29 March 2011

A few hard facts about the economy

The present British Government is citing massive debt run up by the last labour government as a basis for dismantling society. Frighteningly a significant proportion of the UK population seem to subscribe to the view "its tougher but necassary". It's inevitable etc. Well before we close the hospitals, shut the libraries, cut back on the police and start excluding all but the very wealthy from higher education lets look at some actual facts about our defecit.

1. As a function of GDP (thats how much money the country makes) our current debt is lower than it has been in 200 of the last 250 years (see here). Yes that was lower!
2. It was higher when:
a) we pionered the industrial revolution,
b) built a very large empire across half the known world
c) beat the Nazi's
d) built the NHS and social welfare system that is currently being desimated
3. As a function of GDP our national debt is 47%; which is lower than Canada (62%), Germany (63%), Japan (170%), India (70%), Italy (103%) France (67%) and the USA (61%). In debt terms we are doing better than the rest of the G8 except Russia. (see here)

Even if we did have a catastrophic debt, reducing it rapidly is a bad idea. In 1929, following the Great Depression Herbert Hoover cut back just like Cameron/Clegg are trying to do now and the US sank deeper into depression. It wasn't until FDRs New Deal when significant money was spent on public works which created roads, bridges and hospitals etc and stimulated the economy that the US clawed its way out of depression.

Two of our European neighbours (Ireland and Greece) have bankrupted their economies by invoking rapid cuts which have lead to collapse as their economy slowed down and then choked themselves. Why are we blindly following suit? Its got nothing to do with saving the economy and everything to do with an extreme idealogical policy.

So next time somebody says that the cuts are "hard but fair" or that they are "inevtiable" you can now point at that they are nothing to do with prudent managment of the economy and everything to do with an oppertunistic ultra right wing political agenda.

(this post was inspired by and draws heavily from, a much longer piece by Johann Hari which can be found here).

Wednesday Movie - Crazy things that happen in Norway

The first is from Gareth - its utterly bonkers
And the second is doing the rounds at the moment - insane.

27 March 2011

Tips for new parents

We have a 7 week old baby and we are on a steep learning curve. We are fortunate enough to be a bit older than most parents and have benefited from advice given by friends who have already been through it. Here are a few of the more unusual tips that have proved very useful both practically and in keeping us sane.
1. Any friends that visit in the first two weeks should come with take-away food
2. Consider that human babies are born 6 weeks too early. Once you make it through the first 6 weeks it becomes much easier
3. Brest is best - especially if you are the Dad ;-)
4. Buy a large bed
5. When they are young they are not developed enough to be interested in your attention or love. Harsh but true. The good part of this is that if they are crying its because they are either hungry, in need of a nappy change, too hot or too cold or tired. Working from that position it shouldn’t be hard to figure it out.
6. Look after each other. It's very easy when you are tired and stressed to take it out on your partner. But remember the other person is probably equally or even more tired and stressed. The way to get through it is to look after them and then between you look after the small person. A bit of consideration goes a long way.
7. Start training them to like your music early!
8. Get a structured routine - it makes life so much easier
9. There is a great iphone app that helps mum record all the feeds and sleeps - makes it easy to be at least a bit structured
10. Have lots of linen clothes around the house for catching vomit. Much better than tissues
11. Try not to let having a baby stop you doing everything you used to. Its not (quite) the end of the world.
12. Have low expectations of what you will be able to achieve and then be happy when it happens
13. Remember that lots of poor people with way less facilites and stuff than you manage to raise children in way tougher conditions
14. Remember that lots of dumber people than you also somehow manage to raise kids - how hard can it really be?

And finally try and remember how amazing it is have fun

24 March 2011

Thursday Fashion

Thursday fashion is back (just for Laura)
While I embrace alternative lifestyles and I think it's great that not everyone aspires to look like a cheerleader or a golf pro, sometimes it can be taken a bit far.

I think this guy may have got a bit carried away

22 March 2011

Wednesday Movie extra

Not getting out so much at weekends at the moment. This had some advantages such as getting to watch pretty much all of the 6 nations rugby this year. I really enjoyed it.

The Irish played a totally blinding game to deny England the Grandslam. It is pretty funny that this video celebrating England's grandslam victory (which didn't happen) has been leaked to the internet.

