Saturday 30 September 2006

Excellence in memery.

In response to my tagging her, the enigmatic Ms Wilberforce-Packard has tagged me right back:

Joseph Kynaston Snodgrass Tungsten Reeves tagged me for a meme while I wasn’t paying attention. I intend to supply my responses soonish – but in the meantime, I’ve created a meme for him. No one else is allowed to answer these questions. This is a one-man meme.


1. What is your favorite shade of yellow? You can’t say mustard – that one’s taken.

The yellow stripes on a bumblebee are quite fetching.

2. If you were a pregnant woman, which would you rather give birth to: a healthy baby stoat who wishes to study carpentry and will leave you without stretch marks, or a large human baby with rabies and a peg leg? Note: the human baby can also solve crimes.

Got to be the stoat. I love all weasel-like creatures. I'd prefer a pine marten, though. Human babies are pretty cool, but less so when rabid. At least when a stoat attacks you, it's kind of cute. Also, you can keep stoats in your pockets legally. And solving crimes is pointless: this is Britain.

3. Do you use a sawing motion when you floss your teeth? Because you’re not supposed to use a sawing motion.

I use a saw.

4. If you had a 4-ft possum tail and you had to conceal it for an important business meeting, would you tape it to your back, or against your leg? You might also consider wrapping it around your abdomen, I suppose.

I would never dream of concealing such a wonderful thing. I'd love to have a tail, especially a prehensile one. In fact, all humans should have tails. What were our idiot ancestors thinking of, evolving?

5. If you were a 200-meter tall man, where would you sit?

Wherever the hell I liked, I should think.

6. Who would you like to have drowned in chocolate? Who would you like to have drowned in borscht?

This is weird. I can think of plenty of people to have drowned in water, but change the drowning medium and the question becomes inexplicably impossible to answer. Were David Blunkett drowning in the sea, I'd have no hesitation in being too busy rescuing his dog to help him, but were he standing dangerously close to the edge of a vat of chocolate, could I bring myself to push him in? I think not, and have no idea why. I would hit him with a salami, though.

7. It turns out that Jerry Garcia is still alive and would like to hit the road again. Would you rather follow the Grateful Dead, or have the Grateful Dead follow you? You must choose one or the other. Please stop screaming.

I'd have them follow me. Just imagine: the Grateful Dead commute to an industrial estate just outside Belfast to program computers for eight hours every day; the Grateful Dead go to Homebase to buy some MDF and a potted plant; the Grateful Dead pop into my kitchen to fix a slice of bread and butter and Vegemite. That is entertainment.

Keep music live.

A common feature of the modern office is the ringtone. At random moments throughout the day, the air is filled with intros. Sometimes it's the intro of a shite song, which is annoying, and sometimes it's the intro of a dead good song, in which case having it cut off after ten seconds is annoying. And sometimes, of course, it's some bloody bleeping monophonic doorbell version — the less said about them, the better.

Since the principle of loud music in the office seems to have been established and accepted, I have an idea. Why not employ an actual guitarist in your office? All the staff hand their phones over to him or her every morning, and the phones get put on silent. The guitarist then spends the day watching the phones. When one rings, he plays the tune for that phone. And you could make requests: "If my mother-in-law calls, could you play Smoke On The Water?" "If my bank ring, could you play Flight Of The Bumblebee extra-fast?" If a song's particularly popular, everyone could request that he continue playing after the relevant person has finished their phone call.

You know, on second thoughts, this would be so much better with a lounge pianist.

The wrong way.

So you use a public toilet. And, being a clean sort of a person, you wash your hands. You then leave. But the doors of publlic toilets always open inwards. If they opened outwards, you could just shoulder them open, but no: the only way out is to use your freshly cleaned hand to grasp and pull the door-handle — a handle that, you just know, was recently grasped by some dirty bastard whose hands haven't been washed in a hundred years, and who probably works on a pig farm. Or in insurance.

I can't be the only person bothered by this.

Friday 29 September 2006

Perverse incentives.

