Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Gird up for the Hustings

The Dollar in your pocket.

Strange, but us Brits look at America and generally suffer a touch of the green eyed monster. You see, when electrical items reach these shores, they generally cost us about the same in Pounds Sterling as my Merkin yeomen would pay in Dollars. (Note 1) That kind of mark up has always rankled, but I was prepared to accept that America had economies of scale, it had a free and open market with plenty of competition and that entrepreneurs ensuring that prices were driven down. In fact, when they opened up the British Telephone market, everyone pointed to the American market as a wonderful example of how competition kept prices down.

Strange, but it seems that somehow the American telephone market no longer seems to be a shing example to hold up to the world.

I believe my Merkin cousins have an election coming up. If you want to stir things up a bit, send your candidates this URL - and ask them why you are paying $50 a month for broadband.

In the UK, you won’t find an entry broadband package costing over £20 ($37) a month – most are a lot cheaper. Some, like the Talk Talk offer broadband for free. Our main cable operator, NTL. offers broadband plus telephone at £25 ($47) a month.

Now my rather cynical mind suggests that US phone customers are being ripped off. I’m tempted to speculate why?

Could it be that all your telephone entrepreneurs are in jail? (Note 2).

Or could it be that your telephone companies are trying to freeze out the competition Voice over the Internet services such as Skype.

Whatever it is, my Merkin Yeomen are being ripped off. I suggest that you do something about it. Make it election issue. Circulate this article to as many of your friends as you can. You are being ripped off. If Britain can offer a broadband service on equipment costing the same in pounds sterling as they cost in Dollars in America – something is horribly, horribly awry in the US telephone market.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1 : As the current exchange rate is around $1.88 to the pound, that is a huge mark up by the time the goods reach our green and pleasant land. Click to return

NOTE 2 : Personally, I hope that Bernie Ebbers and Scott Sullivan are forever dropping the soap in the communal prison showers. Click to return

Bernie Ebbers, the man behind a million vaporised dreams.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Putting the bite on.

Getting off on the right foot.

I sometimes I find the “Rat and Ferret” a very confusing place to be. My veteran yeomen will know that I don’t watch a lot of television and I’m not very well versed on popular music. So when the conversation gets on to these topics, I tend to make the occasional grunt and nod knowingly. (Note 1) There are exceptions. One set are the cookery programs. I’m quite happy to salivate in front of any program where food is involved as long as it doesn’t involve Ainsley Harriot. I’m just not a fast moving type of person with a love of couscous.

Rather embarrassingly, another little favourite of mine is Strictly Come Dancing. Of course with my love of both cricket and food, I was torn between Darren Gough and James Martin.

James Martin went up in my estimation watching that series - as he did when I was looking for a picture of a bacon sandwich. I came across exactly what I needed on his webpage, along with the James Martin recipe for a bacon sandwich. What a recipe! It works on so many levels. Most importantly, it actually specifies beef dripping. (Note 2). It also doesn’t mess about with green bits and fancy rabbit food. Not only that, only the rind of the bacon is crisp – not like Merkin bacon that is so crisp that one bite leaves your mouth suffering shrapnel wounds.

The sandwich does substitute one very important ingredient with tomatoes. Now, I can forgive this. After all, Heinz have announced that they will stop manufacturing HP Sauce in the UK and move production to Holland. While I cannot see how you can have a bacon sarnie without HP Sauce, I admire James Martin for making a stand on the issue.

Mind you, I get the feeling that some are making a little bit of marketing capital out of Heinz’s decision.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1 : There are evenings where the conversation sorts of bumps along the gutter while discussing the comparative merits of the breasts on display on Big Brother and whether Dale Winton should wear a bra when on live television. For those Merkins who are expecting some erudite comment that will enlighten them about Dale Winton – you really don’t want to know. Click to return

NOTE 2 : Which is the fat and juices from the roasting of a beef joint. Whenever I asked my Gran what was for tea she would say “Bread and Dripping” and I would grin. A thick layer of dripping on a hunk of bread with salt and pepper – delicious. Although probably not very high on my doctor’s diet sheet. Click to return

It just goes to show. Despite what the food police tell us, healthy eating has done nothing for Jamie Oliver.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

What are the rules?

Bowling up a storm.

My enthusiastic yeomen, I am proud to announce that I have won a competition. Brits not being concerned with the winning but the taking part is male bovine manure. Like every other nation on earth, we love that winning feeling. (Note 1)

Our stiff upper lip image insists we accept defeat gracefully. No matter how much we are hurting inside, we should congratulate the winner, suffer the hurt and hopefully learn from it so that next time we do better. Our sense of reserve that we be equally gracious in victory, commiserate with our opponent – and remember how good it feels so that it motivates us next time.

The good side of Sportsmanship. Flintoff consoles Brett Lee after Australia get so close to snatching victory from the jaws of defeat at Edgbaston in the best Test Match ever.

The competition I won wasn’t quite the Ashes. It was a simple quest from Kerry to be the poster of the 2000th comment on her blog and win some pancakes. Rather than be honoured by my country with an open topped bus parade through the streets of London, I find myself fulfilling an unstated condition of finding out the United States Postal Services rules on shipping to the UK. (Note 2)

Kerry has also stated that should she run such a competition again, that I may well be barred from competing or that rules will be added to ensure ‘fair play’ and prevent the uproar that greeted my victory.

