December 27, 2007

iYear - 2007

In 2007 the number of songs increased to 5306 or just over 14 days of continual noise and confusion without ever repeating anything.

1. (20+) BBC News 24 Theme - BBC - 35 plays
2. (NE) My England - Lady Sovereign - 32 plays
3. (6) Part of the Queue - Oasis - 25 plays
4. (NE) Love Me Or Hate Me - Lady Sovereign - 20 plays
5. (8 - 3) Lyla - Oasis - 20 plays

6. (NE) Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne - 19 plays
7. (NE) Six Days The Remix - DJ Shadow & Mos Def - 18 plays
8. (20) Let There Be Love - Oasis - 18 plays
9. (13) Fall To Pieces - Avril Lavigne - 17 plays
10.(3) Love Like a Bomb - Oasis - 17 plays
11.(4) Ramen 3 Bun Cooking - Ai Otsuka - 16 plays
12.(12 - 6) The Hindu Times - Oasis - 16 plays
13.(NE) Everything Back But You - Avril Lavigne - 15 plays
14.(20+) Take Me To Another Town - Emma Bunton - 15 plays
15.(20+) The Fallen - Franz Ferdinand - 15 Plays

16.(20+) Not Big - Lily Allen - 15 plays
17.(20+) Stop Crying Your Heart Out - Oasis - 15 plays
18.(20+) Little By Little - Oasis - 15 plays
19.(20+) We Beat Jamaica 6-0 - BBC Radio 1 - 15 plays
20.(5) LDN - Lily Allen - 14 Plays

As with previous years 16 of the top 20 were from the UK, but only one is less than a minute long. There are 7 re-entries into the top 20. Of the top 100, 79 are from the UK. I don't how indicative this is of my music tastes, but fewer songs were played this year... most probably because I now have The Goon Show on the iPod. Where there are two numbers in brackets indicates that they have appeared for the third consecutive year.

White Ninja Comics... this was special

December 24, 2007

Horse 843 - Room at an Inn

No room at the inn? Not this year. I don't know if you saw this, but Travelodge in the UK are offering a free stay to anyone genuinely called Mary and Joseph. To evoke the "true spirit of Christmas", Travelodge is opening its doors and offering couples called Mary and Joseph a free night’s stay at any one of its 322 UK hotels.The ‘gift’ of a free night’s stay is to make up for the hotel industry not having any rooms left on Christmas Eve over 2000 years ago when the original Mary and Joseph had to settle for the night in a stable.

It hardly conjures up images of a traditional Christmas Carol does it?

Good King Wencelas last looked out
On the Feast of Stephen.
He could see a roundabout...


Actually it does make some sense when you think about it. The real reason why Joseph and Mary had to return to Bethlehem was for a census. Given what we know about the UK Government of late the parallel is because that their records had actually been lost... and this is where the bit about the donkey comes in right?

Three "Wise Men" from the east? That's it? No records of their names or anything? Not even an accurate idea of how many they were? For all we know they were probably asylum seekers or something.

And now:

One Word Weather With Nelson Mandela

It's a bit strange that Mr Mandela is dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones he used to know.

December 23, 2007

Horse 842 - Best of Nine?

Central Coast 4 - Sydney 5

The trip up the F3 to Gosford yielded one of the most emotional roller-coaster of footballs matches I have ever witnessed. First there were feelings of frustration as I struggled to find a car park spot and a spare speck of ground to stand on and then the match... well...

For one thing, Sydney FC won 5-4. Nine goals. Most ever scored in an A-League game. Heck, FC's four matches in November created just three goals total. Last night players scored on rebounds, headers, penalty kicks, corner kicks, redirects, breakaways, turnarounds, just about everything short of telekinesis.

Sydney began the match missing four critical players, including their starting goalkeeper. Midway through the first half, when FC already trailed 2-0, you could have easily described the stricken club as 1) undermanned; 2) passive; 3) hoping to survive the gifts of their back-up goalie and 4) pretty much out of hope.

But by 7:30 last night, almost all of those descriptors had been proven wrong. When Mariners keeper Danny Vukovic touched the ball while out of the goal area, he drew a red card, exited the game and forced the withdrawal of a teammate. After that moment, the landscape shifted.

