Thursday, November 30, 2006

South of the Border

Word on the street is that the best Mexican food in London is served at El Panzon a guerrilla operation currently hosted at the unlikely venue that is Brixton's Dogstar.

There must have been a Mexican aroma in the air last night. "Eat your way around the world in London" was headed South of the border, and herself - when she came to pick up our six year old - asked if she could borrow my copy of Tortilla Soup.

And so to the Dogstar where the profit burglar and I met up with Neil MacPherson - who lives around the corner.

As an adjunct to my jerk pork research (do I ever stop working?), I went for CHICHARRON CON SALSA VERDE: slow roast belly of pork served with a salsa of fried green tomatillo, fried ripe plantain, and rice & beans.

Great food; so much of our best eating has been at places that appear unpreposessing.

We also noticed an Eritrean place on our way back to the tube station. Sometimes I think there may be no better city in the world than London for real and imaginary destinations.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In Search of Perfection

There's an old joke that says, "pizza is a lot like sex; when it's good it's really good ...... and when it's bad it's still quite good."

Before it started playing at 8:30 on Tuesdays, I thought that Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection, in which our self taught, culinary expert hero turns his attention to the nation's staple dishes would drive me nuts, but - truth be told - I've been riveted. I've been guilty in the past of dismissing Blumenthal's uber-geek attention to detail as affected , but when you see his laser beam concentration applied to something as apparently prosaic as frying the perfect chip you realize that you should just shut up and pay attention.

Which brings me in turn to jerk pork, I've been working for some time - and with the odd combination of obsessive-compulsive disorder and procrastination that seems to be peculiarly my own - on a version of this that I can ask Garfield to taste with my head held high.

The joy of this project, of course, is that my failures are a far better chowdown than almost anything else I am likely to get to eat.

I think I'm getting close, but on my last effort I found the meat a little dry (crisp skin and moist flesh is tricky) and the jerk seasoning too intense.

The next iteration I try is going to look like this:

Place the single piece of pork belly in a saucepan and cover with fresh water.
Bring slowly to the boil and skim the scum from the surface.
Simmer gently for 40 minutes and then allow to cool.
Pat the pork dry and then score the rind with a sharp knife.
Boost Walkerswood traditional jerk seasoning with extra garlic, cut with honey and oil, and then massage into the meat.
Wrap the pork in foil, place in a baking tin, put another baking tin on top and weight it down, then leave overnight in the fridge.
Pre heat the oven to maximum.
Open the foil so the skin is exposed.
Give it a ten minute blast at maximum temperature and then turn the oven down to 140 for two hours.
Knock up a jerk table sauce by boosting more Walkerswood seasoning with grated ginger, heating through with a cup of water and thickening with cornflower.
Carve the pork into 1cm segments and serve with the sauce.

We'll see how it goes. Last time I cubed the pork before marinating it and didn't serve a dipping sauce.

For all that I am using store bought jerk seasoning I am on the brink of greatness, and also - now I come to think of it -moving further from Garfield whose marinade is much wetter than mine.

He is still better than me, though I am damn good.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Generation Gap

The brouhaha over the question of whether or not Britain should apologize over its role in the slave trade, and especially Tony Blair's vacuous expression of his 'sorrow', is all just so much grievance mongering, pandering, issue dodging hooey.

I would have thought that the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery was something to celebrate not beat your breast over. You can tell the extent to which debate in the country has been hijacked by serial loathers, fellow travelers, and sneerers from the fact that this is not acknowledged at all in the meejia.

Are we supposed to imagine that that Abolition was historically inevitable?

It doesn't seem impossible to me that if the Clapham Sect hadn't campaigned (based just up the road from here to my delight) and the Royal Navy's 'preventive squadron' hadn't (unilaterally without a UN mandate) enforced, there could still be a slave trade in the West today.

Oh, by the way even the jealous God who inspired William Wilberforce to take up cudgels against slavery only proposed "punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation".

Two hundred years is eight generations.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sunday, November 26, 2006

his jumble sale of parochial antipathies

The, telling it like it is:
No civilised person knows who John Humphrys is. I’ve looked into it and I discover he’s rather a sad case — an insomniac who telephones politicians at dawn and interrupts them while they’re still half asleep. This strange career has won him celebrity among the restless multitude who, like him, insist on getting up in the middle of the night. It has also won him a book contract. His last work was about sloppy English. So is the new one, but as he unfurls his endless series of hastily written gibberish it becomes clear that he’s less interested in inarticulacy than he is in his jumble sale of parochial antipathies. He mouths off about all kinds of things: advertising, the lottery, Liz Hurley, train announcements, meetings at the Beeb, leaflets that slither out of your newspaper, Blair wanting to be called ‘Tony’. On it goes. Humphrys is like a taxi-driver; he’s only sure of himself when he’s telling you what he hates. Flash a bit of optimism at him and he’ll tell you it’s bound to end in tears.

