Friday, January 26, 2007

Are people born Evil?

Another crack at the laptop cherry. They keep changing the procedures, I notice, in response to people's comments. The last laptop was won by someone with a blog far more popular than mine. The only consolation I have is that when someone wins, they get taken out of the competition. Given that the last winner had a technorati ranking og about 4500, and mine is something like 333000, there isn't much hope

But I do love a challenge, so here goes...

Are people born Evil?

I was a young lad, full of joy and optimism, no more than 8 years old, when I first encountered the boot of Toby Hancock Jones. He'd joined our school after being excluded elsewhere for tying a lop-eared rabbit by its ears to a fence post and firing carrot sticks from an air rifle at a target painted on its belly. The rabbit survived this incident, and was rehoused with a married couple who doted on it. Two years later the 93 year old husband slipped on the lop-eared rabbits ears, fell over and split his head open on the stone floor of the couple's cottage. His 25 year old wife of just three years seemed initially distraught, until Police discovered the rabbits ears had been glued to the floor and greased on top to make them extra slippery. It was a near perfect crime. The papers asked the very same question about the nature of evil when she was sent down for life.

But I digress.

Toby walked in to our school as if he was eyeing up the place for an armed robbery. He was of average height and build, and kept his jumper sleeves rolled up to display biro-tatoos of a skull and crossbones. The teacher asked him to roll down his sleeves only once. He gave her such a lairy stare that the poor woman (on supply after 3 years off with stress) never spoke to him again in the four months she remained with as our form teacher.

He seemed to take an instant dislike to me, despite my attempts at friendship. My mother was keen for me to make friends, as I was lagging behind my peers on a number of fronts at the time. So I offered him some of my lunch on his first day. He took the banana sandwhich with a smile. But just seconds after he started chewing, he spat the whole lot back at me.

'What was that, you four-eyed moron?' he cried, wiping bits of banana off his face.

I could taste something on my lips. It was a bit of chewed up banana. I gingerly stuck out my tongue to taste it - eager, on the one hand to make amends and avoid losing my new friend to a misunderstanding, but, at the same time, slighty apprehensive about the coldsore on Toby's lips.

'Er, I think it's just banana, Toby' I said, my unbroken voice warbling slightly.

'Yeah Crumble. You know what happened to the last person who tried to feed me bananas?'

'Er, no.'

'They got mashed up, see'


'You thick or something Crumble? I said mashed, as in mashed banana'

'I've got some crisps', I said, trying to smile even as the tears welled up behind my eyes.

Toby stood up, rolling up his sleeves so I could get a good view of his skull-and-crossbones. 'Gimme the rest of your lunch money, Breadcrumb, or I'll tell the teacher you tried to poison me.'

I was utterly confused. No one had ever bullied me before, and I wasn't sure what was going on. I had no idea that I had poisoned him, and could only think that the young boy had a rare banana allergy. I didn't quite understand why he was so angry, but then remembered my grandmother getting very angry once when I did actually poison her (Accidentally of course,and she did make a near-full recovery in due time. Was it my fault that she'd decanted some brass-cleaning fluid into a brown-sauce bottle?).

'Are you sick?' I asked him, fumbling in my pocket for some loose change.

Toby pulled me right up to his face, paused for dramatic effect, then snarled 'What you mean, Breadhead?'

'I...I...just thought...'

'Don't think Crumb. Don't do anything to upset me or I'll mash you so hard you'll be worse off than a banana under bulldozer. Got it?'

'Er, ok. Here's 50p. I think you should use to get some medi...'


I spun round as he let his punch go, half propelling myself away, half pushed by the force of his fist in my eye-socket. The grass on which we had been sitting offered at least soft ground for me to crumple on as he repeatedly kicked me in the shins and told me that he'd string me up by my flappy ears and shoot me with an airgun loaded with nuclear bombs if I told the teacher.

That night I cried when my grandmother asked me what had happened. She tried to comfort me, but I couldn't be consoled. My illusion of childhood had been shattered in a matter of minutes by someone I wanted to call my friend. 'Oh poor, naive young boy, ' she cooed, then after a moments pause raised her voice and in dramatic tones said 'Some people are just born evil, Joseph. Spawn of the Devil, if you ask me. He's out there Joseph, he's out there!'

I thought about what she said for a minute, but couldn't work it out. You see, population genetics was a subject in which I was most interested, even as a child. I had been working my way through a paper on the subject, which laid out very strict laws governing how traits were passed on through different generations. The paper told the story of a monk who drank beer and grew peas, and how he worked out a set of laws about inheritance and the such like.

