Tuesday, April 08, 2003
ONE IN THE EYE
British Airways most profitable route goes in a circle and takes about 35 minutes. Yep, it's the London Eye and last night my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by taking a "flight" in the evening.
Monday, April 07, 2003
A TIME FOR WAR, A TIME FOR PEACE..
"...today I weep for my country."
I saw reference to this in the Guardian over the weekend. Remarks by Sen Robert C Byrd (D-WVa) on 19 March.
"We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance."
"The case this Administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence. We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of choice."
"Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?"
What more can I add to that...? Nothing.
It is definitely a time for some light relief. Thankfully, it is cherry blossom time in my old stomping ground of Washington DC.
Here too is the National Park web site link. However, it uses frames. Bad. Frames=bad. Naughty frames.
Sunday, April 06, 2003
Mike recently posted a picture of a defaced British war cemetery in France. Rather than anger, I feel sorrow for the people that did this. They either have no knowledge of history or are driven to desperation by who knows what.
Two years ago, my family (minus my wheelchair bound mother) travelled to Flanders to trace the footsteps of my grandfather. We are not the only people to do this. Every year thousands of Brits and a lesser number of Americans, Aussies and Kiwis, visit the battlefields and cemeteries of the First World War. It is a personal thing, but a little cottage industry has grown up around it.
I never knew my grandfather. He died when my dad was fairly young. He came from Scotland and early in life moved to England and worked in big houses looking after horses (equerry would probably be too high a job title for him). Within days of war being declared he joined the cavalry and was shipped out to France. From what little I can piece together he fought with the cavalry for a while but then moved to the Lancashire Fusiliers, presumably because most of the cavalry was being wiped out.
Lancashire Fusiliers Memorial, Antielle. Thiepval Memorial to the Missing
As he survived the early days, he was soon promoted. This has made it a bit easier to trace his steps. Unfortunately, we don't have letters and soldiers were discouraged from keeping diaries would they fall in to the wrong hands. But, my dad, brother and cousins have done a good job so that we have found the spot where he led a raid to capture a company of Germans, near Ypres in Belgium. He won a Military Cross for his actions. He later survived gassing, which blinded him temporarily. He was court martialled for drunkeness and demoted. He finally left the Army just a few months before conflict ended in November 1919.
Visiting the battlefields it is hard to imagine, 90 years on, that the area was riddled with trenches, minefields, barbed wire and hundreds of dead bodies. What is more poignant, but somewhat unreal, are the dozens of cemeteries scattered across the landscape, some out in the middle of fields, inaccessible unless you know what you are looking for. I found it deeply moving seeing the gravestones of so many young British men and those of our, at the time, Empire. These men, like my grandfather, thought they were doing the right thing. They thought they had god on their side; perhaps they thought the enemy were evil.
St Georges Cemetery. Houtholst Forest near Ypres
Of course, we know that the "war to end all wars" was not that. It was also not a "just" war. Europe was sucked in to a destructive conflict like none ever seen by stupidity, by greed, by lack of understanding, by fear. France, whose countrymen have now defaced a cemetery to British dead defending French soil, lost most of a generation.
Today, a vast majority of French people, the polls say, oppose the war in Iraq. The same is true across many countries in Europe including Germany, Belgium, Russia and Turkey - countries heavily involved in the First World War.
Those who support the war say that a pre-emptive strike is necessary because to do otherwise is appeasement of an evil regime which possesses weapons of mass destruction. Some have attempted to draw a parallel to the thirties when Germany was able to re-arm, in part because of a policy of appeasement by the likes of the UK and elsewhere. I don't subscribe to this logic as it applies to Iraq. So far, from the little evidence available, it seems that Iraq does still possess some chemical weapons. We will see, but my suspicion is that most of these were left over from after the '91 Gulf War. Iraq has been slow to disarm, no doubt about that. But, what nation willingly disarms? It also seems that Iraq does not possess the means to deliver chemical weapons to anywhere but the immediate battlefield.
As for nuclear capability, again it is probably too early to say. Saddam has, no doubt, always wanted nuclear capability because he does want to hold the balance of power in the region. He sees himself as a defender of Arabs against the infidel West and its agents in Israel.
The other evidence so far is that Iraq is no match in terms of technical ability and most of its army is made up of poorly trained, armed and paid conscripts eager to surrender as soon as the bombs start falling.
What of the link with terrorism, you ask? There are, without doubt, links between Iraq and terrorism. Saddam is proud to boast that Iraq rewards Arab suicide bombers. But, stop and ask whether it is Saddam's largesse or the desperate plight of Palestinian refugees that leads to suicide bombings? Al-Qaida? The US has provided evidence of links between Iraq and those who alledgedly organise the WTC/Pentagon massacres. I question whether Iraq is the catalyst for these attacks or, indeed, for any activity by Al-Qaida. Terrorist oragnisations probably operate out of Iraq and are tolerated by the regime. You could argue the same for Pakistan, India, Indonesia and many other countries around the world. And, don't forget who supported some of these idiots 20 odd years ago - our friends in the CIA, SIS, Mossad etc.
One web site has called me "un-American". If to question the justification for an expensive war which will lead to significant loss of life, threatens to damage our economy and will not (in my view) eradicate terrorism, then I am guilty. If it has anything to do with my love for the country and its generally warm, hard working people, then I hope you can see what bunkum that is. My gripe is with the leaders of the US and the UK, not the average Joe. I want to debate this issue because it is important for all our futures. I want to live in a safe and prosperous society. This war will, in my view, make the western world less safe. It threatens (and so does the continued terrorist threat) our prosperity. I look for an inclusive world for all.
It brings me back to the fields of Flanders. I've seen some of the evidence of the waste that war brings. In the case of WWI, unnecessary waste. Europe and the world was engulfed just 20 years later in more carnage. The Cold War and the later Balkan crisis my, in future, be seen as the final chapter in that European Civil War.
