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Can We have a Genetically Modified Cat Please?

evil cats photo: evil angry_cat.jpg

I have made an amazing, previously unsuspected, discovery regarding animal migration.

It’s well known that lots of creatures have inbuilt, primaeval urges to migrate, or travel large distances.
Salmon have a genetic imperative to return every year to their spawning ground.
Swallows fly south for the winter.
Wilderbeest migrate in their millions to the Masai Mara in late summer.
And now, to add to this list, I have discovered that that every cat in the world is born with the instinctive impulse to make their way to my home and poop on my garden.
I think it’s hard-wired into their DNA.
Far be it for me to interfere with one of the wonders of evolution, but I wish it were otherwise.
For, in the course of their feline ablutions, these four-legged poop machines pollute and poison my ground, and make it dangerous for my grandlings to play on my lawn unless I mine-sweep it thoroughly first. I need to make the same preparations before I can walk barefooted on my lawn, which, as a confirmed ‘grounder’ is bloody infuriating.
A tame robin who used to come and feed at the bird table has disappeared, either scared off by the cats, or worse still, now turned into the same poop that revolts me so much.
These brutes cause my whole garden to be pervaded with a disgusting smell. Any newly dug or prepared patch of ground is fouled as soon as I take my eyes off it. They have destroyed a whole bed of fennel, which they scratched up and replaced with the undigested remains of last night’s Meow Mix. They have even crapped on my shed roof, and on top of netting which I put down to keep the cats off!
I’ve tried everything. Lion pooh, cut-out tin cats with glass eyes (the big ginger tom from over the road is best friends with mine), lemon spray (they just lick it off), one of those sonic things (waste of a good battery) – none of ‘em work.
If you go out and shout at the monsters they just stand and stare you down, and will only run off when you chase after them, which of course nearly gives you apoplexy and shortens your life by half-an-hour every time you do it.
The things that do work have major drawbacks. Little spiky sticks stuck in the ground certainly keep the creatures off, but they are hard work to put in place and make it impossible to weed. A well-aimed lump of mud, either thrown or delivered via catapult, or a good splosh of water are effective direct action deterrents, but of course you have to be there to deliver them, and cats do their most dastardly work at night when you’re asleep or drunk.
Since I don’t have time to look after a big barky dog, that option is out of the window. And, to add insult to injury, domestic cats are protected by law and it is an offence to trap, injure or kill them. So I can forget the shotgun then.
It seems hopeless, but I’m not going to give in.
In my wildest imaginings I dream of some boffin breeding a strain of GM cat which would be genetically engineered to poop only in its owner’s garden, but I know that this is just fantasy.
In the meantime I’m working on a solution.
When I find it, you’ll be the first to know.

Grounding therapy Indonesian style. It’s shocking, and it can kill.

Grounding therapy Indonesian style. It’s shocking, and it can kill.

Indonesian villagers are flocking to lie down on the nearest electrified railway line to cure themselves of all manner of ailments.The craze was fuelled by the story of a man who, in unbearable pain and attempting to commit suicide by lying on a railway line found that the electricity cured him.
Health care in Indonesia is expensive, and these poor folks are desperate to find an affordable way to get relief from illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, even at the risk of their lives.
The jury is out on whether or not it can cure you, but one thing is for sure; it can kill you. If the electric doesn’t get you, a train might.
As far as we know, there hasn’t yet been any fatalities, but it can only be a matter of time.
The Indonesian authorites are apparently desperate to put a stop to the craze.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to make affordable health care available to everybody?

My Haydays

Looking foward to the Hay Festival which starts today. Some great artists on, and I’ve  got tickets for Tom Jones (discussing his career with Dylan Jones) and the great Flavia Coelho. Luckily for me it’s only half an hour drive away, but if you can get there it’s always worth going, even if it’s just to absorb the atmosphere. And then there’s always the chip shop in Hay. . .!

