29 June, 2010
On not inspiring confidence
Oh they used to laugh at meUnlike Joni Mitchell's "twisted" subject, I have o'ermastered this entirely reasonable fear and can now ride with complete confidence even on the Dockland Light Railway's entirely driver-free trains.
When I refused to ride
On all those double decker buses
All because there was no driver on the top
The Passenger Service Agent (PSA), incidentally, has even less involvement with the driving of the DLR train than would at first appear. In normal operation, he doesn't even get to start the train. The train (or perhaps more precisely its controlling computer, presumably back at Poplar) decides when it is ready to leave. (This, if you've ever ridden the DLR, is the sonorous bong followed by the green light coming on at each of the distributed control panels. It's the train saying, "OK, let's go".) The PSA merely confirms that it is safe to start and agrees to the request.
And it's all damned clever stuff and it works brilliantly.
So why was I suddenly so uneasy when I saw the cop-out message
Check front of train for destinationon the platform displays at Greenwich? Yes, intellectually I understand perfectly well that the train driving and signalling software and the software which drives the platform information displays are separate systems, engineered to totally different standards.
And so they should be. In my career at Megacorp Inc, many's the entertaining argument I've had with the ivory-tower monkeys, trying to persuade them that a database application that was in active use only six weeks a year and which even during its bursts of admittedly frantic active use could nonetheless tolerate at least one half day of unscheduled downtime without fatally disrupting the supported business process, that such a system did not actually justify hot-standby with automatic failover plus centrally-managed out-of-hours scheduling of maintenance, even if their arse-covering, "everything is mission-critical" standards did demand it. I could, and did, shut that particular box down for two days at a time during the "off season" and nobody even noticed.
So no, intellectually with my engineer's head on, I don't expect the platform display systems to be totally reliable. or even fail-safe (imagine a bulb and its backup failing in a platform information display and the whole railway shutting down).
But emotionally, with my passenger's head on, somehow I do expect my automated driverless railway to be seamlessly perfect, and the reactive layers of my mind tend to equate
No information available. Please check front of train for destinationwith
Welcome to the beta version of DLR 3.0. If you are killed in a collision or crash, please complete an error report form and hand it to the Passenger Service Agent, or his ghost as appropriate. Your co-operation in helping to improve our software is valuable to us.I remember sitting on a Jubilee Line train a few years back. The train was standing at either North Greenwich or possibly Canary Wharf and was not going anywhere. Then the driver came on the tannoy to announce that the carriage lights would be going out briefly as he was going to try to "reboot the train". Power-cycling a recalcitrant tube train to get it started: that doesn't exactly inspire confidence either.
Complicated old world, innit?
28 June, 2010
It stills sounds better in foreign
I've just been listening to Ute Lemper sings Kurt Weill, a compilation of Weill songs sung by the gorgeous chantoose Ute Lemper, who is now embarking on the MILF phase of her career with a dark brown voice to match. Among the songs on the album is "Das Lied des Lotterieagenten" from Der Silbersee. This paean to capitalistic greed is sung in a sexy, alluring tone throughout but die Lemper manages to impart an almost orgasmic undercurrent of wickedness to the phrase repeated at the end of each verse:
Zins und ZinseszinsI wonder if she could manage to do the same with an English translation, even with her sexily exotic accent:
Interest, and compound interestI can't quite imagine it somehow.
Some things just sound better in foreign.
Sauce, goose and gander
One small question. One reason, probably the main reason, for introducing "anonymity" for alleged victims was the damage almost invariably suffered to the woman's reputation even if the man was eventually convicted of a violent stranger rape. The "she must have been asking for it" factor.
Yet the man's reputation is at least equally vulnerable. Even if he is acquitted. Even where the case fails not simply because the evidence is insufficient but because the complainant is actually demonstrated to have deliberately lied, the man's reputation is still typically ruined on the "no smoke without fire" principle.
Sauce, goose and gander indeed.
