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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


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


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.


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.


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