Giant Siberian Baby


Giant Baby from Siberia

A Siberian woman, Tatyana Barabanova, 43, has just given birth to a gigantic baby, weighing in at a jaw-dropping and belly-achingly large 17.5lbs, or 7.75kgs. In the picture above, the baby is not actually yawning, it is looking to be fed. The baby on the right is quite suitably stunned. The baby – a girl called Nadia – was delivered by Caesarian, which I am sure came as a relief to all involved.

She looks like a sumo wrestler or a daughter of the Michelin man. The husband was reported to have said nothing when he saw it: he just blinked. Can we blame him?

But this is not the largest baby ever born. Oh no. That honor belongs to an Italian baby born in 1955, at the whopping size of 10.2kg, or 22.5lb. Gulp.


Smoke and mirrors

Here’s a simple test. Guess what the following sentence means. Pause afterwards before continuing to read the post. Think about what it means for you and ask yourself, is it clear?

I did not see him steal your money.

What does that mean? Simple sentence, small words, straight forward, huh?

Now, look at this list:

  1. I did not see him steal your money.
  2. I did not see him steal your money.
  3. I did not see him steal your money.
  4. I did not see him steal your money.
  5. I did not see him steal your money.
  6. I did not see him steal your money.
  7. I did not see him steal your money.

Same sentence, but depending on the emphasis, the meaning changes. The sentence could potentially mean seven different things:

  1. Maybe someone else saw it, but I didn’t.
  2. I want to emphasise, very firmly, that I did not see it happen.
  3. I didn’t actually see it, but I know it to be true. Maybe I heard it, or sensed it some other way.
  4. I saw someone else steal your money, just not him.
  5. Maybe he was borrowing it only. He took it in full view and didn’t seem to be taking it secretly…
  6. I saw him take some money, but maybe it wasn’t your money, but someone elses.
  7. I definitely saw him steal something from you, but it might not have been your money, but something else.

You see, words written on pages have many meanings. The difficulty for the author is to transmit the one meaning they meant and not one of the stray meanings. Throw in sarcasm, irony, rudeness, prejudice, grammar, spelling, and all the rest of it, and all hell breaks loose.

Now, if I was a politician, say, then I’d learn the art of expressing myself suitably ambiguously, just like above, to throw up multiple interpretations. (The deliberate opposite of an author trying hard to be clear). I’d let the audience try and interpret the meaning for themselves, relying on my popularity to save the day. Hey presto! I can say one thing, but have multiple meanings embedded in them.

I was going to write about this in more detail, but Gavin’s blog got to it before me:


The sum of £28,772.90 is a curious figure, projected into fame now for its infamous role in Bertie Ahern’s finances. But Google the number “2877290 Ireland” and you get this curious pdf: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety Competent National Authorities

“Competent”? In Ireland? This raised my suspicions immediately. As also did the word “biosafety”, cleverly disguising its true intent: “boyo safety”. Bertie, being the biggest boyo of them all, should surely be connected to this, eh?

The magic number occurs for the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Sri Lanka:
+94 11 2877290

  1. 94 obviously refers to the year, 1994, that Celia lodged the money…
  2. 11 is a dark reference to 9/11, perhaps indicating some knowledge of that terrible event.
  3. The 2877290 is the amount, in cents, of the transaction.

Searching the same document for “Ireland”, further clues are revealed. The Irish Environmental Protection Agency is mentioned, alongside its regulatory functions. The full list is clearly intended to refer to the movement and distribution of large sums of money:
• Handling, transport, packaging and identification
• Intentional introduction into the environment (AIA)
• Transboundary movement (import/export)
• Contained use

Now if Bertie was not involved in the handling, transport, packaging (briefcasing), and identification of large wads of cash then I’m a monkey’s uncle. Let’s not even mention transboundary movement and contained use.

Now, even more damning proof: the “Environmental Protection Agency” is an anagram for “Money never prolong ancient attic”. Hmmm. This is clear and direct evidence that Bertie’s attic conversion was not prolonged by the absence of money.

I am forwarding these findings immediately to the Mahon Tribunal as a matter requiring urgent attention, along with signed release warrants from the authorities of Dundrum Mental Hospital showing me to be fully recovered from my recent nervous incidents…

World Chess after 11 rounds

Anand is cruising to a comfortable win. He beat Morozevich yesterday in a Sicilian English Attack. Moro got into unnecessary complications and let Anand eat up his queenside pawns for dubious compensation on the king side. The end position is pretty, if simple:


White to move. How to protect the pawn and the knight simultaneously? Simply, Re5! and the pawn cannot be stopped, while the knight is protected too. If …Qxe5, white has the crushing Ng4+ and he forks the king and queen. If …Qa8; e7, Qe8; Nf5+, Kg6; Nd6 and its over.

