Monday, 29 June 2009

Genito-urinary medicine clinic

The other day, as I am prone to do, I had a brilliant idea. I was watching some tennis after lunch, but mainly having a little post-prandial nappins because I am getting old. I was awoken by a familiar foe: my own bladder. It was full of urine which I needed to expel.

Having a full bladder is no fun. Things are very tightly packed inside your cavities, so a big melon of a bladder pushes on your other squishy bits and makes you very uncomfortable. Surely humans should have evolved their way out of this problem by now?

So, instead I hitched my cart to the Intelligent Design wagon, in as much as I am very intelligent and have designed a solution. It is simple: put the bladder in the scrotum. Please admire my diagrams (click the picture for a bigger version).
It is probably worth pointing out at this stage that this is only applicable to male genito-urinary medicine. Ladies, I'm afraid you'll have to figure out your own solution. However, with all the additional bits you have rattling round in there, I'm guessing a full bladder is probably the least of your worries.

Anyway, as you can see from Figure 1, the current urinary system is fairly elegant and, most importantly, it works. But does it work smart? The answer is no. Ergonomic design principles have been disregarded, as well as your most tender assets - your cobblers - reduced to hanging exposed where any passing child or slighted woman may kick them. So, to Figure 2. As you can see, I have moved the bladder to the scrotal sac. This will free up vital space in your peritoneal cavity for that extra sausage or a slice of pie. Also, the wrinkled skin of the scrotum will allow the bladder to inflate to a good 3 or 4 litre capacity - rather than its current meek single unit - giving the busy male extra time between wees. NOT TO MENTION the additional bonus of a huge package.

Obviously, this change is not without its difficulties. The testes would have to grow accustomed to the rather darker surroundings of the renal system. Perhaps more troublesome would be man's pesky old enemy, gravity. With the bladder lower than the urethra, evacuation could prove problematic, although a spirited squeeze - akin to that of a bagpipe player - should resolve any really stubborn dregs.

The issue which needs to be most urgently addressed, however, is that I have just noticed that the bladder isn't technically connected to the urethra in any way. There's a chance that Figure 2 won't work. No, it won't. Bugger.

As you were.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Wimblemund part 2: Numbers

Yesterday, every British player bar Andrew Murray and Elena Baltacha were sent packing and the BBC helpfully pushed some footage of Anne Keothavong leaving her press conference in tears after some rotten 'quick, prod a stick in it' questions from the floor. The BBC HD channel even had an option where you could watch the replay and taste her tears as they ran down the screen. I'm not going to say that interrupting the coverage of the Murray match to show us this and then sticking it up on the website so we could all watch it again was distasteful in any way. No, in fact, I am. The BBC do a brilliant job year-in, year-out at Wimbledon, but this was prurient gutter journalism of the worst kind. Thanks, BBC.

The match which really caught my attention yesterday was the first one on Court 2. Caroline Wozniacki, who last week won Eastbourne and is the youngest woman in the top 10, beat Kimiko Date Krumm in three sets, picking up confidence all the way through as Date Krumm flagged. This is perhaps understandable. At 38 - 39 later this year - Date Krumm is the oldest person in this year's singles draw. Wimbledon fans may remember her from 1996, where in her pre-marriage incarnation as Kimiko Date she took Steffi Graf to a deciding set in the semi-final. The fascination for me was the age difference on display in yesterday's match. Date Krumm turned professional in 1989, a full year before her opponent was even born. This kind of differential is remarkable, as it would be in numerous sports. Tennis at the top level is a preserve of the young. Roger Federer, at 27, is considered a veteran whilst if you stick a pin in the ladies' singles draw you can pretty much guarantee that one of the competitors in the match you selected will have been born in the 1990s.

