Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Seasons Greetings

The whole point of a FlashMob is for a load of people to suddenly assemble in a public place and dance or sing for no apparent reason, and then disperse just as quickly, as if nothing had happened!

What makes it funny and interesting is the complete bafflement of people around, especially when it finishes and the performers carry on like normal.

Enjoy!

 

 

Merry Christmas All

 

 

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Monday, 31 May 2010

3-in-1 …

I really lack the words to compliment myself today.

Alberto TombaRetired Italian alpine ski racer. He was the dominant technical skier (slalom and giant slalom) in the late 1980s and 1990s. Tomba won three Olympic gold medals, two World Championships, and nine World Cup season titles; four in slalom, four in giant slalom, and one overall title.

He was popularly called Tomba la Bomba ('Tomba the Bomb').

 

 

This post is a composite of the three Formula One races held during the month of May. As usual, they do not claim to represent the definitive, purist version of race reports, simply one armchair critic's views on how things are progressing - or not!

 

Barcelona (Spain) on the 9th was a tame affair. All the teams and drivers were looking forward to the start of the 'European' season, and Barcelona is an easy entry into this phase. They are all familiar with the circuit (perhaps too familiar) having carried out pre-season testing at the circuit and no surprises were expected, except for the modifications to the cars that would catch some of the unwary wrong-footed. As it turned out nothing much happened, and the race bored itself into one's subconscious with a certain inevitability! The Icelandic volcano event affected Branson's Virgin team by stranding them and their cars in China, reducing the time they had to convert their fuel tanks. They only managed to convert one of them. If I haven't mentioned it before, allow me to expand a little on this farce. The pre-season fit for Virgin found them with fuel tanks that did not hold enough fuel for the car to RACE. They could finish the 300+ kilometres at each venue, but they couldn't actually RACE to the finish line. Ho-bloody-hum! Wonder whose head rolled for that one?

The next racing venue held more promise!

Monte Carlo (Monaco) on the following weekend, the 16th. It is the iconic 'road' venue that carries huge prestige for the winner. Every driver wants this one, and the fact that overtaking during the race is almost unheard of, the 'Qualifiers' are of the utmost importance. The driver that manages to gain pole position (P1) is almost guaranteed to win the race if he and his car can survive the rugged conditions. Not surprisingly, Mark Webber (RBR-Renault) grabbed pole and managed to hang on to win the race. Sebastian Vettel (the other Red Bull), could only manage 3rd position on the starting grid, but grabbed second place on the podium because Jensen Button (McLaren-Mercedes) suffered an engine failure.

The safety car was called out three times, each time cutting Webber's lead down to a second or so, but Webber is an old hand at this game and was able to shrug off the attentions of the following pack.

The only other eyebrow raising incident was Rubens Barrichello's (Williams) tussle with a drain cover. Yes, you read that right - a loose DRAIN COVER  spun up and hit his car's rear left wheel at Turn-2 causing him to lose control, which resulted in a spectacular crash, smacking both sets of barriers, coming to a halt in the middle of the track facing the wrong way …

 

Barrichello comes off second best in Monte Carlo
Rubens Barrichello comes off second best in Monte Carlo!
(click for a larger image)

 

That little incident resulted in the second of the safety car deployments. The third came shortly after because ANOTHER loose drain cover was discovered at Turn-3.

Did I mention that this was a 'rugged' race?

So, two weeks later with many modifications to the various cars, we arrive at Istanbul (Turkey). Red Bull-Renault showed that they were still the cars to beat. McLaren-Mercedes appeared to have worked miracles in the two weeks and were giving a good account of themselves during the free-practise sessions. The venue, Istanbul Park, boasts an horrendous bend called Turn-8 which tends to sort the men from the boys. It is a sweeping left-hander which the cars take at full speed. To go through this turn flat out you need to have a car that is so well balanced that it will carry you through without deviating left or right. Red Bull had the balance; the rest did not. Simple as that.

 

The dreaded Turn-8
The dreaded Turn-8
(click for a larger image)

 

Mark Webber (RBR-Renault) made pole, Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) shared the front, in second place, but on the 'dirty' side of the track. Sebastian Vettel (RBR-Renault) took third and Jensen Button (McLaren-Mercedes) was behind Hamilton in fourth. The scene was set for a two-team, four-car race. There were other players, but they appeared to have lost a little here, lost a little there, and were playing catch-up for the most part.

The race unfolded exactly as one would have expected. The first hint that things might not be going smoothly was when Hamilton's crew took two-tenths of a second longer than they should have to change his right rear tyre. This allowed Vettel to get his nose in front of Hamilton and now it was a Red Bull 1-2. Hamilton was not a happy turkey. Trying to pass one Red Bull was difficult enough, but having to contend with both of them in front of him was no picnic. They drove nose-to-tail waiting for the 'other guy' to make a mistake until Lap 40 (of 58).