Momentum swung. Left became right, up became down, and a Sydney team performing its best roadkill impression sprung to life.

And, when they drew level at 2-2 just after halftime, you could have described Sydney as 1) holding a man-advantage; 2) aggressive; 3) hoping to exploit a back-up goalie and 4) very much alive.

How 'bout the game's ending? I don't even know how to describe it. In the fifth minute of extra time, two more than fans were told to expect, a last-ditch FC scrum almost squeaked the ball into the net. A few players thought that happened, and jumped around in celebration. The block of FC fans in one stadium corner thought the same. Instead, the ref pulled out a red card directed at Central Coast's Adam Kwasnik. A penalty kick. Sydney's Ufuk Talay took three quick strides and buried the ball. Seven-eighths of the stadium fell silent. They listened to the scream of a vocal blue minority.

For the A-League, the final highlight moment only iced the cake. This game provided the perfect soccer advertisement at the perfect time. Here, you had the biggest crowd ever at Bluetongue. You had all eyes on this match, because it was the only one of the weekend. You had two teams, both in contention, who train one hour away from one another.

For once, the A-League's motto, 90 minutes, 90 emotions didn't qualify as hyperbole. This match had comebacks, counter-comebacks and counter-counter comebacks. It had five yellow cards and two red cards. One player left the field on a stretcher. The ref left the field showered with boos. FC left having squeaked into a top-four spot.

The club's emotions, from start to finish, swung from hopelessness to bliss. We don't have time to list the other 88.

And now:
One Word Weather With Nelson Mandela

And a Merry Christmas to you too Mr Mandela

December 16, 2007

Horse 841 - Brought to you by the letter "R"

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street? Yes, but only if you're 18. The early episodes of the legendary children's TV show have been released on DVD, but uh... children will not be allowed to watch.

Volumes 1 and 2 of the programme, which was first aired in 1969, carry this warning:
"Sesame Street: Old School is adults-only. These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today's pre-school child."

Unsuitable for children; why is this? Because of the Cookie Monster. Not because he's a monster and might scare children but because he binge eats cookies* Now I know that DVD warnings tend to be a bit weird but it is crazy talk.

Harry Potter and the Mysterious Golden Pointless Sequel or whatever the heck it's called, I don't care, has the following warning on the back: Warning: Contains Mild Peril Seriously, what in blue blazes is Mild Peril? Walking down George St puts you in "mild peril"; letting Steve Dearth eat chicken wings puts him and everyone within a four mile radius in "mild peril".

I digress though. If you do happen to be a parent them you might want to let your children watch Sesame St because it happens to be educational except when they spell color or defense. But don't (and this is just a thought) don't feed your children a skip load of biscuits. And if you must have a sticker, then make sure it's a piece of gaffer tape and stick it over the gob of some choc-chip chasing chubby child (note the use of the "ch" sound)

The character who has posed the most problems, however, is Oscar the Grouch. His crime? He is too miserable for today's toddlers. You have to wonder, what's next? Will Jamie have to hand back his Magic Torch because it's too bright? Will DangerMouse be forced to change his moniker because it is too, well, dangerous? MildPerilMouse just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Still these same parents will probably rush out and buy a copy of Alien vs Predator for their children anyway, so I suppose that it's all academic anyway.

This article was brought to you by the number 4 and the letter P.

And now:

Tony Blair's Imaginary Lunch

Well he would be if he was allowed.

*The Cookie Monster is a Cookie Monster. His perfect diet might solely consist of cookies; hence the name Cookie Monster. Koalas for instance only eat certain species of eucalypts and Lions and Tigers are all-meat eaters. Discriminating against Cookivorous beings is intolerant and may very well be a denial of choice over one's own diet if they happen to be a Cookivorous creature.

December 13, 2007

Horse 840 - Toll HRT

Do not be surprised if next year, the Holden Racing Team sprouts little Toll logos.

