User-friendly Terms & Conditions from my bank
=Wednesday, 3 October, 2012=
Have you ever wished your bank would write its Terms & Conditions in plain English? Well, to celebrate the fact that I can now use my mobile to get at my own money, my bank has gone and done just that.
Read More...

Follow me on Twitter.com
=Wednesday, 7 March, 2012=
@ClarkNida – a daily blog.
(If I drop behind, and there's a smell coming from my flat, break the door down.)

Apologies to my readers
=Thursday, 15 December, 2011=
I've been lazy.
So much happening in the news that to comment on it would have been to repeat myself from six months ago.
Will re-open soon with a more focussed blog, avoiding commenting on the news. (The Guardian does it much better than I do.)

Bad dogs
=Monday, 24 October, 2011=
People making spectacles of themselves on the steps of St Pauls Cathedral in protest at “capitalist greed” are venting their ire at the wrong target. It’s like blaming a dog for doing doggy things. There are no bad dogs: only bad owners.
By the same token there are no bad bankers, only bad regulators.
Legislators who for decades have deliberately let financiers off the leash are the people who should now be feeling the full weight of public anger.

Role model - or bankroll?
=Saturday, 22 October, 2011=
With the well-authenticated death of Muammar Gadaffi, the newly-liberated Libya is pitied in the press for its bad start, having no viable state institutions in the wake of the evil clown’s 42 year rule.
Just the opposite: it’s not a bad start, but a fresh start. They can now go shopping worldwide for a constitution, a parliament, a judiciary, a police and an army.
If they are impelled to copy ours, let them take care to make the obvious adjustments to ensure that an MP, no matter how highly-placed, represents his constituents in Parliament, not the last fat cat he had lunch with.

Oh Deer, indeed!
=Monday, 17 October, 2011=
It’s not only New Jersey that’s been having trouble with deer on roads. “Deer could be responsible for as many as 74,000 car accidents in the UK each year, according to new statistics.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15334624
“The Highways Agency has introduced preventative measures in certain hot spots, including warning signs and fencing. It has also been looking at ways to encourage deer to use existing footbridges or underpasses, rather than wander into the road.”
What’s wrong with a big sign saying “Deer: please use the underpass”?

’Minor’ radioactive leak at Dounreay nuclear plant
=Sunday, 9 October, 2011=
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-15222259
Small nuclear incident in far-flung Scotland. Not many dead. Only a few hundred square miles of land evacuated. The PM says keep calm and carry on. The local MP could not be contacted.

Hands off the little dears!
=Friday, 7 October, 2011=
Muntjac deer invasion could cost Scotland £1.9m a year
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-15197277
We’re so keen to put a price on everything. Even if it falls due to be paid in a dubious coinage.
They started culling deer in New Jersey the day I arrived to take up a job I’d been grateful to land.
Read More...

Lost Innocence
=Thursday, 6 October, 2011=
Thanks-a-bunch to the philistines of the recent harbour works for ruining a good walk.
Formerly you could stroll out onto the West Pier in the gloaming and admire the lovely 19th-century sandstone lighthouse rearing up before you in the numinous gloom like the last sentinel before the void.
Now it’s like walking into a bad Christmas tree.
It would be nice to be reassured that the new flashing beacons on these historic monuments will go some way towards reducing the tiresome incidence of ships missing the harbour entrance and piling up on Battery Parade.

’First Irish case’ of death by spontaneous combustion
=Friday, 23 September, 2011=
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15032614
I’m jolly glad I bought myself a fire extinguisher recently. Do you suppose I should take it to bed with me?

They’ve finally got me twittering
=Tuesday, 20 September, 2011=
http://twitter.com/ @ClarkNida

A chilling sight: tomorrow’s archaeology?
=Wednesday, 14 September, 2011=
The ruins of famous classical cities are usually buried deep under modern settlements. Sacked or abandoned settlements were usually rebuilt. The reason why the settlement was there in the first place rarely goes away.
But sometimes it does.
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Stop this wanton display
=Friday, 9 September, 2011=
“A homeowner in southern Sweden got a shock when he found a drunken elk stuck in his neighbour’s apple tree. The animal was apparently on the hunt for fermenting apples when she lost her balance and became trapped in the tree.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14842999
All decent people will join with me in urging the Swedish authorities to put an end to this annual display of unbridled licentiousness among the elk underclass by sweeping up all fallen apples, especially in respectable neighbourhoods. Not only does this disreputable behaviour damage valuable garden stock and pose a risk to traffic but it sets an appalling example to the younger members of the natural community, especially pets from good homes led astray by the antics of their feral cousins. “Nothing but animals” the prime minister today branded them, to ecstatic baying from reptiles on the government benches, warning of a bonfire of environmental support grants and sweeping away of hunting restrictions if these unacceptable practices continue.

Kill the goose for laying the bad egg!
=Wednesday, 7 September, 2011=
The board of Yahoo have fired their CEO “over the phone” because she “hasn’t done anything to change the company’s fortunes”.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14816077
One big thing they could do is kick off the intrusive and irritating movie ads which clutter their site. Using Yahoo email is a distressing experience and the overriding reason I’ve moved all my active correspondence onto Googlemail, leaving the Yahoo account as a honeypot for spam.
I told them so around two years ago. But they didn’t bother to reply – and look where it’s got them. Now I’m waiting for a phone call.

Anything Goes
=Sunday, 28 August, 2011=
Seems it’s remarkably easy to establish yourself as a charity in the USA, with concomitant tax benefits. Stanford University exposé “Anything Goes: Approval of Nonprofit Status by the IRS” lists The 20 Most Eccentric Public Charities Approved by the IRS in 2008. Includes the Woohoo Sistas, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Check it out:
http://pacscenter.stanford.edu/practitioners/published-papers

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!
=Monday, 15 August, 2011=
David Cameron is announcing a review of every government policy following last week’s riots, to ensure they are bold enough to fix a “broken society”.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14524834
In the wake of the Murdoch scandals and the reckless flogging-off of public assets, destruction of public welfare schemes and resultant oppression of disabled people, can we please have a review to fix a broken democracy?