Team Red Bull were beginning to get nervous. It appeared that Hamilton was driving the drive of his life and that it was only a matter of 'when' not 'if' he would overtake Vettel, so they radioed both RBR drivers to appraise them of the situation (that is their version - 'team orders' are now illegal). Vettel was going faster than his team-mate at this stage and it appears he decided to extricate himself from the humiliation of being overtaken by Hamilton by placing himself in the lead, ahead of Webber, and on Turn-12 of Lap 41 he got a 'run' on Webber on the inside. When they had drawn alongside each other he tried to move to his right to get the correct line into the next corner. But Webber was still there! Vettel's right rear clipped Webber's left front. Suddenly Vettel was spinning wildly down the road and Webber had to run wide to avoid him - twice! The touch punctured Vettel's tyre putting him out of the race. The two McLaren's following, quietly avoided the debris and slipped into 1st and 2nd, relegating Webber to 3rd.

And that is how they finished.

But not before Button attempted a similar move on Hamilton two laps later. In that exchange they swapped positions 3 times in 4 corners, with Hamilton bludgeoning his way to the front to stay there! You might be forgiven for thinking that this was foolhardy in the extreme considering the outcome of the tussle between their immediate competitors. But 'Joe Public' (including us armchair types) want to see a race, not a procession, and that is what we got. Well done, fellas!

The post-race interview was a subdued, even muted, affair. Much diplomatic language was used by all three podium finishers to describe the events that had just taken place. Hamilton commented that he would have preferred to have won in a straightforward race for the front. Webber muttered something about, "… these things happen."

Webber is a straight-talking Aussie and I suspect that a bit of Aussie straight-talking will take place at team-HQ when he confronts Petula(nt) Vettel who actually had the cojones to make a gesture, whilst walking back to the pits, to indicate that Webber was a bit loopy in the head. Oh boy, is he in for a surprise!

 

A moment of madness!
A moment of madness!
(click for a larger image)

 

Canada and  Montreal next. 13th June. Make a date …

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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Summer …

A man not old, but mellow, like good wine.

Stephen Phillips, (1845-1915)


Rumour has it that the Antipodeans are striving to retain our Summer, but I have news for them. We took the Ashes, now we will take back our Summer!
So there, cobber!
Until the inevitable happens, of course. We will eventually have to give back the Summer, and will probably hand back the Ashes as well.
That, after all, is the way we do things!
But, until then, I shall encourage all you 'northern hemisphere' types to indulge yourselves with copious quantities of my fiendish Sangria recipe, the one I posted last year. I am happy to re-post this one for a couple of reasons. Last year I received a lot of drunken feedback from the more adventurous types who tried it. I am also proud of the fact that if you follow my instructions about 'cheap' you will indeed enjoy it even more!
Here it is in video format this time.


video




I have one confession to make. Please read 'ml' for wherever I've inserted 'mil'. In other words, where I suggest you use 500mil of red wine I actually mean 500ml (half a litre). A mistake I only spotted after editing the whole video, and something I didn't have the heart to rip the video apart to correct.
If you have a problem reading the captions in IE8, right-click and select 'Full Screen', and that should sort you out. I promise to do better in future! (all fixed ...)
Enjoy ...
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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Camaraderie …

The camaraderie he and I have built is good. We're pushing each other.

Brian Grant

 

 

The quotation I've chosen, by Brian Grant, was made specifically about basketball, but I found it a perfect fit for how the two British drivers, Button and Hamilton of Team McLaren, are currently behaving.

Just prior to, and at the start of the season, the more sensational press hinted at unrest in the McLaren camp and friction between the two drivers. The immediate post-race reactions and body language of the two drivers, after the China Grand Prix, will certainly dispel the rumours.

At the end of the race Hamilton made it to 'parc fermé' ahead of Button and jumped out of his car to rush across to congratulate the other driver even before he had come to a halt. Button, in turn, extricated himself with difficulty from his cramped cockpit, didn't even wait to replace the (very expensive) steering wheel, before sprinting across to Hamilton to give him a huge bear-hug. Their congratulatory celebrations were undoubtedly genuine, their conversation was animated, punctuated with smiles and laughter, and they even managed to include young Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), who finished third, in their conversation. It was a far cry from the peacock-like posturing of Alonso (GP Bahrain) and Vettel (GP Malaysia) when they made it to the podium.

Long may the sportsmanship continue.

Bowing to comments left in the previous post I shall attempt to summarise the race, picking up on some of the more entertaining incidents that occurred, and to which I was privy, thanks to the Portuguese cable company that carried the event.