Fair yeomen, the introduction of rules indicates that however much fun or whimsy is involved in a game or a sport – that the desire to win is all too often greater than taking part. With professional sportsmen making a living out of a sport, the difference is not just between winning or losing, but can involve a difference of thousands of pounds in their pay-packets.

As professional sport involves more money, then the sports themselves have organised themselves so that they can ensure that the rules are keeping pace with the way the sport is being played and ensure that the spirit of the sport is maintained. It’s no coincidence that these governing bodies are often loaded with people from a legal background.

Such are the passions that surround sport, it has even become a political weapon. The Eastern bloc countries used their sportsmen as a showcase of the communist ideal during the Cold War. There were tit for tat boycotts of the Olympics in protest at Russian and American foreign policy and the boycott of South African sport in protest over apartheid. This isn’t something consigned to history, we constantly hear calls for new boycotts, the latest I remember being a call to exclude Iran from the World Cup.

It cannot be a surprise that sportsmen the world over continue to try and find ways to wring advantage from finding loopholes in the rules – or worse trying to flout them. (Note 3). This is when the poor man in the middle the referee or umpire is called upon to provide a ruling according to the letter of the rules.

How many umpires can you see in this picture?

Over the last week, or so I can pluck a number of examples where stories over the bending or breaking of rules in sport have been making as much headlines as the sports themselves.

* In Formula One, the governing body have ruled a mechanical system used by Renault as illegal.

* In athletics, Marrion Jones and Justin Gatlin are embroiled in doping scandals.

* In football we were treated to our normal column inches over the antics of players on the field and accusations of gamesmanship involving the , England Captain.

* At the Oval last Sunday we saw amazing scenes when the umpires ruled that Pakistan had forfeit the Test Match as they staged a dressing room sit in as a protest against ball tampering allegations.

What annoys me about these things is that all too often, it isn’t the players or officials who are brought to task over the events – but the poor referee or umpire! Just why anybody would volunteer to do this job is beyond me. They don’t get any glory – they just seem to be get abuse from every quarter.

My sympathies go out in particular to Darrell Hair. Since the incident at the Oval, everybody has been on his back – even the biographies seem to be having a pop.

The officials at any sports event are not superhuman. They will make mistakes. It is part of the passion in the game that events on the field can be seen totally differently by the two sets of fans. Often it allows you to console yourself by saying “If only…”. Yet, whatever the decision, whatever the consequences, the umpire is ALWAYS right. When this is forgotten, suddenly the players become more important than the sport and the fans, who pay good money to watch, are left getting a raw deal.

It is not as if preparing the ball is not actually part of the game of cricket. (Note 4) It has been for a long time. It is perfectly acceptable to shine one side of a ball. When I played my first club game, I was told that “Young Midge, does all the ball shing. He likes his boiled sweets, yer know.” The advice was accompanied with a wink as sugar on the shiny side of the ball keeps it shiny longer. When I played club cricket with young Midge polishing the ball, it swung easier and for longer than in school matches. Was this breaking the rules? Technically maybe, but by the strict letter of the laws it was fine. It was only a touch of spit going on the ball.

During the ashes last year, I noticed the England fielders in the deep changed the way they returned the ball after 15 or 20 overs or so. Instead of throwing it back to the keeper on the full, they bounced it in so that it scuffed on the hard playing surface. The ball was then thrown to the gum chewing Marcus Trescothik who used a little spit to clean up the shiny side of the ball.

Yet Darrell Hair is getting the broadside for calling the condition of the ball. Maybe it had been tampered in other ways (and there are many ways to make a cricket ball to behave oddly), but he and Billy Doctrove (the other umpire on duty) felt the need to take action. Were they right? Maybe, maybe not. That’s not the right question. They were in charge. Whatever decision they make is by very definition the right one. However much we disagree, we must accept it, discuss it with passion in the pub afterwards – and then move on.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1 : Although we do have a rather unfortunate habit of celebrating the underdog. One famous underdog was Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards . He pursued a dream to compete in the 70m and 90m ski jump. He was the first Briton to do so. However, he was not that good and came last in both events – achieving world wide fame in the process. Click to return

NOTE 2 : It looks like pancakes are OK to send to Britain unless they are made in a prison kitchen or there is a banned preservative. The rules prohibit the sending of sausages. If you want to send a Queen Bee in the mail you need a special licence. Thankfully, you are not allowed to send any part of the Marionberry plant without a permit. I’m not at all sure what is meant by “Horror comics and matrices”, can anyone enlighten me? As for packaging, well a sealed plastic bag inside a sturdy letter packet would seem to be OK. Click to return

NOTE 3: Occasionally, people obtain immortality by breaking the rules, like William Webb Ellis who caught the ball with his hands in a game of soccer and ran with it to invent the game of Rugby. Click to return

NOTE 4: My Merkin yeomanry are about to be confused. Maybe it is best to look upon cricket as a kind of baseball where the pitcher has to make the ball bounce before it reaches the batter. Like a baseball, a cricket ball can be made to swerve in the air and when it hits the ground it can deviate from the expected line. A good fast bowler can get the ball to swerve about 18 inches off true within 22 yards. The batsman has to hit the ball, which can be travelling in excess of 80 or 90 mph. The physics behind all of this is mind boggling. Click to return

This is Eddie the Eagle. A fine picture of an athelete who gained more publicity by failing gloriously than the eventual winner.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Reinventing Myself?

I do like to be beside the seaside.

