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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Norwegian Star Field


Tonight has been very clear but with little aurora. It has given me the chance to take some snaps of the stars. I need to improve my shots and spend a little more time getting the correct camera angle but this is not bad for a first attempt. It was taken with a 15 second exposure and an aperture of f2.8 using a Canon PowerShot S45. I have photoshopped it a little by enhancing the contrast and reducing the brightness, compensating for some contamination from the radar site down the road. Overall I am quite pleased with it.

However, whilst I was saying hello to the brass monkeys, I heard some rustling in the undergrowth. I immediately took a shot at short exposure and with the flash in the direction of the noise. At first I didn't see anything, but then I noticed the two light to the top, left of centre. Eyes perhaps? But of what?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Learning Lessons

It is great to see that Tony and his pals have learned a few lessons from George and his mates.

Actually it is not so much the removal of the man that bugs me (though that is bad enough) rather it is this snippet from the BBC story:

Police later used powers under the Terrorism Act to prevent Mr Wolfgang's re-entry, but he was not arrested.

Excuse me??? Was this man a terrorist, then how did those 'powers' apply to him? As someone who has recently supported Blair's new measures I feel great unease at this. As I mentioned before, I wonder if we can really trust anyone to use these powers wisely enough.

Skating on Thin Ice

Being in the not-so-frozen north made this article seem highly relevent. I saw a report in EOS some weeks ago that showed that the winter refreeze of much of the ice is not occurring on the same scale as it used to. There is a noticeable drift towards declining ice shelves.

Climate change is real. For just one moment forget the politics and look at the evidence. I am not talking about human contributions to climate change, I am talking about the actual process. I think that humankind has added to the shift in the Earth's climate, I make no secret of that. Also I understand that many people think that we have not contributed anything to any sort of climate change. I am pretty confident that they are wrong but there are other issues to consider.

All I ask you now is to consider the effect rather than the cause.

No one knows for certain what will happen though things are slowly becoming clearer. I suggest that when you are making those big life decisions, such as where you will move house to, that you stop for a moment and wonder whether rising sea levels could affect your property. Think about how changes in climate might affect others around you and overseas. Start thinking about ways that you could help alleviate some of the problems we might face. It may seem a long way off but a drastic shift in our way of life could happen faster than you think.

I'm just saying.

Autumn In the Arctic

Hey folks
I am now safely ensconsed in the north of Norway. Had a busy couple of days; yesterday was full of travelling, today was setting up equipment. This is the closest to summer I have ever been up here. Previous trips have been in the November/December and February time slots. Thus it has been very a very pleasant experience seeing more daylight and much less snow.

This morning it was glorious and I got up with the joys of spring. Well, actually I didn't since overnight a cold developed and I felt like shit having slept little. However, besides feeling like death warmed up I could really appreciate how nice it was. Deep blue skies no clouds and a pleasant low teens temperature (celcius).

Of course it could not last.


Just a couple of hours later the clouds had started rolling in and I was yet again reminded of how changeable the weather is out here. This is a real nightmare when you are trying to schedule radar time based on supporting optical measurements. The clouds kind of get in the way.

Oh well, having spent a good portion of the late evening trying to get a stupid camera to focus properly I am off to bed. G'night.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Norway

Hey folks for the next two weeks I will be in Norway, well within the arctic circle. No snow from the forecasts - more like rain. Global Warming? Probably not, just Autumn. I hope for some clear skies and then we might get a good dose of aurora blogging!

Since where I am going has internet access, you should see no interruption in service, such as it is. I also hope to keep a seperate blog on the journey, though I won't link to it from here since I still try to keep my not-so secret identity a little bit secret for works sake. I'll let you know if it materialises and then anyone who is interested can drop me an email and I'll pass on the address.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Stupid Journalists

I just finished watching a news report on ITV. The journalist was reporting on the evacuations in repsonse to hurricane Rita. In summary he made what I can only assume he meant to be a pointed and profound commentary. To paraphrase he said that it was interesting to note that more people died in the evacuation than did in the flood.

......


I'm pausing now so that you can fully appreciate what a stupid statement this is. Why on Earth can this be considered 'interesting', or even worth considering???? How many could have died if no one had evacuated? I don't know, he doesn't know, no one can know. However, the inclusion of his statement could lead one to think: 'the evacuation caused more death than the hurricane, ergo it would have been better to stay where they were'. But in its own right, it meant nothing, it was an empty statement that added nothing to the report except a sort of knowing ignorance.

At least that is what it said to me.

