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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physical storage medium, we are still in effect limited by what we store it on, just as in the past when tapes were superseded by CDs.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.

Similar in a superficial sort of way

I like astronomy though I am not really much of an astronomer; my interests lie within the solar system. Plus I have to contend for funding with astronomers who do not really seem to appreciate what we do and severly outnumber us. I have a colleague who laments that it seems that astronomers seem to publish whenever they turn on their telescopes and see a slightly pinker star than the one they saw yesterday, plus they are very good at getting their stories picked up by the media.

Anyway, a planet closest in size to Earth has been discovered. This is the latest in a line of planets that have been identified which successively smaller sizes, each one bringing with it a fanfare of excitement. It is quite a triumph considering that the first extra-solar planet was discovered only 11 years ago. It is still five times the mass of the Earth, and though I don't have the numbers, if it has a comparable denisty to Earth (speculation on my part, then you would experience just over 3 times the pull of gravity that you do on Earth.

This is all well and good but what really got me was in this BBC report.

The planet, which goes by the name OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, takes about 10 years to orbit its parent star, a red dwarf which is similar to the Sun but cooler and smaller.


So similar in what way exactly? In that its a star perhaps? Or maybe more basic: its kind or round and gives off light.

See that is why I get irritated with some science journalism?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Funny


I saw
this via Shinobi.

If you ever played any RPG (not rocket-propelled-grenade) on your computer then you will find this funny; even if you are a Bush supporter. Just put yourself in the mindset of someone who opposed Bush and see the funny side - its a caricature, if you will.


ps. my spell checker wants to turn 'Shinobi' into 'shampoo'. Ain't technology brilliant?

Hamza and the FO

During his trial today Abu Hamza said that he believed that Jews control the media and British Foreign Office:

There are people who are Zionists who live outside (Israel) who are helping Zionists in Israel," he told the court on his fourth day in the witness box.

Asked by David Perry, prosecuting, if he meant that the Foreign Office was controlled by Jews he said: "Yes."

"And the media?" Mr Perry asked.

"Yes," replied Mr Abu Hamza.

Hmmm, interesting thesis. Oh, and by interesting I mean 'nuts'. I am pretty sure that Meryl Yourish and others would dispute his assertions.

As evidence for his assertion, Hamza pointed out that:

"If a doctor kills 250 of his patients there is not a single word about his religion."

He was referring to killer Harold Shipman, he added.

Erm, perhaps that is because his religion had absolutely nothing to do with it, just a thought. He's not really building up his credibility, is he?

I think my favourite quote from the piece is to do with whether Hamza would allow his children to become jihadists.

Would Mr Abu Hamza allow his children to undergo Jihad training, "as you recommend in your recording?" Mr Perry asked.

"If they want, why not? They should go and see first. They are always scouting."

"I am not talking about sausages on camp fires," Mr Perry added.

Classic! LOL. I have visions of little hook-handed scouts sitting round a campfire. Probably not singing kumbyah.

You know you are hungry when...

...you smell someone's Pot noodle in the kitchen and think: " hmm, pot noodle, that would be nice".

This is what I get for eating my lunch at 11:30 instead of waiting that half hour.

Monday, January 23, 2006

An Englishman's home is his castle; An American's home is a hotel?

This is just very, very funny.

Activists angered by a US Supreme Court ruling that homes can be demolished for public developments are trying to seize the home of one of the judges involved.
About 60 people rallied in the small New Hampshire town of Weare on Sunday, where Justice David Souter has a house.
The protesters say they have enough signatures from Weare residents to put their proposal to a town vote in March.
They want to seize his house and build a hotel for the 'public benefit'

I seriously doubt that it will get much further, but perhaps it will act as a shake up for judges that sometimes their decisions have consequences beyond the abstract. if they do take the house then I will feel sorry for the judge and his family, but perhaps the point will be made. Of course this rule did not affect me in the UK but I still thought it was wrong.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Science bad; Science good

As someone involved (albeit currently peripherally) in the scientific education of young people I found this report to be very depressing:

Among those who said they would not like to be scientists, reasons included: "Because you would constantly be depressed and tired and not have time for family", and "because they all wear big glasses and white coats and I am female".


and this:

The number taking A-level physics dropped by 34% between 1991 and 2004, with 28,698 taking the subject in that year.