When Garth Tander takes his number 1 plate from the HSVDT to the HRT, it is more than likely that the Toll sponsorship deal will follow him. Mobil's association with the HRT which has lasted since Holden's favourite son, the late Peter Brock, was admitted back into the fold for the 1994 season. It appears that Mobil has been rumbling that this association will not be renewed for the 2008 season.

This of course leaves Holden with the distinct problem that its flagship team would be left without a headline sponsor; thus because Toll still has some time to run, it would follow to the HRT with Tander.

The question is then what would happen to the HSVDT? To that end I still don't actually know what the answer is.

And now:

Tony Blair's Imaginary Lunch

Tony loves popcorn. Did his title of PM actually stand for Popcorn Master? Could be.

December 10, 2007

Horse 839 - Why People Can't Sing

People are often surprised that for almost no apparant reason I can pull 9000+ scores on Singstar; this is made all the more surprising when you consider that I don't sing up the front at church. So why is this? And if I am "so good" at singing, then why don't I?

I subscribe to the theory that virtually everyone can sing. Sounds stupid? Let me explain: I honestly think that in most cases it's a simple matter of attitude and confidence. If only a few people believe that they can sing, then only a select few will. The belief determines the action etcetra etcetra etcetra...

What is singing, anyway? Well, it's not speaking, that's for sure. Singing uses a different part of the brain than speech. Most people who stutter uncontrollably can sing just fine. People who cannot speak due to strokes can sometimes sing. People with Alzheimer's disease who can barely remember their own names can sometimes be capable of hideously complicated and beautiful song. The answer must lie somewhere else other than raw ability.

Imagine you have a dog named Harry. Say his name - "Harry", it's not much is it? Now imagine Barney is outside and you are calling him. "Haaaaaareeeeeeeey". Better? Different? It could be argued that the first is speech; the second is singing (albeit rather boring). Linguistically the human voice is carried on vowel sounds and the consonants are modifiers and stops. Singing relies on placing tones on these vowel sounds; hence the reason why it's very very easy to call the dog. That's all there is to it, seriously...

Well, actually there is quite a lot more to it, but most of what people lack can be learned and developed over time. For most people the major hurdle is the mental one. They think they can't sing, and their lack of faith in themselves makes them shy. They develop weak, breathy, tremulous singing voices. Yet when they call the dog, they do it with power.

I see this in church all the time. People with powerful speaking voices can barely raise their voices in song. The problem isn't physical, it's mental. People haven't grown up singing and they are unsure of themselves. They have psyched themselves out.

This mental block is due, in part, to the growth of electronic media in the 20th Century. In days gone by, people created their own entertainment; they got together in groups, gathered around whatever instrument was available, and sang songs. People sang their way through their household chores. They sang their way through their joys and sorrows. They sang songs to teach their children. They sang songs to put their children to sleep. Their children sang songs at play. Singing was part of everyday life.

Then came records, radio, movies, & television, Compact Discs, DVD, HD, Blu-Ray. Suddenly the world's greatest entertainers were available almost on demand. Instead of making their own entertainment, people could simply purchase it. Why listen to the warblings of your own friends and family when they pale in comparison to the greats? How many times have I heard "it doesn't sound like the CD!" - newsflash people, it doesn't have to.

Good voices are everywhere, but few people believe they posses one. Great voices, by contrast, are quite rare. Great voices are freaks of nature, kind of like extreme intelligence or being seven feet tall. But great voices are few, so few that they stand out. In the days before electronic media, people could go their entire lives without ever hearing one of these freakishly gifted folk. Now, the record shops are full of them. It makes it seem like we, the merely adequate, are somehow lacking, being born with a voice that is merely "good" isn't good enough. I'm not seven feet tall, and I'm fine with it. I can't sing like Sinatra, and I feel the ache of it; Australian Idol makes it worse. Odd.

While you and I could never posses a voice like Pavarotti, and while we may never make women swoon like the Beatles, we certainly could learn to use the voices we've been given. It's simply a matter of believing in ourselves and not feeling bad because we can't be great. Actually when you think about it, the greatest and most powerful bouts of singing are in congregations, football crowds, Welsh Choirs. The intermingling of thousands of voices more than makes up for the shortfall of the individual.

It's one of the reasons I'm waiting for the end of the world, imagine that choir. It's going to be the most glorious and thunderous song ever heard.

