27 December 2009

noughties

Before this decade runs out of time I want to wish all the regular and occasional readers of my witterings all the very best for a peaceful, happy and healthy new year, and a fruitful and joyful growing season to come. Have fun. Be healthy. Be Happy.

I do not want to be reflective any more
Envying and despising unreflective things
Finding pathos in dogs and undeveloped handwriting
And young girls doing their hair and all the castles of sand
Flushed by the children’s bedtime, level with the shore.

The tide comes in and goes out again, I do not want
To be always stressing either its flux or its permanence,
I do not want to be a tragic or philosophic chorus
But to keep my eye only on the nearer future
And after that let the sea flow over us.

Come then all of you, come closer, form a circle,
Join hands and make believe that joined
Hands will keep away the wolves of water
Who howl along our coast. And be it assumed
That no one hears them among the talk and laughter.
[louis macneice]





03 December 2009

Stern werds

People will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change, according to a leading authority on global warming.

In an interview with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”

Direct emissions of methane from cows and pigs is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas.

Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, said that a successful deal at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases.

It's true. I have been a bit on the windy side lately for a carnivore. Anyway, vegetarians fart more and should be shot at birth. Actually, I was veggie for over 10 years but then I eated a chop I was cooking for mummy and that was it.

Will I be allowed to eat my own chikkins after Copenhagen? They are home grown along with all the veg and they don't fart much and even then I'm sure it won't heat up the planet too much. The vegetables don't fart at all.

Anyway, Her Madges Government is going to build 2 nice clean nuclear power stations 5km from my house and they won't fart either: well, I hope not. They will use IROPI on us if we say we don't want them. What is IROPI? Well, it is a made up thing or things. It means Imperative Reasons For Overriding Public Interest - there can be more than one of them. In fact, there can be several, all at the same time. Isn't that clever? Our Govt is clever.

They want us to have 60 more Gigglewatts by twentytwenty and nuclear power is the only way to get it you know. You did know that didn't you? It isn't because successive administrations have been underinvesting in research and development on renewables and in energy conservation measures for the last thirty years. Goodness me, no. I hope you don't think that.

23 November 2009

Hotel for Worms

The weather is so crap at the moment that even the worms have started complaining. So the clodlet has insisted that we give them adequate shelter during this AWFUL weather.

There is sand, soil, leaf mould, some donkey poo with chopped apple, and some worms......derrr.

So far there are five residents in the hotel but we expect more as word spreads. There are Bob, Jim, Harry, Ricky and Mick and we think they are all homosexuelle worms. They certainly seem very gay tonight.

All rooms (there is one), are en suite. Breakfast is at 8.30.

Religion and Respect

The notion that atheists seek to destroy religion is just plain silly. The notion that ideas can be destroyed is just plain silly. Mostly atheists want to remove the privileged position and influence that religion enjoys in society. They would quite like children to stop being told what they must believe. They see clearly that belief without foundation is dangerous and is a source of division and conflict in the world. They just want a better world: where the miseries of war, bigotry, of endless conflict, (with quite frequent religious underpinnings), is ended. They want a better world for their children to grow up and flourish in. They see religion (most of it anyway), as a stumbling block to getting there.

Religion does not exist in a vacuum; it requires bodies to live in. Those bodies act in the real world to carry out the ideas embedded in the religion. That is why all religions seek to get their ideas in early isn't it? Into education, into children, into the next generation.

Looking around though, I see it (religion) as adding yet another layer of a sort of tribal division to humanity that it can ill afford to sustain into a mllennia in which we are making efforts to do away with the divisions of racism, sexism, nationalism, gender inequality and so on, and trying to negotiate the shared values that we can live peaceably by with each other in a shrinking and over-populated world.

But what do we see? The Islamic youth, head banging their way into a brain washed submission to the will of Allah, and dreaming of the 72 virgins they will get as reward in paradise: after they have blown themselves up, along with as many infidels as possible.

I watch the determined efforts of the creationists to deny every hard won fact from every field of science going, to instill the belief in children that the earth was created 6000 years ago and that the bible is the literal word of God; to deny evolution and the profound knowledge that we are related to all life on earth.

I watch the Catholic church disseminate blatant lies about the role condoms play in helping prevent the transmission of aids.

Need I go on? I have to ask if religion is on the side of humanity at all?

The answer may turn out to be that we couldn't have done without it up to now. It may also be that we would be better off without it and now should learn to take full responsibility for ourselves and our planet before we wreck it completely.

But what about this religious protection racket they have going? The attitude that a legitimate critique of religion can only be attempted by those qualified to undertake it i.e. by those with the right sort of education and experience that equips them for this task.

We do not allow this intellectual dishonesty in any other sphere: economics, politics, art, music, history, psychology. We do not permit psychopaths to claim that only psychopaths are qualified to investigate the condition and that you must be one to be able understand and research psychopathy.

So the so called New Atheists are very frequently accused of being ignorant of the subtleties of modern theology and of mounting ill informed attacks on a subject they really know nothing about, based perhaps, upon their personal dislike for it.

Very rarely, if ever, are such commentators aware of the amount of study, reading, research and self education that has actually been undertaken: preferring to comment along the lines of 'Oh, but you have never read this theologian': 'You have such a limited understanding of this aspect of theological esoterica': or, 'You certainly are not educated, qualified, well informed enough, to comment on this.' And so it goes. They will present an endless list of books that must be read before allowing anyone a legitimate position from which they may criticise religion.

Fortunately, this pseudo-academic rood screen is already crumbling as the natural sciences make steady inroads into understanding religious experience as a human phenomenon.

