Saturday, 31 December 2011

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Walk the Walk

'Green figure' replaces 'green man' on pedestrian signs

The green man has been helping Britons cross the road for decades, but one council has now decided to offer a gender-neutral alternative.

Lincolnshire County Council is rolling out new signs at pelican crossings in Boston, and walkers are being asked to wait for the green figure before they cross.  The authority says the signs are helping to keep the streets as safe as possible, but critics have questioned whether the change has been motivated by political correctness.

This is rapidly becoming very silly.

New Year Honours 2012

It's far too long to copy, but if you're interested, the full list is at TTel.

Old Pal's Act

Cameraman is facing a backlash after a millionaire businessman jailed for fraud, a former drugs dealer and a controversial Conservative Party donor appeared in today’s New Year Honours list.

The Prime Minister was accused of rewarding his party’s “friends in the City” after a knighthood was given to Paul Ruddock for services to the arts and a CBE to Gerald Ronson for his charity donations.  Ruddock, a hedge fund manager, profited from the collapse of Northern Rock and donated £500 000 to the Conservatives.  His company used a practice known as “short selling” to bet on shares in the bank falling. Northern Rock subsequently failed and had to be rescued by the taxpayer.

Ronson, a millionaire property developer, was convicted of theft, conspiracy and accounting fraud following the Guinness scandal in 1990.  He served six months of a one-year sentence and has always denied any wrongdoing.  The business tycoon, whose company built the tallest skyscraper in the City of London, has since given much of his fortune to charity. His wife also recently received an honour.

The Cabinet Office refused to confirm whether the honour was the first senior award to be given to someone who has been convicted of a crime.

Another contentious award was given to Christopher Preddie, a cousin of the two brothers found guilty of killing schoolboy Damilola Taylor in 2000.  The father of the murdered 10 year old last night criticised the Government for awarding Preddie, who used to be involved with drugs and gangs, an OBE for his campaign to tackle youth crime.

The awards appeared to undermine Cameron’s pledge to use the honours system to reward those who play a role in the “big society".

More at TTel

Do As We Say, Not Do

Calls for an “austerity Olympics” will be ignored by the Government as the 2012 Games could help keep Britain out of recession, says the Culture Secretary.

Jeremy Hunt believes that hosting the Games is an “incredible stroke of luck” during the global economic crisis as it will provide a “huge plus sign” for the struggling British economy.  He also says demonstrators will be tolerated as long as their protests are legitimate and lawful.

Ministers have faced calls to pare back expenditure on the Games at a time when thousands of people are losing their jobs, public services are being cut and taxes are rising, but in an interview in TTel, he says voters will never forgive the Government if it does not “make the most” of an unprecedented opportunity.  He said:

“You can take two attitudes to the Olympics.  You can say: these are times of austerity and therefore we should pare them down as much as possible. Or, you can say: because these are times of austerity we need to do everything we possibly can to harness the opportunity of the Olympics.

We’re going to be the centre of global attention and it will be the first time that we’ve had a major sporting event that’s watched live by half the world’s population. People would not forgive us if we didn’t make the absolute most of this moment.  This is going to be an incredible expression of Britain’s culture, Britain’s history and Britain’s creativity. So, we decided that the sensible thing to do is to make sure that we finance it properly.” 

Whatever.  I'm just glad to be well away from this circus.

Gadgets of the Year 2011

As per SL:

1. Samsung Galaxy Note: Samsung took a big risk with this 5.3in tablet/smartphone hybrid, but it paid off. A superb debut.

2. Nintendo 3DS: Mario Kart, in 3D, in your hand. The most innovative gaming device of the year.

3. iPad 2: Apple consolidated its position in 2011, with the iPad 2 proving to be its finest work yet. But it was ‘evolution not revolution’.

4. Nokia 800 Lumia: Nokia’s big comeback, powered by Windows. Even iPhone users were a bit jealous.

5. Sonos Play:3: The ultimate wireless music system for your home. Compatible with everything from iTunes to internet radio.

6. Virgin TiVo: Taking Sky+ to its logical (and somewhat terrifying) conclusion, this box learns your viewing habits and records shows it suspects you’ll like.

7. Sony Z Series laptop: Super-light, super-expensive carbon-fibre laptop with a clever dock that boosts its lethal firepower using an external graphics card.

8. Samsung D8000 TV: This was 3D TV’s finest hour: the richest, sharpest 3D picture and a touchscreen remote to boot.

9. Sony Dev-5 digital binoculars: Featuring 20x zoom and the ability to record images, these are probably better than your actual eyes.

10. Fujifilm X100: The best interchangeable lens camera — and there was hardly a shortage. Achingly gorgeous, and its Hybrid viewfinder is a work of genius.

Good Old Public Transport

Some UK rail users are paying almost ten times more than other European commuters for their season tickets, yet fares are set to rise further still.  A 2011 season ticket from Woking in Surrey to London, including Tube travel, comes to a pricey £3 268, while a similar journey from Velletri to Rome sets Italian ticket holders back just £336 17, according to figures from the Campaign for Better Transports (CBT).

This is not the only instance of vastly different prices, with similar journeys of around 21 to 24 miles in other European countries showing that rail users on the continent generally pay significantly less for their travel.  Despite the fact that Brits already pay substantially more for trains, from 2nd January, UK regulated fares (which include season tickets) are to rise by an average of 6%.  The overall average rise for all tickets stands at 5.9%.

Not only are fares too much, the quality of trains is shoddy compared to their European counterparts.

Know Your Place

BRITAIN is Goldman Sach's bitch and Goldman Sach's bitch better have its money, it has been confirmed.

Don't make Lloyd Blankfein teach you no goddamn lesson, muthafucka
The investment bank said it did not want none of our smart-mouthed bullshit and we better pony up with the green or we be hurting real bad.

Looking so fine in its new coat, Goldman Sachs added: "Those muthafuckas at HMRC know who's da shit.

"They don't be disrespectin' my balance sheet with all tax and shit. They see me in ma muthafuckin' Mercedes all pimped and rockin' and they know who da man is.

