Quantitative Easing Explained

November 16, 2010

Check out this brilliant video. It explains Ben Bernanke’s brilliant intervention strategy. Gut-wrenchingly funny.


Porn and Oral Sex Healthy – Official

October 1, 2010

No, you read that title right: porn and oral sex are apparently just the thing men need to optimise their partner’s chances of getting pregnant.

In his Bad Science column in the Guardian of September 25th, Ben Goldacre was talking about the controversial (not to me) provision of pornography in sperm-donor clinics. (At an average of just £21.32 per year per hospital trust, I think the politician who objected to this should concern herself with more important things.) Dr Goldacre cites a raft of animal research showing that ‘competition’ makes males produce more and higher-quality ejaculate. Human research carried out in 2005 by Kilgallon and Simmons showed that the same also applied to humans. Their methodology was to measure the volume and quality of sperm produced by men shown pictures of three naked women only, versus images of a single woman being, ahem, ‘serviced by two men. This backs up the work of Yamamato and colleagues in 2000, which showed the same thing to be true of men shown pornographic videos.

Last night saw the 2010 Ig Nobel awards ceremony at Harvard University. Amongst the winners was Gareth Jones of Bristol University. Jones and his Chinese collaborators found that female short-nosed fruit bats who fellated their partners prior to sex copulated for longer. Jones told the Guardian that this is the first non-human evidence of female sexual manipulation using oral sex. It is thought that the behaviour is likely to increase the chances of successful fertilisation.

So, there you go, gentlemen – go home and tell your partners. Well, those of you who are trying for kids, anyway. Frankly, you deserve it – if you’re successful, then in a few months you’ll look back on that wild night and wonder whether it was a price worth paying.

Thanet Windfarm: it’s an ill wind

September 24, 2010

Yesterday saw the opening of the UK’s largest windfarm at Thanet off the Kent coast, capable of supplying up to 200,000 homes with electricity. “The key word is capable,” said an industry source. “On a normal day we expect the 100 turbines to supply enough electricity to recharge the batteries of a remote control, thus saving an unemployed person in nearby Margate from having to get up off his sofa to switch off Jeremy Kyle.”

“It’s a huge step forward for the UK,” said the minister for renewable soundbites, “with only 80% of the money spent on this going abroad, compared with 90% for the even bigger London Array, which will dwarf Thanet. When you add in government grants, subsidies and kickbacks, this is a huge boost to other European economies at a time when they’re struggling. It’s a win-win for the industry. The Swedish owners win with Thanet and the German owners win with the London Array. The advantage of this kind of offshore wind generation is that future profits from this venture go straight overseas without even landing in the UK. It’s great that we can provide a leg up to valuable R&D  jobs overseas.”

“The fact is that British windfarms are 50% more efficient than German ones,” said a wind-power lobby. “That’s because British politicians blow so much wind out of their arses. Concerns about noise are over-played,” he added. “Most of the time these turbines don’t even turn. And when the wind gets above about 30mph we have to turn them off anyway.”

Caesars’ Reign Ends

September 11, 2010

Dateline: Streatham Hill, Friday 10th 2010

All emperors must die, and empires fall. And so it has come to pass that the reign of Caesars [sic] nightclub over Streatham Hill is finally drawing to a close. The effigy of a charioteer and four horses has probably been the most salient local feature for a couple of decades, best observed from the left side of the top deck of a northbound bus along the High Road. I use the term ‘charioteer’ because Caesar was a scout; a soldier’s soldier, who often ventured ahead of his army on foot. Although there are records of him on horseback I doubt very much that he ever drove a four-horse chariot.

Caesars nightclub effigy

Hail Caesar - end of an emperor's rule

Residents have waited for years for the end of this particular empire. In the Thirties Streatham was called the West End of South London for its entertainment venues, and my house sits behind what was London’s largest theatre. Caesars nightclub and the ten-pin bowling alley were the bastard children of more their more genteel forebears; thorns in our side. Situated next to the main bus stops, the latter was a  magnet for trouble between gangs of youths, and closed a couple of years ago. The former attracted their elder siblings, occasionally being the starting point for shooting incidents and car-chases to Peckham via Brixton.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a shot of pigeon-beshat Caesar leaving his lofty perch because I had a life to get on with. As I took the photograph below later, a man trapped in traffic, apparently belonging to that legion of dispossed Caesars-members, angrily asked how much the effigy was being sold for.

Caesar on a truck

Truck off - we came not praise him

In fact, the entire block has been sold to a property developer, as has the back half of the block further north. I understand that Caesars nightclub was costing the owners an inordinate amount in payments to the Metropolitan Police. None of us local residents have shed a tear or raised a cheer over the closure, but that’s because we’re weary from the next war – that against the plans of the developer, which plans to squeeze profits out by pushing the height of the new development up to what we believe are unreasonable flats. Night-time noise has gone, but to be replaced by the day-time disturbance of trucks and construction. And in an area of inner London where car-parking is a problem, for over 250 dwellings, just 91 parking spaces are planned. I don’t own a car, but I’ve seen more than a few fights between angry motorists in my neighbourhood. Which goes to show: you can change the ruler, but unless you take away the reasons for conflict, the subjects will continue to fight.

