Saturday, December 31, 2005

Another artificial New Year

Tonight's the last official night of 2005, and tomorrow it will be 2006. The Booze Brothers are out in force, determined as ever to make the transition in a stupor.

Unless you're a Celt, in which case New Year was November 1st. Or perhaps you subscribe to some neo-Pagan belief that New Year starts on the winter solstice? It doesn't matter.

Tomorrow is another day. That's all it is. The New Year is an artificial construct of our calendar system. It means nothing.

I expect many of you will make resolutions nonetheless, and break them within hours. Many years ago I resolved never to make another pointless resolution.

I've kept that one.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Buying a life

It seems lives are for sale. If you want a degree, you no longer have to learn anything, you can simply buy it. The same applies to any other qualification you can think of. If you want to be a baron or a lord, just put up the cash.

Surely it's obvious that these certificates have about as much value as land on the moon?

You try applying to me for a job with a fake qualification and see what you get. The paper means nothing - what I pay for is what you know, and how you apply that knowledge. Having a framed certificate saying you're a PhD does not impress me, nor, I suspect, does it impress any other head of department in the world. Having the skills and knowledge that go with that paper is what impresses me. If you don't have the skills, don't show me the paper.

Unless you enjoy being openly laughed at.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

March of the Morons

The spammers are back. They don't take much time off.

What I have to wonder about is why these spams work? Why does anyone open an Email with 'viagra' or 'rolex' misspelled in the title? How stupid do you have to be to place an order from one of these Emails? Come on, these people can use computers, surely they have at least one functioning brain cell?

Why does anyone even open Emails that come from 'Rancid H. Obscure' or similar made-up names?

The psychology of these hapless punters fascinates me. Spammers say their system works because it sends out thousands, or even millions of ads. It's not as simple as that. You can send out millions of ads, sure, and you'll get a few of the IQ-challenged to read your ads, but how low an IQ does it take to place an order?

If your brain is functioning at that level, you'd better let your dog check your Email.

It's not quantity of ads that keeps the spammers in business, it's the halfwits who respond. The chance of receiving any of the advertised products is far less than 50%, yet there are people who really should not be in charge of a credit card placing orders.

I can see why viagra and penis-enlargement sell. Modern man is conditioned to believe that bigger is better. If any of these products actually worked, there'd be men at the doctors with their bits in a sling, because they'd trodden on the end of it. There'd be pink scarves in winter. At the bar, men could just lay them out like hoses into the urinals so they wouldn't have to interrupt their drinking.

The downside is that if you fill one of these with blood to make it erect, you'd pass out.

You'll never see any of these though, because spam products are scams. The rolex watches aren't real, the cheap software (if it exists) is an illegal copy, the viagra are most likely sugar-pills, and the penis enlargement is just silly.

It baffles me though, why anyone falls for these. I must get a PhD student to look into it.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Humbug day

There's one good thing about Christmas day. The spammers - most of them - stop sending me rubbish for almost 24 hours.

I was so sick of being offered fake Rolex watches, I added 'Rolex' to my 'Delete this Now' system.

It worked for a while - now they spam 'Time Measurement Instruments' or something like that.

I still won't buy them.

In fact, for the next four days I won't buy anything at all because the shops are shut. I have plenty of food and several bottles of Oblivion Juice, and no reason to go anywhere.

Goodbye sanity, I won't be bothering you for a few days. Except to delete the spam Emails every so often.

What I like about whisky is its suppressive effect on psychic ability. I didn't ask for it, I'm not responsible for it, so if I want to shut it down, that's my business.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Science in the doghouse

Great strides in embryonic stem cell research have just been shown to be based on lies.

Not mistakes. Lies.

I don't know how long this link will be active, but here it is:

As a scientist myself, I find this behaviour absolutely disgusting. Oh, I'll hear apologists say things like 'It's all because of funding pressures'- but there is no excuse at all for total fabrication of research data.

What if it had been missed? Twenty years from now, researchers would have struggled to make their therapies work, still referring back to that paper of false data. People would be dying, because those best equipped to save them don't know that all their work is based on false foundations.

Worse, it opens a serious doubt in all (sensible) scientist's minds.

Has one of these liars wriggled through the net? Am I basing my work on someone's fairy stories?

How many of us are pursuing entirely the wrong direction in our work because some filthy glory-seeker decided to skip the experimental stage and move straight to publication? Someone who wrote the conclusions first, then made up data to fit? How many scientific reports, used as the basis for whole areas of research, were simple fabrications?

This man's credibility is destroyed for good, and rightly so. He has brought shame on all of science, not just his own field. He has cast doubt on all scientific work, everywhere. His lies have cut away at the credibility of all scientists. He's not the first, and I'm afraid he will not be the last.

