Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Taxing times.

The tax is done for another year. This must be how sheep feel on the way back from the shearing house. Fleeced.

I didn't leave it to the very last day but it was close. There have been noises from the tax office about all we terrible people who wait until the last possible moment, as if that's not entirely their own fault.

Firstly, they will charge a penalty plus interest if I pay late. There is nothing at all in it for me if I pay early.

Secondly, and this is the big one, they also want next year's tax this year. They call it 'tax on account' and while it is possible for me to reduce those payments on account, it has to be done carefully.

Reduce them too much and I'd get fined. Yes, really, they would fine me for not paying tax I don't actually owe yet. If I leave them too high, then I'm seriously out of pocket at least until the next tax return.

So I need to make a reliable projection of what I'm likely to earn in the next tax year, which ends in April. If I did this in July I'd have to project the likely income for ten months. If I do it at the end of January I only have to guess what I might make in February and March. If it wasn't for tax-on-account I'd be able to fill out the form on 6th April every year. The money still wouldn't be due until the following January but the form would be done. Under the current rules, only an idiot would do that.

As it is, I will make absolutely bugger all in the next two months. Even if I get a contract tomorrow, it can't be completed, reported, billed and paid before April. Well - it won't be, put it that way, or I'd get fined for not paying tax I don't owe on income I haven't had yet.

Books can't give me a surprise boost. Even if they suddenly sell like hot cakes I won't see a return for three months. Nothing significant will come from there before April either. If that did happen I would simply buy in stock before April to make that projected tax liability match what I said it was.

Apparently some tens of thousands of small businesses will be filing returns on the very last day. I am not surprised. There is no benefit in completing the form early and getting that future-tax liability wrong can be expensive. If you earn more than you said you would, then rather than just saying 'thanks' for the extra tax, the taxman will treat you as a criminal. So you either stop bothering or you buy in stock you don't really need to make the taxman's figures add up.

I'm still looking for a job. Today I saw a microbiology job, really it's a technician job but it's easy, pays well enough and is close. It's also a one-year contract which is ideal. When you're over fifty, nobody wants you because you're just getting into the job and it's retirement time. I can't blame them - if you're going to the trouble of training someone, then someone who will stay for 20 years is a better investment than someone who will only have 10 left in them.

This, plus all the pension stuff, doesn't apply on a short contract. So I'm not at a disadvantage compared to a younger applicant. I also need no training, in fact I've been training people to do the same kind of job.

I don't want another career so that's also useful. I just need to ride out the recession until everyone else has made enough money to afford my expensive services again. If I could, I'd sleep through it.

There's still the submissions-editor job. Last I heard, they had whittled it down to the last few candidates and as I haven't had the 'get lost' letter yet, there is still hope. That's all online, so I can do that as well.

None of this will prevent me having to fill out another form next year. Even the small amount the books make will have to be accounted for, the editor job counts as freelance and if I do get a contract I'll do it at night and at weekends. I'm also looking for writing work, so if you know anyone who wants some advertising copy, I am entirely without morals or scruples and will spin your product to the stars. Especially if it's something the Righteous disapprove of.

There is, nonetheless, one big attraction in going back to being an employee rather than trying to build a business..

They don't have to pay tax in advance.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Entertainment - when a story writes itself.

I was distracted. I had a short story all ready to go, cover all made and everything. Yet something wasn't right. I kept looking back at it. Then I noticed.

It wasn't a short story at all. It was a Chapter One. So the short story won't appear because it is now something much longer. It's going to take time to finish but not very much because this one is writing itself. It's kept me away from the newspaper websites all day - which is good for my health  - but it won't let me sleep. So, since I have no idea what's in the news today so have nothing to rage about, here is the original short story.



Robert Odin kissed the cheque before pocketing it. It was a lot of money for one night's work. Well, why not? He worked hard for his money. He had to pay his accomplices, his anonymous assistants who mingled with the audience before every show, gleaning information that he could relay back to the punters later on stage.

They fell for it every time. They really believed he was communicating with their dead relatives, receiving messages from the other side. All he had to do was remember what his assistants had put on his crib sheets and which sucker each sheet related to. Finding them in the audience was never difficult. Tickets and seats were numbered and the number was on the sheet. Robert had no need of psychic powers. All he needed was a good memory.

Leaving the theatre, he met the ever-present crowd of admirers at the stage door. Wide-eyed and expectant, they asked him, as usual, to autograph copies of one of his books, which he was always pleased to do. He rebuffed their requests for communication with dead parents or spouses with one of his stock excuses. He was tired, it had been a difficult evening, the spirits were quiet now. As always, his gaping admirers accepted this without question and he climbed into his waiting limousine with his usual suppressed grin at their credulity.

“Back to the hotel, Wallace.” Robert settled into the comfortable seat and closed his eyes as the car pulled out into the late evening traffic. Tomorrow he would bank the cheque before preparing for another show.


“Alice. I have someone called Alice here.” Robert glanced at Bethany and Julie, his assistants, who watched from the wings, and gave a barely perceptible shrug. He had goofed. There was no Alice on any of his crib sheets for the night, but the name had left his lips before he could stop it.

“Alice. Does anyone here recognise the name?” He had to go with it now, try to bluff it out. If he was lucky, none of the audience would know an Alice and he could move along to the last name on his list. Robert made a show of looking to his left as though addressing an invisible entity. “Sorry, Alice, there's nobody here who knows you.” A nervous laugh drifted through the crowd.

“Nobody for Alice Dunkeld.” Robert smiled up at his audience. The last name on his list was William Brown. He paused for a moment, wondering why he had given the fictional Alice a surname, then his eyes widened when a hand shot up, near the front of the audience.

Robert ran his fingers over the buttons of his waistcoat, following the curve of his well-fed stomach. He fingered his watch chain. In the wings, Bethany had turned away. Julie rubbed her hands together, her face pale. Robert stepped towards the audience member. He had no choice but to try cold reading, something he hadn’t done for years.

The audience member was a woman, elderly, so she was probably looking for a sister, maybe her mother. Robert started with his stock question.

“Alice is telling me she’s related to you. Is that right?”

The woman nodded. A tear formed in her eye. “She’s my—”

“Daughter.” Robert tensed the muscles in his right arm to stop his hand flying over his mouth. This woman was ready to give him the answers, yet he had blurted out a guess.

“That’s right.” The woman dabbed at her eye with a lace handkerchief.

“She died of liver failure. It wasn’t AIDS, it was hepatitis. She wants you to know that.” The thoughts, the words, popped into his mind and issued from his mouth before he could stop them. Robert risked a glance at his assistants. Bethany was nowhere to be seen. Julie hung onto one of the stage ropes, her eyes round. Robert swallowed, hard, and turned his attention to the old woman, who wiped at her eyes with her handkerchief.

“Oh, thank God,” she whispered. “The gossip, the rumours have been killing me. She died so far away, you see.”

“In Cambodia, yes. She’s safe now. There’s no pain where she is.” Robert placed his hand on the woman’s shoulder, as much to steady himself as to comfort her. “You have a photo of her in your purse, but she’d cut her hair short.”

“Yes, yes, that’s right.” The woman looked up at Robert, her lined face filled with wonder. She reached into her purse and took out a creased photo, showing a young woman with long blonde hair. “When they flew her body home, her hair was short. I thought they did it to her after her death.”

“No, she cut it because of the heat.” Robert bit into his lip. Behind the woman, several of the audience leaned forward to get a better look at the photograph. Robert barely registered their amazed gasps and mutterings. He was astounded. He had made many lucky guesses in the past, but this was too much. Time to end the show.

“Alice says she loves you, and she’s looking over you. There’s no need to grieve for her, Maureen, she’s perfectly happy.” Robert closed his eyes. Why had he called this woman Maureen? He moved his lips in a silent prayer, hoping she had missed it.

“That’s right. That’s my name. She called me Maureen, not Mother. I always told her it was disrespectful, but she just laughed.” The woman clutched at her purse and stared at the photo.

Robert backed away from the audience. He forced his theatrical smile into place and flashed it for a few moments while he composed himself.

“That’s all we have time for, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for coming along this evening. I hope to see you again soon.” To thunderous applause, Robert half-ran into the curtained wings. He pushed past Julie and made straight for his dressing-room.

Robert had already downed two neat gins and was about to pour his third when Julie threw open the door. Her face burned with rage, her small fists clenched along the seams of her tight jeans. She stormed across the room and stood facing Robert. Behind her, Bethany’s long skirt swished as she followed Julie.

“What the hell was that?” Julie grabbed the bottle before Robert could pour himself another. “Some kind of set-up? You primed that woman before the show, didn’t you? How much did you pay her?”

“Calm down. I got the name wrong. I had to improvise.” Robert reached for the bottle. Julie held it higher. “I did a bit of cold reading. Now will you give me that gin, or do I have to fire you first?”

“That wasn’t a cold reading.” Bethany said. “She didn’t even give you clues. You must have known all that stuff beforehand.”

