Past EED rants


Live leaderboard

Poker leaderboard

Voice of EED

Saturday 30 December 2006

wiiiiiiii [spiny]

I busted my wii out of the box today. The sports games rock, call of duty 3 reveals that the wii is shit for fps games and the opera browser is very good - I even wrote this post from it!

Wednesday 27 December 2006

The consumerfest that is Christmas [Shedir]

Our family has had a really nice Christmas and boxing day, but how many others haven't because of this consumer culture? My wifey has a parttime job in a shop and worked on Christmas eve, shop was dead. The entire city centre was pretty much deserted.
But boxing day? Traditionally a day where money put in the church box was used to feed the local poor remember. *Sales* everywhere, now thats great for the buyers. But the poor folks who have to work on boxing day, how early do they have to stop enjoying themselves. AFAIK it's still down as a public holiday, not that its being adhered to.
I'm actually quite depressed by the whole thing now, we drove to visit a relative in a hospice yesterday and all along the main street easily two thirds of shops were open. Why can't we as a society just switch off for a couple of days?
There's still this rampant panic buying before Christmas, get loaves in the freezer in case they run out and so on. But now it's a one day holiday wheres the need for that sorta thing? New Year is heading the same way with happy Jack McConnel wanting to stop ne'er day being a public holiday, because the leftover tourists at Edinburghs hogmanay bash have nothing to do!
Money, money money. It's just shit frankly.
Then we have Cowell. Simon fucking Cowell. Who has bought that little piece of musical heritage that was the Xmas number one, but will for the lifetime of his franchise be the Xfactor number one.
What can compete with his grooming of the buying public for that individual song. No mothers collection of gifts for Christmas can be complete without that daft wee *FOUR QUID* single. I heard it shifted over half a million copies, not bad dosh for old Cowell.
I've no objection to people making money, far from it. But in 20 years are we're looking at Christmas compilation CD's or TOTP2 style look backs at Christmas....there'll be a long run of wannabes who's only real hit came at this time of year.
Bah humbug n all that.

Friday 22 December 2006

Anyone else an old sentimentalist? [shedir]

We all have skeletons, usually residing under our blubber, mine is I love rocky movies. A throwback to when as an angry youth I boxed, not to any 'level' as such but the training and sparring made me very very happy.
Rocky Balboa (6 by any other name).
Watched it tonight, got to say I really enjoyed it. As usual the fight is up there with the rest of it. But I'm what 24-25 years on from watching Rocky for the first time and that tune still gets to me.
It's not going to convert anyone to enjoying that style of movie and it plays very similarly to the rest of the series. But if you liked that stuff, it's more than worth a go its compulsary.
"Don't let the bastards grind you down" - even if it makes you punchy is the movies creed I guess.
Worryingly I've been eyeing up the boxing class at the uni gym, but doubt I'm as mobile as their heavy bag.


Vroom! [Spiny]

Congratulations ('grats' in Wowish) to teh Lurker for passing his driving test!!!!
Just be prepared for how frustrating driving can be:

Wednesday 20 December 2006

Ubi still suck [Pod]

R6:vegas hit the shelves on friday and after a quick play on warez in Single and lan play I went out and bought it. The single player is great, clever AI, beautiful visuals (You need a beast of a machine tho) and tense dogfights. Everything a R6 game needs. The game is a port of a console title through and through and while thats good in some areas (the planning phase is gone) its unfortunatly where it lets itself down. There's just so much that is broken its untrue.
Lets start with the general lack of any video options. Pc games always have tons of options and lets face it, with the vast diversity of the pc its needed. Well Ubi don't think so, no widescreen modes, no options to turn off most of the fancy effects, not even support for Shader model 2. That basically means that if you have a card that is less than a 6800 then you are screwed. Budget 7series also apparently run the game at sub 10fps so you're even more limited. Enough about that tho, most people in EED probably have a 6800 or better anyway so lets move on.
Where it falls down the most is the multiplayer side. Its just not finished at all and its where the game looks most like a console port. Gone are all the usual options you'd expect of a pc game. No password option, no option to specify a server name (just uses your account name). You can specify that you only want to allow your friends to join, that kinda gets round the no password issue but wait for it! Theres no friend list! (Obviously because the x360 has a dedicated friends list attached to your live account and no ones actually bothered to remove the option in the menus) Thats really fucking lame, you have to wonder if ubi fired all the work experience people that developed RavenShields multiplayer side (see one of our other blogs) and then hired some french hobos instead. Scratch that, they'd probably be too qualified to work for ubi. Anyway, I've not even touched on the fact that I and numerous others can't even get into the multiplayer setup screen (something I fixed by moving to wired over wireless but thats not worked for others), the game crashes alot (so far not for me but the forums are full of complaints), your characters equipment/armour/face/colours aren't used in multiplayer co-op so its pointless to set them up.
Well I think you're getting the point, theres more thats wrong with it that's not quite so bad. No key bindings for alot of stuff instead theres gay selection menus (console port issue again), the cover system allows you to see round walls in multiplayer making deathmatch/team games far to defensive and the completely pointless laser sight given that you always have crosshairs anyway. Ubi are wankers, its clear they've rushed this out for xmas and that its half finished and its a big shame because its actually a great game. I'd still recommend it with a warning of caution. A friend and I had a right laugh last night playing T-hunt and we're set to play again tonight. Its just frustrating knowing how good it would have been if someone other than the slack french **** had coded it. Roll on the EA buyout I say, they might be evil too but they're defo the better of two evils.

Tuesday 19 December 2006

The Trouble With Atheism [DrDave]

Last night, Channel 4 aired journalist Rod Liddle's documentary criticising atheism. Presumably, this programme was made partly to cash in on the success of Richard Dawkins's God Delusion, but also as a balance to last year's Root Of All Evil documentary, also by Dawkins. You can watch it here:
Part 1Part 2
Unsurprisingly, I found the programme to be annoying, though not without merit. I'll discuss its good points in a minute, but first it's worth covering where I feel it went wrong.
For a start, it was transparently cut to cast "atheists" in a bad light. I almost punched the screen when Dawkins was cut off mid-sentence just after suggesting that Marxist communism might naturally rise to fill the void left by a departing religion. Well, I suppose this is the nature of TV journalism. The name of the documentary isn't, after all, "The Potential Problems With Atheism Investigated With Fair And Unbiased Reporting". Liddle has an agenda, and he's not alone in using his art to support that.
Second, his choice of scientific experts was a touch suspect. I was tickled by the physicist who drew the sacred "pyramid of complexity" on a black board before comprehensively dismissing multi-verse theory and implying that the notion of a designer was far more likely. I'd like to see his working for that calculation! Similarly, Darwin's evolution by natural selection was cast in a far weaker light than it deserves. Liddle ominously asks the question "how long will it be before Darwin is comprehensively rewritten?". "It could be rather rapidly", is the triumphant reply - from the scientist who thinks that punctuationism is a new and threatening idea. Worst of all, was the implication that change, or "paradigm shift", is something that scientists don't welcome.
This is where Liddle's main thesis runs into major difficulty. He relies far too much on the old stick that atheism/science (one and the same in this treatment) is a religion just as much as Christianity is. I'm tired of this viewpoint, it is old and flawed. Yes, science is eventually reducible to axioms, and yes scientists have to accept these on faith, and yes we are forced to take research on trust because the universe is simply too vast for every researcher to start from scratch. But there the similarity ends - no matter how many flawed parallels you draw between Fermilab and temples, Dawkins and gurus, the scientific method and religious doctrine, you simply cannot get away from the fact that science is essentially mutable and invites questioning. Nothing is sacred, neither theory nor personality. You have an alternative to Darwinism? Brilliant, suggest it, present your evidence and if it fits the observations better you win yourself a Nobel prize.
All of these are fairly predictable criticisms for a documentary on this subject. However, I do come away with the sense that Liddle, no matter how loathsome he might be, has a rather good point.
"New atheism" seems to be the popular fad at the moment both in terms of a position to adopt and a movement to criticise, largely thanks to Dawkins. Really though, there's nothing "new" about it, other than a new found vocal confidence. It is still an absence of belief in a supernatural creator. As I've argued before, this is not the same as a belief in no creator. God is not the default position that will rise to fill the void the moment atheists stop believing, it is merely a hypothesis that has no compelling evidence.
Ultimately, in a pure sense, the only honest position to take is that of agnosticism. You simply cannot rule out a creator and anyone who claims they can is just plain wrong. Agnosticism, however, implies more theism than most rationalists can bear, so the name "atheist" is adopted by convention. "Agnostic-atheist" is a better way of describing the true rationalist view though: a God may exist, but I see no evidence for it and will live my life as though it didn't. This is the position we, as rationalists, should be adopting - open-minded but honest.
Liddle's documentary does not attack this way of thinking though. Liddle goes for the pure atheists, and he is perfectly correct to do so. In this context, his painting of atheism as a religion is entirely justified. The fashionable atheist that spouts unjustified hatred and intolerance towards religion is just as contemptible as a lorry load of Ted Haggards. And just as wrong.
It should be noted that I'm not suggesting a return to the bad old days of meekly kowtowing to religious idiocies. One of the most important accomplishments of Dawkins, Harris and Dennet is that they've overturned the taboo of criticising theist thinking. But we need to be very careful to ensure that the rationalism we defend is actually being deployed correctly. Saying "there is no God" is an indefensible position and equally as absurd as saying "there is a God".
Similarly, evoking morality to damn religion is asking for trouble. How can we ever reverse the damage caused by Stalin and Mao to the rationalist cause? I've long thought that the morality issue is a red herring for both sides. Theists claim that religion provides a moral code to live by - but they can't explain why atheists and different-flavour-theists have just as good morality. While atheists claim that religion causes evil, but can't explain why the two great experiments in removing religion have resulted in countless millions of deaths.
Ultimately, the cause of rationalism is sound only as long as we remain, forgive the pun, rational. Demanding evidence for bold claims is not at all unreasonable, nor is defending the right of children to approach the world with a questioning mind. We shouldn't be trying to make atheists, we should be trying to make thinkers. We shouldn't condemn those who reach theism by rational means, while equally we should condemn those who preach atheism with irrational claims.
To sum up Liddle's documentary, I was tempted to write that it is easy to prove a point by picking extreme examples - the atheist nutjob crying no-Gods outside the church or the frankly frothing Peter Atkins spring to mind. But then I realised, Liddle's work is guilty of exactly the same tricks as Dawkins' Root Of All Evil. So what right have rationalists got to criticise one and not the other?