Welsh-born son of Cardiff he may be, but I cannot abide John Humphrys. I find it impossible to listen to his vapid, self important hectoring without imagining setting the dogs on him.

I avoid the Today programme on Radio 4 just to minimise his chances of assaulting my eardrums, so I suppose that it was him who drove me into the arms of The World Today on the BBC World Service of a morning.

He's due thanks for that, but otherwise nada.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Creeping Featuritis

I see that the Merton Abbey Mills website has been relaunched, written in cold fusion with plenty of bangs and whistles, but also the odd error message and link that doesn't work.

I knocked up a website as a favour for ARTTES 4 KIDS simply by editing a blogger template. Simpler is better.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Answered Prayers

Earlier this week, I posted a rant complaining about a parking ticket that I got while picking my six year old up from school. The gist of my complaint was that whoever issued the spot fine must have been hiding around the corner in order to do the dirty deed and show a clean pair of heels before I reappeared.

Yesterday - exactly a week since I had been nobbled - I came out of the gate to see a handful of uniforms in the street. Much to my delight however I found that, rather than demanding money with menaces, they were engaged in a hearts and minds mission courteously explaining the regulations to cheekily parked mums and dads who promised - in turn - to try and do better in future.

Back in August when I published a post about coming back from holiday to find that my house had been turned into a fox den, I got a call from a local journalist, so I suppose that - unlikely as it appears - it is not impossible that moaning played some part in this change of modus operandi with regards to parking enforcement.

If it did and the person responsible is reading, thank you very much.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Eat your way around the world in London.

Cuba: Cubana.

2 large Mojitos.


Camarones con gabardina y salsa de mango y chilli

Boniatos fritos con tostones y salsa


Pollo Criollo - a classic Cuban dish and a Cubana favourite: free-range chicken cooked in fresh orange, garlic, onions and sherry, served with fried plantain and black bean rice.

Congri Santiago - a spicy dish from Cuba's far south: Red beans casseroled with free-range pork, chorizo, tomatoes, chillies and vegetables.

(A busy day and no time to write, but recipes here.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thai Food

Given my new found enthusiasm for all things Thai, I have started looking at my copy of David Thomspon's magnum opus seriously for the first time. (I bought it as a souvenir after eating at Nahm when I stayed at the Halkin a few years ago but I never sat down and read it thoroughly.)

What a remarkable book it is. I'm already over a hundred pages into it and I am still on Thai history and culture. I haven't even got to a recipe yet. I've cheated and peeked at a few dishes and the accent seems to be on accuracy, authenticity and tradition, rather than convenience. All a far cry from the days not that long ago when I didn't even know what galangal was.

It looks like Ken Hom's Simple Thai Cookeryis still going to be the book I use to knock up a supper after a hard day's work, Thompson's book is still food for thought.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Casino Royale

I went to check out the new James Bond move last night. It really is very good despite its lame theme song and title credits and some longuers in the third act after the poker showdown.

Paul Haggis seemed to have punched the screenplay up a notch or two, and it was fun to see the movie having some fun with Bond's development of the vodka Martini and introduction to the 1964 Aston Martin. There was more than a hint of Basil Exposition (from Austin Powers) though in Giancarlo Giannini's Matthis character's running commentry on the card game, but I suppose that the intricacies of poker are difficult to dramatise.

It also ocurred to me that for the first time in my life, I am older than the actor playing James Bond; an unwelcome intimation of mortality over the popcorn.

A true story: Dave Bond's older brother Jim was born about as late as it was possible to be born and christened "James Bond" without irony. In the late Seventies he and his good friend Paul Newman (I kid you not) were stopped by the police while driving a car with a bust tail light or something equivalently trivial. You can imagine how the incident escalated though when the officer who had flagged them down asked for their names.

"Are you two taking the p.......?"

Monday, November 20, 2006

What's he like?

For some reason the other day, my six year old began comparing what he considered his catholic range of interests and hobbies with the dry sticks I use to pass my time. "I like riding my bike, pizza, Thai boxing lessons, popcorn, adventures, tuna with sweetcorn, and getting medals", he said. "You only like the boring news."

He should have added that I like films, because I was deeply tempted to reply a la Crash Davis in Bull Durham:

"Well, I believe in the soul, ................., the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days."

But on reflection I think we need to wait a decade or so before embarking on the Ron Shelton back catalogue.

(Sorry 'bout the "...................." but I'll get the "weighted phrase limit exceeded" finger wagging from the Virgin Active internet cafe if I quote the actual dialogue directly.)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Meat Space

El Grupo Libros nursed their hangovers with Pro Evolution Soccer 6 on XBOX360 in my house this morning before I dropped them off at the station.

