Monday, 21 April 2008

Somersaults, Planck, a wardrobe and QED

Spent the morning with Aslan, Cozy's youngest, from last year. Nice kid. He was in our group when we came up from the sea. A bit 'clingy' and very much daddy's little boy. Which is really where the current problem comes from.

Cozy thinks the kid's some kind of 'ueberpenguin' and has given him the most awful role in the little extravaganza. Well actually it's not just him, one of Cozy's other offspring, Caspian, has got a similar role but he's decided it's impossible AND dangerous and so has gone into a sulk. Aslan (Cozy likes the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, you can tell can't you?) has to leave the chute and do a backward somersault and then land on his belly. Ah, you're thinking, this is just like Sparky's problem! It's not!

You see, Aslan has no problem with the somersault, he does that perfectly and has for some days, it's relatively easy. No, the problem is Aslan's backwards rotation takes all the momentum out of his forward 'glide' and he keeps dropping way short of the place where Cozy wants him to land. Aslan has tried Sparky's trick and attempted to induce forward momentum using his body and wings but by the time he's in a position to do that, without upsetting the somersault, he's just lost too much forward velocity. We've tried to persuade Cozy to accept that the somersaulting penguins will just drop short of where he wants them and leave it at that but he keeps harping on about the 'integrity' of his 'artistic vision'.

It's a pity there weren't enough females this year, otherwise Cozy would be sitting on an egg right now and we wouldn't be having this difficulty. Cozy generally only breeds every other year. I think that it's only when we get a good surplus of females turn up and some get a little desperate that Cozy breeds. I think a lot of the females here get a bit 'turned off' by Cozy's rather generous proportions. 'Waddling tub of lard', Fricka calls him. 'Pretentious, wobbling tub of lard' might be closer to the truth at the moment. Oh well, just have to keep thinking and hope that Aslan doesn't get too dispirited about not living up to daddy's expectations if I can't find a solution.

Stopped by someone else's blog yesterday. Quite an interesting idea, Einstein for dummies. Yes I know it's been done before but it was quite good nonetheless. Only trouble was I came away thinking almost the exact opposite of what I've thought for years. Not about Einstein, but about quantum theory. Relativity for the layman is actually quite easy. It's a 'classical' theory and generally is something we can all relate to without getting ourselves tied up in objectivity knots. But quantum theory?

Now I don't want to get immersed in pointless philosophical discussion here so we'll set out a few assumptions:

God does not exist.
Life begins at a certain point in time. For argument's sake we'll say it was with the first self replicating molecule.
Penguins, people et al evolved from ancestors by natural selection who in turn evolved from ancestors etc etc.
I exist today. If you're reading this then that statement applies to you too.
When a scientist tells me x experiment confirms a prediction that E=MC2, I give him the benefit of the doubt.

OK? With me so far?

Now we evolved with one purpose; to replicate, produce copies of ourselves. Whatever else you may think, everything else, Beethoven, skyscrapers, digital watches, nirvana, God etc etc, it's all secondary. If we don't replicate, nothing else is possible. So as mother nature tinkers and plays with us, she needs to make us evolve in ways that stop whatever reality is out there from killing us before we can replicate. On the whole she's not done a bad job, by no means perfect, but good enough. It's been like that for millions of years.

Then along come you lot.........and mathematics!

At first, everything was all fine and dandy. You could all relate to 5 + 5 = 10, plane geometry, newtonian mechanics, wave mechanics etc. It all relates to things you can perceive, ie it's about the objective reality we all evolved to deal with. And then along comes Max Planck and his solution to black body radiation and the world gets turned upside down.

Now I've read loads of stuff about quantum mechanics from the exemplar of science for the 'layman' by a scientist, Dick Feynmann, through Penrose, Hawking and all kinds of other stuff and I thought I had as good a grasp of it as you could get without a few years post grad as a physicist. Yesterday I realised that not only didn't I but without about 5 years hard study, I couldn't. Needless to say, I found that a tad annoying.

