Regal Beagle

A million or more people have asked if I knew that Meghan Markle owns a beagle, and that said beagle was on the guest list for the Royal Wedding over the weekend.

Yes, yes I did. Thank you.

In addition, plenty of those people told me that the beagle in question (it’s called Guy, by the way) shared a lift to said wedding in a chauffeur-driven, bulletproof Range Rover with the Queen.

Which – as one informed subscriber noted – is not what actually happened.
What actually happened is that the Queen shared a lift to the wedding in a chauffeur-driven, bulletproof Range Rover with the beagle.

There is no way that Colin must ever see this image.

I draw the line way, way above curtseying each time I serve a bowlful of kibble.

Royal Wedding help for lefties

Do you read The Guardian? Do you [heart] absolutely everything that Jeremy Corbyn says?
But secretly, deep down inside, you’re yearning to watch the Royal Wedding today?

Here’s the best way to go about it without getting rumbled, thanks to The Daily Mash:

Say you prefer the Guardian’s famously minimal coverage of royal weddings, then sneakily read every word of the Daily Mail’s obsessive drivel, such as who the fuck Lady Extrusia Mitford-Gynt is.

If you’re dying to watch it on TV, claim you want to see “how these upper-class parasites are wasting taxpayers’ money”. Then get the kettle on and break out the Mr Kiplings.

Alternatively, say your kids should watch it because it’s a historical event. Once they’ve quickly lost interest in some toffs and a bunch of toy soldiers poncing around, ‘forget’ to turn the telly off for the rest of the day.

While watching the wedding it’s possible you’ll get so into the magnificent pageantry you’ll forget to criticise it. Set your mobile alarm to vibrate at 10-minute intervals to remind you to say things like, “Of course, 400 years ago their ancestors would have been oppressing our ancestors.”

If you get carried away and start waving a little Union Jack, make up a convoluted argument about left-wing patriotism, claiming you are celebrating “the land of Orwell, Aneurin Bevan and Rock Against Racism”.

Should anyone notice you gazing adoringly at hunky Harry or foxy Meghan, piously say, “I’m just so sad these young people have to spend their lives in the media goldfish bowl.”

If you get overwhelmed by the occasion and shed a tear, say you are weeping for the Kenyan victims of British imperialism.

For the record, I don’t fall into any category save possibly for “completely uninterested” when it comes to today’s events.

Still, if it’s your thing, I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating with the Royal couple. And if it’s not, use the guide above and don’t ruin it for everyone else.

The lava explanation

With recent seismological events in Hawaii, I saw this headline posted by erstwhile news broadcasting outlet, CNN:

What follows is a breakdown of several (or more) historical attempts (e.g. bombs, walls, pumped seawater) people and organisations have made to try to prevent lava from destroying infrastructure – be that housing, roads or whatever – and a description of some of the properties of lava (e.g. density, heat) which have prevented these attempts from succeeding.

Incidentally, tubby Jedi Masters wearing wife-beaters and trying to use The Force was not on the list.

Essentially though, it all comes down to one reason, and so I’ve written to CNN asking them to amend their headline to save people from having to read the article and make (what I feel) is a fairly obvious deduction for themselves:

Did I really have to add the emphasis? I don’t know.
I mean, seriously, it’s not exactly rocket surgery, is it?

Choose your battles, folks. Stopping lava should really not be one of them.

Now: DRONES ON MARS!

If there’s one thing that everyone on Earth can clearly agree on, it’s that there can never be such a thing as too many drones.

And it seems that NASA are now planning to start the drone craze on Mars as well with a new helicopter device:

The US space agency said Friday it plans to launch the first-ever helicopter to Mars in 2020, a miniature, unmanned drone-like chopper that could boost our understanding of the Red Planet.

I’m not sure how they plan to get a GPS lock, given that there are no S’s around Mars, but this is NASA, and if they faked the moon landings, well, then they can do most anything. And that likely includes coming up with a superb name for this craft, just like they did with ApolloChallengerDiscovery and Titan.

And that name is… [drum roll]…

The Mars Helicopter

[sad trombone] Oh.

And they’re starting small:

Its first flight calls for a brief vertical climb of 10 feet (three meters), followed by hovering for a half minute.

Wow. 10 feet. 30 seconds. Hold the front pages.
Don’t push yourselves, NASA.

I clearly need to get my Mavic out there, stat. I’d be buzzing Olympus Mons, shooting high quality 4K video and doing dronies on Curiosity while NASA’s rookies were still putting the paperwork and requisition forms together, wondering if they could maybe risk trying a gentle turn to the right.

If you’re reading this, NASA, I am available for this kind of thing (in between my lab antics with TB). I’ve flown over the Northern Cape: I know what desolation looks like.

But I don’t think I need to be in Texas or Florida or California or wherever you’re running your circus from at the moment. If you can control a drone on a planet 55 million kilometres away, I really don’t think it matters if I’m across a bit of sea from your place.

And I’m certainly not going to Mars.

Have drone, won’t travel.

Biosecurity Beagle retires

Incoming from Sword Devlin, Purveyor of Crossword Puzzles to Royalty, the Rich, the Famous and even to Commoners Like You: news of the retirement of Andy, Adelaide Airport’s Biosecurity Beagle, and indeed the last Biosecurity Beagle on the Australian mainland.

Andy the beagle, who single-nosedly detected about 2.3 tonnes of biosecurity risk material over a career which took him across Australia, will return to Sydney to live with his original handler.

It’s no secret that beagles are good at sniffing things out. It’s obviously quite difficult to quantify just how much more powerful their sense of smell is than ours, but I’ve seen a lot of estimates of around 10,000 times. Given this astonishing statistic, I’m astounded that they’re not instantly killed by their own Beaglegas, but maybe there’s some sort of innate immunity thing going on there.

But I digress. Often.

The fact is that Andy has been sniffing things out across Australia for over six years and is now ready (between naps) to sniff the pavements and parks of Sydney. And who knows what he will find there, given his record over the last few years:

2.3 tonnes of biosecurity risk material confiscated.
718kg of undeclared fruit and fresh vegetables.
432kg of meat including dried organs.
8.9kg of viable seeds and live plants.

In the last few months he’s been involved in the South Australia Fruit Fly project, preventing fruit flies from annoying South Australians. And we all know what irritating little bastards they can be (the fruit flies, not the South Australians) (although…).

Useful but little known beagle feature – pull that
little tag on its head and the whole thing deflates for easy storage. 

Andy will be replaced – as many of Australia’s Biosecurity Beagles have been – with a Labrador, because as his handler tells us:

“There is a saying with sniffer dogs that labradors will work to please but beagles will just please themselves.”

Well, yeah. I mean, it’s a beagle. But you weren’t moaning when he found that half ton of illicit beef, now were you?

Because while they may be lazy, difficult to train, easily distracted, difficult to handle, distressingly flappy eared, obstinate, surprisingly unintelligent, constantly hungry, selectively deaf to many commands and requests, and just generally massively frustrating to own or work with on virtually every single level, beagles do have a really good sense of smell.
Far better than your average labrador.

Thus, I predict a massive upsurge in dried organ trafficking and fruit fly numbers coming to South Australia real soon now.

It’s worth noting that Cape Town International Airport does still employ a Biosecurity Beagle – you can see him patrolling the baggage carousels in the International Arrivals hall – and he’s probably the reason why nothing illegal ever happens in South Africa. Just saying.

Thanks for all your hard work protecting the South Australians from viable seeds and fresh vegetables, Andy.
Enjoy your well-earned retirement.