Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Scewpine Leaves

So, in my search for an authenric has helped me find out what Kewra is.

All I need to know now is where I can getr my hands on some.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Loins of War

Yet another nay-sayer weighs in on Alexander.

The Graphing Calculator Story

The Graphing Calculator Story is a wonderful yarn. Merry Christmas.


The heavyweight pros on late-night cable television boast nicknames such as Monster, Razor, Butcher, Assassin and Knitting Needle. The most famed matches in history include the Blood Vomiting Game of 1835, the Famous Killing Game of 1926 and the Atomic Bomb Game of 1945. No, this is not some bone-crushing contact sport. It is a simple parlour game where two opponents, comfortably seated and often equipped with nothing more than folding paper fans and cigarettes, take turns placing little stones, some black, some white, on a flat wooden grid. Simple regarding rules and gear, that is, yet so challenging that in this mind-game, unlike chess, and despite the long-standing offer of a $1.6m reward for a winning program, no computer has yet been able to outwit a clever ten-year-old.
The game known in English as go, Igo in Japanese, Weiqi in Chinese, Baduk in Korean is not just more difficult and subtle than chess. It may also be the world's oldest surviving game of pure mental skill. Devised in China at least 2,500 years ago, it had stirred enough interest by the time of the Han dynasty (206BC-220AD) to inspire poets, philosophers and strategic theorists. One of these strategists, Huan Tan (who died in 56AD), advises in his work "Xin Lun", or "New Treatise", that the best approach in the game is to "spread your pieces widely so as to encircle the opponent." Second best is to attack and choke off enemy formations. The worst strategy is to cling to a defence of your own territory - a warning that would have benefited, say, the designers of France's 1930s Maginot line."


Leave Rumsfeld Be

Victor Hanson a rare voice in support of the apparently beleagured Secretary of Defence.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The undiscover'd country

Here is the most famous soliloquy in the language from the most famous play.

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. - Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

Yet what happens in Act 1, Scene 1? The Ghost comes back from the undiscovered country! I have seen this play half a dozen times, yet this contradiction only just occurred to me. If it was written today, and editor would probably pick it up as a mistake.

Not a Turkey in the Bunch

Christmas feasts from the top-five food magazines.
Sara Dickerman in Slate

This minister is no sister

Melanie Phillips on Ruth Kelly.

It will be interesting to see how the Opus Dei angle plays out pace Rocco Buttiglione's savaging by the EU Parliament.

I am pessimistic about her chances given the entrenched hostility there is to Catholicism. Haven't got a clue about her abilities one way or the other.

The history and origin of fish and chips

The history and origin of fish and chips. Apparently fish fried in batter is from the Jewish East End of London, while the chips are from Lancashire. They were conjoined around 1860 it would seem.

Multiculturalism or the melting pot?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Gay Old Times

Victor Hanson has his ha'penny worthon the new Alexander movie. Rather worryingly, as he is a professional classicist, he is in the anti camp. In both senses of camp come to think of it.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Less Said the better

Telegraph Arts Empire? What empire?:When the late Edward Said put forward his theory that the English novel was essentially the expression of an imperialist culture, his supporters were quite untroubled by the fact that there was scarcely a single major novel between Defoe and Kipling that had a contemporary colonial setting. The failure to mention the Empire was itself, according to Said, an act of imperialist 'marginalising.

The Absent Minded Imperialists reviewed in the Telegraph.

Its a great point.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


A profile of Rules, Covent Garden, the oldest restaurant in London.

Monday, December 13, 2004

What were the Crusades really about?

The New Yorker: The Critics: Books

I have never heard anyone speculate that the sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade really was a key event for the future rise and effective dominance of the West.

I wonder if there is anything to it.

The missing peace

William Dalrymple reviews The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West by Gilles Kepel.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The ecstasy of God's dancers

Now more than ever the world needs a gentle, tolerant version of Islam. Sufism is exactly that, but it faces growing hostility from moneyed Saudi fundamentalists. William Dalrymple reports in New Statesman.

Police Promise Peace And Goodwill

Police Promise Peace And Goodwill in Colliers WoodWimbledon Guardian

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Religious hatred Bill is being used to buy Muslim votes

Michael Burleigh in the Telegraph

Laptops a Hot Fertility Issue

Men who regularly balance their laptop computers on their laps when working may be jeopardizing their ability to have children, according to a new study from fertility researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Wired News

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Naples police in huge mafia swoop

Is the Camora always in the news, or have I only started noticing it since we got back from Sorrento?

Mammography, air power, and the limits of looking

Finally something that sheds a bit of life on what the discipline of Derby's Applied Vision Research Institute is.

The New Yorker

Afghan Gems

Travelling from Faisabad we go to Sar-el-Sang, the lapis mine at the Blue Mountain. This mountain was the only source of lapis lazuli in the ancient world. Lapis beads have been found in Mesopotamian graves that date from 5,000 BC and the mine's number one shaft shows traces of prehistoric working with fire and bronze axes in caverns up to 150 feet high. The lapis for the Chinese carving celebrated in Yeats's famous poem and Tutankhamun's death mask was quarried here. The number one shaft is still being worked, making it the oldest continuously worked mine in the world.

Travel Afghanistan - Matthew Leeming

I would love to see this part of the world now it is opening up again. This guy makes a living out local gems.

More Blunkett broadsides

David Blunkett personally ordered Metropolitan Police chief Sir John Stevens to withdraw "tanks" from Heathrow following public alarm at the anti-terror move, it emerged today.
Evening Standard

The Media and Medievalism

" In the next war, while the media provide the global cosmopolitan perspective, the troops themselves may well provide the American one. The fact is that most grunts can't stand to be portrayed as victims. The quietly mounting trend of American soldiers and Marines writing about their experiences and posting them on weblogs rather than having their experiences interpreted by transnational journalists is proof enough., among others, has periodically posted such accounts. I recall one from a Marine chaplain in the Sunni Triangle pleading that the grunts' morale was fine and suggesting that their principal fear was the home front going belly-up on them. The parts are all in place for an explosion of this type of commentary. Almost all the troops have their own laptops and access to cybercafes at their bases. The American perspective does not whitewash problems or claim a situation is better than it is, but it does promote warrior virtues and submerge the cult of victimhood, and it recognizes that good morale does not mean the absence of complaints ? troops complain all the time; it would be suspicious if they didn't. It means only the continued spirit to fight.
Robert D. Kaplan - Policy Review, No. 128:

An Englishman's Home ...

The right to protect your family does not derive from any home secretary or chief constable.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

How Buddhism Got to Russia

How Buddhism Got to Russia despite the best efforts of Stalin and Catherine the Great. Brendan I. Koerner in Slate