What shall we do with the fumbling leader?
=Sunday, 14 August, 2011=
“If he trips he must be sustained. If he makes mistakes they must be covered. If he sleeps he must not be wantonly disturbed. If he is no good he must be pole-axed.”
Winston Churchill

Whip the gnats and swat the camels!
=Wednesday, 10 August, 2011=
I read that the London riots of the last few days are expected to cost the nation £250 million pounds, and no doubt there’s more to come.
But the biggest national injury will be to concentrate the public eye on the rotten looters who’ve cost us a quarter of a billion, diverting it away from the rotten looters who’ve bled this country of hundreds of billions, corrupting our police and parliament to look the other way. Now the bigger miscreants will slink away scot-free back to their throne-rooms, there to eruct about breakdown of law and order.
We rightly condemn ill-reared children rampaging in their neighbourhoods. But what would we have them do: emulate their betters?

False economy - or dysfunctional economy?
=Tuesday, 9 August, 2011=
There’s an old saying: save on food: pay out on the doctor. You could also say: save on social justice: pay out on the police.
Read More...

Humble pie
=Monday, 1 August, 2011=
I really must learn to curb my penchant for uninformed social comment. It has been all-too-revealing of a simmering anti-American sentiment, which two years as a US resident alien has served only to putrefy. I’ve just discovered that I can download America’s leading satirical e-zine “The Onion” to my new Kindle – and scales have fallen from my eyes.
Read More...

Contempt of court: or for justice itself?
=Sunday, 31 July, 2011=
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14342766
In the murder-investigation of landscale artist Jo Yeates, her landlord Christopher Jefferies was initially arrested as a suspect. Several tabloids straightaway went to work digging up all the dirt they could on the poor man. And when they couldn’t find any, they made it up, calling him “creepy” and “Hannibal Lecter”.
Read More...

Just a thought...
=Thursday, 21 July, 2011=
When the puppet-master’s gone, will the Westminster clubsters just be left dangling on their strings? Or will new puppet-masters emerge to make our “democratic leaders” dance to their tunes?

Forget Greece: watch the USA default
=Monday, 11 July, 2011=
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14111695
Unable to agree on balancing tax rises against welfare cuts, the USA risks defaulting on its debts on 2 August, when the budget runs out.
Some would lay the blame on a ten-year pandemic of reckless greed on Wall Street, kicked-off by the swearing-in of an oligarchic stooge the people hadn’t voted for.
High time for a child in the crowd to question the existence of the Emperor’s attire.
Read More...

Only the tip of the iceberg counts
=Monday, 11 July, 2011=
Landlords owning all 752 care homes in the Southern Cross Group have said they want to leave the group and transfer their homes to other operators.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14102750
So nobody bullies patients in other care homes?
It’s a bit like shutting down News Of The World. Everyone knows that it is (or was) the only tabloid tapping phones.
If you cut the tip off an iceberg, the rest of it sinks without trace and goes away. It’s an incontrovertible fact – and a very convenient one. Just imagine if it weren’t so...!

We may be robots – but we’re liberated robots
=Monday, 4 July, 2011=
Strolling in the afternoon sunshine at Sandsend, I chanced upon a lovely fairy form sunbathing in the long grass. She spotted me coming though, and promptly changed into a patch of flowers...
Read More...

Last orders
=Tuesday, 28 June, 2011=
Sign seen in a bar:
“Those drinking to forget – please pay in advance.”

The arrogance of signwriters
=Sunday, 19 June, 2011=
People continue to get stranded on the Lindisfarne Causeway.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-13830017
But when it happens again and again, might it not be the sign that’s at fault?
Read More...

What exactly is it that earns survival through being fittest?
=Wednesday, 15 June, 2011=
Still munching slowly through Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Found it too heavy-going as a printed book to persevere with. But audiobooks have given me a stomach like a stegosaurus: capable of digesting dense bulk. Particularly on bus journeys and other low-quality time.
Read More...

Why bother to pay them at all?
=Thursday, 9 June, 2011=
Glasgow Council suggests half pay plan for new teachers.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-13704176
Why not a no-pay plan? And not just for the first two years, but their whole career? It would save lotsamoney, besides underlining the public perception of the value of teachers and attracting the best material into the profession.
And if that works, how about abolishing pay and expenses for councillors?

The view from the Red Planet
=Sunday, 5 June, 2011=
At the instigation of friends, I am reading “One Day” by David Nicholls.
Apart from instilling a profound sense of depression, I’m finding it an interesting anthropological study. Are all H. Sapiens like this? And is there any foundation to the rumour there’s intelligent life lurking in various cracks and holes?

Cui bono?
=Sunday, 29 May, 2011=
First Minister Alex Salmond has promised a referendum on Scottish independence during the lifetime of the current parliament.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-13588213
His adviser, Prof John Kay, has however been distinctly lukewarm about what Scotland would gain from full independence.
Read More...

What’s the correct reply to “tioup”?
=Wednesday, 25 May, 2011=
Since trying to strike up a conversation with my neighbourhood blackbird, the birds have been accosting me all over town. The last time was at the top of the 199 Steps, the other side of the river Esk.
They repeat the word “tioup”, at different speeds and volume. Evidently it requires an answer, and I can’t think what it is. Could it be as simple as saying “tioup” back? For all I know, it’s a challenge or an insult, but it sounds way too friendly for that. I’ve been abused before by blackbirds (over the matter of dead rabbits) and then the burden of their message was unmistakeable.

