Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Burning Question of the Hour

One of the essential little items that’s impossible to find in the United States is the baccy box. You can pick one up for about £3 in any decent tobacconist in the United Kingdom. But in the U.S.A., they’re unheard of. And the kind of box I'm looking for only lasts a couple of years before the springs give out so the lid flaps uselessly and the paper holder no longer holds the papers.

A google search will tend to throw up a variety of decorated tins, some of them antique. None of them has a hinged lid with a spring that will hold it open. None has a sprung holder inside the lid to retain the rolling papers. The key words “Ash tobacco tin paper clip celtic patten” led me to a British Web site at which offers “Small Hinged Lid Tobacco Tins.“

For some reason, the one with the celtic design stamped on the top is out of stock everywhere but the wavy-striped lid would be perfectly acceptable at £3.99 (now 1/2 price at £1.99 while stocks last). The only problem is that the minimum order from is £19.99. And, although the insides tend to rust badly after about 18 months, I’m not about to order a 10-year supply. Nobody who rolls his own cigarettes has a right to that kind of life expectancy.

A compromise is available at, even though the paper holder isn’t quite right and the $7.99 price is exorbitant after postage and packing.

Initially, I was disappointed by the $7.99 compromise and didn't considered worth the $6 packing and shipping charge. There is no spring to hold the lid open when you're rolling a cigarette while standing up. Nor is there a spring in the paper holder. You have to wedge the pack of rolling papers behind the clip which, initially, holds them so tightly that a single paper tears when you pull it out. However, I think I've got the hang of it. The photo is misleading and the solid clip is actually quite effective if the papers are put in with their cover folded behind them.

If only the “Ash tobacco tin paper clip celtic patten” had not been out of stock, I’d have done much better. But then it wouldn't be long before the springs failed. So maybe I'm better off with the unsprung version after all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

When I say I’m broke, I’m broke!

Yesterday I answered a knock on the door, only to be confronted by a well dressed young man who was carrying a vacuum cleaner.

“Good morning,” he said. “If I could take a couple of minutes of your time, I would like to demonstrate the very latest in high-powered vacuum cleaners.”

“Go away!” I said. “I haven’t got any money! I’m broke!” and proceeded to close the door.

Quick as a flash, the young man wedged his foot in the door and pushed wide open. “Don’t be too hasty!” he said. “Not until you have at least seen my demonstration.” And with that, he emptied a bucket of horse manure onto my hallway carpet. “If this vacuum cleaner does not remove all traces of this horse manure from your carpet, Sir, I will personally eat the remainder.”

I stepped back and said, “Well I hope you’ve got a f*cking good appetite, because they cut off my electricity this morning. What part of ‘broke’ do you not understand?”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Veteran Teddy Bear MIA in Long Beach

A British veteran has been missing in action in Long Beach, California, since Dec. 13. Cpl. Hotspur, as he is known, is a charity teddy bear who has been traveling the world to raise funds for a wounded British servicemen and their families.

Former soldier Gareth Williams had taken the bear to RMS Queen Mary for a photo shoot to raise the profile of the charity appeal. But at some point, Cpl. Hotspur either fell, or was lifted, from Williams’ backpack.

“He was in the top of my backpack head and shoulders out and he must of decided it was time to go AWOL,” Williams said.

Six hours searching, including checks with lost-and-found department, failed to re-unite Williams with Cpl. Hotspur and a very embarrassed Williams had to report the loss of the bear to the team back in the UK.

The five remaining “Sgt. Slingsby bears” have recently visited the USA, Canada, South America, South Africa and Europe. One of them, Cpl. Horsa, has just returned from a three-month fundraising tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Anyone who finds Cpl. Hotspur can notify the Bears’ HQ on the Web at

Friday, December 19, 2008

Journal Loses Fight to Stay in Exmouth

Archant South West managing director Bernard Driscoll e-mailed reporters in Exmouth and Sidmouth this morning to say, despite their efforts to remain working in the towns they serve, he had “regrettably” decided to close the offices and relocate reporters to Exeter.