With 3 rounds to go, Anand has a lead of 1.5 points over Gelfand, with Kramnik, Leko, and Aronian a further half point behind. This is an almost insurmontable lead, so it looks like Anand will shortly be crowned World Champion. He will face Kramnik in a head-to-head match sometime next year. If he manages to win that, then he would be scheduled to meet the winner of a Topalov vs. A. N. Other at the end of 2008.

Interestingly, the two oldest players in the event are in first and second place. Experience (and immense talent of course!) have obviously played a role. Gelfand’s performance has been a revelation, he has won twice and only lost once. He has obviously prepared well for the event and brought all his experience, talent, and hard work to the tournament.

Kramnik has disappointed everybody. His lame draw against Grischuk yesterday was pathetic. His draw against Anand the day before, with white, was less gutless, but was still a disappointment. He still looks very solid, but once Anand began clocking up a couple of wins, he was unable to catch him.

Leko and Aronian have not got past 50%. The young Russian stars – Grischuk, Svidler, and Morozevich – must be wondering where they go from here. Although Morozevich props up the bottom of the table, he has shown his usual fighting spirit and creativity and it has been a pleasure to watch him play.

Table (from Chessbase) after 11 rounds:


Irish Rugby Team and drugs

I want to raise a very serious issue. Are the Irish rugby team on performance-enhancing drugs or not?

On the eve of a very important match against Argentina, the reputation of Irish rugby sits in the balance. We need to know what artificial, life-threatening drugs these players are on. Like anabolic steroids, testosterone, or cocaine. The world awaits an answer. Are they to follow in the footsteps of Michele de Bruin-Smith, legendary triple gold-medal winner in the Olympics and infamous drug cheat? Or are we to follow the standard set by that Irish lad, whose name escapes me now, who was clean but came nowhere, ever, in the swimming?

And if they are clean – totally clean – I want the Irish management to explain why the fuck they are clean. Why? And can you not just stuff them full of bucket loads of a cocktail of pharmaceutical wonder drugs, just anything to get them to play a little better. Please!

North Korea’s Secret Weapon

I stumbled upon a strange relic of a by-gone era the other day. Take a look at the North Korean press agency’s website, officially called the KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY of DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). Suitably insulated as we are from that horrific regime, we can afford to laugh. Not so for the poor wretches who have to endure it of course.

It is beyond parody. Here’s the latest movie release, the summer blockbuster.

The new documentary “Revolutionary Principle and Working-Class Principle Are Flesh and Blood of Socialism” was released by the Korean Documentary and Scientific Film Studio recently.

I must go today! Or shall I wait for the box-set? Or what about these pair of stirring epics:

The Korean Documentary and Scientific Film Studio has newly produced the scientific films “New Method of Economizing Electric Power” and “Water-proof Multilayer Complex Plastic Sheet.”

When North Korean’s tire of the cinema, they have most excellent entertainments awaiting them. None of that shallow, capitalist low-culture:


Also put on the stage were such dances as Uzbek dance “Dish Dance,” Venezuelan dance “Joropo,” Moldovan humorous dance “Tabakeryaska” and others reflecting lifestyle of different nations.

Wrestling for the Grand Bull Prize:

Whenever the wrestlers showed their quick wits by applying belly throw and catching leg tactics, the audience raised cheers.

Kim Jung Il must whoop it up on all the time. Here’s a description of an art performance he attended. Aren’t we just jealous?

Put on the stage were chorus “Our country is the large family of Songun,” trio and story-telling “We love,” poem and story-telling “Legacy of soldier family,” quintet to the accompaniment of musical instruments “Blue sky over my country,” dramatic story-telling “Mother of soldiers,” chorus “General is the destiny of the motherland” and other colorful numbers of various genres.

Of course, let’s not forget the heroine Kim Jong Suk. This girl was not called Suk for nothing. She even threw her body across Kim Il Song to protect him during a battle. I am sure he wasn’t confused by her revolutionary ardour.

She, with two Mausers in both hands, shot down some ten enemy soldiers in a twinkle at Fusong County Seat battle in August 1936 and killed nearly 40 enemies at the Hongtoushan battle in February 1937. 

Two mausers in both hands. That’s four guns! And all in a twinkle. She then went home in time to make dinner, for 20,000 men.

Laugh we may, but North Korea is the epicentre of the axis of evil. This month alone, Kim Jong Il has been building alliances in his eternal struggle against the U.S. and her allies. He seems to be on friendly terms with St. Kitts and Nevis, Belize, the Kingdom of Swaziland, and San Marino. And all in September alone. All fearsome adversaries in the immense struggles to come! America, Beware!!

