Saturday, 30 January 2016

I have to say Arse, three times

I have been contemplating many things of late; especially late. You know the dark ponderings that make you wake at exactly 4 am in the morning lathered in a cold sweat. Sometimes I lie there naked trying to control my breathing. Did I turn off the oven? Of course I did, I always turn off the oven. But what if I forgot on this one occasion. I never forget and I always check twice. This is not exactly the case is it Flaxen? You always check at least three times. The third time is after you have left the room for 30 seconds. So that's settled then, I did turn it off.

Then truly a dark thought: What if on this one occasion I forgot. After all, life is governed by chance. Turning off the oven, or engaging in any activity for that matter, is subject to probability. And just because you have performed a particular routine a 1,000 times is no guarantee the sequence will continue. There is only one sure way to tell. Yep, but I'm cosy warm, especially now as the sweat has dissipated into the sheets. I could ask my sleeping partner to check. But even I know that would be selfish. And of course, I know what her response would be. So, I just need to remove the dark thought from my head and get back to sleep. Easy, just need to wash away thoughts of hot ovens from my weary brain with an infinite series of irrational numbers- that usually does it. And anyhow, I'm getting up at 6 am. What harm would it be if I left it on for another two hours? Now you are being sensible Flaxen that befits your self-perception as a rational being. Good, I can get back to sleep. One thing, though. You are aware how hectic things are in the morning? Rush, rush, rush. No time for breakfast; no time for fripperies. All is time organised and in sequence. This is the one time in my life I don't have time to check if I've turned everything off. That is because I don't turn anything on, not even the lights. Luckily I know the layout of my home down to a fine degree and navigate all potential obstacles and toe bruisers with veritable aplomb. A finely choreographed performance executed at speed. Exactly 12.5 minutes from leaving my bed I'm ready to drive to work.

No guarantee that I'd check that the oven was off then. Also, I would have to factor in a further 3 minutes to be absolutely sure. That would disrupt my schedule and we can't be having that, can we?

At this stage, even my befuddled 4 am brain has worked out that the only way to be absolutely certain is to get out of bed and check. And so I slip out of bed, bollock naked and stumble out of the bedroom, down the corridor, in the dark, toward the kitchen. "Yelp". Bloody dog! He is supposed to be in the laundry room. "Loki, go on, get back into your basket". Like all good dogs, he ignores his master and follows me into the kitchen. And there it stands like a shrine resplendent in ceramic and chrome. A beacon of hope shining out to restore my fragile, but fragrant, sanity. Except there was no light. If the oven had been left on there would have been light cascading through the oven glass door, but there was none. So I hadn't left it on then.......unless the bulb has fizzled out. Better check the knobs. Everything completely turned off. Close eyes, count to three: still off. And back to bed. "Loki into your basket". Loki looks at me with big soulful brown eyes, which I can't see, and promptly jumps onto, then into, my bed.

Lying in the dark at 4.20am, quietly satisfied and ready to drift off to sleep to sleep the sleep of the just, it suddenly occurrs to me. We had a takeaway last night. Arse, Arse, Arse.  

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


  Old scientists don't die they sublimate
An old colleague retires this Friday. He has been with the department for 36 years and has enjoyed a distinguished career. As is the custom on these occasions there will be a round of speeches from his esteemed colleagues. I have been honoured to take part and I would like to share with you a little Limerick I penned for the event. I will spare you the 'sensible' part of the 'eulogy'. I use the word eulogy because I suspect that he is the 'type' who will descend into a terminal tail-spin once he no longer works in a job which has consumed his life. Sad but true.

Just some background: Richard (for it is he) consumes a lot of vegetable matter...... Paaaarrp!

There was an old geneticist called Dickie,
who's diet was notoriously pernickety,
The beetroot consumed resulted in a gaseous boom
And Dickie was propelled backwards into eternity.

Old Dickie spent time in the FISH room,
Consuming copious amounts of legume,
The fermenting mass was ever so crass
Releasing a nauseous fart plume

A diet of pulse is not to recommend,
As a legion of co-workers can contend,
The resulting concoction results in eruption
And poor Dickie's colon it does distend.

So if in confined space with Dickie,
Maintaining composure can be tricky,
Don't linger too long in the resulting pong
Or eventually you'll feel rather sickly.

So it's time to farewell our friend,
Who's flatus proclivities do offend,
No longer a song or the occasional pong
Escaping from Dickie's front and rear end

Now you have got to admit that is a dreadful piece of doggerel.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Quantum Entanglement Akimbo

Action from a distance? 
I consider myself highly rational and have no time for loose thinking when it comes to irrational bollocks in all its manifold manifestations. This, of course, is mainly due to my extensive scientific training. Science works; irrational stuff does not. What advances to mankind have been made by religious beliefs or a contemplation of the supernatural? I rest my case.