The decline in numbers taking chemistry over the same period was 16%, with 44,440 students sitting the subject in 1991, and 37,254 in 2004.

The number of students taking maths also dropped by 22%.

Don't ask me why they mention maths, I know its not a real science...

Seriously though, it is very depressing, especially the fact that kids just don't think science is for them. I guess the question becomes who do they think will provide future scientists? Where are all these really brainy people they think will be the scientists?

On the other hand this news was particularly pleasing:
The US space agency (Nasa) successfully launched its New Horizons mission to Pluto on Thursday.

The probe lifted off at 1900 GMT aboard an Atlas 5 rocket on a 10-year journey to the planet, some five billion km (three billion miles) from Earth.


We have not been to Pluto before. Unfortunately for us it means a single flyby since we cannot place the satellite into orbit. Still it is exciting.

Funnily enough, the moon was used to provide the initial kick of acceleration. It took 9 hours to reach the moon. Contrast that with the 3 days it took the Apollo astronauts. Sometimes there are real benefits to unmanned space exploration. Of course it is still a shame that we have not yet returned to the moon. Maybe soon...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What Darwinists , IDers and Creationists don't want you to know...

There is no theory of evolution, just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.

I know I am late to this party but the Chuck Norris fact site cracks me up. I particularly like the very bizarre:

Crop circles are Chuck Norris' way of telling the world that sometimes corn needs to lie the fuck down.

or this one:

If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can't see Chuck Norris, you may be only seconds away from death.


Thanks to David for tipping me off to this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Excuse me Mr Blair


... but ID cards are a waste of money in so many ways. They will cost to create and they will cost to administer. The majority in the UK do not care for them and they will be a waste of time anyway, do you really think that terrorists who come into this country will be so underprepared that they could not forge them? And would they need to? Are we going to keep tabs on all foreign nationals 24 hours of the day?

Most importantly Mr Blair, do you recall how in July 2005 the London bombers were UK citizens? under your plan they would have had ID cards and exactly how would your precious cards have helped foil the bombing? Not at all, as Charles Clarke truthfully said. So what use are ID cards? No use; all they are another example of an overprotective nanny state flexing its muscles in an ill thought out measure to try and combat a serious problem - half cocked is a phrase I might use. It puts me in mind of trying to shoot down bombers with nothing but a slingshot: completely ineffective.

Tony Blair said the entire government "absolutely" backed ID cards and fears over civil liberties were "misplaced".

OK, so now you are talking twaddle, sir, and you know it.

As to helping control illegal immigration and identity fraud, I doubt it in the long term even if it does slow things down until the criminals catch up with them. Besides what about on-line identity fraud? Are we going to have to show our ID over the internet? That said I must applaud you on neatly changing rationales part way through the process, very cunning.

Please also remember that you and your benevelent government will not be in power for ever and that this age of enlightenment may dwindle. In that case cards may become a serious problem for civil liberties even if they are not such now. Lets take a moment and remember the happiness in this country when we were able to give up ID cards long after WWII had finished. Now reflect upon that.

As for everyone else, if you are unsure about ID cards then I recommend that you weigh it up and make your own decision. Here are some facts and opinions.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Death Penalty

The USA has put to death its oldest Death-Row inmate. I have issues with any state (so-called civilized or not) that executes people. I think it is wrong and dangerous and I know I am in a minority. This is based, I suspect, on the general perception of 'it would never happen to me' that most of us drift through our lives with. However I'm not trying to start a debate on the death penalty, rather I just want to point out the weakest argument ever for attempting a stay of execution:

Allen's lawyers had called for clemency because of his health and age, but their appeals were rejected.


Why would this even be considered? For starters it is incredibly ageist if nothing else. You do the crime, you do the time. This was not a case of arguing for a reformed character or of pleading innocence - this was a case where they wanted him let-off due to his age and health. Weak, very weak.

Metapost

In an effort to combat the slow load time I have temporarily removed the java scripts to the TruthLaidBear EcoSystem and to Technorati, both of which were seemingly slowing this down for some unknown reason. They shall be restored in the near future.

