Monday, June 30, 2008

Good Faces for Radio

Living for pleasure alone, I like to get along to the movies every few weeks (the Bomber and I are due at Kung Fu Panda next weekend for example). Lately however whenever the curtain goes up at the Odeon I have the four minutes of gibberish above shoved down my throat without even the warning of a Pearl and Dean fanfare. I think I'll have to start turning up five minutes late.

Tim Westwood sets the gold standard, but almost every other night time Radio One DJ seems to be a half-wit who was regularly beaten with the ugly stick as a child as well. Trevor Nelson is the only one you could imagine talking to without entertaining thoughts of strangulation.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

York Hall

I went along to a Thai Boxing promotion in York Hall last week. Two guys from Jackapong were fighting, so we were supporting them, and they both won by the way, but I was also keen to visit the place itself deep in the heart of East End "knees up" territory whence I seldom venture.

The Evening Standard waxed lyrical about it when it was threatened with closure half a decade ago:
York Hall is to boxing what Wembley is to football and Lord's is to cricket. If it were possible to wring out an atmosphere heavy with sweat, smoke and noise, the residue would fill a dozen of the spit buckets that reside beneath the ring's red and blue corner posts.

It is said that acclaimed American writer AJ Liebling of the New Yorker made a pilgrimage so that he could sample for himself York Hall's unique ambience.

Liebling's countryman, former world heavyweight champion ' Terrible' Tim Witherspoon, flew the Atlantic specially so that he could say he fought in a ring where spectators can almost touch the gloves of the boxers by leaning over from their seats in the balcony.

That, and particularly the second sentence, is probably laying it on a bit thick, but it is a fine venue. I'm a sucker for stuff like:
Former world welterweight champion John H Stracey used to jog to his schoolboy fights at York Hall from the family home behind the Blind Beggar pub, infamous for its association with the Kray twins.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tales of Mere Existence

I saw "Procrastination" the short film above when I took the Bomber to the new Indiana Jones movie. Thanks to the Mini ad for bringing it our way: earns a place in the blogroll I think.

Everything is changing in the world of moving pictures. There is a new BBC IPlayer in Beta, and you should be able to watch YouTube on your TV with the new Google Media Server.

Are we starting to see the outlines of a way that a small player like Lev Yilmaz, the Procrastination animator, could make an independent living via these sorts of tools?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Garden Party

I'm going to a garden party at Buckingham Palace in a couple of weeks.

How do you like them apples?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jom Makan

I spotted the newly opened Jom Makan a fortnight ago, when we went to the Texas Embassy Cantina, so we toddled along last night to test the cuisine of Malaysia against our palates, and shared:

Popiah Sayur: Deep fried mixed vegetables in thin spring roll skin served with a sweet chilli sauce
Cucur Udang: Deep fried prawn in batter with mixed vegetables served with sweet chilli sauce
Nasi Goreng: Spicy pan-fried rice with prawn, squid, chicken and mixed vegetables
Bee Hun Goreng: Fried, fine rice noodles with chicken, seafood, beansprouts and mixed vegetables

Great food, and a fusion of many Asian influences, but a truly terrible website. Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations as we eat our way around the world in London.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Plot Spoiler

A stranger has come
To share my room in the house not right in the head.

I've seen The Edge of Love. You're not surprised I went to see a film with a Welsh theme are you?

Truth be told, in the movie, Dylan Thomas, his wife, and his first love are such vain, self regarding gadflies that I found myself thinking that it would have been no bad thing if the cuckolded Killick's attempted massacre had come off.

Here's my attempt at conveying the elevated tone of the screenplay:

Dylan: Oh come over by here and give us a hug Cait, my lovely. Give us a shag, there's a good girl. The pub won't be open till lunchtime and I haven't had my jollies since I grabbed Myfanwy between the outhouse and the sceptic tank just after breakfast. Gaggin' for it I am, my darling. Put the baby in the coal house and we'll have a nice bunk up.

Caitlin: Go to hell you filthy goat! I'm still flushed after the postman and this pinafore doesn't button and unbutton itself. How do you like this carving knife? Step to me my bass baritone; you'll step back a soprano, and without your tail between your legs mind you. Anyway, where's the gin?