Science and rational thought describes our world exceedingly well. It provides a self-correcting mechanism which has proved accurate and useful for understanding a highly complex universe. It has wrenched certainty from religious authority and has allowed men to think unfettered by stultifying dogma. We in the West are highly privileged to think this way. To do so came after centuries of struggle with orthodox religious doctrine, and more importantly, religious power. We in the West forget, ensconced in our secular bubble, how powerful and all pervasive the influence of the Catholic religion had on all strands of society just a few centuries ago. The reformation and the burgeoning 'enlightenment' changed all this. The Catholic church is but a shadow of its former self and can only cast a baleful influence on the most primitive and impoverished of its brethren. Not all religions have been ground into the dust, yet. Mohammedism has not changed from its seventh-century credentials. At least, Christianity made an effort and acquired an intellectual gloss. Not so much Islam. We in the West should be justifiably worried.      

Anyway, this post is not about religion (perhaps) but quantum physics. As I said, science explains our world very well, but strangely falls down when we ponder the very large and the very small. The universe may well be infinite. How can our minds wrestle with this concept with all its implications? And when we recede to the quantum world, causation starts to unravel, at least from a rational perspective.

It doesn't come weirder than the phenomenon of 'Quantum Entanglement'. Consider a sub-atomic particle which decays into two particles with spin. According to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, these particles can exist in a variety of states as predicted by a consideration of 'quantum (im)probability'. Once you measure the state of a particle, that quantum state becomes fixed. Therefore, if one of our particles is found to have an 'anti-clockwise spin', then the separated partner will always have the contrary state, in this case, a 'clockwise spin'. It seems that once the particle's quantum state has been determined, by measurement, it somehow communicates this information to the separated partner, which acts accordingly. What is really interesting is that particles can be separated by very large distances and communicate  faster than the speed of light, indeed, it happens, 'at once'. When this phenomenon was first observed in the earlier part of the 20th century it caused a great deal of controversy and consternation amongst physicists, for obvious reasons.         

Einstein acknowledged, but never liked the phenomenon, as it was contrary to his theory of 'special relativity'. And let's face it, Einstein's relativity theories are strange enough without introducing this kind of madness into our 'reality'. The ultimate maximum speed limit of the universe is the speed of light (C). Nothing can travel faster than this velocity, well at least according to Einstein. As a digression, it is wrong to consider the speed of light as a velocity vector. 'Light speed' is best conceived as a limit to causality, a condition interwoven into the very fabric of the universe. This is why the measurement 'C' crops up in equations which supposedly have nothing to do with velocity. For instance, consider the famous equation of Einstein which equates energy and mass: E=MC2. Anyway, as mentioned above, quantum entanglement implies the transmission of information 'instantaneously' between two entangled particles, irrespective of spatial separation. Experiments have found that this 'transfer' must, at least, exceed the speed of light by several orders of magnitude.

Einstein and colleagues thought that information deciding a quantum state was fixed in the initial particle prior to disassociation, although a coherent mechanism was never proposed. Subsequent experimentation supports the causal connection or quantum entanglement hypothesis; poor Einstein was wrong. 

This paradoxical aspect of quantum entanglement is highly perplexing to a rationalist. A scientist trained in the way of causality can only scratch his/her head in wonderment at phenomena which appear to defy the 'rules' of established nature and introduces notions akin to the paranormal. I haven't given up on science just yet. I place 'quantum physics' in a drawer within my head, marked: 'Awaiting further enlightenment'. It is my hope that very clever minds will come up with a plausible explanation. However, there is always the possibility that no explanation is forthcoming. Mayhap our puny intellects are not up to solving this most vexed and impenetrable of questions. If this be the case my 'mind drawer' will gather much dust before disappearing into dust.

Strange, but true. As I was writing this post and as a means of torpid distraction, I quickly checked out my blog. One of my regular readers left a comment about 'Quantum Entanglement'. How spooky is that? Arse.

I don't think we are there, just yet

Friday, 22 January 2016

"Is there life on Tipton"

                                         The early years

The music industry awoke aghast today at the tragic news that: Barry 'Battered' Fritter died yesterday due to complications following a rather poor hair perm. Barry's manager and publicist, Mr Big Cigar, had this to say: "I am at a complete loss for words. Today we have lost a god amongst men, a truly wonderful human being and a veritable rock leg end". Mr Big Nose continued to drone on in this vein for the next two hours....... Mr Big Belly's biography of Barry, entitled: 'Fritter, the wretched, vile excuse for a man', appears in all good bookstores, tomorrow. All proceeds will be forwarded to Big 
Ego's expansive off shore bank account.