'Wait here granny!' I said, my energy suddenly renewed. 'If I can work it out, I'll know what to do!' And with that I skipped off to my bedroom to do some calculations.

The next day Toby turned up late to school. He made sure that I caught him looking at me with narrowed eyes when he entered the classroom. I said nothing, of course, and waited until lunchtime before I spoke to him.

'Toby!' I cried, bounding up to him as he was menacing some younger children. He spun round on his heels, squaring up to me as if I wanted to fight.

'Where's my lunchmoney, Breadhead?' he asked.

'Yeah, yeah Toby. Listen. I've got some good news. I did some sums last night and worked something out. You see, my grandma said you are the son of the devil and born evil. But I worked it out, right?.' I looked up at Toby as I finished speaking. His eyes were so narrowed I could barely see his pupils, and his upper lip was starting to curl in what I later learned was his trademark indicator that violence was forthcoming.

'You's like this. If you were born evil then Mendel says either your mother or father was born evil. But your father can't be the devil or he would have horns and a red cape and stuff. So your mother must have passed her evil to you which means she is to blame. See? It's not your fault you're evil, Toby. There's evil in your genes!'


His head connected with mine just on the bridge of my nose and I fell back onto the hard playing-ground surface. My assailant was just about to start kicking me in the shins for the second time in two days, when one of the younger children, presumably startled and bemused by my homophonic statement, started laughing and pointing at Toby's pants. I looked to where the child was pointing and was astonished to see a small banana poking out of Toby's school trousers. Even Toby seemed surprised, and hesitated just long enough for me to pick myself up and move away. A teacher was there moments later, and had hold of the fruit-sporting bully even as he was trying to pull the banana out.

We were both taken to the headmaster's office and forced to explain things. I started talking about a monk who grew peas but the headmaster didn't seem interested. All he really wanted to know was why Toby had been dangling a banana out of the front of his pants. It turned out that the unfortunate boy had stolen said banana from a corner shop that morning on his way to school, and had stuffed it down his pants so he could turn out his pockets if asked. The zip on the pants had needed repairing for some time, and had just given way at the wrong moment.

Toby was sentenced to lines and made to apologise. I took it with good grace. Such good grace, in fact, that the headmaster commented on it.

'Granny told me some people were born evil sir. So he can't help it really.', I responded.

'It's not that people are born evil, Joseph.', said the headmaster. 'It's just that they are born stupid.'

'Is that better than evil?'

'Of course. Now run along and make some friends Joseph.'

I skipped off into the playground, my cares forgotten. Not only had I gained an apology from my tormentor, but I had also learned a new fact. A very important piece of knowledge that I just couldn't keep isolated in my 8 year old brain. And it was good news, which meant that it had to be told. You see, Granny had instilled in me that everyone likes to hear good news. And now I knew that if Toby wasn't born evil, that we could be good friends. Everything's going to be alright, I thought, as I jogged merrily towards my new classmate once again.

Vote for me on Love To Lead Third time lucky? It's up to you my good, good friends!



Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In court

Hello all

has my recent absence been noted? I doubt it, but never mind. I was called away to appear as a witness in the trial of a head of department of a university where I used to go and mark exam papers under mysterious circumstances (you can read the original post here). I have been advised not to say anything about what went on, so I won't. I'm more worried about my own court case for assault on Toby Hancock-Jones. Dolores has been trying to offer sympathy, but it isn't getting through. I'm feeling decidedly maudlin at the moment.

Denise still hasn't returned. She rang up the other day to say she is in Derby visiting an old school friend. The Institute is quiet at the moment, so I'm not in too much of a hurry to replace her. I was in the village on Saturday and someone asked about her whereabouts. When I said that she had handed in her notice, I was simply told that 'the storm clouds are gathering, aye' before being shooed away. I wouldn't have minded, but I was trying to withdraw money at the time, and to have a bank clerk speak like that was slightly unsettling.

Dolores is reading an awful lot of books about breastfeeding and raising babies to maximise their development. I had assumed that rearing another child would simply revive skills gained during the early years of the twins, but my ever-astute wife was quick to remind me that much progress had been made in the last ten years, and she didn't want to make the same mistakes again. She followed up this surprisingly frank admission of guilt with news that Twin Y had broken his nose fighting with a girl whose bag he snatched. When interrogated about the incident, he eventually admitted that he had dropped a pack of playing cards in the bag earlier to avoid confiscation. When retrieved, the backs of the cards had instructions on various real-life hustles. He claimed that he had found the cards on the street, though wasn't clear where.