The current conflict in Iraq should be seen as part of a 20 year war in the region - between Iraq and Iran (sponsored by those good folks in the White House), then Iraq, Kuwait and the West. It is part of the wider Middle East crisis. At this point, I feel that resoltuoin of the situation to the west of Baghdad - ie in Palestine - is more important. Resolve that crisis and the region will stabilise. Saddam, in 2003, is not the destabilising force in the region that he was in 1991. Where is the evidence tha he is? If we had allowed the weapons inspectors to do their work (and if Saddam had too), we might have blown away that line of thought. Then again it may have proved the US/UK line. I may be wrong. Let's wait and see.
Meanwhile, I cannot help but think of those desecrated memorials in France, the bombed out buildings of Baghdad, the population of Basra lacking clean water, those who now have another excuse for jihad and think how to mend the damage.
A field in the Somme. Thiepval Memorial to the Missing
Friday, April 04, 2003
MULL OF W12
One man band Mull Historical Society, aka Colin MacIntyre, appeared at the Shepherd's Bush Empire last night. MHS's first CD, Lost, was a fairly enjoyable poppy concoction with hints of pyschedlia in the vein of Flaming Lips (minus the blood capsules and back projected drummer). And, there was a doggie in a wig on the cover. Us is very much the same. In fact, the difference between the two is minimal, except Colin's mug is on the cover rather than the doggie.
Last night was a pleasant enough show. What it lacked was a change of pace, a change of song even. It all seemed like the same song, same key, same high pitched vocal delivery. Only the rather pathetic and pointless back projections - a badly put together PowerPoint presentation - seemed to change. Colin's a game enough lad. He had a fine supporting band. Trouble was they were bathed in dark the whole night as Colin had a permanent halo of light following him. There was also a strong sniff of "show", lack of spontaneity. Even the leaps onto the drum risers and keyboard stool seemed pre-planned.
MINE'S A PINT
I did it.
There was some consternation over my trip to Bangladesh and malaria, but they agreed I was "clean" so could make a deposit. Then, the nurse couldn't find a good vein on my left arm. Eventually the doctor found one round the side of my arm, but it made my wrist sore from the funny angle I was forced. It's done now. I don't feel virtuous, but I do hope that I've done a little bit of good. And, if the blood helps a wounded soldier or civilian in the war then that's pretty special I think.
It says here:
Some interesting facts
Out of the 279947 people who have taken this test
21% hibernate in winter
16% are perverted
30% enjoy going on murderous rampages
30% think they are god
20% cause car crashes on purpose
Now a regular feature here. Join in if you want.
1. How many houses/apartments have you lived in throughout your life?
2. Which was your favorite and why?
Probably the last house I lived in before my 4 year excursion to the US. I felt comfortbale there after wating some 4 months for it to be built. It did have problems with the plumbing and squirrels in the attic though.
3. Do you find moving house more exciting or stressful? Why?
Stressful. No matter how many times you move, there are always things to go wrong. It's probably more buying and selling and the financial side that causes most stress.
4. What's more important, location or price?
Location, location, location.
5. What features does your dream house have (pool, spa bath, big yard, etc.)?
Nice sunny, non-overlooked garden. Comfy lounge with a firepalce, a kitchen big enough to sit and eat meals in.
"Darling we need to talk. London Transport Act violates UN Declaration on Human Rights - Article 19."
So sayeth grafitti scrawled on a hoarding across the road; now erased. Can anyone explain this to me?
Article 19 says: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." (But, the declaration is not binding.)
Most of the London Transport Act has been repealed. Could this have anything to do with the Public Private Partnership (PPP)? Busking? Grafitti?
Thursday, April 03, 2003
Key words: football, England, soccer, hooligan, 2-0, Rooney, early doors.
"The big players rise to the occasion. The great managers find that little bit extra when they have to."
The crap journalists can roll out the cliches at the drop of a hat. Step forward Daniel Freedman on the FA web site (which, incidentally is more keen on pushing the latest abomination that passes for an England strip).
"Sammy Lee jumped so high he almost leaped right over Brian Kidd and Sven himself look like he'd just scooped six numbers."
"David Beckham tucked away his spot-kick majestically. He's now scored in every Euro Qualifier. A true captain marvel."
Okay, my view. For much of the first half England looked second best. The Turkish midfield purred and their defence battered Owen into submission. England: no link between midfield and attacking, passing erratic.
There was one move midway through the half that summed up the difference between the two sides as regards technique and intelligence. An England attack broke down allowing the Turkish defenders to play three deft one touches to launch a lightning counter-attack [ed: steady on the cliches]. Two more passes through midfield led to a first time shot which hit the target. Okay, no goal. But, it showed me why we struggle at international level. It's the same old problems: poor first touch, poor vision, poor positional sense.
The second half was a great difference. The England midfield wrestled the game from the obduriate and sometimes uncompromising Turks. Rooney (top marks) showed great touches. His physical presence and (to contradict myself) positional play gave the defence ongoing problems. Owen remained out of the game - and the substitution of Vassell gave England that thrust they were missing.
Scholes was a disappointment. Beckham, as always, was a marvel [oops!] in both attack and defence. On the left, Gerard looked lost. Thankfully he pulled it together in the second half, but him and Bridge on the left was clearly not working well.
Of the back four, "Judas" Campbell was rock-like (I can stil hear "You'll never beat Sol Campbell" echoing around the Lane). His partner, Ferdinand, is, how can I say, over-rated. His touch and distribution are chronic.
In goal, James overcome some dodgy walkabouts with that wonder save at 1-0. Would've the pony tail saved that?