What I realised yesterday, and who knows if I'm right, is that mathematicians have created a reality which is not only different to the one we've evolved to deal with but which is at odds with it. The only way that that reality makes any sense, and it seems to, is in terms of the mathematical equations used to describe it. Anything else gets you nowhere. Whether it's Schroedinger's cat; light travels all available paths but the probability (amplitudes) of nearly all cancel each other out and you're left with the straight (geodesic) line; let's all play 'collapse the wave function'; they don't EXPLAIN it, do they? Only the maths does that!

So is there any point in TRYING to understand it? On one level, we have to. It pervades everything you do. But on another level, we'll never understand, only misunderstand, and that might be worse. Perhaps everyone just needs to study advanced maths for a few years!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Is God a beetle?

Since the end of your second world war, there has been quite a strange thing happening with you lot. On the one hand you're inventing/resurrecting religions/belief systems left, right and centre because the ones you have don't appeal to you any more. They were made for simpler times when people were less well educated and too busy trying to stay alive to worry about the whichness of the why.

On the other hand you've whole gangs going around stripping any changes that might have been made to their religion to take account of societal development and taking a fundamentalist view. I guess those people just don't want to think for themselves at all. The 'Good Book', whichever one you choose, has done all the thinking for you!

Now it's said that around 50% of Americans believe in a literal interpretation of Christianity's creation myth, ie God created the earth and everything in it in six days! Now I find the percentage hard to credit but even if it's off by a factor of 2, that's a hell of a lot of people.

Now I 'believe' in evolution by natural selection. That is, I think it's the best solution to the variety of life on the planet that anyone's come up with. It might not be completely true but it's so good at explaining things that, like quantum mechanics, it's got to be close. A lot closer than some omnipotent god. I look at King Penguins and I look at me and we're pretty much the same, except we're bigger. Now a King wouldn't last a month here, that's why they breed closer to the sea. Not enough fat or stamina. Doesn't it make more sense to think that some ancestor of a King who was just a little bigger and a little fatter could better his/her chances of survival by moving further inland away from predators and eventually get to be us? Or would you rather believe some omnipotent deity made Emperors and the Kings are just half baked runts? First attempts?

Now I want to conduct a little experiment. You don't believe as I do and so conjecture that at some 'time' an omnipotent being woke up one 'Monday morning' and thought, "What shall I do today? I know I'll make a planet!" Well OK, it was probably more like he/she was looking into the featureless void and thinking, "Now what that needs is a nice little blue/green planet, some flecks of white here and there. Go nice with all those little lamps I made eons ago. Be a nice focal point for the void, I think"

I think we also have to assume that world making is not God's main day job. Given the time at his/her disposal, we'd be up to our ears in planets if it were. So it's a vanity project. A bit like Russell Crowe or David Hasselhof playing rock music (badly), something they do when they're not doing what they usually do, although I don't know what God's day job actually is, nor Hasselhof's for that matter, at least Crowe can act (a bit).

So on the Monday morning God starts work. Fashions a big rock, adds water, air, creates all this false history in the rocks like seas where land is and vice versa, remains of animals that aren't around anymore. Stuff like that. Sometime later, he/she thinks life might be a good idea. Something other than him/herself to admire the handiwork, this is a vanity project, remember. So he/she creates the seemingly endless variety of life we all see every day. Right at the end he/she fashions two creatures, in his/her own image, plonks them in a prehistoric MacDonalds and says, "Enjoy your meal! Have a nice day!"

Now Thomas Huxley, one of the twentieth century's great biologists, once remarked that God must be inordinately fond of beetles. Whether he nicked that from Linnaeus or not I don't know. Anyhow, he made the comment because something like 25% of all the different species on the planet are beetles! Now, and here comes the experiment, imagine you're God involved in a vanity project. In what way do you make your own 'image' visible in the world you've created? By creating two versions of yourself or creating millions. You can probably reckon which side I come down on.

So God is a beetle. Isn't that just as plausible? Remember, the experiment doesn't allow you to postulate fast population turnover, a very plastic body plan, no internal skeleton, small size and so a wide variety of micro-niches to evolve into etc etc.