"They be all like 'hey Goldman Sachs, you so fine, you tell me what you need brutha'. I like dat.

"An investment banking brutha like me has gots to have respect. I gots to show these muthafuckas how my shit goes down.

"So when I comes into the house and I say 'hey Britain, take my fine new coat and fix me a sweet-ass muthafuckin' pina colada' you know Britain be all 'yessir Mr Goldman Sachs sir, I'll take your coat and fix your drink and then I'll blow you real nice'. I like dat."

A Treasury spokesman said: "You crazy? You won't get me to say nuthin' bad about Goldman Sachs. I ain't no goddamn fool."

Goldman Sachs added: "Damn right. They knows that if I gets angry I mights just up and move my sweet ass to Hong Kong. Get me some Asian bitches."


News Briefly from Daily Mash

Employment crisis sees Job Centre Plus re-branded as 'Centre'

Given more general role that is not really to do with jobs.

Annoying families not having turkey this year just to be different

Irritating, pretentious households having a saddle of roast yak and some bloody River Cottage pudding made from pine needles.

Same Same

Kim Jong Un new leader
North Korean officials have moved to quell international concern by confirming that new leader Kim Jong-Un is exactly as a bat-shit crazy as his predecessor.
The were initially concerns that the new leader might prove to be an unknown quantity, but these have been quickly addressed by North Korean officials.
The message came in a statement carried on state media and attributed to the National Defence Commission, whose role is maintain a consistent international perception for all North Korean leaders.
“We declare solemnly and confidently that the foolish politicians around the world, including the puppet group in South Korea, should be aware that Kim Jong Un is exactly as mentally unstable as those who have gone before him.” it said.
“He is already controlling the weather with his moods, and only this morning scored 12 holes in one at Pyongyang golf course. Some of us also saw him fly. Definitely.”

Kim Jong Un

Experts on the region claim that Kim Jong Un will soon start to exert his own authority by creating a mythology around himself.
As one explained, “I would expect the coming weeks to see stories about how he can talk to animals, or about how he invented Simon Cowell – outrageous stuff like that.”
“But he’s not a simpleton though, he’s unlikely to stand up in front of the country and claim that severe austerity measures are the way to get the country growing again. No-one would believe that shit.”


The trio of Kindle e-readers took the three top places on Amazon’s best sellers on their site.  In fact, over one million Kindles have been sold per week for the month of December.  Every country that has an Amazon site showed the Kindle Fire as their top-selling product.
Amazon Kindle Fire 2v2 Amazons Kindle Fire is number one e reader
The Kindle Fire, their latest and greatest e-reader took top honors.  For the past 13 weeks, the Kindle Fire has held on to the top spot on Amazon ever since it was first introduced.  It looks like people cannot stop buying them.

The Kindle Touch took second place in popularity.  The original Kindle took up the slack in third place with a very respective show.

Since record numbers of e-readers are being sold, it certainly makes sense that e-books would also be in demand.  This is borne out in the sales figures.

Would you believe that Christmas Day was the day with the most e-book downloads.  Yep, I would believe it.  Once you receive a Kindle as a Christmas gift, what is the first thing you are going to do with it?

You are going to buy a book and read it! You would especially enjoy it after dinner in an easy chair sitting in front of the fireplace.

broadband expert

2011 "Are You Serious?" Awards

The Golden Lemon Award to Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest arms company, whose F-22 Raptor fighter has some “performance” problems: the pilots can’t breathe.
.The U.S. Air Force was forced to “stand down” its fleet of 160+ F-22s—at $150 million apiece, the single most expensive fighter in the world—when pilots began experiencing “hypoxia-like symptoms” from a lack of oxygen. But the company got right on it, according to Lockheed Martin vice president Jeff Babione, who said he was “proud to be a part” of the team that got the radar-evading aircraft back into the air—for five weeks. When pilots continued to have problems, the F-22 fleet was grounded again.
According to the Air Force, no one can figure out why oxygen is not getting to the pilots, but that pilots “would undergo physiological tests.” To see if the pilots can go without air?
Runner-up in this category is Lockheed Martins’ F-35, at $385 billion the most expensive weapon system in U.S. history. The cost of an individual F-35 has jumped from $69 million to $113 million a plane, and while this is cheaper than the F-22, the U.S. plans to eventually purchase more than 16 times the number of F-35s than F-22s. It seems the F-35 fighter has “cracks” and “hot spots” that, according to the director of the program, Vice Adm. David Venlet, are “hard to get at.”
Dispatches suggests that the Air Force issue ice packs and super glue to pilots.

The P.T. Barnum Award to Dennis Montgomery, a computer programmer who scammed the U.S. government for more than $20 million. Montgomery claimed he had software that could spot terrorist conspiracies hidden in broadcasts by the Qatar-based Arabic news network, Al Jazeera. He said his program could also detect hostile submarines and identify terrorists in Predator drone videos.
The Bush administration took his claims so seriously that in December 2003 it turned back flights from Britain, France and Mexico because the software had “discovered” the plane’s flight information embedded in an Al Jazeera crawl bar. The White House, fearing the planes would be used to attack targets in the U.S., actually talked about shooting the planes down.
The CIA eventually concluded the software was a fabrication, but rather than rebuking those in charge during the hoax—Donald Kerr and George Tenet—both men got promotions. The spy agency also didn’t bother to tell anyone in the military, so in 2009 the U.S. Air Force bought the bogus software for $3 million.

