Sunday, 30 January 2005

What's up Charlie?

by Ted Hoffman

Recent months have seen the BBC archive pictures for Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy being updated. These new pictures show a serious man, determined, with important things on his mind.

Many of the earlier photos are very different. Here we see Charles as a silly man, with a smile, a wave and a cheeky grin.

Presuming this new demeanor is deliberate, I wonder if it will help any chances he may have in the coming elections? His popularity in British politics has previously always been based on his cheery manner and his zany plans.

Saturday, 29 January 2005

New addition to blogroll

by Dom Corrigan

Democracy in Iraq is an excellent Iraq-blog that we happened across in the TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem. It's only one place above us, but is infinitely better and more interesting.

The story of the Lefties & the FEG

by Dom Corrigan

Glenn Reynolds (here comes the "Little-lanche" Glenn...) is having fun with this ridiculous fellow.

The subtitle of one of our favourite blogs goes, "In politics, being ridiculous is more damaging than being extreme". This is possibly true, but inviting ridicule for the way you act, what you say, and how you look, is probably worse for your reputation.

In the building I work, world-class science happens downstairs, while 'academics' like Mr. Churchill spend their time putting up posters like this, or this (...links to follow). I mention this because a few years ago signatures were collected for a petition by students who have their department upstairs.

When it was handed over to our group head, he was amused. In a rather strident tone, and with the full weight of its signatories, we were asked to bring about the immediate cessation of our research into military armaments.


Well, it turned out that they had overheard the term "field emission gun" and assumed that we dastardly scientists were researching some sort of super-weapon in the basement. Whereas, in fact, a FEG sits on top of a machine like this one here.

I really don't think that it's suitable for military purposes. Even the best English shooting enthusiasts would have trouble justifying a place in their collections for one. But, should we ever get round to pointing it at people, rather than nanostructures, we know the sort of idiots who'll be first against the wall.

Friday, 28 January 2005

The circle is closing

by Dom Corrigan

The Scotsman reports that another two of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's henchmen have been rounded up.

Thursday, 27 January 2005

Dedication's what you need

by Ted Hoffman


As part of a deliberate record attempt Mr Gurjar, an otherwise unremarkable man, has been growing this monster for 22 years.


by Ted Hoffman

Maybe it's just me, but this kept me amused for the best part of an hour.

DJ Spin Laden

by Dom Corrigan

Apologies for the lack of posts. I'm worn out after a day of work and five hours of teaching. This is today's quota post.

Wednesday, 26 January 2005

Smoking in the NHS

by Ted Hoffman

The Health Development Agency (whoever they are) are pushing the NHS to ban smoking on all hospital grounds.

The guidance said smoking at an entrance to a hospital can create a "very poor impression" and resources spent clearing smoking litter or building and maintaining smoking shelters could be better spent on treatment.

Perhaps the HDA thinks a better impression will by given by processions of the elderly and terminally ill walking a few hundred meters, out of hospital grounds, at all hours of the day, in the cold, to smoke anyway.

Ban it now

by Dom Corrigan

Smoking claims another victim.

Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Daisy, daisy...

by Dom Corrigan

Happened upon this error message generator at the Englishman's place.

In the gallery of examples the idea that Microsoft products are rubbish is hammered home, but there are some funny ones and I liked this one best...

Google Keyhole

by Ted Hoffman

Google have bought up this 3D atlas software. How impressive it is varies a great deal on connection speed, and where you try to look. In the right areas though (such as most of North America) it is just amazing, the kind of thing films show the CIA, and Bond villains using. Given the funds available to Google after their floatation, perhaps they can invest in buying up detailed satellite images of the rest of the globe, if they have anything left from other projects.

Buying to let

by Ted Hoffman

According to Zoe Williams in the Guardian : -

There is absolutely no moral justification for buying somewhere to rent out. It has a direct impact on the welfare of other people, specifically other people with less money than yourself. It garners cash that you didn't earn.

I happen to be moving into a new flat at the moment, which was bought by the landlord on a buy-to-let basis. Even if I could afford to get into the housing market, which is debatable, I would not wish to. I’m pretty convinced the market is due for quite a dramatic correction, and I’m hardly alone in this analysis. Thanks in part to there being a large amount of buy-to-let properties available at the present time, the letting market is competitive. Rental prices haven’t gone up nearly as much as mortgages and I believe (based solely on anecdotal evidence) some have gone down.

My new rented accommodation also happens to be up for sale, so I have a good idea of the current value. I couldn’t afford the mortgage on the property, even paying just the interest. My calculations make the repayments over ½ again of the rental amount. This leaves me, if the funds were available, with enough money to invest elsewhere to make up for not benefiting from the increase in value of the property. As I think the value is likely to go down, this strikes me as a good deal.

I can only speak for myself, but the direct impact of my buy-to-let landlord is to allow me to live in a better place than I could afford to buy, whilst not exposing me to the risk of a housing market at its peak. So, for the time being at least, I think his place in hell should be reserved for more dangerous offenders.

Shipman's legacy

by Ted Hoffman

British Crime Survey figures out today, the BBC notes this extraordinary statistic.

There were 858 deaths initially recorded as murder - down 18% on the 2002-2003 figures - or by 2% if Harold Shipman's crimes are excluded.

Committing roughly 16% of all murders in one year, seems strangely admirable.