And who ever said that the English RFU were arrogant? Ha ha ha

Wednesday Movie

Back in Bergen mid week and having the joys of being woken at 6am but the fat furball. That made me wonder if there was any new movies of Simon's cat

And yes there are! These are the best

Which also gives me a chance to publish these photos which Ben sent me a while ago. They make me realise that Lola is not as mad as she could be...

21 March 2011

A deal is a deal

Twenty plus years ago my brother and some of my friends looked around at possible careers and thought "hmm joing the the Police is an option. It sounds ok, it will certainly be interesting, the pay is crap but once you have worked for 30 years you get to retire with a good pension. On the balance of things that seems like a fair deal". Other people looked around at the same time and said “the police, that looks dangerous with shitty hours and crap pay. I think I will go and become a lawyer or an accountant or maybe even a politician, where the pay is much better and I'll be safe".

Twenty years on and the people who became politicians are now enviously, eyeing up the policemen’s impending long retirement and nice pensions and saying “ooh I am not sure the country can afford to pay that now! Since people are living longer and we have blown the money we invested to pay for your retirement bailing out useless bankers we will have to change your deal so you should work until you are 60 or maybe even longer”.

And for some reason normal people seem to think that it’s ok.

Is it fuck! You made a deal and now you should stick to it, irrespective of whether the conditions have changed. A deal is a deal! They have done their part of the bargain; they have been stabbed, shot at, attacked, spat on and worse. They have worked long, anti-social hours and kept your pathetic arse safe while you worked 9-5 and put 3 or more times their salary in the bank. Well now its time for us to repay them not and not try an weasel out of our commitments.

When I suggested this last week in a discussion, somebody quoted "Force Majeure" and said that the circumstances had changed, therefore the contract was invalid. That is utter bullshit, nothing has really cahnged except people live a bit longer than they used to and if you can't predict that you shouldn't be in power.

When the flawed economic policies of the Bitch Thatcher meant that the interest rates on peoples mortgages went from 6 to 17% in a couple of months and hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes there was no option to go to the building society and say “Force Majuere - that was not predicted, I think I will just pay you 7%  and you will be happy”. No, the concept of renegotiating a deal when conditions change only seems to work one way and as usual it’s the people down the ladder who suffer.

I have no problem with them setting different terms and conditions for people who join the force today. That is fine. They can look at the deal and decide if they like it. If they don’t they can go and do something else (most of them probably will and then we are buggard!), but to go back on a deal that is already in place is just low – it’s so low it could only come from a Tory government with a idealogical agenda that would see the rich living in secure gated communities and sod the rest of us.

19 March 2011

Friday Joke - Real life Dilberts

A magazine recently ran a 'Dilbert Quotes' contest. They were looking for people to submit quotes from their real-life Dilbert-type managers. These were voted the top ten quotes in corporate America:

'As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday, and employees will receive their cards in two weeks.' (This was the winning quote from Fred Dales, Microsoft Corp in Redmond WA)

'What I need is an exact list of specific unknown problems we might encounter.' (Lykes Lines Shipping)

'E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business.' (Accounting manager, Electric Boat Company)

'This project is so important we can't let things that are more important interfere with it.' (Advertising/ Marketing manager, United Parcel Service)

'Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule.' (Plant Manager, Delco Corporation)

'No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We've been working on it for months. Now go act busy for a few weeks and I'll let you know when it's time to tell them.' (R&D supervisor, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing/ 3M Corp)

Quote from the Boss: 'Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say.' (Marketing executive, Citrix Corporation)

My sister passed away and her funeral was scheduled for Monday. When I told my Boss, he said she died on purpose so that I would have to miss work on the busiest day of the year. He then asked if we could change her burial to Friday. He said,'That would be better for me.' (Shipping executive, FTD Florists)

 'We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees.' (Switching supervisor, AT&T Long LinesDivision)

17 March 2011

Improbable Research - Kansas

The middle of the US is often quoted as being "as flat as a pancake". Such statements are typically subjective but you can always rely on some anal scientist to come along and test such hyperbole.

So in a peer reviewed article  Fonstad et al (2003) tested that hypothesis and concluded that Kansas was indeed flatter than a pancake.

