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?