PS: Singstar Popworld - Let Me Entertain You by Robbie Williams, I scored 9960 in the shopping centre and had a crowd watching me do it! Why? I jumped over the mental hurdle, and even I realise that technically, I'm not one of the greats.

And now:

One Word Weather With Nelson Mandela

Fiendishly accurate; so precise with his word selection. Thanks again Mr Mandela.

December 08, 2007

Horse 838 - Premiums at a Premium

Most Sydneysiders would be aware that we live in Australia's most expensive city for real estate, but we can also lay claim to paying some of the highest car-insurance premiums in the country. Research group Cannex says we pay $577 more, on average, in annual premiums than urban drivers in other parts of Australia. I find this personally offensive - are Sydneysiders worse than other drivers in country? Are we simply more liturgeous? Or more likely, is this just an excuse to be a licenced bandit and steal more money from the good and fair people of NSW.

Comprehensive car insurance is quite different from compulsory third party (CTP), or "green slip", insurance. Comprehensive cover offers protection for damage to your own car up to an agreed value, as well as damage to anyone else's property.

However, CTP merely insures you, the driver, against any claim for personal injury to others if your car is at fault in an accident. It won't cover you for damage to your own vehicle or someone else's property. Even a slight knock to your car can cause a damage bill running into thousands of dollars - but run into a Rolls-Royce and you may be looking at a bill big enough to bring on a nosebleed. That's why I reckon third-party comprehensive car cover at least is worth having, and I wouldn't feel comfortable driving without it.

Trouble is, the premiums aren't cheap. Cannex found that in NSW, a young male driver (the highest-risk category and therefore the most expensive) can pay comprehensive premiums as high as $2770 a year. That's a significant expense for a 20-something who might be on apprentices' wages. Even drivers in their 60s can pay annual premiums topping $1300.

One of the few things that competition and degregulation has done whis is actually good is that in recent years the car-insurance market has had a flood of new entrants, forcing premiums down. By shopping around, that same young male driver could pay less than $900 in annual car cover - a saving of around $1870, which it must be said would be used to purchase a better car in the first place and perhaps diminish the rish of bashing into that Rolls-Royce in the first place.

Cannex's star-ratings report, which can be downloaded at identifies the insurers likely to provide the best deal for a variety of drivers. I personally do not like banks, insurance companies or actuarists, so anything which means that I have to give them as little money as possible is surely a good thing.

Please don't give insurers any more money than you need to - they truly do not deserve it.

And now:

One Word Weather With Nelson Mandela

Um, Mr Mandela, it probably would have been more useful to tell us this before our cars got dumped upon but 5-inch hailstones.

December 07, 2007

Horse 837 - High Octane Fuel - Do You Really Need the "Good" Stuff?

You Really Can Fool Some of the People All of the Time

I have been hearing a lot of rubbish about petrol on television recently. Shell V-Power, Caltex Vortex, BP Ultimate etcetera etcetera etcetera all flog their stuff with agressive marketing and people are tanking up with the "good" stuff because the commercials imply that it's better for their engine. When the oil companies use superlatives like "Super", "Extra" and "High"... well it must be better, right? And of course they wouldn't be charging 10 to 20 cents a litre more unless they were putting some really good stuff in there, right? Sorry... NOT!

"High Octane" is not synonymous with "good" or "better", and does not mean that it is better for your engine. Chances are pretty good you don’t need high octane fuel in your motor car.

High-octane fuels only become necessary when your engine has a high compression ratio. It’s a very long and complicated story... which I intend to tell. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

First important fact that you must accept:
All petrol, regardless of its octane rating, has pretty much the same amount of energy per litre.

What?! "Sacrilege" you say? Well, actually in truth, some higher-octane fuels actually have a few LESS percent energy per litre, so as not to argue over this small point, for the sake of this discussion we will all agree that the petrol that you buy at the pump, regardless of octane rating, has the same amount of potential energy per litre.

Second important fact that you must accept:
Octane is NOT a measure of power but of the fuels’ resistance to ignition from heat. A higher-octane fuel, under identical combustion chamber conditions, will burn slower.

