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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Global warming ....again...


Jon Henke has another piece up on climate change over at QandO.

I have and will continue to resist the urge to comment over there, its not worth it. My view is that many people accept that climate change is happening, many do not and at this stage it is nigh on impossible to produce any data that goes either way that will convince those that are left arguing.

One thing that really does still bug me is that so many people use the 'weather' strawman. It goes along the lines of:
'If their models could predict what the weather would be like next week, then maybe I would trust them to predict the climate in a few years'

When I encounter this I am never completely sure whether it is dishonest arguing or a lack of understanding of the differences between weather and climate. I tend to go with the latter and give the benefit of the doubt, but it does get tiring explaining it and so from now on if anyone asks my stock answer will be:
Do your own research.

Lets face it there is a big wide web out there; even better there are libraries full of books. Look it up, educate yourself and then rejoin the argument.

Once more for the record I think climate change is occurring; I think there is a solar influence; I think there is a human influence. I think the latter is a big effect. I think we have to come up with solutions to avoid human-endangering catastrophes.

And once again, I hope I am wrong. This is one argument I would love to lose definitively.

Friday, December 01, 2006

December 1st

Today is of course the 1st of December and what did I just see outside my office window (4 floors up in the centre of Liverpool!)? A butterfly! (For those who care about such things I suspect it was a Peacock butterfly, but I only got to see the underneath of the wings).

To be honest I've no idea if this is really as unusual as it feels to me - it just adds to the other things I've noticed this autumn, like the spring flowers (clematis montana) I saw in late October near Lancaster. I think 2006 is definitely heading to be a warm year on the old weather records!

Paying the toll

A new government-backed report has come out suggesting that

motorists should be asked to pay to drive on the nation's road network
well there is no harm in asking.

Now this is all well and good but the thing is that I already pay for using the roads; I pay a car tax each year and everytime I fill up with petrol I pay a tax that makes the UK one of the most expensive places in the developed world to buy petrol.

One glimmer of hope mentioned in the BBC artcle:
If road charging was introduced, the government would be
able to examine the option of whether it could raise enough revenue to
replace fuel duty and the car tax disc.
A prediction:
Ommmmmm
After careful consideration the government has determined that the new toll system does not cover the costs incurred and that fuel duty and car tax must continue.
Ommmmmmm
Some further careful analysis:
Road charges will put some people off driving entirely,
cut congestion and carbon emissions and could raise up to £16bn a year
in payments, Sir Rod says.
Bollocks, Kav says.

I am yet to be convinced that increasing the cost to run a car will put people off driving. This is wishful thinking. If memory serves, in all the years that petrol prices have increased the percentage of car owners in the UK population has too, such that congestion is at an all time high. You see people drive for a reason, in fact for a number of reasons; high on that list is the convenience of the motorcar in comparison with bus or rail travel. Until we get to a state where it is more convenient for our transport needs to use a bus, a train, a tram or whatever then car useage will not go down.

Punitive measures such as vastly increased car taxes in whatever form will only work after the implementation of an equally (or more) convenient public transport service. Then it will be a direct choice between competing services. As things stand now it is not and any increase in car tax will not push people onto a public transport service that fails to actually provide the service that people want and, most importantly, need for day-to-day activities and work in our society.

This is summarised by the Transport 2000 lobby group:
The Transport 2000 lobby group said that, for road pricing to work, alternatives to driving must be improved.
The final little gem:
With road charging, drivers would pay more to use roads when they were busy or more congested.
So let me get this straight, when a road (a public service, remember) is congested already we would be expected to pay more? So in order to get less out of the product we would be expected to pay more. Beautiful.

I suppose there is some logic there, if the road is busy chances are we would be on it for longer so we have to pay more to use it. If they adopted this scale everywhere, they could easily make money. Think about it; the longer you stay on a particular road the more you pay, so you drive faster to make sure you stay on the road for as short a time as possible and then the speed camera clocks you and you pay a fine anyway. Genius.

Children in need update

Thanks to those who left comments in an effort to cost me money. We managed to beat the level of last year. In a similar fashion I upped the donation to £10 per comment



cheers

Friday, November 24, 2006

Children in Need Charity Drive




I almost let this one slip by.

In the same spirit as last year I will happily donate £1 per comment on this post to Children in Need. Of course since my readership is down to virtually nil (that's what long periods of non-posting will do) I am going to leave comments open here for 1 week rather than 1 day. I'll try to remember to keep this one on the top until next Friday (Hah -assuming I post anything else before then).

Also make your own online donations here.

Once again there is an undisclosed upper limit, though last year's donation should give you a clue. Get commenting!


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Aurora watching


Well, my short trip to Norway to try and catch some aurora has come up trumps. I arrived yesterday and we saw a few faint green arcs through some patchy cloud, but tonight, the skies are clear, and there's quite a show on outside! Here's a picture I took about 30 minutes ago......

[I nearly forgot to mention the two pairs of trousers required to take this shot - the thermometer currently has the outside temperature running at a cool -9.8C, I realise I'm being wimpish but it's still blooming freezing out there!!]

A very nice present for my 30th birthday tomorrow, how Kav pulled this one off I'll never know!!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Currently in Norway

I am working up in the arctic at the moment. Lots to do in the next 2+ weeks but nothing will happen unless some bloody packages arrive via DHL. Not impressed at the moment with their local shipping agent; the delivery should have come yesterday but they came out of work hours and when they discovered no one around they left and then called to say they had tried to deliver. If they had called whilst here then someone could have met them within a couple of minutes.

I know the latter for a fact. We arrived yesterday and discovered that they had forgotten to leave our access cards in the lock-box. No one was around but thankfully my colleague remembered that we had a phone number list in our optical hut and so we called the secretary who was able to come and let us in.

What fun!

For those who want more information and are in the know 'wink wink' I will be updating the work campaign blog shortly.


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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Does this mean...


...that I have to stop doing the Ronald Dumsfeld jokes now?

Scalp one...

Rumsfeld resigns following the Democratic Party success. This is a major thing considering the kind words that Bush said of Both Cheney and Rumsfeld last week.

So much for the wisdom of the Washington Post:

Senior and former officials close to Rumsfeld say he will not be driven out by Democrats throwing their weight around in Congress. He has repeatedly said he would not quit, and defense officials say criticism makes Rumsfeld dig in his heels.

"He's not resigning," said one of those officials. "He's best when he's criticized."

Will this be the only victory of a Democratic House and Senate? Quite possibly. *
Is it significant? Depends who replaces Rumsfeld (Bob Gates).


*though can it be called a victory for the Democratic Congress considering it had little to do with their actions? Some might call it a victory for the electorate

How wrong could I be?

Apparantly 100% wrong.

The senate could still go Republican but it is tight with Webb having made incredible gains as the end neared. I wonder whether Liebermann will now switch to the GOP, his pick-up of republican votes must have said something to him.

So what does this mean for the next couple of years in America? God knows and I certainly don't. I know that some (such as the boys at QandO) were hoping for a measure of gridlock in the government - they may well get it now.

Of course this could actually be a dream result for George Bush. Faced with a war in Iraq that seems to be increasingly spiralling towards civil war and 'defeat' for the Americans the prospect of a Democratic House and Senate that he can blame that defeat on is something of a Godsend. If in the next two years the US manages to turn things around in Iraq somehow, he can claim a victory despite being hindered by a hostile Congress; legacy assured. A lot depends on what the Dems say and do, although they cannot effect foreign policy overmuch they need to be seen to be doing something to sort out the situation over there. What that is, well, they have to figure that out.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Prediction

It is polling day in the US of A.