Incidentally, I have just been listening to an item on this subject on the Today programme, in which a lawyer claims that the proportion of convictions in rape cases is noticeably higher than for the generality of prosecutions at something over 50% (unless I misheard). Wimmin's groups are forever banging on about the low conviction rate. If memory serves they quote a figure somewhere around the 5% mark. That is actually the ratio of eventual convictions to initial reports of rape to the police, not the ratio of convictions to cases prosecuted. Evidently the CPS thinks that 90% of complaints are either unfounded or will not stand up in court. Some people might well think that the CPS are not trying hard enough, but there's no justification for outright lying.
26 June, 2010
Misspelling of the day
But the double entendre, intended or not, is too good to overlook:
guilt edged public pensionsindeed!
25 June, 2010
Diversity in practice
Two small pale-skinned figures stood out among a group of 60 children which was otherwise entirely Black. And by Black I mean what Black people mean by Black, not the looser more inclusive sense favoured by certain well-known South-Asian race-hustlers when it suits their purposes.
You call that diversity?
24 June, 2010
MONA (or in this case WONA)
Now you'd think that this incident reported in the Croydon Guardian
OK, this is a violent country — certainly not the sort of place I'd want to deport a failed Iraqi asylum seeker to — but this is pretty nasty stuff, worth at least four or five column inches on an inside page of the national dailies and a passing mention on the BBC news. But apart from the local rag, which is more-or-less obliged to report it, nary a peep.
The 14-year-old’s hair was set on fire and her hands and feet were cut with glass during the attack in Grangewood Park, before her attackers smashed her head against a tree and left her bleeding in a bush.
She was stumbled upon by a woman walking her dog and carried home to nearby Kitchener Road following the attack, at about 7.30pm on June 9.
To delve deeper into this silence we find ourselves visiting Stormfront UK Newslinks. The young victim, Surreya Ozkaya, has a slight advantage over a comparable White British victim — as the Stormfront chappie points out, while the British press is keeping shtum, the Turkish press, domestic and expat, is all over it.
For those unwilling or unable to follow the Stormfront link, I reproduce below a Google translation of a Turkish-language press report. The particular report quoted unfortunately lacks a citation. The Google software's valiant effort reads a bit like the work of the late and much missed Pedro Carolino, but the meaning is clear enough:
"I came back from the dead," she said. Sureyya, the horror of having said: "I was wandering in the park. A group of black students began to insult me by cutting my way. Whence I am and I'm not saying whether they are Muslim. I said I was Muslim. Holding my head with my hair iron on that shot and then they kicked my stomach and my chest. After my hair cut with scissors, but I do not remember because he had fainted at the time. I opened my eyes in the hospital. My head, my chest, and my stomach was aching. "(My emphasis.)
Sureyya knew the attackers say, black students and that of wild dog running with gangs and terror they had, saying "I already got attacked. This was not the first. I complained to the school administration, but who happen to me many times. Took me away from school. Was made to remove more than 13 years in the school and now I do not know what to do, "she said tears. Region because of the black gangs of young people is very dangerous Sureyya recording, "I'm so scared. Maybe next time he'll kill me with fear at night, get laid. Police release those who have attacked me. I'm worried about my life, "he said.
If you're confused by the vacillation between 'he' and 'she' in the translation, bear in mind that Turkish does not mark either gender or animacy in the third person personal pronoun, using the same word for 'he', 'she' and 'it'. The software will have struggled to interpret the context correctly.
A cruel deception
Curious turn of phrase. I wonder how many ill-educated multiculturalists will tune in hoping to hear confirmation of our Mongrel Nation's™ past. They will be disappointed when they learn that it's all about this fellow.
20 June, 2010
Sweeping generalization of the day
A question springs to mind. Why are Canadian singers such miserable gits?
I'll bet she's not like meYou deserve to be, mate, you miserable sod. As well as Neil Young, I call Leonard Cohen and Alanis Morrissette as witnesses for the prosecution.
She's out and fancy-free
Flirting with the boys with all her charms
Oh, oh, lonesome me!