No, you have to conclude that God is a beetle.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Bush, Cathars and the Inquisition

It never occurred to me when I titled this blog that the obvious pun would pass by unnoticed by most people since it's pretty much only sold in Northern Europe. I suppose that's what comes of breeding next to a Brit research station. You see the Brits have this 'snack bar', chocolate, biscuit and some fatty, creamy gunk filling. About 2,000,000 kcals per bite. It's been around since the '30s and goes by the name of Penguin. Geddit? Bite-sized chunks? Ok, not one of my best but I'm usually pushed for time around here. There used to be this awful joke. "Why don't polar bears like penguins?" To which the smart alec reply is: "because they live at opposite ends of the globe." The actual answer is: "because they can't get the paper wrapper off" Told you it was awful.

I thought it might be fun, after yesterday's brain numbing exercise, to talk about something a little lighter: the Albigensian heresy. If you don't know what that is, you can go and look it up on Wikipedia - it's mostly OK, although being married didn't save you from being burnt.

I was reading some Hilaire Belloc, best known for his 'Cautionary Tales', poems about children who do naughty things and come to a sticky end and some very good 'travelogues' and I came across 'The five great heresies'. Now Belloc was a 'born again' catholic and has more zeal for his faith than I have for shagging my partner every five minutes for a month before she disappears back to the sea. He wrote in the first half of the 20th century.

Now I know a little about this so called heresy because it crops up in another book which I didn't believe a word of, 'The holy blood and the holy grail', and I did some research at the time. The Cathars, as the Catholics called them (they just called themselves 'bons hommes et bonnes femmes' - good men and women) were a gnostic, dualist group who discarded most of the trappings of the established church, the trinity, the transubstantiation, the wealth (!) and had a simpler version of christianity. The primary differences were that God and Satan were essentially equal. God controlled heaven, Satan ruled (and owned) the earth. They also reinterpreted the resurrection of Jesus more as reincarnation. For them, it seems, you had to live a life good enough to get past the devil and thus reach god, even if it meant you had to get reincarnated to do it.

Cathars were all over Europe in the 12/13th centuries but were heavily concentrated in what is now the south of France which was essentially controlled by the King of Aragon NOT the King of France. It was one of the most prosperous and cultured regions of Europe. Read that last sentence again and remember it!

Now to a penguin the differences don't seem all that great. Both worship the same fictitious god, both groups have similar aims and all we're talking about is stuff on the periphery. Anyway, successive popes from Innocent III onwards wiped them out! The Inquisition started here! Really! Bored with losing crusades in the middle east to muslims, the popes waged one against christians!

Now Belloc's little chapter, which reads like retrospective propaganda on behalf of the Catholic church, takes as one of his major themes that the church was the sole bastion of culture, education, enlightenment etc in the middle ages and that the Cathars had to be wiped out before they pulled Europe down into the mire! (Remember that sentence I told you to make note of?) Well after the Church exterminated the Cathars that's pretty much what happened to the occital speaking area of Europe where the Cathars had been predominant. Interesting, no?

Now this would all an historical footnote to the barbarity of the early church except for a number of coincidences. The Cathars could potentially completely undermine the entire Catholic faith, merely by existing - it was so much more attractive to people, hence it's popularity - no pope would have wanted that. They were rich and the Church, as well as the King of France were keen to get their hands on that wealth. So we have a people persecuted less for their beliefs and more for territorial, political and economic reasons.

I find the parallels with the christian fundamentalist lobby in the US rather alarming.

Incidentally Belloc includes Islam as a heresy of the Catholic faith, hmmm.

And even more incidentally, that bit above about being married not saving you from the stake in Wikipedia comes from Belloc and its NOT TRUE!

Here endeth today's lesson. Tomorrow we will look at the transubstantiation and why it always hums as you walk past.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Time, memory and loss

Oh, Cozy, I take it ALL back. However much string you need, just tell me. He gave me a rough outline of his idea today. Even if the Kings found out about it, they could never do it, not in a million years! I don't care how much time he costs me........This I have to see!