2-0. Excellent. Turkey are good, but seemed a bit off the boil and were more interested in kicking lumps out of Beckham. I was surprised that Hakan Sas didn't start as he was a revelation in the World Cup. I guess we can take that. Alpay is a nutter. Other standouts were Ilhan and Nihat. I reckon a tough return match [like, duh]. Hopefully, Beckham won't be suspended and England will be free of injuries to the usual suspects - Gerard (I wish I could like him, but I don't) and Owen (burnt out?).
Anyway, it's Rooney Tunes all the way. "That's all folks!"
PS - We can expect a heavy fine from UEFA for those Wearside w@nkers. "A high-ranking Turkish FA official today called for England to be severely punished for the crowd problems that occurred after both goals last night. "
No more games at the Stadium of Light. Except this one.
PPS - Hands up all those that think Ian Wright is a w@nker. Oh, ditto for Peter Reid..
MORE POLL NEWS
In today's Daily Mirror:
"Support for the war is slipping, despite the successes of British troops in the past few days."
"More people still think it was right rather than wrong to launch action against Iraq."
"But for the first time since the war started the number backing the invasion has fallen below 50 per cent, according to an exclusive poll for the Daily Mirror and GMTV."
"Yet a big majority believe that now it has begun our troops must stay in Iraq until the job is over."
Can I make one thing clear: I do not advocate government by referenda. We are not Swiss. Equally, politicans should not get hung up on poll numbers. What is of value for the public debate are polling trends. These show a peak in support for action at the time it was launched. You would expect that to decline as battle raged and casualties on both sides mount.
Tony Blair, who seems to have signed up to the concept of pre-emption independently of Shrub, seems to have calculated that his popularity can survive a short war. We'll see.
ELEPHANTS SPEEDIER THAN THEY LOOK - STUDY
They're known for their plodding pace but elephants are more quick-footed than they appear and may even break into a run, researchers said yesterday.
"We do find evidence that elephants run, in a sense," said John Hutchinson of Stanford University in California.
[Researchers] found the average walking speed was 4.5 miles per hour (7.2 km) but 32 animals reached a top speed of up to 15 miles (24 km) per hour and three exceeded that.
And, the point of this study was...?
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
HIDE UNDER A ROCK, OR SOMETHING
Thanks to war, pestilence and that crappy airline food, Air Canada is the latest airline to join the ranks of carriers in bankruptcy protection. Only a few days ago, Hawaiian filed for Chapter 11 protection. Rumours are that American Airlines, the world's biggest is near the brink. Even before Iraq-ataq US Airways and, the world's number 2, United were in administration.
11 September 2001 took care of Swiss Air and Sabena, a couple of basket cases, though both have come out the other side thanks to some nifty footwork and dodgy dealings - hello, state aid watchdogs in Brussels? are you there?
On top of Iraq-ataq, we've now got petislence in the form of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which has already claimed the life of a World Health Organisation (WHO) an expert on communicable diseases. WHO have now recommended that those planning to travel to Hong Kong SAR(!) and Guangdong in China to reconsider their plans. The UK Department of Health says: "The UK public is strongly advised not to travel to these areas."
I'm no doctor, but I smell hysteria (can you smell it). Some 6% of those affected so far have died. Okay, this is serious. But, SARS is a very bad case of the flu which leads to pneumonia like symptoms. Don't forget: more people in the UK and US died from the flu in 1918-19 than during the "Great War".
Is there a doctor in the house?
ADDENDUM: One of my work colleagues just returned from the Rugby Sevens in Hong Kong. He's been placed in voluntary quarantine (probably involving alcohol). I've sent him this get well mesage.
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
"SORRY, PUBLISHING IS TEMPORARY UNAVAILABLE"
Never mind. I'm sure they huge Blogger staff (I think there are about 4) are wokring feverishly so that you can read my drivel and that of 1/2 million others.
During the down time, I found this:
"Welcome to my blog. The purpse of this blog is to expose the anti-American sentiment coming from a lot blogs here in the U.S.A. I encourage you to go visit those blogs and show your patriotic pride. If you know of any that I've missed please feel free to let me know. Any anti-American comments left on this blog will be ignored and deleted. There may be freedom of speech in this country but not on my blog. Have a nice day. "
I think we know where he can stick his blog...
* "You just [expletive] killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough!"
Read the whole sickening account here.
* "I report the truth of what is happening in Baghdad and will not apologize for it"
US networks get tough on reporters who fail to toe the line. Link.
* "Support" for war slipping?
Nearly two-thirds of the British public thinks the war on Iraq is going well, according to a new poll.
"Sixty-one per cent still think Britain should not have gone to war without the backing of the UN"
The full survey
* Meanwhile, the BBC Breakfast programme once again trumpeted that "our" boys are better than those cowboy yanks. They cited the checkpoint "murders" (see above), that Brits take their helmets of and give kiddies sweets and yesterday's friendly fire incidents. I should stop watching this crap.
Madonna has decided not to release her controversial video American Life which features her throwing a hand grenade at a George W Bush lookalike who then uses it to light a cigar.
Perhaps this should have been the top story.
* Addendum - "Facts, some fiction and the reporting of war"
Told you so.
As reported in the serious press.
Speaking of ever excellent, you owe it to yourself to get over to the Guardian site for the latest Steve Bell cartoon.
A bit later than planned, but the ever excellent VMyths have a great idea for an April Fools' prank.
There have been a few pranks here at work. Fake press notices, plausable, yet riduculous conference conclusions. All in jokes, I'm afraid, so I won't share them.
Friday, March 28, 2003
ANTI-CENSORSHIP AWARD FOR AL-JAZEERA TV
Qatar based Al-Jazeera TV, current thorn in the side of "coalition" governments for showing pictures in breach of the Geneva Convention, has picked up an award for circumventing censorship.