“No.” Robert retrieved the bottle from Julie. “I’ve never seen that woman before. Besides, even if I had set it up, what’s it to you? Sometimes you two forget who’s paying the wages around here.”

“Oh? How do you think you’re making all this money? By talking to dead people?” Julie folded her arms. “If it weren’t for us pumping the saps for info before the show, there’d be no show. You can’t fire us in case we tell the world.”

Robert poured gin into his glass. This was a familiar argument, one they had fought many times before. He sighed and waited for Julie’s next line.

“We’re a team, Bob, and don’t you forget it. You’re the front man, but only because we put you there. Without us—”

“Okay, okay, I get the point.” Robert took a sip of his gin. “I have no idea what happened out there. I give you my word I didn’t set it up. I screwed up, then I got lucky. That’s all.”

Robert drained his glass, stood and pulled on his overcoat. “I need a holiday. We have two more shows this week, then nothing for the week after. Don’t accept any bookings for that week.” He pulled the door open. “We could all do with a break, I think.” Robert stepped into the corridor.

Behind him, a voice whispered “Thank you.” Robert stared over his shoulder at Julie and Bethany.

“Did you say something?”

“No.” Julie said. She and Bethany exchanged a smirk. “Maybe you do need a holiday.”


The following night, Robert broke with tradition and downed a large gin before going on stage. His head pounded, as it had all last night and all day today. He felt as though people were shouting at him, so many, so loud it was all just an incomprehensible roar. Robert accepted the night’s crib sheets from Bethany.

“Is something wrong?” Bethany sounded concerned, and with good reason. All the makeup in the world could not hide Robert’s haggard face. Despite hours in front of his dressing-room mirror, Robert knew he looked as though he hadn’t slept for days.

“Sore head. Might be coming down with the ‘flu or something.” Robert concentrated on the sheets. Normally he could memorise them all, but tonight he would work on just enough for the first half of the show. He would read the rest in the interval.

“We’ve got a good one to start with.” Julie indicated a sheet with the seat number twelve marked in the top left corner. “She’s hoping to meet up with her brother, who was a fireman who died while saving children from an orphanage. That should set up some credibility.”

“Right.” Robert’s lips moved while he read the sheet. The information mingled with the shouting in his head. He drew a breath. If he could remember most of the details he’d be fine. Robert handed the sheets to Bethany and walked onto the stage, his arms held high and his trademark superior smile plastered over his face. The audience burst into applause.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.” Robert waited for the applause to stop. “Good evening to all of you here tonight, visible and invisible.” The audience laughed with nervous anticipation. Robert winced at the noise in his head. It pounded against his temples like a storm surge.

“We have someone here with us who’s anxious to get through.” Robert closed his eyes and put his hand to his forehead. He decided to dispense with his usual preamble tonight. The sooner this was over, the better. “He’s directing me over here.” The seat layout was the same as always. Robert raised his arm and pointed to where seat twelve should be. He opened his eyes.

His finger pointed in entirely the wrong direction. In the wings, Bethany closed her eyes. Julie let her head slump forward onto her chest. Robert tried to swing his arm around, as though guided by spirit, but it refused to move. The sounds in his head coalesced and subsided into a murmur, low and threatening.

“Martin Newton.” Robert spoke the name, though he had never heard it before. Where his finger pointed, the colour drained from a dark-haired man’s face.

“That’s my name. How did you know?” Martin Newton stammered the words.

“I have someone for you.” Robert walked without knowing why, towards the man. He lowered his arm. “A message from Joseph Blackthorn.”

“No.” Martin half-rose from his seat, then fell back into it. “It can’t be.”

“He died in a ravine. You spent months in an asylum afterwards, but you recovered. Joseph is angry.” Robert wanted to bite his lip, but the words kept coming. “You killed him.”

The audience whispered and murmured. Martin’s mouth worked, and sweat ran between his eyes. Robert saw visions of lawsuits. Why was he saying these things? Perhaps his headache was more than the ‘flu. Perhaps he was losing his mind.

“I didn’t kill anyone.” Martin surged to his feet. “It was an accident.” He grabbed Robert’s lapels.

Two security guards ran from their places at the exits. Robert raised his hands, palms outwards.

“I can only repeat what the spirits tell me.” His chest heaved with the effort of breathing. “Please, sir, calm down. The spirits are not always right.” That should do it. Whatever this man might try, he could not sue the dead. The next words came out before Robert realised he was speaking.

“Joseph Blackthorn tells me you killed him, and you were also responsible for the death of his wife, Sheila.”

Martin released Robert’s lapels. The security guards each took one of Martin’s arms.

“How?” Martin stared into Robert’s eyes. Robert sucked his teeth.

“I don’t know,” he whispered. Robert stood motionless while the guards led Martin away. The hubbub of the audience filtered through the sounds in his head. That steady buzz, overlaid with mutterings and shouts, wordless noises that were nonetheless definitely voices, surged again.

The audience burst into applause. Robert clutched his head. It’s good business. Wherever it came from, it’s a good show. They’ll talk about it for weeks. Robert clung to his thoughts, but the voices shouted him down. If only Julie and Bethany would come and lead him away. They dare not, he knew. If they were recognised, the game would be up. Robert faced his audience and tried to smile.

There was a blonde girl in the third row. Mary Parker. My daughter. I have to speak with her. Robert shifted his gaze to an old man in the fifth row. Sam Torrance. My brother. A middle-aged woman at the front. Pat, my wife Pat. He knew them all. Any face, any age, sparked one or more of the voices in his head. They jostled within him, calling and pushing themselves forward. Robert closed his eyes.

“Shut up! All of you, shut up.”

The audience fell silent. Robert opened his eyes. They stared at him, every one, some shocked, some indignant, others shaking their heads in disapproval. The voices roared on.

There’s my mother. Brother. Aunt. Within Robert’s head, the crowds gathered. They saw through his eyes, heard through his ears. His own mind, pushed aside, cowered and gibbered at the onslaught. Trodden under ethereal feet, Robert Odin’s self-assured, easy confidence snapped. His thoughts flew at random into the dark crevices of his skull. The invaders tried to coax them out. Each tried to persuade Robert that their message was important. They had come such a long way. They must be heard.

Robert fell to his knees and covered his head with his hands. Look, look at my son. My father. My sister. The voices forced themselves into him, their pressure threatened to burst his skull. Robert could impose no order, no restriction on them. He had no control.

His scream burst through his clip-on microphone. It deafened the audience, shook the room, and ended the career of Robert Odin, the stage psychic, forever.


It was never going to end there, now I look back on it.

The original was around 2500 words. So far it's at 10,000 and still roaring along. A ghost story that writes itself...


Saturday, 28 January 2012

Taxed to death.

The Ranting Penguin notes that the taxman is going to chase all we little people for our pennies while letting the big corporations keep their pounds.

The taxman believes that the use of cash is, in itself, a tax dodge. One more step to the cashless world, in which every transaction is taxed electronically and we don't know how much tax we're paying any more.

So who are the culprits here? Not me, because the nature of my work does not allow for cash transactions. If someone wanted cash-in-hand microbiology work I'd be very wary indeed. The books, I could sell for cash, but in reality they're sold through booksellers. Sometimes I sell a signed copy but that's by cheque or PayPal. I can't make cash sales unless I try selling door-to-door!

Who, then, are the taxman targeting this time?

Paying a builder or cleaner in cash, allowing them to evade VAT or income tax, will result in even deeper government cuts to public services, he says.

Cleaner? I've been looking at cleaner jobs and if a cleaner is even making enough to pass the tax threshold, I'd be amazed. You don't see many cleaners turning up for work in BMWs. So the taxman is going after minimum-wage earners while letting the big corporations off with billions. Paying a cleaner with cash doesn't matter at all. The tax loss is trivial, if there even is any.

Builders might make enough to show a difference but I suspect that if you took all the cash-in-hand work done by all the builders in the country, the tax loss wouldn't even touch the amounts those big businesses have been allowed to forget about.

I have a tax bill that's going to clean me out and yet it wouldn't cover an MP's monthly expenses. If I didn't pay it, there would be no cuts to services at all because it won't cover a single employee's wages. And yet this is the level the taxman is planning to attack with fines that will blow most small businesses right out of the water and put all those taxpaying workers on the dole.

Many small business owners are giving up and going back into waged employment because the government is doing its damnedest to destroy them. The array of fines a business can now face is astounding and those include fines for things that aren't even illegal. Such as not putting a sale in the ledger until the following day. There is no tax dodge there, all the money is accounted for, but if you don't fill it in in 'real time' they'll fine you £3000.

Then we have 'tax on account' where we have to pay next year's tax this year. If you are thinking of starting a business, be aware that at the end of your first year you will pay double tax. Then the tax office will report that most small businesses only last one year and will never make the connection.

Eventually we will all be working for a big corporation or we will be on benefits. There will be no small businesses and no more innovation. Corporations will stick to their tried and trusted sales, only upgrading current products and not bothering to develop anything new. Why take risks when there's no competition?

