Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Top Posts 2014

There have been 432 posts on this blog in 2014 and this is a good time to look back and see which ones fill the top 5 slots and which ones can be left to whither on the Internet vine. 
Easily the top post was 'Frank Carson And Linda Nolan Mystery Solved' which was when i spilled the reason behind the argument on Celebrity Big Brother between Linda Nolan and Jim Davidson. The Sun newspaper was making people sign up and pay a monthly subscription to find out the answer so i thought i would be a bit mischievous and provided it free. Take that Rupert Murdoch.
Second highest viewed post was 'That's A Shame' which was my mulling over of the British Military cutbacks which resulted in the US Defence Secretary saying we may not be able to join them in future military adventures.
The third was 'Ware Is The Porn Capital Of The UK' which had the sticky little fingers of Ware residents all over it and fourth was a grim subject i come back to again and again, 'America Raises Bar In Mad Gun Laws'.
The fifth was 'Dear Students', a personal letter to students of all ages as they reach the end of the academic year and to reiterate that this really is the best time of their lives and not to waste it. 
My personal favourites were 'Closing the Asimov Loophole' and 'The Ultimate World Address', both which had me putting a foot into the camp where people in white overalls with pens in their top pocket and more braincells in their little finger than i have in my whole head inhabit and where i risk real embarrassment and triple check everything before i post it. 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Getting Down With Gravity January 4th

I do hear quite a lot that Sir Isaac Newton invented Gravity which throws up images of people in the pre-Darwin days having to hold everything down and muttering how glad they will be when someone comes up with a fundamental force so they don't have to keep dragging the dining room table down from the ceiling.   
Luckily, Isaac Newton's head famously got hit by an apple and the rest is history but Gravity is a funny thing, pick something up off the floor and that's you defying the gravitational pull of a whole Planet so gravity is notoriously flaky which is why January 4th 2015 should be marked down as 'strap down the sofa day' because that's the day that an inter-planetary alignment takes place.
The social networking platforms have been buzzing with the screenshot of NASA’s tweet stating that there is an the phenomenon will cause a gravitational imbalance on Earth, causing people and objects to float for a few minutes.
According to British astronomer Patrick Moore, at exactly 9:47 on January 4th, Pluto will pass directly behind Jupiter, in relation to Earth. This rare alignment will mean that the combined gravitational force of the two planets would exert a stronger tidal pull, temporarily counteracting the Earth’s own gravity and making people virtually weightless. Moore calls this the Jovian-Plutonian Gravitational Effect.
There are those who claim this to be false, pointing out that Patrick Moore died in 2012 and NASA are denying it and the small matter of Pluto and Jupiter being on opposite sides of the Solar System that day but just to be safe don't use the toilet between 9.47am and 10.52am on the 4th January because if you are still in the vicinity at 10.53am when Pluto and Jupiter unalign themselves, it won't be apples that fall down on your head.

New Years Around The World

I have often wondered where in the World you could stand on December 31st, do the Auld Lang Syne bit and then step across a border and do it all again an hour later so you can celebrate New Years twice. 
If you have a spare £7,380 the company PrivateFly will fly you from Sydney after the bells chime in 2015 to land in Los Angeles 11 hours later to do it all over again.
There is an even easier way though and you get the chance to sleep off most of the alcohol in your body before pounding your liver again 25 hours later.
Due to the International Dateline passing between the Somoan Islands in the Pacific Ocean, the Eastern Island is the first place on Earth to leave 2014 and the Western Island the last to arrive in 2015 25 hours later.
As Somoa is 14 hours infront of Britain, it will be 10am New Years Eve when the East Somoans are clasping hands and singing about Auld aquataince that may be forgot and our thoughts will be on elevenses when the New Zealanders step outside of 2014.  
Lunch will have been finished at 1pm when Australians get even more drunk than usual and stare bleary eyed at a clock striking midnight.
Then it's Japan at 3pm followed by China at 4pm and then India who are awkward and have lost half hour at some point and celebrate the arrival of New Years Day at 6.30pm British time.
The Bacardi Breezers will be flowing freely by 8.30 pm at New Years Eve parties here while they will already be dancing in the streets of Tehran as Iranian clocks chime midnight followed half an hour later by brave Moscovites filling Red Square at 9pm. 
The Greeks will be smashing plates at 10pm British Time and then the Parisians will be eyeing the fireworks spinning out of the Eiffel Tower an hour later at 11pm which is just about the time when you are wondering where the police cone came from that you have been wearing for the past 20 minutes.
Then it is our turn and after a brisk Hokey Cokey and a search for your other shoe, it's onto Greenland who will join us in 2015.  
When Brazilians dance around on Copacabana Beach, it will be 2am on New Years Day and at 4am we will all be snoring loudly and exhaling alcohol fumes when the Canadians do whatever they do at midnight. 
At 5am the United States will be shooting guns into the air like drunken Yosemite Sam in a Bugs Bunny Cartoon before the Western part of Somoa is the last to exit 2014 just in time for the Brits to wake up and break the vast majority of our New Years Resolutions within the first hour.

Now Say Sorry Obama

After weeks of finger pointing and allegedly taking down of their internet, security experts investigating the hack against Sony Pictures appear to be moving away from the theory that the attack was carried out by North Korea, focusing instead on disgruntled former employees of the firm. Whoops, awkward.
Researchers at Norse cybersecurity claim that six former employees could have compromised the company’s networks, arguing that accessing and navigating selective information would take a detailed knowledge of Sony’s systems. 
Head of Security, Marc Rogers said: 'While it’s plausible that an attacker could have built up this knowledge over time and then used it to make the malware, Occam’s razor suggests the simpler explanation of an insider. It also fits with the pure revenge tact that this started out as'.
If it is proven that the Sony hack had nothing to do with North Korea as now appears likely, when can North Korea and Kim Jong Un expect the formal apology from Obama and a big box of 'I'm sorry' chocolates? I think Kim would like that, he looks partial to a bit of chocolate.

2014: Not A Good Year

I imagine for some 2014 was a year that will be fondly remembered down the line but as we reach the burnt out end of 2014 and look back at events of the 12 months, it was one of the cruelest years i can recall filed with some of the grimest events in recent memory.
The effects of Climate Change kicked it up a gear with extreme weather events all over the globe sending meteorological records tumbling and 2014 the warmest year on record.  
Three Air Asia airplanes went fell out the sky, one recently, one which was never found and another which was shot down as it flew over the Ukraine which was the scene of continued fighting amongst the pro-Western and pro-Eastern sides of the country with an estimated 4000 deaths so far.
The long running battle between Israel and the Palestinians blew up again resulting in a 7 week military assault by Israel which ended up with 2200 Palestinians deaths, 70% of which were civilian.   
The Pakistani city of Peshawar buried its dead after a Taliban attack at a school killed at least 132 children and nine staff and ISIS stampeded through Iraq slaughtering as they went and posting videos of prisoners being beheaded on the Internet.
The Syrian conflict continued unabated and spilled over into Lebanon, Al-Shabaab terrorised Somalia with car and suicide bombs and Boko Haram did the same in Nigeria while kidnapping 200 girls from a school and slaughtering whole villages.
The fall out from the 2008 recession continued with economies falling over with yet more austerity to come and food banks springing up in the Worlds 'richest' countries as the chill of hard times continue to spread regardless.
The rise of the racist and xenophobic UKIP political party in Britain should raise a few eyebrows and in America white policemen shot and killed unarmed black men without punishment leading to marches and protests from the black community and bloggers to vindicate the officers with views that 'black men are bad' echoes of a KKK-esque view that everyone thought had long been left behind.
It seemed that 2014 was the year when we stumbled from one horrific event to another and i can't see that 2015 is going to be much better but we can still hope that we come to our collective senses and stop the craziness.

Monday, 29 December 2014

American Economy Sailing Into Choppy Waters?

The 'Russia is going to take over Europe' rhetoric coming out of Washington was always over the top and i never really understood what sanctions would do because what usually happens is that it punishes the citizens while the leaders just carry on as before.
Madeline Albright was rightly berated for her 'We think it is a price worth paying' when she was asked her feelings about sanctions on Iraq resulting in the death of half a million children and now the Russian economy is tanking partly due to sanctions twinned with the drop in the price of a barrel of oil.
One thing is certain, Putin is not going to meekly lay down and let it happen and he has moved closer to China which is not by any means more than lukewarm to America.
The European Union was never keen on Russian sanctions and has been trying desperately to find some wiggle room ever since to placate the Americans and the Russians. While the US is pushing for new sanctions, a statement from the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy announces a normalisation of relations with Russia.
What it all means is that America has not only driven it's two largest rivals, Russia and China, closer together but is not on the best of terms with the Worlds largest trading block either.
The BRICS developing countries have set up rivals to the IMF and the World Bank but the killer would be the loss of the Dollar as the reserve currency.
Russia has dumped $100 billion of its $400 billion U.S. Treasury bonds and have an agreement with China, another country keen to see the dollar replaced, have agreed to settle half of their trade in rubles or yuan and China has been buying substantial amounts of gold.
With the loss of the reserve currency, American imports would become more expensive and the prices in the shops would leap and with America already in $17 trillion shaped debt hole, things would unravel sharply.
It was always hypocritical to point the finger at Russia while spending the last decade overthrowing regimes and killing millions in the process without censure but it seems a case of Russia saying if they are going to go down they will take America down with them.
With China lining up with Russia, the EU trying to stay on the sidelines and now the Saudi's refusing to help, and actually trying to bring down the American oil industry, it seems the American economy may be finding itself riding into a bit of a financial battering over the next few years unless it changes course as the World's powerhouses turn their backs on it.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

What Day Is It?

