Highland Earl

Most supermarket own brand whiskies are dreadful. That’s being kind. Some are so bad you wouldn’t want to use them as toilet cleaner.

Highland Earl is Aldi’s own low-price blend and it’s actually not bad. I’d put it in there with other low price blends like Whyte and MacKay and Famous Grouse (the latter is one they also sell).

Oh it’s not fantastic. It’s not in the same league as their single malts or even the blended malts but it’s drinkable with no additives. No need for ice or lemonade or anything else. It’s perfectly okay as it is.

Lidl’s equivalent is Queen Margot. Don’t touch the three year old one, it’s rough. The eight year old is much better.

Aldi’s Highland Earl is only a three year old but the blend isn’t too harsh. At the price, definitely worth a try.



This has been a public service announcement (who remembers that, eh?):)


Fun with numbers

Leaving the EU would be a disaster for the UK, say a bunch of folk who want us to stay in. No surprise there.

No surprise either that they publish their worst case and average scenarios and ignore the best case one that would show fairly rapid recovery.

Also no surprise that they only considered EU trade and ignored the rest of the world.

Funny, that. Especially considering the EU’s determination to have a trade agreement with the US that will kill European farmers.

If we weren’t in the EU, we could negotiate our own agreements.

Just sayin’


Devising rules

I might still have copies of the author contracts I signed for short stories. The ones for the novels won’t apply here. I probably lost them all though, since a lot of places didn’t bother with contracts and I’ve been publishing my own collections instead of submitting to magazines for a while.

No matter. I will have to devise one. I’ll need signatures from all the authors and they’ll all need mine to say we both agree to having the story in the book – and to say the story still belongs to the author. I’m only buying the author’s permission to use it in this one book.

If I’m going to take publishing seriously, I need rules. As much for my sake as the authors. I can’t be random about something like this, it’s a business.

The first attempt is now in the menu bar at the top of the page. It will develop as I figure out what I’m doing in this new venture but this new game has begun.

Underdog Press is under way!

I’ll probably have to make yet another website…

The University of Declaring the Obvious

I’m working on a page for the publishing venture. When it’s up I’ll let everyone know.

Two different flashes of the blindingly obvious today. First, one tipped by Zaph Camden on Twitter.

It’s something that has come up many times here and elsewhere, and covered in detail in the past by Frank Davis. Ventilating modern houses has to be done actively now, whereas in the past it pretty much took care of itself.

Before double glazing, we all had at least one draughty window. Every winter as a child I would play with the frost on the inside of the windows in the morning. Coal fires weren’t automatic. Someone had to get up, build the fire and light it. Until then, the house was pretty damn cold. We had thick blankets and thick pullovers. We survived, thought nothing of it because that was just the way life was. Coal fires don’t light themselves.

The coal fire was central to the ventilation of the house. Modern minds will find that hard to grasp. How can a stinky smoky fire be good for ventilation?

The fire caused a strong updraft through the chimney. Unless you had a blocked or long unswept chimney, there was no smoke from the fire coming into the room. You couldn’t smell the coal burning unless you were a curious kid who got close enough to burn plastic toy soldiers on the coal.

Hey, they might have been witches. You can’t be too careful.

So, the fire is heating air which rushes up the chimney, taking the smoke with it. It’s a lot of air moving very fast and it’s all air that’s leaving the house.

Therefore new air is entering the house. All the time. Under doors, through poor window seals – actually we had sash windows which never had seals. Just wood against wood. You really could feel the draft coming in with your hand. Every time someone opened a door or window, new air rushed in. The air in the house was entirely changed several times a day.

You didn’t need to worry about ventilating your house. Leaky window and door seals and a coal fire took care of that really effectively. It just wasn’t an issue.

Now, double glazing, effective seals, central heating… the air in the house doesn’t change unless you actively do something about it.

Don’t imagine I’m some nostalgia freak who wants to go back to the old days of shivering in winter. The coal fire was lovely but it only heated the side of you that was facing the fire. It was common to be toasty warm in front while your back felt like ice.

Double glazing and central heating are wonderful inventions. You can set the heating to come on 15 minutes before you wake up so the house is warm already. Double glazing has never, to my knowledge, had frost on the inside.

No, I do not want to go back to frost inside the windows and shivering until the coal fire heats up the place. Yet ventilation is still important. More so now, because in the past you didn’t have to do it.

I’m in an old building (it used to be a railway hotel, built in 1899 and I have the active railway and the remains of the station visible from my windows). It was retrofitted with double glazing and electric central heating which I try to use as little as possible because it’s horribly expensive.

It was unfortunately fitted with extra windows built into the chimney breast. The violent storm in January revealed that the chimney had not been properly capped. I thought the window was leaking severely but it turned out it was coming in at the top and then down inside the walls. I didn’t get it as bad as the flats below because most of the water went past me. That’s a digression, it’s now been fixed and the final repainting was this week.

The thing is, it was designed for the coal fire and leaky seals world of 1899. Not for the double glazing and central heating world of today. The walls are granite and my windowsills are 16.5 inches (42 cm) wide. It needs to be ventilated and it was designed to ventilate itself. That isn’t happening now.

