February 2003 Archives

What exactly constitues a phallic symbol?

Feminists are protesting about giant phallic symbols (including 9-foot snow penises at Harvard University), but fatuously also complaining about missiles. Quite simply: penises don't separate themselves from the body and explode.

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Feminists are apparently complaining about phallic symbols. I'm not too bothered about the fact that they're complaining - after all, this is from the Harvard Crimson Online, the Harvard University journal, and some jocks did recently build a giant 9 foot penis made of snow (third photo) in a public place. The feminists dismantled it fairly soon, with notably the aid of a cardboard tube, which is presumably why Penny Arcade linked to it. (They have a thing about cardboard tubes: origin story, fight against game-hoarding old Chinese guys, beating up kids, just kind of there, part of a super-hero outfit, destroyer of huge alien things.)

But I digress. You can go on about how they're taking things too seriously - I mean, members of hockey team pull prank on campus, film at 11 - but the thing that annoyed me was the following:

She said the snow penis follows a long line of public phallic symbols, including the Washington Monument and missiles.

Now, the Washington Monument, maybe. But missiles? They're not long and thin because they're supposed to look like penises. They're long and thin because that's how they can travel through the air really fast.

I mean, there's almost nothing phallic about a missile when you actually think about it for a second. Missiles are designed to sit around doing nothing for a long time (OK, so far we've got a similarity, but bear with me), then eventually, once they're used, they detach themselves from the earth and fly off at great speed, until they hit something, at which point they explode.

Now, I can guarantee that any guy reading this, and then thinking "hey, maybe my penis is like a missile?" will almost immediately shudder and think about other things. If they're missile designers, if anything, they'll make their stuff look less like a penis. I mean, and I may be going out on a limb here, most men do not want their penis to detach itself and explode. It's a matter of pride here.

No, the feminists may be right about phallic symbols, but missiles aren't one of them. Now pneumatic drills, on the other hand...


The man writes like an angel

Which is appropriate for a priest.


Perhaps the best rebuttal of Biblical literalism I have seen so far, from Real Live Preacher:

I've struggled with the bible all of my life. I believe it is far less clear than many of you would like. On this issue, I have chosen my path and will stick by my interpretation.

Perhaps there will come a day when we meet "The Man Upstairs", as folks in Texas sometimes refer to God. On that day, I will know and be known. I believe Grace will cover the sins of honest seekers of scriptural truth. Since none of us read the bible the same way, we better�hope so.

He's referring to his initial post on homosexuality and the Bible, and his subsequent explanation; lest you think he's just a priest who knows his scripture, he also has wondrous tales to tell about tamales and the people who make them (be sure to read the brief, but equally fantastically-written follow-up).

I occasionally decide to not read his posts because I don't have time at the moment. Perhaps this is his greatest achievement.

The death-knell of fatty food?

Healthy eating may be winning against McDonalds - though market forces.

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How we wish. But there's signs that it may already be approaching:

McDonald's stock is trading near its seven-year low, its chief executive quit, and in the nine months ended Sept. 30 its global same-store sales were off 2.1%. [...] Subway, promoting its (foot-long) sandwiches as a lower-fat alternative to burgers, now has more U.S. franchises than McDonald's.

Not that healthy-eating forces have won - "Americans who want to eat right have to behave 'abnormally'" says the chairman of the World Health Organization's International Obesity Task Force.

See the rest of the article for more details. This link from Evan Williams, via, sort of, Scripting News.

Currently listening to: Banba Óir - Clannad, Banba

Haven't done a survey for ages

I've only 25% a fucktard - which sounds good to me.

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Via Real Live Preacher (Gareth, you'll like this blog), this test:

25% Fucktarded.You are pretty normal although you
do have your moments. Mainly you're just a
smartass and you have horrible luck. Hey, we're
all allowed to be a Fucktard sometimes!

How much of a FUCKTARD are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Nicely phrased questions (well, except if you dislike swearing). And the preacher's commentary on finding that someone found his website by searching for "fucktard nerdy redhead twat" is one of his best posts.

Can someone please douse China?

Large coal beds are on fire, eventually contributing CO2 emissions comparable to the USA's emissions from cars for a year. Boggle.