Al-Jazeera recently reported that it had received 4 million applications in a week from potenital customers in Europe eager to get news from the influential Arabic channel. After showing footage of captured US servicemen and dead British soldiers, Al-Jazeera's reporters were barred from the floor of the NASDAQ exchange in New York.
HOMELAND SECURITY UPDATE
NB - Links Updated
This worrying development reported in Pitchfork.
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003 11:51:57 -0000
Subject: Godspeed You! Black Emperor Questioned as Suspected Terrorists,
Ryan Schreiber reports:
Renowned Canadian nontet Godspeed You! Black Emperor were held for
questioning as possible terrorists at an Oklahoma gas station last
weekend, while driving from a concert they'd played at Fort Worth,
TX's Ridglea Theatre to a show to be held the following Monday at the
Blue Note in Columbia, MO. According to Tom Windish, a representative
for the band at The Billions Corporation, the band pulled their two
vans and white-panel truck, which they use for toting equipment, into
an area gas station to refuel. Upon seeing the motley crew of nine
musicians, the station's attendant phoned the police, reporting the
possibility that the band might be terrorists.
Before even having a chance to leave the station, the group was
reportedly surrounded by police cars and FBI agents who, a
representative for Chicago's Abbey Pub, where the band played this
weekend, said had guns drawn. The band was held for questioning for
roughly three hours before finally being released as innocents. "They
get hassled by The Man regularly," said Bruce Adams, co-founder of
the Chicago-based label Kranky. "Police pulling them over, anything
you can imagine. It's just the feeling in the country right now."
"I just feel very lucky that we weren't Pakistani or Korean,"
Godspeed You! Black Emperor frontman Efrim Menuck told Pitchfork at
the band's Chicago performance on Friday night. "They detained 1,000
people in California, no one knows what happened to them. We're just
lucky we're nice white kids from Canada. That's what I feel lucky
about." Menuck was reluctant to further discuss the incident, citing
that they had already told the story at a performance earlier in the
week. Constellation Records, which the band presently records for,
had no comment.
.: Godspeed You! Black Emperor: http://www.godspeedyoublackemperor.com [this page is blank]
.: Constellation Records:
We all hate war...every interview these days has someone saying this pablum. It's complete bullshit. Everyone on the planet loves war...when they're winning and sometimes even when they're losing.
Challening stuf from Scott (ewav).
War is what formed every country except for those godforsaken African
states drawn from arbitrary lines on a big map by European nations in
the early 20th century.
How many non-military historical figures can you name? I'd guess only
25-30% of the names you remember did something other than kill people
for a living.
Our sports and entertainments are all based on war motifs. Our
businesses are practically war machines in all but the legal sanction to
Everyone loves war. We love watching it on TV. We love hearing the
stories vets tell. We love reading about it. It's just spiffy.
The only problem with war comes up when we're losing and then it's a
very bad thing. And yet, I'd hazzard a guess that people still love
their warring losing times because they're such grand spectacles.
Life is boring. Getting up and going to work is deadening. Going to the
movies once a week is a mild pleasantry. Watching TV is tedious and soul
destroying. Reading takes too long and the Internet is about as
thrilling as tortilla chips. You can't stop eating an entire bag, but
when you're done you're very full and somehow unsatisfied.
So let us all embrace war. Let's all go out and advocate death and
destruction because it makes for great TV and radio. Let's get this
economy moving again! Let's rally around the troops and elect them to
senate when they return! Let's be lead blindly, because without
following there is no leading and without leaders, where would we be?
We would be floating adrift in the placid seas of life desperate for
anything to shake us, to challenge us, desperate for something enticing
to happen that could grab our attention and spark our imaginations.
War. What is it good for? Interesting stories. Say it again. Huh! War.
All this war talk has gotten me
Riled up and ready for action.
Watch your back Danforth!
Charlie's up in the trees!
You know the score. Five questions, five answers, bunch fives if you don't agree.
1. What was your most memorable moment from the last week?
A reception for a new air service to Uzbekistan at noble rot.
2. What one person touched your life this week?
The wife of one of the participants on the TV programme "Diet Trials" who was giving her husband total support - silly, I know, but I'm a soft bugger and, it's sort of like reality TV.
3. How have you helped someone this week?
Too many ways. I'm too kind.
4. What one thing do you need to get done by this time next week?
Get my hair cut!
5. What one thing will you do over the next seven days to make your world a better place?
Blogging for peace.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
"I know of only two things that are infinite - the universe and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the first."
BLOODY HELL - NOT IN MY NAME
Walking to the station this morning, I noticed the mobile blood donation truck parked at the end of my street again. I have never given blood. I'm terribly squeamish, I hate having blood tests and can't look when the needle goes in. For a while recently, I had the excuse not to give blood. As someone who had been to the UK for a significant period (i.e. during the BSE/CJD scare), I couldn't give blood in the US, where I was living. Before that, I had a bout of Glandular Fever/Mono-nucleosis. That ruled out giving blood for a year or so.
Now, I'm free from excuses. Guilt has caught up with me. The next time there's an opportunity at work - open up the vein and suck it out.
Visit the starkly named blood.co.uk site.
UPDATE: 4 April. Circle that date!
TOO MANY BODIES
According to the latest reports on the BBC News web site, the Iraqis claim a civilian death toll of 350 since the start of hostilities. This contrasts with a report I heard this morning claiming not more that 160. That earlier report and other stuff I had seen over the last few days prompted me to think again about the Iraq Body Count ticker on my blog. When I last lloked, that showed a minimum of 227 and a maximum of 307.
I freely admit that the body count only adds to the "fog of war". That fog is getting thicker as days go on.
As an example, over the last day or so there have been reports of Iraqi tank columns leaving Basra and Baghdad, seemingly a significant numer of troops looking to confront "coalition" forces, perhaps in a pre-emptive move.