Corax

A cool name for a cool plane:















Corvus Corax, Latin name for the common Raven.

Picture taken from this article.

The last line of the piece is surprising:

The prototype Corax was first flown in 2004 after a 10-month development programme.

Is it me or is that a very, very short time for a development programme? They rally ran full tilt at this one, or else they just pinched another design (maybe):

The Corax bears some resemblance to a cancelled US military spy plane called DarkStar, analysts have said.

Nuclear or no?

This BBC article is somewhat promising, but I won't hold my breath at this stage:

A majority of people in Britain would accept new nuclear power stations if they helped fight climate change, a poll suggests.

Some 54% said they would accept new stations being built for this reason, the Mori survey of 1,500 people for the University of East Anglia found.

I'd like to know more about the sampling and questions before being happy but the following line makes me think it reflects the popular view to at least some degree:


But in general, more people were against nuclear power than in favour.
Nearly 80% thought renewable technologies and energy efficiency were better ways of tackling global warming.


I agree with the inherent wish in the latter sentence but am less sure of the reality. If we can do it with wholly renewable sources and energy efficiency I would be a very happy bunny. I am unsure at the moment that that is the case; it may be so in the future.

I am unsure how the following stacks up with the opening statements though:

And in terms energy mix, the poll found 63% believed that Britain needed a combination of energy sources, including nuclear and renewables, to ensure a reliable supply of electricity.

However, whichever way you cut it, it is a very small majority of people, which means that we have a hell of a lot more convincing to do before we can build new nuclear power stations. As part of this we need a coherent and transparant nuclear programme that does not involve the direct control of private companies, on the other hand we need to ensure efficiency and so a new control model is neccessary to combat the typical government waste in projects such as this. I am less than confident that this (or any other) government is capable of doing that.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Announcing my non-candidacy

David from Fuddland visited my wife and I at the weekend. It was fun, we drank beer, wine and they drank whisky. In amongst the conversation we discussed politics and I came to the startling realization that I might just like to go into politics. Shortly thereafter I came to another startling realization: I will never enter politics. Basically, I could find no home in any mainstream party for my disparate views and the idea of being a lone voice in limbo is somewhat soul destroying. In addition modern politics does not just involve the politician, it also involves the politician's family and quite frankly I would not like to place my wife in the public eye if she did not choose that.

So all in all the UK is safe from me trying to become dictator-for-life. But you know what, UK? You have no idea what you are missing...

ps. oh yes, and no one in their right mind would vote for me. :-)

scandals all around

The current scandal involving List 99 and the sex offenders register is one that is likely to run and run. Government opponents are going to make massive bails of hay out of the trouble and, in some ways, rightly so. This is an issue where chances should not be taken, if you are on the sex offenders register then you should go straight onto List 99. You can argue all you like about whether that is fair considering the scale of offences that can lead to a person's name being placed in the sex offenders register, but I would suggest that the issue in that case is to work on how we maintain and compile the register. Then at least we have an absolute at the other end of the process: your name is on the regsiter then your name is on List 99.

Now the government has decided to review records of the past 30 years to ensure that correct decisions have been made. I would support this unreservedly if the cynical voice inside my head were not screaming so loadly that I cannot ignore it. To me this appears to be little more than an attempt to hunt down cases of past government mismanagement, and for that, read conservative. At the moment it is only the Labour minister coming in for the attacks, how much better then if Labour can de-fang the Tory attacks by finding examples of Conservative ministers doing the same thing. I could be wrong, I don't think I am.

Oh. My. God!

Following links from other blogs can be dangerous. One never knows where you might end up. Today I followed a link from Feministe and arrived here.

Be warned, this is quite possibly damaging to your dignity if a workmate catches you watching it. On the other hand, it is somewhat mesmeric and well worth seeing, if only for the life experience.


You have been encouraged, and warned.

best quote of the day:

Dolly Parton:

People ask me does it bother me when people call me a dumb blonde?

I say no for two reasons: One, I know I'm not dumb and, two, I know I'm not blonde!