I have to actively change the air in the house or I get into a battle with black mould. As a microbiologist I know I really don’t want to be breathing those spores so I have to win. It’s not easy. The place is very prone to condensation in cold weather and that’s all the black mould needs. Mould is happy at 20degC or below. It even grows on cheese in fridges. It doesn’t like hot temperatures but neither do I. 20degC is uncomfortable so I stay below it.

At the moment it isn’t easy. It’s snowed for the last few days and there is an icy cold wind, so window opening is limited. Still, it has to be done. The good part about the wind is that I only need the windows open for a little time to change the air. There have been summer days – even weeks – in past years where opening the windows did little good because the air outside wasn’t moving. I needed to use a fan.

Why are people causing the terrible rise in asthma and other respiratory diseases by not ventilating their homes? It was never smoking that caused these things. You could puff on a pipe indoors in the old days and the coal fire took the smoke away. Now you’d just fill the room with a blue haze.

It’s because we didn’t used to have to do it. The coal fire took care of it. The leaky window and door seals helped. None of those are around now. Even in this old place, there is double glazing and draughtproofing, and you need it because heating bills are soaring thanks to the Green idiocy.

It’s also because of those bills. People close window vents and block draughts because heating costs are so high. The Greens are killing you, and since they want population reduction, what did you expect? Did you think that by joining them or voting for them, it wouldn’t be you they wanted to die? Sucker! You’re the one who believes their crap and does what it takes to kill yourself.

New houses come with an instruction manual on how to ventilate it…

Margaret and John Trainer, from East Renfrewshire, were given an instruction manual for their new home which explained how to ventilate it, but they found the document hard going.

“It was too technical,” said Mrs Trainer.

“It was a huge folder and it just went into the drawer and that’s where it stayed. It was designed for someone who was mechanical. It wasn’t any use to me.”

…designed so that nobody will read it. Surprised? I’m not. It’s written by people who assume everyone does the same job as them, has had the same training and knows all the job-specific jargon. It means nothing to most people and it could have been just a graphic of someone opening a damn window.

People close the vents above windows to cut down on heating bills. Something the Government wants them to do, to save the planet. The planet will still be here when the last human dies. It’ll invent a new species to replace us. Perhaps next time it will make a species that doesn’t hate itself to death. We’ll never know. We’ll join the long list of failed species who have become extinct.

Just open the windows. Leave the window vents open. Nobody is asking you to learn rocket science. Just breathe.


Secondly, there is a report, specially commissioned and paid for by taxes, showing that BMI is a load of bollocks. Like nobody had worked it out before.

It’s not the weight/height issue at all. It never was. Two people can be the same height and weight and one could be a bodybuilder while the other could make a living as a Mr. Blobby impersonator. The ratio of waist to hips makes far more sense. My ratio is 1:1, as evidenced by the fact I can take off my trousers without undoing them. All I need do is release the belt. But don’t tell anyone, I don’t want people thinking I’m skinnier than Death. I’m not, I’m quite chunky but not bulgy.

Again, it was obvious to everyone except to the modern medics who base diagnoses on ‘computer says no’. The young ones are on strike so the health of the nation will no doubt take an upward spike tonight.

Smoking doesn’t cause every disease in existence. Neither does salt or sugar or burgers or bacon. Weight/height ratio takes no account of whether the weight is fat or muscle and ignores the distribution of either. People are not all the same. This is all anathema to modern medicine but the older medics might remember.

Air sealed into a box will go stale. Everyone used to know this. Nobody does now.

Why is humanity worried about a planet they can’t harm when they should be worrying about what they can harm to death with ignorance and indolence?



Complaining about the sensible

The anthology progresses. I have many emails to answer. I’ll get to them. it does seem that my idea of becoming a publisher could be one of my better ones and might actually work. There will be some financial outlay at first but nothing ventured, nothing gained as one of the forgotten sayings goes.

‘Fine words butter no parsnips’ was another one. Today I met someone who instantly got the ‘There’s been a milk spill’ – ‘Well there’s no use crying over it’ rejoinder. There is hope in the Local Shop staff yet. She’ll never be made manager though. Far too intelligent and normal.

Oh, I should add, no fanfiction. That’s where you take someone else’s copyrighted characters and make a story about them. And no slash fiction, no homoerotic fantasies about Kirk and Spock or Rimmer and Lister, that sort of thing. Even if they already did it.

None of that has yet appeared in my inbox. It’s a pre-emptive strike on my part.

True stories are okay if fictionalised. I have one I am pondering. I’m not Private Eye and can’t fight a libel case. It’s a good one and might be fixable.

But I digress. As you would expect.

There is moaning about parking on pavements. In Scotland it is actually illegal for your tyres to hit the kerb at any time because it means you’re a shit driver. I never heard of it being enforced but I have heard of warnings .

But yeah. If you have no room to park, don’t park there. It’s not that hard to work out.

Owning a car does not make you God. I have one and I leave it where it is safe and legal to leave it and not in anyone else’s way. It just seems the polite way to behave.