My fine yeomen who are not olfactory challenged will be pleased to know that my time of being interesting is drawing to a close. (Note 1) As Yahoo only sewed the “interesting” tag into one pair of underpants, I felt obliged to keep wearing the one pair. It must be said that they are looking a touch grubby and have taken to wandering off in the middle of the night to raid the fridge.

Despite the rather strange atmosphere that surrounds me, I have some how managed to gather a number of new friends while keeping track of most of the old ones. So I am ready to sink back into obscurity and enjoy the statistics. My ramblings have attracted over 5500 visitors with over 23000 page views. Most pleasing and the thing that means the most to me is that I have received over 1000 comments. (Note 2)

Not bad really when you consider that I only started this on May30th. Since that time, I have only been seven days when I haven’t posted an entry. Over that time, I’ve introduced footnotes and clever formatting until you get what you see before you today.

All of this causing me to weigh up my options. Link to the full story later.

All of this got me to weigh a few things up in my mind. Is all of this fancy formatting what my good yeomen want? Do you really appreciate three or four pictures per post? Do the fancy footnotes (when they work) add anything? Do you even want all of the strange links?

Being a weekend, when Yahoo gets a little slow. (Note 3) It seemed like a good time to consider whether I should re-invent my blog like the British seaside.

I would never have found this series on the BBC website had it not been for blogging. I found the link to the Whitstable story yesterday because the thumbnail picture was of the head of a fibre glass model of a jolly fisherman. Horrific fibre glass models have been a bit of a theme.

I couldn’t resist this. Any excuse to use it again. At some stage I need to post pictures of his animal friends who have joined him in the garden.

The BBC series on the seaside continued today with a little bit about Scarborough and a rather good ‘In Pictures’ piece on seaside architecture. The whole thing sparks memories of me and my brother as nippers in Brighton. The excitement and noise of the penny arcade. (Note 4) The smell of the beach, which my grandfather insisted, was healthy sea air (Although it smelt a touch agricultural to me). We would spend the day roaming up and down the front pigging out on Candy Floss and sugar mice before eating Fish and Chips on the pier before heading home. I fear that those days are long gone.

Well maybe, just maybe this reinvention of the British seaside comes not a day too soon. Climate change may well mean that the traditional package holiday will be consigned to history. Oh the irony of it all.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1 : This is a bit of an assumption on my part. The thread that secures the “interesting” tag is coming loose – if not rotting as if the very fabric of the underpants themselves. Still, I reckon that this new found fame must have an upside. I reckon that if I dig out an old Plasticraft Modeling set, I could encase them in acrylic and get a fortune for them on eBay. (After all that I cannot find any links to Plasticraft. Can any of my fine yeomen help out? Can any remember Plasticraft?) Click to return

As a footnote to a footnote, I was doing some chores in the roof space today. As I was digging out some old boxes, I came across an old Plasticraft set vintage circa 1972. It was toy of the year you know. That still doesn’t mean I found any links.

NOTE 2 : It is testament to the friends system on Yahoo that my other blog on Blogger has yet to reach 100 hits. I think this is the bit where I’m supposed to launch into a long list of thank-yous, force out a few tears and be manhandled off the stage by burly security guards. Click to return

NOTE 3: My theory being that most people on Yahoo 360 are blogging to take their mind away from life on the corporate rollercoaster. At weekends we all should have a life to return to and can find something better to do. At some stage, Yahoo will offer to close down 360 in return for half a million dollars and the key to the executive restrooms. Click to return

NOTE 4: My gran used to dig into the pocket of her coat (No matter how hot it was, Gran always wore a coat) and bring out a two evenly matched piles of coppers – the old big mucky pennies. Mt brother and I would rush off to the penny falls machines and try to time out pennies so they set all the other pennies tumbling into the chute and into our hands. If we had a good day, our hands would be stained green by the time we were dragged out of the arcade. Click to return

This really should be a video to show this off in all its glory. Somehow this picture makes it look tame and tacky.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

A Glimmer in the Heavens

Not very spectacular, but it’s Pluto.

Reading through all the blogs today, I have been amazed at the strength of feelings over the downgrading of Pluto. Well, my good yeomen, I give you some hope. It seems that the vote may have been hijacked and there is a yet a chance of a reprieve.

Then, for those of you fretting over the amount of time you spend on your blogs, I give you a dream. So, for all you domestic goddesses out there with a flair for pancakes (like Kerry) there is a chance of discovery, fame and fortune. (Note 1)

I’m not sure about you, but I feel a little better. I needed a little cheering up. Here in the UK, we don’t get enough Bank Holidays. For the most part, the Bank Holidays we do get are clustered around Christmas and New Year, Easter (early spring) and May (late spring). So the August Bank Holiday is the one holiday that falls close to summer. So, with an irony that can only be delivered by global warming, at five minutes past five tonight, it started to rain. It looks like another traditional Bank Holiday. Perhaps I’ll have a day trip to Whitstable.

Well, just a very brief blog tonight. I’ll try and do better tomorrow. If you were hoping for more, I’m sorry.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: I’m hoping this enough to get another plate of pancakes. Just remember I like mine with real maple syrup or clotted cream and cherries (NOT Blackberries!) Click to return

The traditional to spend the three day summer Bank Holiday weekend.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Up to the Nines

Don’t Look, Ethel!

