Monday, December 25, 2006
And here are a couple of pics:
Sunday, December 24, 2006
The other thing that strikes me when I'm back in the UK is just how much "old stuff" there is. The picture above is the church near to where I grew up. Its not particularly remarkable - just like hundreds of others around England, but it dates back 900 years to Norman times with the bigger bits being added in the Medieval period. When you study history and realise how much can change in just a few generations, so 900 years is an awful long time. Growing up around here it all just fades into the background, but now living in Finland where due particularly to a history of building in wood, structures of more that a century are pretty rare away from the centres of the biggest towns, I really notice it.
This is a yew tree in the church yard. Yews have been traditionally grown in church yards because their wood is used for the manufacture of longbows, the weapon that gave England military hegemony in Europe in Medieval times. They live a long time so from the thickness of this trunk it is presumably also a good couple of centuries old at least.
The local stone is a very soft sandstone which weathers relatively quickly. There are many graves considerably older than this one but none have legible inscriptions on them. This one does and dates from 1822.
The Norman doorway of the church. This is amongst the original parts of the building dating back nearly a millennia. The door is medieval if I remember correctly, and for some odd reason I don't know is hung upside down.
It would look very Christmassy in the snow wouldn't it? Unfortunately in these days of ever worsening (i.e. warmer) winters, this part of the Midlands seems only to get a day or two of snow a year if we are lucky, and it has not happened whilst I've been around for a good few years. I remember good blizzards in my childhood when the area would get snowed in for days on end until the local farmers cleared the lanes with their tractors.
So this was the only vaguely seasonal shot I managed to snap: a traditional little Robin perched in a very soggy tree.
Happy Christmas everybody.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
That's about it really, I'm now on holiday so my brain is seems to be going on strike and I can't think of anything interesting to blog about: "Christmas is coming and my brain is getting fat, please put an interesting thought inside my hat." I was mildly amused that the Guardian has managed to find out that a leading dancer in the English National Ballet has fascist leanings, or as the Mirror much more punchily puts it, is a "BNP Ballerina". Listening to the podcast of last week's On The Media from NPR and WNYC I also excitedly thought that I might afterall be part of a repressed and distrusted minority as I listened to their piece on how everybody is scared of atheists, but they were talking about the States. But with unfortunate timing today's Guardian suggest that unless I migrate across the pond it would appear that I'm still rather boringly part of the British mainstream in my (non)religious leanings.
Nevermind. I'll sing a few Christmas carols and bemoan in a slightly ironic manner the fact that consumerism is spoiling the true message of Christmas. Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas everybody.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Solvalla in Nuuksio National Park as it was going to be dry if anything was. Of course it was mainly wet but there were a few dry (or dry-ish) lines to go at. Little Toni zoomed up "Indiana Jones" so fast that his fingers almost didn't freeze; this was in comparison to Jody and my not quite so efficient leads of the route - both of us ending up with completely numb digits. You had to keep telling yourself that even if you couldn't feel your fingers, at least the friction was good and you could trust your feet.
Monday, December 11, 2006
If anyone is interested the theory Tony (posting as anonymous) outlines the science behind them here!
How's that for a catchline? Who would not want to know how a WMD-related chemical ended-up in a Hong Kong flowerpot? Sadly, according to Issue 9 (Oct./Nov. 2006) of the International Export Control Observer (it's a gripping read, honest) we might never know.
"[A] cleaning woman discovered the unopened package and turned it over to security personnel from the housing complex. The security personnel noticed that the package had a peculiar smell. The Hong Kong police were called and discovered two bags of white powder and two bottles of liquid inside the package. Labels on the bags of powder read “KHF2” the chemical symbol for potassium bifluoride. The bottles of liquid were unmarked. The shipping invoice indicated that the package originated in Shenzhen, China and had been en route to Iran, scheduled to arrive in December 2005. It remains unclear how the item ended up outside the Hong Kong apartment building. However, one analyst familiar with Hong Kong’s export control system speculated that the package was likely abandoned in the flowerpot when an intermediary responsible for shipping the item realized that local customs controls would make it very difficult to transport the item to Iran."In a pitiful attempt to illustrate this story I put "hong kong flowerpot" into Google Images and the above picture came up. The above flowerpot has not been implicated in the running of WMD precursors to Iran, and its depiction should not be seen as any suggestion of such activities. This is a good thing because I'm sure I saw one just like that in my local IKEA recently...