The midterm elections are upon them and for the left it is time to send a message to Bush that America isn't happy. Of course one could argue that he isn't actually big on listening to messages outside of those he wants to hear. In fact plenty of left wing blogs have made that argument in the past so exactly why they think these elections will make a difference as it pertains to Iraq I am not sure.

Anyway, time for some predictions. I have looked at the polls for the past few weeks and noted a narrowing margin between the Dems and Repubs though still in favour of the the Dems. That said I also not that US polls in recent years have been virtually worthless therefore I predict that the Republicans will retain both houses.

Why do the polls tend to mislead? I don't know, some might claim liberal bias in the situations where they trend left. I have heard one argument that the reason is that the pollsters (or poll sponsors) lean left and so promote a leftward lean in the polls. This seems like crazy talk to me; if I was a lefty pollster and wanted to influence the election I would skew the poll rightward to scare the left supporters into the polling booths. By skewing left one only encourages complacency.

Anyway, like I said. I predict the GOP to hold both houses.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Keeping it gay and light

A rare dip into politics for me here. From Balloon Juice's John Cole a profound comment on the state of society following the recent court ruling in New Jersey:

12 Hours have passed

Since the NJ decision regarding civil unions, and my parents are still married and I can’t marry my cat.

WTF?

I hope that John forgives me for excerpting his whole post. My only criticism is that surely it is marriage to his turtle that is more likely than to a cat?



Turtles???? Dear God.
You should go and read Balloon Juice if you don't already (yes, I'm talking to you, my readership of 3!). It rarely disappoints.*

*corrected for stupid wording

Testing the new stuff

Well, I have upgraded to Firefox 2.0 and so far am not disappointed.  In fact this blog post was written in Performancing, the blog editing tool that comes as an extension; this post is a test to see what it looks like instead of having to navigate to Blogger.

When I get home I'll give it a go with posting some recent pictures (if I can get it to work...).
Can't yet find any way of changing the font, but I'll keep looking.


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History and the "veil row"

Recently there has been significant controversy in Britain about Muslim women covering their faces. The most recent burst was sparked off by the case of classroom assistant who lost her job because the primary school children she was teaching couldn't understand her because of the veil she wore over all but her eyes.

There is probably a lot of misunderstanding on both sides of the argument I suspect. For example I see the wearing of a full veil as oppression of women, no doubt this impression was fueled by the Taleban in Afganistan. If I try and imagine someone forcing me to cover up to this extent I start to feel an upwelling of hatred and rage towards whoever that might be. Clearly a lot of this is cultural, I was born and bred in middle England and I wear what I want, within limits - different cultures have different limits.

I believe that a lot of women that do wear the veil see it in a very positive light. I'm happy to accept their view on that. However, as far as the classroom assistant row goes I side with the school - communication with young children requires the whole face, it's not just the words that are important but the facial expressions that go with them. As far as I understand it the veil wearing rules would have allowed her to do this anyway (provided there were no men in the room) and the school were happy to compromise and let her be veiled outside the classroom (the sensible part of me wonders why this even became an issue if there was a satisfactory solution........)

I could carry on at length and many people have I'm sure, I think a lot of it boils down to something more inherent than just a bit of cloth, so I was fascinated by the following article from the BBC (apologies to David if you still can't get BBC articles!)...

After a fashion

I can't vouch for the historical accuracy of the article (as Kav will tell you I know nothing about history!), but there are some very interesting parallels, make of it what you will........

Friday, October 20, 2006

Quite possibly the best news of the year

There is a plan afoot to turn Fraggle Rock into a film . I think everyone can agree that it just does not get better than that.

Also I managed to get the BBC to alter the story as there was a small inaccuracy in it. How geeky is that?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Chilly

I put a sweater on today, probably the first since April.
It was decidedly chilly (and raining) when I left the house this morning, and I didn't leave the house until 9:05 am.

I guess this means that Autumn is on us; the heating in the house had already started coming on in the evenings so the clues were all there. On the upside I saw (and heard!) a huge skein of geese flying south over the house; some things have the right idea: if it gets cold, head to warmer climes.
Perhaps I will see those same geese on AutumnWatch tonight.

Waste away

Some short time ago it was proposed that the local councils in England would start charging people for rubbish removal based upon the weight of their refuse. The idea being that this would encourage folk to recycle more instead of just throwing things into the bin. A noble aim to be sure.


Now it seems that some councils are putting the plan into action. My immediate reaction to this was to wonder how the council would guarantee fair charging. You see, I am a cynic and if I hear that we are going to be charged on the weight of our waste then I am pretty sure that a not inconsiderable number of crafty but tight people will realise that they can save money by placing their rubbish into other people's bins. I predict with 100% confidence that it will happen.

What safeguards can be put in place to prevent this dishonest dumping? Is it up to the council to introduce said safeguards or is the onus on the man-in-the street? I imagine some would argue that it is up to the individual to safeguard their bin from felonious dumping of waste, but this is nigh on impossible; if you live somewhere where your bin is left at the front of your house you will have to rely on catching the dumper at the precise moment of dumping. If you leave your bin in a shed or garage then you will have to remove it on collection day and place it on the street where the bin-men can gain access to it. If, like me, your collection is not until late morning (at the earliest) then there is ample opportunity for the dastardly dumper to deposit his or her trash.

Now let us say that you have discovered that someone has dumped into your bin without permission. What do you do? Do you remove the rubbish and put it in someone else's bin? That would make you just as bad as the first dumper (unless you are 100% certain you know where the alien trash came from). Do you leave it out of your bin? Where would you leave it? Your garden, the road, take it to the rubbish tip yourself? Why should that duty fall on you?

I have other issues with this new system. If implemented will we see a reduction in our council tax? At the moment rubbish collection is one of the services covered in our taxation but if we are to pay for the rubbish collection depending on weight will we be getting a reduced council tax bill or else a rebate? I suspect not, you see although the stated aim is all very noble I feel that it is not the driving force behind such a rapid take-up of a scheme that was introduced such a short time ago. I am genuinely curious as to how many other proposed schemes are acted upon so quickly after proposal in local government. I suspect that many sniffed the chance of raising their usable tax revenue and leapt on it without thinking the problem through properly.

Or maybe I am just being cynical...

Back in the real world

Well here we are back from holiday. If you are very lucky i might even post some of the photos that we took. Some nice lightning shots from a thunderstorm that was playing out over the Mediterranean. Our hotel was nice with a semi-private beach at the bottom of the cliff. The water was a little chilly but no where near as cold as the water in the pool; serious 'nad shrinkage!

Somewhat relaxing and now I am back at work ready and raring to go. Lots of energy for projects I should be working on but already things are slotting in above what I ought to be doing. Life as a researcher in a university departments seems to involve not as much research as one might like to do...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Holiday Guilt

Em and I are currently on holiday. Both of us are feeling guilty at having taken time off from work, even though we are owed this time and it is ours to take. It's crazy but I think that many, particularly in academia, experience this. I notice that many people we know in our field tend to accumulate days and days of holiday without ever taking it. One guy we knew whilst working in Boulder had accrued a year's worth of holiday which he was then giving away to others to avoid losing the extra time (a good scheme if you can get it).