Is matter itself just a relativistic correction?
=Sunday, 22 May, 2011=
I’ve been pondering space-time effects recently.
I’m reminded of a Piet Hein “grook” which sums it up from a subjective point-of-view:

Go on a starlit night,
stand on your head,
leave your feet dangling
outwards into space,
and let the starry
firmament you tread
be, for the moment,
your elected base.

Feel Earth’s colossal weight
of ice and granite,
of molten magma,
water, iron, and lead;
and briefly hold
this strangely solid planet
balanced upon
your strangely solid head.


A Little Bird Told Me...
=Sunday, 15 May, 2011=
Today the blackbird who owns my garden came to say hello.
Read More...

Das Boot
=Wednesday, 11 May, 2011=
Treated myself to the original uncut edition of Das Boot and sat and watched it far into the night, all 4 h 42 m of it. Seen it before, more than once, but never bored for a moment.
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A better world?
=Monday, 2 May, 2011=
Everybody wants a better world. Some of us look to a world where everyone can live in peace and brotherly harmony.
But some folk are convinced it will only be a better world when they kill the people they blame for making it a bad world.
Let us abhor the circumstances which have permitted them to grow up thinking that this is right and just. And where we have contributed to those circumstances, let us cease and desist.

FPTP or AV? A Third Way...
=Wednesday, 27 April, 2011=
Instead of voting for the next regime to govern us, why don’t we pick the party we least want to see in power?
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A Father to his People?
=Friday, 22 April, 2011=
“Putin plan to boost Russia births.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13143523
...He’s going to have his work cut out: Russia’s a big place.

A nasty little campaign
=Thursday, 21 April, 2011=
This morning a mendacious pamphlet dropped through my letterbox, entitled “One Person One Vote”, produced for the NOtoAV campaign.
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Where will they be when we need them?
=Tuesday, 12 April, 2011=
Private shops have started to open gradually in Haramachi-ku. But there’s no sign of any supermarkets opening in the near future.
When we allow our small traders to go to the wall in the face of the march of the monster supermarkets across our countryside, let’s cross our fingers that we don’t get a disaster on the Japanese scale.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13033604

Let’s all sell clothes-pegs to gypsies
=Monday, 11 April, 2011=
HM Treasury’s “The Plan For Growth” (ISBN 978-1-84532-842-9) makes terrifying reading.
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Stealth campaigning for a “No”-vote?
=Monday, 4 April, 2011=
Today I received a booklet by the Electoral Commission, apparently being distributed to all households: 5 May: Local Elections and Referendum (on the voting system used to elect MPs to the House of Commons).
Besides saying where to put your X, it describes the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) and Alternative Vote (AV) systems, with diagrams.
I must say I was unable to make sense of the description of AV, even though I know how it works already, and I have a good education.
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...That was when my soul dropped out.
=Friday, 1 April, 2011=
I have been a lot of different things in my time, including a mental health nurse. It was my job to man the “Three Day Order”: the observation unit to which people with florid mental symptoms were admitted in emergency, awaiting diagnosis by a doctor within the statutory period of 72 hours under Section 29 of the Mental Health Act, 1959 (hence “Three Day Order”).
Read More...

Forever young?
=Sunday, 27 March, 2011=
Mindsets (UK) Ltd ( formerly MUTR Middlesex University Teaching Resources) produces a set of catalogues in PDF form that has taken 60 years off my life and already given me hours of delight.
http://www.mutr.co.uk/catalogue2011.php
A compulsive gadget-builder since the age of 9, I’m fascinated with the stuff you can get these days. Springs that pop out in boiling water, and pop back again as they cool. Plastic concave mirrors and 2-way mirror film. Scratch’n’sniff paint, in various odours. Rare-earth magnets strong enough to levitate a piece of graphite. “Bristlebots” that power a toothbrush head and let it wander around on the tabletop. Plus the fabulous “air zooka”, which blows a vortex of air up to 5 metres. Its inventor, Victorian scientist CV Boys, used to fire it out the window at passing pedestrians to knock off their top hats.
If I had millions, Mindsets would shortly be getting a monster order from me. Or maybe the thing to do is work for them? (They wouldn’t have to pay me.)

Balancing Science against nonscience
=Saturday, 19 March, 2011=
“Overstating the role that scientific evidence should have is most inappropriate when the stakes are highest”.
This Week: Editorials, Nature, vol 471, 10 March 2011, p136.
Does this admission herald the dawn of humility on the part of the scientific community as represented by the readership of Nature?
Read More...

Plundering the natural world: a lesson for us all?
=Wednesday, 16 March, 2011=
“A couple warned by police after their children picked daffodils from a park say they did not know their daughters were committing a crime.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-12757118
Just because it isn’t growing in straight lines, dearies, doesn’t mean it’s free for the taking.
And don’t you come all huffy about it, you miscreants! If it didn’t matter, why was there a law against it?

Sober reflections (or is it a hangover?)
=Wednesday, 16 March, 2011=
Today is the first day of the rest of my life, I tell myself. High time to list my goals and prioritise them.
But as I begin to articulate them, I see I must qualify them carefully because it makes a big difference as to how I go about things.
The results are revealing. A little too revealing.
Read More...

A centre ground that no longer exists
=Sunday, 13 March, 2011=
Nick Clegg will claim the Lib Dems “hold the freehold to the centre ground of British politics” in a speech to be delivered to the party’s spring conference.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12724194
The only freehold the Lib Dems ever held was the key to achieving a representative voting system. They have mortgaged this moral property for a few miserable posts in government, and thus made themselves accomplices of Tory yearnings to use the disastrous results of worldwide financial mismanagement as a cover for a national carpetbagging of our most precious assets.