What? All in good time.

Funny thing time, well at least for you. I find it hard to grapple with your concept of time. It's a bit like Averroes' rather tenuous grasp on tragedy and comedy. You kind of think you've got it but the concepts are so alien to your way of thinking that you can't really be sure that you're thinking along the right lines at all.

Time doesn't really exist for us. We remember the past, we like to think about the future but I really don't think we do it in the same way you do. So I remember being in the creche, listening to tales, or just being hungry, but I don't feel them as happening in some OTHER 'space', 'time'. When I remember them, it's NOW that they're happening, it's like they're not fixed. If I just shut my ears off now, I believe I won't hear the tale. If I think about the future, it's like it's happening now, and what I think about becomes the past after I've thought about it. Does that make any sense to you? That everything you can think is in a perpetual present?

You see, from what I've read of what you've written, I think that I will stop being a penguin at some point and just be some detritus on the ocean floor or a constituent of a seal's faeces. Your logic in this respect is almost unassailable. My problem is that although I kind of believe that, I'm not, NOW, detritus on the ocean floor or sealshit. So if I'm thinking it, it's already happened. But I'm still here, as much a penguin as Havelock or Cozy and so it hasn't happened, therefore death or an end to existence doesn't actually exist.

Is that hard for you to comprehend? In some ways, Havelock's tale says it all. When I wrote about Myfanwy, I tried to put it in terms you'd understand. Something that would allow you a glimpse into Havelock's pain. Your literature is full of such loss. But you see, for Havelock, when he remembers, it is NOW. It isn't something that happened, it is something that IS happening. His is not a remembered pain, a remembered sadness, it is exactly the same pain as he experienced. Can YOU understand that. He goes through all of the uncertainty of whether Myfanway will return, the weakening chick, his desperate effort to feed the chick from his miniscule resources, her failure to return and the chick's death every single time. With your concept of time, can you really understand that?

Ah, but penguins have no soul so why should you worry.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

String and doughnuts

Bl**dy Cozy and his sodding string!

I asked him this morning how much he wanted. You can guess his reply, can't you? "Dunno," he said, "how long's a piece of string? Just get as much as you can." Fine, you might think, only if you do then you are as dim as Cozy! As I had to point out to him, we have no way of CUTTING the string once it leaves the station. It has to be cut in there. You could almost see the light bulb appear above his head! "Oh, about a penguin length should do. OK?"

Now string is one of those things that could only have been invented by people. Without hands and opposable thumbs it's really almost impossible to handle. And cutting it is a nightmare. It took me nearly two hours to get him his sodding string! You can tell I'm a bit miffed, can't you? All I can say is that this had better be worth it!

First I had to find the string. After about ten minutes I found a roll of nylon twine. Good. Then I had to find a length of pipe which I could wedge into a drawer so I could unroll the twine without it going everywhere, including out of the door. Another 15 minutes. Unrolled the length he needs and marked it with some cold black coffee that I sipped from a mug on the desk. Bloody foul tasting stuff! How do you drink that? Worse than excrement fouled snow, that stuff. That's 35 minutes gone. Disassembled the tube and stuff and went off looking for a knife. Another 25 minutes while I attempted to flip the knife out of the drawer with my beak without impaling myself. Go back and wedge knife in drawer, another 15 minutes. Place string over knife blade and using my feet, rock the string back and forth along the blade. Another 15 minutes!

Ah but it's nylon twine, have to seal the ends, otherwise they unravel. 10 minutes to find a candle, another 5 minutes to find matches and another 10 minutes trying to strike the bl**dy things with my beak without setting myself on fire. Light the candle. Then dangle the string over the lighted candle and fuse the ends. After all that, I wasn't going to bother trying to put everything back so just left things lying around. No doubt some newbie will get a lecture tonight about the importance of being 'tidy in the cramped conditions of a research station'.