Anyway, I am going to attempt to put my guilt behind me (as indeed is Em). Tomorrow morning we fly out to the north east coast of spain on the Costa Brava; not far from the Pyrenees. For eight days I shall enjoy sun and swimming and reading and maybe a little writing. I am not going to worry about work in any way shape or form and this will be helped through zero email access.

Hasta la vista, baby.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

30

I was thinking earlier whether I have accomplished enough things in my 20s.

I've done a fair bit and the highlights were:

  • I got engaged
  • I got married
  • I got my PhD
  • I lived abroad
  • I travelled a lot (could have done more)
  • Probably lots of other things I can't think of at the moment
I'm still a lard arse, so I definitely have something to achieve in my 30s. It's always good to have something to work for ;-P

Oh well, 30 doesn't feel much different to 29, surprisingly. Quite frankly I retain the mental age of a 13 year old and I don't see that changing any time soon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

fading youth

My last day in my twenties.

I can still remember when I entered them and I find it hard to believe that it was a decade ago. I think I'll stop typing before I get melancholy!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Oh sweet, sweet sport

Had a cracking weekend.

Beautiful weather (considering what the end of August was like) with a great Sunday evening topped off with a lovely round of golf with Em on the local course. Only the second time I have played in 10 years and I am still crap, except for that sweet, sweet feeling as I hit the ball straight and true on those ever-so rare occasions. That afternoon had been good as well with a F1 race to watch.

Of course the sporting highlight happened on Saturday, the day of the first Merseyside Derby of the Season, and what a 3-0 highlight it was. As a Toffee man I was very happy indeed. From the BBC website:

Everton were rightly ecstatic, showing a ruthless edge in front of goal and great organisation in the face of Liverpool's second-half revival to record their biggest derby win for 42 years.
It's all gone quiet over there-ere! It's all gone quiet over there-ere!


Sad days for Formula 1

The title is not sarcastic.

Michael Schumacher has decided to quit Formula 1 at the end of this season. I am very sorry about this. Don't get me wrong, I dislike Schumacher intensely; I think he is an arrogant, lying, weasely win-at-all-costs cheat. I think it is fair to say that with Scumi you either love him or you hate him if you care about F1; he is a polarizing force in the motorsport industry. His detractors see little but the negative in every action whereas his supporters are often blind in their love for him. However, for whatever faults (imagined or otherwise) he is also one of the (if not the) greatest racing drivers who have ever lived.

Schumi is the man to beat in Formula 1, even though Alonso is the current world champion. Without Schumacher in the field next year the lay of the land will be very different to the way it has been for the past decade. F1 needs its heroes and more importantly it needs its villains; for me Schumacher was a clear villain. Whenever he was beaten it was a good race day even if my man was pootling around at the back somewhere ['paging Mr. Coulthard, the finish line is over here'] and when he won it made me hungry for the next race so that he could be beaten again. There was always the thrill in the last few laps that something could go wrong and Schumi would get beaten. That tension is going to disappear now.

Of course there are some great drivers out there now in capable cars: Alonso and Raikkonnen are the cream of the crop but don't forget others like Button, the new guy Kubica (astonishing talent) and Webber; and of course the old stalwarts like Fisi, Coulthard and Barrichello should never be ruled out. But I am afraid that for 2007 at least it will just not be the same, it will probably take a year to settle into the new rhythm as an avid viewer.

Perhaps with Kimi in a Ferrari I can learn to hate him :-)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday afternoon farm blogging


We actually managed to get off our arses and out into the countryside last Sunday. The countryside isn't so far from our house and within the space of an hour we managed to get nicely away from civilisation. Despite being molested by numerous Daddy-Long legs (aka Crane flies) we had a fab time dodging cow pats and being stared at by the locals.....

Proud moment


Being relatively new to this gardening lark I had a very proud moment recently when my first rose cutting had its first flower :) It's a cutting I took a year ago from my favourite rose when we moved out of our house in Leicester. Nice to take a bit of the old place with us.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

This blog is pretty much a quiet zone. Too quiet.
Both Em and myself are busy at the moment but I will make some effort to post something of substance in the very near future...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Small furry friend


Whilst tidying up some honeysuckle early this morning I acquired a small furry friend ....

Friday, July 21, 2006

Graduation

Well the heat wave continues but now we have the added value of high humidity. On top of that it has been graduation week, as a consequence of which the university has been bedecked in nice plants and hanging baskets - all rented and now being returned.

It always makes me laugh when the uni does this, and they do it regularly; something important happens - notable visitor or graduation for example - and we get in a whole load of plants to spruce the place up. Though interestingly no actual spruces, but I digress. To be fair, the central part of campus can always do with sprucing up, now more than ever with the building work going on. I remember when I first came here to start my PhD I was taken aback by the sheer ugliness of many of the buildings. I have often described it as if someone dug a depression into the top of a hill poured concrete in. Many of the architects who trained in the first half of the 20th century owe the UK a large apology. Having said this, some of the uglier (though not all) excesses are being demolished to make way for potentially new monstrosities and so things might improve, yet in the meantime we have to put up with a demolition/building site.

With that in mind it is clear that a bit of greenery and flowering colour is called for but God forbid we could keep the plants and have the place looking pleasant all through the summer. It was particularly amusing when the architect of the (award winning) building I work in had a whole host of funky furniture and plants installed for the day that some architectural prize judges came a-visiting.

Anyway, back to graduation. Lots and lots of happy smiling people in black gowns and silly hats. All relieved that they have passed their degrees and ready to start their new lives. All looking somewhat different to the scarcely dressed, scruffy drunks that usually inhabit campus. Particularly charming were the several instances of the parents of couples meeting each other for the first time. One has to wonder how many of those meetings are both first and last as couples break up in the post-university years. Culture shocks may abound for a number of these graduates as they experience work in the real world, but good look to them all. At least they won't be underfoot now and I can look forward to the new intake.

Addendum: I heard one old granny (or possible much older mother) suggesting that her son take £20 from her and have a nice celebration with his girlfriend that evening. I hope its a relationship where partners pay equal shares otherwise the celebration might be short. £20 doesn't go far for a night out for two these days.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

What a good place to be...

Last month we had an influx of housemartins into the area as they arrived for their own spring break. Em and I were treated to a dazzling aerobatic display of diving and chasing when we were out walking beyond the canal. Soon after this a small brood took up residence under the eves of our neighbours' house; this proved to be a mixture of delightful and distracting as they very noisily called between themselves at incredibly unsocial hours of the morning just a few feet from our bedroom window.

The first photo shows adult housemartins busily feeding the young in the evening.

The whole row of backgardens was a feeding ground for them as they would swoop and dive after the rising insects. Their ability to turn is amazing; serious g's for any pilot that tried it. It is almost impossible to catch them in flight, at least for me it is; I don't have the reaction time nor the patience to sit still for long enough to get lucky. However, I did get lucky once and by sheer fluke managed to capture one of the birds as it approached the nest to feed the young.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A whole lot of ass



I saw these donkeys at our local village fete a couple of weeks ago, the extra "ass" was an added bonus ......

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Coulter on the BBC

A couple of nights ago Ann Coulter was on the BBC Newsnight program. You can see video of her interview here, it only lasts just over 5 minutes.