"...Potassium bifluoride is an extremely hazardous substance that is both corrosive and toxic. It is a precursor for various chemical weapons agents, including the nerve agent sarin, and is also used in the extraction of plutonium from spent reactor fuel in the production of fissile materials." (p.6)
Friday, December 08, 2006
"if you are really interested you should read a book called "Images of Terror" by a US academic called Philip Jenkins. For example do you know about the 1975 La Guardia bombing? Probably not, as most Americans don't remember it. It killed eleven - more than were killed in the first WTC bombing that most do remember, but was carried out by Croatian Ultra nationalist Utashe.
But lets start with groups off the top of my head. You can argue the toss over what is a terrorists but all of these below on non-state groups who have used violence for a political or religious reason. Most have killed:
"Left" in vague historical order
-The "Red Wave" of the 20s - numerous bombings by communists and anarchist particularly the Wall Street Bombing of 1920 that killed 30
-Symbionese Liberation Army
-The Weather Underground
-United Freedom Front
-Puerto Rican nationalist movement, 1976 they bombed 30 sites in major US cities, including one in NYC that killed 4 and injured 50
-the UNA bomber
-Earth First/Earth Liberation Front
-Various militias in rural areas who have killed law enforcement officers
-Klu Klux Klan
-Abortion clinic bombings and assassinations of doctors (eg. Joseph Paul Franklin)
-Christian Identity Movement linked bombers like Eric Robert Rudolf and Timothy McVeigh and its spin offs: Army of God, Aryan Nation, The Order etc.
-There are also many case of lone rightwingers killing or attempting to carry out terrorist acts including serious attempts to get chem and bio weapons. The bible of the US far right, the Turner Diaries, makes a big thing of the 'lone wolf' concept, so although they can't be considered terrorist groups, they can be considered terrorists.
Then happening in the US but originating overseas:
-Cuban Exile groups - 1975 thirteen bombs went off in Miami in two days, organised by a Bay of Pigs Veteran. Cuban rightists also murdered leftist Latin American exiles in the US - including the Chilean Orlando Letelier. A Cuban diplomat was also murdered by Cuban exiles in 1980.
-Croatian Nationalists (La Guardia bombing)
The question isn't whether there has been political violence in the US, there always has been - huge amounts of "terrorism" after the Civil War for example - but who gets to call it terrorism.
Anyway, purely by coincidence just a few days after discussing this I was listening to last week's podcast of On The Media from WNYC/NPR, and they had a fascinating discussion "El Terrorista y La Periodista" about the bizarre activities of the U.S. Government regarding those very Cuban nationalist terrorists, specifically Luis Posada Carriles who has been convicted in Venezuela of the 1976 bombing Cubana Flight 455 in midflight killing all 73 on board. It seems that US Govt. has chucked away all the evidence they have on the guy, and are now trying to get that evidence from journalists via subpoena. Meanwhile a convicted terrorist is living free in the Miami suburbs. Read it here or listen to it by clicking here.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
The first has been named The Itsenäisyyspäivä (Independence Day), please admire the very Finnish colours. The second is a multipurpose cocktail that has so far been pressed into service to welcome both a French friend and a British friend (me!), but is most obviously suited for any cocktail drinking Russians out there. We are currently trying to work out how to do an Australian one. Answers on a postcard to the normal address - the comments box.
Happy Birthday to Tony and Happy Independence Day to all the Finns reading!
Monday, December 04, 2006
To any non-climbers reading this, you don't know what a top-rope is so don't worry about it. ;-)
Sunday, December 03, 2006
The second story is an incredible one from the US. A talkshow host on station covering Washington, Virginia and Maryland had a show based on the idea that all Muslims should be made to wear some kind of signifying mark in public like an armband, or be tattooed. Some called in to say the host a dangerous bigot and to point out the rather obvious historical precedents. Many others phoned in to say what a good idea it was, or more - that all Muslims should either be put in camps or expelled from the country. Of course at the end of the show the host revealed that it had been a hoax to draw out peoples feelings toward Muslims. A few weeks ago I met a number of young American Muslims at a conference, all 'community leaders' of some sort or another - all young professionals: lawyers, dentists etc. who were putting much effort into various NGOs, community education groups etc. They all said how this sense of mistrust towards American Muslims was increasing, spurred on by real 'honest' ignorance mixed with what to them were very strange ideas about what their religion is meant to be, ideas that come from ugly anti-Islamic rhetoric that exists on numerous blogs and religious (Christian) websites. There was a real sense of unease, about being made to feel a stranger in the country of your birth - and this radio host's hoax can only add to that. Can anyone be stupid enough not to know what asking a religious group to wear an armband signifies?
Thanks to CENSORED and Duncan_S on UKC who brought both articles to my attention.