Dylan: I have drunk it all my lodestar, my love spoon, my Lilith, my lady. Thirst come, thirst served. All gone it is, but I wrote you a lovely poem.

Caitlin: There's a heart melter of a bard you are, Mr Thomas. Rhyme your verse to your Mrs. Thomas.

Dylan: I bought a lot of Brandy
When I was courting Sandy
I aimed to make her randy
So all I had was shandy
Another thing with Sandy
What often came in handy
Was passing her a Mandy
She didn't half go bandy

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Pajama Game

I knocked off another book in what Matt Polly calls the "idiot-participatory-martial-arts memoir category" over the weekend: The Pajama Game.

I did judo briefly when I was primary school age. Mark Law - the author - didn't even take it up until take it up until he was pushing 50, and many of the venues in the book, like the Budokwai, are within striking distance of here.

Ray Stevens, the Olympic silver medalist (and Brazilian Jui-Jitsu black belt under Roger Gracie) who features prominently has a Wimbledon judo club.

It is all rather worryingly tempting.

Oh, and it is a good book. Perhaps the "self-deprecating-participatory-martial-arts memoir category" would be more accurate.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gateway to the South

Journey Planner

Advanced optionsTransport for London

I'm just trying out the Transport for London Widget above. It's not like I'm having a party or anything.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Add this

I don't really expect anyone to use the Add This button, I'm just checking it out as I am intrigued.

They serve up billions of buttons a month, and give you free analytics providing statistics about how readers are bookmarking and sharing your content.

I wonder how they make money?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Too much perspective

Online maps with crimes plotted on them every month are set to be introduced in England and Wales, Gordon Brown says.
See Icons passim.
The PM was responding to a Cabinet Office report suggesting people felt "cut off" from the justice system.
Louise Casey's paper said criminals' punishment needs to be much more "visible" to restore public confidence in the justice system.
See Icons passim.

It is strange now that I have been writing here for a while, how much of the news prompts memories of old posts. I'm not sure that I could remember what I thought three years ago otherwise.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mrs Eddy

At the fifth time of asking we finally won the monthly quiz in the Colour House Theatre last night and walked off with a case of red wine as a prize.

I went to see Mrs Eddy there earlier in the week; Christian Science agitprop theatre is a new and hopefully ephemeral category.

Back in April I saw Facades. The writer and director asked me what I thought of it. "It is an interesting historical period," I replied diplomatically.

Much theatre is pomised in AbbeyFest this year.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Social Graph

This is posted from within the Daily Telegraph Website.

Update: This is the link. Interesting.

Another Update: Apparently Picassa automatically generates an album of all the pictures I upload here.

Again, interesting. What can it all mean?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Pride

Reassuringly symmetrical intentions cannoned through the generations on Father's Day when I gave my Dad a DVD of the Calzaghe/Hopkins fight, and my son gifted me "No Ordinary Joe", Calzaghe's autobiography.

I'm glad that he hinted yesterday that a fight with Roy Jones Jr in November is likely to be his swansong. Win or lose against a legend like Jones his legacy as the greatest ever British fighter will be secure.

What could he possibly get from a fight with Kelly Pavlik except the chance of an upset?

Prediction: Post Calzaghe, Andre Ward will be the next long reigning boss of the super middleweights.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back on the block

More notes from my Quixotic campaign to claim everyone and everything for Wales:

(Alex) Haley helped (Quincy) Jones trace his own ancestry: two-thirds African (from Cameroon) and one-third French, Cherokee and Welsh, Jones says. George Washington was an ancestor, but Jones identifies with his African heritage. "Does this look Welsh?" he says, pointing to his skin.

Well actually Q, from here it kinda does.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Abbeyfest 2008

The line up for Abbeyfest 2008 is out. We're sponsors again. Come and say hello at the jazz one Friday night.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

a complete history of my sexual failures

There are good film titles, and then there are great film titles.