If Steve Jobs was a teenager today, building little computers in his garage, nobody would ever see an iPhone. The taxman would have eradicated him before he had 'Apple' listed as a trademark.

Friday, 27 January 2012


Smoky-Drinky night so no sense here for the evening.

This is looking like a popular Smoky-Drinky anthem...

We dare to know just who we are.

These days, how many can honestly say that?

The Smoke Wars update.

I hear, via Email, that the appeal to keep Chris Carter out of pokey has passed the halfway mark but is not there yet.

I know, because it affects me too, that January is a bad time to ask for donations. We are all suffering the post-Christmas cash depletion and the taxman is about to rip a dirty great hole in my not-healthy bank account by Tuesday.

However, if anyone has a bean or two spare, please consider this man who is going to go to prison for smoking while those who beat a woman senseless while calling her a 'white bitch' and those dregs from the shallow end of the gene pool who hospitalised a man who asked them if they wouldn't mind not being bin-kicking arseholes are all let off with slaps on the wrist.

If we let this persecution of smokers continue, you will soon have to have a licence to buy alcohol and you will be refused a bag of chips based on your waist size. It is not just about smoking. It never was. It has always been about control. Total control. Of you. Yes, you, not just those you disapprove of.

'Panoptica' is fiction. All it needs to become reality is your continued silence.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Smokers, the new rebel horde.

A long time ago, me and my brother Kyle here
We was hitchhiking down a long and lonesome road.
All of a sudden, there shined a shiny demon
In the middle of the road
And he said:
"Roll the best smoke in the world, or I'll eat your chips".

Oh no wait. I was distracted by YouTube. I'll start again.

Long ago, in the dim and distant past, when I worked for and with the allegedly intelligent (you wouldn't believe how shocked they are by the suggestion that Electrofag with no nicotine is suitable for non-smokers, even if they are vegetarian and like veggie burgers) smoking was only mildly frowned upon.

When I was a PhD student we could, at a pinch, get away with even smoking in the lab. It wasn't a good idea but it was not actually illegal. In fact most of us didn't because putting anything at all in your mouth in a microbiology lab has the risk level of 'mad'. Leave the sandwiches, coffee and smokes to the common room. Still, it wasn't illegal to smoke in the lab and some did.

It was eventually banned and really, in a lab with compressed-gas-cylinders, including hydrogen, and every surface at risk of being coated in some deadly disease, that ban was something nobody could sensibly object to. Nil by mouth is the best way to be in such a lab. A good microbiologist washes their hands before they go to the toilet. And after. During, if it's a long one.

So we smoked in the common room and nobody minded. It was my third post-doc job when smoking was first restricted.

Some objected to smoking. No problem. We smokers took our breaks at different times to avoid the whiners. Coffee break at 10:30? We worked through it and took ours at 11. Not a problem. I would take work into the common room outside break times and smoke while drawing graphs and writing reports. Productivity was not at all affected. Especially since most paper-writing happened outside working hours anyway.

Then came the first silly excuse from the antis. 'Some labs use ether and it's dangerous to smoke in the common room outside coffee breaks in case there's an explosion'. I am not kidding. That really is the reason given for forcing smokers back into 'normal' coffee break times. In that building full of PhD-level people, not one - not one - pointed out that if there is an explosive level of ether in the air in the common room, you really don't want to be the one who turns on the coffee machine. Every one of them agreed with the smoke restrictions, of course.

I moved jobs and was once more able to work in the common room while smoking. Then a no-smoking sign appeared. I enquired and was told it was not official, just put up by a git and could be ignored. Nonetheless it was pointed out to me every time I smoked because There Is A Sign and again, PhD-level people proved themselves to be utterly controllable drones.

It is true to say I have had fun with this realisation in the past. I had someone believing that ammonia-absorbing bacteria in the pig gut were the next Big Thing just by talking in hushed tones in the presence of a known gullible idiot. You haven't heard of this even if you're in biological science because it doesn't really exist but it spectacularly wasted someone's time. He's a professor now, and he still doesn't know what I did yet..I have done worse. If I had been involved in climate science, the horrors I could have perpetrated would have made the current lunacy pale into insignificance.

In my last day-job employment up to 2005,  we ended up smoking outside the fire door at the back of the building. Even then we were told by those who took half-hour coffee breaks twice a day that we were 'costing the business' and we should be docked pay. We took no half-hour coffee breaks. Why spend half an hour in the presence of pompous self-righteous gits when you can spend ten minutes with the smokers? We took less actual time off work than those who spent an hour a day complaining about us.

Now the smoker-bashing is mainstream. More and more companies are taking on the idea that smokers must clock off when going for a smoke. The coffee drinkers and Farcebook users are ecstatic.

So when they have to clock off for coffee breaks, they will no doubt be just as delighted. When the IT department logs their use of Farcebook or YouTube or reading this blog and docks their pay accordingly, they will be almost orgasmic. Come on, it's not a hard thing to implement. Leave your work computer on Farcebook all day and you will not get paid for that day even if you were running your guts out elsewhere. Fair? You are asking a smoker about 'fair'? Get real.

Can't happen? Well, take a look at this. Pretend the smoking ban wasn't just the start if you like. Accept control of the minutiae of your life if that's what you want.

But never, never ask the smokers to help you when it's your turn.

We're on our own. So are you.

Antismokers, Apple, CAMRA and the entire leisure industry don't want us to fight for them. So I won't.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Farcebook reveals what you've told it.

There is Outrage! over the changing face of Farcebook. They have a new interface that the Mail thinks will tell the whole world every detail of your life.

Well... surely Farcebook can only tell the world those things you've put on there? Personally I don't even put my real date of birth on sites like that. They don't need to know beyond the year of birth and I'm so old I am well past any age restrictions. I'm even old enough to buy Sanatogen without raising anyone's eyebrows (although I haven't actually tested that yet because I hear it's not very good).

The 'new look' has been voluntary up until now. 

Being on Farcebook is voluntary. Nobody 'has to' join and nobody 'has to' put anything in particular on there.

From now, users will simply be notified that they are being 'updated' via an announcement at the top of their home page, which users click on to activate Timeline.

Don't like it, don't use it. It's free so you lose no money by simply deleting it all. Nobody pays to be on Farcebook so the users cannot claim to own the site. It belongs to the Farcebook Corporation and they can do what they want with it. Again, don't like it, don't use it. Simple.

It's not like the phone lines. People need phone lines for communication by talking, fax and internet. If the phone company said they were going to broadcast your phone conversations you'd be right to be livid. However, Farcebook has no such power. It can only show people what you've put on there.

Timeline has been criticised for showing off pictures and posts that people might have wanted to forget. 

Who puts up pictures they don't want people to see, on a website the entire planet can see? Are people just emptying their cameras into the thing? And if you post something in a drunken haze and don't like it in the morning, well, that's what 'delete' is for.

The new look also pairs with 'timeline apps', such as Spotify, which post every time people listen to a song, or eat a recipe or visit somewhere.

No. It can only do this if you let it. Farcebook do not have cameras in your kitchen to record what you cook and they can't follow you around town unless you tie up some kind of link with GPS and other gadgetry and allow it. If you don't have a Farcebook account it can do nothing to you at all because it doesn't know you exist unless you tell it..

People are scared to death that Farcebook, a voluntary program nobody has to join, will spy on them. They seem to believe that this program will reveal details of their past that they have never put on Farcebook in the first place.

Nobody seems bothered by those CCTV cameras on every street and in every public place. Nobody seems to mind ANPR cameras following them everywhere they drive. nobody is even slightly perturbed by the modern assumption that they are a criminal in need of checking when they apply for certain jobs. No, they are all in a tizzy because a free computer program that nobody has to use is getting a new look.

What happened to priorities?

Amazon US, meet the ghost book.

Page proofs for 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator' arrived from CreateSpace today. I think Lulu do better covers, to be honest, but Amazon use better, whiter paper which is good for the photos. Can't have everything. I checked and approved it so it's now on CreateSpace.

It'll be on the Amazon US site in a few days. Getting it onto other Amazon sites costs a little money, not much, but I'll wait until the short story book proofs arrive and then see about distribution once they're all in.

The Lulu option is so far the only real option for UK print versions and the bugbear there is their postage costs. However, there is a little bit of good news. Until 31st January, you can get free postage on Lulu, with the code WHOASHIPPINGUK

It only works in the UK and it only works once per user. US readers won't care anyway because Amazon has the free-post option all the time.

This is the code I wait for from Lulu because it's the biggest saving. A good time to pick up a few for signed-copy distribution, and the only sensible time to buy those single-story pamphlets.

Best not do it tonight. Credit card plus whisky is never a good combination.

Haggis and Whisky.

Scotland gives us just enough time to recover from New Year before we have to deal with the birthday of Rabbie Burns, farmer, poet, revenue man and pisshead. It's another official whisky night and this one comes with haggis to soak it up so we don't die too quickly. New year comes with stovies, the recipe for which is somewhat less horrifying than that for haggis. Stovies are a sort of practice haggis for newbies, I think.