When you are in need of solace, PE6 provides a strangely comforting parallel world where David Beckham is still the captain of England and Michael Owen is still scoring for them (although I am pleased to announce that Ben and I powered Wales to a victory over England that was decided in a nail biting penalty shoot out earlier this week).

I've tried to sweat my own "gentleman's head" away in the gym and now I'm taking a brief pit stop at the Mills to clear away last night's debris and settle with Garfield who fed us, before I head off on the tube to do it all again with Paul and Hugh.

"If I had all the money I've spent on drink — I'd spend it on drink."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Insolence of Office

I got a parking ticket when I was picking my six year old up from school one day this week - a £100 Penaty Charge Notice issued at precisely 15:15.

By a strange coincidence, my boy finishes school at a quarter past three, and it is true that I am guilty of stopping on the red line (because there was nowhere else to park) for the time that it took me to walk into the school, collect him and return.

I can't see however how the official could have got to my car, issued the ticket, and then disappeared into thin air in the couple of minutes that it took me to get in and out of the school unless he or she was, to all intents and puposes, hiding somewhere waiting to ambush a hapless parent or two.

It gets worse. When we pick our kids up from the primary school, we parents enter by the main gate and then turn around the corner of the building to collect the children from the individual classroom doors that open out into the playground. This system has only been reintroduced in the last couple of days however. For the last term and a half - because of building work and improvements - the class teachers have been bringing their charges round to the front of the school at the end of the day and we have been meeting them there at a vantage point from which the road where we park is visible.

I can't help but observe that the enforcement officers didn't have the brass neck to undertake a three fifteen raid at any time in months that that system was in place, and neither had they the decency to speak to us on any weekday afternoon over those fifteen weeks to see if there was not some compromise that could be worked out.

The only conclusion I can come to is that I have been the victim of institutionalised banditry by local government. I have been nobbled not in a attempt to keep the streets clear in the interests of all the body politic, but as milch cow to feed their coffers.

Would it spoil some vast eternal plan to suspend some of the more onerous parking restrictions for fifteen minutes in the morning and again in the afternoon?

Disgusted. Tunbridge Wells.

Friday, November 17, 2006


I know because I subscribe to the RSS feed from his teachblog (my journey from pupil to teacher in 18 months) that my friend Chris is very interested in teaching nanotechnology and I've learned today (via RSS again) from TechCrunch UK that:

PlayGen a London based game development studio with a strong and growing track record in developing serious games for training and learning purposes is developing their latest video “learning” game NanoWars.
The idea is that the game should be based on fact as it’s meant to be an educational tool to make learning about nanoscience interesting for 12 to 18 year olds.
A development that is bound to be right up his street.

Further, because I know that he is subscribed to my blog's RSS feed and even though he is coming up from Swansea to London to visit tomorrow, it is as easy and convenient for me to tip him the wink by posting to A Welsh Born Icon as it would be to email or call.

It also enables to to pass on to anyone else who alights here, Playgen's messages:

We are seeking sponsorship for the game in order to fulfil our vision of making it available at no/minimal cost to pupils and teachers. To find out more about sponsorship please contact us.

We've had an enormous response from schools and teachers so far, if you represent a school and would like to participate in the beta testing program, please fill in the school registration form.
Which I am pleased to do.

RSS is powerful voodoo for communication and collaboration. No wonder I have been banging on about it to our clients for so long.

P.S. Chris as a long time player of Rome Total War will also be delighted to learn that Playgen are the people behind the TV show Time Commanders.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bo nhung Dam Cuon Banh Trang

"Eat your way around the world in London" took the Northern Line up to Waterloo with the intention of carving a notch for Cubana on its bedpost last night but it wasn't to be. The place was fully booked and packed to the gills so we wandered off into the twilight looking for fresh prey and concocting elaborate conspiracy theories in which everyone who had got to the "genuine Cuban-Latino place run by the people who own it" before us had been sent by Red Ken on expenses.

The Fates were smiling however because nearby we came across the Vietnamese Ha-Noi cafe. We tried ordering Bo nhung Dam Cuon Banh Trang from the specialities section of the menu (largely because I liked the name of it so much) but were told that it was unavailable, because they had run out of pancakes(?) so we didn't get to find out what Vietnamese beef fondue might be like, but we did fall into conversation with the waitress about our project. She told us that her father was the chef, that she had come to help him out "temporarily" five months ago, and that in the first couple of months she was there she had gained 9kg; weight that she had only managed to shift - she seemed svelte enough to me - by giving up eating after 6pm, and took us in hand with regards to the grub.

Garlic fried cubes of fillet steak was the kind of thing that her father would cook for family apparently, so we had some of that with a special Saigon prawn curry along with rice and noodles, after deep fried squid and Tom Yum Koong (a prawn soup.)