Friday, June 13, 2008


After last weekend's 43-17 loss, Wales have revamped their team for tomorrow's second Test against South Africa in Pretoria.
At least - as the photo above shows - the Colliers Tup has got its priorities right.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Remember the Alamo

That was inedible muck and there wasn't enough of it.

I've been to a buffet at the Texas Embassy Cantina before, but never made an official eat your way around the world in London stop.

That was remedied last night. I had Ribs and Flautas, then Southern Fried Steak.

Southern fried steak is "hand battered and fried steak with homemade cream gravy, corn served with fries or mashed potatoes". It is an authentic recipe it would seem, but I thought it was disgusting.

Can't win 'em all I suppose.

Rooster Cogburn: If ever I meet one of you Texas waddies who ain't drunk water from a hoofprint, I think I'll... I'll shake their hand or buy 'em a Daniel Webster cigar. How long you boys down there been mounted on sheep?

Onwards! And follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

High Concept

The manufacturers of the Concept 2 rowing machine host a Personal Training Log, and Online World Rankings on the website.

You can sign up at

This will allow you to enter and keep track of all of your workouts online and to see a list of your personal world ranking entries.

I put my ordinary times in for 500m and 5000m and found myeslf towards the bottom of my peers.

No matter, I can now use the Pace Boat facility on the PM3 controllers gradually to work my way up the rankings.

It's good for motivation when you know you can be promoted just for turning in a time a tenth of a second faster than your previous entry.

Less generously, I wonder what perecentage of the times claimed reflect inflated performances.

Anyone fancy joining me up there?

Becoming “Training Partners” enables two or more people to view each others' logbooks. There is no limit to the number of Training Partners a person can have.

To set up a "training partner", you enter the ranking ID number for the person you wish to have as a training partner into the field provided (your ranking ID number is found in your profile settings) on your Profile page. That person will then see your name appear as a ‘pending’ training partner in their logbook on the Profile page. As soon as your training partner enters your ranking ID number into their log, your partnership is established.

Once the partnership is set up - their name will appear on the Profile page along with a link to a modified log page that shows the meters that your partner has rowed - this way you and your partner can keep track of the meters that each other has rowed.
It is yet another social network really, with a fairly simple iGoogle widget at

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Victorian Sex Explorer

Sir Richard F. Burton being an interest of mine, I feel duty bound to promote anything that makes the great man better known.

Thus, on Channel 4 at 9pm tonight:
Rupert Everett takes a revealing and witty journey following in the footsteps of one of his great heroes, the infamous Victorian explorer and sexual adventurer, Sir Richard Francis Burton.
Rupert Everett? God help us! But as a Burton completist I will have to watch it. (He may have been flawed, but at least Burton was sound on the Welsh.)

No doubt I will be rolling my eyes all the way through tonight's show. I predict for example that it will - as almost everyone from Swinburne on has done - present Burton's wife, the formidable and Catholic Lady Isabel, as some kind of hysterical bluestocking. This is nonsense. I take the Mary Lovell line.

Then again, perhaps it will be even handed and fine. A few short hours will tell.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Reading a review of entertaining sounding "Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Burton, Harris, O'Toole and Reed" sent me back decades yesterday to the day that Sean Cashin, a schoolmate, told me - out of the blue as I recall - that his uncle Fergus was ghost writing Oliver Reed's autobiography.

I don't recall giving it another thought until I saw a copy of "Reed all about Me" in the local library. I was intrigued enough to borrow and read it, and delighted to find that the middle section - though apparently written in the first person by Oliver Reed - contained several excellent stories of the carousing of one Fergus Cashin which had only the most cursory connection, if any, to the putative author.

Memory roused yesterday, I googled him and found that in his pomp:
Nobody ever came into this newspaper business and left a bigger outline on the saloon bar floor than the magnificent Fergus Cashin. He was the grandest, most rip-roaring, one-man riot who ever tripped over the uneven pavements of old Fleet Street.
In his day he was the prince of all characters, an awesome giant of fun and fighting and a late-night legend in every joint in the West End that stayed open until dawn.
Opening hours were any time he was awake
....... read on .....

