Monday, January 31, 2005

Wise Men and Iran

It is worth us reminding ourselves as the tension between the US and Iran grows, that there is an old Christian traditions that Iran is where the St. Matthew's Magi came from.

There is also an old story that in the Seventh century, when Persian armies invaded the Holy Land destroying Christian Churches, they paused when they came to the Basilica in Bethlehem it because of a mosaic depicting the adoration of the Magi.

Recognising the Wise Men as fellow Persians from their costumes - belted tunics with full sleeves, trousers, and Phrygian caps - they spared the building.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Jazz Society

Writing about University and student societies reminds me of the Swansea University Jazz Society found by Chris Howell and me around 1980.

In order to be able to put on gigs in Student Union facilities the regualtions demanded that our society had a formal constitution. We had no idea how to draw up such an instrument so we were shown the ring binder that contained the constitutions of all the other societies.

The first society in the alphabetical list was the African society. So - maybe even to this day - the Jazz society constitution is exactly the same as the African society's apart from the fact that the word Jazz replaces the words Africa and African wherever they occur. Though the result was a spectacularly daft document, I have often wondered over the years if there is not some poetic justice in this.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Iraqi Expatriates Election

Although there is no mention of the polling station in this BBC piece, I am sure that Jack Straw said that Cardiff was one of the towns in the UK where Iraqis would be able to vote. I imagine that this must mean that there are a lot of expatriates in South Wales.

When I attended the University of Wales a quarter of a century ago, I remember that there were two Iraqi student organisations; the NUIS and the ISS. One of these - and to my shame I forget which - seemd to be a Baathist front organisation, and one represented the opposition. There was no end of trouble between them.

I remember a raid - in the snow - by armed Police at Swansea's Hendrefoilan student village, and an attempted murder in Cardiff in which the head of one of the student organisations attacked the leader of the other.

I can't find anything about this at all on the Internet, which is a timely reminder that all human knowledge is not obtainable via Google. It would be good to understand a little more of this history. It all rather passed me by when I was a student, as so much did.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Hermit Nuclear Kingdom

"North Korea is the most secretive country in the world today, with its main railway lined with walls so high that its foreign passengers can't see the countryside. It is also, as Brad-ley Martin's book makes clear, the most repressive and brutal country in the world, with entire families sometimes executed if one member gets drunk and slights the Dear Leader. It is at the same time by far the most totalitarian, with nearly every home equipped with a speaker that issues propaganda from morning to night. It is the country most defiant of the West, whose leaders not only counterfeit US $100 bills but also are building nuclear warheads. North Korea is also, along with Iraq, the country where President Bush has most seriously bungled US foreign policy, and has made the world more dangerous and unstable. Finally, North Korea is perhaps the least understood place on earth. There is no firm agreement on such basic facts as whether Kim Jong Il is a playboy or a savvy leader who constantly monitors the Internet and CNN."
The New York Review of Books

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Maximum City

Chris Anderson on Bombay. Maximum City is the book that I got Jane before her trip.

I command you to ..

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Vikram Seth

" learn about another great culture is to enrich one's own life, to understand one's own country better, to feel more at home in the world, and indirectly to add to that reservoir of individual goodwill that may, generations from now, temper the cynical use of national power. "

I have longed to move away

I have longed to move away
From the hissing of the spent lie
And the old terrors' continual cry
Growing more terrible as the day
Goes over the hill into the deep sea;
I have longed to move away
From the repetition of salutes,
For there are ghosts in the air
And ghostly echoes on paper,
And the thunder of calls and notes.

I have longed to move away but am afraid;
Some life, yet unspent, might explode
Out of the old lie burning on the ground,
And, crackling into the air, leave me half-blind.
Neither by night's ancient fear,
The parting of hat from hair,
Pursed lips at the receiver,
Shall I fall to death's feather.
By these I would not care to die,
Half convention and half lie.

A rebuke from Dylan Thomas as I find myself more and more drawn to orthopraxy

Naxos Audio Books

I think this site - and my bank account - are going to take a bit of punishment from this site now that I have my Creative Zen Touch.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Coming Wars

This Seymour Hersh piece from the The New Yorker is not fresh off the presses, but it is fascinating in the context of Bush's second inauguration yesterday.

His surprising conclusion is that Rumsfeld has weathered the storm that has raged for the last few months and emerged, if anything, stronger and more influential.