Friday, September 23, 2005

It's grey, it's raining and I'm bored.

Dum-de-dum.

Even Hootie and the Blowfish aren't raising my interest at the moment.

Dum-de-dum.

In the middle of sorting out all my papers into alphabetical order and by subject. But I'm even finding that to be boring. Can you imagine???

Waiting for a stupid search engine to finish looking for a paper. It is taking absolutely ages. Perhaps it's bored. Ah, now it is finished and has failed to find the paper I am looking for, even though I know it exists. Oh joy.

Oh, no, my mistake. It was buried out of date order at the bottom of the list. How helpful.

Right better try doing something more productive.



Bet it'll be boring...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

In the Real World...

Since I started commenting on the now defunct Spinsanity I have 'met' some interesting people online. Most of those that I have spent more than 2 comments corresponding with I have 'liked'. I place the word in inverted commas since it is very hard to really know if it is truly them that i am connversing with, or whether it is some careful construct. I try very hard to be me on-line, though perhaps a little less loud and abrasive than I am in real life. I trust that those that I correspond with do the same. Of course if I didn't my blogging friends who also happen to know me in real life would call me on it straight away.

Generally I get on well with people who I have conflicting views with on-line. It is a simple matter of showing respect and not being a pushy arse. But how well do we think we would get on in the real world? This is not a suggestion to meet up with those folks from Hubris/Cabal/Spinsanity/Living in the real World/etc., I am just wondering what you folks think about the prospect of meeting the people you are 'talking' to everyday. Would it be a positive experience or do you fear that it would damage/destroy your online experience? It's an interesting question, I think.

I know that some people ridicule the notion of posters and commentators wishing to meet up (e.g. JeffG at proteinwisdom in reference to the Eschacon, even after it was explained to him that it wasn't a round of sycophantic arse kissing) but I don't see why, unless it is some inherent fear of how that would affect the blogging/blog reading experience.

As I said this isn't an invite, just a question to find out your attitudes to how you separate your on-line life with your 'real' life. Though my wife and I do have spare rooms, so if any of you yanks happen to be in the north of England in the future stay the hell away from my house, otherwise I'll set the dogs on you!

Let the Juices Flow

Blogging can be quite hard work.

On some days you are overflowing with ideas and arguments that you want to set down and it becomes ridiculously easy to put up several seperate posts. The words seem to flow from your fingertips.

Then, on other days nothing will come. You cannot assemble a single coherent thought that could be translated into a vaguely interesting topic for a post. So then you end up with days of inactivity.

Of course there are many shades of grey between these two extremes; for example being busy at work or at home with more important matters can put a serious crimp in your weblog activity. Alternatively you could have any number of ideas and absoloutely no enthusiasm for writing them. The lack of drive could be attributed to many things such as failure to form the exact argument that you want or simple frustration with the way in which the perfect words mysteriously metamorphosise into complete rubbish on the screen.

At the moment I am in a place where I find it difficult to post. I have several ideas, some of which will disappear if not posted soon due to their links to current affairs. In fact, at least two of them are already creeping past their sell by date and are starting to stink the place out. I also have an essay that I have been writing on and off for a few months. At first I enjoyed writing it, but now I wonder whether I have overdone it? Is it a bit overblown considering it will appear on a weblog where at most 40 people might read it, and half of them won't care. It is often a difficult call to make, I think.

I came to a realisation a few weeks back that many of you probably knew very well already - sometimes if you think too long and hard on a subject it becomes less and less attractve to blog about. Let's face it this is a medium that is very much suited to near-instant reaction and comment, and perhaps less so to long introspection, though of course, it has its place. Similarly sometimes simply posting in a rush due to taking exception or being inspired by another's comments can be a mistake if you fail to think it through. There is obviously a sweet spot for posting to a weblog but I'll be buggered if I can find it!

Hey-ho, hopefully the creative surge will swell around me soon and carry me out to the deep waters of prose and persiflage.

Bloody hell, that was a painful metaphor!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Freeview


Freeview is a wonderful thing. The range of channels you get is not as large as one might get from Sky or cable Tv but it is adequate considering that chances are I wouldn't watch much on those other channels anyway.

However, one thing makes having Freeview totally worthwhile is Men and Motors. Not, I hasten to add for the faux machismo that radiates from the concept much as from the dumbing down of many of the 'men's magazine' titles. No it just because they broadcast one show that will go down in history as one of the best 1980s shows ever:

Magnum P.I.

