Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Is This Why I Drink Beer?

  • An = number of units of alcohol consumed
  • S = smokiness of the room (graded from 0-10, where 0 clear air; 10 extremely smoky)
  • L = luminance of 'person of interest' (candelas per square metre; typically 1 pitch black; 150 as seen in normal room lighting)
  • Vo = Snellen visual acuity (6/6 normal; 6/12 just meets driving standard)
  • d = distance from 'person of interest' (metres; 0.5 to 3 metres)

Scientists believe they have worked out a formula to calculate how "beer goggles" affect a drinker's vision. The drink-fuelled phenomenon is said to transform supposedly "ugly" people into beauties - until the morning after.

Researchers at Manchester University say while beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder, the amount of alcohol consumed is not the only factor. Additional factors include the level of light in the pub or club, the drinker's own eyesight and the room's smokiness. The distance between two people is also a factor.

They all add up to make the aesthetically-challenged more attractive, according to the formula.
The formula can work out a final score, ranging from less than one - where there is no beer goggle effect - to more than 100.

Nathan Efron, Professor of Clinical Optometry at the University of Manchester, said: "The beer goggles effect isn't solely dependent on how much alcohol a person consumes, there are other influencing factors at play too. "For example, someone with normal vision, who has consumed five pints of beer and views a person 1.5 metres away in a fairly smoky and poorly lit room, will score 55, which means they would suffer from a moderate beer goggle effect."

Some how I missed the opportunity to be a researcher on this study.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Real Bit Of Fun

If you are in need of a pick-me-up or a smile, or you just enjoy something different, just click the link below, make sure your sound is on, sit back and relax. It goes on for a while, but it is really worth it.

Prickle-Eye Bush

Friday, November 25, 2005

Blair 'betrayed' and 'Why did our boys die?'

Former US Ambassador, Joe Wilson, said, on Radio 4's Today program, the Prime Minister Blair had been 'betrayed' by George Bush's aides in the run-up to the Iraq war. Apparently, the Prime Minister actually believed he was joining a disarmament campaign! !Mr Blair came to the US when Mr Bush was talking about regime change, and when he left, Mr Bush started talking about disarmament as the objective, but I think Mr Blair was double-crossed by the regime change crowd.' Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was allegedly 'outed' as an undercover CIA agent by the administration in retaliation for his criticism of the case for war. For an extended resume of the interview, click here.

Yesterday, families of British troops killed in Iraq went to the High Court to demand 'the truth' about why Britain went to war. The were challenging the Governments refusal to grant a public inquiry into the decision to war in May this year. They have demanded the Prime Minister be held publicly accountable if it is proved that there was no legal case for the conflict. At the same time, MP's are trying to get enough votes to force a debate in Parliament asking for a full public enquiry.

It's not just in America that the families of the fallen want an answer to why their children have died, what the 'noble' cause was for which they spilt their blood, - it certainly wasn't defending their country, that's for sure.

Finally, George Best, ex Manchester United and Northern Ireland striker, has died from multiple organ failure following a lung infection. He was 59. Although he played for a team I don't support, there was never any dispute about his brilliance with a football. He was one of those that epitomised the '60's having glamour, charm and talent. Will the modern game ever produce someone as good as him. For the past 30 years, he has battled alcoholism, - a legacy of those heady days. Today he lost that battle.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Day

Tomorrow, the 4th Thursday in November, is Thanksgiving Day in America. The first Thanksgiving Day was in 1621 after a very successful harvest. The day was celebrated with 91 Indians who had, the previous year, help the Pilgrim settlers survive appalling conditions.

The story can be read here and it is one that all mankind would do well the think on.

I wish all Americans the most peaceful of Thanksgiving Days.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

How I Live My Life

Thanks Jen for the following. Interesting.

How You Life Your Life

You seem to be straight forward, but you keep a lot inside.
You're laid back and chill, but sometimes you care too much about what others think.
You tend to have one best friend you hang with, as opposed to many aquaintences.
You tend to dream big, but you worry that your dreams aren't attainable.

Monday, November 21, 2005

For Those Who Give Their Lives For Us

Two articles in this Sunday's Observer are worth a second read.

The first is an article by Jimmy Carter who is fearful for an America that appears to have abandoned its fundamental values; "This is not the country that I once knew".

The second article by Henry Porter compares culture, way of life and managing the budget in Canada and America; "It's great up north".