The start of the race brought back bad memories of last year's Malaysian GP rant in which I excelled myself by almost frothing at the mouth. Yes, once more it was bucketing-down at the start of a race. It was referred to as 'light rain', but it appeared to be leaving a heavy sheen on everything. And were those slicks I saw the cars shod with? They sure were! And wasn't that why the cars were swerving madly to build up the temperatures in their tyres on the warm-up lap?

Oh well, the professionals know best; I am only an armchair critic.

Alonso (Ferrari) got a 'jump start', an euphemism for 'cheating bastard', and got to the first corner ahead of 'Petula(nt)' Vettel (Red Bull) and 'Jaws' Webber (Red Bull). Lucky. Because Liuzzi (Force India) lost it at the corner, spun around, and then somersaulted into and over Kobayashi (BMW) and Buemi (Toro Rosso). WIPEOUT for three!

Safety car ...

Alonso had been rumbled by Charlie Whiting Charlie Whiting is FIA Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department, in which capacities he generally manages the logistics of each F1 Grand Prix, inspects cars in Parc fermé before a race, enforces FIA rules, and controls the lights which start each race.

Now you know why some things go pear-shaped when you consider how 'stretched' Charlie must be during each race!

When Charlie retires they are going to find it hard to hire two (or even three) 'professionals' to take over where he leaves off.

in the starters box and was invited to a 'drive through penalty' party, the equivalent of losing 25 seconds. Because that's how long it takes to traverse the pit lane adhering to the set speed limit. However, before the uplifting news was radioed to him, Alonso and the the two Red Bull's (the latter two probably incandescent with rage by now) pitted to switch to wet tyres.

Safety car exits stage right

Three laps later all those who changed to 'wets' were back in again to change back to 'slicks'. It was sheer chaos. The pit crews - sorry, CREW, singular - attended to both team cars, and to hell with the niceties of each driver having his own crew! That was also the pit stop in which Hamilton and Vettel tussled on exiting the pits, earning each a 'reprimand' after the race. I am a Hamilton fan and NOT a Vettel supporter, but I think in this instance they BOTH got off lightly. Will they have learned a lesson? I hope not; this is not a sport for the faint-hearted, and handbags at five paces doesn't have any place in the makeup of an F1 racing driver.

Hamilton then proceeded to dish out a driving lesson to Vettel and Webber. He overtook Webber and was sandwiched between the two Red Bull's who began making life difficult for him - one braking in his face, the other threatening to ram him up his derriere. On lap 12 he outfoxed both of them and passed Vettel with ease, disappearing in a cloud of spray.

Lap 20 and more wholesale pit stops: Button, Rosberg, Petrov, Hamilton and Vettel (again), Schumacher, Webber, Alguersuari, Sutil, Massa and Alonso (back of the field now after serving his drive-through) all stopped for 'wets'.

Lap 21 - safety car - Alguersuari was off, damaging his nose cone and leaving a trail of debris behind him. Bad time for a safety car deployment for some; great news for others. Button's lead was wiped out, but Hamilton's 40 second deficit behind the leaders was also cut to a second or two. Ah well, that's motor racing!

Lap 25 - safety car off - but Button had slowed down the rest of the field so much that when the race resumed they were all bunched up behind him and it was almost surreal to watch racing cars behaving like waltzing couples at the Hammersmith Palais. Only they were doing it at around 300 kilometres an hour. Whew!

Hamilton wised-up on lap 37 and ducked into the pits to put on a fresh set of rain boots, fractionally before Button (1st), Rosberg (2nd) and Alonso (4th) did the same. This allowed Hamilton to 'overtake' Rosberg whilst he pitted, and it was now a race between the teammates for 1st and 2nd.

Thrilling to the end. Button pulled away from Hamilton at first, increasing his lead to 9.9 seconds, but as his tyres degraded he found Hamilton closing in on him with each lap.

Button crossed the line only 1.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton, and I have no doubt that had they not run out of track, the latter would have taken the race.

Motor racing, especially the Formula One kind, can be so entertaining!

If only the backroom boys would leave it to the drivers ...

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Monday, 19 April 2010

Bewilderment …

Anyone who tries to keep track of what is happening in China is going to end up by wearing all the skin off his left ear from twirling around on it.
Robert Benchley

 

 

Fortunately it was only I that was in a state of bewilderment caused by my inability to follow the Portuguese television commentary. I tried my damndest to keep my eyes on the racing and read the ribbon at the bottom of the screen at the same time, only to make a dog's dinner of both.

The final outcome was greatly to my liking but, oh, didn't this race provide some 'fluidity' to the race placements, as always dictated by the vagaries of the weather! If there is a mythical Olympian God who presides over Grand Prix excursions, then today he (or she) was in a mischievous mood throughout the afternoon, emptying their watering can over the participants, only to raise the rose when hordes of them ducked into the pits to change tyres. And then doing it all over again!