It is fantastic. It has clearly dated but not as much as you might think. The character interactions are great and the storylines entertaining. It is, in my most humble opinion, great. I was watching reruns on Bravo (I think) in the States before I came home and now I get to see it again over here - possibly the first time on British airwaves since the 80s.

I love it. :-)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Few


Today a memorial for some fighter pilots was unveiled on London's embankment. The pilots in question were not just British but included airmen from 15 countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Poland and Czechoslovakia. They flew during World War Two and have long been known as 'the few'.


In 1940 the German Luftwafe attempted to destroy the Royal Air Force and to wipe out the aircraft industry. They tried to establish air superiority over the south of Britain and the Channel. This was basically the essential first step in mounting an invasion of Britain following the successful capture of Belgium, France and Holland. The struggle between the Luftwaffe and RAF became known as the Battle of Britain.

This was a year before Russia (June 1941) and the US (December 1941) joined the war. 2936 pilots and crew were an essential line of defense between the UK and a possible invasion that could have doomed Europe to Nazi rule. They were vastly outnumbered by four to one but had the advantage of the new radar system and the superior Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft. In total 515 allied pilots were killed with many injured, plenty of the pilots much younger than me.

On 15 September 1940, the RAF claimed victory as the Germans switched to the Blitzkreig following heavy bombing losses. It was not long after this that the plan to invade Britain was cancelled; before Hitler turned his attention to invading Russia, an act that arguably precipitated the end of the Nazi dream.


'Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.'

Changes

For my birthday my wife got me a digital TV decoder with an inbuilt hardrive. Deferred TV is cool!

Anyway, we got to talking about digital vs analogue TV and it seems my wife has strong views over the analogue switch off and attendant problems. This prompted me to suggest that she might like to write a piece for my blog. Instead of demurring, as I expected, she said, that perhaps she would.

So, this blog might soon become a joint project.

Watch this space...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Road Rant

Some drivers really make you lose hope. I was driving back to work this morning having dropped my wife off at the train station. The traffic was moving somewhat slowly around the one way system, but not as bad as it can be. The car in front of me slowed to allow another driver to pull out of a side street into the traffic, she then pulled forward... and almost got hit by the white van driver who pulled out of the sidestreet behind the car. He cursed and gesticulated and generally acted like an idiot towards the woman, before I left a gap and so he could pull out and then he hurtled at speed into the other lane, breaking hard to avoid hitting a car stopped in the traffic at the lights.

He was at fault, it was the woman's right of way and she had courteously let a car go. Yet in his mind he was the injured party and he wasn't above dishing out some choice phrases to show his displeasure - how dare she not let him out!!!!

Some drivers really seem to believe that they have the divine right to do what they want rather than accepting that they are sharing the road. Plus you are licensed to drive, it is not a right anyway (except in the US (Colorado) where the test was so easy, they might as well issue licenses on your birthday).

That reminds me of something I overheard a friend say one time in the US. She is an MD and she mentioned to her husband that people in Boulder drove too slowly (we were doing the limit) and that you should get up behind them to speed them up. I almost asked whether she understood the concept of stopping distance and reaction times, I wish I had.

Then again this is the same woman that used the point that you should not ban mobile phone use when driving since it is only as distracting as having a car full of kids. Should we ban all mothers who take kids to school since they are a potential danger to other road users? It never once occurred to her that her argument was based on the premise that if something bad is allowed then we should allow all bad things, even if one is much more easily preventable than the other. I doubt that any of you reading this fails to see the stupidity inherent in this argument. I do like her I am just amazed that this highly intelligent woman could be so dangerously inclined on the road, especially having worked in an ER. Then again all the medical students I knew in my first couple of years at university smoked, drank too much and had ingested every substance that it is possible to ingest in any method imaginable. I guess that means they were familiar with the stuff when treating for it later.

Oh and another thing. To the guy in the delivery van parked on the main road this morning. If you have pulled into a legitimate parking space at the side of the road at the front of a row of parked cars, don't put your hazard lights on to signify that you are parked. The car behind you obscures the view so that it looks as if you are indicating to pull out! Stop it!

Wireless woes

Hey folks,

Although the Broadband is up and running I am having problems with my wireless. I use a Netgear router, with a Linksys wireless card in my laptop (showing its age). I set the router up fine as we have done before and I had problems straight away: my laptop could not 'see' the network. I immediately blamed the linksys card since it gave me problems before; however it does detect a network from a few houses down the street so it is clearly working. So I messed around with the settings of the router and eventually took the security off and made it open. Suddenly I could see it. I then reinstated the security (WPA-PSK) and continued to be able to see the network.