On Friday, PC Sharon Beshenivsky and PC Teresa Milburn responded to an emergency 999 call that a robbery was in progress at a travel agent's in Bradford Town Centre. Seconds after arriving at the scene, PC Beshenivsky had been shot dead, and her colleague and friend, PC Milburn had been wounded in the shoulder. Sharon Beshenivsky, 38 mother to 3 children and step-mother to 2 more had been a mature recruit, having only joined 9 months previously. From all accounts, working in the Police was her dream career. Her husband has said that her killers were "cowards", - I can only agree. To make the tragedy even worse, if that was possible, Friday was her daughter's 4th birthday. My thoughts are very much with her family at this time.

However, it immediately raised a number of issues, the 2 main ones: hanging for those who kill police men and women, and routinely arming all police.

Even after this calamitous tragedy, I am totally opposed to both those sentiments. For me, the proposal for executing police killers is no different to capital punishment in general. Killing is wrong, whether judicial or criminal, there is no evidence that capital punishment ever deters, - just look at America, and so it just becomes a tool of vengeance. This is not the way for a civilised society to behave. Society should be higher moral standards than those who kill during criminal activity.

Secondly, arming the police will only make things worse. If criminals know that if they were to be confronted by police wearing arms, then they will carry guns as well. The police themselves say that the main problem they are faced with is not guns but knives, which is why their body armour is geared towards stopping stabbing than stopping bullets. I do not want the UK to go down the same road as France and the USA where police routinely draw their weapons when making an arrest. I am proud that I live in a country where the vast majority of the police are unarmed, and generally operate in an atmosphere of consent. Maybe the percentage of armed officers needs to rise, but the routine arming of the police, - no thanks.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Am I Being Punished or Something.... ?

Having just survived an horrendous week with an abscess, I've now developed a zit on my nostril, just where I blow my nose. Clearly I have started my journey back to second childhood, and I've just reached second puberty!

I ask you, a zit at my age! I'm spending the weekend in bed.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Something So Small!

Today is the first day I've felt human enough to contemplate doing a blog. Nothing political, as I've not got the attention span, - I assume the same old morons are doing the same deceitful moronic things, - I'll get back to it over the weekend!

Anyway, I'm still off work, though I'm going in tomorrow. Monday I saw the dentist who prescribed anti-biotics to treat the abscess, which seems to have worked, but the left side of my face swelled up like something in a horror movie. It was very tender and hurt like hell, and of course, being a man, I suffered very much in silence. Even though the swelling has much reduced, it is still not right, but nevertheless, I'll struggle in to work and just ignore the excruciating pain! Christine is off work today, so it's no day-time TV and she keeps finding things to do! She has no idea!

At the dentist, I had a look at my old friend on the X-ray. It's amazing how small the offending abscess is in comparison to the amount of pain it can produce. If we could bottle the pain and convert it to energy, then we would be energy rich for life!

Anyway, normal service will be resumed, and I promise to visit all my friends in blogland soon and catch up. Many thanks for the kind comments on the previous post. I may be using the computer, but it belongs to Mastercard at the moment! For Cell13 and anyone else who is interested, it is a bundled package we got from our local superstore. It has a 1Gb memory; 180GB harddrive and an AMD chip which is reputed to be faster than the comparable Intel chip. It has a 17" Flat screen and comes with a colour printer. We're very pleased with it.

Monday, November 14, 2005

New Computer

At the moment, I am at home feeling very sorry for myself. My lifelong companion, an abscess in my upper jaw, has flared up this weekend and my face feels as if it has been kicked by a horse. The dentist had a look at it today, prodded it to ensure that it was hurting, and gave me some antibiotics. Hopefully should be back at work on Wednesday.

However, it has meant that I've been able to set up our new computer. It's really nice not having to wait for the steam to get up to pressure! Now, when I click on Open, the file opens! In the past, I would go off, make a cup of tea, cook the dinner and by the time I got back, the file would be open.

Anyway, this is my first post on our new machine. Hope you like it.

Finally Jay, isn't it time we saw your photos?

Here's a picture of me taken by my youngest daughter on our recent trip to London. Some really excellent Real Ale has gone into the creation of that stomach! Clearly I'm going to have to do something. I'm going to use it as a good excuse to get out of household chores, I think, and go cycling instead! (Mind you, I keep coming across really good country pubs that need my support to keep going, - its one step forward, one step back!).