Born Star Moondust, to Stock Broker parents, Barry, at the tender age of 43, changed his name to 'Barry Fritter' one beer-encrusted night after reading the menu in his local fish 'n' chip shop. His first clutch of stardom came when he joined the band, 'Spot the Poodle' in 1972. At that stage, the 'Glam Rock' scene was becoming  rampant and Barry decided to change his persona and embark on a solo career. His first album: 'The man who fell in the canal' received critical acclaim from all the regulars in Barry's local pub, 'The Feltching Ferret', in Tipton. Indeed, it is claimed that Barry gained inspiration for the album after a jaunt along the Birmingham to Dudley canal towpath following a heavy midnight 'jam' session at the 'Ferret'.

But Barry's career was marked with controversy and he was once 'outed' as a 'notorious heterosexual' by the tabloid papers. His established sexuality caused derision amongst the avant garde music fraternity, especially as he once publically announced, that he liked sleeping with older women.

Forever the chameleon, Barry effortlessly changed his hairstyle according to directions from his manager and stylist. During the 1970s, he coiffured his barnet into a frenzied extravaganza of lurid bangs. As the 80s burst onto the scene, Barry changed hair stylist once again and adopted a subdued pink bouffant. The 90s heralded a change of pace and the softer style was discarded for a more understated feathered mullet. And who can forget the waxed pompadour of the late 90s. The sad irony, of course, is that Barry's search for trichophillic perfection led to his downfall. For twas during a rather difficult coif teasing session that Barry inhaled deep of the heady fumes of the ammonia paste, gasped and exhaled, no more.....Arse.     

Spontaneous out pouring of grief has occurred in his home town of Tipton. Within hours of the hair cut, banners appeared in the grime weathered streets expressing heart felt comments by a community in mourning. Here are just a few of the poignant sentiments: "Get ya hair cut ya dozy wazack"; "Good riddance yahm dozy soft twat"; "We love you, battered"; etc.   

Denizens of the music industry gushed and waxed lyrical about a star that is no longer with us but has returned to the firmament to cast a guttering dancing light upon the upturned faces of the rest of us poor proles with second rate hair cuts. 

Barry's death comes just a week after release of his album 'Hairspray'

                                                       Take it away Bazza

                                       'Spot the Poodle' in their heyday

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Angel, Dance for me

Must be lunchtime

How many angels can you fit on the head of a pin? Don't laugh, this was a hot topic for debate amongst Clerics, c1332. This is a surprisingly subtle question and raises further questions about the fundamental nature of our existence. Anyway, if angels are not made of matter and are pure 'spiritual energy', whatever that means, then they are without dimension and form and occupy no space. Having said that however, ultimately all matter can be reduced to waves and therefore solid matter is but an illusion, although a very persistent one. What is perceived as matter is really ‘a whizz’ of wave radiation bound by forces which are poorly understood.
But contemplation of angels as 'energy' is not as simple as envisioning angels as photons. Angels are sentient and therefore their 'energy' is not an energy we are familiar with. Angels are supernatural entities and therefore reside outside the natural world and by extension are not subject to causality. Even if we could persuade a host of angels to gravitate toward the vicinity of a pin head they would defy measurement. This is but one aspect of the discourse.
This raises the question of how sentient supernatural beings can interact with us at all. In the distant past angels apparently communed with man; tis in the bible- look it up........
According to the Bible, angels can connect with the natural world and therefore, during this interactive interlude, they must be subject to natural law and hence causation. So, let us take a different tack for sophistry's sake.
"The medieval doctors of divinity who did not pretend to settle how many angels could dance on the point of a needle cut a very poor figure as far as romantic credulity is concerned beside the modern physicists who have settled to the billionth of a millimetre every movement and position in the dance of the electrons."
According to Thomas Aquinas, the ultimate Catholic scholar and medieval ‘Angelic Doctor’, no two angels can occupy the same space. This is in accord with quantum physics and abides with the Pauli Exclusion Principle. The next point concerns the size of the pin head under question: to wit, the size of a standard pin head. In order to move this argument along it is necessary to make an assumption. For our purposes, said size will be a sphere of 1 Angstrom diameter with an associated mass of 9.5 x 10-29 kg. Also we need to note that space is not infinitely divisible. This limit is denoted as the Planck length, or 1.6 x 10-35 m. Next we need to decide the information carried by a standard angel. Note: I have made no allusion to mass. In fact in this simple case, I'm assuming mass-less angels. The introduction of mass into the equation will result in 'reductio ad absurdum- which would make the whole argument just silly. So for our purposes I will assume that angels comprise of 'one bit' of information. They cannot be less than this information limit and logically remain within our reality. There is one last concept to be introduced before we begin our calculation. The Bekenstein bound (k) or universal entropy bound is a limit on the entropy that can be contained in a physical system or object with given size and total energy. It follows: In a system of diameter D and mass M, less than kDM distinguishable bits can exist, where k=2.57686x1043 bits/metre kg. From this we can derive an upper limit of 2.448x105 angels on our pin head.
There are some clever bastards who demand that the angels should be a dancing. This introduces a whole new set of thermodynamic and velocity parameters into our hypothetical situation which will undoubtedly alter the upper limit of angels gyrating on the pin head- basically these bastards can fuck off.