They didn't manage to explain why Kansas was so dull

16 March 2011

Wednesday Movie - Tsunami

Last Friday's Tsunami in Japen occured in the World's most technologically developed country, where everyone has a video camera. It therefore follows that the event would be recorded extensively. As geologist this is amazing. As a human being, watching a country being wiped out live on TV was frightening and horrific, to see people fight for their lives as everything around them is destroyed was truely moving. It actually reminded me watching the events of 9/11 unfold back in 2001.

The following videos are the best I found to illustrate the geological concept of what happens when a large Tsunami hits a low lying coastal plain  

This is the best summary I found that shows the tsunami out at sea, then it hits the coast and moves across the coastal plain. The debris that it carries and the speed that is moves - amazing

This shows what it was like on the ground and some lucky buggars in a bus

And finally an interactive tool for doing before and after views

There is tonnes more on youtube.

14 March 2011

Europe explained

The concept of Europe is not as simple as it might be. Travelling from Holland to Norway I leave the EU but stay in Schengen, while travelling from Holland to the UK I leave Schengen but stay within the EU. And that's the simple bit!
Fortunatly I found this on wikipedia which I thought was rather interesting...

And in case you can't remember all those flags...

As the title suggests...

11 March 2011

First impressions of being a Dad

Sophie is now 1 month old and it is an interesting time to reflect on the experience to date.

The first thing is that it is amazing. It still hasn’t really, fully sunk in. I have never been interested in babies before. I like kids, they are great fun, but always thought babies were just dull. I have always found the lack of interaction a big turn off. It is not that I had anything against them, I just thought they were boring. Then along came Sophie and I am besotted with her. I can sit and look at her for hours and despite the fact that she has no idea who I am, I love just being with her, playing with her and holding her.

I was then curious as to whether being a father had changed my perception of babies in general or just this one special one. So, I interacted with a few friends and their new borns and I can honestly say that it hasn’t. Other peoples babies are still not very interesting to me and while I have a much better degree of empathy with what and how the parents feel I have no desire to hold or play with their new born offspring. I am genetically programmed to adore my own child. How awesome is that?

Other aspects of being a Dad. While people had told me and I had heard all the figures, I had no comprehension of the amount of time that a baby would take up. Taking care of this little person really is a full time, 24/7 job. I know it gets better, or at least changes as they get older but for the moment, its very challenging to get anything else done, especially for Katharine. Sophie feeds every 3-4 hours and each feed takes an hour, so a quarter of her life is spent feeding, then you add bathing, changing, etc and then we need to eat and sleep yourself and there is not a lot of time left in the day.

The second thing that is difficult to understand before you have a child is the lack of sleep. The baby is awake at least twice in the night and rarely sleeps for more than 3 hours at a time. That means that we don’t sleep for more than three hours at a time and often less. Imagine being woken every three hours and then staying up for an hour – its brutal. And people say “it will get better” and “this only lasts for the first few months” and I am wondering if I can survive until the end of the week. But once again nature is an amazing thing. Katharine who is normally a total sleep monster, seems to be unaffected, or certainly is managing much better than me. It’s amazing how the body and mind adapt.

I am also amazed at how much this tiny person can eat. When she was born she came in at a healthy but small 3.1 kg which dropped immediately to 2.85 kg. Since then she has been eating like a baby elephant and is now 4kg. That is a 33% increase in body weight in one month. How is that possible? Well the fact that she drinks almost a litre of milk (1 kg) every day probably helps. Yes that is correct she is guzzling 25% of her body weight in food everyday. That’s like me eating almost a ton of food per month. So maybe I am not amazed at how much weight she is putting on.

So in summary, being a Dad, great but knackering.

There are some pics of the little girl on both mine and Katharine's flickr sites

The maths affair

To My Dear Wife,

You will surely understand that I have certain needs that you, being 54 years old, can no longer satisfy. I am very happy with you and I  value you as a good wife. Therefore, after reading this letter, I hope that you will not wrongly interpret the fact that I will be spending the evening with my 18 year old secretary at the Comfort Inn Hotel
Please don't be upset, I shall be home before midnight."

