December 26, 2003

Burger blues

Fox News reports:
The first suspected case of mad cow disease in the U.S. was detected in Washington state on Tuesday, but officials assured Americans that their food is safe to consume.
“Safe to consume”? Yeah, right. I’ve heard that before somewhere in relation to BSE. Now, where was it?

Ah yes, England 1996. The British government had just spent ten years denying that BSE in UK cattle presented a health hazard to consumers, when the commission it set up to look into the matter reported that BSE in cattle was most likely responsible for the rise in UK deaths from new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

As the BBC reported in 1998, successive agriculture ministers embarrassed themselves trying to reassure consumers that British beef was safe. Since 1995, there have been 137 deaths in the UK attributed to new variant CJD.

How safe is that?

Games day

Boxing Day in the Junior household has been a day of games. Madden 2004 and FIFA 2004 on the Play Station 2 this morning and, after the obligatory cold cuts for late lunch, RISK this afternoon.

My eight year old (aka the Big Fella) came out tops on FIFA. As for the other contests, modesty forbids me etc etc.

December 25, 2003

Eastern bloggers

Congratulations to Jivha-the Tongue on winning the IndiBlog of the year award for 2003. Indiebloggies has the full results and an interview with Jivha.

Meanwhile, nominations are still open for the Asia Weblog Awards over at Flying Chair. With numerous entries in a wide range of categories, it's a showcase of Asian blogging talent.

Silent night

The BBC reports that there’s still no word from Beagle 2 on Mars. The British-built probe was expected to land on the Red Planet early Thursday morning.

Ricky James and Krypto at SciScoop have background links and are listening out for news.

Incidentally, Ricky James had a link-filled post back in May comparing Beagle 2 with the Viking missions in the seventies. The post also touches on the work of Dr Gil Levin, who continues to maintain that the Labelled Release experiment on the Viking Lander provided clear evidence for the existence of life on Mars.


Christmas past

In the days before radio, television and the internet, people created their own Christmas entertainment. Everyone had a party piece, a 'turn' they could do.

I grew up in the same house as my grandparents (they were born in the 1890s) where one of the seasonal traditions was the Christmas monologue. My favorite was always my grandfather 's rendition of 'Christmas Day in the Workhouse' by George Sims.

It is Christmas Day in the workhouse,
And the cold, bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
And the place is a pleasant sight;
For with clean-washed hands and faces,
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the table,
For this is the hour they dine.

And the guardians and their ladies,
Although the wind is east,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
To watch their charges feast;
To smile and be condescending,
Put pudding on pauper plates.
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
They've paid for -- with the rates.

Oh, the paupers are meek and owly
With their "Thank'ee kindly, mum's!'"
So long as they fill their stomachs,
What matter it whence it comes!
But one of the old men mutters,
And pushes his plate aside:
"Great God!" he cries, "but it chokes me!
For this is the day she died!"
Read on.

On schedule

From NORAD: Santa is tracked clearing American airspace and heading for British Columbia.

There have been no problems reported during the flight and Santa is expected to land back at the North Pole safely and on schedule later today.

Merry Christmas

Season's greetings to one and all.

December 24, 2003

Xmas carnival

Winds of Change is hosting Carnival of the Vanities.

Catching up

Being ill for a week before Christmas meant that I was more than a little behind on festive chores. The seasonal schedule went badly awry and I’ve only just caught up. Well almost, I still have one more gift to buy.

Once that’s done, I’ll be back to regular blogging.

Catch you later.

December 18, 2003

Britblog awards

The Guardian has announced the winners of its British blog awards for 2003.

The winner in the best written category was Belle de Jour, the diary of a London call girl.
As Bruce Sterling, one of the judges said: "Archly transgressive, anonymous hooker is definitely manipulating the blog medium, word by word, sentence by sentence far more effectively than any of her competitors. It's not merely the titillating striptease aspects that are working for her, but her willingness to use this new form of vanity publishing to throw open a great big global window on activities previously considered unmentionable ... She is in a league by herself as a blogger."
Indeed she is.

December 17, 2003

Have your say

The folks at the BBC's Today Programme are asking for suggestions for a new piece of legislation.
Our Christmas poll this year is a little different. It's called 'The Listeners' Law' and, in short, we want Today Programme listeners to re-write the law of the land.

We're asking you to suggest a new piece of legislation. The best suggestions will be short-listed and a vote will decide the winner. Stephen Pound MP will put the winning idea to the House of Commons in the New Year and we'll follow its progress all the way to the statute book. Hopefully.
They give a number of suggested new laws from such notables as Brian Eno and George Melly, and there’s a form for submitting a proposed piece of legislation.

I couldn’t resist submitting: ‘Abolish the BBC’. It’s a simple idea, easy to implement, it would save people money and free the BBC’s management to pursue their ambitions untroubled by government interference.

The BBC has become both a global news provider and an international brand serving a world audience. Yet its funding continues to come from a tax on TV sets in the UK. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

There should be a law against it.

Changing places

I’m a little behind the times with this news, I know. But, if you haven’t already done so, check out the new-look Normblog.

Captured on camera

Michael Totten has Photoshop fun with Saddam Hussein.

Bill & Ted syndrome

People are often tempted to colonize the past with their own ideas and to judge historical figures by modern standards. Philip Stott calls it “the curse of Present-Mindedness”.
One of the spider-holes into which the modern historian can too easily fall is that of 'Present-Mindedness' about past generations, whereby history is rewritten anachronistically by reference to constructs and knowledges that post-date the period in question.
He’s found a classic example in a History Today article on Thomas Jefferson, which he flays and deservedly so.
This is pernicious stuff, about Jefferson, about the history and development of America, and about the Enlightenment itself. It is part of the new cuddly bunny thinking about the world which bedevils the post-agricultural and post-industrial paranoid rich North.
Sounds about right to me.

December 16, 2003

Sick leave

Well, it wasn’t Fujian flu but it was bad enough.

I’m up and about again, the medication has started working and I’m hoping I’ve seen off the worst of it. One of these days, a chest infection is going to be the death of me, but not this year it seems.

My apologies to those people who e-mailed me over the last week, replies should be winging their way to you today.

December 09, 2003

Ignorance not bias

The BBC gets it wrong again and again, and in so many different ways.

Take a look at this BBC News report on UN estimates for the growth in world population. It’s headlined “UN warns of population surge”.

But that’s not what the UN report says, as USA Today makes clear using the headline “World population to level off”.
U.N. estimates for 2050 are down from 9.4 billion to 8.9 billion. The population is expected to stabilize at 9 billion by 2300.
And another thing, the BBC ends its report by claiming, “India, China and the United States will continue to be the most heavily populated countries of the world.”

Someone really should explain to the BBC that there's a difference between population and population density.

The United States is one of the most highly populated countries in the world but it's certainly not "heavily populated". The US has a population density of less than 30 people per square kilometre compared to 377 per square kilometre in England. India has a population density of 318 people per square kilometre.

That makes England one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, far more heavily populated than India and with more than twelve times the population density of the US.

Not that I’d expect anyone at the BBC to know that.

December 08, 2003

Football Sunday

Yesterday, I took the boys to see their first live football game. Yes, that’s football not soccer.

We went to see the Bristol Bullets play the Surrey Stingers. The Bullets are the local university team, though I have to say the standard of play isn’t on a par with American college football. Still, they showed plenty of spirit and it’s good to see the game catching on over here.

We only stayed until about halfway through the second quarter (it was too cold for the two younger boys) by which time the Bullets had put 24 unanswered points on the board.

I didn’t see the Stingers make a single first down and their defense was atrocious. If I was the Stinger’s coach, I’d have shot their defensive coordinator. I haven’t followed football since the late eighties but I was doing a pretty good job of reading the Bullet’s plays most of the time.

We didn’t miss much by leaving early, it was a one-sided game throughout. I just spoke with the Bullet’s defensive coordinator on the telephone, the Stingers conceded the game at the end of the third quarter with the score at 56-0.

Go Bullets!

December 07, 2003

Global cooling on Kyoto

I’ve been out of the blogging game for the last few days. I've been involved in a number of essential maintenance activities.

As a result, I’m a bit late in recommending Philip Stott’s excellent series of posts last week on changing attitudes to the Kyoto agreement in Britain, Canada and Russia.

Still, better late than never.

Greenhouse gas bags

The BBC reports the latest bout of lunacy from the New Economics Foundation.
Countries refusing to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases should face trade sanctions, according to a British independent think-tank.

The United States has not signed the Kyoto agreement on climate change and Russia has indicated it may follow.

The New Economics Foundation wants the EU to tax imports from these countries because they enjoy a competitive disadvantage as energy costs increase.
The idea is a non-flyer of course. It's a recipe for trans-Atlantic trade war. Any such sanctions would result in massive retaliatory tariffs being imposed on European goods entering the US market. Not that such an outcome would worry NEF and friends, it’s the kind of destabilizing event they pray for.

For example, here’s an extract from an interview Sir Crispin Tickell gave to the BBC’s David Frost in August 2000.

CRISPIN TICKELL Well, I'm afraid that the only way of, there are two ways of persuading the Americans. One is that they have some nice right catastrophe that is, as evidence of the floods were in this country last, the last few days, or, perhaps better still, is that the rest of the world takes measures to protect their interests. Supposing for example, that Europe and Japan and the other emitters all have carbon taxes, or some kind of tax on the amount of carbon that they emit, then they might have to have a kind of tax on American imports, which would as it were redress the balance. And that would be very unwelcome to the United States because it would mean a tax on their exports when they went to other industrial countries.

DAVID FROST But that would be a trade war then, wouldn't it?

CRISPIN TICKELL Well it would partly be a trade war but I'm not going to take too seriously the World Trade Organisation because it's record on environmental matters is uniformly bad, but nevertheless, that is the kind of measure that you might envisage if the Americans are alone among the industrial countries in not obliging by doing these things.
In the past, I’ve had the misfortune to work with NEF on a number of regeneration projects. As I remember it, their only contribution was the provision of theoretical models that took no account of local conditions and offered no real solutions. So, this latest suggestion is about par for the course.

On a personal note, I'll point out that they were insufferably smug about the “rightness” of their approach even when it failed to deliver.

December 04, 2003

Moaning & groaning

I haven’t posted recently because my time has been taken up with other things. Sick children, a leaky roof and then, yesterday, Mac’s car was stolen for the second time in six weeks. The same night, the trailer parked outside the house had its tires slashed.

It’s not my intention to turn this blog into an intermittent personal journal but, really, things seem to be getting a little out of hand here. Since the summer, Mac’s car has been vandalized on a regular basis; wing-mirrors smashed, trim torn off, that sort of thing. In addition to the two recent thefts, there have been two unsuccessful attempts to steal the car.

If I was given to paranoia, I’d be starting to believe we were being victimized. As it is, I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that we’re living in the wrong place. I’ve just about had it with the car crime, street crime, lousy service, dog dirt and wet weather.

I want to go home.

December 02, 2003

UK terror arrests

The BBC reports British police have today made a wave of terror arrests in London, Cambridgeshire and the Midlands.

Bad Monday

No blogging yesterday. One of the boys was off school sick, I got behind with the chores and the roof started leaking.

More later.