Why should anyone believe me when I report results now? Every scientist is going to suffer the stains of this particular tar-brush.

Science ostracises those who disagree with its dogmas. I've seen this happen. Before Science can criticise any idea, anywhere, it must put its own house in order.

It must be seen to do so.

I suggest a public flogging.

Where do ghosts go in the winter?

Being off work gives me time to think.

It's strange, really. I'm paid to think at work. It's my job, but there's no time to do it properly until I'm away from work. So I'm at my most productive when I'm not at work.

Administrators take note. Scientists work most effectively when left alone. Mountains of pointless forms do not improve our output, hours wasted in worthless meetings do not increase our research income. If you want to improve the productivity of the scientists in your establishment, just get out of the way.

Oh, why bother? Admin, like all parasites, care nothing for the well-being of their hosts.

But I digress.

What I've been thinking about are ghosts. Rather, the lack of them in recent months. There have been very few reported hauntings lately. Can ghosts die, I wonder? Do they fly south for the winter? Is there a current wave of poltergeist activity in Barbados?

Researching hauntings, and other alleged spirit communications, is part of my job. It concerns me when part of my potential income just ups and leaves.

In January I have to go back to work. If there are any ghosts reading this, I suggest you do the same.

If you die between now and January, you'll be doing me a big favour if you haunt someone.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Too short arms.

The solstice is here, and as I'm pretending it's a festival to get away from work, I decided to treat myself to a solstice present.

I bought a CD player for my car. It works as a radio and CD player, that much I understand. It can also play MP3 and WMA, whatever those might be. If I ever happen across one, I at least have the equipment to play it.

It also included a remote control.

I'll pause for a minute to let that sink in.

A remote control.


When I fitted the thing, I naturally placed it in the centre of the dashboard because a) that seemed like the best place for it and b) that's where the hole was when I took the old one out.

I can reach it. I can reach every button on it, even the ones for which I have no idea of function. I can reach buttons I'm unlikely ever to press. Why am I going to scrabble around for a tiny remote control box?

Is it for backseat passengers, so they can override my music selections? Why would I want that? I'm driving, I control the car and therefore the music. I don't want some idiot turning the volume up full just as I'm making some tricky maneouvre.

Perhaps there are people who install their CD players where they can't reach them? There is a word for such people.


If your arms are so short that you need a remote control for your car stereo, you really shouldn't be driving a car.

I think that remote control might become 'inadvertently misplaced'.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas rush

Not the zombie-like shoppers frantically grabbing anything in sight, no. I completed that most distasteful part of Christmas by the end of November, and I did it online. No battling insane pensioners for me, I have Christmas delivered. It also saves a lot of money if you have few friends. Anyone who won't speak to you because they didn't get a bit of cardboard with a robin on the front is no true friend, and you're better off without them.

What I'm talking about is the Work Rush.

Everything has to be finished by Christmas. Before the staff go off on their holidays, before the lunacy of the staff party, all milestones and deadlines (often new and unreasonable ones) must be completed. You're expected to sit at your desk on Christmas Eve, scratching away with your quill pen with one lump of coal on the fire.

Here, and in my previous employment, it is seen as weakness to leave work before Official Closing Time - 2 pm on Christmas Eve. Anyone leaving early is scoffed at. Not by the usual office moron, but by Management. You are obviously not committed. You are unreliable, a slacker, disloyal.

What a load of crap.

Why doesn't this apply when the boss takes a month off in the summer?

It only happens at Christmas. Now, I'm not religious (although I could drop a few hints about Y-chromosome Noah -- Look up Y-chromosome Adam in Wikipedia and see if you can work out what I mean) so the whole church thing doesn't affect me. I don't put up decorations because they annoy me. I don't like turkey. I have a T-bone steak for Christmas dinner.

What does annoy me is the pointless pressure exerted just before this holiday. There's no sense to it. Do they think the world will end on December 25th? Perhaps it's a Pagan race memory. They believed that, if the priests failed, the days would just keep getting shorter until total darkness covered the world. Management are, as everyone knows, gullible simpletons, so that's a real possibility.

That's why, every year, I start my holiday before December 22nd. I tell them I have to be off for the solstice, and leave the rest to their imaginations.

The truth is, I don't want to be there during this silly season.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Threatening letters

I've seen them before, many times, but that does not reduce the level of annoyance I feel when I see them again.

I saw another one today.

I'm talking about the chain-letter Emails that start off by promising you good luck, usually with some nauseating poem or fake Chinese proverb in there for credibility. Or credulity, whichever you prefer. Then they change tone: forward this to everyone in the world or die.

Then you get the 'case studies'.

Mr. X followed the instructions and won millions on the lottery.

Mr. Y ignored the Email and fell down a big hole.

Mr. Z ignored it, fell down a hole, then forwarded it and became rich.