For US readers I am sure you all know who Ann is and what has the got people so inflamed about her new book. For readers from elsewhere (i.e. mostly UK) if you don't know who Ann Coulter is I wouldn't worry about it (go google if you like). I only know thanks to having lived in the States and seen the books she writes and the interviews she does. In my opinion she is not a nice person and whatever valid points she might have get lost in the need to throw bile around and try to cause scandalous headlines (in pursuit of book sales).


Paxman was typically Paxman with her; somewhat aggressive and sneering. It is his interviewing style. For my money, Paxman doesn't espouse particularly liberal or conservative beliefs; to me, he often comes across as not interested in nonsense and he certainly does not suffer fools gladly. I like him.

However I think he failed in his interview. He gave Ann plenty of time to air her points which is good as an interviewer as long as you challenge those points. Her first point was about what she calls Darwinism. She claimed there was no evidence for evolution and it makes no sense. I am sure she has studied the subject long and hard with rigorous testing and examination of the records. Oh, no, she can't have otherwise she would know that what she said was false. If she had done the research and said what she said then I would have to conclude she was lying.

Paxman's question was whether she had an alternative? Did she believe that the Earth was created in 6 days? Coulter answered that she was not espousing an alternative just pointing out that the current theory was not supported by evidence and was clearly looney (we are related to Earthworms???).

Of course Paxman should have had the facts about evolution, the facts that there is evidence in the fossil record; that we can witness evolution in the laboratory with species that go through several generations in a few hours. How does Ann explain the fact that we do indeed share over 30% of our DNA with the Earthworm? Is the study of DNA going wrong somewhere?

Paxman, or his researchers, failed on this, relying instead on trying to use the creationism stick - something Ann was clever enough to avoid (she is not stupid).

I had to laugh later on when Paxo asked whether she truly thought that the media was a lefty institute given the amount of coverage she had received. Her reply was to instantly turn herself into the Martyr, sarcastically talking about the 'warm welcome' she had received on the show. That wasn't 'lefty', Ann, that was Paxman being genial.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Some things are always cool...

... no matter how used to them you think you might become.

[UPDATE visitors via google image search please see this post]


I was browsing SpaceWeather.com earlier today and came across a fantastic series of images. They were taken by John Locker, an amateur astronomer and satellite communications consultant from the Wirral peninsula in the UK. If you cannot spot what it is right away it is the International Space Station. It fills me with a sense of awe when we can resolve any object in space to more than a dot of light, but to be able to image a man-made body hanging in the sky above us is breath taking.

I know very well how we can put objects up there and how they stay up there, but knowing and solving the equations is one thing; to see it drift across the sky as a matter of course is something else. Shortly before Em and I left America our friends threw a party for us. It was great afternoon capped off by a leisurely nighttime swim in the condo complex pool. I remember one of my friends pointing into the sky at a bright dot as it slowly arced across the starry heavens.
"That is the ISS, its due overhead right now"
I remember lying back in the water and watching it fall towards the far horizon. Not a memory likely to fade anytime soon.

John Locker has his own webpages including some more shots of the ISS

Thursday, June 15, 2006

In the meantime...

History shows that government is incapable of running any programme with more efficiency than the private sector. Discuss.

Tick, tock

Well, it has been a month to the day when I last posted. That is truly pathetic. Mostly I have been busy with work and when I do have time to blog I feel the urge to watch TV or play Halo instead. I guess that means commitment is at a low ebb. Well, who cares, its not as if I am paid to do this :-)

I have been reading some blogs and commenting but not as much as I used to. I think the most I have done has been over at QandO in a couple of the climate change threads. I'm a glutton for punishment where that is concerned as I think it is a major problem and am always amazed at some of the hostility that one faces when suggesting that it even exists, let alone that mankind has had any effect in the process.

Still got lots of photos in reserve to show you folks and lots of opinions to annoy you all with, but just not today. I'm actually impressed that people keep turning up to check this weblog out, we even had a nice link from someone who thought that this site was interesting.

Anyway, back soon.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Beautiful days...

We had some cracking weather up here in the North of England last week. I took the opportunity to grab my camera and take it with me on the way into work. Unfortunately I had completely failed to capture the swathes of snowdrops in the graveyard that I had seen a month or so back, and this time I just missed the daffodils that had replaced them. I did get some nice shots of some of our neighbours, though.

Just near the old silk mill around the corner there is a pen that used to contain geese. These things always hissed at me without fail and then last year they disappeared, possibly in the run-up to Christmas...

Anyway, now they have been replaced, originally by four geese but now it seems they are back down to two. In addition there are a collection of five brown, horned sheep (I don't know the exact variety). So far neither they nor the new geese have hissed at me.


More pictures to come...

They just got the wrong Guy...

Now this is just funny:

The true identity of a man who was mistakenly interviewed on BBC News 24 has been revealed.

Guy Goma, a graduate from the Congo, appeared on the news channel in place of an IT expert after a mix-up.

But Mr Goma, who was wrongly identified in the press as a taxi driver, was really at the BBC for a job interview.

Mr Goma said his appearance was "very stressful" and wondered why the questions were not related to the data support cleanser job he applied for.

The mix-up occurred when a producer went to collect the expert from the wrong reception in BBC Television Centre in West London.

The producer asked for Guy Kewney, editor of Newswireless.net, who was due to be interviewed about the Apple vs Apple court case.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Newer post than the last...

I'm staring at the old blog page and wondering 'what do I write about?'

There is plenty of material out there, be it serious or funny, but none of it inspires me.

I am bored with American politics. It was bound to happen, I have been back in the UK since September 2004 and with each passing month the relevance to my life is less and less. This is coupled to a growing feeling of despair and disgust when I see and hear the constant bashing of both left and right in the states, though I acknowledge that I am no paragon of virtue.

It is only going to get worse, I think. So from now on, I just don't care. I don't care what happened, what might happen, what didn't happen and what people think ought to have happened. I don't care. I am going to try not to get upset when I read bloggers who misrepresent and dissemble, of course this means that I should probably stop reading several of the blogs in my blogroll. :-)

On the flip side, I may get more interested in UK politics. There is certainly plenty here to get my teeth into and lets face it, it is of direct relevance to my daily life. Besides, spring is here and there are lots of nice things to photograph and blog about that aren't going to paint me as a religious anti-bushite or a warmongering chickenhawk. :-)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

An evil post (aka classic comedy moment)



Kav's off on travels again, not nearly so exotic this time, only to Aberystwyth. He, and hopefully all our neighbours, missed a classic comedy moment yesterday. I was taking advantage of the beautiful spring weather and doing a spot of heavy lifting in the garden to remove some old posts that used to support a deck outside our backdoor, so we can have a patio at a more sensible height. Nicely concreted in posts of course, very heavy! Four of the five came out relatively easily with a bit of persuasion and the application of leverage with the trusty garden spade. Number five turned out to be a bit of a bugger and I was busy heaving away when the spade turned out not to be so trusty afterall, there was a loud crack and a resounding thud as I promptly landed on my arse! I'm sure I heard the sparrows sniggering! :-)

You'll all be pleased to hear that I got my way in the end - although the lump of concrete is still in the ground, the post is mine!!!!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Anniversary Blogging from Banff


The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that my very first post on this blog was on 31 March 2005. My 1st anniversary has passed whilst I have been away.

