Sunday, July 31, 2005

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Harmony: Latin Cross

With the Cross, I come to the end (or perhaps the beginning or perhaps even the middle) of my cycle, where it stands between the Ankh (or crux ansata) and the Star of David.

The link from the cross to the star was perhaps best articulated by Pope John Paul II when he described the Jews as, "our cousins, our elder brothers, the roots of our faith".

The most well known cross is the Latin cross, which to Christians, represents the cross of Christ's crucifixion. When shown with the image of Christ, it is called a crucifix.

Interestingly, the cross of Christianity was a later symbol of the faith, replacing the lamb, fish, alpha/omega, and phoenix as emblems.

The original Christian cross, today called the Greek cross, is shaped like an X. It was an abbreviation of the name 'Christ,' not a representation of the cross of the crucifixion.

I have read that the Latin cross came into favor later, when the wife of Constantine, Empress Helena, claimed to have discovered the 'true cross' of the crucifixion.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Blind Tasting

When it comes to wine drinking duties at home, I generally take care of the red while Jane is responsible for the whites, and I was pleased to see that the Stormhoek freebie was a Sauvignon Blanc as she has taken against Chardonnay lately. Have you noticed how difficult it can be to find anything other than a Chardonnay in some places lately?

I put a glass of the Stormhoek in her hand - unheralded - after she got in one night earlier this week. "This is good, what is it?" she said, so I guess that they are hitting all the right spots.

Worked for me too, thanks.

P.S. Goodness me, the above is certainly a pooterish effort. It is all true though, and a price worth paying for free booze.

165,000 kg

I noticed when I logged out at the gym today that there is a running counter on the screen that reveals that in the two months I have been going I have lifted a total of 165,000 kg.

Puny humans always HOUND Hulk, try to HURT Hulk, but Hulk is the strongest one ... Hulk will SMASH puny humans!

Harmony: Ankh (Crux Ansata)

The ankh is an ancient Egyptian symbol of life.

Some have speculated that it represents a stylised womb. It does bear a strikung resemblance to the symbol used to represent the Roman goddess Venus which is now so familiarly used to identify the female sex. (This is how I link the Ankh to the male (Mars) symbol in my cycle.)

Early Coptic Christians adopted the Ankh as a form of the cross known as the crux ansata.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Embracing Faith

Brynja, an Icelandic model and artist, has produced a necklace and bracelet design based on ideas that are not disimilar to my cycle of harmony and Jane's jewellery. David Beckham has been photographed wearing it apparently.

More power to her elbow, but I prefer our design - or will when its finished - as I think it has more narrative coherence as we trace a real path through the symbols.

(I also bet that Jane's product will be more affordable.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


My personalised bottle of Stormhoek arrived yesterday. I got bottle 73 of 75 so it may have been a close run thing. I hope to start (and to be frank, finish) drinking it tonight. The leaflet with it said:


Thanks for signing up for your free bottle of Stormhoek. I hope you like it.

OK, so what's the point of all this? Sure, I suppose giving out a few bottles to some bloggers could potentially be quite good PR, etc etc. Maybe a few of you will blog about it. Maybe not. You never know.

But in the back of my mind I'm thinking there might be something larger going on here. What if, say, not one or two of you end up blogging about it, but a couple of dozen? What will be the rippling effect?

Will the idea-virus spread far enough that suddenly, instead of one or two people knowing about the wine, suddenly tens of thousands of smart connected people in the UK know about it, and are talking about it?

Is that enough to launch a national brand?"

Who knows, but I will drink to the sentiment. It also gives me an excuse to post the greatest ever wine cartoon - gaping void excepted of course - a masterpiece by James Thurber.


A daft but curiously satisfying Google hack.

Chicago crime database

What can I say?, the Chicago crime database, which I mentioned last month has now officially launched, has implemented many of my ideas for integrating google maps, weblog structure and RSS feeds.

Ruby Banner Retail

I've added the two shops where Jane is currently selling her jewellery to a Google Map to look at how markers are programmed. Click on the marker to get the address of the shop.

It is comapartively straightforward:

var point = new GPoint(-0.2024,51.5128);
var marker = new GMarker(point);
var html = "Oi, 77 Portobello Road, Notting Hill Gate, London W11 2QB. Tel: 020 7221 0472";
GEvent.addListener(marker, "click", function() {

You add a point, create a marker from it, and then overlay it on the map. The address is displayed by listening to the click event for the marker.

I am not sure that I have geocoded the addresses as accurately as perhaps I might, but the markers are close to the genuine locations.

(I have noticed that Google have added a new Hybrid view since last time I used the API.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Ruby Banner necklace by Jane incorporating some of the Harmony ideas.

Caught Knapping

More from the BBC on symbols of masculinity.

A sculpted and polished phallus found in a German cave is among the earliest representations of male sexuality ever uncovered, researchers say.

The 20cm-long, 3cm-wide stone object, which is dated to be about 28,000 years old, was buried in the famous Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura.
'In addition to being a symbolic representation of male genitalia, it was also at times used for knapping flints,' explained Professor Nicholas Conard, from the department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, at Tubingen University.


1. Living 28,000 years ago, they wouldn't have realised that according to the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud, males possess a penis, but no one can possess the symbolic phallus.
2. I have no idea what I mean by that.

Harmony: Mars

The Taoist Yin Yang can be thought of as representing the balance of female (yin) and masculine energy. I was surprised to find that the standard male gender symbol on the left is actually the astrological symbol for Mars. (Yes, the standard female symbol is the astrological Venus). Some authorities say that the male symbol is a stylized representation of the god Mars' shield and spear.

I don't think its strictly a religious symbol like the others in my cycle, but I though I should write it up today as Tuesday is named after the Norse god Tyr, but the Romans named it after their war-god Mars: dies Martis.

Melancholic Observation

I just bought a birthday present for a niece at Amazon UK. (One day late, mea culpa.)

Too many people in my Amazon address list have died in the last year or so, but for some reason I would feed a bit callous deleting them.

Full Bacon Jacket

Raybs came home from school last week clutching a signed copy of a book called Full Bacon Jacket personally inscribed by Tom Hathaway, the author, with a dedication to him and two of his friends.

It seems that Raybs, Alex and Dan had been sitting on top deck of the bus discussing - as teenage boys do - what would be the best way to conduct yourself if you were a bent under cover cop. When a guy approached them and asked their names they thought he might be a policeman who had overheard their nefarious schemes. It wasn't. It was an author who, having delighted in the gibberish that they were talking, handed over a copy of his book and thanked them for reminding him of the rubbish he used to talk when he was their age.

All in all, quite a classy gesture I think. I haven't read his book, but here is a plug anyway.

Nottingham gave the world Robin Hood, the English Civil War, the Salvation Army, Raleigh Bicycles, Boots the Chemist, John Player cigarettes, Speedo swimwear, Pork Farms, a dozen World Boxing Champions and many hundreds of thousands of pretty girls. Unfortunately, in 1987, it also gave the world 'The Chimneys' - the most barrel-famished, whore-thirsty, scapegracious, sociopathic, peace-torpedoing flange of desperadoes ever to lay siege to parochial decency. Luckily, the world escaped by the skin of its teeth. Just. How? Cover the budgie. Bin the mobile. Rig the room for impact and strap yourself tightly in for a white-knuckle ride through the true, larger than life chronicle of the girls, the gigs, the giggles; the boys, the bars, the birianis; the cars, the capers, the courtrooms - and be ready to laugh and cry and orgasm. Probably all at once.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Britons in Spain get winter payments

The winter fuel payments scheme instituted by Gordon Brown has handed out around �7 million to pensioners living in Spain and other southern European countries, it emerged yesterday.

The Liberal Democrats urged a review of the system after discovering that thousands of recipients of the �200-a-time payments were resident in the sunnier climes of countries such as Portugal, Cyprus and Greece.

I always relish the phrase "it emerged" in news stories, as if these things just bubble up without human intervention or agency.

London's 9/11?

An astonishing story from Saturday's Times:

AN INDIAN man was jailed in Bombay yesterday for plotting to fly passenger jets into the House of Commons and Tower Bridge in London on September 11, 2001. Mohammed Afroze was sentenced to seven years after he admitted that he had a role in an al-Qaeda plot to attack London, the Rialto Towers building in Melbourne and the Indian Parliament.

His lawyer has claimed, however, that the confession was "forcefully taken" and that Afroze was tortured by Indian police.

Afroze admitted that he and seven al-Qaeda operatives planned to hijack aircraft at Heathrow and fly them into the two London landmarks. The suicide squad included men from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Afroze said. They booked seats on two Manchester-bound flights, but fled just before they were due to board.