I am still re-living in my mind's eye much of the top class driving I witnessed today, and for that reason alone I intend to keep this post as short as possible. If you are interested in the sport and didn't watch it, then you missed a 'cracker'.

Boring the pants off readers who don't follow the sport by delivering a blow-by-blow commentary as I have been prone to in the past would do today's spectacle a disservice!

Here are a couple of stolen images off the Official F1 Website, which I shall be happy to remove if they decide to complain about my audacity.

The first is an incident that I thought could possibly lose Hamilton his second place finish ...

 

Hamilton and Vettel get it on in the pits ...

 

And, to celebrate an all-British victory (drivers and team), here are the final moments ...

 

Button wins. Hamilton a close second.

 

'Till next time ...

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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Exciting …

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in change there is power.
Alan Cohen

 

 

Yes it was! The title is the antonym to the title of the previous post, and has been chosen deliberately.

The sheen of the rain on the track was an indicator that this race, Melbourne, Sunday 28th March 2010, would live up to expectations. Whether you are a racing aficionado, a clock-watcher (the clocks went forward an hour), or whether you have religion (Palm Sunday), you somehow felt that the entertainment this Sunday morning was going to be of the highest quality.

Despite the wretched early hour in the northern hemisphere!

The fun began in earnest at the very first corner. Who could have put money on the fact that THREE champions would mix it so early in the race? Button (McLaren), Alonso (Ferrari) and Schumacher (Mercedes) flexed their motoring muscles resulting in a brush or two, and it was fortunate that all three emerged from the tussle unscathed. Not so lucky for Kobayashi (BMW), Buemi (Toro Rosso) and Hulkenberg (Williams) at turn six of the very same lap. Their race was over in a tangled mess of rubber, metal and fibreglass.

Safety car - 4 laps.

The drivers appeared to have discarded the 'first night nerves' that they displayed a fortnight ago in Bahrain; they drove their cars as if they meant it. Lap after lap I, and I suspect millions of others, sat glued to the screen. Even the paid-for channel on which I watched this spectacle appeared to get caught up in the excitement. They only put out TWO commercial breaks during the whole race!

The Red Bull team appears to have shrugged off their 'comic'Red Bull is the most popular energy drink in the world, according to market share. Red Bull is an adaptation of the Thai energy drink Krating Daeng, which means 'Red Bull'.

Red Bull's slogan is "it gives you wings" and the product is aggressively marketed through advertising, tournament sponsorship (Red Bull Air Race), sports team ownerships and celebrity endorsements.

In 2009 it was discovered that Red Bull Cola exported from Austria contained trace amounts of cocaine.

Red Bull has also been the target of criticism concerning the possible health risks associated with the drink.




Red Bull Art
(... counting their chickens?)

image and are by far and away the fastest cars on the track. Young Vettel started in pole position and wasn't about to give way. He continued to increase the gap between himself and the rest of the field (except for Button) with each lap, until lap 20, when his car suffered a brake problem and he ended up in the gravel at Turn-13. Poor sod, I actually felt sorry for him. Fast, yes. Reliability still a bit of a problem!

Button (McLaren) made a brave choice (I emphasise, HE made the choice, not the team in the pits) to switch to slicks in lap 6, because he felt the track was drying out, and the move paid dividends. He changed tyres about three laps before the others wised up, and that was all he needed to be able to close the gap even more on Vettel before that unfortunate's race ended prematurely. Now leading the pack, Button didn't put a foot (or wheel) wrong, and any decreases in his speed due to fuel or tyre conservation were being mirrored by the rest of the drivers behind him.

There were other cameo roles played out by the competitors, too many to enumerate, but all were enjoyable. The one that brought a huge grin to my face was the tussle between young Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso - first season) and Michael Schumacher (Mercedes - 7 times world champion), where it appeared Alguersuari was handing out a lesson in 'Driving-101', only for Schumacher to outbreak him at a corner, sending him off the track. Old dogs know all the tricks.

I could have posted many pictures to substantiate what I've written, but the official Formula 1 site are rightly reticent about allowing their excellent photography to be replicated by the likes of me. If you want to feast your eyes, click on the link above. It will open a new tab, or new page, depending on the browser you use.

Finally, my early morning tryst with this magnificent sport ended on a high when I observed that the chequered flag was waved for Jensen Button by no other than John Travolta.

You might have an image of the actor as the greasy kid from 'Grease' who ended up pawing Olivia Neutron-Bomb, but I have followed his career with interest and I am convinced that he is probably the most underrated actor of the modern genre.

Oh, he also owns and flies several aircraft, and probably piloted his 707 to make the trip ...

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Sunday, 14 March 2010

Boring …

I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that's my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again.
J G Ballard

 

 

Yes it was!

