Saturday, July 05, 2003

A creative use of bandwidth

As I get loads of free bandwidth every month that I don't even come remotely near to using, I thought I'd share with you all something from my hard drive.

No, nothing sinister, just a song I downloaded back when I was bringing the record industry to its knees/using Napster (delete as appropriate). Because I'm still on a dialup connection (I have the strange urge to be the last blogger still using one) and only have a small hard drive on my PC, I never got into downloading entire albums - instead, I chose to track down songs that I liked but couldn't get hold of anymore.

So, in that spirit, let's go back to the late 80s to remember a Ghostbusters inspired video and a Stones-inspired song - 'Comin' on Strong' by Broken English. Where are they now, I wonder?

Friday, July 04, 2003


In that it's an event that actually fits in with my schedule, so I can go:

Blog Rule - Can Weblogs Change Politics?
Monday 14th July, 5.30 - 7.00pm, Portcullis House, House of Commons

Full details here on Voxpolitics.

Of course, my saying that I'm attending will no doubt be the decisive factor that persuades others not to go.

And he still can't act...

You can now see The Matrix Reloaded on an IMAX screen.

And I can now say that the film sucks big time.

Update: Dan has now created the ultimate Matrix trailer (.avi file, less than 500k, and you can probably guess what it's like given my opinion of the film - look, watching it took away two and a half hours of my life that I'll never get back, so this is my attempt to persuade others not to make the same mistake I did)

Lord Richard Gnome-Desmond

Good to see journalistic standards remain high on the Sunday Express.

Tam Dalyell and Tony Soprano

Zoe Williams gets the 'Simon Hoggart's off at a big lunch so someone else has to write the parliamentary sketch' duty in today's Guardian. Leaving comment on Michael Fabricant's hair to the professionals, she instead comes up with a great description of Tam Dalyell:
Tam Dalyell started doing that irascible shouting that always looks so noble and impassioned in a full house, but in a house containing only 12 people looks like a tramp on the back of a bus, doing an impression of Tony Soprano.

Triumph of the Blog

In the comments on the Julie Burchill letter below, Lori informed me that she also was featured on the letters page that day. Coming in the same week that Justin from Bar Room Philosophy had a letter on there as well, one could almost call it a trend. One which I started of course.

But, it gives me an idea for a little bit of fun. How about seeing just how many bloggers we can get on the letters page of a particular paper in one day? Sometime in advance we choose a day and a paper then see how many of us can get featured. Anyone interested?

Biased? Depends which way you look at it...

Downing Street's complaints about anti-war bias within the BBC appear to be disproved by an academic analysis that shows the corporation displayed the most "pro-war" agenda of any broadcaster.
A detailed study of peak-time television news bulletins during the course of the Iraq war shows that the BBC was more reliant than any of its rivals on government and military sources.

Facts? You can prove anything with facts!

Ich sprache keine Deutsch

Wie, ist hier etwas auf Deutsch für Sprachenwoche versprochen. Ich studierte Deutsches für GCSE (und erhielt ein ' D '), aber erinnere kaum mich irgendwelche von an ihm, also ist dieses mit dem Babelfish getan worden. Merkwürdig kann ich nicht Babelfish an der Arbeit zugänglich machen, da sie einer der Aufstellungsorte ist, die wir nicht an gelangen können. Welche Marken dadurch abfragen, daß sie etwas ist, die vom Gebrauch zu uns von Zeit zu Zeit wirklich sein kann.

As promised, here's something in German for language week. I studied German for GCSE (and got a 'D') but hardly remember any of it, so this has been done with the Babelfish. Strangely, I can't access Babelfish at work as it's one of the sites we can't get to. Which makes sense in that it's something that may actually be of use to us from time to time.

Those of you who speak German may now feel free to point out any humorous or embarrassing mistranslations.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Watchmen script

This is more just a reminder for me, so I don't forget this link. I'd add it to my favourites list, but there's so much stuff in there, it'd just get lost. So - the script for a movie version of Watchmen, as written by Sam Hamm. Seems my memory of it was wrong - it doesn't include 'I did it thirty-five minutes ago.' (thanks to The Great Communicator)

The horror...the horror

Whatever your view of the last US election, I think you have to agree that I Know What You Did Last is a great name for a website. Especially when you see there's a sequel - I Know What You're Doing In Washington. (via Bartcop)

Brent East by-election

I've had a few people coming here looking for information on the Brent East by-election, which is probably because there doesn't sem to be that much information out there. I can't find any news of the date for it, if it's been announced yet, which means it's not likely to occur until September.

However, what I have been able to find is the web pages for the local Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. There isn't a Labour website for Brent - at least not according to Google and the Labour Party's own website.

Book your holidays now

Astronomers have discovered another solar system that 'more closely resembles ours than any other' they've found. OK, we won't be taking a trip there in the near future, but I just find the 'artist's impression' of what they think it might look like quite amusing. Probably not the hardest job that artist's ever had, is it?

Sometimes she makes sense

Julie Burchill on the debate over feminism (scroll down on the page to find it):
If a woman answers no to the question "Are you a feminist?", she should immediately be stripped of her voting rights, her right to institute divorce, her legal protection from domestic violence and marital rape - oh, and her pay should be cut to 19% less than that of her male colleagues. Then she could lead the carefree, non-ball-breaking life she so desires, and not be forced to take advantage of all those unpleasant and exhausting social gains which those nasty butch feminists in the 20th century forced on her.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Please let it be from The Onion

I'm hoping that the Reuters and Onion newsfeeds have got mixed up in the Yahoo offices and this is just a mistake, not real news:

President Bush on Wednesday had a tough message for Iraqi militants attacking U.S. troops -- "Bring them on" -- and said the U.S. military presence was sufficient to deal with the attackers.

Basically, he's inviting them to come and attack American troops (and all the others in Iraq as well). So, will he apologise when they next kill an American or British soldier? I won't hold my breath waiting...

(Oops, forgot to say - this was originally from Beatniksalad and Daily Kos)

Bilingual blogging

Monsieur Jez a informe moi de la semaine de langue en le blogosphere - et je suis blogue dans Francais! Ma Francais c'est terrible, parce que je ne suis pas utilise francais pour quatre ou cinq ans. Je visite mon frere en Paris en Septembre...

Well, what it's supposed to say is: Mr Jez has informed me that it's language week in the Blogosphere this week so I'm blogging in French. My French is terrible because I haven't used it for four or five years. I'm visiting my brother in Paris in September... at which point, I couldn't work out how to say 'which means I really ought to brush up on it' and I'd promised myself I wouldn't cheat and use Babelfish to do this entry - though I did use Jez's Bloglossary.

Tomorrow: Deutsch mit Babelfisch

The enduring power of the internet

In year's gone past you could enter your children for all sorts of competitions when they were babies and not have to worry about them growing up with the stigma of winning something strange. Now, though, the internet has ensured that all our little jokes will be preserved for ever. So, spare a sort for the poor children who have rached the final of Chat magazine's Ugliest Baby Photo competition. Especially, this one, whose local paper has the headline 'Mum says: My baby is so ugly!' - he's going to have fun at school when his classmates find out about it, isn't he?

Life stranger than parody

So, I saw this article about Berlusconi telling a German MEP he should have been a concentration camp guard and thought for a moment about doing a post asking if he was an honorary poster at Samizdata, seeing as how they never miss a chance to make a Stalin or Hitler reference in relation to the EU. But, I decided not to, as I couldn't really make it that amusing, and anyway, life has a way of showing up satire.

Honesty at Prime Minister's Questions

One of the features of Prime Minister's Questions is that the Prime Minister always begins by listing his engagements for the day, usually in the form of: 'This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I will have further such meetings later today.'

Wouldn't it be fun, if just once he said something different? How about 'This morning, I was feeling a bit lazy so I lay in bed for a while before getting up to beat Euan at Grand Theft Auto before emailing some jokes from the internet to Dubya. This afternoon, I shall be sitting with my feet up watching Tim Henman, and I might do a bit of work this evening, but I'll probably just watch Corrie.'

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

The Guardian and the free market

I was just thinking about how various people on the right, and especially the Daily Mail, like to use the fact that most public sector jobs are advertised in The Guardian as some sort of indictment of a 'liberal culture within the public sector' or whatever it is they say.

But it occurs to me that this is just a case of The Guardian triumphing in the free market they like to proclaim as being good and wonderful the rest of the time. It's spotted a niche in the market and cornered it, so shouldn't they be cheering the entrpreneurial skills of the people working in GMG's recruitment advertising section?

Oh no, it's football again

One of the things that keeps the time between football seasons interesting for fans is the rumours that swirl around about who's going to be signing who. There's the high level rumours that make it to the newspapers, but much more interesting are the ones that come from fans who, in true urban legend style, have heard something with absolute certainty from a friend of a friend.

My favourite Wolves rumour of that ilk this year was on an email list the other day. A member of the list sits next to someone at Molineux whose girlfriend works at the Novotel hotel in Wolverhampton and she saw Dennis Bergkamp there over the weekend, so he's obviously about to sign for us.

Should this actually happen, I will of course take credit for breaking this news, but in the more likely event it doesn't I want to be clear that I'm only reporting this as an amusing rumour. There, that should cover all the bases...

A quiet night for Peter Snow again

Nick Sparrow and Alan Travis have an analysis of what current poll numbers might mean in today's Guardian. Like all psephology, it's a matter of interpreting the runes and pronouncing possibles as definites, but they do make the important point that one of the effects of the last election is that big swings are needed to dislodge all but a few seats - there aren't as many narrow marginals as there used to be.

As an example, Colchester, where I live, was originally won by the Lib Dems in 1997 with a majority of 1581/3% over the Conservatives but in 2001 the majority increased to 5,553/12.7%. What was a marginal that could have gone on a 2% Lib Dem to Conservative swing is now relatively safe, needing a swing of over 6%. It's not the only Lib Dem seat where this happened - Northavon was a surprise gain in 1997, but by 2001 the majority (again over the Conservatives) had increased from 3.4% to 17.7%, and Winchester's majority of 2 at the 1997 election had turned into 9,634 by 2001 (though the court mandated by-election/re-election which Mark Oaten won by 20,000 skews that result a little).

In short, unless there's some major changes in voting intention over the next couple of years we could be in for another night of election coverage that looks like it was scripted by Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Dimbleby, anyone?

Monday, June 30, 2003

I've been thinking (always a bad sign)

A couple of blogging-related ideas I've had, which I want to get feedback on:

First, would anyone out there be interested in a specifically European version of the Lefty Directory? Or just a general directory of European political blogs? There's some interesting stuff being written out there that I think is getting overlooked, such as Dragan's interesting perspective on Croatia, written in English.

Second, and this is much more vague, I was thinking about 'round-robin' writing earlier (where a group of writers create a story collaboratively, each one writing a chapter or section, then passing it on to the next one) and I'm wondering if anyone would be interested in a blogging variant of it? I was thinking of something where a group all choose a single topic to discuss, one writing about his or her thoughts on it then passing on to the next, who responds to what the first person wrote, then adds their own thoughts/opinions etc and passes it on to the next etc etc. It could either be something general, or a different form of political debate where you could bring in a range of different voices in the process.

And one last request - I've been upgraded to the new version of Blogger, so I can now add titles to my posts. However, I can't work out how to get them to appear on the posts themselves (and there doesn't seem to be any advice in Blogger's Help files). I assume it's just the matter of adding a bit of Blogger code to the template, but I can't work out what that code might be! I tried $BlogItemTitle$ (in the brackets that won't show up if I try and use them) but that didn't work. Any suggestions?

Anyway, if you've got any thoughts, let me know.

Last of the real stars?

"Life's what's important. Walking, houses, family. Birth and pain and joy -and then death. Acting's just waiting for the custard pie. That's all."
Katharine Hepburn, who died yesterday.
"I'm a personality as well as an actress. Show me an actress who isn't a personality and you'll show me a woman who isn't a star."

Steve Bell on the New York Times

In his article on the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention, Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell has a good description of the New York Times:

reading the New York Times, a supposedly great liberal newspaper, makes you wonder if they would ever say boo to a goose, let alone tell truth to power.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

And Part 3's going to be even worse...

It's a bit of a cliche to call Britain's rail services a 'horror story', but when you discover that Connex may get the chance to rise from the dead to terrorise a new batch of customers in another part of the country, it seems entirely appropriate.

Alternate polling watch

After I mentioned the IG Sport spread on the next General Election result yesterday it occurred to me that it might be vaguely interesting to occasionally update the spread they're offering to see how the predictions of the nation's hard core gamblers match up with the opinion polls and, in 2/3 years time, the result of the election itself. I'll probably check back there every month or so, or after any major events that might have changed opinions dramatically.

So, the current spreads are:

Labour: 345-355 seats
Conservatives: 200-210 seats
Lib Dems: 71-76 seats

Taking the midpoints of the spread (350, 205, 73) that means a prediction of Labour losing 63 seats, Conservatives gaining 39 and Lib Dems gaining 21.

Alternate World of Sport

More proof, it it were needed, that Formula 1 isn't really like other sports - Ferrari criticise Montoya for daring to overtake Schumacher. That noise you can hear is the sound of Ross Brawn throwing his toys out of the pram.

And in other news, McLaren may eventually use their 2003 car... in 2004. But, if the other teams decide to follow this policy of retro-cars, then in ten years time they could all end up in Model Ts.

A rare experience

Sometimes I actually feel sorry for Iain Duncan Smith. It passes after a while, but you have to feel for him when he's just got the first Tory lead in the polls since Peter Cuthbertson was in short trousers and then the Telegraph rain on his parade by publishing a Bruce Anderson piece calling for him to go.