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From the BBC: naturally-occurring coal beds are currently on fire, and those fires in China alone will eventually contribute CO2 emissions as large as those produced by all of the USA's cars in a year:

"It's in no-one's interest to have these fires burning. It costs the coal resource, it's contributing to the greenhouse, it's a public safety and health problem and it's an ignition source for new forest fires," said Alfred Whitehouse [of the US Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources Coal Fire Project].

Boggle. I don't know what's the most staggering; that we have major coal beds which are being untapped because oil is cheaper, or that they're catching fire (either naturally or through human agency) and nobody's doing anything about them.

The more pressing danger is that fires in Borneo - you remember, the ones that started five and a half years ago and that still haven't all been put out - are threatening attempts to protect orang-utans. Still, an American company reckons it can use waste products from coal fires, combined with foam, sand and other stuff, to smother and put out coal fires, which sounds to me like a nice re-use of materials, as well as a nice example of lateral thinking: what best to put out coal fires than dousing with the stuff that, almost by definition, coal fires can't burn, i.e. the stuff they leave behind?

One thought, though: if Bush was serious about protecting the environment, then rather than changing the rules to help his logger friends, he would encourage companies like this, starting with helping them to put out the fires in the US (there are a few, apparently), thus giving them a technological lead that they can then use to obtain markets abroad. This is one of the most useful things a Government can do - as various Scandinavian governments have done with mobile phone (Nokia, Ericsson) and wind technology, for instance.

Currently listening to: Angel - Massive Attack, Mezzanine

Icon wars

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Sadly not available in a Mac OS X version yet, but - oh, who am I kidding? If there's one thing I'm happy to be Windows XP only, it's Flash animations about which desktop icon would win in a fight. It's wonderful, it's over the top, and those folks from b3ta found it for me.

Keyboard twister

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Anti-anti-war slogans

Some of those anti-anti-war slogans, misguided though they are, are pretty damn funny.

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Much as I despise the US media, who are currently parroting Bush's anti-Iraq line without, seemingly, any attempt at critical thought, some of their slogans are pretty damn funny. I particularly like the description of the alliance between France, Germany and Belgium as the "Axis of Weasel", or, for that matter, Bart Simpson's depiction of the French as "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys."

Doesn't mean they're right, though, and I for one will be demonstrating on Saturday.

Currently listening to: The Black Rider, The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of The Ring - Howard Shore

Can we just get over WWII?

Godwin is getting old - can we just get over WWII?

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If you want to know why the French, the Germans, and the Russians don't want to fight just yet, walk down their streets.

I have other things to say about the war on Iraq, but I'm tired, and Ben Hammersley's post will do for the time being. Hell, it will do for a fair while more. Read it all.

Why I'm a Democrat

Even though I can't actually vote for them.

I've been posting a fair bit about politics recently, notably US politics. I think it's time to clarify why I've been doing that.

I have a vote, as a UK citizen resident in Glasgow's West End, to a) choose who I want to lose to George Galloway MP / Sandra White MSP / Bill Miller MEP, b) choose a vaguely-proportional-representation MSP for Scotland, c) entertain the mad fantasy of my vote for anyone other than Labour in the local elections meaning that the non-Labour person will actually get elected. (As it happens, I believe my local councillor is a LibDem now.)

Well, that's what happens when you're a fundamentally Labour voter and you live in a Labour stronghold. (Yes, even though Roy Jenkins got elected in Glasgow Hillhead in the early 1980s. I think boundary changes and Labour reinvigoration / Tory collapse are the major reason why Glasgow seats of any kind are no longer seriously contested.) But enough of the cry-baby stuff. After all, I could be living in Buckinghamshire and facing the prospect of my vote not counting and a Tory always getting in, which would be far worse.

The point is that I vote in the UK, not the US, and my only connection with the US political system is that my wife (blog) is American.

But despite all that, even though I don't get a vote, what American votes do decide to do makes a great difference to me, because I have to work in a world where the US exists. The US's foreign and economic policy has a direct impact on my life in the UK, because of events - what the US decides to do in Iraq, say - but also memes, ideas: if a policy appears to be successful in the US, it's likely to be picked up in the UK, and campaign techniques used in the US tend to surface 2-3 years later in the UK. All things considered, I'd much prefer a Democrat to win in the US, in the same way that I'm a Socialist in France.

As a bonus, the campaign is pretty interesting this time round, especially when you consider the Internet phenomenon that is Howard Dean.