Great, thought I. Except the next day, when I logged on, I had to go through the same palaver. When I did get it working again, the connection vanished intermittently over the next hour before disappearing again. Later that day (yesterday), I got it up and running again, once more by changing it to open and then reinstating the security. This time it worked fine for several hours before vanishing once more.

Can anyone explain what is going on? It does not seem to be my linksys card since it worked before with a netgear router on WPA, though not without some problems (breaks in connection), and it sees the WEP secured network down the road. I have to assume that it is the Netgear router, for some reason, failing to broadcast the network properly.

Any ideas?

UPDATE: Fingers crossed but it suddenly seems to be working fine. I have no idea how or why but I am willing to accept it on faith.
As for using a wire, which was helpfully suggested, I shall in due course, when I actually have office space in which i can use my computer connected to the port. Until then it is wireless only.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

nowt much

I'm blogging from home. I now have broadband back up and running and more important than that the wireless works so I can sit in relative comfort and write this. :-D

Nothing much else to say at the moment. Speak again later...

Education

Sometimes a story just leaps out at you and makes you think that although the world isn't perfect, it can still be a pretty good place. Sometimes a government can do something right and the beneficiaries of that can go on and try to do the right thing by many others.

Looks at this story from the BBC today. This is the oldest school pupil in the world. At a time when many of our own elderly are taking well deserved retirement and rest he is travelling for something he believes in.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Experiment

First off, apologies for the post entitled Imagine.
It was hardly of the high standard that many of you have come to expect from this weblog. ;-)

I have been meaning to run a little experiment here for a bit and yesterday morning I was given the fodder and decided to run with it. I have been thinking a lot lately about what weblogging is and what the point is (hence my post on waste of time earlier). One thing that stands out if you read many of the politics orientated blogs that I read is that the writers take a stance and preach from it; opinions are touted as fact and opponents are ridiculed and patronised - ad hominem seems to be the argument of choice.

I wondered whether I could convincingly do this and how those who read this weblog would respond. Politics would be simple enough to do - I have lots of opinions, but I was unsure whether they would be sufficiently different enough from those who read this to generate a response without (a) getting lots of agreement and (b) looking deliberately false and engineered if I deviated too far from my own opinions.

So I needed something else and the fodder was handed to me on a plate when I heard Imagine on the radio and specifically what Jem said about it. Those who know me know that I don't much like much of John Lennon's solo or post-Beatles work and two pieces in particular stand out to me as horrible: 'Imagine' and 'Happy Christmas(War is over)'. No one can argue with the sentiment of the songs and the reason for my dislike is actually mostly to do with overexposure; you hear a song enough times in your life and you start to detest it, though I think it helps if you didn't rate it that highly to start with.

However the simple fact is that many, many people love these songs and more; many love the Beatles. This gave me two targets to take a swing at. For the record I do believe that the people of Liverpool over-indulge in the memory of the Beatles to their detriment. The simple fact is that they were massive influence on what followed to the present day, even byond musical and into deeper cultural significance; but time moves on and you cannot tie your existence and reason d'etre to a band from 40 years ago.

Music is an emotive subject. It touches us all in different ways and most intriguingly of all it can have massively different effects on different people. To give you an example: I don't like REM, it is hard to place my finger on it but i do tend to respond strongly to the vocal and Michael Stipe always evokes melancholy in me (same is true of Chris Martin - though his voice grates for some reason). Davidon the other hand is a massive REM fan, either that or he loves to torment me by playing them often when I am around. Same music - very different reaction in two different people. Similarly, I quite like Phil Collins yet apparantly most people involved in the music media and radio think he is a tit and his music is a stain on the lyrical highway.


So back to my main point. I decided to write something that I hoped would be inflammatory and see what happened. From this sprang the post below which covers these essential areas:
  1. It uses ad-hominem against the artist ('...drug-addled, narcissist.')
  2. It ridicules those who like the song ('...those fools who...')
  3. It sweepingly presents clear opinion as fact ('...quite frankly shite...')
  4. It appears to give ground to show reasonableness ('...they bashed out some great pop tunes...')
  5. It attempts joviallity ('Oasis, take notes!')
  6. It seems to allow for conflicting opinions without actually giving any weight to them ('If you like it, fine...')
  7. It allows for no argument ('...stop trying to tell me...')
  8. It turns the author of the attack into the injured party ('stop trying to tell me how marvelous...')

Clearly the whole thing is unbalanced, unfair and mean spirited and I am sorry to say that I think it is a fair example of what can be seen in many newspaper columns or weblogs from any number of ideologies. It is quite sad.