:-)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The rise of Socialist principles is to blame for the breakdown in the notion of personal responsibility in western civilization:

Discuss

:-P

Friday, January 13, 2006

An Independent Observers's analysis of American Politics:

Greatest danger to the Republican party:

The Republican Party


Biggest Obstacle to the Democratic party gaining power:

The Democratic Party

Oh, should they be the other way round? Ah, no, I got it right the first time...

Aid on Aids

So what is it about American presidents that they seem to do so much more good when they are out of office than when they are in it?

Good for the rest of the world that is, I suppose. I'm looking forward to seeing what President Bush II will do once he is out of office.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

True love

All bitching aside, I love my new computer!!!!

I know I am a big kid, but Halo and Battlefronts II look fantastic on it :-D

Plus the 5.1 surround sound is fantastic with John Williams Star Wars score.

OK, really must go to bed now...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Got a new computer today. It should have arrived on Friday but didn't. The delivery time was between 8am and 6pm - they could not narrow it down any further. Office hours ended at 5:30pm and so I could not call them on Friday to get a direct response (though I tried) as to why no computer was delivered. In fact they made no attempt to contact me on Friday to inform me that the delivery was not going to be made.; I wasted an entire day waiting for a delivery that was not coming.

I called up on Saturday morning and eventually got through to an agent (lots of holding). She informed that the delivery had been scheduled for the day before.

I restrained from profanity and explained that I would like to know why that had not been the case.

She said that it was on hold and would I be available on Monday.

I said I would like to know why it had not been delivered on Friday.

She then got testy and said she would find out by calling the depot but that she had to know whether I could accept delivery on Monday so that she could reorganise it.

I restrained from profanity and said yes. I was put on hold, which thankfully did not last long.
The agent then said that the depot had been waiting for two extra boxes that had not arrived before delivering.

I said, fine, but I had already lost a day at work and would now lose another, could they be more specific with the delivery time.

She said no, but if I called on Monday morning at 9am they would be able to give me an eta.

Things I did not ask: Why was the delivery scheduled if all the pieces were not there?

Anyway, come Monday and 9am swings around. I call the company again, a different agent answers. She expresses surprise as my order was delivered on Friday, I explain the siuation. She next, says that she can see that the delivery is now ready to go and she will email the depot to check an eta. To give an eta now (as promised) would be impossible and so could I call back in 1.5 hours. I say fine. I use a lot of profanity but I have already ended the call. Just as the 1.5 hours is about to pass a Fed-Ex truck arrives (not the courier I was expecting so I guess they must have been subcontracting) and I get my computer. Excellent.

Now then, time for a complaint letter to WelshWestern cc'd to Dell.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Fun with words...

Simon Hughes just dropped a beautiful clanger. In paying his respect to Kennedy's resignation he said:
"The end of Charles' leadership is the end a hugely successful period for us as a party."
and
"he has led us to our best successes as a party ever"
He then got better and put the remaining comments in a temporal context using words such as 'since'. Anyway, priceless. We all know what he meant but that is not what he said. According to the words quoted, Hughes believes that the success is over and the best results ever have already been achieved. Aren't words fun :-)

That said his response to some of the questions that have been thrown at him has elevated him in my eyes and I feel a certain amount of respect for the man. He clearly is not happy with the way some of his colleagues have behaved with respect to Kennedy. From his comments we can assume he was not one of the signatories to the infamous letter.


As an aside, I feel sorry for Matthew Taylor. He is a Lib Dem MP who has agreed to talk to the BBC on News24 and they keep cutting to him and then rapidly away when someone 'more important' becomes available. That includes the BBC political editor, Nick Robinson. Poor guy.

And there he goes...

Ha, in his speech he is making the same points I did. None of them had the bollocks to face him in an election. He may not have said it in black and white (which is a shame), but he has sown the seeds. Of course he could not say it without further undermining the successor - I hate politics sometimes!

Now we will see who steps into the breach. Come on Lembit, as one of the few who actually supported Kennedy instead of twisting the knife in his back, now is your time! Lets find out the names on that resignation letter.

He left some good advice for the Lib Dems. Stop panicing over the appearance of the other parties, they will do their thing and don't let it disrupt what happens in your own party like it has been doing recently. The Tories must be loving this, they can point to this as the Liberals running scared by a newly invigorated and, I must say, more appealing conservatve party.