We are not Afraid

I got to Hammersmith in plenty of time for the Open Tech conference on Saturday and I had about three quarters of an hour to kill so I was mooching around the Hammersmith Broadway shopping centre that is built over the tube station.

At about half past ten a general alarm went off and an insistent repeating taped message said that all staff and customers were to evacuate at once. I imagine that after 7/7 and 21/7 there was only one thought in most peoples' minds, but I was still astonished to see a minority of the public very close to panic bolting for the doors.

For some reason I had a strong feeling that it was very, very important not to run, but to walk almost casually out. I realise that this is somewhat ridiculous as well but it arrived in my head in an instant as a firm conviction.

Suddenly Sunday

Jane was working yesterday so I took our four year old swimming, then to Burger King for lunch, then to see the Fantastic Four at the Odeon.

A special day I think, and it may be thanks to James Lileks' pieces about spending time with his Gnat that I realise, so kudos to him as well.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Deep Throat

A hospital consultant is to conduct a clinical trial to test if singing exercises can reduce or eradicate snoring.

More than 100 patients at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital are to participate in a programme of exercises that are designed to strengthen the throat. Snorers and their families who volunteer for the tests have been warned that the songs have been chosen for their therapeutic effect rather than their beauty, and include
grunting noises.
I tried sprays, a Chinese ring, and even a device clamped in my mouth to reduce my snoring.

However, I have been going to the gym most weekday lunchtimes and doing some cardio work since the beginning of June and - touch wood - that seems to be doing the trick and domestic harmony is returning.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


I am off to the Open Tech 2005 conference in Hammersmith today.

Among the speakers is Ted Nelson - a long time hero of mine- inventor of hypertext, author of Computer Lib/Dream Machines (I wonder where my copy can be) and coiner of the word intertwingularity.

There is no food, but the bar will be open. We all have our crosses to bear I suppose.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Transport for London Real-time Map

The Transport for London Real-time Map gives an up to date illustration of the state of the Tube network. Disrupted lines appear in their normal colours, disrupted stations appear in red, and you can click on the line or station for a full description.

Nice work and a valuable service. Here's to the day when it is all grey because there are no disruptions.

Harmony: Yin Yang

The Yin Yang is the Taoist symbol of the interplay of forces in the universe. In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang represent the two primal cosmic forces in the universe. Yin (moon) is the receptive, passive, cold female force. Yang (sun) is masculine- force, movement, heat. The Yin Yang symbol represents the idealised balance of the forces; equilibrium in the universe.

In my ring of symbols - an attempt to focus on links and similarities rather than differences. it follows the Zen Enso. The link between them is that the Zen school of Buddhism adopted precepts from Taoism.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Thump the Clouds

I thought I had summoned the lyrics of Shield Hill up from my memory earlier this week, but I have just remembered that there was a middle eight.

There's different kinds of natural wastage
And voluntary redundancy.
I've seen enough people wasted and, my Lord,
It don't seem so natural to me.

Oh dear me. Time has not been kind I thought the ersatz Bruce Springsteen of the verses and chorus were bad enough, but that is ersatz Billy Bragg.

Strangely enough, I could have sworn that I saw Phil - who played bass on the song - in Charlotte Church's band performing "Crazy Chick" on Top of the Pops at the end of May. I've Googled up a solo of his from a Sax Appeal song called, but of course it is, "CHEE-O-WA-WA CHA CHA". Press play and listen while you read the fine joke I have put below it.

A missionary goes to the most remote part of jungle. As soon as he arrives in the village he is to visit, he hears drums beating wildly in the distance. He asks the Chief what the drums mean. The Chief's reply is "Drums play, good. Drums stop, bad."

During the missionary's entire month long stay he frequently asks the Chief about the continuous drumming. The Chiefs reply is always the same. "Drums play good. Drums stop bad."

Finally as the missionary is leaving he asks the Chief again about the drumming. The Chief says "Drums play, g..."

"I know, I know" says the missionary. "Drums play, good. Drums stop, bad. But why is it bad when the drums stop?"

The Chief shakes his head and says, "when drums stop, bass solo."

Barcode; Bah Humbug

Electric 80s is the new compilation from Sony BMG. The cover artwork features a barcode. And by mistake staff at retailers like Tesco have been scanning in the artwork rather than the real barcode.

So anyone who bought the triple CD from Tesco got it for only seven pounds (rather than the usual 12.99). Not only are Sony BMG having to give Tesco the missing five pounds from the retail price, but they had to destroy 40,000 units of stock.

But it's good news for singer Jack Johnson. The fake barcode has sometimes registered on the computer system as his new CD. So he has seen a 20% increase in sales this week!

Google Maps API: First Shot

I have had a quick look at the programming the Gooogle Maps API.
The heart of the code that produces the map above is simple:
var map = new GMap(document.getElementById("map"));
map.addControl(new GSmallMapControl());
map.addControl(new GMapTypeControl());
map.centerAndZoom(new GPoint(-0.104370, 51.512482) , 2);
document.createTextNode("We drank around here last night"));

You need to sign up for a with Google Maps API key to use the system. This only gives you permission to access the maps from a single directory. This is a pain in the neck for a weblog becaue the frontpage, archive and permalink versions of a post are all in different directories. For the moment I have got over this by putting the map in an Iframe.

I think it is quite impressive. Try zooming in on the satellite view. When I next get some time, I will try adding more information to the map using markers.

Last Night in Blackfriars

The Queen Mary, Waterloo Pier, Victoria Embankment, London, WC2R 2PP
The Goose at the Castle, 148, Queen Victoria St, London, EC4V 4BY
Shaws Booksellers, 34 St. Andrews Hill, London, EC4V 5DE
The Cockpit, 7, St. Andrews Hill, London, EC4V 5BY
The Rising Sun, 61, Carter Lane, London, EC4V 5DY

I really must get round to doing something with these lists with the Google Maps API once my head clears.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sticking it to the Man

I've been writing on and off about how I think the Police could use Google Maps to help them interact with the public.

Here is one man's story about using Google maps -and WiFi - to get himself off the hook: Gear Live How Google Maps Got Me Out Of A Traffic Ticket.

Book Lists

Chris, who encouraged me to produce my own top 20 book list earlier this year has starting blogging along with his wife Kim. He posted a list of Jeffrey Eugenides top 10 novels yesterday.

I think lists like this are great, they can never be definitive, but a good book recommendation is always a wonderful gift. (I also hold recommenders of bad books in an implacable rigour of disdain. Boosters of "The Last Don", you know who you are.)

In 1984, Anthony Burgess brought out a list of - and a short booklet reveiwing - his choice of the 99 best novels in English since the war. As I recall, he published it as a rebuke to a top 100 list in the Sunday Times, and he modestly confined himself to 99 hoping that readers might nominate one of his as the hundredth.

Here is the list. I worked through a lot of it with great reward to myself. If I had never read this list I may never have been introduced the work of Robertson Davies, a little known true great.

Party Going (Henry Green)
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (Aldous Huxley)
Finnegans Wake (James Joyce)
At Swim-Two-Birds (Flann O'Brien)

The Power and the Glory (Graham Greene)
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway)
Strangers and Brothers (to 1970) (C P Snow)

The Aerodrome: A Love Story (Rex [Ernest] Warner)

The Horses Mouth (Joyce Cary)
The Razor's Edge (W Somerset Maugham)

Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh)

The Gormenghast Novels : Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast (1950), Titus Alone (1959) (Mervyn Peake)

The Victim (Saul Bellow)
Under the Volcano (Malcolm Lowry)

The Heart of the Matter (Graham Greene)
The Naked and the Dead (Norman Mailer)
No Highway (Nevil Shute)

The Heat of the Day (Elizabeth Bowen)
Ape and Essence (Aldous Huxley)
1984 (George Orwell)
The Body (William Sansom)

Scenes from Provincial Life (William Cooper)
The Disenchanted (Budd Schulberg)

A Dance to the Music of Time (Anthony Powell)
The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger)
A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight (Henry Williamson)
The Caine Mutiny (Herman Wouk)

Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)
The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
Wise Blood (Flannery O'Connor)
Sword of Honor (to 1961) (Evelyn Waugh)

The Long Goodbye (Raymond Chandler)
The Groves of Academe (Mary McCarthy)

Lucky Jim (Kingsley Amis)

Room at the Top (John Braine)
The Alexandria Quartet (Lawrence Durrell)
The London Novels (Colin MacInnes)
The Assistant (Bernard Malamud)

The Bell (Iris Murdoch)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Alan Sillitoe)
The Once and Future King (TH White)

The Mansion (William Faulkner)
Goldfinger (Ian Fleming)

Facial Justice (LP Hartley)
The Balkan Trilogy (to 1965) (Olivia Manning)