C. Northcote Parkinson Award to the U.S. Defense Department for upholding the British sociologist’s dictum that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Parkinson—a social scientist with a wicked sense of humor—was hired after World War II to examine the future of the Royal Navy. He concluded that, given the military’s deep love of fancy gold lace, as well as its addiction to bureaucracy, eventually there would be more admirals than ships. Needless to say, that is exactly what happened.
But it is not just the Brits who yearn for the golden epaulets. According to the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), the U.S. military is adding brass to its ranks at a record pace. While the enlisted ranks have grown by 2 percent from 2001 to 2011, three and four star generals and flag rank admirals have increased 24 percent, one and two star generals and admirals by 12 percent, and lower ranking officers by 9.5 percent.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made an attempt to cut the ranks of the top brass, but as soon as Leon Panetta took over the post, he reversed the cuts and added six more generals. In fact, at the same time as the Pentagon was cutting the enlisted ranks by 10,000 in anticipation of an end to the Iraq War, it added 2,500 officers.
According to POGO, “Today’s military is the most top-heavy force in U.S. history.” Between 2012 and 2021, POGO estimates that the six new generals Panetta appointed will cost taxpayers $14 million.
However, there may be a silver lining here. Generals and admirals don’t fight, that’s the job of enlisted men. At this rate the U.S. will run out of privates and the business of war will be left to generals and admirals. If that comes to pass, Dispatches predicts an outbreak of pacifism.

The Confused Priorities Award is a three-way tie between British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and former Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Bertie Ahern.
In the midst of a savage austerity program, with massive cutbacks in social spending, Cameron’s Conservative-Liberal government will spend up to $40 billion on a new generation of missile-firing submarines. While British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said the submarine was necessary to maintain the country’s nuclear deterrence, critics say the program is really a boondoggle for BAE Systems, the United Kingdom-based arms company that will make the new weapon system.
Canada’s Harper got into the winner’s circle by spending over $100 million on summit meetings and pork barrel projects for Conservative cabinet member Tony Clement. The summit expenditures included $13,711 for “glow sticks,” $62 million for accommodations, and $4.3 million for a temporary fence to keep Canadians away from the lake where the Group of 8 meeting took place. Half of the summit money was used to build an office building in Fraser’s district, as well as develop airports and communities that the cabinet member could take credit for. In the meantime, Harper slashed spending for health care and education, and cut $200 million from environmental protection and monitoring.
Ahern, Taoiseach of the Irish Dail from 1997 to 2008, oversaw the bank speculation and real estate bubble that destroyed Ireland’s economy in 2008. Ahern claimed that no one told him that the financial situation was so dire, although an investigation by independent analyst Rob Wright found that the Fianna Fail government had repeatedly been warned that a crash was coming. Asked what his greatest regret was, Ahern replied that it was his failure to build a stadium to match those in Arab states. “I think unfortunately when I see little countries like Qatar and Kuwait…talking about their 10 stadiums and we never succeeded in getting one national stadium. That’s an achievement I tried hard to do but I didn’t get.” 

The White Elephant Award to the Greek Army for considering taking 400 free M1A1 Abrams tanks from the U.S. “This is a free offer,” said Greek army spokesman Yiannis Sifakis.
Well, sort of free.
The Abrams, the U.S.’s main battle tank, is a 67.6-ton behemoth that burns 10 gallons of gas just to start, and gets 1.6 gallons to the mile. The tanks will also cost $11 million to transport to Greece.
In the meantime, the Greek Socialist government has laid off tens of thousands of workers, cut wages, slashed health care, increased sales taxes, and advanced the retirement age. Massive demonstration and general strikes have convulsed major cities, and the country is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Maybe the army is thinking that if German banks try to repossess the country, those 400 Abrams tanks might come in handy (if Greece can afford to gas to run them)?

The Dr. Frankenstein Award to former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright for her sponsorship of Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, a man accused of murdering Serb prisoners during the 1999 Yugoslav War and selling their body parts.
Reporting on the scandal in CounterPunch, reporter Diana Johnstone, author of “Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions,” cites a report by Swiss Senator Dick Marty implicating former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Thaci of running “safe houses” during the war where Serb prisoners were tortured and killed.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a human rights organization with 47 member states, sponsored the Marty investigation.
“An undetermined but apparently small number of prisoners were transferred in vans and trucks to an operating site near Tirana international airport [Albania], from which fresh organs could be flown rapidly to recipients,” the Marty Report says. “Captives were killed, usually by a gunshot to the head, before being operated on to remove one of more of their organs.” Kidneys seem to have been the major harvest.
Thaci has also been linked to the heroin trade and prostitution.
Albright and her aide, the late Richard Holbrooke, pushed Thaci into the leadership of Kosovo during the Rambouillet negotiations leading up to the war. According to Johnson, far more prominent leaders of the Kosovo delegation to those talks were pushed aside, and Thaci—known in law enforcement circles as “The Snake—became the face of the Albanians secession movement.
Asked about the Marty Report, U.S. State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley said the Americans would continue to work with Thaci because “any individual anywhere on the earth is innocent until proven otherwise.” Of course, it also helps that Thaci approved the construction of a massive U.S. base in Kosovo, Camp Bondsteel, giving the U.S. its first military foothold in the Balkans.

The Surreal Award to the U.S. Justice Department for finally agreeing that lawyers defending prisoners at Guantanamo can view classified files that were prominently displayed on the WikiLeaks website. The Department ruled that lawyers may access the documents, but cannot “download, save, print, or disseminate” the material, a ruling that attorney David Remes said was “still surreal.”

The Grinch Award to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for complaining that Colombia’s minimum wage was too high, and driving up the cost of labor. The minimum wage is $1.80 an hour and, for full-time workers, brings in around $300 a month.

The Historical Re-write Award to Jean-Francois Cope, general secretary of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative Union for Popular Movement and the man behind the “Burka Ban.” Cope organized a recent conference on secularization that, according to French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, led to “a stigmatization of Muslims.”
Cope defended the conference as “controversial but necessary,” adding that “the values of France are like the Three Musketeers: liberty, equality, fraternity.” Except that the Alexander Dumas novel was set in 1625, and the Musketeers were fighting for Louis XIII and the Catholic Church. “Liberty, equality, fraternity” was the slogan of the 1789 French Revolution, and was not highly thought of in the Feudal court of Bourbons. 

The creative Language Award to the Obama administration for its denial that the American bombing of Libya constituted a war. It was, according to the White House, a “time-limited, scope-limited military action.”

