Allergic to Beer?

Woe is me!

I am forced to conclude that I am allergic to something in beer. I love beer, especially Czech beer, but it hates me.

Last night, I had four glasses of beer with a friend. This morning, I am dizzy, throbbing headache, my right eye is swollen up and my sinuses too and I have a sore throat on that side too. In short, I feel pretty crappy to say the least. I have been getting this sort of reaction to most beers this last few years but this time is the worst. If I drink wine, whiskey or anything else, I am fine so it really is beer.

My father suffered the same fate. The older he got the more beer seemed to dislike him. A pint of Fosters Lager was about all he could manage in the end without a similar sort of reaction.

So I am afraid that I must now stop drinking beer. Aging is such an insult.



Soccer and Role Models

As those who know me well will acknowledge, I do like my football (soccer). I attended my first match back at the age of 5 in 1965 at Boothferry Park in Hull to watch the Tigers and have been hooked ever since. I’m not the only one as the World Cup unfolds in Brazil, millions perhaps billions of others are following the games, the drama and the action. One or two American friends continue to ask what the attraction is and have no understanding of how two teams can compete and draw but my advice to them is to think what that means about the US culture. What does it mean about your culture that you think you have to always win?

There are many who would rather Americans retained their disdain for soccer and left it to the rest of the world. The reason is that they constantly want to tinker with the game to improve it and of course, they want to dominate and win everything. The rest of the world are able to understand that it’s not winning but the taking part that counts. Or do they?

Everyone recalls the hand of God? Diego Maradona stole the game from England for Argentina by cheating. He got away with it and the ‘goal’ stood altering what might have been cheating an army of supporters in the process. Suarez cheated also, stopping a certain goal with his hands on the goal line a few competitions ago. The resulting penalty was saved and Uruguay went on to the next round of the competition through cheating. Now of course, the same player has become the big news story for biting an Italian player.


The Americans, fed with a diet of American Football in particular, look at soccer as a game for wimps. Players are constantly falling, rolling around in agony at the slightest thing, only to get up seconds later and continue as if nothing happened. They dive, cheat and play for a tie. To the American mind trained from birth to compete and win at almost any cost, this is bizarre and what is even more bizarre as that the entire rest of the world is crazy about this game. The World Cup really is a global competition unlike the laughingly called World Championship of baseball for example… which involves only American and Canadian teams and which reverberates across the globe as a colossal yawn of disinterest and boredom. American Football isn’t ever going to be global either. I quite enjoyed the game but for most, its a bunch of over muscled and overhyped fat guys wearing body armour playing in 20 second bursts and taking breaks at every opportunity moving a rugby ball up and down a field. It’s rugby for wimps basically.

But the Americans have a point don’t they? I hate players diving and feigning injury. In particular, I detest the cheating. Diego Maradona is a hero to many people. To me he is simply a cheat. For all his skills on the field he cheated and he should never have been allowed to play soccer again for that. The same for Suarez. Yes, he is a talented and skilled athlete but he is a cheat with a childish temper tantrum problem and he too should be banned from playing. Why?

It’s actually very simple. These are the people our kids look up to. They are role models. Like many modern role models, they are human first but and to me its a big but, but they should be held accountable for that influence. Cheating is cheating. It’s abhorrent and should not be tolerated. Rather than be seen as heroes, these players should be seen as cheats and held up as examples of how not to play soccer – or life.

Science is Never Proven

If I had a quid for every time some punter on TV or in the media or even a politician has said “The science is proven” when referring to global warming, I’d be a very wealthy man indeed. I have to tell you, as a Ph.D. scientist myself, every time I hear this I literally cringe. The person saying it or writing it cannot then understand the philosophy of science as no scientist who does would ever utter such a stupidity. Yes – stupidity.

Today, I read an article by a scientist on CNN about the big bang. Please read with me the following excerpts…

“Everyone wants to be right. Most of us sure hate being wrong. But scientists know that new discoveries often change or even invalidate earlier ideas. Being wrong can mean we have learned something new.”


“It’s the way science progresses. You put an idea out there and your colleagues — many of them good friends and scientific collaborators — try to shoot it down.

A scientist’s first reaction to a new idea is often: “That’s wrong because….” To which the proponent replies, “No, you are wrong because…” And so the debate begins.

No matter how much a scientist might hope to be right, nature holds the answer. One theory may be more beautiful than another, or more complicated, or more elegant, but nature doesn’t know or care. The job of a scientist is to find out what the real answer is, not to advocate for any one point of view.