Well, my good yeomen, I don’t know about you, but this model of the universe is proving a tad more difficult than I thought. Last night, Padstow came over with an emergency delivery of PVA glue and sticky back plastic. He looked at my efforts and made that annoying sucking sound so beloved of mechanics when they are about to add another zero to the bill. Realising that I was successfully managing to ignore him, he took to tutting and shaking his head.

When I eventually cracked, he took great delight in telling me that I hadn’t included enough dark matter.To be fair, Padstow was kind enough to drive me to the 24 hour emergency hobby outlet to pick up extra plasticine.

The world can be relied upon to maintain the Ying Yang balance. After the horrific discovery that the universe was short several half kilo colour slab assortments (and according to Padstow, a Batman Shape a Scene), there was the joy of discovering that this blog has made a difference. I notice that despite the best efforts of the Oregon Tourist Board, the addictive nature of mutant blackberries has hit the news. (Note 1)

Apparently some of the images I used yesterday caused people to lose there appetite. I failed to see what was wrong with this.

Today has had a theme. Perhaps without me noticing someone declared 24th August “Get yer kit off day”. Apart from the rather unfortunate run in with the Eastbourne formation nude crochet team in the hobby team, nudity has been cropping up all over the place.

It seems the Tokyo transport chiefs have relented and allowed nude pictures of Britney Spears on adverts in the tube trains . (Note 2)

I also travelled to a meeting in Coventry, the home of Lady Godiva. The fair Lady is famed for riding through the streets of Coventry naked in protest at unfair taxes. Less well known is that after the Norman Invasion, she was the only woman allowed to retain her lands and titles

The good Lady Godiva. Knowing Yahoo this will not be here long. Mind you, the story of Peeping Tom derives from her naked jaunt – be warned.

Continuing on the theme, I noticed that Chinese authorities are cracking down on people hiring strippers for funerals. (Note 3) I’ve decided that this is something I want. I’ve decided that I want a troop of strippers to perform to “Son of a Preacher Man” as my coffin passes through the velvet curtain towards the furnace. This could appear tacky if not done properly, so I shall be rehearsing volunteers at the “Rat and Ferrett” every Thursday night. If you fancy honouring the not dead yet, feel free to pop along.

In closing, I should mention the picture from last night. The one of a tooth growing up a man’s nose. It seems that it wasn’t received that well. (Note 4) I realise now that it wasn’t in the best of tastes - I’m sorry.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: For those of you totally confused by the idea of Mutant Blackberries, then I suggest you do a quick search on Marionberries or Oregon. Maybe a visit to Sean’s blog is in order. You all thought this was some strange running joke, but now the truth is seeping out. Where are Skulder and Mully when you need them? Click to return

NOTE 2 : Yes, another example of silly season news from the BBC. There is no truth that the rumour that the ban was removed in an effort to overcome the crowding on the tube system. Click to return

NOTE 3: This all to draw in a crowd for the funeral. The belief is that the bigger the crowd the more it honours the dead. Click to return

NOTE 4: To be honest, it made me feel a touch queasy. Not only that, I’ve found myself wondering if there are special toothcare products for nose teeth. Do you need a small toothbrush? How do you floss? Is there a special nosewash? A trip to the local Boots failed to find a single product to help those afflicted with this problem. Click to return

Now what is more hoffic? This or a man with teeth growing in his nose?

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Like Picking Your Nose With A Rubber Glove

And people say Pandas have a boring sex life.

Yes, my indulgent yeoman, August is a hard month for the information junkie. I plunge into my favourite news site, the BBC, and find that instead of engrossing news, I find engrossing journalism. The difference being that the news itself doesn’t spark as much interest as the presentation.

To be fair to good old Auntie, it is something I notice on a lot of media outlets all year round, but on the Beeb, it tends to be seasonal.

The media used to call August Silly Season, I don’t know if they still do. With all of the politicians off on their summer holidays the stream of political stories dries up. The media still needs stories to fill newspapers, air time and web pages. This sometimes leads to the inclusion of stories that normally would just be ignored. With editors sunning themselves, perhaps junior journalists and picture editors take the chance to see if they can get in their pieces noticed. (Note 1)

If it is good enough for the BBC it is good enough for me. Anything to pull in a few extra punters.

Still, it does have advantages. I started reading other bits and pieces and generally discovered a few wonderful phrases – like the title on today’s blog. Have a ponder about it and see if you can figure out the metaphor.

If I give you the source of the quote, then I will give the game away. So I’ll meander off. Yesterday, I spent a lot of time in my car. (Note 2) As is my habit, the radio was tuned to talk radio, BBC Radio Five Live (I give the link because even my Merkin friends can listen via the web – The Simon Mayo show is particularly good.).

I also picked up a couple of nuggets from the radio. The first was a definition of Genius.

Talent is the ability to a hit a target that nobody else can hit. Genius is the ability to hit a target that nobody else can see.

This was provided in response to a story about Grigory Perelman, an eccentric Russian mathematician who turned down a prestigious maths prize. The honour was in recognition of him solving the Poincare Conjecture. Even after reading that, I’m still no better off. (Note 3)

No, my good yeomen. Not a competitor at the World Beard and Moustache Championships, but the reclusive Grigory Perelman.

The second little definition came shortly before the radio was switched off for a while. They had this gushing Merkin woman come on who spouted on and on about finding her adopted daughter was actually a twin purely by chance on the internet. Shortly before the “Off” button was hit with some force, she used the phrase “Paper Pregnancy”. Apparently, this describes the time when a women is waiting for adoption papers to be processed.