There's no smoky-drinky tonight, we'll have an official one at the weekend. With more whisky.

Next up is Valentine's Day. This year I will get to the butcher's early, before they run out of hearts.

In the unlikely event that there's anyone on the planet who hasn't heard of Rabbie Burns, Subrosa has an educational video.

Well, I have to drink more whisky now. It's the law.

Jobseeker who actually means it.

I have been looking for a job. Not a career, I have two of those already. I am past the age of ambition. I just don't care any more. All I want now is for the rest of the world to piss off and stop asking me for money.

A part time job just to cover the background bills when the day-job is silent. Something in the evenings, something that won't follow me home like my day-job has throughout my life. Something I can maintain when the projects are running because projects end and then there is silence again. Benefits? No. Absolutely no. Been there long ago, felt the jaws of the trap and heard the pompous and exultant cries of the Righteous and I'd rather live and die in the woods. No, that benefits trap is not for me. I will not be owned.

I don't want to be a manager. I could do it, I have managed academics and that makes you envy cat-herders. I have dragged at least one unworthy student through a Ph.D. and hammered a few more useless drongos through M.Sc. Only just, but they made it despite themselves.

Not one of my students has ever failed because they knew if they did, their heads would be on spikes as a warning to others. I learned the technique from my school English teacher who also recorded no failures. No violence, just verbal humiliation. It works really, really well. My best one was to tell a Ph.D. student I didn't expect her to be able to complete an experiment because she was 'only a woman'. That produced one of her best publications ever and she gave me the silent treatment for three days, which was a bonus.

One job I considered was part-time warden at an old folks home. I mentioned it to some friends.

'Do you think I could be a carer?'

I have never seen so many people say 'NO' so emphatically and so quickly. If the buggers had reacted like that to the smoking ban, there wouldn't be one. Their reasoning was that caring requires patience and I don't have any, it also requires caring and I don't. Their objections to 'cleaning up incontinence' I brushed aside. My entire career has seen me elbow-deep in shit and not the nicely-formed healthy lumps, the horribly infected runny stuff. That shitty part would be no problem. It's the 'giving a shit' I'd have trouble with.

There was also concensus that I would be instantly in trouble with the Righteous because the first thing I would demand is a decent smoking shelter for the elderly in sheltered housing. Sure, the residents would be happy with me but the bosses would have contract killers on my tail by the end of the first day. So that was out.

They were right. I was once course tutor for a (ahem) course. One student was hated by the staff but he wasn't a bad guy, just a youngster trying to look hard. I pushed him to appeal his unfair third class degree, we won, and I wasn't course tutor the next year. I put principle above money which is why I am utterly skint and the likes of Tiny Blur are loaded. It means I would be doomed in any council job.

There was a job in the Apple iStore in Aberdeen but there is the small matter of ethics. Apple have declared their warranty invalid for smokers. I can never buy their products nor can I encourage anyone else to buy them. Even if it means going back to living in the gutter, I won't do it.

So it's supermarket or cleaner jobs. Evening work, low pay, enough to cover bills and I don't have to ditch the part-time stuff when the contracts come. I really don't want a day job because I'd have to drop it to run a project and that means when the project ends, I'm sitting on my arse doing nothing again. Once you drop a job they don't want you back.

There are many cleaning jobs around. Unsociable hours - no problem. I am inherently unsociable. Pride? That's for the rich. Cleaning is something I do a lot of anyway. No cleaners ever enter my lab because I use deadly bacteria in there. Cleaning is my problem and since I don't want to die a horrible runny-bottomed death I am merciless with the cleaning. You want me to clean your house? Prepare to be sterilised. It's all very... dirty.

It's not even a job, it's a vocation. Thirty years of microbiology makes you paranoid about cleanliness. I know what lurks in the little bit of damp dust in the corner and I kill it before it gets me. You won't believe how much disinfectant I get through. Oh, the cheap bleach works as well as the posh scented stuff, by the way. The kill rate does not depend on the floral scent.

My kitchen is entirely painted white. I have often heard 'But white shows the dirt' to which I reply 'Yes. That's how I find it'. It's a bit nasty on a summer morning if I haven't closed the curtains and the sun is shining in and there's been whisky but... I have never had a serious gut infection even though I've worked with them all.

Too much cleanliness is as bad as too little. Don't worry about garden dirt, worry about kitchen dirt. Garden dirt contains almost nothing to worry about. Kitchen dirt contains it all. You do need a little bit of dirt in there to give your immune system practice.

So yes. I am thinking 'cleaner'. I have been in places I'd have cleaned for free so why not get paid to do it?

I have also been told I'd make a good barman but 'fox in charge of the chicken run' comes to mind there...

All I need now is a light green suit and I am ready to be terrifying. Who says you can't have fun on minimum wage?

Might inspire a few more tales too.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Meat and mirth.

I'm going to need a lot of help laughing at this one.

Remember all that healthy eating advice? Stay away from red meat, live entirely on fish and chicken or you die?


HEALTH conscious women who eat mainly fish and chicken could be storing up as many problems as those who tuck into junk food.

It's no good. I have to have another dose.

So what's wrong with the fish and chicken diet? Haven't we all been told that red meat will kill us? Haven't we all been told it will make us all obese and cancerous?

Too little iron in both sorts of diet is to blame.

Oh dear oh dear. All those who listened to the healthy eating nuts are now anaemic and feeble. What to do?

Switching a few meals to foods high in iron, such as steak, liver and watercress could make all the difference. 

Uh-oh, here it comes again...

Yes indeed, health people, make those messages clear. So do we give up red meat as you wanted, and languish with anaemia, or do we just eat a bit of this and that, as humanity has done since it first dragged its scaly carcass out of the sea? How did we ever live without you? The answer, I think you'll find, is 'better'.

But - how can this be? Who, in this Righteous age, would have the temerity to claim that red meat can be in any way good for you?

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey, conducted by YouGov for industry body MeatMatters, found that a quarter of British women and teenage girls suffer from a low intake of iron. 

Aha, another pressure group. The Meat Men are fighting back with Righteous techniques of their own. As for the credibility of YouGov polling, I think Junican has some clues for us there.

Oh dear, I can barely type for laughing. All that hectoring and nagging about 'healthy eating' has turned the population anaemic. Well, the female half. Nobody seems to care about the male half - but that's not new. Now the burger bars can advertise the iron content of their burgers and entice the fish-and-chicken eaters back. Put some lettuce and cress on top and your State-sponsored anaemia will be cured in one meal.

From the health advisors that gave your children rickets, you can now add anaemia to their list of wondrous 'progessive' influence on your lives.

I mean, how can you not....

It's good to laugh. Even better when the Righteous are the ones being laughed at.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Formulating a horror.

Long-term readers will know that my primary occupation is microbiology. I meddle with germs, sometimes dangerous ones. Also that I write horror stories as a sideline. I'd rather make a living from the writing, it's safer by far, but it is not to be. Not yet anyway.

Only once have the two worlds collided, in a story called 'The Ignorant Assassin' in the collection 'Dark Thoughts and Demons'. It's not easy for me to write a microbiology story without it sounding like a report - but then, it might be even scarier if written that way. Hmmm...

Sometimes I think along strange lines, usually after a good belt of the hard stuff, and sometimes a fictional horror will come out of it. The thing about fiction is that, unlike real life, it has to make sense. There has to be a logic in the sequence of events so that the reader can work out what's going on.

Okay, so let's give the microbiological Armageddon another go.

First, we need a virus. Viruses are much easier to store and weaponise than bacteria and can be made species-specific. They can be made to attach to very specific cell surface features so they can be made sub-species or even race-specific. That won't be perfect but it will definitely wipe out one race much faster than another.

We're not really into the fiction yet. This is possible now. However, what we want for this fictional world is not the eradication of a race, but the eradication of all but the most compliant drones. That can't be done genetically so we must find another way.

And yet, there is a problem. When there is an outbreak, the first thing everyone is clamouring for is a vaccine. If it doesn't work, they'll spot it at once. So a dud vaccine won't cut the mustard here. There has to be a real one - well, there has to be one anyway, so that those who release the virus don't catch it themselves. They also want to save their drones.

Now we need a way to make sure the compliant drones take the vaccine but the troublemakers refuse it. That way, nobody is 'denied the vaccine'. It's on offer to all, but only the drones accept. How to achieve this?

First you set up a scare concerning a virus that isn't really that big a deal. Then you provide a vaccine that's tainted. Let the word get out that the vaccine is bad and the virus isn't nearly as dangerous as claimed.

Then you have another scare, with another tainted vaccine, and assess the uptake. Most of the troublemakers refuse it this time round? Excellent. Again, the virus scare doesn't live up to expectations and the news is full of terrible tales of those damaged by the vaccine.