The Mighty and Their Fall (Ivy Compton-Burnett)
Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
The Fox in the Attic (Richard Hughes)
Riders in the Chariot (Patrick White)
The Old Men at the Zoo (Angus Wilson)

Another Country (James Baldwin)
An Error of Judgement (Pamela Hansford Johnson)
Island (Aldous Huxley)
The Golden Notebook (Doris Lessing)
Pale Fire (Vladimir Nabokov)

The Girls of Slender Means (Muriel Spark)

The Spire (William Goldin)
Heartland (Wilson Harris)
A Single Man (Christopher Isherwood)
The Defense (Vladimir Nabokov)
Late Call (Angus Wilson)

The Lockwood Concern (John O'Hara)
Cocksure (Mordecai Richler)
The Mandelbaum Gate (Muriel Spark)

A Man of the People (Chinua Achebe)
The Anti-Death League (Kingsley Amis)
Giles Goat-Boy (John Barth)
The Late Bourgeois World (Nadine Gordimer)
The Last Gentleman (Walker Percy)

The Vendor of Sweets (R K Narayan)

The Image Men (JB Priestley)
Pavane (Keith Roberts)

The French Lieutenant's Woman (John Fowles)
Portnoy's Complaint (Philip Roth)

Bomber (Len Deighton)

Sweet Dreams (Michael Frayn)
Gravity's Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon)

Humboldt's Gift (Saul Bellow)
The History Man (Malcolm Bradbury)

The Doctor's Wife (Brian Moore)
Falstaff (Robert Nye)

How To Save Your Own Life (Erica Jong)
Farewell Companions (James Plunkett)
Staying On (Paul Scott)

The Coup (John Updike)

The Unlimited Dream Company (JG Ballard)
Dubin's Lives (Bernard Malamud)
A Bend in the River (VS Naipaul)
Sophie's Choice (William Styron)

Life in the West (Brian Aldiss)
Riddley Walker (Russell Hoban)
How Far Can You Go? (David Lodge)
A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole published posthumously)

Lanark (Alasdair Gray)
Darconville's Cat (Alexander Theroux)
The Mosquito Coast (Paul Theroux)
Creation (Gore Vidal)

The Rebel Angels (Robertson Davies)

Ancient Evenings (Norman Mailer)

Bertrand Russell: WBI

Bertrand Russell was born at Trellech in Monmouthshire and died almost one hundred years later in 1970 at Penrhyndeudraeth, Merionedd.

He is therefore a wondefully unlikely "Welsh Born Icon", even though personally I have always considered him foolish if not dangerous.

Here for example, is one of the early fruits of "his perpetual intellectual battle for eternal truths", his espousal of eugenics.

"In extreme cases there can be little doubt of the superiority of one race to another.... It seems on the whole fair to regard negroes as on the average inferior to white men, although for work in the tropics they are indispensible, so that their extermination (apart from questions of humanity) would be highly undesirable."
� Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals (1929)

Not a quote you would be likely to hear from a Russell admirer these days I'll warrant. "Extermination (apart from questions of humanity)" is a nice distinction that would only ever occur to an over clocked mind.

What a deadly danger eugenics was in the 1920s! H G Wells thought the weak should be killed by the strong, having �no pity and less benevolence�. The diseased, deformed and insane, together with �those swarms of blacks, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people � will have to go�. He envisioned a time when all crime would be punished by death because �People who cannot live happily and freely in the world without spoiling the lives of others are better out of it.�

From what I can gather, the cogent opposition to this sort of rubbish came from Chesterton and Belloc. You'd never guess that today from received opinion.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Richard Feynman

From a Telegraph review of Richard Feynman's letters:

Feynman's first wife had tuberculosis and died of it in 1945, spending her last months in a sanatorium in Albuquerque while he worked on the Manhattan Project to build the first atom bomb. Feynman wrote to her every day; six weeks before she died, he wrote: 'You are a nice girl. Every time I think of you, I feel good. It must be love. It sounds like a definition of love. It is love. I love you.'

This has great charm. Feynman was widowed when he was 27, and 16 months later, he wrote another letter to his dead wife, which we are told bore the signs of repeated handling, ending: 'My darling wife, I do adore you. I love my wife. My wife is dead. P.S. Please excuse my not mailing this - but I don't know your new address.'

He was too high-spirited, however, to let this tragedy destroy him, and the following year he produced the work that won him the Nobel Prize."

I haven't read the letters, but I did read "Surely You're Joking, Mr.Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character", years ago. It is a wonderful book. Go on treat yourself to a copy.

Texas Slow-Cooked BBQ Brisket

Attn John, I have found a project for the meat in your freezer. Note that the recipe allows for 8 hours uninterrupted drinking once the brisket goes in the oven and before you eat. (I bet the oven temperature given is Fahrenheit rather than Centigrade if you're cooking it for that long.)

After you've given this brisket a quick sear on the grill, the oven does all the work. Sighs of pleasure usually accompany the first bites of this meltingly tender, juicy, slightly smoky beef. Serve it with or without a barbecue sauce. Leftovers, if there are any, make fine Texas-style hash studded with red and green peppers and potatoes or barbecue sandwiches.

Meat: 2 supermarket briskets at 4 or 5 pounds each or a custom-cut 'double brisket,' 8 or 9 pounds, trimmed of excessive fat

Marinade (Quantities are generous. Halve the recipe if total brisket weight is less than 6 pounds):

1 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup red wine
1 can (14 ounces) beef broth
Few drops liquid smoke seasoning (if you wish to enhance the natural smoke and are not using a smoky barbecue sauce)
Juice from 2 limes
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped parsley
6 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 serrano chiles, stemmed and halved
1/4 cup barbecue sauce, such as Bulls Eye or a homemade sauce, recipe follows (optional)
For finishing:
Oil for searing
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce such as Bulls Eye or a homemade sauce
2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
Tender greens or watercress and red-leaf lettuce for garnish

Three days ahead of time, put the brisket, fat side up, in a large pan at least 2 inches deep or a heavy-duty plastic bag. Combine the marinade ingredients and pour over the brisket. Cover or seal tightly and marinate for 30 to 36 hours. Invite brother to feast.

Preheat an outdoor grill. Remove the brisket from the marinade (reserve marinade) and rub with oil. Sear on the grill, fat side down, for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn and sear the opposite side for 8 to 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Lay out several overlapping sheets of heavy aluminum foil large enough to enclose the brisket completely. If you are using two briskets, lay one on top of the other. Pour about 1/2 cup of the marinade over the meat, then wrap securely in foil. Refrigerate the remaining marinade for another use within a week or freeze for longer storage. Put the brisket(s) in a roasting pan and place in the center of the oven. Roast, undisturbed, for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, remove the brisket. Let it stand 10 minutes, then pour off and reserve the juices. Cover the brisket lightly with foil to keep it warm. You may not wish to use all the juice. If you want a real barbecue sauce taste, stir in 1/4 cup barbecue sauce to taste and cook a few minutes more. If you prefer the natural juices to dominate, add 1/2 cup of reserved marinade to the juices and boil 10 to 20 minutes to reduce and thicken. Then whisk in the 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce and 2 tablespoons soft butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Slice brisket diagonally across the grain about 1/3-inch thick. Arrange slices overlapping on a warm platter, with garnish of greens around edge. Moisten with juices. Pass additional juices. A 10-pound brisket, or two smaller ones totaling 10 pounds, serves about 16.

Shield Hill

I'd call my old man a fool,
I'd say that guy knew his place.
I'd tell you, when I got out of school
They weren't gonna step on this boy's face.

I've got dreams but I had plans.
I'd take on a whole wide world.
That was me, my guitar in my hand
Standing up square my flag unfurled.

Just sitting out on that old Shield Hill,
Wrapped in a night so black and so still.
Drawn by the lights, the refinery,
Knowing there's nothing there for me.

Things can change as years fly by,
Take a drink or even meet the girl,
Though you try and keep your hopes up high
You can get mixed up in this world.

Lose the nerve to look so far
No one else will ever ask you why,
As night after night you still strum your guitar,
Pretending you missed your chance to try.

Just sitting out on that old Shield Hill
Wrapped in a night so black and so still.
Drawn by the lights the refinery,
God knows there's nothing there for me.

(Thanks to Chris and John for reminding me of this 1985 Thump the Clouds song on Saturday.)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Shavings from the Bench

It may seem that Microsoft Media player won't have anything to do with .VOB files if you try and open them directly (VOB is the DVD video format). There is an amazingly simple workaround though; all you have to do is change the file extension to .MPG and the player will show them with no problem.

(If you don't understand this, it is almost certainly of no use to you.)

Terrorism Futures

Two years ago - in July 2003 - Paul Wolfowitz, then the Deputy Defense Secretary, announced that a controversial plan to create a futures market to help predict terrorist strikes was to be dropped.