That boat has well and truly left and anyone seriously interested in the study of religion would be better off booking a cabin rather than sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting 'go away' loudly.

Perhaps some of these links might help those who may be contemplating taking their fingers out rather than just shouting louder and louder to block out the noise.

http://www.wiley.com/bw/journal.asp?ref=0021-8294

http://www.as.ua.edu/naasr/mtsr.html

http://www.cognitionandculture.net/index.php?option=com_content&amp...

There are literally thousands of religions with thousands of truths: all of them different. How do we explain this? It suggests that deep in human history there has been a need, a desire, a requirement, an impetus to incorporate the explanatory power of the divine into human society.

At this point in the human adventure we are developing the scientific and cognitive tools to explore what may be known of the supernatural, of Gods. Have they been just myths to see us through the dark fears of the night: stories to give us courage to explore what may have been and what may be? Are they real? It is worth finding out. If it turns out there is a God, it would have been sensible for it give a much clearer and unequivocal knowledge of its presence. One that would be indisputable to humans, such that they would have no need to fight over and for their God, and no need for their missionaries to spread the word into cultures with different beliefs.

Some say we require religion as the basis of human morality. No we don’t. Morality developed in prehistory and religion was bolted on thousands of years, hundreds of thousands of years later. Morality is about how we treat each other. It developed not in reference to the edicts of a God but as a necessity in the development of humans. We used to live in small hunter- gatherer groups, maybe 100 or 150 strong. A large number of the group would either be family or very closely related. They would have to develop morality to be a cohesive unit, able to support and cooperate with each other in hunting, defence, learning and sharing techniques and keeping the group functional and healthy and able to grow. Altruistic behaviour and moral development in humans was inevitable. When such groups developed into civilisations, Gods could function as reinforcement of the already developed moral code and as an additional reward/punishment system to promote conformity to the code on a large scale.

There is nothing religious about morality. Everything about it is human. But that's a digression.

So, having ousted religion from its occupation of the moral high ground; an occupation which has left society the obligation to clear away the bodies of those it has destroyed, and to repair as much of the abuse and damage as possible to those it has intellectually and emotionally crippled; let's turn our attention to this issue of respect once more.

I want to look at the reactions of the religious community when confronted with criticism; reactions which, as we have seen, border on near hysteria and sometimes in actual violence. Whether examining religions truth claims and evidence, which might support those claims, whether examining religion from a historical or anthropological or scientific approach, the reaction seems to be the same.

Soon after Richard Dawkins published the God Delusion, the market was flooded with books with names such as The Dawkins Delusion or The God Solution. Similarly, when Sam Harris published Letter to a Christian Nation, we saw Letter from a Christian Citizen and many more. The shelves are groaning with these books; the ratio must be something like 20:1.

The tone of most of these books seems be something like 'How very dare you question our beloved faith so harshly, (and so publicly), and not accord it the deference and respect which is its due.'

They often concentrate on attacking the author’s integrity and qualifications to mount such a critique of religion; many of them fail to get to grips with the arguments presented in any meaningful way.

We need to look at the reasons why the religious may feel themselves entitled to their bitter annoyance and to adopt an attitude of hurt and offence when their beliefs are questioned.

One reason is that they conflate the ideas of respect for the person with respect for the opinions, values and beliefs being held by the person.

I teach the clodlet that peoples of all races, creeds, and colours are to be respected, and that the most important thing is to understand how and why and in what ways the values, customs and beliefs of people shape different cultures and how these interact together. There is no requirement placed on him to respect these values, beliefs or customs. He is encouraged to freely question any values, opinions, points of view, beliefs (including mine) without fear of being wrong or that it is inappropriate or impolite to do so.

In the religious context I place no requirement on him to respect the beliefs or practices of different cultures where those beliefs or practices result in direct physical or emotional harm to individuals. I do not need to spell out the obvious many many horrific examples of this in all cultures and belief systems throughout history and today, including our own.

We cannot explain to our children that these terrible things often happen because people have deeply held, yet conflicting beliefs about things, and at the same time, instruct them that they have to maintain an automatic attitude of respect towards those beliefs. That is just an insult to their intelligence and a barrier to their unfettered enquiry and understanding of these awful events. This injuction to an automatic attitude of respect to all belief and cultural norms is actually a hindrance rather than a help to that process.

We do not permit this attitude to hold sway in any other realm of human discourse, political, scientific, social. So how has it come about that religion feels itself entitled to this?

Once the notion of respect becomes harnessed to an ideology, to a religion, it may productively be employed to demand anything between the requirement for you to doff your cap, to the demand that it take over your life and regulate what you may or may not do. In the public sphere, belief per se, has no right to demand or expect such automatic respect. Belief is the domain of disposition, of emotion, of opinion, of how you as an individual view and interpret the world. You may hold to your views with immense passion and conviction. You may sincerely believe that Jesus is the SOG and you will ascend to his heavenly kingdom after you die. That is your affair.

If you think however that possessing this belief somehow makes you a superior human being, or entitles you or your organisation to preferential treatment in terms of tax breaks or privileged access or influence in terms of determining matters of public policy, then you have got it badly wrong.

As I have said elsewhere: I have no idea what a God is. I have never heard one, seen one, smelled one, tasted one or felt one. All I have encountered are the myriad representational ideas of the people who say they believe in God and have a personal relationship with it and who try (or not) to tell me what they mean by that. As believers, I may respect them all equally as humans but have wildly varying degrees of respect for their integrity and views ranging from non at all to a very great deal. But for most of them.......