Waddled out with the string under my wing and found Cozy at the test rig. Gave him the string. Do you know what he said? "What took you so long? You've been gone hours." It's now buried with the flare in the bag.

It was funny today. One of the German newbies had hung some clothes on a line in the bathroom. One was a T shirt with "Icke bin Berliner" on it. (That's Berlinspeak for "I come from/was born in Berlin.") It got me thinking. No matter how you try, you can never know everything. Now for us, 'everything' isn't an enormous amount and you can get quite close to knowing everything you need over the course of your life and there are always penguins like Havelock to fill in the gaps. But with you, there's so much to know, that you are forced to collaborate, forced to rely on experts, advisers, Wikipedia because a single human brain just isn't big enough to hold all that knowledge you have. It surprises me but on the whole it works after a fashion, although it would be nice if you had 'judgement experts' as well who could tell you wise ways to use the knowledge you have rather then just using it to make a fast buck! Still, I suppose it's hard to unravel a couple of million years of evolution.

Now, it seems to me that if you are the leader of the most powerful and richest nation on earth, you can afford the best experts money can buy. Although it's always seemed to me that if you can buy them they're probably not the best you could get but that's a different matter. So exactly what was John F Kennedy doing employing someone who would suggest that saying "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a doughnut"), on television, to the massed ranks of West-Berliners was a good idea, instead of "Icke bin Berliner"?

I actually have a theory about that. You see, I think that by the time of that speech, JFK had got so far above himself (well you might, US President AND shagging Marilyn Monroe) that he didn't actually ask anybody. He just thought his high school German was up to it. It wasn't! It is said however that he may have just been making a factual statement. Or even that it was an 'in' joke for Marilyn whose favourite pastime was to curl his flaccid member around on itself and lick cream from the resulting hole in the middle, although I got that snippet from Wikipedia so.........

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Skuas, lakes and pieces of string

We've been overflown by skuas for the past two days. Normally they don't bother us much before the chicks hatch, they're not big enough to take on an emperor at the start of the breeding season so they usually steer clear. Cozy reckons they're spying for the Kings so he suspended all practice while they were overhead. Not that a skua's necessarily bright enough to (a) work out what we are doing and (b) report it accurately but there was still the chance that they might relay enough to the Kings to give them the right ideas.

Now I don't hate skuas, not hate in the way you lot hate (mostly each other), but I don't understand why they do what they do. They're quite capable of catching fish and molluscs and stuff and they do, so why, every year, do they come and make our life so miserable? They don't have to! Havelock says it's because we're easy targets after the chicks hatch and they're just being lazy. He's probably right but I sometimes feel so sad that we go to all this trouble to get away from our predators so we can breed in peace and then these sodding bonxies evolve to follow us, however far inland we go.

Perhaps that's what's wrong with you lot, no skuas, no orcas, no leopard seals to teach you your place. Perhaps we penguins need a God? Maybe then we wouldn't need to worry about skuas.

Just joking!

Managed to placate Cozy this morning. Found the code for the cupboard. Inside a mug full of pencils! I could only get one as there were only four left in the open box. I think if I'd taken two, someone might have noticed. I'll keep checking back just in case someone opens another box. Cozy seemed happy enough with the one but I think he really wants two. Ho hum.

I also managed to steal a resealable sandwich bag as well so we can bury the flare and not have it damaged. The bag didn't smell too good, bit like Sparky's wing tip the other day, but I don't suppose the flare will mind. I've never read that flares are sentient so I'll assume they're not. Although given the whiff coming off that bag, I think we'll find out soon enough if Wikipedia has got it all wrong again.

We had a visit from the 'great and good' yesterday. En route south to investigate a lake. Yes, that's right, a lake! Not ice, but water! Only trouble is, it's underneath two miles of ice! Now, if you ask me, and remember I live here, well I'm only here part of the time, tax reasons, but this sounds like one big funding scam to me.