Thus entirely by chance we had come across a great place to eat run by a warm and friendly family. It struck me as we were walking back to the station that I don't think that I have ever had a conversation with a Vietnamese person before, and that these sort of encounters are one of joys of this mad scheme for Wednesday nights.

(Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Power, Limitless Power

Traffic on our auction site is continuing to grow rapidly. Yesterday was its fourth busiest ever and there is only one day outside November 2006 in the top ten. This means that we are forever upgrading, tweaking and generally managing our infrastructure.

It is a chore that I could do without to be frank, and this is one of the reasons that I was so intrigued by Amazon's EC2, "a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud", when I blogged about its Beta launch back in August. You can get an idea of how attractive scaleable, pay as you go, access to effectively limitless capacity would be to Coraider by the fact that Bumblebee Auctions served up more than three times as many pages yesterday than it did on August 25, the day that I wrote my post.

For better or worse however we are effectively a Microsoft operation. I speculated that EC2 might provoke a competitive response from Redmond, but we haven't heard anything yet, which is why I was so intrigued to read on the Amazon Web Services blog that someone has succeeded in installing Windows Server 2003 on an Amazon EC2 instance.

There's a how-to document available here. The hack is based round an open source processor emulator called QEMU. I wonder what sort of performance you get. We may well have a little fiddle about with this. I would love to push our apps out into the cloud if I could be certain we could get reliability and performance. I think it is an idea whose time has come.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Downfall

I finished Berlin: The Downfall 1945 last night; an epic and tragic account of the end game of World War II in Europe. I have to discuss it on the weekend so I am going to keep my powder dry for that but it has sparked some amorphous ideas about publishing that I want to try and begin to shape.

Antony Beevor published Annexes to the book, details of his cuts, plus Errata and Addenda on his website. This is great and useful, but I could have done with more.

It is difficult to see how a computer screen will ever compare to the printed page for ease of reading, espeically in my default mode; deep in an armchair or feet up on the couch with a glass of something fortifying to hand.

What I found with a book on a topic as complex as the last days of the Third Reich was that paper was best only for linear reading. Whenever I marked my place to look at a map, check a note, or backtrack to identify a proper name about which I had got confused; whenever I stepped out of the flow of the narrative, in other words, I felt that it would have been easier and better to go to the PC for elucidation.

I'd like to see comprehensive maps and glossaries online to support the book.

I wonder if - taking a leaf out of the DVD market - if there is not a place for an extended edition of a publication like Berlin: The Downfall 1945 which would include all of the above and, perhaps the audiobook version in one package?

I'd certainly be prepared to pay a couple of quid more for it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Buddhapadipada Temple

When I was watching my little boy in Muay Thai last week, one of the other fathers told me that he had done a little Thai boxing when he was younger - "I remember the training simply as pain", he said - and told me that the classes that he took were held in the courtyard of the Thai temple in Wimbledon.

I googled it when we for home, and there - sure enough was the home page of the Buddhapadipada Thai Temple, SW19.

We went to take a look at it yesterday, and found the beautiful building on the left. I would have liked to go inside but I didn't know if that was appropriate.

The celebration of monastic boundary, held on October 30, 1982, enabled Wat Buddhapadipa to become a formal temple according to Thai tradition: in fact, the only Thai temple ever built in Europe.

How marvelous to find the complex incongruously located on a site in a Parkside residential road.

The website has a couple of RSS feeds including the Daily Dhamma ....... subscribed!

In a not unrelated development, I did manage to edit down a version of Warrior King that I was happy to watch with a six year old. What next? Emmanuelle repackaged as a Bangkok travelogue perhaps.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


At his behest, I bought a poppy in the library yesterday and pinned it on my six year old.

Five minutes later as we were walking back along the High Street, he said, "I can't remember the people who died in the war yet."

"I don't understand," I said.

"They said in school that the poppy made you remember."

As we talked it over I found that he seemed to have got the impression that the little red flower would imprint visceral knowledge of the horrors of the Great War in his head by some sort voodoo.

Would for the world that it could.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bargains and Sensible Menus

.......... there are stellar bargains to be had on the wine front - I can think of nowhere else where you can sit down in comfort and uncork a bottle of Krug Grand Cuvee for £105. The menu is a sensible one: smoked eel with brandade and a light horseradish cream; game pie with wild mushroom salad; a charcuterie combo that teams San Daniele ham and white truffle salami with olive tomato and parsley salad on toasted ciabatta; warm spinach and ricotta tart with Autumn salads and walnut dressing..........

Aspirational reading from Charles Campion's Evening Standard Blog on the opening of a new wine bar along with Fortnum and Mason's new food hall.

"A bargain at £105". I wish.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Come off it

It was a relief for me to read Boris Johnson's "Come off it, folks: how many paedophiles can there be?" in the Telegraph yesterday.