More notable still is the fact that Kimiko Date Krumm just returned to the circuit last year after a 12 year absence. The thing about doing this is not just the fact that when you step back out on court you'll most likely be playing someone who was in nappies when you last walked off. Tennis is run by the rankings system. It dictates your position in the draw, it even limits which events you are permitted to enter. A low-ranked player, if they are fortunate enough to qualify for a Grand Slam tournament or be given a wildcard entry by the organisers will almost certainly be rewarded with a spectacularly unwinnable first round match. You're the world number 348. You're excited to be out on Centre Court at Wimbledon, but the key thing to remember is that, after you've knocked your pipe ash out on your shoe, finished your sausage roll and fixed your racquet with sellotape, you have to play the world number 5. He's 7 foot 4. He looks like Boris Karloff and serves at 160 mph. He's taking you down to Chinatown.

Date Krumm, whose highest ranking was number 4 in late-1995 is now ranked 142. Aside from admiring the physical conditioning which she must have maintained, just as impressive is the mental strength to start slogging away again. Because the rankings hold no sentiment, they are cold, hard - and often incomprehensible - facts. Nevertheless, 142 is pretty good for someone who has been out of the system for over a decade. And it got me thinking about how to improve and extend the relevance of rankings in sport.

Needless to say, my idea is almost bewilderingly stupid as well as being totally unsustainable. However, I can't help but feel it would benefit everyone in the world if we all had a ranking. As well as being a shorthand indicator of excellence, it would give greater meaning to those men and women currently in the world top 10. There are approximately 3 billion men and 3 billion women in the world. If you're Rafael Nadal, suddenly you become the best one from a monumental field rather than an exclusive bunch of sweaty herberts. I am fabulously bad at tennis. However, I can't believe I am the only one. I reckon that, as an able-bodied adult male from Northern Europe, I could make the top 1 billion. Just thinking about that has increased my own feelings of self-worth and positivity. This system will work.

Of course, the downside of this framework will be for the poor soul ranked 3 billion. He or she will almost certainly commit suicide. Luckily, they will probably fail, such is their dazzling ineptitude. Yes, this system will bloody work!

P.S. There has been an elephant in the room throughout this post, so I had better lay my cards on the table (and mix as many metaphors as I can): Caroline Wozniacki is really beautiful. There. I said it.

P.P.S. The 7'4", big serving goliath who looks like Boris Karloff may very well be based on Argentine number 1
Juan Martin Del Potro, who bludgeoned Arnaud Clement yesterday in straight sets. He's my outside tip for the title this year, sports fans.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Wimblemund part 1: British women's tennis


There are eleven British players entered in this year's Wimbledon singles championships - five men and six women. This is a number which may also be expressed as Andrew Murray and ten other goons. However, with all the focus on Andrew Murray in the build-up to the tournament and with me being a pervert, I decided to perversely take a look at the fortunes of the British women instead.

This tends to be fairly easy on the whole. No more than a few hours work, anyway. The total capitulation of the British women is as traditional a part of Wimbledon these days as someone with a stupid hat on gurning at the big screen on Henman Hill. It is perhaps worth reflecting, then, that since the beginning of the Open era in tennis (1968, as you WELL KNOW) it is only Britain's female players - rather than their male counterparts - who have managed to make trophy engravers at the Grand Slams get their little chisel out and start wittling. For all the sweaty, frenzied, menopausal expectations thrown at poor old Tim Henman, he never made it to a Grand Slam final, whilst John Lloyd (Australian Open (December) 1977), Greg Rusedski (US Open 1997) and Andrew Murray (US Open 2008) all fell at the final hurdle. And that's your lot. Buster Mottram doesn't even get a look in.

Our lady players, on the other hand, won five Grand Slam titles between 1968 and 1977. The most famous of these was the last, probably as it is always cited as the last British singles success at Wimbledon as we all go mad, reflecting on how Jeremy Bates just made it to the 3rd round. However, Virginia Wade also won in Australia (1972) and at the US Open (1968) when both tournaments were played on grass. She is joined by Ann Jones, who won Wimbledon in 1969 and Sue "Sue Barker" Barker, who won Roland Garros in 1976. With Ann Jones also being twice a beaten Grand Slam finalist, it's really the success of Britain's women who Andrew Murray is seeking to emulate, whether or not he knows it. Does he know it? Probably not.