I really love the twins, but I have to admit, Dolores is doing the right thing.


Friday, January 19, 2007

An insectivore speaks out.

Dear all

Another chance to win a new laptop. The last competition was won by someone who promised to give the computer away to someone who voted for them. Now here's a thought on how a similar scam could work for everyone else.

1) Find someone with a very popular blog.
2) Offer to give them some cash if they host an article for you and get all their readers to vote, several times each.
3) Write something, anything as long as it sort of answers the question. Seeing as the answer can always be 'yes' or 'no' then you don't have to spend too much time thinking about it.
4) Wait
5) Collect your prize
6) Hand over the cash


Now that I've told you how to do it (other scams are available, but you'll have to pay me to reveal them), read my attempt at answering this week's question and VOTE FOR ME!

'If we could hold conversations with animals, would we all be vegetarians?'

I don't know about you, but I hold conversations with animals already. Cats are particularly good at replying, especially when hungry or in need of a place by the fire. And who hasn't seen reports of Parrots or Bonobo apes talking about their preference for Becket over Dante? Even dogs can respond to your voice in a rudimentary fashion, and did not Arthur Dent (the last human, no less) have a chat with a pig in the Restaurant at the end of the Universe about how tasty said pig's rump was when slowly roasted over an open fire?

My blogging chum, Gorilla Bananas) is well know for his ability to hold an intelligent conversation on just about any topic. Anybody familiar with this blog will already know about Timothy Hedgehog. If you don't, I suggest you watch his video. Amazing stuff huh? Timothy has become so adept at conversation that I decided to ask him the question. He made me promise, before answering, that I wouldn't eat him after he had finished answering. Here is a transcript of our conversation

Timothy: Mmmmm, so let me get this straight. You are asking me whether holding conversations with humans is a prerequisite for eating vegetabales?

McCrumble: Not quite Timothy. I want to know if talking with animals would mean all humans would become vegetarian

Timothy: It's a difficult question to answer Dr McCrumble, mainly because it is impossible to deconstruct without offering an alternative answer that you might find difficult to swallow.

McCrumble: Have a go Timothy. I need that laptop.

Timothy: Very well, Dr McCrumble. I shall speak slowly and use short words.

McCrumble: Thanks Timothy. I appreciate your patience.

Timothy: So here is how I see it. On the one hand, you think that, philosopically speaking, the human race would not eat animals if they could converse with them'

McCrumble: That is the essence of my conundrum, yes.

Timothy (scratches his ears): But you have told me on a number of occasions that humans are merely animals with bigger brains.

McCrumble: Well, not necessarily bigger, but more grey matter per unit volume of brain. Dolphins for example....

Timothy: Yes I know about them. So anyway, if humans are merely over-acheiving primates, does it not stand to reason that the question is a nonsensical and potentially inflammatory attempt at pushing the animalist agenda?

McCrumble: Animalist?

Timothy: Yes, you know, like ageist, racist, sexist etc.

McCrumble: Oh I see. Well I'm sure that isn't the point at all...

Timothy: Clearly you don't see much at all Dr McCrumble. Hedgehogs, you may not realise, make no distinction between ourselves and the rest of the animal kingdom. Not because our brains are the size of a baked bean, but because we are not suffering from arrogance. Shame on you, Dr McCrumble, for labouring on about how humans are special when, in fact, the truth is far less glamorous. Do you think you can handle the truth, Dr McCrumble?

McCrumble: I'll try to keep it together. So what is the truth, Timothy?

Timothy: Write this down so you don't forget. Ready. Right. Now, every living creature needs to feed, yes? The choice of food is determined by one's niche, yes? Animals in neighbouring niches are the most likely victims of each other, simply because they are closer to hand. Think of the lion and the zebra, the snow leopard and the mountain goat, dolphin and the mackerel, the crocodile and wilderbeast, the speed camera and the motorist. All classic predator-prey models, I think you'll find. To put it simply, in conversing with animals, you would bring them into your own niche-space. You see that Dr McCrumble? Now, as we can see from our examples, as niches overlap, so the potential for conflict grows. If you think about it this way, Dr McCrumble, then talking to the animals would not turn humans into vegetarians. It would, in fact, turn you into....

McCrumble: Yes, Timothy?

Timothy (pauses, licks his fur): Animals, Dr McCrumble.

McCrumble: But I'm talking with you Timothy...