So I'm going to continue to blog about US politics, even though I can't personally do anything about them, because a) every attempt to get the message out helps, b) it's cheap, and c) if there are any Americans reading this blog, I think it's interesting to get a European point of view occasionally.

John Edwards' blog is getting better

"It was there that night in Venice, California, that I got my first 'boxers or briefs' question of the campaign.  I did not answer."

John Edwards' blog is getting better - it has an RSS feed, for instance, which it didn't a week or two ago when I last checked. It's not a full feed, or even excerpts only, but it works for the purpose of telling me when he's added something. And he does actually post on his own blog, which is refreshing - although I don't know how stage-managed the whole thing is.

Now, the reason I'm posting about John Edwards is that Howard Dean got into trouble today for having mentioned that he wanted to appeal to people with Confederate flags in the back of their pick-up trucks. (Rebuttal: 1) it makes sense, and the DNC gave me a standing ovation when I said it this other time and 2) let's talk about real economics, not bogus race-relations straw men.) Contrast the Edwards blog comments. I had a few things to say there, which I won't necessarily repeat here.

I'm interested in the whole Confederate flag issue, and why it still surfaces in the South, and how despite people like Kerry and Gephardt saying that it's a symbol of racism you can have African-American Democratic supporters saying they identify with the flag (Jesse Jackson Jr pointed out that the flag was a creation of the Democratic party, although given how reactionary and nasty the Democratic party used to be in the South I'm not sure that's a compliment). If, by any chance, I've attracted any commentators from the Edwards blog, I'd appreciate some pointers.

Why Iraq is such a mess today

Lengthy article, but well worth a read.

Call it liberation or occupation, a dominating American presence in Iraq was probably destined to be more difficult, and more costly in money and in blood, than administration officials claimed in the months leading up to the war. But it need not have been this difficult. Had the military been as meticulous in planning its strategy and tactics for the postwar as it was in planning its actions on the battlefield, the looting of Baghdad, with all its disastrous material and institutional and psychological consequences, might have been stopped before it got out of control. Had the collective knowledge embedded in the Future of Iraq Project been seized upon, rather than repudiated by, the Pentagon after it gained effective control of the war and postwar planning a few months before the war began, a genuine collaboration between the American authorities and Iraqis, both within the country and from the exiles, might have evolved. And had the lessons of nation-building -- its practice but also its inevitability in the wars of the 21st century -- been embraced by the Bush administration, rather than dismissed out of hand, then the opportunities that did exist in postwar Iraq would not have been squandered as, in fact, they were.

The real lesson of the postwar mess is that while occupying and reconstructing Iraq was bound to be difficult, the fact that it may be turning into a quagmire is not a result of fate, but rather (as quagmires usually are) a result of poor planning and wishful thinking. Both have been in evidence to a troubling degree in American policy almost from the moment the decision was made to overthrow Saddam Hussein's bestial dictatorship.

That's the conclusion; read the whole article (warning: it's long) for the complete story. Via Atrios.

Dogs and their humans

A number of thoughts about dogs and how they live with us.

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About six feet from my chair, there lies a wolfdog. His canine teeth are almost an inch in length, and he has opened tins by biting through them in the past. I outweigh him by 12 kilos, but he is far stronger than I am. He runs faster, his senses are sharper. In a fair fight, there's no question about who would win. There's also no question about who is mistress: me.

Laszlo is a wonderful dog, joyful, expressive, intelligent and also wonderfully strokable (he has a ruff that would put pretty much any shag-pile carpet to shame). At 40kg, he is also potentially a bit of a handful - except that, as Cleodhna says, he defers to her (and, secondarily, to me), completely and utterly.

Cleodhna has on occasion had fantastically multi-coloured bruises on her arms that prompted jocular suggestions from friends that I had been beating her. As it happens, she got those bruises from Laszlo jumping up onto us in bed, and insisting that Cleodhna take him out to pee behind the library. (A large dog jumping elbows-first into bed will do that to you.) Laszlo gave her those bruises because he's a large, unsubtle dog, not out of malice. He lovesus - as well as a few other friends that he knows sufficiently well, such as Gareth and my mother.

I cannot say how proud I am of Cleodhna for taking what had the potential for being a difficult puppy, and by patience, intelligence and love, turning him into a fantastic dog. For all of those people who say that a University education is of little use, I will say this: Cleodhna decided that she wanted a dog, she did the reading, both through printed books and the Internet, and she ended up as one of the major dog experts in Glasgow's West End. And I think she has done remarkably well with the two dogs we have now.

