Tuesday, September 30, 2014

No Free Lunches, But Free Murders


There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but just occasionally there is a free murder.

And here it is.


After a sudden rush of blood to the brain - an unusual happening, since my blood usually heads in a southerly direction when I get excited - I decided to offer A POISON TREE free on Amazon Kindle from 30 September to 4 October. This is called the Drug Dealer Strategy. You know the game. I get you hooked on this one and you rush out and buy all the other books in the 'Time, Blood and Karma' series.

At least that's the theory.

Here's the blurb to bait the hook.


“You kill my wife and I’ll kill yours.” You must admit, as a proposition, it has an alluring symmetry to it. 

It is 1999, and as the Millennium approaches, old certainties wither. For family man, David Braddock, his hitherto predictable world is undergoing a slow collapse. The people closest to him seem suddenly different. As desires and aspirations tangle around each other like parasite stems, betrayal is in the air. 
And so is murder. 


If you're tempted, just click on the appropriate link below and one click later it's yours free, gratis, and for nothing.

Sounds too good to be true? Yeah, it probably is.

Want a cigarette, by the way? Anything else I can do for you?

Amazon US click HERE

Amazon UK click HERE

It's also available free on all Amazon's other worldwide sites in case you happen to live somewhere exotic. Lucky you.


Friday, September 26, 2014

New Answers to Life's Ultimate Questions? Hell, No



'The Grand Design', by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow (a physicist at Caltech and sometime writer for Star Trek, in case you were wondering), promises much. Specifically the blurb proudly announces new answers to the ultimate questions of life.

Hmm. OK. Well, leaving aside the fact that I'm no nearer to understanding women after reading this - which for me is one of the ultimate questions of life - I'm also still somewhat in the Dark Matter on other stuff too. Maybe this is not surprising. Professor Hawking's first foray into popular science writing was 'A Brief History of Time', an international phenomenon, which tons of people bought, some read, and maybe a few understood. I personally found the experience of reading ABHOT like fishing - my line was out there, but I only caught sprats, not the big ones. They all got away.

However, inspired by the author's cameo appearances on the US sitcom 'The Big Bang Theory', I thought I'd give the wheelchair-bound genius another go.

TGD is certainly written in a more accessible style. Maybe Hawking's Star Trek co-writer had something to do with this. In fact, it was a wee bit too accessible; too many weak puns and asides, and a rather superficial skim over the profundities of quantum mechanics for my taste. Hey, I'm no genius (except at making excuses maybe), but like Oliver Twist I wanted ... well ... more. For me, it read like 'Quarks for Dummies'.

The book kicked off with the three major questions troubling humanity, or at least those of us who aren't worrying about where our next meal is coming from or whether we're going to get short or blown up today.

Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why do we exist?
Why this particular set of laws and not some other?

Here's the answer to the first two questions: "Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing [in the manner described in Chapter 6]. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist." Are you convinced yet? You'd better be because that's all the authors have to say.

As to the third question, the answer is that that there is an infinite number of universes, each with different laws and we just happen to live in this one. (This is just a theory, by the way, as impossible to prove as the existence of God)

Perhaps I'm doing the authors something of a disservice. The mathematics sitting behind much of today's theoretical postulates is hideously complicated, and certainly well outside the scope of a book of this nature.

I'm just left with an unsatisfactory feeling, like I'd expected to go out with the Prom Queen and instead ended up with her rather plain friend who wasn't much of a talker. Not only that, but we didn't even go to the Prom. We just ate pizza and watched a couple of science fiction movies.

Don't misunderstand me. There are some excellent popular science books out there that will leave you in awe. This, alas, isn't one of them.

Now where shall I put this pizza box?



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Looking for an Honest Man


Ever feel like the bottom is dropping out of your world?

(By the way, if the world is dropping out of your bottom, that is an altogether different situation, and one best addressed through pharmaceutical means or through the purchase of a substantial cork bung.)

You need PHILOSOPHY.

Yup, the stuff those old Greeks used to dish out.

Aristotle, Plato and Socrates tend to get most of the top billing - maybe they had a good agent - but of all the miserable old bastards of the Hellenic World, I think my favourite is Diogenes.

Diogenes of Sinope was a strange bugger, whose original writings unfortunately have not survived the centuries, but his ideas have, courtesy of his fans and followers.

