December 24, 2009

Still dreaming

November 24, 2009

Saul Williams

When The Clock Strikes Me (text here).

Military relations

American generals are from Mars, seemingly.

I imagine that gives us an edge in combat.

Unreal images

Pebbles by Jonathan Hunt

From the POV-Ray Hall of Fame.

Virtual rights

Blurring the line between fantasy and reality:-
Video games depicting war have come under fire for flouting laws governing armed conflicts.

Human rights groups played various games to see if any broke humanitarian laws that govern what is a war crime.

The study condemned the games for violating laws by letting players kill civilians, torture captives and wantonly destroy homes and buildings.

It said game makers should work harder to remind players about the real world limits on their actions.

November 20, 2009

Friday roundabout

Gordon MacMillan at Harry's Place has some thoughts on the Palin Newsweek cover.

Michael Totten is concerned about a Third Lebanon War.

Joe Katzman at Winds of Change on a second, unsuccessful pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama.

Bad Astronomy has Mandelbulbs: 3D Mandelbrot sets.

And finally,

Small Town Scribbles suggests a solution to the energy crisis.

Feeble tweet

OK, so having declared today to be the first day of the rest of my life, I decided to start off with a spot of vacuuming. I even went so far as to vacuum my laptop - just to clear out the dust. Sledgehammer/nut: the vacuum sucked half the keys off the keyboard and I've spent the last half-hour fishing little black tiles out of the dust bag.

September 14, 2009

Three sixes

Six years ago, I weighed a little over 200 lbs (that's a normal weight for my height - I'm 6'6").

Six months ago, I weighed less than 150 lbs.

Six days ago, I weighed myself - I'm almost exactly 175 lbs.

If this keeps up, pretty soon I won't be embarrassed to have my photo taken. And, even better, I'll start recognizing myself in the mirror.

August 31, 2009

Life goes on

Well, I'm sorry to say, I haven't gotten around to any of that blogging and emailing I said I was going to be doing. It seems I underestimated the time and energy involved in starting again from scratch.

So, I've been getting on with things. And I now have a bed! It beats sleeping on the floor wrapped up in an old sheet. I'm still using the sheet but at least I'm elevated.

Next to do: furniture.

Went out to buy furniture - came back with a small car!

August 15, 2009

A minor conflagration

It took me a month to find an apartment and the first night I'm here there's a fire. Not a serious one - although it could have been - I left a light on in the sitting-room and one of the lampshades caught fire (a faulty fitting): I woke to the smell of burning. Luckily, I caught it in time, so there's no damage beyond the lampshade and fitting.

Looking on the bright side, the place has good mobile broadband reception (as opposed to the "wing and a prayer" connection I was working with before) so I can now surf, blog and email to my heart's content. Not right now though because it's 3:30 in the morning, the fire's out and I'm going back to bed.

July 29, 2009


It's taken me a while to sort out internet access and an e-mail account (I've put the new contact details in the sidebar). I'm now back online and contactable.

Thanks to all those who mailed wishing me a speedy recovery - I'll reply now I'm online again. Unfortunately, my address book has been deleted, along with a lot of my mail (some of it unread) so, if I don't reply to a particular e-mail, it's because I probably never got it.

So it goes.


Back and forth

Okay, so I'm back. The ulcers are under control and I've recovered well from the operation; I've started training (long walks and light weights) and I'm slowly gaining weight.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the rest of my life seems to have turned into some kind of cheap soap opera. You know the sort of thing - lurid revelations, absurd plot twists and petty villainy. Anyway, the upshot is my family life is over and I'm currently living in temporary accommodation. And that's all I'm going to say about that.


May 22, 2009

Playing for change

May 14, 2009

Internal investigation

No, I'm not back to regular blogging - still too sick for that - but I am having exploratory surgery today, so things are moving in the right direction.

They're going to be doing two procedures (both fairly minor): they'll be sticking a camera down my gullet and they're going to open me up and take a good look at my insides. I hope they find whatever's wrong with me so they can fix it and I can move on. But they won't be doing any fixing today, just rummaging around. Good luck to them!

Anyway, I've got to get going - I'll let you all know how it turns out.

The surgeon caught up with me in the Recovery Room: "It's ulcers not cancer." That's the good news. The bad news is I have lots of ulcers (stress ulcers) and a lot of bleeding. Still, it's way better than having cancer. Am I relieved? You betcha!