I only wish everyone could do the same - which was the point of her journal:

last night [Misty's owner] was getting undressed for a shower and when he went to unbuckle his belt, Misty hit the floor, cowering in terror.

Misty, needless to say, is an adopted dog, and I don't want to think too hard about what her previous owner used to do to her. And from what I can tell, she is doing very well with her current owners. But still - I do wish that people would not mistreat their animals. I mean, if you want to inflict pain and anguish upon dumb creatures with only a semblance of humanity, why take it out on your dog? For the same price, you can get a PlayStation and vent your anger on video games.

Currently listening to: John Doe No.24 - Mary Chapin Carpenter, Stones In The Road. Seemingly from a period where Branford Marsalis was guesting on everything that moved, and it's a fantastic track. Email me for MP3.

How to get automated monitoring right

If you want to accurately and effectively monitor your systems, you need to avoid both false positives and false negatives.

This is a challenge I've faced a couple of times, at DataCash and at UK2.NET: how do you successfully monitor large automated systems? In slightly more detail: you need to find out as soon as possible if anything goes wrong, quickly and accurately. (The alternatives are fixing things before they break, which is impossible, and fixing things when your clients complain, which is unpalatable.)

Proper monitoring

The first issue is seemingly simple: you need to monitor everything. First of all, this means that you monitor your monitoring systems: the lack of any report is in itself a problem. (You do have a secondary data centre for this sort of purpose, right?) But this means that your monitoring systems produce two types of report: 1) a regular, everyday, behind the scenes "nothing to worry about" report that you only get to see if you really care, and 2) a "damn, something weird happened" report that gets sent to your email box / mobile phone / pager as soon as possible.

Incidentally, never underestimate the value of full, comprehensive, unobtrusive logging. If you're doing something on your desktop machine and it crashes, or otherwise behaves fairly strangely, you've got some chance of knowing why things went wrong. (Often the machine will tell you, to your face.) But if there's a problem with a machine like a web server, well, your best hope is that shortly before everything went wrong it left you a Cthulhu-esque diary of a series of increasingly frightening events that got weirder and weirder as they went along, until the machine's brain snapped and it collapsed into a non-responsive gibbering heap.

(Hmmm. Perhaps I'm creating the wrong image here. After all, my point is that we need logs so we can work out, in retrospect, what went wrong, but any seasoned Cthulhu player knows that the last thing you do is read the notes left behind by a now insane / dead lunatic, because chances are that, by reading those notes, the same thing will happen to you.)

Anyway. It also means that you have to do something more intricate that just checking whether the box in question is actually up. You need to automate connecting to a web server and fetching a web page; you need to connect to an FTP server, send email, check that the email went where it should have gone, and so on. Or, if you're not prepared to do that, you need to have scripts that monitor the output of your web server, FTP server, MTA or whatever, and squawk when something weird happens.

No false alerts

OK, so the first issue is making sure that you catch every standard problem. The second is as tricky: it's making sure that you only send out alerts for things that are actual problems. (It's the boy who cried wolf, but with technology.) Otherwise, when your staff come to work, read their email, and there's a whole bunch of random email saying that something might be vaguely wrong, well, they're going to ignore it, either deliberately (delete all such mails) or unwittingly (not pay as much attention to those emails, because you know what they're going to say).

Also, if you check whether everything's fine every 5 minutes, say, and something breaks at 1pm and stays broken until 3pm, well, your systems shouldn't scream every five minutes that all hell has broken loose. In a situation like that, either a) staff know about it, but don't have time to turn off the warnings; or b) they don't know about it, which means the warnings have been useless. You need to be able to sit still if staff know about the problem, or escalate it if there's no response (e.g. the guy on call isn't answering his phone.)

I'm not pretending UK2 get this right, by any means. But, if I had the opportunity to revamp our systems, these are the principles I'd bear in mind when I did.

Tangled up in Spam

James Gleick writes about spammers in the New York Times, and it's a good read.