The paywall descends
But I rather suspect something's going to have to change. Heretofore the practice has been to repost the entire newspaper article. Following the meticulously provided link to the original source usually adds no further text, although I often follow the links anyway in case there's a reader comment thread at the originating newspaper. It's entertaining to see how miuch the common folk of the shires almost invariably vehemently disagree with Ketlan and Denise's take on things. Not that the dynamic duo are likely to be bothered — they will simply discount all unsympathetic opinion as the work of the indefatigable team of sockpuppets "everybody" knows to work out of Griffin's Führerbunker deep under Welshpool.
Reposting entire articles like this is a bit naughty but in the case of free newspaper sites is generally likely to be tolerated. It can be argued either way: on the one hand, the aggregating site is ripping off the newspaper's data; on the other hand the reposted piece might drive additional potentially ad-clicking traffic to the newspaper site.
But this latest post is another matter. Follow the link and you run slap bang into the Times's shiny new paywall. It may well be that the reposter, John P on this occasion rather than the more usual Antifascist (Ketlan Ossowski), has simply been caught out by the transition from free site to paywall — the Times piece may have been freely available when he originally linked to it. But if he's deliberately copying stuff from behind the paywall and reposting it I think he may be in for a spot of bother. You may think property is theft, chaps, but I don't think Mr Murdoch's lawyers will concur.
Not that I intend to pay Murdoch's shilling myself in order to access the original. I stopped buying paid-for MSM newspapers last March. They are all irredeemably sensationalist and agenda-ridden. To get an approximation to the truth behind any vaguely controversial report it is necessary to read several reports from papers of differing political biases and triangulate them. I don't see why I should pay for propaganda. The electronic equivalent of staggering out of the paper shop under a pile of newspapers watched by a bemused but beaming newsagent does not appeal any more than its physical predecessor.
I shall watch developments with interest.
18 June, 2010
It all depends what you mean by...
BBC radio news, which has been remarkably discreet about the unpleasantness which took place in Barking earlier in the week (see here, here and — NSFW and not for the liberally fastidious — also here), has been telling us repeatedly about the poor old Iraqi refugees/asylum seekers, whatever, who have been repatriated.
Deportees/repatriatees (choose word according to desired direction of spin) have reportedly been beaten by UKBA officers. Sounds nasty, doesn't it? But what exactly does "beaten" imply here? Unprovoked attacks with rubber truncheons by UKBA goons screaming, "Get on/off the fucking plane you filthy scroungeing wog!"?
Or perhaps something driven more by practical necessity? Suppose I had been convicted of a crime, the judge had passed a custodial sentence and, as I sat there in the dock, the escort officers came to take me down. Suppose instead of going quietly, I continued to sit, folded my arms, pursed my lips petulantly and said, "Shan't!". Would the officers say, "Oh, OK then" and let me go home? Suppose when, persuasion having failed, mild force was used to co-erce my co-operation and I began to flail about and lash out. Someone's likely to get hurt, aren't they? And it's almost certainly going to be me.
You might call that getting a beating. Or you might not.
That the Iraqi returnees might be less than willing to acquiesce in the process of return, particularly at the key and vulnerable points of embarcation and disembarcation, that they might choose to put up a fight, that is unsurprising. That they and the British authorities might take differing views of the justification for their return, enforced or consensual, that is unsurprising. And that there should be consequences from the playing out of that conflict of wills, that is equally unsurprising.
It's a shame that the UKBA has not been a little more willing to come forward to defend its position.
I see the UNHCR and others are getting up on their hind legs to tell us how unsafe Iraq is for the returnees. Again this is a matter of interpretation. Yes there is faction fighting and random violence in Iraq. There was faction fighting and random violence in Northern Ireland for 30 years — in a more understated way it's almost certainly still going on. There has been random mass violence in London, launched by the IRA in earlier years with the banner more recently being taken up by some of our Muslim guests. There is everyday violence in London at a personal level. I guess I'll have to take the chance on not being blown up in some future Republican or Islamic atrocity and if I avoid wandering the backstreets of North Peckham at two in the morning I'll probably be safe enough from personal violence. (Looks around hastily for wood to touch.)