I'm not going to paraphrase his piece here - I recommend that you read it - but now that he has stuck his head above the parapet, I may as well wade in with my tuppence worth as well.

I first came to understand the unholy terror of the reflex stigmatisation of any adult male with an interest in children as some sort of weirdo when I realized that I had been brain washed by this tawdry conventional wisdom myself.

My own Damascene revelation was a profile I read years ago in Wired Magazine of Steve Wozniak , the co-founder of Apple computers. In the profile, I learned that "The Woz" - having made himself independently wealthy at an early age - turned his back on full time employment and "went into teaching (he taught fifth grade students) and charitable activities in the field of education".

The photograph that accompanied the article was - as I recall and I can't find it online - a group shot of Wozniak and a bunch of smiling kids with computers; kids he was teaching and computers provided to education by the Apple shilling.

I distinctly remember thinking - or perhaps more accurately- mentally sneering, "that's odd", but fortunately realised moments later that it was not odd at all. It was admirable and perhaps even selfless.

It was me who was ridiculous for reflexively traducing his motives.

We do it all the time nowadays, but - unfashionable as it may be - boys need guys to learn from, look up to, and emulate.

Lou Reed - of all people - nailed it in Coney Island Baby. (I do hope I won't find out that it was ironic.)

You know, man, when I was a young man in high school
You believe in or not I wanted to play football for the coach
And all those older guys
They said he was mean and cruel, but you know
Wanted to play football for the coach
They said I was to little too light weight to play line-backer
So I say Im playing right-end
Wanted to play football for the coach cause, you know some day, man
You gotta stand up straight unless youre gonna fall
Then youre gone to die
And the straightest dude
I ever knew was standing right for me all the time
So I had to play football for the coach
And I wanted to play football for the coach

When youre all alone and lonely
In your midnight hour
And you find that your soul
Its been up for sale

And you begin to think bout
All the things that you've done
And you begin to hate
Just 'bout everything

But remember the princess who lived on the hill
Who loved you even though she
knew you was wrong
And right now she just might come shining through

And the glory of love, glory of love
Glory of love, just might come through

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Not a Very Likely Contingency in Belgium

"Eat your way around the world in London" managed to rev its engines again last night, and this week our dance card was marked by the Clapham Bierodrome.

My life, on discovering that Stella was Belgian, was more or less complete as I tucked into cheese and beer croquettes followed by moules mariniere.

It is practically impossible for a member of my generation to think of Belgian food without remembering the "Not the Nine O'Clock News" sketch in which Rowan Atkinson outlined to Mel Smith the various belches and farts that were used to indicate gastronomic appreciation in that fine country. I am amazed that I can't find any transcription of it on the Internet. I do hope that I haven't made it up.

Anyway, it is good to be back in harness. Always remember, "the silent waft is highly prized."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

virtually dinnertime

We're hoping to get "eat your way around the world in London" back on the road tonight after a couple of weeks layoff due to:
  • this and that
  • one thing and another.
Coincidentally, I have also installed Microsoft Virtual Earth today and finally opened the Google Earth Placemark that Chris sent emailed me a few weeks ago. Competition with these 3D geographic interfaces is really hotting up, and it has struck me me, in light of last night's post, that in plotting our real and imaginary dinner destinations I have developed two great data sets with which to road test these important new products.

It has been an investment. That's my story anyway.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

To Do Is To Be

Kurt Vonnegut thinks that:

We do, doodley do, doodley do, doodley do,
What we must, muddily must, muddily must, muddily must;
Muddily do, muddily do, muddily do, muddily do,
Until we bust, bodily bust, bodily bust, bodily bust.
I started blogging here because I work with IT and I wanted to understand the phenomenon via learning by doing.

Thus I play with affiliate marketing programmes on A Welsh Born Icon, but I'm lucky enough to make money with them elsewhere.

Today I can refract the BBC's coverage of Microsoft's initiatives in delivering multimedia content to the 360 via XBOX Live through our test drive of the earlier version. (It still seems pretty lame.)

And if the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud succeeds - as I think it just might - to the extent of provoking rivals to produce competitors, then my blog will migrate to a hyper-virtualised environment before any Coraider product makes the jump.

So far, so mundane but it struck me this morning when I was reading Kali's musings about voting today in the USA, that the discipline I have evolved of writing something or other here every day gives me access to what I was actually thinking at the time when I voted in last year's general election in the UK, and at another step's remove learning at a five year old boy's birthday party what voting meant to an Iraqi lady.

Maybe if I keep this record of my prejudices up it will stop me being quite so shameless a gold fish memoried, flag of convenience flying, path of least resistance treading chameleon.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Contra Mundum

I haven't read the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change yet, and - while I must praise HM Treasury for making it available online here - there is some perverse impulse in me that whispers that anything that appears to have won the cross bench blessing of so many of the great and good must be wrong.

Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, weighs in for the opposition in the Wall Street Journal here.

I sympathise with his point about discount rates. I've seen these plucked from the air - in the way that carbon dioxide isn't - and used to prove almost anything in terms of net present value for cashflows projected deep into the future, but as I said I have a lot of background reading to do before I can even begin to have a robust opinion about this.

Later, data; I propose a period of quiet contemplation, an idea that will probably be an anathema to the hot house flowers of the blogosphere.

If the first section of Yeats' 'Second Coming' was brought to mind when I brooded on Sudan last week, the second part fits climate change apocalypse with which we are being threatened:
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight; somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Getting to Grips

I'm off for a drink with Hugh - who has featured in these pages before - as well as Dommy and his partner June - who haven't - at lunchtime. As this could get messy I've decided to feed the blog now.

Dommy and June are from Clitheroe in Lancashire and Dommy - who is still built like the proverbial outhouse - wrestled internationally when he was younger.

I'm pretty certain that that Dommy did greco-roman wrestling. I don't know a whole lot about grappling, but I've got quite intrigued by Lancashire catch wrestling lately as it seems, like Muay Thai, to be one of the styles that has proved itself in the cauldron of mixed martial arts.

I wonder what Dommy will be able to tell me about it. It seems typically careless of Britain that the discipline is better known in Japan than it is here.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Philosopher's Bathroom

When I came out of the changing room in Virgin Active today I was confronted with a large poster advertising L'Oreal Men Expert "Hydra Energetic" skin care products. I couldn't miss it because it was right bang in front of me when I came through the door and I had to turn left to get past it. I gawped for a little while because I honestly couldn't see any difference at all between the two featured pictures that I imagine were intended to represent some sort of before and after syndrome. Can anyone enlighten me?

My personal hygiene regime doesn't really extend beyond shaving, brushing my teeth and showering regularly enough for folk to be able to stand downwind without risk. Moisturising and exfoliating are not for me I'm afraid.

Coincidentally, when I was over in Whitton for the Twickenham Beer Festival a couple of weeks ago, Bondy asked me if, in my newish single status, I had reverted to Wright's Coal Tar soap. I have of course, but I was amazed that he would enquire. Apparently - back in the 90s - I had told him that it was back in my life as one of the few small positives in the fallout from a previous romantic implosion.

Reassurance: friends that know you well and a handy lump of yellow carbolic that evokes a lost world of old school, uncomplicated, Alf Tupper masculinity.

Women in my life have gone for things like Dove. Well the reason that the "Dove beauty bar with 1/4 moisturizing lotion doesn't dry your skin like soap", is because (despite comprising Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Tallowate, Water, Sodium Isethionate, Coconut Acid, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Titanium Dioxide, Tetrasodium EDTA, and Trisodium) it doesn't contain any soap.

For me, the nihilistic negation of Dove - a bar of soap with no soap in it - is intellectually untenable.

The Hegelian dialectic (thesis - coal tar, antithesis - soap, synthesis Wright's) implicit in my favourite surely offers more to the philosopher's bathroom.

Friday, November 03, 2006

"Read the orange handbook, love"

I remember back when I was doing my MBA, we had a guest lecturer from the personnel department of IBM who told us about their incredibly arcane and inflexible manuals and procedures as if Moses had brought them down from Mount Sinai engraved on tablets. I knew from that moment that the 80s and 90s would be as tough as they did in fact turn out for Big Blue.

Two decades later I'm trying to work with UK Police on IT development and I am currently at such an exquisite peak of frustration - balanced between derision and despair - with two individuals in two different forces hiding their incompetence behind a wall of bureaucracy that only with Pete and Dud's immortal "lengths" can I hope to restore my equilibrium.

As we meet our heroes, they are surrounded by colour-coded telephones, all part of an incomprehensible complicated communications system. One of the phones is buzzing ........

Peter: (as George) Someone comin' though on green, Reg.
Dud: (as Reg) It'll be Alan from Sales if it's on green, George...
Pete: Alan, Sales? D'you want to talk to him?
Dud: No... that bloke gets up my nose.
Pete: Have a word with him, otherwise he'll hang up - you know Alan.
Dud: Yeah...
Pete: Hello... George here... Hullo Alan!
Dud: Who is it?
Pete: It's Alan, Sales, on green.
Dud Oh... I'll have a word with him...
Pete: Reg is just comin' through on green, Alan
Dud: Uh.... hello Alan... its, uh, Reg here... yes, I'll just hand you over to George, OK? George, it's Alan...
Pete: Hullo - Reg has just handed me over, on green... No, no, we've not got 'em. You haven't got the lengths? (to Dud) He hasn't got the lengths.
Dud: Oh, Gawd...
Dudley: Reg is just coming on green, Alan...
Dud: Alan - I'll be very brief, look, the lengths go through to you direct via Admin, not via us. Read the orange handbook, love.
He hangs up.

