Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cognitive dissonance

The Profit Burglar and I needed to debrief after yesterday's user group meeting, so - as it was an evening I was looking after the New Ninja Bomber - we retired to my place rather than the pub.

After we'd finished our work related chat, and after my six year old had dispatched his homework and been fed and watered, Ben and Paul started up Marvel Unlimited Alliance on the XBOX 360 in cooperative mode and fought their way together through all of the first level. Even though Paul - as Thor - fell in their climactic battle with Fing Fang Foon, Ben - as Wolverine - managed to defeat the dragon alone and fight his way through to a Shield Access Point where he could save game's current status and resurrect his brother in arms.

Thinking of the fun they had for half an hour or so leads me to conclude that - like much else - the conventional wisdom that "video game play is socially isolating", bears very little relation to reality.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Up, Up, and Away

No time to blog today as we are hosting the bi-annual Bumblebee User Group meeting.

Worth noting however that at the time of the equivalent meeting last year, Bumblebee Auctions month running average rank of Bumblebee Auctions was 246,829 accoring to Alexa, and today it is 140,516, so we are still going in the right direction.

Cracking the top 150,000 sites in the world is a real achievement I think. I wonder what rank that would give us in the UK?

To take the numbers for a walk, assume that a third of the most popular sites are in each of Asia, America and Europe, and assume again that that perhaps a quarter of the most popular European sites are in the UK, that would put us in the top 12,500 in the domestically.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Supporting the Police

A major step towards power sharing in Northern Ireland was taken last night after Sinn Fein ended 86 years of opposition to policing in the province.
A decade after the ceasefire that heralded the end of the 30-year violent campaign that saw the IRA carry out 1,800 murders, its political wing voted to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Very well, here is the police appeal for information on the murder of Robert McCartney. Think they'll get any more in the new era? Me neither.

It'll be the second anniversary of the murder tomorrow. See icons passim.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Among The Righteous

United Nations 26 January 2007:

The General Assembly today adopted by consensus a resolution condemning, without reservation, any denial of the Holocaust, with the United States, among the text’s 103 sponsors, stressing that to deny the events of the Holocaust -- one of the most tragic moral catastrophes in history -- “was tantamount to approval of genocide in all its forms”.

One year on from writing about it last time, I still can't understand why holocaust denial should be treated as a heresy that is intrinsically more wicked than any other. I'd almost like to agree, but somehow I can't. How can denying the events of the Holocaust be "tantamount to approval of genocide in all its forms”? I just can't draw the dots.

There's better rhetoric available:
They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Then there are newly discovered stories with morals for today as much as for the 1940s, from Robert Satloff's Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands, which give us Arab heroes like Si Ali Sakkat, a former mayor of Tunis, Tunisia, who sheltered 60 Jewish workers when they showed up at his farm, and Si Kaddour Benghabrit, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, who gave 100 Jews counterfeit Muslim identity papers.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Speaking as an adopted gay Catholic . . .

"Speaking as an adopted gay Catholic ..." an interesting and perhaps even wise piece from today's Telegraph, with probably the best headline since "Sex change Bishop in Mercy Dash to Palace".

One pedantic canard; the Church doesn't say that homosexuals are "intrinsically disordered", it says that homosexual inclinations are "objectively disordered", thus:

This orientation of one's sexual attraction is judged "objectively disordered" because it inclines people in ways contrary to the masculine/feminine complementarity which the Catholic tradition takes to be normative, and which society normally presumes, so the Catechism suggests that it "constitutes for most of them a trial." Yet the inclination itself cannot be sinful, even though objectively it may be said to be disordered, since it is "deep-seated" rather than freely chosen, with its sources "unexplained," so its being "objectively" part of us can hardly be our responsibility.

