Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's Raining Hen

Following Darth Vader into Swindon, we have Tony Blair – is this cutting edge satire or what? Errr… well Swindon is in the West Country and it made sense to me.

There is something about Swindon that gets to you.

Right then! Hands up all my homogenised yeomen who followed the link to Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain in a previous blog, were able to watch the video and watched it to the end?

Hmmmm, I thought as much. I wasn’t at all sure that people outside of the UK would be able to see the program and I doubt many of you have the time to watch the whole thing.

Still, I posted the link. As the old Swindon saying goes, “You can lead a horse to the bathtub, but is won’t find the soap.”

Funny how Swindon is on my mind. (Note 1)

Not that I am entirely sure why I decided to open up with a picture of Tony Blair in demonic pose during a visit to Swindon or just why I am rambling on about Swindon. I guess it is just the way my synaptic tangents are sparking today. It could be that I was wondering when the next Jasper Fforde book was going to hit the shelves. (Note 2)

I did consider having a quick stab at some satirical synaptic tangents about David Prowse, Start Wars and our outgoing Prime Minister, but in the end found that it was all a little too convoluted. Though fear not my depilated yeomen, I will not be setting homework tonight. For tonight is a special occasion. Rather than setting homework, I’m handing out solutions!

Apparently this is a picture of the Moon in Swindon. They don’t have a crescent moon there, just different cut out shapes.

Some of you may have noticed that last week, a rather natty and flashy box appeared underneath my entries. In fact, it is there again today. In that box appeared a series of clues which I rather smugly announced as being cryptic. (Note 3). In fact they were nothing of the sort. They were nothing more than a rather elaborate pictorial countdown. What is more the intellectual yeomen also quickly worked out what I was counting down to – Today.

For today is my blogiverssary. I have now been blooging for a whole year. On the 30th May 2006, I decided to dip my toe in the tepid 360 waters and posted my first blog entry. Yes, it was rather boring an inauspicious. It didn’t really give many clues as to what the blog was going to evolve into and didn’t hint at the risks involved with reading it.

And for those of you who don’t follow the links, it was that last one which spawned the title of the blog – don’t you love puns?

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: For those adventurous yeomen who followed the link and are now fit for bursting at the thought of two weeks at the railway museum, please note that the web site doesn’t work properly and to request a brochure you have to email them. It somehow seems appropriate that. Click to return

NOTE 2: For those of you who have remained oblivious, I quite enjoy the writings of Jasper Fforde and in particular the adventures of Thursday Next of the Nursery Crimes Division based in Swindon. I’ve always considered that this is probably because Jasper Fforde’s mind is so stuffed full of synaptic tangents that I cannot help but be jealous. Click to return

NOTE 3: It was rather smug and supercilious of me. In fact one or two of my most loyal yeomen snatched the answer out of the air rather quickly. I was then forced to try and throw in a few curved ball clues to try and distract and disorientate you. Including a picture of ‘The Prisoner’ from the TV Series (Who was known as Number Six as he tried to discover the identity of the elusive Number Two) and a five striped squirrel did nothing to throw you from the scent. Click to return

So now you know what it was all about. I was giving my bloggiversarry a little hype.

This was my first proper entry posted one year ago today.

I just couldn’t resist a picture of icons of the educational system.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza. There are hopeful signs, but until he is released this logo remains. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Rain Starts Play

The British Summer weather on a bank holiday weekend. Time for tea and crumpet in the pavilion. Last one there is a rotten egg.

Another very British view.

Bank Holiday Monday dawns over Britain and in keeping with tradition, the British put on an extra cardigan, wrap their Macintosh tight around them and set out to enjoy traditional pursuits – regardless of the weather!

Well, my tangible yeomen, it is truly a very good day to remain watertight. Being a cricket fan, I have to admit to being rather disappointed. England are playing the West Indies at Headingly.

I realise that the mere mention of the word cricket will have the majority of you yawning with eyes glazing over and chins drooping. I’d like to say sorry for this, but my heart just wouldn’t be in it. You see, cricket isn’t as complicated as it seems. (Note 1)

Cricket has a very strange fascination. It is one of the very few sports that is played as much with the brain as with the body. If you are not a fan, it is easy to miss the nuances and the technicalities – and easy to get as bored rigid by a fan as by the game itself. I do realise that views on cricket are entrenched and that I stand no chance of changing your view on the game.

Despite the padding and protection, a ball made of cork covered in leather and lacquer, weighing 156g and travelling at 100mph will fell a batsman. Here Brett Lee checks out his latest victim.

I happen to enjoy Test Cricket and believe that this is a greater challenge to the teams involved requiring both ability and mental strength. (Note 2).

The major problem though is that you cannot watch every ball of every Test Match during the summer. With up to seven tests being played, you cannot get every day off work for one thing.