Finally, nearly all the pictures we took in London are now on Flickr, - I've still got one film yet to be developed. I've put them into sets, so you can see Jayne's, Bethen's and my pictures separately.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Falling Bush

I wasn't planning to blog today, but I happened across this and felt it was just too funny for words. The game requires no skill, it is an absolute no-brainer, a real time waster. Enjoy!

Falling Bush.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Is Iraq No Longer Politically Correct?

Just a thought. It seems to have been some time since a major politician has gone over to Iraq to "rally the troops" or indulge in a photo-op from either Britain or the US. I wonder why? Is Iraq no longer a cool thing to associate oneself with?



Yesterday President (sorry, Prime Minister) Blair was defeated in the House of Commons on the government's proposal to hold terrorist suspects for up to 90 days. Instead, Members of Parliament voted for 28 days.

This defeat is significant in a number of ways, not least to his authority.

Firstly, I believe that holding anyone without charge is extremely serious and has major implications for all civil liberties. I understand that suspected terrorists are difficult to investigate, and that it can take time, but to lock someone up without charge for 3 months seems very excessive. I can live with 28 days internment, as long as there are proper legal safeguards in place. Suspects, by their very name, are innocent people, and remain so until convicted. Once charge, of course, then they can be held until trial if enough evidence exists to support that action. We tamper with civil liberties at our peril.

Secondly, Internment in Northern Island taught us that holding someone without charge for a long period of time, builds up resentment and martyrs; thereby escalating the problem. I thought we were supposed to learn from history, not ignore it.

Thirdly, Draconian action is exactly what the terrorists want. That way, they don't have to do anything to keep a population frightened. Moreover, the use of the terrorist threat by Western governments to control their populations is obscene.

Congratulations to all those who stood up for common sense yesterday in Parliament. Maybe we still have a democracy afterall. CNN has a good report about the vote.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My Father's Latest Joke!

I heard the following joke from my Father this weekend.

There once lived a family of balloons; Daddy Balloon; Mummy Balloon and Baby Balloon. They all lived very happily in a snug little honeysuckle and ivy covered cottage in the woods.

When Baby Balloon had just been an air bubble, he shared his parent's bed, but now he had blown up, and they could not all share the same bed, so Daddy Balloon bought Baby (or should I say, Toddler) Balloon his own bed.

At first, Toddler Balloon was very excited, and before going to bed, he arranged all his toys and balloon pumps around the bed to make him feel snug. All was well, and at bed-time Daddy Balloon took him up to his new bed to go to sleep. He told Toddler Balloon some of his favorite stories: the Zepplin Histories; the Discovery of Gas; Gone with a Bang (this one is a bit of a horror story) and Up, Up and Away. Daddy Balloon settled him down, and very soon he was asleep.

Some time during the night, Toddler Balloon woke up, and was a little frightened being in the bed and room by himself. He got up, relieved the pressure in his bladder and went into his parents bedroom. Toddler Balloon wanted to get back into his parents bed.

First he went round to Daddy Balloon's side of the bed, but he had taken up all the space, so he went round to Mummy Balloon's side, but there was no room there either. Toddler Balloon then had a great idea. He went round to Daddy Balloon and let a little air out of him, then he did the same with Mummy Balloon. Unfortunately, there was still not enough room, so he opened his own valve and let some air out. Now he could fit into the bed.

In the morning, Daddy Balloon was very cross. At breakfast he confronted Toddler Balloon. He said, "Look son, I am very disappointed with you. You've let me down, you've let your mother down, and worst of all, you've let yourself down."

I just want to point out that I have been subject to this type of humour for over fifty years, and I consider it cruel and unusual humiliation. (P.S. I know the photo has 4 balloons in it, - it's the only picture I could find! Photo courtesy of fotosearch.com).

Monday, November 07, 2005

Is Iraq Blair's Fault?

A new book written by Sir Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to the US has opened a door on the relationship between Tony Blair and the US Administration, - both Clinton's and Bush's. However, it is on the subject of Iraq that he makes the most controversial revelations.

He claims that the Prime Minister was so "seduced" by US power that he failed to exert the pressure that was available to him on Bush who was desperate to win allies. In fact, Sir Christopher goes on to suggest that Tony Blair offered such unconditional support to Bush, that he effectively negated the influence he may have been able to exert, particularly for post-war Iraq. "We may have been the junior partner in the enterprise but the ace up our sleeve was that America did not want to go it alone. Had Britain so insisted, Iraq after Saddam might have avoided the violence that may yet prove fatal to the entire enterprise."

