Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

May, 2008:

Victory Cigarettes

Neu Arbeit, our glorious leaders, have a plan to reduce the number of smokers in the country.

It is in the best traditions of totalitarianism (think the goose-step) both farcical and terrifying. They want to ban retailers from displaying cigarettes. They will now have to be sold like Corporal Jones’s sausages from under the counter.

There are also plans afoot to remove all logos and branding from ciggies.

This plan is aimed to discourage children from taking up the weed. It will do no such thing. Pete Doherty is a hero to many kids (he’s always winning “sexiest man on the planet” and “NME hero of the year” awards. Part of his glamour is his heroic consumption of restricted substances. Kids like that sort of thing. Kids like being a bit naughty and rebelling against “The Man”. All this will achieve is shop assistants scrabbling about to find 20 Marlboro, under a counter in an unmarked pack… The queues in newsagents and petrol stations will be Biblical. People will be late for work.

It is of course also a move towards criminalizing smoking and prohibition on this scale will be a once in a century opportunity for organized crime. Are these people not aware that because of the spectacular levels of tax on UK fags we already have a massive black market in them. I often smoked Polish ciggies bought on the sly. They’re very easy to tell. The EU mandates that fag packets are 40% health warning and these health-warnings have way to many consonants. Christ, I’ve even smoked Chinese (not an experience to repeat) cigarettes. Putting all cigarettes under the counter is a boon to smugglers. They don’t get it do they? This could make prohibition-era Chicago look like a law-abiding town.

They’re also considering banning the sale of cigarettes in packs of ten (a peculiar UK tradition due to how highly taxed they are) and banning cigarette vending machines. The latter are almost invariably in pubs. If this really is to keep kids away from ciggie-wigs then I do wonder if the cart is pulling the horse here.

I watched this on the news with my dumb-struck wife. She was dumb-struck because they quite clearly don’t have the slightest idea that they are utterly totalitarian, or even if you discount that, what the unintended consequences might be. She finally managed to say, on the branding issue, “They might as well call them all ‘Victory Cigarettes’ and be done with it.” Thresher’s the off license chain already calls it’s own brand gin, “Victory”. Someone in their marketing department must have a sense of humour.

God, I hate them. They are utterly illiberal, utterly dishonest, utterly useless and completely, totally, thoroughly incapable of even grasping the concept that they might, even sometimes, get it wrong.

This is not a post about smoker’s rights. This law will harm everyone. It will harm the back of the shop-assistant who has to rummage for the cigarettes under the counter. It will harm the none smokers in the queue. It will harm all of us by promoting organized crime, it will harm children by giving smoking an extra, forbidden, glamour. It will harm tax-payers who will have to take up the slack when we realize it is promoting more smuggling. It’s nuts on so many levels. It harms our society because if they get this through God knows what they’ll be clamping down on next. Booze, fatty foods, cars, being under the approved dress-size… Whatever your thing is whether hurtful or harmful (and smoking certainly is harmful) they’re coming to get you.

Unsurprisingly, this latest scheme is the work of “Red” Dawn Prim’n'Proper, the minister for public health. As I type this I imagine I can smell her burning at the stake. Or maybe that’s just my Polish Mayfair smouldering in the ashtray. I’m committing an offence there too. This shed is my place of business and smoking is illegal in a place of business. I don’t even have the officially mandated signs up. The fact that I don’t meet clients here (this is my space where I work subtle magic and sometimes just hit it with a hammer) is irrelevant ‘cos it’s the law innit.

The whole sorry farrago of Ms Primarolo’s plans is recounted by the Guardian.

Tamara de Lempicka

An exhibition of her work opened in London shortly after I left. Twenty three years in London and I missed this by just two months.

Sigh.

lem_dziewczyna.jpg

Words of the Prophet

Translation of Sahih BukhariVolume 4, Book 54, Number 537:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said “If a house fly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink), for one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure for the disease.”

More Islamic tolerance

Thank God Islam is tolerant and peaceful, just imagine how dreadful things would be if it were as violent as say, every other religion in the world.

Authorities in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation of Algeria have closed half of the Protestant churches in the country over the last six months, alerted persecution watchdog groups this week.

And here – two Christian girls are rescued from kidnap and rape, oops, forced marrige, oops, loving unions, so the State run Shariah Police riot and burn six churches.

Ain’t tolerance grand?