Monday, 24 January 2005

Monday moustache blogging

by Dom Corrigan

From what I can decipher from the German, a chain of hairdressers in Belgium is offering a home-cut service. What's interesting is the busy billionaire model they've used to illustrate the quality of the service...

Something for the weekend, Sir?

Alcohol & policing

by Dom Corrigan

John B makes an excellent point -

Taxes paid by the UK alcohol industry: £22 billion

Total cost of all UK policing: £8 billion

Extent to which policemen should stop whining about having to spend time and money supporting the industry that pays their wages nearly three times over: high.

A commentor points out that this doesn't take into account the cost of alcohol to the health service. It probably doesn't, but there's still quite a surplus of tax revenue from alcohol if these figures are to be believed.

Sunday, 23 January 2005

Many happy returns

by Dom Corrigan

Happy 1st birthday to Liberal Democrat Watch - a website that has kept us amused and informed about the ridiculous antics of the Lib Dems.

ID Cards: No2SWP

by Dom Corrigan

At "Little man, what now?", we are strongly opposed to HM Government's proposed ID cards. The arguments against have been set down eloquently in more than one place and they need not be rehashed here.

An unpleasant discovery is that the main pressure group opposing the introduction of the cards, No2ID, involves members of the Socialist Workers' Party.

Guy Taylor, who is on the steering committee for the SWP front organisation Global Resistance (to which it is our policy not to link), is also the No2ID Local Groups Coordinator. In this prominent role, he will be in a position to turn the important anti-ID card campaign into yet another paper sale and recruiting opportunity for the SWP.

Oliver Kamm has gone to some trouble to expose the nature of the SWP's anti-semitic, authoritarian and profoundly undemocratic ideology in a series of excellent posts. We join him in his campaign to "reject and condemn anyone who would knowingly ally” with the SWP and its front organisations “let alone speak from those organisations' platforms”.

Eating Clay

by Ted Hoffman

Here’s an interesting story on the BBC about a chap who got lost in an underground cave network in France for 5 weeks. Jean-Luc Josuat-Verges, who was completely without food, puts down his survival to eating wood and clay.

Wrapped in plastic sheeting, he said he ate wood and clay, which may have been the remains of the mushrooms.

Even if the clay did contain mushrooms, they are not a particularly nutrient dense food stuff, especially if they are decayed to the point of being indistinguishable from clay.

I don’t mean to belittle his achievement, but rather than keeping him alive I suspect the poor fellow was making a bad situation worse by spending his time stuck in the cave pointlessly eating dirt.

Orgasmic chemistry

by Dom Corrigan

Poor researchers, evidently desperate to drum up a bit of funding.

Sporting moustachio (2)

by Ted Hoffman

In better times these chaps would have been the England cricket team.


by Ted Hoffman

Until very recently you had to pay for this. It allows you to just Alt-click on a word or name, and it brings up relevant definitions, descriptions, biographies etc. For many simple searches it is much quicker and more focused than Google. I highly recommend downloading it.

Sporting moustachio

by Dom Corrigan

Norm Geras posts his favourite cricketing photograph - and it's a cracker. One of my favourite cricket-related photos is here. By George, what a moustache. Perhaps he thought it would frighten the opposition.

Politics is discourse

by Dom Corrigan

These young and cowardly people are grasping at a 'truth', and trying to defend it. Expressing their politics? This has nothing to do with politics - that is something a lot more complicated that requires discourse.

Saturday, 22 January 2005

Skiing in Poland, & the EU

by Dom Corrigan

One of the reasons that I went skiing in Poland recently is that my very sexy lady friend is half Polish - her Father being a fortunate post-WW2 emigre.

The skiing was good and any falls were cushioned by the inexpensive and excellent mulled wine served everywhere. It was particularly spectactular being able to sky in the evenings, down floodlit slopes.

We flew Easyjet to Krakow, and by the strange virtue of the slopes being a 2.5 hour bus-ride away there were relatively few Anglophones around. The Poles dominated the slopes, though there were a few Germans, the odd Brit (mostly Brummies, actually) and, of course, the ubiquitous travelling Aussies.

Our group stayed in Zakopane 'til New Year's day, which meant finding somewhere to celebrate leading up to midnight. We discovered, though, that the Poles take the New Year celebrations - Sylwester - quite seriously, and start booking their tickets for restaurants and clubs as early as September. We were out of luck and so decided to have a few looseners in our hotel, before joining the revellers in the street.

At midnight, it was evident why many shops were boarded-up - the Poles, armed with arm-fulls of fireworks and empty bottles of 'pop' met the New Year in decidedly high spirits and with a bang.

And the fun didn't need to break the bank either. Everywhere, from the little Communist-style supermarket to the off-licenses ("Alkohole"), booze was frighteningly cheap - even good vodka like this, or like this. Cigarettes too (though you'd be best to avoid the filty Eastern European brands). And proper, old-fashioned, Guido Fawkes, blow-your-arm-off, fireworks. The locals know it too, even if they'd probably struggle to tell you in English, or you to discuss it in Polish.

So, cheap fags, booze, explosives - the real common language of the EU? Maybe, and isn't that what a free-trade zone should truly be about?


by Ted Hoffman

It strikes me that once the first few initial posts are out of the way, the flow of new material will pick up. So I think it’s a good idea to fire off a few fairly trivial posts. This is the rationale behind this one.