"2025: A column of as many as 1,000 vehicles of the Iraqi Republican Guard is reportedly moving very close to the American units south of Baghdad."
"1705: A large convoy of about 70-120 Iraqi tanks and armoured personnel carriers - is seen moving out of the southern city of Basra, heading south-east; coalition aircraft are said to be preparing to attack them."
from yesterday's BBC Iraq latest.
This contrasts to the build up to war when we were told by the military or the press or someone that the Iraqis would fall back into the centre of Baghdad, attempting to engage in street fighting and hand-to-hand. Anyway, those columns, the press now report, were, in the case of Basra, a couple of armoured vehicles full of irregular soldiers co-erced to leave the cities by members of the Ba'ath leadership.
"Defense officials in Washington, however, questioned whether the movements were as large as reported or were offensive in nature."
from the Washington Post
"1030: British forces engaged and destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks that tried to break out of the southern city of Basra, according to military sources."
from the Guardian
This is the latest in a line of story threads which "develop" over time. My advice, is don't beleive any "latest" reports. If you want to follow what's going on, look at an overview of the news and take a critical judgement on what seem to be dramatic events.
It may not be accurate, but the intention of it is to show that every day innocents are being sacrificed in this invasion/liberation. So, the counter stays...for now.
And another thing: I will gladly post a verifiable death count of civilians under the Saddam regime. Can anyone help?
Monday, March 24, 2003
IT WAS A DRY BRIGHT WARM MARCH DAY
Highlight of the day? Finding this excellent blog from down under. Got all you want. Personal comment, fine links and well written.
One of my favourite albums of all time is "Mysterious Traveller" by 1970s jazz fusion super group Weather Report. But, instead of writing about them, I want to tell you what a lovely day it was again today. So nice that here are a couple of pictures from the web cams on top of my office.
That's the building site next door. Rather disconcertingly, after being told that the demolition would be by "conventional" measures, we get about six explosions every day. In the current circumstances, rather off-putting.
NEWS FROM THE FRONT LINE
Okay, then. I've gotta blog about this war thing. There are three events that are sticking in my mind at the moment. They all relate to press reporting of the war. As we all know, the first casualty of war is the truth. This one is no different. For all our 21st century technology. Even with our own reporters in the enemy's capital - how weird is that? I just cannot believe half of the stuff coming through on the media.
First, the death of an ITN reporter, possibly by friendly fire. From what I've read, the reason why the likes of Terry Lloyd were wandering around the desert is because in the last Gulf War, reporters complained that there was so little to report when they were linked up with army units (or "embedded" in newspeak). So there now seem to be dozens of reporters risking their lives to get the real story. Lloyd was unlikely and got caught either by driving into an Iraqi patrol or possibly hit by "coalition" forces: all for trying to pierce the fog of war.
Another Guardian article: sorry. The story concerns Al-Jazeera TV reporting of the war. Al-Jazeera is the Arab antidote to CNN, Fox and the other US outlets. I think I better add BBC and ITN to that too. Although the reporting I've seen has been professional from Baghdad (under Iraqi supervision) and from the battlefield, there's still a suspicion that we're getting the stroy that someone else - be it military or political - wants us to hear. But, the quote I've picked out is this one:
"The South African columnist Darrel Bristow-Bovey yesterday complained that the influence of reality TV made war reporting look like "Big Brother Iraq"."
That's brought it all home to me. This is a reality programme, yet it is total unreality.
And then those pictures of the US PoWs...How does this affect my view of the morality of the war? Should I be horrified at the Iraqis flagrantly breaching the Geneva Convention? Should I rail at the "coalition" for putting our boys and girls at risk?
I am disgusted that the Iraqis paraded the prsoners on TV. Yet, I am also disgusted that British TV has also now shown these pictures. It is no excuse for the Iraqis, but I must question the editorial decision at the BBC and ITN. Is there a political side to this? "Look. This is why we need to get rid of Sadaam. His regime is evil." I'm suspicious. Are you?
I hesitate to make the connection of Rumsfeld complaining about a breach of Geneva and the treatment of suspected Al-Qaida terrorists. But, there you go. I just did. Now, I ask whether the terrorists are PoWs. If not, are they then criminals? Then why that dreadful picture of the Al-Qaida number 2 the other week?
Sunday, March 23, 2003
SPRING HAS SPRUNG
It has been unseasonable warm in London today. In fact, we've had nearly a week of sunshine and no wind, temps around 10-14 C, but up to 17 C today. So, no excuse not to bike for peace. I did about 11.5km yesterday and 20.5 today. My bum hurts.
If this weather ain't evidence of global warming, then I'm Saddam Hussein. Oh, and he probably isn't dead. I reckon they got one of his look-a-likes. Can't be arsed to link any news articles. Yesterday's Guardian had some top notch stuff in it. But, I'd like to forget about it. First causalty of war: the truth. Unfortunately, I've seen that my body counter has rocketed up in the last few days.
I feel a margharita coming on!
Silly quiz time...
|You are 36% geek||You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.
Thanks to scornfate
Friday, March 21, 2003
IT'S NOT ABOUT THE OIL, APPARENTLY
Planet Ark again with some good news about oil.
MUSIC AS A WAR CRIME; MUSIC AS A POLITICAL STATEMENT
"Celine Dion is so middle of the road that if she decided that being the angular, world-renowned face of mediocrity wasn't enough, she'd have a great career as a speed bump."
Ouch! Well, not that I would be buying tin of syrup. From the Guardian.
I'll go for the excellent John Surman/John DeJohnette disc instead. I caught this collaboration back in 2001 - "nine pieces are from Surman's suite inspired by the 1948 United Nations Human Rights Declaration". A very fine gig and sentiment, relevant today as ever.