It's a total waste of time. Why do people send these things on?

Because they're scared. Soft in the head, naturally. Credulous halfwits, certainly. But scared.

They're scared that it might be true. Oh, deep down they know it's just some idle oaf with too much time on his hands who's pumping out this nonsense just to annoy as many people as possible.

But there's a part of their minds saying What if...

So they forward it. They don't win the lottery. They don't get rich. At least they don't fall down a big hole. Most of them, anyway. The most they succeed in doing is in annoying intelligent people and frightening stupid ones.

If you want to be frightened, read a scary story. You can do that without bothering me. Try this one:

In fact, have a good old browse through and get yourself really scared.

It's better than reading your Emails.

What annoys me most of all about chain Emails is that anyone thinks I will appreciate receiving one of these things.

That's deeply insulting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Reality TV

What a load of crap.

Television programme designers have become lazy. Rather than put some effort into providing entertainment, they choose to film the dreary activities of the chronically stupid. Why do they think people watch TV?

To escape from reality! We have real life to deal with every day. Why watch more of it in the evening?

What kind of thinking-challenged people sit and watch the daily doings of others? We used to call such people voyeurs - now we call them 'audience'.

Bring back escapism. Perhaps that will force a few people to actually think about what they're seeing. Perhaps, if people stop watching 'real-life' bad behaviour, they won't start thinking it's normal, and that it's okay to behave like witless wonders in their own lives.

There's only one reality to reality TV.

It's really crap.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Christmas tree paradox

This baffles me every year.

Why do people put Christmas trees up in their houses? it has absolutely nothing to do with the Christian religion they pretend to follow.

There is no Santa in the Bible, although there is an anagram of that name on a few pages. Funnily enough, he wears red and only comes out at night. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Santa's origins are pagan. Forget Saint Nicholas, the attribution of Santa to Saint Nick was added later by Christian authors to cover up a tradition they were unable to stamp out when they converted the British to Christianity. And no, it’s not true that Coca-Cola invented Santa either.

Personally, I prefer the originals, which still exist in some places. The principle is the same – the good children get presents – but the bad ones get taken away in Santa’s sack. Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if that still worked?

It's interesting to note that the Celtic religions were so close in format and belief to Christianity that assimilation was easy. The Celtic sun god, Hu, even had an only son. His name was Hesus.

So the Christian preachers had an easy time of it at first. It was only when they decided to abolish the old Pagan rituals that they ran into trouble. Easter was once the fertility ritual associated with Beltane. That's why all good Christians still give each other chocolate eggs and rabbits for Easter. These are Pagan fertility symbols.

At the midwinter solstice, December 22nd, the Pagan priests performed rituals to stop the shortening of the days and bring back the sunshine. This is where the Oak King takes power over the Holly King. Under the Oak King's rule, days get longer. Under the Holly King's rule, they get shorter. The ritual involved an animal sacrifice. The animal's entrails were then draped over the branches of trees as offerings to the gods.

Well, that explains tinsel.

When you drape tinsel over your tree, you're re-enacting an ancient ritual. The tinsel represents the steaming guts of a freshly killed sheep, or perhaps goat. What the other baubles represent, I leave to your imagination.

The Christmas feast is Pagan too, as is the giving of gifts. The whole thing is one long Pagan festival where the priests magically stop the shortening of the days.

Well, the people of the time would have no reason to doubt it. The priests perform their ritual, the daylight hours get longer. It worked for them. Most likely, the priests knew exactly what would happen and when – they would not have known why, having no knowledge of orbital paths and so on, but they knew the ritual would definitely work every year. Their power over the common man was assured.

Did they ever wonder if the day length would still increase if they left out that ritual? Would they dare try? Most likely not, which is probably why Christianity didn’t manage to kill it.

So Christianity assimilated it. They called it the date of the Birth of Christ, which is patently ridiculous. Shepherds tending their flocks in the fields – in December?

Well, there’s still the paradox of the tree. Christianity makes no mention of the Norway spruce. Pagans may well have worshipped this tree, but they would not have cut one off at the roots and watched it die in their living rooms. The trees they decorated were outside, alive, and stayed that way.

That’s the last great mystery of Christmas. Why has it become a protracted tree-killing ritual?

Maybe we’ll never know.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

One for the cryptozoologists

In Borneo there have been sightings of what is presumed to be an entirely new species of carnivore. Even the local people don't know what it is. Recently, a new species of ape was found in central Africa.

I wonder why the cryptozoologists don't make more of these finds? They never say a word. For centuries, tales of the Kraken were laughed at. Then science discovers the giant squid and their mockery of the old sailors is suddenly forgotten. They won't say there's any connection between giant squid and kraken, just like most won't admit there could be a very strong connection between sea serpents and oarfish.