"...... perhaps ‘God exists’ functions largely as a license to demand respect creep. It turns up an amplifier, and what it amplifies is often the meanest and most miserable side of human nature. I want your land, and it enables me to throw bigger and better tantrums, ones that you just have to listen to, if I find myself saying that God wants me to want your land. A tribe wants to enforce the chastity of its women, and the words of the supernatural work to terrify them into compliance. We don’t like our neighbours,and it works if we say that they are infidels or heretics. This is religion used to ventilate and to amplify emotions of fear, self-righteousness, vengefulness, bitterness, hatred and self-hatred. If this is how the religious language functions, we on the sidelines should not want people to be using it, and we should not use it ourselves."

The interesting thing about respect creep is that it can transform itself from a personal expression of affront into a cultural demand for compliance.

How it does this interesting.

Those who sit in awe and humility at the feet of The Father are taking their instruction from a very personal God. The instruction and the authority come very much from On High, down. This is not some post-modernist God, whose intellectual discourse consists of the unintelligible Godlydegook of the modern theologian: a rather obscure, distant, almost mythological abstract entity, one that you can feel all warm and fuzzy with and about on a Sunday morning but can't quite pin down.

No, for respect creep to work, to have authority, to have teeth, we need a very ontological God. A God with a face and a voice and a temper; a God that sais 'let my people go.....or else'. A God with a good grasp of thunder and lightening technology. A God, above all, who can project wrath, vengeance, jealousy and hatred. A God with the power to grant you the right to your self righteous offence taking; your land taking; your freedom taking; even your life taking. This is the God that the majority of believers have in mind: a God of the common man: a God of the soap-operas.

Must we really respect such a God? Well, let's dig into this respect business a bit more.

Respect is a word with such a wide spectrum of meaning that it requires the analysis of the context in which it is used; a study of the attitudes of the users; an understanding of the power relationship between the users; whether it is used alongside such words as esteem, deference, honor, veneration, admiration and so on, and of course whether it is being used idiomatically or as noun or verb. So you have to keep a sharp eye on all these as you juggle with the meaning.

Some examples:

Appreciation: I respect the guy that gets up at 3am every day, come hail rain or shine, to deliver a couple of pints of milk to my doorstep.

Skill: I respect (hugely) the skill ability and knowledge of the surgeon that carried out the operation on me a few years back.

Law: I respect and obey the law which limits the speed I drive in residential areas. It is there for a good reason: it saves lives.

Privacy: I respect your privacy. I just do. So there.

In the context of this discussion we have to look at the expectations of both the receiver and giver of respect and the power relationship between them.

Example:
Galileo - Hey, waddyaknow? The earth revolves round the sun.
Pope - No, it doesn't.
Galileo - Er.....Yes, it does....look.
Pope - Well....whatever, it's heresy and if you publish you burn.
Galileo - Oh...right....ok, it doesn't.

Galileo's expectation is that fact will be acknowledged as fact (respected).
The Pope's expectation is that Galileo will recant out of respect for the churches teaching on the matter. If that wasn't forthcoming the Pope could carry out his threat: the power relationship is not an equal one.

We should be careful also not to conflate respect with politeness. Up till now, it has been the expectation of the religious to be treated with deference and to be accorded a privileged position in society with the expectation, the demand to be heard on moral, social, political and other questions; that it is their right to command respect.

Any study of history will reveal how closely intertwined are the power politics, the intrigues of state, the match making to get a catholic, (or not), monarch on the throne. The religious were the spin-doctors in the courts of all the kings and queens of Europe and spent much time engaged in the conspiricies to further their religious agenda. So we recognise that religion has had a powerful, a very powerful role to play in history; close to all the centres of power and powerful in its own right.

The Pope expects to be able to make pronouncements on issues such as contraception, aids, sexuality, abortion, sin, climate change, forgiveness, pergatory, limbo (cancelled), and so on, and he expects the world in general to listen to his moral pronouncements and declarations and he expects practising catholics to obey them and hopes everyone else will.

The same is true in the UK but without all the popish pomp and ceremony. The same is true in the Islamic world except that there the Mullahs and the Ayatollahs have much more temporal power and can't half give you a hard time if you don't obey.

What is the expectation of the consumer of the religious product? I imagine it will include such things as community, comfort, solace, guidance, a sense of stability, a philosophy to live by, a way to celebrate rites of passage, a sense of purpose, a hope for justice, moral guidance, forgiveness.

As well as going hand in hand with state authority for a long time, the religious have used many of the same techniques to reinforce and convey this right to privelege and to respect. It is reinforced by the soaring cathedrals; the richly embroidered robes; the divine right of kings, as was; the power of ceremony and the dignity and solemnity of sacrament and ritual; the processions of faith; the authority to mediate between God and man, to grant forgiveness and absolution in his name; the status granted to the leaders of the church in community and in government; the pomp of a televised state wedding or funeral; the fervour of the Hadj; the awesome spectacle of the Kumbh Mela; the reverence for monk with his begging bowl; The sheer grandeur of the whole religious edifice and its claim to moral authority before God commands of you this respect.

The world is changing though, and especially since 9/11, the mood has altered to question this assumption of a privileged place in society and to acknowledge and face the hard truth that belief does have consequence in the real world.

The legitimate concerns of the state are the security and welfare of citizens, defence from threats both internal and external, law and order, economic progress (or lack of), health, education, environment, foreign affairs, transport, second homes, duck ponds, expense accounts, .....you know....politics.

The legitimate concern of religion is the salvation of souls.