I imagine there is a name for the bit of the month between Christmas Day and New Year but whatever it is named, it's a weird time of the year.
The worst part is not being sure what day it is, Tuesday feels like Sunday but it's actually Friday and the television is still showing Christmas films and the music channels is still playing Wizzard and The Pogues.
For those of us lucky enough, we still have another week off work so it is a perfect time to tidy up all those loose ends but that feels too much like work and this is the time to rest and recharge our batteries for starting all over again in January.
Something i have noticed is lots of adverts for sofas on the television, not sure why the New Year is targeted as the perfect time to ditch the old the piece suite but it seems that the sofa people have got together and decided straight after the most expensive time of the year is the optimal time to try and sell us a £500 piece of furniture.
It's raining outside again and a cold wind is blowing but i don't think i can handle another day eating Walnut Whips and flicking through the channels to try and find something that doesn't have a celebrity chef telling us ways to use up the left over Christmas food so i will be throwing on my coat, hat and gloves and stumble out into the bracing outside world and see who is selling half price selection boxes.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Classy CityLink

No doubt who gets the award for biggest tossers of the Christmas Period this year, let's hear it for parcel delivery service CityLink who went into administration late on Christmas Eve and allowed its 3000 workers to find out they had been made redundant on Christmas Day news bulletins.
By all accounts the business has been rocky for a while, had an extremely bad reputation for being unreliable and it has come as no surprise that it's gone into administration as that is what happens to failing businesses but it is the timing that sucks, sacking people on Christmas Day and letting them find out by the TV news.
Merry Christmas indeed.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Santa's Almost In Town

Hardcore Christians are pretty unbearable at Christmas, it's not just that they can keep a straight face while while explaining how Immaculate Conception works, they also feel obliged to point out that as holy and wonderful as the Nativity is, Easter is more spiritually rewarding.
If you find a chocolate egg versus a sackful of brightly wrapped presents more rewarding than good luck with that but Santa only brings presents to good people so there are quite a few people who will be waking up tomorrow morning to find Santa has blown them a big fat raspberry this year.
As i have been a bit naughty this year it is touch and go whether i will be looking at a lump of coal or a bright, shiny bleeping thing in the morning but i did help an old lady to cross the road this morning so i am hoping that will nudge me into Santa's 'Good' column.
The NORAD Santa Tracker shows that Father Christmas is presently above the Indian Ocean and dashing towards the Maldives so i have a bit of time to do a few more good things to tip the balance so i wish everyone everywhere a Very Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël to the French speakers, Sheng Dan Kuai Le to the Chinese, Frohe Weihnachten to the Germans, Meri Kurisumasu to Japan, Nadolig Llawen to the Welsh and toDwI'ma' qoS yItIvqu' to the Sci-Fi Geeks.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Ads Ruining Christmas Surprise

There are three parts to present buying at Christmas. The first is to find the thing you want to buy, the second is to then go and buy it with the final part being finding somewhere to stash it so the recipient doesn't find out what you have got them.
The first two parts are straight forward but the third is hard enough and that's without the new addition of the computer blabbing it to them by showing what you have been buying for Christmas showing up in ads.
When you visit a retailers website, your viewing is shared with other websites and shows the particular product you looked at or purchased.
Along comes hubby and sees an advert for the trainers or coat that you have been mulling over to put under the tree for Christmas Day and he knows that the smelly Adidas with the holes in the sole can be thrown binwards.
Apparently you can opt out, the adverts have a little triangle in the top corner of the ad but that only works for that product, look at another store and you get their adverts instead and you have to scroll through pages of text explaining why they use targeted ads.
For advertisers, perhaps this is a lesson that they are being a bit too cute with their algorithms especially when it’s common for people to share computers.
Of course they don't really want you opting out, the whole point of advertising is to persuade you to buy something and you can't do if you don't see the adverts, but they must be able to do something so the surprise isn't ruined.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Queen To Abdicate Rumours

The Queen's Christmas Day speech is usually only on the TV screens of the Brits who have fallen asleep after a heavy Christmas Dinner but this years may be worth a viewing because the bookmakers have suspended bets on the Queen giving up the throne in this years message to the Commonwealth.
The move comes after 'an unusual amount of bets placed on Her Majesty handing the crown to her son Charles or grandson William' and the bookies are not in the business of losing money so when they think they are about to take a caning, they pull the plug.
The rumour was further boosted when Buckingham Palace refused to deny the Queen was about to hang up her crown by issuing a bland 'No Comment'.
The Queen is due to become Britain’s longest serving Monarch next year when she overtakes Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years and seven months so i can't see her going just yet so it smells of an attempt to boost her flagging TV ratings so i still wont be tuning in unless the remote control goes missing and i am physically unable to turn over the Television after Top of The Pops but i will be keeping an ear out for the sound of celebrations as the nations largest receiver of state benefits decides her days of waving at crowds are over.

The Squirrels Did It

It could just be a massive coincidence that at the same time that humans began throwing Greenhouses Gases into the air in vast quantities, the amount of Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere began to climb and warmed the planet.
Instead those who didn't want to stop piling further pollutants into the air blamed everything from Sun spots to a conspiracy to introduce a World government but the latest sounds a winning way to stop the Climate Scientists shutting them down, the squirrels did it. 
Apparently squirrel nutkins and his climate warming buddies are digging their burrows in Siberia and bringing oxygen to the soil and fertilising the soil with their urine and their faeces which releases greenhouse gases from the permafrost.
As i see it there are two alternatives. We can either exterminate every squirrel on the planet and carry on as before or stop paying attention to people who come out with loony stuff like this. I vote the latter.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Enjoy The Cheap Petrol While It Lasts

The most obvious winner from the falling cost of a barrel of oil are drivers who have seen forecourt prices trickle downwards and many experts are predicting 99p a litre by the turn of the year which is proving to be very popular.
The question is why is the cost of a oil down to around $60 a barrel when a few years ago it was up around $130?
The Automobile Association explain that because of soaring oil consumption in countries like China and conflicts in key oil nations like Iran and Libya, oil production couldn't keep up with demand, so prices spiked.
Now, due to the long lasting recession, the demand for oil in places like Europe, Asia, and the US has been tapering off and with Libya and Iraq now producing again, there is a surplus of oil so the price has gone down.
Another reason is that the US and Canada have started drilling for new, hard-to-extract crude in North Dakota's shale formations and Alberta's oil sands adding another 4 billion barrels per day to the now saturated market.
Then there is OPEC who are the oil-producing nations that pumps out about 40% of the world's oil and who influence the price of oil by coordinating either to cut back or boost production.
At its meeting in Vienna in November, it was decided by the major player, Saudi Arabia, that it wouldn't cut production and was willing to let prices keep dropping so it would not lose its market share. 
It also know that it is cheaper to pump oil out of their places while much more expensive to extract oil from shale formations in places like Texas and North Dakota so they would be the ultimate loser from falling prices. So as the price of oil keeps falling, North American oil producers will become unprofitable and go out of business and remove their oil from the pool forcing the oil prices to stabilise for OPEC.
The ploy seems to be working as the Financial Times is already pointing out that the oil-producing states like Texas and North Dakota are seeing a drop in revenues and economic activity while Alaska's state budget is under pressure but meanwhile, enjoy the low petrol prices and the imminent fall in gas and electric bills because sure enough, they will start rising again soon enough.

Words Fail Me...And Him

It it said that Obama is going to face much protest against his plans to make pals with the Cuban Government. 
Protesters like this chap on the right who proudly holds up a six word protest banner for the media with a third of them spelled incorrectly.
If i was Obama I wouldn't be to worried about the level of the people arguing against him if this is typical of the protest movement, by the time they get help putting their shoes on the right feet it will all be over. 
  

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

USA Making Friends With Cuba

Hard to argue that Obama's presidency has been anything other than a complete disappointment on all fronts and so desperate to have any sort of accomplishment he would be remembered for Obama announces the US and Cuba are to normalise diplomatic relations and end decades of hostility.
Obama explained that: 'We fully expect we will continue to have strong differences, particularly on human rights' and it is true that American Human Rights abuses are many but i expect the Cubans will be more willing to overlook the abuses if the Americans close the torture chamber in Guantanamo Bay.
The smart money is less on Obama doing this out of the kindness of his heart but to undermine Russian and Cuban ties but for whatever reason is behind it, the Cubans should be wary of the about turn as we have recently learned with the revelations of spying and stirring up revolutions in other countries.
Maybe, being charitable, this is less about sinister motives and more about America making friends and we can look forward to Obama spending the last two years of his presidency actually earning that Peace Award he won, next step cutting off the funding to Israel!!