Surely there comes a point when the unintended consequences are so bloody obviously inevitable that one must question whether they're really unintended. (Natalie the Wise is having similar thoughts.)

So here's a fab new wheeze from our lords & masters:

SERIOUS crimes such as assaulting a police officer and mugging will be punished by instant fines of up to £100 from next year under plans to keep hundreds of thousands of offenders out of court.

Proposals drawn up by the Home Office, and seen by The Times, envisage a huge extension of fixed-penalty notices from early 2007. They would apply to nearly 30 offences, including assault, threatening behaviour, all types of theft up to a value of £100, obstructing or assaulting a police officer, possession of cannabis, and drunkenness.

In other words, we're continuing to see the move from a system in which people are presumed innocent and can only be convicted through a trial to one in which the police can punish you without having to bother with any of that legalistic time-wasting.

Unlike conditional cautions, the fixed-penalty notices do not require the offender to admit guilt, and the penalty is not a criminal conviction.

Since the fixed-penalty notice involves a punishment, what's so great about its not constituting a criminal conviction? Why not extend this principle to fixed-penalty jail time? The police lock you up for a week, but don't worry; it doesn't go on your record.

Quoth Tim:

Have these people no clue? Assaulting a police officer? 100 quid? Should be five years minimum! Violence directed at the police should be severely punished simply to discourage anyone else thinking of doing the same thing. That's the only possible method of retaining (as I desperately hope we shall) the tradition of largely unarmed police.

Let's go one better shall we? Let's make assaulting a politician cost 100 pounds.

I've got my money right here and if it's John Reid we catch I'll lend you yours.

But this legislation also has a down-side. What if you steal more than a hundred quid? Mug someone to the tune of two hundred quid and a walletful of credit cards, give one hundred quid to a policeman, and be on your way with a tidy net profit. I believe a similar scheme has been tried before, in Chicago in the 1920s. The difference is that the US Government took measures to stop it, on the grounds that it was "corruption". Our Government are establishing, formalising, and legalising it, on the grounds that it will "speed up justice".

Do we really want a system where criminals can avoid arrest and a criminal record by handing over cash to police officers? None of our leaders foreseeing any problems with that? Anyone?

Oh, all right, then.

Thursday 28 September 2006


My car — a Golf Mark 2 — is a bit temperamental. Well, it is old. For the first five minutes or so of driving it, before the engine warms up, it just doesn't like being driven. It judders a bit, prefers not to go uphill, and floods the engine in protest if you try any gear above second. Then the engine warms up and it turns into the proper little racing demon that all old Golfs are at heart.

For those first few minutes — especially if it's been raining — a bit of cleverness can be required by the driver. The engine tends to idle too low, which can necessitate revving when stationary — or even revving in neutral while the car's moving — to stop it stalling. Up till a couple of days ago, this was rather annoying because it presented the danger that passers-by might think I was a boy racer. But, now, things are much worse. Now, I have to look out for Muslims.

Because revving your car's engine within earshot of a Muslim is now a criminal offense.

Tuesday 26 September 2006


In much of Britain, the word "Irish" is commonly used to mean "wrong, odd, strange, skewiff, weird, shoddy, incompetent". If a shed has been built in such a way that it may fall down at any moment, it's a bit Irish. If a car has one wheel slightly larger than the others, it's a bit Irish. If a shop has some weird convoluted refund process that makes no sense whatsoever but doesn't annoy you too much, it's a bit Irish (not to be confused with "Swedish", which is far more annoying and caused by vindictiveness rather than incompetence). Some people might say that it's unfair that this ridiculous prejudice that the Irish are all stupid or permanently drunk or both has entrenched itself in our language. Those people, I put it to you, have never tried to drive through Ireland.

Twice in the last couple of weeks, I've had to drive to Dublin. And I'd like to make a suggestion to the Irish authorities. Have you ever considered using road-signs as indicators of where places are?