April 05, 2009

Los ocupas

I told you about the squatters who moved in next door. Well, it turns out they're Spanish. And to call them squatters doesn't really do them justice - they're more like urban homesteaders. They've already cleared the garden, turned over the soil, dug in some compost and are now ready to start planting vegetables.

They're also musicians: most days we're treated to some very accomplished Flamenco guitar. Yesterday, along with the guitars (and the biggest ibo drum I have ever seen) they put on a display of traditional Spanish dancing - it was quite a performance.


March 31, 2009

Sick note

So, the computer is fixed but my health has taken a turn for the worse and I'm now pretty much housebound and bedridden. I'm slated for exploratory surgery but, in the meantime, I'm a bit of a mess.

Somehow, I don't think I'll be blogging for a while.


March 19, 2009


So, I'm back. I've had computer problems - I got through three machines in five days. The first one went bang, the second went phrzzt and the third one just went dead.

Still, I'm back. And life is getting interesting: squatters have just moved in next door. It's a rundown old house that's been empty for a while, so they can't do much damage. Maybe they'll do the place some good. The neighbors will be up in arms about it, of course. They'll probably get up a petition or something. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Anyway, like I said, I'm back.


March 04, 2009

Here be trolls

There's a troll the size of a house over at Ophelia Benson's Notes and Comment - they've been feeding it for days. I couldn't resist getting involved - if only to try and shoo it away.

In my zeal, I misaprostophized Rawls. Oh the shame!


March 01, 2009

Getting old

Today is my birthday, I am 49.

God, I hate birthdays: they age me.

February 26, 2009

Thursday roundabout

Dave Rich at Harry's Place on the allegation that Israel is in some way analogous to Nazi Germany.

Black Triangle covers the latest vaccine scare story.

Watts Up With That has a short primer on the greenhouse effect.

Baroque in Hackney on the news that researchers have discovered the oldest English words.

And finally,

Science Punk challenges readers to redesign the cover of Ben Goldacre's "Bad Science".

Madness unconfined

Has Brian Micklethwait completely lost his mind?
One of the most important memes that the internet has circulated during the last decade has been the extermination option, when it comes to Islam. Extermination of all muslims. Not now, you understand. Just if there continue to be serious muslim-perpetrated terrorist incidents

Images of the Depression

Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California. Photographer: Dorothea Lange.

From the Library of Congress Digital Collections.

Health and safety

I grew up in a high threat environment where street violence was a regular occurrence and you could get beaten up (or worse) for simply looking the wrong way at people or, indeed, for nothing at all - except for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Growing up like that you learn a number of survival techniques - street smarts, if you will. You don't make eye-contact with strangers, you go out of your way to avoid groups of young men on street corners, eschew a range of behaviours that might mark you out as a victim and, most importantly, you don't hang around with dickheads. In this context, "dickhead" is a technical term for someone whose behavior is likely to result in them (and anyone who's with them) getting the crap beaten out of them.

Example: It's just past closing time outside a fish and chip shop in a rough area of Liverpool. One of the guys I've been out drinking with starts staring down a group of seven or eight lads who are waiting in line to buy chips. The inevitable challenge: "What the fuck are you looking at?" is met by my companion with: "I don't know. They don't label shit round here." At which point, the fighting kicks off. My companion was a dickhead.

Christopher Hitchens on the other hand...

February 25, 2009

One of the greatest

Seeing as how the State Tour arrived in Oregon last week, I would normally be wandering around the local blogs catching up with some of the things the tour didn't cover - like beer and environmentalism. But first I need to make a virtual visit to Willamette National Cemetery and pay my respects to my dad.

George Senior: Sergeant First Class, US Army Rangers - 06/21/1921 to 04/11/1992.

Wednesday roundabout

David Adesnik at Oxblog: From Gitmo to suicide bomber.

At Normblog: the FKATWOT count hits 13.

Mark Liberman at Language Log on "Miss Thistlebottom’s hobgoblins”.

Collision debris: Zoe Brain on space junk.

And finally,

At Faith in Honest Doubt: Bigots or Pepsi?

Modern times

Simon Heffer in the Telegraph provides the context.

February 21, 2009

The worst possible hour

Didn't get to bed til four in the morning. What was I doing up? I was listening to Rives.

February 20, 2009

Friday roundabout

Edmund Standing at Harry's Place on Muslim schools and social cohesion.