Wolfowitz, answering a question about the program from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, defended the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which created the program and set up a Web site describing it.

"The agency that does it is brilliantly imaginative in places where we want them to be imaginative," he said. "It sounds like maybe they got too imaginative in this area."

"There is something very sick about it," a clearly angry Boxer said, adding that those responsible should be fired.

I thought at the time that the futures market idea may well have been brilliant and that to dismiss it - when so much was at stake - because some folk thought that it was in bad taste was ridiculous.

Again earlier this year - I remembered Senator Boxer's contribution to killing the initiative during her extraordinarily boorish treatment of Condoleezza Rice during the Secretay of State's confirmation hearings. I have been thinking about it again in the light of London's recent unpredicted attack. Victor Hanson has been watching the Senator for longer than I have, and noted back in February that, "Boxer, the Bay Area�s premier progressive and crankiest of the questioners, has had a history of defining political disagreements in terms of personal partisanship, of us-versus-them rather than of mere opposing ideas".

I did a lot of work on oil market futures as an MBA project. Markets are incredibly powerful aggregators if information. Exchanges tend to predict events really well when no one person knows the answer and when information is distributed among many people with different types of knowledge. Expert appointed panels may often have blind spots caused by conventional thinking and unspoken assumptions. Markets can allow people who may have insight and relevant knowledge but not generally accepted quailifications to contribute to moulding opinion.

Anyone whose grandstanding has possibly contributed to robbing the USA's intelligence agencies of a tool with a strong history of accurately predicting future events bears a heavy responsibility in my view.

Back in 2003, Justin Wolfers and Eric Zitzewitz wrote the following in the Washington Post.

While the joke about military intelligence being an oxymoron is an old one, it bears repeating here. It's no coincidence that we don't have the same doubts about financial markets. Recent events have underscored the difficulty of aggregating information from lower levels of the intelligence bureaucracy. Imagine if a "Niger Uranium sale" contract had been trading in January; our guess is that this would have been close to valueless, reflecting the hard intelligence available at the time that such sales never occurred.

Nearly 24 months down the road, with the White House reeling from the revelation of Carl Rove's involvement in discrediting and/or pressurising Joseph Wilson on the Niger controversy by leaking the fact that Mrs. Wilson was a CIA agent, this is an even stronger argument for markets over spin than it was at the time.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Mumbles' Own WBI

It would be churlish to say goodbye to Swansea without elevating Private Eye editor and "Have I got News for You" stalwart Ian Hislop (born Mumbles 1960) to the rank of Welsh Born Icon.

Who would have guessed?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Mumbles Mile

I am off to Swansea today to meet up with Chris and my brother John and to attempt the Mumbles mile for the first time in more than two decades.

The Mumbles Mile is a section of sea front laden with pubs, all within short walking distance of each other. The White Rose, The Nags Head, The Village Inn, The William Hancock, The Antelope, The Prince of Wales, The Famous Bear, The George and The Pilot; be still my beating heart.

Afterwards, I would ideally like to walk back along the beach to Neuadd Lewis Jones - like the callow youth of 1979 - while eating a take-away Chinese curry with my fingers. You really have had to be there to understand how good that was.

Friday, July 15, 2005

You love life and we love death

Mark Steyn from March last year:
Here's a story no American news organization thought worth covering last week, so you'll just have to take it from me. In the southern Iraqi town of Amara, 20 men from Scotland's Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders came under attack from 100 or so of Muqtada al-Sadr's 'insurgents.' So they fixed bayonets and charged.

It was the first British bayonet charge since the Falklands War 20 years ago. And at the end of it some 35 of the enemy were dead in return for three minor wounds on the Argylls' side. If you're used to smart bombs, unmanned drones and doing it all by computer back at HQ, you're probably wondering why a modern Western army is still running around with bayonets at the end of their rifles. The answer is that it's a very basic form of psychological warfare.

'If you're defending a position and you see someone advancing with a bayonet, you may be more inclined to surrender,' Colonel Ed Brown told the British newspaper The Guardian. 'I've never been bayoneted, but I can imagine it's pretty gruesome.' Or as Corporal Jones, veteran of the Sudan, used to say every week on the ancient BBC sitcom 'Dad's Army': 'They don't like it up 'em.'

By comparison, a Cruise missile, an unmanned drone, even a bullet are all antiseptic forms of warfare. When a chap's charging at you with a bayonet, he's telling you he's personally willing to run you through with cold steel. The bullet may get you first, but, if it doesn't, he'll do it himself. To the average British squaddie in the 21st century, the bayonet's main practical purpose is for opening tinned food. But when you need it on the battlefield, it's still a powerful signal of your resolve, your will.

As Wellington remarked of his own troops, "I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they frighten me".

"You love life and we love death", say the Islamofascists. History proves - and I think it is too often forgotten by our own media and metropolitan elites - that, once roused, the British may well be the most deadly and implacable foe in the world. If you love death, you've come to the right place.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule

NEW YORK�Responding to recent events on Earth, God, the omniscient creator-deity worshipped by billions of followers of various faiths for more than 6,000 years, angrily clarified His longtime stance against humans killing each other Monday.

"Look, I don't know, maybe I haven't made myself completely clear, so for the record, here it is again," said the Lord, His divine face betraying visible emotion during a press conference near the site of the fallen Twin Towers. "Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbor. Well, I don't. And to be honest, I'm really getting sick and tired of it. Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to, in really simple terms that anybody ought to be able to understand."

Worshipped by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, God said His name has been invoked countless times over the centuries as a reason to kill in what He called "an unending cycle of violence."

"I don't care how holy somebody claims to be," God said. "If a person tells you it's My will that they kill someone, they're wrong. Got it? I don't care what religion you are, or who you think your enemy is, here it is one more time: No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."

The press conference came as a surprise to humankind, as God rarely intervenes in earthly affairs. As a matter of longstanding policy, He has traditionally left the task of interpreting His message and divine will to clerics, rabbis, priests, imams, and Biblical scholars. Theologians and laymen alike have been given the task of pondering His ineffable mysteries, deciding for themselves what to do as a matter of faith. His decision to manifest on the material plane was motivated by the deep sense of shock, outrage, and sorrow He felt over the Sept. 11 violence carried out in His name, and over its dire potential ramifications around the globe.

"I tried to put it in the simplest possible terms for you people, so you'd get it straight, because I thought it was pretty important," said God, called Yahweh and Allah respectively in the Judaic and Muslim traditions. "I guess I figured I'd left no real room for confusion after putting it in a four-word sentence with one-syllable words, on the tablets I gave to Moses. How much more clear can I get?"

"But somehow, it all gets twisted around and, next thing you know, somebody's spouting off some nonsense about, 'God says I have to kill this guy, God wants me to kill that guy, it's God's will,'" God continued. "It's not God's will, all right? News flash: 'God's will' equals 'Don't murder people.'"

From The Onion after 9/11. Still works.

Two Minutes Silence

Thirty-two people, most of them children, were killed yesterday when a suicide bomber exploded his car beside a convoy of American soldiers handing out sweets in a Baghdad suburb.

The blast left the street covered in pools of blood, mangled bicycles and the corpses of the young, many still clutching blue-wrapped chocolate bars.
Depravity beyond belief, and more innocents to be remembered along with London's as we now fall silent for two minutes as a mark of respect.


Daruma is the Japanese name for Bodhidharma. I was so taken with him while doing the research for the post about the Enso earlier this week that I put I bid in for a Japanese Daruma hanging scroll on eBay. I won it early this morning and have paid so it should be winging its way from Tottori in Japan very soon. There is a detail of it on the left.

The reason he looks so bug-eyed, is that he supposedly, cut off his eyelids while meditating, to keep from falling asleep.

(Naturally, this being a legend, tea bushes sprung from the spot where his eyelids hit the ground and it is said that this is the reason that tea is so important for meditation and why it helps the meditator not to fall asleep.)

Google Video Search

Google Video Search now allows you to restrict your search to "playable video".

How to Back Up DVDs

Paul Thurrott writing in Connected Home:

A company called SlySoft makes an ingenious $39 application called AnyDVD, which resides in memory and unprotects commercial DVDs on the fly. So, when AnyDVD is running and you insert a DVD movie, it appears to the system to be unencrypted. Then, you can use the video application of your choice to copy the DVD contents into a more suitable format. Incidentally, AnyDVD is also good for other uses: It removes a DVD's region information, letting you play international DVDs, and it prevents DVDs with horrible PC-based software (such as PC-Friendly) from automatically starting on insert.