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A very interesting, thorough and clueful discourse on spam from James Gleick in today's New York Times (via Slashdot). It's an in-depth examination of spam, its history and its mechanisms, and it's well worth reading. Although I'd recommend you read it all, and not skip to the conclusion, the conclusion is pretty damn good:

[...] two simple measures might be enough to stem the tide:
  1. Forging Internet headers should be made illegal. The system depends on accurate information about senders and servers and relays; no one needs a right to falsify this information.
  2. Unsolicited bulk mail should carry a mandatory tag. That alone would put consumers back in control; all the complex technological challenge of identifying the spam would vanish.
We need to be able to say no. No, I'm not looking for a good time. No, I don't want to ''e-mail millions of PayPal members.'' No, I don't want an anatomy-enlargement kit. No, I don't want my share of the Nigerian $25 million. I just want my in-box. It belongs to me, and I want it back.

One thing of note: it mentions SpamSieve, which is a Bayesian filtering tool that works for pretty much any Mac OS X email client. SpamSieve works pretty much like an expert system, in the following way:

  • First you find a whole bunch of spam, and you tell it that these messages are spam
  • Then you find a bunch of legitimate emails, and you tell it that these are OK
  • Whenever you receive email, it analyses it, and if it thinks it's spam it marks it as such. You tell it whenever it gets anything wrong, and in time it gets better.

All this works very well, at least up to a point. At one point I was getting 97.2% accuracy, as SpamSieve was increasingly better trained to handle my email. Then I subscribed to a new mailing list - and it marked nearly all of the messages as spam. I had to tell it that all these messages were in fact legit - and the accuracy rate plummeted to 96%. (It has since recovered to 96.3%.)

Spammers are now, according to James Gleick, misspelling words like penis or viagra to confuse such programs. I haven't seen any of these misspellings yet - according to SpamSieve - but I don't doubt they'll come. And this is the weakness of such spam-filtering software: they base their filtering entirely on knowledge of what was bad in the past. They're fighting the last war.

Happily, trainable expert systems like SpamSieve will be able to adapt more easily than rule-based systems. But still, this is something to bear in mind: there is an arms race between spammers and anti-spammers, and there is no guarantee that the anti-spammers will win.

Toilet humour

Movements in graffiti in the Postgraduates' Club this past week.

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Some graffiti is mindless rubbish, but there are the occasional gems. One such example I found in a book of quotations a few years ago went as follows:

My mother made me a homosexual
[(In different writing)] If I gave her the wool, would she make me one too?

Now, the men's toilets in the Postgraduates' Club have a couple of notice boards that are used to pin official posters on. Often, though, they're empty, and over the last month or so a number of random doodles or strange, unconnected words, have turned up. Some time between Tuesday and Friday last week, someone went and scratched them off.

Hence the following, written in pen on the back of the cubicle door, which was otherwise unadorned:

Why no graffiti in the post-grad club? Discuss.

The anti-virus war continues

Viruses still written by morons

I just got a spam entitled "The UK government hides many secrets of Iraq war! New facts!", sent from the usual anonymous forged nonsense email addresses. Within, HTML mail (entitled "Norton SystemWorks 2003 Software Suite Professional Edition Five Feature-Packed Utilities") which goes as follows:
The sudden death of the government's weapon expert doctor David Kelley, happened on night of 24 of jule, leaves us many riddles. Doctor Kelley, ostensibly, has died of loss of blood, having cut himself a vein on the left hand nearby to own house in a county Oxfordshire. It is simply favourably for the government structures and Blare to distribute this myth in UK! But it's FALSE!
The record dated 20th of June from answering machine of David Kelley is available! It hasn't been showed anywhere before because it is a secret information. After listening of this record you'll know the doctor Kelley had been terrorized by phone for a long time!

Here is a record: DavidKelley.voice

Think over it and make Your choise:
if this government is suitable for you?

Ahem. Kelley? 24th of jule? Blare? (It's Kelly, 17th of July, and Blair, as it happens, as a quick Google search would have told the author.) One of the saving graces of spammers and virus writers is how easy they are to tell, from their complete and utter lack of grasp of the English language.

Oh, and the link goes to a .pif file hosted by some random company. Feh. Looks like so many people are blocking attachments that the most recent new strategy is now to include tantalising links to external websites instead. Bah.


Advertising a spam filter - by spam.

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I just deleted spam from my spam folder. Among the messages was an advert for a spam filter. (I've stripped out the web bugs, so it should be fairly safe.)


Only in Texas

Creationist is offended by having to believe in evolution to practice medicine, sues University Professor.

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Micah Spradling, who is 22 and wants to go to medical school, is suing Texas Tech University Associated Professor Michael Dini, because Prof. Dini will not give a letter of recommendation to anyone who will not "truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer" to how the human species originated. He says this is religious discrimination. Full reports from the New York Times and The Guardian; see also Prof. Dini's policy on letters of recommendation. This via blindwatchmaker, via Dr Helen (phew).

Professor Dini pretty much sums it up by saying:

If modern medicine is based on the method of science, then how can someone who denies the theory of evolution -- the very pinnacle of modern biological science -- ask to be recommended into a scientific profession by a professional scientist?"

Mr Spradling's position appears to be that he understands and can explain the theory of evolution, but that doesn't and shouldn't mean he believes it. Eh? How is that supposed to be useful? Does he really envisage himself practicing medicine professionally, but not making any practical use of any theories or methods which are based on evolution, because that would be against his religion? I mean, you're allowed to not believe in evolution, it's a free world, but you shouldn't be allowed to join a profession which has evolution as one of its founding principles! This isn't a matter of religious discrimination, it's a matter of professional competence. (See Prof. Dini's website for examples and citations.)

Anyway, on the basis of this, he's screaming "Civil rights" and suing. Even though, according to the University's chancellor, there are 38 other Faculty members he could have turned to for a recommendation. The guy is fairly obviously picking a fight for the hell of it; he's a freshman (this is his second degree), he's been to exactly two lectures in Introductory Biology, he's nowhere near getting a recommendation from Prof. Dini anyway (you need to be a proficient student that the Professor knows personally before he'll even ask you about evolution).

The Guardian's last sentence is a beauty:

Texas has the country's only Creation Evidence museum.

Bad taste

potentially offensive link

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If you're reading this blog regularly, you'll probably appreciate this. But, OTOH, you might not. Don't click unless you're sure you don't want to be offended.

Evil political bastards

They've elected a Conservative - the fucks!

Why on earth do BBC coverage people decide to pay attention to live coverage to some random elected MSP's praise of the local police force?

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have replaced Malcom Rifkind with one of their own who was raised in the 21st century. Now to hope that Ayr gets rid of their remaining Conservative carbuncle.

What is wrong with Michael Jackson?

Richard Herring talks about Michael Jackson. Read it.

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Richard Herring (yes, the comedian) has entry in his blog:

Is it possible that the PR people are happy for him to appear this way, because it gets him massive exposure and that makes them money? Or is Jackson so in charge of his life that he can tell all his minions that he knows what he’s doing and not to interfere?

He's got a lot of other interesting stuff to say about Michael Jackson, but that seemed to me to be the pull quote. Interestingly, Michael Jackson denied that he'd had plastic surgery anywhere than on his nose (because his father said he had a fat nose), and that only twice. To which I say, convince these people (there's a better site I saw recently but I couldn't be bothered to track it down.)

BBC myopia

They appear to ignore the emergence of the SSP and the Greens in the Peter Snow swingometers.

If they agree that Scotland is now a six-party system, why do they lump the SSP and Greens amongst the Others?

Also, what is it about victorious candidates that they have to thank the telling staff and police, in the way that the best man or the groom has to thank the people involved in the wedding?

Scottish Socialist Party

They're wrong, but we need them.

Tommy Sheridan and the Scottish Socialist Party are in favour of a traditional unsubtle wealth-redistribution taxation policy. I disagree with them, but it's good for them to be standing, and to be gaining significant parts of the vote, because that way my preferred party (Labour or Lib Dem, depending on my mood) looks like being moderate.

In the US, conversely, it's a battle between Republicans and Democrats, with Naderites as weird fringe loonies. I know which country I'm happier living in.

The fishing party

Some random blather about politics as it happens on the TV.

People who have been reading this weblog for some time will know my disdain for fishermen who don't get it. Well, they've put together a political party.

And they're standing in Banff and Buchan. Alex Salmond's old seat, possibly the safest SNP seat in the country.


Oh, did I mention that their candidate is wearing a suit that looks like a faded coffee cream, with a bouquet that looks more like a wreath than anything else?

(Yes, there haven't been results for a good 15 minutes, so I'm delving into trivia.)

In the mean time, the BBC guy is pouring scorn on people who dare to stand as single-issue candidatates. For all that I think the fishermen guy is wrong, I think he's a bit harsh, and rather over-establishment minded.

