have exited the M5 (southbound) for most working days in the last five years.

Although at the "rush hour" I had never, ever been held up there.

About six months ago, men set about renewing the traffic islands and painting lines on the road, for no obvious reason as far as I could see. I assumed the council had some spare budget to spend otherwise they'd lose it.

Most worryingly, they installed traffic lights.

For weeks the lights were never switched on, as if they knew they would spell disaster.

They did.

As soon as they were switched on, there were queues everywhere. Queues to get off the motorway; queues to get on, both south and north. Not just short ones either, but half-mile jobs.

And delays.

They were so bad, they took to announcing it on the Radio as a congestion black spot.

I noticed one day yellow-jacketed observers with stopwatches and clipboards. After that they changed the duration of the light sequences. It made no difference.

The lights have now been switched off and all's back to normal again. I doubt whether they will ever be switched on again.

So now if you ever go to M5 J14, you'll know why the lights aren't working.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mars Pictures

They claim to be able to see a spacecraft on the surface of Mars from a photograph.

If this is the case, how come we can't see a photograph of any of the US stuff that landed on the moon which is about a million times closer?

Just interested.

Arse Power

I ran the Tewkesbury Five Mile yesterday.

Although it's only my second big race, I've decided I really like running with hundreds of other people, for a reason more revealing about me than I should really let on.

If you start near the front, then literally hundreds of people run past you. About 50% of them are female and a good proportion of those have great arses. I tend to latch on an arse that's going a bit quicker than I would normally go. About five yards behind is ideal.

I followed an absolute beaut for the first three miles (a pert black number in a tight leotard thing) before it eventually receded into the distance.

I did my best time ever.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Another Five Years

About the best that we could have hoped for?

No, not really.

The Lib Dems could have done a bit better. And of course, Labour could have had more of a tonking.

In particular my constituency was very close indeed. Just 351 more like me and David Drew would have been out.

However, rather him that the close-running Tory Boy.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Vote Green

It's probably too late to change your mind, but here's another reason why:

I've just been to the Post Office to tax the car I inherited from my ageing dad.

£170 for one year. "Seems a bit steep" says I to the Post Office Man, attempting friendly conversation.

"Yes" he replies "Unfortunately your car is just into the higher price band. It's 1598cc and the break point is 1549cc".


Let us accept for the time being the preposterous assumption that you should tax the more polluting cars. Since when was the size of the engine anything but a very approximate measure of the pollutants it emits?

The reason the assumption is preposterous because you shouldn't tax more polluting or bigger cars (I'll come back to that), you should tax the pollution itself.

Where does the pollution come from? Yes, that's right, fuel.

Abolish road tax and raise the money that it currently generates from fuel tax. That way the polluter pays and it would encourage less road use in favour of public transport. It would reduce bureaucracy too.

It would also help people to have a large (more polluting car) for use only when it's really needed with a more economical (smaller) one being used most of the time.

This is Green Party policy.

Science Myopia

The BBC conducted a poll to find the most significant technological invention since 1800.

The discovery of electricity? (hard to think of anything more far-reaching)

The internal combustion engine? (well this must be a candidate. it's revolutionised travel and industry)

The computer? (well they're in everything today from washing machines to phones)

Well none of the above made it. The winner was:

The bicycle

Let's think about this for a minute. The most significant technological invention. Now don't get me wrong. I love bicycles. They're great, and if it weren't for them, we wouldn't have Lance Armstrong. But honestly!

Not only did it win, it won by a massive margin scoring eight times as many votes as its nearest competitor (the transistor).

We really have no hope of dealing with the world's problems if the general understanding of science is so poor.

Science and technology got us into this mess; it's bloody well going to have to get us out of it.


I went to my friend Keith's funeral yesterday.

He was cruelly struck down by a 'CJD like' disease called Lewy Body Disease, which quickly turned his brain to mush.

Shit happens.

Because of his predicament, I'd written a song for him which I played at the service (in Church). Never before in my playing career have I pushed myself so far beyond where I felt comfortable. It proved to be difficult, but rewarding.

May he rest in peace.