He's lost to us now, but even in the twilight of his years:
Fergus had given up liquid lunches but not the liquid dinners when I worked with him a decade after he had thrown his final punch in The Street.
My first day in journalism was at the Woking News and Mail in the summer of 1986 and at 11-ish the swing door was kicked open, and in walked Fergus.
That evening, he invited me for a jar at the office local, The Red House.
After that, journalism became fun.

Tremendous stuff. Fergus Cashin, a Welsh Born Icon.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

El Guapo

After my unexpected success with "American Shaolin" I've hit a bit of a lean spell in the book club department with my peers failing to finish - never mind enjoy - both "Crime and Punishment" and "Bombay: Maximum City".

We've had the hardy perennial "The Great Gatsby" and Fowles' "Daniel Martin" nominated for the next meeting. Fair enough. Chris and I still have to step up to the plate, so I'm going back to the genre that's worked for me in the past with A Fighter's Heart: One Man's Journey Through the World of Fighting

I read it last year and by coincidence there's an extract from it in The Times this morning.

What about it guys, will you follow Sam Sheridan (and the shade of George Plimpton) as he trains for Muay thai in Bangkok, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Rio, boxing in Oakland and MMA in Iowa?

An Amazon reviewer of a previous edition said, "how can someone so obviously intelligent say such dumb things?"


Friday, June 06, 2008

Ripley's Believe It Or Not!

I am very partial to daft, parochial Welsh "facts" such as:
significantly, of the 68 titles awarded by the four main alphabet organizations, only 13 were held by American boxers at the end of 2007, while the small Welsh town of Newbridge, with a population of only 9,000, was home to four.

It comes courtesy of this piece on Gary Lockett's fight with Kelly Pavlik this Saturday.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

stream of unconsciousness

I've found the copy of Black Swan Green that I lost, I thought I had left it in Virgin Active as I was reading it during a half hour on the recline exercise bike, but when I asked at reception I was told that they hadn't got it, yesterday however I found it on one of their bookshelves, it was unquestionably mine as a page was turned down at the exact point I was up to, I've been training at Virgin Active as it is so near the office for just over three years now , ever since it opened, sometimes I do weights and sometimes I do cardio, I find that I sweat more on the bike than on the treadmill or rowing ........

Prodnose: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Myself: I accept that, as an anecdote, it does lack vim and panache; probably not worth pitching to a Hollywood studio then?
Prodnose: Probably not no.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Parker Adderson, Philosopher

Good old Radio4: I heard a fine short story written by Ambrose Bierce and read by Stacey Keach yesterday as I was driving back from Basingstoke yesterday.

You can listen to it here for the next week (next week I think there'll be another story at the end of the link) or read it below.

"Prisoner, what is your name?"

"As I am to lose it at daylight tomorrow morning it is hardly worth while concealing it. Parker Adderson."

"Your rank?"

"A somewhat humble one; commissioned officers are too precious to be risked in the perilous business of a spy. I am a sergeant."

"Of what regiment?"

"You must excuse me; my answer might, for anything I know, give you an idea of whose forces are in your front. Such knowledge as that is what I came into your lines to obtain, not to impart."

"You are not without wit."

"If you have the patience to wait you will find me dull enough to-morrow."

"How do you know that you are to die to-morrow morning?"

"Among spies captured by night that is the custom. It is one of the nice observances of the profession."

The general so far laid aside the dignity appropriate to a Confederate officer of high rank and wide renown as to smile. But no one in his power and out of his favor would have drawn any happy augury from that outward and visible sign of approval. It was neither genial nor infectious; it did not communicate itself to the other persons exposed to it--the caught spy who had provoked it and the armed guard who had brought him into the tent and now stood a little apart, watching his prisoner in the yellow candle-light. It was no part of that warrior's duty to smile; he had been detailed for another purpose. The conversation was resumed; it was in character a trial for a captial offense.

"You admit, then, that you are a spy--that you came into my camp, disguised as you are in the uniform of a Confederate soldier, to obtain information secretly regarding the numbers and disposition of my troops."

"Regarding, particularly, their numbers. Their disposition I already knew. It is morose."