Diogenes was kicked out of his home town for adulterating and debasing the currency, and at one stage he got himself kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery. While living in Athens, he made a virtue of his poverty by begging and sleeping in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace. He was probably the first 'cosmopolitan', declaring himself a man of no country, rather a citizen of the world. Diogenes is most famous for wandering around during the daytime with a lamp, claiming he was looking for an honest man.

 In later life, he became a tutor in Corinth, where his philosophy of Cynicism became one of the foundations of the Stoic School.

These days, 'cynics' tend to get a bad press, but ask yourself: When was the last time you met a truly honest man?

Today's blog has been brought to you by Curmudgeons International. Free membership is available to all Miserable Old Gits, excluding politicians or anyone who thinks Miley Cyrus is pretty cool (or even pretty).



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kilts and Ballot Boxes



So.

Only a few days before the people of Scotland vote on independence from the UK.

They have my sympathy. From my vantage point in South East Asia, it seems to me that our cousins north of the border have no more information now about what independence would mean than they had when this whole campaign started. From the Nationalist (“Yes”) side, they have appeals to Scottish pride and tradition, and statements about how Westminster is squandering the oil money; while from the Union (“No”) side they have veiled threats about currency and economic meltdown. But very few facts on which to base a rational decision.

The 1707 Act of Union glued England and Scotland together. It was supposed to end hundreds of years of bloodshed between the two countries, and was pushed through at a time of hardship for the Scots following the disaster of the Darien Scheme – a ‘get rich quick’ scam based on Panamanian trade, which wiped out a huge proportion of Scottish capital. From the English side, it was meant to secure a Protestant succession in perpetuity: Albion would give Scotland a financial bailout and access to colonial markets, and in return there would be no more Catholic kings.

So much for history.

Frankly, I don’t care how the vote goes. It won’t stop me – an Englishman from the North East – from celebrating Burns Night or from buying whisky. It won’t stop me having Scottish friends (with whom, btw, I generally have more in common than I do with those soft, wimpy Southerners). My general opinion is that nobody should belong to a club in which they no longer want to be a member. But what of the Scottish people who want to be part of the UK, but instead find themselves citizens of a new country? (An acquaintance of mine has a girlfriend who hails from the Crimea. He jokes that recently he went to bed with a Ukrainian and woke up beside a Russian.)

So how will the vote go?

If I want to find out how any event is likely to pan out, I always ignore the ‘experts’ and commentators, and instead have a look at the William Hill betting odds. These guys are pretty shrewd, and their business depends on their getting things right (usually). They currently think there is a two in five chance of the Scots voting for independence.

I might put a tenner on it. It’s a better return than the Bank of England is offering.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Only Two Kinds of Love Song


In my humble opinion ... there are only two kinds of love song.

There's, "I love you and you love me," and it's kinda boring. It doesn't go anywhere.

And then there's the kind of song that is, "I love you, but you love somebody else." Now that's interesting. It's painful, but it's interesting.

Thus begins Sting's introduction to When We Dance.

Can you listen to this without tearing up? You big GIRL.

Click HERE


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Tale of Percival, the Very Special Pig



Once upon a time, on the Holland family farm, there lived a pig called Percival.

Percival was a very special pig, and the Holland family held him in great affection.

One sunny, hot day in August, a visitor came to the farm. He was an old school friend of Farmer Holland and, as they had not seen each other in years, the two men embraced warmly. As I mentioned, it was a very hot day, so it would have been difficult for them to embrace any other way.

The farmer's friend - whose name was Peter - was given a tour of the farm, and it was then he encountered the very special pig, Percival, for the first time.

"That pig," said Peter, pointing at Percival. "He only has one eye and three legs. Moreover, I see his back is wreathed in bandages."

"Aha!" exclaimed the farmer. "That is Percival. He is a very special pig. Let me tell you all about him.
"Some years ago, my youngest daughter fell in the river, and he jumped into the flowing water, and pulled her to safety."

"That was a very special thing to do," said Peter, impressed.

"And not only that, but when we had a fire in the farmhouse, it was Percival that raised the alarm, and saved us all from perishing in our beds."

"Wow!" said Peter.

"And on yet another occasion, he scared away some burglars by leaping on them in the barn and emitting terrifying oinks."

"You must be so proud of him," said the visitor, and the farmer nodded.

"But tell me, why does he only have one eye and three legs? And why is his back swathed in bandages?"

"Ah," replied the farmer, touching the side of his nose with his finger. "A special pig like Percival, you do not eat him all at once."