Timothy: Quod erat demonsratum, Dr McCrumble. Now leave my cage before I bite you.

I left Timothy, head bowed, but sure that I had met my intellectual match. I have no option, really, after such an intellectual trouncing, to answer anything but 'NO'.

I thank you for reading


Vote for me on Love To Lead You don't have to leave your email address, but if you do, it will be entered into a prize draw for a new laptop.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The truth is out there...

My blogging chum Kim Ayres has thrown down a challenge. Write something on the topic of 'Will the human race ever populate another planet'. I couldn't resist, especially as I need the prize (a Toshiba laptop). Here is my entry. A link to vote for me is at the bottom...


'Will the human Race Ever populate another planet'

It's time I came clean. There has been too much speculation already about whether humans will ever reach beyond the stars, boldly go to Jupiter and Mars, take a walk along the Milky Way etc etc etc. The truth is...well, it's all moot. Sit down, dear reader, and brace yourself. The fact is, we passed this particular milestone a long, long time ago. I know the truth, because it was my father who was dispatched from Planet Alpha Romeo 5 (in the Mondeo system, for all you armchair astronomers out there), about fifty years ago, with instructions to gather up-to-date information on life on the Mother Planet (ie, EARTH!)

His voyage wasn't easy. He had to leave behind his family and friends with no guarantee that he would ever return. Solar winds kept blowing him off course, and the asteroid belts were particularly thick that year. On a number of occasions his vessel capsized after being struck by space debris, and he was only saved by the fact that in space, there is neither an up, nor a down.

Approaching Earth was the most hazardous part of the journey. It was a period of intense paranoia concerning UFO's. As he flew around the globe to find a landing spot, my father was subjected to missile attack over no less than 14 different territories (including, he alleged, the Vatican!). It was possibly just sheer luck that he managed to land on earth, somewhere in Scotland, without a scratch on his body or his craft.

Once in Scotland he set about his mission, moving from glen to community with his pen and pad, making notes on everything he saw, tasting the local food and chatting to the locals. The various Scottish accents and dialects proved troublesome for a while, but he got the hang of things and it wasn't long before he became well known for his willingness to listen and learn. There was nothing he wouldn't do, although some of his efforts at engaging in sex were a bit peculiar for earthlings (this has never been revealed before, but my father apparently invented an activity now known as 'dogging'). It was during this part of his exploration that he met my mother (who introduced him to something called 'seagulling', whatever that is).

My father eventually had to leave Earth and return to Planet Alpha Romeo 5. It was a very hard thing to do, for he had fallen in love with the planet Earth, and faced the prospect of another hazardous journey through 15 solar systems and a digitizing Nebula. His child (oui, c'est moi) was called into his study one evening and told the dreadful news.

'Son', he said, his eyes welling up, 'there is something you don't know about me.'

'If it's about the dogging...', I said, trying to soften the incoming blow.

'No son.' , he said firmly. 'The truth is that I am not of this world. I come from a land...

'Down under?' I asked, filled with dread that I might have antipodean blood in my veins.

'No son. My world lies beyond the stars. I am what you might call, an alien.'

'Sure dad. Can I go now?'

Try as he might, he just couldn't convince me. I was fifteen years old and fully versed in the limits of our space exploration. I mean, we'd only just got to the moon. How could he be from another planet?

Mother was shocked, and told Dad to desist with these silly notions. They argued about it until one day Mum walked out. Dad was distraught, but couldn't back down. He told me he was going to prove to me that he was telling me the truth. So, one night, we drove to a secluded spot somewhere in Scotland. It was a field full of heather. He told me to wait and walked into the middle of the field. A few moments later, the earth began to shake. A small, black, cigar shaped vessel emerged from the ground with my father standing on top. He motioned for me to come close. My heart racing, I approached the vessel. It's doors opened with a faint 'whoosh'. A ramp slid down from the belly of the craft. My father jumped to the ground, held his arms open. 'Come with me son. Come with me to Alpha Romeo 5', he pleaded.

I pondered the idea for a few minutes. Sure, on the one hand I was looking at the trip of a lifetime. I'd see things that no-one else had ever seen. I'd have adventures beyond my wildest dreams. But, on the other hand, who could I tell when I got back?

It may surprise you to learn that I decided against the idea. Not because I was scared of interplanetary flight, nor because I would become an outcaston my return, with my wild tales of alien planets . No, the truth, and I am no longer embarrassed to admit it, is that Emily McTavistock had promised to show me what 'dogging' meant the next day, and my fifteen-year old's hormones were the iron filings to the magnet in her lewd brain. 'It's OK dad, your secrets safe with me. I'll no tell anyone, ever', I shouted, my fingers crossed behind my back.

