Phantom Hats

One of my favourite christmas traditions is the pulling of the crackers, because it leads to the wonderfully British forced jollity of the wearing of the paper hats.

The best thing about wearing a paper hat isn’t the fact that it’s hilarious ( it is ) it’s the bit later in the day when you take the hat off and it still feels like you’re wearing a hat and you spend ages touching your head thinking you’ve got a hat on. “Phantom Hat”, scientists would call it, if they named it, which they haven’t.
Phantom Hat is a nice demonstration of what the neuro-linguistic programming types call the idea that “the map is not the territory”. That what you see, feel, smell and hear isn’t reality but a picture that your brain has assembled from all the bits and pieces of random data being flung at it. Nostrils sucking up gas, eyeballs sucking in light, ears tuning out children or partners.

The important point is that your brain has a lot of work to do assembling this huge pile of flotsam and jetsam, noise and light, gas and tickles, into something concrete that you understand, and that that process can go wrong. It can be affected by mood, subconscious weirdness or Baileys or whatever. Reality is something your brain has invented and it’s within its power to invent it differently.

Sometimes it helps to remember that even though it definitely, definitely feels like you’re wearing a hat, maybe you aren’t.

The World Cup Draw: Explained


The draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup will take place in Costa do Sauipe at 16:00 (GMT) today. The process for the draw has been criticized for being confusing and complicated. This explainer will hopefully clarify matters and allow you to enjoy the magnificent hours of entertainment a draw for a major footballing event offers.

The 32 teams are divided into four “pots” of 8, depending on their geographical region on the official FIFA world map, which is noticably different from normal ones. The purpose of the draw is to allocate these 32 teams into 8 “groups” ( A-H ) of four teams each.

  • Pot A consists of Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Switzerland & Uruguay. Brazil have already been allocated to group A, on account of being the host nation. Teams in this group are “Seeded”.
  • Pot B consists of Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chile & Ecuador. Teams in this group are “Honey and Oat”.
  • Pot C consists of Japan, Iran, South Korea, Australia, United States, Mexico, Costa Rica & Honduras. Teams in this group are “Hearty Italian”.
  • Pot D consists of Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia, England, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia & France. Teams in this group are “Italian Herbs and Cheese”.

Keen eyed observers will have noted that the pots are unbalanced. Pot B ( Honey and Oat ) contains seven teams and Pot D ( Italian Herbs and Cheese ) contains nine. This is not a mistake. A pre-draw will take place in which one randomly selected team will move from Italian Herbs and Cheese and become Honey and Oat. This will balance the pots and also do a great job of making the draw process longer, meaning there will be more brilliant entertainment for everyone.

The next stage is to draw all the teams from Pot A ( Seeded ) into a group. Remember that Brazil are already in group A. Then, all the teams from Pot B ( Honey and Oat ) will be drawn into a group. Now it gets tricky. The team that we moved from Pot D ( Italian Herbs and Cheese ) can only be placed in a group that contains a South American team from Pot A ( seeded ). To facilitate this, a temporary virtual Pot X ( Wholemeal Wheat ) will be created containing the South American teams from Pot A ( Seeded ). This is not a real pot, it exists only in your mind. A team will be drawn from Pot X ( Wholemeal Wheat ) and their group is the group the European team we moved earlier from Pot D ( Italian Herbs and Cheese ) will be placed in. The virtual Pot X ( Wholemeal Wheat ) will then be destroyed ( in our minds ) and teams in Pot B ( Honey and Oat ) will be drawn into groups as normal. Simple. Oh, except that if a South American team from Pot B ( Honey and Oat ) are drawn in the same group as a South American team from Pot A ( Seeded ) that group will be skipped and they will be placed in the next available group.

I know what you’re thinking – “But what if we draw the last team in Pot B ( Honey and Oat ) and it’s a South American team and the only group left for them to go in also has a ( Seeded ) South American team? What then?”

Should this nightmare scenario occur, the World Cup will simply be abandoned for 2014. This would be a shame as a lot of investment has been made in infrastructure.

Teams from Pot C ( Hearty Italian ) and Pot D ( Italian Herbs and Cheese ) will then be drawn into groups in order, with no further complications except that officials conducting this stage of the draw will be required to have some part of their body in contact with a truck at all times.