By the way, I am not so dim as to be unaware of how patronising this might seem. For that I can only offer my apologies and restate that I wanted to try this. Oh, and pat you on the head and say 'there, there'.

For the record, I don't rate Imagine that highly, but that is purely a matter of personal taste. In addition to this I quite like the latest offering from Oasis. In my view, 'The Importance of Being Idle' is much less 'same old, smae old' as much of their recent work (i.e. anything since Wonderwall - in which case the Mike Flowers version was better :-p). At the very least, it is catchy.


UPDATE 1: David sprang on this very quickly and neatly skewered everything wrong with it. I should have guessed it would be him based upon past conversations. Some of his wording suggests that he realised that I was being deliberately nasty. There has been little response beyond that - though ebird is clearly scathing of my 'opinion' of the Beatles.
I think the general lack of response is quite possibly to do with the vehemence of David's rebuttal.

UPDATE 2: Oops, forgot to change the date and time so this appeared lower down the blog than it should have. This should be corrected now. Also I apologise for tenses in the main body. This was meant to be posted tomorrow but i figured I would do it early since most of my regulars have had a look around already today. I think I have caught all dodgy tenses but forgive me if I missed some.


Word verification

Hi folks,

due to increasing comment spam I have turned word verification on in the comments. Just do as it says and comment as before. If anyone thinks this is a major pain and ends up stopping them from profferring their opinions than let me know and I'll turn it off and you can live with the spam that I fail to delete :-)

Update: give me feedback in comments if you can but if your problem is in image recognition or some inability to leave a comment under this sytsem then drop me an email at ajk6_at_yahoo_dot_com - you work it out ;-)

lowering

Excellent!

not only have a l lowered the standard on this weblog, but following Ilyka Damen's criteria (re: Greg Gutfield) I have lowered the bar by advertising my birthday.

Fantastic! :-D

Birthday


It's my birthday today.

I hit the giddy heights of 29. It's all downhill from here.

It's at times like this that I wish i had one of those Amazon wish list thingies so that you could all buy me presents.

Hey-ho.

Imagine

Just heard Imagine, by John Lennon, on the radio. It was chosen by Jem as one of her 'tracks of your years' on the Ken Bruce show on Radio 2. She said she thinks it was the 'best song ever written' and that 'anyone who hears it will suddenly stop', it has 'something magical' in it.

Two words:

Over. Rated.

It is quite frankly shite. The only reason that it has achieved cult status is the bleary, rose tinted memory of how wonderful John Lennon was. My opinion? Over-rated. He wasn't that fantastic a song writer. The Beatles? Over-rated. Yes they bashed out some great pop tunes but with the benefit of hindsight they were nowhere near as great as people make them out to be (Oasis, take notes!). In fact coming from parents who were both born and bred in Liverpool I can confidently state that one reason Liverpool and its inhabitant has lingered so long in the past is due to the 'home of the Beatles' tag. It has held them back instead of allowing them to move forward and celebrate anything else about their city. Basically what this post comes down to is a rant against those fools who scream that Imagine is a masterwork of the greatest proportions. It isn't, trust me. If you like it, fine, it's a free(ish) country, but stop trying to tell me how bloody marvelous it is, because in fact it is a great ,steaming pile of ancient turd, defecated by a drug-addled, narcissist.

UPDATE: the Blogger spell check wants to replace 'Lennon' with 'lemon'. you have to love Blogger sometimes :-)

Waste of Time

Weblogging is a huge waste of time.

There, I've said it and I mean it. It truly is a waste of time. As I write this I ought to be doing some work; some research on the solar wind effects on the ionosphere, for example, or perhaps some of the marking that has appeared on my desk! But to be honest I would be taking a break now anyway since I haven't stopped staring at my computer for a couple of hours.

It is still a waste of time. Stop for a moment and think about what else you could be doing in those times that you devote to weblogging, or reading blogs, or arguing semantics over the meaning of the word 'imminent'. You could be spending time reading that book you have been meaning to read for the past few years. You could be writing that novel that you feel waiting inside you. You could be catching up with old friends from school, or making new ones in your neighbourhood. You could be playing with your kids or talking to your partner. You could be enjoying nature, walking in the hills or swimming in the sea. You could be doing a million other things rather than weblogging.

But then you could be doing a million other things than reading a book, or swimming or stamp-collecting, or whatever. Let's face it, for those of us in our privileged positions in western society we spend an awful lot of our time wasting it. It's the great thing about free time, we get to waste it any way we like; it is our time to waste as we see fit, whether that is weblogging or any other hobby that you can think of.