In addition, he has outlined his successes as leader, which were not inconsiderable for the theird party in Parliament.


UPDATE: Hah! Do you know why I like Lembit Opik? It is partly because he actually answers questions. He did so just now when asked would he stand for the election and he said no, but he would next time around. Instead he wants the Party President job in a couple of years.

Kennedy gone...

It appears that in just a few minutes Charles Kennedy will resign from the leadership of the Liberal Democrats and rule himself out of running in the leadership election. This follows pushing from his senior colleagues including threats of mass resignation.

I am sorely disappointed in the upper echalons of the Lib Dems over this. I can understand why they might not have faith in Kennedy and why they might not want him to remain as leader. However the answer was simple, the man had called a leadership election one or more of them should have had the stones to put their name forward and contested the leadership. Instead they pushed behind the scenes to drive Kennedy out. Why? Perhaps they did not want to appear disloyal by running against him, if so the mass coverage of who has done what and said this or that has clearly undermined that. Otherwise, did they fear that Kennedy would win such a competition? If so, and if they thought this was the only way to get rid of him then it is a truly undiplomatic message they are sending out to the voters - it might bite them in the arse.

Of course it is the senior members of the party, those on the front bench who work with him day to day who are doing this. Consequently we have to remember that they have had to work with him day-in and day-out and so had to deal with the problems of his drinking.

All in all, though, it still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. This might have lost them one potential voter in the next general election depending on who wins the leadership election and what that person had said and done leading into this debacle.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Red January

The Hunt for Red October is on BBC1 tonight. Sam Neil has a brave stab at a Russian accent. Connery also attempts and manages to pull off a fine accent. Being the consumate professional that he is Connery thoroughly researched his role; he did some extensive background reading on the region of Lithuania that Ramius was supposed to be from. It was a small town on the banks of the Sevntoji river. Connery went there and spent six months living with the locals, learning their manner of speech and customs.

It was just sheer coincidence that they happened to sound exactly like the Scottish.



ps. Is it just me or can no-one else listen to Josh Ackland without hearing a South African accent and the words 'Diplomatic Immunity!'

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Nuts!

Can you believe this???

It's funny how it is said that God moves in mysterious ways. The whole aspect of God and faith is that it is a mystery. Well, guess what folks, the mystery is over. Its all really simple, Pat Robertson knows the Lord's mind, Hallelujah! And do you know what the Lord thinks? He thinks that he ought to go around and go asmiting the folks that Pat don't like.

That's God's land is it Pat? Funny I thought he had the whole Earth, sorry my mistake.

As for the other prick, do we expect better? I didn't think so.

See, Reality TV is shit!

I have never been a big fan of 'reality TV' in general. I know lots of people like it, but it does not really float my boat. I did really enjoy Survivor, but that only lasted two series over here. Big Brother was interesting at first but now it tends to bug me that it dominates the TV (like X-factor recently did on ITV and ITV2).

Anyway, my distaste has been cranked up a notch tonight. Why? Because of this.

Of all the people to put in the Celebrity Big Brother house, they put this bastard in.

I hate George Galloway. No, really I do.

Kennedy calls contest

Charles Kennedy, the leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Party has called a leadership election after many rumours and sniping within his party. At the same time he has admitted that he has a drink problem (though has been dry for 2 months and has been seeking help). His drinking has been a standard joke (without concrete proof it seemed) for quite some time and it remains to be seen how the media will treat this story. It seemed to have little effect on his ability to lead.

Strangely this all started brewing (no pun intended) shortly after the Tories swapped leaders for
Blair-lite (all the charisma, only half the dictator) and it did look like band wagon jumping, especially since Kennedy has brought some of the biggest victories to the Lib Dems in their short history. Under him the party has grown such that people see it as more of a contender than they ever did under Paddy Ashdown, who was one of the most well-liked modern-day politicians in Great Britain.