Once all the teams are in groups, you can turn off to be honest. If you stay, there will be a further draw to determine the position of each team within their group. Teams from Pot A ( Seeded ) automatically assume position 1. The other three in the group will then draw randomly for positions 2, 3 and 4.

Das ist Fifawang.

Twitter Image Previews

I got fed up of the image previews on Twitter, so I done made a little chrome extension that destroys them.


1. Download the file (link below) and save it somewhere on your machine.

2. Rename the file you downloaded to “Twitter-RemoveImagePreviews2.user.js” – WordPress mangles it and it has to be called this to work.

3.  In Chrome, go to “chrome://chrome/extensions”

4. Drag the file from where you saved it into chrome

5. Hit OK, whatever, yada yada.

You can remove it any point by going to chrome://chrome/extensions


1. You need to install Greasemonkey

2. Download the file below, and rename it to “Twitter-RemoveImagePreviews2.user.js”

3. Install it as described here



5 Items Of Clothes Every Man Should Own

I’ve spent most of my 30+ years alive fully dressed, so I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about clothes.

I don’t know if I’m a dedicated follower of fashion, a fashionista or a style icon but somewhere behind that awesome looking facade is a man. In my opinion, if you’re a man, you need to own these items of clothes.

1. T-Shirt



I bloody love t-shirts. They cover up most of your torso and some of your arms so they’re very practical, and they come in loads of colours so they can be really fashionable. Every bloke worth their salt has one or more of these. Classic.

2. Shoes



Every bloke will have seen Die Hard and remember that bit where Hans goes “shoot the glass” and then the long haired blonde guy shoots the glass and then John McClane has to walk around getting his feet all cut on broken glass. Shoes are bang-on essential.

3. Trousers



I used to wear trousers when I was younger, still wear them today. Love the way they keep your legs in, all cosy. Also, an essential part of any bloke’s relationship. How are you supposed to be the one who wears the trousers if you haven’t got any trousers? You can’t, that’s just a fact.

4. Socks



Brilliant as shoes are ( see above ), I find they’re not the same without socks. Every decent bloke will want to own at least a couple of pairs of these suckers. I remember once I was in someone’s house and they had laminate flooring and I couldn’t wear my shoes indoors and I didn’t have socks so my feet were well cold. Brrr. Shoulda had socks.

5. Pants



If you haven’t tried pants before, you’re proper missing out. This is basic blokewear. Love the way they keep you tucked in and stop you flapping around like a bullwhip. My advice: invest in at least one decent pair. Last thing any bloke needs when stripping for action is to have “crap pants stop play” if you know what I mean I’m talking about sex.

Premier League Teams

Following Hull’s decision to rebrand themselves as Hull City Tigers, most other Premier League teams are expected to follow suit. This is the complete list for the start of next (13/14) season.

Arsenal vs Predator
Aston Villa la Vida Loca
Cardiff Exclusive Offers On Bathroom Tiles
Chelsea Pterodactlys
Crystal Palace Gonna Knock You Out
Everton Honey Badgers
Fulham Hollaback Girls
Hull City Tigers
Liverpool Ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy
We Built This Man City On Rock And Roll
Manchester United #YOLO
Newcastle Swans
Norwich A-HA!
Southampton of House Targaryen, of the blood of old Valyria, the dragon’s daughter, we swear to you that those who would harm you will die screaming.
It’s Sunderland Motherfuckers
Tottenham Fifths
Stoke Have You Been Injured In A Fall At Work
Swansea Zebras
West Brom Nom Nom Nom Noms
West Ham Love You Long Time

My “Save The Cat” Beatsheet




1. Opening Image (1):

2. Theme stated by monkey (5):

3. Creakily erect scaffolding (1-10):

4. Bit with a cat and a list (12):

5. Waste time until explosions start (12-25):

6. Breakdance into two (25):

7. Subplot with hot chick (30):

8. Cool bits for the trailer (30 – 55):

9. Enormous twist that makes little sense (55):

10. Car chase + banter with comically mismatched partner ( small explosions ) (55 – 75):

11. SHIT GOT REAL ( big explosions ) (75):

12. Scream at God in the rain (75-85):

13. Moonwalk into three (85):

14. Realise the answer was inside you all along or whatever (85-100):



Leaked Memo from the Department of Happiness



As you are doubtless aware, the department has been working for some time on a plan to reduce the role of the public sector in providing gifts for children on Christmas morning. State intervention in this area is an archaic practice and we hope that by opening it up to competition, the government can realise significant cost and efficiency gains. Traditionally, this role has been fulfilled by a single, monopolistic Scandinavian contractor with little scrutiny or oversight. It is time to end this Stalinist nonsense and advance toward our stated goal of a “John Lewis Advert For Everyone”.