Seriously, if the water's turned to ice for two miles down what's stopping the lake from freezing a further 150m? Doesn't make sense to me. Ice is ice and I should know, I live with it plastered to my bum for the thundering penguin knows how long every year. This sounds like the outcome of one of those brainstorming sessions they have here regularly about how they can justify the money that gets spent and how they're going to stop the station being closed down. They all sit around with a big piece of paper and write down any tom fool idea they have, pick the six craziest notions and then spend the next four weeks writing grant applications so they can get some poor hapless newbie down here for three years to investigate why penguins do the conga!

I mean, even the names sound made up to me, Athena Dinar, Catriona Kelly,Katrina Alnikizil, sounds like they've just pulled words out of a dictionary or used the scrabble set! No doubt somewhere in that grant application was the idea that they might, only might, mind, find the Loch Ness monster's cousin! Worse thing that ever happened, I think, fishing up that coelacanth. Living fossil, my arse! Now all anyone wants to do is find a plesiosaur! Believe me, I've been around, if there were any plesiosuars in the sea, I would have come across one by now! Oh well it's your money and if you want to pay someone to tell you how it's all gone horribly wrong and you're all going to die, then that's up to you.

To be honest, sometimes I wish you'd just shut up and go the way of all flesh. WE, and our children, might get some peace and quiet in the niche we've evolved into then. Oh well, I'll be long gone by the time you lot reap what you've sown. Just hope my kids have gone too!

And Cozy's getting to grate a bit. Coming back from burying the flare, he waddles past and says, "Any chance of some string?" What does he think I am? WalMart?

Thursday, 10 April 2008

literary pretensions, flares and thunder stealing

What a strange trio, triad, triplet....... how do you say 'three days' as a singular noun? I can't imagine English not having a word for it. It's got a word for everything else! Even 'shit-eater', 'coprophage', if you're interested!

I came in nearly a week ago to write the next thrilling instalment of '10 Penguins and an Eskimo roll' and.........I knocked a mouse with my wing!

The monitor next to the one I was going to use came 'alive' and, as you do, I peered across and saw "It is, as always, a pleasure!". It was the text of an email someone had written and presumably not yet sent.

Now, of course, I know that it is impolite to read other people's email but the phrase intrigued me. What, in the depths of snow and ice here, could have been a pleasure? So, and you can shout at me now, I read the most recent items in the 'Inbox' and the 'Sent items'. It wasn't much, just someone asking for advice and getting it! What was weird was as I closed the final sent email, without warning, some words flashed into my mind. I have spent the last week using what little time I get on a computer working backwards from that as a 'final line' to a story. Where does that come from? Where did the words come from and why make a story from them? And why would I make the story about humans? Not penguins?

No, I am not going to share the line I worked back from. Nor am I going to share the story. Well not at least until I have polished it to death and even then.............Still I did say this was about using English to do more that write SQL so..........

We had a visit today......from four kings (that's King Penguins not royalty or four wise men! That would be turn up wouldn't it? The second coming of a penguin!) There's a big colony of King Penguins about 30 km nearer the coast - the lot from here often go out on their skidoos and research them as well. Well these four non- breeders had waddled all the way here to find out what we were doing. They'd heard that from some bl**dy skua that we were planning something seriously impressive and they wanted a quick look. Sometimes I wish we had the wherewithall to shoot shotguns, skuas not only eat our chicks and eggs but spread the most awful gossip.

Well these kings are desperate to see around the other side of the bluff but every time they made a move to waddle in that direction, the whole rookery moved in front of them, blocking their way. They tried a different tack and the colony moved to block them. No doubt some newbie's getting his paper prepared about the defensive habits of emperor colonies!

Now don't get me wrong, we weren't being unkind or unsympathetic or even needlessly secretive but all they wanted was enough of a look so they could go back to their own rookery and copy us! There's more of them than us, so they'd be finished before us and they'd get all the credit.

Does that kind of thing infuriate YOU as much as it does us. We do all the hard work and they get all the credit/kudos? Eventually, Cozy had to make it VERY clear that they were not welcome. You really don't want to try 'you push me, I'll push you' with Cozy. After a few minutes of mutual 'eyeballing' they decided discretion was the better part of valour and waddled away. No doubt they'll just do the conga again this year.