I think that is why cricket journalism has developed a reputation for producing journalists capable of producing excellent word sketches of what is a complex game. A skill made all the more necessary because when it rains – there is no cricket, but the newspapers pages and airtime remain to be filled. So these heroes of the journalistic art develop the skill of being able to produce word sketches about total inactivity!

While TV tends to show highlights of past matches when the rain comes down, the hardier and more frivolous commentators on Test Match Special fill the air time with observations about cakes, pigeons and busses. Often continuing when there is actually cricket being played. Such is the homely appeal of their banter, I am sure that even people who have no interest in the game tune in, close their eyes and pretend they are at a gentile tea party.

The internet has continued with the fine tradition of cricket journalism with a number of excellent sites covering the game, offering up detailed statistical analysis of the game (Note 3) and offering a ball by ball update to the score.

Combining the tradition of cricket journalism with the new, brash and immediate nature of the internet comes a new cult hero to take his place amongst the wordsmiths. Ladies, gentlemen and others, I give you Ben Dirs! Check out the link to his Wikiquote and be… erm… amazed.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: As you can see, the simplified explanation doesn’t go down too well amongst some cricket fans. Although I love my cricket, I can’t see any harm in it and don’t hold impromptu bonfires when asked to help with the wiping up. Click to return

NOTE 2: The cricketing authorities have tried to improve the image of the game by introducing one day versions of the game which I enjoy, but for different reasons. However, if you want cricket at its rawest and most spectacular, the latest innovation of Twenty/Twenty cricket is well worth a look and will certainly bring converts to the game. Click to return

NOTE 3: Statistics play a huge part in cricket with very detailed records kept of team and individual performances and careers. These statistics are poured over and analysed by aficionados of the game and used to compare players of different eras and styles. Even the most minor statistic can be the subject of a heated debate while players, commentators and spectators wait for the British weather to clear. Click to return

I am now convinced that all of my fine yeomen (of whom I am so very proud), have worked out what is going on. Yet, I want to keep giving out clues.

Here is a wonderful badge. Sadly all my Merkin readers will be disadvantaged by this clue.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza. There are hopeful signs, but until he is released this logo remains. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

May The Farce Be With You

I’m going to make you a star!

A very British view.

I have to say sorry to all my pasteurised yeomen for having to split my Cannes film blog over two different days. The truth is that there was just so many different synapses sparking, I just couldn’t fit everything in!

Still, if you all maintaining that comfortable and serene air associated with being watertight, I shall attempt to continue with the synaptic chunder. (Note 1)

Ever since I can remember, people have talked about ‘The British Film Industry’ with a kind of hushed reverence usually reserved for a much loved national icon admitted to a hospice.

The British Film industry seems to be in a perpetual state of decline that will result in its demise. Then, just as people start to dust off the memorabilia for eBay, along comes a Four Weddings, a Train Spotting, Full Monty or Love Actually that somehow allows the industry to stagger from its deathbed and wheeze its way through a few more years. (Note 2)

We tend to overlook the fact that us Brits are quite good at making movies. In fact, we have a track record of producing some of the biggest movies of all time.

Hmmm, there are a few sceptical glances coming my way – especially from my Merkin readers.

The West Country’s answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Prowse. This ex-bodybuilder who became famous as the Green Cross Code Man.

You may have noticed that this week saw the amazing anniversary of the first Star Wars film. You may not have realised it, but that film was made in Britain – but is not considered a British film. David Prowse, an Englishman, played one of the most famous characters in that film, Darth Vader. (Note 3)

If that doesn’t convince you, then remember that the James Bond films are made at Pinewood Studios.

The thing is that making films is an expensive business. The only people who can afford to make huge blockbusters are the big entertainment corporations. They have the money and will make their films wherever offers them the best deal. The cost of the films can influence their content. Film making is a business and the aim of the business is to make money. So the plots of films has more to do with encouraging people to watch than to try and break new ground or educate.

Which is why the big film companies back their films with big publicity budgets and why the big blockbusters get all the column inches in the entertainment papers.

Obi Wan Kenobi in an early role in the Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers.

The bigger the business, the more money they have to spend and the bigger risks they can afford to take. Sadly, this means that in Britain we cannot match the risks and the budgets of the big multinationals like Sony. Without risk, there is no reward and we can only watch in disgust as our good ideas such as the Ealing Comedy, The Ladykillers is remade by the big studios.

Ironically, the Ealing studios which made the famous Ealing comedies was sold to the BBC in 19955, the year that saw the original and acclaimed ‘Ladykillers’ film hit cinemas. Perhaps it is due to unique way that the BBC is funded by use of a licence fee rather than the need to obtain funding from commercials that allows the BBC to produce and air challenging programs.