I had intended to give you another little example of an August Silly Season news story, but Delectable Pet beat me to it. Normally, I wouldn’t that let that stop me, but rather annoyingly, she blogged about it rather too well to top.

At last, I come back to the origin of the title of my post. With news being a little thin on the ground, I found myself exploring other bits and pieces on the BBC News site. I noticed that there was a blog there being kept by the Editors. I found it a wonderful read. (Note 4) Not only has it got some thought provoking entries, it also provides links to some great blogs.

And of course, it gave me the title of today’s blog. It is a quote from within an entry by Rod McKenzie. The post is about attitudes towards safe sex and refers to using a condom. I think I need to have another chat to my kids about Percy never being allowed out to play without his overcoat…

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Certainly selecting a picture of a neon sign saying “SEX” seems to fit into this category. Read the headline and you’d think that a news channel suddenly started broadcasting porn. Read the article and you discover that a TV monitor behind the anchorman was tuned into a station showing adult content for 30 seconds. Still, it served the purpose. The BBC journalist got his piece to the top of the “Most Read” statistics on the BBC News website. Nuff said? Click to return

NOTE 2 : The merest mention of a car gives me the chance to do one of those annoying trivia bits. On the 17th August 1896, Bridget Driscoll (44) died and entered the history books. Poor Bridget was the first official road death in the UK. She was knocked over by Arthur Edsell who was driving his Mercedes at a whopping 4mph! The article hints that Arthur may have been tinkering under the bonnet to achieve double that. Click to return

NOTE 3: They wheeled out a Cambridge academic to add some depth to the story. The presenter asked him what the Poincare Conjecture was. The academic started his answer by saying “In laymen terms…” and then baffled 99.9% of the audience. When asked what an every day use of it would be, he started to get excited that everyone would now be able to produce models of the universe. OK, my practical yeomen, clear a space on the kitchen table and get started. Click to return

NOTE 4: No, I’m not just saying that because they occasionally give out links to bloggers who mention the BBC - honest. Besides, it proves that not all the BBC editors are on holiday. I can only assume that instead of checking that junior journalists and picture editors are up to no good, they are spending all their time reading blogs! Click to return

This is exactly what it looks like – a man with teeth growing in his nose. Excuse me while I shiver.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Turned Out Nice Again

An easy synaptic tangent challenge.

I chose the title of the blog because I noticed a change to the BBC Weather Web Page. I thought I spotted a change or maybe I navigated differently. Still, I stumbled across an old friend. There, in all it’s glory, was a Pressure Chart. At the weekend I swore that I saw it given pride of place on the weather page, but today it is merged into the maps section. (Note 1)

George Cowling who presented the first BBC weather forecast in 1954. His multimedia aids? A pen, ruler, dividers and rubber.

Proving that I am drifting happily towards acquiring full grumpy old git status, I welcome the return of isobars, cyclones, anticyclones, occluded fronts and all of the mystically named squiggles that should appear on a proper weather map. Good yeomen, this is but the first step in halting the ”dumbing down” of the British weather!

My generation were brought up gleaning the rudiments of weather prediction from the television weatherman. From a very early age, I’d worked out that High Pressure meant I would probably be allowed out to play and that Low Pressure meant that it would probably be indoor break when we would be squabbling over antiquated Beano comics. (Note 2)

As I got older, I picked up on the relations ship between the closeness of the isobars and the strength of the wind. I also worked out that the arrival of a weather front coincided with the arrival of the damp stuff. (Note 3)

Gone are the days when map making was an art and each map warned of the hazards.

Sadly, the BBC, in their infinite wisdom, felt that the weather needed to be made more hip, more accessible to the great British public. The rot set in with little magnetic symbols that(mostly) stuck to a map of the UK as a meteorologist talked us through the weather.

Along came computers and bluescreen technologies. Gone were the magnetic symbols to replaced by a meteorologist waving hands in vague sweeps across an old hospital blanket. I wasn’t that concerned. My old friend, the pressure map remained so I could check what they were talking about.

I didn’t even mind when they started to market their weather presenters as personalities. After worse things happen at sea or on ITV. On the ‘other side’ the weather presenters are not even meteorologists. They even go on celebrity TV shows like I’m a celebrity get me out of here. (Note 4)

When the BBC upgraded their weather graphics again recently, I shed a tear. I didn’t object that they made Scotland look small and insignificant. I didn’t mind that our green and pleasant land turned the same colour as overcooked liver. It didn’t bother me too much that the sea looked like any moment a serpent would rise up with the annotation “Here Be Monsters”. I didn’t even mind that rain was represented as a general blue splodge that enveloped the screen. No, I mourned the loss of my pressure map.

My Merkin cousins may think this odd. Yet, the British weather is so gloriously varied that it is an institution. It provides us with the ultimate fall back in any small talk situation.

I give you another institution - George Formby. I didn’t intend to talk about George Formby, I chose the title and as soon as I did, I thought of a smiling George, ukulele in hand, saying just that. Despite George dying when I was a mere babe in arms, somehow in my mind, that phrase is his. It would be interesting to see how many of my good yeomen agree.