Pete: Alan I appreciate your position, of course, but it's not really our pigeon. No... well I'll get on to it for you, and get back to you on blue, OK? No, I can't really talk, 'cause he... he's here... Yes, I love you too...
Dud: Huh! How can he have not got the lengths?
Pete: I dunno how he hasn't got them, but he hasn't got them - I'd better get on to Bernard right away.
Dud: I bet Daphne's fouled the footpath here.
Pete: A weak link, you know, that Daphne. (On phone) Sylvia, would you get me Bernard, please? Yes... Bernard! um - sorry to trouble you, but I'm ringing up re some lengths which are missing, I've got Alan on my back, and the whole office is going mad up here. Yes Bernard, there's no trace of dockets - I've been right through to Roneo.
Dudley: What are you on, George?
Pete: I'm on yellow, er - Reg is coming on yellow...
Dud: Hello Bernard, Reg here, sorry to interrupt...
Pete: It's Reg on yellow
Dudley: Bernard, I've just had a look through the files, but there's no trace of a docket. Unless we have your docket, love, we can't move - no can do.
Pete: Can't move - not without the docket, love... No, our hands are tied ... hmm yes, well I'll get on to Dorian in Maintenance, all right?
Dud: Bernard, George is getting on to Dorian, Maintenance.
Pete: Er, Sylvia - would you get me Dorian on grey, please?
Dud: Did you really? What, Daphne? You randy old toe-rag!
Pete: Hello, Dorian... Dorian, it's George here, ringing up re some lengths which haven't been Roneo'd, and we've no trace of docketing from stereotype or YOP control. Yes, it does put us in a bit of a mine... so if you could pull out all the stops your end, I'd much appreciate it.
Dud: Yes, I know Bernard, it's not fair on us, it's not fair on you, is it? Anyway, I can't talk to you, 'cause he's here... Yeah, I love you too...
Pete: I'm on here... I'm on to Dorian... No, Dorian, look if you could do that for us I'd very much appreciate it. (snigger) Yes... that's what I told him.
Dud: Hullo? Oh, hello Barbara! How are you? It's Reg here - yeah - er, George - it's Barbary, on red.
Pete: Er - Barbara who?
Dud: Your wife... you wanna talk to her?
Pete: Ummmmm - no. Tell her I'm on to Dorian, on grey.
Dud: All right... Barbara, love ... George can't talk to you - he's out. Um - I can't talk 'cause he's here... I love you too.
Pete: Is that Barbara?
Dud: It's Barbara, on red...
Pete: Dorian, hold on, I'll call you back on blue, right...
Dud: You wanna take it?
Pete: Hullo, Barbara... love, you've come through on red again. Yes, how many times do I have to tell you not to come through on red? We're up to our eyes here, we've got lengths missing ... my position. Well, untie him, and replace the strawberry jam... And you! (hangs up) That was Barbara, just come through on red!
Dud: Barbara on red?
Pete: Yes - I can't understand it.
Dud: You know, I think Daphne's the weak link in the chain here.
Pete: D'you know what I think, Reg?
Dud: What?
Pete: I think.. sorry, I'm talking to Reg... I think Bernard is mixing business with pleasure.
Dud: Yes...
Pete: I mean a 48-inch bust is all very well, but it doesn't get the dockets in.
Dud: Certainly doesn't... Hullo? Yes... Hullo? Look, Alan, don't keep badgering, it's bloody murder up here - I've only got one pair of hands...
Pete: Alan, I can confirm that - I've double-checked - he's only got one pair of hands...
Dud: Alan, I didn't invent the bloody rules - read the orange handbook!
Pete: Look, Alan, love, if you're going to take that attitude I'll check again by filing control, but it's water under the bridge... hold on, Just checking, Reg... (filing drawers opened and shut) ... let's see... wait a moment... Alan I've just double-checked and there's no trace of docketing... yeah, I'll call you back on blue. Bu-Bye! Hullo? Sylvia... I've just blown my nose... would you get that Roneo'd, docketed and stereotyped... we don't want any more mistakes, do we? Bye.
Dud: Yes, hullo?
Pete: Who's that?
Dud: It's Sybil.
Pete: Sybil who?
Dud: Sybil Thorndyke.
Pete: What does she want?
Dud: Well, it's about the cider commercial.
Pete: Stall her...
Dud: Sybil, love, been looking through the file - I'll have to be brief, we're in a bit of a pickle up here... we'd love to use you for the cider promotion, but we can't really promise anything at the moment... wouldn't be fair to you, wouldn't be fair to us, would it love? No... very best of luck with St Joan, dear... OK?
Pete: Hello, Fernando?
Dud: Yes, but I can't really talk to you, 'cause he's here... I love you too...
Pete: Fernando, I can't hear you, this is a very bad line. Call me back on blue, would you love? There's a sweetheart... Just been on to Fernando, it's a very bad line he's got down there.
Dud: Yes, it's always bad there, isn't it?
Pete: Always bad with Ferdy, and he's got no trace of dockets, and there's no sign of lengths.
Dud: It looks pretty dicey, doesn't it?
Pete: I suppose I could just try getting on to Lengths...
Dud: We-e-erll, it's a chance in a million, isn't it?
Pete: A shot in the dark, but give it a whirl... Sylvia would you get me Lengths, please?
A pause... then a phone buzzes

