The following posts have no fixed theme or style, but I hope you enjoy reading them!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Question #5

What's she gonna look like with a chimney on her?

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


This is a wonderful website, an attempt to bring tea-lovers together by allowing them to log what tea they drink and what they think of it - how they steep it, what they drink it with, etc etc. Of course I signed up immediately.

I'm not without criticism for it, because it is still developing, but it could be incredible! I am imagining a website where you can search for a type of tea, and find different suppliers or variants on it. I am imagining a website where you can search for a particular brand of tea and find out how long to step it for and at what temperature and, for example, what happens if you accidentally brew it for a few minutes too long. There could be discussion in forums. There is already a way of "following" tea drinkers whose opinion you respect, just like adding a friend on facebook or adding a website to your favourites. It could really become a wonderful resource, and I'm sure that it will be within a few months. So if you like tea, WATCH OUT!

The link to the website (and my particular my own "tealog") is on the sidebar. Not sure how much I'll put on about what I drink, we'll see whether it stands the test of time

Monday, 20 April 2009

Question #4

What do you want?

[What tone of voice did you ask this in? This may influence the response you get. Incredible!]

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Advice #35

Don't cast nasturtiums. It's like slander and it's rude to talk about people behind their back.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

On the Ashwell prison riot

The recent riot at Ashwell prison shows that we really need to reconsider what we want from our prison system. We immediately ask why it happened and what we could have done to prevent it.

But these are the easy questions to answer, and the answers will come out with the result of the inevitable enquiry that will follow (announced on Sunday). We will probably find that prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. After all, recent reports on the Ashwell riot said that there were sometimes only 6 staff for 600 inmates, which is obviously not enough for a group of prisoners including high-level criminals. (although the prison was for class C prisoners, some of the inmates were ex-class B with the rating
downgraded to keep within the rules). On the good side, any enquiry is likely to say that the response was very good. Within a short space of time there were riot police on the ground, road blocks a mile away from the prison in each direction, and helicopters scanning the nearby fields. The police were thorough (or appeared so to the public), watching over those on their Easter country walks in police helicopters and paying visits to local residents to reassure them.

Any enquiry will need to give some reccommendations. Apart from the obvious issue of requiring more staff and more space, they may encourage the use of permanent, experienced staff over that of cheap contracted labour. The enquiry really should emphasise closer controls on prisoners. After all, this is a prison in which inmates are sometimes given keys to their own cell. Perhaps it would make sense if prisoners could not communicate across the whole prison. This may have prevented riots spreading, and prevented fires to the extent that we have seen. Some would argue that it was a disaster waiting to happen, and observers have already suggested that it may be the start of a series of riots this summer.

What we are less likely to hear is information about the nature of the argument that caused the bad feeling. It is also not likely to tackle the key questions lying behind it, but the politicians should be discussing these issues with urgency.

Why are people in prison?
-Is it a punishment?
-Is it a time away from society for reflection for the criminal?
-Are they locked away for their own safety?
-Are they locked away for our safety?
-Are they locked away to look after them because they are mentally ill and there is no other place for a mentally ill person to live?

Perhaps it is a combination of those reasons that depends from person to person. Maybe there are better alternatives than prison for some of those people. Prisoners who are kept away from the public for their safety deserve better conditions and we should aim to make their lives fulfilling. But the needs are different for those in prison as a punishment.

To me, it seems obvious that many people will not like being in prison as prisons are currently designed. Prison as a punishment is not likely to be a pleasant experience. In that case, we need some safeguards to prevent unhappy prisoners from trying to leave and find a better place. As long as the aim of prison is to make it unpleasurable, a large security force is necessary. What I am getting to is that a radical re-think of prisons is necessary to cater for our needs, and then we can fund them accordingly.

So why are the politicians not moving more quickly? I think it is their endless wish for everyone to like them. Politicians no longer go into politics idealistic and forward-thinking. They are sheep that follow the public and do not lead them. That is the reason why for so many years politicians have been similar irrespective of which party they belong to. I think they are waiting for debates in the newspapers to guide opinion on how to treat prisoners. There is disagreement round the country on the issue at the moment, but the Sun, the Telegraph and the Mail will surely help to find a concensus. Only when the most votes can be won, will politicians act.