Of course the mention of George allows a quick synaptic tangent onward to Jasper Fforde. I’ll leave you to discover just how that tangent came about. While you think about it, you could do a lot worse than explore the Jasper Fforde website.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: I knew I should have blogged about it as soon as I saw it! Now I am wondering if it was all a figment of my imagination. Still, the pressure charts are there and I’m convinced that they weren’t before. I’m not going to let my memory stand in the way of a synaptic tangent. Click to return

NOTE 2 : The weather forecast being particularly important because it enabled the more enterprising young lad to snaffle some of the best selection before the dreaded call of “indoor break” from the teacher. Those not prepared were often left with the lesser comic titles – or (I shudder at the thought) were left reading copies of “Bunty”. Click to return

NOTE 3: There was still the confusion in my mind over the term warm front and cold front. As far as I could tell, a warm front didn’t make it warmer and a cold front didn’t make it cooler. They just turned up, dumped a load of rain on you, sniggered a bit and then moved on. In sixth form, the reasons were explained and rather than experiencing some great “wow” moment, it was all a bit of a damp squib. Education is a wonderful thing, but wasted on the young. Click to return

NOTE 4: Not that I am averse to watching C List celebrities whisked off to the rain forest and tortured. It’s bringing them all back again I object to. Click to return

Michael Fish, the BBC meteorologist who managed to miss a hurricane.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Finding Your Way Around.


Where would we be without road signs?

As my addiction for blogging grows ever deeper, I continue to tinker around the edges of the technology. This is a bit like finding yourself watching a boring and overly long film at the cinema and discovering a loose thread on your trousers. You feel obliged to remain seated for the duration of the film while amusing yourself tinkering with the loose thread. You know that at some point, probably as you are walking across a packed foyer, the seams will evaporate and the crowds will be treated to a view of your superhero underwear.

I hasten to add here, my tittering yeomen, that this hasn’t happened to me and I challenge you to prove otherwise!

Once again, I digress. As I happily delve into Information Superhighway’s Lucky Dip, I find that I am now keeping two Blogs. The oldest being at Yahoo 360 and the young upstart at Blogger. (Note 1)

I’ve also been playing with Technorati. This site allows you to track links to your blog and to add classifications to entries allowing people to search for other blogs, which may be of interest. Playing with Technorati has shown me that it is an uneasy bedfellow with Yahoo. Let’s just say that the Technologies don’t gel seamlessly. It does seem to work very well for my young upstart account on Blogger. (Note 2) On that particular account they work very well indeed.

Regular yeomen readers may remember my post of a couple of days ago, Avanuatu, Yeomen. Well, such is the power of technology, the first person to comment on my Blogger account was Judge Florentino Floro - the Filipino judge at the centre of the imaginary mystical dwarves story.

Gary Johnson, 2003 World Champion. Any old excuse to roll out a good beard picture.

With all of this talk of technology, I shall grab at the merest straw of an excuse to pop in a few links to some of my friends blogs. They deserve it. If they have managed to get themselves set up on Technorati, they will find themselves climbing the list (This blog is currently standing at number 630296 in the chart).

Technology isn’t always needed though. Already this morning a frantic Evar has been on the phone. For those of you who don’t know, Evar is away at a secret training camp preparing for the World Beard and Moustache Championships which start in a few weeks time. He is absolutely frantic after discovering that there could be a new and as yet contestant. I pointed him to a source close to the mystery beard grower and he seemed to calm down. (Note 3)

There is nothing like a good curry to make the weekend trot along. I’ve noticed a bit of a curry theme going on at 360. Curry formed the theme for an absolute top drawer post from the already famous and previously interesting Marcus. It also formed the foundation for a post from a newcomer and destined to be interesting one day NikkiD.


Good Yeoman, I pause here to point out that if you feared the Bermuda triangle, there is something worse - The Birmingham Balti Triangle. I could really go off on one here, but I’m running short of the dried frog pills. I only included it to ensure that the delightful (and curry loving) Gypsy is never lured there unknowingly.

At this point, I was going to give a special mention to Sean. The trouble is, I fear that he may have been “got at”. I’m not cynical and suspicious by nature, but I’m wondering just why we don’t here about the mutant blackberries that plague Oregon in his blog. Could it be that the Oregon tourist board has bribed him with poker playing vacation? (Note 4) We must be told.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Before you now rush off squealing in anticipation of getting double the daily dose of the blabberings of an old git who has taken too many dried frog pills, I caution you. The blogs are essentially the same. The excuse that I am comparing technologies is just my way of denying my blogging addiction. Click to return

NOTE 2 : The Blogger account has had very few hits. The fine editors of that particular blogging emporium have yet to realise that at Yahoo, they’ve sewn the “interesting” label in my underpants. I’m convinced that when they do, they’ll add their own “Of Note” label alongside. Click to return

NOTE 3: Although I have subsequently discovered that Evar has retained the services of Padstow, the professional stalker. I believe he hopes to get some incriminating pictures of the mystery beard grower indulging in a leg and full body wax which will invalidate his entry. Click to return

NOTE 4: According to his blog, Sean went off to play poker in Las Vegas. He’s posted a number of pictures, but none that place him at the scene. Padstow has been following him. He has the pictures to prove he was really here. Click to return

I’m a very, very mischievous Hector.


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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Everything but the squeal.

And this little pig went scratch, scratch, scratch.

Today, my steadfast yeomen, I will take you on a journey on the magic carpet of my own, unique brand of logic. Please note that at no time during this excursion do my hands leave the ends of my arms.

My first proper job in computers was a Computer Operator at a meat processing plant. To use some management double speak, it was a steep learning curve, not only about computers, but about the food industry – and pigs.