I just pass it on. I've banged this drum before and the chance of any subtle distinction getting airtime in the media scrum is less than zero.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Garbage In, Garbage Out

I find that I'm conflicted on the issue of diet and health. I had pizza Tuesday, a burger Wednesday. I fully intend to have a post pub kebab tonight. What's the problem with meat, salad and pitta bread?

Sorry. I cannot bear this any more. This must be complete nonsense. This is ridiculous. The hearing has already lasted an hour and ten minutes. You have twenty more minutes. You have got to do better than this — three permanent
secretaries. You are talking drivel.

While relishing a chairman of the Public Accounts Committee with the panache to berate senior officials in the style above in a public session, I'm still bewildered by the Committee's publication of 'Tackling Child Obesity—First Steps'.

I drop off or collect a child at primary school five days a week, and I've never noticed kids looking fat or slothful at all. In fact I find myself dreaming of a sheep dog or a tranquilizer gun whenever I have to extract my running, jumping, climbing loon from the park to take him home.

I've a lingering suspicion that all the hammering of junk food in the media is just another example of the self selected metropolitan elite's snobbish disdain for the habits of normal folk. The exhibition of the estuary-vowelled Jamie Oliver in this context as if he is some sort of house trained pet also gets up my nose.

And yet ..... and yet .....

I'm getting and ignoring nutrition advice from every direction with my triathlon training. Maybe it is time to start thinking and learning about it more systematically.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


A New Zealander friend with whom I was discussing "eat your way around the world in London" pointed me to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen was developed by three New Zealanders who craved the way food tasted back home
According to my misty eyed, nostalgic informant the unlikely sounding kiwiburger (beef, beetroot, egg, pineapple, cheese, salad & relish) is the very essence of New Zealand in a sour dough sesame seed bun.

Noting with approval that Peter Gordon, whose Cook: At Home with Peter Gordon of the Sugar Clubhas done sterling service in my kitchen for years, had consulted on the menu we presented ourselves at the Wimbledon branch last night.

It was great fun, though now I've done my duty I will probably steer away from the beetroot, fried egg, pineapple combo in future.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ryszard Kapuscinski

I was saddened to hear that Ryszard Kapuscinski has died. What a unique and intriguing voice and career he had.

Here's the oeuvre.

I particularly remember 'The Emperor' and 'Shah of Shahs' about the respective downfalls of Haile Selassie and the Shah of Iran; books perched between hard nosed war reporting and magic realism that could also be read as allegories of communist Eastern Europe.

Volumes nostalgically redolent to me of late seventies and early eighties book shop haunting; of Granta and oversize Picador paperbacks in their own spinning display racks.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


The New Ninja Bomber having conceived a taste for pizza, I've been thinking about knocking one up from scratch with him just to demonstrate that it is a practical proposition.

We've made cookies and cakes before, so the dough shouldn't be too much of challenge.

Sauce likewise straightforward: fry some onions and garlic in olive oil, then drop in tomatoes and oregano and leave to its own devices.

Considering that all we do then is leave the dough to prove, then roll it out and cover it with the sauce, a little cheese, and some tuna and sweetcorn, I can't help wonder why pizza is always demonised as junk food.

Seems perfectly healthy fuel for a growing hooligan to me.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Midterms

I watched episode 3 of series 2 of the West Wing last night. When Bartlet is making fund raising calls from the residence there's a rugby game playing on his TV. What is with the US Presidents and the game? No one else in the States seems to give a fig for it.

Something that consistently makes me laugh in the show is the way that the characters throw dialogue at one another as they march determinedly from one office to another.

I pity the poor camera operator scuttling along in reverse. It makes me think of a quote attributed to Ginger Rogers, "I did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels".