How can this be? If all of the above is true, how do we get more power out of high-octane petrol? We do, don’t we?

Well... under certain conditions... then yes, we do. Here’s how:

But first you must understand "heat of compression". There is a 2,000 year old fire starting device that still amazes me no matter how many times I see this.
A length of bamboo is hollowed out leaving one end capped. A stick, about the same length as the bamboo, is whittled down until it fits snugly into the bamboo cylinder. A bit of dried grass or wood shavings are placed in the bottom of the bamboo cylinder and the snugly fitting stick was violently rammed down the bamboo tube. The heat generated from rapidly compressing the air in the tube is sufficient to ignite the tinder.

The same thing can happen in the cylinder of an engine (and in fact, diesel engines rely on this principle). The piston, quickly squeezing the fuel/air mixture into a small space, can generate enough heat of compression to ignite the fuel well before the spark plug fires, with unpleasant results. If the fuel prematurely ignites while the piston is on its way up, the burning of the fuel, in conjunction with the rising piston, creates even more pressure, resulting in a violent explosion. This explosion is equivalent to hitting the top of the piston with a very large hammer. If you want to be able to see through the top of your piston, ignore those sounds that are usually called: "pre-ignition", "ping" or "engine knock".
Trust me on this one; in my somewhat reckless youth and with less than brilliant motor cars; using this method, I turned a few pistons into paper weights.

What we really want is a very rapid burn of the fuel, not an explosion. And we want the burning of the fuel to take place while the piston is in a better position to convert this pressure into productive work, like on its way down. Think of this burning as a very fast "push" on the top of the piston. Despite the violent noises you hear from some exhaust systems, it really is a rapid push on the top of the piston making the crankshaft go around, not explosions.

So that we can ignite the fuel at exactly the right time with the spark plug, instead of from the heat of compression, they actually put flame retardants into petrol to keep it from igniting prematurely. The more resistant the fuel is to ignition from the heat of compression, the higher its octane rating.

Are you with me so far?

Higher compression ratios = higher combustion chamber pressures = higher heat… and it is with these higher combustion chamber temperatures that the magic happens.

At higher temperatures the fuel is burned more efficiently. So, while it’s true that the higher-octane fuel does not posses any more energy than low octane fuel, the increased octane allows the extraction of more of the potential energy that has always been there. Conversely, lower compression ration engines utilize a little less of the fuel energy potential (2-4% reduction) but there is also less heat generated in the combustion process.

So how do you know if you need high-octane fuel? I suggest you look in your Owners’ Manual! (Duh, I wondered what that thing was for. I didn't actually know that it contained useful information).
Manufacturers really do want you to get the maximum efficiency out of your engine (it makes them look better and also make you want to make a return purchase). They do their best to give a good balance between horsepower and engine life. It’s in their best interests to do so.

There is ABSOLUTELY NO BENEFIT to using a higher octane than your engine needs. The only benefit is increased profits to the oil companies that have cleverly convinced some of the public that their new "Super-Duper, Premium-High-Test, Clean-Burning, Used-By-Famous-Racing-Types-All-Around-The-World, Extra-Detergent-Laden-Keep-Your-Pipes-Clean, Extra-High-Octane" fuel is your engines’ best friend.

I tire of people insisting that they got better fuel economy, better acceleration, and less dental plaque by switching to a high-octane fuel. I'd like to remind these people that in every pharmacy is a special miracle pill that is often prescribed by doctors, it works wonders because people believe that it works wonders; it’s called a "placebo". The Placebo Effect does wonders, if you make people believe that the car will be more efficient or more powerful, then they'll change their habits with the loud pedal.
Never confuse faith with physics!

If you are getting pinging or knocking with what should be the correct octane for your engine, start by checking the ignition timing, also check that the spark plug is the correct heat range. For older cars, check for excessive carbon build-up on the top of the piston, the carbon takes up space and increases the compression ratio. If all is well and correct, and you still are getting knocking, then try the next higher octane. You won’t go faster, you won’t go farther, but you will prevent an unsightly hole in your pistons.