I've experimented with various video applications, but since I'll be reviewing CyberLink PowerDirector soon, I�ll walk you through the process of copying a DVD by using AnyDVD and PowerDirector. First, make sure AnyDVD is resident on your system. Then, launch PowerDirector and insert a DVD movie in your PC's DVD drive. Next, select File, Import to import either the DVD�s entire VIDEO_TS folder or the individual VOB files that make up the movie.

In PowerDirector, you can drag individual VOB files to the timeline and edit them, or you can simply drag the entire movie onto the timeline and prepare to write it to disk. PowerDirector, like any good video editor, gives you a number of options for saving the movie. You can make a Video CD or DVD, for example. Or, you can save it to the hard disk in AVI, DivX, MPEG-1, or MPEG-2 format. MPEG-2 is the native format for DVD movies, so that's probably a good choice. Let�s start with that. A 1-minute MPEG-2 video encoded in a DVD-quality 720 x 480 format takes about 60 seconds to encode and occupies about 56MB of space. Do the math, and you're looking at about 5GB for a typical 90-minute movie. And, of course, the roughly 1:1 ratio of movie length to encoding time means that the video will take about 90 minutes to write to disk.

DivX provides similar quality to MPEG-2 at much smaller file sizes, but the encoding process typically takes longer. That same 1-minute clip, encoded to the same resolution, will take about 1 minute and 4 seconds to encode, but the resulting file is only 17.2MB. So, a 90-minute movie would occupy just 15.5GB. That's much better, but DivX is also a slightly dodgy format, and is not as widely supported as MPEG-2.

Hint: His maths on DivX ain't so hot.

Arab-Israeli Cookbook

We went to see the Arab-Israeli Cookbook in the Tricylce Theatre in Kilburn yesterday. I tried to get tickets for it during its first run at The Gate last year but it was sold out.

It is a piece of verbatim theatre assembled from interviews with Jews and Arabs in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in September 2003. When I head of the play, I was hoping that the theme of food and cooking might produce something positive about the cultural connections between the communities, but it wasn't to be. There is little, if any, testimony of people who have made friends across the divide.

I am also sure that in a theatre in London the stories have a relevance and emotional impact after 7/7 that they wouldn't have had in 2004.

We hear a falafel shop keeper called Mordechai saying that he considers hinself one year and one month old because just over a year ago an Arab teenager ran into his shop, hid under a table and detonated a bomb killing only himself even though Mordechai and his son were less than a metre a way. A driver called Yaacov tells of his guilt and anguish after driving his No 25 through the wreckage of another bus blown up by a suicide bomber (whose headless, legless corpse he sees) because it was drummed into him that he must not stop in case another terrorist was waiting.

The only hope lies in the character of Fadi - an intellectually brilliant young Arab - who is studying for law and medicine degrees simultaneously. His insight and simple vow is not to give in to resentment. Maybe, as a post yesterday suggested, that is the last best hope for all of us.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hatred is the easiest of choices

Roger Scruton:

In dealing with terrorism you are confronting a resentment that is not concerned to improve the lot of anyone, but only to destroy the thing it hates. That is what appeals in terrorism, since hatred is a much easier and less demanding emotion to live by than love, and is much more effective in recruiting a following.

And when the object of hatred is a group, a race, a class or a nation, we can furnish from our hatred a comprehensive stance towards the world. That way hatred brings order out of chaos, and decision out of uncertainty - the perfect solution to the alienated Muslim, lost in a world that denies his religion, and which his religion in turn denies.

Of course, hatred has other causes besides resentment. Someone who has suffered an injustice may very well hate the person who committed it. However, such hatred is precisely targeted, and cannot be satisfied by attacking some innocent substitute. Hatred born of resentment is not like that. It is a passion bound up with the very identity of the one who feels it, and rejoices in damaging others purely by virtue of their membership of the targeted group.

Resentment will always prefer indiscriminate mass murder to a carefully targeted punishment. Indeed, the more innocent the victim, the more satisfying the act. For this is the proof of holiness, that you are able to condemn people to death purely for being bourgeois, rich, Jewish, or whatever, and without examining their moral record.

The tendency to resent lies in all of us, and can be overcome only by a discipline that tells us to blame faults in ourselves and to forgive faults in others. This discipline lies at the heart of Christianity and many argue that it lies at the heart of Islam, too.

If that is so, it is time for Muslims to organise against those who preach resentment in the name of their religion, and who regard last week's crimes in London as virtuous deeds, performed with God's blessing, in a holy cause.

This is very wise writing I think.

Harmony: Enso

The enso, a simple circle drawn with a single, broad brushstroke, is the zen symbol of infinity. It represents the infinite void, the 'no-thing,' the perfect meditative state, and Satori (enlightenment.)

I wanted to use Zen in the cycle of symbols I am working on as it may be considered in some ways as representing a melding of Buddhism and Taoism. (The Aum, my previous symbol is considered holy in esoteric buddhism.)

The extraordinary Bodhidharma - a monk from South India- is traditionally held to be the founder of the Chan school of Buddhism (known in Japan and the West as Zen), and the Shaolin school of Chinese martial arts.

He was born in what is now Kerala in southern India around 440 during the Pallava dynasty's rule; a clan prince well versed in martial arts (a form still surviving in Kerala as Kalaripayattu).

Throughout Buddhist art, Bodhidharma is depicted as a rather ill-tempered, profusely bearded and wide-eyed barbarian. He is described as "The Blue-Eyed Barbarian" in Chinese texts.

It is said he travelled to China in response to invitation made by Emperor Wu Di that requested the Indian Sangha to send an enlightened one to China to teach.

According to tradition, once in China he attended an audience with Wu Di. When the Emperor asked him how much merit he had accumulated through building temples and endowing monasteries, Bodhidharma replied, "None at all."

Perplexed, the Emperor then asked, "Well, what is the fundamental teaching of Buddhism?"

"Vast emptiness," was the bewildering reply.

"Listen," said the Emperor, now losing all patience, "just who do you think you are?"

"I have no idea," Bodhidharma replied.

With this, Bodhidharma was banished from the Court, and is said to have sat in meditation for the next seven years "listening to the ants scream".

Bodhidharma traveled to the recently constructed Shaolin temple in the north of China, where the monks refused him admission. Bodhidharma sat meditating facing a wall for the next 9 years, supposedly burning holes into the wall by staring at it. Only then did the monks of the Shaolin Temple respect Bodhidharma and allow him inside. There, he found the monks so out of shape from a life of study spent copying scrolls that he introduced a regimen of meditation exercises, which later became part of Shaolin kung fu.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


David Aaronovitch in The Times on a similar tack to me on the motivation of the 7/7 murderers.
On Sunday night's Panorama it was reported that new jihadis all over Europe are being turned on by snuff videos shot in Iraq. It was suggested that this was evidence for the contention that Iraq was inflaming would-be bombers. But back in 2001, I recall, they were being similarly aroused by material shot in Algeria and during the war against the Russians in Afghanistan. You have to ask about what kind of person sees a film of a hostage being beheaded, and wants to do the same thing. The explanation may be psychological, psychosexual, ideological even, but it doesn't seem to me to be political. If someone is getting their jollies from fantasising about cutting throats, I don't think geopolitics is the problem.


It struck me last night that Hate Crime is very like the thoughtcrime in Orwell's dystopian 1984. While vaguely googling that today I found the the Thoughtcrime entry in Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia - includes a neat summary of my opinion. Suddenly I feel less alone.

Some people believe governments may be currently enforcing laws that implement a de-facto kind of thoughtcrime legislation. Prime among the laws accused of this are hate crime laws that mandate harsher penalties for people who commit crimes out of racism or bigotry. Opponents of those laws claim that all crimes are committed out of an element of hate, so that defining a specific subset of laws as 'hate crimes' is meaningless, and that these very laws in fact imply the inequality of citizens before the law ('castes' of special sub-groups benefiting from privileges other groups do not, e.g. ethnic or sexual 'minorities') and that the government should outlaw actions, not thoughts or states of mind.


Looking at Baudelaire and Les Fleurs du Mal has reminded me of Lautreamont's infamous Maldoror, another work valued by the symbolists.

I tried it once and got as far as Stanza 6: The Nails (The Reader as an Accomplice), which is just about the most irredeemably nasty thing I have ever read in my life. It actually made me uncomfortable about having the book in my possession. I couldn't relax until I got rid of it.

(Hint: This is not a recommendation.)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Go to the nearest anywhere

I am just backfrom the Geek Dinner inspired London Marketing Soiree.

Seth Godin is a good speaker, but he really did say, "go to the nearest anywhere".

To check out what? No thanks.

Les Fleurs du Mal

It is strange that I drifted in an odd indirect way to Baudelaire while brooding on 7/7, because he also helps us to understand in Les Fleurs du Mal why it is almost always the bored, disaffected, priviliged youth who commit such acts. If and when the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice they will almost certainly be affluent and educated, with more in common with Leopold and Loeb (a deliberately insulting comparsion) than the oppressed brethren they have adopted.