I am about to go and check out to board a plane home after a very busy week. Hope everyone is okay.
Here is a pretty picture to keep you entertained. The town down there is Banff, not a bad place to come for a conference.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sunday evening bird blogging


It was recently pointed out to me that things have been far too quiet in this here bit of blogspace and since my better half is rather preoccupied at a conference in Canada I thought I'd take up the slack for a bit.

It's been a particularly frustrating evening of data processing for a poster I'm presenting soon in Austria - the bug I thought I'd fixed in the Fortran code has spontaneously re-appeared making me a very unhappy bunny indeed! A late night is in prospect, so here's a little light relief...

It's been a rather snowy March here (well it's snowed more than once - that's a lot for our little bit of England) and I caught this photo of the local birdlife making the most of the peanuts I put out for them...

Friday, March 10, 2006

...but not for me

Well I have to hand my KY back.

After all the talk by my (senior) colleagues, I did not even make the shortlist. Basically we had three candidates who were of exceptional quality and experience that placed them several steps above us other candidates. Of the remaining 9 candidates, I was apparantly up top but it was not a clear cut decision between me and others of similar experience and so they have opted to interview only the three.

I cannot say that I am 100% fine with this, but neither am I tearing my hair out and crying. It is a bit annoying that I wasted so much time preparing my application but hindsight is a beautiful thing. As the Dean said, I am young and in a relatively secure position, I have the future all ahead of me. Plus from my own point of view I am doing just what I always wanted to do.

Anyway, I may not have a job interview to prepare for but I do have to prepare two talks and a poster for three upcoming meetings so I will be quiet for some time. If this blog was more popular I would advertise for guest bloggers :-)

Apologies to those I am sort of in mid-debate with over various issues. I am afraid real life is getting in the way and as I have said before I am making stark choices on what blogging I do and respond to.

p.s. points for anyone who can name the song that the title of this post is a recurring line out of.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Help the RSPCA save British Badgers!

The RSPCA is asking for the publics help to stop the government ordering a cull of Badgers in the UK. The farmers believe that badgers infect their cattle with Bovine TB, however recent scientific evidence indicates the most prevalent source of infection is from other cows! There is also evidence that a badger cull may actually spread the problem since with less badgers around their territory expands.

There is currently a public consultation by the government about the proposed culling so now is the time for us to do something about it. The deadline is 10th March 2006 so do not delay!!

This RSPCA website has links to the relevant information and who to write to/email. They even have a handy letter template to help you.

Thank you
Em

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Political rambling

This was first posted as a comment over at Cabal but I decided to reproduce it here. It is just a rambling collective of thoughts about political labels and our view of government.

The US President George W. Bush is not a conservative.

I feel more and more that the 'liberal' and 'conservative' labels are becoming progressively useless in defining our politicans. Tony Blair is not a 'liberal' or a 'socialist' in the traditional sense regardless of the fact that he leads the Labour party. There are few who truly embody the principles of the ideologies to any extent that might have been observed in the past.

Is that a bad thing?

Not at all, it just depends on your point of view. My take is that new ideas (or refined ideas or even recycled ideas) emerge depending on your time frame. We each view 'society' differently and we come up with certain ideas on how 'society' should function and we then think of government, rightly or wrongly, as our focus for influencing society. We are influenced in our views (in no particular order and by varying amounts) by the media, by the government, by our family and friends, by the woman talking in the ailse at the supermarket, by whether we think Senator such-and-such has an honest face. This leads to a hodgepodge of ideas from various camps. Lets face it, political parties today are nothing like their counterparts of 200 years ago, and they are dissimilar to their counterparts of 200 years before them. Politics evolves and the speed of evolution is not constant.

Yet over time we become invested in the ideas that we develop or steal, and we cling to them in such a way as to make it difficult, though not impossible, to see beyond them. Sticking to one's principles is considered a good thing in our 'society' whilst adapting your stance to fit the facts can be called 'flip-flopping' and then we may be mocked or scorned. This is a terrible thing and it is a triumph of rhetoric over reason. Evidence perhaps that we are too ready to allow ourselves to become mired in ignoring politics; we elect them, they should deal with things without bothering us - all kinds of things that if we thought about it we might not want them deciding for us. Perhaps we are too prepared to lose our personal responsibility for the convenience of not having to get involved.

Anyway, I digress. I feel that it is important to learn from the past without the need to pin ourselves to it. We invest too much in the labels and too little in the actions. We generate bogeymen by use of the words 'liberal' and 'conservative' without really understanding the makeup of those we wish to demean. At the same time we demand too much from our government whilst not demanding enough from our politicians, and then comes the final straw; we roll our eyes and claim that its 'just politics' as if that is really an excuse. It isn't.

I have been trying to construct a post entitled 'How the 'Left' was Lost' in resposne to a discussion that Winston and I were having over at Cabal. I am finding it difficult, not because I beleive my thesis is wrong, rather because it is all so depressing. The same can be done for the right with the same level of depression.


Monday, February 27, 2006

Saddam Hussein calls off hunger strike


...because he got a bit peckish.

apparently its for health reasons:

Saddam Hussein has ended an 11-day hunger strike for "health reasons", his chief lawyer has said.

Khalil al-Dulaimi said his client had lost 4-5kg (9-11lbs), but that his morale was high.

The former Iraqi president and his co-defendants said they had stopped eating in protest at their treatment by the court where they are being tried.


I'm not buying it. Let's face it the man does not have a particularly good record when it comes to sticking to his word; I mean, whatever happened to the 'fighting to the death' thing? Next thing we know we find him hiding in a hole in the ground.

Come on, call a spade a spade; he's just a quitter. How does he think he will ever amount to anything with that losing mentality?


Anyway, what is the deal with 'health reasons'?

Helloooo, it is a hunger strike! I'm pretty sure that the point is to make yourself unwell to make a point. Many hunger strikers, the ones we really remember, died as a consequence of their choice to abstain. Its hardly awe-inspiring if you break off part way through because it is making you poorly.

Saddam announced the hunger strike on 14 February. It is not clear whether his seven co-defendants have also abandoned their protest.
I have to wonder whether anyone has told them. If not, they are going to be seriously pissed off with your man next time they see him.

Taha Yassin Ramadan: "Ah, Saddam! Our courage shames these treasonous dogs. Our steadfast refusal to eat the food fit only for the dogs they are will show them what we are made of! Our hunger and suffering will show the world that we stand firm in our defiance of the western invaders and their turncoat puppet in this mockery of justice!"

Saddam Hussein: "Yeah, about that. Look, I've been feeling a little peaky..."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Present

Since I am a fool and a glutton for punishment I am about to go for a lecturing job that has opened up here in the group. Although I am happy doing my research at the moment I have to look to the future and that means trying to secure a permanent position instead of contract work, no matter that I was on an effectively open-ended contract for all intents and purposes.

Although my boss would like me to get the job I know that I am not a shoe-in as we have other strong candidates applying. That said it hasn't stopped others from talking about it as if it were my job already. In fact one of my colleagues got me a present today in anticipation of my getting the job. He thought it would be useful knowing the way that the departments treats its academic staff.

It is a large tube of KY jelly.








Maybe I don't want this job quite as much as I thought I did...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sometimes you have to laugh...

... to avoid crying.

My colleague recently told me about a delegation of our students who had an important matter that they wished to raise. They were pretty disappointed with one of the policies in the department that directly affected their studies and thought that it was serious enough to warrant raising in the staff-student committee.