So why no word from the cryptozoologists when the tables are turned? There are, quite clearly, animals out there we haven't seen yet. Mainstream science keeps finding them, and claiming the find as their own.

Why do mainstream scientists dismiss and ridicule stories of creatures just because they aren't in their learned journals?

Because most scientists are pompous, self-important, smug, and above all, religious.

Religious? Did I say that?

Yes indeed. They are fundamentalist dogma-followers. Their blinkers have never been so tight. If they haven't seen it, it doesn't exist.

Come on, cryptozoologists. The Borneo red cat is a perfect chance. A few scientists have seen it, but local people have no knowledge of it.

Revenge time, all you downtrodden open minds. Tell them that since nobody else has seen this cat, it doesn't exist. Shout their own mantra back at them from the rooftops.

Phoographs can be faked.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ground space

Global warming or no, I've decided to be cremated when I die. Besides, any excess carbon dioxide produced by burning me is more than compensated for by Orson. He's such an effective carbon sink he should get a grant. There must be thousands of cubic litres of carbon dioxide locked up in his folds and flab.

Anyway, I've decided to be cremated. I want Elaine to take my ashes and throw them in Orson's face.

So I can get up his nose, one last time.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Regulation S (for Sucker)

Yet another phone call. How do these morons find me?

This one insisted that I could make a fortune if I let them offload a truckload of worthless shares on me. They're US shares, of course, and they come under Regulation S.

If I bought them, I'd have a share in a company so worthless that it is illegal for US brokers to sell them to US citizens. It's not, apparently, illegal for these same brokers to con the British out of cash. The shares can't even be sold back into the US market.

If you buy them, they're yours forever. Your investment is worth almost as much as the paper it's printed on.

So the 'S' in Regulation S really does stand for 'Sucker'.

I've taken to telling them I'm unemployed. It takes a while but eventually they stop talking.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Corporate stupidity

Car manufacturers have reached the limits of insanity, surely?

Several are advertising cars with 'electronic handbrakes'. How stupid are these people going to get?

The whole point of a handbrake is that it's a simple mechanical link to the brakes. If your engine fails, all the fuses blow and your battery dies, you can still apply the handbrake.

Unless it's electronic.

I'll be sticking with older models. Simple mechanics means cheap repairs, and fewer things to go wrong in the first place.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Face transplant

The first face transplant has happened. It will take some time to find out whether it has worked. Good luck to you.

My new boss, Chancellor Orson, should carry a face donor card. He has more face than anyone needs. At the very least, a chin donor card. I counted six at our last meeting. It's more interesting to count his chins than to listen to what he says.

He's one of those who started as a scientist but was no good at it. So he was promoted to get him out of the way. Scum rises to the top, and now we have a thick layer of it on the glass of water that we call science.

I wonder how long it will take before we hear of personality transplants? Orson needs one, desperately.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The health service falters - parasite overload

Well, it seems many UK health 'trusts' are going to delay operations until the next financial year. If you're going to get something serious, best wait until April. Remember, the service is staffed by doctors and nurses, but they have no say. The Administrators run things now. To the doctors and nurses, you're a patient. To the admin, you're a drain on resources. You cost less if you die.

These are the same administrative creatures that are currently closing chemistry and engineering departments in universities. Why? Are there too many chemists and engineers?

Hardly. We're fast running out of both. No, the reason is far more simple.

Chemistry and engineering courses are expensive to run. Media studies is a far cheaper course. Here in Marchway, the chemistry department is under constant threat. They don't dare say 'boo'. The smug swines in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and so on are already measuring up the chemistry labs. At least psychology is relatively cheap to run, so we're a fair way down the death list.

Don't they realise that without a basic grounding in chemistry, most biological disciplines will grind to a halt too? Pity the future molecular biologist who pours sodium azide solution into his stainless steel sink. Don't know why? Well, since you will find it difficult to study chemistry in future, you'll just have to find out the hard way. A few dead molecular biologists should clue you in.

Remember, when you're driving over future bridges, that the designer studied no chemistry. He doesn't know what salt water will do to those bridge supports. He also didn't get more than a theoretical education in engineering.

Most of all, don't get sick. Doctors will be too busy filling out paperwork to help you. They won't be able to give you so much as a shot of penicillin without filling in the proper forms and waiting for approval from one of the bi-monthly meetings of the empty suit people.

A parasite is a living organism that lives on the body of another. It provides nothing, it does nothing useful at all. Its host does all the work and produces the materials, the parasite just takes the best of everything for itself. Often, the parasite weakens its host and reduces its efficiency. Parasite infestations, left untreated, increase in size. When the host dies, the parasite moves on to another.

Tell me why, in that definition, I can't just replace 'parasite' with 'administrator'?

Calling these organisations 'trusts' is a disgraceful misuse of the word.