No I'm not saying that London is necessarily as dangerous as Baghdad or provincial Iraq. What I am saying is that there are degrees of danger. To send someone back to certain death might be wrong; to send them back to a violent and factionalized environment where they can reasonably expect to find protection within their own faction is another matter. That that environment might not offer the opportunities and comforts of continuing to live in the UK is not our problem and does not constitute grounds for remaining. When you have thrown yourself on the mercy and charity of another nation on the grounds of imminent personal mortal peril but refuse to co-operate with your return when the mortal danger has passed or abated, well that does raise questions about your motives, doesn't it?
It's easy enough for bodies like UNHCR and the usual suspects of the human rights lobbies to stand on the sidelines moralizing and insisting on ideal levels of safety and security, like so many heads of social services or divorce lawyers covering their arses and pontificating about idealized standards and requirements they don't have to fund or achieve themselves.
The rest of us have to live in an imperfect real world and make the best of it.
A modest proposal. You, Ahmed as it may be, say that Iraq is still far too dangerous to return to. I say I think you're exaggerating and that you want to remain in the UK for economic advantage. OK, we'll let you stay here until you feel safe to return, the remainder of your life if you wish. But you will be confined to an internment camp. In modest and reasonable comfort but without access to economic opportunity. Deal?
17 June, 2010
It is a dangerous area for the unwary, for a wayfarer cannot get but ten yards along the path before he is accosted by gangs of besuited men in aprons, aggressively rolling up their trouser legs at him. Actually, for a supposedly secretive society, masons are easy enough to spot even in the mufti of their standard-issue dark lounge suits — you can easily distinguish them from Mormons, Scientologists and IBM mainframe salesman by their oddly shaped briefcases in which they carry their secret implements.
Before disappearing into the confines of the lodge to embark upon their devilish rites, the masons forgather in one of or other of the local boozers, typically the Hercules Pillars or the Prince of Wales. Curiously, they don't seem to frequent the Freemasons' Arms — too obvious perhaps — or the O'Neill's Oirish Bar — too downmarket.
(Weirdly enough, you can buy "Masonic Meerkats" in the Freemasons, little meerkat dolls about a foot high* each wearing a tiny masonic pinny. They're a fiver apiece. I assume it's some kind of charity scam; I've never summoned up the courage to ask.)
The masons are an amiable enough bunch, and there's many a funny handshake I've had from them. Which is either flattering or vaguely disappointing — I'm far too irredeemably scruffy to be a mason, even an undercover one.
Anyway, to the quick. The lads' preferred watering holes are, like most central London boozers, a tad on the pricey side. The £4-a-pint price barrier is well in sight and may well be breached sooner rather than later after our new Chancellor has done his worst. The other day, and not for the first time, I saw a group of masons drinking in the Shakespeare's Head, which for those not initiated into these matters is the local Wetherspoon outlet.
Now when the freemasons start queuing up for the cheap beers in the local 'Spoon, you know times are really bad.
* Update 20 June
Actually the Masonic Meerkats are nothing like a foot high. Barely half that if anything.
Amazing how the memory plays tricks. And they talk of prosecuting the Bloody Sunday soldiers after 38 years or nonagenarian KZ guards after 65 years. OK, I'm comparing recent trivia with ancient trauma, but if I hadn't stumbled across that snap I would have carried the firm and unshakable conviction that those dolls were at least 30cm tall to my grave. Just as well it's not a distorted memory that could hang someone.
16 June, 2010
One rule for them...
In the comment thread to a typical article we find this
MichaelRosen 15 Jun 2010, 12:11AM
To the people here who are 'worried about immigration' - can I ask which bit are you worried about? All of it? If so, then you're looking to radically alter EU rules on the rights of Brits to work in the EU.
Or some of it? If it's some of it? Which bit? As there is free movement of people in the EU, is that a problem? It is also still very easy for people with British grandparents to be immigrants, so that makes it easy for white Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans. Is that a problem? If not, why not?
I believe this is in fact "the" Michael Rosen who has been known to comment in simiilarly exasperated terms from time to time at Lenin's Tomb, so I'm going to give in to temptation and make a snarky ad hom. remark that will probably get me into trouble, but is it not rather ironic that Mr Rosen, as a Jew, does not understand the concept of diaspora?
