The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the world’s Tibetan Buddhists. As you know from listening to Richard Gere or watching The Golden Child (or reading a book, I don’t know), when a Dalai Lama dies he is re-incarnated. At that point, top Buddhists rampage around the maternity wards of the world and perform scientific experiments (I imagine) to determine which sprog is the bona fide authentic reborn Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, the present Dalai Lama is not playing along.
Basically, the current Dalai Lama is in a huff with China for a bunch of stuff including China’s refusal to recognise the man he appointed as his Vice-Lama (technically known as the “Panchen Lama”). In retaliation, the Dalai Lama keeps threatening to not be reborn. Read that again, please: the Dalai Lama is threatening to circumvent the laws of the Cosmos and not be reborn.
How does that work? And before any Richard Gere fan sheeple Buddhist gives me a wiseacre explanation, let me just say: that was a rhetorical question! This whole thing is absurd. The Dalai Lama is getting dangerously close to pulling back the curtain and showing us the true nature of the Wizard. Religion is so self-evidently made up nonsense, whether it’s the Catholic Church deciding that there isn’t a place called “Limbo” after all or the Dalai Lama threatening to never be reborn again, that I am constantly amazed that some people still believe in it. And by “some people”, I mean around 84% of the world’s population(!)
Honestly, you could not write this stuff: atheist China demands the Dalai Lama is reborn; Dalai Lama threatens to circumvent the cosmically ordained law; the faithful become ever more faithful as religion becomes ever more absurd; the rest of us suffer the fallout of religiously inspired madness. Oh well, at least it keeps satirists in business.
Which sovereign nation has an elected monarch as head of state, even though he is elected to this position by people of a different country to that which he reigns over?
Answer: Andorra. This tiny European country, located in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, has two joint heads of state, both with the title co-Prince. One of these co-Princes happens to be whoever the current President of France is. This peculiar situation has persisted since the year 1278. So it clearly works, even though it sounds like it was dreamt up as a prank.
This makes Andorra the only sovereign nation with a monarch who is elected… by people of a completely different nation, for a completely different role(!) To further put this into perspective: the President of France is the only person who, at the same time, is the head of state both of a Republic and of a Monarchy.
Ah, the joyful peculiarity of Europe’s last few remaining microstates!
When I was scrolling through the http://www.duolingo.com message boards earlier today, I saw a post with the curious title “Happy Pi Day!”. I thought, ‘that’s odd’, so I clicked on the thread. The poster didn’t bother explaining what “Pi Day” was, and nobody else had posted, so I thought nothing else of it and clicked off.
But just now I’ve seen another reference to “Pi Day”. What the hell is this thing?, I thought. Being a trendy Londoner, I don’t like to feel I’m not “in on it”, whatever “it” is. Thankfully, this time the phenomenon was explained. “Pi Day” is the day when the date spells out the first few figures of pi (π):
3/14/15 (that is, 3.1415…)
Before I go on, Pi (π), if you thought it had something to do with tigers or boats, is the number which expresses the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter (that is, the distance from edge to edge across the centre). So the circumference of a circle is 3.14159… times the distance across a circle.
Back to the topic at hand. Frankly, none of this “Pi Day” malarkey makes any sense whatsoever here in the UK. Here, the days and months take the reverse order: the fourteenth day of the third month is expressed “14/03” not “03/14” as in America. Therefore, there never can be a “Pi Day” in the UK.
But really, like all differences between the UK and the US, there is a little rivalry, sure, but it’s mostly in jest and good natured. We shake our heads for their prudish use of “bathroom” when they want to ask where they can have a shit (it’s a called a “toilet”! You’re not off to have a bath, are you!? It won’t even have a bath in it in a public place!), and they shake their heads at our use of “u” in “colour”, “favour”, and “labour” despite none of these words having a “u” in the original form we borrwed them from French.
But who is right, who is wrong? Which system is better: 3/14/15 or 14/3/15?
I’ve always found the British system more logical for the very simple system that days come before months which themselves come before years. That is, day/month/year is logical inasmuch as we are going from smallet to largest. Furthermore, most of the world uses the same system as the UK.
Ergo, ipso facto (using Latin makes me both clever and right), the UK system — 14/03/15 — is clearly superior, and “Pi Day” is a sham based on an error.
On the other hand…
There is a third option, however, and that is to put the years first! My documents and files on my PC are actually organised in this way. I used to organise my files the British way, e.g., “14.03.2015_ApplicationForm”. But I very quickly, many years ago, gave up on the British system. Why? It’s simply that all 14s end up together in the UK system, when what we really want is all the years to be grouped together, followed by months, followed by days of that month. This system goes from largest unit to smallest, the opposite of the British system. It’s the most logical of all.
Which means that months really should come before days… But Pi Day is still a sham as it can never really occur… except for the 9th of May in the year 3141AD: 3141/5/9. How I long to see that historic Pi Day, the true Pi Day. It’ll be a long wait, but surely worth it.
featured image from http://logcabincooking.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/pi-day-61.jpg
In 2012, United States troops in Afghanistan carelessly disposed of old Korans by burning them. This action sparked retaliatory riots in which over twenty people died and hundreds were injured. The troops’ deeds drew widespread international condemnation and prompted President Obama to issue a grovelling apology to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai. [Ref 1-3]
As a self-professed book-lover, you can imagine what the thought of burning any book does to me. The mummified remains of my old books, too battered to even be accepted by Oxfam, are held together with sellotape bandaging. But destroying a holy book! I’m an atheist, and even I’m not okay with that.