Every Day I Have The Grues

According to The Economist:
LANGUAGES divide the spectrum up in different ways. Welsh speakers use “gwyrdd” (pronounced “goo-irrrth”) as a general word for green. Yet “grass” literally translates as “blue straw”. That is because the Welsh word for blue (“glas”) can accommodate all shades of green. English-speaking anthropologists affectionately squish “green” and “blue” together to call Welsh an example of a “grue” language. A few of them think grue languages are spoken by societies that live up mountains or near the equator because ultraviolet radiation, which is stronger in such places, causes a progressive yellowing of the lens. This, the theory goes, makes the eye less sensitive to short wavelengths (those that correspond to the green and blue parts of the spectrum). Unfortunately, though the Welsh do live in a hilly country, it is hardly mountainous enough—let alone sunny enough—to qualify.


Chris has posted a charming story about his little boy taking his Shark Boy and Lava Girl DVD to a restaurant, and having it played by the staff.

I remember thinking when I saw it with the New Ninja Bomber, that it was amazing how the film inhabited a child's imaginary world and that it must have been an extraordinary feat of empathy to pull it off.

I've since discovered that part of the explanation is that the inspiration for the movie was a tale that the director Robert Rodriguez's son Racer, then 7, made up about a boy who grew gills and a fin and became half-shark, and a girl who incorporated fiery volcanic elements. Robert encouraged his son to keep working on it, and there is a "story by Racer Max Rodriguez" credit on the finished film.

Robert Rodriguez's "Spy Kids" movies are great entertainment for children as well and also have the added advantage that Dads can watch them appreciating Carla Gugino as the Spy Kids mum but remembering her in Sin City. You can do this with her supporting role in Night at the Museum as well.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


The physicist Steven Weinberg - a Nobel Laureate - reviewing Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion", finds it "disturbing that Thomas Nagel in the New Republic dismisses Dawkins as an “amateur philosopher”, while Terry Eagleton in the London Review of Books sneers at Dawkins for his lack of theological training."

But also while cantering - it seems to me - through Aquinas' five proofs for the existence of God, he says of the "cosmological proof", that "it does have a certain appeal to the physicist. In essence, it argues that everything has a cause, and since this chain of causality cannot go on forever, it must terminate in a first cause, which we call God."

It is important to remember though that Aquinas' coinage of the Prime Mover argument from motion precedes Newton's formulation of the conservation of momentum. Today the argument suggests a God that set the universe in motion by giving it a huge kick up the arse a long time ago, but that is not really what Aquinas suggested. Following Aristotle he would say that motion continues so long as there is only an applied motion to an object and removing the motion stops the object, so his first "proof" is really more along the lines that God is what keeps the universe going rather than some sort of divine pool shark with a sledgehammer break.

I think it is an important distinction. You may disagree, but at least I've got it off my chest. For your homework review New Order's 1990 England football anthem in the light of the above:
Love's got the world in motion
And I know what we can do
Love's got the world in motion
And I can't believe it's true

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Gonna Fly Now

I stood in line for Rocky Balboa last night. I'd been looking forward to it since last July, but the real reason I needed to see the film as soon as it opened in the UK was that my brother has bought a boxed set of the first five Rocky movies as a motivational tool to augment his triathlon training and I needed to get one up on him.

It is a good movie. Burt Young as Paulie is as brilliant as ever, and the script cleverly resonates with and updates the original film, but what I can really use at the moment is inspiration like:

Let me tell you something you already know.
The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows.
It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.
You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.
But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.
How much you can take, and keep moving forward.
That's how winning is done.
That is going to be worth a few more seconds and yards when my legs feel like lead, my lungs are fit to bust, and somebody has sandpapered my throat.

Friday, January 19, 2007


ARTtes 4 Kids is organising an exhibition of students' work to celebrate its first full year of operation, so we have borrowed the New Ninja Bomber's tiger painting back from the Jackapong camp to display in it. The show will open on the evening of Saturday 27 January.

Mixed martial arts and fine arts.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I knocked up some coq au vin with mustard mashed potatoes for dinner last night, and as the pile of potato peelings and onion skins etc. grew, and as I pushed it into the bin, I remembered that Dave Wooding used to feed the family's kitchen waste into a wormery that converted it into compost and plant feed.