Let’s celebrate St George’s Day

Just a quicEngland flagk heads up to all my fellow Englishmen and women that tomorrow April 23rd is St George’s Day.
We’ve not always been as keen as our Scottish, Welsh and Irish neighbours to celebrate our national saint’s day, so let’s make this year different.
Wear a rose on your lapel or brooch, fly the flag, eat roast beef, shepherd’s pie or fish and chips, wear a red white and blue tie or scarf, sing Jerusalem, even go down the pub in a silly hat if you want to. Just do something.
Let’s show that we’re proud to be English.

Amazon Clamps Down on Poor Spelling

There are thousands of e-books on the Amazon Kindle Store that have content errors. They may range from a series of simple spelling mistakes to a total mishmash of misspelling, appalling grammar and non-existent editing.
In an attempt to counter this and provide a better reading experience, Amazon will, from third February, begin showing customers a warning message on the Kindle store detail pages of books that contain validated quality issues. The warning message will be removed as soon as Amazon receives an updated file from self-published authors or publishing companies.

amazon kindle content warning message
Whilst this is good news for readers like myself who have bought and downloaded a book only to find that it’s almost unreadable, as an author I have some reservations.
Take spellings, for example. As a Brit I write colour, which is different to the American spelling of color. There’s aeroplane and airplane, authorise and authorize and a whole host of words that have different national spellings. You will no doubt think of many yourself. Both versions are correct, but my UK spell checker flags up the US spelling as wrong.
And what about arcane technical and scientific terms like Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, which is a medical condition? (Boy did my spell checker have to think about that one before it marked it up!)
When we throw in dialect, slang, conversation and deliberate misspelling, not to mention foreign accents, intentional spoonerisms and bastardised and “new” words, one can’t help wondering just how Amazon and its presumably automated editing is going to sort out what is correct and what isn’t. Much of meaning and spelling is derived from the context, and anyway what is the good of correcting spelling if you ignore poor construction, punctuation and grammar?
My fear is that in trying to cure one problem, Amazon is opening a large Pandora’s box of others.
Unless the AI  (for I’m sure the editing won’t be done by humans) is more sophisticated than anything we’ve seen before, this new initiative will surely catch good, well written works as well as bad ones.
Which will leave the readers no better off than before.


Had enormous fun last night when we went wassailing over at Colwall village, just in the lee of the Malvern Hills. This was our first time here – we usually attend the Weston’s Cider Wassail – and I’d like to thank the Colwall Orchard Group for organising such an excellent event.
Wassailing is a traditional—actually pagan, probably Anglo Saxon—English midwinter festival which is celebrated to awake the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn. It’s also thought to be the origin of Christmas Carol-ing.

Although it’s a very ancient custom, and enjoying a resurgence especially amongst the younger folk, wassailing is really only celebrated in the cider apple growing counties, and the wider English public is not generally familiar with it. Which is a pity, because not only is it a great traditional English antidote to the commercialisation of Christmas, it’s also a really good excuse to get out on a cold Saturday night, eat, drink hot spiced cider, make lots of noise, meet nice people, wear silly hats, process down lanes holding flaming torches and generally have fun. It also raises lots of money for charity.
So if you’re in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, or  Dorset next midwinter, try and attend a wassailing. You wont regret it, and you’ll keep the cider apples healthy!
I had intended to illustrate this with my own photos from last night, but I’m afraid they weren’t really good enough, so I’ve included a video from last year’s Colwall event which will give you a flavour of what goes on.  Also, for a good explanation about wassailing, see here.
Waes Hael ! ( Good Health! )

Sunglasses may promote sun-damage

having_fun_with_beach_ball_198036We all know that sunglasses are necessary to help prevent sun-damage. But did you know that there is a theory that  sunglasses can actually increase your chance of sundamage?

The roll of sunglasses in the prevention of sundamage is now widely known, and every sensible person includes a pair of sunglasses in his or her anti- sundamage arsenal.

But take care. Sunglasses may seem to be that happiest blend of style and substance—a cool fashion accessory which also protects your health—but the truth may be a little more complex.

Because strangely it seems that sunglasses may actually promote sun-damage!

According to Dr. Sharon Moalem and Jonathan Prince in their book “Survival of the Sickest, shading your eyes from the sun for a long period of time can actually increase your chance of sun-damage.

Bizarre I know, but their reasoning goes like this.