The truth of it lies in this fever not in religion. From Au Lecteur (to the reader):


Si le viol, le poison, le poignard, l'incendie,
N'ont pas encore brod? de leurs plaisants dessins
Le canevas banal de nos piteux destins,
C'est que notre ame, helas! n'est pas assez hardie.

If rape and poison, dagger and burning,
Have still not embroidered their pleasant designs
On the banal canvas of our pitiable destinies,
It's because our souls, alas, are not bold enough!


C'est l'Ennui!-l'oeil charge d'un pleur involontaire,
Il reve d'echafauds en fumant son houka.
Tu le connais, lecteur, ce monstre delicat,
-Hypocrite lecteur, -mon semblable,-mon frere!

It's Boredom!- his eye brimming with spontaneous tear
He dreams of the gallows in the haze of his hookah.
You know him, reader, this delicate monster,
Hypocritical reader, my likeness, my brother!"

Irshad Manji

The London transit bombings happened on a Thursday. Islam's holiest day of the week is Friday. That's when the most important sermons -- known as khutbas -- are delivered in mosques everywhere.

And that's why Muslims everywhere face a test in the next several hours. Assuming we're serious that Islam means peace, we must demand that our Friday khutbas denounce the London terrorist explosions in unambiguous and unqualified terms.

Here's what I predict will happen instead. The preachers will express condolences for the victims and condemnations of the criminals. Then they'll add, 'But Britain should have never invited this kind of response by joining America in the invasion of Iraq.'

The trouble with this line of reasoning is that terrorists have never needed an Iraq debacle to justify their violent jihads. What exactly was the Iraq of 1993, when Islamic radicals tried to blow up the World Trade Center? Or of 2000, when the USS Cole was attacked? Hell, that assault took place after U.S. military intervention saved thousands of Muslims in Bosnia.

If staying out of Iraq protected anyone from terrorism, then why did 'insurgents' last year kidnap two journalists from France -- the most anti-war, anti-Bush nation in the West? Even overt solidarity with the people of Iraq, demonstrated by CARE's top relief worker in the area, Margaret Hassan, didn't shield her from assassination.

These are the facts that ordinary Muslims must take to their preachers at Friday's sermons. A clear repudiation of the London bombings will not bring back the dead. What it can do is help the rest of the world differentiate between the moderates and the apologists.

In Britain, a bill to outlaw strong criticism of Islam awaits final approval in Parliament.

Mainstream Muslims crusaded for it, arguing that they're being terrorized by racists. Today, many of their neighbors have the fear of a capricious God, thanks to Islamic fanatics.

What will Muslims do?

Irshad Manji - who I think is Canadian - writing in The Huffington Post on 7/7 and making sense. I think she is right to take a swipe at the Religious Hatred Bill as well. Insignificant as it may be compared to the bombs, she is surely justified in pointing out it will increase rather than alleviate grievances.

The Generous Gambler

I have found a link to an English translation of the Baudelaire story that inspired the "greatest trick the devil ever pulled" line from "The Usual Suspects".

Someone else has noted that you can also find an inspiration for this line from Goethe's Faust Pt 1. In chapter VI the Witch calls Mephistopheles Satan, but he admonishes her and explains with pride that he has disguised himself so well over time that he has become only a name in fable.

The Generous Gambler seems to be about a Faustian pact as well.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Harmony: Om

Aum (also Om, ?) is the most sacred syllable in Hindusim. It is also considered holy in Buddhism - where it is incorporated in the most famous mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" - as well as by Jains and Sikhs.

The word derives from the Sanskrit. The Om is the primordial sound by which the earth was created. It is interesting to relate this to the Gospel according to John.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him" John 1:1-3.

That is exaclty the kind of thing I was hoping to find on this Harmony exercise looking, for once, at simlarities rather than differences.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Abbeyfest 2005

Well Abbeyfest 2005 kicked off for another year yesterday with a free concert by Hamish Stuart Band on the bandstand.

It was strange to go to such a social gig with the 7/7 explosions still echoing, but I felt that drinking lager, eating pizza and listening to jazz was exactly the kind of blameless fun that the bombers would rob us of if they ever triumphed and so it was important to kick back and relax for the evening even if only to affirm that we are free to do it.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Devil's Trick

I pulled out "The Usual Suspects" on DVD last night. How apt the tagline seemed on 7/7.

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

Charles Baudelaire, said it first "la plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu'il n'existe pas", but in the film Verbal Kint uses it to tell the story of Keyser Soze:

He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. One story the guys told me � the story I believe � was from his days in Turkey. There was a petty gang of Hungarians that wanted their own mob. They realized that to be in power you didn't need guns or money or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn't. After a while they come to power, and then they come after Soze. He was small time then, just running dope, they say...

Bush Finds Error

BATAVIA, IL: President Bush met with members of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory research team Monday to discuss a mathematical error he recently discovered in the famed laboratory's "Improved Determination Of Tau Lepton Paths From Inclusive Semileptonic B-Meson Decays" report.

"I'm somewhat out of my depth here," said Bush, a longtime Fermilab follower who describes himself as "something of an armchair physicist." "But it seems to me that, when reducing the perturbative uncertainty in the determination of Vub from semileptonic Beta decays, one must calculate the rate of Beta events with a standard dilepton invariant mass at a subleading order in the hybrid expansion. The Fermilab folks' error, as I see it, was omitting that easily overlooked mathematical transformation and, therefore, acquiring incorrectly re-summed logarithmic corrections for the b-quark mass. Obviously, such a miscalculation will result in a precision of less than 25 percent in predicting the resulting path of the tau lepton once the value for any given decaying tau neutrino is determined."

The Bush correction makes it possible for scientists to further study the tau lepton, a subatomic particle formed by the collision of a tau neutrino and an atomic nucleus.

Bush resisted criticizing the Fermilab scientists responsible for the error, saying it was "actually quite small" and that "anyone could have made the mistake."

"High-energy physics is a complex and demanding field, and even top scientists drop a decimal point or two every now and then," Bush said. "Also, I might hasten to add that what I pointed out was more a correction of method than of mathematics. Experimental results on the Tevatron accelerator would have exposed the error in time, anyway."

Fermilab director Michael Witherell said the president was being too modest "by an order of magnitude."

Two nil to The Onion.

Bush Regales Dinner Guests

WASHINGTON, DC: President Bush delighted an intimate gathering of White House dinner guests Monday, regaling the coterie of dignitaries, artists, and friends with a spirited, off-the-cuff discussion of the Roman poet Virgil's lesser-known works.

'Ah, W. was in top form tonight,' Spanish foreign minister Josep Pique Camps said. 'We were all held captive by his erudition and charm. First, a brief history of the opium trade, then a bit of Brahms on the piano, then a rousing discussion of Virgil. That boy is a wonder, isn't he?'

According to guests, the subject of Virgil arose serendipitously, when a servant opened a window in the Red Room, to which the group had retired for after-dinner drinks. Noticing the breeze, Bush raised his glass and delivered a toast to the changing of the seasons. He then apologized to 'lovely Winter,' explaining that he 'meant no slight against her.'

'The first blush of Spring always reminds me of Virgil's words,' Bush said. 'In early spring-tide, when the icy drip / Melts from the mountains hoar, and Zephyr's breath / Unbinds the crumbling clod, even then 'tis time / Press deep your plough behind the groaning ox / And teach the furrow-burnished share to shine.'

'Book One of The Georgics, of course,' Bush added.

Bush arranged the small, informal dinner in honor of Camps' unexpected arrival in America.
'It had been too long since I'd heard one of W.'s anecdotes, so I simply got on a plane,' Camps said. 'I showed up at his doorstep with a watercolor by Ignat Bednarik, whom I know he adores, just to make sure he'd let me in.'

Bush confessed that he has "long held a fascination with the classical world," noting that his love of Roman history influenced his decision to enter politics.

"Virgil was born in the year 70 B.C.�let's see, that would be during the consulship of Gnaeus Pompeius The Great and Marcus Licinius Crassus, if I'm not mistaken," Bush said. "It is said that while Virgil's mother was with child, she dreamt she gave birth to a laurel branch, which, upon touching the ground, sprang up into a full-grown tree, its branches laden with ripe fruits and flowers. The next morning, she gave birth to Virgil. The legend goes that Virgil was born without crying, so mild was his countenance."

According to White House regulars, it is not uncommon for Bush to engage guests in discussions of whatever subject strikes his fancy, from the symphony playing in the background to the history of a style of jewelry a guest happens to be wearing.

An oldie but goodie repeated in The Onion.