The general brightened again; the guard, with a severer sense of his responsibility, accentuated the austerity of his expression and stood a trifle more erect than before. Twirling his gray slouch hat round and round upon his forefinger, the spy took a leisurely survey of his surroundings. They were simple enough. The tent was a common "wall tent," about eight feet by ten in dimensions, lighted by a single tallow candle stuck into the haft of a bayonet, which was itself stuck into a pine table at which the general sat, now busily writing and apparently forgetful of his unwilling guest. An old rag carpet covered the earthen floor; an older leather trunk, a second chair and a roll of blankets were about all else that the tent contained; in General Clavering's command Confederate simplicity and penury of "pomp and circumstance" had attained their highest development. On a large nail driven into the tent pole at the entrance was suspended a sword-belt supporting a long sabre, a pistol in its holster and, absurdly enough, a bowie-knife. Of that most unmilitary weapon it was the general's habit to explain that it was a souvenir of the peaceful days when he was a civilian.

It was a stormy night. The rain cascaded upon the canvas in torrents, with the dull, drum-like sound familiar to dwellers in tents. As the whooping blasts charged upon it the frail structure shook and swayed and strained at its confining stakes and ropes.

The general finished writing, folded the half-sheet of paper and spoke to the soldier guarding Adderson: "Here, Tassman, take that to the adjutant- general; then return."

"And the prisoner, General?" said the soldier, saluting, with an inquiring glance in the direction of that unfortunate.

"Do as I said," replied the officer, curtly.

The soldier took the note and ducked himself out of the tent. General Clavering turned his handsome face toward the Federal spy, looked him in the eyes, not unkindly, and said: "It is a bad night, my man."

"For me, yes."

"Do you guess what I have written?"

"Something worth reading, I dare say. And--perhaps it is my vanity--I venture to suppose that I am mentioned in it."

"Yes; it is a memorandum for an order to be read to the troops at reveille concerning your execution. Also some notes for the guidance of the provostmarshal in arranging the details of that event."

"I hope, General, the spectacle will be intelligently arranged, for I shall attend it myself."

"Have you any arrangements of your own that you wish to make? Do you wish to see a chaplain, for example?"

"I could hardly secure a longer rest for myself by depriving him of some of his."

"Good God, man! do you mean to go to your death with nothing but jokes upon your lips? Do you know that this is a serious matter?"

"How can I know that? I have never been dead in all my life. I have heard that death is a serious matter, but never from any of those who have experienced it."

The general was silent for a moment; the man interested, perhaps amused him--a type not previously encountered.

"Death," he said, "is at least a loss--a loss of such happiness as we have, and of opportunities for more."

"A loss of which we shall never be conscious can be borne with composure and therefore expected without apprehension. You must have observed, General, that of all the dead men with whom it is your soldierly pleasure to strew your path none shows signs of regret."

"If the being dead is not a regrettable condition, yet the becoming so--the act of dying--appears to be distinctly disagreeable to one who has not lost the power to feel."

"Pain is disagreeable, no doubt. I never suffer it without more or less discomfort. But he who lives longest is most exposed to it. What you call dying is simply the last pain--there is really no such thing as dying. Suppose, for illustration, that I attempt to escape. You lift the revolver that you are courteously concealing in your lap, and--"

The general blushed like a girl, then laughed softly, disclosing his brilliant teeth, made a slight inclination of his handsome head and said nothing. The spy continued: "You fire, and I have in my stomach what I did not swallow. I fall, but am not dead. After a half-hour of agony I am dead. But at any given instant of that half-hour I was either alive or dead. There is no transition period.

"When I am hanged to-morrow morning it will be quite the same; while conscious I shall be living; when dead, unconscious. Nature appears to have ordered the matter quite in my interest--the way that I should have ordered it myself. It is so simple," he added with a smile, "that it seems hardly worth while to be hanged at all."

At the finish of his remarks there was a long silence. The general sat impassive, looking into the man's face, but apparently not attentive to what had been said. It was as if his eyes had mounted guard over the prisoner while his mind concerned itself with other matters. Presently he drew a long, deep breath, shuddered, as one awakened from a dreadful dream, and exclaimed almost inaudibly: "Death is horrible!"--this man of death.