All this goes to support the view that Tony Blair was effectively Bush's "poodle". Sir Christopher goes on to confirm that, although Blair was denying it here, he was in favour of regime change. However, he does go on to say that Blair chose his stance from the "highest of high moral ground; but the high moral ground, and the pure white flame of unconditional support to an ally in service of an idea, have their disadvantages. They place your destiny in the hands of the ally. They fly above the tangled history of Sunni, Shia and Kurd. They discourage descent into the dull detail of tough and necessary bargaining; meat and drink to Margaret Thatcher, but, so it seemed, uncongenial to Tony Blair."

Sir Christopher also describes a picture of a prime minister taking US Presidential politics as his personal template, and a Downing Street organisation that has taken all Government power into its own hands. The former ambassador says he discovered very early that, as had been the case with Margaret Thatcher, relations with the US would be controlled by Downing Street with the Foreign Office relegated to second fiddle.

"The Foreign Office never stood a chance. America belonged to Downing Street."

Sir Christopher's memoirs are also littered with anecdotes that throw some light into the smaller corners of the Prime Minister's lifestyle. For example, on Alastair Campbell, he says: "My eternal memory of him will always be his standing over Tony Blair, on some flight or other, gesticulating forcefully while the prime minister sat meekly in his seat like a schoolboy under instruction.

One of the great strengths of British politics has always been the checks and balances over the executive, but recent landslide election results have, in the main, rendered those controls mainly redundant. Those checks have, in the main, been brought about through the blood of the common man; the Civil War, Magna Carta, Tolpuddle Martyrs and the suffragette movement, yet that can so easily count for nothing, if the control and patronage of the Government is complete enough.

One fact of interest: Sir Christopher Meyer was, himself, in favour of the war in Iraq!

And finally; the sooner we get rid of all monachastic trappings the better. Sirs, Lords and Graces should all be done away with, and everyone becomes a Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms., - at least then we would have a legitimate Tony Blair presidency!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bonfire Night and the Gunpowder Plot.

Tomorrow, November the fifth, is when we celebrate Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Day. As most people now only have a skimpy idea about the Gunpowder Plot, I thought it might be interesting to outline the main story behind it. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the plot.

The Plot

In 1605, Guy Fawkes (also known as Guido - yes, really) and a group of conspirators attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been persecuted under her rule had hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion. James I had, after all, had a Catholic mother. Unfortunately, James did not turn out to be any more tolerant than Elizabeth and a number of young men, 13 to be exact, decided that drastic action was the only answer.
A small group took shape, under the leadership of Robert Catesby. Indeed, he felt the best thing to do was to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In doing so, they would kill the King, maybe even the Prince of Wales, and the Members of Parliament who were making life difficult for the Catholics. Today these conspirators would be known as extremists, or terrorists!
To carry out their plan, the conspirators got hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder - and stored them in a cellar, just under the House of Lords.
But as the group worked on the plot, it became clear that innocent people would be hurt or killed in the attack, including some people who even fought for more rights for Catholics. Some of the plotters started having second thoughts. One of the group members even sent an anonymous letter warning his friend, Lord Monteagle, to stay away from the Parliament on November 5th, but was the letter real?
The warning letter reached the King, and the King's forces made plans to stop the conspirators.
Guy Fawkes, who was in the cellar of the parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th. He was caught, tortured and executed for treason.
However, it is unclear if the conspirators would ever have been able to pull off their plan to blow up the Parliament even if they had not been betrayed. Some have suggested that the gunpowder itself was so old as to be useless. Since Guy Fawkes and the other conspirators got caught before trying to ignite the powder, we'll never know for certain.
Even for the period which was notoriously unstable, the Gunpowder Plot struck a very profound chord for the people of England. In fact, even today, the reigning monarch only enters the Parliament once a year, on what is called "the State Opening of Parliament". Prior to the Opening, and according to custom, the Yeomen of the Guard search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster. Nowadays, the Queen and Parliament still observe this tradition.
On the very night that the Gunpowder Plot was foiled, on November 5th, 1605, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then, November 5th has become known as Bonfire Night. The event is commemorated every year with fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.
Some of the English have been known to wonder whether they are celebrating Fawkes' execution or honoring his attempt to do away with the government!