I've dug up some details of a baby one on the internet this morning. It is too late to get it for this weekend, but I'll order one in time for the first weekend in Feb as it will be fun - and educashional - to set it up with the New Ninja Bomber. Unless I miss my guess just the name of the red tiger worms that power it will be enough to pique a six year old boy's interest.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Yellow Stuff

Just in from Scientific American:

.......the biologically active components of turmeric--curcumin and related compounds called curcuminoids--as having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, with potential activity against cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease and other chronic maladies.

More and more, broccoli and tomato curry seems to be the way forward. Can't argue with that.

The Green Stuff

The Times:

Eating tomatoes and broccoli in the same meal could help men to fight prostate cancer.

A study suggests that when they are both present in a regular diet, the two foods — known for their cancer-fighting qualities — help to reduce tumours more effectively than when they are eaten separately.

I prescribe broccoli and tomato pasta and curry.

I can't help but think of the first President Bush's bombastic assertion:
“I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.”

What a strange thing the will to power is.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

This Thing of Darkness

I'm working my way through This Thing of Darkness at a leisurely chapter or so a day, and found out yesterday that Harry Thompson, the author was struck down with cancer around the time it was published.

Here's a profile and interview written by a friend when he was sick but vowing to fight on, and here's an obituary published when he lost the fight.

He was just a little older than us, but near as dammit a contemporary of el grupo; a sobering thought.

Ars longa, vita brevis, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Modest Proposal

A fresh row over criminal databases broke out last night with the revelation that immigration officials frequently cannot check on the criminal past of European Union citizens entering Britain.

So obviously, given the logic that is applied to every other public policy issue, we should tackle this problem by building a central database to hold criminal records for the entire EU.

"It costs money because it saves money."

Irony is a form of speech in which the real meaning is concealed or contradicted by the words used. Irony involves the perception that things are not what they are said to be or what they seem. Dramatic irony lies in the audience's deeper perceptions of a coming fate, which contrast with a character's lack of knowledge about said fate. A common metaphor for using irony is to "have your tongue in cheek".

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Somebody Up There Likes Me

More4, the UK TV channel, started showing all the West Wing from the beginning at 8pm on Sundays last August.

I stumbled serendipitously on it last week for the first episode of series two. This week I have finished my boxed set of the first series, so I am booked up from 8 until 9 on Sunday evenings today and for the next sixty three weeks.

I wonder if the "Music by W.G. Snuffy Walden" credit will still seem quite so funny in a year and a quarter? I think it probably will.

There is still a hole in my life where series 1 episodes 9 to 12 should be, but I hope to fill that early in February by borrowing a disc. AOL won't let me watch the missing installments via VOD because I am a European cheese-eating surrender monkey, and I can't get the West Wing on Channel 4 on Demand either. It is as if studios push you towards piracy if you want to get hold of anything digitally.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Clydesdale Masters

I've been training with the Childline Challenge in mind for a week or so now. My brother John has signed up as well, so we have started a triathblog as a training diary and all purpose venue to keep our spirits up over the next few months. We'd be delighted to have Dave or any of the two Robs join us as authors there. I also had the dynamite notion last night that CDH, who has set his face against participating on account of having more mass to drag round than anyone else, could take part by cycling and swimming but leaving out the concluding run. I put this to him last night and I think I'm beginning to see a chink in his armour.

Googling around the subject of triathlons, I've been pleasantly surprised that I am in the Masters as opposed to Open category simply by being 40+. John not yet master ...... Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off.....

Even more encouragingly there is a Clydesdale weight category for triathletes who weigh more than 200lbs. I'll have to bulk up to get into that, supplementing my programme with Brains Daaark and Claaark's pies.

Friday, January 12, 2007

New Ninja Bomber

What can I tell ya?