The Government of India has no problem understanding it and feels no shame about implementing the legal concepts of Non-Resident Indian and Person of Indian Origin. If Sunny Hundal for example, UK-born of Punjabi immigrant parents, wished to work and live and possibly settle in India, it would be immensely easier for him to do so than it would for me, having no known ancestral connection with India.
The Indians, at home and abroad, seem happy with this arrangement. As am I. So why then is Mr Rosen apparently unhappy that we might choose to afford similar privileges to the British ethnic diaspora? Is it 'cos we is White?
This ploy is a regular feature in the ongoing asylum/immigration/race argument. Rosen's highlighting of the patrial privileges of the diaspora is a new variant on me, though. The "What about the Australians?" move usually comes up in discussions about illegal immigration.
Anti-immigrationist: What about all these illegally present Nigerians?People regularly claim, to the incredulity of the Righteous Left, that "we are not allowed to debate immigration". And of course the Left are right to reply that we seem to do little else. But that is to miss the point of the complaint. The Righteous control the acceptable language of debate, as they have done for at least the past 40 years in my experience. What the Anti-immigrationist in the above exchange should go on to say is
Righteous Lefty: What about all these overstaying Australians and New Zealanders?
Forget the Ozzies and Kiwis. They are my tribe, just homecoming Brits, and they'll fit in nicely. Let's get back to the bloody Nigerians.but this of course would be racist within the rules of the game, punishable by an immediate red card. So he must instead pretend to regard all immigrants absolutely equally as if discussing not the UK but some unclaimed terra nullius open to all comers.
Oh yes, we must exclude them too. I agree we must deal with them firstthus nicely diverting the argument away from the real issues.
This is what Rosen is trying for with his rhetorical question. Well, sod off Michael and try that on in Bombay, or Chandigarh for that matter, and see how far you get.
15 June, 2010
Do we manufacture anything in this country?
My sexy new touchscreen phone is supplied with a plectrum. Which is no doubt fine for strumming a guitar but not something I find particularly comfortable for picking out letters on a small virtual keyboard. Like most such devices the screen's surface is soft and likely to damage easily, so I decided to persevere in buying the proper tool and ignored the advice of the well-meaning clown in Ryman's who, after informing me that they did not stock PDA styli, suggested that I acquire a chopstick from a Chinese restaurant and cut it down to size. I kid you not.
I eventually bought what I was looking for, pictured above. A plastic prodding doodah with a tip which is both fine enough to successfully select a small target on the screen while being rounded enough not to risk punching a hole in it.
But why do these overpriced gubbinses come in packets of three?
(Struggles manfully but only partly successfully with temptation to tell old joke about Scottish parsimony which ends with the punchline, "The regiment has decided to have it [the condom] repaired again.")
Apart from this annoying ploy to force me to buy two extra styli that will either never be needed or will lie undiscoverable in the darkest recesses of some obscure and unvisited drawer if ever they are needed, I discovered a further source of irritation when I inspected the packaging:
Is every manufactured object sold in this country made in China? Is this dependency wise? A few months ago I bought a couple of dinner plates. A trivial enough purchase but what took me by surprise was the extent of my joy on discovering that they were not made in China. That these glass heat-resistant plates were manufactured not in the UK but in France dented my feelings of relief very little.
13 June, 2010
A very flexible instrument
An encouraging thought for these economically-straitened times.
Shops running out of earplugs over vuvuzela onslaught
10 June, 2010
Start practising your ejective consonants now
Which is why I could never contemplate going to a gig at the English National Opera. The distinguishing feature of ENO — the reason for the word English in the name — is not that it stages only English operas — a relentless diet of Britten sweetened with the odd spoonful of G&S, perhaps — but that it insists on all productions being sung in the English language.
Opera is basically a sung play. The concept is weird and the realization is ridiculous. Now, when the opera is sung in a foreign language, even a language I can follow to some extent, then I can put sufficient distance between myself and the intrinsic ludicrousness of the performance to enjoy it. But when it's sung in English, well the very thought of say a contralto and a baritone striding purposefully, nay sententiously, to centre stage, filling their lungs and singing
— "Darling, would you care for a cup of tea?"