Not so very long ago, there was little separation of the two, and the power of the state was readily and regularly harnessed in the service of religion. It still is, in far too many parts of the world.

Why is this a bad idea?

Well, as we all readily observe, there is no consensus on religious claims, even within the same religion, never mind between religions. They are constantly at each others throats with their claims to be sole possessors of the way the truth and the light.

However, the necessity for a minimum of social order and peace requires that the violent impulses of extremists and fundamentalists and the divisions and conflicts between adherents to different religions be contained to a minimally manageable level. Allowing any one religious belief close coupling to state power risks not only the persecution and supression of minority religions - thus creating and underclass of disenfranchised believers leading to further division and conflict and, as we see, bloodshed.

Removing this allows individuals to navigate their route to salvation (whatever that is), while protected in equality and freedoms against all competing religions, which can become immensly powerful. The price you pay for this is that, although your rights and freedoms to worship and practice and witness are protected from state or other persecution, you must relinquish the power you may ideally like to impose on society the dogmas or the morality of your religion concerning sexuality, reproductive rights, stem cell research, condom use, adoption policy, access to control of religious education in schools and limitations to the scientific curricula taught in schools and all the rest.

This also ensures a level playing field where all people of faith or no faith may persue the common goals that all can agree on, while robustly arguing their corner over the matters on which they don't.

17 November 2009

This Much I Know

Pan has discovered the delights of black pudding It is essential to lie down and have someone tickle your tummy to aid in its digestion though.
I find that as well.

06 November 2009

respec

I locked them all up in my cellar today: all the miserable mullahs, the creepy cardinals, the awful archbishops and one putrescent pope along with a handful of purply priests.

I told them all to take off their stupid dresses and hats and to put on boiler suits (provided) and to feed my boiler.

They can be heard whingeing through the floorboards that I am not showing them proper respect.

All their flocks are knocking on my door saying, 'what do we do now?'

'Do good works', I tell them, 'what are you, sheepl?'

'Baaaaaa', they go.

02 November 2009

Beeton Back


Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management 1859 Chapter xx
"Birds, the free tenants of land, air and ocean,
Their forms all symmetry, their motions grace;
In plumage delicate and beautiful;
Thick without burthen, close as fishes' scales,
Or loose as full-blown poppies to the breeze."

"The Divisions of birds are founded principally on their habits of life, and the natural resemblance which their external parts, especially their bills, bear to each other. According to Mr Vigors, there are five orders, each of which occupies its peculiar place on the surface of the globe; so that the air, the forest, the land, the marsh, and the water, has each its appropriate kind of inhabitants. These are respectively designated as Birds of Prey, Perchers, Walkers, Waders, and Swimmers; and, in contemplating their variety, lightness, beauty, and wonderful adaptation to the regions they severally inhabit, and the functions they are destined to perform in the grand scheme of creation, our hearts are loifted with admiration at the exhaustless ingenuity, power, and wisdom of HIM who has, in producing them, so strikingly manifested His handiwork. Not only these, however, but all classes of animals, have their peculiar ends to fulfil; and, in order that this may be effectually performed, they are constructed in such a manner as will enable them to carry out their conditions. Thus the quadrupeds, that are formed to tread the earth in common with man, are muscular and vigorous; and, whether they have passed into the servitude of man, or are permitted to range the forest or the field, they still retain, in a high degree, the energies with which they were originally endowed. Birds, on the contrary, are generally feeble, and, therefore, timid. Accordingly, wings have been given them to enable them to fly through the air, and thus elude the force which, by nature, they are unable to resist. Notwithstanding the natural tendency of all bodies towards the centre of the earth, birds, when raised in the atmosphere, glide through it with the greatest ease, rapidity, and vigour. There, they are in their natual element, and can vary their course with the greatest proptitude - can mount or descend with the utmost facility, and can light on any spot with the most perfect exactness, and without the slightest injury to themselves."

Mrs B could clearly make an outstanding plum duff and if she and Darwin would've exchanged their respective masterpieces for Christmas '59 then they both might have learned something new and interesting.

03 October 2009

Purple Patch


We have a shed load of these purple Arran Victory spuds. They make great mash but don't overcook as they tend to fall apart.

Apple Day



We cooked some apples over the bonfire. They were delicious; warm sweet apple juice dribbling down our chins. Yum.

Ben practiced his survival skills; putting up the tent and setting up camp; lighting the fire with his sparker (one of those thingys you see whathisface use on the telly to light his fires in the wilderness); cooking our lunch on the trangia stove (baked beans) and setting up a camp kitchen. He even wanted to spend the night but I whimped out on that one.

En Suite Allotment

video

I installed en suite facilities for the ducks. For the preservation of modesty perhaps a shower curtain should be next. I don't think shower gel will be necessary. As it's Saturday night I might put in a duckcoteque later so they can strut their stuff to 60's classics. Cleanest, happiest ducks in Lancaster.

03 September 2009

not superduper....

Aghhhh! I don't like it; the nights are drawing in too quickly and it's too wet and cold already.

Get a grip weather - it's only the first week in September for goodness sakes! Plenty of time for a nice indian, if you please.

The picture is 0.5 seconds into the core collapse of a star going supernovae modelled in a supercomputer. At least ours isn't about to do that anytime soon, even if it might help ripen off the last few toms.

Apparantly my little allotment blog is so goddam powerful and subversive, if you live in China, you will not be allowed to access it.