In reality this subject is a whole lot more complicated than I want to bother with. If you are curious to know more, then google the following and enjoy the education (and then please don't whinge to me when I'm proved right).

Antiknock Index, Octane Rating, Octane, Stoichiometric Combustion, Thermal Efficiency, Flame Front, Highest Useful Compression Ratio, Compression Ratio, Placebo, Stockholm Syndrome.

And now:
One Word Weather With Nelson Mandela

How does he do it? The man is a genius.

December 05, 2007

Horse 836 - Day of the Ninja

The following post has been brought to you by the letter N, the number Death, and 40 billion ninja. I Look Forward to Killing You Soon - Hiya! The rest of this post is in black in honour of the day.

The Day of the Ninja on December 5 is like Talk Like a Pirate Day... except that ninja do not talk like idiots... or at all, in fact. Just sweet, festive, deadly silence. And they have both eyes. Sometimes more than both.

The biggest secret of the ninja is their stealth. There could be as many as four hundred ninja hiding in the full stop at the end of this sentence. Ahah, you're not dead! That's either because there aren't any ninja hiding there at this exact moment or because they simply choose not to kill you right now.

The stereotypical ninja that continually wears easily identifiable black outfits (shinobi shozoku) comes from Kabuki theatre. Prop handlers would dress in black and move props around on the stage. The audience would obviously see the prop handlers, but would pretend they were invisible. Building on that willing suspension of disbelief, ninja characters also came to be portrayed in the theatre as wearing similar all-black suits.
This either implied to the audience that the ninja were also invisible, or simply made the audience unable to tell a ninja character from many prop handlers until the ninja character distinguished himself from the other stagehands with a scripted attack or assassination. If there were any actual ninja in the theatre then most likely they'd be hiding in the audience dressed as audience members, so that if anyone was mysteriously killed, there would be no obvious suspects.

As stated in
Horse 566, Ninja are a fully unionised labour force (unlike Zombies) and would probably win against Pirates in a fight. Unlike Vampires and Pirates, Ninja are not a university trained profession, sometimes spending many years as an apprentice under a great master.
Because of this, the skills of the ninja are varied; sometimes engaging in crowd control, practising law, providing transportation, general assassination, medical procedures where their exacting skills with knives are able to cut away delicate organs, and also in the kitchen where yet again their skills with knives are impeccable. Have you ever seen ninja prepared Radish Rosettes or Fugu? Those are very hard to make without killing someone... er... stay away from the Fugu.

If you can see a Ninja, he is not a Ninja. If you can't see a Ninja you're probably going to die very quickly. Ninja can live in your house for months without you noticing. Ninja can kill people With all sort of things, forks, Gnomes and Music. (Bjork is not a ninja, this has been proven by scientists.)

Ninja have also known to branch into other areas like the Secret Urban Exploration Ninja Mafia who sneak into illegal territory. The regular Ninja Mafia are different however and as an underground organistation (both figuratively and literally) have their own rather ironically named High Council. The Black Death which swept Europe in the 14th and 15th Centuries was actually carried out by the Ninja Mafia using secret techniques. Before the Ninja Mafia came along, it was just known as "that thing that's going around". Can Ninjas catch cold? Absolutely, but it's much the same way as I can catch a cricket ball - they can literally hold a cold in the palm of their hand then slice apart the individual germs. Can colds catch ninjas? Nope - They're faster than germs; in fact the only disease that a ninja is susceptible to is Saturday Night Fever.

Finally, if you ever hear voices in your head, it is because a ninja has snuck in and is talking to you. Beware!

And now:
One Word Weather With Nelson Mandela

Yet again we are all astounded by the wisdom of Mr Mandela.

December 03, 2007

Horse 835 - Happiness vs Contentment

Is there indeed a difference? I make reference to a few great minds throughout history; hopefully the answer will be contained therein.

Firstly, what is happiness?

A wise man once said that "Anger is not an emotion, but merely a reaction to a set of events" (actually it was B) I tend to agree with this. Anger is usually driven by a set of immediate circumstances. Can the same thing be said for happiness? Most certainly.