From Common Dreams

Only in America

Click to Enlarge

Football Bowl Games

Anyone Surprised?

Russell Brand has announced he has filed for divorce from US singer Katy Perry after 14 months of marriage.  The couple met in 2008 and married in October 2010 at a resort inside a tiger reserve in India.  The comedian filed divorce papers in the Los Angeles Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences.  He said in a statemen:

"Sadly, Katy and I are ending our marriage. I'll always adore her and I know we'll remain friends."

Hardly headline news, is it?

Looking Forward to Tomorrow

The science of a hangover

What causes a hangover is still not fully understood, and can vary from person to person. Here are some medical explanations for what might make us feel so bad:
  • Chemical imbalance: Alcohol suppresses the release of an anti-diuretic hormone, which causes us to expel more fluid instead of conserving it. The result is dehydration which leads to fatigue, lethargy, dizziness and headache.
  • Hypoglycaemia: Alcohol may also result in a rise and drop in sugar levels, which can contribute to shakiness and fatigue.
  • Congeners: Scientists debate whether impurities in alcohol called congeners contribute to feeling ill. Darker alcohol has more congeners, and research has shown consumption of dark alcohol leads to a bigger hangover than lighter alcohol, though function is similarly impaired with both.
  • Acid secretion Alcohol relaxes the region of the stomach that controls acid reflux, which could lead to an irritated feeling in the gut.
More at the BBC.

Book Covers

Contrary to the belief that the Harry Potter book series encourages literacy by its mere popularity, most fans do not read books unrelated to the series.

Missed This

England striker Wayne Rooney's ban for the Euro 2012 Championship has been reduced to two matches from three after an appeal to Uefa in Switzerland.  He will now be available for England's third Group D game, against joint hosts Ukraine, but will miss the fixtures against France and Sweden.  The third match of his ban has been suspended for four years.

Apparently that was announced on 8th December- sorry for the delay in posting this.

It's to Dream For

Victory for Spurs against Swansea later today, would equal their record total away wins in a Premier League season- seven, set in 1993-94, 1995-96, 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Like that's going to happen.  A draw, perhaps?

Rock 'Ard

Former MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden has broken two ribs and a shoulder blade during a training accident in Kentucky.  He said:

"Injuries are never good but it's part of motorcycle racing.  I was starting to train again, like I normally do during the winter, at a private track near my house. I came up behind another rider, and he went to move out of the way.  I wasn't going that fast, but he clipped my front wheel and I went down and landed pretty hard on my left shoulder, and that was it." 

That had been a footballer, he'd be squealing like a little girl.

Oh, Dear

Wifey will not be happy to hear her Toon went down 3-1 away to Liverpool.  The fact that Carroll didn't score again will not offer her much consolation and the Reds now go fifth.

1 Man City 18 38 45
2 Man Utd 18 33 45
3 Tottenham 17 15 38
4 Chelsea 18 15 34
5 Liverpool 19 9 34
6 Arsenal 18 8 33
7 Newcastle 19 1 30
8 Stoke 18 -10 25
9 West Brom 18 -7 22
10 Everton 17 -2 21
11 Norwich 18 -6 21
12 Aston Villa 18 -4 20
13 Fulham 18 -5 19
14 Swansea 18 -5 19
15 Sunderland 18 0 18
16 QPR 18 -14 17
17 Wolves 18 -13 16
18 Wigan 18 -20 14
19 Bolton 18 -19 12
20 Blackburn 18 -14 11


"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."

- Oscar Wilde


We also popped into town and it sure was packed.  I can't recall seeing it so full of people and they weren't only tourists.  Hopefully it's a sign of good things to come and that people are getting over their latest disaster.

Last Night

Could anyone please explain to me how a "couple of quiet drinks" led to my not even knowing what time we got to bed?  Thanks to wifey for cooking last night and to everyone at the Imm bar who entertained us all night long.  Especially the Serbian lady who spoke quite excellent English.  Then again, I suppose she should, she was a languages teacher...

Top night but that'll be it for a while.

On the Go

Friday, 30 December 2011

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

See Me After Class

Just 17 teachers have been struck off for incompetence in the last decade figures show, prompting claims that underperformance is being “swept under the carpet”.

Figures released by the General Teaching Council for England show that failing staff have been barred from the profession at the rate of around one in 30 000 since 2001, with a further 14 suspended over the same period.  In the last academic year, only one teacher was struck off.

The disclosure comes despite estimates that up to 17 000 teachers in England may not be up to the job and it will prompt fresh concerns that the worst staff are being recycled through the schools system instead of being shopped to the official regulator.

Or maybe the teachers can't count and it could be many more?

More at TTel

Nice Idea

The M25 has been voted the most hated place in Britain by listeners of Radio 4, and frequently features in polls of the country's worst places to drive. Yet one enterprising tour operator has decided to challenge prevailing perceptions by offering a coach tour right around it.

Brighton & Hove, a coach operator based in Sussex, feels that this 117-mile stretch of motorway is something worth celebrating.  It is now offering a new journey around the London Orbital, a trip it feels will appeal to "lovers of modern coach travel".

The tour was originally planned only for October next year but has proved so popular with customers that the operator has just announced an extra date in March.
Sights on the tour, which travels up the A23 and M23 from Brighton before joining the M25 at Junction 7, include urban landmarks such Heathrow Airport's Terminal Five, Lakeside Shopping Centre, and the "magnificent" Dartford river crossing.

The trip, which includes commentary from a co-driver on the stories facts behind the motorway's evolution, will also take in a stop at Epping Forest– and passengers will be invited to estimate to the nearest mile the distance the coach will travel, with a bottle of Champagne on offer for the closest guess.

Potential passengers should not take too much time working out whether to book the right or the left-hand window seat for the views – drivers will decide on the day whether to go clockwise or anti-clockwise around the motorway.

The only way I preferred to go around it (and it was always anti-clockwise) was on a motorbike.  Then it was great fun.


Only for the Well Heeled

Porsche Design BlackBerry P'9981
Harrods is to be the exclusive British retailer for a new Porsche Design BlackBerry handset costing £1 275.