Basically they were very unhappy that for four days in the working week they were expected to get up and come to a lecture at 9am. They thought this was unfair and that it should be changed. They were told politely in adiplomatic manner to grow up and stop wasting our time with inconsequential rubbish.

And people wonder why I am a cynic and why I worry that the education system is failing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

(non) Free Votes!

Today's vote was not a free vote. Today the government was voting on the issue of Glorifying Terrorism. From the BBC:

The House of Lords voted last month to remove the measure from the Terrorism Bill, but the Commons has now voted by 315 to 277 to reinstate the plan.

Not sure how I feel about this. My view is that the legislation we have is perfectly capable of dealing with terrorists and people who actively encourage terrorism (as long as the CPS is encouraged to do its job and not interefered with). I think this might be a bridge too far, but am unsure.

(non) Smoking!

Sometimes its just a beautiful sunny day and you find yourself with nothing worth saying.

Maybe on those occasions I really shouldn't bother saying anything at all, but I can't help myself ;-)

Excellent news yesterday, the House of Commons voted to implement a no smoking ban in all public places. Hurrah.

Already I saw on the news that smokers are protesting that this violates their civil liberties. Apologies but that is bull shit. They can smoke in their own homes and out in the street, just not in enclosed places open to the public. In addition what right did they have to impose their second-hand smoke on people who work in bars, pubs and clubs? On an unrelated topic McQ at QandO summarises this point rather neatly:
"Freedom does not spring from having or doing only what they 'need", but being able to do what they want as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others when they do so."


Also the complaints about loss of trade are likely to turn out to be hollow. The ban has not killed off the pub trade in Ireland, nor in New York and other cities in America. I lived in Boulder Colorado for two years. It has a non-smoking policy and I can tell you that its bars and pubs were thriving! Our local was almost impossible to get a table at on a Friday night. And it was fantastic; I could go out, get completely plastered and come home and not stink like a dirty ash tray. It was wonderful and I look forward to the same experience in the UK come the summer of 2007.

It might also mean that the general population gets healthier if it encourages people to smoke less (certainly less second hand smoke problems). If that is so it might just save the NHS some money - the old adage of smokers supporting the health service by paying the tax on their cigarettes is worn out. It is just not accurate in this day and age where smokers who develop severe illnesses are treated long past the time they might once have died.

So hurrah for free votes in Parliament, why can't more be free?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Now ain't that a kick in the head?


Thanks Bill, really.

I spend an awful lot of time playing Halo on my PC. Too much time really; recently I upgraded to Halo CE which allows for new multiplayer maps and weapons. In addition I get to create my own maps if I so desire. So many more ways to waste my days and night. For a long time now you guys at Microsoft have been saying that you have no plans to release Halo 2 for the PC, much to the chagrin of the Halo PC users. Of course this also means that you have spent very little time on upgrading the original Halo PC game and servers as you have concentrated on Halo 2 and the XBox market. Well, fair enough, but now you announce that Halo 2 will finally come to the PC. Except there is a caveat, quite a big caveat. It will only be available for those who are willing to upgrade from XP to Vista, the superduper new platform. Well okay, I guess in some ways that is reasonable, we don't expect Windows 98 users to be able to play the latest games that come out for XP; things change and technologies develop and move on. The BBC said this about your announcement:

With Vista, Microsoft has made big changes to the way it handles graphics. Unlike other versions of Windows, it will need an advanced video card to get the most out of it.

It is also likely to demand a lot of computer memory and a sizeable hard drive. While these requirements are likely to be met by dedicated players who want to get the most out of games, many less keen players could struggle to comply.

The decision to make only a Vista version of the best-selling Halo 2 game could significantly stunt the games appeal.


No shit Sherlock. Yet, I for one am happy. This decision means that it is incredibly unlikely that I will get Halo 2 and so I will be a better husband and have more of a life. I will not be tempted to stay up half the night playing the new game and will have time to do other things. Perhaps I will actually spend the time on the computer to finish writing my novel instead of dicking about with Halo 2.

So thank you Bill Gates. Thank you most sincerely.

Kind Regards

Kav

Foiled Terrorist Plot

President Bush has detailed how a plot to crash a plane into the US Bank Tower in LA was folied in 2002/2003. Bravo.

This snippet of the story caught my eye:

Mr Bush said that instead of using hijackers of Arab origin, as in the attacks on New York and Washington, Sheikh Mohammed recruited "young men from South East Asia whom he believed would not arouse as much suspicion".

A sensible precaution really if you think that the authorities are going to be on the look out for those of an Arab or Persian persuasion. So what does this do to the great 'racial profiling debate'? I'll be honest and say that in the past I have tended to sway towards those who suggested that it made more sense to seach ditinctly Muslim looking folk, but now this has altered my perception. Obviously (and it should have been obvious before) we are not dealing with idiots, and to assume that by only targeting those we think look like terrorists then we are going to end up missing more and more as they slip through the net.

Luck?

Em and I have been talking about booking somewhere for dinner for valentine's day for several weeks. At first I was pleased with myself as by thinking about it so far in advance I felt confident that I would be able to get somewhere. Well, as it turns out in my usual crap fashion it turns out that I only got around to booking somewhere least night, less than a week before. With some trepidation I made the call to our favourite Chinese restaurant and as luck would have it they had space, plenty of space in fact, as long as we did not want to eat at 8pm. No problem we could happily do earlier, in fact I am sure that Em would appreciate earlier and so I made the booking.

Now the question is, were we lucky or do we just have really crappy taste in restaurants?


Oh yes, at the same time I finally managed to get through to an exterior house painter since we need our window frames and door frames repainting relatively soon. I had had little luck in getting hold of the guy we wanted in the past week and finally pinned him down yesterday evening. The only problem: he is unavailable to do the work for three months. Hmmm, might try someone else I think...

Friday, February 03, 2006

You would think that with two people it would be easier to update this weblog everyday. I guess not.

In the meantime here are a few thoughts.

  • What was the context of the cartoon that is causing controversy in the Muslim world?


  • Why are they venting their spleen at the Danish government and what does it say about how many Muslims view the relationship between the media and government?


  • Although we believe in freedom of speech, should we not be responsible in what we say and do?


  • Isn't it really funny that Blair missed that vote?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

French Cowards? Non, monsieur.

Well, I guess this scotches the idea that all French are cowards:


Under the headline "We have the right to caricature God," a French newspaper today reprinted the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have ignited extraordinary anti-Danish protests, death threats and boycotts across the Muslim world.
At a time when the British government is coming close to attempting to limit free speech about religion, it is nice to see others stepping up.
More information and opinion can be gathered from Charles Bremners weblog

The Americans may call them surrender-monkeys, but the French can sometimes teach the world something about pluck -- or maybe foolhardiness. France Soir has just courted big trouble by printing across two pages all 11 of the Danish newspaper cartoons that have caused such a furore in the Muslim world. For good measure, they ran their own cartoon across the front page, featuring not just the Prophet Muhammad but Jesus Christ, Jehovah and Buddah. "Yes, we have the right to caricature God," said the headline.
It makes me wonder, do these people who protest the 'defamation of God' believe that they need to protect Him? Are they suggesting that He is so weak that He is incapable of defending Himself? Lets face it, the Lord may not offer anything in the way of divine retribution in this life, but surely He can make sure that eternity feels like a really long time for people who upset Him.