Revolutionary Catechism

I think it is important to understand that the ideology of nihilistic terrorism and the modus operandi of yesterday's attacks on London is modern. Its antecedents aren't Islamic at all. It was invented and codified in 19th century Russia with Sergey Genadievich Nechayev's 1869 Revolutionary Catechism. Nechaev developed many of the secret cell and conspiracy tactics that would be so useful to future insurgents, but the main reason for reading it today is to understand the danger of the vertiginous glamour with which Nechaev invests ruthlessness; "know thine enemy".

1. The revolutionary is a doomed man. He has no personal interests, no business affairs, no emotions, no attachments, no property and no name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed in the single thought and the single passion for revolution.

2. The revolutionary knows that in the very depths of his being, not only in words but also in deeds, he has broken all the bounds which tie him to the social order and the civilized world with all its laws, moralities and customs and with all its generally accepted conventions. He is their implacable enemy, and if he continues to live with them it is only in order to destroy them more speedily.

3. The revolutionary despises all doctrines and refuses to accept the mundane sciences, leaving them for future generations. He knows only one science: the science of destruction. For this reason, but only for this reason, he will study mechanics, physics, chemistry, and perhaps medicine. But all day and all night he studies the vital science of human beings, their characteristics and circumstances, and all the phenomena of the present social order. The object is perpetually the same: the surest and quickest way of destroying the whole filthy order.

4. The revolutionary despises public opinion. He despises and hates the existing social morality in all its manifestations. For him, morality is everything which contributes to the triumph of the revolution. Immoral and criminal is everything which stands in the way.

5. The revolutionary is a dedicated man, merciless toward the State and toward the educated classes; and he can expect no mercy from them. Between him and them there exists, declared or concealed, a relentless and irreconcilable war to the death. He must accustom himself to torture.

6. Tyrannical toward himself, he must be tyrannical toward others. All the gentle end enervating sentiments of kinship, love, friendship, gratitude, and even honor must be suppressed in him and give place to the cold and single minded passion for revolution. For him there exists only one pleasure, one consolation, one reward, one satisfaction �the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, one aim �merciless destruction. Striving coldbloodedly and indefatigably toward this end, he must be prepared to destroy himself and with his own hands to destroy everything that stands in the path of the revolution.


London Bomb Blasts on Flickr

Flickr: The 7/7 Community (formerly London Bomb Blasts) Pool

The Beginnings

"Amid the chaos and confusion of today's attacks in the British capital, many Londoners reacted with remarkable calm and self-assurance."
The Washington Post. 2005

It was not part of their blood,
It came to them very late,
With long arrears to make good,
When the English began to hate.

They were not easily moved,
They were icy willing to wait
Till every count should be proved,
Ere the English began to hate.

Their voices were even and low,
Their eyes were level and straight.
There was neither sign nor show,
When the English began to hate.

It was not preached to the crowd,
It was not taught by the State.
No man spoke it aloud,
When the English began to hate.

It was not suddenly bred,
It will not swiftly abate,
Through the chill years ahead,
When shall count from the date
That the English began to hate.

Rudyard Kipling. 1915

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Strange Bedfellows

For the first, and very possibly last time, I quote Ken Livingstone unedited and with complete appoval and agreement.

This was a cowardly attack, which has resulted in injury and loss of life. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been injured, or lost loved ones. I want to thank the emergency services for the way they have responded.

Following the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11 in America we conducted a series of exercises in London in order to be prepared for just such an attack. One of the exercises undertaken by the government, my office and the emergency and security services was based on the possibility of multiple explosions on the transport system during the Friday rush hour. The plan that came out of that exercise is being executed today, with remarkable efficiency and courage, and I praise those staff who are involved.

I'd like to thank Londoners for the calm way in which they have responded to this cowardly attack and echo the advice of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair - do everything possible to assist the police and take the advice of the police about getting home today.

I have no doubt whatsoever that this is a terrorist attack. We did hope in the first few minutes after hearing about the events on the Underground that it might simply be a maintenance tragedy. That was not the case. I have been able to stay in touch through the very excellent communications that were established for the eventuality that I might be out of the city at the time of a terrorist attack and they have worked with remarkable effectiveness. I will be in continual contact until I am back in London.

I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn�t an ideology, it isn�t even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I�m proud to be the mayor of that city.

Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life.

I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others - that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don�t want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.

This is eloquent and strong. For all our family squables as a society, the differences that we have within are nothing to the differences without.

London bombings - Wikipedia

There is a rapidly evolving wikipedia page on the 7 July 2005 London bombings

Blood Supplies

I have been told that the Blood Service believe that they have enough supplies in London to handle the incidents, but they ask that everyone who has appointments to keep them over the coming days. We can just walk up the road to St George's in Tooting so we will sit tight for the time being.

Metropolitan Police Statement

There have been at least six explosions in London this morning.

We are advising members of the public not to travel into London. Public transport in London will be affected in the next few days.

We are also asking members of the public not to contact police at this stage unless it is a genuine emergency.

We are co-ordinating the other emergency services in responding to this major incident.

We will be issuing a telephone number shortly for worried relatives.

It is too early to confirm the numbers of casualties at this stage.

We hope to have the situation under control very soon.

Explosions in London

Just a quick note to say that we are all OK. I am going to check if there is any need for blood donations.

Marcus and his Amazing Underpants

When I pitched the idea of a Felix and his Amaxing Underpants movie recently, I little suspected how life would imitate art. (Hat tip John)
A judge yesterday threw out a claim by a man who, the court heard, used 'electric underpants' to give himself fake heart attack symptoms.

Marcus Danquah, 41, of Kirton Lindsey, Lincolnshire, had sought up to �300,000 in damages after claiming that a wrongly wired �34.50 Morphy Richards 42400 Comfi Grip iron gave him a heart attack.

But the company alleged that he had wired the iron so that it became live and would give an electric shock to anyone who touched it. It also claims that he used the 'amps-in-his pants' device in his underwear to create false reading on a hospital heart monitor. Guardian.

San Fermin

It is the seventh day of the seventh month so the first bulls will have been run this morning in Pamplona. I've been to the festival a couple of times myslef. I think that first time was in 1983 with Sean and Chris.

It is important to realise that you can't outrun a bull. This means that unless you start very close to the bullrung, the beasts are going to come charging past or over you at some stage. The real trouble can come if a bull ever turns and charges the people that it has already passed rather than continuing on to the ring.

You can be assured howevever that you are allowed to carry a rolled up newspaper to protect yourself in extremis.

It really is a unique experience. Bizarely it is most thrilling the first couple of times that you do it when you haven't got the slightest idea what is going on and you half expect a bull to rush out of any doorway.

London Olympics

I agree with Andrew Sullivan :
I'd comment but I find the entire event a crashing bore. I'm glad that Britain beat France. But I'd be glad if Britain beat France in a turtle race. I just hope London isn't crippled by the wrong kind of development. But if they survived the Millennium Dome, I guess they can survive anything. Even the tedium and cant of the 'Olympic Spirit.' Grouchy enough for ya? Bah: humbug.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Today I settle all family business

Last weekend, The Sunday Telegraph reported:

Tony Blair has issued a furious dressing-down to Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, for going soft in the fight against crime, a secret Downing Street memo has revealed.

The memo, written two weeks ago, shows that the Prime Minister has taken personal charge of the drive to stamp out antisocial behaviour and has ordered urgent action to prevent a "sense of fatalism" setting in.

In a humiliating snub to Mr Clarke, Mr Blair has ordered Louise Casey, the national director of the Government's antisocial behaviour unit and a hardline Home Office figure, to report directly to him.

The row, which has sent relations between the Prime Minister and his Home Secretary plunging, was played out at a meeting between them at Downing Street on June 20, minutes of which have been seen by The Sunday Telegraph.

On the same day, Martin Bright wrote in The Observer:

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has mounted a campaign to silence 'celebrity' civil servants such as the head of the anti-social behaviour unit Louise Casey. Clarke, whose father was a Whitehall mandarin, is known to believe that ministers, not civil servants, should be the mouthpiece for government policy.

Casey is a controversial figure who recently attacked 'liberals' for criticising the government's anti-social behaviour orders.

Certainly someone has lost no time in slipping the stiletto between Ms Casey's ribs by leaking a tape of comments she made at a conference attended by senior civil servants, chief constables and criminal justice practitioners last month. I wonder who it could be. It is really a little more sinister than it appeared to me in my first reaction.

Dragged Down

A Russian youth wearing a drag outfit which gave him improbably large breasts has been caught trying to sit an entrance exam for a female friend.

Moscow University security guards first thought the applicant had an oversized bust because 'she' was trying to take crib sheets into the exam.