"It was horrible to our savage ancestors," said the spy, gravely, "because they had not enough intelligence to dissociate the idea of consciousness from the idea of the physical forms in which it is manifested--as an even lower order of intelligence, that of the monkey, for example, may be unable to imagine a house without inhabitants, and seeing a ruined hut fancies a suffering occupant. To us it is horrible because we have inherited the tendency to think it so, accounting for the notion by wild and fanciful theories of another world--as names of places give rise to legends explaining them and reasonless conduct to philosophies in justification. You can hang me, General, but there your power of evil ends; you cannot condemn me to heaven."

The general appeared not to have heard; the spy's talk had merely turned his thoughts into an unfamiliar channel, but there they pursued their will independently to conclusions of their own. The storm had ceased, and something of the solemn spirit of the night had imparted itself to his reflections, giving them the sombre tinge of a supernatural dread. Perhaps there was an element of prescience in it. "I should not like to die," he said--"not tonight."

He was interrupted--if, indeed, he had intended to speak further--by the entrance of an officer of his staff, Captain Hasterlick, the provost-marshal. This recalled him to himself; the absent look passed away from his face.

"Captain," he said, acknowledging the officer's salute, "this man is a Yankee spy captured inside our lines with incriminating papers on him. He has confessed. How is the weather?"

"The storm is over, sir, and the moon shining."

"Good; take a file of men, conduct him at once to the parade ground, and shoot him."

A sharp cry broke from the spy's lips. He threw himself forward, thrust out his neck, expanded his eyes, clenched his hands.

"Good God!" he cried hoarsely, almost inarticulately; "you do not mean that! You forget--I am not to die until morning."

"I have said nothing of morning," replied the general, coldly; "that was an assumption of your own. You die now."

"But, General, I beg--I implore you to remember; I am to hang! It will take some time to erect the gallows--two hours--an hour. Spies are hanged; I have rights under military law. For Heaven's sake, General, consider how short--"

"Captain, observe my directions."

The officer drew his sword and fixing his eyes upon the prisoner pointed silently to the opening of the tent. The prisoner hesitated; the officer grasped him by the collar and pushed him gently forward. As he approached the tent pole the frantic man sprang to it and with cat-like agility seized the handle of the bowie-knife, plucked the weapon from the scabbard and thrusting the captain aside leaped upon the general with the fury of a madman, hurling him to the ground and falling headlong upon him as he lay. The table was overturned, the candle extinguished and they fought blindly in the darkness. The provost-marshal sprang to the assistance of his superior officer and was himself prostrated upon the struggling forms. Curses and inarticulate cries of rage and pain came from the welter of limbs and bodies; the tent came down upon them and beneath its hampering and enveloping folds the struggle went on. Private Tassman, returning from his errand and dimly conjecturing the situation, threw down his rifle and laying hold of the flouncing canvas at random vainly tried to drag it off the men under it; and the sentinel who paced up and down in front, not daring to leave his beat though the skies should fall, discharged his rifle. The report alarmed the camp; drums beat the long roll and bugles sounded the assembly, bringing swarms of half-clad men into the moonlight, dressing as they ran, and falling into line at the sharp commands of their officers. This was well; being in line the men were under control; they stood at arms while the general's staff and the men of his escort brought order out of confusion by lifting off the fallen tent and pulling apart the breathless and bleeding actors in that strange contention.

Breathless, indeed, was one: the captain was dead; the handle of the bowie-knife, protruding from his throat, was pressed back beneath his chin until the end had caught in the angle of the jaw and the hand that delivered the blow had been unable to remove the weapon. In the dead man's hand was his sword, clenched with a grip that defied the strength of the living. Its blade was streaked with red to the hilt.

Lifted to his feet, the general sank back to the earth with a moan and fainted. Besides his bruises he had two sword-thrusts--one through the thigh, the other through the shoulder.