We're all familiar with the "Services" sign on a motorway. It doesn't even need to say "Services" these days, having helpful little icons of petrol pumps, knives & forks, toilets, beds, brothels, etc. It's the same across Europe: you approach a motorway exit, there's a sign with a picture of a petrol pump on it, and that means that, if you exit the motorway at this point, you will find a petrol station. And the reason you'll find it, mundanely, is because it's there. Unless you're in Ireland, in which case, replace the word "mundanely" with "astoundingly". Because it'll never happen.

Driving down an Irish motorway, you see a sign with pictures of a petrol pump and knife & fork on it, and an arrow pointing off the next exit. Being both low on petrol and peckish, you drive off that exit and immediately find yourself at a roundabout with one sign to Ballymiddle, another to Ballyonowhere, another road with no sign at all, and no indication of anything petrol-related. A sign says that Ballymiddle is three kilometres away; Ballyonowhere is, presumably, also some distance away, but who could say what that distance might be? You drive around for a bit, and find some trees and a cottage and maybe even wild blackberries — perhaps they're what the knife & fork were referring to. Then you give up and go back to the motorway, heading for the next "Services" sign and the same pallaver all over again, only this time you also find a horse. Eventually, your petrol runs out and you are forced to abandon your car, find the nearest pub, throw away your shoes, and drink Guinness for twenty years.

For, you see, when the Irish put a picture of a petrol pump on a sign, what they mean is "There's a petrol station somewhere round here, possibly in one of the villages within a five-mile radius; possibly on the way to one of them; maybe behind that hill. It might even be open. And have petrol. Sure, you know the place, anyway, so you do. You know, Mick's Petrol Station. You know, Mick with the leg." As far as they're concerned, being told to leave the motorway is all the direction you need; after that, you can find the petrol using your sense of smell and by asking sheep for help.

I actually managed to find one of these petrol stations on the way back to Belfast. I was dead pleased with my achievement until I discovered that it was in fact a devious new twist on the theme: you can find the place (just), but you can never leave. Every time I followed the signs back to the motorway, they brought me back to the petrol station. It took me (I kid you not) fifteen minutes before I eventually figured out the knack: to get back on the motorway to Belfast, on no account follow signs that say "Motorway" or "Belfast" — in fact, going in the opposite direction to that indicated by such signs is a good idea. But of course.

Petrol is cheaper in the Republic, so I know people who drive down South to fill their cars up. How?

A drop in standards.

I notice that my last two posts have been on the subject of dogs' anuses. I find myself torn between saying that, well, it's more interesting than the Blair/Brown nonsense dominating our news and saying that, actually, it's much the same thing.

Monday 25 September 2006

The ideal Saturday morning.

Turns out that Monty's little occurrence last week was a mere hors-d'oevre of the extravagant smorgasbord to come. When we got home on Friday afternoon, there was no part of the kitchen floor that he hadn't covered in vomit. I say vomit: we thought it was diarrhoea at first. You know someone's ill when you can't tell the difference. But, once I was down on my knees picking it all up, it became apparent that there was just enough of a difference for us to notice the change when, on Saturday morning, there was no part of the kitchen floor that he hadn't covered in diarrhoea.

The key difference between vomit and shit, I find, is that, although shit, especially dog-flavoured, smells quite a lot worse, the smell stays with the shit: remove the shit, and goodbye smell. The smell of vomit has a life of its own, dominating a room long after the vomit has gone. I'm sure you're glad I shared that with you. Be thankful we don't yet have scratch-and-sniff monitors.

Monty's still in hospital, poor lad, getting probed and tested. He seems to love it at the vet's, but then he is rather fond of attention and people and other dogs, so it's kind of a paradise for him. Mind you, he may change his mind after discovering endoscopy.

Sunday 17 September 2006

Spoiling the ambience.

So it's Sunday. I get out of bed before midday for once in my life, feed the dogs, fry myself some eggs and bacon and potato scones, and drink some orange juice. Then I do some more frying for my beautiful wife when she comes downstairs shortly afterwards. And we sit and have a chat. It's a beautiful sunny day.