Memories…

This reminds me of my student days…

On occasions I did indeed find “matter” in the sink. We had an (unused) tampon stuck to the living room ceiling in our house on Lenton Boulevard, Nottingham (Gawd knows why it got there) and tumbleweeds of fluff on the stairs. When one of my housemates moved out she found fifteen(!) cups of coffee in varying states of decomposition in her bedroom. She is now a gynaecologist. We once defrosted the fridge. My mate, Andy, insisted on doing it. He was another medical student with designs on becoming a surgeon. He tapped at the ice with a palette knife and a rolling pin. Gawd knows where that came from – it wasn’t like any of us baked in there – the kitchen looked like a field hospital in Chechnya – on a bad day. Andy claiming he had a “surgeons touch” and excluding anyone else from the procedure, not that anyone was upset by that. Ice went everywhere and he found a box of frozen beef burgers which expired in 1988. This was in 1995. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d found Captain Oates.

A Charitable Appeal

Some of you may find the following video disturbing, even offensive, but we feel it must be shown because it highlights one of the most terrible afflictions that anyone can suffer. This appeal is seeking to raise awareness about, and raise funds to treat it’s sufferers and ultimately find a cure.

Pilger’s can strike people of both sexes and of all ages and nationalities. It can strike friends and close family members and we all know someone afflicted. We at the Pilger’s Disease Society seek to fight this terrible malady and urgently need money to fund our fight against this terrible disease.

There is no cure, yet, but there is hope! Recently our memeticists have uncovered a link with a related illness, Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) and this is opening up new avenues for research into eventually finding a cure. Until then we desperately need funds for the palliative care of sufferers of this dreadfully disabling illness.

    Just 70p a day will buy Mr Pinter a copy of the Independent.
    £8.65 will buy him a copy of George Monbiot’s Heat:How to Stop the Planet Burning.
    A mere £16 will buy him a “Stop the War” hoodie.

Please give generously. Until there is a cure, there is the Pilger’s Disease Society.

The future is going to be wonderful, I can’t wait to visit

This is insane. You have got to be crazy to think of these ideas in the first place, or, at least, somewhere off 90 degrees from normal.

Can you imagine printing a house? Design it, let the punter explore it using one of these, and then, within a couple of days, have it printed in 3-D and ready to live in. At these prices, build yourself a new personalised design gaff every couple of years.

ccaparatis.pngccaparatis2.png

large-structure2.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch the animations. You HAVE to watch the animations; the music is so wonderfully inappropriate it had me grinning like a loon.

I hope these people get very very rich, very very fast.

Via the Focus Fusion Society.

 

Addendum:   Actually, I guess it is more like a plotter than a printer.

Who is better

I have a good friend who is a firm socialist, he truly believes that enforced collectivism is both practically and morally superior to individual or voluntarily collectivist action, which he sees simply as selfishness.

I know him to be a good man, and in considering past conversations with him, I have concluded that he looks around him, and wishes to see a form of government where good and competent people can do the most good. I, however, look around me and wish for a form of government where bad or incompetent people can do least harm.

He dreams of being governed by philosopher kings, I dread giving authority to people who fantasise they are philosopher kings.

Borrowed Time

Via yesterday’s BBC (I do have other stuff to do y’know!).

Iran’s new parliament speaker has warned that it could set limits on future co-operation with the United Nation’s nuclear agency, the IAEA.
Former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said parts of the agency’s latest report on Tehran’s nuclear programme had been “deceitful” and “ambiguous”.

Oh, be still my splitting sides. Ali Laryngitis has got more front than Brighton. You gotta give him that.

Parliament will not allow that such deceptions are made, Mr Larijani said.

If they continue along this path, the new parliament will intervene in the case and set a new line for co-operation with the IAEA.

The comments drew chants of “God is great” and “Death to America” from the audience of MPs.

(My emphasis)

Yeah, right. That’s priceless. That’s more front than Pamela Anderson. Let’s claim we’re only doing this for peaceful purposes (as they do claim, all the fucking time hence Mr Laryngitis’s unfortunate throat condition) then celebrate this renewed commitment by threatening to obliterate a nation of three hundred million people. They must think we fell out of the banyan tree yesterday.

I have no idea how to deal with such nutters. There are many good people in Iran and I have no desire to see Persia Coventrated but if that does have to happen then it’s nutcases like Mr Laryngitis who must carry the can for it. I would like to see the Iranian people rise up and send these Dark Age lunatics to the lowest oubliette. If we can achieve that we must do everything in our power to aid dissenters within that currently benighted country.