When the man came home late that night, he found the following letter on the dining room table:

"My Dear Husband,
I received your letter and thank you for your honesty about my being  54 years old. I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that you are also 54 years old. As you know, I am a maths teacher at our local college.
I would like to inform you that while you read this, I will be at the  Hotel Fiesta with Michael, one of my students, who is also the assistant tennis coach. He is young, virile, and like your secretary, is 18 years old. As a successful businessman who has an excellent knowledge of Maths, you will understand that we are in the same  situation, although with one small difference; 18 goes into 54 a lot more times than 54 goes into 18. Therefore, I will not be home until sometime tomorrow."

08 March 2011

Wednesday Movie

Our daughter was 1 month old yesterday which was also international woman's day - I rather liked this...

04 March 2011

A Brief History of the World

As compiled from school childrens exam work...

The inhabitants of ancient Egypt were called mummies. They lived in the Sarah Dessert and traveled by Camelot. The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere, so areas of the dessert are cultivated by irritation. The Egyptians built the Pyramids in the shape of a huge triangular cube. The Pyramids are a range of mountains between France and Spain.

The Bible is full of interesting caricatures. In the first book of the Bible, Guinesses, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. On of their children, Cain, once asked, "Am I my brother's son?" God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Montezuma. Jacob, son of Isaac, stole his brother's birth mark. Jacob was a patriarch who brought up his twelve sons to be patriarchs, but they did not take it. One of Jacob's sons, Joseph, gave refuse to the Israelites.

Pharaoh forced the Hebrew slaves to make bread without straw. Moses led them to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients. Afterwards, Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. He fought with the Philatelists, a race of people who lived in the Biblical times. Soloman, one of David's sons, had 500 wives and 500 porcupines.

Without the Greeks we wouldn't have history. The Greeks invented three kinds of columns - Corinthian, Doric, and Ironic. They also had myths. A myth is a female moth. One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intollerable. Achilles appears in The Iliad, by Homer. Homer also wrote The Oddity, in which Penelope was the last hardship that Ulysses endured on his journey. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.

Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock.

In the Olympic games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the biscuits, the threw the java. The reward to the victor was a coral wreath. The government of Athens was democratic because people took the law into their own hands. There were no wars in Greece, as the mountains were so high that they couldn't climb over to see what their neighbors were doing. When they fought with the Persians, the Greeks were outnumbered because the Persians had more men.

Eventually, the Ramons conquered the Greeks. History calls people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long. At Roman banquets, the guests wore garlic in their hair. Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Nero was a cruel tyranny who would turture his poor subjects by playing the fiddle to them.

Then came the Middle Ages. King Alfred conquered the Dames. King Arthur lived in the Age of Shivery, King Harold mustarded his troops before the Battle of Hastings, Joan of Arc was canonized by Bernard Shaw, and victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks. Finally, Magna Carta provided that no free man should be hanged twice for the same offense.

In medevil time most of the people were alliterate. The greatest writer of the time was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and versus and also wrote literature. Another tale tells of William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son's head.

The Renaissance was an age in which more individuals felt the value of their human being. Martin Luther was nailed to the church door at Wittenberg for selling papal indulgences. He died a horrible death, being excommunicated by a bull. It was the painter Donatello's interes in the female nude that made him the father of the Renaissance. It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented the Bible. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes. Another important invention was the circulation of blood. Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100 foot clipper.

The government of England was a limited mockery. Henry VIII found walking difficult because he had an abbess on his knee. Queen Elizabeth was the "Virgin Queen." As a queen she was a success. When Elizabeth exposed herself before her troops, they all shouted, "hurrah." Then her navy went out and defeated the Spanish Armadillo.

The greatest write of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. Shakespeare never made much money and is only famous because of his plays. He lived at Windsor with his merry wives, writing tragedies, comedies and errors. In one of Shakespear's famous plays, Hamlet rations out his situation by relieving himself in a long soliloquy. In another, Lady Macbeth tried to convince Macbeth to kill the King by attacking his manhood. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Writing at the same time as Shakespear was Miguel Cervantes. He wrote Donkey Hote. The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.

During the Renaissance America began. Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic. His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe. Later, the Pilgrims crossed the Ocean, and this was known as Pilgrims Progress. When they landed at Plymouth Rock, they were greeted by the Indians, who came down the hill rolling their war hoops before them. The Indian squabs carried porpoises on their back. Many of the Indian heroes were killed, along with their cabooses, which proved very fatal for them. The winter of 1620 was a hard one for the settlers. Many people died and many babies were born. Captain John Smith was responsible for all this.