THE FRIDAY FIVE
1. If you had the chance to meet someone you've never met, from the past or present, who would it be?
My mum's dad.
2. If you had to live in a different century, past or future, which would it be?
Future - things can only get better
3. If you had to move anywhere else on Earth, where would it be?
Northern California would be nice, but I'd settle for moving to a slightly bigger house up the road in Herne Hill.
4. If you had to be a fictional character, who would it be?
5. If you had to live with having someone else's face as your own for the rest of your life, whose would it be?
The Invisible Man
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Or is that Bretzel Logic? Anyway, a French website (you know, the bad guys that want to piss on Bush's war) is collecting money to help children around the world. At the same time, they'll send a pretzel in your name to Dubya. You may recall the great leader choked on one a while back.
Just amazing the rubbish you can find on the web. Isn't it great?
via Politics in the Zeroes
That's right, claim your free gift* today only when you sign my guestbook!
To claim your free gift* sign the guestbook, wait 14 days, then send postage and handling fee of $50 to FreeGift, Freepost, Freetown. Your free gift* will be despatch by our experienced team of inmates at Devil's Island Correctional Facility within days. Don't forget to tip your postman his usual free gift* fee.
This offer is not available in sotres. Not available over the internet! Not available in Delaware. It's not even available on daytime TV. Cannot be found dahn the marrrkit.
Don't forget: sign the book, claim the free gift* and march against war.
* free gift not available at present.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
"...COME TO THE AID OF THE PARTY..."
Why didn't I get invited?
Update: link changed and picture added. Warning: work unfriendly page about halfway down.
THERE'S A WAR ON Y'KNOW
iamadonut has, at great expense, signed up a top Baghdad correspondent. Yes, after months of protracted negotiations, we've engaged someone very close to the top echelon of the Iraqi regime to contribute thoughtful insights from the beseiged capital. In fact, he's so close, he IS the Iraqi regime. Well, not actually, but it beats typing "isn't this great."
Maybe Dubya has a blog...?
MEANWHILE, OVER THE RAINBOW...
Actually under the rainbow. This pic cheered me up...a bit.
NB - The web servers at work are straining as people try to get war news. This has limited my work time blogging (Boss: "Quite right too!")
Global crisis, 48 hours to go, UN bypassed, NATO irrelevenat, splits in the EU, uranium tipped missiles pointed at Baghdad, political crisis in Britain, 250,000 men and women in the region.
So how you going to feed them. This from the Atlanta Constitution Journal.
"There's a bakery on board the USS Kitty Hawk -- currently in the Gulf -- that supplies around 900 loaves of bread a day. And soda machines spit
out drinks at an average rate of more than 5,000 cans a day."
"In 30 days, thirsty sailors down 22,000 gallons of orange juice and 8,095 gallons of milk and eat nearly a ton of hamburgers" What no hummous?
Meanwhile, the price of water in Baghdad has doubled.
Sunday, March 16, 2003
Friday, March 14, 2003
ANTS IN YER PANTS
Did you know there was a war on? Whilst Dubya is on an adventure over in Eye-rack, brother Jeb has a domestic battle to fight.
"red imported fire ants strip trees of their bark, short-circuit air conditioners and kill baby sea turtles and ground-nesting birds"
So, call in the cavalry! Or, in this case "one species of decapitating phorid fly".
"One of dozens of natural enemies of the South American fire ant, the fly was discovered in 1920 by Thomas Borgmeier, a Franciscan monk working in Rio de Janeiro. But no one knew how the minuscule fly -- just a millimeter long -- killed its prey...The female fly hovers over the ant, then swoops in to inject a torpedo-shaped egg into the ant's thorax -- or midsection -- in one-tenth of a second."
But, what about the possible side effects of intorducing the fly? Remember that Simpsons episode when Springfield gets overrun by bird eating lizards. The lizards eat pigeons - good. But, they eat every other bird and take over the town. It takes another natural predator to rid the place of the lizard, but they have to bring in chimps to deal with that predator. Fortunately the chimps freeze and die in winter.
Why not use Raid, like everyone else!
This exchange of e-mails at work...
To: HH; NM; Peter
Date: 3/12/03 4:55pm
Subject: Fwd: HOUSEKEEPING
Any more complaints? I do sympathise with most of XYZ's.
Date: 3/12/03 3:51pm
Do you still have a brief on building user issues and the like? A number of concerns emerged from a XYZ divisional meeting this morning. Perhaps other DMs could say if they strike a chord. It would be good if you were able to take these points up on a directorate-wide basis. If not, please let me know and I will pursue them separately. The issues are:
- increasing difficulty in accessing legitimate work-related websites because of the stringent firewall arrangements;
- the frequently unacceptable condition of the men's toilets next to the Core 3 lifts on this floor;
- the number of false fire alarms;
- the way the handle repeatedly falls off the fire door next to room 1/23A;
- the fact that running hot water in the tea point in zone 1/22 is a pleasure reserved for the ultra-patient.
CC: DMs; XYZ; RG
To which I added...
To: EF; MI
Date: 3/13/03 10:12am
Subject: Re: HOUSEKEEPING
Why do I have to play light monitor every morning and turn off the lights burning in the 1/23 meeting rooms?
There is a poster in the lobby saying that needless power consumed in the building could make 2,168,097 cups of coffee every year.
Can I have either the free coffee and an assurance that the lights are turned off over night?
I'll keep you posted on developments.
Re: the Prince of Wales fiasco:
This stunned me: "[The investigators] interviewed 159 members of staff.." You mean the Prince has (at least) 159 staff? To do what, precisely? Squeeze, his toothpaste? Hold his urine specimen bottle?