Tested From: Shanghai, China Tested At: 2009-09-0304:56:21 (GMT -04:00) URL Tested: http://sirlancsallot.blogspot.com Resolved As: 74.125.153.191 Status: Failure in receiving network data Response Time: 1.181 sec

Ha ha! Communist Despots. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
Clodhopper is coming to get YOU.

31 August 2009

Pan's in the kitchen


Pan eh? Well that was a bit predictable wasn't it....Lyra's daemon in Northern Lights. I can live with that. Our Pan seems determined to be a vegetarian though as he just loves fresh veg off the allotment. Their guts are not designed for this as they are pretty much exclusively carniverous so you have to be a bit careful not to let him overindulge.

He crawled up my trousers last night and out the top; luckily he didn't eat anything on the way through.

29 August 2009

spooky men

The Spooky Men invaded my local on Thursday night en route between gigs. They sang for their guinness (and their beds), and somehow or other we managed to find enough hovels for them to sleep in.

They take the piss out of a lot of sacred cows in such rich, deep and beautiful harmony that I for one will be glad to have them back any day of any month of any year they care to come. Our two were well behaved anyway - they even stroked the ferret.

I would upload a sound file but you can just find them on u tube nay bother sheila. Come again soon guys!

24 August 2009

Clod's Kitchen (help needed)

There is stuff everywhere in the kitchen. You have to shuffle round like an old man: not because you're knackered (which you are), but because between the bread baking and the dried apple rings and the plum jam and pie filling production lines and the jar cleaning and sterilising a) there is a ferret walking about underfoot (and you might squash it if you move your feet suddenly) and b) there is nowhere to put a mug down to make a damn cup of tea.

Pickings


Plums, peas, apples, tomatoes, beans, courgette and potatoes.

Should be able to concoct something interesting with that lot.

Burnt for Posterity

The clodlet has figured out that digging spuds is hard work but is nontheless proud of his efforts. He even wants sympathy for the war wound. Sheesh! Kids today neh?!



20 August 2009

ripe sunlight


Trays of ripe sunlight sprinkled with salt and dried in the oven. Cover in oil and eat all winter.

19 August 2009

der......brain


I have 100 billion neurons and 500 trillion synapses and none of them appear to be working today.

I suppose everyone has days like that.

13 August 2009

Wiff in the Willows


Where there are compost bins and chicks and ducklings and good places to tunnel and hide from nasty humans, there you will find rats and plenty of them. There are poisons and traps and curious electronic execution chambers you can buy; you can sit there (as some do), with telescopic sighted air rifles waiting patiently in the dusk to blow their brains out; I suppose you could try blowing a shofa (see previous post) and incanting to your god of choice to see if that works - I guarantee it won't.

If all those fail, get yourself a male polecat or ferret and collect its pooh; shove it down the rat holes or make a solution of it in water and spray it round your poultry boundaries. Problem solved. It will keep away the mink, and the stoat and the weasel; and ratty and mole may prefer to go play with Mr Badger too.

shofa, so good

The 50 or so rabbis on this plane are flying around over Israel chanting prayers and blowing horns called 'shofas'. The purpose of this exercise is to stop the swine flu pandemic spreading in Israel. They call it H1N1 disease there as it would not be kosher to call it swine flu as pigs are just so unclean.

Perhaps they think the sound of the horns will resonate with the protein shell of the virus and scramble its innards. Seems unlikely in a sealed pressurised box travelling at 500mph.

Maybe the prayers will be heard and god will zap the virus over Israel or make them all immune or something. Maybe it's just the only way to get cabin crew to bring an iced tea. Who knows?

Perhaps someone should just tell them all about the germ theory of disease and try to help their poor deluded minds recover from their addiction to bronze age mythology and tell them to develop a vaccine like the rest of us.

11 August 2009

polecat

I went to a chikkin auction today and came home with a polecat. Can I get therapy for that sort of behaviour anywhere?

I will train him to sniff out bills of three figures or more and I won't open those.

08 August 2009

m-bay


....and after a hard days work....the sun sets across the bay. It does that every night round here. ZZzzzz.

Peppers


The peppers have a lovely....er.....peppery taste. With a bit more maturity they will be sweet....like me.

In the Greenhouse


The aubergine and peppers are tall this year.

As usual, we let the tomatoes run away with us and then had to give them a severe haircut to get the sunlight to the fruit. They are beginning to ripen nicely now. More sunshine please.

Ducks

The ducklings are all growed up now.

They hoover up duckweed like a dyson on speed.

Mystery Chickin


I think this is probably a Rhode Island Red.

Why don't I know? Well, because one day it wasn't there and the next it was and we had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

None of our neighbours are claiming ownership, no one seems to have lost it, it won't tell us and it seems to want to stay; all we can do is give it a home.

Is it a Rhodey? It looks like one.

07 August 2009

You Do The Maths!!!

1. Teaching Maths In 1970

A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.

His cost of production is 4/5 of the price.

What is his profit?

2. Teaching Maths In 1980

A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.

His cost of production is 80% of the price.

What is his profit?

3. Teaching Maths In 1990

A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100. His cost of production is £80.

How much was his profit?

4. Teaching Maths In 2000

A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.

His cost of production is £80 and his profit is £20.

Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5. Teaching Maths In 2005

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habit of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. Your assignment: Discuss how the birds and squirrels might feel as the logger cut down their homes just for a measly profit of £20.