Now we are ready to release the real thing. Of course, we have to let everyone know it exists so our compliant drones will accept the vaccine while the troublemakers refuse it.

Oh, and those working on it will make a point of getting the hell out of the way just before the crap hits the fan.

This is, of course, just an outline for a tale of fiction. The sort of thing Lex Luthor or Dr. Evil might come up with. Horror fiction works best when based on real life events. I mean, demons are all well and good but they can't scare people who don't believe they exist. No, for the real universal scares you need the psycho, preferably the highly intelligent psycho with a motive and the means to carry it out. Suppose the motive was a massive reduction in the world's human population, in such a way as to leave only those who will do just as they are told? Would the logic in such a tale hold up, I wonder?

Good thing it's not really happening, eh?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Smoke War - another in need of help.

Under modern UK justice, if you are part of a gang that hospitalises an innocent bystander, you get stern words spoken at you and then you get sent home.

If you light a cigarette you go to jail.

Keeping Chris Carter out of jail and allowing him to continue his appeal requires £1250. That's a tenner each from only 125 of us. The donate button for the Chris Carter appeal is at the top of the Smoker's Justice page.

This month I have to give thousands to the taxman. I'd rather give a tenner to the taxman and thousands to a cause that actually matters, but unfortunately I can't do it that way round.

All that money going to the taxman helps to pay the judges who treat smokers as if they are murderers and who treat vicious thugs as if they were upstanding members of society. The voluntary tenner goes to fight the thousands I am forced to pay to promote my own oppression.

Is it just me, or does anyone else see something very, very wrong here?

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Big, clever and cool - and photos to prove it.

Off out for a smoky-drinky. It's windy and cold and wet and horrible out there, but that's okay because I won't have to go outside to smoke.

There will be none of these present because they are photoshopped fakes. Excellent photographs, but no child is really smoking in them any more than there are real dogs playing pool and poker as in those pictures popular some years back.

Naturally the antismokers are delighted with them and have no problem using pictures of children smoking to further their vicious little crusade.

From the comments:

These pictures could be effective in a campaign against passive smoking. - me, uk, 21/1/2012 18:48 

I agree there should be a campaign against passive smoking. If you want to inhale smoke, buy your own. I also think these pictures should be on the walls of every school in the land. Oh, I know what the antismokers think they look like, but to a kid they make smoking look big and clever and ultra-cool.

So go ahead, antismokers. Use them in your campaigns.

Anyway, time to go. Back very late. Don't wait up.

Of brick walls and heads.

Sometimes it's best to stop whacking your head on bricks.

Via Pat Nurse, I find another of the Paul Flynn ilk but this one is a Liberal Democrat. As a model of Liberal Democraticity, this one is perfect. There is nothing liberal about him at all and judging by the response to the huge majority of his commenters, he's not interested in democracy either.

Lib Dem voters take note, They are all like this. All of them. If you vote Lib Dem because you believe in liberalism and democracy, you are a sucker. Oh, and you voted this little Stalin into office. Aren't you pleased with yourselves? Aren't you going to be delighted to vote him in again to get rid of your remaining pubs and corner shops? Mugs.

Tesco are apparently losing money. Tesco! Losing money! That's impossible and yet I note our local branch no longer has those permanent ads for trolley collectors and shelf stackers.Word from the inside is that there is a ban on overtime too.

So, Mr. Tesco, will minimum pricing on alcohol boost sales? Will a display ban on plain-packaged smokes increase your profits? The lottery till is at the baccy counter because gamblers are on the denormalisation list. How many of those smokers take a quick go on the lottery while they're there? It's over £6 for a pack of smokes now so they're likely to think that one more pound on the lottery is a good bet. What happens when they buy from Man with a Van instead? You think you have seen a bad year, Mr. Tesco? You ain't seen nothing yet. They haven't even started on your pizzas and curries.

If Tesco are having trouble, just imagine want Mr. Patel's Corner Emporium is suffering. A display ban on their biggest profit-making product should finish them off, eh, ASH?

I have no intention of commenting on the idiot from Bristol's blog. Waste of time. He is not listening, he doesn't give a damn about people, not even those suckers who voted for him. He cares nothing for the collapse of the economy or the destruction of small businesses. All he cares about is his personal agenda, an agenda that would make Hitler proud. He wants one-fifth of this country's population declared monstrous and evil because they choose to engage in a legal and highly-taxed activity.

If you are Lib Dem and are thinking 'he's not typical', I refer you to your leader's opinion of the smoking ban in which he stated that even relaxing the ban would be like bringing back the death penalty. Stephen Williams is an archetypal Lib Dem as defined by the leadership of that party. All Lib Dems are like this. Anyone who votes for them is like this. No other conclusion can be drawn.

Bristol voters, vote him in again if you want to but do not come bleating to the rest of us when all your pubs, clubs, restaurants and shops are closed. You did this. You voted for it. Live with it.

And remember to accept the blame for it when it all hits the fan.

I Fought the Machines and the Machines Won.

I have been locked in battle with computer stuff, and the machines have been winning. Several people recommended CreateSpace as a way to get books onto Amazon and it was only my natural indolence that made it take this long.

Damn, but CreateSpace is fussy! Their program found a problem. I fixed it. They found another...

Anyway, I now have three books in the process. When they eventually reach availability I'll put up links and change those I currently have elsewhere to the Lulu.com print copies. Then I'll remove the print copies from Lulu because they price in UK pounds and Amazon bases everything on dollars, so having both will cause confusion.

Lulu do a good job, I have to be honest here. There are only two problems. First, their postage charges are far too high. If you buy one book you could end up paying more for postage than for the book. If I buy a batch of ten for signed copies it's not so bad but buying one, well the postage is insane.

Second, Lulu.com is well known among writers but people who want a book to read have never heard of it. Their first port of call is Amazon. The same goes for Smashwords - full of writers but few readers. With Smashwords, it's the distribution to the likes of Kobo, Sony, Apple etc that is of interest. Direct sales on Smashwords are tiny.

Getting onto Amazon for free means fighting the CreateSpace interface. I think I won but I won't know for sure until the books get through the system. For the moment the machines have the upper hand.

Getting decent distribution means forking out a little money, but not very much. I'll look at that once I have the books in the listings.

Between this and the tax form, expect little activity here for the next week or so.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Out of the frying pan.

There are those who think the Germans will ditch the Euro this year. It's not impossible, it has been a bum deal for Germany, but the Angry Merkin insists it was all a great idea.

The reasoning behind this particular argument seems flawed. It's based on the idea that if Germany drops out of the Eurozone, they won't have to pay for bailouts any more.

Well, we have never been in the Eurozone but we are putting a hell of a lot of money we don't have into supporting it anyway.

So if Germany does drop out, it won't be for that reason.

Stranger than fiction.

In 'Panoptica' I had considered implanted brain chips but dismissed them as too far-fetched. Crime rates are low because nobody remembers any crime happening to them. Victims are re-educated and given a pill that eradicates unpleasant memories (it already exists). Nobody remembers being a victim of crime therefore there is no crime.

My first thought was brain-chips because that made it easy to get the main character into trouble. His chip would report non-Righteous thoughts. Then I decided he wouldn't have any non-Righteous thoughts as a fully indoctrinated drone so found another way to get him in trouble. That also avoided unlikely science fiction scenarios like this one.

Yes, even the stuff I rejected as being way too far-fetched has started coming true.

The scientists doing these experiments are not evil. Their intent is to find a way to repair the damage done by things like Alzheimer's or by feral scroats who happen upon an innocent member of the public. Then again, Einstein did not envisage his equations leading to a bomb that could wipe out a city - and the new ones that can wipe out a large chunk of a country.

Darwin did not imagine his evolutionary theory could lead to eugenics. If van Leeuwenhoek had known about bioweapons he might never have built those microscopes.

No, the scientists rewiring rat brains have no evil intent. Unless you're a rat.

However, those in charge of us have nothing but evil intent. Take this innocent-sounding scientific sentence:

'It's a proof of the concept that we can record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and then return it to the brain,' says Prof. Mintz...

The authoritarian mind will add in a few words there:

...we can record information from the brain, analyse it, adjust it to suit what we think they should be thinking and then return it to the brain...

One small step for science, one giant leap for the authoritarians.

And I thought it was too wild for fiction...

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Meat is microbiology.

You know how, when you've set aside time to sort out the tax form, suddenly everyone in the world wants to talk to you? Well today's that day. It feels like everyone's New Year Resolution is to get in my way.

Anyway, since I was distracted I thought I'd scour the Mail for horror story ideas. There's at least one a day in there.

How about lab-grown meat? Grown from stem cells in huge vats. Let's play with the idea that in one of those vats, some of those stem cells produce nerve tissue, then a brain...

Its a silly idea. Meat grows in cow-shaped lumps in the middle of fields. It grows on grass, which is free, rather than on cell culture media which is expensive. It requires no effort other than good fence construction. It uses very cheap farm labour rather than expensive lab staff and it has no bacterial contamination on the inside, unlike vat-grown fibre.