If you have the time and you actually have the access rights, I suggest that you have a look at The idea that they will re-make the St Trinian’s franchise fills me with both Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain. If you cannot actually see the program, then you can have a look at the BBC Website associated with the series.

The first episode used the satire of the Ealing comedies to illustrate some of the different events in Britain after World War Two. It is an amazing story that starts only a dozen or so years before I was born – and yet I learned so much. If you can, I thoroughly recommend you watch it.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: I’m beginning to think I may have stumbled over a new classic. I think that is so much better than the rather old and boring cliché of “If you are sitting comfortably, I’ll begin…” Perhaps I should start a campaign to make it compulsory at all public library reading hours. Click to return

NOTE 2: Although such is the state of mind of us Brits that as soon as a film becomes a commercial success, we feel the need to ridicule it and generally belittle any achievement. I have no explanation why this is my effervescent yeomen. It is just the way of the Brits. We will cheer the underdog until we are puce in the face and our throats are red raw – but as soon as the underdog becomes a winner we cannot wait to bring them crashing down. Click to return

NOTE 3: David Prowse hails from the English West Country. His natual accent is a lovely West Country lilt, which is often stereotyped as being that of a country farmer. Poor David Prowse became nicknamed as Darth Farmer as a result. If you follow this link, you will see what I mean as it allows you to link to an interview with him. Just close your eyes and imagine Darth Vader – it soesn’t really work. Click to return

Oh dear, I appear to have missed out a cryptic clue. I am truly sorry. Never mind, I am sure that my firm-thighed yeomen will still be able to continue our little synaptic romp.

I think most people have the answer now, so I shall slip a nice easy clue in.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza after ten weeks. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cannes Belles Ring Like the Good Old Days?

The strange surreal world of the Cannes Film Festival proves that the name Nora is no longer a handicap to fame and fortune.

Celluloid dreams.

Well, my weatherproof yeomen, isn’t it strange how one photograph can spark a meandering and wide-ranging synaptic chunder? (Note 1)

Those of you who have been living in a cave for the last few weeks may not have noticed that the Cannes International Film Festival is in full swing. (Note 2)

I went to Cannes once. I made the mistake of sitting on a pavement café and ordering a beer so I could watch the beautiful people go past. When the bill came, I found that it cost about ten times the price of a pint of Nightswerve’s Velvet Cudgel back in the ‘Rat and Ferret’. It wasn’t even that I was there for the Film Festival, just a conference on high speed computer networks. Sorry, I digress. I should jump back to the plot.

The Canne Film Festival generates a lot of media interest. Hoards of hacks and critics up sticks to attend – no doubt secure in the knowledge that a £40 beer tastes like ambrosia if someone else is paying. There are lots of distractions in Cannes, so getting the hacks out of the bars and casinos must be difficult.

It is probably not so difficult if you have a couple of ‘A’ list celebs in your film that you can wheel out in highly stage managed PR event with a huge finger buffet and free bar. Not so easy if you are a small independent film maker.

That is why I was really pleased to see that a short film produced by two students as a graduation piece is getting a lot of attention. Of course, this could be that this is the only British film in the running for any awards. (Note 3)

Apart from that, the only news of the British Film industry was a fanfare piece saying that they have done a remake of the St Trinians films which will open around Christmas time.

One of the cartoon images by Ronald Searle of the St Trinian’s schoolgirls. His collections of cartoons were later to be adapted onto celluloid.

The idea that they will re-make the St Trinian’s franchise fills me with both dread and joy. (Note 4).

Although the first St. Trinian’s film came out before I was even born and I didn’t even become aware of Ronald Searle’s cartoons until years later, I have always had a real soft spot for the original films. Now, I can look at them and understand the satire, enjoy the scene stealing acting from George Cole as Flash Harry and Alastair Sim as the headmistress (Yes, in the good old British tradition he played the role in drag). Yet whenever I see them, I find myself transported back to the sofa on a wet Saturday afternoon and I go all misty eyed.

As a child, I laughed like a drain at all the St. Trinian’s films. I must have watched each of them a hundred times and the never lost their charm, their humour or their appeal.

I shall probably go watch the new version with low expectations. I hope that it does manage to match the originals, but let’s face it – they are a very hard act to follow.

Now, my undulating yeomen, I shall draw this particular meandering to a close. Not because I have run out of things to say, but because it has generated so many more thoughts and ideas. I shall pick those up tomorrow as they deserve an entry all of their own.

Before I go, I would like to remind you of the need to find new sorry videos. Those of you who read my CRASI entry yesterday will understand what it is all about and are probably already hard at work trying to find good amateur video footage on the net or being creative with making your own. Boy, how I love setting homework!