How many times have you heard it said by people that they "just want to be happy". They'll chase after fruitless pursuits again and again, and while they'll be happy for a time, whatever their pursuit was, they'll be not happy again. Happiness it would seem therefore is a moveable, changeable and highly volatile state almost dependant of the world around.

"Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be." - Abraham Lincoln

I will admit that I can change my moods very easily - sometimes even after a really crappy day at work by jumping into the car on the way home and whacking some cheesy Britpop on the car stereo.
Have my immediate circumstances changed? Absolutely, but the factor is so incredibly minor that it scarcely deserves a diatribe such as this. Mr Lincoln was 100% correct it seems.

What then of contentment? What is that?

In Paul's letter to the church at Philipi he writes this:
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength"

Was he happy? I bet no way! I would have truly sucked to have been in gaol. However, he still writes that he had learned the secret to contentment, whatever the circumstances. Contentment is obviously something which is far more ingrained than mere happiness.

Contentment is knowing one's place in the grand scheme of things. In one sense it is very humbling to know that we are but a speck compare to the God who created the universe from naught, and perhaps that does indeed give a brilliant perspective on the world. Contentment rests in the knowledge that we don't need to outwit, outlast or outplay the competition. In the grand scheme of things, you don't win by chasing after happiness - it's merely a by-product.

And now:

One Word Weather With Nelson Mandela


Mr Mandela, where would we be without your wise words?

Horse 834 - The Same Thing We Do Every Night...

I don't know if you were reading the newspapers last week but several things caught my eye; all of which had to do with that international jetsetter, business tycoon and colourful identity Sir Richard Branson. The first of which happens to deal with the construction of a spaceport in the Mojave Desert in New Mexico:

New Mexico's Spaceport America, situated 40 miles north of Las Cruces, serves as a test case to see if the public will voluntarily accept the costs as well as the benefits that come with space travel. We know people will do it for baseball stadiums, but will they do it for launch pads?

About $140 million is already being put up by the state for building Spaceport America, but local governments will have to kick in the other $60 million, O'Donnell said. And that puts the burden - er, the honor - on three counties in the job-hungry southern part of the state: Dona Ana, Sierra and Otero counties.

Or perhaps you'd prefer the report from Glasgow's Daily Record:

Construction of the terminal at Las Cruces in New Mexico is due to be finished in late 2009. It will include training facilities for space tourists and hangars for two White Knight 2 and five Spaceship 2 aircraft.
Virgin Galactics boss Sir Richard Branson said: "It is fantastic that we will now have a permanent home to go to."

This in itself doesn't seem to be all that interesting unless you read it in conjunction with another report which was found in the Financial Pages. I take this short excerpt from The Guardian:

Northern Rock will name Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group as the most suitable bidder to assume control of the stricken bank, it emerged last night.Virgin, which heads a consortium of financial institutions, will have a clear run to buy the bank after bosses at Northern Rock and the government agreed its bid should be preferred over rival offers. An announcement is expected as early as today. Treasury plans to nationalise the bank are believed to be held in reserve should the deal break down.

Yet again we find Richard Branson at the middle of another mildly interesting piece of news. Northern Rock which people would appreciate as being a Tyneside banking institute (and sponsor of Geordie Football Club, Newcastle United) is worth roughly £1.5 billion.

Now for the rub:

Anyway, lets look at the facts:
Megalomaniac Entrepeneur... begins building an Underground Control Centre... From which he intends to launch rockets... hmmm. He might call that a "spaceport". I call that a "lair". And he builds this subterranian nerve centre in the middle of the same week that he makes moves to take over a billion pound finanical institution... I'm sorry, this is not an expansion of business. This is the plot of Moonraker.

All Sir Richard Branson needs is henchmen with metal teeth and a cat and suddenly he'd Hugo Drax - criminal mastermind with an evil plot to BLOW UP THE WORLD!!! If Sir Richard Branson is planning to launch his Virgin Red spaceships (called Galactic One) in the year 20X6, perhaps he intends to take all Northern Rock customers off this planet and off to a better life. Is Sir Richard Branson Xenu? ... Maybe.

And now our new feature until we get bored of it:

One Word Weather With Nelson Mandela


Ah, such words of wisdom from a truly great man.