Was Guy Fawkes Framed?

Was there really a Gunpowder Plot, or were the "conspirators" framed by the King?

There was no doubt an attempt to blow up Parliament on November 5th 1605. But Guy Fawkes and his associates may have been caught in a Jacobean sting operation which would have served the authorities by casting Catholics as an enemy to be pursued.
By the time Queen Elizabeth died, after ruling for about fifty years, most people only remembered living under her rule. When James I succeeded to the throne, many saw an opportunity for change. Those who felt particularly hard done by, both by Elizabeth I and James I, even felt that the situation was so bad as to require, in Fawkes' own words, "a desperate remedy": it was an opportunity to simply replace the current king.
These were unstable times indeed, with several smaller plots being discovered in the years preceding 1605. In fact, many of the Gunpowder plotters were known as traitors to the authorities. For this reason, it would have been difficult, if not unlikely, that they could gather 36 barrels of gunpowder and store them in a cellar under the house of Lords without the security forces getting suspicious.
Furthermore, the letter warning one of the members of government to stay away from Parliament is believed today to have been fabricated by the King's officials. Historians suggest that the King's officials already knew about the plot, that one of the plotters in fact revealed the key points of the plot to the authorities. The suspected turncoat? Francis Tresham.
The letter, then, would be a tool created by the King's officials to explain how, at the last minute, the king found out about the plot and stopped it just before it wreaked its havoc on Parliament and himself. At the same time, the letter was vague enough to give the officials all the latitude they wanted in falsifying confessions and to pursue their own anti-Catholic ends.
There are two fundamental problems with the letter:

Firstly, the letter was unsigned. Any and all of the conspirators, once apprehended, might have saved themselves from torture and perhaps even death if they could claim to have written it. None did. Not one of the conspirators who was caught appears to have known about the letter.

Secondly, the letter was very vague in its content. It said nothing about the details of the planned attack. Still, the king and his men knew exactly the where and when to catch the conspirators and stop the explosion just hours before it was to take place.

How did they know? Things don't change much in 400 years of politics.

Further details can be found on the BBC website

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Our Response to Disasters

A UN report has exposed the dire discrimination when it comes to aid and development in the developing world as compared to westerners caught up in natual disasters.

According to the UN, governments have pledged £125million to help 2.3 million people on the Democratic Republic of Congo, - or £50 per head. In contrats, the western world has offered £35 billion to the 500,000 Americans displaced by Hurricane Katrina, - the equivalent of £70,000 each.

Most UN members, lead by Britain and the US are still well short of their promises to spend 0.7% of Gross National Product on overseas development.

Other telling statistics included in the report are: £737 million donated to help 2 million people left homeless in last month's earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir, - £370 each; £3.5 billion in foreign aid to the 2.4 million victims of the tsunami, - £1,500 each.

This is truely disgusting. I am both ashamed and angry about the apparant discrimination in aid relief and development support. I'll leave the last word to Oxfam director Barbara Stocking, who said, "The way rich countries respond to emergencies is scandalous. Is a child's life in Africa really worth 1,400 times less than a child in the West?"

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

American Civil War; Part 2?

What on earth is Bush up to? After one of the worst weeks of his Presidency, any sensible person would be looking for ways to mend fences, not looking round to destroy others. Bush has now offered up his latest nomination for the Supreme Court, an Appeals Court Judge, Judge Samuel Alito, a man clearly on the right of the political agenda.

From where I sit, this is going to divide Americans far more than unify them. The majority of Americans would seem to want a more central, liberal administration, while Bush is intent on pandering to a white, protestant, probably racist, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-choice minority. How much longer are the silent majority going to remain silent. The longer they wait, the more difficult it will be to reverse the changes. From this side of the Atlantic, we don't get to hear of any action from the Democrats. The only one who ever seems to be quoted here is Senator Kennedy. Is there no-one who is prepared to put their head above the parapet for the sake of the soul of America?

Over here we, too, are suffering from a lack of an effective opposition. All kinds of draconian measures are being pushed through at the moment. Recently, I signed the pledge to not apply for an ID card when they come on line. Mind you, it does raise a strange surreal thought; if I don't have an ID card, - how will they know?, and if they arrest me, how will they know it is me if I don't have an ID card?, and if they do know it is me, then why the hell do I need an ID card?

Why don't we have Governments that govern for all the people and just for themselves and their friends.