6. Teaching Maths In 2009

A logger is arrested for trying to cut down a tree in case it may be offensive to Muslims or other religious groups not consulted in the felling licence. He is also fined £100 as his chainsaw is in breach of Health and Safety legislation as it deemed too dangerous and could cut something. He has used the chainsaw for over 20 years without incident, however he does not have the correct certificate of competence and is therefore considered to be a recidivist and habitual criminal. His DNA is sampled and his details circulated throughout all government agencies. He protests and is taken to court and fined another £100 because he is such an easy target. When he is released he returns to find Gypsies have cut down half his wood to build a camp on his land. He tries to throw them off but is arrested, prosecuted for harassing an ethnic minority, imprisoned and fined a further £100. While he is in jail the Gypsies cut down the rest of his wood and sell it on the black market for £100 cash. They also have a leaving BBQ of squirrel and pheasant and depart leaving behind several tonnes of rubbish and asbestos sheeting. The forester on release is warned that failure to clear the fly-tipped rubbish immediately at his own cost is an offence. He complains and is arrested for environmental pollution and breach of the peace, and is invoiced £12,000 plus VAT by a regulated government contractor for safe disposal costs.

Your assignment: How many times is the logger going to have to be arrested and fined before he realises that he is never going to make £20 profit by hard work, gives up, signs onto the dole and lives off the state for the rest of his life?

7. Teaching Maths In 2010

A logger doesn’t sell a lorry load of timber because he can’t get a loan to buy a new lorry because his bank has spent all his and their money on a derivative of securitised debt related to sub-prime mortgages in Alabama and lost the lot with only some government money left to pay a few million pound bonuses to their senior directors and the traders who made the biggest losses.

The logger struggles to pay the £1,200 road tax on his old lorry. However, as it was built in the 1970s it no longer meets the emissions regulations and he is forced to scrap it.

Some Bulgarian loggers buy the lorry from the scrap merchant and put it back on the road. They undercut everyone on price for haulage and send their cash back home, while claiming unemployment for themselves and their relatives. If questioned they speak no English and it is easier to deport them at the government’s expense. Following their holiday back home they return to the UK with different names and fresh girls and start again. The logger protests, is accused of being a bigoted racist and, as his name is on the side of his old lorry, is forced to pay £1,500 registration fees as a gang master.

The Government borrows more money to pay more to the bankers, as bonuses are not cheap. The parliamentarians feel they are missing out and claim the difference on expenses and allowances.

You do the maths.



31 July 2009

Stuff Is Oozing Out Of Our Ground

This lady is spot on. I am going to join the ~Stop Stuff Oozing Out Of Our Ground ~ campaign right away.

07 July 2009

booty


There is not point whatever to this picture of a boot attached to a hairy leg.

I cleaned out the flask in the water butt so the plants will be getting a homeopathic dose of coffee when I next water. The dilution will be about one part in a hundred million so the plants should be totally wired after and not be able to sleep properly. I am a cruel person.

When I fall off my bike, I do not want to go to a homeopathic hospital.

chick crumbs


This chick did not get the pampered treatment of the others and has lived since she was hatched up on the plot.

Since she is doing so well I've come to the conclusion that chicks are much hardier than the books would have me believe.

guttagirls


There is always a use for an old piece of guttering.

28 June 2009

doll with broll



We got up to the plot Saturday afternoon and the heavens opened up.

Rain on hot earth produces the most wonderful perfume that has never been invented.

After the downpour it soon got hot and muggy again though. The soil needed that drink badly. More hot sweatiness next week it seems.

Waddleyouknow


Waddle-you-do and Waddle-you-don't are now proud mum and dad to four beautiful East Indian Black ducklings. There were five but, alas, one didn't make it. She is a fiercly protective mum and launches a full scale attack if you come anywhere near them. The clodlet is obviously very proud too.

23 June 2009

The Wholly Sprt (hic!)


It's great to be bringing bucket loads of lovely fruit and veg home to put straight on the dinner table. These rocket potatoes are just er....out of this world.

I think though, all in all, things may be looking up and I may be spending a lot more time in church thanks to the Bishop or Worcester.

"A senior bishop has backed the move, which is part of a Church of England initiative to put a Christian emphasis on the annual celebration of fatherhood.

Concerns over the lack of men attending services year-round has led clergy to offer a range of incentives today, including free beer, bacon rolls and chocolate bars.

It is the first time that the Church has attempted to treat Fathers' Day in the same way as Mothering Sunday, which has traditionally formed part of its calendar.

The plan to distribute ale has upset groups working to tackle alchohol abuse, but the Rt Rev John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester, said that it could help churches to attract more men.

He argued that the free beer was intended to be symbolic of "the generosity of God".

Men at St Stephen's church in Barbourne, Worcester, will be handed bottles of beer by children during the service. A prayer will be said for the fathers before the gifts are distributed.

The Ven Roger Morris, archdeacon of Worcester, who will be leading the service at St Stephen's today, said that it was a practical way of sending a message to fathers.

"I don't see any other time that we can stop and remember fathers, and this is a gesture saying 'Here's something that will bless you,'" he said. "

I am wondering though, dear reader, whether or not to hold out for the sofa, the plasma screen TV, the bacon bun and a beer before popping along. ~Whaddya think?

03 June 2009

the o'conner chronicles#3

I did get a reply from Cormac. He basically said that his comments on transcendence had been misunderstood (to a certain extent) and that in no way did he wish to diminish the humanity of a first rate chappie like myself. Non first rate chappies though seem to be fair game.

I suppose all the perpetrators of the vileness outlined in the Ryan report are all first rate chappies and chappesses and the extra dimension added to their lives by belief in god simply make them immune from prosecution.

Funny old world innit? Not saying what you mean. Not meaning what you say.

Leads to this sort of thing.

