Why this Blog?

A place where I can lament the changing times; for eccentric comments on current affairs and for unfashionable views, expressed I hope, in cogent style; also occasional cris de coeur largely concerned, I regret to say, with myself.



Comments

I welcome your comments, so do please write. Please note however that all comments are moderated prior to publication. Whilst I fully appreciate that life can be frustrating, nevertheless, abuse, SMS language and illiteracy will not be tolerated!

Thursday 27 March 2008

Dear Readers (all two of you)

Here's a bit of madness, but before I present it, a line to say that I shall be away for a few weeks from Saturday, so postings will probably be rather infrequent. And I would just add that the Zimbabwean elections are about to start; will the Bandit's schemes succeed? Not long to wait now, and if they do, well the $100,000,000 loaf cannot be far away.

Thanks for your loyalty.




Until the next time

This I want!

Not the best sound, but what a feature - Plasma!

First the prototype:





And now a more developed version



More info on Gizmodo...

Until the next time

Smoking: Sensible Germans

At least he's still going strong!
Image source: here

Common sense has prevailed in Germany - or at least parts of it - this follows a court ruling in Berlin today:

"The state of Saxony introduced a ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and discos on Feb. 1 — following several other states in introducing restrictions. It allowed owners to set aside separate rooms for smokers.

Several owners of single-room bars complained to the state's constitutional court.

They complained that, because they were unable to provide a smoking room, "their smoking regular customers — who made up 75 to 95 percent of their customers — had largely stayed away" since the law took effect, a court statement said.

The court ordered that one-room bars be exempt pending a decision on the merits of owners' case against the new law. It said that they might otherwise suffer "serious losses that could not be made up" if their case is successful."

Note that the extract from this article in the IHT states that already it was permitted to have rooms allocated for smokers.

What is it about Germany that makes its system so fair and sensible in comparison with Eire, the UK, France and Italy?

Soon perhaps we will remember this day as one when we discovered that there was at least one democratic country left in the EU.

Until the next time

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Money Mysteries Vista and Onion Radio News

To paraphrase the bible "The Fed moves in mysterious ways its wonders to perform."

Well at least it does according to Doyle Redland (pictured left) of Onion Radio News (you'll need sound on).

Meanwhile here's how Onion reported the launch of Micro$oft Vista.


Interesting how things turn out and reminds me of an interview with the late Screaming Lord Sutch. The famous rock 'n' roll singer and regular candidate at elections (latterly for the Monster Raving Loony Party) stood for parliament many times starting in the 1960s. In his early days he had a six-point programme, all of which seemed outrageous at the time. He was proud, twenty-five years later to report that five of the points were now law.

"Lord" David Sutch
Image source: BBC

Until the next time.




Monday 24 March 2008

Hot News! Windows Upgrade

It seems that an upgrade from Vista to XP is well worth the money and effort:

"...there is only one conclusion to be made; Microsoft have really outdone themselves in delivering a brand new operating system that really excels in all the areas where Vista was sub-optimal. From my testing, discussions with friends and colleagues, and a review of the material out there on the web there seems to be no doubt whatsoever that that upgrade to XP is well worth the money. Microsoft can really pat themselves on the back for a job well done, delivering an operating system which is much faster and far more reliable than its predecessor. Anyone who thinks there are problems in the Microsoft Windows team need only point to this fantastic release and scoff loudly."

Source: here

This is why I am upgrading to XP...

Until the next time

More on Vista and Service Pack 1


I have reported the fact that installation of Vista SP1 has not had a good effect on my computer. I suppose some of you might have put this down to my computing ineptitude - after all others have reported that it is an improvement, whilst some have pointed out that it is merely a case of "polishing a turd."

Well now I have solid support: from the University of Pennsylvania:

"University of Pennsylvania tech staffers are advising faculty and students not to upgrade their computers to the new service pack for Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system. The school's Information Systems & Computing department said it will support Vista SP1 on new systems where it's pre-installed, but added that it 'strongly recommends that all other users adopt a "wait and see" attitude,' according to a newly published department bulletin." (reported in Slashdot).

Meanwhile there is the Vista failure log on Slashdot - Twitter. This makes fascinating reading, with many useful links and it is getting longer by the day! Here are some extracts from the log:


And:

January 7, 2008 - Despite deals that made it virtually impossible to buy a computer without Vista, less than 40% of 2007 computers shipped with it. Makers like Dell broke those deals to stay in business.

If it's not too late, do not make the mistake I did - avoid Vista like the plague!

Until the next time

Sunday 23 March 2008

Mysterious Money & Bear Stearns &c.

First, read this extract:

The London Telegraph claims that the Fed had to step in to prevent a derivatives implosion. "By taking this course, the Fed has crossed the Rubicon of central banking," write Ambrose Evans, "To understand why it has torn up the rule book, take a look at the latest Security and Exchange Commission filing by Bear Stearns. It contains a short table listing the broker's holding of derivatives contracts as of November 30 2007. Bear Stearns had total positions of $13.4 trillion. This is greater than the US national income, or equal to a quarter of world GDP - at least in "notional" terms. The contracts were described as "swaps", "swaptions", "caps", "collars" and "floors". This heady edifice of new-fangled instruments was built on an asset base of $80bn at best. On the other side of these contracts are banks, brokers, and hedge funds, linked in destiny by a nexus of interlocking claims. This is counterparty spaghetti. To make matters worse, Lehman Brothers, UBS, and Citigroup were all wobbling on the back foot as the hurricane hit."

$13,400,000,000,000... as the article suggests, a lot of money. I have written before that I have no understanding of money, or indeed how one acquires some (please don't say "hard work" as this is untrue). "Swaps" Swaptions" "Collars" Quoi??

Much as I enjoy reading Mike Swanson's musings in his Wall Street Window, I remain utterly in the dark and I expect, will do so until I die.

Until the next time

VISTA - Grrrrrrrrrrrr


I was amused when I read the article I linked to here about how the Japanese had produced a toilet roll representing Microsoft's Vista Service Pack 1.

How right they were... I have installed this so-called Service Pack with the result that my scanner no longer works and I cannot get it to function again - and I am stuck with a stupid French spell-checker that I cannot disable. Finally the computer (dual-core 2 x 2.2GHz, 2Gb ram etc.) takes even longer to boot up.

The cherry on the cake is that I cannot use system restore to get the machine back to where it was since SP1 has deleted all previous restore points. How can an organisation like Microsoft get away with making life so difficult and still make a profit? It is scandalous, outrageous and disgusting: I HATE them.

So having to scan some things yesterday, I pulled out my old computer which has XP. I had cleared the hard drive so had to reinstall the scanner, and my photo-processing software. This took less than 10 minutes and worked perfectly first time...

Is there a friendly IT expert or hacker that can tell me how to get XP out of my old computer and put it into the new one? I don't care if it's forbidden: Microsoft can sue me and I shall counter-sue on the grounds that they have sold "goods" that were not fit for purpose. And anyway I have paid for their rotten software!

Until the next time

Saturday 22 March 2008

More on Sony & Bloatware

It seems that someone at Sony has probably fallen on his sword: the proposal to charge $50 for NOT installing bloatware/crapware has caused a very prompt volte-face from Sony: the statement from the company runs:-

"Starting March 22, Sony will offer Fresh Start free of charge. We want VAIO users to have the best experience possible with our PCs, and we believe Fresh Start will help ensure that happens right out-of-the-box."

Reported here.

I am still working up to the full Vista rant - I am so angry that I am looking for XP...

Until the next time

For the Pyromaniacs

A bit of weekend fun...



Make a Fireball Shooter! - video powered by Metacafe


Until the next time (coming up, another VISTA rant)

Friday 21 March 2008

Yet another new word from the USA

The Americans have long been pre-eminent it seems to me in the field of inventing new words. I have never been able to fathom the reason for this phenomenon, but it is surely undeniably true.

The new (to me at least) word that prompted this piece is "Bloatware" and I first saw it in this article from Gizmodo.

This appears to be a marginally less rude version of one I knew already: Crapware.

These words are used by IT professionals to describe all of the useless software that arrives on your new PC - you know the sort of thing: trial versions of this and that all of which merely frustrates one and necessitates time to be spent uninstalling it all (and cleaning up the registry afterwards). Just another "grrrrrrrr" factor in PC ownership.

Gizmodo reports that Sony understands this problem and it now offers to supply your new Sony computer in "bloatware-free" form. There is however a snag: Sony proposes to charge the customer $50 for NOT installing all this rubbish.

You have to admire their "front" don't you?

Until the next time

Monday 17 March 2008

SPI for Vista Lavatory?

Although Microsoft has allegedly already launched Service Pack 1 for the 64-bit version (whatever that means) it seems that the 32-bit version (whatever that means) is just around the corner. I believe that I have 32-bit (whatever that means) and I doubt I'd notice the difference if I had 1024-bit: all I want is for the bloody thing to WORK!

Anyway the Japanese have decided to see the funny side of it according to Engadget.


Until the next time

Olympic Rumblings

You might have seen my piece recently about the disgraceful treatment of cats in China - they are being brutally slaughtered apparently on the grounds of "cleaning up" prior to the Olympic Games in Peking. No doubt many animal lovers are incensed by this.

However it seems that it is not only animal lovers who are likely to be angry with the régime's policies. First we have South African World "butterfly" swimming champion Roland Schoeman who is calling for a statement on Human Rights abuses in China from the International Olympic Committee. Also from this article the following quote:

"He [Schoeman] said Dutch swimming star Pieter van den Hoogenband "made a valid point" when he called on the IOC to make a statement to China about human rights on behalf of all athletes."

Meanwhile another "human rights" issue: freedom of expression and access to information. Techcrunch reports that the Chinese authorities (already well known for interfering with Internet access) have blocked access to YouTube videos of the protests in Tibet. The Tibetans have received beastly treatment from the Chinese Government since 1951 when Tibet was annexed by China. The article includes two videos: I am happy to include them here in the hope that someone might see them.








Until the next time.

Sunday 16 March 2008

Venting of Spleen


No not me this time! Here is an English blog featuring the cartoons and pictures created by the blogger himself.

I suppose I should add that parts at least of the blog are aimed at "grown-ups."

If you want your blog plugged here, then post a comment.

Until the next time

Big Brother III (And a bit of Elliott Spitzer)

"Money makes the world go round"; thus runs the old saying. Old it may be, but nonetheless undeniably true. Everything qualifies - from the World Bank, the US Federal Reserve, European Bank, money-laundering for purposes ranging from the international drug trade to international terrorism and so on ad infinitum.

I receive an occasional newsletter from an American called Mike Swanson, and when I am in the mood I read it through as it can provide an interesting background to world affairs. In the latest edition, Mr Swanson makes the following observation:

"Last week was such a news filled week that there are several individual news stories that justify an article of their own that have gotten lost in the shuffle due to the dramatic swings in the stock market. Take NY Governors Elliot Spitzer's resignation over hiring a prostitute for one example. One thing that hasn't been talked about on TV about this is that this scandal would never have broken ten years ago. Spitzer's activities got revealed when the authorities monitored bank transactions of a prostitution ring to build a tax evasion case against them. They caught him talking with the ring and discovered some of his financial transactions as they made their case. This never would have happened ten years ago. But we now live in a total national security state in which the power has been given to the government to monitor any bank transaction and phone call at whim. He just got caught up in this. No one has any privacy anymore. You must consider any transaction, phone call, or email you write as being monitored by the Federal government in the homeland security surveillance state. All it takes is one misstep to get caught up in the criminal justice system."

As terror threats increase across the world (consider the situation in the Netherlands with the imminent release of a controversial short film about the Koran and in Denmark with the "cartoons" and freedom of the press) this kind of surveillance is inevitably bound to increase.

Be careful what you write and think before you speak...

Until the next time


Saturday 15 March 2008

National Pi Day - 14th March



March 14th is Albert Einstein's birthday; it is also National Pi Day - a day to celebrate that most useful, mysterious and fascinating number. There is some interesting information here - including the fact that Pi is a "transcendental irrational number."

Mathematics is largely a closed book to me (though not arithmetic) but I pride myself on having enough wit to understand the fascination maths holds for those with the right sort of brain. And I can appreciate the especial fascination that the value of pi holds for many:

3.14

15926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209 7494459230781640628620899862803482534211706798214808651 3282306647093844609550582231725359408128481117450284102 7019385211055596446229489549303819644288109756659334461 2847564823378678316527120190914564856692346034861045432 6648213393607260249141273724587006606315588174881520920 9628292540917153643678925903600113305305488204665213841 4695194151160943305727036575959195309218611738193261179 3105118548074462379962749567351885752724891227938183011 9491298336733624406566430860213949463952247371907021798 6094370277053921717629317675238467481846766940513200056 8127145263560827785771342757789609173637178721468440901 2249534301465495853710507922796892589235420199561121290 2196086403441815981362977477130996051870721134999999837 2978049951059731732816096318595024459455346908302642522 3082533446850352619311881710100031378387528865875332083 8142061717766914730359825349042875546873115956286388235 3787593751957781857780532171226806613001927876611195909 2164201989380952572010654858632788659361533818279682303 0195203530185296899577362259941389124972177528347913151 5574857242454150695950829533116861727855889075098381754 6374649393192550604009277016711390098488240128583616035 6370766010471018194295559619894676783744944825537977472 6847104047534646208046684259069491293313677028989152104 7521620569660240580381501935112533824300355876402474964 7326391419927260426992279678235478163600934172164121992 4586315030286182974555706749838505494588586926995690927 2107975093029553211653449872027559602364806654991198818 3479775356636980742654252786255181841757467289097777279 3800081647060016145249192173217214772350141441973568548 1613611573525521334757418494684385233239073941433345477 6241686251898356948556209921922218427255025425688767179 0494601653466804988627232791786085784383827967976681454 1009538837863609506800642251252051173929848960841284886 2694560424196528502221066118630674427862203919494504712 3713786960956364371917287467764657573962413890865832645 9958133904780275900994657640789512694683983525957098258 2262052248940772671947826848260147699090264013639443745 5305068203496252451749399651431429809190659250937221696 4615157098583874105978859597729754989301617539284681382 6868386894277415599185592524595395943104997252468084598 7273644695848653836736222626099124608051243884390451244 1365497627807977156914359977001296160894416948685558484 0635342207222582848864815845602850601684273945226746767 8895252138522549954666727823986456596116354886230577456 4980355936345681743241125150760694794510965960940252288 7971089314566913686722874894056010150330861792868092087 4760917824938589009714909675985261365549781893129784821 6829989487226588048575640142704775551323796414515237462 3436454285844479526586782105114135473573952311342716610 2135969536231442952484937187110145765403590279934403742 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5011465406284336639379003976926567214638530673609657120 9180763832716641627488880078692560290228472104031721186 0820419000422966171196377921337575114959501566049631862 9472654736425230817703675159067350235072835405670403867 4351362222477158915049530984448933309634087807693259939 7805419341447377441842631298608099888687413260472156951 6239658645730216315981931951673538129741677294786724229 2465436680098067692823828068996400482435403701416314965 8979409243237896907069779422362508221688957383798623001 5937764716512289357860158816175578297352334460428151262 7203734314653197777416031990665541876397929334419521541 3418994854447345673831624993419131814809277771038638773 4317720754565453220777092120190516609628049092636019759 8828161332316663652861932668633606273567630354477628035 0450777235547105859548702790814356240145171806246436267 9456127531813407833033625423278394497538243720583531147 7119926063813346776879695970309833913077109870408591337 4641442822772634659470474587847787201927715280731767907 7071572134447306057007334924369311383504931631284042512 1925651798069411352801314701304781643788518529092854520 1165839341965621349143415956258658655705526904965209858 0338507224264829397285847831630577775606888764462482468 5792603953527734803048029005876075825104747091643961362 6760449256274204208320856611906254543372131535958450687 7246029016187667952406163425225771954291629919306455377 9914037340432875262888963995879475729174642635745525407 9091451357111369410911939325191076020825202618798531887 7058429725916778131496990090192116971737278476847268608 4900337702424291651300500516832336435038951702989392233 4517220138128069650117844087451960121228599371623130171 1444846409038906449544400619869075485160263275052983491 8740786680881833851022833450850486082503930213321971551 8430635455007668282949304137765527939751754613953984683 3936383047461199665385815384205685338621867252334028308 7112328278921250771262946322956398989893582116745627010 2183564622013496715188190973038119800497340723961036854 0664319395097901906996395524530054505806855019567302292 1913933918568034490398205955100226353536192041994745538 5938102343955449597783779023742161727111723643435439478 2218185286240851400666044332588856986705431547069657474 5855033232334210730154594051655379068662733379958511562 5784322988273723198987571415957811196358330059408730681 2160287649628674460477464915995054973742562690104903778 1986835938146574126804925648798556145372347867330390468 8383436346553794986419270563872931748723320837601123029 9113679386270894387993620162951541337142489283072201269 0147546684765357616477379467520049075715552781965362132 3926406160136358155907422020203187277605277219005561484 2555187925303435139844253223415762336106425063904975008 6562710953591946589751413103482276930624743536325691607 8154781811528436679570611086153315044521274739245449454 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Of course, pi is the expression of the relationship between a circle's diameter and its circumference. The value has been calculated to billions of decimal places and it never repeats itself. Extraordinary.




More extraordinary was Gizmodo's including a video of the rock band Warrant performing "Cherry Pie". All very strange.

Until the next time

So that's what the EU does with all that Microsoft Money

You might have deduced that I am not a "fan" of the European Union. I consider it to be excessively bureaucratic, inefficient, wasteful, extravagant, excessively interventionist and probably unnecessary. The fact that for years the EU's auditors have refused to sign-off the accounts is just the cherry on the cake for me.

This article from Techcrunch has drawn my attention to another aspect of the EU's activities: subsidies in the area of search engine design. I think that the writer of the article has every reason to be cynical although of course he is writing from the American point of view.

To whet your appetite, here's the opening paragraph from the article:

"Now I get it - The EU takes money from the Microsoft ATM with one hand, and then invests it in a sure-to-fail “Google Killer” with the other."

Until the next time.

Friday 14 March 2008

More noise from South America

It sems that President Correa of Ecuador is endeavouring to raise his personal profile by trying to out-"motormouth" his friend and neighbour, "Raspberry Beret" Chavez of Venzuela.

He is upset that President Bush of the USA offered strong support for Colombia's cross-border raid on a FARC guerilla camp just inside Ecuador.

This article from the IHT includes the following quote:

But Correa clearly remains angry over the raid — as well as over Colombian allegations that documents found on a rebel leader's laptop computer show Correa's administration cooperating with the guerrillas in some areas and that the rebels had contributed to Correa's campaign.

My view? (Anybody listening?) is that if Correa's country chooses to allow these terrorists (for that is what they undoubtedly are) to set up camp, he can expect trouble which of course is what he has had. It is typical of such hypocrites to whinge afterwards.

Until the next time

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Fuck the Chinese Olympics

Please do not mention the Olympic Games this year to me.

The disgusting scene shown in the picture below comes from China where a so-called "clean-up" is taking place prior to the Games. Thousands of cats are being dragged off to what have been described as "death camps." Many cats are simply beaten to death...

Picture source: Daily Mail

You can read the full Daily Mail article here, but you'll need a strongish stomach.

I am utterly disgusted.

Until the next time

Free Speech Suffering Again

No, not Denmark or the Netherlands: this time it's "Democratic Russia".

Yes Putin's Russia where the press is state-controlled and all opposition ruthlessly put down as soon as it appears to be credible (ask Gary Kasparov).

Apparently, according to this article, people have taken to reading blogs and websites instead or perhaps as a counterbalance to, the "state press"; now the authorities have launched a criminal case against a blogger who posted an aggressive anti-police item on his blog.

The article quotes him as having said:

"They're trash — and those that become cops are simply trash, dumb, uneducated representatives of the animal world," he wrote. "It would be good if in the center of every town in Russia ... an oven was built, like at Auschwitz, in which ceremonially, every day, and better yet, twice a day ... the infidel cops were burned. This would be the first step toward cleaning society of these cop-hoodlum scum."

Hmm, makes this blog look positively mild by comparison, but in my view either there is free speech or there isn't.

Until the next time

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Time is Stealthy

Picture source: here


One will always hear people of a certain age remark "I just don't know where the time goes - the days seem to fly by."

The reason for this effect is of course that each successive day is a diminished part of a total experience. The tiny proportional change day by day, means that time catches us out by stealth.

Today whilst browsing the news, I had a sharp reminder of this axiom. The US Airforce has announced that the famous Lockheed F117A "Nighthawk" "stealth fighter" is to be withdrawn from active service. This was shock enough - worse was to follow with the words "...after 27 years."


F22 "Raptor"
Image source: here

Whilst undeniably sinister in appearance, I consider the aircraft to be stunningly beautiful; its replacement the F22 "Raptor" whilst no doubt very effective, just doesn't "cut the mustard" for me.

Picture source: Skunkworks

Until the next time.

Monday 10 March 2008

Report from Zimbabwe

This short video comes from the International Herald Tribune.

Given in very measured tones, the report is a fine summary of the situation in this troubled country - the hellish situation that Mugabe has created.

I am very sorry to report that the meanies at the IHT will not allow the video to be viewed from here (In which case why do they provide the HTML code??) It is a good video and I recommend that you CLICK ON THIS LINK TO SEE IT

Until the next time

Sunday 9 March 2008

Fin de Weekend

Sorry, but you cannot beat the clock: the weekend is nearing its end, so in an attempt to lift the Sunday evening gloom, here's a bit of silliness I found whilst searching for something else (as usually happens).

Have a good week!




À bientôt

Alex Dragulescu - II


Picture Alex Dragulescu
Source: here
A few days ago I featured the work of Romanian-born artist Alex Dragulescu under the title "Beauty from Rubbish".

His work has been featured again on the Gizmodo site here. Included in the article is the following:

Artist Alex Dragulescu renders these eerie 3D images using the neutralized code of viruses, worms, spyware and Trojan horses. He gets the code from the security firm MessageLabs, which commissioned the works. Dragulescu explains:

API calls, memory addresses and subroutines are tracked and analyzed. Their frequency, density and grouping are mapped to the inputs of an algorithm that grows a virtual 3D entity.
Why does this remind me so much of all those movies where scientists culture supposedly neutralized biological viruses, and the next thing you know 97% of the earth is dead? No, Alex, we wouldn't like a signed, numbered digital copy of your virus collection on our hard-drive, no matter how safe you say it is! [Alex Dragulescu via Gizmodo AU]

I hope you can follow that explanation, which is rather more competent than my effort the other day.

I have to add that the image above looks much more like some horrible "trojan" or "virus" than the images I displayed in my earlier article!

Until the next time

A Question of Balance


In my writings on this blog, I do try to be fair and to take a reasonably balanced view of the events on which I report - despite my often vituperative - indeed frequently choleric - style (the "Bandits" series is in my view a deserved exception).

So to conclude the brief run of articles about Señor Chavez, or "Raspberry Beret" as I have christened him, I can report that the affairs in South America have calmed down following a meeting of the main actors in Rio de Janeiro last Friday.

The atmosphere was somewhat frosty, but numerous voltes-face were made and following some rather rigid handshakes, everyone went home, hoping for a peaceful future.

The IHT article contains the following rather interesting statement (the italics are mine):

"The statement notes that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe apologized for the March 1 raid that killed 25 people including a senior rebel commander, and that he pledged not to violate another nation's sovereignty again. But it also committed all the countries to fight threats to national stability from "irregular or criminal groups," a clear reference to Colombia's accusation that its two neighbors have ties to Colombian rebels."

It will be interesting to see if Raspberry Beret and his pal in Ecuador will keep their side of the bargain - after all Chavez has campaigned for FARC's naming as a "terrorist organisation" to be cancelled...

Until the next time

Saturday 8 March 2008

Bandits - V


Photo source: here

The monster pictured above is Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch. The most impressive entry on his CV is the fact that he was head of the Khmer Rouge torture centre and therefore directly and personally responsible for the colossal number of deaths in the so-called "killing fields" in Cambodia.

The bastard is on trial, and as part of the proceedings he has been taken to the killing fields which are preserved as a memorial to the many dead.

Apparently the poor soul was upset: he was "in tears" and "with his hands clasped in prayer", particularly when a notice reminded him about how children were killed by having their heads smashed against tree trunks.

These days we are told quite frequently about "forgiveness" - and there are even cases of parents meeting with the murderers of their children.

To me this is inconceivable: were I in charge I would give this horrible little shit something to cry about: perhaps a small-calibre bullet in the base of the spine and leave him in the killing fields of his own creation in the company of the millions of ghosts there.

IHT report here.

Until the next time

Thursday 6 March 2008

French Music, Smoking and another blog

My views on smoking are made perfectly clear in my "profile" on the right of this page. Because I have written about smoking on my other blog, I received a comment from une blogeuse parisienne; her blog is called "La Blog de la Louve".

Scrolling down in the blog I found this music video: quite good to listen to, and it has smoking in it. Hurrah!




Until the next time

One law for the rich and...?

Late last year a circular letter was sent to Brussels police warning them not to visit bars and brothels whilst on duty. The article from Reuters contains the following quote:

"These officers think their duty hours are to be used to drink alcohol in bars, practice sports..., visit brothels or massage parlors, and entertain (intimate) relationships with residents of the neighborhood during their patrol," said the letter from a local police chief.

I must say that it makes say, reading one's private emails in office hours look quite innocent.

On the other hand, for a mere $5,400 (US not Zimbabwean) per day, how about this companion:


From the Valleywag article about Kari pictured above, comes this quote:

Who's booking the hotel? If you need her to make the reservations, let her know up front. She may assume the office has you covered, since business travelers make up so much of the client base.

On the face of it, nice work if you can get it...

Until the next time

Money, money, money

This month, the Zimbabweans will have the opportunity to vote for more of the same - I doubt if Mugabe's ghastly police (posts passim here) will permit anything else.

According to this article, one would now need 20kg of Zimbabwean currency to purchase a $100 bill.

I am sorry to have to admit that on this occasion words fail me.

Until the next time.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Bling-Bang!

Source: here

A silly item to round off the day.

All about the gift for the girl who has everything, including presumably enemies!

Read all about it here!

Here's another "shot"...

Source: here
Until the next time

Y-A-W-N - Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Recently American Airlines found that it had to cancel a flight from Chicago to London. The airline was able to accommodate all but five of the displaced passengers, but for the remaining five it laid on another aircraft.

This has prompted a furious outburst from the "Green lobby" - in the form of "Friends of the Earth". This organisation claims that each passenger's so-called "carbon footprint" was 43 tons (of carbon dioxide).

Here's a quote from a "green", one Richard Dyer, "transport campaigner" for Friends of the Earth.

"Flying virtually empty planes is an obscene waste of fuel. Through no fault of their own , each passenger's carbon footprint for this flight is about 45 times what it would have been if the plane had been full."

Presumably fully-laden aircraft therefore consume 45 times less fuel than empty ones! What difference does it make? Idiot. He probably believes all that "global warming" nonsense. This type of statistical perversion is typical of lobbyists - the anti-smoking Politburo talk the same sort of crap.

The airline pointed out that the aircraft had anyway to collect a full load of passengers for the return flight at London.

Here's a link to the full article from the Daily Telegraph.

In exasperation,

Until the next time





Beauty from Rubbish

Picture: Alex Dragulescu
Image source: joshspear.com

Someone once said that all spammers should be sent to jail, where they should be obliged to share cells with people who have had their penises enlarged, have taken Viagra, and are seeking a new relationship.

An amusing thought, but there are those who are able to find something positive - even from the worldwide problem that is spam.

Such a person is the amazingly original Romanian artist Alex Dragulescu who created the lovely image above from spam! My grip of digital theory is weak to say the least, but as I understand it he takes the spam information and breaks it into chunks of data and manipulates these to produce wonderful images such as that above.

I discovered all this from another news feed Wired.com; here is a nice short Flash presentation that provides a little more information and some fascinating images.

As usual, I am a bit late: here on TechRepublic is more information and it was there that I found this gorgeous picture - again apparently from spam!

Picture: Alex Dragulescu
Image source: Techrepublic.com.com

Finally, from this site comes a nice quote about the artist who works with a collaborator, Tim Jaeger at the University of California:

He [Dragulescu] started feeding messages into a plant-generating algorithm. "I have certain key words controlling, for example, the size…. Like, how many times is ‘Viagra’ in the text, and maybe it will control the size of the petals."

The sort of thing that gives one a little hope!

Until the next time

Chicken or the Egg: which came first?

Photo source: Gizmodo

The picture above shows The "Backpack House", apparently not a serious idea but an artistic concept according to this article from Gizmodo.

As soon as I saw the photograph a little bell rang in the back of my head; it did not have to ring for long before I recalled Le Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. The museum is mainly devoted to ethnic art from around the world, but of course it was not ethnic art that the "Backpack House" brought to mind as the photo below (I hope) demonstrates.


Photo source: here

Plagiarism? I suppose we shall never know...

Until the next time

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Resistentialism - or "Les choses sont contre nous" (Things are against us)

My last piece about the superb ruggedised Dell laptop computer reminded me of a concept that has entertained and amused me for many years since I discovered Paul Jennings's wonderful piece in which he introduced the oh-so-familiar concept of Resistentialism: the reality described eloquently by Wikipedia here that many of us have encountered: the fact that "Les Choses sont contre Nous" - or in English "Things are against us". By "things", Jennings was referring to inanimate objects.

The concept has been explored further and this quote from Wikipedia is most attractive for enthusiasts of the genre:

"The concept also appears in the Discworld novels of English author Terry Pratchett, where it is referred to as malignity or malignance; one practical example the author gives is the tendency of garden hoses, no matter how carefully one coils and stores them, to unloop themselves overnight and tie the bicycle to the lawnmower. It is associated with the Auditors of Reality, and possibly also with Anoia, goddess of Things that Stick in Drawers."

Of course the piece is a parody of Existentialism, but Jennings's reports of the opinions of Pierre-Marie Ventre have a distinct air of authenticity nonetheless

The keyboard on which I am typing this article is a very good example: from time to time an individual key will "bind" or stick resulting in rubbish on the screen. The next time that the key is depressed, it works perfectly; this is Resistentialism in action.

Jennings's piece includes wonderful examples, such as the Clark-Trimble Buttered Toast experiments in which carefully graded pieces of buttered toast were dropped on different carpet samples ranging from cheap cotton to the finest Chinese silk. Of course the toast landed face -up every time on the cheap cotton and nearly always face-down on the Chinese silk except when the different grades of carpet were shielded from each other, in which case the toast didn't know that there were superior and more expensive grades of carpet available - so naturally the toast fell face down nearly every time.

Fortunately Jennings's article is available on line and I heartily recommend it, especially to those who, like me have daily difficulty with sticking drawers, the car that starts perfectly every time until one is in a hurry etc., etc.

Until the next time.

This is obviously for Me

As I reported earlier in this blog, I have never had any (what I call) money.

Another of my difficulties is that things that I have break. Now famous racing-car mechanic, the late Carroll Smith had a number of maxims: one of these was "Parts don't break: we break them"

As far as I am concerned this is not true, but then I am not as successful as Mr Smith was...

Anyway, the $3899 that Dell is asking for the superb piece of kit illustrated above would not have been an outrageous sum when I had a JOB, but since I have not had a JOB (i.e. what I call a JOB) for some time, $3899 must be classified as "outrageous."

I would love one of those laptops.

Information here

Until the next time

Musical Chairs in Moscow

Source: here

The BBC's news reports, though fairly few in number compared of course with the "rolling news" feeds that I receive, are very often written in good style.

Today, there is a fine piece by Moscow correspondent Bridget Kendall that speculates on likely developments following Dimtri Medvedev's election success on Sunday.

Miss Kendall comments:

"If Mr Medvedev is the protege, how can his political patron abruptly become his junior?

Are we to expect Mr Putin to traipse up to the Kremlin every Monday, as is customary, to make a weekly report to his new boss? Will he hang President Medvedev's portrait on his prime ministerial wall?

And will Mr Putin have to worry that one day he may wake up to find he has been sacked? After all, the Russian constitution allows the president to reshuffle his cabinet whenever he wishes."

And Putin is quoted as saying:

"The president is the guarantor of the constitution and sets the main domestic and foreign policy guidelines," he declared last month.

"But the highest executive power in the land lies with the government" whose task, he tells us, is not just to oversee the economy and social policy, but "to create conditions to ensure defence and security".

Miss Kendall concludes:

So much for changing jobs - it sounds as though Mr Putin wants to take his with him.

Quite ominous I would say.

Until the next time


Raspberry Beret Update

More news here from the troubled part of South America that includes Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

Readers will recall that the Colombians launched a raid a couple of miles into Ecuadorian territory to attack a FARC guerilla camp. Since then, the two left-wing régimes have moved troops and tanks up to their borders with Colombia.

The article (link above) has some good quotable sections; for example after providing a summary of recent events, the article goes on to say:

"But there is little appetite for armed conflict in the region, despite Chavez's recent purchases of $3 billion in Russian arms, including 53 military helicopters, 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles and 24 SU-30 Sukhoi fighter jets.

The economic costs, to begin with, are far too high.

Too many people depend on cross-border trade worth $5 billion a year, most of it Colombian exports sorely needed by Venezuelans already suffering milk and meat shortages. Ecuador depends on some $1.8 billion in trade with Colombia."

Call me a reactionary cynic if you like but this description of the economic realities is so typical - think East and West Germany, Albania as was or North Korea... And yet, as stated above, Chavez has spent $3 billions on Russian armaments whilst his people have milk and meat shortages: a twerp indeed.

Then there's this:

"According to Colombia's national police director, Gen. Oscar Naranjo, the files seized in Saturday's raid are "tremendously revelatory" and are being examined with the help of U.S. experts.

One document, apparently written in February, suggests Venezuela recently gave the rebels $300 million, while another suggests the rebels were shopping for 50 kilos of uranium, said Naranjo."

$300,000,000? Quite a lot of milk and meat...

For the final extract, a quote from a Venezuelan citizen:

"The rebel presence has made many Venezuelans who live near the border uneasy. Chavez's threats have only made these people more anxious. And war fever seemed absent from the streets of Caracas.

"I hope Chavez isn't thinking about the madness of sending our sons to die in an absurd war with Colombia," said Carmen Arellano, a 41-year-old homemaker. "Chavez wants to fight a war to conceal the social and economic crisis in this country.""

Until the next time




Monday 3 March 2008

Raspberry Beret Again

Yes it's about Chavez again.

Now I do not want my readers to think that I am unaware of the general nature of South American politics, but even so I am inclined to believe the Colombians when they say that a captured FARC computer (from the recent Ecuadorian raid) contains proof that Chavez is funding FARC; a figure of $300,000,000 is mentioned, a tidy sum indeed.

Perhaps if I metamorphose myself into a kidnapper, murderer, and cocaine shipper, perhaps he'd like to fund me too.

The article is here.


Until the next time.

Almost too much for one day - Press Freedom again

Another story concerning press freedom - yes Muslim stuff yet again I am sorry to have to report.

"The freedom of speech must not be used to make a billion Muslims cry," says one Spanta, Afghan foreign minister. Why not? and more to the point what are they crying about? In any case, the hated Western countries are, under the auspices of the United Nations (don't forget) spending billions and sacrificing the lives of their soldiers to try to bring order to his bordel of a country.

Ingratitude I call it.

Meanwhile that first-class liar, President Omar al Bashir of Sudan has excelled himself thus:

"We are a friendly nation and we're a peaceful country."

As a "Sarf" Londoner might remark "He's having a laugh ain't he?" I doubt if the hundreds of thousands of Darfuri refugees would agree with al Bashir.

Until the next time.

Many Arrests Expected

U.S. President George W. Bush, could not, even by his most loyal supporter be described as the most popular American President ever.

Charles Madrid of Los Angeles, a 50-year-old who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, in the course of a telephone conversation with his "girlfriend", apparently threatened that he would kill the President. His girlfriend's response was to report the matter to the L.A. police who have arrested Madrid and have charged him with "knowingly and willfully (sic) threatening to take the life of the president."

A lot of thoughts crowded into my mind on reading the story:

- With a girlfriend like that who needs enemies?
- Are the L.A. police REALLY taking this seriously?
- I do not have all the facts of course, but is a private conversation like this, enough to justify an arrest?
- A case of institutional paranoia perhaps?

I expect this event to be followed by a further 100,000,000 arrests...

Until the next time

Sex/Shock/Horror/Scandal in Silicon Valley

This time it's Techcrunch I have to thank.

Many of us would like to to think that we are above gossip etc. However I suspect that the reality is that most of us find it irresistible. It is presumably for this reason that the Silicon Valley Blog scandal-sheet Valleywag is enjoying so much success and includes IAC (?) and the Wall Street Journal amongst its advertisers.

Unfortunately someone who was mentioned on this site has committed suicide; there is apparently said not to be a connexion between the two events, but as the Techcrunch piece suggests, it is not so much a matter of if a suicide will result, but when. This of course is the tragic downside of the gossip industry, which is probably as old as mankind.

It's a blog for "grown-ups" - this article for example...

But also reported is a master plan by the "Z-list Celebrities" (THAT word again!) threatening to destroy gossip sites:



I am afraid that despite having mixed feelings, I shall be obliged to include Valleywag in my blog bookmarks.


EXTRA!

Techcrunch has reported here on another gossip site "Juicy Campus"

This is a gossip site aimed at college students. Of course I visited, but it wouldn't be my first choice for original thought - far from it. Techcrunch seems to think that before long the writing will be on the wall for Juicy Campus; I do not think that it would be a great loss.

Until the next time

Telephones, Money: Greed (& stupidity)

I have become a bit of a fan of the Gizmodo RSS newsfeed that I view via Google Reader.

Today I spotted a couple of stories that made me reflect for a minute. First there's this - all about a man who received a $22,000 telephone bill for his Vodaphone portable phone. Apparently his wife was using the phone to download four episodes of the American soap-opera "Friends"; not very bright in my book I have to say. Apparently part of the downloads took place in Germany and because he was "out of area" these piratical charges were imposed.

I have often wondered why all my life, I have never had any money: in fact I often wonder how so many people seem to have so much of the stuff: I know there's lots of money about - but I never see it - but then I have never been in a position where I can charge extortionate sums for my work, unlike these phone companies or some lawyers for example.

It seems that the EU is going to take a step towards justifying its existence by acting against these telephone robbers. We shall see.

On the other hand, and also reported in Gizmodo is Sprint/Nextel's current offer of unlimited voice/text for $89.99 per month (say €60/£45).

As I suggested above, the art of making money has always been a closed book to me!

Until the next time

Sunday 2 March 2008

Quelle Surprise!

Picture source: here


This is Dimitri Medvedev, who perhaps might be described as Valdimir Putin's Crown Prince.

Following a very skewed election campaign (it's easy to win if you lock up the credible opposition or ban them from standing) in which the Crown Prince has had the full support of the Kremlin-controlled media (shades of Goebbels?) it appears from exit polls that surprise, surprise, Mr Medvedev will be the next President of The Russian Federation, with of course Putin in the wings as his No2.

It is an ironic coincidence that we are only a short time away from the Zimbabwean elections...

Extra: Regarding the last statement, it is reported today (3/3/08) that observers of the elections state that "despite 'irregularities' the result represents the will of the people." That's something I suppose: something that the Zimbabweans will sadly have to wait for - until Mugabe "pops his clogs." The sooner the better


Report on Russian elections here.

Until the next time

And yet another Twerp

Picture source: here

The fellow with the "Raspberry beret" (thank you Prince) is Hugo Chavez, loudmouthed president of oil-rich Venezuela.

This buffoon, whose chosen career path appears to be to upset as many people as possible, has made another balls-up - at least in my opinion.

Colombia, a neigbouring state, has had for forty years to try to deal with an insurgency from the dreadful Marxist FARC organisation - the taking of hostages has attracted wide coverage recently. The Colombian military went into Ecuadorian (Ecuador another neighbour) territory to attack a FARC camp there; the Ecuadorians according to the latest news have protested Colombia's actions, but unlike Chavez, have merely withdrawn their ambassador whilst stating that economic ties will remain unaffected.

Chavez's reaction? He has sent ten tank battalions and aircraft to the border and appears, according to this article to be threatening war or at least "sabre-rattling." What is the matter with this idiot? Would it not be preferable to support an operation to rid the territory of these terrorist gangsters? Not for Hugo Chavez who apparently supports the terrorists (whom he does not consider as terrorists).

Or is it that his "socialist" principles will not allow him to accept that the Colombian Government is supported by the USA? This of course is the answer, but by "mouthing off" the way he does, he will do no good at all.

What a world eh?

Until the next time

"Celebrity" Dating from Microsoft

Illustration source: here

A word heard far too often these days, and one which makes me grind my teeth, is "celebrity".

These days this irritating word usually means some lack-lustre individual with little of import to say and who usually cannot speak properly. All you need it seems are some nice "bones" or perhaps a big pair of tits, nice bum and so on.

Well it seems that Microsoft Corporation is getting into the dating business with some new software. As I understand it one uploads a picture of one's favourite celebrity and then one can search dating sites for a close match.

The full article from Gizmodo is here.

Pretty sad if you ask me, but then no-one ever does!

Until the next time.

Bach in the News

Image: BBC

The BBC reports here that Dundee University has, using advanced forensic techniques created this impression of how the great composer looked. The article states that only one portrait is known to exist.

A little research led me to this site which covers the subject of Bach's portraits


Picture sources: here

The picture on the left is perhaps the best known image, but the site shows another which is alleged to show the composer at about the age of 20. It looks convincing to me!

Until the next time

A Quandery?

The story from England has often been told. Some bloke rang the police to say that burglars had broken into his shed (not for the first time). The police told him that they were sorry but that they had no-one available. Shortly afterwards the chap called back to say "don't worry, you don't need to come because I have shot them."

Within a few minutes a helicopter appeared above and on the ground, an "Armed Response Unit" with lots of policemen. They said to the bloke "Where are the bodies?" The bloke replied "There aren't any." The police said "But we understood that you shot the intruders."

And the bloke replied "And I understood that you had no-one available."

It's wonderful isn't it? The police are unable to protect us and yet will do their damnedest to prevent us protecting ourselves.

This story from Mexico is an illustration: now those who supply us with our "protection" have to be licensed - because of the very people we are trying to protect ourselves against!

As the French might say "Quel bordel"!

Until the next time

Saturday 1 March 2008

Talent

It was announced today that a former Associated Press newsman, Donald McNicholl has died today at the ripe old age of 93. It seems that he was extraordinarily competent if this quote is anything to go by:

A vivid picture of McNicoll at work was drawn by the late South African journalist and anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods in his 1980 autobiography, "Asking for Trouble." Woods described what he called a "harrowing interview" with McNicoll while seeking a job with the AP in London.

"McNicoll seemed to be doing several things at once, mentally subediting running copy from a teletype machine on to his typewriter while answering questions from a succession of journalists. ... Three or four of the journalists waited in line for such guidance, which McNicoll gave out of the corner of his mouth without looking up from his typing or his reading of the telex," Woods wrote.

When McNicoll found out that Woods was 24 and without journalistic experience in Britain, he announced to everyone within hearing that he must be a genius to consider himself ready to join AP.

Exclaiming, "I'll soon find out!" McNicoll plucked a thick handful of stories and told Woods to edit them in exactly one hour: "Tight, mind! Not one unnecessary word."

Woods gave back half the stories and did the tightest editing job he could for the next hour on the rest, he wrote.

McNicoll took the edited stories, "picked up a red pencil and, while continuing to answer queries from various staff men who advanced to his desk, went through my copy with the red pencil, flying over the pages, leaving savage gashes here, fresh paragraph marks there, tearing out and rewriting great swathes of words and working through the pile in 15 minutes."

McNicoll had effortlessly tightened the editing by more than half, "leaving out no essential element of any story and vastly improving the wording," Woods wrote. He didn't get the job.

Here's the full article.

I wish I could do that...

Until the next time