If not, and if we can’t militarily decapitate the regime, then I fear the only answer is genocide – the complete and permanent destruction of Iran. Because, as with friend Saddam, we can’t keep such fuckers permanently “boxed”. Eventually the wheel will come off and there will have to be ructions.

This has to be tackled, like yesterday, because the IAEA is a toothless tiger and the above illustrates the Iranians have catheterized it and are proceeding to take enormous quantities of the piss*, and no leader in the Civilized World should even be allowed to contemplate the destruction of one of our great cities by these utterly deranged nutcases. If that happens those leaders shall have to carry the can for it (an easy can to recognize – it’s signed by Neville Chamberlain and Jimmy Carter – worth a few quid on eBay).

I do not mention genocide lightly (by which, of course, I mean a massive pre-emptive nuclear strike). I mention it because if it is a choice between London or New York or Tel Aviv being nuked or the appalling tragedy of millions of Iranian dead and the destruction of thousands of years of continuous Persian culture then for me it is a terrible but easy decision. There are many things in politics which can be achieved by compromise and negotiation but this isn’t one. The mullahs must demonstrably cease and desist or it’s time for Teddy’s big-stick. If we can we get smart and manage to help overthrow the regime then that would be grand but that must happen before Iran’s Trinity Test. There is a fixed point here. Iran, as currently constituted cannot under any circumstances be allowed to have nuclear weapons. If that means we are prepared to annihilate Iran then, tragically, so be it.

I would like to think that our leaders feel the same and are moving Heaven and Earth to prevent the ayatollahs getting nukes and are prepared to get fissionable about it, if it comes to that. I doubt it though, they mainly seem to be more pre-occupied with the gas that makes Coke fizzy rather than with the mullahs who might make the air uranious.

*Possibly to sell to China in exchange for missile technology. Tiger piss has to be worth something in traditional Chinese medicine.

Happy Birthday Kylie!

Kylie is 40 today.

Best wishes to the most famous Australian (with the possible exception of Rolf Harris and some cricketers), one of the true glories of Western Culture and the maker of the sexiest music video ever…

Have a good one Kylie!

Why Celebrities Should STFU

Noted geophysicist Sharon Stone has an opinion on the recent earthquake in China.

Stone made her comments last week in a brief interview with a Hong Kong film crew.

“I’m not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don’t think anyone should be unkind to anyone else,” Stone said, according to footage widely available on the internet.

“And then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and I thought, is that karma?”

That is priceless. It is both ignorant and grossly offensive. And to say it to a film-crew from Hong Kong of all places is dim-witted beyond belief. Oh, well, Sharon, love, it isn’t as though China has a large movie-market.

I have Googled Ms Stone for a bit of background. There’s lots of videos of her crossing and uncrossing her legs but alas her ground-breaking paper, “A Karmic Theory of Plate Tectonics” seems to be currently unavailable.

I just realized something else. Ms Stone must have a house in LA. She must have experienced the earth move (and not just with Michael Douglas). What does she think causes such tremors? Is it because someone in San Diego killed a kitten.

Celebrity utterances. Just when you think they can’t get dimmer…

Motes and Beams

Or perhaps it’s the way the BBC skewed this.

It’s about “human rights” and it would appear the the UN has been looking through the wrong end of the telescope (again).

“As the world’s most powerful state, the USA sets the standard for government behaviour globally,” the report says.

It notes that Washington “had distinguished itself in recent years through its defiance of international law”.

Whether or not you thing that Guantanmo Bay should be closed down to regard the US as a major human rights violator demonstrates an appalling lack of perspective.

The USA isn’t perfect (is anywhere?) but they’re Accrington Stanley compared to the AC Milans and Manchester Uniteds when it comes to human right violations out there.

It’s OK to be gay in the US. In Iran it’s a capital offense.

For the slightly bonkers faith of Falun Gong the Chinese will persecute you. It’s perfectly legal in the US.

It’s OK to change your religion in the US. In much of the Muslim world that’s illegal. This right is specifically included in the UN’s own Universal Declaration on Human Rights but that detail doesn’t appear to concern them.

There is all manner of chaos, hardship and slaughter, rape and pillage going on in the world today. Comrade Bob is systematically starving an entire once prosperous nation, The Burmese Junta have shown themselves recently to be even more dispiccable than previously thought (That’s a World Cup winning performance), Hamas and Fatah (the evil Tweedledums and Tweedledees of the Middle East are keeping the Gaza Strip a truly epic shit-hole and a complete mad man in Tehran is calling for a sovereign nation to be “wiped from the page of time”.

All of this is, obviously, clearly the fault of America.