He cited cost cutting and preventing further redundancies as his reasons for coming to the decision. The Exmouth reporters were told they would move to Exeter in the second week of January 2009. The Sidmouth Herald office is also to close and its reporters relocate to Exeter.

In his e-mail, Driscoll said, “I also looked again at options for saving money elsewhere, but to achieve the amounts needed would involve more staff redundancies — and we don’t have any staff we can do without — or further reducing our free distribution numbers, which would put us at a serious disadvantage against our competitors.

“The outcome is that very regrettably we will have to close the offices and relocate you to Fair Oak Close. I accept that this a retrograde move and I wish there was an alternative.

“The important thing is for us to try to find ways in which we can continue our relationships with our readers and remain a central part of the community.”

The National Union of Journalists is looking at ways to see if anything else can be done to prevent the closure. Reporters are absolutely gutted by Driscoll’s decision. Staff morale is at an all-time low.

Driscoll continues to receive e-mails of support demanding the Exmouth Journal remain in Exmouth.

East Devon MP Hugo Swire has pledged to support reporters from both offices and said he plans to contact Driscoll to voice his concerns over the closures.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

We Must Win the Oil End Game

If we're not going to invest money we don't have into products we don't want, any bailout of the US car manufacturing industry needs to be conditional on an adoption of the strategy proposed by Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Soft Energy Paths: Towards a Durable Peace (Harper Colophon Books Cn653)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Prop 8 — The Musical

A star-studded cast starring Jack Black and John C. Reilly turns out for Marc Shaiman’s “Prop 8 — The Musical.”

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Monday, December 01, 2008

English Catholics Reject

Vatican Homophobia

London, December 1, 2008 — A new leaflet produced by the Catholic Church in England and Wales urges priests and churchgoers to be respectful and welcoming towards lesbian and gay people.

It also acknowledges and rejects the “oppression” suffered by homosexuals; and suggests that Catholics “express appreciation for the gifts that homosexual Catholics bring to their faith community.”

Catholic traditionalists have condemned the leaflet’s liberal message and accused the English and Welsh Church of defying Vatican orthodoxy.

“This leaflet is a welcome, positive initiative which will bring great comfort to gay Catholics and their families. Its sympathetic, understanding message is a big improvement on the stern, uncompromising homophobia of most Vatican pronouncements on homosexuality,” Peter Tatchell of the UK lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered human rights campaign OutRage! said.

“Its liberal stance has provoked condemnation from traditionalist, conservative Catholics. They denounce the leaflet as a maverick, renegade move by the English and Welsh Catholic Church, acting in defiance of Vatican orthodoxy,” Tatchell said.

See a copy of the leaflet here:

Tatchell said, “I hope the Catholic Church in England and Wales will encourage the Vatican to adopt this leaflet for use by Catholic dioceses worldwide. Its broader dissemination would help counteract the ignorance and prejudice that exists among many clergy and laity.

“The laudable change of tone is undermined by the homophobic content of the Catholic Catechism and by the Pope’s frequent endorsement of legal discrimination against lesbian and gay people. The Vatican’s policy of denouncing loving, stable same-sex relationships risks undoing the good, kind intentions of this leaflet.

“The Catechism, which sets out the basic doctrines of the Roman Church, reflects the pre-scientific ignorance and anti-homosexual prejudice of the medieval era; describing same-sex acts as a ‘grave depravity’ and ‘intrinsically disordered’. It states that lesbian and gay relationships are ‘contrary to natural law … and do not proceed from genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved’.

“The Vatican identifies homosexuality as a deep-seated personality disorder and psychological flaw; variously condemning same-sex acts as ‘grave sins….objectively disordered….intrinsically immoral…(and) contrary to natural law.’

Even men who have a gay orientation but abstain totally from sex are condemned by the Pope as possessing a ‘tendency towards an intrinsic moral evil.’
“This leaflet challenges these outdated, bigoted attitudes. It reflects the growing acceptance of loving, loyal, long-term same-sex relationships by grassroots Catholics.”