UPDATE: So not everyone is quite so courageous (or foolhardy or disrespectful, depending upon your viewpoint). I see that the editor of France Soir has been sacked by the owner

Jacques Lefranc was dismissed by the owner of France Soir, as his paper became embroiled in a developing row between Muslims and the European press.





oops!

It is rare that when you hear the news in the morning it leaves you with a smile on your face:

Tony Blair failed to stay in the Commons to vote against a Lords' amendment to water down a series of key clauses, which was then lost by a majority of just one.

In another humiliating blow to Mr Blair’s grip on his 65-seat Commons majority, 21 Labour rebels voted with Opposition MPs while at least 40 more were absent or abstained.

It soon emerged that Mr Blair had returned to Downing Street after being told by Hilary Armstrong, the Chief Whip, that there was no point in staying for the vote after an earlier measure was lost by a majority of ten.

I don't particularly like these new laws having originally tentatively supported the idea of them and am glad that they will not go through as originally drafted. But lets face it the fact that Blair's own vote could have made some difference in the second vote is highly amusing.


I think I'll be smiling all day long... :-D

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

DRM

If, like me, you don’t know what DRM stands for then this BBC article can make worrying reading. DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is all about the media industry’s attempts to reduce piracy. An admirable aim I hope you agree, but are they taking things too far?

You may remember recently there was the enormous furore about Sony and its rather suspect little bit of software (XCP) that came on some very innocent looking CDs with the aim of copy-protecting the music on them. The dust seems to have settled in the media over the Sony incident but the media industry in general seems intent on maintaining some sort of copy protection.

Many would argue that it is their right to do so, and they may be correct. Let us consider the example of the restriction of how many times a particular digital song can be copied or burnt to a CD. What is a reasonable number of times to be able to do this, 5, 10, 25? Inherent in the answer to this question will be the length of time you want to be able to use the song for. Not only does this refer to how often you might change your computer system – or for that matter how many times you have to recover your system from scratch (not too many I hope!), but also as I recently discovered, how long you might want to keep your home-burnt CD copy of your digital file since I recently discovered that these can only be expected to last 2 to 5 years!

So despite the promises of the wonders of digital music and how we needn’t be tied to a specific physical storage medium, we are still in effect limited by what we store it on, just as in the past when tapes were superseded by CDs. You only get the use of the music for a limited time. In reality therefore when we buy music we are actually renting the music for the lifetime of the tape/CD/digital format. This is where you might argue that the music industry has a perfect right to do that. In my view though, they must sell it with that caveat easily apparent to the purchaser. In the case of tapes and CDs you could argue that this is obvious; however, when it comes to digital music, unless you are much more than just a casual downloader then do we actually know what it is we are buying?

(This BBC article did enlighten me about something I hadn’t yet come across – renting access to a giant music database. You pay a subscription, and while you continue to do so you can access and use any of the songs (I believe the ability to copy it to your portable player costs a bit more). Once you cease paying you can no longer access the songs. A simple and intriguing idea. ). Back to my point though…..

I’m probably a prime example at the moment, having recently joined the world of IPod users, I downloaded my first ITune last week. I didn’t see any warnings when setting up my account or downloading the song about the restrictions it seems they place on the number of times you can burn the song to CD. I guess it’s all in the license agreement somewhere, and yes it’s my fault I couldn’t be bothered to read it all as usual! The fact that the songs are in this AAC format is a bit more obvious I suppose, but I suspect unless you’ve been using portable media players for a while now, the reality of how restrictive this format is will be unlikely to hit you. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not singling out Apple as the bad guys here, I suspect that similar experiences abound with other providers as well. So far I’m pretty happy with my IPod (I’m frequently amazed by carrying a tiny computer with 30Gb of memory in my pocket when my parents used computers that required punch cards and took up entire rooms!) and I’ve no idea if any of the other options out there are any better or any worse.

This brings me to my point: the digital music industry is a quagmire for the unwary or inexperienced customer. The companies involved need to make what they’re selling absolutely clear so that the consumer can make an informed decision about what they will get for their small green pieces of paper.

Joint Blogging

As of today, Living in the Real World has become a joint project. My wife has decided to join the fray and has a post up. Treat her nicely!

I imagine that it will still be mostly me that posts here but I hope I can persuade her to throw some more posts our way in the future.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Comments or no comments. Indeed.

At the risk of boring my few readers I want to talk a little about the issue surrounding Glenn Reynolds and weblog comments. For background it all seemed to stem from this Washington Post discussion. Glenn, like many others, chooses not to have comments on his website. I think that is fair enough, there is no reason why he should have to have comments if he does not want them; people do not have the divine right to comment on his posts on his weblog. There is no issue of free speech here, you can say what you like if you get yourself a weblog of your own - just as I am doing right now.

However, I just want to point a couple of things out over the reasons stated by Glenn as to why he does not have comments. From the transcript:

I think that one reason has to do with media treatment. Charles Johnson, for example -- who does have comments -- has repeatedly faced media stories about his site in which comments made by his readers are directly attributed to him, as if he had written them. I certainly worry about that sort of thing, too.


OK fair enough. But the story did not end there, instead it was taken up by Stephen Spruiell at NRO who pointed to a subsequent story from reuters as vindication of Glenn's statement:

The article, which ran on the Times opinion page on Tuesday, was quickly linked on conservative sites across the Internet, where readers poured scorn on Stein, on the newspaper and on liberals in general.

"If I ever run into the a**hole, I'm going to knock his frickin' block off," one man wrote on the Little Green Footballs (www.littlegreenfootballs.com) Web site, one of nearly 500 people who had commented on the article by mid-afternoon.

Emphasis mine.
Glenn then linked to this and said:

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reuters proves my point about comments and the press very nicely, with a quote from LGF. Thanks, Reuters!


But hold on Glenn, that did not prove your point at all. NRO tried to say that it proved your point but then used weasel language:

The article doesn't directly attribute the comment to Charles Johnson, but his Web site is nevertheless represented in the mainstream press by this comment, which he had no control over

So in actual fact the comment was rightfully attributed to a commenter and admittedly might have been used unfairly in characterising the general tone of the conservative comments. But the main point here is that it did not do what Glenn Reynolds said that he was worried about, ergo it is in no way a vindication of what he said. I don't want to get into the debate over whether LGF was really represented in the media by that quote or if it was defaming. Especially as one could make the argument that Glenn had already done that:

I find the comments on Atrios, Kos, or for that matter Little Green Footballs, to be tiresome.

So LGF is tiresome is it? That's hardly a good representation in the mainstream press is it? OK I am not really serious here, but one can see how the two things mirror each other.

To clarify my position, Glenn could well be right to fear about misrepresentation in the media and I take his word for it that what he has described has happened. What I take umbrage with is this claiming of some sort of victory when there was none. It stinks of exactly what we complain about in politicians: saying one thing and then claiming that something tangentially related proves their point. We take umbrage with them and so it is right that those who comment on politics should be held to the same standard. Of course this could simply be a mistake on Glenn's part, perhaps he did not read the NRO article properly because he is certainly intelligent enough to see that what he originally said and what he claimed as a vindication were not the same thing at all.