The P'9981 has a fully QWERTY keyboard etched onto a forged stainless steel front and a leather back.  Powered by the BlackBerry 7 operating system, the P'9981 has a 1.2 GHz processor, 8 GB of storage, a camera that can record 720p HD video and an NFC chip for contactless payments.

I think I'll stick to Samsung...

The Pope Sez

Pope's Christmas messagw
Pope Benedict XVI has used his traditional Christmas message to urge people to ignore all the enjoyable bits about Christmas and concentrate on some crazy Jesus-based mental shit.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church said, “Some people see Christmas as an excuse to get a bit pissed up before midday without feeling like they’ve got an alcohol problem.”
“They choose to associate the birth of Jesus Christ with Lynx deodorant and shower gel gift sets, but his message is much more important than that, and considerably less pungent.”
He also urged everyone else in the world to help famine victims in the Horn of Africa.
“Obviously we’d love to help, but the Catholic Church’s vast wealth is tied up in long term investments and property,” he revealed.
“Not to worry, you do the giving and we’ll do the praying.”

Pope Christmas message

Speaking in Italian from a balcony above St Peter’s Square, the pontiff also spoke out about numerous other issues that didn’t involve years of systematic child sex abuse.
Calling upon worshippers to pray for an end to the bloodshed in Syria, he said, “Praying is a way of making out we’re doing something while actually doing nothing.”
“This is the true meaning of Christmas for Catholics everywhere.”
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, has also offered prayers as a solution to the problems that people face.
“There are people out there who will look at the suffering that is happening all over the world.”
“They will say that we need action not prayers.”
“Let us show these people that we are listening to their concerns.”
“Now, join me as I pray for action.”

A Glorious Exit

Kim Jong il funeral procession
Pyongyang officials have moved to deny the use of special effects after the state funeral for former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il concluded with his hearse flying into the sky above the city.
With Kim Jong Il well-known for his feats of super-human ability, the government claimed that his coffin flying into the heavens is merely the latest in a long line of miracles performed by the ‘Dear Leader’.
“It does not surprise us that his immortal spirit enabled him fly the car into the sky, this is a man who scored four holes in one on his first ever round of golf, remember.”
“He is a God amongst and you should certainly not look too closely at the footage of the car in the sky.”
Eye witness reports confirmed the images sent by the national television station, with one young soldier telling reporters in stilted English, “I saw it fly into the sky with my own eyes and my family are perfectly safe thank you very much.”
Another weeping mourner told us, “I am crying because I am terribly sad, and not because the least convincing cryers will ‘disappear’ at some point during the service – bwahhhh!”

Kim Jong Il funeral

Other North Korean military officials have reported that the sky was filled with the vision of a big white man in a beard who got off his chair in order to make way for the recently deceased leader.
As one tearful explained, “It was a beautiful moment, and one we had been expecting – we were sure that the bloke in the dress was just keeping his seat warm anyway.”
New leader Kim Jong Un said he would be available for comment as soon as he finished the current level o Modern Warfare 3 on his Xbox 360.

What, No Today?

Yesterday/today/tomorrow* is a key step in the Pacific island of Samoa's plan to move from the eastern to the western side of the International Date Line and mesh its work week with two of its primary trading partners, New Zealand and Australia.   The island's PM said:

"It hasn't been controversial.  People are realising when they sleep tomorrow night, they'll wake up on Saturday."

Hotel guests won't have to pay for an extra night, but employers will be required to pay workers for Friday.

I'm sure the only people to complain will be the birthday boys and girls who were born on the 30th December...

*Delete as appropriate

Their Last Year- 12

Where's #12?  What, no Kim Jong- il?

Their Last Year- 11

Fred Shuttlesworth
March 18, 1922 – October 5, 2011
Fred Shuttlesworth may be less well-known than fellow civil rights activist Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks, but according to a documentary from 1961, he was "the man most feared by Southern racists." Shuttlesworth was known for a harsher, more confrontational manner than King as he participated in sit-ins at lunch counters and buses throughout Birmingham, Alabama and rode along with the Freedom Rides. Despite their differences, King referred to Shuttlesworth as "the most courageous civil rights fighter in the South."

Their Last Year- 10

Moammar Gaddafi
June 1942 – October 20, 2011
Exiting heads-of-state don't get much respect these days. Colonel Moammar Gaddafi's oppressive 41-year rule over Libya was brought to an end this year, when a cohort of opposition fighters pulled him from a drainage pipe and put bullets through his head. The world looked on via YouTube.
His death was celebrated but also questioned: Wouldn't a trial, not tribal justice, have set a better tone for a new Libya that values procedural law and human dignity? Still, not too many shed a tear at the news: Gadaffi massacred Libyans up until his final days and funded terrorist attacks throughout his rule, most notably the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight that soared above Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

Their Last Year- 9

Steve Jobs
February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011
The world seemed to pause on October 5 when we found out about Steve Jobs death, probably on a device he had invented. In his passing, people have likened his genius to that of Albert Einstein. Jobs brought us the iPhone, the MacBook, the iPod, the iPad. He changed the way we interact with computers, entertain ourselves and communicate. He made technology accessible and beautiful, and he pushed us to, literally, think different. We'll miss Jobs and treasure all he left behind.

Their Last Year- 8

Troy Davis
October 9, 1968 – September 21, 2011
In 1989, a police officer was shot to death at a Burger King parking lot in Savannah, Georgia. Seven witnesses said they saw Troy Davis, a 21 year-old black man, commit the crime, but later they said they had been mistaken. Changing minds didn't stop the state of Georgia from carrying out Davis' death sentence on September 21, despite protests from vigils around the world and a last-ditch clemency campaign in the final hours leading up to his death. Davis' execution became a flashpoint for issues of racial injustice in the criminal justice system. In this supposedly "post-racial era," Davis' untimely end was a reminder that life is still brutally unfair if you're young, poor, and black in America.