I have no moral objection to lab-grown meat but I will not eat it because bacteriologically, the risk is huge.

Is it halal or kosher? Do we have to say prayers when inoculating the growth medium?

If this starts appearing without labels I am going back to setting snares and to throwing bread to pigeons with one hand while holding a cricket bat in the other.

It's not likely to reach economic viability but that hasn't stopped wind power. And once you eat undefined meat without question, Soylent Green is only a crematorium away...

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Phantom Boozer.

Lots of scare stories around boozing cheeeldren lately. You'd think someone was trying to ban it or something.

A girl with a pickled pancreas is held up as being a typical teenager. Apparently she had been drinking two of those three-litre bottles of cheap cider every day since she was 14. She bought them at £3 a bottle which means she bought own-brand supermarket stuff.

It's around 5%, that stuff, and each bottle contains just under 16 units. So she was on 32 units a day, 224 units a week. That is, even by my standards, excessive. It's about the equivalent of an entire bottle of whisky every day. No wonder her pancreas packed up. I'm surprised her eyes hadn't melted.

The scaremongers feel the need to ramp up even those figures.

Kieran Moriarty, a consultant gastroenterologist at the Royal Bolton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, told the Sunday Times: 'The teenager had been drinking 400 units a week since she was 14, cheap lager and cheap cider, and she came in with severe acute pancreatitis."

Take a figure and double it. 224 units a week is quite scary enough without making up a new figure, but then force of habit...

Six litres. Twelve pints. Every day. At the height of my imbibing skills, in my early twenties, I once achieved the 'double gallon' in one night - sixteen pints. I never felt the need to repeat that feat, it was a one-off and it utterly wasted all of the next day. I recall not feeling like drinking at all for several days after that one. Normally, making it to the gallon was considered an achievement, the usual night-out rarely reached eight pints and that was certainly not every night. Midweek drinking was one or two pints and often none.

Drinking twelve pints a day, every day, is going to put anyone into a permanent state of drunkenness. Nobody's liver can detox at a rate that could keep up with that intake, and with that volume of fluid going through, the bladder would be under such strain she'd whistle when she peed. Yet here we have a fourteen-year-old who was able to buy six litres of cider a day, at a rate of £6 a day (£42 a week).

[Buying the equivalent in bottled water would have cost less than 50p a day, for those 'booze cheaper than water' nuts]

Where did she get the money? A weekend job? A paper round? Nobody drinking at that rate could hold down any job at all. Not even a job that involved mainly vomiting and urinating. She had to find £42 a week from somewhere.

She also had to get around the fact that she was four years under the legal age for buying alcohol and she must have been permanently pissed so she would have been bouncing off the supermarket shelves when buying it. Did nobody notice?

The solution? Minimum pricing, of course. Let's ignore the fact that we have a law stating that nobody under 18 can buy alcohol but nobody is enforcing it. Let's ignore the logical conclusion that the only way a 14-year-old pisshead could get £42 a week is by stealing it, and if the price goes up they'll just steal more. No. let's have minimum pricing and pretend that will solve everything.

There is no mention of her parents. Presumably they put a bottle of gin in her school lunchbox every day and cooked every meal in brandy. Are we seriously to believe that even the most inattentive parent is not going to realise their child is on twelve pints a day? It would be like living with a younger version of Father Jack and every conversation would be like talking to Rowley Birkin QC.

What of the shop that let her buy the cider? Yes, I know, it's not the shop's responsibility to tell anyone what to do with the stuff they buy, but when they sell booze to someone four years below booze-buying age, they are responsible for breaking the law. The article makes no mention.

Instead, it harps on about 'the evil drink stealing children's lives' while ignoring the fact that we have laws stating they can't buy any.

The girl's current age is not stated, just that she started when she was 14. All we have is -

The astonishing revelation was made by a doctor who treated the girl, who is from north west England.

... and the claim that she drank 400 units a week, equivalent to around 13 bottles of whisky. Enough to floor a walrus. Every week.

You know what I'm thinking? I'm thinking the Mail just took the story at face value. I'm thinking about all those 'thousands of deaths' from second hand smoke that never existed. I'm thinking this is propaganda and that the sozzled teenager does not exist.

Well, the antismokers get away with ridiculous claims and the dopes in the comments below the articles soak it all up. As they have with this one.

400 units a week and you'd soon be dead. If they cremated you, you'd burn for days and if they buried you, archaeologists would dig you up in a thousand years and marvel at the embalming techniques we must have had. You'd sterilise your entire intestinal tract with that much alcohol and denature every surface protein all the way down. Nothing would work. Nothing. Pancreas? The least of your worries.

If there was a shop selling that much booze to a teenager, the Mail would have gleefully reported their prosecution. The parents would have been prosecuted too. No mention of either. The Mail reporter seems not to have noticed and neither have the commenters.

Also, no mention of liver damage. At that intake her liver should have looked like it had been used for close-range shotgun practice.

I call 'fake' on this story. It's too far-fetched on too many levels and yet they are getting away with it because the drones are just so incredibly dim. An Expert has said - so we don't need to think. The Expert has done it for us.

Next on the denormalisation train? Meat. All of it. The drones will accept this too.

Sometimes, I wonder whether that New World Order idea of killing most of the people on the planet is actually quite a good one.

Anyway, as a responsible citizen and in the interests of promoting moderation in drinking, here's a song extolling the virtues of sensible beer consumption.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Letting the madness out a little at a time.

My head hurts. I've been trying to work out what we'd see if a four-dimensional being protruded into our three-dimensional world. Starting from the point of view of a two-dimensional creature who meets a three-dimensional one (Edwin Abbot's 'Flatland' the text of which is probably free somewhere because it's out of copyright) and extraoplating that creature's 2D image of a 3D creature into a 3D observation of a 4D one.

It could appear and disappear simply by making use of a spatial dimension we can't access, but when it was here, what would we see? I have a feeling it would look like what we generally refer to as a ghost. As to specific appearance, well since it has total control over what it pokes into our dimension, it could appear any way it wants.

If I can get this little story written it should infuriate everyone of every religion everywhere. It's not an atheist tract, it's even worse than that, it's an entirely new religion that binds them all together while simultaneously denying the reality of all religions, including itself.. If this doesn't get me a nasty letter from the Pope, nothing will.

Once it's out I'll have to be on my guard against the Secret Ninja Jehovah's Witnesses. They say the last thing anyone hears is a breathy voice...

I had another go at getting the cartoons onto Kindle. Still no luck. These old ones might have to be restricted to print-only and a new set drawn specifically for the Kindle screen size. They could work as PDF on a computer screen but I don't think they'll work on little E-readers.

Something occurred to me. I have always maintained, in smoking-related arguments with the religious, that the Holy Books say nothing about smoking. They don't say you can, but they don't say you can't. The Government won't let you smoke in a church, but God doesn't mind. So who is the higher authority?

I was wrong. The Bible mentions smoking. A lot.

Leviticus 1:13 : He is to wash the inner parts and the legs with water, and the priest is to bring all of it and burn it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.

Leviticus 1:17: He shall tear it open by the wings, not severing it completely, and then the priest shall burn it on the wood that is on the fire on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.

Leviticus 2:2 : and take it to Aaron's sons the priests. The priest shall take a handful of the fine flour and oil, together with all the incense, and burn this as a memorial portion on the altar, an offering made by fire,
an aroma pleasing to the LORD.

There is a long list of these available. It seems that God likes the smell of something burning, which means those who object to the smell of smoke are heretics and must be cast out.Perhaps we should torture them a little first.

There is more:

Leviticus 3:16: The priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire, a pleasing aroma. All the fat is the Lord's.

Numbers 15:7: and a third of a hin of wine as a drink offering. Offer it as an aroma pleasing to the LORD.

So God likes a smoke, a drink and some fatty food. If it's good enough for God, then who am I to argue?

No wonder the Righteous want God banned. He's setting a bad example to us all.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Little Johnny's baby photos, age negative.

A midwife who looks like a close relative of the Childcatcher from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' has declared Outrage!

It seems that expectant mothers are using modern technology in ways this midwife finds reprehensible. They are meeting up and comparing ultrasound pictures of their unborn progeny. Some even have film of baby doing... not very much.

Worse, it appears that these expectant mothers have circumvented NHS control and paid for these photos and videos privately. Naughty, naughty mothers.

I admit my first thought on this story was 'So what?' No taxpayers' money is used, it's not costing the NHS a penny and no children or mothers are being harmed. If women want to show off a photo of something inside them that looks like one of those corpses they sometimes dig out of peat bogs, why should anyone else care at all? Really, it is the most harmless thing anyone could be doing and if the NHS are now at the stage of objecting to this level of trivia, then their time must surely be up.

My second thought was 'There must be more to this, there must be a reason behind it' and there are at least two in that article.

Prof Warwick also questioned whether it may escalate the thinking among some people that a foetus should have a life of its own before birth and, therefore, rights of its own. 