BBC and the Ipswich Killer [Lurks]

In the closing weeks of 2006, one of the stories which you'd doubtless been following is the Ipswich serial killer, a (presumed) man who has notched up five murdered woman in an unusually short period. In itself this is tragic development but the issue I'm forced to comment on is the media's coverage of developments and in particular, the BBC.
Tom Stephens is a man in the locality of the murders and who knew and engaged the services of all five dead prostitutes. He hasn't made much of an effort to hide, far be it he's a prime suspect due to his aquaintance with all of the murder victims. I can only speculate that in an effort to be up front and clear his name, that is why he gave the BBC permission to release his name before he was charged for any crime.
He also engaged in an interview which was recorded with the verbal understanding of the BBC to be a background information interview and explictely not for broadcast. The BBC decided that since the man's name came out into the public (more on that later), that it would be in the public's interest to broadcast the interview expressly against his wishes. They did so on the televised news with an emboldend 'BBC EXCLUSIVE' flash across the screen.
Today I find the BBC editors defending their decision on the BBC news editors blog. What is most remarkable is that in the 30-odd comments found on that page, not a single one is buying the BBC's line that this was done in the public's interest.
What is further puzzling to me is that the BBC itself was held in at least one newspaper (Chicago Tribune I believe) as the source concerning releasing Tom Stephen's details. Since they had interviewed him, that doesn't seem inplausible although many newspapers merely claimed 'sources' when it came to outting the man and printing full details including his MySpace web site.
Let's be clear, no newspaper or media outlet should have released his details much less a full interview such as the BBC has. This vacuous claims of being in the public interest don't carry weight with me, the police or any other third party of note in this country. The media have a continued history of acting incredibly irresponsibly and have cost the tax payer large sums in the past due to court cases being abandonned due to the inability to deliver a fair trial free of media influence.
So while the BBC ineptly flounders to justify this action, Suffolk Police are taking no chances and have actually written to the editors of a number of newspapers specifically warning them not to publish the details of a second man arrested in course of the investigation so far.
I think Tom Stephens demonstrated shocking naivety by communicating with any member of the press before seeking legal advice. Nevertheless, the media know full well that their coverage can seriously detriment the feasibility of a fair trial and they firmly ignore this when they act in this way. They have a responsbility to behave correctly and that is especially true of the BBC who we rightly hold to a higher standard than the horrendously politically biased red-top trash. In the past, and indeed this time around also, most of them just point to eachother and say "well they released this information first" as some sort of justification. That's just not good enough and clearly if that's the way this stuff continues in future, that'll be how it always is. A little unwritten rule just to collaborate on such leaks and the media covers it's collective arse.
Enough is enough. It's about time some contempt of court proceedings were issued to the entire blasted lot of these editors and thereby demonstrated once and for all that it is justice which takes precidence here and not some lofty concept of the public interest. Their so-called 'public interest' will not save the lives of further women by apprehending the murderer, only their own ratings. Time to get tough and the BBC would be a damn good place to start.

Wednesday 6 December 2006

fun n frolicks in digital age [shedir]

So. I don't have sky sports extra, so can't see my beloved Celtic tonight. Maybe as well as we got fucked by a shitheap of a team from Denmark, but are through to next stages of the champions league.
Wifeys works xmas doo tonight, retail eh no sense of the calendar, so I had kids to deal with and no pub for game option open.
I sign up through eufa's webby and get the game from sky, the princely sum of £5 is visa'd (for only the second half, damned scouts for eldest night).
By fuck the hassle I had getting it to work. WMP 10 said my DRM was knackered, so install WMP11. WMP 11 no workee in FF 1.5. Revert to IE 6, WMP 11 decides to play in IE6 but the colours are shite. I've noticed that since I got the new monitor tho, vid playback is too red tinged (full screen. Will need to look at it.
Blog is really all this stuff should just be EASIER. I was more than happy to pay for this stuff, but I lost out on 15-20 minutes of the game trying to get all the windows crap too work.
At one point I thought about firing up the xbox and seeing if it's web browser would handle it. Other than this is mainly a bleat. BLEAT!
Severly tempted to use some of the freebie alternatives, but it is the size of a postage stamp and about 5 mintues delayed. We're through anyway, but it was just a faff I coulda done without.

Monday 27 November 2006

Browser wars - your views [Lurks]

Short and sweet, what are you using and why? I was pretty happy with Firefox 1.5 really. It's not noticably as fast as IE but it does the job. Tabbed browsing and some security niggling feelings were why I used it over IE but I'm not a browser zealot. So now we've got something unprecidented, a couple of major revisions to the browsers we most likely use. So what do you used and why.
For me, when FF 2.0 came out I foolishly upgraded off the bat, having seen how long it was in beta I thought it'd be fine. It's not fine. It randomly doesn't start up and when it does this, even killing the dead exes from the task manager doesn't always coax it to start up. It locks up. It uses 100% CPU time, particularly on flash and PDFs. There's stuff I do like. Well, I like the form spell checker. To be honest, that's probably about it but otherwise the stability issues make it more or less useless.
So, IE7 then? The tabs are nice. I like the little blank one you click on. I like opening stuff in a new tab inserts it next to the parent tab. I love the speed of it and it's been rock solid for me. There's only two things I don't like, one is that when I do the toolbar folder bookmarks folders type thing, there's a bit of a fade/delay when hitting them which isn't as quick as FF. I'm also not happy about the fact that when I copy text from HTML tags in a form, IE7 randomly decides what character to start copying from and wont let me begin with < exactly, requirign me to edit every paste by hand. What's that about? Also, I've decided I quite like an in-form spellcheck as per FF although I'd like it with an English dictionary as well.
My options are to try get my bookmarks from FF into IE7 and then bin FF so I stop firing up the damn thing. Or to somehow downgrade to FF 1.5. I think on balance I'd prefer to use IE7 for the speed and because, I assume, FF 1.5 wont be supported forver. I bet I can find a little add-on to in-form spell checking with IE7 also and it's definately useful that those pesky ActiveX controls actually just work in your regular browser rather than having to dig out IE just for those.
So anyway, what about you chaps?

Sunday 26 November 2006

Who killed Litvinenko? [Lurks]

I think we've all been watching the remarkable developments concerning the poisoning of ex-ruskie-spook Alexander Litvinenko. I thought it might be useful to step back and take a quick overview of this chap, some recent history, and see if I can't fathom out of it a most likely scenario for who was responsible.
A good place to start here is with Boris Berezovsky who is widely described as Russia's first billionaire. This chap first surfaced as a Russian business man under perestroika. Under Yeltzin's presidency, he started building his empire with some shading dealings with state car manufacturer AutoVAZ. I'm no expert but near as I can tell as Russia threw off the mantle of communism, pretty much all of the "emerging oligarchs made their fortunes in the shady lawless space between a government defining capitalist concepts for the first time and the rise of organised crime.
Berezovsky had a bunch of connections to Chechnya and like any other Russian oligarch, got to where he was by supporting the current presidential regime (he was very tight with Yeltzin and having aquired numerous media interest, helped his cause considerably) in exchange for being the recipient of all sorts of deals in the emerging market. Berezovsky is, today, quite dimly viewed by Russians as an oligarch that basically defrauded the Russian state in those early years. Interestingly in later years Berezovsky supported Putin's presidency but was vehemently against war in Chechnya.
I'm having a headache straightening that out form the main meat that probably lead up to current events, but let's just put it down to me not understanding the Machiavellian politics of Russian business, crime and government. See, back in 1998 good old ex-KGB Vladimir Putin was head of the FSB, the reformed Russian secret police/security organisation. This is when FSB Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Litvinenko popped up on the public radar for the first time by informing Berezovsky and some figures within the Yeltzin administration of a plot to assassinate Berezovsky.
This launched an official investigation and meanwhile Berezovsky wrote an open letter to Putin, head of the FSB as you'll recall, in the Russian newspapers claiming that various members of the FSB were engaged in all sorts of illegal activities including kidnapping and extortion and that further more these activities had a political component. What he basically said was the old guard KGB chaps are up to their old tricks. Apparently in support of this, a new conference was held with ex FSB members claiming they had been ordered to kill Berezovsky. Putin replied to the open-letter saying that he doesn't want to play political games with the agency but they will cooperate fully with the military prosecutors investigating the allegations.
What's kind of being missed by the obituaries on Litvinenko lately is the fact that he was well known to be 'close' to Berezovsky, which I find as a somewhat strange position for an anti organised crime investigations officers to be in. That does make it rather unlikely he'd be asked to assassinate Berezovsky, as some Russian media pointed out (citing FSB sources) at the time. Conversely Litvinenko claimed that after he refused to whack Berezovsky, he was threatened by other elements for having protected "a Jew who has robbed half the country."
It's really not clear what was going on but some kind of internal power struggle within the FSB seems quite likely. You might have written it off as a political game from the Berezovsky camp (with Litvinenko as an insider) were it not for the group of former FSB officers coming out of the dark and supporting the accusations.
Remarkably, the result of investigation was purely to close down the anti organised crime section of the FSB and, despite the fact that Putin resided as head over the organisation during this scandalous time, campaigned in 2000 for the Presidency (supported by Berezovsky!) and won. Russia is a very strange place.
That said, Berezovsky pushed it a bit far with his opposition to events in Chechnya and Putin initiated investigations into his business practices. Fearing arrest, and all that entails in Russia, he fled and has been a resident of the UK ever since. Back onto our main subject, Alexander Litvinenko was arrested for abusing his office and spent 9 months incarcerated before finally being let go without charge.
Rather than leaving it there he continued to make a nuisance of himself to the Putin regime by publishing a book that the FSB was responsible for the residential block bombing in 1999 that killed 300 people, blamed on the Chechens and generally regarded as swinging public opinion into supporting the war in Chechnya. This strikes me as the work of either a very brave or very stupid man. At some point, however, he claims he was persecuted (and other sources claim another FSB corruption case was being prepared against him) and so he fled to the UK successfully seeking asylum. The BBC claims in their obituary that he acted like a pursued spy ever since.
Forgive me for the length of the background, clearly more recent events are rather better known. We know, for example that another critical of Chechnya policy and the Putin regime in general, journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in the lift of her apartment. What may be less well known is that she spoke to Litvinenko in London shortly after she was poison. Litvinenko claimed subsequently to be investigating the murder of Politkovskaya although her son said he knew nothing about this.
Quite tellingly, Litvinenko told a Chechen web site that the documents he received from a contact on the 1st of November contained information about FSB involvement in the killing of Politkovskaya. Which is interesting. In fact on the day it's thought that he was poisoned, Litvinenko met two people. Firstly Andrei Lugovoy and another unnamed Russian at the xxx and then, arranged hastily, apparently, the Italian Professor Mario Scaramella.
Andrew Lugovoy was a former KGB officer and FSB colleague of Litvinenko who now is a security employee of a Russian television station (formerly owned by Berezovsky, interestingly). I can find no details about what that meeting was for but lunch, at the Sushi bar, was accordingly to Litvinenko to discuss the Politkovskaya murder. Perhaps even more intriguing is the fact that Scaramella said, having returned to Rome, that he had traveled to meet Litvinenko to discuss an e-mail he received from a source naming the killers of Politkovskaya and discussing his and Litvinenko's appearance on a hit-list.
This is quite remarkable but check it Litvinenko's version of events:

"I ordered lunch but he ate nothing. He appeared to be very nervous. He handed me a four-page document which he said he wanted me to read right away. It contained a list of names of people, including FSB officers, who were purported to be connected with the journalist’s murder."
"The document was an e-mail but it was not an official document. I couldn’t understand why he had to come all the way to London to give it to me. He could have e-mailed it to me."

That's a good point. Why would you come to London to give someone an email print out? This strikes me as remarkable smoking-gun type material to me. If any agency wanted to whack Litvinenko, they first have to track him down and the BBC would have us believe he didn't make that easy. What better way to entice Litvinenko to a meeting than to use a honey pot subject that he would find too juicy to pass up such as FSB involvement in the Politkovskaya murder.
You've got to take a step back though. It's all a little too obvious. Anyone could see how doing something like this would end up providing a horrendous anti-Russia platform and one which, as you can see, has been exploited to the full. Incidentally Berezovsky is thought to have been footing the $10,000 a day PR bill and I think some over-eagerness in that department is the reason for the rapid-fire erroneous reports of thalium, not thalium, coctail of drugs no wait, radioactive thalium before ending up with a diagnosis. What we've got here is PR bunnies pressing medical professionals as they tick of things it might be and the media, ever hungry for news, has been publishing the speculation as it goes on.
The overwhelming scenario would seem to support an FSB-based plot, the only question is whether you believe that the Putin regime could make a miscalculation on this scale. I would urge you to look back at the history. Putin is a former member of the KGB, former head of the FSB when it was torn apart by the most damaging scandal imaginable and this is a man which has repeatedly demonstrated his hand in dealing with foreign PR problems in the form of businessmen by instructing enforcement agencies to investigate said individuals. Then, finally, there's Politkovskaya. A failed poisoning and the brutal murder. Does anyone, really, doubt that was the hand of Putin?
If you believe, as the late Litvinenko would have us believe, that the FSB would bomb a block of flats in order to blame it on Chechens and seal support for his aggressive policy, then really this is hardly a moral stretch for a man capable of such things? One thing is very clear, you don't kill a man in this way via a highly elaborate slow-killing way like this, a way that can never be mistaken for the work of common thugs, unless you're sending a message.
Who might that message be for? If I was forced to speculate, I'd say Berezovsky. Litvinenko was his pet project from the start and he continued to be so, exploited as an anti Russia PR opportunity, as Litvinenko lay on his death bed. He paid Litvinenko's keep in London and co-authored an anti-FSB book and they clearly share the same sort of views when it comes to opposing Russia's Chechnya policy. Berezovsky might be too big a fish to openly try to whack, particularly since it had a previous plot exposed.
So if you can't get rid of Berezovsky, what about striking at his pet project FSB whistle-blower in a public unmistakably state-sponsored way such as this? It has a ring of plausibility for me, requiring you only to ignore the remarkable PR own goal and believing that Russia would have the sheer chutzpah to strike at a dissident on British soil. I'd put it to you that Russia is probably quite pissed off with our little collection of former state-raping oligarchs and anti-Putin activists so such a message might not be aimed at Berezovsky exclusively. I would expect it has a few former Russian nationals feeling a little hot under the collar so it may have had it's desired effect.
On the other hand, I find another telling comment from former KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin who himself has fled the Russia and acts as a security consultant. His take is that Russian secret services have been given 'cart blanche' instructions allowing them to fight terrorism abroad through recent legal changes. Oleg says that the special units to fight terrorism abroad are tied up in an FSB 'caste' which hate traitors and hence decided to shut Litvinenko up.
This does, in many ways, make more sense. Russia incensed by terrorist atrocities has basically given their security forces a free reign and given the, ah, previous proclivities of their staff, this could be seen as a strategic move to erode support for the Chechen cause. Suitably devolved from the political process, such factions may not quite have the political comprehension to think this one through adequately.
For all Putin's faults I don't think the man is really stupid enough to go ahead and sign off on this sort of thing by his own hand. However as a former old-school KGB and FSB man himself, he'll understand only too well that oft-quoted concept of plausible deniability. Use the public's outrage (or manufacture it, if you're feeling particular sinister) to bring in the laws allowing the security forces to act as they will with an appropriate insulating chain of command which absolves you of specifically micro managing their efforts. This is the scenario that ultimately is where I'm placing my chips of likelihood.
Putin may not have signed the order but you can be damn sure he's not mourning the death of Alexander Litvinenko and is reasonably content that this is unlikely to come back and bite him on the ass longer term.

Tuesday 21 November 2006

Is WoW bad for your life? [Lurks]

That might sound like a bit of an obviously loaded question but there's more to it than that. Our guild has, over the last year, had thee different WoW-playing couples crash and burn out of the guild in a fashion which is rather more eventful, verging on spectacular, than anything like we normally see. Having seen three of them now, I think we have to look at this being a pattern and also being a WoW husband and wife team in this household, are there any lessons to be learned for me or is it just a case of WoW being a symptom of something being wrong in the first place, rather than the cause?
In each of the cases the central issue is basically that WoW-hubby has expressed a pretty negative attitude while raiding. The key symptom is moaning or bleating as we like to call it in EED and which has, like several other terms, been adopted with aplomb by the guild we spawned. WoW-hubby is generally down on everything. Complains about loot, complains about others and really doesn't appear to be having a very good time of it at all.
The most famous incident was a good year ago when one Swedish couple, both of whome were mages, had a spectacular falling out in a molten core raid. WoW-wife, in this scenario, did the unspeakable thing of bidding on an item that WoW-hubby wanted. He went proper mental and apparently just walked away from his PC and left the house for fear of actually resorting to violence on his wife. Driven by this guys insatiable selfish desire for loot, and combined with their failure to really socialise or genuinely desire the company of other guildies, they eventually took off another guild who at the time was raiding content at a higher level than us. We felt well and truly betrayed since they'd been with us for ages and it was a basic statement that the loot was more important than our friendship. This isn't something you normally see, certainly it's rare for our guild.
WoW couple number two, was all together more subtle. Again a pretty whiney negative WoW-hubby and rather like the first couple, this was known to be causing considerable friction within the household. In both cases WoW-wives were pretty unhappy at the asshat-like behavior of WoW-hubby and this seemed to place some sort of additional strain on the relationship. The second couple had WoW-wife take off from the guild largely because she didn't want to be in the same guild as her man. After that happened, WoW-hubby went sort of silent, didn't sign to any raids and then finally left without a word. Bizarrely they both ended up in the same low level guild together so we've nothing more to report on that. In this case WoW-wife appeared to enjoy social interaction in the game with others, while WoW-hubby absolutely did not.
And finally the most recent case. Yet again another case of a hugely negative WoW-hubby in raids. General complaining about everything, lack of socialisation, refusal to engage in jokes with others, quick to take offense and all that sort of stuff. Again, as in all three couples, WoW-wife got on with others and so when she announced that she wasn't having a good time in raids and was leaving the guild, we were a little shocked and disappointed as opposed to the first two couples that we were, quite frankly, fairly nonplussed about. Unfortunately it's a little difficult to peer into this relationship and know what's going on as to why they wanted to leave the guild, since WoW-wife sort of obfuscates the issue with another, seemingly trivial, grievance.
What we did know however was that all was not well in the home and they were not getting on very well. WoW-wife was also, as in the other two cases, pretty unhappy with the way WoW-hubby behaved in game. This, I think, is what we can take away from all three cases as the common theme. So the question we come out of this is, was WoW the cause or was it merely the symptom of other problems?
I don't know if my view is controversial but I kind of believe that men and women get on in a relationship long term, only so long as they have a decent amout of breathing space each. My relationship is very different from that I see with other couples. We pretty much never argue and even though we both work from home and are more or less in eachother's company all of the time, we get on fine. However I really do need to do my own stuff. However when I gave the wife a copy of WoW and upgraded her PC for Christmas, I didn't really think she'd pick it up and run with it. In fact now days, she plays more than I do!
However when usual couples are in close proximity for protracted periods, it seems to me they don't tend to get on that well. Men are naturally competitive and aggressive and I think what we've basically seen is simply three struggling relationships where the couples are in closer proximity, for several hours a night several times a week. If they're not getting on, we're going to see it. What I can't answer is, would they get on better if they weren't both playing WoW together?
Does this mean all WoW relationships are doomed to failure? Hell no, I'm not remotely falling out with my wife. She doesn't quite raid along side me, she's rather more casual and this being her first computer game ever, she's unlikely to be some uber end-game raider really. That also seems to be the case with a Norwegian couple in game too. Maybe in relationships where both are becoming addicted to WoW at the high end, it's some kind of transference. Focusing on WoW rather than deal with their relationship problems? I'm convinced there's an element of truth in that because in all three cases mentioned here, I've definitely got the sense that the latest tension isn't really about the things they complain about, eg loot, arguments etc, but really it's easier to get annoyed at the game than to turn to the person next to you and sort out your relationship.
Do I think WoW is good or bad for couples, is there some detrimental effect of having both play a game like WoW? On balance the evidence based on what we've seen would have to suggest there is but I don't feel that's the case in our house. I'm actually pretty happy to have something in common like this to talk about with my wife, if I didn't have this I think we'd not have that much to discuss really since we both like very different man/woman type stuff. I think it's down to the people.
In terms of personal development, I think the game has been brilliant for me and I've enjoyed it intensely. I've met countless new folks from around Europe, talk to them nightly on teamspeak. As one of the guild leaders I've had to basically u-turn my natural bad attitude concerning others and learn patience and diplomacy. I'm struggling to think of just about anything else in the world that could have done that for me.
So in the final analysis, I think WoW or indeed any other MMO type scenario, ends up being a basic reflection of your life outside of the game. People who are generally content in their own lives, tend to be generally content in game and people who are missing something, or unhappy with their lives or others around them, tend to reflect that in the game too. I don't think the game has the power to change your level of happiness over all, but I think it can hold a mirror up to yourself and actually allow you to make some changes if you have the strength to do so.