Then the bloody dog carefully and deliberately wipes his arse on the side of the sofa.

Friday 15 September 2006


Jackie has asked me to answer this here list of questions. In general, I find these meme things a bit too chain-letterish for my taste, but I make an exception for ones about books. Books are great (aren't they, mate? — Yeah, mate, they're like films in book form), and I'm more than happy to have an excuse to blather on about them.

(As an aside, has the time between the word "meme" being coined and its having its meaning changed through popular misuse set some sort of speed record?)

1. A book that changed your life.
Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson, an epic comic novel about anthropology, quantum mechanics, politics, psychology, crime, drugs, and sex. Read it when I was about eighteen, I think, and have never thought about the world in the same way since — it is no exaggeration to say that it was a revelation to me. Did a huge amount to shape my understanding of and approach to humanity. But the great thing about it is that you can ignore all the philosophical nonsense and merely enjoy one of the funniest and most bizarre novels ever written — I once lent it to a friend who said that she didn't understand a word of it yet couldn't put it down. And it's not really a trilogy. Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty appear to have based their entire careers on this book, by the way.

2. A book you’ve read more than once.
I actually read most books more than once, unless they're shite. Only very bad writers create books that don't reward repeated reading. I'm talking about novels here, of course, because I tend not to read non-fiction. Picking just one: Spares by Michael Marshall Smith, a book about love, grief, and redemption. With lots of big guns. In a shopping mall full of psychos. Gets better every time I read it.

3. A book you’d want on a desert island.
Some sort of survival handbook? Or, if I were there by choice, with luxurious amenities, Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy or The Annotated Alice — a copy of which my grandfather died clutching.

4. A book that made you giddy.
Giddy? I suspect this may be a girl thing. The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills is pretty amazing. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who's not read it, but the very end is completely disorientating: it's so much more than a mere twist. More literally, Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks probably does the best job mere writing can do of inducing vertigo.

5. A book you wish had been written.
My dad should pull his bloody finger out and write his memoirs, including what he knows of his bizarre ancestors (the film The Piano is suspiciously similar to the tale of one of his great-aunts, or possibly great-great-aunts, his grandfather was a professional card sharp in the Australian Outback, and he is also related to Wild Humphrey Kynaston, the Robber Troglodyte). Also, I am currently working on a novel, and I wish that were finished. It's taking me years.

6. A book that wracked you with sobs.
Again, call me a man insufficiently in touch with his deepest emotions, but being wracked with sobs ain't quite my bag. In the worst moments of my life, I prefer to go for more of a nervous-breakdown kind of approach, with severe stammering and bowel problems. Books don't do that to me, thank God. But The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, Small Gods, and Spares induced me to cry, quietly, in places. Actually, come to think of it, Triggerfish Twist wracked me with sobs, but that was laughter.

7. A book you wish had never been written.
A Clockwork Orange. Many books are very, very bad, but few come close to this. No, it's not an exciting experiment with language: it's just unreadable bollocks. More to the point, if you can bring yourself to wade through the awful and irritating prose, you discover a shallow, trite, obvious, unoriginal, and uninteresting story about characters that somehow manage to be both one-dimensional and thoroughly unsympathetic. And then there's the moral at the end, laid on with trowels by a squad of blind builders working on commission. Even Stanley Kubrick, a man who loved the book so much he filmed it, still found the final chapter too awful to include. Even all that would be forgivable if the damn thing would just keep itself to itself — why should I care that a bad book has been written? It's not like I was forced to read it. But no: coke-addled halfwits corner you at parties and tell you how amazing it is, at great length. Feh.

8. A book you are currently reading.
Feersum Endjinn, for, I think, the third time; maybe the fourth. Utter, utter genius. Also, Anthony bloody Burgess take note: this is what an interesting experiment with language looks like.