The Law is an Ass

“The law not only needs to be done, it must be seen to be believed”
Peter Cook

I just suddenly noticed lots of news stories doing the rounds where miscarriage of justice is the nub of the issue. So I thought I’d write about them, in reverse order of seriousness…

5. Graffiti removal laws in Ireland
Personal anecdote: when talking to the Dublin City Council about removing graffiti, it was mentioned to me that the Council has the power to “issue enforcement orders” for people to “clean their own property and if they fail to do this then we can prosecute them.” Given that people with graffiti sprawled on their own walls are victims, it seems doubly gratuitous to then prosecute them. In fairness, it was explained to me that this was extremely rarely done. But, still, the law seems harsh and absurd. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 1 only.

4. Betty Perry, Utah.
Poor old Betty. 70 year old great-grandmother and internationally-renowned criminal! Not only was she hounded by an incompetent police officer, but the state of Utah is pursuing her sorry ass for resisting arrest and failing to maintain her lawn. Ridiculous.

3. McCanns fight back over allegations
This is not quite a miscarriage yet, because they haven’t been charged, but it it quite clearly the case of the law (in this case, Portugal’s) getting the wrong end of the stick completely. Add to that the tabloid scum harassment, and you have a couple who have tragically lost their young daughter being hounded mercilessly and insanely.

2. The Jena Case
Despite having his conviction overturned by the Florida State Appeals court, Mychal Bell still remains incarcerated and under threat of further prosecution.

1. Tunisian Heroes
Tunisian fishermen face 15 years’ jail in Italy for saving migrants from rough seas. This is by far the most egregious application of a law in pursuit of the innocent. Indeed, I would go so far as to call these fishermen heroes. Yet, Italy is trying to prosecute them to encourage – let’s call it the way it is – murder on the high seas. Disgusting.

World Chess after 5 rounds

Standings, after five rounds:
1 Anand 3.5 points
2= Kramnik, Grischuk, and Gelfand 3 points
5= Leko, Aronian, Morozevich 2 points
8 Svidler   1.5 points

It is a fourteen round event, so we’re now over 1/3rd of the way through. Clearly, Anand is in form and winning games. But Kramnik is only half a point behind and seems extremely well-prepared too. Gelfand must be chuffed to be sharing second place at this stage, but it would be patronising to over-emphasise that. Leko, I am sure, must be bitterly disappointed so far with his lacklustre showing. He seems over-cautious and is basically just playing bad chess. Aronian too must be sensing that he needs to improve. Moro is just Moro. And Svidler is struggling.

Round 6 (September 19, 2007)

Aronian, Levon – Kramnik, Vladimir
Gelfand, Boris – Morozevich, Alexander
Grischuk, Alexander – Svidler, Peter
Leko, Peter – Anand, Viswanathan

For the first time, I have a chance to sit through the games live. I am hoping for fireworks and some combative games. For Leko, Aronian, Svidler, and Moro, it is time to get a win to put themselves back into contention. In particular, a Leko win against Anand would blow it wide open again. He really cannot afford to go 2.5 points behind at this stage, so it is almost a must-win game for him. Gelfand has a chance to keep upsetting the pre-tournament ratings by going for a win against Morozevich. Svidler will be hoping his bad form stops soon.

Betty Perry – A Lawn unto herself

Here’s the latest on this story, as of 18th September: Betty Perry is still being prosecuted for not watering her lawn. She’s had to plead not guilty to resisting arrest and failing to tend her lawn. Her lawyer is trying to win the sympathy vote by stressing how the law needs to be applied a little more sanely. She’ll be back in court on October 11th.

Maybe then they can add charges for “wearing 1970’s clothes in public” or even “sporting a bad hair-do in public”. But, then, everyone in Utah would be on trial.

Here’s my original story from July:


Betty Perry, world-leading lawn-law breaker. Approach with caution!

Honestly, in the weird and wacky world of law enforcement, is this the most disproportionate response ever? A little old lady, 70, Betty Perry, from Orem City, Utah, was alleged to have refused to give her name to police officers questioning her about her unkept lawn. So far, so mad. (Story here).

What’s the law got to do with it? Apparently, there is some bye-law in Utah (or that part of Utah, Orem City) that says residents must water their lawns. In other, saner places, the law says you must not water your lawn in times of drought, when massive fires are sweeping across the state. No wonder the little old lady was confused!

In any case, let’s say she was breaking the law in Orem City, just for arguments sake. Just let us put aside for the moment that it was her lawn, she was a confused 70-year old woman in a bizarre conversation with a uniformed police officer and all that. No extenuating circumstances, let’s pretend.

At that very moment, when she turns to go inside to ask her son for help, the police officer is said to have slapped her across the face with handcuffs! So she says. He claims she fell during a struggle. Either way, it wasn’t pretty.