Sunday, 17 January 2016

A hot, lazy, Sunday afternoon.....

Ouch, dat must chafe somethink awfull.

Why do men have nipples? From an evolutionary context, this is an interesting question. In the female mammal nipples have an adaptive function, but in the male, they function, not at all. In fact, why do people, both men and women, have extra nipples? This question interests me as I'm endowed with an extra nipple like appendage.

Early embryonic development is a universal template and until the 6th week of gestation, the embryo is a blank tableau. Hormones at that stage kick in and the foetus will either develop along the female or male pathway. Divergence is in our chromosomes. The presence of the SRY gene on the male Y chromosome is the key. Without the expression of SRY at a critical stage in development, the default pathway is female. Therefore, men have nipples because the original design plan incorporates nipples. For nipples to disappear from the male anatomy there would have to be a selection process against male nipples. Evolution is lazy. If the appendage is not an impediment to reproductive fitness it will linger like a fart on an airless day. Male nipples confer no adaptive advantage or disadvantage for that matter. Not so much as a vestige but a slight impediment. The same argument applies to why women have orgasms. What interests me as a biologist and a man, is why women's orgasms are so hard to achieve, in comparison to the male variety, and when they do cum why it seems more exquisite than mine- I know, it is all about me.

So coming back to the extra nipple. Of course, there is the possibility of other extra body parts; extra toes; fingers; even whole reproductive organs are possible, though rare. Actually, extra nipples are not that rare and occurs in 1 in 500 of the population and interestingly, there is a male bias.  Some perturbation during early embryonic development is to blame. Perhaps a variation on the design plan is at fault and interrelated to our evolutionary past when our ancestors were equipped with eight teats? Tis nothing to get worked up about, although past girlfriends have found it fascinating. Believe me, when you are living with said extra appendage, 24/7, the novelty tends to wear off.

For those that care: my supernumerary nipple is identical to that of the regular nipple, including hyperpigmentation, slight hyperkeratosis with epidermal thickening, pilosebaceous structure of Montgomery areolar tubercles, smooth muscle bundles typical of the areola.

So my variety of extra nipple is inert just like the other two, however, in women, the extra pleasure knob can be functional. To be totally gratuitous I'm going to slide off topic and consider gynaecomastia. This is a very common condition in males, especially overweight males and is often linked to hormone imbalance. These individuals are subject to 'female like'  breast growth and it can be very distressing for those affected. To be honest, if I had this condition, I wouldn't get out of bed in the mornings.......         


Thursday, 14 January 2016

Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

I've been touched

I must let the World know of the one true way. There is only one route to wisdom and strife and that is through the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’- the only pasta deity worthy of your consideration and worship. Take heed and you shall be rewarded in the after-life by being marinated in a rich tangy sauce.

The ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ was revealed to the one true Prophet, ‘Bobby Henderson’ (All Hail Bobby Henderson) in 2005. He had just returned from a heavy drinking session at the local hostelry when the room began to spin and out of the corner of his eye he espied the ‘Noodly One’ which spoke to him as if in a drunken dream. “O mortal, you have been chosen by the one true Pasta to spread “The Doctrine’ and spaghetti sauce to the unredeemed masses”. Henderson, after hearing the unearthly pronouncement, fell into a coma and awoke next day with a head full of demons. There is a price to be paid for communing with pasta and drinking 15 pints of best bitter. Subsequently, our Lord Noodle passed on his Gospel, aptly called: ‘The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’ or the 'Book of Moron'.
A rollicking good read with a few hot gypsies thrown in

The true disciple should be vigilant and tasked with rooting out the heretic dwelling amongst us. Here are just a few of the breakaway sects which have left the true ‘path of light’ (light sauce) wandered down a meandering road which ends in purgatory and inferior pasta…....

The First Church of the Pure Noodle Doodle

The breakaway sect, ‘The First Church of the Pure Noodle Doodle’ differs in their dogma from the devout 'Pastafarian'. Whilst the  devout Pastarfarian believe that the 'Spaghetti Monster' is made from the finest durum wheat, the 'Noodle Doodles', as they like to be called, contend that the most highest is not of corporeal flour but consists of pure ethereal energy, or 'The sauce' (May the Sauce be with you). This doctrine is particularly repellent to the true believer as we believe that we must taste the body of the Spaghetti Monster in order to receive true salivation.