Their Last Year- 7

Amy Winehouse
September 14, 1983 – July 23, 2011
It's impossible to disentangle Amy Winehouse the artist from Amy Winehouse the addict. Her first song to make waves, "Rehab," heralded the degeneration to come. Winehouse was beloved for her powerful voice and clever song writing, but ultimately she was dragged down by her desire for substances. The indomitable energy that carried her music ended up stoking a very public, years-long meltdown in front of the lens of the paparazzi, culminating with her death from alcohol poisoning at 27.

Their Last Year- 6

Betty Ford
April 8, 1918 – July 8, 2011
First Lady Betty Ford had two qualities that are rare for a Washington insider in today's politics: She told it like it was and enjoyed bipartisan support. On television she discussed taboo subjects, like premarital sex and marijuana. She vocalized her support for legal abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment. But she had a darker side as well, and was plagued by the stereotypical malaise of a mid-century housewife.
"I think a lot of women go through this," she said after starting to see a psychiatrist in the early 1960s. "Their husbands have fascinating jobs, their children start to turn into independent people and the women begin to feel useless, empty.” Her emotional struggle led her down the path of addiction to booze and painkillers, and overcoming these dependencies inspired her life's biggest legacy: the Betty Ford Center, a rehabilitation clinic in the California desert.

Their Last Year- 5

Jack Kevorkian
May 26, 1928 – June 3, 2011
"Dying is not a crime," said the former doctor who put the issue of assisted suicide at the centre of American culture wars. Nicknamed Dr. Death, Kevorkian helped at least 130 patients end their own lives, a practice which ended up sending him to jail for eight years.
His defiance of the law and medical establishment won him many fans and enemies, and whether you agree or disagree with his ideas, he changed the way Americans think about end-of-life issues. As Jack Lessenberry, a journalist who followed the Kevorkian saga, wrote in the Detroit Metro Times: “Jack Kevorkian, faults and all, was a major force for good in this society. He forced us to pay attention to one of the biggest elephants in society’s living room: the fact that today vast numbers of people are alive who would rather be dead, who have lives not worth living.” His awareness-raising for right-to-die issues is credited with the increase in hospice care and access to painkillers for terminally ill patients.

Their Last Year- 4

Gil Scott-Heron
April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011
Gil Scott-Heron was right when he said "The revolution will not be televised, brother." (Instead it's being livestreamed and tweeted.) But the influence of his music and poetry extends beyond political predictions. The style and approach of his work—rhythmic and critical—from the 1960s and 1970s laid the groundwork for generations of black artists and is felt to this day: his tracks turn up in samples on both Drake and Kanye West's most recent albums. Later in life, he fell into drug addictions and served time in jail, only to reappear in 2010 with his final album, I'm New Here.

Their Last Year- 3

Osama bin Laden
March 10, 1957 – May 2, 2011
The ultimate bogey man of the aughts was laid to rest this year, giving a modicum of closure to the 9/11 attacks that shaped the decade. The son of a Saudi family worth billions, bin Laden played the part of trustafarian to a tee, rejecting his family's ideals while funding his idealism, in the form of al-Qaeda, with their millions. He spent his final years hiding out in a compound in Pakistan.
Bin Laden's meta-philosophy of terror was to become a leech on the economy of Western nations, slowly bleeding them of resources by provoking them to take part in expensive wars. While Osama bin Laden's death was a moment of joy for a beleaguered nation, 10 years into the War in Afghanistan the question remains: Bin Laden may be dead, but is he winning?

Their Last Year- 2

Elizabeth Taylor
February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011
 "Big girls need big diamonds," Elizabeth Taylor once said. It's an appropriate statement from the Hollywood actress whose 70-year career epitomized the film industry's glamour, scandal, and liberal activism. The violet-eyed beauty was known for living large and making brash decisions under the public eye. She was married eight times: once to a politician, once to a construction worker, and twice to Richard Burton. Onscreen she played everyone from Cleopatra to a call-girl in Butterfield 8, for which she won one of two Best Actress awards. Off screen she struggled with alcoholism and raised more than $100 million dollars to fight against AIDS.

Their Last Year- 1

2011 was the year we said goodbye to addicts and martyrs, survivors and killers.  Here's a list, in order of the year's progression, of 11 notable folks who died in 2011 as per Good:

Mohamed Bouazizi
March 29, 1984 – January 4, 2011
Although his heart beat for only four days of 2011, Mohamed Bouazizi put the wheels in motion of a year that would bring the fall of governments and the rise of youth protests around the world. The tragedy of Bouazizi, a street vendor who got his fruit confiscated by a local officer in his Tunisian village, embodied the frustration and anger of an entire generation of the Arab world, fed up with unemployment and corruption under stagnating dictatorships. "How do you expect me to make a living?" he shouted, before lighting himself on fire outside the local government office.
Protests broke out in solidarity. A couple weeks later, a badly burned Bouazizi died. Protests spread. And ten days after his death, the Tunisian president of 24 years stepped down.
Mohamed Bouazizi is known to the world because of his death, and his story will be told for years to come: the small-town fruit peddler that sparked a revolution that changed the world. 

Wireless in the U S of A

The U.S. wireless industry is expected to generate billions of dollars and more than three quarters of a million jobs in coming years.

WTF Tech Stories of 2011

1. Implanting organs in the name of art
As if two ears weren't enough, an Australian artist named Stelarc has decided to implant a third beneath the skin of his arm.
This performance artist wants to make his arm an acoustic device by attaching a wireless microphone to the implanted ear. The process took more than a decade and, he says, will take another year for his cells to fully grow on the ear's structure.
Once the ear is fully grown, the organ will be wirelessly linked to the Internet and allow the artist to share what his third ear hears with anyone who cares to tune in.
But, seriously, who wants to listen to an arm?

2. Japanese lab invents Internet kissing machine
Trying to give your partner a smooch through video chat and leaving lipstick smeared on your webcam is less than attractive.
Luckily, Japanese creators at Tokyo's Kajimoto Laboratory have made a "Kiss Transmission Device" for those long-distance lovers who want to share their affection.
Simply wiggle your tongue on a plastic straw, and it will transmit a signal that remotely makes another plastic straw wiggle -- presumably while it is in your lover's mouth.
This takes "keeping in touch" to a new and literal level.