The ecology of predatory politics
=Tuesday, 8 March, 2011=
Working my way patiently through an audiobook of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. It’s heavy going, but stuffed with hidden gems.
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Stranger in a strange land
=Monday, 7 March, 2011=
I once heard of a man who had no patience with Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet – he thought every damned line was a cliche.
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Wholly predictable
=Friday, 4 March, 2011=
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12645090
“The party [Liberal Democrats] finished behind UKIP, the BNP and an independent as its share of the vote dropped to just over 4%.”
Wholly predictable. Let me repeat what I said in May last year:
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Implementation-defined
=Thursday, 3 March, 2011=
Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature.

It all depends on what you mean by “creepy”
=Tuesday, 1 March, 2011=
An article in a magazine for new mothers that described breastfeeding as “creepy” has drawn widespread criticism.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10434237
Mother & Baby Magazine’s deputy editor Kathryn Blundell said she bottle fed because she did not want to put her “fun bags” in a “bawling baby’s mouth”.
Read More...

A Free Press, or one that charges heavily for its services?
=Sunday, 20 February, 2011=
Just been catching up with BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent.
http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/fooc/fooc_20110210-1145a.mp3
Mark Tully has been finding out about mercenary Indian journalism, demanding to be paid before they will cover stories. By contrast small newspapers which tell objective news have been conspicuously preferred by local people, instead of the major newspapers which present “what the contractor wants you to hear”.
Kate Adie, who introduces the programme, finished with “Humiliated journalists? Villainous television executives? Whatever next?”
Good for you, Kate!

Back to the back teeth
=Tuesday, 15 February, 2011=
I was too dismissive of Whitby dentists in my earlier blog. All the time I was trekking to Scarborough and back, there was a NHS dentist at the bottom of my street. Mind you, it may not have been taking new NHS patients until quite recently, going by a notice I saw pinned-up.
Anyway, I’ve signed-up with them. The trouble with changing dentists is that you have to pay £16.50 each time for an initial checkup (...and there’s work to do: oh, yes!). But then it’s no more staggering back from Scarborough: just a hundred-yard stagger back home.
And... wonder of wonders! The dentist speaks English.

A Case To Go To Court
=Friday, 4 February, 2011=
Today Amnesty International reminded me of what, to my shame, I had largely forgotten about: the Gaza War of 2008-2009.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008%E2%80%932009_Israel%E2%80%93Gaza_conflict
Read More...

The Greeks must have had a word for it
=Tuesday, 1 February, 2011=
On Sunday, consulting Wikipedia in conditions of grovelling distress, I learned a new word: pulpitis. It doesn’t evince a great understanding of classical Greek by the coiners of medical terms.
Read More...

Don’t Cry For Me, Rule-Britannia!
=Thursday, 27 January, 2011=
“The project was nine years late, it saw a cost increase of 300%, none of the nine aircraft were operational, only one was fully constructed and it had not passed its flight tests.” (Sir George Young, Leader of the House, on scrapping the £4bn Nimrod spy-plane.)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-12294766
Can a plane that has never flown really leave such a massive hole in Britain’s defences?
Isn’t this rather precisely the sort of wasteful expenditure the government should be eliminating? Not hospitals, welfare, education...

Lost wax: lost art?
=Saturday, 22 January, 2011=
Our throwaway society, depending as it does almost entirely on factory-produced stuff, is showing welcome signs of cracking up. There is a growing movement for sharing the knowledge to make just about anything yourself on the kitchen table.
Read More...

Best thing out of Scarborough: last bus to Whitby?
=Wednesday, 19 January, 2011=
My day to go into Scarborough to CAB. Not looking forward to the awful bus ride, in cramped smelly conditions, in which I often have to stand. There’s a rumour Arriva have offered £25,000 to Whitby Town Council, and nobody knows why.
Read More...

Return to the stardust
=Monday, 17 January, 2011=
It is staggeringly expensive to repatriate the body of someone who dies abroad. You can’t just book a cheap flight home for the purpose, though people have tried. (“Excuse our companion, he’s not feeling very well.”)
Read More...

Bitter chocolate
=Thursday, 6 January, 2011=
“Cadbury was taken over by American food giant Kraft in February 2010, which had pledged to keep the factory at Keynsham, Bristol open. But days after the takeover was completed the firm controversially announced that it would close the plant and move production to Poland.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-12118639
Read More...

Neanderthal Man Ate Takeaway Pizza
=Saturday, 1 January, 2011=
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12093345
Stunning new discoveries of debris around their squalid dwellings establish conclusively that Neanderthals ate junk-food concocted from pounded grass-seeds plus fermented mammary exudates encased in polystyrene foam, which they lugged home in throwaway plastic bags and washed down with strong lager. It could have taken them centuries, says Dr Fludge of the University of Hull in Scarborough, to discover that food tasted better if the packaging was first ripped off.
Proof positive, if anyone needs it, that our reassuringly distant relatives were coarse brutes of zero intelligence who cared nothing for the environment. Our early ancestors, refugees from hotter climes, had the god-given duty to see them off.
Further evidence suggests however that long before Homo sapiens darkened his horizon Neanderthal Man was in deep trouble and the environment took care of him first.

Let ‘em beg for it!
=Wednesday, 29 December, 2010=
“People could give to charity every time they use bank cards in shops or at cash machines, the government has said. They could also be prompted to give money when they fill in tax returns, or apply for passports and driving licences, the Cabinet Office suggested.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12085506
Reading that, a splendid idea occurred to me. Not everybody is generous, but why should generous people have to fork out on behalf of the skinflints? Why don’t we ask the government to make sure everybody does their bit by collecting a percentage of whatever we spend?
Read More...

Just another thought...
=Friday, 17 December, 2010=
Why do holy books need extensive commentaries and concordances? If we believe in a divine creator who cares for us individually, is it such a leap of faith to believe He-or-She speaks to us in ways we understand?

Just a thought...
=Saturday, 11 December, 2010=
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
Krishnamurti

How do you insure against that?
=Sunday, 5 December, 2010=
Pedestrians in Edinburgh, Scotland had a lucky escape when snow fell from the roof of a Scottish Widows building in the city.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-11922246
That could have made a few Scottish widows!