While we are speaking of campaigns, I should ask my meticulous yeomen if they have noticed that the options for the various ‘Quick Comments’ on the front page of people’s blogs varies according to the server they use? It seems that some countries have better options than others – with the Canadians getting all sorts of really interesting emoticons. Well, Kerry did! She has started the SMILEY 360 campaign. Why don’t you pop over to her page and see what you can do to get A bemused Chicken. included in your Quick Comment box?

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: I started with an idea of what I wanted to blog about and worked backwards to the opening as I usually do. However, I when I got to the opening, I found that my thoughts shot off in a totally direction. Still, I suppose I have the skeleton for another entry in my locker now. Now all I need to understand is why some women consider being described watertight is such a compliment, but having had such a positive reaction, I should continue with the compliments. Click to return

NOTE 2: While researching this little piece I found myself smirking over the way that the Merkin media condescends to their public. While everywhere else in the world describes it as Cannes, The Merkin media feel that their readers have no grasp of rudimentary geography and insist on saying ‘Cannes, France’. Just pity the fools. Click to return

NOTE 3: Reading between the lines of the article, I do get a sneaky feeling that the subject matter might well have something to do with it as well. I wouldn’t mind having a little teensy bet that if it does win we will get to see a few offended people pontificating in the press – all additional PR grist to the mill. Click to return

NOTE 4: I’m prepared to be proved wrong here, but I have yet to find a re-make that is anything but a pale imitation of the original. I sat here staring at my screen for an age trying to think of one re-make that I enjoyed more than the original and drew a complete blank. Click to return

It seems that some of you have broken the cryptic clues. For those of you who haven’t and are unaware of the link, I am truly sorry. Sadly, I have to come up with an even more cryptic clue to see if those who know the answer can also explain why.

For those of you who do not wan’t a further clue just yet – then look away now. This fine looking fellow is none other than Patrick McGoohan. Are you any the wiser?

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza after ten weeks. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

You're Driving Me Crasi!

I’m no petrolhead. I just did a random search for an image and I got some strange results again. So, I did a little extra searching and found this….

Definitely multi-pupose - not only an extension.

I should start off with a confession. I am really on the move today and I wasn’t going to post anything. Sadly, Evar has other ideas. He feels that I need to continue to harass my blissful yeomen with another cryptic clue.

Evar also decided that I need to take my position as patron of CRASI (Campaign to Release Alternate Sorry to the Internet) more seriously. I was enjoying a nice quiet pint in the ‘Rat and Ferret’ when he started to harangue me. What was worse, Sid and Mattress Madge supported him.

I tried to explain that being a patron is an honorary thing. I don’t really have to do much apart from turn up for a few free lunches, press the flesh and pose for a few photographs. (Note 1). I fought tooth and nail against the idea, but in the end was swayed when Madge, leant forward, jiggled her ample charms and suggested that I might get onto the guest list for a few Embassy Dinners - definitely a step up from blagging a free ploughmans from ‘The Bladdered Nun’ (Another fine watering hole in our fine town).

Having seen me relent, Evar wandered off to continue his experimentation in the effects of Viagra on small mammals, leaving me to explain CRASI to a growing band of perplexed yeomen.

It seems that if you glue legs on a gag and teach it to run – the aforementioned gag also grows razor sharp teeth and develops infinite patience. When your attention wanders off and your guard is down, the gag turns and bites you in the most delicate of areas.

The more observant amongst you may have noticed that I liberally sprinkle links in my post. For the most part these kind of tie in with what I’m posting about, but occasionally I just throw in an odd link that whisks you away at random. One of those random links was to a rather clever video someone posted of them saying sorry. Working on the principle that you cannot have too much of a good thing, I repeated the link to the point of driving previously sane people to develop the desire to stick hot needles into their eyes.

I never really found the sitcom ‘Sorry’ that comfortable to watch. It was funny, but there was this terrible feeling of there but for the grace of God….

Eventually, Sean cracked and produced his own version of the and the sorry video. But since then, the gag runs on and on and on and on and on and on alternating the two – probably due to an advanced case of irony. (Note 2)

The good news is that we now have CRASI! This is your chance to be avenged and grab your chance to expand on the repertoire of the sorry videos. Just drop Sean a message with the URL (Oh, OK Evar – you can give me the URL as well, but I won’t be able to watch the video!) and you can rest secure in the knowledge that you will have people drooling and gibbering across the globe!

Go on! You know you want to. It’s much safer than a daytrip to the zoo.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Not that I like posing for photographs, but I am a sucker for a free lunch. The only thing better than lunch is a when you don’t have to pay for it. Click to return

NOTE 2: The irony being that I cannot play videos on my machine that require the Macromedia Flash Player. Whenever I enable the Flash Player, my browser window will crash within a few minutes. So, I’ve given up trying to watch any YouTube content, it is just too much hassle. So those of you who post a lot of videos now know why I don’t ever comment on them. Just pity the fool. Click to return

You obviously need more cryptic clues. So far, the synapse sparking has been noticeable by its absence. Today I give you the British Ukulele Orchestra in full regalia. If all of this is still confusing you, then I am truly sorry.