Virginia Wade's 1977 Wimbledon win remains, however, the last time a British woman reached a Grand Slam final, and the tail-off since then has been pretty rapid. Britain's top player these days is Anne Keothavong, the world number 51. She is joined in the draw by her four immediate subordinates: Elena Baltacha (106), Katie O'Brien (108), Mel South (129) and Georgie Stoop (185) as well as last year's Wimbledon junior champion, Laura Robson, beaten yesterday afternoon in only her second ever senior tour match by Daniela Hantuchova. Laura Robson, hereafter to be known as Flora because she looks like a Flora, played with great verve to win the first set but just couldn't keep the pace against Daniela "Jittery Lil" Hantuchova, a former top-10 player. Still, it was a mature performance by Flora. In fact, the locker room onanists had already reached the vinegar strokes before someone reminded them that Flora is still only 15 years old and that what they were doing was wrong on multiple strata.

Flora, then, is very much on the radar for the future, but in 2009 she has reassuringly kept to the framework established over the past 30 years and been knocked out in the first round. Mel South obligingly joined her late yesterday evening. Georgie Stoop, however, is putting up a disconcertingly strong fight against Vera Zvonereva, the seventh seed, having just won the second set to take it to a decider when bad light stopped them last night. Keovathong, Baltacha and O'Brien all start their campaigns today. There are 128 people in a Grand Slam singles draw, so if mathematics is any guide (it isn't) and the WTA rankings are an accurate reflection of ability in the women's game (they're not), only Keothavong will make it to the last 64 and match her best ever performance in SW19, the second round in 2008. She plays Patricia Mayr of Austria, ranked 80, second on Court 4. O'Brien and Baltacha, meanwhile, face difficult challenges in Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic and Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine, ranked 35 and 33 respectively.

The problem Britain's women really face, particularly at Wimbledon, is the schizophrenia of British tennis fans. We tend to start off with profoundly low expectations and relentless pessimism. However, should Keothavong progress again today, or Georgie Stoop pull off a huge shock against Vera Zvonereva (she of the best name in women's tennis), our thoughts will immediately turn to Virginia Wade once more. Whilst it would be wrong to blame the film Wimbledon for this, it is almost overbearingly formulaic, two stars.

Grunting news

Yesterday saw some insane grunting. The grunting day started badly, as I watched BBC Sports reporter Mike Bushell get all doe-eyed over world number 4 Elena Dementieva. In a traditional sports VT, we saw Dementieva, last year's Olympic champion, knocking a few balls about with Bushell, who used to be on BBC South Today. Yet even this rather meagre workout had her shrieking like a grilled baboon. Signs were bad for when serious play began, and duly Maria Sharapova peeled the paint off of Sue Barker's teeth. Sharapova has been, in recent years, the single outstanding maker of mammalian noises on court but her title is under threat from a 16-year old Portuguese player, Michelle Larcher de Brito. She also progressed yesterday, as Klara Zakopalova's ears fell off and caught fire on Court 17. Sharapova and Brito are in the same half of the draw. Should an unlikely semi-final match between the two materialise, I'm going to Greenland with pieces of cheese in my ears.

Could British women's lack of success be due to their relative inability to grunt, shriek and orgasm their way through their matches? It's doubtful. It's just what makes them better people. Everyone loses eventually, so it's so much nicer to do it with a modicum of decorum. In a forum. Drinking some rum. Up yer bum.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Vinegar review

Everyone loves vinegar, it is a savoury delight with almost three known uses. However, if you're like me, you will be baffled by the array of vinegars you can find in your local store's vinegar aisle. Further complicating matters, upmarket stores such as Oil & Vinegar sell speciality vinegars galore, when all a lot of us want is a cooling vinegary sip at the end of the day.