Michael Totten looks at the possibility of a third Lebanon war.

Eric Rall at Dean's World: Whence and Whither the Depression?

Dale at Faith in Honest Doubt features CBS's Adam Carolla on atheism.

And finally,

Via PooterGeek, there's Яolcats.

My morning

Wake early in some discomfort, discomfort becomes severe abdominal pain, pain turns to agony: ambulance, hospital, morphine.

Home now but still feeling a little woozy from the drugs. Boy, my guts are screwed!

And I'm back on the dihydrocodeine, again.

February 19, 2009

Thursday roundabout

The new taboo: Ophelia Benson on criticism of Islam.

Dan Jones defends evolutionary psychology at The Proper Study of Mankind.

Savage Minds: Learning an Endangered Language (Part 3).

At Sense of Events: It's the end of the world as we know it (again).

And finally,

At Language Log: The worst pun of all time?


I'm in two minds about a number of things at the moment:

1. The wisdom of the stimulus package

2. The purported charms of the "lovly Olga" (via unsolicited e-mail)

3. The Bat Segundo Show

Blogging Buddhists

I came across a blogger recently who described himself as "mostly Buddhist". I struggle to think what that might mean. Does he imagine there are fewer than four noble truths? Which of the five precepts doesn't he hold with? Maybe he follows a twofold path. Who knows?

In any case, I got to wondering what it would mean to be a Buddhist blogger. Or, more specifically, what if anything Gautama had to say that might be relevant to blogs.

Right Speech (the third element of the Eightfold Path) seems apt:-

The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.
Hmm. Do you know many bloggers like that?

(I do. But they're all dreadfully earnest.)

February 18, 2009

Domestic de-cluttering

We're in the middle of some early spring cleaning - we have way too much stuff.

[Thanks to Norm for the video link]

February 15, 2009

Well well well

I'm reminded that I haven't posted about my health since I mentioned I was being treated for post-operative ulcers.

Well, I've finished the course of tablets and the consultant reckons I've made a full recovery. I'm not going to argue with that - I've been sick so long I'm ready to believe anything. And besides, I really admired his jaunty optimism.

So, all I need to do now is get fit again. Of course, that could take some time. Before I got ill I used to be fairly active: kept goal for a local football team, played tennis two or three times a week and even managed (occasionally) to do some serious training.

Since then, I've lost a lot of muscle mass and stamina: it's going to be a long road back. What I need is a program of rigorous goal-oriented self-empowerment.

Ach, maybe tomorrow...

Or "soon, maybe", as my grandmother used to say. "Soon" being the Irish equivalent of "mañana" - though, as the old joke has it, there is no word in Irish that conveys quite the same level of urgency.

February 14, 2009

Child's play

Spud's latest enthusiasm: the Pivot Stickfigure Animator which, according to the blurb, "allows you to create stick figure animations easily and without any artistic skills".

Here's an illustration of just some of the possibilities from J13 Productions:-

Current reading

Rereading "Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East" by Michael Oren.

"1914: The Days of Hope" by Lyn Macdonald. An account of the first year of the Great War from Mons to the First Battle of Ypres.

"International Relations in Political Theory" by Howard Williams. From Plato to Marx (via Hobbes, Rousseau, Hegel, Kant and others): an introduction to political thinking on war and international relations.

Blogging USA

The Beaver State

End of the Trail: the Pacific coast and the Cascade Mountains. Mount Hood, Crater Lake and the Willamette Valley. Intel and the Douglas Fir. Blackberry pie, Oregon truffles and trout.

Milk is the official state beverage.

February 13, 2009

Checking out

After an extended sojourn in Nebraska, the State Tour will be back on the road later today. Expect me in Oregon.

Only 46 states to go!

Checking in

Too busy to blog yesterday and way too tired to blog much now.

So instead I'll just point you towards Nick Cohen's article from the Jewish Chronicle republished at Harry's Place: Jesus! I'm turning into a Jew!

February 11, 2009

Bad business

Remember I said I was buying a business? Well, that's now looking highly unlikely. The due diligence exercise turned up more than a few snags including an outstanding lawsuit, a highly restrictive lease on the business premises and a number of previously undeclared liabilities.

I've got a meeting with the current owners tomorrow evening. Boy, is that going to be fun! I get to tell them their company isn't worth a tenth of what they're asking for it and, with their current management in place, I don't expect they'll survive the recession.