9. A book you’ve been meaning to read.
All the Aubrey-Maturin books that I've not yet read. That's about half of them.

10. Tag 10.
Ten? Blimey. I don't have that many friends. And most of my blogging friends are the sort of people who get royally pissed off by these things. Apart from Jackie, who, obviously, has already done it. So, anyone who's reading and feels like being tagged, consider yourself so, and let us know in the comments, please. The two people to whom I will boldly throw down this gauntlet are Ms Wilberforce-Packard, because the results were so brilliant last time, and Natalie the Wise, because she hasn't blogged in weeks and needs a bit of a nudge. I'm going cold turkey here.

This is the perfect opportunity to mention that Tim has just done a slightly different version that's currently doing the rounds — with hilarious consequences!

Wednesday 13 September 2006

The Guardian is staffed entirely by foul-smelling, facially deficient, self-soiling toads.

Actually, I'm sure many of them are perfectly nice and even house-trained, but the revelation that they're reading this blog presented an opportunity that simply could not go unmissed. Call me childish.

That could be true about the smell, though. I have no idea. I don't make a habit of sniffing journalists. Not after last time.

What the?

OK, I'm not usually one for checking my hit stats (really, who cares?), but I had a look at them today for the first time in months and it turns out that this little blog has had two recent referrals from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Tuesday 12 September 2006



If I'd been asked on that day why I thought America was attacked, I'd have said that it was US support for a Jewish supremacist state insistant on maintaining virtual colonies in the Occupied Territories. I suspect I'm not the only one who's learnt a lot these last few years.

James Lileks:

If 9/11 had really changed us, there’d be a 150-story building on the site of the World Trade Center today. It would have a classical memorial in the plaza with allegorical figures representing Sorrow and Resolve, and a fountain watched over by stern stone eagles. Instead there’s a pit, and arguments over the usual muted dolorous abstraction approved by the National Association of Grief Counselors. The Empire State Building took 18 months to build. During the Depression. We could do that again, but we don’t. And we don’t seem interested in asking why.

Mark Steyn:

Five years on, half America has retreated to the laziest old tropes, filtering the new struggle through the most drearily cobwebbed prisms: All dramatic national events are JFK-type conspiracies, all wars are Vietnam quagmires. Meanwhile, Ramzi Yousef's successors make their ambitions as plain as he did: They want to acquire nuclear technology in order to kill even more of us. And, given that free societies tend naturally toward a Katrina mentality of doing nothing until it happens, one morning we will wake up to another day like the "day that changed everything."


Monday 11 September 2006

Farewell, freedom.

It's getting rather pointless, cataloguing the myriad little ways in which the current government are destroying this country — and I should add here that I am not one of those idiots who believe that this wouldn't be happening if the Tories were in government — but here we go again anyway.

Ann Ming is rather pleased with herself. Her daughter was killed back in 1989 and her killer has just today, finally, been convicted. One might think that she has every right to be pleased with herself. Who wouldn't be? Trouble is, the killer, Billy Dunlop, was acquitted, so the reason Ann Ming is so bloody pleased with herself is that her long campaign to overturn the double jeopardy rule — one of the oldest guarantees in the world of the citizen's freedom from persecution by the state — has succeeded.

There's really no doubt that Dunlop is guilty, and he's helpfully pled guilty this time around. But that, right there, is the problem. It's always easy to smear a bit of shit on the big picture when the little picture's so pretty. But think a bit about the world as you know it. Do the police ever pursue the innocent? Do they persist in trying to prosecute them, sometimes harassing them for months or even years? Do the police and the CPS and the Home Office regard certain people as guilty as hell even after not-guilty verdicts?

Here's Lord Goldsmith:

The Criminal Justice Act of 2003 brought about a significant and welcome change in our criminal justice system, by giving the Court of Appeal the power to quash an acquittal and order a retrial for a serious offence when there is new and compelling evidence relevant to the guilt of the acquitted person.

It is in the interests of justice, and of the public, for such retrials to take place. As this verdict shows, if acquitted of a serious crime, offenders will no longer be able to escape responsibility for their act should new and compelling evidence come to light.