Only trouble was, it had put Cozy in a bad mood and he's not taking my literary endeavours too well if they take precedence over his bl**dy flares. I had to promise, tomorrow, without fail. Oh well, they need me...........I think!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Fish, tremors and arrogance

Was horribly reminded today of the steadily growing, gnawing pain in my stomach and the months when it will only get worse! They didn't mean it, I guess, but you'd think the newbies would have a little more consideration given what we have to put up with out here.

Some French newbie's been going around all day today with a giant paper fish stuck to his back! Every time he walked past someone, they turned away and started laughing. Some old French tradition, I understand. Makes you wonder about the French, if they find that funny! Now if they'd written 'Kick me' on it as well, now that would have been funny!

Had a little nose around for the code for the flare cupboard lock this morning. Didn't manage to find it but I was interrupted! We had an earthquake! Well I thought we had an earthquake. Is that the same thing? I was in the station, which I had thought was empty as usual. I was just opening this drawer, when suddenly, the whole building started to shake. The floors, the internal walls, they were all moving!

Now, penguins don't have hands, we don't have opposable thumbs, it's hard for us to hold onto anything. So I hunkered down in a corner, confident in my low centre of gravity, and just tried to ride it out,

Slowly, the shocks subsided. The building returned to normal. Just a few pictures askew and a smashed mug on the floor where it had fallen off someone's desk. Relieved, I was just about to leave my sheltered position in the corner of the room when Frau Doktorin Gerhardt emerged from a room, stark naked, with a glassy stare in her eye and went off for a shower.

Now I wish that I could put this down to coincidence but somehow I can't! Oh and she doesn't have the colouring of an orca! She was mostly pale with a red sort of glow around her neck. No doubt someone will write this up in the station log today and I can find out what it was all about. Quite frightening though. I've never experienced anything like it. I only really know that it must have been an earthquake from what Havelock has told me about the last one, before I was hatched.

I think I've said before that I don't read newspapers much. However, I thought I'd look and see if there were any funny 'gag' stories today. I thought the one about Robert Mugabe stepping down as President of Zimbabwe must be one but the BBC were running it so.............Perhaps I'll check tomorrow and see if there are developments. I did however come across one of the most arrogant statements I've seen in a long time from a human.

Apparently some scientists have managed to create hybrid embryos from cow embryos and human skin cells. They only live for about three days but they say they're vital to stem cell research because there aren't enough human embryos to go around. It seems that they might be able to find treatments/cures for diseases from this work. Does that sound reasonable to you? I can't say I find it particularly objectionable. The means isn't so awful, after all the embryos are probably in no way viable. The end result could well be very beneficial. Well the Brits are going to debate a law which will definitely allow this kind of stuff.

So what does some bl**dy cleric start shouting? "It is difficult to imagine a single piece of legislation which more comprehensively attacks the sanctity and dignity of human life than this particular bill." Excuse me? What about the dignity of the cow's life? Or any other animal they might care to use? Were they all screaming when they cloned Dolly the sheep? Did anyone ask Dolly if she minded being cloned? Ah, yes, but only people have souls! Only people can get saved! What arrogant nonsense! What avian gonads!

I can well understand that you might think a person more important than an animal, I think a penguin's more important than a human, but to suggest that there is some kind of hard and fast league table that places human beings above everything else, including the planet we all share, has absolutely nothing to commend it even if your job as a bishop depends on it! A lot of the reason that you (and we) are in the mess you're (we're) in, is because of people like that!

Rant over.

Sometimes I just wish we had hands with opposable thumbs. No really! We'd maybe look a little odd but you'd get away with a lot less of this arrogant sealshit!

The gang are continuing to improve but Cozy is less than pleased with my performance over the flares today. I just hope I can find the code. I think Cozy's now a bit fixated on his idea and is likely to be a little difficult if I don't come up with the goods. Well, he is an awful lot bigger than me and not a penguin you would necessarily want to bump into on a dark night behind the helicopter landing pad!