And to anyone who thinks that weblogging is terrible waste of time, you are spot on. But damn it, it is my time and I'll waste it as I choose. Now bugger off and stop wasting my time!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Autumn is Here

I drive my wife to the train station in the morning since she ahs a two hour commute to work. That means that I invariably drive into work rather than walking the 15-10 minutes it would take from home. This morning I drove up the main campus drive, which is incredibly picturesque (in contrast to most of campus which looks like someone dug a hole in the top of a hill and poured in concrete). It was stunningly lovely, there had been frost last night and the sun was playing through the trees and mist to create quite an effect. My appreciation was only dampened by the sudden realisation that as quickly as it had come Summer was soon to depart.
Admittedly, temperatures are supposed to stay warm this week, somewhere in the mid twenties celcius, but still. Summer is never long enough, and we all know what Autumn brings. Yes, that's right, students.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Matt Frei is a Cock!

On yesterday's 10 o'clock news BBC reporter Matt Frei was interviewing a law enforcement official in New Orleans. He really dug in there and would not let the guy off the hook. What was the question that Matt desperately needed an aswer to?

He wanted to know why they were not removing the dead bodies from the surrounding water. He even pointed to one body and said it had been there for two days. And why would the official not answer his question, the stance that clearly warranted Matt's aggressive questioning and badgering?

Well actually he did. He very calmly said that his unit was 'tasked' with helping the relief effort by rescuing the refug evacuees. Now he did say this very calmly and did use a bit of 'corporate speak', but basically he gave an answer. Frei then badgered about the corpse until the official said that they were interested in helping the living and that the clean up of the dead would occur after.

Valid, reasonable point.
Now I guess that the emotion of the situation might have coloured Frei's judgement and if so then I guess his attitude is completely forgiveable. But last night for a few minutes he displayed all signs of being a cock!

Refugees?

from Kevin Drum

There seems to be some sort of problem with using the word 'refugee' to describe those people who have fled or are fleeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

So I looked up the word refugee in the online Oxford English Dictionary:

refugee

noun a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.


Well, I admit I was surprsed since that is a narrower definition than I was expecting since it does explicitly describe leaving a country.

This makes the following quote more sensible than it might have been without the definition above:

"I'm not a refugee; I'm an American," said Daphne Carr, 37, who fled New Orleans with her niece, Loasha, 9, and is staying at the Astrodome.

I don't understand why people are upset and where this perjurative aspect to the word comes from. An interesting point is raised by Stephen Baker:

But I think part of the problem is that we associate refugees with foreigners in hellish parts of the world. If there's one good thing to come out of this tragedy, it might be that we start to see that other refugees, whether in Africa, Asia or Latin America, aren't so different from us after all.


If this is so then the often vitriolic rejection of the 'r-word' potentially hints at an underlying bigotry, possibly subconcious: 'Don't call us refugees since we aren't like those people!'
I hope that I am wrong about that but why else the detestation?

"These are American citizens, plus they are the sons and daughters of slaves," said Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles). "Calling them refugees coming from a foreign country does not apply to their status. This shows disdain for them. I'm almost calling this a hate crime."

The thing is that probably like me, many people would never have thought that refugee meant that they came from another country. I assumed that it was a fitting word since the survivors were in fact seeking refuge. Not once did it cross my mind that by calling them that I would be showing disdain for them, not once. As for hate crime? Oh, for God's sake you moronic imbecile. Sure accuse us of being ignorant of proper definitions but don't suggest that it is almost a hate crime, because it isn't.

Of course this is all based on just one definition of refugee, but I guess to be accurate then we should leave refugee behind in this case and use other words to describe the poor folk who have been displaced by this hurricane.


Other definitions include:

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Anan accepts responsibility

From the BBC

Kofi Anan has accepted responsibility for his role in the Oil-for-food scandal at the UN. This basically amounts to admitting that the whole thing was badly managed - he has already been cleared (despite familial connections) of any illicit or illegal activities, or at least no evidence was found to suggest that he was involved and let's face it: innocent until proven guilty is the way most civilised nations work. I suppose the harshest thing one could say if you believe this judgement is that Anan was incompetent in his role as UN General Secretary.

At least he has put his hand up to it and admitted that since it happened under his watch then he bears some of the responsibility. I say some, not to excuse him, but simply because those who deliberately set out to commit fraud and line their own pockets are hardly blameless.