This is something that Americans understand and the British, as a rule, don't. The point of the criminal justice system is not merely to find guilty people guilty. It is to protect innocent people from the state. Lord Goldsmith is right: if acquitted of a serious crime, offenders will no longer be able to escape. What he omits to mention is that, if acquitted of a serious crime, no-one will be able to escape. If the police decide that a totally innocent person simply must be guilty — and we all know it happens — no longer will an eventual verdict of "Not guilty" signal the end of that person's ordeal. No, as of now, they can spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulder as the police try again, and again, and again.

But what, you might be asking, about this "new and compelling evidence" rule? Well, as far as I can see, this gives the police an incentive to suppress at least one piece of evidence per case. As long as there's one thing that they don't bring out in court, they can always turn it in after their case collapses, and try again.

Mrs Ming is reported to have said that she is glad not only to have brought her daughter's killer to justice but also to have left a lasting legacy. Indeed she has, the selfish bloody idiot.

The day not enough changed.

For some people, anti-Americanism trumps all other considerations.

On this day five years ago, some of my friends made themselves my enemies, because I didn't think that America had it coming.

I don't miss them.

Monday 4 September 2006

More on those tomatoes.

Back in May — oh, those heady days of youth! — I wrote this little rant about environmentalist opposition to genetic modification. Thanks to that bastard Tim Worstall (who has placed me under strict orders not to tell anyone he's actually very nice, the malingering git), that poorly-researched but essentially right piffle has now evolved into this exceedingly well researched and even righter non-rant what is my first piece published by the possibly illustrious Tech Central Station. Look! Measured tones! Reasonableness! Interviews with experts! No swearing! It's amazing what you can get out of some bloody blogger if you pay him. And, any day now, I'm sure they will. I wish pound notes still existed, for then I could insist on being paid in them and throw my fee in the air, jigging gleefully as it showered down around me. But then I think that whenever I get paid. Hell, I think that when the assistant in Tesco hands me my change. PayPal's great in many ways, but not so much with the jigs.

If you enjoyed my piece, I encourage you to write to TCS and demand that they hire me on a permanent basis for all the money in the world and a therefore superfluous lifetime's supply of dog-food.

Thank you for your time.

Yours, etc.

I've got a degree in maths, you know.

You know you're not at your best when you're at the MDF-cutting place in Homebase getting — surprise — some MDF cut to size, and the assistant queries your measurements, pointing out that 18232 milimetres is over 18 metres, and that they don't have any pieces that long.

Being clever, I immediately deduced that I had made a slight error in my measurements, as I am building a wardrobe less than 18 metres long.

Not sure it would have fit in my Golf, anyway. Even with the roof-rack.

Sunday 3 September 2006

Spam, glorious spam.

There are rare occasions when I'm grateful to the irritant scum that are spammers, and today is one of those occasions, for I have received a quite excellent missive. It's one of them ones that pretends somewhat unconvincingly to be a blogger requesting reciprocal links, their "blog" being, of course, a bunch of adverts. "But adverts for what?" I hear you cry. Well....


I'm emailing you today to request a link exchange between our website and yours.
I found your website by searching Google for Nail Fungus. I think our websites have a similar theme to your's, so I am interested in exchanging links.

I was wondering if you would like to trade links with my Nail Fungus Website.

If interested please send me the Title, URL and Description of your website or the HTML code, so that I can put them on my website of same category and in return you will provide link from Your website .

Below given are the sites you have to link:
Site Title: Home Remedies for Toenail Fungus
Desc: Toe Nail Fungus Treatment
Alternately, you may like to add the following <html> code to your links page:-
<p><a href=""> Home Remedies for Toenail Fungus</a> Toe Nail Fungus Treatment</p>

Upon receiving the Title, URL and Description of your website or the HTML code, I will promptly provide link back to your site.
Please, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Why, yes, I do have one question. What the hell?

Looking forward for a positive response.

Thanks, Team

Comment would be superfluous.