"...the resignation of Michael Fawcett - the prince's closest and most indispensable aide, his toothpaste-squeezer and specimen bottle-holder - was announced."
Oh, yeah. I forgot.
The train now glowing at the station is for Armageddon (as in Armageddon outta here).
1. Do you like talking on the phone? Why or why not?
It depends. I think I'm pretty good on the phone although sometimes I woudlrather hide behind an e-mail if I need to raise something difficult or over which I'm not too confident. But, one of the things I really like about my job is meeting people from outside the organisation. There is too much deadwood where I work; people with small minds and small expectations.
But, I prefer face-to-face so I can pick up body language.
2. Who is the last person you talked to on the phone?
Call centre madness!
3. About how many telephones do you have at home?
One plugged in. One in storage. Hey, it's a small flat.
4. Have you encountered anyone who has really bad phone manners? What happened?
Many times. Although not bad manners, I used to deal with this bloke who had the mouthpiece very close to his mouth. He was a loud talker anyway. So, as soon as I picked up the phone I could hear him breathing! I knew instantly it was him.
5. Would you rather pick up the phone and call someone or write them an e-mail or a letter? Why or why not?
See 1. Unlike Mr "What it is" who always hides behind e-mail and answers his phone like a timid whelk, I use the phone when necessary. I had an irritating game of e-mail tennis recently. The guy down the other end of the office should have got off his bakcside and come talk to me. In the end that's what I did.
Thursday, March 13, 2003
RICHARD THOMPSON AND BAND - SHEPHERD'S BUSH EMPIRE, 11 MARCH
How do you approach going to a gig by someone you've never heard? Not only that: We are talking about an artist often described as England's greatest living singer/songwriter. Tuesday evening we went to see Richard Thompson and his band. Thompson, if you don't know, has been knocking around now for nearly 20 years or more. He's a bit of a folky/rock legend or so they say.
When I saw the gig advertised, I was intrigued. I've seen many glowing reviews of Thompson's gigs and records. So why not give it a punt. But, I kind of forgot about it. Then, about two weeks ago a flyer came through the post from the Festival Hall, on to whose mailing list I'm now firmly planted (like it or not). There was an ad for the Be Good Tanyas - a female trio alt.country band. Tucked in there was another blurb for Thompson at the Bush.
Okay, I thought. Let's give it a try. Again I sort of forgot. But, cruising on line for some other tickets, I checked whether there were seats left. Second level - okay. No answer from my Missus. A few days later, I asked again and she said "yeah, sure". So not very enthusiastic, eh?
Tuesday we chowed down at blah blah blah on the Goldhawk Road. A tasty, if dry sushi selection for me followed by a tasty veg pie; Green salad and Indonesian curry for my partner. Nice meal, bad wine (get a licence, get a licence!).
We caught the end of the support act - a solo singer from Canada (?). Nothing special. I noticed the venue filling up with middle aged, middle class, plump men with bad beards and receding hairlines. Well, at least I've kept slim, have a full head of hair and none of that facial stuff.
On to the main act. After one number, I was impressed. As the gig went on, I was increasingly hooked. Thompson easily moved from rock to folk to blues all delivered in a straight up no nonsense way. During a brief solo bit, he even slipped in a Phil Ochs anti-war song. That went down very well with about 1500 Guardian readers in the audience. It was all excellent, effortless and supremely enjoyable. Thompson was backed by multi-talented, old bloke Pete Zorn on guitar, flute, baritone sax, mandolin and backing vocals. Danny Thompson on bass- unmoving, except his eyebrows and fingers - rock steady. Some session geezer from Texas on the drums. Thompson let rip in the second half of the show with some excellent blues axe which pissed on Clapton. And, the songs. Although it was difficult to follow all the words, all the time, It was pretty clear from song to song that he is a master craftsman.
About an hour and half later, Thompson finished of the last of a blistering solo and off he waltzed nonchalantly. I guess I am now a fan.
There were one or two questions. Why is this guy a superstar? He's certainly talented and has a good, solid following of old blokes with beards. I guess it was part the effortlessness, part the dad like nature of the audience (not as good as '87 - or whatever) and part that he turned his hand to several different styles - rock, blues, folk.
But, once again it proved to me that you've got to take a few chances on gigs. Because sometimes you come up trumps.
See another review.
MORE MORE SPACE NEWS
New Mexico State Representative Dan Foley (R) has introduced a bill to celebrate Extra Terrestrial Awareness Day.
Okay, okay. You can't wait. You want to see the full text of the bill don't you. Here you go...
RELATING TO SPACE ALIENS; DESIGNATING EVERY SECOND THURSDAY IN FEBRUARY AS "EXTRATERRESTRIAL CULTURE DAY".
Section 1. EXTRATERRESTRIAL CULTURE DAY.--The second Thursday of February each year shall be designated
"Extraterrestrial Culture Day" in recognition of the many visitations, sightings, unexplained mysteries, attributed technological advances, experimentations, expeditions, explorations, intrigues, provision of story lines for Hollywood epics and other accomplishments of alien beings from throughout the universe that have contributed to New Mexico's worldwide recognition as a unique and dynamic mosaic of cultural anomalies. The day should be observed to celebrate and honor all past, present and future extraterrestrial visitors in ways to enhance relationships among all the citizens of the cosmos, known and unknown.
Foley represents the UFO capital of the world Roswell, NM.
via the BBC
WE ARE NOT AMUSED
Usually I couldn't give a fig about the dealings of the royal family (I don't even watch the Royale Family on TV). But, the article on BBC News Online today made me chortle a bit.
A damning report on business in Prince Charles' household - the man whose behaviour is becoming increasingly bizarre (fit for a King) - is published today, three months late. So...
"Prince Charles is currently out of the country on a short tour of Bulgaria."
Add this little snippet from the web site:
Prince of Wales
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
So, is that an editorial comment?