Friday, December 01, 2006
to their list of expat blogger. You can now rate this blog and even leave a review at the Guardian should you be so inclinded. The button is in the side bar and will take you to their site. This blog is in the "Global diatribes and politics" section.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
But, if yesterday's speaker was anything to go by there are still neo-cons kicking around in some of the most senior jobs in Washington. I turned to a colleague after the presentation and asked "so do you think s/he is mad or lying?" Out of the two options I'm not sure which is worse. The speaker seemed both rational and very intelligent, which made the words s/he produced so difficult to process. Of course what the speaker said was no worse, and indeed a lot better, than what you can read on dozens and dozens of blogs who all think they are fighting the war against Islamo-fascism-fundamentalism-Wahhabist-Qutbist-Salafist-Shiia-Sunni-and-Cher-evilness (OK -I threw in Cher for crimes against music, it's a long story involving a former Nigerian flatmate and sleep deprivation), but none of those blogger are in the very upper echelons of the most powerful government on earth. We're in a war on terrorism don't you know? They want to found a global Caliphate! In fact - oh the horror! the horror! - the Shura Council of the Mujahideen have already founded a global Caliphate (and also this being the modern world, a blog. If you want to read the blog, google it, it's hate speech basically and pretty tedious hate speech at that, so I'm not going to link it) - the only problem is that the global Caliphate so far extends to the bits of al-Anbar province which the USAF can't pulverize at will (i.e. not much). The speaker kept reminding us that you could read all the plans for global domination on the internet. You can read a lot of stuff of the internet mate. I doesn't make it true. I bet the Chinese army is quaking in its boots. And let's politely skip over the whole issue of why the Shura Council of the Mujahideen is able to sit sipping tea in Fallujah whilst they plot global domination (and update their blog)... but just in case you haven't worked it out yet I recommend Thomas Ricks' Fiasco, which I am currently about 190 pages in to.
All-in-all, the speaker clearly SOOooo wanted the Soviet Union back. When the bad guys had thousands of nuclear warheads just like our side did, you could really get everyone together by worrying about an armoured blitzkrieg attack heading for the Fulda Gap. The speaker was worried that no one seems to be taking the GWOT seriously anymore - and you wonder why.
Completely unrepentant, still completely out of touch with reality and still in charge. What a scary combination.
*The delightfully plain-speaking former CENTCOM commander, General Tommy Franks.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Counter Terrorism blog. All very interesting, but the immediate thing that struck me was: what is it about hard guys and leather fingerless gloves?
It's all a bit 1980s if you ask me. Nevertheless like taping at least two magazines together for your machine gun, it seems in the rough and tough world of global insurgency, you just won't be taken seriously without black fingerless gloves.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
I started a blog way back in 2003 mainly with the intention of recording how much of my PhD thesis I had written each day. The blog didn't last more than six month and fortunately for the few readers I had, the rest of world is actually far more interesting blog fodder than my PhD writing up, so in the end the daily word count didn't get mentioned that much. I've got various ideas in my head for longer posts I do want to put up here but am actually frantically hammering out a draft of a chapter of my still unfinished PhD thesis. This accounts for the shortness and generally facile nature of the posts over the last week. God - I hate my PhD, but everyone says you should by the end so hopefully this means the end is not too far away (the end of my thesis, rather than the end of my sanity hopefully). At least I have written something over the last few days.
If anyone cares, today's word count is around 1000. I'm not sure if any of them are any good though...
Anyways - back to gay penguins: what a great story from last Sunday's Observer. I found it whilst browsing their site today; it does though appear that one of the penguins concerned might have been faking his gay-ness, possibly in an attempt to wind up Bible-belt Americans - a laudable aim that he seems to have achieved.
p.s. I'm not sure if the pictured penguin is gay or not, in fact I'm not even sure if it is a male or a female. If there are any penguin experts out there who know about these things, do tell.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
1) If Murdoch has this total power over the way we all think through his control of the media - why he is he so universally loathed? And if Sir Richard is a plucky little resistance fighter desperately struggling to get the voice of the people heard on corporate dominated media, why is it that everyone seems to think he's such a sound chap? Shouldn't Murdoch have corrupted our minds against him already? See that? I used words like "plucky" and "struggling" - you lot like words like that, so subconsciously start to accept my way of putting the argument. Sneaky eh? It's called "framing". For next my trick I will take control of your mind. Good. Now give me all your money.
2) And this is the important bit - I was listening to Sir Richard discussing this on the BBC business news this morning and was hit by a sudden and scary realisation: he sounds exactly like Tony Blair! Right down to the I'm-just-an-ordinary-bloke "err"s and "y'know"s that he employs. I've always thought that beard looked fake (see right). So I think we deserve to know has anyone ever seen Branson and Blair in the same room at the same time?!