This was the first race of the season, and given the changes to the rules and format, perhaps it isn't too surprising

The 'qualifiers' on Saturday were a darn sight more interesting with all the drivers trying their damndest to get to grips with their new cars, hoping to do well enough to snatch a decent grid position for today's race. Fuel taken aboard could probably have been measured with an egg cup because they were all aware that they would ALL be required to fill their tanks before the actual race and it was unnecessary to attempt to qualify with a heavily laden car.

When you consider that the rebuilt cars for the 2010 season are sporting 250-litre fuel tanks compared to the 80-litre tanks in previous years, you begin to understand that computation and complication are uneasy bedfellows. With a full fuel load the suspension needs to be adjusted to take account of the increased weight. This eventually results, in the latter stages of the race, in a higher than normal ride, lesser down force, ultimately making it difficult to control the  car during high-speed cornering.

The result today was reminiscent of the days of 'procession'; Ferrari's leading, the rest following meekly. Today it was Vettel (Red Bull) leading and Alonso and Massa (Ferrari) following, until Vettel's car developed a technical problem. It was almost surreal to hear Vettel's plaintive shout to the pits on the radio, "Is there anything you can do to fix it?", whilst loosing nearly 2 seconds a lap with 15 to go, only to be told, rather tersely, "No. It is a mechanical fault."

Alonso and Massa moved into 1st and 2nd position and Hamilton (McLaren) barged through into 3rd with the finesse of a female shopper at the 'sales' homing in on a bargain. I'm afraid that that was the only bit of excitement during the whole race. Indeed, I got up and wandered off into the kitchen to put on a much needed cup of coffee at some point during the race - and didn't miss a thing!

One can only hope that things get better ...

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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Serendipity …

Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer's daughter.

Julius Comroe Jr

 

 

Less than a week to go to the first race of the 2010 season. The pre-season testing (Valencia, Jerez and Barcelona) is done and dusted. Unlike the start of last season, there were no major surprises, or hastily lodged complaints by any of the teams!

This season promises to be a 'cracker'. With the return of Michael Schumacher there are no less than FOUR world champions on the grid; Schumacher (7 titles), Alonso (2005), Hamilton (2008) and Button (2009). The last two are competing against each other out of the same stable, McLaren-Mercedes, and there already appears to be a bit of friction!

To balance all these 'chiefs' they've even got an Indian, Karun Chandhok, driving for the newly formed and hastily-badged HRT team. He is only the second Indian to have ever driven in Formula One. Along with Chandhok there are several new faces (Schumacher is not a new face), but one of my favourites, the hard-drinking-cigar-smoking Finn, Kimi Räikkönen, has left for pastures new. I shall miss his monosyllabic and monotonous post-race interviews, but I won't miss having to look up his name each time I wanted to write it.

HRT is not the only new team to make an appearance this year. Lotus, a name that conjures up past motor racing excitement, is also there. Richard Branson, after investing masses of money with Brawn-Mercedes last year, only to see it sold to the Germans, has decided to put out his very own team. They are called 'Virgin': you expected something else?

The FIA continues to tinker with the rules (remember my rants last season?). This time I am hoping they have got it right, but only time will tell. The most important change is going to be the elimination of the refuelling stops. In other words, they will have to have enough fuel aboard to complete the race from the get-go. It also means the drivers will not only have to race each other on the track, they will need to watch their fuel consumption, and nurse their tyres from start to finish. Can't see this rule, being applied to the modern racing car, lasting the season. Rest assured, if I am right in my assessment I shall take the opportunity to crow loudly from these pages!

The current weather conditions in Melbourne are abysmal. Plenty of rain, so much so that they are suffering major floods. What has that to do with F1? Well, if you had to ask the question, you are not an aficionado! Any long-term followers of the sport know that it is traditional to kick off the season in that 4-seasons city 'down-under'. The serendipitous choice of starting THIS season in Bahrain must have been a conscious decision taken in committee. They are off to a good start; one can only hope that it continues.

I shall be watching from my armchair to see that they don't screw-up along the way ...

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Friday, 26 February 2010

Numbers …

Defendit numerus:
     (there is safety in numbers).
Latin Proverb

 

 

Wednesday is usually my day to entertain myself with the 'Funny Half-Hour' on television, otherwise known as PMQ's (Prime Minister's Questions). It is staged in that wonderfully quaint vaudeville venue called 'The House' (of Commons).

Last Wednesday, the usual suspects were there, and the line of questioning almost scripted itself considering the disclosures about Gordon Brown's alleged bullying tactics within 10 Downing Street AND the Sky interview that the Chancellor, Alistair Darling gave on the Tuesday before, in which he coined the phrase, "[Number 10] released the dogs of Hell," when discussing the cabinet reshuffle that almost ousted him from his job a few months earlier!