Monday 20 November 2006

Casino Royale may be the best Bond film ever [Beej]

Retrospectively when you look back over the Broz era - starts on a high, plummets to a low - you can see there's a theme of flashy gadgets, gleaming hair, and cheesy one-liners. He's good... but only compared to the last guy. GoldenEye was a kickstart for the 90s, but ten years on and the series already needs another kickstart already? Broz had become the new Roger Moore before our very eyes, contracted from his initial and only Bondian success through a talent-free meatgrinder of forgettable sequels like TND, TWINE and then ice-surfing DaD. Oh the horror, and I suppose, oh the waste.
Late 2006, enter the Blonde Bond and Casino Royale.
They say raw, they say back to the books (yawn), they say gritty (sigh). And, well, like many Brits I've seen the film on opening weekend in a packed Kino and you know what - they're right. You wouldn't fucking believe it, but this is a Bond film with a down-to-earth plot, strong characters, and edge-of-your-seat fights where Bond is being punched... and punched again... and golly, he's bleeding and cut and he's in a bit of a state. C'mon James, you can do it lad.
Unguiltily washing away ten years of Broz, Casino Royale fixes the broken Bond legacy. A line has been drawn under the 90s, and then also the 80s, and most of the 70s too. The whole premise of the film is that it pretends that the shit stuff never happened. You the viewer are not constantly drawing comparisons to the last film. Or the Scottish guy. Or the last car. Or even Halle Berry, or whatever floats your boat. This makes concrete the new film almost as a stand-alone, almost as if... it might be the first Bond ever made.
This is more than about finding a good actor for the lead character, and Daniel Craig appears to be a pretty damn determined, talented, craggy-looking actor who gives Bond a real edge, a ruthlessness and also an independence that he has been sorely lacking. Blonde Bond spends the movie figuring things out. Following people. Reporting to M, and scrapping with dangerous people. Sure, there's an Aston and there's a PPK, but they're second fiddle to Bond and absolutely not the other way around. The whole movie is woven with plot, pace, and character development that is on a par with a 'normal film at the cinema'. It is in so many ways not a Bond film.
It is not a perfect film by any means. You will mostly cringe at the product placement (too numerous to list, but for your post-movie agreement: £15m GBP buys the Ford Motor Company a 20 second advertlet; buy a Sony Vaio because it is endorsed by James Bond; Omega eye-rollingly gets namedropped over its famous competitor; oh and drink Smirnoff and Heineken, which spookily you may notice only subconsciously from prominent placement). It is slightly too long, but I wouldn't cut the important poker game, personally I'd look at a trim from all three reels of the movie, including the blood-pumping freejumping chase and also the airport shennanigans that you'll have seen in the trailer. Some might also say that Bond doesn't actually have much script, but that's because he's too busy punching people and making them bleed.
It is a little ironic to compare this film to its predecessors, when it is deliberately washing away so much that has come before it. I felt sorry for Brosnan after watching this because there's this realisation of oh my God I've been hoodwinked because I don't remember any of Brosnan's efforts at all, the poor man.
Casino Royale is emotional, dramatic and violent, and this makes it stronger and better than GoldenEye. Is it better than Dr.No? I think that question might depend on how you like your Bond girls.

Friday 17 November 2006

Does Britain need nukes? [Lurks]

It's interesting to see that one of the issues Blair appears to want to tackle in the last stages of his leadership is the debate on the replacement of replacement the British Nuclear deterrent. With the withdrawal of the last free-fall WE177 nukes (ancient 'small' 10kt nukes) from service in 1998, the remaining British nuclear deterrent consists of four Vanguard-class SSBN submarines. Each carries up to 16 Trident II D5 ballistic missiles which carry an American MIRV delivery system with an eight warhead capacity. However it's thought that they'd generally be loaded with three warheads each on 10, 12 or 14 of the Tridents with the remaining carrying a single warhead for an extended reach single-strike capability which provides a greater range, up to about 7,500km.
The Trident system is designed to launch W76 and W88 warheads, the latter being the only really 'modern' nuke with better accuracy, fusing and a 475kt yield. However British warheads are based on the older W76 units with around 100kt yield. The yanks have, however, been doing quite a lot of work in improving the lower-yield W76 and that's probably of interest to our military. The thing is about nukes, you need to periodically rebuild them because of decay, issues with the trigger sources and that sort of thing. So it's possible to tinker with them during that phase. No one appears to believe that the UK would consider replacing W76 with W88.
Also, in total it's held that the British warhead stockpile is around about 200 warheads. There are enough Trident II D5 missiles to fully load about three boats but then since only one SSBN is on patrol at any one time, that's considerably redundancy. In times of heightened alert, it's expected two SSBNs would be on patrol and, surprisingly, the patrols are coordinated with the French, not the Americans. One assumes that's to ensure a reasonable Western European coverage of potential launch sites and target coverage.
So having detailed what we have now, what's the analysis on the capability and do we need to maintain it or scrap it? In terms of capability, it's 'plenty' enough really. It's not cold war craziness but it's enough capability to categorically eradicate most significant military and civilian targets in a medium sized country which is, basically, all the deterrent you should reasonably need.
Maybe it's useful to compare what we have with France. It's actually quite similar, they also have four SSBNs deployed with shorter-range ballistic missiles but also with MIRV capability based on French-designed TN75 100kt warheads. They are thought to have slightly more of them, between 250-300 operational warheads. France also has something Britain does not, an active bomber-based nuclear force based on 300kt yield French TN81 warheads, of which they have about 60 operational. Perhaps more importantly than all of that, France has already been where we are now in deciding the future of their nuclear deterrent. They have broad support for the continuation of the program and it remains funded (around 10% of their defense budget) and even has a component for the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons. They actually tested a nuclear weapon as recently as 1996.
The British people, conversely, aren't in such broad support of a nuclear deterrent when polled, however retaining some form of nuclear deterrent still has the lead. Until such time as the cost of the necessary maintenance and replacement of the Trident system is mentioned, around £25 billion, at which point some polls show an opposition to the idea. That said, this is a little like leading the witness, if you put those sort of numbers in front of the man on the street and say emotive things (like the Guardian quotes) that it's the equivalent of building 1,000 schools, then it's little wonder you get that kind of result.
It's a bit of a moot point because the Convervatives widely favor a commitment to the nuclear deterrent and with their renewed fortunes, any move to renew the program (supported, after all, by Gordon Brown before backtracking a bit and saying 'let's discuss it) will lightly meet with a solid majority in the house and be passed.
Where do I stand? I guess I'm for retaining an equivalent-level nuclear deterrent as we do today although I think we should have some additional air-based delivery systems because that's a closer fit to any remotely conceivably threat we might face in the short and medium terms. It's hard to really see a need for nuclear weapons today but that's the thing about war, rarely do countries expect to see it coming but when and if it does, you'll be wishing you had a little something up your sleeve. That said, nuclear weapons aren't even really about that, they're about the deterrent. I'm having a hard time seeing a country in the world which we might want to use nuclear weapons against.
That said, the world is a pretty scary place and things are going to get more interesting when the scrabble for the remaining resources kicks off. And given, at this stage, we're purely talking about just giving a broad thumbs up to a system that needs replacing by 2020, I think it would be short sighted to consign the British nuclear deterrent to the dustbin just yet. Let's face it, rogue states will probably end up with nukes in the next 25 years and I think we can all sleep a little safer at night knowing that they know any conceivable use of them against us would be a somewhat foolish thing to do.
That does little to protect us from loony fringe extremist groups who will, let's be honest, will be the first people who might reasonably obtain nuclear weapons with the will to use them against us. I think this serves to underline the importance of not allowing rogue states who, let's face it, wont be trying that hard to keep their nuclear toys out of the hands of said loony fringe extremists, going on their current policies and rhetoric.
Perhaps the solution is to make it abundantly clear that the use of any nuclear weapon manufactured by said rogue state against us will be met with a retaliation on the makers of said weaponry. Would that make them think twice? So how about it Ahmadinejad? No, I expect not. Perhaps Persia is destined to attain a distinctively glassy sheen to it within the next 50 years.