Fancy a nibble?
=Thursday, 2 December, 2010=
“...After a hard day at work or a busy day shopping, the ultimate treat for tired hands and feet is a relaxing soak in one of doctorfish’s luxury warm water spa tanks where expert Garra Rufa fish will get to work gently nibbling and exfoliating any unwanted dead skin cells, providing a relaxing, refreshing and totally unique spa experience...“
And how about this for the Winter Blues? The Ultimate Relief – stops it altogether – a dip in the Piranha Pool?

Just a thought...
=Friday, 26 November, 2010=
Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing.

Give-em what they deserve!
=Friday, 19 November, 2010=
I remember, as a teenager, reading about a businessman on his way to a fancy dress party, dressed as a pink fairy with tutu and lacy wings. A group of likely lads out for a drink decided that he-she-or-it was an abomination to the Lord, pulled the unfortunate partygoer into the car and beat him up.
In the ensuing court case, one of the accused said “we didn’t hit it any harder than it deserved”...
Read More...

Just a thought...
=Sunday, 14 November, 2010=
At times I think and at times I am.

Farmers Markets
=Thursday, 11 November, 2010=
My friend Chris Lowe recently drew a blank when researching the possibility of Friends of the Earth running a promotional stall at Stokesley Farmers’ Market. They told him there was only space for people selling food produced locally. He drew attention to my email to him on the matter, hinting that it should get a wider viewing. Here goes...
Read More...

Salve, amice de aevo!
=Tuesday, 9 November, 2010=
They laughed when Google added Latin to the list of languages translated into English. http://translate.google.com
Nobody speaks Latin these days, not as their mother-tongue.
Read More...

Just what we always thought...
=Wednesday, 3 November, 2010=
...ITV chief executive Adam Crozier also told the Lords communications committee that ITV’s schedule had a “remarkable lack of diversity”.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-11682164
“I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book.”
(Groucho Marx)

Just a thought...
=Sunday, 31 October, 2010=
Anything that is too stupid to be spoken is sung.
(Voltaire)

Something to crow over
=Thursday, 28 October, 2010=
I was reading yesterday about New Caledonian crows. They take their young along to “tool-schools” to teach them how to make and use sophisticated tools.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9125000/9125227.stm
Read More...

Just a thought...
=Sunday, 24 October, 2010=
The only person to ever get the job done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe.

Don't let’s get too starry-eyed.
=Thursday, 21 October, 2010=
“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”
(Stephen Hawking, on making contact with extraterrestrial beings.)

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy.
=Tuesday, 19 October, 2010=
I stand aghast at myself in attempting a brief book review of this massive opus. At around 56,000 words, it is roughly 7 times the length of a typical piece of commercial fiction (80,000 words, say)...
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What shall we do with the baby boomers?
=Tuesday, 12 October, 2010=
In Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the financial predicament of the cheerful but improvident Rostovs is immeasurably worsened by young Nikolai losing a fortune at cards. This leads to his father not only having to make painful economies such as selling his estate, but—far more damaging in the long run to everyone concerned—it compels the elders to lean on the young folk to marry for money, not love.
The whole of the Western world is presently in the predicament of the Rostovs: our keen young financial wizards having waved a magic wand over our wealth and made it disappear...
Read More...

Just a thought...
=Sunday, 10 October, 2010=
Exobiology grows on you.

A man to watch – most carefully.
=Tuesday, 5 October, 2010=
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-11476301
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/959453.stm
Professor Andrei Geim, of the University of Leicester, has a rare distinction among men of science: he has won both a Nobel Prize and an Ig Nobel Prize. The latter, a spoof of the former, is awarded annually at Harvard for research that “cannot or should not be reproduced”.
Read More...

Tyger economy
=Tuesday, 5 October, 2010=
The government’s plans to cut child benefit to the better-off is getting more vociferous criticism than its plans to deny benefits altogether to many who are currently registered disabled.
This is because the former group are better educated and more articulate than the latter.
Read More...

Clash of symbols
=Sunday, 3 October, 2010=
“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
(Sigmund Freud, on being challenged over his smoking habit.)

No more Mister Nice-Guy!
=Wednesday, 29 September, 2010=
Just been listening to Tony Blair’s book: A Journey. My first impression when I heard the narrator was: gosh, they’ve found an actor who talks just like Tony Blair! Then I discovered it was the man himself reading his own book.
Read More...

Just a thought...
=Sunday, 26 September, 2010=
Spelling is a lossed art.

False Witness
=Thursday, 23 September, 2010=
A truly repellent case of a man framed by a jealous colleague, who downloaded child pornography onto his computer and then told the police and the local newspaper.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-11397515
Read More...

Who is the lucky one?
=Wednesday, 22 September, 2010=
Armed police were called to a house in West Yorkshire (of “Yorkshire Ripper” fame) in response to reports of a panic-stricken woman being attacked with a samurai sword.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bradford-west-yorkshire-11382823
Read More...

Did Count Tolstoy suffer from left hemispheric trauma?
=Sunday, 19 September, 2010=
Thank God for Audible http://audible.co.uk. Without it I’d never have been able to persist with “War and Peace”.
Read More...

Just a thought...
=Sunday, 19 September, 2010=
Only dead fish go with the flow.

Are dying languages worth saving?
=Wednesday, 15 September, 2010=
“Language is the dress of thought,” Samuel Johnson once said.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11304255
The dress metaphor is closer than you’d think, especially when the dress in question is a headscarf or a burka.
Read More...

Whitby Without Words: a film with no actors!
=Friday, 10 September, 2010=
http://vimeo.com/3269003
Beautiful, Nigel. Thanks for that.