Was he afraid she’d bolt for the door and he’d never catch her? Was he afraid that she’d head for the hills, Rambo-style, hiding out and defying the entire Utah police force to come and get her? All over a brown lawn? Even more outlandishly, he called for reinforcement! Oh my, was she about to crack his head open? Was the little ole police officer afraid of the little old granny?

Ah, but then they dragged her sorry ass off to a holding pen. Zero-tolerance for lawn-neglecters. Zero. Otherwise they’d all be at it, all those law-breaking, 70-year-old, sit-at-home, do-nothing, old women. And Orem City just couldn’t have that. It was then that some common sense broke out. Seeing that she was injured, they brought her to hospital to be treated. A thoughtful gesture. And one that you would think would result in everyone calming down and thinking through the situation. And how disproportionate it all was, and how they ought to bring her home and try and make it up to her. The official police statement, from one Lt. Doug Edwards says “[the police]… immediately released the woman and returned her to her home on the basis that there were other options available to handle this situation besides making an arrest and holding the woman in jail,”. No shit Sherlock!

To cap it all though, Lt. Doug Edwards described the arresting officer as “intelligent”. Really? In that case, I’d hate to see the dumb ones…

School sandwiches

I passed through my old village, Clondalkin in Dublin, at the weekend, and drove by my old primary school, St. Joseph’s, and then my old secondary school, Moyle Park. Nothing seemed to have changed.

Memory is a funny thing. You remember snatches of your childhood but can never be totally sure that you remember it the way it was, or whether you’ve just interjected false memories on top. Every day blends into one long day in your mind, one memory adding to another. Your mind forms illusions, where one-off incidents loom over the mundane, and everyday activities merge into one.

Once thing is certain: I have never been a morning person. When I was a schoolkid, my mornings began with my father pulling at the bed clothes to wake me up at some ungodly hour of the morning, or so it seemed. I’d scramble into my school uniform: grey shirt, grey pullover, grey trousers, blue ties with gold stripes. There was a certain skill attached to never actually tying or retying your tie, just loosening it enough to lift it off your head in the evening, and then doing the opposite in the morning.

My mother used to prepare us for school with porridge for breakfast. She had it down to a fine art. She soaked the porridge the previous night in milk, to soften the porridge. Unfortunately, the milk invariably went sour overnight. For years and years I never realised this and just thought that porridge was this sour-tasting and awful concoction. Now I realise it is just an awful concoction. When I eventually cottoned on to this fact, I remember plaintively trying to persuade my mother do it differently, to no avail.

The walk to our school was past the local Clondalkin paper mills. It smelled disgusting, wafting a putrid mix of pulped wood and chemicals into the air. But this mill, with its huge and imposing concrete façade, gigantic towers, and mean exterior, always represented some kind of secret adult world that we were being prepared for. Not that we were going to be “sent down to th’ mill” like in Dickens. More like, to my childish imagination, that it was just the kind of place I would end up. It is now a shopping centre. I guess that’s what they call progress.

They had rows of rusty wire barriers along the route. Some school kid had his Moyle Park tie knotted to the railing and there it stayed for year after year. It got blackened and crusty, eventually fading away to a mere knot, but it was somehow comforting to know it was there through the years. I daresay it is still there to this day.

As a child I developed very eclectic eating habits. As an adult, I invariably eat just about anything I am presented with. I was the exact opposite of a fussy eater. I am sure it must have been an adaptation to the school sandwiches my mother gave us. They were sealed tight in flat Tupperware boxes – the newest and latest fad to hit Ireland – and smelled of cheap plastic. Apart from being squashed so tight that they tasted like rubber, the Easy Single cheese sandwich was a delightful concoction. The chewy cheese stuck between your teeth, like coagulated goo, along with the lumps of butter which slid whole down your throat. They were made of Brennan’s bread, all white and pure and innocent, and like eating air. Soft and fluffy, it sat in your stomach like the gloopy crap that it was.

But once a week my mother used to make the crème-de-la-crème of sandwiches: egg mayonaise. The mayonaise was added to make it all stick, so the egg wouldn’t spill out so easily. That was particularly handy when you were playing football at lunchtime and trying to hold your sandwiches while heading a ball. But it made the whole school stink. I remember challenging some kid to stick his head into the tupperware and try and hold his nose in there for as long as possible. Poor kid. I think he won five pence off me, for lasting over a minute, but it damaged him permanently. He’s never had to work so hard for anything since then. 

On other occasions, one of me or my brothers got the ‘square’ tupperware box. This fitted two sandwiches, but could also fit an apple on top. Unfortunately, when you lifted out the apple, it took huge chunks of the pappy bread with it. You ended up either lifting the bread off and dumping it to one side, or, if you were particularly hungry, eating the whole lot in one go.

Other kids preferred the tuck shop in the school. It sold exotica like ham burgers and chips and coke. I think it should have been closed down for health reasons, but it was the 1970s after all. It should be in a museum by now.

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