Continuing in this site's proud vein of public service, I have decided to review all the vinegars you may be confronted with in your daily life, so as to make at least one vital part of every day as trouble-free as possible.

Sarson's Malt Vinegar

The undisputed market leader for all your chip needs, Sarsons boast that 5.5 million litres of their vinegar is sloshed onto the nation's chips every year. How would it stand up to our three-point test, though?

THE CHIP TEST: Sarson's plays its trump card here. A fine chip vinegar, redolent with vinegar flavour and a vinegary nose. Our score: 10/10

THE SALAD DRESSING TEST: Malt vinegar is generally thought to be too full-bodied to make a good salad dressing, and this is no exception. Upon my Sarson's Vinaigrette making contact with my carefully prepared leafy salad, all the leaves melted down to a small pellet of cud. And then the bowl caught fire. 2/10

THE PINT OF VINEGAR TEST: Drinking a pint of Sarson's - long famous as part of the initiation ceremony for new cBeebies presenters - is an exciting experience, although not for the newcomer. The malty goodness warms the palate as the acetic acid works on your teeth. This superior flavour is particularly welcomed during the vomiting stage. 8/10

Our total for Sarson's: 20/30 a high watermark for its rivals.

NOTES: Sarson's also provide a light version of their vinegar, which fared a little worse on the chip test but a little better with the salad, plus being more forgiving for any freshman pint drinkers. Also in their range is a pickling-strength product. This absolutely marmalised the chips, atomised the salad and created a strong sense of malaise during the pint test.

Dufrais Wine Vinegar

A common sight on supermarket shelves, Dufrais lead the UK speciality vinegar market, shifting 1.5 million units per year. Most common are the white wine, red wine and cider varieties. So as to factor in all of their different qualities, we mixed them together in a big bucket.

CHIPS: A sophisticated and different twist, wicider vinegar on the chip provides a hearty fruit flavour and a growing sense of one's elevation up the class ladder. 5/10

SALAD: The speciality vinegar's trump card. A deliciously fragrant addition to a pile of old green bits. 10/10

PINT: The subtler flavour, compared to malt varieties, is initially welcomed by the careworn and bleeding palate, but the vomit from the wicider vinegar was particularly harsh and melted our toilet. 3/10

OVERALL: 18/30

Supermarket own-brands

For all of the choice of malt or fruit vinegars, one must also remember that for every name brand there will be another dozen supermarkets'-own varieties (I included the leftover vinegar from a chip shop's jar of pickled eggs within this test). Again, the mixing bucket came out for this one.

CHIP: Brutal 1/10

SALAD: Ruinous 2/10

PINT: Oh god 0/10

OVERALL: 3/30 - best avoided


Del Cristo Balsamic Vinegar

The king of the vinegars, Balsamic has undergone a huge growth in popularity in the past decade, with every household in the UK now owning at least 400 bottles. The range, as is so often the case, is enormous. For this test, we forewent the bucket and instead settled on the top of the range Del Cristo, retailing at £96.57 for 100 ml.

CHIP: A delightful, sweet and richly bodied sensation. Delicious. 10/10

SALAD: Another area in which balsamic vinegar excels, Del Cristo made a salad so good an angel proposed to me. 10/10

PINT: Although balsamic vinegar is a little thicker and sweeter than standard vinegars, a pint of Del Cristo (£548.77) slipped down a treat. Not only was the vomit limited to some spirited belching, the palate was suitably tickled by the sensation to suggest an accompaniment of some Nice 'n' Spicy Nik Naks, which made me puke like a horse. 9/10

OVERALL: 29/30 - a real winner

CONCLUSION: if you are looking for a really nice vinegar which is both flavoursome and versatile, look no further than Del Cristo Balsamic Vinegar!

Warning: do not attempt to drink a pint of vinegar without adult supervision.

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