United Pastafarian Church

The United Pastafarians promote love, peace and harmony amongst the various sects. They call for unity and acknowledge that the ‘Great Noodly One’ caters for all tastes and exists in many forms (penne, tagliatelle, and even ravioli); all tomato based sauces are acceptable, regardless of seasoning. Often regarded as the most thoughtful and learned of the various Pastafarian sects, 'The United Pasterfarians’ come together in enclave to debate how many meatballs can be fitted in a can. (standard or large? Meat ball or can?).

Fundamentalist Akimbo  

They aver that there is no pasta based monster except for the ‘One True One’. While the other sects do not rule out the possibility of other food based monsters, the ‘Fundamentalists’ are exclusive and consider a belief in other monsters as the worst form of blasphemy. Believers in ‘manifold monsters’ and especially wheat derived fancies, are deserved of death. This fundamentalist breakaway sect was founded by ‘Reg’. Reg received his revelation on the way to the Tipton Mental Hospital in 2008 where he was struck in the head by a can of spaghetti hoops which sent him temporarily blind.

Reg, once he had recovered, announced a 'holy war' against the infidel non-believer and all who do not recognise spaghetti hoops as the only true pasta in a juicy tomato like base. Reg, recognises Reg, as the one true profit and accepts all major credit cards. Here is Reg's theology in a can. NB: His worst invective is reserved for the original Pastafarians:- "Lo, the unbeliever (cursed be his name) shall be expunged from the earth and his abode strewn with inferior pasta type products. Those vile Pastarfarians who do not repent and worship the 'Hoop' shall be stripped bare, whipped with limpid spaghetti before having their noodle sawn clean orf".

True Pastafarian Doctrine and the Great Schism

Let us be vigilant and not be swayed by the multitude of heretic sects. Adhere to the one true way and you will, in the afterlife, be bathed in a tepid rich tomato sauce and eternally stroked by the Spaghetti Monster’s infinite tendrils of the finest Durum pasta. As for the heretic: they can expect to be marinated in a scalding hot inferior sauce for an eternity.......

For the ‘Spaghetti Monster’ is a jealous Spaghetti Monster and will brook no dissent. HE is the   only true way to salivation. Praise be, 'The Spaghetti Monster'.

Gentle believers, you have been warned- Don't be fooled by impastas!

Monday, 11 January 2016

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.......

His Archbishopness

Meet Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez Plaza of Toledo Spain. During his post-Christmas address to his adoring congregation he raised a few hackles by implying that women are mostly to blame for domestic violence. If only women did as they were told and obeyed their menfolk without dissent, then all this silly violence would evaporate away like a blood spill on a hot summer’s day. He states that violence is often precipitated by a woman asking for a divorce. I suspect that domestic violence may well be the reason women seek a divorce in the first place. 

This sort of pronouncement from a senior Spanish Cleric would have failed to raise a stir forty years ago. Today, however, the Spanish public do not have the same reverence for the Catholic Church as they once had. The rise of secularism, especially amongst the young, and a host of ‘Catholic scandals’ have severely damaged the Church’s credibility and standing in countries once considered staunch and resolutely Catholic. 

Senior Catholic Clergy, such as the delightful Archbishop, are woefully out of touch with the trends of modern society- long may it continue to be so. With every objectionable and recklessly offensive statement by the likes of the Archbishop, the more disenchantment will be sown amongst the Catholic flock. The rot is alarmingly evident to senior Catholic Clergy with eyes to see, as falling church attendances attest. There are those, however, who live in a consecrated ‘time bubble’ and are therefore oblivious to the doom looming over the debilitated relic of Catholicism. They belong to the Middle-Ages, in both rhetoric and deed and are unable see through a carapace of Medieval theology and dogma. Naively, they try to invoke an authority that has dissipated along with the altar incense.   

It is my fervent hope that the teetering edifice that is the Catholic Church will one day topple and become one with the detritus of the irrational and base. Surely, odious remarks from the like of the ‘Good Archbishop’ can only serve to hasten the day.
The baby eating Bishop of Bath and Wells
 I'd like to thank Rosa Rubicondior for bringing the story to my notice.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Tiger Pig, Tiger Pig.....

I'll eat the one on the end, last
Ain't, dat cute. A tiger in a Bangkok zoo adopts and nurtures a porcine clutch. Look they even have matching tiger suits or mayhap tis something that is passed in mom's milk. Whilst tigers have been known to rear piglets, and vice versa, the wearing of coats is not necessary. Instinct and smell is all that is required. In fact, the tiger pictured here was raised by a sow. I am not going to state the obvious: 'She is just making them fat for dinner'. She treats pigs as part of her own species and doesn't consider them prey items, also she is very well fed....