23 May 2009

Irish Times Editorial - 21 May 2009

The savage reality of our darkest days

THE REPORT of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is the map of an Irish hell. It defines the contours of a dark hinterland of the State, a parallel country whose existence we have long known but never fully acknowledged. It is a land of pain and shame, of savage cruelty and callous indifference.

The instinct to turn away from it, repelled by its profoundly unsettling ugliness, is almost irresistible. We owe it, though, to those who have suffered there to acknowledge from now on that it is an inescapable part of Irish reality. We have to deal with the now-established fact that, alongside the warmth and intimacy, the kindness and generosity of Irish life, there was, for most of the history of the State, a deliberately maintained structure of vile and vicious abuse.

Mr Justice Ryan’s report does not suggest that this abuse was as bad as most of us suspected. It shows that it was worse. It may indeed have been even worse than the report actually finds – there are indications that “the level of sexual abuse in boys’ institutions was much higher than was revealed by the records or could be discovered by this investigation”.

With a calm but relentless accumulation of facts, the report blows away all the denials and obfuscations, all the moral equivocations and evasions that we have heard from some of the religious orders and their apologists. The sheer scale and longevity of the torment inflicted on defenceless children – over 800 known abusers in over 200 institutions during a period of 35 years – should alone make it clear that it was not accidental or opportunistic but systematic.

Violence and neglect were not the result of underfunding – the large institutions, where the worst abuse was inflicted, were “well-resourced”. The failure of the religious orders to stop these crimes did not result from ignorance. The recidivist nature of child sexual abusers was understood by the Brothers, who nonetheless continued deliberately to place known offenders in charge of children, both in industrial schools and in ordinary primary schools. At best, this represented what the report calls “a callous disregard for the safety of children”. At worst, it was an active protection of, and thus collusion with, the perpetrators of appalling crimes.

Nor did the abuse continue because of secrecy. Again, the very scale of the violence made it impossible to keep it sealed off from either officialdom or society at large. Contemporary complaints were made to the Garda, to the Department of Education, to health boards, to priests and to members of the public. The department, “deferential and submissive” to the religious congregations, did not shout stop. Neither did anyone else. Indeed, perhaps the most shocking finding of the commission is that industrial school inmates were often sexually exploited by those outside the closed world of the congregations, by “volunteer workers, visitors, work placement employees, foster parents” and by those who took them out for holidays or to work.

The key to understanding these attitudes is surely to realise that abuse was not a failure of the system. It was the system. Terror was both the point of these institutions and their standard operating procedure. Their function in Irish society was to impose social control, particularly on the poor, by acting as a threat. Without the horror of an institution like Letterfrack, it could not fulfil that function. Within the institutions, terror was systematic and deliberate. It was a methodology handed down through “successive generations of Brothers, priests and nuns”.

There is a nightmarish quality to this systemic malice, reminiscent of authoritarian regimes. We read of children “flogged, kicked . . . scalded, burned and held under water”. We read of deliberate psychological torment inflicted through humiliation, expressions of contempt and the practice of incorrectly telling children that their parents were dead. We read of returned absconders having their heads shaved and of “ritualised” floggings in one institution.

We have to call this kind of abuse by its proper name – torture. We must also call the organised exploitation of unpaid child labour – young girls placed in charge of babies “on a 24-hour basis” or working under conditions of “great suffering” in the rosary bead industry; young boys doing work that gave them no training but made money for the religious orders – by its proper name: slavery. It demands a very painful adjustment of our notions of the nature of the State to accept that it helped to inflict torture and slavery on tens of thousands of children. In the light of the commission’s report, however, we can no longer take comfort in evasions.

* * *

Almost unbearable though it may be, it is important that everyone who can do so should read and absorb this report. We owe that especially to those victims who first broke the silence on the RTÉ documentaries Dear Daughter and States of Fear and to those who came forward to tell their stories to the commission. It is to be hoped that, in spite of the failure of the religious congregations to take full responsibility for what happened, those who have suffered have found some comfort in that process and in a report of such unflinching lucidity.

Most importantly, though, we owe it to all who are vulnerable in today’s Irish society. For their sakes, we need to know what happens when institutions acquire absolute power over defenceless people and when the State and society come to believe that it is better to collude in crimes than to challenge cherished beliefs. Mr Justice Ryan suggests the erection of a monument to the victims of abuse with the words of the State’s 1999 apology inscribed on it. That should happen, but the real monument will be that we inscribe on our collective consciousness as a society the two words “Never again”.

22 May 2009

the o'conner chronicles#2

Sorry folks. I am not going to let up on this.

They have 'installed' the new Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nicols, which makes him sound a bit like a new boiler.

It comes a little rich from the outgoing encumbant Cormack Murphy O'Connor who, as one of the leaders of the biggest transnational paedophile ring in history (with personal form -remember Michael Hill?) - sais now that the inability to believe in god is the greatest of all evils, greater than sin itself.

Dear readers, you know how evil I am don't you? For your very souls sake you should stop reading at once and seek forgivness for clicking on clodhopper and reading his vile, bigoted, corrupt and evil posts.

Esther asks 'why do I get so worked up about this'? I will tell you. Because I am sick and tired of, as my friend Philip puts it - "this constant bullying, this constant insinuation that I am a bad person, that I am beneath contempt in the eyes of my fellow human beings."