— "Thank you my dear, two lumps please."
I'm sorry, writing that down is bad enough. To hear it performed on stage would would have me, as we say on the Internong, ROTFLMAO and get me ejected from the premises doubleplusquick.
But judging from this poster I saw outside the Coliseum yesterday
it appears that the forthcoming production of The Pearl Fishers will be set not in Ceylon as usual but on the planet Pandora. Well if they're going to be singing it in Na'vi, I'm booking a seat.
09 June, 2010
Single point of failure
And they all connect via T-Mobile. And which mobile service provider had a funny half hour this morning? I have no idea how localized the outage was, but I had no voice or data access at all for an hour or so. For reasons too tedious to relate I have no landline access.
It was disconcertingly scary. Not so much the outage per se, but the fact that it felt scary is disconcerting. We're getting altogether too dependent on these contraptions.
07 June, 2010
A brief note to BoJo
It turns out that Regent Street has been closed off between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus for some kind of jamboree called "A Taste of Spain", with jolly little stalls sprinkled along the carriageway selling Iberian delicacies.
So the bus is diverted. Unfortunately, due to the activities of Holes 'R' Us
it cannot turn left from Charing Cross Road into Oxford Street, so we set off on a Magical Mystery Tour, turning this section of route
Judging by the fits and starts along the way, as the "non-indigenous" driver was presumably peering speculatively down side streets*, we were lucky not to get lost and might even now be wandering around central London pausing every so often to ask bemused tourists if they knew the way to Oxford Circus. Assuming of course that the journey didn't end up as another of those newspaper pictures of a bus which has just passed under a low bridge, with the neatly sheared off roof lying in the road behind.
There's not much we can do about Holes 'R' Us and the water-main replacement project (apart from the fact that the level of activity pictured above seems to be equally typical of weekdays), and I really don't want to be a spoilsport** or interfere with all these doubtless commercially valuable activities, but the thing is, Boris old chap, that London is full, permanently teetering 24/7 on the edge of gridlock and choss. We could really do without this sort of bollocks, particularly on a street as crucial to the transport network as Regent Street.
* I think I've mentioned before the occasion when a London bus driver, by his appearance and accent clearly a gentleman of African birth, stopped his bus on Shaftesbury Avenue and asked me to tell him where he was.
** Actually I'm a grumpy old git and would quite enjoy being a spoilsport.
Quote of the day
His trousers were so tight you could read his credit card number.
06 June, 2010
He's got a point though. Of 30 current Arsenal first team players (per Wikipedia — as I have mentioned before I know nahthing about ze futébol so I defer to others on this), only five appear to be UK nationals, and one of them is a Sheepshagger. Quite how we manage to put together a credible and practised English national team when the premiership seems to be staffed predominantly by Francophone West-Africans remains an unresolved question.
04 June, 2010
But I do wonder if Ketlan ever bothers to read the articles he reposts. Today he replicates this bit of fatuous cultural ignorance from the Toronto Globe & Mail, in which Russell Smith reveals to us a startling neologism among the skinhead chav thugs of the EDL. Apparently, "to sort", a chipper little British colloquialism meaning to achieve a satisfactory and congenial resolution to something, now in the hands of the EDL carries the sinister overtone "to beat up".
Just a minute, Sunshine, I've been speaking British English for the best part of 60 years and "to sort", or more commonly "to sort out", has carried among other senses the colloquial interpretation "to resolve a confrontation, antagonism or disagreement through aggressive action or violence" for as long as I can remember. It isn't a particular in-group idiom of the EDL that you can point out as symptomatic.
It gets a bit desperate sometimes, all this stuff, doesn't it? During the run-up to the recent rather curious general election in the UK, one of the provincial rags, I forget which one, came up with a shock-horror story about the BNP. The kernel of the story, the hook which justified its publication in the Borsetshire Badger Botherer & Pothole Recorder, was shocking further evidence of the knuckledragging ignorance and illiteracy of the neo-Nazi scum brought to a horrified readership: in an election pamphlet several pages in length, someone had written "your" where they should have written "you're".
As the poet Littlejohn never tires of saying, you couldn't make it up.