The British Ukulele Orchestra. I have tickets to see this crowd when they come to Oundle next month.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza after ten weeks. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Trying not to Snigger

The response from my MP from my letter complaining about Vulture Funds.

Maybe there is a glimmer of hope.

Hello again my watertight yeomen. It seems I’m managing to shoe-horn in the time to write a few blog entries. So I suppose I should put them to good use. I can almost hear the sound of numerous loins being girded as I tell you I’m going to give you an update on Vulture Funds. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about here, you can catch up on a little of the history by reading the blog entries here and here.

So, the more perceptive yeomen amongst you should now know, I have been writing to my various elected representatives in attempt to see if I can nibble at the toes of government and encourage a little justice.

As you can see from the picture at the top of this entry, I have had a response from Phil Hope. (Note 1) I’ve also had a response from Mr Rehn on behalf of the European Commission, but that was rather evasive suggesting that there was little they could do.

The letter from HM Treasury regarding Vulture Funds.
The second page of the letter from HM Treasury signed by… Oh my word!

The letter does give me cause for optimism. The Department for international development has part-funded a scheme that allows countries to buy back their debt with an average saving of 90% on the debt – allowing over $8bn worth of debt to be eliminated. All good news – but really just a start and more needs to be done.

Perhaps most importantly, we as individuals need to make sure that our Governments don’t forget about the pledges they made after Live8 at the G8 summit. In a report issued in April the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said aid to poor countries from 22 of its members - wealthy industrialised nations - fell 5.1% last year and was likely to decline further in 2007. Of the G8 Nations, only the UK and Japan have fully kept their pledges.

So, if you haven’t already, write to your elected representative. If you live in the UK, like me, you can write to your elected representatives using the Write to Them website. If you live in the US, concerned Merkins can contact your Senators and Representatives.

There are also petitions open you can sign electronically – these can be found on the original posts, so I’ll not bore you with them again.

However, I will include the links to the Jubilee Debt Campaign website, so you can find out more information and get involved with their campaign.

John Cleese making good use of his height in Monty Python to breathe life into ‘The Ministry of Funny Walks’.

Despite this being a very serious and complex topic, my brain still went off on a synaptic tangent. All through this post I have been thinking of John Cleese and the Monty Python classic Ministry of Silly Walks. (Note 2)

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Phil Hope was recently been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease. This is a cancer of the lymph system and requires four months of chemotherapy followed by four weeks of radiotherapy. As a result I wasn’t sure that I would hear anything from him. So credit where credit’s due.

Because I am patron of Campaign to Release Alternate Sorry to the Internet (CRASI), I will say sorry to hear you’ve been ill. I hope that you make a full recovery and are back to normal soon. Click to return

NOTE 2: It is just the way that my brain likes to work. The synaptic tangents went into overdrive when I saw that the letter from HM treasury was signed by Ed Balls. My inner fourteen year-old schoolboy sniggered and snorted. Pity the Fool. Click to return

Today I throw another cryptic clue in your direction to see if your synapses spark and produce the answer. If I have confused you, well, I’m sorry.

Despite being the pre-race underdogs, Oxford maintain their advantage in tricky conditions to emerge victorious at the finish of the 2006 University Boat Race.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza after ten weeks. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Marking the Day

Making the most of someone else’s poor research by deciding that we know that Plato was born today.

As empty vessels make the loudest sound, so they that have the least wit are the greatest blabbers.

That rather fossilised philosopher up there is Plato. My more experienced yeomen will be bracing themselves for a rather deep and meaningful argument over what constitutes democracy or some wondrous synaptic tangents that link him to Ernest Marples. But no. My intention today is far more important. Today, I shall be meandering my way to highlight a far more important fact.

There is a link between Plato and Ernest Marples, but it is so tenuous that it will have you all crying foul. Indeed, it may well have you reaching for pitchforks and flaming torches and laying siege to my humble abode. For you see, as I drifted along the backwaters of the internet, I came across a rather unnerving claim. I came across a site that listed the birthdays of famous people. On that site, I found that they had Plato’s birthday listed as today. This rather surprised me as I’d always thought that such a fact had eluded scholars. Indeed, I crossed checked it with wikipedia and they were not even sure of the year he was born.

Rather than delve deeper into dry and dusty research, I just decided to accept the fact. (Note 1) There is plenty else to celebrate on this day after all.