Thursday 16 November 2006

Blizzard Bans - could it be you? [Lurks]

It seems that a bunch of people have been banned from World of Warcraft today due to some new detection mechanism from Blizzard for finding of 'bots' or basically stuff which automatically farms things to make gold while unattended. In general our attitude to that is good! but while one newer guild member of ours recounts the story of being banned, another also tells a story about having been banned a long time ago. No decent reason given, just a late terse reply that no action will be undertaken to renew the account.
Now, some caveats. I suspect that Blizzard aren't complete morons and that this latest chap has been doing something which warranted getting banned. He'd certainly not admit it to us, given the guild's dim view on this sort of thing. However the longer term member I trust implicitly since there's no real reason for him not to fess up about the whole thing.
Basically Blizzard spawn a task that looks for 'third party programs' that interfere with the operation of WoW. I don't know any real details having not looked into it and simply trusting that not being inclined to do this sort of thing, I'd be pretty safe. However there's stories of people getting banned for running WoW under WINE on Linux and other stuff too.
So the question is here, is there a chance that they could just decide that some application we're running - I don't know Netlimiter, some clipboard tool or something like that - is a third party application and then just ban us. And then wont tell you why, other than you've been caught doing something against T&Cs and refusing to talk further or reinstate your account. Is this a possibility?
I think I'd like to know because as an officer in a large end-game raiding guild, wearing equipment which I've spent months accruing, if they did that I'd just jack in the game and vow not to give them another penny. Course I'm not saying they'd care, they have millions of subscribers and I'm sure they've got it all worked out. They need to take action against these people and the odd banned innocent accounts, well, if they were a real WoW nutter they'd probably just start again?
However we have a guild of over one hundred accounts. I think we have some kind of right to know how we'll be treated. I want to know that if I'm putting all this time and effort in the game, and most importantly helping to organise it for many many others too, that I'd have some kind of protection against them falsely deciding to ban my account. I bought some gold awhile back, is that banworthy? I run the guild raid bank and have 8000G in it, does that look like I'm a farmer and I'm selling gold? You tell me.
What I think they ought to do is put up a public list of the servers, names of accounts etc of banned folks and tell everyone why they're banned. We'd like to know, why not tell us? It's not personal information. Also, there should be a proper appeals process. I'd hate, if hypothetically-speaking our guildmaster was just banned out of the blue, to end up having to do the childish thing of threatening many people of quitting the game but is that, at the end of the day, the only thing we have?
That said, at least some part of Blizzard's customer service team is actually commercially minded and responds to this sort of thing beyond the legendary bot-like insanely unhelpful replies we currently get for any enquiry. Our server had a guild come back from the dead and a player who had sharded all of his gear got it reinstated, all by promising that players would come back to the game and re-subscribe.
So maybe we have to give a thought to it. Maybe we have to work it out ahead of time, if Blizzard wont square with us from the outset, and start saying that we as a guild agree to pack in the game if they're not actually going to give us a proper human response to banning any one of our players.
I'd like to believe that mistakes in something so important as automatically banning accounts can't happen, that Blizzard would be absolutely sure but come on, we've played this game for a couple of years and we've seen they're as fallible as any other software developer. It's just most other companies don't see the whole thing as some big numbers game and forgo any human interaction in this kind of process at all.

Wednesday 15 November 2006

Kofi Annan to star in Spooks [Lurks]

Well, obviously not but the thought of that headline being crawled by Googlebot was too much to pass up. There is a point to this though, I read this story on the BBC about Kofi Annan (he's the UN Secretary General for our American readers) saying that country leaders are being a bit slack when it comes to agreeing action, particularly on a timetable, on climate change.
The other bit of my faux-headline was Spooks, having recently aired the last episode in this series and one of such low quality that I think we can now safely declare the series dead and buried. They even snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by failing to drown the horrendously miscast foppish lead 'Adam Carter' at the end of the show, thereby paving the way for several hours of television next year that I wont be watching.
Back to the point, if I may. This episode was about some eco-terrorists who hit upon the existence of a document called Aftermath. The reason for this blog is because I think the writers of the series have stumbled across a concept that might be worth exploring. The idea of Aftermath is that it was a draft policy/agreement document between the US and the UK on what to do in the face of catastrophic climate change. The synopsis being that catastrophic climate change is inevitable, countries will not agree to any meaningful global consensus. The central concept of our economy is growth and anti climate change measures hamper growth so why bother? Make a grab for the natural resources that remain and prepare to try be last man standing in a drowning world.
Alright, it was hammed up a bit too since they threw in a silly bit about this all justifying a new nuclear weapons program to act as a deterrent, but still I found the idea kind of interesting.
I mean look at it, the core idea is depressing close to where we're at. The UN or indeed any other International negotiating body proves that age old adage that it's impossible to get anything done by committee or 'too many cooks spoil the broth' to quote an even older one. The central gamut of our Western capitalist civilisation is build around the idea of growth. Companies will do anything they can to grow, they're not in the business of holding steady to avert a possible catastrophe in the future. It's all about delivering a return on investment.
And then we have the problem of the third-world hitting their own industrial revolutions. They're trying to work out how to get industry and mass manufacturing and consumerism to lift their populace out of poverty and don't really have the luxury of mandating what EU standard of emissions each farm tractor should comply with. Then there's China and India building coal power plants as fast as they can, China alone built 117 new coal power plants last year.
Each nation has it's own interests and beyond the really rather abstract idea of there being a bunch less land around by the time of the patterning of feet of your grandchildren's children, what immediate pressures are there upon the governments of the nations of the world? All the usual stuff. Feed us, care for us, do it now and do it better right now or we vote for the other guy.
Each nation with their own interests, all of which motivated by short-term pressures and with that ever present drive of Western consumerism grinding on, encouraging you to spend, consume. Grow, grow, eat more, make more money. Yay! So what real chance, what real chance at all is there of the world reaching a genuine wide-reaching agreement on the massive changes required to combat climate change? If I was a betting man, I'd have to say not much.
So would our governments be remiss to consider the possibility that catastrophic climate change is inevitable? I think they would be, I think it's their duty to consider that possibility and, at the end of the day, they were voted in with one mandate only and that's to deliver us what we want and generally speaking, that's a better quality of life or at least to preserve the one we have.
Looking to the UK, our energy situation just like the US doesn't look particularly great. Ignoring the imports of petroleum from all the usual suspects in the middle east, we're basically becoming reliant on natural gas from abroad. This has been problematic already because it basically starts off in Russia and goes along a pipeline where each of the ever-more-hungry European states grabs a share. There have been warnings about a lack of supply and us being at the mercy of the continental markets. For that reason a massive pipeline has been built, the longest undersea pipeline in the world, to the Langeled gas fields of Norway. This should ease some of our short term worries but longer term we're actually in the same boat as the United States.
To be fair, we talk a much better game about what needs to be done to combat climate change than the US does. Our population is better educated and already a good deal more frugal with resources than our American allies. Even our government is starting to make the right noises and necessary steps, unlike the US, have already started to filter down to your average British citizen. I look out my window and I see two bins, one of which is for recycling, and the council ceaselessly bombards us with information and motherly chiding about how to run a more efficient household.
So I think there ends up being two distinct schools of thought. If the waterhole is going to become a scary place with the lions circling, do you become a lion too or do you learn to live from mountain streams?
I think in this day and age, our government would be almost certainly considering both, especially if your best pal is the biggest lion at the water hole.

Tuesday 14 November 2006

Can we handle cheap booze? [Shedir]

Article in press yesterday, challenging rights of UK government to tax imported booze n cigs. Internet delivered fags is a huge saving, booze...nah it's too fragile in the main (barring cans of beer). Cost of deliver is really going to erode any savings you'll make....probably.
Wider question is do you think the UK populace have the werewithall to cope with even cheaper drink? Our town centres are awash with steamers who get into almighty barneys, or are sexually assaulted, becase they can't cope with the amount the consume. You can buy cans of tennents lager for less than a bottle of volvic ffs.
In Scotland, best country on earth come visit, the smoking ban had a surprising effect. Fag sales are up. People are smoking at home more, when they were in the pub it was ok. But now it's outlawed and they have to go outside, while paying over supermarket prices for drink....they're saying fuck that I'll drink n smoke in the comfort of my own home thankyourverymuch.
As I said bevvy it's hardly an ideal thing to transport in the main, but the cigs. Cartons of fags with a huge amount off the highstreet price. Thats highly dangerous for public health, more worrying than the drink for my money.
It's always seemed farcial I can get a bottle of Famous Grouse cheaper in spain on holiday, than I can where it's made n bottled. So whats the possible outcome here......
Government lowers levvy on cigs n booze, but taxes people in other ways to keep revenue through coffers.
Government puts head in sand and employs a gazillion lawyers to maintain it's right to tax our stuff to the hilt.
God they must be worried about the levvy on petrol at this rate as well!
End of the day the market will decide, the morally outraged will squeal about kiddies getting fags n booze through the evil internet. The healthies will bemoan a nation intent on killing itself through ever cheaper methods. Man on the street, he'll just be glad to save a few quid.
I'm drinking too much at home, I know that, but am still tempted to get a proper homebrew kit and begin to make my own. Not for the quantity, just because I find I've moved from proper beers to cheap lager purely on cost. Which is fucking daft, but hey I'm half puggled ;)

