Saturday, August 30, 2003

On Writing

One of my reasons for creating this blog is to make me a better writer. There's a book inside of me wanting to get out but at the moment I don't feel I could do it justice. Numbers have always been my strength and words my major weakness, probably because my logical, mathematical mind has problems dealing with the imprecise nature of language. Very often I struggle to find the right words for what I want to say; even though it sounds perfect in my head, out loud or written down it just isn't right.

If I'm going to pen that book then it's clear to me that I need to improve my writing and the best way I know to do that is simply to write more. If I write regularly enough and at some length then I should find it becomes easier to transfer my thoughts from my head to the page (or screen).

With that in mind, over the next week or two I'm going to write a series of longer articles that try to set out my feelings on various subjects including religion and the supernatural. If you would like me to write about anything in particular then leave a comment. It can be serious or light-hearted, thought-provoking or trivial, I don't mind. The more challenging the better.


I must learn not to drink so much.
I must learn not to drink so much.
I must learn not to drink so much.
I must learn not to drink so much.
I must learn not to dri....

Friday, August 29, 2003


I've always found it amusing that the phrase spin doctor comes from German, where the verb spinnen means 'to lie'...


King of Spin

I can't say I'm surprised that Campbell has resigned, there has been speculation of it for weeks now. Has he jumped ship before the Hutton inquiry could force him out or is it just what he says, that he's leaving to devote more time to his family? I don't know. I'm far from convinced that he had nothing to do with the dossier but I don't believe there will ever be anything incriminating against him. Not that it matters. The king of spin is gone. Will his successor be any better?

One quote that did tickle me was this:

"...He said there were "huge upsides" to his job, including "the knowledge that you are witnessing history in the making"..."

Some might say he was more a witness to the making up of history.


In a comment further down Dragon asked me which my favourite ale is. Now that's a tricky question. Favourites come and go, depending on factors like what time of year it is, where I'm buying them from and, bluntly, whether I decide to like a different ale or not.

Currently, I'm rather partial to Young's Double Chocloate Stout, a gorgeous dark beer with a strong dark chocolate taste, and T.E.A. from the Hog's Back brewery.

There are, of course, a few beers, like Theakston's Old Peculier, that remain among my favourites regardless of how my tastes change. The pub underneath my office is owned by Shepherd Neame and serves another of my all-time favourites, the wonderful Bishop's Finger, though sadly only from a bottle.

I must stress that I do not go in for any analysis of aroma, palate etc. I've always found that analysing something, be it a book, a film or a beer, detracts from the enjoyment of it. And I'm not a bald, bearded man with leather patches on the elbow, either. Well, I am bald but the other two definitely don't apply.

Before I started this site I thought of doing a regular feature on ales, what with them being one of my loves and all, so I'm going to do a Beer of the Month thing.

September's ale is one I tried recently for the first time and was pleasantly surprised by. I don't go out of my way to buy organic produce or anything and quite why I picked this up I don't know. But I did and I really liked it so I'm making Duchy Original's Organic Ale the first Clear Blue Sky Ale of the Month.

I've got a raging thirst now. :-)

Britain's Best Sitcom

Have you voted yet?

Thursday, August 28, 2003

I was intending to write about the Hutton inquiry and Tony Blair being grilled about his involvement with the whole David Kelly affair but I've realised that I don't care that much any more. It seems clear that, while no one is going to come out of this smelling of roses, neither is anyone going to end up as the villain of the piece.

When the whole sorry affair blew up a couple of months ago, one of the major criticisms of the government's denial of the Andrew Gilligan story was that it was getting in the way of the real story, namely the justification for the war in Iraq and the way in which it was handled. While Hutton does seem to be getting some questions answered on that front, I can't seem to shake the idea that the inquiry is, inadvertently at least, acting as another smokescreen; this time hiding the extent of the tragedy now facing Iraq.

Blair said today that the dossier was not used as the immediate reason to go to war. If that were the case then we have no option other than to accept that the reason for the war was to liberate the Iraqi people. But surely, if that was your aim, wouldn't one of your top priorities be to ensure that life was returned to normal, if not made 'better', as soon after the conflict was over as possible? Wouldn't you want to be sure that history would look back on the war and say that it was wholly for the best? It's fairly obvious that there was no plan for rebuilding Iraq post-war and because of that the country is fast slipping into anarchy. That will breed resentment towards the US and UK, which in turn increases the chaos. What then? Could the whole country spiral out of control?