For a start, it is the birthday of Delectable Pet - who remains a sprightly ninety-nine. Happy Birthday Pet, I hope you have a wonderful day that is full of the most wonderful gifts! Rumour has it that later today some lucky people will be treated to a recital of Abba’s greatest hits on the autoharp. Truly, this is the hottest ticket in town.

Although I cannot be sure about you sharing your birthday with Plato, I am on safer ground when I suggest that you share your birthday with Fats Waller, Alexander Pope and Elizabeth Fry.

Book him Danno! No, hang on that isn’t right. Well, Raymond Burr would be 90 today if he hadn’t died.

In fact the 21st of May provides a number of interesting potential synaptic tangents. (Note 2)

Charles A. Lindbergh landed his Spirit of St. Louis near Paris, completing the first solo airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean and Amelia Earhart, lands in a pasture in Derry, Northern Ireland to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Andrei Sakharov, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Soviet scientist and dissident, was born.

In years to come, today will be marked by the sad news of the fire on the Cutty Sark.

Most important though remains the fact that it is the birthday of Delectable Pet - so pop over to her page and wish her many happy returns for the day.

For those of you who are wondering, the link to Ernest Marples is that on this day in 1958 he announced the introduction of telephone direct dialling making it possible to make a phone call in Britain without the aid of an operator – yes it really was less than 50 years ago, see how quickly things have moved on.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Mainly due to it blowing the link with Ernest Marples out of the water and also because I was just too lazy to go digging any further. In keeping with my position as patron of Campaign to Release Alternate Sorry to the Internet (CRASI), I will just grovel a bit, tell you all sorry and move on. Click to return

NOTE 2: Like it being the birthday of Leo Sayer and Mr T. I’m just not sure that it is fair to unleash these on a poor unsuspecting world. Should anybody be thinking of searching out some audio clips of Leo Sayer – I advise against it. Bleeding from the ears is no fun! Pity the Fool who tries. Click to return

Just a little cryptic something to get your synapses stretching a tad. If I have confused you, well, I’m sorry.

RAF pilots form a 'Diamond Nine' for the first time ever with Typhoon aircraft.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza after ten weeks. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Minefield That Is Statistics

Trying to get his head around the idea.

Can you believe the signs? Do you really want to prove it wrong?

My perfumed yeomen, you could hardly believe it possible, but someone left the cat flap unlocked and Sunday has sneaked in, slipped a patented Nightswerve’s Hangover Inducer into my early morning tea and slapped me around the face with a turbot. I’m afraid that I am not at my glittering best. My body is racked by an almost critical case of man flu while somehow last night I managed to overdose on dried frog pills, alcohol and curry. Such is my delicate nature at the moment, I could be forgiven for hallucinating or slipping off to an alternate reality and teach temperance to elephants.

Thankfully, I spotted my statistical highlight yesterday, before I decided to over indulge. The Yahoo Statistics Goblin has decided that my 360 page has had 100 000 views! (Note 1) Thank you for your congratulations, it all helps against the jack-hammer operating on my temples. Given that Yahoo has chosen to keep the ‘interesting’ label sewn into my underpants, I shouldn’t be too surprised. I imagine that I get a number of the curious drop by, shake their heads in disbelief and hurriedly move on.

Yet, I have also managed to acquire a wonderful and diverse set of friends along the way who have stayed amazingly loyal to my synaptic meanderings – even when I fail to read their blogs or forget to respond to their comments due to some poorly timed synaptic tangent. I thank you all from the depths of my heart – you are all truly amazing and I am humbled that you chose me as a friend.

A Turbot trying to remain inconspicuous after discovering the price placed on his very flat head by posh restaurants.

At this point, I should now go through a huge long list of thank-you’s to all my friends. I should single each of you out in turn, link to your pages and offer up a paragraph or two in praise of your talents – but I won’t. (Note 2)

To get added to my friends list is a very difficult affair. If you don’t have a picture in a profile, you don’t get added. If you don’t spend a little effort on introducing yourself on the invite, you don’t get added. If your page hasn’t been updated in a while, you don’t get added. Yet, if I find your page interesting, then I will add you even if it is in a language I cannot read. This is why my friends list contains people from around the globe (I seem to have a number from Vietnam and Iran for some reason).

On this rather special occasion, I would like to draw your attention to one blog in particular, that of MINH NGOC. I find the photographs there absolutely amazing and well worth a look.

One of Minh Ngoc’s amazing photographs. Please visit his blog.

The fact that I am able to easily include a photograph by Minh Ngoc into my blog highlights a problem with the internet – the easy availability of material.

Earlier this week, I came across a story on the BBC website about Rebekka Gudleifsdóttir who had some photographs she posted on her Flickr page lifted and sold without her knowledge. On her blog she writes about her experience and also includes some hints and tips on how to avoid falling victim if you wish to make money from photos on Flickr.