We do that by making careful measurements and assessing the accuracy of the result.”


“That’s one reason the debates will continue until one side convinces the other. But most scientists really don’t care about the “win” — we care about understanding nature.”

And finally..

“Controversy and debate may be messy but that’s how we make progress in science.”

Excerpts from an article by Meg Urry – the Israel Munson professor of physics and astronomy at Yale University and director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
You can read her article here.

Yes. That’s how science works – should work anyway and there can never ever be a 100% definitive right position… just a working hypothesis. So please, next time you hear someone tell you that there should be no FURTHER debate on global warming because THE SCIENCE is PROVEN.

Please educate them.

1. Science cannot ever be said to be proven
2. Without debate, there is no science.


Mistaken Priorities

People I just cannot get
Would rather save an ant
Than one of their own
Rather protect a plant
Than help the homeless
Worrying about the issues
They know nothing about
And not seeing the little things
That would really count
Happily labeling themselves
Left, right, or by nation
Or yet, worse still,
By their religion
Man made rules to kill
For a man made God
Hustling, bustling, striving
To outdo one another, while
Following their dubious heroes
Emulating their style
What a fucking joke
Conspiracy and doom
Echoes of their self-created hell
Selling their sordid stories
Even when there’s nothing to tell
They feed off each other
Born again idiots spouting hate
Confidently assessing their own salvation
If that’s your ‘heaven’
I hope you go there as one nation
But without me
There is only one thing to guide you
And that is something called love
Measure yourself against that
Know it doesn’t come from above
But from within you
In love there is no jealous God
There is no nation above another
No person better than the other
Nothing more important than your brother
In love, no one need ever suffer

What Am I Becoming?

I never saw myself as a grammar nazi. I make mistakes. We all do when writing. We also use short cuts like ‘u’ for you and so on. To me that is acceptable. I know that I am clueless about commas. I have no idea where commas go so I kind of make it up as I go along. This too must annoy comma nazis. However….

Just recently I have become really quiet appalled at the mistakes people make in written English. Many of these people are totally unaware that they make mistakes too, which makes it even worse. The ones that really, really bug me are as follows;

1. There, Their, They’re

2. Were, Where, We’re and,  would you believe – Wear?

3. To, Too, Two

4. Your, You’re

5. Peek, Pique, Peak

6. It’s,  Its

There are others but it these particular examples that crop up over and over again.

I think the problem is that once you start to notice something because it irritates you, you begin to see it everywhere.  All of a sudden, incorrect usage of words seem to pounce out at and jump on you, fists flailing. You find them laying in wait causing a gritting of teeth and tightening of the sphincter as the blood pressure rises bit by bit.

It’s a plot I tell you! A plot!

And it just serves to remind me that we do really create our own reality through the way that we interact and perceive things. If you give something permission to bug you then all of a sudden the Universe decides….. let’s get that Bastard.




Customer Service East of the Rhine….

I love living in the Czech Republic I really do. It is beautiful, relatively inexpensive (outside of Prague), full of very nice people and has great beer and food. One thing it lacks however is an understanding of what customer service is.

When you live somewhere like the Czech Republic you really do begin to yearn for the American customer service experience. I say American because to be honest, British customer service isn’t all that great either…. but, its not this bad!

Let me give you a small example. In an earlier post, I mentioned a bill for natural gas. The company in question is RWE, a major German energy company. You would think then that customer service would be high on the agenda of a company supplying energy to customers right?


For the last 4 months, our apartment in Brno has been empty. Apart from a couple of nights when we have stayed there in sleeping bags, the heating is set to minimum. What this means is that it only comes on at close to freezing temperatures. Now, I would say that this winter that may have occurred for a month or so – not much more as it has been a remarkably warm winter – today March 12th, it is 14C! So, you can imagine my shock and consternation when I got a bill for three-months for more than $500 equivalent right?

The first thing I did was call RWE. There was an English language option that dumped you into voicemail. I left 2 or 3 voicemails over the last few days and no one has yet called me back. I also sent an email to the email address provided asking how could this be?

After 2-days I got a short email back saying that we should check the meter reading ourselves and that we could also, for a fee, have the meter’s accuracy checked. Super! How? Well, it didn’t say. So I replied. I asked a few additional questions such as what tariff are we on? How long is the contract? Could it be possible that the gas is also being used by someone else in our building? Would RWE be able to offer us some efficiency advice? Two days later, I got the reply….