But what now? I think that at the very least Anan's position is severely compromised and as such he would do well to resign. However it is clear, and has been for some time, that the UN is not working; serious overhauling is needed and perhaps it is time for a new man or woman to step in and undertake that task. But who?

Anyone who suggests John Bolton gets a virtual slap from me!

Strange Encounters

If it's not random questions from old ladies who assume that you read minds, it is paranoid middle-aged women who want to know whether you are spying on them!

Welcome to the world of my friend David, who, quite frankly, should write a book one day.

Sunset.



We have had some great weather recently and the view from our bedroom window provides for some lovely sunsets. Anyway this is probably the last picture I will post in today's splurge.

The Birds!!!

This is one of the views from our back window: Rows and rows of starlings! If you have any avian phobias, our village is not the place for you. We have starlings, some sparrows, rooks, magpies, housemartins (thankfully no caravan of love) and more. But this is just plain scary.


Fire!!!


My wife and I recently moved from our house in the midlands to the north of England where we both work. It was an emotional move for both of us as well as for our housemate, David of Fuddland. One of our last nights there we had a barbecue with a couple of friends. At the end of the night it was a perfect opportunity to burn papers that should not be binned and David did this with gusto. However, the urge to burn kept growing and so garden refuse also got burned. This led to the rather nifty photo showing David with a handful of fire.

Disclaimer: No mathematicians were injured in the making of this photograph

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bush to lead Katrina relief effort investigation

From the BBC

Relief efforts are underway in the wake of the thrashing of the gulf coast caused by hurricane Katrina. The scenes from New Orleans and other communities in the area cannot have helped but shock and tug at the heart of any right-minded individual. The scale of the damage is tremendous in human life, livelihood and property.

No matter your political stripe I cannot imagine that anyone thought that the relief effort swung effortlessly into action and was as good as it could have been from day one. Mistakes were clearly made and it is only in the aftermath of the start of the cleanup will we begin to find out when and why these errors were made and importantly, what could have been done differently and who is to blame for the mistakes. We don't know who is to blame at the moment although accusations have already started flying. I think that it will be found that failures occurred at many levels.

If President Bush means that he will personally head the inquiry, or that the inquiry will answer to his office then I think he is making a huge mistake. I applaud that he acknowledges that things have gone wrong and that in due course we need to find out why. I can understand his need to root out the problems; in his position I would demand an inquiry as well, simply because as the highest power in the land the buck stops with him. If something was badly wrong on his watch it is up to him to make it right.

However, whether you blame Bush or not for the cock-up that was the relief effort, you might recognise the mistake he is making now. If he intends to head the official inquiry then he is dooming himself and the US to more political sniping and infighting in the near future. He is opening himself and his administration up to even more partisan attacks since I would imagine that few on the left would trust him to complete an honest investigation. If his investigation finds no culpability for his office, and let us, for the sake of argument at least, assume there is none, no one on the left is going to believe him and eventually a second inquiry will probably be launched wasting more time, effort and money.

If you doubt what I say, then look at it from the other position: imagine if Bill Clinton had investigated his own affair with Monica Lewinsky and the surrounding lies. Do you think the right would have been happy with this?

Hopefully Bush actually intends to set up an independent inquiry and his words have been taken out of context or were the words of a man determined to know what went wrong. If not then he should brace himself as it will just be the tip of the iceberg.

Ilyka-lanche


OK so it's not as big as an Instanlanche but I'll take what I can get and be very grateful.

My little quasi-break from blogging led to a major decrease in my readership, which had been slowly growing. Only the diehard regulars remained (thanks). Of course I don't really do this just for the glory of being read, but it's always nice to think that you have a chance to influence the way that people think and act.

Anyway, thanks to Ilyka for the 25 people (at least) who checked out her weblog and subsequently came and had a look at mine :-)


p.s. I also passed my 2000 mark. I was hoping that it would happen sooner but the hiatus foiled that. The picture to the side is a startling example of what happens to your readership when you go away...

I'll have to see whether I can make a nice repeating fin pattern over the next couple of years.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Enemy of my Enemy...

... is not always my friend. This is a lesson that we could all do with learning. A common goal does not always justify jumping into bed with another; be it countries, companies or individuals. This is a lesson that some in the anti-Iraq war lobby seriously needs to learn.

This was brought home to me yesterday when reading the Sunday Times. There I saw an article (by Sarah Baxter) describing how Jane Fonda has decided to accompany George Galloway on his tour of the US instead of running her own tour on a similar theme.