Now, I expect 'The Chancellor of the Exchequer' to be able to take care of himself, or what the hell is he doing in that job handling my money? My short-lived sympathy was for those precious individuals called 'Civil (Snivel) Servants' who apparently were so troubled by being bawled out that they resorted to contacting a 'Bullying Help-Line'! Is it any wonder the country is in the mess it is if we are being led, and supported by, such shrinking violets?

 

Friends ... ?

 

But I digress. The topic that provoked this outburst was the little discussed publication of the 'Government Spending Forecast' for 2010. As you would expect, it is filled with numbers, graphs, footnotes and endnotes, and any sane person should end up with a glazed look working their way through it long before coming to the end. I suspect that is precisely what the money-pundits rely on when they choose to 'hide' some facts that they find difficult to explain. Like this ...

 

Numbers ... ?

 

Ermmmm..., excuse me, what does 'OTHER SPENDING' consist of that isn't already covered by the other headings?

Excuse me, again, while I trot off to look up the term 'slush fundslush fund

A colloquial term which has come to mean an auxiliary monetary account or a reserve fund. However, the term has special meaning within a context of corrupt (including but not limited to) political dealings by governments, large corporations or other bodies and individuals.

The term 'slush fund' is also used in accounting to refer to a general ledger account in which all manner of transactions can be posted to commingled funds and 'loose' monies by debits and credits cancelling each other out.

Originally a nautical term; the slush referred to the fat or grease that was obtained by boiling salted meat, the sale of which could then be used to provide the crew with special luxuries. The money obtained from this sale was placed into the so-called 'slush-fund'.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

'!

If 84 billion is a number that is beyond your comprehension, as it is mine, let me fall back on a simplistic table of my own to try and put it into perspective. If we approach it as a pseudo-mathematical problem, where you have borrowed a vast amount of money and you are required to pay it back at a pound (insert your own currency here) a second, how long will it take you to repay:

  1. 1,000,000 (one million) pounds?
  2. 1,000,000,000 (one billion) pounds?

Don't fret. I know the 'problem' is unrealistic, but I have done the calculations using that scenario to make a point ...

 

Units
(GBP or any other)
Equivalent
(seconds/minutes/hours/days/years)
60 1 minute
3,600 1 hour
86,400 1 day
1,000,000
(one million)
11.5 days
1,000,000,000
(one billion)
< 32 years (31.715)

 

Staggering, or what?

And these guys talk glibly of owing many billions of pounds, sometimes even mentioning the awful 'T' word - trillions.

I won't even go there ...

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Obesity …

I have a great diet. You're allowed to eat anything you want, but you must eat it with naked fat people.
Anonymous

 

 

Clearing out one of my websites of material I no longer wish to have eating up masses of disk space, I came across this excerpt I carried a little while ago. It hasn't dated much, and the fact that it came from a Portuguese newspaper means that few will have read the original.

It looks like 'humour' is universal; even more so when you consider that this bit of satire originated in a mainly catholic country!

I have taken the trouble to have the headlines and text translated for you, and inserted an explanatory popup for a parochial reference (look for the faint dotted line under the word) ...

 

pope_edges-1

 

POPE ACCUSES THE BUDDHA OF PROMOTING OBESITY

Buddhists challenge the Pope to a lunch

After the controversial statement linking Islam to violence, His Holiness, Benedict XVI turned against Buddhism and accused Buddha of, "... inciting its followers to the sin of gluttony in the consumption of large amounts of soya-rolls."

The Pope even aroused suspicions that, "Buddha has a secret pact with McDonalds."

The accusations were immediately rejected by the Buddhist Community who threatened to retaliate by spreading aphrodisiac incense around the Vatican. "We will make the Cardinals so crazy, that the nuns will run for the hills!", said Edward Calory, Buddhist Ambassador at the 'Tough-Trunk Restaurant'.

Next week the Pope will speak on the subject of Judaism, and it is feared that he may accuse Israel of supporting Hezbollah, or worse! According to the Italian Cardinal Emanuel Sinistrus, "The Jews eat pitas", and that is not acceptable. The Cardinal says that Israeli pitas are, "... a giant-sized communion wafer, especially created to diminish Christianity."

The Vatican is therefore studying the possibility of creating "communion wafers de-lópào-de-ló

Portuguese Sponge Cake. This cake is normally served plain, but may be served with powdered sugar and fruit.

The cake can be made high like the one in the pic below, or as a thin sponge cake (jelly roll) with a chocolate or quince jam filling.



Pào-de-ló
(Portuguese Sponge Cake).

", substantially larger than the ones used presently.

 

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Friday, 15 January 2010

Maria & the Tramp …

(first published 4 January 2008 in the FLOG)
A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.
Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)

 

 

Recycled Post

Maria is a bitch; the Tramp is just a tramp. Maria is infested with fleas and so, I suspect, is the Tramp.