I suppose that plagiarism will always be a problem and that the internet just makes life that little bit easier. I just hope that if we ever spot our friends being ripped off in that way we will let them know – not that I have the slightest idea what you would do about it!

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: Now if you are reading this on my mirror blog This probably doesn’t make any sense to you whatsoever. For this I issue the sincerest sorry I can muster. I will then remind you of the Campaign to Alternate Sorry to the Internet (CRASI) started by Sean. Apparently I am patron of this effort, so I urge you all to say sorry often in your blogs and ensure that you link to a sorry video. And if anybody out there has any other videos that you think we should be linking to – please let me or Sean know! Click to return

NOTE 2: Sadly, I do not have the energy for that right now and I am not at all sure just how long my churning innards will allow me to sit in front of my computer. Given how long it took to produce the list of the various coloured whelks, it is probably better that I work in short sharp bursts and wander outside occasionally to relieve the pressure by expelling unwanted gasses. Yes, I realise that this is just too much information for a Sunday morning. Click to return

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Confronting the Magnolia Whelk (at last)

The answer is that the smell of rotting fish is produced by Amides. You have to read the entry to understand.

Getting yourself noticed.

Oh my word! It seems, my fine questing yeomen, that I have left the parking brake off a juggernaut!

It seems that my musings over the workings of internet search engines has struck a harmonic chord amongst you – despite being that little bit flawed. I am now faced with the task of trying draw together all the different threads and draw some conclusions to our little experiment in cyberspace. But where do I start?

I suppose, the first step would be to draw together all of the different coloured whelks as there have been a number of additional requests since my last post. (Note 1)

Liss has decided that she is Magenta Whelk.
Lookwhatthecatdragged in is Periwinkle Whelk.
Mousepotato is Shocking Pink Whelk.
Kerry is Asparagus Green Whelk.
Sean is Burnt Umber Whelk.
Lee is Crimson Whelk.
Stu is Caspian Blue Whelk.
BJ is Vivacious Violet Whelk.
Eskimo is Ember Whelk.
Ali R is Turquoise Whelk.
Gypsy is Sage Green Whelk.
Chloe is Ocean Whelk.
Fuzzy Slippers is Aubergine Whelk.
Karma Chimera is Puce Whelk.
Still NoCouch is Sensual red Whelk.
Raenie is Buccinum undatum Whelk.
Irish Erin is Plaid Whelk.
Heather belle is Lavender Blue Whelk.
Padded Cell is Azure Blue Whelk.
Seedrum is Seedrum White Whelk.
Contrary Mary is Baby Poo Yellow Whelk.
Skorpio is Cadmium Yellow Whelk.
Meledesma is Titanium Whelk.

Now THAT is the final, last, definitive, unalterable etched in granite list of the different coloured whelks. My attention span just cannot cope with adding any more or any modifications. Sadly, those who requested duplicates got ignored, sorry.

The next step must be to explain what a whelk is. It seems that the term doesn’t travel 360 well. Quite simply it is a marine snail found in temperate waters and it makes a very tasty treat for Saturday tea. According to the Wikipedia entry, they can be confused with conches. I don’t actually believe that. Whelks are about an inch long and Conches are so big that their shells are blown as trumpets. That would be like confusing a garden shed with Buckingham Palace.

A cute snapshot of my garden shed.

I suppose at this point, I should hold my hands up and say ‘Sorry, Dr. Marriott.’ (Note 2) This is what happens when you let yourself get all carried away with an idea, you forget all about the principles of scientific method. I got all carried away and didn’t really set up any controls which would make the results meaningful. Yes, I have been a very silly old Hector.

In saying that, there were a few observations that I feel I can make as a result of the experiment. For a start, the word ‘whelk’ has a strange effect on my yeomen. Since using the word in my blog, sales of dried frog pills have risen by 17% and sales of Nightswerve’s All Purpose Nerve Tonic by 23%.

The thing is though, you all want to know the impact on Google. Well, I was able to make some observations, even though I am unable to provide the proof that would satisfy the Royal Society. (Note 3)

The only things that I can say are these :-

The more unlikely your choice of words for your ‘Google Bomb’ (for example combining an exotic colour with a sea gastropod) the more likely it will succeed.

Just having the links to a page using the words is not enough – people have to follow the links to get a web page to move up the list on Google

I like to think, but have no way of proving, that not actually having the words for your chosen coloured gastropod on your web page is no bar to moving up the Google list.

Noddy and Paddington being very naughty and teasing one of the guards on my garden shed.

All in all, I don’t think this was my most successful experiment EVAR (Note 4) It hardly ranks up there with the ‘using a paperclip as a fuse does cause electrical fires’ or ‘What happens when you release Amide chemicals in a chemistry lab?’.