Between my picking him up from school, and his head hitting the pillow last night, my little hot house flower:

  • swam like a fish in the Virgin Active pool
  • raced through his homework
  • kicked like a mule in Muay Thai, then
  • (fanfare) blew the second target to kingdom come and sent Jabba's barge down.
Massive props to Dan via Chris and Sam via Rob for their help with the latter, I really thought that it was a bug that we would never get beyond but Ben pulled it off while I was in the kitchen.

In honour of this occasion, as Nicholas Browne is A Welsh Born Icon, and Paul Robert Fright is The Profit Burglar, henceforth Benjamin Browne shall be the New Ninja Bomber.

There is something of the Freudian slip I think about my anagrams. God knows where my subconscious would lead me if I tried to dream one up for his mother. Some things are best left alone.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Horn of Plenty

"Eat your way around the world in London" ventured forth last night for the first time in 2007, and loosened its belt at ASMARA an Eritrean restaurant in Coldharbour Lane that we had noticed last year when we went to Panzon nearby.

Completely unfamiliar with the food from the horn of Africa, we ordered the Messob meat dinner, which consisted according to my scribbled notes of zegni, dullet, minchey-abis, kulwa, durho, spinach and vegetables.

We were then presented with a huge platter covered with injera - a flat bread or pancake similar to a south Indian appam - onto which all the generally unfamiliar dishes listed above, generally dryish spicy stews - were separately placed, and then we were shown how to scoop the treats up with strips torn from the flatbread.

This is how Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis prefer to dine, and I couldn't help but wish silently for a world in which they could socialise over injera rather than interminably making war on each other.

We finishsed with Jebena; fresh roasted coffee served with smoking incense and a bowl of warm popcorn! Each to his own I suppose.

More novelty in one meal than we have had in ages. Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Them Thar Hills

Pure Welsh gold is the world's most valuable precious metal but I learned from the TV this morning that we have - to all intents and purposes - run out of it.

More bad news - as I move smoothly from gold to Golden Shred - marmalade is falling out of favour with our yoof and over four hundred and forty thousand British households stopped buying it last year.

Is nothing sacred? All I can do is note with resignation that the great British breakfast has been in gradual decline since tea replaced the previous staple morning drink of beer some time in the 1700s.

If the profit burglar and I ever make a real go of the business and cash in our chips you are all invited round to my place of a morning where a liveried footman will serve us tea, coffee (or beer) as we help ourselves to eggs, sausages, kippers, kedgeree and devilled kidneys plus toast and marmalade from the groaning sideboard.

That said, there is room in my heart for the International House of Pancakes, and the ginger geezer's greatest creation also had the right idea about the most important meal of the day:

"Filth hounds of Hades!"

Sir Henry Rawlinson surfaced from the blackness, hot and fidgety, fuss, bother and itch, conscious mind coming up too fast for the bends, through pack-ice thrubbing seas, boom-sounders, blow-holes, harsh-croak Blind Pews tip-tap-tocking for escape from his pressing skull.

With a gaseous grunt he rolled away from the needle-cruel light acupuncturing his pickle-onion eyes, and with key-bending will slit-peered at the cold trench Florrie had left on her side of the bed. Tongue like yesterday's fried cod: "Mind over batter? Tongue sandwiches? Bleah! Eat what? But it's been in somebody else's mouth!" Black spot! The Blind Pews were now thrashing with their canes. "God's turban and tutu! Do I need a dare of the hog?"

He reached for the bellrope, yanked savagely to summon the housekeeper, and discovered himself, nighty round his waist, turned tortoise on the rug. Paralysis lasted... scarce a blink but with impotent rage he bellied his unwilling hulk to the wardrobe. Cold comfort, as his palsied hand found the shotgun. Good stock. "Roll over!" One action: commando stuff. "Cock over!" Safety off, both barrels through the ceiling. Stunned shock and then Henry's eruptive bellow "Mrs. E!". The plaster had not setted before the housekeeper stood lurcher-backed at-your-servile-sir in the room.