Parking on the pavement lets the traffic flow, sure, but what about pedestrians? You let your driving mates through but you say fuck the walkers. Is that how you want to be thought of?

Cars live on the road, not the pavement. They are separated spaces for a reason.

I think fines for being a self important arse are pretty much justified.



Romance? Seriously?

The two novels I’ve published so far are apparently listed on AllRomance.com (eBook format only).

Yeah. I’ll just pause and let that sink in to befuddled minds, as I did when I first opened the email from the site.

Hey. I’m not complaining. Just a bit baffled as to why anyone would think they were romances.

The reason they emailed was to let me know about a promotion they have on today. All eBooks are half price until midnight American time. US Central time, if anyone knows or cares what that means.

Samuel’s Girl and Jessica’s Trap are the only ones they have. They don’t have the short story books.

I’m still baffled how I managed to get listed on a romance site, but if you were thinking about getting the eBook versions, they are half price today.

If you like romantic books, so are all their other titles.

The Hive Mind

I’m working through the stories I have so far for the Underdog Anthology. You folk are better writers than I expected, and probably better than you realised. I have some great ones here. Remember, this anthology closes on 31st May and while this one is a random collection, the next ones will be themed.

As for my own stuff, Panoptica is progressing. It does have all manner of chip implants in the characters but it does not have a hive mind. The people in the story are not ready for that – rather, those in control prefer that those under their control don’t know what they’re thinking.

As always, real life is overtaking me. There are people out there who seriously want everyone to be part of a hive mind.

The first ones will die. That’s inevitable with any radical new procedure. They’ll persevere and they’ll get there. Brain implants that link human minds will happen.

‘Eventually, this type of technology will allow us to be connected 24/7 to the internet and on social media,’ he told the DailyMail.com.

I can think of nothing more horrific. Every Facebook restaurant meal photo, every Twitter mention of a football match, every cat picture, every inane post on every crazy forum, all the time. No escape.

Worse, every thought in every head on the entire planet. It would be like trying to find a quiet spot at Glastonbury’s rock festival. While Motorhead are on one stage and Iron Maiden on another. All the time. A constant babble.

Until everyone gets in tune, and everyone thinks the same thoughts at the same time. All the cat pictures and food photos and birthday reminders will stop. It will happen because it will be the only way to stop the cacophony.

Then, as most humans do already, we will seek out those who are not in the hive mind and make them join us. Humans already do this, and have for many centuries, through religion and now even through atheism. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Drones won’t understand why some people don’t want to be assimilated. It is the perfect way to live. The only way to live.

‘The more connectivity we have, the more peaceful and prosperous our world will become,’ said Istvan. 

There it is. Why would you not want to be assimilated? Peace and prosperity. Oh, many will queue all night to be first to have an iBrain. Once they are assimilated they will assimilate others and the ball starts to roll…

‘People will electively start taking out one eyeball and putting in a robotic eye. It will allow us to see germs on each other and poisonous gases.’ 

He is describing, in detail, the Borg.

The Borg are not aliens from another world. Neither are the Cybermen, the logical next step after half-human Borg. They are us. Our future, if we let it happen. There are people on this world, right now, who want it to happen.

Sir Martin Rees, in the inset to that story, does not  name Cybermen or Borg. It might not do his credibility much good. Yet he can see it happening too. The Cybermen, the Borg, are the ambition of transhumanists and most of them will scoff and say it won’t be like that.

No forced assimilation? *cough* ISIS. They get involved in this sort of thing and you’ll have forced assimilation next day.

It doesn’t even have to be that radical. The Catholic Church would soon fall to the temptation of conversion by simply injecting nanobots. Or taking out the brain and putting it in a robot body. There are many groups who would delight in this technology and some, innocent now, who would be corrupted by it. The temptation to assimilate rather than persuade would be irresistible.

Zoltan Istvan is likely to be remembered – if any history is remembered at all – as the father of the Borg. The Borg lead naturally to the Cybermen. And although, in fiction, they are mortal enemies, the Cybermen lead ultimately to the purely utilitarian Daleks. Now beyond assimilation for the most part, the Daleks seek only to eradicate the impurities of the universe – that is, everyone who isn’t a Dalek. They have never said, and probably never considered, what they will do once their sole objective has been achieved. Probably travel back in time and do it again.

Isn’t that what radical Islam is trying to do, right now? Assimilate and eradicate? Can you honestly say that humanity could never become Dalek? We already have large groups who operate on Dalek, or at least Borg/Cyberman principles! All they need is access to Transhumanist technology and we are there.

Borg, Cybermen and Dalek are fiction, but they are fictions that came from human minds. Just as Brave New World and 1984 came from human minds. I don’t have religion myself but I think there might have been, and still are, prophets. I don’t mean any kind of supernatural power prophets. I mean people whose minds take cues and hints and put together a logical sequence that tells them what is most likely to happen next.

It might seem like magic because they might not even know they’re doing it. And maybe, just maybe, some of those with this ability are also story writers.

Orwell’s 1984 was a warning.

Perhaps Star Trek’s Borg were too.