3. This 'robot ostrich' probably will outrun you
Many animals can sprint faster than a human. Now, a "robot ostrich" is among them.
Scientists are trying to imitate the fastest two-legged runner on the planet by creating a robot ostrich that stands almost 5 feet tall, weighs 66 pounds and can run at speeds up to 32 mph. Fittingly, founders call this speedy ostrich FastRunner.
Although it hasn't been said what the robot bird will be used for, speculators assume that it is designed to go to war. To be sure, watching this birdie in motion may creep out those on the battlefield and beyond.

4. German scientists invent brain-powered car
No need to position your hands on the steering wheel to drive. Now, all you have to do is put your mind to it, and the car will execute your brain's commands.
Scientists at Germany's Free University are the innovators behind this brain-powered car.
A high-tech helmet is linked to an onboard computer that displays a cube on the screen. The driver can manipulate this cube with their thoughts. Using biological signals as patterns, the driver can pilot the car to drive in any direction, accelerate or brake.
This may be only the beginning of what can evolve in the world of brain-powered computing.
But don't get too giddy just yet. The creators say the invention is only a "proof of concept experiment" and will not be speeding into action any time soon.
Still, the fact is that this creation is an out of the ordinary idea that bewilders us to think it exists at all.

5. Forget planking -- who's up for owling?
Planking was quite popular this year, as many folks went online to share images of themselves lying stiff as a board in public. But the trend shifted, at least for a brief Web moment, to mimicking everyone's favorite wise and nocturnal feathered friend.
The spinoff became a peculiar addiction for some, and owling has become one of the largest Internet memes.
People have shared images owling atop statues, houses and office desks. Some have even taken this bird's actions below ground level and participated in underwater owling.
It's pretty simple. Squat on an object, press your arms toward the ground, straighten your back and raise your head as you gaze into the distance and sit perched, well, like an owl.
Bellowing a "hoot" or two is optional.

6. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg eats only what he kills
"The only meat I'm eating is from animals I've killed myself," Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder and CEO, announced in May.
He calls it a "personal challenge"; we say it's just plain weird. Zuckerberg kills the animals and sends them off to a butcher in Santa Cruz, California, who cuts them into parts. From there, it's left for Zuckerberg to cook and consume.
Zuckerberg has begun his slaughtering challenge and made goats, pigs and chickens his prey.

7. Feeling lonely? Go hug yourself
We all need a hug at times, but it doesn't always happen when someone non-creepy is around to give us one. Instead, you can hug yourself by wearing a vest that hugs you back.
This invention, which was displayed at Japan's 3D and Virtual Reality Expo this year, allows individuals to wear a coded black vest that simulates a hug through programmed air compressions.
The mastermind behind this creation says he was curious as to how it would feel.
We think that if that aforementioned non-creepy person isn't around, it may be better to ask the creep for that hug before putting on this very odd vest.

8. Missing cobra sinks fangs into Twitter
Want to win more than 75,000 followers on Twitter within 24 hours? Morph into an Egyptian cobra and escape from New York's Bronx Zoo.
This venomous snake slid its way out of the zoo back in late March and slithered onto social media, publishing witty tweets of its whereabouts like, "Leaving Wall Street. These guys make my skin crawl."
Since March, the snake has been found, returned to the zoo and amassed more than 200,000 followers. It is still also actively tweeting through its account, @BronxZoosCobra.
And for the skeptics, the serpent published a post saying, "A lot of people are asking how I can tweet with no access to a computer or fingers. Ever heard of an iPhone? Duh."

9. Camera adds makeup to photographs
Cameras -- or at least one in particular -- may replace diamonds as a woman's best friend.
Panasonic's Lumix FX77 camera allows users to add effects to the pictures they take, such as whitening teeth and magnifying eyes, making subjects picture perfect.
For the women who forgot to brush on the blush or add color to the lip, the beauty retouch function allows users to manipulate the settings and glamorize their pictures.
It is an electronic transformation with an automatic alteration tool that makes Photoshop and other photo editing devices eat dust.

10. MC Hammer launches his own search engine
From writing rhymes to selling millions of records, this hip-hop veteran has realized his dreams and now says he's entered the final stages of creating an entire search engine.
MC Hammer said that his newest tech creation, called WireDoo, is built around searching for relationships and not just keywords. He announced the project at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco in mid-October and predicts that WireDoo could outperform Google.
It's hard to decide what's more strange: The fact that MC Hammer is launching his own search engine or that he believes his creation can take on Google on its own turf. It's a tossup.


Take Note

Pencils are sharpened, on average, thirteen times before being discarded at a length of 3 and 1/4 inches.

100 Factuals

From the BBC.  That should keep you occupied at the office for a bit...