Friday 10 November 2006

BNP off Scott free? [Lurks]

The news today is that Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP party, and crony were aquited of inciting ratial hatred. Now on the face of it, this is a bad thing. The guy is obviously a bit of a scum bag and if you heard the speech in question, which was recorded undercover by the BBC shooting an investigative documentary and then subsequently handed to the police, you'd be pretty offended. However if there's one thing I'm becoming increasingly unhappy with in Britain is the that red-top dominated policy of stepping out to ban something you don't like.
This is dangerous and if you go down that road, you end up having a deeply unhealthy regulated society. What I'm talking about here is the fact that this guy is a bit of a loon and I think you'd have to trawl the trailer parks of Bradford to find anyone who agrees with this prick, but what he did was actually criticise Islam. What he did not say was "death to the pakkis" or anything else which would have been clearly actionable under the intent of inciting religious hatred or other crimes. What he did actually say from my recollection of the programme, distastful as it was, ought not to be illegal.
This multicultural, bipartisan, politically correct, liberal softy bullshit approach is wholly incorrect and it disgusts me that the BBC subsequently shoving a camera in front of Gordon Brown today filmed his response to the aquittal as saying that he thought they needed to be looking at changing the law. Words (momentarily) fail me. If they change the law to a situation where these men would have been convicted then it would then become illegal to criticise a religion. That, I submit, is a step back towards the dark ages.
It ought to be our goddamn right to be able to criticise Islam, which is what Griffin was doing, or indeed any other religion, body, whatever. Are we so insecure that we need to ban these views? This is absurd. This is the kind of loony tunes stuff that Islamic radicals demand when they don't like something.
However, outside of the Islamic community and their well demonstrated refusal to deal with their own fire-brand extremists, we have a laudible track record of confronting extreme views. This is where the BBC comes in. These exposed the unsanitised back-room views of these men, outted them before millions and we were all stunned and I'm sure at least some of the BNP's moderate(ish) supporter of the BNP might have been shellshocked into reevaluating their position.
I'd just like you to consider the above paragraph for a moment. Consider that if we can take Gordon Brown's comments at face value, if we can expect laws to be introduced to convict Nick Griffin of what was said then I could very well be prosecuted for saying the above because I singled out a religion for criticism.
I fully except that the dear concept of free speech is no justification for preaching of hatred and incitement to violence against individuals and groups of people whoever they are. What I submit is that we're losing sight of the value of proper free speech. Finding intellectual ideas distasteful is not a reason to make them illegal. Unfortunately in the new age of the red-top nanny state, it may be all about to change.
There's a world of difference from some fire brand loon standing on the sidewalk preaching racial hatred and someone criticising Islam. The difference is blatantly clear to me but unsurprisingly not clear to the famously lefty liberal BBC, nor to the crown prosecution service it would seem.
This guy is a fringe nutjob which, if anything, has provided a valid target for anti-racist activists. This court case has done nothing but drum up awareness of the BNP and inevitably, in court, common sense prevailed on the state of the laws today and he and his impressionable oik clinger-on was aquitted. Wasting tax payers money in the process and providing new political capital to the BNP allowing them to punch in an altogether difference class than the shady little building-site demountable where the original grainy vid was doubtless shot.

Wednesday 8 November 2006

Victory Over Cold Calling [Spiny]

Just had this through from my bank, I've added a translation...
Telemarketerspeak:Our records show that your phone number is currently registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) which means that if you'd like us to update you about products and services with the occasional phone call, we need your special permission.
Translation: We're really suffering with our cold calling marketing because of this damn no-call list from the TPS, you're on the list and we want to bug you with shit you don't want.
Telemarketerspeak:When we spoke to some of our TPS-registered customers, almost 90% of them told us they didn't realise, for example, that it prevents their branch from calling to update them about a product or service that may be of interest.
Translation:We decided to bug people when they came to the branch instead, or when they rang us up. We managed to get most of them to let us call them any time of the day or night to try & sell us stuff - w00t! Only 10% of people were snotty & held out. You don't want to be in that lonely minority surely? Go on, join your friends, the sheep, baaaa.
If you'd like to opt out of crap, click here
As Strong Bad would say...DELETED!

Friday 3 November 2006

New house network [Am]

Time I sorted out my stuff a little. For reasons too tedious to relate, my router is in my garage where the principal phone line comes in. Although it transmits wirelessly, due to the berlin wall type construction of my house, the wireless signal is pretty intermittent in various rooms and I'm currently running a cat cable from the main pc.
Deciding to get round to sorting this out and also thinking about storage and backup of a lot of digital photos, I am now thinking of putting a NAS 1tb or 2tb box in the garage (after discussion in the crosshatch, can't see much point in it being a server) with the router and then running the network signal over powerline adaptors which use your conventional home wiring to transmit at up to 200mbps. You can now also get wireless ones so that you could transmit your network signal all around the house and have a wall transmitter pumping out wireless signal in the bedroom for instance. I've been watching this for a bit but wonder if anyone has experience or a view;
Any views on - garage is unheated - would the NAS box have any trouble if the temperature falls to freezing. Thought in the crosshatch was that probably not if it is always on.
Powerline adaptors? The idea? Any make?
Any particular views on NAS boxes? Terrastation? Although you can run the boxes in a number of RAID configurations, if you were really paranoid like me would you run two of these to back each other up or is that really redundant?
Other cool stuff that you could do with this in general? Stream mp3 even HDTV?

EA scum part 1587 [Lurks]

EA are scum. If you want to save time, more on to the next blog. This latest thing that annoys me is their attempt to go up against Valve's Steam. Course it really must have chapped EA seeing someone else successful at digital downloads so they launched their own service called EA Link. I unwittingly installed this so I could download BF2142. For a start I think it's hiliarious that you have to pay full whack for the game via digital download, despite the fact you get no box, manual, DVD and so on. They try sweaten the deal with extras but I really don't think they get it.
The thing that really annoys me though, which is something of a recurring theme and which I generally refer to as 'EA bullshit' is how this fucking EA Link thing basically fires up every time Windows loads up and proceeds to download advert shite and try flog me stuff. Surely the twats would make a simple place, some options somewhere, where you could tell EA Link not to start up every time Windows starts, right? Wrong!
In the end I had to get down and dirty with the registry editor, after scratching my head trying to find what the hell it was. They've called it 'Core.exe' like a nice bit of stealthed spywhere shite. Still, it's gone now.
EA are just fucking unreal. They watch someone else do somethng well and then they get in after but do it just that bit more commercially aggressive with absolutely no regard for their customers convienience. I shudder to think how many Windows boxes around the world are booting up with EA Link and I bet deep within the Evil Headquarters of EA, they're loving that concept.
Still, EA aren't the only ones that suck. Other shit things this week in gaming would include Dark Messiah: Might and Magic. This game takes the Source engine and manages to break it somehow. It's buggy, crashy and has a massive memory leak. Oh and you can't alt-tab because that's obviously some entirely fucking superfluous feature that no-one would want to use. Many people can't get out of the tutorial at all. I'm not sure what the hell is going on, don't these wankers do any testing any more?!
What else sucks this week, oh yes an actual good amazing game was released. Neverwinter Nights 2. Ace, I head over to the only digital download store in the world that has it, Direct2Drive, and start buying it. Naturally they let me get all the way through setting up an account before curting informing me that the game is removed from my basket because of a country restriction. Eg, I've said I'm in the UK and these fucking morons have once again not released the game in the UK for a couple of days yet.
Nice one guys. There I was with my 50 bucks, right there, and you told me I couldn't have the game. So I fucking warezed it instead.
To be fair it's amazing so I'll buy it because I'm probably one of the last remaining moral game buyers, despite how fucking shoddily the industry treats us. However had this not been an amazing game, I would have played it for a bit on the warez and you'd not have seen a penny. When I was willing to get my wallet out. Dark Messiah being the perfect example. If I couldn't download it, I would have warezed it, realised it was fucked and not bought it.
The moral of the story is simple for you games industry cretins, world-wide English release on digital distribution on DAY ONE and we'll come with wallets open and this isn't a license to install hard-to-remove adware shite on my PC either. I'm not naive enough to think I'm getting through to them but it helps to rant eh?

Thursday 2 November 2006

Jobs you love to hate [shedir]

There's certain things about being a grown up you love and some you don't, but if there's one thing I despise wasting time on above all others it's gardening.
I've no interest in it, I've got hay fever and if it wasn't for the weans i'd slab the bloody thing. But they need grass to play on, so it's there. Mocking me. Annoying me. Consuming my TIME.
This time of year, blessed winter, has only one curse leaves. I hate the ritual lifting of the leaves, hours of toil to show...grass. ARGH it's a proper PITA and I've not even got a big garden, but it's all fenced so stuff gets blown in with no escape route.
A trip to B&Q to get a leaf rake at £15 turned up a leaf blower/shredder at £25. 15m extension cord at £12 and I'm armed :)
I've woken the neighbours, decimated the hated leaves and cleaned up in time for the wife to produce my dinner. Money well spent.
N.B. Wives are not allowed to continue this blog
So what tasks do other clannies have to do with they despise yet wierdos out there adore?

Tuesday 31 October 2006

The Filter [Spiny]

I'j just been having a play with The Filter. It's a rather neat addin to iTunes to automatically create playlists for you.
You select a few songs from your library the hit the F button. The Filter then creates you a playlist of songs that 'go with' the songs you had selected in iTunes. The results as you may expect are pretty skewed to genre but it does throw in the odd surprise.
I've been impressed enough to start using it regularly & find I'm listening to stuff I would have missed/forgotten about.
Oh yeah, it'll also pick up missing album art as it goes.
[Edit: Looks like it's from our favourite sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel.]