MORE SPACE NEWS
"Had NASA known the shuttle Columbia was hurtling toward its doom, agency managers and engineers would have moved heaven and Earth to rescue the crew, agency officials said last week..."
So NASA can move heaven and Earth, but keeps losing space probes because they can't tell the difference between inches and centimetres.
From Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscriber only site, I'm afraid)
This from the New York Times via Lazylaces.
"Rather than being infinite in all directions, as the most fashionable theory suggests, the universe could be radically smaller in one direction than the others. As a result it may be even be shaped like a doughnut."
I can claim no inside knowledge on this!
A different take on the Nigerian e-mail scam - it's an Angolan. Same principle: provide us with your bank details so that we can move a very large sum of money out of Angola. You get a proportion of the cash. Simple, easy and can you believe that people fall for this?
As you may know, Savimbi died recently and with him UNITA. Angola's long and bloody civil war now seems to be at an end. But, thousands of civilians have suffered hardship and brutality. And, there are plenty of unscrupulous people in the country, though this looks like the old West African scam to me.
By the way, the President of Angola is a fine man. He has liberated about 50% of the country's wealth through his own personal Swiss bank account.
With warm heart I offer my friendship, and greetings, and I hope this mail meets you in good time. However strange or surprising this contact might seem to you as we have not met personally or had any dealings in the past, I humbly ask that you take due consideration of its importance and immense benefit. I duly apologize for infringing on your privacy, if this contact is not acceptable to you, as I make this proposal to you as a person of integrity.
First and foremost I wish to introduce myself properly to you. My name is Oliveira Chuli Savimbi, I am a nephew and Personal Assistant to Late Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, leader of UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola). As led by my instinct, I selected your email address from an internet directory, in my search for a partner, hence this email. I also crave your indulgence to read this carefully, and have a general overview of my situation.
My Uncle (Mentor) was killed in a battle with government forces of Angola, led by President Dos Santos, on Friday 22nd February 2002. After his death, Mr. Antonio Dembo who was his second in command, assumed office as leader of UNITA, due to the lack of Charisma my Uncle had carried the party with in Dembo, there was chaos and struggle for leadership. Prominent members like Carlos Morgado lobbied to depose him and assume office as leader to enrich themselves and some of them who saw me as a threat to their ambitions, including Mr.Dembo, planned to kill me. The tension and confusion in UNITA become uncontrollable when Mr. Dembo died 10days after my Uncle's death. As I already lost my mentor in this struggle that has been on for three decades now, not so much of the struggle interested me anymore, as there was no more sense of direction. I then desired a peaceful life, as I no more had interest in conflicts and wars. For this reason, I secretly left Angola and came here (Holland) to seek for political asylum.
I am sincerely proposing to you to render me your most needed assistance in respect to safekeeping of some of my Uncle's money that arose from Diamonds sales. This money (US$18.5million), which was already on its way to my Uncle's Swiss Bank account, through the Diplomatic means we use to move money abroad, and was on transit with a private safe deposit security company here in Amsterdam, Holland in February last year when the tragic incident of my Uncle's death occurred. I then instructed the company to secure the consignment containing the money pending on further instructions from me. I have waited all this time now for security reasons, and have now decided to act with your reliable assistance. As a matter of fact, the reason I came to Holland and sought for political asylum here is the safe deposit with the Security Company here in Amsterdam.
President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos has lobbied the International Community to freeze my Uncle's assets and accounts abroad, to ground UNITA, and has already done this in Angola. Hence I cannot lodge the funds in my name. Also I did not declare the funds to the government here.
I plan to use this money to safeguard my future. It is very essential that you understand that the kind of trust and confidence I want to place in you is extraordinary, and an act of desperation on my part, in order not to lose this money. Also, ensure that this contact with you should be treated with utmost secrecy.
Your role in this project, is acting on my behalf to clear the safety deposit containing the money which is deposited in my name, from the Security company, after which, the money will lodged into an account preferably a new account you should open for this transaction. My share of the money will be returned to me when my asylum application in this country is granted, and I have permission to do business and open an account here.
For your reliable assistance, I will reward you with 15%($2,775,000) of the money.
I have with me, the Certificate of Deposit for the safety deposit, which will be used for claim from the security company, and the release codes of the vaults. Also, everything will be legally processed for transfer of ownership to you, and this transaction should be completed immediately depending on your prompt response.
I thank you in advance as I anticipate your assistance in enabling me achieve this goal.
Please contact me whether or not you are interested in assisting me. This will enable me scout for another partner in the event of non-interest on your part.
To know more about the struggle by UNITA to liberate Angola, click on the links below and read.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
QUIT THE DAY JOB!
All us bloggers are going to be rich! According to the New York Times (via Nick Denton), blogging is the next gateway to untold internet riches. Now, how many of you cleaned up during the original internet bubble? And, hands up if you lost your life savings when the bubble burst and helped bring down the stock market?
Well, I'm picking out my luxury yacht now and I've put a down payment on the villa in Monte Carlo.
"The people self-publishing these blogs are an eclectic mix, from trendy teenagers discussing their body piercings to nerds swapping high-tech insights, celebrities sharing their everyday lives and activists staking out positions on Iraq."
Which one are you?
Monday, March 10, 2003
MONDAY IS RUBBISH DAY: DON'T FORGET TO RECYCLE!
Grateful to Dustinbinman for two vital links.
First, a shocking report from Canada on the attitude of US immigration officials.
Next up, an excellent Flash vidgame which sets out one scenario for the next few months. Watch and weep!
Sunday, March 09, 2003
Then add of
Then add of
Shake contents of
Meanwhile, coat rim of with rind of
Dip coated circle of on plate to give an even rim
Pour contents of into
Repeat as necessary.