The end of the article says:
The MP’s critics question whether Fonda is fully aware of Galloway’s controversial background
and I wonder the same thing.


It seems that Fonda:
was impressed by Galloway’s pugnacious performance last spring in front of a senate committee investigating the United Nations oil-for-food scandal.
Admittedly Galloway made the committee look like ill-prepared idiots on that occasion. In fact I was livid with the fact that they had given this demogogue a platform and made such a hash of questioning him. He skillfully pulled them apart since they seemed to rely only on evidence that did not stand up to scrutiny. In fact the evidence seemed to be the same shaky evidence that had been presented by the Telegraph, which had not stood up in court, earning Galloway £150,000 in libel damages.

It was ridiculous and a cynic might say that it cast a dim light on the abilities of Congress to properly investigate the UN Oil for food scandal.

Jane Fonda, of course, is no stranger to controversy herself. She already has a reputation as a war protester following her activities in Vietnam. In fact her reputation goes further than that; many consider her actions in North Vietnam and her words, pouring scorn on the released POWs, to have been traitorous. She has apologised (though this is debated) for some of her actions, though not all and some are still raw wounds for many. Whatever your opinion of Fonda that has been shaped from that time (if you have one) it is obvious that she made som
e truly horrendous mistakes and immensely ill judged decisions and now it looks as if she has made another one.

Unfortunately for those of us who did not agree with the Iraq war as prosecuted I foresee that she will become a stick to beat us and others with. In this day and age it is very easy for some pundits and bloggers to pick on the actions of larger than life individuals and celebrities to use as a tool to undermine the whole movement. So suddenly Michael Moore, George Soros and 'Hanoi Jane' are deemed to be fully representative of the anti-war movement. It is too easy and it is something that both left and right do, though if I may add a final point of contention (and bias?) I would suggest that the right are far better at it than the left.


Strange searches


Well, the old 'female circumcism' keeps pulling in the readers. They must be so disappointed: here they are looking for some serious link or information and they get my meandering post with little or no information on the subject

Strangely when I followed the link the the search page it turned out that the post was listed at the number 1 position. Thankfully the same is not true for 'female circumcision'. My understanding is that the latter is the correct spelling; however many other links also call it circumcism.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Weekend Blogging

Well its Sunday and I've nipped into work to grab a few things so that I can sit and ignore them whilst I watch the F1 Grand prix this afternoon. The great thing about my new house is that it is 20 minutes walk from work, therefore easy to get to and from at the weekend or evenings if I so desire.

Got more sorted yesterday and my wife is powering on with organising the chaos of boxes, mostly whilst I am still in bed in the morning. The funny thing is that she is an early riser whereas I am better late in the evenings. I wish that I could become an early bird since I like mornings but I just don't see it happening since it is always a struggle to drag my carcass out of bed. Even if I hit the sack early I end up being wide awake until 1ish or later.

Anyway nothing much to say at the moment...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Comment Spam

As I noted further down I started getting comment spam today. Generally it is pretty obvious and formulaic; however the following was a bit more inventive and sick:

Anonymous said...

Hurricane Katrina benefit concert tomorrow night
NBC has acted quickly and will put on a benefit concert to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Don Jr

If you are interested, go see my at home business opportunity related site.

9/01/2005 4:57 PM

This was on the preceding post and I need not tell you that the link has nothing to do with Katrina benefit concerts.
Opportunistic bastards.

Disaster Relief

Things seem to be getting worse in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. People have not just lost their loved ones and homes but also their livelihoods.

Take a few minutes and please send some help if you haven't already. The link was lifted from Hubris.

If for some reason you don't want to donate to the American Red Cross then see if there are other charities that you prefer.

Instapundit has a list of links to charities to which you can send donations.

Broadband!!!!

I'll probably blog about the boring details of my moving house sometime soon but in the meantime I have excellent news!

I am getting Broadband again!!!

Soon I will be able to work from home if the mood takes me and more importantly I can blog from home in the evenings, which was my preferred time. Especially since I always seem to have lots to do at work at the moment and if I ever want to publish any more papers I'd better get on and do some real science whilst at work!

I almost forgot the most important things! Soon I will be able to play Halo on line again. If anyone plays on the PC keep an eye out for Kav3 since that would be me. I tend to play on the EU-Bungie servers or else the main Bungie servers.

UPDATE:

Been getting comment spam for the first time. originally got two on here and then a further 5 on the above post. I've just been deleting them but if anyone is interested in knowing about Maine TV companies and various diseases then I will gladly leave them in...