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Aspirin Made Me Do It

Pharmaceutical companies must be hurriedly rewriting the pamphlet on their medicines to read: 'may cause drowsiness, racism and homophobia after UKIP candidate blamed his description of gay people as 'fucking disgusting old poofters' and the Chinese as 'chinkies, the fault of the prescription drugs he had been taking at the time.
Be warned when the flu season hits the UK because hit the Lemsips too hard and you can also become a steaming great bigoted twat also and then its a short leap to becoming a UKIP member. 
Might be best to reduce the amount of paracetamols you take each day just to be safe and and remain non-racist and un-homophobic.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Holy Leaked Emails

After a successon of leaked emails, the newest email leaked as a result of the hacking attack on Heaven shows the chain of events which led to the Christmas Celebration.

From: God@Heaven.com
To: AngelGabriel@Heaven.com
Hi Gabe - Got a problem with my new wi-fi connection, no reception here. Can you email VirginMary@Nazareth.com for me and let her know she will soon be pregnant with my kid. Thanks.
PS. Can't decide between Jesus or Colin for kids name so you decide.
--
From: AngelGabriel@Heaven
To: VirginMary@Nazareth.com
Hi Mary. Good news, you have been chosen to be the recipient of God's immaculate seed and bear the saviour of the World. Short notice i know, soz. PS. His name is Jesus. Any probs let me know.
--
From: VirginMary@Nazareth.com
To: CarpenterJoseph@hotmail.com
Hi babe. You will never guess what happened today. I'm preggers by God LOL!!! Will explain when you get home. xx
--
From: CarpenterJoe@hotmail.com
To: VirginMary@Nazareth.com
WTF!! and How TF? You're a virgin!!
--
From: AngelGabriel@Heaven.com
To: CarpenterJoseph@hotmail.com
Hi Joseph. I see Mary told you about the baby. Sorry if it ruined your plans but God does things in mysterious ways so they say LMAO. Seriously, d/w. 
--
From: CeasarAugustus@Rome.com
To: CarpenterJoseph@hotmail.com
cc: VirginMary@Nazareth.com
Please head to your hometown of Bethelehem for the census. Register names of first borns on arrival and receive a free toga.
--
From: CarpenterJoeseph@hotmail.com
To: DonkeyRentals@Vehiclehire.com
Hi, can i please hire a donkey from December 20 to December 31.
--
From: CarpenterJoseph@hotmail.com
To: SunnySideInn@Bethelehem.com
Hi, can i please book a room for 2 adults from Dec 20 to Dec 31 and a place for a donkey.
--
From: SunnySideInn@Bethelehem.com
To: CarpenterJoseph@hotmail.com
Hi Joseph. Sorry but fully booked those dates. I do  have a stable you can rent for those dates at cheap rates.
--
From: Wisemen03@magi.com
To: VirginMary@Nazareth.com
Hi Mary, congratulation on the imminent birth of the Lords child. Can you forward address as we would like to visit.
--
From: Melchior74BC@magi.com
To: Belthazar@magi.com; Gaspar@magi.com
Hi guys. Any ideas for baby gifts? Camel has been stolen so looks like im traveling on foot unless one of you can give me a lift.
--
From: Belthazar@magi.com
To: Melchior74BC@magi.com   
Not much notice and it's early closing today so all i could get was some Frankincense. Gaspar says he has some Myrrh he got last birthday he won't ever use so he will give it that. Gold is always handy so grab some of that. My Camel is a two seater so pick you up about 8-ish.
--
From: VirginMary@Nazareth.com
To: Wisemen@magi.com
Hi, all are welcome. We are in the stable behind the SunnySideInn, Bethlehem. Excuse the mess, its a bit of a pigsty. Literally ROFLMFAO
--
From:VirginMary@Nazareth.com
To: AngelGabriel@Heaven.com; God@Heaven.com
Hi, Baby born all healthy. Called him Jesus as instructed. Joseph bit confused over what is going to happen on Father's Days but excited about showing him how to use a hammer and nails. Have to go, a sheep is nibbling at Jesus's blankets. Will email later re: Maintenance payments and if you have any ideas what to do with 2lbs of Myyrh, they will be gratefully received.


Saturday, 13 December 2014

Sexy New Weather Language

Being British we do obsess about the weather and the weather forecasts are watched religiously so everyone would have noticed how the MET Office has been sneaking in some new terms such as Weather Bomb, Pineapple Express, Continental Blowtorch and Explosive Cyclogenesis.
Once upon a time the weather forecaster would appear on screen, slap a few magnetic symbols on a map and vaguely explain in 30 seconds how it would be sunny in the south and rainy in the north and then we got computer graphics with the countries city names and everyone was desperate to get their city or town on the weather map. 
Now the graphics has got sexy with swooshing through rain clouds as the camera zooms up and down the country, the forecasters have caught up with sexy new names for weather systems.
Where previously we had warm air moving up from the continent, we now have a continental blowtorch and a deepening area of low pressure heading our way has become the much more excitingly named Weather bomb or explosive cyclogenesis which is the same thing.
I love the new terms but a pineapple express storm doesn't sound particularly sexy or exciting, just makes it sound like a cocktail.
I would go with an accelerated detonative tempest or a screaming shatterstorm but then i would also make Alex on Good Morning Britain do the forecast in nothing but budgie smugglers so might be better not to ask me.

Geminid Meteor Shower Tonight

The Geminid's is the Northern Hemisphere's most spectacular meteor shower but because it happens in the depths of winter, it is not as well viewed as the Perseid's in the much more clement August.
For the past two years we have driven out to the dark South Downs, sat in a field and watched a heap of clouds obscure the view but tonight the Society for Popular Astronomy have said that conditions will be as good as they get and with a waning moon it should be a spectacular for the climax of the meteor shower.
The MET Office are not quite so confident and forecast mist and cloud for this part of the woods until 2am and a temperature of 0c so it might be another evening of cloud watching in freezing conditions.
The best time to view them is from 10pm to 2am with as many as 100 of the multi-coloured meteors an hour shooting across the sky so it's grab a flask of coffee, a blanket and reserve your place in the NHS for hypothermia treatment tomorrow morning and enjoy the Solar System at its amazing best and remember it's only a meteorite if it lands, it's a meteor otherwise.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Little Donkey On The Dusty Road Today

As religion is such a divisive idea, it is no surprise that the place where Christianity began is torn apart with religious differences.
So much so that the 90 mile trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem that Mary, Joseph and a donkey purportedly made on a dusty road 2000 years ago is a much more arduous trek today in 2014.
The Bible is unhelpful about the exact route so let's take our pregnant mother, husband and mode of transport the direct route today from Nazareth and the donkey has a relatively straightforward plod until it reaches the first of numerous Israeli military checkpoints, this one at Jalame where the 12 foot high wall separates the occupied West Bank from Israel.
Once the permits have been checked by the heavily armed soldiers, the trio would pass along lookout towers, razor wire and gun turrets until they come to Jenin which is the stronghold of Islamist militant groups who are regular recipients of Israeli military incursions.
Once through Jenin, it's more permit checks at another four Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks, then it's onto the Palestinian city of Nablus which is surrounded on 3 sides by refugee camps.
Israel soldiers control the entrance and exit from the city and then it's onto route 433 but being Jews, Mary, Joseph and the plodding donkey would have no problem using this 12 mile stretch of road through the West Bank as it is only open to Palestinians for a few hours a day and they would not have any problems at any of the 256 temporary checkpoints dotted along the route.
We get off the tarmac at Ramallah and through another set of Israeli military checkpoints which control who comes in and who goes out of the City.
Heading south again, Jerusalem appears in the distance and entry and exit to the city is made through 4 military checkpoints before finally, after negotiating the way through the refugee camps of Aida and Azza, we reach the city of Bethlehem flanked by 30ft high concrete walls and military roadblocks and yet more checkpoints.
On verification of their papers, the donkey can finally have a rest and Mary and Joseph can find a nice stable with a decent sized manger and hope that the 3 wise men have all the right permits and make it through unscathed.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Real Scrooge

A Christmas Carol's central character, Scrooge, has to be the most famous fictional characters in history with everyone from the Muppets to Blackadder reworking their own version of Charles Dickens miser whose visits from spirits force him to change his ways.   
Although Dickens was famous for using his own and experiences in his stories, many don't know that when Dickens wrote Scrooge, he based him on a famously miserly politician of his time, John Elwes.
Despite being fabulously wealthy by inheriting a fortune, Elwes hated spending money and would go to bed at sundown to avoid having to pay for candles, he bought no new clothes and was seen so often in filthy rags, would buy cheaper spoiled meat, would walk everywhere rather than hail a cab and would stay in whichever of the properties he rented did not have a tenant at the time.
Elwes lived to the age of 75, but the doctor who attended his deathbed said he would have lived at least another 20 years if he had spent some of his money on taking care of himself.
The name of Scrooge was inspired by an inscription Dickens found on a tombstone of Ebeneezer Scroggie while he was writing the story.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Blackberry Classic Q20