It's taken more than fifteen years for anyone to persuade me to tell the truth of what happened that night. But now, dear reader, the time has come to let you know the truth. I feel unburdened, and hope that you will understand why I chose this particular moment to tell you my amazing tale. You's the prize on offer...well, I know it wouldn't have impressed my intergalactic, star-hopping father, but the cash value of the laptop is easily going to cover my court fines for public indecency when I sell it on Ebay.

Vote for me on Love To Lead - Press the button to vote! You don't have to enter your email address, but if you do you will be entered into a draw for a computer. You can check out the competition at Love to Lead

Sunday, January 07, 2007

from within the womb

Hello all

I'm not sure how this happened, but one night I placed my ear to the pregnant belly of Dolores. I thought I heard the sound of a baby complaining about a 'lack of space'. I placed a microphone next to the belly and lo! my unborn child was talking. Next thing you know, I'm conversing with a 20-something week old foetus. Is this a world's first? Possibly.

Anyway, I decided to read the book to the little child as a way of stimulating its developing brain. The video below is the response I received when I asked for an endorsement. I leave you to decide whether I should have bothered...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Calling all celebrities

Dear fellow celebs

You may have seen, yesterday, that a warning has been issued by Sense about Science (, namely that celebrities should take care when endorsing charitable or other campaigns. You are encouraged to check all the facts before risking your hard won reputation for making intelligent decisions. Many celebrities have come to regret making hastily assembled statements on issues with which they are unfamiliar. The result: they appear as fools in front of the fans and are mercilessly mocked by the media.

As one of the country's very few Celebrity Scientists, I am well aware of the issues and how they affect both parties. Should you, dear celebrity, need any advice on how to approach science and scientists in a rational and intelligently plausible manner, please do not hestitate to contact me. I provide a first-class service, and guarantee that you will never again jump in with two left feet.

Take this short test to see if you might benefit from my service:

A friend of a friend you met at an A list party sends you an email. They claim that they know someone who has found a cure for obesity. It involves ingesting a sweetened mixture of ground almonds soaked in tortoise vomit, and works by alleviating hunger pangs for up to 12 hours. It could stamp out the obesity epidemic. Clinical trials aren't necessary as the mixture is a foodstuff rather than a drug, but your friend can produce more than a hundred people who lost weight after taking it. The name of the mixture is 'Altortvom'

Upon hearing this pitch do you:
1) Sign up immediately and pledge to spread the word
2) Laugh it off and remove the friend's number from your mobile
3) Phone the police and report your friend for cruelty to tortoises
4) Ask to see the data, the people, the tortoises, the production line, the almond grove and the testing labs.

If you answer is 1,2 or 3 then I may be able to help. I'll sort out which campaigns are bona fide requests for your celebrity pulling power, and which are cynical attempts cash in on your fame.

Give me a call today and open an account!


Dr Joseph McCrumble

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year, New Hope

Hello all

Happy New Year to everyone. I am sincerely hoping that this year turns out better than the last. I'm not sure I can endure the same level of antagonism and unsettling events. Some people (especially Dolores) reckon that my optimism is a sign that I am unprepared for the rigours of modern life. Maybe, but try as I might, I just can't become cynical about the world, even though I seem to upset the balance of things more often than I would like. The pending court case (my alleged assault on my former childhood nemesis, Toby Hancock-Jones whilst on holiday in Kings Lynn) has sobered me up a bit, as I'm really not sure which way things are going to go. I've been advised that a custodial sentence is a possibility. Not something I relish in the slightest. Can you imagine me in prison? I can't.

Denise handed in her notice yesterday. She's done this a few times before, citing a need to 'broaden her horizon'. Each time I question how resigning from a steady job with good rate of pay and undemanding workload could be better than entering a hostile labour market, and she goes away to think about things. I expect her to ask for her job back in the next day or two.

I realise as I write this that I have never completed the story of my flight to the forest. This is not entirely due to forgetfulness. You see, when I started writing this blog, I swore to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. The final installment of my temporary absence from civilisation contains events and dialogue that are potentially, er, incriminating. If I am to blog the truth of what happened, I must first make safeguards that my concerns are ill founded.

Oh dear, I do sense, in a purely rational analysis of the extant circumstances, and without a hint of unreasonable pessimism, that this year is becoming somewhat unsettling already.