Dud: Hello. Reg Lengths, here...
Pete: Hello Reg, it's George here.
Dud: Hello, George!
Pete: Long time no - er - ... long time no talkee-talkee!
Dud: Certainly not-ee not-ee! How are you, Squire?
Pete: All right! I'm sorry to trouble you at this late hour of the afternoon...
Dud: Not at all...
Pete: I realise you must be up to your eyes down there...
Dud: Oh, we've got our headaches, I'm sure you've got your share...
Pete: I'm sure you have, but I'm ringing you up on the off-chance, re some lengths, which Alan has been on to me about...
Dud: Yes?
Pete: The Montevideo lengths - are they by any chance down your way?
Dud: They most certainly are, yes! We've had the Montevideo lengths here for four weeks, I was waiting for Alan, from Sales, to pick them up personally.
Pete: I see, so you've got the lengths down there...
Dud: Yes...
Pete: Well this is much as I expected, Reg... um - if you could get them up to me via Transport, and through Central Docketing, we can have them pooled and sent off to Roneo by Tuesday.
Dud: Only too pleased to oblige!
Pete: Very nice talking to you...
Dud: And... by the way, I can't really talk, 'cause he's here... but - er - you know how I feel.
Pete: I love you, too.
Phones are hung up and filing drawer closed

Pete: I've just been talking to Reg, down at Lengths...
Dud: Yeah?
Pete: ... and apparently the lengths are down there.
Dud: You're joking...
Pete: No, they've been down there for a while now...
Dud: (irritated) Why didn't he send them straight up to Alan?
Pete: Well if you ask me it's Daphne who's the weak link in this whole chain...
Dud: (back on phone) Hello, Florrie, hold on darling...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tom Yum Goong

Warrior King, the new Tony Jaa DVD has arrived from Amazon so I'm going to sit down and watch it to see if I can't work out an edit that will make it accessible to my own little six year old Muay Thai exponent.

Even though Ong Bak- Jaa's breakout movie - was rated 18 in the UK just like Warrior King, I managed to develop a real-time remote-control driven version of the DVD that I was happy to busk as I watched the film with my boy.

Ong Bak has a classic action fim scenario in which dastardly big city villains steal a MacGuffin from a bucolic village, and the village in turn dispatches an innocent, good hearted representative with a convenient aptitude for bone-crunching violence to get it back.

I found that if I removed the subplots about drugs, and a couple of the more violent encounters such as Ting finishing off Big Bear in the night club with a double elbowed Muay Boran technique and Humlae being crushed by the statue in the finale, what was left need be no more disturbing than an episode of Power Rangers. Brilliant scenes like the market race and the tuk-tuk chase are spectacles that raise the spirits and are fun for an audience of any age.

It seems that I'm not the only person to think about repurposing movies like this. I learned from Robert Scoble, that a guy called Evan Krauss is launching software called Cuts to do exactly that. I've signed up for the Beta but not received anything yet.

From another viewpoint, in this digital age it's surprising that content providers aren't addressing the issue and providing different versions for differerent audiences. Maybe it relates to the cost of having multiple versions classified.

Anyway, enough of my yacking, I am going to open a fresh can of Stella and then watch Tony Jaa open a fresh can of whup-ass.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Context Insensitive

I've finally got Amazon's context sensitive ads working so I've put them at the top of the page over the google text ads to see how they react to my writing.

As I type the banner is advertising "World of Warcraft" products, which seems a reasonable reaction to my stream of consciousness recently.

The turn of the month inspired me to put Amazon on my October 2005 archive as well. That is producing ads for New Orleans music, in response to my brooding over the fall out from hurricane Katrina I suppose.

In a crunching gear change, it also saddened me to reread a post about Darfur in the year old archive. Nothing has improved in the last 12 months, the self congratulation of Live8 notwithstanding.

Last year I read Robert B Kaplan's Surrender or Starve: Travels in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritreato try and get some perspective on what is going on in Western Sudan. This year it looks like I am going to need to read his Soldiers of Godto try and develop a better informed view of the trials of Afghanistan. Kaplan is deeply pessimistic about the 21st century, but his work appears more and more prophetic as we unravel, reminding me of Yeats' formulation:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Ring any bells? I wonder what October 2007's archive will look like?