The Right Road to Human Rights
=Tuesday, 7 September, 2010=
Amnesty International hopes to get the government back on the “right road” by immediate reform of those measures that have seriously undermined human rights in the last decade. http://tinyurl.com/2vm28yc
Departure from this “right road” has usually been at the insistence of our American allies during the last decade, which is code for saying: during the Bush administration.
Read More...

Small flood in Asia. Not many affected
=Monday, 6 September, 2010=
Question: what has climate change to do with the floods in Pakistan?
Is that a puzzling question to ask? Isn’t there a bigger puzzle over why nobody is asking it?
Has nobody even noticed?
Read More...

Just a thought...
=Friday, 3 September, 2010=
You don’t need a parachute to sky-dive. You only need one to be able to do so again.

Rendezvous with Rama
=Wednesday, 1 September, 2010=
I have just finished the sf classic: “Rendezvous with Rama”. I confess I approached it as a classic: and therefore “required reading” for anyone claiming a knowledge of sf literature. I hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as I did...
Read More...

Journey into the void
=Sunday, 29 August, 2010=
The Chilean miners cannot be released in a hurry...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11120267
Read More...

Just a thought...
=Friday, 27 August, 2010=
I know I’m paranoid, but am I paranoid enough?

A time to live and a time to die
=Monday, 23 August, 2010=
An old couple have been found dead at their home in Northampton. The house was unheated. The man had died from hypothermia (although he had lung cancer) and his wife from a heart attack. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-11056870
Now, one sick old person found dead is happenstance. Two together is redolent of neglect...
Read More...

Just a thought...
=Thursday, 19 August, 2010=
God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.

Tear up regulations: tear up the countryside
=Sunday, 15 August, 2010=
Applications for opencast mining on greenfield sites are likely to increase to meet the UK’s demand for energy, the British Geological Survey has said. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10977640
Notice the payload carried by this information missile: people with the temerity to stand in the way of this irresistible juggernaut are traitors to the UK...
Read More...

Just a thought...
=Wednesday, 11 August, 2010=
A religious war is like children fighting over who has the strongest imaginary friend.

Interlude (2)
=Friday, 6 August, 2010=
This blog will take another week's break.
If you can't have a good break in August, when can you?

Interlude
=Saturday, 24 July, 2010=
This blog will take a week's break.

The Broken Bridge
=Thursday, 22 July, 2010=
Whitby was in a funny mood yesterday. It was muggy and the sea was like a millpond. I went to see a friend who lives the other side of the river. But when I got to the swing bridge it was open...
Read More...

What sort of an offer is that?
=Tuesday, 20 July, 2010=
Passing by my local supermarket, which has been in turn Safeways, Somerfield, Cooperative, and now Nisa, I see a banner in a sloppy typeface suggestive of handwriting which proclaims "NON-offers".
Closer scrutiny suggests that what they intend to say is "WOW-offers".
Which am I supposed to assume: the inarticulate and improbable, or the literate and likely?

Raoul Moat, the maddened gunman
=Thursday, 15 July, 2010=
Raoul Moat was a very sick man who was denied help. Nobody emerges with credit. Not his faithless lover. Not the populace when a man driven to extremes started scaring them. Not the police who tasered him with an experimental weapon which failed to prevent him from shooting himself. Not the tabloid which came out with the headline “Got Him!”. Not the PM who condemned sympathy for him. Not the clueless romantics who want him as a Wild Colonial Boy sort of hero. And not the man himself, who proved as weak as any of us and reacted badly to the injustice of it all.

“Nothing green” about Tesco’s plans
=Thursday, 8 July, 2010=
Whitby Gazette has quoted me twice out of context in: http://www.whitbygazette.co.uk/news/Whitby-store-bids-new-meeting.6401266.jp
The soundbites they choose to print are from a detailed refutation I sent them of the “Whitby Nuns Defend Plans to sell” article on their front page (Tue 29 June 2010).
To see what I really said, see below: A Reply to the Nuns of Sneaton Castle or: http://tinyurl.com/35t5jfg

Facebook Schizophrenia – or Paranoia?
=Sunday, 4 July, 2010=
I’ve been running two Facebook accounts...
Read More...

A Reply to the Nuns of Sneaton Castle
=Friday, 2 July, 2010=
Following this front-page promotional article in a recent Whitby Gazette for a proposed Tesco development:
Whitby nuns defend plans to sell land I sent the following reply to the Editor. Since I now have evidence of the Gazette’s sympathy if not actual collusion with the proposal, I am publishing it here because I doubt it will ever see the light of day through WG columns...
Read More...

The Day Big Ben Stopped
=Wednesday, 30 June, 2010=
The day Big Ben stopped, I was riding in a bus down Whitehall...
Read More...

Things I Love
=Sunday, 27 June, 2010=
Sundowners on warm verandas...
Read More...

Things I Hate
=Saturday, 26 June, 2010=
Putting on clothing unless freshly laundered...
Read More...

The Reproachful Worm Bin in my Kitchen
=Thursday, 24 June, 2010=
There’s a job I’ve been putting off. It is emptying my worm bin.
I lack a garden, having only a shared backyard. It is not something I particularly fancy tipping a pile of worm droppings out on to. Quite apart from the fact that I have no use for compost – at least of the solid sort.
I shall have to obtain a tarpaulin and cram the stinking voidings into plastic sacks: I know someone with an allotment. They tell me they have a lot of use for worm compost.
Liquid compost is a different matter. I can use that myself. There are two ornamental trees outside the front of the house, types of conifer busy evolving into something deciduous. I’m rather proud of them. They are the only trees in the street. Each midwinter I give them a Christmas present: a bottle of worm juice. This is the nasty smelly brown liquid which drains off the food waste as the worms eat it and is meant to be high-grade fertiliser capable of replacing the chemical sort. I can vouch for the fact, because the trees have been responding to my treatment with thick lush growth each spring.
I shall have to think hard about whether I will get this particular worm bin back into service again. It was sold as a junior bin, suitable for a single person households. Or should I buy a bigger bin (they are not cheap) or give up the idea of trying to recycle my own food waste until the Council comes up with some more feasible plan of their own?
It’s a mistake to think that one person living alone only generates half the waste of two people. A whole loaf of bread is too much for me: it starts going mouldy long before I get to the end of it. Likewise it is very tempting in supermarkets to buy more than I need: what with two-for-one offers and double-sized packages which cost far less than twice a single size. I shall have to stop shopping in supermarkets. At least there are alternative shops still available, though for how much longer I dare not say.