So who will the liberals choose to replace Kennedy? Here are the likely suspects though Mark Oaten has already ruled himself out of the race. I suspect that the frontrunners will be Simon Hughes and Sir Menzies 'Ming the Merciless' Campbell. Do either of these men have the charisma to attract the country? My best bet for a leader who could appeal to the people is Lembit Opik, but I am betting he will not run.

Who knows, with the Conservatives swapping out, and the Lib Dems likely to do the same maybe Labour will start having ideas...

UPDATE: So how wrong can you be? Seems that old Ming has elected (see what I did there?) not to stand against Kennedy. His statement seems to have split the party into senior and activist camps; some of the latter support him the former do not. Was the announcement a massive gamble, an attempt to stir the sympathy vote? How can anyone oppose him without looking like a big meanie?


UPDATE2: Heh. ITV (who dug up the drink story) seem to be doing the 'blogger dance'. You know, the old 'this would not be happening if not for us'. In fact the whole tone of the ITV news is much harder on Kennedy than the Channel 4 news was, really playing up his past denials (lies) over his drink problem. I wonder whether the same is true of the BBC.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Irving and the Holocaust

As many of you are probably aware, David Irving, the so-called historian is currently languishing in an Austrian prison cell. His crime? He is a Holocaust denier and Austria (and Germany) have very stringent laws on denying the Holocaust: don't do it.

When Irving went to Austria, he knew that there was a warrant for his arrest and clearly did not care so in one respect I have little sympathy for the man. I have even less (read: zero) sympathy for his views; if he truly believes the holocaust did not happen then he is living in a fantasy world, otherwise he is just a liar with some other agenda, I'll let you make your own decision. I know what I think.

That said I still find something very unsettling about imprisoning a man for something he said. To me it is against the idea of freedom of speech, which is an ideal that I hold to. I can understand why there are laws against denying the holocaust in Germany and Austria, but I have always been worried by them on a certain level. And as much as a part of me thought ' good' when Irving was arrested, another part of me worried about the implications of it. In the same way I worry about the laws against incitement to religious hatred that the current government is pushing.

With that in mind I was pleased to come across this article on the BBC. Professor Deborah Lipstadt cut Irving to ribbons in court back in 2000 and continues to do sterling work in combating the forces of anti-semitism who wish to deny the Holocaust ever happened. However, like me she worries about criminalising Holocaust deniers with caveats for Germany and Austria:

Germany and Austria are not so far past the Third Reich. So I can understand that the swastika symbol, Mein Kampf, Holocaust denial, being a neo-Nazi and all the rest have a certain potency there that they would not have in the United States


However she believes that Austria should cut Irving loose:

I am not interested in debating with Holocaust deniers," she says. "You wouldn't ask a scientist to debate with someone who thinks the Earth is flat. They are not historians, they are liars. Debating them would be nonsensical.

"But we also should not allow them to become martyrs. Nothing is served by having David Irving in a jail cell, except that he has become an international news issue.

"Let him go home and let him continue talking to six people in a basement.

"Let him fade into obscurity where he belongs."

She is concerned on making martyrs of these people and, I think, worse in turning Holocaust Denial into a 'forbidden fruit'. With the often inherent mistrust of government and motives that we see today and the seeming thirst for many to believe in all manner of conspiracy theories, it is not difficult to sympathise with her words.

Anyway, Professor Lipstadt has a weblog, you can see her views on current issues in Holocaust denial and anti-semitism there.

As to Irving, the man is an idiot, a dangerous idiot, but is throwing him in jail the way forward in combating this issue? Rather are we raising a profile and giving attention to a man who would be better ignored?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Ch...ch...changes...


You may have noticed that this here weblog is undergoing some changes. There are some definite alterations happening. I have never been happy with the way this blog looks and I am in the process of performing subtle changes that will eke towards a vision that is more pleasing to my eye. This is a slow process and probably un-ending. If there is anything I do that you don't like, let me know.


In addition, maybe if I change the way it looks I can disguise the fact that it is still full of the same old tosh.

Beautiful Atrocities

is added to the blogroll.

What is Beautiful Atrocities? I hear you cry. Well, it is a humorous, satirical site which leans right. OK by 'leans right' I really mean that it leans so much that it has toppled over and rolled well over there. So why, I hear you ask, are you, a supposed lefty, bothering to read the website of a guy who is diametrically opposite your own political beliefs?