His words hold echoes of the inquisition - the witch hunts, the torture and burning of heretics. The brutal contempt for those of good hearts who cherish all living things yet are damned to the torments of an eternity in hells fire because of an 'inability' to believe. In a way he is of course correct about belief. As MJ put it "Hitler did not believe in Santa Claus and look what he did". He did however believe in god and his cosy concordat with the catholic church. And now you will want to mention Stalin won't you? Well the whole point about him is that he set himself up as a god on this earth and learned from and adopted the same techniques and tactics as the church I.E. you will believe it, or you will die.

So in the week where it is revealed that 35,000 children in Ireland have been subject to systemic abuse in catholic institutions what would you suppose would make the front page of the Catholic Herald? Well, here are the headlines -

Archbishop calls for new dialogue in Britain

Government to allow vote on assisted suicide

President Obama is heckled at Notre Dame

Papal spokesman: Judge Pope on teaching, not soundbites

State-funded agency insults opponents of gay adoption

......and if you look really hard you find, in small print......

IN THE PAPER THIS WEEK
Archbishop: 'We didn't know child abuse was a crime'

I really am lost for words at this point.

Deliver us from Evil might be a good start.

17 May 2009

the o'conner chronicles

I just had to write to Cardinal Cormack Murphy O'Connor this weekend. He is the head honcho of the cult of misery (aka the roman catholic church in this country). He said in a radio broadcast recently that people without a sense of 'the transcendent' (by which he means god), in their lives, are not fully human. Apart from wanting him to clarify for me why I am not fully human I just needed to remind him that other figures in history have used this terminology as a prelude to genocide, extermination, slavery or other types of behaviour a tad on the discriminatory side.

He really really orta know better than that, don't ya think?

the big wide world






















They all enjoyed a morning outside in the sun for the first time in their little lives. Constant vigilance against prowling cats was required.

10 May 2009

home corner



I set up a corner of the cellar for the chicks as things were getting a bit messy upstairs and they needed more room to romp around in.

They are contained by a bass guitar case and 2 x 100watt speaker cabinets laid end to end. They have an lamp heater but you don't really need it when you can snuggle up under mum's wings to keep warm.

There's a few bits and pieces in there for the chicks to explore to make life a bit more interesting.

When I find out what sort of music they like I might plug the speakers in.

09 May 2009

Our MP


I would like at assure my constituents that all my expense claims have been made entirely within the rules which we made up ourselves in order to spend your money wisely in our your best interests so that I am better able to represent your wishes in parliament. It is essential that MP's continue to receive a second shed allowance while they are perched in London on parliamentary business and £12k on padded bum warmers is a small price to pay for true democratic representation.

06 May 2009

First Days



I'm happy to tell you the chick survived and though still a bit wobblier than the others, she is eating and drinking well and a slight wound on her right flank is healing up nicely. I would have cried if she had died.

For a northerner I am such a soft git!

05 May 2009

Su Chi Ping

When I got back from work at 11 last night the last chick was hatching but she was having a hard time getting out. By midnight she was giving up the struggle and I decided to help her along a bit by gently pealing away some of the outer shell while being very careful not to pull away the inner membrane which is still closely attached to her skin, so thin that it will tear all too easily and she will bleed to death. I thought we'd lost her but I saw the faint fluttering of a heartbeat; though she was exhausted and had given up moving or making any further effort to get out. For the next two hours I held her in my cupped hands and breathed warm air in to keep her body temperature up. By 3am she began to stir and I heard her first 'cheep cheep'. Another hour on and she was cheeping for england, fluttering her little wings and trying to stand on legs that wouldn't quite work yet. At this point I put her back under mum and went to bed for what was left of the night hoping for the best. You can't win them all, but maybe she has a bit of a chance now if mum and brothers or sisters will only be gentle with her for the next 12 hours or so. The others are doing fine now and looking like your classic picture postcard chicks. I'm probably going to bore you to death with chick pics now....so sue me!

30 April 2009

Why Can't You Fix My Car?

Once upon a time, a very long time ago.

The back end of the exhaust pipe was falling off the car so we took it into a well known high street enterprise that claims to deal with stuff like that quite promptly – it’s name is synonymous with popping out for a petit mal during your coffee break – you know who I mean.

‘Ah yes, the back end of your exhaust needs replacing’
‘OK, how long?’
‘Couple of hours’
‘Expensive?’
*shrugs*

Job done 2 hours later. 3 hours later take the car back.

‘It still rattles’
‘Ooo, that’ll be your catalytic converter’
‘how long?’
‘If we order the part today should be done by tomorrow afternoon’
‘expensive’
*eybrow raise* -

Next day - *phone rings*


'They sent the part but it doesn't look right'
'You mean it's the wrong one?'
'Yeah, we'll order another one'
'How long?'
'Another day'

Next day -*phone rings*


'We got the other part but it still doesn't look right so we rang the dealers and they say it's part no 1620041 we need but our suppliers don't have it and they can't get it but we could order one direct from Vauxhall dealer but we'll have to put a mark up on the price and if it's the wrong one they won't take it back.'

'So what do we do?'

'You'd be better off going direct to a Vauxhall dealer then if they get the wrong part its down to them but 1620041 is definitely the part you need'.

*takes car to vauxhall dealer*

'can you fix this?'
'yes, but we haven't got the part but we can order one'
'how long'
'two, maybe three Days'
'expensive?'
'£330 + tax' - *faints*
'can't you do it cheaper?'
'no'

*takes bike out of boot and cycles miles home*

Six days later *phone rings*

'cars ready'

*takes bike out of shed - cycles miles to garage*

'all done' *pays a small bleedin fortune over*

*puts bike in boot and drives home*

*warning light on dashboard lights up and stays lit*

*groans musically*