The zoo is being investigated over alleged dodgy practises including the exporting of tigers to China. It seems those inscrutable types have been lopping bits off to sell to other inscrutable types. ''Hey, Wang Choo, don't ya know they are an endangered species. Put them in a registered breeding programme and stop putting tiger bits in your 'medicine'Get thee to the Apothecary, like everyone else". Well, not Mrs Edna Mugumbo of 123 Aras Road, Dudley. She swears by Laudanum and she hasn't had a day's illness since she became paralysed in an unprovoked snark attack, c1983. Please, if you are passing her humble abode, and as a matter of mercy, scratch her itchy nose and place some 'Tiger Balm' on her bed sores.  Sore arse.

                                                                Take it away, Les

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Poe Faced

Fuck, wrong Poo

Poe's Law states: Without a clear indication of the author's intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism.

Cleary both views appear equally insane. Sincerely held extreme views, as judged by 'society's norms', can appear crazy to the average reasonable person- whoever that might be.

As an example consider a raging, rabid, homophobe whose rhetoric and hyperbole demands ridicule even from folk not enamoured with the homosexual life-style. It may occur to clever people and even their not so smart brethren, that this may be a cunning ploy by a 'cloaked liberal' to unearth the true variety of rabid, deranged homophobe. Indeed. However, sometimes a fruit is just a fruit.

The written word lends itself well to the tenets of Poe's Law. This is particularly so of internet exchanges. When being risible over a subject begging to be misconstrued, the occasional 'smiley' or 'wry' face adds context which only the dense and those afflicted with prosopagnosia would miss.

And of course, there is the problem that any sophistically advanced Troll can be indistinguishable from the common nutter; rare beast akimbo.   

Thursday, 7 January 2016

The Devil's Commandments

I expected Moses to look a bit more 'Jewish'

According to the majority of Christian denominations, the Ten Commandments are the written word of God transmitted to the prophet Moses during the Israelite sojourn in the wilderness sometime in the Bronze Age. These sparse regulations have attracted much commentary and interpretation and are supposedly a ‘blueprint’ for appropriate conduct in a civilised society. I will now examine each of these exaltations to lead the good life from the lofty perspective of the unredeemed infidel.

Commandment 1: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

The commandment of exclusivity: You must worship Yahweh to the exclusion of all other deities. What is uncomfortable for Christians is the implicit assumption, made by God, that other gods exist. At the time the commandments were written in stone, the Israelites had no trouble with polytheism. Indeed, evidence suggests that the Jews were originally polytheist themselves. Their ‘theology’ evolved into monotheism over the centuries. And although the pantheon was no longer worshipped, the discarded deities had the annoying habit of lingering on the couch like bad guests after a party.

Commandment 2: Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image, or likeness of any thing that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God is a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands that love me and keep my commandments.

This commandment is quite clear and the ancient Israelites understood it very well. This is why there is no ancient Jewish art of 'human form’ of note. The early Christian church took no notice of this proscription and the Catholic church has never had a problem with iconography and the construction of graven images. Some Protestant sects have taken this commandment more seriously but the Catholics have played fast and loose on this one and can expect some punishment meted out through the generations. On second thoughts, everything will be okay, they just need to repent and the smiting will magically disappear…..

I'm impressed with the deities’ concept of justice. You break the rules and not only do you get punished but also your blameless grandchildren. What sort of fair justice system is that? Could you imagine this principle being upheld in any court of law, in any country which considers itself civilised? Theologians are very good at cherry picking the 'words of God' but have very little to say on God’s providential justice system.

What are we to make of a jealous god? Jealousy is not a characteristic we treasure in our fellow human so why should it be acceptable in a god worthy of the name? Not only is he jealous but he is petulant as well. You had better worship him, or else.

Commandment 3. Thou shalt not take the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Here we go again; God is throwing a hissy fit. I suppose if we bother to take his name in vain we can expect chastisement unto the fourth generation, again.

Commandment 4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Nothing wrong in taking a day off from toil. Even God needed a rest after six days of making stuff. Supernatural beings are people too.

Commandment 5: Honour thy father and mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord God giveth thee.

Nothing intrinsically wrong with this statement even if it doesn't have a ‘get out’ clause. Perhaps a caveat should be introduced: 'Honour your parents unless they are useless, stupid, evil bastards'. As I recall, if you are disrespectful to your parents, you invite death by stoning (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). And then we have the implicit threat: If you are not respectful, you might just happen to accidently slip and be propelled down a disused mineshaft by an unseen guiding hand.

Commandment 6: Thou shalt not kill.

I like this one. Every civilisation has this rule and it is essential for any well ordered society. Also it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. When folk stop obeying this commandment you know you are in Africa. Interesting to note, that God only meant for this commandment to apply to Israelite society; the Israelites were free to kill their neighbours with impunity. In fact God commanded/commended it. And as we are beginning to see, it is not going to turn out well if you defy your capricious megalomaniac all loving God.

Commandment 7: Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Good luck with that one.....