In answering that I'd first like to say how nice it is to hear you calling out so many questions today. The reasons why I read BA are numerous and manifold. Firstly, I don't believe in just hanging around in places that spout stuff that I like to hear and that I agree with. I like to go to places that challenge me and my views. Secondly, I'm not as left wing as you might think on many issues, in fact I suggest that 'left' and 'right' are often outmoded concepts when applied to many individuals; I smiled when ebird said: "I read those guys to balance you and Shinobi", since I never imagined that I was particularly leftist in my writings. Goes to show what we put out without realising. Anyway this isn't about me it is about Jeff from BA and my reasons for blogrolling him. Well, dammit, the man is funny; not all the time and not in a Hubris stylee but still.


When all is said and done Jeff from BA is just funny. Definitely funnier than that other Jeff, with less of an Eschacon obsession!

Okay, so he doesn't like Jon Stewart and smoking bans which suggests he might be a little short in the brains department, but come on! The guy likes both Lord of the Rings and The Philadelphia Story. How can you not like that???

Blogrolling

Time for a blog-roll update.

Hubris is gone but since I also believed Ilyka Damen when she said she was stopping I am not going to remove him from the Blogroll just yet.

As it currently stands, the blogroll represents sites I check about once per day. Some of them are not updated anywhere near that often, but who am I to complain. There are other weblogs I read that are not yet in the blogroll, I intend on rectifying that.

So today, I am reinstating Ilyka since she came back and didn't go off and pretend to be a man.
I am also acting on recommendations from ebird and adding Beautiful Atrocities; as one humour sites fold, I replace it with another.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Capitalism is a failed experiment :

Discuss

:-P

A challenge to my readers

Blogging is hard.

Each and every day I have to think up new and interesting stuff to entertain my demanding readership. As you may have noticed, I have not exactly been on top of that.

There has to be a solution; I have racked my brain trying to think of something. My best idea so far is to plunder Hubris' archives and repost his funny shit verbatim. Since he is now defunct I figured this wouldn't be a problem. Hell, who reads posts more that a few days old anyway? Then I had a rethink and decided that the prospect of having anything to do with Colin Farrel's penis would be detrimental to my image and sanity. Not to mention the lurking dangers of slipping back into the decadence of a Roadhouse addiction...

Brrr.

Anyway, having cast aside those plans, I have decided on an easy option. I am going to make you guys do the work in two ways. First, I shall be posting a number of discussion topics that I hope will stimulate debate. I'm betting they won't but hell, It'll look like I'm doing something. The first of these will appear above shortly...

My second plan is to rip off various news sites who have cashed in on bloggers and mobile phone video to generate 'citizen journalists'. If any of you, my dear readers, have interesting stories to share, garnered in your day to day travels, share them with me. Anything that you think might be pertinent to the sentiments 'Living in the Real World'. Read the blurb at the top of this page and if you have a story that resonates, send it my way and see your name in lights. Well, pixelated lights, but lights none the less. Make us laugh, make us cry, make us do something else, I don't mind as long as it isn't pornographic.

I estimate with the successful feedback I will generate from these two innovative measures that this site will reap a 0% increase in content and traffic.

Well, you can't blame a guy for trying. If not this then I'm gonna have to fall back on memes and I can only think of three.

End of an era

Hubris has left the building.

As I have said before, it is partly down to him that I started this weblog.

I'll miss his wit; his was blatantly one of the best and consistently funny humour sites on the web - Jeff Goldstein could only dream of being that funny and Frank J. couldn't hold a candle to him.

It's a shame that he has gone but c'est la vie. I hope he will continue to comment on other blogs as it is rare to meet a well-balanced political commentator who is not afraid to disagree but do it politely and with good arguments.

I hope he comes back, but I'm guessing that with all the family blogging he has been doing lately he has decided that his priorities lie elsewhere. Who knows, perhaps now he may actually do some work and might just get promoted and shit like that. :-)

Happy New Year

Well 2005 is over and 2006 has begun. No resolutions for this year - they never work out for me.

Was 2005 good for you?

Do you have plans for 2006?

Do you have resolutions?