One of the causes of the Revolutionary Wars was the English put tacks in their tea. Also, the colonists would send their parcels through the post without stamps. During the War, the Red Coats and Paul Revere was throwing balls over stone walls. The dogs were barking and the peacocks crowing. Finally, the colonists won the War and no longer had to pay for taxis.

Delegates from the original thirteen states formed the Contented Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin had gone to Boston carrying all his clothes in his pocket and a loaf of bread under each arm. He invented electricity by rubbing two cats backwards and declared, "A horse devided against itself cannot stand." Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.

George Washington married Martha Curtis and in due time became the Father of Our Country. Then the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility. Under the Constitution the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms.

Abraham Lincoln became America's greatest president. Lincoln's mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. When Lincoln was President, he wore only a tall silk hat. He said, "In onion there is strength." Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address while traveling from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope. He also freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation, and the Fourteenth Amendment gave the ex-Negroes citizenship. But the Clue Clux Clan would torture and lynch the ex-Negroes and other innocent victims. It claimed it represented law and odor. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposingly insane actor. This ruined Booth's career.

Meanwhile in Europe, the enlightenment was a reasonable time. Voltare invented electricity and also wrote a book called Candy. Graity was invented by Isaac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the Autumn, when the apples are falling off trees.

Bach was the most famous composer in the world, and so was Handel. Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was very large. Bach died from 1750 to the present. Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.

France was in a very serious state. The French Revolution was accomplished before it happened. The Marseillaise was the theme song of the French Revolution, and it catapulted into Napoleon. During the Napoleonic Wars, the crowned heads of Europe were trembling in their shoes. The the Spanish gorillas came down from the hills and nipped at Napoleon's flanks. Napoleon became ill with bladder problems and was very tense and unrestrained. He wanted an heir to inherit his power, but since Josephine was a baroness, she couldn't bear children.

The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West. Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years. Her reclining years and finally the end of her life were exemplary of a great personality. Her death was the final event which ended her reign.

The nineteenth century was a time of many great inventions and thoughts. The invention of the steamboat caused a network of rivers to spring up. Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick raper, which did the work of hundred men. Samuel Morse invented a code of telepathy. Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis. Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the Organ of the Species.

03 March 2011

The deconstruction of British society - live

I am back in the UK at the moment and therefore exposed to more British news - it's utterly depressing.
The Tory lead government is systematically destroying the country and the majority of people are carrying on their lives oblivious.

Why can't people see what is going on? If you are unsure yourself allow me spell it out

1. Two years ago a bunch of wide boys from the City recklessly destroyed the economy. Not you or I, this was a small select group who were willfully negligent and reckless, aided by a spineless regulator, who gambled with your money and when they messed up we picked up the bill.   
2. A weak labour government baled out the banks and in doing so runs up a monster deficit
3. A bunch of right wing public school nutters get in to power supported by a weak centre party desperate to be in a government, any government. The joke is that they got in to power because there was a big deficit. The irony is so crushing you simply couldn't make it up.
4. New government then sets about dismantling the welfare state and destroying the very fabric of our society on an ideological crusade that is worse than Thatchers.
5. The population lets it happen stopping briefly to get very upset about some trees but sacrificing the NHS, libraries, public services and education. Well at least we saved the forests.
6. Meanwhile the bankers who caused the mess in the first place take a year off from having huge bonuses before bouncing back in 2011 to give themselves colossal payments again and saying things like "the time for remorse is over, stop bashing the banks" Is it fuck, the time for remorse to be over will be when you have paid back the £100 billion you lost the country, you selfish, evil, fuckin bastards.
7. The government hides behind a smoke screen called project Merlin  which is so successful that Barclays pays 1% corporate tax. Meanwhile the middle class and poor people of the country suffer as their libraries get closed and their kids can't go to Uni. 

It's an utter, out and out disgrace and worst thing is that the Liberals have ended up taking most of the flack which means that the Tory scum get away with it and we probably won’t get proportional representation.


They certainly don't care about the poor and needy because those people didn't vote for them. What is worse, is that they don't even care about the daft suckers in middle England who did put them in power.