It also seems universally to be acknowledged that Iran is in the cross hairs. Who can say what the next four years will bring?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Sick Note

A prison officer at Holloway jail who was on sick leave for more than a year had in fact emigrated to New Zealand.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Camera-GPS can pinpoint site of scene

When you release the shutter on a digital camera, the camera attaches descriptive data -- date and time, make and model, white balance settings and whether the flash was used. Among the 300 or more types of data that can be attached are Global Positioning System coordinates, pinpointing where the photograph was taken.

I didn't realise that. The link talks about a couple of cameras that implement this feature. I would love to have it just for my snapshots, but I imagine there are myriad potential professional applications.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Windows Media Center Edition 2005 Resources - Phat Matt's Wiki

I have stumbled upon a pointer to a uk based Wiki of Media Center Resources that is hosted on a uk domain. This could be very handy as I get up to speed with the Qosmio. It would be handy to have something similar for the Zen Touch.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Samsung develops motion-sensitive mobile phone

The SCH-S310 phone uses a six-axis sensor to detect motion and has been preprogrammed to recognise phone numbers written in the air.

This I have got to see.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A bit of bingeing can be good for you

It is not the consequences of drunkenness that make it a modern bogeyman, but its simple out-of-controlness. For a political class hell-bent on micro-management of all aspects of everyday life, in thrall to etiquette, suspicious of spontaneity, and living by the code of 'everything in moderation', the image of the carefree drunk is one that it cannot comprehend, still less empathise with. For the rest of us, for whom the odd bender is not a political statement but a welcome fact of life, we should resist the temptation to buy into the cult of 'responsible drinking' and remember what we are doing in the pub in the first place.

Jennie Bristow in Spiked. I'll drink to that.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


From Wikipedia, "Bhelpuri is a snack synonymous with the beaches of Bombay, Bhelpuri stalls are ubiquitous in the city as well as in the countryside. Popularised by Bollywood films, many city outsiders often yearn to taste this relishing snack."

That's a bit more like it.

"Puffed rice forms the base of the bhel. To this finely cut tomatoes, onions and chillies are added. To this some chutneys are added to give it a sweet or spicy flavour. Sev, a chick-pea based topping is sprinkled and garnished with coriander leaves. It is then served with toasted puris, (a wheat based bread, deep fried). The sour/pungent/sweet taste just dances on your tongue and you are gunning for more! It is customary to wash down the bhelpuri with a serving of panipuri, an even more relishing chat."

I will swap my Pizza McPuff for one.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Welcome to McDonald's India

It seems that Jane, after all my Vada Pav ranting, has gone to McDonald's in India! She had a Paneer Salsa Wrap, and it was very nice apparently.

The Pizza McPuff is another McDonald's India speciality it seems. Pizza McPuff! I have decided to adopt this expression as new term of derision to be muttered under my breath when displeased.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


It would be great to be able to use my XDA as a remote control for the DVD etc. at home. Proximis have a product I could use apparently and there seems to be a standard file format for per device settings. (I wonder if the XDA iR would have the range to reach the TV from the couch though.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Tsunami 'victim' safe in prison

A man feared dead in the Asian tsunami disaster has been discovered safe and well in a British prison. Friends and family of Mark Steven Doogue, 47, thought he was in Phuket in Thailand on a three-month holiday. His sons Michael, 24, and Matthew, 19, from Salford, Greater Manchester, feared for his safety when he failed to get in touch following the disaster. But a police source said he is in jail after telling colleagues he was going to Thailand for three months. A Greater Manchester Police source said: "He told his boss he was going to Thailand but he is actually in prison."

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Blair's uncharacteristic self-restraint

Charles Moore in the Spectator.

One of the minor, but horrible consequences of disasters such as the tsunami is the chance it gives for the self-righteous to accuse others of not caring as much as they. Thus Michael Howard criticised Tony Blair for failing to return from his Egyptian holiday when really the Prime Minister should have been praised for his uncharacteristic self-restraint.

Its a good point, but it still a pretty minor consequence.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Friends Reunited: Man stabs long-lost mate

A UK man who traced his long-lost best mate via Friends Reuinted, then stabbed him seven times in a drunken rage because he thought he had attacked his sister, was jailed for three years today at the Old Bailey, Reuters reports.

Noel Duff was lucky to survive the assault by Brendan Walsh during which he received a stab wound to the heart. The catalyst for the fracas was Duff's relationship with Walsh's sister subsequent to the two pals' doubtless tearful reunion.

Immediately after the attack, Walsh suffered a fit of remorse and called an ambulance which rushed Duff to hospital. Doctors described his survival as a "miracle".

Walsh pleaded guilty to to wounding with intent, and was cleared of attempted murder. The judge told him: "The victim is no longer angry at you and the remarkable fact is that [he] even gave evidence on your behalf and said he would like to be friends with you again."