"Yes?" she said.
"I don't know what I want but I want it now".
"Fried or fried?"
"With or without, dear?"
"Within. Get out."
"Fried, without...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Horn of a Dilemna

Just a week after I started worrying about the implications of an escalation of the latest conflict in the Horn of Africa: US Launches Airstrike In Somalia.

I can't seem to find any comment on the situation by Robert B. Kaplan yet, though I'd be fascinated by his take on it in the light of Surrender or Starve.

All in all, just like Afghanistan back in August, rather ominous a drum beat.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Great Pit of Carkoon

MY six year old and I have spent many a carefree hour with Lego Star Wars II on the XBOX 360 over the last three months or so.

He plays and I "drop in" from time to time on the second controller, or consult the strategy guide if he comes across a particularly intractable problem.

It is a great way of killing some time on a wet, cold winter weekend afternoon.

Now, although the Profit Burglar and I have had a tinker with XBOX Live, when it comes to the 360 I am to all intents and purposes a mug punter. Compare and contrast PCs whose software - as an MSCE etc. - I tend to tune and configure continuously and without consciously applying myself to it as a separate task at all.

I was therefore ill-prepared for the troubles that awaited us in the Great Pit of Carkoon yesterday when, for all the ordnance we loosed at it, we couldn't destroy the left hand rotating target and send Jabba's sail barge crashing to its doom in the Tatooine desert

Googling the predicament led me to a New Zealand forum that suggests that this is a bug that can be cleared either by turning on adaptive difficulty or downloading an update. Though I've no idea how to try either of these at the moment, I'd be surprised if they turned out to be beyond me.

It is salutary none the less to learn first hand how frustrating something like this can be when you come across it as a plain vanilla customer rather than a practitioner.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

If you build it he will come

Taking my lead from Dave Winer, I have set up an OpenID and added some code to the HEAD tag in the HTML on in this weblog that declares that the web page in question is owned by the owner of and furthermore may be used to verify ownership of

Granted I have no very clear idea the immediate benefit of this, but the Internet really needs a robust identity system so I'm prepared to cast my bread upon the waters and check pretty much anything out.

I was an advocate of Microsoft's Passport back in the day, but that hardly set the world on fire.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Data Later

The director general of the Prison Service has admitted that he does not know exactly how many inmates are on the run from open jails.

Phil Wheatley said there was not an accurate system in place to count the numbers recaptured after absconding from such institutions.

Classed as Category D, open prisons have a more relaxed security regime.

Almost 700 offenders absconded in the year to last April from England's 15 open prisons, Mr Wheatley estimated.

Mr Wheatley said he was "embarrassed" to admit he was unable to provide an accurate figure because there is no central database for recording numbers of recaptured prisoners.

This BBC report of ludicrous incompetence illustrates one of the symptoms of Whitehall's impotence when it comes to IT. Why is it always imagined that tracking anything requires a "central database"? A hundred years ago at the Edwardian apotheosis of the British Empire there were no central databases of anything, yet the enterprise managed to keep ticking along.

Organisational issues can't be solved by mandating a huge central bucket into which all data is thrown. If someone in the Prison Service can't answer the absconding lag question with a pencil, a notebook and a telephone then the problem lies with people and procedures not computers.

In civil service culture, a computer system is either a deus ex machina that will solve all our problems in future, or a convenient scapegoat for any day to day difficulty that arises.

See also the Bichard Inquiry and the IMPACT project.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Video In Demand

I see that as well as in addition to bestowing a DVD boxed set of the first series of The West Wing on me, Dr Rob has also gifted ten and a half hours of Firefly to Chris and his family. How on earth does he manage to watch and evangelize all this stuff in addition to everything else he does?

Now that I've watched the first eight episodes I'm on the brink of a fully fledged West Wing Jones myself, but - quelle horreur! - last time I opened the boxed set I found I had two copies of disc 4 (episodes 13-16) and none of disc 3 (9-12).