Ah, right. People might start thinking that maybe they don't want an abortion after all, and we can't have that, can we? 

My views on abortion are simple. It's none of my business unless it's my child. Some people declare that a baby cannot be called a baby until it reaches the point where it can survive outside its mother. Until then it's just a growth. Others insist that life begins at conception and that even aborting a fertilised egg with a morning-after pill is murder.

I have no argument with either viewpoint. People have strong views at both ends of the scale and everywhere in between and when they apply those views to their own lives, no problem. When they try to enforce their own views on other people, then the problems begin.

That's a small agenda item in this denormalisation of baby photos. There is a much bigger one, and this one caused me to pause for a long time.

'At the moment, UK law allows for the mother to make decisions on behalf of her baby until the baby is born,' she said.

Read that once again. At the moment, the State generously allows mothers some leeway when it comes to deciding what's best for them and their child during pregnancy  Not a lot of leeway, not once they get hold of your smoking, drinking and eating habits, but so far they have been benevolent in allowing those mothers to get ultrasound images made without restriction.

Oh, and note the end of the line. 'Until the baby is born'. As Captain Ranty will tell you, once you have a birth certificate, that baby is not yours. It belongs to the State. You are merely the registered keeper and if they don't like you, they can take it away.

There are anti-abortionists who loudly proclaim that life starts at conception. If this woman gets her way, State ownership of life will also start at conception and then they will be able to decide who is aborted and who is allowed to live.

Can't happen here? The stuff of Hitlerite dreams? It happened in America after WWII, where some states enforced sterilisation of anyone declared unfit to breed through either physical or mental differences. Now that we have an array of tests that can tell whether the foetus is likely to under-perform in terms of State requirements, it would be a simple matter to prevent those costs to the NHS from Downs' syndrome, malformed limbs, below minimum State-required IQ level (and for the proles, above the upper IQ limit declared by the State) and the long-sought eugenics dream becomes reality.

Hitler didn't invent eugenics, and it didn't die with him either.

 She has other silly notions, including the old 'equality' saw - if not everyone can afford private scans, nobody can have them - but this one is, I think, the real giveaway.

We pay the NHS to control our lives and they want more. They want to own us from conception. There is no end to this, not until we are a race of identical clones built to State specifications and living and thinking within State limits.

If ever anyone finds proof of life after death, the first the ghosts will know of it will be when the spectral tax demands arrive.

Friday, 13 January 2012


 A 'just for fun' post to break up the misery stream and because I have the no-sleeping thing again..

'Population explosion' doesn't mean what I want it to mean, but sometimes I like to savour the image.

Did you hear about the hungry clock who went back four seconds?

I saw a sign in a shop window that said 'Batteries included - no charge'. I thought 'What use are they then?'

I haven't written a will,. It would be a dead giveaway.

Is the Thatcher film rated PG because it's not suitable for miners?

My girlfriend thinks I'm a stalker. Well, she's not quite my girlfriend yet.

And now we return you to the normal, doom-laden world of reality. Sorry about that.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Where the Haggis cry 'Freedom'.

What is the Cameroid up to?

He has already made noises about the SNP referendum on independence for kilts and sporrans, but now he seems to have had a toddler tantrum about it. "You can't have it unless I says so, nyah".

Reminds me somewhat of a saying of my father's from long ago (Granny would never have used one so coarse unless it was in Welsh). It went 'Like a bitch with a bone' and it meant 'He/she doesn't really want it but they don't want anyone else to have it'. Cameron has no support n Scotland but he wants to keep it anyway.

If Scotland separates, the remaining UK will probably have a Tory government forever. The Libby Dimmys will be wiped out. Labour will be reduced to a shadow. Why would a Tory Prime Monster resist that? He'd be in a job for life if he ditched Scotland and if he had any sense he'd be looking at Wales and saying "See? They did it, how about you?"

What does he lose in terms of MPs? One or two? This is a local country for local people, Tories, there's nothing here for you.

I can see why Labour don't want Scottish independence. They'd get hammered if they lost the Buckfast vote. The Libby Dimmys still have a few here too, and they can't afford to lose even one MP at the moment. The Tories, however, would be well shot of Scotland and if they wanted to, they could move their remaining voter south.

Al the Oily Fish didn't set this current argument going. The Cameroid did, all by himself. Why now? Oh, he claims the polls show Oily Al would lose if he had a referendum now but those polls were taken before the Cameroid threw his toys out of the pram. He has, with his 'I am Teacher and you will do as you are told' attitude, advanced Oily Al's position more than any SNP rhetoric ever could. A referendum now is not a guaranteed result, not at all. If Cameroid had silenced the flapping of his gob, chances are Oily Al would have lost.

There seems no logic to it, apart from one little possible bit.

If the UK breaks up, the constituent parts would have to reapply for EU membership. England might rip Cameron a new one and not bother reapplying. Scotland probably would if the SNP get their way but even then, the process would take years. Meanwhile the EU might not get their idiot tax from any part of the UK and we might not feel obliged to obey any of their laws.

I wonder, is it possible the Cameroid has been visited by The Management?

"Nice government you got 'ere, Davey. Shame if anyfink was to 'appen to it. My mate Sarky can get a bit clumsy sometimes, you know, signing things in uvver people's names an' that. Anyway, we got a nice EU pension for the good boys and a special place for the bad boys, know what I mean?"

If Oily Al won his referendum it would cause problems for the EU. It might also get the English thinking "Hang on. They got a referendum, where's the one the Forehead promised us?"

I have always been a 'don't care' on Scottish independence because I'm not Scottish. If they get independence and I don't like it, leaving wouldn't be a problem.

But if it will annoy the Cameroid and the EU, my vote will now be 'yes'.

Too many irons, or not enough fire.

Sometimes I overload with activities. I have too many things on the go and too many deadlines to meet so I should not be embarking on something new. Can't help it, I just have no control when I get interested.

I saw a part time job today as a buyer of tat for a local shop. You know, the person who actually chooses the meaningless and pointless impulse-buy trinkets that fill the side shelves of newsagents and garden centres. It had never occurred to me before, but it must be someone's job to decide what goes on the tat-shelves and they must know where it all comes from.

Now, as a frequent buyer of useless crap myself, I was intrigued by this. A job was vacant and it was a job I didn't even know existed. I won't get that job, I have no sales experience and if I showed the results of my somewhat dreadful attempts at marketing books, they'd laugh. Even so, I have absolutely no idea where those trinkets come from, and I have to know. So I'll apply and hopefully get as far as interviewing them about this mysterious and shadowy position of Head of Useless Stuff, and maybe find out how they persuade us to buy stuff nobody, anywhere, has ever even imagined they needed and which could only have been created by a madman.

It's dangerous, I might find the source of the tat and that is not safe for someone like me to know. Then again, I have always wanted to know who actually makes those musician figures out of welded nuts and bolts, those glass animals, the wooden things that I can't quite identify and all the rest of it. I would also like to know how they go about selling that stuff to the Head Of Pointlessness and how he/she manages to con saps like me into handing over money for it.

As part of this new book-writing business I must learn about marketing and if someone can sell a wine-bottle-holder that appears to have been roughly slapped together by a bored scrapyard worker after some serious drinking, then they must be great at marketing. I must meet these people.

I just hope they don't sell me anything.

I wonder if they'd be interested in stocking books by a local author on the tat-shelves? That would actually be a better outcome than getting the job.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Cough. Aha, you're a smoker.

Still on the brandy tonight. That's two nights of not-proper-drinking in a row, Aren't I being a good little drone?Actually, during winter I do not drink during any day at all, seven days a week. Fortunately it's night before 5 pm and the rules only apply to 'days' of drink.

I'm still working on the editor test, which comprises three 'submissions' and I have to decide whether I would ask for a full manuscript or reject, based on the samples. One is easy, the story might be great but it would take an editor a year to rewrite the grammar. The other two are not so straightforward. I have a few days to make my choices and I suspect (if common sense prevails) the outcome will depend more on my reasons for accept/reject than on my decisions. If I use the wrong criteria, ie that which does not fit what the publisher wants, I lose.

Then there's the tax. I have to do this year's too, to see how far I can cut the 'payments on account' which translates to "We know you don't owe this tax yet but we want it anyway". This year has been much slower than last year and to be honest, unless a miracle happens with the books, there won't be much more income this year. There are meetings scheduled for the research work but once it gets through meetings - deciding the project - changing the project - firing up the lab - doing the work - writing the report - invoicing - there's really not much chance of anything more from that direction arriving within this tax year. Still, there is a faint chance of a short but expensive project landing in February. Not much of a chance, but it can happen.

It's a gamble, reducing those payments on account. It's tax I don't actually owe yet but it's treated as if I do. If I overpay, to be fair, they will refund promptly when I fill out the next form. If I underpay the tax I don't owe, they will hit me with the Naughty Tax Dodger Hammer and it won't have the soft padding they use for Vodafone or for MPs. I can, of course, simply not send out any more invoices this year but that's no longer reliable. One of those books could take off and make me rich enough to get away with tax discrepancies, or in the worst case scenario, not quite rich enough to get let off but rich enough to fleece.