1. Birds binge drink.
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2. Bald people grow the wrong type of hair - so fine it's invisible to the naked eye.
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3. Aristotle was known as the human Wikipedia.
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4. Women's tears reduce sexual desire in men.
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5. President Kennedy's famous line "Do not ask..." was inspired by the headmaster of his prep school.
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Wedding of Charles and Diana
6. Princess Diana had two wedding dresses - one a back-up design in case her first choice was revealed before the big day. More details
7. Huskies can smell thin ice.
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8. JD Salinger was a fan of Tim Henman.
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9. Good cops are better at getting confessions than bad cops.
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10. The average hug lasts three seconds.
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11. Cattle once regularly swam between Hebridean islands.
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12. Elton John has no mobile phone.
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13. Incan brides had to peel a potato to prove they would be a good wife.
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Postie with bundle of letters secured by red rubber bands
14. UK postal workers get through two million red rubber bands a day. More details
15. Artist LS Lowry was a debt collector.
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16. The ransom paid to release Richard the Lionheart, captured in 1192 on his return from the Crusades, was the equivalent of about £2bn in today's money.
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17. People with full bladders make better decisions.
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18. Chickens feel empathy.
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19. About 40% of skyscrapers due to be completed in the next six years will be in China.
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20. St Patrick's Day is a national holiday in Montserrat.
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21. Sharks go to the cleaners.
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22. More than 90% of UK schoolchildren study Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
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23. YouTube's first video was called "Me at the zoo".
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24. The average person uses 20,000 words, with another 40,000 in reserve.
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25. One in six people live in India.
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26. The word "loo" dates from medieval times, thought to have derived from the warning shout of "gardez l'eau!" given by those tipping chamber pots out the window.
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27. Seat belts are banned on some roads.
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8. Male humpback whales play "Chinese whispers" across 6,000km.
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Dogs licking lips while looking at a canine treat
29. Dogs watch how nice people are to others to work out whom to approach to beg for food. More details (Daily Mail)
30. Swearing relieves pain.
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31. A rare version of God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols is the most valuable record of all time.
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32. French police are currently allowed 25cl of wine or a small beer with their lunch while on duty.
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33. Transparent typewriters are sold to prisons, to avoid the risk of hidden contraband.
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34. The perfect nap lasts 26 minutes.
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35. New York taxis used to be red and green, but in 1907 were all repainted yellow to be visible from a distance.
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Special Forces dog and soldier in parachute training
36. It costs $60,000 to train a Navy Seal dog - like the one that accompanied US special forces on the Bin Laden operation. More details (The Times)
37. Humans stare longer at people with bad reputations.
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38. There are only two beret factories left in France.
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39. It is illegal to sell moon rocks in the US.
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40. "Dong xuan" means frozen garlic in China, but winning an election in Taiwan.
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41. Heart disease is less common among religious people.
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42. Vultures are better than sniffer dogs at searching large, overgrown areas for dead bodies.
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Golfer taking a swing
43. The odds of scoring two hole-in-ones in the same round of golf are 67 million-to-one. More details
44. Chimps can outperform eight-year-olds in solving problems.
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45. Women don't see Porsche drivers as marriage material.
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46. The yellow brick road leads to a car park.
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47. Sonic the Hedgehog's shoes are based on Michael Jackson's footwear in the Bad video.
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48. Half of Britons have German blood.
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49. The US only got its first roundabout in 1990, in Nevada.
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50. The male water boatman insect sings with its penis.
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Hotdog with mustard
51. California has drawn up a legal definition for the hot dog. More details (Daily Mail)
52. The UK's Speaking Clock still receives 30 million calls each year.
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53. Stick insects can go without sex for a million years.
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54. Cows have best friends.
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55. Apple has more cash than the US government.
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56. Uganda's national anthem is the world's shortest.
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57. There are poisonous rats.
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58. A hole dug in the ground qualified as a private members' club in Wales.
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59. A shorter than average tongue makes it more difficult to speak Korean.
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60. Singing sparrows are actually trading insults.
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61. Asda Illustrated is the UK's top-selling magazine.
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Harry, Ron and Hermione
62. Mr Men author Roger Hargreaves was the third best-selling author of the last decade, topped only by JK Rowling and Dan Brown. More details (Metro)
63. The average Briton suffers 726 hangovers in a lifetime.
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64. Steve Jobs patented designs for two glass staircases - now used in many Apple stores.
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65. Getting married increases the risk of putting on weight.
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66. The world's atmosphere is worth £4.3 quadrillion, going by the air we breathe in and the price of CO2.
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67. In 1941 state surveys in the UK asked how many bras women owned.
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68. Crocodiles go off their food when stressed.
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69. The Queen's swans get flu jabs.
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70. Women remember men with a deep voice more than those with a high voice.
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71. Australians have a third choice when describing their gender on passport applications.
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Woman yawning
72. Yawning cools down the brain. More details (Huffington Post)
73. MI5 used to have special kettles kept solely for steaming open envelopes.
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74. Facebook remembers all the devices you've ever used to log in, and who else has used that same device.
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75. Letters addressed to Kabul include directions - there are few street names and numbers, and no postcodes.
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Preston Bus Station
76. Preston bus station is on this year's list of at-risk cultural heritage sites, along with the Nazca Lines in Peru and a Greek cemetery. More details (Daily Mail)
77. The first e-book, back in the 1970s, was the US Declaration of Independence.
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78. One in six mobile phones in Britain is contaminated with poo.
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79. Piranhas bark.
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80. There is a decrease in natural births on Halloween and an increase on Valentines Day.
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81. Alice Cooper runs a Bible class.
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82. Staffordshire town Burton upon Trent now has its own perfume, Eau de Burton, with hints of football boots and Branston Pickle.
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83. Polar bears have a surprisingly weak bite, while giant pandas have very strong one.
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84. Rival rugby teams face a fine if they stray over the half-way line while the All Blacks perform the haka.
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85. Horses with distinctive black-and-white leopard-like markings roamed Europe 25,000 years ago.
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Scottish poppies in Field of Remembrance
86. Scottish remembrance poppies have four petals and no leaf, unlike the more common two petals and a single green leaf. More details
87. Jimmy Savile and Margaret Thatcher celebrated New Year's Eve together 11 years in a row.
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88. Thierville in Normandy did not lose any service personnel in France's last five major wars.
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89. Many Afghans associate the number 39 with pimps.
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90. Until 1912 there was no set design for the Stars and Stripes.
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91. In the fifth and sixth decades of life, you are less likely to die over the coming year than at any other time in your life.
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92. Facebook users average 3.74 degrees of separation.
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93. The world's only sex school is in Austria.
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94. Wasps recognise each other's faces.
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95. You are given a lottery ticket if you clean up dog poo in New Taipei City in Taiwan.
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School crossing sign
96. The girl on the classic British road sign "children going to or from school" is based on a school photo of its designer Margaret Calvert. More details
97. Alcohol tastes sweeter when loud music is playing.
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98. Hairy limbs keep bed bugs at bay.
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99. Lakes can be given village green status.
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100. Fish walk.
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