We're trying to sort it out with the vendor, but meantime I will probably get a dime bag from AOL Video on Demand this weekend.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Childline Challenge

After talking to Rob yesterday, I've pretty much decided to do the Swansea Childline Challenge on 22 April. (Odd to think that Dave A is behind both my New Years resolutions.)

Here is the skinny:
The challenge takes the format of a cycle, swim and run like a triathlon, but much less strenuous and in a different order. We set off from the Pier End of the Knab rock car park along the Mumbles front cycle path to the War memorial near St Helens, back down to the bottom of Sketty Lane car park. Drop off the bikes and helmet .... Then we run up to the National Swimming pool and complete 10 lenghts of the 50 metre pool, followed by a run back down Sketty Lane along the pedestrian path, towards the Pier end of the Knab rock car park.

Rob reckons that's about 8km of cycling and a 4km run plus the swim, and I was still sufficiently enthused last night - after Miss Brunner had picked up my six year old - to get down Virgin Active and check myself out against it, and was pleased to find that I'm already reasonably comfortable with the distances on an exercise bike and a treadmill followed by 20 lengths of the 25m pool. It took about an hour and a half including messing about setting up and moving between machines etc. so I should be able to fit it in a couple of times a week for training over the next few months and it might help shift a few Christmas pounds as a bonus.

The only fly in the ointment is that it became clear to me that - although I can swim - I am pretty slow and don't have any technique to speak of at all. My boy is starting his swimming lessons in Virgin Active again today after the holiday break. Maybe I'll get his teacher to coach me for a couple of sessions.

Anyone fancy sponsoring me for a good cause?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

There was a story all over the press yesterday about Jimi Hendrix recording the Welsh national anthem in the style of his demolition of the Star Spangled Banner. You can hear the track here.

The sound took me back to the Royal Oak in Splott years ago because I remember that Phil 'n Tich used to finish their set with the very same song in the very same style.

I wonder if there is any chance that the discovery will turn out to be Tich Gwilym of Penygraig rather than Jimi Hendrix of Seattle after all?

I was sorry to discover while googling round the issue that Tich died in 2005.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Flash Point?

I'm getting a bad feeling in my water about developments in the horn of Africa. What I worry about is the correlation of conflicts there with Moslem/Christian tension as the whole continent grows ever more segragated along religious lines.

Whether or not it is strictly correct, it is certainly tempting to view Ethiopia's intervention in Somalia as a fight between an ancient Christian country and the Council of Islamic Courts.

I've read that Africa is about 40% Muslim and 40% Christian, with the Muslims concentrated in the North, and the Christians clustered in the South.

Take a look at this table of Islamic population in Africa by country. Amazingly in1900 there were about 9 million Christians in all of Africa, but by the year 2000 that number had grown to 380 million.

What's going to happen when that demographic tidal wave from sub Saharan Africa starts colliding with a radicalised post 9/11 North?

Monday, January 01, 2007


I New Year resolved to make a start on This Thing Of Darkness this morning. I've been a bit intimidated by it because it is so rare these days to see a book weighing in at nearly 750 pages that doesn't involve dragons, elves, runes and quests.

As I cracked the spine, I noticed that Harry Thompson also wrote a Biography of Peter Cookthat I read and rated highly years ago. I'm a huge admirer of Cook (see Icons passim) who will have been dead for twelve years a week from tomorrow. For all the jokes and fun, Cook's story is a tragedy. The book charts his giddy precocious rise, and the precipitous drink-fuelled fall that ended in his death.

I remember telling Kim about the book back in 1998.

"It is heart breaking to read the story of a talented man throwing his life away through booze," I said.

"Really?" she trilled innocently. "Did someone give the book to you as a present?"

Touche. If there is anything worse than being misunderstood by a woman, it is being understood by a woman.

(P.S. John McWhorter explains the peculiar title of this post here.)