Duff has indeed expressed the wish to be re-reunited with his old mucker after the latter finishes his spell in one of Her Majesty's penal institutions, noting: "I can't believe a stupid fight came to this."

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Toshiba unplugs stereo 'phones with Bluetooth

I am the proud owner of a Qosmio. According to The Register, Toshiba are to lauch bluetooth headphones for it in February. If I could get these to switch between he computer and the phone it would be just the job for the office.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Bombay Street Food: Vada Pav

Jane left for Mumbai this morning. I have been reading around the subject. According to Wikipedia, Vada Pav is the Bomaby street food that is keeping the hot dog and burger at bay. Potatoes in bread doesn't sound all that exciting though. Maybe she will pick up the recipe.

Swansea University plans super computer

The BBC says that a scheme is underway to build one of the world's fastest computers at Swansea University. When I was there studying Chemical Engineering from 1979 to 1982, I remember that we were introduced to core memory in our computer course. It was, as I remember, main memory composed of doughnut-shaped magnets. I seem to recall that there was a picture of Dr. Gunn, our tutor, gazing wistfully at some of the stuff in Volume 3 of "Coulson and Richardson".

Suddenly I feel very old. I wonder how much of this scrap metal you would have to lug around to get the 20GB I keep in my pocket with my Creative Zen Touch.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Blair's extraordinary patronising gaffe

Tony Blair faced acute embarrassment yesterday after his offer of a company of Gurkhas to help Indonesia cope with the effects of the tsunami disaster was immediately rejected.
The Gurkhas were the main force deployed by the British against Indonesian forces who tried to take over Brunei in the early 1960s, fighting off a series of incursions.

Mr Blair's gaffe was made worse by the fact that the troops on offer were from the 2nd Bn the Royal Gurkha Rifles, which, as a result of its service, is still funded by the Sultan of Brunei to defend his country.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Western Fast Food in India

This is a rather disappointing thing to read in the New York Times (registration required), just after my previous post about relishing the prospect of food from Bombay.

When the first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet opened in India, in the technology hub of Bangalore in 1995, the welcoming committee was largely absent. It was just four years after India opened its economy to outsiders, and the outlet quickly became a target of irate farmers, Hindu nationalists and others decrying what they saw as the encroachment of the corrupt, and corruptive, West.

KFC's parent, Yum Brands, now has 100 KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants in India, 30 opened in 2004, and a goal of 1,000 by 2014. To realize such growth, the chains have begun a seemingly inexorable march into the country's smaller boomtowns, cities like Coimbatore and Cochin in the south, and Jaipur and Meerut in the north, where middle-class Indians - who increasingly crave localized Western foods, regional flavors and ingredients infused into the pizza, pasta or poultry - have hailed their arrival.

Yum Brands!

Bombay Food

Jane is off to Bombay on Saturday. I have asked her to bring me back a cookery book as always on our travels, but here as a stop gap is a site devoted to Maharashtrian food.

The Rhubarb War

Rhubarb History: "The imperial commissioner, Lin Zexu, who was sent to Canton in 1839 to put an end to the opium trade wrote a letter to Queen Victoria pointing to the 'fact' that the foreign barbarians surely would die if they could not obtain tea and rhubarb from China and that the Queen for this reason should stop the wicked British merchants from trading with opium. Victoria seems never to have had the letter translated and read for her and when Lin Zexu later the same year wrote to the British merchants in Canton telling them that a stop to the rhubarb trade would mean the death for the pitiful foreigners, the pitiful foreigners responded with canon boats. Should maybe the Opium War really be called the Rhubarb War? "

I found this extraordinay fact in a footnote to a quoted list of precious items in Frances Wood's "The Silk Road", that - to my delight - included rhubarb along with silk and diamonds.

Alan Peckolick

More Than Words Can Say: The Letterform Paintings of Alan Peckolick: "More Than Words Can Say: The Letterform Paintings of Alan Peckolick". It is amazing to think that I am Mr Peckolick's first British Collector.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I have let Alexander Down

"I have let Alexander down", says Mr. Stone.

Well - I may have been influenced by Robin Lane Fox - but I certainly thought it was a good movie.

Susan Sontag

Two Views by Roger Kimball and Christopher Hitchens Hitchens pro and Gimball con.

When I was a slip of a boy all Sontag's paberbacks featured the wonderfully patronising description of her as "the most intelligent woman in America". I remember thinking that if this was proposed by an anti-Americal misogynist, it might not mean that she was all that intelligent at all.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

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