I think the world has more pressing injustices than Guantanamo, the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (he would have got a lot worse from me) and extraordinary renditions (Kyung Wha Chung at the top of her game?).

It’s well past time for the civilised nations of the world to quit the UN. They can have the building at a market rate. They can keep Manhatten’s up-scale restaurants and high-class hookers in the manner to which they have become accustomed and they can argue the toss to their hearts content. It will give them an interest in life.

We are not alone!

There are other cat counters.

Unfortunately I don’t have the slightest idea what it’s about.

Just another theory


OK, short version. Dr Garrett Lisi (who is a surfer-dude, snowboarder and works outside the establishment, sort of) has managed to hang particle physics onto the E8 Lie group. That might be The Truth. It might be 42. It just might be. It’s beautiful and it has the conceptual advantage, over concepts like super-strings, that it only requires the four familiar dimensions. It is a hell of a long shot but I, with a mere MSc level understanding of General Relativity (the math is pretty much the same) can pretty much follow his schtick. The paper is here. This is the abstract:

All fields of the standard model and gravity are unified as an E8 principal bundle connection. A non-compact real form of the E8 Lie algebra has G2 and F4 subalgebras which break down to strong su(3), electroweak su(2) x u(1), gravitational so(3,1), the frame-Higgs, and three generations of fermions related by triality. The interactions and dynamics of these 1-form and Grassmann valued parts of an E8 superconnection are described by the curvature and action over a four dimensional base manifold.

The key bit is at the end: a four dimensional base manifold but I quoted the whole thing because that language is just beautiful to me. If Dr Lisi is right then that’s physics bed-rock. That is truth. And guess what? We might have some confirmation this year. 2008 might rank as a year to compare with 1666, Newton’s year of miracles.

Why? Lisi makes predictions that might just be confirmed when CERN’s Large Hadron Collider comes on line later this year. If that is so then just wow! I remember being in a lecture-theatre when something dull was interrupted for the announcement of CERN’s discovery of the T quark, sometimes known as the truth quark. This is something else, this might be the whole nine-yards. LHC might also catch the Higg’s boson.

If so then we can junk our vague books of ancient mythology for the E8 group and real magic. We will stand awe-struck yet again before the Universe and then move on because that isn’t an end. It is the beginning.

If it doesn’t work out, we will continue the quest. I may not be a part of that anymore but does that really matter in the grand scheme of things?
I shall leave the final words to Dr Lisi:

This is an all-or-nothing kind of theory – it’s either going to be exactly right, or spectacularly wrong. I’m the first to admit this is a long shot. But it ain’t over till the LHC sings.

Just a theory…

Evolution is just a theory. Coming up with just a theory has a disturbing (to some) tendency to pique the interest of the Nobel committee. It also has a tendency to result in the awards of honourary doctorates from Columbia and Oxford and The Sorbonne. Knighthoods and advances from major publishers for what they hope will be the next “Brief History of Time” may even follow in it’s wake.

Bloody hell! A mathematician of my acquaintance once opined that he’d die extremely happy if he had a mere lemma named for him.

But of course evolution by natural selection is just a theory. So is universal gravitation.Sir Issac Newton dabbled in mere theories and it was clearly only by some bizarre bureaucratic cock-up that he had a state funeral in Westminster Abbey and that Alexander Pope wrote his epitaph. It happened again when they put Charles Darwin on the ten pound note a few years back. Civil servants eh? Mere theories no better nor worse than it being turtles all the way down or Marduk doing something with mud.

I therefore humbly propose that before newtonian gravitation (yes, it does take the lower-case – guess why?) is included in text books it be thoroughly tested. All we’d need is a bunch of creationists and me with a stop-watch and a note-pad. They can leap from a tall building and I shall do the timing and the math, confirming to the bloody remains that they did, indeed accelerate at 9.81 m/s/s. Hell, if enough of them do it I can present them with a load of graphs complete with error bars and figures corrected for wind-shear and everything.

Perhaps the warning signs at the top of tall buildings should have disclaimers:

Newtonian theory predicts that if you throw yourself off this building you shall subsequently impact the ground with a sufficient velocity to sustain probably fatal traumatic wounds but this is just a theory and we are officially mandated to give equal space to the idea that a flight of angels, Superman or a female Gelfling might prevent your grisly demise.

The IDers challenge us to prove evolution (just remembered, these are pentadactyl things I’m typing with) so I’m asking them to disprove gravity. Deal? They’re both just theories afterall.

%d bloggers like this: