Saturday, April 24, 2004

Cyprus

I've got a little post up on Fistful about Cyprus, which said both Yes and No today.

And in the future, everyone will have a blog! (part 94)

There's now a blog on the BBC Comedy website with various updates on new shows, interviews etc.

Some good links there - an interview with the director and producer of the Hitchhiker's movie and a chance to get tickets to see Jessica Stevenson's new show being recorded but while her former Spaced co-stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have been busy with Shaun Of The Dead and a new show about a pub quiz team called La Triviata, this is written by the man behind My Family...

Whatever happened to walks in the park?

Found via Green Fairy, the Supermodel Personals blog is very funny.

The uses of English

I've been wondering - having seen it in the press a lot recently, especially in Beckham-related articles, does anyone who's not a journalist ever use the phrase 'sex session'?

The most important league, really

You know, I think I've accepted that Wolves are going down this season. There's still a part of me that thinks we can do a Bradford, win the last four games and stay up by the skin of our teeth, but it gets smaller every day. Anyway, it has alongside it the thought that our final game is against Spurs and even if we win the next three games (Small Heath, Everton and Newcastle? Easy!) the season will no doubt end with former Molineux heroes Robbie Keane and Dean Richards sending us down in the last game.

But, one important barrier has been crossed. With four games to go, we've already scored more points than the 26 West Brom got last season. Ha! Spin that, Watson!

Friday, April 23, 2004

The delegates brandish their weapons

(A possibly apocryphal note from the record of the Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East, via Ken Macleod)

I'm reminded of that quote when reading an account of the events at yesterday's meeting regarding Westferry printing plant:
Various other expletives were hurled at the Telegraph directors as the rant unfolded.

When Mr Deedes expressed further dismay, Mr Desmond said: "Do you want to come outside and sort it out, then?"

The Telegraph executives decided to abandon the meeting. At this point the Express directors - managing director Martin Ellice, finance director Rob Sanderson and publishing manager Chris Haslum - were told to sing Deutschland über Alles.

Let battle be joined

In the red corner, spambots and all their associated mass mailers. In the blue corner, Google's much-vaunted new spam-blocking Gmail system. In the middle, my new Gmail email account - nick.barlow@gmail.com .

So, let's see what happens next.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

My party and other animals

I can't think of anything to write today, so go and read Anthony's reminiscences about the Tory Chicken and other strange political animals instead while I try and think of something.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

It's funny because it's true

A few years ago The Onion published a story entitled "'98 Homosexual Recruitment Druve Nearing Goal" which featured a spoof picture of a teacher in front of a picture of two men having sex. So far, so normal...

Now, we flash forward to 2004 where a group called Simply Truths Our Priority (I have no idea what that means except for it making a nice acronym), in an attempt to show the 'gay lobby's infiltration of American schools' used the same picture as evidence, failing to notice that it's satire. Maybe my living in a parallel universe idea isn't quite as far-fetched as it sounds.

The story comes from that staunchly heterosexual defender of manly patriotism, General JC Christian, who's naturally outraged and notes that it's not the first time The Onion has damaged the fight for a stronger, straighter America.

Something lighter

Many of you won't find this funny, but for those of you who do: Khaaan!

B.D. again

If you haven't seen it yet, go and read today's Doonesbury before reading the rest of this post, so you can't accuse me of spoiling it for you.

That last panel is genius, no? I bet the first thing 95% of regular readers will have noticed in that picture is that B.D. is pictured without his helmet which I think Trudeau has never done before. It's only when you look at it properly when you realise that something much more important is missing.

Vive les republiques!

I've got a new post on Fistful covering a rather trivial fact about EU expansion - for the first time in the EU's history, there won't be a balance between republics and monarchies in the member states.

What do the surrender monkeys eat in Honduras?

Around the same time the US announced John Negroponte is going to be the new Ambassador/Viceroy/Maximum Proconsul in Iraq, the government of Honduras (where Negroponte was, infamously, Ambassador in the 80s) announced that it would be withdrawing its troops from Iraq. Coincidence, I'm sure.

(Via Seeing The Forest and Pandagon)

Books

I've just finished reading Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies which was pretty interesting and well-worth reading, though not necessarily buying - I'm not sure it's a book that necessitates much re-reading, so borrowing it, if you know someone who owns a copy, will probably suffice for most people.

I found it most interesting in the parts that weren't reported as much as his critique of the current Bush Administration - his work in the Reagan, Bush Sr and Clinton Administrations. In fact, it's the background you get from the work he did there that helps to inform his critique of the current Administration's policies and casts them in context. I think his discussion of the work that was done on terrorism by the US Government during those twenty years is very interesting in showing some of the ways we ended up where we are today.

It may be worth waiting for a paperback version because the hardback does show some signs of having been rushed into production - there are a few errors (grammatical or typographical, not factual) that proofreading should have picked up - and some parts of the book could, I think, be improved by more distance from the events he's discussing.

Anyway, I'm now onto Andrew Marr's The Day Britain Died which has already thrown up one great bit to quote:
Many British people buy the argument that it would be worse to elect a president, because we might end up with Margaret Thatcher, or Tony Benn, or some other boo-figure for the other half. (In fact it would be the writer Alan Bennett, but not many people know that.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Help! I'm being repressed!

Go read this excellent post by D-Squared (and Matt's comments on it as well). I might have some thoughts of my own to add later, but for now those two should be enough for you.

Life imitates satire

I can't be the only person reading this story to think it sounds like something from TV Go Home or The Onion, can I?

Sometimes I get the feeling I've slipped into a parallel world, and back in the real world they're reading our newspapers as satires on the truth. It's like a Philip K Dick novel, but with less hallucinogens and a few more laughs.

Short notice TV recommendations

I wish I'd noticed that this was on earlier, when people in Britain were actually likely to be awake and had a chance of setting the video, but the Turning Muslim In Texas documentary that's on Channel 4 at 5.20 this morning is well worth watching. I saw it when they first showed it a few months ago as part of the 'Texas season' of films, and it's one of those documentaries that Channel 4 does very well, giving you an insight into the lives of people that you might never have considered before.

Stranger things have happened. But not many.

Via Anthony Wells' 'swivel-eyed loon update', we discover that the UKIP are predicting the possibility that they may get as many as ten MEPs in the European elections. A quick bank-of-an-envelope calculation tells me that that implies they're expecting something like 15% of the vote and - given that they're unlikely to win any seats in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - they'll have to get 2 MEPs in at least one of the English regions.

As Anthony puts it:
Roger Knapman predicts a "political earthquake" if UKIP manage to break the ten seat barrier - I expect there would also be political ramifications at the news of flying pigs, hell freezing over, Wolves staying in the premiership, and other things that have an equal likelihood of happening.
Except for the 'Wolves staying in the Premiership' part, I agree - though the law of strange political coincidences requires me to point out that Sir Jack Hayward is one of the UKIP's largest donors, though being committed to the UKIP from Grand Bahama causes some problems with the Electoral Commission.

Darkness in the comics

The question all the readers of Doonesbury are asking is 'is this the end for B.D.?' It'd be an interesting step for Garry Trudeau to take - he's killed off characters before, but they've usually been second tier ones and to kill off one of the core, original, characters in this way would be quite a shock for most readers.

I did wonder if he was going to do this a few weeks ago - the storyline that turned out to be about Walden suspending its football team began with a letter being delivered to Boopsie and her thinking 'Oh my god...' but it wasn't. I wonder now, though, if that wasn't a subtle form of foreshadowing.

And to think that I thought B.D.'s role in Iraq was just going to be in the ongoing Doonesbury remake of Apocalypse Now. I was looking forward to the Duke-as-Kurtz moments.

Monday, April 19, 2004

The benefits of a fish and chip diet

Probably showing my age a little here, but does the story of Tracey Morris - the runner from Leeds who shocked herself and the world of British running by knocking an hour off her previous personal best for the marathon and qualifying for the Olympics - make anyone else think of her as a kind of female Alf Tupper?

Update: Couple of other thoughts I had about this. First, it'll be interesting to see how she does at the Olympics, and to see what effect professional training and all the related benefits of being part of the team (going to the training camp in Cyprus beforehand, for instance) will have on her time. It's highly unlikely that she'll win - not least because this time Paula Radcliffe will be in the race - but it'll be interesting to see how much more she can take off her time.

Second, I'm sure that there are several people already thinking that this would make a great story for a movie (though in the Hollywood version, she's probably guaranteed a win in Athens) but the one thing it reminded me of was Faking It - can our team of experts turn a contact lens fitter into a marathon champion?

Because watching Lib Dems is so last month...

OK, this sounds honest, where do I fax the money to?

From The Register, found via Blogdex:
Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Plot 555
Misau Street
PMB 437
Garki, Abuja, FCT NIGERIA


Dear Mr. Sir,

REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL

I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.

In the 14-years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.

Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.

Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.

Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.

Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-2220 only.

Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
tip@nasrda.gov.ng

http://www.nasrda.gov.ng/
Maybe these guys can help him out?

Why didn't anyone predict this?

Via Matt and Dave, I discover that Tony Martin is now encouraging people to vote for the BNP. Now it's happened, it's amazing no one predicted it earlier - as Michael points out in Matt's comments: 'a criminal record would appear to be a prerequisite for joining (the BNP'

I can remember a friend telling me hat one of martin's comments after being released from prison was something on the lines of 'decency is more important than democracy'. Anthony Cormack pointed out a while ago the true nature of Martin's 'decency' , but even in the light of that, his commitment to democracy is still perhaps lower:
'I have not voted myself for 20 years and won't start now but others have to...
'There is going to be a dictator in this country, but there are such things as benign dictators. Too much liberalism is worse than too little. The politicians as we know them are already anachronisms.
'There are things that want doing today, right now. A dictator is the way to go.
As Dave points out, an interesting, and appropriate, word seems to have found its way into the URL for the Telegraph story. Someone ion the website staff seems to be paying attention.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Red Rom Insurance Brokers

I often wonder if estimates of Roman Ambramovich's wealth, such as today's proclamation that he's the richest man in Britain, are created with the assistance of a random number generator. Just come up with a number up to 10, add nine zeroes to the end and call it a 'definitive estimate'. I've certainly seen almost every figure up to the current £7.5billion attributed to him in the last year.

News 24 had a financial writer on this morning (whose name I missed) who described Abramovich's purchase of Chelsea as 'a relatively cheap insurance policy', helping to protect him from the long arm of Putin's law that's already imprisoned others like him. Now, I'm not quite sure I go for her explanation of it - that Putin would hesitate to move against Abramovich because of the potential backlash because he's so much of a public figure in Britain - but I think there are other reasons behind his purchase of Chelsea, besides a love of football.

I've read reports that suggest Abramovich is looking to move much of his fortune (however much it is) out of Russia, in case the political climate turns against him, and buying Chelsea makes that easier for him. Now, if he wants to buy some other business in Britain, he's nice, cuddly 'Red Rom', the man who got Chelsea within sniffing distance of the European Cup final, and not just some mysterious Russian oligarch splashing his mysteriously acquired cash around the country. Chelsea's not much of an investment in itself - no football club is, really - but in terms of PR benefit and what can be gained from that, it's easily worth a couple of hundred million.

Same lines, different truth

Well, here's another version of the 23/5 collection with additional sentences from Josephine, Bobbie, Nick, Hak Mao and Sara:
In all of Lantania's schools it was taught that the annexation of the volcano by the Gunduwians had been an act of banditry, and that the first duty of every Lantanian was to train militarily, hate Gunduwia with all his might, and prepare for the inevitable and desirable war, which was going to bend Gunduwian arrogance and reconquer the volcano.By the fourth century they had long since adopted writing and a government of stable laws. In 1847 the government tried and failed to stop The Times publishing correspondence between Lord Castlereagh and representatives of Imperial Russia on the Polish Question at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Partly because of unhealthy conditions in the Tidewater, where undrained swamps produced malaria and where medicine was exceedingly primitive, few people reached old age. Others believe that American interests in the region have been harmed. They did not employ the construction, 'Me Thinks', for instance. How can the whole thing begin to make sense?

Now, how does our mapping, defined by doubling the distance to the nearest corner, look arithmetically? Note how the energies of the two starting orbitals separate or spread apart when they interact to form the two molecular orbitals. Julius Paulus and Julius Civilis were by far the most distinguished among the Batavians, being both of royal stock.

Do you suppose the Imperium could expose its shakiness in this manner? It is rather to determine whether such a class exists at all. But, if we are not careful, we shall see thousands turning in this tribulation to the Enemy, while tens of thousands who do not go so far as that will nevertheless have their attention diverted from themselves to values and causes which they believe to be higher than the self. Now, the King's foreign minister, the Marquis de Torcy, had informed him that not only was Law back without a passport but that 'his intentions are not good' and that 'he is serving our enemies as a spy'.

"Look," Rich Armitage responded, "we told the Taliban in no uncertain terms that if this happened it's their ass." The new Jacob is secular and smart, the name has been sanded down and all its biblical varnish gone.

"Novedri!" Sunny said, which meant "Living underground would be no fun at all!" His next decision was to make a move North against two brothers called Herlaug and Hrollaug who ruled over Namdalen; but when the brothers heard of this move, Herlaug went into a grave mound that had taken three years to build, along with eleven other men, and after that the mound was sealed up.

"All right, I tried," I said, and fingered it out and forked it over. She was as eager as I was, and we bounced about in rare style, first one on top and then the other. Aristotle's political philosophy isn't exactly startling, but it avoids the utopianism of Plato's Republic. Funny how we dead never eat - yet still, some of us love to serve food.

A zeppelin has a rigid structure, whereas a blimp is non-rigid. But we need a more exhaustive and exclusive and discriminating definition of it, or recognition of it. Often, a cryptographer will remove all the spaces to make it harder for an enemy interceptor to intercept the message. We can be sure, however, that the great extant Aristotelian works are not, in contrast to the Platonic dialogues, finished pieces of writing meant for publication.

Your 15 minutes start here

It seems that everyone's a celebrity nowadays. (via John B, who's more famous than me, it seems)