For those of you who were expecting me to explain those two – you are out of luck. I have added them both to my prospect lists for future blogs, so you will just have to watch this space!

Now I better be off and have a dried frog pill and a hefty swig of Nightswerve’s All Purpose Nerve Tonic. The mere mention of Dr Marriott has brought on palpitations.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes. Perhaps I should start saying the Crozzy Memorial Standard as it appears that dear Crozzy has left us for interests new.

NOTE 1: There seems to have been a lot of interest in claiming various coloured whelks. Sadly there were a couple of duplicates and there are some which I appear to have lost in the jumble of paperwork on my desk at the moment (Yes, I am one of those old fashioned people who continues to use pen and paper to make notes!). If your particular favoured whelk doesn’t appear here, then all I can say is sorry.Click to return

NOTE 2: Now a lot of my more academic yeomen may be dashing off to discover just who is Dr. Marriott. I should point out that this phrase is a well worn one from my youth. Dr Marriott was my physics teacher. For some reason, he has become a bit of a caricature in my memory. That would make it very unfair to describe him here – I know I am getting on a bit, but I reckon that there is a good chance that the good doctor and his knobbly purple nose is still out there. Click to return

NOTE 3: I should have been more on the ball in the first instance. It seems that I could have got funding for my little experiment. It is comforting to know that there is always going to be funding available for good research. I wonder if anyone thought to mention to the scientists the slight flaws in their plan? Click to return

NOTE 4: For all of those of you who have expressed concern, Evar is alive and well, just rather busy at the moment trying to sort out other matters. Apparently, the monumental Yvette is suing Evar for breach of promise after a remark he made in a fit of passion. I believe that his defence goes along the lines of “Although he meant it when he said he was going to wrap his arms around her, it wasn’t his fault that they wouldn’t reach.” Click to return

Alan Johnston is still held hostage in Gaza. This week saw his 45th birthday.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Captured in Amber

Becky on her Twenty-First birthday. Not the best photograph. Hopefully I will get a better shot or two later.

Synaptic Tangents on Parallel Tracks.

It probably hasn’t escaped the notice of my loyal yeomen that I have neglected writing entries over the last month or so. Alas, circumstances have kept me busy with other, less pleasurable, matters. Today though, I should make a special effort. Today is a very special and important day.

Twenty one years ago today, I drove through my first red traffic light. (Note 1) Perhaps I should make it clear that I am not in the habit of jumping traffic lights. Generally one of the benefits of having a half decent imagination is that you can conjure up images of the consequences of such acts. The thing is that this was part of one of the most amazing days of my life.

It had all started the day before. I’d woken up on my birthday to find my wife had gone into labour. (Note 2) Being young, innocent and rather excited, I had this idea that I would pop along to the local maternity clinic, encourage a bit of breathing, indulge in a touch of gas and air and out would pop the most delightful birthday present.

Things don’t always go according to plan. For a start, in my day expectant fathers were kept away from the gas and air.

Displaying a trait that she has continued ever since, Becky decided to hang on a day before arriving in the world. Not only that she decided to make such a big thing about her arrival that her mother-to-be was whisked across the county to the district hospital in an ambulance with sirens blaring and lights flashing. I was left to keep up as best I could – and as I didn’t know where the hospital was, I ended up following the ambulance through the red lights.

Make a wish

It is difficult to explain the feeling of elation I felt at becoming a father. Or to explain the walking on air feeling I experienced for months afterwards – and remember all of this was without the aid of gas and air!

Today, I am just as proud of my little girl. She’s now turned twenty-one. By all of the accepted social standards she is now grown up. Yet she remains my little girl and I love her as much today as I did the moment she stuck her gunky head into the world and started bawling.

Congratulations Becky (yes, I know you prefer to be called Rebecca, but you will always be Becky to me). Welcome to adulthood. I am immensely proud of how you’ve turned out. You have an unconditional love that a father has for his children and not matter what; you will always be my little girl.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: The UK doesn’t have a statute of limitations on heinous crimes. Not only do British criminals have to live with a guilty conscience for the rest of their lives, they also live in fear that the knock on the door isn’t the long arm of the law catching up on their paperwork. I guess I have just made it easy for them. I guess that I should get ready to say sorry and start working on a good mitigation speech. Click to return

NOTE 2: While I remember, I should thank everyone for their kind birthday wishes. I felt a touch low over the weekend and all you kind wishes lifted me. Thank you all. Special thanks to Kerry, Delectable Pet and NikkiD for publicising the event. Normally I wouldn’t want to be reminded I was entering my 50th year, but yesterday all of the goodwill messages were a real fillip. Click to return

My mascot is on hold while Alan Johnston is still held hostage in Gaza.

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