Euro 2012: how to make penalty shootouts less horrible

In the wake of the England and Portugal penalty defeats in Euro 2012, The Times’s Simon Barnes has written an interesting piece about shootouts, and why they’re the antithesis of everything that football is about: stillness instead of movement, individuals instead of teams, expecting to score rather than expecting not to. It’s a really good…

An historically ugly way of speaking

Oh God, The Times. How could you? Yesterday’s front page trumpeted the meeting between the Queen and the former terrorist/freedom fighter (delete as etc) Martin McGuinness as “historic”. No arguing with that: it is an event in history. It may even come to be seen as a major event in history, although probably not. But…

A new space age dawns as Voyager touches the void

Eleven billion miles away, for the first time in the history of the universe, a man-made object is about to leave our solar system. Voyager 1 set off on the longest journey ever taken on May 5 1977. In the 34 years, nine months and 24 days that it has been travelling, it has shot…

Two cheers for Alan Duncan, grammar fascist

Alan Duncan, the Minister of State for International Development, has become perhaps the first Conservative minister in history to describe himself as a fascist, rather than waiting for someone on Twitter to do it for him. Specifically, “Lofty”, as he is known, has awarded himself the title of Grammar Fascist, in a memo to staff…

Write, George RR Martin! Write like the wind!

I’m sure all Song of Ice And Fire/Game of Thrones fans would agree with the sentiments expressed here. Yes, the “Great Bearded Glacier” George RR Martin is “not our bitch“, as Neil Gaiman put it. But “in the time you’ve had, Shakespeare churned out 35 friggin’ plays”. Write, George! Please! And yes, I’ve filed this…

Why does David Cameron care about Jimmy Carr’s taxes?

I’ve been in a couple of brief debates on Twitter. Why, people say, is David Cameron denouncing Jimmy Carr’s tax avoidance as “morally wrong”? Surely, as the head of Her Majesty’s Government, he is in the unique position of being able to do something about it? He is, in the words of one, “presiding over…

‘To go boldly’: why splitting infinitives is a sacred duty

The time has come, and I have a sad duty to perform. The language of Latin is dead, and we must bury it. So is Old English. “Hang on,” you might say. “Haven’t they been dead for a millennium or so? Shouldn’t any sensible undertaker have buried them some time ago?” Well, yes. They should…

Why the primordial soup may be an alien concoction

[ooyala id=”d2bjQyMzqTtD2MLbtm5_Q8BR_Ho0JFtb” ] The discovery of ‘extremophiles’ strengthens the theory that life was ‘delivered’ from other planets In August, Nasa’s Curiosity rover, the largest and most expensive robot ever to be sent to the surface of another planet, will arrive on Mars. It has several goals, including studying the climate and geography of the Red…

Best newspaper front page ever

In case you’re unaware, England are playing Sweden tonight. And it turns out the Swedes have been paying attention to our tabloid press. Hat-tip the Visit Sweden Twitter account. Majestic. 1-0 Sweden and the game hasn’t even kicked off.

The climate row reaches its postmodernist phase

I claimed the other day that facts aren’t Left- or Right-wing. They’re simply facts, and it’s what we do with them – what goals we wish to achieve, what values we wish to promote – that constitute our political beliefs. Anyway, turns out I was wrong. One fairly major fact – how deep the sea…

Cristina Kirchner is being either wilfully stupid or actually stupid about the Falklands ‘colonialism’

[ooyala id=”BnbmIxNTrpk0D7AJ9w4TfU724_zHXqBl” ] “Colonialism” is a highly emotive term. Its dictionary definition is bland: “the policy and practice of a power in extending control over weaker peoples or areas”, according to Collins; “something characteristic of a colony” and “control by one power over a dependent area or people”, for Merriam-Webster. But when a nation is…