1. We are on a standard tariff. If you want a different one, visit the RWE shop in Prague and deal with them,
2. RWE is not a gas service company so if you want to check if others are using the gas you should look in the phone book and call someone,
3. No, RWE does not offer any advice on energy efficiency.

By the way, at no point was I given any phone number or contact person so … I wrote back saying, please call me.

I got a call surprisingly quickly.

She asked me what I needed. I explained the issue. So what do you want, she asked. I would like someone to check the meter and by the way, the hall always has a gas smell, says I. Oh, you should contact our emergency service, in fact, I will put you through…… she was gone!

Emergency services answer…. Do you speak English, says I? No. OK, here is the address in Brno…… Wait, he says (in English), this is Prague, we don’t cover Brno. You need to call them. click!

I don’t know what to say……… but where is the customer service in any of this? RWE plainly could care less.

Luckily, there are other providers here and I am looking up their numbers now.

Sometimes Everything Just Goes Tits Up….

This last few weeks has been pretty interesting. Its not so much that we have a had a run of bad luck but that things just appear to be testing and frustrating us.

First off, we have a had a string of unexpected bills. First we got a fine for having no car insurance last year for a few days – it just arrived in the mail saying we notice you had no car insurance and here is your fine, signed the Czech Government. They are correct actually as the car was leased and insurance included and I forgot to get new insurance when the lease ran out (and no one wrote from said insurance company saying would you like to keep your insurance going)…

Next, we got a gas bill from RWE for our unoccupied apartment in Brno. Its not been a cold winter by any standards and yes, the heating is on but set at minimum just to keep anything from freezing. My expectation of the bill was that it would be negligible but let’s just say it initially looked like I had expected until I counted the zeroes and saw an extra one included. Now this is daylight robbery and I am trying to get RWE o talk to me but emails and voicemails have so far elicited no response whatsoever.

As if unexpected bills (and that is just two out of several) where not enough, the IRS inexplicably denied my daughter a TIN (Tax ID). This after the embassy denied her a social security number. Now this makes my blood boil as it simply means that I cannot get a tax deduction for my own daughter! Of course, the only way to move this forward is to call the 800 number rumoured to connect to the IRS, wait hours while listening to dreary music and an infuriating voice telling me my call will be answered in the order it was received….

Funnily enough, I need to call the IRS anyway because out of the blue and without any explanation I got a tax refund check from them two weeks ago. Ahhh, I hear you say, a change in fortune? Maybe…. maybe…. but neither my accountant nor I can figure out why I got a refund as according to our calculations I owed them! It’s just more aggravation.

There has been quite a lot more aggro from destiny this last week or so including my fight with a TOMTOM upgrade for the car in which I ended up losing everything on the disk and had to purchase a new map! That was 4 hours not well spent…


I don’t quite know what is going on but at the moment is does feel as if I am forcing my way through jelly to get anywhere and my limited financial resources are being overly strained…

Is there some astrological event going on I am not aware of or what?

The Topless Skier

I think politicians are the scum of the earth.

I have made this statement before and I will say it again. They are usually hypocrites, liars, cheats and eminently buyable. They use politics to polarize opinion, cause disruptions and sometimes war. Politicians work endlessly and tirelessly to find ways to be divisive. By being divisive, they gain a following and cynically they hope that the issues they divide us on are popular enough to give them a majority. I think the best strategy is to ignore them and certainly never to vote.

The topless skier from The Lebanon emphasizes my point today. Here we have a country polarized by religion (another crock of polarizing crap) and politics with seemingly endless violence (just as the politicians and religious zealots like it). I mean they have more than their fair share of issues and problems to solve but instead, a government minister feels it his duty to criticize a young skier who once posed for a calendar. I feel sorry for this young woman as the photos that are the center of this non-controversy are not anything extraordinary – topless, yes, but revealing? Hardly. Whoever released these photos should be ashamed of themselves too. For what purpose? Who cares? What is wrong with the human body anyway that people get so fussed about a nipple? We all have them – I suppose even that Minister has nipples?


A cynical man has taken upon himself to be divisive proving himself conservative for his followers. Why does such a man hold a position of ‘respect’ as he is plainly a bully, bigot and undeserving of anyone’s respect? Whatever his reason one can guess that it is self-serving. A typical politician.

For once though, I am glad for social media. It seems I am not the only one outraged by this nonsense. Many Lebanese are too and they have started a campaign posting nude pictures of themselves in support of the Topless Skier. You know, I sometimes question the role of social media but in this instance ….. it is playing a positive role.