Sunday 29 October 2006

Recipe: Pumpkin Peon Soup [Lurks]

What with it being Halloween there must be a good few leftover pumpkins when the kids have finished with them and what with people starving/murdering eachother with machettes in Africa, it would seem wasteful to toss them away. Well stuff that, pumpkin soup is bloody delicious and that is reason enough. This here is a recipe that I came up with last year and we thought so much of it we wrote it down. As I write, I'm waiting for stuff to fry up for this year's batch. So henceforth, I shall unveil the secret of Lurk's Pumpkin Peon Soup.
Now since you're basically going to use a whole pumpkin, this is going to make a lot of soup so you should plan the ingredient quantities accordingly and make plans to get containers for it to freeze up portions or give it away. Unless you want to be eating pumpkin soup for a couple of weeks that is. Also you're going to need a pretty sizable soup terrine type thing. If you aint got one, I'd go out and buy one to frank.
As usual I wont be terribly specific about the quantity of ingredients because that's not how I cook anyway and if you can't work out an appropriate quantity, you probably shouldn't be in the kitchen anyway. Best reach for the pizza menu.
  • Bunch of Red Onions - chopped
  • Bunch of Leeks - chopped
  • Bushel of Celery - chopped
  • Large bulb of Garlick - chopped (coursely)
  • Big splash of oregano
  • Several teaspoons of coriander powder
  • Olive oil and butter

The above makes up your standard aromatic bulb mash that I use for pretty much all soups. This wants to be chopped up into a big ass fry pan and fried up with olive oil and butter until it's all soft and mashy. Don't skimp on the coriander and oregano. If you had access to some fresh that would be nice too but in the case of coriander, you want some dried powdered in there anyway.
  • Pumpkin - 1 whole, peeled, de-seeded and in big chunks
  • Tomatoes - several cans of chopped or entire 700gr jar of 'passata'
  • Potatoes - several large peeled chopped potatoes
  • Carrots - half a dozen chopped
  • Chicken stock - half a dozen cubes at least
  • Creamed coconut - entire block
  • Swiss Marigold Veggie Stock (rules for all soup) - a couple of good tablespoons
  • Chili powder - Easiest to get is Schwartz 'Hot Chili powder' - a tablespoon or more if you like a bit of bite like we do
  • Salt natch
  • Pepper - quite a bit, fresh ground. Same approach as the chili.

Slow cook the pumpkin, tomatoes, potatoes and carrots in the chicken & veggie stock (add plenty of water obviously) and bunk in the salt, pepper, chili powder and creamed coconut. This should simmer until the pumpkin is proper soft which will take a couple of hours most likely. Stir every now and again.
Then bang in the aromatic bulb mash from earlier and bang up the heat so it boils up for a minute or so, then set back down and simmer for a little while longer. This point you can get out your electric blender. The tip here is not to use too much water and blend while it's all still pretty thick which needs much less blending than if you simmered the pumpkin and goodies in too much water. As with all soup, if you can see that some bits of pumpkin are not blending in particularly well it's probably because they're not cooked through properly. Not a disaster, just stop blending, simmer for a bit longer, then blend up until it's smooth.
Then you'll basically be wanting to add water to the desired consistency. I think pumpkin soup should be pretty thick really. Tempted as you might be to bang in cream at the end, I'd resist that. If you like a cream soup like that, add a dash into bowls at serving time and let people blend it up themselves. Another quick grate of fresh pepper on top is just the ticket.
Accompaniment wise, I'd recommend a wholegrain seedy type bread torn in ragged chunks. Mmm mmm!

Saturday 28 October 2006

New lows [Am]

Also found on the lappie I submit the sort of thing you can only write when you have too much time on your hands. Two things written in a pub when rain stopped play in Padstow, Cornwall and then 3 haikus written at dinner while listening absolutely horrified to this appalling sloany couple who were so bad it was almost good....

The Holiday at One Forty
Speckled windbreakers, not with sunshine, but wet Cornish air
Close mist against the harbour
Grouping families look out from the wood decked pub
Breathing fabrics rustle round the glasses as passed glances check out…
… bags.…brollies….pumps….
Shall we eat more, drink? Where did he get those shorts?
We could have gone to Crete….
“The beer’s delivered by Arthur, he has a neck two foot wide,
He married a girl called Molly and would, he says, again”
Outside the seafood van glistens.
Is the white air thinning?
The brass lamp blinks
Straighten out the Goretex
Lift you glass and drink
Territorial Fishings
The novelty postcard with stern Victorian dame says
“Arbeit macht frei!”
Not round here my loves
There ain’t much liberty hauling lobster pots
Paulie regrets the fore-arm tatts from summer, seen on every pull
Should have gone to Penrith with that girl from Trill
It’s a fiver a lobster or thirty five up that restaurant
So forgive I if I spit or hawk
If they clean it off right then what’s the harm?
Just local dressing for their fork
3 Haikus for the Sloany Pony
Blonde hair, black eyebrows,
The Sloany Pony holds forth
*So* your daddy’s money
She can talk and talk
And talk and talk and talk and
He thinks… just fuck me..
Looking at the sweets
“Eat chocolate off my tum”
Cocoa rug munch ho!

Ever gone longhaul? [Am]

Longhaul is one of those weird things where I reckon you time out from reality. When you do longhaul with the flu, its another thing altogether. A while back I did a trip in which I apparently wrote the following, found this evening on my lappie. I put it up for the hell of it....
Rock and roll flying. The spittle thrown over a microphone and the straining of valves breaking razors n cream distortion through your headphones seems to me to be entirely the right stuff for a long haul flight. I sit in business class among the politesse, the cock sucking damn politesse of the middle aged middle classed and let the music drag me back to something that might possibly register as the rage of living.
The airhostess doesn’t want to like me and indeed I suspect she probably shouldn’t. I do know me after all. But anyway it took a couple of hours to crack through the permagrin and get her on the Am-agenda. Will I be a screaming nightmare? No m’am. Do I require extraordinary attention and pliation of large amounts of alcohol? Yes I fuckin do.
When I was 17 I went on a transatlantic voyage where we got ripped to the tits on a transatlantic voyage – economy note – where the crew just bibed us up and that was it. Now here I am, several thousand pounds into a return trip to the other side of the flying rock on which we sit and I have to beg for a top up!
So I smiled at Georgia, my cabinista, and it did fuck all. So I fixed her with the Sir Gerald grin which is to say something like a normal grin but with the pre-supposition of purchase power but also most crucially of all the look that says “listen sweets, lets get an *understanding* going here”. I’m not sure how this comes over on a waggle of the eyebrows but I do seem to reach a decent accommodation with such staff after a couple of hours.
So in the end there we are. Georgia brings me a brandy inna glass as I’m tooling over Tehran en route Hong Kong. She says “this is a double double”. I believe we’re talking each other’s language. Jane’s is playing on the headies - Ladies clink their glasses sending out their signals – amen.
I am a twat heading out to the other side of the planet for a meeting that probably matters not very much whatsoever. But pays.
You you really should have have known. Oh you, you really should have know, just because, just because……
Now so it’s 22.45 and Georgia has told me that I should be asleep. When did stewardesses get to be your mum? I got her to fetch me another brandy and contemplated that 30 years ago I’d probably have sent her on her way with a resounding TWANG on her tush. I’m not suggesting this would have been appropriate, considerate, reasonable, admirable or in any way advisable. But it would have been fun. Not these days though no.
I hate the fucking Blazer Boys. What is it with Blazers? What is it with the cocking hair loss and chinos? The ingraining of semi-facile brains into a wardrobe of cockhood? You sit in business and it’s honestly like a battery farm of conservatism with a couple of outlier crim suspects. There’s these fellas that you look at and think “oh my. Oh my fucking god you must be having at least a *fun* life. What given the scars and the lopsided eyebrows and shit”.
And the rest……. I swear….. Sweaters, nice fucking sweaters, sweaters marked with geometric shapes and shit. Blazers and pimped out geometric sweaters. Die, die, die.

Friday 27 October 2006

When will they learn? [Lurks]

I'm firing up this Dark Messiah: Might and Magic game right, which I leeched via Steam. Now, you know, on one hand downloading it off Steam is kinda handy right and it just downloads direct to my PC. On the other hand it's 7GB so it's not a small leech. So it's pretty much a toss-up whether to buy it in the shops or off Steam. I buy it off Steam and then they go screw me further and don't unlock it to play until after lunchtime on the day of release. Had I bought it from Gameplay, I would have had it yesterday and no download necessary.
The point of this digital distribution stuff is supposed to be that it's better, not worse!
Oh and to add insult to injury, despite this apparently being a Source-powered game, they've seen fit to disable alt-tab. So I can't just nip out to check my email or whatever else I need to do. Meaning I'll clearly get to play it less often, confined as it will need to be, to times when I can know I wont have to do anything else with my PC. That is, quite frankly, pathetic. They must have actually gone and disabled/broken this feature from Steam as it works perfectly fine in Half-Life 2 games.
Gah, why don't they test this stuff form an actual end-users perspective?

Thursday 26 October 2006

What the hell is in the water in New Jersey? [Am]

Early 05 I bought an album on a whim which I put in the car and instantly turned off about half way through the first track. This should have been a clue as a fair few of the albums I have come to love the most gave me the same first reaction.....
Actually, as it turned out a couple of months later and subsequently, I just don't like the first track all that much. But from track two onwards.... now we are rootin' tootin' talkin'.
The album is Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge by My Chemical Romance and it became pretty much my favourite rock album of 05 and 06. I've probably played it more than anything else in that time. Well definitely. Apparently the band might be considered to be a bit 'emo' but that all seems a bit pointless as a desciption to me. There is some absolutely slamming rock in there which probably reached its highest validation when Kerrang voted them Best Rock Act in the world earlier this year. Quietly the album turned multi-platinum even though no single ever threatened to do much at release in the US - I think the highest was a 30 and previously a 60 in the Billboard Top 100. But the album turned multi-platinum. Pretty much one of those albums that has spread by dint of its inherent quality. They even come from New Jersey for heavens sakes. This is not an LA band blowing up on the LA rock scene.
Forward-wind to a couple of weeks ago and you can see the Sun and other redtops going "who on earth are these weirdos" as the single Welcome to the Black Parade went straight in at No.1 in the UK. This monday the album the Black Parade was released and it is one of those albums that I am gonna raise to the collective conscious and say you *have* to listen to this.
The Black Parade is an album by a band who have obviously reached mind-bending levels of self-confidence where the band have just taken off for another level again and probably left 'contemporaries' like Panic at the Disco (a very pale reflection and different) and older alternative muso's like Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins pouring themselves a very stiff carrot juice indeed.
If you don't like the type of music you'll probably find yourself on one polar end of the reaction against this. If you do, I think you'll find one of the rock albums of the decade so far and a work that is getting compared to a number of classics from a very long time span indeed. Its punchy, its melodic, as I say it's ridiculously confident in the way it just hares about all over the place doing whatever the fuck it likes and it's just damn good.
You have to have some planetary sized cahonas just to come up with the idea in the first place; it's a concept album about 'The Patient' who lies ill on a cancer ward with the songs about his life and the illness but it is not some dark horror movie as much as a lot of punchy driving music interspersed with some very fine melodic pieces and massive stacked voices. The themes that are cropping up are weddings, funerals, hospitals, childhood, mardi gras, festivals, vaudeville, murder, cabaret. There's a modern rock take on a very long standing tradition in just the same way that the film Cabaret is dark and twisted but not miserabilist. And then as if just to underline the point in the middle of one of the most rock tracks on the album, Liza Minelli turns up - not as a sample but doing a cameo vocal written for the track!
This band released their first album in summer 2002 - I Brought You Bullets You Brought Me Your Love. It was on an indie label and to be honest it's mostly a mess and quite ill formed.
In Summer 2004, we get Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge with an exponential leap in quality which is like watching a gangly awkward teenager suddenly coming out for the ball as the hottest thing around.
Now we have the Black Parade which I am pretty sure, whether you end up enjoying it or not, is not just one of but probably the rock album of the decade so far. As much as I enjoy this and the previous album, the one thing that leaves me really absolutely, totally agog is just how far this band have come in a measily four years. I honestly cannot think of another trajectory like it in a band's career at the moment. Possibly Radiohead from Pablo Honey --> Bends --> OK Computer. Now for heavens sake don't think I am comparing these two bands - I am just looking at the trajectory of improvement. But to be honest Pablo Honey was a lot better relative than MCR's first album so the MCR climb-rate is still a lot faster.
So whether you end up liking it or not there is something pretty extraordinary going on with this band and I recommend you bend your head around it at least a couple of times - this is a complex record that could take a bit of getting into - but for those of you that like it, I reckon you'll like it really a lot....

Wednesday 25 October 2006

NHS Crisis First Hand [drdave]

Serious blog time...
As you may or may not be aware, the NHS has recently introduced the so called "two week rule". A simple measure that states that any patient presenting to a GP where a cancer is suspected or likely will be referred to and seen by a consultant within two weeks. Any treatment thereafter will be treated under the same rule. The idea been that the earlier you catch these things, the better.
Sounds good right?
Back in mid-June I was taking a bath and I noticed a new feature on my body. I'd never noticed it before, it was large (about 1cm), dark brown and, to say the least, it put my hackles up. Having seen my grandad ignore the obvious symptoms of cancer for far too long, then pass away in a most unpleasant way, I wasted no time in seeing my GP. The next day in fact. She agreed that it was suspicious, though probably benign, and said she would refer me to the dermatologist with urgency.
Happy that I was safely in the hands of the professionals, I went home and awaited notification of the appointment - within two weeks, according to the guidelines.
By mid-august, two months later, I was still waiting. Eventually, the appointment came. August 28th, over two months since my GP referred me! The dermatologist took a look at it and immediately recommended surgery to remove it. The procedure was booked for the following week, September 7th. Quite quick and painless, under local anaesthetic and I now have a two inch scar to show for it.
Anyway, I went away thinking that the results would be processed quickly and I'd be notified in due course. However, no-one told me how long this would take or how I would be told. I started to ring them every week, but each week was told that the results hadn't come back. Two weeks ago, I was told that the results had come in but the consultant hadn't had chance to look at them. Last week I was told that the results had been looked at, and they would be sent to my GP in about a week. No-one would tell me what they were, I'd have to wait another week.
Finally, this morning I saw my GP and got the results. Mercifully, the lesion was not malignant. It was a dysplastic nevus, which is kind of a mole gone wrong that has a small chance of becoming cancerous later on. For that, I am profoundly grateful. I still need to have another small procedure to make sure the whole of the lesion is gone, but the urgency isn't there anymore. In total though, this whole process has taken four fucking months to just get a diagnosis! Does this not strike anyone as worrying? Maybe not if you haven't just spent that four months wondering if the universe is going to have to get used to not having you in it.
In case you need convincing of how serious a four month wait in this case is, here are some facts. Melanoma, the worst kind of skin cancer, accounts for a relatively small percentage of cancers (3%), but it is a disproportionally large killer. This is because the metastases of melanoma, the secondary tumours, are notoriously resistant to radiation or chemotherapy. When a primary site melanoma spreads, it gets into your bloodstream and spreads to your lungs, brain, liver, anywhere really. If left untreated, a melanoma that undergoes metastasis will kill you in months rather than years.
However, if you catch it early, melanoma is extraordinarily survivable. At stage 0 (where the tumour is in situ and hasn't yet spread downwards) the survival rate is 100%, you're effectively cured. Stage 1, with a 1mm invasion of deep tissue, has a 10 year survival rate of 95% - good odds I would say. But it needs to be caught early. I understand that in Australia, suspicious mole removals have become commonplace procedures, precisely because they recognise the need to get them off as soon as possible.
Somewhere, the system has failed me, but thankfully I might get away without paying the ultimate price. I'm lucky enough to have just started a private healthcare scheme with my employer (which started, ironically, just after I finally saw my dermatologist) so hopefully I won't have to suffer the failing NHS again. And failing it does seem to be... I'd previously defended the system, saying that it might not be particularly efficient when dealing with bad backs or stubbed toes, but that it was fantastic when your life was on the line. Maybe it is, maybe my case is just an isolated case, but I hear far too many scare stories to be complacent anymore.
If I have one piece of advice to impart at the end of this, I would say only one thing: use sun cream, please, you really don't want to go through what I've been through the last four months!

Thursday 19 October 2006

The UK and the veil [Lurks]

Something needs to be said about this muslim woman, Aishah Azmi, who basically was told not to wear the niqab full veil in class in which she taught. Well, it transpires that common sense has prevailed and she lost the case on the major points although she was still awarded a grand for victimisation. That baffles me still but anyway...
It's hard to avoid saying the obvious stuff about this such as the fact that you are in our country, this behavior is extreme and unwarranted if if you feel so strongly about it that you are prepared to cut yourself off with your blatant demonstration of seperation, then why in shit don't you piss off to another country? Bizarrely I have to show some appreciation here with France's hard-line attitude on the issue. No religious symbols in school. At all. Ever. We're far too PC for that here, examples recently manifesting as politicians coming out with their absurd fawning PC shite denouncing Jack Straw's perfectly sensible comments. However if Aishah Azmi has achieved anything, it's by raising the awareness of her annoying give-an-inch-take-a-mile behavior, exploiting our willingness to pander to these people and causing us to re-evaluate our position.
Which is, of course, what the redtops have been doing in a tabloid feeding frenzy which really isn't helping matters. As I intimated, props to Jack Straw for his original and perfectly reasonable request and corresponding statement of fact, Eg. this stuff does not help the much vaunted integration into the community which we have been generous to offer people of these faiths in the United Kingdom. Suddenly, however, our screens are full of issues like this.
The right wing brigade most recently were jumping up and down about some woman who was suspended by British Airways for wearing a Christian cross. In fact wearing of any religious symbol is banned, and rightly so. If you're an international air carrier, you're coming into contact with multiple faiths and some of them clearly don't get on. That's the employment rules, she was asked politely to take it off and would not comply. This is no different from the woman in the classroom asked to remove her veil so she could do her job right. We're insensed because this is a Christian country but this woman has a job in an organisation which behaves more like an ambassador than a local chip shop.
Still, the veil thing does get my back up. I wonder if any of you saw the excellent documentary recently of that asian (muslim) woman who won The Apprentice (I dunno her name, I don't watch reality crap like that) getting stuck into the veil issue including confronting veil wearers and asking what on earth they could find useful about it. In fact the best response this particular veil-wearer could manage was "I find it liberating because I'm not being judged by my appearance". Oh right, so it's nothing to do with God telling you in the Koran then. Basically you are, as we all expect of full-veil wearing women, a bit of a munter then.
Well, you stupid cow, if the goal wasn't to be judged by your appearance then you really don't get it at all do you. Listen up you religious whack-job muppet, there are other ugly people in the world and somehow we manage to get on alright with them without them shoving a garbag over their puss.
Oh and incidentally, the Koran really doesn't tell you to do any such thing. I think of God wanted you to wear a tent, he might have been a little more clear with the phrasing eh? Thou Shalt Crown Thyself with Millet's Finest or something.
You have to wonder though, what if I turned up to the office in a ninja suit and then when asked to remove it said "Sorry, I insist on wearing it when there's women around." I'm sure that'd go down ace, and so would the resulting employment tribunal. Oh well, if nothing else I'll apparently get a grand for victimisation.
If there's one thing I find positive about this whole situation it's the sheer number of decent moderate muslims standing up and saying sorry, the niqab is absurd. Just when the muslim community is gaining some ground in understanding and respect... it must feel like going backwards when this comes up and bearded loons fill the televisions, waving plaquards on the streets again.
Don't they have some sense that we might be nearing the point of having enough of their bullshit?