The spy had suffered the least damage. Apart from a broken right arm, his wounds were such only as might have been incurred in an ordinary combat with nature's weapons. But he was dazed and seemed hardly to know what had occurred. He shrank away from those attending him, cowered upon the ground and uttered unintelligible remonstrances. His face, swollen by blows and stained with gouts of blood, nevertheless showed white beneath his disheveled hair--as white as that of a corpse.

"The man is not insane," said the surgeon, preparing bandages and replying to a question; "he is suffering from fright. Who and what is he?"

Private Tassman began to explain. It was the opportunity of his life; he omitted nothing that could in any way accentuate the importance of his own relation to the night's events. When he had finished his story and was ready to begin it again nobody gave him any attention.

The general had now recovered consciousness. He raised himself upon his elbow, looked about him, and, seeing the spy crouching by a camp-fire, guarded, said simply:

"Take that man to the parade ground and shoot him."

"The general's mind wanders," said an officer standing near.

"His mind does not wander," the adjutant-general said. "I have a memorandum from him about this business; he had given that same order to Hasterlick"--with a motion of the hand toward the dead provost-marshal--"and, by God! it shall be executed."

Ten minutes later Sergeant Parker Adderson, of the Federal army, philosopher and wit, kneeling in the moonlight and begging incoherently for his life, was shot to death by twenty men. As the volley rang out upon the keen air of the midnight, General Clavering, lying white and still in the red glow of the camp-fire, opened his big blue eyes, looked pleasantly upon those about him and said: "How silent it all is!"

The surgeon looked at the adjutant-general, gravely and significantly. The patient's eyes slowly closed, and thus he lay for a few moments; then, his face suffused with a smile of ineffable sweetness, he said, faintly: "I suppose this must be death," and so passed away.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The trial continues ...

According to the BBC yesterday:

A woman driving in Belfast city centre saw Robert McCartney being attacked and identified the killer, a court is told. Mr McCartney, 33, was beaten and stabbed to death outside a bar on 30 January 2005 in an incident which soon became prominent worldwide.

Sinn Fein has always denied IRA members took part in the killing but his sisters claimed the Provisionals were intimidating witnesses.

Look at the text I have emboldened above. I wrote a blog entry about this horror in 2005 that quotes the official IRA statement on the murder:

Of the four people directly involved in the attacks in Market Street, two were IRA Volunteers. The other two were not.

The IRA knows the identity of all these men.

Where does this cobblers about always denying IRA members' involvement come from?

How about this?

The family of Belfast murder victim Robert McCartney have rejected an IRA offer to shoot his killers.
The IRA said it had given the family the names of the man who stabbed Mr McCartney and a second man who supplied removed and destroyed the murder weapon.

Both these men have been expelled by the IRA.

Don't BBC reporters read their own files? Can anyone find me an example of Sinn Fein claiming IRA members weren't involved?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Journey through the Secret Life of Plants

From an interesting book review by Freeman Dyson:
.. it turns out that about 8 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by vegetation and returned to the atmosphere every year. This means that the average lifetime of a molecule of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, before it is captured by vegetation and afterward released, is about twelve years.
I'm amazed by this fact. I used to be a chemical engineer, so I could get out my calculator and start messing about with a mass balance, though a trivial daily blog post is not the place to do it.

But it really is intriguing, as it implies that the net contribution of CO2 to the atmosphere from human agency is mathematically trivial compared to the carbon volume of the respiration of plant life. The question I would like answered is how much net carbon does photosynthesis remove from the atmosphere each year.

Stray thoughts:
  • Bio fuels must - by definition - be carbon neutral.
  • All the carbon in fossil fuels was fixed from the atmosphere at some time or other so given a long, long perspective everything is carbon neutral.
I really need to read and think more about this.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Boss

I saw Bruce Springsteen play the first ever show at Arsenal's Emirates on Friday night, and a fine show it was.

I'd meant to pack my hip flask so I could thumb my nose at Boris Johnson and his Tube booze ban on the way like these civil rights activists did yesterday. I didn't make it home to get changed and pick it up before I headed North however, as I was stuck in the office dealing with the fallout of SQL injection attacks. They are far more insidious and anti-social than a crafty snifter on public transport.

Whatever happened to the Bullingdon Club spirit, old man?