The Anatomy of a Bad Review

If you take a look over on at the reviews for The Last Observer, you will discover a couple of 1-star reviews there. I’m not sure if these two people know each other but they sound remarkably similar. There is nothing wrong with bad reviews. We don’t all like the same things and constructive bad reviews are useful in growing as a writer or whatever it is we do. In fact, go to any book on Amazon with several reviews and you will find a range of reviews from bad to great. I was just reading Anthony Peake discussing a bad review he got for one of his books too. Sometimes, people are not just critical but personal and its then that I feel things cross the line to inappropriate. To make my point, one of the bad reviewers took the time to go through all of the good reviews and mark them as ‘unhelpful’. This is just vindictive.

Let’s parody these bad reviews just for fun….


“I actually picked up name of book here on the cheap. After reading the copyright information on the inside cover I immediately knew I had wasted my 99cents. What kind of publisher would take this nonsense I thought as I returned it to the second hand store and demanded my money back. I confess to flicking through the rest of the book just to confirm my views that this writer should never have learned the alphabet. It was all those 5-star reviews that tempted me into parting with my hard earned cash but now, I realize that I was conned by the fabulous job the author did bribing his family, friends and colleagues to write these brazen, gushing, deceitful and annoying lies. Buyer beware, no one who isn’t bribed by this author or currently sleeping with him/her would write anything positive about this book.

The story is non-existent and based on my 30-second flick through of the text over my cod and chips from the local chippy, if you have seen any of the Matrix movies, you will be sickeningly familiar with this type of book. Vasey – oh I forgot – that’s Dr. Vasey (always a give away of mostly illegible writing), can’t write and in my learned opinion, should never have graduated high school. I mean, exactly who actually uses terms like “Oh, I see!” or “Yes, I’ll have a beer please” or, even worse, “Hello”? There are no characters, nor any story of any value that is obvious to the 30-second flick through. Vasey obviously has grandiose ideas of himself and his writing that need to be nipped in the bud by someone sane and rational like me and I have made it my duty to protect you all from this kind of amateurish crap.

Trust me, don’t buy this book. It truly sucks and so does Vasey who probably should have been aborted before birth so that the rest of us wouldn’t have to put up with his horrible self promotion and ugly prose.”

Trial by Social Media

There used to be a time when family matters were kept private. Perhaps that wasn’t a healthy attitude – sweeping things under the carpet and keeping it within the family but there were and still are appropriate channels via which people can get assistance and make complaints. Of course, there has always been gossip and gossip newspaper and magazines but by and large, people chose whether they wished to consume this type of frivolous nonsense by actually buying the magazine. Mainstream media, wary of legal action or a slap on the wrist from regulators, also (usually) maintained some element of restraint.

Like many things, social media and the internet has changed all of that.

Today, we see various ways in which accusations may be made, sides taken and people’s reputations ruined via a few choice words tweeted to the world or by posting a few inappropriate pictures to a revenge website. Its trial by social media these days…..

Let’s take the recent Woody Allen case as an example. A couple of tweets and all of a sudden people are screaming for the guy’s head on a plate. I’m not going to get into the details or take sides on this issue but just make the point that I don’t think deliberately tweeting this kind of allegation to the world and encouraging the sheep that follow such things into mass writhings and perhaps in some cases, dubious actions is at all appropriate. Plainly, there is agony in this family but I’m pretty sure its not my business because I cannot possibly know the facts and I cannot possibly be expected to make a judgement. Child abuse is a hideous and terrible allegation but resorting to social media is simply inappropriate at best and maliciously evil at worst. I did do some research prompted by this but I daresay I am one in a minority that didn’t just jump to a conclusion. My research tells me that this is not a black and white case. Again, its not my business and I am not qualified to decide.

In fact, I think what has been done to Woody Allen is the equivalent of an equally ugly trend on the net – ‘revenge porn’. I do have an opinion on this and that is it should be illegal and those that run such sites should face prosecution and personal liability. Those injured by such activity should be able to claim damages from the sites and whoever sent the pictures in.


I was raised in a world where people had rights. They were innocent until proven guilty by a trial of their peers. These days, people are hung drawn and quartered by hysterical masses of no nothings who browse social media and believe that they can and should have an opinion on everything. They are neither qualified nor competent to hold such opinions or make judgements.

I worry and you should also be concerned about Woody Allen. No, I’m not making any suggestions as to his innocence or guilt but to this case as an example of how, under the wrong control, the internet and social media is being primed as a tool to control and direct mob behaviour.

We are the mob.

The question is, who is pulling the strings?