I have emailed Glenn about this, and I know that it might seem a small thing but I just feel it is important that someone like Glenn, who people go to for useful information and links, should be held to the same standard that we should hold our media friends (I miss Spinsanity, bring it back!). I have not received a reply from Glenn, hence this post. I do not think I am being ignored, i think it is more to do with the fact that Glenn gets hundreds of emails everyday and there is only so much time in a day. In addition, I email from my Yahoo account and I often worry that it gets picked up by spam filters.

Indeed from what Glenn says in his latest post on this issue, I would not be at all surprised if my email never made it. That said I think that this plan, from a commenter here, is juvenile and sefl-defeating. I hope that nothing emerged from it.

Funnily enough I just saw parallels between what NRO said:
...but his Web site is nevertheless represented in the mainstream press by this comment, which he had no control over
and what Mister Snitch did:

A seemingly endless diatribe blaming Reynolds' famous lack of comments for most of the world's ills sets off a comment suggesting that the left send him hate-mail,

Of course the latter is hardly mainstream press so it is not really comparable but I thought it was vaguely amusing. Heh.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

more blogroll additions

New additions:

Balloon Juice is a voice of calm and reason where left and right can discuss matters American with only a teensy weensy amount of name calling :-)

QandO is on just because I liked to this from elsewhere and then found myself getting sucked in...

Also, I have reactivated the Technorati an Ecosystem links. If they are still slow I'll mess around again.

What now with Hamas

So Hamas have won in the Palestinian elections. It is a somewhat depressing thought that so many voters would support a party constructed along military lines with the aims of destroying Israel. Though perhaps not surprising.

So what now? Well if they want any sort of aid from the US or the EU they will have to change their tune:

US President George W Bush said the US would not deal with Hamas unless it renounced its call to destroy Israel.

"I've made it very clear that the US does not support political parties that want to destroy our ally Israel," he said.

Mr Bush said the poll was a "wake-up call" for the Palestinian leadership, but he hoped Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas would stay in power.

"The onus is now on Hamas to choose between democracy or violence. You cannot have both," UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC.


The UK (with support from the US) was happy to deal with the IRA in a drive towards peace, the wisdom of that decision is yet to be borne out inasmuch as peace is not quite delivered yet even a cynic such as I must admit that things seem better in Northern Ireland - but they could not have gotten much worse. So now would we be able to deal effectively with Hamas? No, I think not. Mainly because no matter what concession we yield to them (as we did the IRA, eg. prisoner release, etc), Israel will not (rightfully so) since no concession will stop them wishing for the destruction of Israel.

So what hope is there for a Palestinian state with Hamas at the helm? I am not sure, this might act as a wake-up call for Hamas as they are effectively invited to the big-boy table. On the other hand they may see it as a mandate for continuing and indeed stepping up there war on Israel. If so I hold little hope for the creation or survival of a Palestinian state. The cynic in me would argue that if Israel were to recognise a sovereign Palestinian state under the leadership of Hamas and the latter were to continue with their intent to destroy Israel then we would have a state of formal war. Israel could simply push the Palestinians into the sea. What would that do to the rest of the region? Well many of the states around there have cared little for the fate of the Palestinians upto now except in paying lipservice. But that is just my cynical mind, I doubt that scenario.

What will happen, I have no idea. Scarily, I don't think Hamas has any idea either.

Implosion

The Lib Dems continue to reap the benefits of sticking the knife into Charles Kennedy's back. First there was Mark Oaten and the rent boy and now Simon Hughes is defending saying that he was not gay and now admitting to homosexual relationships. What next, I wonder? Will the Sun out Ming Campbell as a secret drag queen?

For the record, this should all be a storm in a teacup. Why should we care about sexual preference when considering someone as fit material for a party leader? The truth is we shouldn't and in the cases above it is more the fact that these men lied that is causing them problems. of course a case could be made for Hughes; when asked if he was gay he said no and it could be true. Just because one has had a homosexual relationship in the past does not make one gay, just ask a vast number of people schooled in private education. He could be bisexual or he could now be exclusively straight. But most importantly it does not matter. As for Oaten, well he is going to have to make amends to his wife and family but remember that there is no alleged prostitution involved in his relationship with this other man; no law was broken on Oaten's part.

What this has done has highlighted the obsession we have with 'private' lives, even those who choose to keep them private. Some have claimed that Oaten brought it on himself by inviting cameras into his home, but my impression was that he never made a big deal of his homelife - he just gave an interview in his kitchen, his family was not on screen. If we had all been so obsessed with the skeletons gathering dust in the closets of politican's private lives in the past then I fear that we would have missed out on a large number of capable and admired politicians.

So I have three pieces of advice:

1) For the politicians:

Don't go on about family values unless you hold to them. Do not use your family in your efforts to get elected, it is your job, not theirs.

2) For the voters:

Do not expect your politicians to be squeaky clean. Look to them to do their jobs not as paragons of virtue in some moral competition for who can look the most homely.

3) For the media;

You are there to report the news, not to make it. Try considering the relevence of a line of questioning. Get over your obsession with sex or have the decency to stop calling yourselves newspapers and instead try 'opinionpapers'.


Oh, Lembit, Lembit, wherefore art thou lembit?

Stupid is catching

On first glance this is disheartening:

More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey.

Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons.

Oh fantastic. At least this isn't a political football over here.

Over 2000 participants took part in the survey, and were asked what best described their view of the origin and development of life:

  • 22% chose creationism
  • 17% opted for intelligent design
  • 48% selected evolution theory
  • and the rest did not know.

When asked about what should be taught in science lessons in British schools:

  • 44% said creationism should be included
  • 41% chose intelligent design
  • 69% said evolution.

Exactly how these two gel together I am not sure. I would like to know how the questions were put together. For example were they given the option of expressing an option for ID or creationism to be taught in schools but not in a science class? I went to a Roman Catholic school and was taught evolution in biology; I was taught about creationism in Religious Education (though with an emphasis on the metaphorical nature of the book of Genesis) and we discussed ID, though it was not called that at the time (we had the whole watchmaker argument), in RE as well.

The poll was comissioned for an episode of Horizon and the editor had this to say:

"I think that this poll represents our first introduction to the British public's views on this issue. Most people would have expected the public to go for evolution theory, but it seems there are lots of people who appear to believe in an alternative theory for life's origins."
Not to nitpick but as I am sure Hrun would say, evolution does not deal in Life's origin. Don't be fooled by 'The Origin of Species'; the key word there is species not life. Evolution does not speak to where life originated, it only speaks to how life developed. Hence the book is called 'The descent of man' not 'The origin of man'. To reiterate, evolution does not offer any perspective on how life started or came to be, it only describes how life changes from one form to another.


Back to the poll. The slight breakdown of the numbers that is offered is intriguing:

Participants over 55 were more likely to choose evolution over other groups, while those under 25 were most likely to opt for intelligent design.

So is this perhaps an indication of how our education system has been failing in the past few years? A number of younger people have no concept of what 'science' is or else they suffer from the crime of instincitive inclusion: all points of view are equally valid and so should be included even if, in fact, they are meritless. That sound harsh but when it comes to whether I think Creationism or ID should be taught in science classrooms I state that the argument for inclusion is completely without merit.

I would also like to know how the numbers broke down by religious demographic and educational background. I don't necessarily expect something, but would be intrigued to see whether these views are spread across all walks of life anc culture or whether they are tied to particular parts of our community.