Singles Night: Over Fifties – don’t miss it!

August 13, 2010

Blimey – here we are, already a week into the Edinburgh Fringe! Peter (Dave Smiff) and I are really getting our collective act together and getting some great feedback off audiences with our show Anna Nuvva-Fing, which is part of PBH’s Free Fringe.

There are some terrific shows at our venue (344) which are on before us. In particular, I love Holly Kavanagh’s Singles Night: Over Fifties. Holly is an extremely gifted actress, but also a wonderful mimic. She plays four characters in a Wakefield pub – Gemma the barmaid, Joan, Mr Gill and King of Northern Soul, Jimmy. She does all four main characters, as well as some minor ones, beautifully. Her characterisation of Jimmy is to die for; she has the self-satisfied aged bar-room Romeo down to a T, and it’s a privilege to watch the subtle and carefully observed traits that Holly uses to bring him to life.

Holly’s is a one-woman show, and she’s completely unsupported. If there are any reviewers out there reading this, I urge you to go and watch this show and give her the light of publicity that she so richly deserves.

Topical Material 19th July

July 25, 2010

Well excuse me for releasing this a week later, but this is material which was submitted to Newsjack last week. Sadly, none of it was used. Here it is:

Vox Pops

  • A group of adolescent gorillas have been observed playing tag by scientists. Shortly afterwards, they mugged a baboon, stole some coconuts and went joy-riding on a zebra.
  • Scientists have been giving popular names to endangered British species. A beetle which lurks in the darkness and feeds only off other beetles has been named the Mandelson.
  • American bank Goldman Sachs has been fined $550m for allegedly misleading clients over mortgage-backed securities. Senior managers at the bank played down the significance of the fine, assuring shareholders that they’ll earn it back by writing one letter to the US government about its overdraft facility.

Corrections and Clarifications

  • We wish to apologise to Premier Wen Jiabao of China. We reported that he said China would not flee the Euro. Of course, he actually said that China would not free the Euro.
  • The FBI have apologised to the so-called Barefoot Bandit, who spent two years stealing expensive yachts, cars and planes. They didn’t realise that he was, in fact, a trainee banker for Goldman Sachs.
  • Apple has issued a fresh denial that the iPhone 4 suffers from a loss of signal. A spokesman assured owners of the iPhone 4 that, if anything, other people can see even more clearly that they’re geeks.

BP Faces New Accusations

July 24, 2010

BP was once again under fire from US Senators last night over claims that it was responsible for the Challenger disaster on January 28th, 1986. “Those goddamned Limeys must have been responsible,” claimed Senator Ivor Price, whilst stuffing cash into his pockets from special interest groups.

“They almost certainly had a rig in the Gulf area at the time, and the Gulf’s just the other side of Florida. Only an incompetent British oil company could cause an explosion that large. American engineering and management is 100% cotton-pickin’ perfect.”

President Obama stepped into the furore, anxious for fair play and the rule of law to be upheld prior to November’s mid-term elections. “We’re now going to close down the entire US aerospace industry for six months and have BP pay the wages of all the workers,” he said. “I’m also going to hold a gun to the head of Prime Minister Cameron to get him to confess that Britain was responsible for the plan to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Clean-up costs

“America has 5% of the world’s population but uses 25% of the world’s energy and refuses to ratify any agreements on greenhouse gases,” admitted the President. “We therefore think it’s only fair that BP picks up the cost of America’s appalling record of pollution.”

Amongst the other American environmental crimes for which BP will be held responsible are:

  • Use of approximately 12,000,000 gallons (US) of Agent Orange from 1961-71 in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia by the United States military. The Vietnamese government estimates that some 400,000 deaths and disabilities were caused by direct spraying, and as many as a further 500,000 birth defects. The US government has not paid compensation, or attempted to clean up the pollution.
  • The 1982 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India. Whilst 3,737 deaths have been confirmed by the government of Madhya Pradesh, other government agencies believe there were c.8,000 deaths in the weeks after the leak and an additional 8,000 in the years afterwards.  A government affidavit filed in the US Supreme Court in 2006 cited 558,125 cases of injuries resulting from the disaster. In 2008, 26 years after the disaster, sources said that 390 tonnes of chemicals abandoned at the site continued to leak into the local environment and ground water. In 1999, 17 years after the disaster (and presumably after many victims had died through lack of medical care, or died indirectly through injury-induced poverty) UCC agreed to $470m compensation, which was the sum for which they were insured, plus interest. Their generosity knows no bounds.

Breaking news: Transocean ‘Not to blame. Not.’

On July 23rd Mike Williams, a Transocean employee responsible for the electronic systems on the Deepwater Horizon rig told a federal investigation that the alarms had been ‘inhibited’ (i.e. turned off) to avoid interrupting the sleep of the crew. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/23/deepwater-horizon-oil-rig-alarms)

Newshounds may recall the Congressional lynch mob on 17th June trying to get BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, to admit BP’s liability for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. He was accused of ‘stonewalling’ when he refused to apportion blame prior to an ongoing federal investigation. Last night the White House was quick not to ‘hold a boot to the throat’ of any American company which looked like its deliberate bypassing of safety procedures contributed to the disaster.