As things stand, the only way I'd get involved now is if they gave me a controlling interest in the company (for an entirely nominal sum). Unfortunately, I don't think they'll want to proceed on that basis, even though it's most likely their best chance of realizing some money on their shares in the longer term.

Ah well, I probably didn't need the hassle anyway.

Unfreedom of speech

Following reports of the arrest in London of a British diplomat for "inciting religious hatred", Geoffrey Pullum at Language Log has something to say about the constitutional and cultural differences between the US and the UK:-

The thing is that Britain has absolutely no analog of the American guarantee of freedom of speech in its legal system. There is no Bill of Rights saying that one can speak one's opinions freely, even in political matters. The government can directly control what appears in the newspapers if it wants to, and has often done so. The courts can also, quite separately, block news reports of various sorts and do so all the time ("who for legal reasons cannot be named", say the newspapers when mentioning someone who a judge doesn't want identified in news reports). And speech about other racial, ethnic, or religious groups can have serious consequences here. It's not all just golliwogs and white wine. You shout out your opinions of the "fucking Jews" here, and you can face years in prison.
Norm also has some thoughts on the arrest.

Wednesday roundabout

Zoe Brain comments on developments in brain modelling.

Dale at Faith in Honest Doubt: What Blogs Can and Can't Do.

Ophelia Benson on fundamentalism, tolerance and respect.

Armed Liberal at Winds of Change: On The End Of Privacy And Transparency.

And finally,

Britblog Roundup #208 is up at The Wardman Wire.

They love me

Or they love me not.

I just received 30 copies of the same e-mail (titled: Poetry Valentines) from the Academy of American Poets:-

Be Mine: Poems for Sweethearts

Woo your sweetie by pairing the perfect poem with desserts, drinks, and flowers. The irresistible combination is sure to result in wobbly knees, a melting heart, and a thoroughly smitten valentine. From lustful to sacred verse, and classic to contemporary authors, pick up a few ideas from this selection of ten poetic pairings to lure your adored one straight into your arms.

On the web at:
Tsk! A whole academy of poets and they can't find someone to write better copy than that?

Très chic

Le renouveau de la chanson française est arrivé.

Mac pointed out this video to me. She's been listening to a lot of Nouvelle Vague recently. The song is from their second album "Bande à part"; the video is a scene from Jean-Luc Godard's 1964 film of the same name.

February 10, 2009

No sympathy

My life would be much easier if I'd learn to keep my mouth shut.

Mac and I were taken out for dinner recently - a rare occurrence and usually a pleasurable one. Not this time.

Half way though the food, the conversation turns to Gaza (I didn't bring up the subject) and our host says: "After Gaza, I have lost all sympathy for the Jews". She meant the Israelis. Of course she meant the Israelis. I quickly corrected her, she accepted it and the conversation moved on. To casualty figures, the number of children killed, the scenes of destruction...

I was in the middle of my dinner. I would have liked to have finished it. But no - we had to have this conversation. Which is a pity, because I had hoped that the tone I'd adopted when correcting our host's initial remark might have been taken as an invitation to change the subject. Unfortunately not.

So I weighed in. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. But, like I said, it's not something I've ever learnt to do.

The thing is, I've come across this formulation before: Because of X [insert action of Israeli government] I have lost all sympathy for the Jews. And, when I hear it I always find myself wondering the same thing: What kind of special sympathy did they have for the Jews anyway?

White DNA

Theo Hobson in the Spectator:-
For whites in post-colonial cultures, racism is a post-religious form of original sin, something we know to be in our DNA and ought to repent of.
Post-colonial genetic repentance?!

Right, and in the meantime, if racism is in white people's DNA maybe we should think about getting it recognized as a sexually transmitted disease. (Though, obviously, I'm not suggesting it could be treated with antibiotics - that would be stupid.)


Isabella and the Pot of Basil

Whitehall and the Jews

From a review of Louise London's Whitehall and the Jews, 1933-1948: British Immigration Policy, Jewish Refugees and the Holocaust at History in Focus:
[B]etween 1933 and 1948 Britain held a consistent line on limiting Jewish immigration. Refugees would be assisted only if it was in the interests of Britain, a concept that holds true today if the attitude taken by many towards the current issue of asylum is considered. Thus, while Britain would 'tolerate' a certain amount of immigration for humanitarian reason, this 'toleration' was limited by several interlinked factors.