But if burning a copy of a holy book, of which there are millions of other copies, is a sacrilegious and profane act — and I think as a general rule that it is –, then what do we call the destruction of ancient statues and cities, of which only one copy exists and which can never be reproduced? “Profane” and “Sacrilege” don’t seem to be strong enough words.
I am of course talking about the ignoramuses of Islamic State who have now destroyed the ancient city of Nimrud. [Ref 4] This city was a world treasure, now it’s trash. But now IS have announced that they will soon destroy Hatra — the 2300 year old city, featured in the film The Exorcist, heralded as “one of the most impressive of Iraq’s archaeological sites”. [Ref 5] It’s so impressive, in fact, that Saddam Hussein zestily began restoration work. [Ref 6] Saddam Hussein: genocidal dictator, and connoisseur of fine art, apparently. The irony of this situation, IS taking filling the vacuum left by Saddam Hussein who we toppled, can be lost on no one.
If the names Nimrud and Hatra don’t quite stir you up, imagine instead The Great Pyramids of Giza being bulldozed. That is the exact kind of sacrilege and profaneness we are talking about here. This is an affront to the very dignity of mankind. In the words of UNESCO, “With this latest act of barbarism against Hatra, (the IS group) shows the contempt in which it holds the history and heritage of Arab people”. And I would add, “and of all people”.
Islamic State’s cultural barbarity surely now far exceeds that of the Taliban and their infamous 2001 destruction of the 1500 year old, 180 and 121 foot high Buddhas of Bamiyan.
Islamic State are causing untold suffering, not just through the brutal treatment, torture and killing of innocents, not just through the vile regime they are presiding over, and through the instability and damage they are doing to world order and the untold increase in misery and suffering that they bring. But more than that, they are busily destroying mankind’s heritage, wiping out man’s history. This is the very definition of profane, the very definition of sacrilege.
Any tinpot group of idiots can kill or torture a few hostages, but it takes a special brand of evil and demented idiocy to commit such acts of sacrilege. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova has accurately condemned the destruction, saying, “The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime.” [Ref 7] There can be no doubt of this: it is every bit a war crime as their savage executions. Islamic State surely is the most flagrant case of false advertising ever; the very name suggests piety and holiness, yet IS show themselves to be the most profane and sacrilegious group in recent history.
The question is, what do we do about it? The destruction of these sites is not merely a mild aggravation, the demolition of a bunch of decayed old stuff, interesting only to a motley bunch of university lecturers. These Islamic State acts of cultural vandalism are nothing short of a savage attack on mankind’s dignity, an attempt to make real Orwell’s nightmare scenario: total enslavement of mankind’s future by destruction of mankind’s past.
Hard decisions need to be made. The region must be re-stabilised. Therefore, Kurdish independence or deposing Assad in Syria are both off the menu for the foreseeable future. And surely a strong Iraqi state must form the centrepiece of any solution. But how to achieve that? I was 100% against the War in Iraq. Yet that mistake of a war cannot now be undone. Therefore, I’m dragged to an upsetting conclusion: it may be time to face facts and realise that only sending the troops back into Iraq will restore 0rder. We’ve been left militarily, ideologically, and emotionally exhausted by the Iraq War, yes. The last intervention in Iraq caused the mess we’re in now, undoubtedly. But we either intervene militarily right now, or we wait until Iraq falls into chaos and we are forced to send the troops in then — not to depose an enfeebled leader, Saddam Hussein, but a vigorous and fanatical IS regime. Better to cut this cancer of Islamic State out now before it metastasises.
It was International Women’s Day on the 7th of March. I say: Bah humbug! What about us men!? Well, luckily enough, I set a day up for us last year: INTERNATIONAL LADS’ DAY. It’s celebrated on the 26th of July, the birthday of the most ultimate and legitimate lad to have ever walked the earth: Jason Statham.
In January I was given 35 days to lose 30lbs and get back to my wedding weight of 14st 5lb. Why? Because of a photoshoot (don’t ask). Well, the photoshoot’s been cancelled, so I’m just back to the regular old game of trying to lose weight ‘cos, ya know, it’s healthy to not be fat and stuff.
I went to Spain for a week. Kinda maybe definitely sort of binged on kebabs, pizza, hamburgers, beer, wine, generic meat-based products. I look fatter than ever, so I’m guessing that I am. Too scared to check my weight, though. To drown my sorrows, I’ve been eating junk food pretty much non-stop for the last week.
Oh, man, what can I say? I feel absurd, like Alan Partridge on a talk show chatting about his Toblerone addiction while the other guest talks about their heroin addiction… What a human manqué! I can’t do the most basic of things: stop shovelling food into my gob! I feel wretched, and that spurs me to eat yet more crap. So to counteract this wretched feeling, which is the cause of my overeating, I’m trying to remember that I’m not a useless human being, and that in many ways I am very strong-willed indeed… just not when food enters the equation.
I’ve got a wedding to go to in July. And another in August. I just can’t be fat for those, I can’t. So, starting from tomorrow (I’m wiping cookie crumbs off my face as I type this), I am going to get a grip, I swear it:
half an hour in my work gym every day, and 2 hours cardio+weights in my gym every day I’m off work.
NO MORE CRAPPY FOOD!
Okay, deep breath, step on scales. I’m 16st 3.5lb (227.5lbs, 103kg). I’ll check back in on the 1st April, people.