“Mission Impossible”
=Sunday, 20 June, 2010=
Does this mean the task of balancing the country’s budget to implore international financiers not to punish us for bailing them out earlier this year?
No – it’s how our army describes the Afghan shambles.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/8748027.stm
(Quote:) The army is anxious to avoid “Basra 2”. In other words, if the US takes over places in Helmand province where the British army has been struggling to bring security, then, just like in southern Iraq, cigar-chomping American colonels may argue they have had to finish a job the Brits just could not.
Britain could easily have palmed the district off on the Americans during a reorganisation of commands last month. But the British army was against it.
Now consider this:
Chancellor George Osborne says Britain is on the “road to ruin” if “tough” action is not taken in the Budget to cut the deficit.
So here’s the agonising choice. Which would YOU do?
1. Save education and social welfare from draconian cuts?
2. Save the army’s face with the Yanks by not pulling out of Afghanistan too soon?
Sounds like a no-brainer, George.

“Much more water” in Moon’s rocks
=Tuesday, 15 June, 2010=
The Moon might be much wetter than scientists had previously thought, according to a new study of lunar rocks.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/science_and_environment/10313173.stm
But they’ll need to find something more expensive than water before they get off their b-t-ms and set up camp there.
Oil, perhaps?

Middle East—or Middle Ages?
=Sunday, 13 June, 2010=
Tim Franks, a Jew and a journalist, describes his problems reporting the enmity between Israel and the Palestinians. Veneration of “The Land” amounts to idolatry. The attack on Palestinian families and houses is a pogrom. Wounding words to a Jew. Yet he deems them appropriate.
“This is the Middle East,” someone tells him. Yes, he replies, but it doesn’t have to be the Middle Ages.

Fostering Innovation on Monkey Island
=Friday, 4 June, 2010=
Sarushima is an island inhabited by monkeys. Ever since the 1950s, scientists have been going to the island... Read more...

Latest Kalkion.com has a story by Clark Nida
=Wednesday, 2 June, 2010=
The latest edition of Kalkion features a story by Clark Nida entitled: We Don’t Come From Here.

The Pop-Pop Man
=Sunday, 30 May, 2010=
The man selling pop-pop boats was back in Whitby Market Place this morning... Read more...

The Joy, or otherwise, of Buying Books
=Tuesday, 25 May, 2010=
Occasionally I am beached in Scarborough for a few hours, with a choice of spending it in Wetherspoons or Waterstones. Alas it is the former nowadays that claims my attention and my money... Read more...

Is Whitby to become a tescotown?
=Friday, 21 May, 2010=
I have let myself be drawn once again into campaigning.
The big supermarket chains have begun a feeding frenzy for the hearts and minds of Whitby shoppers...
Read more...

A Family Reunion
=Tuesday, 18 May, 2010=
I have just come home from a family reunion in Eastbourne. The hotel was fine and the company was excellent.
My mother it was that started the tradition for periodic family get-togethers. No doubt it was her elder brother Charles who suggested it to her. But mother loved entertaining. She loved people—and people loved her. An unsociable little soul myself, I used to wonder where she got the energy from. But she did, and for that I’m forever grateful.
I used to think that everyone called Nida was related to me. In England that is still probably the case, but not in Europe or America. But unlike the size of event my mother catered for, you can’t get the family round one table today. Nor can you get them all in one picture without extreme measures: extreme that is for a family photo shoot. My cousins Hilary and Veronica did a splendid job organising it all. Although they both had that “never again” look at the end, I feel my mother’s mantle has descended on capable shoulders.

Murky Depths #12 has story by Clark Nida
=Thurday, 13 May, 2010=
Murky Depths has a story by Clark Nida in the latest issue (#12): Inner Space. Rick Fairlamb’s illustration for the story is superb! Purchase this issue, or a subscription, and see other stories in the same vein.

A black day for Britain
=Tuesday, 11 May, 2010=
So the Liberal Democrats have sold out to the Tories? What a black day for Britain. They had no business doing anything but forcing through a reformation of the voting system. So the Tories are promising a referendum? What a waste of time. Referenda in Britain simply support the people drafting the question.
A historic opportunity has been lost. People who voted Lib-Dem might as well have voted Conservative. Or Labour, if they had not wanted the Conservatives in power. This puts the foxes in charge of the chicken-run.

What is Prime Minister Gordon Brown playing at??
=Monday, 10 May, 2010=
So Gordon Brown has resigned as leader of the Labour Party, but stays on as prime minister? People who wonder about this don’t know how their own government works... Read more...

The New Parliament: Hanging Together... or Hung, Drawn and Quartered?
=Saturday, 8 May, 2010=
What interesting times we live in!
For the last few months Britain, along with the rest of the world, has had some extraordinary bad luck. For which the government is hardly to blame. Globalisation has led to global financial speculation on an egregious scale. George Soros, who ought to know something about international finance (he made a billion dollars when Britain was forced to withdraw from the European Exchange Rate mechanism in 1992) declared in 2009 "We witnessed the collapse of the financial system[...]It was placed on life support, and it’s still on life support. There’s no sign that we are anywhere near a bottom." This "life-support" has entailed a truly vast transfusion of government money by the British government and others, to bail it out and restore confidence in the market.
The immediate result of this has been to stop complete economic collapse in Britain, but to massively increase the National Debt. Now we’re being told, by the very people who grow fat by speculating on our life-blood by juggling it with the life-blood of other countries, that the government must curb public spending -- indeed "make a bonfire of it" -- the very words I read recently... Read more...