The process of tanning is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is responsible for the production of a substance called melanin. When the sun shines the pituitary gland kicks into action and orders up more supplies of melanin. Melanin, which is the body’s natural tanning agent, then pigments the skin to protect it against the harmful UV rays which cause sundamage.

The trouble is that the pituitary gland takes it’s information regarding sunlight from the eyes. Moalem and Prince contend that by artificially shading the eyes with sunglasses for lengthy periods you fool it into thinking that the sun is less strong than it actually is. This in turn inhibits the production of melanin, making sundamage much more likely.

So by trying to prevent sundamage by wearing sunglasses, we are actually encouraging it!

It’s a bit of a Catch-22 position, but the solution seems to be quite simple. Rather than avoiding the sun altogether, or, even worse, discarding the sunglasses, just remove them for two or three minutes every fifteen or twenty minutes or so.

It’s an interesting theory, but it’s not universally accepted. There are many medical professionals who dispute the findings. But in my humble opinion it’s a no-brainer. If the theory is correct, then we are risking major skin sundamage just for the sake of looking like a rock star for an extra two or three minutes every quarter of an hour.

It just doesn’t seem worth taking the chance.

The Long and the Short of a Long Life.

cartoon indicating tall people According to the latest scientific research into longevity, shorter people live longer than tall folk. This is the finding of scientists from Scotland’s University of Glasgow and Norway’s University of Science and Technology.
Whilst this is quite good news for me (struggling to make 5’9” flat on my back with my hair spiked up), it isn’t so good for those who can reach the biscuits off the top shelf without going on tip-toes.
Although it’s always been known that larger animal species tend to live longer than smaller ones ( an elephant for instance will live a lot longer than a rat), it is only over the last hundred years or so that it has become clear that larger individuals within a particular species tend to die earlier than shorter individuals ( a St. Bernard is likely to have a significantly shorter lifespan than a small dog such as a Jack Russell).
While the researchers were unable to fully explain why this is the case, they believe that it may have something to do with telomeres – a region of protective DNA at the ends of a chromosome.


Telomeres have been compared with the plastic tips on shoelaces, because they keep chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other, which would destroy or scramble an organism’s genetic information.
Basically, the longer the telomeres the better. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell can no longer divide; it becomes inactive or “senescent” or it dies. This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer, and a higher risk of death. So telomeres have also been compared with a bomb fuse.
“Growing a bigger body means that cells have to divide more. As a result, telomeres become eroded faster and cells and tissues function less well as a result,” said Professor Pat Monaghan of The University of Glasgow
Larger individuals tend to have smaller telomeres than shorter individuals and this could more easily lead to the onset of age-related diseases and an earlier death.
Other unrelated research bears out the fact that tall people rarely live exceptionally long lives.

A Short Survey

A study of more than 2,600 elite Finnish athletes showed that cross-country skiers were 6 inches shorter and lived nearly seven years longer than basketball players.
Even with the variations in diets and environment and culture factored in, average height in European countries closely correlates to the rate of death from heart disease. Swedes and Norwegians, who average about 5-foot-10, have more than twice as many cardiac deaths per 100,000 as the Spaniards and Portuguese, who have an average height just north of 5-foot-5.
Japanese people who reach 100 are 4 inches shorter, on average, than those who are 75. The countries in the taller half of Europe have 48 centenarians per million, compared to 77 per million in the shorter half of the continent.
It seems that you can measure your life span in inches!

Shortening The Odds

So, what can you do if you are a little on the lengthy side and you want to increase your chances of reaching one hundred? Stunt your growth with cigarettes or coffee? Drop a heavy weight on your head? I think not. You’re trying to lengthen your life, not shorten it.
There is a much easier way
According to research quoted on this blog, controlling inflammation is just as, if not more, important as telomere length, when it comes to successful ageing.
If you want to live to be a healthy centenarian, the most important thing you can do is reduce the levels of inflammation in your body.
And what is the easiest and most effective way of controlling inflammation?
Grounding Therapy, of course!
So all you stretchies out there, don’t despair.
Read my book Grounding Therapy, then order yourself some good grounding sheets.
King size of course!