Commandment 8: Thou shalt not steal.

Everything I said about the sixth commandment applies here.

Commandment 9: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

This is probably the most sublime and sophisticated of the commandments. It is about fair play and justice and does not jibe too well with some of the earlier injunctions; laudable nonetheless.

Commandment 10: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covert thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass (snigger), nor anything that is thy neighbour's.

All the other commandments concern deed. This rule is about 'mind control'. Not only should we not steal or sleep with the neighbour's missus, we should not think about it either. Consequently, this has got to be the hardest commandment to keep. As humans we have the gift of imagination and fantasy. If you can switch this off then you are a god yourself, or a moron- take your pick.

So there you have it: The Ten Commandments as interpreted by a mere mortal. Do we conclude that these are rules delivered by a supernatural agent with the powers of omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence or could it be the words of primitive, parochial, savage tribesmen devoid of sophisticated philosophical and scientific principles? If we believe that men make gods, and that they make them in their own image, then we are not looking at theology but an artefact of anthropology. The commandments are a window into the mind of a particular set of ancient barbaric tribes-people and are not due, and do not deserve, any especial reverence.



Sunday, 3 January 2016


Prison is a secure repository for society's mad, the bad and the sad. Gaol is the price we pay for civilisation. Us gentle folk need to be protected from those that don't obey the rules and get caught for their transgressions. Some crims are just too damned smart and never have had their 'collar felt'. And so our prisons become the dumping ground for the less intellectually able of our citizens. Intelligence tests on inmates have shown that the IQ of the prison population is about 15 to 20 points less than the general population. Are stupid folk more prone to criminal activity or do they just get caught more often than their smarter brethren?

There is a genetic condition where males have an extra Y chromosome: 47,XYY, or Jacob's syndrome; I know Jacob by the way and she is not a nice person. It affects 1 in a 1000 males and generally these men are unremarkable. They tend to be taller than the average man and their IQs, as a population group, are lowered by about 20 points. What is interesting though, is that the incidence of this condition in prisons is about 1in 100 males. Originally it was thought that these males were hyper-males due to the extra Y chromosome and that this conferred an aggressive temperament which was responsible for these men getting into trouble. The problem with this hypothesis is that these men are no more aggressive than anyone else. The reason is more mundane. Their crimes reflect the criminal pattern of many inmates: they are petty criminals. Could it be that their lower IQs predispose them to rash and ill-considered actions? Anyway, here is a collection of criminal mugshots for your perusal and viewing pleasure accompanied with dry and droll comment from your gracious host. Arse.

Too much growth hormone
This soon to be incarcerated individual suffers from acromegaly. Due to an excess production of growth hormone, by the pituitary gland, there is overgrowth of the hands, feet and face. This gives the sufferer an imposing and physically impressive demeanour. No bad thing when you are banged up with 'Big Bad Bubba'.

King of the Giraffes

Do I begin with the startle reflex or the long neck? To be honest, I'd be startled with a neck like that. A long neck on a woman is considered desirable in many cultures. Certain African tribes elongate their necks with successive rings. The consort of King Harold of England was renowned for her long neck and was popularly known as Edith 'Swan Neck'. Of course, at some stage, a long neck just becomes a deformity.

Ain't life cruel

This is the face of recidivism. You can tell this is not his first time behind the police camera. This man has spent a long time behind bars and he ain't getting out soon.

Nice lips

I'm guessing that this man has made a lot of bad decisions in his life. He, no doubt, will put it down to society not giving him an even break. Society has got you pegged and you have been banged to rights- no parole.


I always knew he was a bad seed. You can meditate all you like in B wing. Funny but prison issue is orange as well; should blend right in. By, the way, he looks like my uncle Reggie except for the Asian slant. And uncle Reggie is no stranger to 'Strangeways'.

Helter Skelter

Here we have an ageing Charles Manson. What an odious little toad he is replete with swastika tattoo. The tattoo reminds me of an old friend/fiend called 'Bandy'. Bandy is long gone and met his maker after a motorcycle accident. When I was young and very foolish, I was a member of a motorcycle gang and Bandy was also a patched member. I live the idyllic middle-class dream these days, but frankly, it was a close-run thing. The one thing he had in common with the lovely Manson was that he had a crude swastika tattoo on his forehead applied with Indian ink when banged up in Winson Green Nick. Bandy was a character and had the endearing characteristic of being cheerfully violent; O we did laugh. Anyway, Bandy always bemoaned the fact that society was against him and he could never get a job. His lack of insight was a puzzle to me until he told me he had had an intelligence test whilst in prison. Apparently he was a genius and his test score came out at 75. He actually believed you had to double that score to get the desired result. Poor Bandy was doomed from the day he was born.      