Vote Stupid!
=Wednesday, 5 May, 2010=
A poll of 141 Tory candidates in winnable seats found that “reducing Britain’s carbon footprint” was rated the lowest of 19 possible priorities for a Cameron government.
In Scarborough & Whitby there are no less than 8 candidates running. This could seriously split the anti-Tory vote and let them scrape in again to represent less than half the electorate.
Franny Armstrong, director of The Age Of Stupid, recommends voting Labour if you’re in a Lab-Con marginal like ours, and not going with where your heart really lies, like Lib-Dem or the Green Party. She is also making The Age Of Stupid free to view until after the election, “just in case there’s any voters out there who think this election is about taxes or the economy or which leader has the most photogenic wife.”

Astrobiology
=Monday, 3 May, 2010=
Reading “Life in the Universe” by Lewis Dartnell. (Oneworld Publications) Fascinated by it. For a long time I’ve been interested in questions like: what is life, how would we recognise unfamiliar forms of life and where are we likely to find them? Developing my ideas in isolation as I have done, or what I imagine to have been isolation but could well have descended from a steady rain of ideas from popular science articles appearing in the universe at large, I have been surprised to find that astrobiology is massively popular and is one of the major growth areas of science today... Read more...

The British Election, 2010
=Sunday, 2 May, 2010=
Following the general election on May 6 we will have a new government, and a substantially new parliament. A large proportion of MPs are not standing again. Therefore much of the business of government, the cross-party working which, un-newsworthy though it is, constitutes the bulk of parliamentary business, the careful examination of new legislation in committee, will be in the hands of new people with little experience of working together. The effect this will have on the quality of legislation will be enormous. I for one wouldn’t know how to predict it, except to say that a lot of mistakes will be made at the outset. What I can imagine is that there will be a number of wild imaginative ideas making it onto the statute books. This could be the best thing for British politics in years—or the worst... Read more...

The Volcano and the London Book Fair, 2010
=Saturday, 1 May, 2010=
The London Book Fair had a spacious feel about it. There were plenty of people there, but no crowds, no queues, not at all what I’m used to at international conferences at Earl’s Court. The likely reason was of course the grounding of all flights over Britain because of the Icelandic volcano... Read more...

Anitra’s Petition
=Saturday, 5 December, 2009=
Revised draft (first 10,000 words, or 3 chapters). See: Novels > Anitra’s Petition

What is a crank?
=Saturday, 5 December, 2009=
DEFINITION: someone who is hard at work on Chapter 23 when nobody else has got past Chapter 1.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
=Friday, 30 October, 2009=
A new site has been launched: Shell-Shock.org devoted to all aspects of PTSD among war veterans and serving soldiers. PTSD is the modern name for "shell shock" as it was called in WW/I, when sufferers were most likely to be shot as deserters. Treatment nowadays is a little more humane, but not nearly enough. Sufferers receive social and occupational discouragements from seeking help especially from the MOD, to whom cutting costs associated with Britain’s overseas military commitments figure large, even though there is little sign of spending efficiency in the Ministry itself. In this context, fair treatment for wounded veterans is nothing but an overhead contributing little to operational effectiveness in the short term.
Symptoms of PTSD may not appear until many years after the traumatic event, during which time marriages break up and lives fall to pieces.
The site is overflowing with useful links such as How is PTSD diagnosed? and negative psychotic symptoms.
Readers of Interspex will recall that the hero, Jack, suffers from PTSD, though it must be stressed this is civilian PTSD, not the result of war service. Nevertheless the book represents a careful study of the syndrome, culled from the author’s experience over decades as a mental health professional and volunteer.
See also: The Door Out Of Hell.

Is there water on the Moon?
=Friday, 30 October, 2009=
Larry Taylor, a member of the team running the M3 (Moon Mineralogy Mapper) instrument on India’s Chandrayaan-1 satellite, says that protons in the solar wind are sufficiently energetic to smash oxygen atoms out of moon rocks, which combine with other incoming protons (H+ ions) to form water (H2O).
Readers of Interspex will recognise this as Adin’s Process.

An Evening for Janice
The poetry reading at Whitby Bookshop on Monday 28 Sep 2009 to celebrate the work of Janice Sinson was a great success. Seventeen people came to listen to a selection of poems read by members of Whitby Writers group, which Janice regularly attended until shortly before her death. The day was chosen at the request of Janice’s daughter Jane: it happened to be her birthday. Since Janice had insisted that there be no funeral or flowers, it was felt by all to be a fitting tribute to her life and poetic work.
The poems read on the evening were all from Janice’s volume of poetry entitled Daylight Saving
(Mudfog Press, ISBN 978-1-899503-79-7).

The Poetry of Janice Sinson
An evening of poetry, wine and nibbles, to celebrate the poetry of our departed member Janice.
Whitby Bookshop, Church Street, Whitby,
Monday 28 Sep 2009, 7.30pm--9pm (by invitation only)
Contact me if you would like to recommend someone to receive an invitation,

Whitby Writers Group
starts its new programme of meetings on Monday 7 Sep 2009.
Forthcoming meetings till the New Year:
[28 September 2009 -- private, at Theresa’s house, prelim. Poetry Evening]
5 October 2009
19 October 2009
2 November 2009
16 November 2009
30 November 2009
14 December 2009 – Christmas Party, venue to be decided.


IN MEMORIAM: Dr Janice Sinson
Treasured member of Whitby Writers’ Group.
Died Wednesday, 2 September, 2009, in Heather Unit of Whitby Hospital.


website design:   updated: 22:38 03/10/2012