Before I go any further, and before I get myself into deep, deep trouble, allow me to explain. The Tramp is something of a local celebrity in as much as he is always 'there'. Stroll around our local area and you will almost certainly bump into the Tramp. And his female dog, Maria.

The reason I have gone to such pains to offer an explanation is that my soul-mate also bears the name Maria, as you would expect of any good Portuguese catholic girl. There the similarity ends!

Bill Owen as 'Compo'
Bill Owen as 'Compo'

The easiest way to describe the Tramp is for me to make the comparison between him and 'Compo' of the delightful sitcom, "Last of the Summer Wine", even down to the woollen beanie-hat and rope belt. If that is too parochial a reference, click on the link to get a feeling for the longevity of this BBC comedy stalwart.

The Tramp and I have something in common. I am retired and spend my day at the computer or walking the local area with my dog. He has probably never worked a day in his life and also spends his time walking the neighbourhood with his dog. We tend to gravitate towards each other for a few minutes of conversation at various times of the day. ThysonSpelled correctly.

The dog has a longer pedigree than I have, but when we tried to register him with the Portuguese Kennel Club with the original spelling of the name it was not acceptable as it was already taken, and we were offered 'Tyson97' as an alternative.

How unoriginal! So we inserted an 'H' where you wouldn't expect one.

, my brute of a boxer, gets on well with Maria, and when we meet up they invariably throw themselves into uncontrollable fits of leaping and greeting that pleases both owners.

The Tramp is well-spoken and has a good command of the English language. He is also very critical of my inability to speak Portuguese, and takes every opportunity to remind me that it can only be my laziness that is stopping me from doing so. I always agree with his assessment, and that is usually enough to pacify him, encouraging him to continue our conversation in the language of my choice!

Three or four months ago he and his dog disappeared from the locality and nobody seemed to have any idea where he had gone. It wasn't immediately obvious to me that the pair had vanished into thin air as I don't always make it as far as his pitch. But it was on one fine afternoon during the summer that I noticed that his tent, that was usually pitched outside the back gates of the cemetery, had gone.

This didn't come as a total surprise as a similar occurrence several months earlier had also seen the Tramp, Maria and the tent disappear from the cemetery gates. But on that occasion they had only moved a couple of hundred metres to the building closest to the cemetery, in which the tramp had been provided with 'social housing'.

I have never been able to establish the precise reason for that earlier move. Had the residents of neighbouring buildings complained about his impromptu domicile outside the cemetery gates? Had the car-driving visitors to the cemetery complained that they had been robbed of a parking space? Had the local council, against all known council dictum, decided to take care of a 'homeless person'? Whatever the reason, it didn't last more than three months. He was back outside the gates, and apparently as content as ever. He did express his appreciation of the local council for attempting to (re)house him, but lamented their short-sightedness in not taking into consideration that he was not in a position to pay the low monthly rental. And so, in a typical bureaucratic bungle, they gave him a home - and then snatched it away!

Now it appeared that, yet again, some well-meaning council busybody had decided to rehabilitate the Tramp, but this time to a location outside our area. He certainly wasn't appearing on anybody's local radar. Life moves on, and as the weeks turned into months, I was convinced that this time the Tramp had been encouraged to live life as the rest of us are forced to. A little box and a 'loss' of freedom was probably a price worth paying for a smidgen of permanence.

A few days before Christmas (2008) I was walking Thyson across the green when I noticed a loose dog galloping in our direction from about 200 metres away. My immediate thoughts were, "Bummer! Loose dog. No owner in sight." There was bound to be a fracas. Thyson is not a sociable animal. So I pulled him in from his extended-6-metre-lead distance and resigned myself to controlling the situation the best way I could. Much to our delight the loose dog turned out to be that flea-bag Maria. She greeted us profusely, pranced and pirouetted, and crawled in for a pat and a cuddle. I looked for the Tramp, and sure enough I spotted him about 250 metres away, walking in the opposite direction. No chance of attracting his attention this time, but I was certain our paths would soon cross again.

And they have.

The same reasons I've mentioned previously apply to his 'second coming'. He has pitched his tent in the same place outside the back gates of the cemetery. It obviously irritates the sanctimonious fat-cats who find they have one less parking space for their vroom-vroom-go-faster cars when they drive up to the back gates to pay their condolences to their dear departed.

But it doesn't phase the Tramp in the least.

His view is that the dead already have their space, and he only wants to occupy a slightly larger bit of turf outside the gates until it is time for him to take up permanent residency on the other side of the wall. He also reasons that it won't require a hearse to get him there.

Sad!

For me it is more significant that it takes the presence of this man, who lives a totally transient life, to give me a feeling of permanence!

Bizarre ...

 

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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Time …

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

Sir Winston Churchill

 

 

Wootton Bassett is a sleepy little Market Town situated a few miles south of Swindon. It is also a 'dormitory' town that serves RAF Lyneham, and which served RAF Wroughton when the hospital there was a functioning entity. During my RAF career I have had spells at RAF Lyneham, CIO (Careers Information Office) Swindon, and had occasion to use the medical facilities at RAF Wroughton. To say I know the town well would be an understatement!

So it is with mixed feelings, much of it tinged with sadness, that I watch the repatriation of our military personnel through the quiet streets of the little hamlet, and marvel at the genuine outpourings of grief and tributes of respect proffered to the funeral corteges each time this sad event takes place.

The processions through the streets, and the crowds that gather to pay their respects, have no political agenda. They gather to pay homage to fallen heroes, and to the members of their families for whom this must be the hardest, the most final act of affirmation.

Imagine my sense of outrage when a dick-head called Anjem Choudary announced that his group, Islam4UK, intended to hold a 'protest' march through the streets of Wootton Bassett in which fake coffins would be carried representing the civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

Let me establish Choudary's background. He is 43 years old, born in Welling, England. He was a medical student at Southampton University, but switched to commercial law. On graduation he became a solicitor and then chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers. He later met Omar Bakri Muhammad, the 'Tottenham Ayotollah' who has subsequently been banned from the UK. They formed the Islamist organisation al-Muhajiroun, which has also been banned by the British government. He then helped form Al Ghurabaa, also banned by the government. He is now the spokesman for Islam4UK. He has openly praised the terrorists involved in 9/11 and the London 7/7 bombings. He has also called for the implementation of Sharia Law throughout the UK.

In fairness to other Muslims, Choudary has received little support from the mainstream UK Muslim population. But I have to wonder why he is tolerated at all. We can't 'send him back', because he was born in the UK. Surely there are laws of incitement that can be brought to bear?

And here's the rub.

The former Mayor of Wootton Bassett although, "... appalled at the suggestion of such a march," goes on to say, "If this man has any decency about him he will not hold his march through Wootton Bassett."

The Prime Minister, Gormless Gordon, called plans for the march, "... offensive and disgusting."

The Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, said he would back any request from police or local government to ban the march.

And - wait for it - the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, a former chief constable in Northern Ireland said, "People have the right to march. Others might not like it, but that's it."

Have we gone completely MAD?

Winnie must be squirming in his grave!

So, what are my credentials for getting on my high horse? Simple, really.

  • I was NOT born in the UK. I was born in India.
  • I adopted the UK as my home and accepted its laws and customs as my own when I arrived as an immigrant.
  • I have never wanted it to be anything different.
  • I served Queen and Country for 36 years in the Royal Air Force.

It is inconceivable to me that anybody born and bred in the UK would wish for it to be anything other than British; English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish by extension, but nevertheless British.

Not so very long ago I saw somebody wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the logo "Enoch was right". I no longer wonder whether his prophesy in the "Rivers of Blood" speech could have been mere mischief-making.

Allow me to quote the line from the speech that has subsequently been used to label it:

As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.

Me too, Enoch. Me too ...

 

 

Update:

Breaking news on Sky states that the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, has moved to ban the organisation called Islam4UK. Considering the massive backlash from the general public towards these morons, I would have expected nothing less.

It also occurs to me that his action in banning this bunch is a bit of a Pyrrhic victory. He has banned the same lot masquerading under different names before, and as sure as Allah made little apples, they will re-emerge under some other equally despicable guise.

Ah, well ...

 

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Monday, 11 January 2010

Hell …

Hell must be isothermal; for otherwise the resident engineers and physical chemists (of which there must be some) could set up a heat engine to run a refrigerator to cool off a portion of their surroundings to any desired temperature.
Henry Albert Ben

 

 

A recent blog discovery for me has been that of 'Chairman Bill' of The Thoughts of Chairman Bill. His banner headline warns that his blog, "May contain traces of satire, irony and sarcasm." Add to that a large dose of irreverence and you begin to realise that almost every one of his superbly written posts will make your hair stand on end.

Your reasons for bristling may be very different to mine, but I can promise that you won't be bored. I am particularly enamoured of the way he uses the English language, and his vast vocabulary.

Reading his latest offering, 'The Chairman's Sunday Sermon', I was reminded of the joke article that has done the rounds of the internet for some time, the one about whether Hell can be considered 'exothermic' or 'endothermic'. If you missed it, I reproduce it for you below. Interestingly enough, the outcome is easily changed, and I have chosen to repeat only one scenario.

 

The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid term. The answer by one student was so "profound" that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well:

 

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

 

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today.

Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially.

Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

  1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
  2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, "It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you," and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over.

The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct ... leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting "Oh my God!"

 

 

If you assume Teresa is still holding out, you can change the outcome to suit yourself.

Be happy ...

 

 

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