Excellent: Labour have taken the BNP leader's council seat! But they've lost some 4 more - boo.


I decided not to vote SSP in the second vote tonight, because I reckoned that the Greens needed my second...

I decided not to vote SSP in the second vote tonight, because I reckoned that the Greens needed my second vote more.

An exit poll tonight suggests the SSP will go from 1 MSP to 9. (At the expense of mostly the Tories, I'm delighted to say - although I've just seen a second constituency which has a swing from the SNP to the SSP.)

At the same time, the panel on the BBC's election coverage is mostly Westminster coverage, and for all that Alex Salmond is saying that Scotland now has a 6-party system, rather than a 4-party system, they only have representatives from the big four.

Incidentally, the Tories are so resigned to losing in Glasgow that my local Tory Glasgow constituent candidate didn't even live in Glasgow's Postcode area.

Oh, and almost to a man (and occasionally woman), there is a wonderful plethora of accents in tonight's broadcast.

The US is failing to win this war out of hubris

It's only a war of liberation if the Iraqis are happy to see troops they consider friendly - which is not the case.

So says this article in The Nation, by David Corn (via Where's the Soap):

Bush and his supporters often compare the struggle against Iraq to the battle against fascism. But did the people of Germany rebel against the Nazi dictatorship? Did the German military roll over? It was the people of France, occupied by a foreign power, who were glad to see the Yanks--not the Germans, who, like the Iraqis of today, lived under a brutal homegrown regime.

I'll add that by 1945, all the French were proclaiming themselves to be Resistants. In the absence of a sizeable Iraqi-staffed army fighting alongside the US and UK, it's even more difficult to present this war as a war of liberation. Yet, if you can pull that off, well, Libération is the name of one of France's most impressive daily newspapers.


Should not be in cake etc.

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Says the Hard Things In Soft Things Manifesto (via Boing Boing):

I have a series of stringent rules involving the material composition of cakes, candies, and other dessert items. In the past, I have relied on a general rule, "No Hard Things In Soft Things," but it has come to my attention that there are exceptions. In an effort to quell public fear of the unknown, I am sharing the list with you, my friends. There are swear words in the manifesto, because of how important this is.

It is most magnificent, and the comment are of a uniformly high standard. Even if you don't particularly feel either way towards Pecan Pie, read it. Your life will be better as a result.

Microsoft evilness, and why mail clients on Mac OS X suck

Microsoft Entourage is my email client of choice, but only because other clients suck more. And God, do I hate it sometimes.

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I'm currently using Microsoft Entourage (the thinking person's Outlook, i.e. the Mac people did this one). It's OK, far better than Netscape Messenger (yes, I know, damning with faint praise), and its filtering is pretty damn good. But it has a few things that really annoy me.

On a minor level, say you do a quick search from a list view - i.e. you can see a whole bunch of messages in a folder, and you want to narrow that list down to messages from a certain person. Say you decide to search on sender, and enter a domain name. It reports no matches. If you do an advanced search from the Find menu - which involves a dialogue box rather than a pane in the toolbar, and puts results in a new window, rather than re-using the current window - it returns a whole bunch. The difference is that, apparently, the quick search only searches on a person's name, and not their email address.

Needless to say, it doesn't tell you it's doing this, and there's no obvious indication that if you want to search on domain (because you remember the person's company but not their name, for instance) you should use the hugely over-engineered search equivalent.

More annoyingly, it has IntelliSense type stuff which you can't turn off. It insists that anything following "i.e." or "e.g." should be capitalised, even though it knows about "etc." - and you can't change its mind on this. As soon as hit return it assumes the next bit is a new sentence, even if you've just hit return for formatting or because you've been entering Perl code. And if you decide you're going to be fancy and say "fora" as the plural of "forums" it insists that you meant to put a space in there so it's the more likely "for a" phrase.

Did I mention that you can't turn this off?

I'd use Mail, except that it proved itself horrendous within minutes of using it because you can't edit the levels of quoting in a message, because it doesn't consider quoting characters editable as such. So Mail.app is unable to let me re-edit quoting to fix horrendous Outlook-style forwarded quoting. (To those who say I could use AppleScript, and possibly Perl, I say go back to your Linux desktops.)

I may eventually have to switch to Eudora. Unless anyone has any better ideas?

Currently listening to: Hand In Hand - Phil Collins, Face Value (I'm ripping old CDs atm)