29 December 2010

Whoda thunk it?

The Guardian reports:

An experiment has found differences between the brains of progressives and conservatives.

Head scans of students at University College London, conducted by neuroscientist Geraint Rees, showed a "strong correlation" between thickness in two regions, the amygdala and the anterior cingulate, and political viewpoint.

Conservatives have brains? Well I never ...

24 December 2010


A radio 4 programme - Tim Harford's A More or Less Christmas Carol. You can catch it here.



Furious? Livid? Incensed? No, Mr Cable was only "quite angry" at being suckered by the undercover Telegraph reporters.

The man has the patience of a saint. Either that or he has lost his thesaurus ...

23 December 2010

Christmas hell

Somewhat foolishly, I determined that this morning I should brave the horrors of the local Waitrose. Happily, I did not seek more than a few sprouts, a joint of beef, a parsnip or two and some bacon; accordingly, I was permitted to wait in the (relatively short) hand basket queue, rather than the 100 yard trolley queue.

People go mad at Christmas. And at Waitrose it is the middle class who predominate in their determination to scoop up the last jar of goose fat. All these Edinburgh matrons in their smart casual outfits - it really is quite terrifying.

For once in the year, they are accompanied by their husbands in their V-neck sweaters and slacks. Due to their unfamiliarity with supermarkets, these guys have no conception of trolley discipline; while their wives are assessing chipolata sausages, they dump their trolley in the middle of the aisle to examine some obscure Italian prosciutto that they have no intention of buying.

Back to Tesco in the New Year.

Headline of the day

From The Guardian (here):
WTF? OMG, LOL! CIA gives Wikileaks taskforce naughty name

21 December 2010

Nature's sense of irony

It's a punishment of course. Hubris, arrogance, whatever. But the day after the big announcement of a high speed railway line, we get this:

East Coast is advising all of its passengers not to travel today, as all train services to and from London King's Cross have been suspended for the rest of the day, due to damage to overhead power lines at Huntingdon, near Peterborough.

East Coast is also advising all passengers who have arrived at King's Cross to go home and restart their journeys tomorrow.

Apparently the trains on the high speed line will be able to not go at 250 mph.

20 December 2010

To note

Over the weekend, the Heineken Cup managed to stage all the fixtures bar two. As for the English Premier League, only two games were played.

Do rugby clubs try harder?

13 December 2010

Smoke and mirrors

As some of you may be aware, I rely on my groceries being delivered, usually by Tesco or Sainsbury's. The Evening News reports:
A Tesco spokesman said: "Every delivery company operating in Scotland has been affected by the recent severe weather.

"We don't want to cause disappointment to customers and have taken the decision to suspend new Tesco Direct orders in Scotland. We are working hard to ensure that orders already placed with us are delivered."

Food orders from Tesco.com have not been disrupted, the spokesman added.
Oh yes they have. They have not made a single groceries delivery in Edinburgh for the past two weeks. Furthermore, they will not make any deliveries until next Sunday.
A Sainsbury's spokesman said: "Despite our best efforts the adverse weather conditions mean we have had to suspend our non-food deliveries in Scotland. We would like to apologise to our customers for any inconvenience this has caused."

"Our grocery deliveries are continuing as normal."
Oh no they're not. No deliveries can be booked before Friday.

I appreciate that the weather would have disrupted deliveries but it would have been helpful if the supermarkets came clean about their position. In the meantime, Asda have agreed to deliver to me this afternoon. Fingers crossed but if they succeed they can look forward to more of my business in future.

Update: Asda duly delivered.

Oh Liz, how could you?

And so the flower of English maidenhood (ahem!) is despoiled by an Aussie larrikin ...

Shades of 1968

I went to university in 1968 when there was revolution in the air. I have to confess that I was a well-behaved little lad, studying far too hard to participate in demonstrations. But my sympathies have always belonged to the protestors; and we learned to distrust the police who seldom missed an opportunity to harass students (whether they were protesting or not).

And so it is today. I cannot deny that that the demonstrating students over the past month include a minority intent on a rumble but the overwhelming majority are respectable citizens of the future. Which is why this sort of thing is unconscionable:

Kettling is illegal elsewhere and it certainly should be here. I speak as someone who was kettled in Parliament Square and Westminster Bridge last Thursday, one of several thousand people held for nine hours at zero degrees without food, water, heat, toilets.

The widely reproduced photograph of a youth urinating against the plinth of Winston Churchill's statue during the protest over tuition fees provides a disrespectful image, but kettling represents disrespect on a premeditated, industrial scale: degrading conditions of confinement enforcing the shame of performing one's natural functions in public. Put in the same position, where exactly would the Chief Constable have urinated?

And now the Home Secretary is contemplating the introduction of water cannons. Does she not realise that she is proposing to put the boot into middle class children whose parents will never forgive either the Tories or the police? It is bad enough for the Tories to assault the working classes and the so-called revolutionaries but beating up children is not really a good idea.

05 December 2010

Quote of the day

I do not usually admire the writing of Mr McKenna in The Observer but this time I think that he's got it about right:
My Scotland is still a thrawn, aggressive, carnaptious and disputatious wee nation. But it is also enlightened, tolerant, kind (in a gruff don't-mention-it sort of way) and remains a beacon in its continuing preferential option for its own poor and the vulnerable and the persecuted of other countries. Occasionally, it will take itself too seriously and retreat into itself and give itself a right good talking to: are we too fond of the bevvy; do we smoke too much; does my public sector look big in this; will Sean Connery ever buy a house here? Sometimes, we come off the ropes fighting only to discover that our opponent went home a few hours ago. We need to relax and get out more.
I could settle for this, though I'd still be inclined to strangle that last surviving minister of the Church of Scotland with the last copy of the The Sunday Post.

02 December 2010

Breaking all the rules

None of the media, particularly including the BBC, seems to have made much of this story - which, to me, seems utterly disgraceful:

British and American officials colluded in a plan to hoodwink parliament over a proposed ban on cluster bombs, the Guardian can disclose.

According to leaked US embassy dispatches, David Miliband, who was Britain's foreign secretary under Labour, approved the use of a loophole to manoeuvre around the ban and allow the US to keep the munitions on British territory.

Unlike Britain, the US had refused to sign up to an international convention that bans the weapons because of the widespread injury they cause to civilians.

The US military asserted that cluster bombs were "legitimate weapons that provide a vital military capability" and wanted to carry on using British bases regardless of the ban.

Whitehall officials proposed that a specially created loophole to grant the US a free hand should be concealed from parliament in case it "complicated or muddied" the MPs' debate.

Did Miliband D think that he would not be found out? Just as well that he did not become Labour leader.

And it's about time the MoD/FCO woke up to the fact that secret arms deals are no longer the flavour of the month.

01 December 2010

Music of the week

A message for our MSPs:


Is there not something unseemly about the way in which our Prime Minister and the next but one heir to the throne are courting (kowtowing to, buttering up, even arse-licking) the hooks, crooks and comic singers on the FIFA Executive Committee? I have no brief for the Panorama programme (which was simply not very good), but its heart appeared to be in the right place.

I should also admit to supreme indifference about whether England secures the World Cup. It is many years since I contemplated actually attending a match in the finals but Barcelona, St Petersburg or Amsterdam would seem infinitely more preferable as a venue than Milton Keynes.

But has Cameron not got better things to do than hang around importunately a Swiss hotel, desperately hoping to curry favour with such personalities as Sepp Blatter?