My Blackberry Curve is finally on it's last legs and i have been been mulling over whether to go for the Q10 or wait for the latest incarnation, the Blackberry Classic Q20, to arrive in the shops and after a few delays it is finally set to be launched December 17th priced at what Blackberry called a competitive price aimed at drawing people back to the failing company.
What i call a competitive price and what the Canadian firm call it are obviously widely different as the handset is on the Blackberry site to pre-order at £349.
There is no way on earth that i would pay that much for something that spends the day being bounced around in my bag or sat on in my back pocket. The Curve was flaky enough with the many scroll button replacements it undertook and the gradual erosion of the rubber buttons down the side after 3 years of wear and tear.
It was only my preference for the physical keyboard that i decided to hang around with the Blackberry but they have lost me with that pricing.
With a lack of physical keyboards on mobiles elsewhere, the decision is to go for the older Q10 for approx £150 or break the obsession and make my peace with the on-screen keypad and go elsewhere.
Tough choice but as i know it will be dropped on a few occasions, have coffee spilled over it once or twice and be generally thrown around alongside the rest of the stuff in my bag, it won't be a £349 Blackberry Classic.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Santa's Worlds Richest man

It can't be cheap running the Father Christmas operation what with all those sweets and toys he has to produce every year.
There is also the cost of reindeer food, the maintenance of the sleigh and those elves in the workshop don't work for free and being Santa doesn't generate any income.
I have always assumed he claims business miles from the tax office but Forbes have counted up his net worth and make him the richest fictional character with a wealth of infinity. 
Scrooge McDuck is a pauper compared to the jolly fat man from the North Pole although nobody is quite sure how he accumulated such wealth when his outgoings far exceed his incomings although the North Pole is a notorious tax haven but it explains why Santa's so jolly.

Let The Court Appearances Begin

The CIA may call them 'enhanced interrogation techniques' but if anyone else did them they would be quite rightly be called torture.
After the release of the summary of the report compiled by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the most surprising thing is that people are surprised by it, we all knew it was going on at the time so sexual abuse, beatings, water boarding and sleep deprivation are not anything we didn't already know. 
The report also states that the intelligence gained through torture was next to useless and 'failed to gather any information that foiled subsequent threats to US national security' which takes away the legs of anyone who wants to argue that it stopped further attacks and the US later released the majority of those they tortured back in to the world after years of imprisonment without charge.
As for the damage to Americas good reputation, what good reputation would that be? George W Bush splashed that up the nearest wall with his actions following 9/11.
So when do the trials start? The UN special rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, has released a statement saying 'It is now time to take action' and 'The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice' so let's start rounding them up and get them in front of a judge otherwise it's just many pages of meaningless words and George W Bush gets to go on television and bewilderingly call the torturers 'patriots' and therefore justifies the actions of every despot and tyrant there has ever been.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Put This On Your Present List

The odds are that one day, probably while you are watching the Chase or Tipping Point, an alien will arrive unannounced in your living room and before you know it you will be face down on a table with a probe inserted somewhere that doesn't see too much sunshine and travelling at the speed of light towards Alpha Centuri.
Apart from missing the bit where Mark The Beast' Labbett catches the contestants with one second left on the clock, it can ruin a perfectly good evening but that's the way with aliens, they just turn up without warning...until now.
For just $49.28 (approx £30) you can buy a UFO-02 Detector, magnetometer interfaced with micro controller for detecting magnetic anomalies.
Who wouldn't want to find one of those in their stockings this Christmas!    
It works by monitoring its surrounding area for any magnetic and electromagnetic anomalies caused by aliens and warns you of an imminent probing by flashing 16 LED's simultaneously and beeping.
With this bit of kit you will never need to inflate another rubber ring to sit on ever again so add this to your cart and tell those pesky aliens where they can stick their probes.
   

Sunday, 7 December 2014

New Christmas Songs

I have often lamented the sad demise of the Christmas song and since how since it's heyday in the 70s when the likes of Slade and Wizzard were prancing around the Top of The Pops studio in fake snow and flares, today's musicians just haven't cut it.
With the exception of 'All i want for Christmas is you' by Mariah Carey, it has been pants and this year it is no different with the same old songs being recycled on everyone's Greatest Christmas list.
Now i enjoy hearing festive tunes but there is only so many times you can hear The Pogues or Mud but the record industry has come up with a new way of making Christmas hits, they just get someone to re-record a song and release it at Christmas and instant entry on the Greatest Christmas Hits list next year.
For some reason Whitney Houston (brilliantly) warbling her way through 'I Will Always Love You' is now regarded as a Christmas hit and so is the Rik Astley mauling of 'When I Fall In Love' which is all very reminiscent of 'Die Hard' popping up its head in Best Christmas Films lists.
They may have snow in the videos but Whitney is not a Christmas Song, Astley is not a Christmas Song (and i'm not even certain Astley qualifies as a singer) and Die Hard is not a Christmas Film now redo those lists and for crying out loud give Shakin' Stevens the credit 'Merry Christmas Everyone' deserves!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Religion Doing Science

The Spiritual Science Research Foundation have been living up to their name and doing some spiritual and scientific research on climate change and the figures are in and the science has been collaborated and the reason behind climate change is...negative energies such as selfishness, greed, anger, aggressiveness and possessiveness emanating from humans.
They found that there is a rise in spiritual pollution which allows the likes of ghosts, demons and devils from the spiritual dimension to capitalise on this increase in the human race and just as we try to clean dirt out of the spaces that we use from time to time at a physical level, nature responds to the need for cleansing and correcting the subtle intangible pollution of spiritual pollution in the environment which results in an increase of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, eruption of volcanoes, cyclones etc.
It's conclusion is that 'it is imperative that we understand the basic root causes of global warming and natural disasters and take appropriate steps to eradicate the spiritual pollution in the world'.
I suppose the nicest thing to say is that it is another view but i guess religionists doing science was never going to be a good match.

Peace On Earth?

The herald angels had better stop harking about peace on earth and mercy mild because at times it seems that the whole world is at war and according to the latest Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP’s), it almost is with just 11 countries not involved in conflict of one kind or another.
The world as a whole has been getting incrementally less peaceful every year since 2007 and with certain countries doing more than their fair share to make sure that particular stat continues, it is no surprise that the UK finds itself in 47th place in the Global Peace index, USA is 101st, Israel 149th, Russia 152nd and Iraq 159th with unsurprisingly Syria the least peaceful place on earth.
The Herald Angel would be fine if it only included Switzerland, Japan, Qatar, Mauritius, Uruguay, Chile, Botswana, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Panama and Brazil in its song though because those are the most peaceful places with the least amount of internal and external conflict.
The director of the IEP Camilla Schippa warned that the state of peace in our time has been slowly but steadily decreasing in recent years and blames 'Major economic and geopolitical shocks, such as the global financial crisis and the Arab Spring. In the last year we have seen a large increase in terrorist activity and continuing global unrest means that there is unlikely to be a reversal of this trend in the short run'.

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Nativity For Cockney's

It has been said that many British don't understand the origins of Christmas with the East End of London most ignorant of the Nativity so it is to them that i direct this Two Ronnie's inspired post that hopefully will make everything clear.

About two thousand donkey’s ears ago there lived a young Cadbury’s Twirl named Mary. One Day's Dawning an angel appeared and told her she had been chosen to have a dustbin lid. The dustbin lid would be God's currant bun and she must call him Jesus.
Mary and Joseph were Cash and Carried and Joseph and his trouble and strife were told they had to go on a long Ball of Chalk to Bethlehem. Mary had to ride on a donkey down the frog and toad but at last Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. Mary was very tired and needed a place take a sooty and sweep but there was no room at the Rub-a-dub-dub but one said he had a stable, there was a nasty George Raft and a bit two thirty but they could stay there Burton-on-Trent free as long as they could stand the pen and ink.
A short Harry Lime later, Mary gave birth to her Currant Bun and she wrapped Jesus in an old Westminster Abbey Nanny Goat and laid Him in a manger.
Some nearby Arnold Palmers saw a bright light appear in the apple pie and couldn't believe their mince pies when an Angel appeared and told them that God’s currant bun had been born.
The Arnold Palmers went to see the dustbin lid and said that an angel had appeared in the apple pie and told them that this dustbin lid was to be the Saviour.
Meanwhile a carpet Wise Men saw a new La-Di-Da in the apple pie and they knew from their fish hooks that it meant that a great rubber ring had been born.
They decided to find this new rubber ring guided by the la-di-da and when they found him they gave him gave him gifts and that’s why we have Christmas.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

More Cuts Yet To Come

So how's this austerity working out for you? Not very good is it and tucked away in the small print of yesterdays Autumn summary was the announcement that we have not even seen the worst of it yet with only 40% of the cuts announced so far being actioned, there is still another 60% waiting in the wings for us.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies said Osborne has a duty to spell out his deficit reduction plans and warned of cuts on a 'colossal” scale' as the scale of cuts to departmental budgets and local government would reduce the role of the state to a point where it would have 'changed beyond recognition'.
The Office for Budget Responsibility joined in and said that the cuts set out in Treasury assumptions would see the state reduced to its smallest size relative to GDP for 80 years. 
Obviously after 4 years of Conservative Party cuts, we are still no better of then we were when Gideon and Dave took over the reins of Government and with the majority of cuts kicked into the long grass ready for whoever makes up the next Government, it's all very depressing.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Demonising Hungary

The demonising of Hungary has gone largely unnoticed but it is gathering pace nicely with John McCain today labelling the Prime Minister Viktor Orban a 'neo-fascist dictator'.
It all goes back to last year when Orban refused to join the new US and EU Cold War against Russia and annoyed them further by allowing the Russians to build a pipeline through Hungary and signed a deal that would see Russian firm Rosatom develop NATO member Hungary’s nuclear power much to the chagrin of the EU and US who banned Hungarian officials from entering the US.
With Russia Hungary's third largest trading partner, Orban has said that he will pursue whatever policies he believes are in his country’s national interest, regardless of the opinions of the west and after discovering that sanctions would cost his country a million pound a month, refused to join in and continued trading with Russia, saying it would be like 'shooting oneself in the foot'.
The West didn't like Hungary daring to question EU and US policy, and the punishment began with Obama declared that Hungary used 'overt intimidation' and was 'increasingly target civil society'.
I would assume the Amerians already have agitators in the country trying to stir up a protest much along the lines of Ukraine, a protest that they can then hijack and use as an excuse for regime change so we can expect Hungary and Orban to face further ramped up accusations of all sorts of nasties in the new year because as many World leaders have found out, do things our way or we brush off the blueprint for regime change and stick a patsy in who will.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Hawkings Seeing The Threat

I see how it is now. I have been banging on about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence for years and nobody takes any notice but when Steven Hawking says it, everyone starts getting worried.
Anyway, it is nice to see that Hawking has backed me up by declaring that: 'The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race'.
Prof. Hawking says the primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have already proved very useful but he fears the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans as it would: 'take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate and humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded'.
Clever bloke that Steven Hawking but it isn't just the theoretical physicist and Albert Einstein Award winner and me with my cycling proficiency test certificate in the bad-AI corner, we are joined by Elon Musk, chief executive of rocket-maker Space X who warned that AI is 'our biggest existential threat'.
If you can't take the word of the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, the man who co-founded paypal and someone who can ride a bicycle without wobbling, whose word can you take?

Monday, 1 December 2014

God Banned Christmas Trees

For someone who can do anything he wants at any time, God sure messed up having his only begotten son be born on Christmas Day because as anyone with a birthday on December 25th will tell you, nobody cares about blowing out candles when Santa's in town.
Maybe that is why when he wrote his book of what you must do to get into his house in the clouds, he tried to ruin Christmas by flat out forbidding Christmas Trees in the Bible.

Jeremiah 10:2-4 specifically states:'Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not'.

That's pretty conclusive, the Lord saith don't be a heathen and bring trees into the house and decorate them although he doesn't specify what happens if you do, God is not averse to a bit of vengeance so you can expect to be on the receiving end of a good and proper smitting.
Would seem such a shame to live a life free of sin and turning your other cheek to find out the pearly gates are locked to you just because you stuck a few baubles on a conifer once a year so if you are of a religious bent it might be safer to just go with the Hello Kitty advent calendar this year or if you must, throw some tinsel over the umbrella plant and wish Jesus Happy Birthday.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Americans Leaving USA In Record Numbers

For whatever reason, be it mad gun laws or the flagrant disregard for vowels, Americans are leaving the land of the free in record numbers.
According to the Federal Register, the 1,780 ex-citizens who flicked two fingers to Uncle Sam in 2011 are set to be surpassed by this years departures from the land that invented the Cheeseburger but when Americans leave on a jet plane, where do they lay their Hawaiian shirts and baseball caps?
Mexico has the largest proportion of former Americans with 738,100, then the Philippines who have 300,000 and Israel which has 200,000 cluttering up their Kibbutz.
The United Kingdom is the eight favourite destination with 115,000 Americans who have ripped up their passports and made this side of the Atlantic their permanent residence.
Of course a warm welcome is guaranteed for any members of our former colony who seek a return to the Motherland but why are they swapping the country run by Obama for one run by David Cameron?
Apparently, its financial as US citizens living abroad continue to pay US taxes even if their income is generated elsewhere so the expatriates abandon their US citizenship for the sake of saving cash after paying the exit fee.
Considering that David Cameron's Government has wasted tens of billions on projects like HS2 which is a train that will get you to somewhere 10 minutes earlier, all the extra tax from fleeing Americans is welcome but just a heads up, don't try and adopt the British accent because you will just end up sounding either like a drunk Michael Caine or a butler and whichever it is, we will still mercilessly mock you when you call your backside a fanny or call your sandals thongs.
Welcome aboard.

Planning For Retirement

Seeing as my retirement pension pot means that i will be living on tins of beans and whatever i can find behind the fridge when i stop work, i have two options.
A) Plan for retirement by paying into a reliable pension scheme with a decent return or B) inventi a perpetual motion machine and sell it for gazillions.
While i have been relying on B, there are other ways that i can fund my twilight years of resting on a beach in Eastbourne moaning about how the youth of today are uglier than in my day.
The first is to claim the £25 million on offer from The Virgin Earth Challenge and all i have to do is come up with a way of scrubbing greenhouse gases out of the Earth’s atmosphere to avoid global warming.  
The second is the Google Lunar X Challenge which pays out £30 million for anyone who can land a robot on the surface of the Moon, move it 500 meters over the lunar surface and send images and data back to the Earth.
The perpetual motion machine is easy, a circle of powerful magnets set against a case of equally powerful magnets repelling each other will spin for infinity so all i have to do is get a carpenter to knock up a cabinet and a wheel lined with opposite facing magnets and that's my retirement sorted.
The scrubbing of Greenhouses Gases is a work in progress but involves creating artificial or genetically modified trees that can suck up more Co2 than 'normal trees'. Failing that putting massive domes over the USA and China will work.
The Google Lunar challenge is more tricky and involves stealing the blueprints for the Mars rover, slapping a Moon Rover sticker over the name and firing it towards the moon.
That's me sorted then and i can retire with a full bank balance and a pair of very dark sunglasses so i don't have to see the ridiculously ugly teenagers that will be cluttering up the place in 20 years time.

Lest, They Forgot

Crass insensitivity just doesn't seem strong enough to describe the Tower of London hosting a dinner for arms manufacturers the day after the sea of poppies remembrance installation closed.
The £240 per head event was held by the world’s biggest defence firm Lockheed Martin and was billed as an 'acclaimed and influential chance to make new business connections for senior defence manufacturers' and was attended by 200 industry representatives and Ministry of Defence officials.
Almost a million British and Commonwealth servicemen died in the First World War and two weeks ago the Tower was honouring them with a sea of ceramic poppies planted in the Towers grounds.
Within a fortnight, the same place that was a focus for remembering the horrendous loss of life in wars is making sure that there are always a fresh supply of victims for the politicians to urge us not to forget while shedding a crocodile tear over in front of the TV cameras.
If they made a sea of poppies for all the people who will be killed using military equipment manufactured in the UK they would have to find a new location because the Tower moat wouldn't be big enough.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

It's Beginning To Sound A Lot Like Christmas

'Tis the season to hear the same songs repeated endlessly on the radio and in every shop we enter and none has been heard more than 'Fairytale of New York' according to new research.
The 1987 song by The Pogues, featuring Kirsty MacColl, topped the list of 50 top Christmas songs played on the radio according to musical rights body PRS for Music.
The list by PRS for Music found the second most popular was "Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You" and the 1994 tune was the most recent in the top 20.
The original Band Aid hit "Do They Know It’s Christmas" was close in third place and i am happy to see the much underrated 'Merry Christmas Everyone' by Shakin Stevens at number 11.
To rub everyone else's nose in it, 7 of the the top 10 are British which proves my point that when it comes to songs about Christmas, Brits do it best

Fairytale of New York - The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl
All I Want For Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey
Do They Know It's Christmas? - Band Aid
Last Christmas - Wham!
Santa Claus is Coming to Town - Harry Reser
Do You Hear What I Hear? - Bing Crosby
Happy Christmas (War Is Over) - John & Yoko
Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday - Wizzard
Merry Xmas Everybody - Slade
Merry Christmas Everyone - Shakin' Stevens

Show Us Your Award Tony

Tony Blair must be wondering if with the distance of a decade, the British public might finally be ready to forgive him for his role in the Iraq War and he got his answer, a resounding no they are not.
Save the Children has been criticised by all and sundry for giving Tony Blair an award for his anti-poverty work in Africa and has sent the Save The Children UK rushing out a statement saying it was nothing to do with them, it was Save the Children US.
Over 200 of the Save The Children staff signed a petition against their charity handing it over to former Prime Minister and after they went ahead and did it anyway, 100,000 people signed a petition calling for the Charity to snatch it back off him as 'his legacy in Iraq overshadows his achievements in Africa'.
Accepting the award last week, Mr Blair said: 'It's amazing how nice people are to you when you stop being prime minister'.
Maybe he should do a tour of the UK to show off his award and i am sure that he will find out just how nice his own people are to him.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Band Aid 30

Band Aid 30 sits atop the Top 40 as expected after sales of 312,000 copies in the first week, equalling the achievement of the original Band Aid record in 1984 although that racked up sales of over 1 million in week one. 
Read into that what you want but for whatever reason the 2014 version is not a patch on the one that we heard in 1984.
Some people are blaming the song, an argument that i have some sympathy with as i hoped they wouldn't just rehash the same old tune with different singers but apart from a few changed lines, it's exactly what they did.
Others are saying the British public is suffering from charity fatigue, coming so soon after Children in Need which is yet another plea for our cash which is in short enough supply already at this time of year.
It does seem that you can't step outside the door without someone trying to sign you up to donate a monthly amount to one charity or another.
Another reason put forward is that the spark that set the original Band Aid on it's way was the horrific and shocking scenes in Michael Buerk's news reports in 1984 which showed the appalling famine in Africa and 30 years on we have become a bit more immune to such sights of people literally starving to death.
Finally, the 1984 line up was a who's who of superstars of the day with the likes of Paul Weller and David Bowie rubbing shoulders with Paul McCartney and George Michael.
Today's big names of One Direction, Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding are not so much out of that league but almost a whole other sport.
Despite all that it is a great cause and i hope it raises as much money as possible but next time let's have a different song Bob.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Will Lewis Hamilton Ever Be Liked By Us Brits?

While Britain is not falling over sporting champions, when one does come along we seem to go off them pretty quick or in the case of Lewis Hamilton, not think much of him in the first place.
I would assume that Hamilton and his achievement of becoming the first British racing driver in over 40 years to win the Formula One drivers Championship twice has been greeted with lukewarm appreciation by the British public is because he comes across as a bit of an arrogant tosser.
As if arrogance is not enough of a red line to the British, include the fact that as soon as he began making some serious money he turned tax exile in Monaco and he not only crossed the line, he vaulted it so it isn't surprising that the British public has not taken Hamilton to heart.
Something the British can't stand is a show off and Hamilton with his sparkling diamond earring, pop star girlfriend and red carpet lifestyle almost guarantees that Hamilton will not be picking up any Sports Personality of The Year Awards when they are handed out next month.  
Stirling Moss touched on the subject the day after Hamilton's triumph when he said 'He’s whatever you call those superstars. And that’s not really the way we English go. We’re more reserved.'
Hamilton may well get the recognition for being the best in his sport, even one as boring as F1, but it is unlikely that he will ever gain national acceptance until he does things the 'British' way, whatever that is.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Reduced Brains In Dope Smokers

You can always tell someone who has been smoking weed for any length of time because they are just that little bit slower in the way they respond.
Only a fraction of a second in most cases but enough of a delay to alert us that we are dealing with someone who has lost a few braincells through a certain kind of herbal cigarettes.
New research has now borne it out that using marijuana may be related to certain changes in the brain related to a smaller volume of grey matter.
'We found that there is not only is a change in structure, but there also tends to be a change reflected in the connectivity' said study author Francesca Filbey, an associate professor in the School of Behavioural and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas who explained that the connectivity could be compensation for the loss of grey matter
'All we can say is that we do see these differences in people who use marijuana, Filbey said explaining that 'We also saw that the younger you are when you start using marijuana regularly, the greater the changes in the brain'.
Of course it is not 100% reliable to surmise that the person you are talking to is a bit slower on the uptake due to marijuana smoking which has reduced their brain volume, they just may be a Sun reader or a UKIP voter who have naturally reduced brains anyway.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Snowmageddon

'You global warming advocates look kinda silly now that we are getting record snow fall' said one lady to me during the week as New York received a years worth of snow in just 3 days.
Of course climate-change sceptics are always groping for anything to embrace as evidence that global warming doesn't exist but a quick look at the science behind these catastrophic storms suggests that they do not occur despite global warming, but in fact because of it.
The basic science behind snow and its relationship to climate change is fairly straightforward as warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate into the atmosphere and warmer air holds more water than cooler air. The warming results in air that becomes supersaturated with water, often bringing drenching rainfall, followed by flooding or, if it is cold enough, heavy and intense snowfall.
A study of 20th century snowstorms by the Northern Illinois University department of geography found that most major snowstorms in the United States occurred during warmer-than-normal years and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Centre predict that a warmer future climate will generate more winter storms.
So more water in the atmosphere and when you mix in a blast of unseasonably frigid conditions courtesy of the jet stream delivering Arctic air down into the United States because of the warmed Arctic region, you get a massive dumping of snow.
It doesn't help that the ice coverage on the Great Lakes has dropped with the warming climate, creating conditions favourable to more evaporation as the temperature difference between the lake and the air is greater creating heavier snowstorms.
Rather than looking silly, it confirms that the warmer atmosphere is holding more water vapour and so there is more of that water vapour available for precipitation and as long as it's cold enough for that precipitation to be snow you will get larger snowfalls.
It really isn't that difficult to grasp unless you are grasping incorrectly to try and prove your point which is based on ignorance.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Cosby Allegations

The Bill Cosby allegations first surfaced in 2005 when Cosby was accused of drugging and sexually assaulted four women, now the count is up to 13 including Janice Dickinson who claimed in 1982 he gave her a glass of red wine and a pill before raping her. 
Settling out of court always seems an admission of guilt without the trail, if you were innocent why not go to the court and be exonerated completely?    
It seems that in 2006, after the undisclosed amount was transferred out of the Cosby bank account to his victim, the allegations were forgotten and everything carried on as before reminiscent of the Michael Jackson child sexual abuse accusations case in 1993 when he paid out $15m to 13 year old Jordan Chandler and resumed his career.
Although Jackson's career recovered, the second allegation bought everything crashing down around his ears and it appears that it is the further allegations which is doing for Cosby now.
It does appear that the court of public opinion has now decided to feel disgusted with Cosby, even though the allegations against him being a serial rapist have been rumbling in the background for the past nine years.
I am sure someone more qualified than i can explain why we are willing to forgive and forget people like Cosby the first time is due to the position people like Cosby holds in our lives.
Most of us grew up with Cosby in shows like The Cosby Show and we don't want to think that someone like the wise-cracking, goofy, advice-dispensing patriarch we loved to watch turned out to be one of the lowest human beings on the planet is too shocking to contemplate until the second time around.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Lunar Mission One

There are some people who balk at the idea of spending millions to fire rockets into space but the misery-guts can't argue about the latest idea to pay a visit to the moon as it will be funded by donations from the public.
The plans are to land a robotic probe, Lunar Mission One, on the Moon in 10 years' time to survey the Moon's south pole to see if a human base can be set up in the future funded by £500m of donations by the public who in return will be able to have photos, text and their DNA included in a time capsule which will be buried under the lunar surface.
David Iron, who is leading the project, said he was setting up the initiative because governments were increasingly finding it difficult to fund space missions.
'Anyone in the world will be able to get involved for as little as just a few pounds. Lunar Mission One
will make a huge contribution to our understanding of the origins of our planet and the Moon' he explained.
For the next four years, funds will be received through contributions from the public, who will be able to buy digital storage space on the lander for their own personal text messages for £3, pictures for £10 and a videos will cost £200. The price of sending a hair sample will be around £50.
The lander will also contain a public digital archive of human history and science which will be compiled as a legacy which will survive even if our species becomes extinct.
The hook for many, including me, is that rather than just watching another mission, we are directly involved not just through funding but having a little piece of ourselves on another part of the Solar System.
This is a great idea and could be the future of space exploration and we won't have to listen to the moaners who would prefer the money be spent on improving rubbish collection or some such triviality rather than exploring possible alternative places for our species to live after we have trashed this planet so badly.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Pick-Up Artist Banned From UK

Britain has joined the list of places that Julien Blanc, the self-titled 'Pick up artist', can't visit after the Home Office banned him from entering the country.
More than 158,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Blanc, who tours the world giving £1000 seminars and boot camps on what he calls 'dating advice' but his critics call 'tricking women into having sex'.
The Home Office explained that: 'The Home Secretary has the power to exclude an individual if she considers that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good' and judging by his previous advice which included Blanc promising men who take his courses that he will teach them how to 'Make Girls BEG To Sleep With You After Short-circuiting Their Emotional And Logical Mind' and 'overcoming last-minute resistance making her feel 100% comfortable for sex', i would say it is a good decision although it does seem as much a decision to protect the wallets of stupid men as much as to protect women.
He is obviously an egotistical bell-end but i am sure there are some people who will try and make the argument regarding freedom of speech but surely that is trumped if the speech is to incite at best non-consensual sexual advances, at worst inciting non-consensual sex or rape as it is also called.
Preventing women from being harmed is always better than having to deal with the perpetrator and the shattered life afterwards so i'm happy to see him banned from flogging his 'advice' to desperate men here and i hope more countries tell him where to go as well.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

2014 Warmest Year On Record.

Not one, not two but three organisations have released data at the same time to confirm that 2014 is set to be the warmest year on record.
Data from NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the National Climatic Data Centre all peg temperatures in October as above average which continues the trend that shows not only is the earth warming, but so are the oceans which have been sucking up the CO2 and drives up further global temperatures.
While individual hot years or months don’t necessarily stand out, it’s notable that all 10 of the warmest years on record have all come since 1998, and the trend for extreme weather moving upward according to a the U.S. National Climate Assessment to the American Meteorological Society.
The Environmental Defence Fund have broken down the changing weather patterns they have been seeing and why.
The rain patterns are changing are there is more moisture in the atmosphere from a warmer world and changes in circulation patterns as stubborn to shift high and low pressure systems deflect storms which are holding more moisture due to greater evaporation in the warmer conditions and throwing down more intense rain.
The changing weather patterns and deflected weather patterns means that while some places get more than their fair share of rain and subsequent floods, others get none leading to droughts conditions which increases evaporation from the soil which in turn dries out the soil and the incoming sunlight heats the ground, instead of evaporating water in the soil which creates a vicious cycle of more heat and less rain.
All of which points towards unless society curbs its emissions of heat-trapping gases, these trends will not only continue but worsen and future generations will be justified on asking why did we not do something about it while we still had the chance.
The answer is obviously because we didn't care enough about them to try and change things.

EU Finally Acting On Israel

Not before time the tide has changing against support for Israel and the EU have threatened sanctions against the country for 'posing obstacles to a two-state solution with occupied Palestine'.
The line the Israeli's crossed which has finally got the Eu to take notice of what Israel has been up to for over 60 years, was the dismantling of several EU-funded humanitarian projects in a West Bank zone known as the E1 corridor, which were bulldozed to make way for new Israeli settlements.
Amidst warnings that this was seriously disturbing territorial coherence with the Palestinians, let alone that it was a breach of international law, the EU is getting its act together to bring to heel one of the worst human right abusers of our times.
Israel does business worth €29 billion with the EU and it may focus a few minds in the Israeli Government more sharply and find it less easy to swat away then the condemnation it receives when it breaches all manner of human right acts and international laws.
Finally, Israel is finding it can longer carry on acting as barbarically as it has, the shame is that it has taken this long for the World's Governments to wake up to it.

The Nuts Of California

In 1972, Mike Hazlewood, sang a song called 'It never rains in Southern California' but 42 years on it seems that it isn't just the southern part of the state running out of water, 99% of it is officially 'abnormally dry".
California is now in its third year of drought and the reservoirs have almost run dry and so too are the ground water supplies and the home owners are actually being paid to rip up the grass and plants in the gardens and replace it with plants more tolerant to desert-like conditions which don't require watering.
All very sensible water preservation precautions until you hear that California's Central Valley which supplies 80% of the Worlds almonds, uses up 1.1 trillion gallons of water every single year, the equivalent of 86 million 10-minute showers every day for the next year.
With 70% of the almonds produced going to China, Californians are quire literally being sucked dry to ensure that the people of China get their almond based snacks.
I imagine at some time in the past someone in California has asked why selling nuts to China and making a handful of nut farmers a profit is more important than ensuring their own water supply for the people who pay the taxes in the State but as it's continuing, i imagine they were told profit trumps the need of the Californians reliving the Dust Bowl conditions of the 1930's.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Rap Therapy

I never really appreciated rap back in it's heyday but one of the best lines in music comes from the Run DMC song 'It's Like That' where the boys make the suggestion that 'Next time someones teaching why don't you get taught'.
A great line but apart from a handful of Run DMC songs and few by Grandmaster Flash, rap seemed to have not really been on my radar but psychiatrists at Cambridge University have obviously been paying attention to it because they believe that ‘hip-hop’ therapy could help the depressed and mentally ill.
'Much of hip-hop comes from areas of great socioeconomic deprivation, so it’s inevitable that its lyrics will reflect the issues faced by people brought up in these areas, including poverty, marginalisation, crime and drugs' explained Dr Akeem Sule, of the University of Cambridge.
'Hip-hop artists use their skills and talents not only to describe the world they see, but also as a means of breaking free. There’s often a message of hope in amongst the lyrics' and the team have chosen the top three hip-hop songs which they believe can help mental illness.
I don't know the song 'Juicy' by The Notorious BIG or J flex ft Lady of R's 1997 classic 'Lady Heroin' but i am very familiar with 'The Message' by Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five, mostly because it was used in the Green Cross Code advert back in the 80's.
Music can certainly be very emotive and can stir some deep emotions so the Cambridge boffins are probably on to something and it may be rap music for some and Country and Western for others, another genre of music that i pretty much ignored, but i find listening to Christmas songs at any time of the year a massive lifter.
Hearing 'Frosty the Snowman' coming from the CD player in July also serves as a great warning sign to others that it probably isn't the best time to ask for a favour.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

No Santa At Gun Club This Year

Christmas is a time for peace and goodwill to all men, something the ScottsDale Gun Club obviously forgot as they used the yuletide as an opportunity to flog weapons and sell a photo of you and your family holding powerful weaponry while Santa looks on.
Unfortunately this year it seems that Santa has had a change of heart and he won't be putting in an appearance at the ScottsDale Gun Club amidst much disappointment from gun-buying members who so wanted to send out Christmas cards with festive scenes of them excitedly holding AK47's with Santa.
No explanation was forthcoming from the Gun Club why Santa is swerving them this year but the shop is keen to let customers know that they are still open to sell plenty of weapons that can blow a big hole into another person and what more can you ask from a gun.
So pop down to the shop on Northsight Boulevard and show someone how much you love them by buying them a high-powered weapon of death.
Not endorsed by Santa.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Another Step Forward

After 25 years of planning, 10 years of travelling and 300 million miles of distance travelled, we have taken another large step by landing a probe on a 4 billion year old comet breezing along at 34,000mph.
Scientists cheered and punched the air in the European Space Agency (ESA) control room after a nail-biting 7 hour wait between the probe's detachment from the Rosetta orbiter and touchdown on the comet's surface and receipt of first signals.
The orbiter has been chasing the comet, named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, since 2004 and has now caught up with it as it passed between Earth and Jupiter on one of its regular trips to the inner Solar System.
There are concerns that the lander's harpoon system for firmly latching onto the comet had not fired and the probes grip on the comet is tentatively dependent on ice-screws affixed to the bottom of the landing legs but for the moment we taken yet another leap forward which are thankfully beginning to come regularly after so many wasted years in space exploration.

Thankful For Political Correctness

Growing up in the 1970's, i remember the jokes comedians made about black men, the Irish, the disabled, Jews, homosexuals, women and any other group that wasn't British white male.
Fast forward 30 years and we have shows like Little Britain and Borat which are applauded for not being politically correct but are exactly the sort of shows that wouldn't have been funny 30 years ago because the sort of thing's they say and do were then the norm.
As if undermining the people applauding him, Borat writer, Peter Baynham, explained that: 'When Borat says controversial and 'un-PC' things, it is obvious it is because he is clearly an idiot, a little reminder, of why we don't say those things, and it's weird when you read people saying it was deliberately offensive. The laugh is a laugh of 'Oh my God, you can't say that!' People are laughing with shock, because we've reminded them of why it's wrong to say things like black people have chocolate faces'.
Far from being a mockery of political correctness, Borat shows a time before political correctness made things better and that is where the humour lies, laughing at the very sort of 70's racism and sexism that was so prevalent and ushered in the dire need for cultural and social advances.
A peaceful society is built upon respect and tolerance for all of it's members and since the days when Bernard Manning's jokes about Paki's was the height of comedy, Britain has become a more tolerant, fairer and more culturally aware society and the introduction of political correctness has helped promote that.
Political correctness reflects the kind of society most of us want to live in where offending people is frowned upon and it is only those who set out to deliberately be offensive who complain about the restriction of their freedoms to insult anyone they want at will. 
The phrase 'political correctness gone mad' can be heard being uttered by aggrieved people who remember the days when they could speak without fear of being accused of upsetting one minority in society or another.
Political Correctness has ushered in a time of respect and civility for all, where unnecessary offence is avoided and everyone in society has the same opportunities regardless of the colour of your skin, if you are in a wheelchair, if you are Jewish or if you have a vagina and how can anybody seriously say that is a bad thing?
The only freedom the anti-PC brigade has lost is the freedom to cause offence to another person and thankfully we have moved so far from the bad old days that no amount of whinging about political correctness will undo the immense good that it has done.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Universe Lucky To Have Us Remarkable Humans

In the 13.6 billion years since the universe was formed, entire civilisations on other planets may have been created and perished long before our planet came on the scene 4.5 billion years ago. Humans have been running the show here for a mere 200,000 years which is a blink of an eye in the scheme of the universe and a tiny fraction of the 170 million years that the dinosaurs ruled the planet.
Considering just how short a time homo-sapiens have been around, what we have achieved is truly remarkable in that we have worked out how and when the universe was created, have been able to overcome gravity and leave our own planet, land on others and have a permanent base circling our World in the International Space Station.
Over time the human mind has pondered and solved the most complex of questions and for those that are beyond us, have created machines that can perform calculations measured in the quadrillions per second.
For all our faults we are a remarkable life form and science will continue to drive on and it is dizzying to think how further advanced we will become but more importantly, just how valuable we are.
If life has formed on other planets it doesn't necessarily follow that it will take the same trajectory as homo-sapiens here on Earth, they could follow the line of the dinosaurs who spent their allotted 170 millions years eating the vegetation and each other until their extinction which allowed the mammals to flourish and most importantly, us.        
So to return to my original thought, what if we are the only beings in the entire universe who have the intelligence to leave our own atmosphere and land elsewhere. What if after 13.6 billion years we humans are the only ones to crack the problems faced in colonising other planets and are the ones responsible for intelligent life being on other planets.
We have our issues, far too warlike and we do have a habit of polluting our own environments, but what if this unremarkable planet tucked away on the arm of a insignificant galaxy is the home of life that spreads across the rest of the universe in the next 170 million years and considering that we have gone from inventing the wheel to landing machines on Mars in a cosmic click of the fingers, it could do much worse than have us humans in charge of the project.