The first, was the perceived effect that this process could have on the fabric of British society. The charge that antisemitism would increase if too many Jewish refugees were granted entry was stated throughout the inter-war period, by both by government officials and the already-established Anglo-Jewish community. The second factor that was cited was employment, or more precisely unemployment. For this reason, refugees were landed on condition that they did not seek to enter the labour market without permission from the Ministry of Labour. This stipulation, however, was waived in two cases, firstly for refugees able to leave Europe with their business intact and willing to establish new firms in Britain and secondly for those who were able to enter Britain as domestic servants. Thus, on the one hand, refugees had to be able to either create jobs in Britain or had to demean themselves by working in low-paid, low skilled employment, whatever their former circumstances. A third factor was that of assimilation. Foreign Jews were expected both by the government and by the Anglo-Jewish establishment to conform to the British way of life and to minimise their 'foreignness'. They were inundated with advice to avoid showing their alien nature, such as not speaking German in public. Fourthly, the refugees were landed on a temporary basis, on the understanding that they would in the future leave Britain. Whilst in reality some 40,000 remained in Britain, this had not been the government's intention. Refuge was to be for a limited time, in the hope that most would seek other countries in which to settle permanently. Lastly and of greatest importance, was the issue of finance. From the very beginnings of this movement, the Anglo-Jewish community was expected to find the funds that would be required to support the refugees whilst they were in Britain. Foreign Jews were not to become chargeable to state finance in any shape. Again this situation would change, as by 1939 the Anglo-Jewish community had exhausted its funds and came to rely upon government grants.

February 09, 2009

Monday roundabout

At Normblog: the FKATWOT count reaches 9.

Michael White hosts Humanist Symposium #32 [via FIHD]

Harry's Place notes the arrest of a British diplomat for "inciting religious hatred" against Jews.

Alert Shado: Lileks spots a UFO.

And finally,

At xkcd: the base metaphor explained.

February 07, 2009

οἱ πολλοί

February 01, 2009

Weekend reading

The Edge Annual Question 2009: WHAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING?

Charles Eisenstein at Reality Sandwich: Money and the Crisis of Civilization.

The Economist on the British Army's "lack of soldiers, lack of money and lack of conviction".

Psyche Volume 14 2008 (online journal of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness) on attention and consciousness.

January 29, 2009

Family life

The Big Fella came running through from the TV room earlier with a big smile on his face. "Dad! Dad! They dissed Loop Quantum Gravity on 'The Big Bang Theory'. They reckon String Theory rocks." He said it in a tone of mock belligerence: "That's one in the eye for you, old man!"

The Big Fella's not a proponent of String Theory but he knows my thoughts on Loop Quantum Gravity: he's was trying to get a rise out of me. I took it in good humor.

And yet, I will have my revenge.

I've printed out a copy of a New Scientist article on Loop Quantum Cosmology. It's waiting for him on the breakfast table.

John Martyn 1948-2009

January 28, 2009

Wednesday roundabout

The Mother of All Quagmires: Michael Totten reports from Israel.

And Still I Persist has video of Obama’s Al-Arabiya interview.

Geoffrey Pullum at Language Log: "human/machine interface design is in a state of total freaking disaster".

Lileks's bleat: World’s Fairs, scrapbook memories and modern day America.

And finally,

Baroque in Hackney has something to say about Elizabeth Alexander’s inaugural poem.

January 27, 2009

Red Square

Thanks to Norm, I now have yet another option for displacement activity (as if I didn't have enough distractions already): it's Red Square survival.

I made it to 21.234 21.953 seconds. I'd like to hit 25 seconds (I'm adept at setting myself pointless goals).

Meanwhile, I need to get back to work: I'm in the middle of trying to buy a business. Yes, I know we're in a recession. Best time to buy.

So, back to work. But what to do: continue planning the due diligence exercise or start reviewing the draft contract? Hmmm, let's see, it's 3 a.m. and I'm pretty tired so maybe I'll take a look at the contract. Yep, right after I've had another couple of goes at that Red Square thingy. Is 30 seconds even possible?

Made it to 26.469 seconds. I doubt 30 seconds is possible - it just gets too fast.

January 18, 2009

Happy Birthday

January 12, 2009


January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

Here's hoping you all can keep the wolf from your door over the next twelve months.