The plant only processed pigs. The little porkers arrived at one end all happy and innocent, Even behind double glazed windows you would hear their content grunting as they were unloaded from the lorries. (Note 1)

When I lived in Norfolk as a nipper, we had a pig unit behind our house. Maybe that’s why I’ve a small soft spot for pigs. (Note 2) They are very misunderstood. When people say they are “sweating like a pig”, they aren’t. Pigs don’t have sweat glands. Pigs roll in mud because they are susceptible to sunburn and the use mud as a sunscreen – not because they have some love of muck. Generally, they are quite clean creatures.

Winston Churchill, that wonderful source of a quote for every occasion, once said "Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals." Pigs have good reason to. The physiology of the pig is strangely similar to our own. This means they are prone to the same diseases – especially nasty rashes. (Note 3)

Without pigs, we would not have had King Lear.

King Lear clip.

Lawrence Olivier as King Lear. This doesnt appear on my 100 books to read before you die list, but you should see the 1983 film.

Good Yeoman, I am tempted to pause here and set you homework to work out that fantastic synaptic leap. I won’t though. For those of you who delight in finding obscure connections, may not want to read on until you have worked it out. I salute those of you who do.

I fear that I may burst the bubble of hero worship that often hangs around Shakespeare. You see, rather like me, the great writer was not averse to ’borrowing’ the odd idea. (Note 4) For King Lear, he borrowed (whether directly or indirectly) from the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who as well as creating the Arthurian legends (yes, he of the knights of the round table and all that), told the tale / legend of King Leir.

According to tradition and Geoffrey of Monmouth, King Leir inherited his crown from his father, King Bladud.

As a young prince, Bladud was struck down with leprosy. Such was custom of treating lepers, he was forced into exile and found work as a swineherd at Swainswick near Bath. One day, he noticed some of his pigs had been wallowing in a thick, black, warm mud and that those pigs didn’t suffer the skin diseases of the other pigs. Bladud tried the mud bath himself and was cured of his leprosy, which allowed him to return home and claim his crown!

Leir became king when Bladud overdid the dried frog pills, built himself some wings and set out to see if he could fly. It turned out he could merely plummet.

There you are dutiful yeomen, you now know why without pigs, Shakespeare would not have been able to write King Lear.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: It would not be very considerate to those of you about to tuck into a pork pie or sausages to continue their journey and further. Besides, this was thirty years ago and a lot has changed. I shall provide you with one amazing fact. Over 3000 pigs a week went through the plant. Virtually all of the pig was used. The leftovers (normally the tips of their trotters) didn’t fill a skip a week. A generation or so before even these wouldn’t have been wasted. This thriftiness in the industry generated the title of this piece. Click to return

NOTE 2 : It was also where I discovered the electric fence. This isn’t the high voltage type, but an orange wire strung between insulated posts. It carries a pulse of electrical charge that gives a small shock if you touch it and provide a root to earth. At a very early age I learned that peeing on an electric fence is not a good idea. Click to return

NOTE 3: Those of a nervous disposition would be best not to read this note. If you are a touch queasy or easily shocked, I wouldn’t bother either. You see, one of the computer jobs I ran was the printing of the pig rejection letters. These detailed why the plant wouldn’t accept a pig for slaughter. It wasn’t uncommon for pigs to be rejected because they carried human STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), For pig units near urban areas, night time visits from… errm… gentlemen with specialist sexual tastes was a real problem. I’m not sure if it still is, I’d like to think not. OK, so you didn’t need to know that. Sorry. Click to return

NOTE 4: Sadly, William Shakespeare and I only share the trait of being prepared to borrow an idea and embellish it a tad. We do not share the label of great writer. I live in hope that one day… Click to return

It could be the city reputed to have been founded by King Leir. Is it Leicester? I do not know.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Vanuatu, Friends.

Lurking in all good supermarket freezer cabinets there is a threat.

Good yeomen, unless you have a better atlas than I, you will struggle to find Vanuatu on the map. For those of you who are now struggling to remember where you stored your old school atlas, I’ll give you a clue. It is in the South Pacific in the New Hebrides chain of islands about 1090 miles East of Australia. (Note 1) The Republic of Vanuatu deserves a little bit more respect. After all, any country’s National Anthem that starts “Yumi, Yumi, Yumi” should get a bit of a spotlight now and again. (Note 1B).

Yes, its Phil the Greek in all his pomp and circumstance. Lurking in the footnotes is a nugget about this man(?).

In fact, Vanuatu will be getting a little bit of prime time TV time soon. There is a great series on BBC2 called Tribe. In it, Bruce Parry takes a documentary crew and lives with remote tribes – it is fascinating stuff – explore the web page if you don’t believe me. Well, in an interesting twist on this, Channel 4 are going to take remote tribal people and bring them to Britain and follow them with a documentary crew. It promises to be equally compelling viewing. (Note 2)

Not that I set out to blog about documentaries or royalty. Somehow, strange news items are flinging themselves at me today. In the Philippines, Armand, Luis and Angel have cost Florentino Floro his job. Not a bad job by all accounts, he was a judge. OK, Armand, Luis and Angel are dwarves. Not ordinary dwarves, but dwarves of the imaginary mystic variety. Not understanding the benefits of a touch of vertically challenged, alternative reality mysticism to the decision making process, medical experts jumped to the conclusion he suffers from psychosis. I wonder how many British Judges are brushing up their résumés?