The country is ruled by the media and even politicians are afraid to move without their support.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Under-fire tea still perfect

Tragedy has struck. Until recently, tea was seen as being perfect in most ways, having flavonoids (that have antioxidant properties), being calming and reducing blood pressure, and also aiding slimming if that's what you want, preventing tooth decay, and many other things.

However, tea has been under fire in the news recently. The first one is that tea prices have been 'surging', as reported by the BBC. Apparently tea on the world market has almost doubled in price because of fears that demand is ahead of supply by 70,000 tonnes per year and because tea producers such as India, Sri Lanka and Kenya (the second, third and fourth biggest tea producers) are having droughts which threaten reducing production even further.

But hang on a minute, the deficit is only 1.9%. If someone told me that I'd have to forgo one cup of tea in fifty because we were running out, I wouldn't be that upset. In fact, I'd feel better if we spent a little more on tea because with prices rising, the producers and pickers might earn a little more. I'm not an expert in economics, so you might shoot me down on that one, but in any case, it's hardly a tragedy or "The new oil" as the BBC are intent on suggesting.

The second news item to attack tea was also featured in the BBC, as well as the Daily Mirror and the Los Angeles Times. A study was done on people in the northern Iranian province of Golestan, where people are apparently known for drinking hot tea. A strong link was found between increased levels of oesophageal cancer and those who drank their tea at hot temperatures. This is obviously horrific and terrible. However, just because the study was done on tea-drinkers, it doesn't mean it only applies to tea. The study was done on tea-drinkers because so many people near the university in Iran drink tea, no other reason. The authors themselves pointed out that there has been suggestion in other studies that all hot drinks could cause cancer, citing articles linking between hot alcoholic beverages and oesophageal cancer, and describing damage done by hot drinks in general.

In any case, it only really becomes a problem is at very high temperatures (65 degrees minumum) whereas the english tend to have milk and therefore drink it colder (apparently).

What this article says is
"be careful not to scald yourself on hot drinks"

Because you could scald your throat, not just your mouth. Scientifically it's more than that, and I don't want to demean the work of the scientists, because it is an interesting study and talks about long term risks, not just short term ones. However, in terms of advice to the public, it shouldn't change much. Don't burn yourself, it's not complicated, and it doesn't mean that tea is terrible because it burns you when it's hot. So do not fear.

It was a great journal article too, because of some splendid phrases that you could only find in a scientific journal. They are totally awesome dude...

"all patients underwent oesophagogastroduodenoscopy"

"Our study found that almost everyone in Golestan Province
drinks tea."

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Interesting fact for the day

The first flowering plants were in the cretaceous period. I know, that doesn't sounds interesting, but I was interested, and you might understand if you read on

From my extreme curiosity in dinosaurs as a child I still have the book on dinosaurs in the "Usborne Spotter's Guides" series copyright 1980. Usborne were perfectly justified in making books in the same series for birds, butterflies, garden flowers and even ponds and lakes, but dinosaurs?? Maybe I just don't understand because I'm not a "spotter", but I thought there was a good reason why people can't just go out and "spot" dinosaurs. What were they thinking!??

This book clearly describes which dinosaurs were alive at what times. To give you a quick idea, the Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago, the first life was 3.8 billion years ago, and humans only arrived under half a million years ago. Dinosaurs lived in the Triassic period, the Jurassic period and the Cretaceous period, which were from 225 and 65 million years ago. Dinosaur-like reptiles existed before that, in the Permian period.

Flowers only arrived on the scene in the last of those periods, so lots of dinosaurs existed before there was such a thing as a flower! The Earth evolved stegosaurus, brontosaurus (apatosaurus) and dimetrodon before flowers. These animals never saw a flower!

Interesting fact of the day is unlikely to become a regular feature on this blog for a number of reasons. Here are a few of them: it's been done before, and done better than I would do; I don't write posts every day; I don't have interesting facts every day. This fact was actually my interesting fact for 15 days ago, and it could just as well be called "Interesting Fact For 135 million years ago", but it's hard to claim it to be especially interesting today.