Navy SEAL Didn't Think That Through

I can't think what the Navy SEAL all over the media claiming to have fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden is doing.
Now his identity is out there he is a target for every crackpot fundamentalist around the World.
If i was one of the other Navy SEAL's disputing his version of events, i would be quite happy to let him take the plaudits and appear on as many chat shows and interviews as he wants if that is his craving because his name, and his families, has just shot to the top of the list of targets for certain groups around the World.
Whoever is advising him, if anybody is, should make their next piece of advice to him to pull his head in and shut the hell up because his big ego and brainless actions have put everyone around him in the cross hairs.

World Wars Business Opportunity

I don't wear a poppy for two reasons, the first being i am continually being told i should do because people died to ensure that i was free to wear one which i rebut with i'm sure they died so i could choose whether to or not otherwise that fascism and wasn't THAT what they died to avoid?       
Secondly i am from the school that rather than send young men to war and then stand around looking solemn wearing a red flower once a year when they die in their droves, just don't send them to fight wars in the first place. I'm sure, if asked, the family of every single soldier that has ever died would they rather their son, husband or brother be alive and not known then dead and remembered one Sunday in November by the old men who sent them to war, they would choose the later.
Apart from poppies, there does seem to be a new market emerging around this time of year, the World War souvenir business.
At the local Guildhall this morning, during the remembrance service, there was stalls selling mugs, t-shirts, teddy bears in tin hats and even chocolate poppies and i did wonder as i watched the brisk business they made between the first cannon for silence and the second to end the two minutes of contemplation, is this really an appropriate way to remember all these soldiers who lost their lives?     
I am unsure in my own mind if this is blatant exploitation or a legitimate, albeit questionable, business opportunity but while the argument will continue exactly what the millions died for, i'm sure all sides can agree it wasn't to make a profit on chocolate poppies sold in their name.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Zeppelin Plagarism Trial

Not sure if they were inspired by my post here but finally Spirit have decided to sue Led Zeppelin for ripping off their 1968 song 'Taurus' to create 'Stairway to Heaven'.
If the judge in the case has a pair of working ears then the result should be a resounding Guilty and the award of monetary damages and a writing credit for the late songwriter Randy Craig Wolfe who's family claim that Jimmy Page plagiarised the chords after the two bands toured together and become familiar with each others music.
The Zeppelin's tried to have the case dismissed as the defendants are British citizens residing in England and therefore could not be tried by an American court but the judge dismissed the appeal and ordered the trial to continue.
As it comes hot on the heels of the BBC programme where Jimmy Page broke down exactly how he created the tune and came up with the haunting riffs for the Zeppelin song and not once mentioned scribbling it down when Taurus played it, this should be interesting.
The Eagles should be worried if Jethro Tull are paying attention.

Baby Metal

Baby Metal are a Japanese band fronted by three super-cute sixteen year old girls but the twist is that they sing and dance in the style of pop idol contestants to the music of head banging thrash metal as if Girls Aloud and Slipknot had a baby.
Bit strange was my thoughts and then i clearly forgot about them but suddenly they are announcing a tour of the UK and all sorts of Metal fans who are usually scratching Metallica into their forearms with a compass are raving about them.
It really shouldn't work and nobody can really explain why Baby Metal are on such an upwards trajectory but upwards they are certainly heading but maybe because it is the whole concept is so damn weird that it has caught the imagination of metal fans who are, to be fair, a pretty weird bunch anyway.
I'm not much of a metal fan and the music doesn't really appeal to me so i won't be queueing up for concert tickets anytime soon but i do love the idea and anything has to be better than the X-Factor pap that Simon Cowell has been spinning out for the past decade and besides, who doesn't love a Japanese teenager singing sweet lyrics in front of burning guitars while a man dressed as a skeleton head bangs along to a thrash metal riff behind them.
Just me then?

Baby Metal Video Here

That'll Show 'Em

A rather too smug George Osborne returned from Brussels, puffed out his chest and proudly announced: 'Instead of footing the bill, we’ve halved the bill' in relation to the £14.7 billion bill the EU handed over to the UK last month.
What he obviously forgot to mention was that it was halved by Osborne offering to return the £850 million rebate cheque that the UK was due to receive and the rest in instalments meaning that the full £1.7bn will still be paid in full.
After all that huffing and humphing by Cameron about not paying it, we just have as asked, to an instalment plan the EU was always happy to accommodate us on.
I now look forward to Cameron and Gideon explaining how they showed those Europeans who's boss.

1989 Again?

I woke up this morning and on the radio was Mikhail Gorbachev talking about the Berlin Wall and an American General talking about how dangerous the Russians were and how American actions was aimed at protecting the West from the leaders in the Kremlin.
Great i thought, i've woken up in 1989 again and was just joyfully contemplating another chance to witness Guns 'n' Roses before they turned into Bon Jovi and be able to wear jeans with the knees ripped out again when the interviewer announced that it has been 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down.
Putting back into the cupboard the 'Ronald Reagan: The President's Brain Is Missing' T-shirt, it did strike me that even 25 years has gone, the Cold War is still ongoing.
'We wasted the chances that the end of the Cold War presented. It started so well, but some people didn’t like it' Mikhail Gorbachev said, obviously pointing at the Americans.
Noam Chomsky then chimed in asking why NATO continued to exist and then answering his own question by explaining that it's to 'control the international, the global energy system, pipelines. That means to control the world' which is hard to argue against as since the Wall came down America and NATO have been involved in plenty of wars in oil rich Middle Eastern and North African countries.      
It has always seemed that the West, America especially, have been trying to get a handle on Russia since it became obvious that the country wasn't going to play ball and knuckle down to America's will, with the opposition to attacking Syria and then the Ukraine the pre-text to finally try and bring it to heel using cold war rhetoric and Obama absurdly branding the Russians as the second greatest threat to the World.
From where i am sitting it isn't the Russians bent on reshaping the world by all means necessary for it's own interests or the country with military bases all around the World ready to attack anyone who threatens those interests.
At the moment the new walls being erected are only virtual and it isn't a Cold War so much as a tepid one but as the rhetoric grows, against Russia as well as that other great threat to America that is China, we may all be back in the pre-1989 days only without the decent music on the radio and cool fashion this time.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

How Dare They Use Facts

Those damned EU migrants. They come over here and contribute more to the UK in taxes than they receive in benefits and services, according to new research.
Just who do they think they are paying taxes and enriching the country by £20 billion since 2001.
Professor Christian Dustmann, director of UCL's Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration said: 'A key concern in the public debate on migration is whether immigrants contribute their fair share to the tax and welfare systems. Our new analysis draws a positive picture of the overall fiscal contribution made by recent immigrant cohorts, particularly of immigrants arriving from the EU'.
So now what are the reactionary anti-immigration Ukipers who want to take us out of Europe going to do now that their reason to come out of Europe is exposed as a busted flush?
It just isn't right, the UKIP and their voters are already a laughing stock and this isn't going to make things any easier.
I want a return to the days before the people who know these things would spout such evidence that contradicted things that us little Englanders thought we knew, the old days when Nigel Farage could scaremonger about EU migrants without fear that he would be made to look an absolute twonk with the facts.
Bah, humbug.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Let's Pray

As it's Sunday and i am obliged to write one article a year about religion that doesn't ridicule the whole God thing, i usually leave it to December and hide it amongst articles about Santa and reindeer's with red noses but this year i thought i would get it out the way early and do it in November.
That was the plan anyway but as i dropped to my knees, clasped my hands in front of my face and prayed for some inspiration, i began to wonder, what is the hand clasping thing all about?   
I asked my neighbour who is a Reverend and should know if anyone does but he never and instead tried to get me to write about all the good things religion does in the world but i was on a mission so ignored him.
I asked a Buddhist, a Muslim and a Jew but it was a Chinese atheist who shone light upon it as a sign of submission.
According to her, the gesture goes back to the very early days of Christianity when the Romans were feeding lions on a diet of shackled Christians and the lion's lunch would offer their joined hands to the Romans in the hope that by submitting to their fate the Centurions would pity them and spare them.
Pretty sure that didn't work out so well for them and it just made the job of tying the hands of the prisoner even easier but apparently it's an act of waving the white flag, or surrendering themselves to their fate stating you are submissive to your God or Roman guard, whichever is most fitting at the time.
Happy with the explanation she then said that it could also stem from the traditional way of greeting someone in many south-east Asian countries from the same time when people wore loose garments with large sleeves and was specifically to demonstrate that they are not concealing any weapons within those sleeves, much in the way the handshake originated as a way to show you were not holding a weapon in early Western society.
I'm happy that it is a sign of submission to your chosen deity as if saying: 'Look God, i gave up a Sunday morning lie in, i'm kneeling on a hard floor in a draughty Church singing about rowing a boat ashore and listening to someone in a frock bang on for an hour about talking bushes..i give up!'
Righty, that's that out the way so next Sunday the story of how  if you give a man a sandwich you'll feed him for a day and if you give him a religion, he'll starve to death praying for a sandwich.