Perhaps Florentino would feel a touch better after a short holiday. He and his mystic dwarves could up sticks and take in a bit of culture somewhere. (Note 3) Maybe they would benefit from ”a place where people often find themselves roaming endlessly”. If so, then Oregon is the place for you. Book soon, the Oregon State Fair starts next Friday and runs until September 4th.

This, my adventuroes yeomen is an advertising pic for the Oregon State Fair. See how they treat their visitors?

Maybe I am a touch cruel. It’s just that I learned something worrying about Oregon this morning by reading Sean’s blog. The picture of a rural idyll painted by the Oregon State Fair hides a frightening secret – to which the young boy can testify. Mutant blackberries plague Oregon, specifically Marion County. All day I have been plagued by lurid nightmares… err.. daymares about these fruit lying in wait and ravaging innocent men and ravishing their good ladies.

Maybe it is time for me to take my dried frog pills.

Certainly there is no time left to cover my original blog topics.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: On the page of the atlas that looks like it was originally just plain blue until someone sneezed after drinking strong coffee. Click to return

NOTE 1B: This translates to “We, We, We” which tends to suggest, with the addition of a few ‘e’ an extract from a game to be played with young children or an instruction from a United Airlines Stewardess (yes that last one was uncalled for). I must admit that I have been busily searching for the actual sound file with the words, but as I failed you will just have to make do with this. I hope that when 2012 comes around and they win heaps of gold medals, I have prepared you so you can sing-a-long. Click to return

NOTE 2: We are promised that in one program we will see a tribe from remote Vanuatu let loose on the streets of Britain. Which is interesting because these people apparently worship Prince Phillip as a God. Click to return

NOTE 3: This could actually test out just how mad he really is. If he is truly mad, he won’t buy one ticket, but four. I really can’t see a travel agent turning the chance for the extra sales. Mind you, it will be interesting to see how airport security manages in searching imaginary mystic dwarves. Click to return

If you missed this link the first time, then I’m sorry.

I’m a very, very sidetracked Hector.
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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Harry Houdini

Conclusive proof of tepid fusion.

Well, my sturdy yeomen, today I have allowed myself a huge, self-satisfied grin. I haven’t managed to perform tepid fusion in a half-forgotten coffee cup. A cure for the common cold has somehow eluded me. There isn’t a small encampment of publishers on my front lawn. (Note 1) It is probably something that I shouldn’t crow about, but the reason behind my satisfaction is that I have at last managed to get this very blog registered with Technorati. Which is why there were those rather strange blog entries yesterday with links to Technorati.

Through the kaleidoscope heat haze that hangs over the information superhighway, I catch the million little murmurs of “Why?” This is a rather obvious question. Just because the question is obvious, doesn’t mean I can answer it. The best I can do is quote from the Technorati web site ”Technorati is the recognized authority on what's going on in the world of weblogs. We help people search for, surface, and organize bloggers and their daily posts.” In my defence, I would like to cite that this isn’t a personal ego massage, more a quest to overcome technology and prove that even old gits can master something new once in a while.

Oh dear. This gentleman appears to be a bit upset. Whatever or whoever is the cause?

It struck me during the digging and delving, that there are issues around the various technologies in use. (Note 2) I have often felt that the UK Yahoo 360 bloggers got a little bit of a raw deal compared to the “.com” bloggers. There are features, such as.the “Highlight post” option that are just not available to us. Both sets of users have only a subset of HTML that they can use (although as Stu demonstrates, you can do a lot more than you think).

Rather than just go on perceptions, I decided to test the theory. I went off and started an account on Blogger. Strangely, I found that HTML tags that work in Yahoo do not work there. Still, as I write my blogs in Word first, I will be able to maintain both. I will keep you abreast of my discoveries.

Evar, fetch me the atomic gizmo. Yes, my pet yeomen, today 360 – tomorrow the world. Insert maniacal laugh here.

Now, good yeomen, Ehrich Weiss and Harry Houdini both passed away on Halloween in 1926. A spooky co-incidence? Well, not so spooky as yesterday, when I got a notice from Yahoo to say that my chosen picture was deemed inappropriate. Thankfully the guardians of public morals quickly removed it lest it corrupt you. (Note 3)

Some of my more curious yeomen, who missed the picture will now be wondering what smut had briefly adorned my page. Well, I admit it was a man with bared torso restrained by numerous chains. In mitigation I point out that it was a sepia print taken over eighty years ago. Yes, it was the great Harry Houdini.

Oh, Ehrich Weiss? Yes, I should explain that interesting nugget. Although Harry Houdini claimed to have been born on the 6th April 1874 in Appleton, Wisconsin – he was actually born Ehrich Weiss on March 24 1874 in Budapest, Hungary. Just why he changed his birth date is beyond me.

From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Although there is a noticeable decrease in the numbers of small domesticated animals in the area and parents in the neighbourhood have taken to fitting their young children with earplugs. Click to return

NOTE 2: This is going to get confusing. As I will explain, I decided to compare technologies by setting up an account in Blogger. So if you are reading this in Blooger, you will have to bear with me, as my main blogging site is, for the moment at least, Yahoo 360. If you are reading this in Yahoo 360, just go back to the text and forget I ever said anything. Click to return

NOTE 3: If you saw that picture and find yourself corrupted, I am truly, truly sorry. I realise that only the most innocent and pure find their way to my blog, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Click to return

I’m a very, very apologetic Hector.
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