Okay, a sudden book boost is not likely. The Bible Belt and the Vatican have still not noticed my use of actual grimoires and Crowley's spells in those books and even if they notice now, the income isn't likely to filter through before April anyway. Perhaps it's time to release that Crowe theory that there is no God, but the devil is real. All the bad guys exist and there's nobody on our side. Maybe that will poke the Puritans into action. I tried it on some teenagers at one of the New Year parties. It looks like being my scariest idea yet.

I can't be too hard on the taxman and I am happy with the questions for the editor job because neither of them have asked me whether I smoke, drink, use butter and salt, what my waist size is and whether I have changed all filament light bulbs to the new low-calorie versions. They don't care. In the case of the editor job I suspect the drinking part is taken as read.

These questions are to come from dentists, pharmacists, proctologists, chiropodists and probably acupuncturists and herbalists too.

Homeopathists would be fun. "Do you smoke?"
"No, but I remember it."
"Oh, then you need a bottle with no nicotine in it. That'll help."

Or acupuncturists. "Do you smoke?"
"Yes. Try not to let any leak out through the holes".

If you visit a chiropodist or proctologist, be sure to scrub nicotine stains from the appropriate areas and if you have nicotine stains in those areas, I would be intrigued to know how you did that and very interested in why.

I should be outraged at the idea of popping into the pharmacy for some aspirin to be faced with some smug-faced, clean-cut horror straight from the Amish School of Evil Modern Medicine who asks "Aspirin, sir? Hungover, are you?" but I'm not. Not at all.

See, if I'm buying aspirin, which I do very rarely, it is usually for a hangover. So I'd just say "Yes, and here's the deal. You shut up and sell me the aspirin and I'll let you keep your face." Being smug in the presence of a hungover Leg-iron is not a good idea.

Cough medicine, I never buy. It's no use. If I have a cough it's usually because someone's left the tap running in my sinuses so I need a decongestant. Cough medicines are no different to those things the Wild West snakeoil-sellers used to peddle. They are as effective as nicotine patches.

I know several non-smokers who do buy cough medicines because for them, a cough is something unusual. Something to be feared rather than a natural response to stuff in the lungs that needs ejecting. A persistent cough could be something serious but an occasional one is, dare I use the word, normal. We inhale all kinds of horrors every day, even if nobody is smoking within fifty miles and even if they are, the tobacco really doesn't register among the constant crap in the air.

I'm not outraged by the idea of pharmacists asking stupid questions. I think it's hilarious. It's not going to offend me, I'm just going to take the piss.

"Do you smoke?"

"Depends how fast I go".

"Do you drink?"

"Only the good stuff and only to excess."

No, I will not be offended by their questions, but I will be puzzled by their advice on excessive drinking if I'm buying condoms. In my experience, the two are about as unconnected as they can possibly be. If I'm drinking too much I can't remember what it's for, never mind worrying about putting a sock on it.

Consider who will really be offended by this. Not the smokers, not the drinkers, but the anti-everything brigade. They don't imagine it will apply to them. They actually believe you can tell a smoker from a hundred yards because of the smell. They are the Pure and must never be questioned.

Picture the Dreadful Arnott with a touch of the winter sniffles, calling in to Boots the Chemist for a bottle of Covonia. What are they going to ask her? She'll deny it but the knowing looks will be there to whack her in the face. Consider Don Shenker buying aspirin. He'll deny the hangover connection but again, the knowing looks...

It doesn't bother me if the local pharmacy thinks I am buying aspirin for a hangover because I don't buy it for much else. I am not in the least bit concerned if some bleached-face harridan disapproves of my smoking because I disapprove of her existence. We can come to a deal on that - She can let me smoke and I will let her exist. Everyone's happy, well, as happy as harridans can be.

No, this new idea will not scare me away from the chemist's shop. If it takes off I will be there more than ever just for fun and I will hang around to hear the banmeisters reap their own harvest. I will be there until they throw me out for being a persistent nuisance or for pretending to work there and offering demonstrations.

If anyone asks, yes, I smoke, because smoking is big and clever and smoking is cool. I drink because those who don't drink have no livers and are not real people at all. I eat salt because humans need salt and reptilian creatures who want to enslave us don't. Chocolate is toxic to most non-human species which is why the Thetans want it banned.

I know, other smokers/drinkers/etc get enraged by the constant nannying but to me it's all a new game. A new source of torment for the tormentors.

There has never been a Righteous scheme that has not backfired in spectacular fashion. Not one. This is no different. Their drones will be incensed when staff refuse to believe thy have never smoked when they are buying cough medicines. They will be outraged to be told that they must be buying aspirin for a hangover.

It's going to be the best fun yet. Bring it on.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Other people's stuff.

Busy here. I applied for a part-time job as an editor so I can get some understanding of the publishing world. My chances of getting the job, based on the extent of my experience in the field, are slightly less than zero but I thought I'd give it a go. Anyway, the 'test' arrived and I'm doing that now.

Then there's the terrible taxman to deal with. Since the Coagulation intend to use HMRC to shut down every small business in the country, this year I have to be extra-diligent about having all the receipts and invoices in order, and this year there are two sets of them to sort out.

So tonight I have nothing to say, and anyway I've been beaten to the stories.

We are to take two days off the booze every week. I'm only on the brandy tonight so that counts as one. Frank can see where it's going, because the banmeisters will soon declare that we are not doing what they say voluntarily therefore pubs and off-licences must close two days a week. Then they will be shocked to discover that we have thought to stock up, and they'll encourage children to report their parents for drinking on Days of Purity.

The behaviour of children has as much to do with parental discipline as the closure of pubs has to do with the smoking ban. The real corrupting influence on the new ferals has been found.

Those nicotine patches used to claim a failure rate of only 95% or so,  but a proper study has shown that in fact they make no difference at all. The comments are full of panicked antismokers pretending to be ex-smokers, which is always fun to see.

For a glimpse into the sort of mind the antismokers really have, the Moose has pictures. I'm sure all political parties are proud to be associated with such vicious propaganda and they'll soon be fully supporting the same sort of bile aimed at drinkers and smokers too.

Right, best get back to this test. It would be ideal for me to work for an American publisher since my waking hours fit theirs better than the UK anyway.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The dregs of life.

Time-out from writing. Also from fixing previous writings. Apparently the Word format for a successful Kindle book is not the same as that for a EPUB format book and so my choice was - bugger it up yourself or let the software bugger it up for you. I let the software do it first then tried it myself and this time it hasn't come straight back. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile the Cameroid has told Oily Al he can't have a referendum on Scottish independence from England unless England says he can. The slappy-foreheaded moron has just told the Scots that they can't leave unless he says so, and has just handed Salmond the result on a plate. Maybe there is a bit of brain behind the sweaty pink facade, and Cameroid realises that with Scotland separate there will never be anything but a Wet Tory government in Wastemonster ever again. There'll never be a proper Tory government as long as the Heir to Blair is not a Patch on the Thatch, so nobody will actually notice the difference anyway.

Oily's plan was a referendum in 2014. Why? It's the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and he hoped to ride a tide of whisky-fuelled kilted patriotism to victory. Well, assuming he has left a drop of whisky within range of the ordinary budget by then, the short-sighted idiot. As it is, the booze run to Carlisle will not vote to close the border. Al, you are a dick, if only you could see it.

There is much talk of 'mandates' - he doesn't have a mandate to do this, they don't have a mandate to do that, and they all talk as if we believe they give a shit.

No government had a mandate for the total exclusion of a large chunk of the population based on lifestyle, but they did it anyway. No government had a mandate to foster hatred towards smokers but they did it anyway. No government had a mandate to promote anti-drinking laws but they did it anyway. No government had a mandate to declare fat people legitimate targets for hate but they did it anyway. No government had a mandate to subvert science by encouraging total fabrication of statistics but they are doing it anyway.

No government had a mandate to install a Mugabe-style justice system but they are doing it anyway.

So don't talk to us about mandates, Oily Al. Don't talk to us about lawful process, mirror-bonce Cameroid. Neither of you can be trusted. Neither of you produce one word of truth, neither of you give a toss about those who voted for you, neither of you do a single damn thing that benefits anyone but yourselves. And we are all seeing it, more and more, every day.

I have met and spoken with quite a few of those we describe on the blogs as 'chavs'. Yes, they are mostly not too bright, yes, they are in it for themselves, yes they will grab an opportunity to fleece you if they can. I prefer them to the politicians for very simple reasons.

They aren't pretending they want anything other than money, and they aren't interested in controlling my life.

Politicians, of any rosette, are far, far worse than any chav you'll ever meet. You think the chavs are the dregs of life? Look deeper.

Much deeper.

There, in the deep slime at the base of the abyss, are the politicians.