A search unmasked the false bosom, the university told the BBC News website.
The man was barred from the exam and the woman he attempted to cover for was struck off the entrants' list.

She had been seeking a place in the university's prestigious psychology faculty.

It is the last sentence I think which elevates that story from merely good to great.

Agreeably Straightforward Boozing Outburst (ASBO)

A senior government adviser on anti-social behaviour has joked about working while drunk and said anti-binge drinking messages were 'nonsense'.

Louise Casey, 38, head of the Home Office anti-social behaviour unit, made the remarks in an after-dinner speech, which was secretly recorded by a guest.

She also poked fun at Home Secretary Charles Clarke in her speech to chief constables and senior civil servants.

The Home Office said it was looking into her remarks.

Speaking in Stratford-upon-Avon, Ms Casey told her audience: 'I suppose you can't binge drink anymore because lots of people have said you can't do it. I don't know who bloody made that up, it's nonsense.'

On the tape, obtained by BBC News, she said some ministers might perform better if they 'turn up in the morning pissed'.

'Doing things sober is no way to get things done,' she added. (Source BBC.)

Genius. She is welcome in Baobab any time after 11pm, "for there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn."

Colliers Wood Opening Later

The first landlord in Merton to ask for extended opening hours under new legislation had his wish granted on Tuesday, paving the way for others to follow.

Steven Little, of Baobab, has been allowed to call time a little later into the evening at his pub on Colliers Wood High Street.

He was the first in the borough to be granted an extended licence at a Merton Council licensing sub-committee meeting, now that the council has been transferred licensing powers from the courts.

It was agreed that Baobab could stay open selling alcohol and playing recorded music, karaoke and live music for an extra hour every night and for two additional hours on Friday and Saturday nights, from November 24 onwards.

So, will Colliers Wood lead SW19 in continental style cafe culture or binge drinking? Only time will tell. I approve, for what it matters, of being to get a drink till midnight in the week and 1 am on weekends.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

GeoTag Photos

MAKE: Blog has a geotagging tutorial that covers every step of the process and several different web services: taking the photo, getting the lat/long coordinates from a GPS or Google Maps, uploading the photos to Flickr, adding the lat/long coordinates as tags, and viewing the photos on a map from either Mappr or Google Earth. I must start doing this with my photos.

From The Map Room.

Wake Up!

A PUB landlord who collapsed after working 90 hours a week has won a landmark legal ruling that could stop employees being forced to endure 'excessive' hours.

Mark Hone, 45, who was named Pub Manager of the Year by his brewery in 1998, was sent to the Old Moat House in Luton the following year and soon found himself working 13-hour days. By 2000, he was suffering headaches and insomnia and visited his GP.


In May 2000, he collapsed at work suffering from an anxiety disorder. In July last year, Mr Hone, who lives in Swansea, sued the brewery for breaching a duty of care to him.

He was awarded �21,000 and the firm appealed against the decision but it was thrown out by three judges at Cardiff Crown Court. Mr Hone's solicitor said the judgment was a 'wake-up call' to bosses who do not have working-time policies in place.

My brother John is the solicitor. Fame at last.

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd have seen their album sales rocket 13-fold following their triumphant appearance at Live 8.

The supergroup were reunited on stage for the first time in more than 20 years.

Yesterday fans flocked to record stores to buy copies of the band's greatest hits album.

Sales of Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd are up 1,343% at HMV.
I've got Echoes - along with the rest of my CD collection - on my Creative Zen Micro and, yes, The Best of Pink Floyd was what I was listening to yesterday as well.

Next Big Thing

If you still aren't paying any heed to the RSS revolution, perhaps this will get your attention: $100 million.

That's the amount two Harvard guys plan to invest in new businesses that use RSS. It's a healthy chunk of cash for a technology that doesn't cost a cent. The software behind the World Wide Web is also free, yet Web-based companies like Google, eBay, and have made out all right. RSS might be the next billion-dollar Internet idea.


Time for the next (really) big Internet idea - The Boston Globe - - Personal Tech - Business

Major Major Major Major

President Bush's offer over the Common Agricultural Policy has reminded me - and I am grateful to be reminded after all this time - of Catch 22 and Major Major's father's alfalfa operation. "His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn't earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce."

I bought a paperback Catch 22 some time in my teens, but I could never really get the hang of it until I read it while pretending to revise for my A levels. I remember all the characters very vividly, but for today Major Major will suffice .

Major Major had been born too late and too mediocre. Some men are born mdiocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.
Major Major's father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a longlimbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn't earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major's father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise. "As ye sow, so shall ye reap," he counseled one and all, and everyone said, "Amen.
"The Lord gave us good farmers two strong hands so that we could take as much as we could grab with both of them," he preached with ardor on the courthouse steps or in front of the A & P as he waited for the bad-tempered gumchewing young cashier he was after to step outside and give him a nasty look. "If the Lord didn't want us to take as much as we could get," he preached, "He wouldn't have given us two good hands to take it with." And the others murmured, "Amen."
Major Major's father had a Calvinist's faith in predestination and could perceive distinctly how everyone's misfortunes but his own were expressions of God's will. He smoked cigarettes and drank whiskey, and he thrived on good wit and stimulating intellectual conversation, particularly his own when he was lying about his age or telling that good one about God and his wife's difficulties in delivering Major Major. The good one about God and his wife's difficulties had to do with the fact that it had taken God only six days to produce the whole world, whereas his wife had spent a full day and a half in labor just to produce Major Major. A lesser man might have wavered that day in the hospital corridor, a weaker man might have compromised on such excellent substitutes as Drum Major, Minor Major, Sergeant Major, or C Sharp Major, but Major Major's father had waited fourteen years for just such an opportunity, and he was not a person to waste it. Major Major's father had a good joke about opportunity. "Opportunity only knocks once in this world," he would say. Major Major's father repeated this good joke at every opportunity.

Being born with a sickly resemblance to Henry Fonda
was the first of a long series of practical jokes of which destiny was to make Major Major the unhappy victim throughout his joyless life. Being born Major Major Major was the second. The fact that he had been born Major Major Major was a secret known only to his father. Not until Major Major was enrolling in kindergarten was the discovery of his real name made, and then the effects were disastrous. The news killed his mother, who just lost her will to live and wasted away and died, which was just fine with his father, who had decided to marry the bad-tempered girl at the A & P if he had to and who had not been optimistic about his chances of getting his wife off the land without paying her some money or flogging her.

On Major Major himself the consequences were only slightly less severe. It was a harsh and stunning realization that was forced upon him at so tender an age, the realization that he was not, as he had always been led to believe, Caleb Major, but instead was some total stranger named Major Major Major about whom he knew absolutely nothing and about whom nobody else had ever heard before. What playmates he had withdrew from him and never returned, disposed, as they were, to distrust all strangers, especially one who had already deceived them by pretending to be someone they had known for years. Nobody would have anything to do with him. He began to drop things and to trip. He had a shy and hopeful manner in each new contact, and he was always disappointed. Because he needed a friend so desperately, he never found one. He grew awkwardly into a tall, strange, dreamy boy with fragile eyes and a very delicate mouth whose tentative, groping smile collapsed instantly into hurt disorder at every fresh rebuff .

He was polite to his elders, who disliked him. Whatever his elders told him to do, he did. They told him to look before he leaped, and he always looked before he leaped. They told him never to put off until the next day what he could do the day before, and he never did. He was told to honor his father and his mother, and he honored his father and his mother. He was told that he should not kill, and he did not kill, until he got into the Army. Then he was told to kill, and he killed. He turned the other check on every occasion and always did unto others exactly as he would have had others do unto him. When he gave to charity, his left hand never knew what his right hand was doing. He never once took the name of the Lord his God in vain, committed adultery or coveted his neighbor's ass. In fact, he loved his neighbor and never even bore false witness against him. Major Major's elders disliked him be-cause he was such a flagrant nonconformist.

Since he had nothing better to do well in, he did well in school. At the state university he took his studies so seriously that he was suspected by the homosexuals of being a Communist and suspected by the Communists of being a homosexual. He majored in English history, which was a mistake.

"English history!" roared the silver-maned senior Senator from his state indignantly. "What's the matter with American history? American history is as good as any history in the world!" Major Major switched immediately to American literature, but not before the F.B.I. had opened a file on him. There were six people and a Scotch terrier inhabiting the remote farmhouse Major Major called home, and five of them and the Scotch terrier turned out to be agents for the F.B.I. Soon they had enough derogatory information on Major Major to do whatever they wanted to with him.

The only thing they could find to do with him, however, was take him into the Army as a private and make him a major four days later so that Congressmen with nothing else on their minds could go trotting back and forth through the streets of Washington, D. C., chanting, "Who promoted Major Major? Who promoted Major Major?