Friday, 1 January 2016

Health and Safety

As my regular readers will no doubt be aware, I'm a scientist and have worked in a number of scientific departments and laboratories over the years. In my current laboratory, I am the designated ‘Health and Safety Officer’. The role is supposed to be one of election (at least according to Vol 2: page 201 of the Health & Safety Manual) and staff members are expected to vote for their preferred candidate. Therefore, the best person for the post is always chosen…..Not so, in our lab. As I recall I turned up one morning to be told by the Boss that he had decided that I was to be honoured with this exalted position; so much for democracy. Frankly, I am ill suited for the role.

Anyway, from what I can see the position involves filling out endless forms or submitting reports that no one reads, to Occupational Health. Every year our staff have to submit a ‘Health and Safety’ questionnaire. The questions remain the same every year and thus the ‘lab rats’ keep a copy and send that in, every year. My job is to ensure that they have changed the date. As you can guess there are elaborate instructions for the filling in of said questionnaire. In the Health & Safety Manual (Vol1: page 347) there is a dire warning of doom, in bold and capitals: IF ANY QUESTION SUBMITTED IS INCORRECT THE FORM WILL BE RETURNED FOR CORRECTION AND RESUBMISSION. Last year we decided to test this most gracious of policy in the spirit of quality control. So instead of a correct answer, every single answer to every question, in every single questionnaire was plausibly incorrect. We waited in trembling horror for the admonishing response. The week after submission I received the expected email, with trepidation: “Thank-you for your 100% compliance. The outstanding quality of your department's responses has been noted and you have been selected and recommended for commendation”. ARSE.

We are exhorted by Occy Health (occy, occy, occy) to report any accidents at work no matter how minor. This gives me a great source of pleasure as I record every paper-cut, minor bump and abrasion. Every month at the senior management meeting my delightful Boss is required to assiduously read out all our lab’s incidents much to the delight of the other management types. I hear tell that my boss has earned the nick name, ‘paper-cut’. The Boss once approached me to ask whether all the minor health and safety infractions need to be so meticulously documented. I, of course, directed him to the relevant passage in the ‘Health and Safety Manual’: Vol 1, under sub-clause 12, page 32; methinks he is regretting his decision to appoint. However, as no other bugger in the department will do this job, he is stuck with me. As I said, I am totally unsuited for the position.

In fact, the only time I was contacted by Occupational Health was when three members of staff were gassed during an ill-advised equipment fumigation with formaldehyde. The staff members were promptly wheeled into casualty, where sadly, they all made a full recovery; I dutifully submitted an incident report. Next day I received an animated phone call from the Head of Occy Health stating that due to the severity of the accident/incident I was required to complete forms, 12A, 13D and 21J. In addition, I had to write a comprehensive report on the incident and obtain full medical reports. Bugger- my paper work backed up for 6 months! These days I only submit the most minor of incidents.

I am well aware of the importance of Health and Safety in a potentially hazardous environment such as a laboratory. There are a lot of nasty chemicals to play with (ricin is cool). Pathological samples are an infection hazard and we have a lot of large machines with moving parts and lasers (some of them go beep). That said, much of the Health and Safety I have to deal with is about documentation and pointless and unending meetings and bureaucracy. I work with science professionals, intelligent folk who exercise prudent caution whilst at work, apart from the re-enactment of the Somme ‘Gas Attack’ of the 22nd July 1916- no one’s perfect, after all.

Many years ago when I began my heady career as a researcher, health and safety was not so stringent. In fact, we didn’t have a ‘Health and Safety Manual’ in three volumes; no health and safety representative and in fact, no formal health and safety over and above good old fashioned common sense. Therefore, we used to drink and smoke in the lab; the meat pies were kept an ambient 37 degrees Celsius next to blood cultures in the incubator and every year the revenue free absolute ethanol ended up in the Christmas punch. The wearing of plastic gloves was a luxury when handling blood products and consequently, during my tenure, two members of staff contracted hepatitis B. I'll never forget when the technician became infected with schistosomes after handling wild African snails. Halcyon days. 

The point, I suppose I'm making, is that there is a requirement for a sensible compromise between these two extremes. Clearly, when I began my career, health and safety considerations were woefully inadequate. Now the pendulum has swung so far the other way that we are becoming mired in the minutiae of inane documentation and real 'Health and Safety' has become sidelined. The procedures in our laboratory are so tight, the occasional gassing aside (cough), that there are really no health and safety incidences of any real note. Every year new proclamations and amendments come into effect and are incorporated into the updated Health and Safety Manuals, which no one reads. Bugger, I don't read them and I'm the designated Health & Safety wallah.  As I said, I'm not a very good Health and Safety representative. But I am very good at writing reports and telling the Upper Management what they want to hear. Of course, tis all bollocks, but what would they know.    

   Did I tell you I was not very good at the job? Tis a matter of perspective, I suppose.