We need to stop worrying about the outcome of the inquiry into one man's death, tragic though it may have been, and start questioning why Iraq is in the state it is. And what can be done to put it right.


Nothing sets you up better for an afternoon at work than a couple of pints at lunchtime. Unless it's three or four, of course.


Five things you almost certainly don't know about me:

1. I can speak German.
2. I was baptised the day after I was born because my chances of survival were small.
3. I am just two degrees of separation from Bill Clinton.
4. I can remember dates and numbers effortlessly and then can't forget them again.
5. I drink real ale.

I know that doesn't really tell you anything important about me but I thought it would be more interesting than the usual name, rank and number stuff. If you want ask me something then leave it in the comments and I'll decide whether to ignore it or not..


It wasn't quite as cloudy as I thought it would be last night so I did get to see something of Mars. A bright pinhead in the sky above the house across the road. After all the hype I half expected some fireworks or rolls of thunder, but no. It was just there, swinging it's way slowly and silently across the sky.

But it wasn't an anticlimax. It was a little awe-inspiring to see our nearest planetary neighbour from my living room. It's also reassuring that everything runs so smoothly in this universe of ours that we can predict it so well.

Ah, enough of that metaphysical crap. It was just a pretty light in the sky.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Blinded by Light

Of course, a cloudless night sky does not always guarantee you a view of the stars. The night sky is getting steadily more orange in this country, even in rural areas, destroying the beauty of the heavens. All because of the way we light our streets at night.

About six years ago I was staying with a friend of mine in the old East Germany, where the streets were only sparsely lit, if they were at all. One night was completely cloudless and there was no moon. After getting back to the house from a bar we went out into the garden and just lay gazing upwards. There were more stars visible than I think I had ever seen before. The Milky Way stretched across the sky, a great river of twinkling lights, and all of the normally visible constellations were magnitudes brighter and sharper. The beauty of it all took my breath away and I made the effort to remember it because I knew it would be a long time before I saw the stars as clearly again.

How hard can it be to use street-lighting more effectively? To ensure that the light produced goes down towards the street not up into the sky? Think of the money that could be saved by using external lights more efficiently.

Think of how beautiful the sky could be at night.

Obscured By Clouds

So, Mars is closer to the Earth than it has been in almost 60,000 years.

Great! Let's all rush out now and get hold of whatever stocks of telescopes, binoculars and magnifying glasses we can, crowd the streets at midnight and ooh! and aah! at the red planet. Maybe we'll even spot some little green men, since we're so close.

Just one problem, though. Unless you live in the Shetlands or somewhere, you won't be able to see a thing. One of the biggest astronomical events for millennia and we can't see it happen because it's going to be cloudy. Bloody typical.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Shakin' that ass

I wish I'd been there to see this happen.

Last week sometime, my Mum noticed my youngest brother's mobile phone lying around. He's always leaving it somewhere or other and consequently has trouble finding it. Sure enough, later on Mum was sitting on the sofa watching the television or something with one of the cats lying beside her when he came in asking her if she'd seen his phone.

"Erm, yes, i have but I can't remember where. Have you tried looking on the bookcase in the dining room?"

"It's not there. I've looked everywhere."

"Why don't you try ringing it, that'll tell you where it is?"

"That won't help, it's on vibrate only."

"Well if you will leave it..." You can guess how the rest of it went.

Anyway, a few minutes later he had obviously decided to follow Mum's advice after all because the cat suddenly leapt up from where she had been sleeping peacefully, eyes wide with shock and hurt. She turned around and looked at her rear end in surprise as if to say "How did I do that?" and then, scraping together what dignity she could, left the room as it dissolved into hilarity behind her.

Somehow I don't think she'll be sleeping on any mobile phones again in a hurry.


Before I start, I'd like to welcome you all to Clear Blue Skies.

At the moment it is a work in progress. Content-wise, I think posts will vary wildly in theme and style and I have some ideas for "projects" that I will be playing with in the weeks and months to come. As for the look of the site, I am completely new to website design and have no html experience at all. As that changes, so will the site. All hints and tips gratefully received, just remember that I may not know what you're talking about. :-)

On with the writing, then...
So, this is my first foray into the world of blogging.

My first post.

Numero uno.

I was going to write something about this being the beginning of some grand adventure but I couldn't think of the words I wanted (which bodes well, don't you think?). However, inspiration has not completely failed me so I give you words written by someone far more talented than I could ever hope to be. J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

That'll do nicely.