Despite the obvious advantages, we anticipate that this project will encounter resistance from bleeding hearts and the gutter press. This memo is intended to outlay their likely criticisms and allow you to retaliate with swift and comprehensive rebuttals.

Eligibility Assessment

At the moment, eligibility for the scheme is determined by the naughty / nice criteria established in the early 1900s and decided by a centralised unit. Our plan will see private contractors brought in to distribute this workload. Opponents have pointed out that there is a danger that these private companies will be linked to the ultimate delivery providers and as such may be incentivised to find children “naughty” on spurious grounds in order to drive down costs. There is some precedent in this area vis-a-vis disability claimants. Point out to them that we have taken every necessary measure to ensure the assessments will be fair. If they point out that the same companies that provided the disability assessments are involved and that the criteria were drawn up by the same people, repeat that every necessary measure has been taken and that this time we had Philip Schofield on the advisory committee.


Under the current regime, delivery on the big day is undertaken by a single provider. Granted, it has been a successful system thus far, but how long can this continue? Our proposal will see contracts awarded for regional gift hubs with delivery “to the doorstep” undertaken by any willing provider on a franchise basis. Critics will say that while large urban areas will be well served by this, private companies may be unwilling to service less economically viable areas such as the Scottish Highlands, Wales, the South-West, East Anglia and the North. We are confident the contracts we have drawn up are robust and do not anticipate a “postcode lottery” on Christmas morning.

Dividing up provision in this manner between large regional hubs, smaller distribution centres and “to the doorstep” final stage deliveries, all run by different companies, is a standard way of doing business in many sectors. We do not anticipate this causing any communication problems or issues with misaligned incentives.


Clearly, this is a business process with a very hard deadline. In the event that a private company fails to fulfil its contractual obligations on the day, there are contingency plans in place for the government to step in ( possibly librarians or the army ). It is unavoidable that these emergency measures, should they be needed, would result in a delay in delivery of around 6 – 8 weeks, which a cross-party working group has signed off as acceptable. It will doubtless be pointed out that, again, the government is simply transferring the cream to the private sector while continuing to assume the risk should anything go wrong. This is correct, but if we’re going to privatise essential services – and we are – then there really is no other way.

Gift Provision

Normally children would have an unlimited “menu” of gifts to choose from, subject to rational budget constraints. While this has worked OK in the past we don’t see it as viable going forward. We are therefore introducing a scheme where retailers will sponsor an area and become sole providers of gifts in that franchise. This is probably the most controversial area of the reform. It will mean regional differences in gift provision depending on whether your franchisee has formed a partnership with, say, Argos or Robert Dyas.

Point out the enormous efficiency gains this new system will provide and that the sponsoring companies will be obliged to involve themselves in community schemes. They will form regional “Centres of Yuletide Excellence” and act as a hub for cheer within their defined boundary. Smaller businesses will be invited to become “Advent Beacons”, creating ad-hoc internal markets in Christmas spirit. Be sure to highlight the success of pilot schemes in Gravesend and Solihull.

We will maintain the current system of allowing hand-written letters to be sent up chimneys for the time being, but anticipate moving towards a web-based system in the medium-term. This may be considered less “romantic”, but the efficiency gains are obvious and already has much of the infrastructure in place.

Other Potential Criticisms

We expect right-leaning tabloids to complain that much of the work undertaken will be done by foreign-owned companies. Explain that many jobs will be created for hard working British lawyers to work on the various contracts being signed, and that it was all done by a Scandinavian before anyway.

The Guardian will likely complain about how the plans do not account for Muslims etc. Usual line on this, we love Muslims blah blah blah.

There may be some issues regarding the length of the contracts we will be signing – up to 25 years in some cases. Point out that the companies won’t do it otherwise and as we explained earlier, we have to privatise these things.

Thank you all for your hard work on this, and here’s to a competitive Christmas!

Geoff Hawton
Chief Secretary
Department of Happiness