Monday, November 20, 2006
We are all part of different communities, some by happenstance and some by choice. One of my communities of choice is the British climbing community and today "we" lost two of "our own". Two young Aberdeen climbers were caught out in horrendous conditions and it seems forced to stay out overnight whilst descending after having done a route in Coire an t-Sneachda yesterday. They were found not far from Cairngorm ski centre this morning and flown to hospital in Inverness but both subsequently died. This played out all day on UKclimbing: from someone posting the first news reports, people realising who it probably was, a friend of the missing guys saying this morning how worried all the people in Aberdeen were, all of us posting best wishes from all corners of the country and indeed the world and locals to that area up-dating everyone with latest news from TV or radio. Early afternoon there was a burst of joy as the first news came through that they had been found, and then heartbreak to hear they subsequently died.
I don't know those who died, but I've climbed many time in Sneachda, bivvied in the snow round the back of the ski centre, and I've spent scared nights waiting for news of friends missing on the hill. Fortunately on those occasions we have had better news than the friends and families of these lads have had today. Condolences to all those effected, particularly the families who are likely to find this harder to deal with than climbing friends of the victims. And many many thanks to both the volunteer and the RAF mountain rescue teams who, yet again, did more than anyone could ask in that sort of weather to try and find them.
Benedict Anderson wrote in the early 80s a seminal book for modern sociology and political science called "Imagined Communities". He was writing about nations - that even in the smallest nation-states one person will not know all the other members of that nation, yet there is still that "we feeling" that makes a Finn know they have something in common with another Finn, or a Spaniard with a Spaniard. People from the same nation who have never met have a common identity, but this can only be imagined. Just because it is imagined doesn't mean it isn't important - as world history demonstrates the case is actually the opposite. But Anderson made a point valid beyond nation-states. I have never met those young men, yet I feel a horrible sadness tonight - for them, their families and their friends. I know what they were doing and why they did it and - whether real or imagined is besides the point - they were part of my community.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
The weather looks like it's going to stay crap as well:
What a depressing forecast eh? Finnish weather is dull compared to British weather, particularly when you're from the west of the UK. In Glasgow they say if you don't like the weather just wait five minutes. Here the weather seems to settle in for the week - be that good in the summer or miserable in the late autumn.
But to stay positive for the climbers, here's a pic from last January - Big Toni soloing One Point Gully at Nuuksio, on a day so cold we that you could hardly get brand new ice screws to bite (as ever, you can click on the pic for a bigger version).
And whilst Finland drips and melts in warm southerlies, on the other side of the anti-cyclone Scotland is getting blasted with cold northerlies with lots of snow in the hill. Other UKC people have been out on the Scottish mountains winter climbing and even ski touring, not that I'm jealous or anything. :-(
I mentioned the earliest reports of the Ethiopian troops in the country back in July, and now there is extensive evidence from the UN that Eritrea (amongst others) is supplying arms to the Courts' militias. There seems to be little reason for this beyond the fact that Ethiopia has picked the other side. For those who don't know, Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a particularly bloody and pointless war from 1998 to 2000 over their border, in which tens of thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. The fighting deteriorated into trench warfare reminiscent of the first world war. It is one of those wars that has just completely escaped the attention of the west: as US secretary of state James Baker said of Yugoslavia as it collapsed into a bloody warfare and slaughter - "we don't have a dog in this fight". The same was true about Ethiopia-Eritrea; none of the rich world particularly cared either way. It was left for underfunded UN mission to try and enforce the ceasefire and stop the two countries from going back to war. But the other great sadness of the war is that it worsened the freedom and human rights situation in both countries. Ironically, the leaders of both before Eritrean independence from Ethiopia had fought together against the oppressive Ethiopian communist regime that ruled during the Cold War. Yet neither set of leaders seem to have been able to avoid the African leaders' disease of coming to resemble those you overthrow, like the pigs of Animal Farm.
The Eritrean regime went down this path steadily after independence in 1991, and with seemingly little care about what the rest of the world thought about them. Ethiopia has been different and the government has done good things for its people leading to much support from the aid community and in particular the British Government. But as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi felt power slipping away, he has become increasingly oppressive. As the Economist puts it (subscribers only I think):
"An instinct for self-preservation may explain the former rebel fighters' return to Soviet methods. Things began to fall apart last year when a disorganised opposition disputed the results of a general election. Street protests followed in the capital in June and again in November. Around 80 people were believed to have been killed, including some police, after which opposition leaders, journalists, human-rights activists and businessmen were arrested. Many have since been charged with treason and genocide.
The government promised a speedy trial but has reneged, dragging out the process while keeping it far from view. Most of those arrested are still languishing in Kaliti prison in Addis Ababa. The cells there are baking hot by day, freezing by night, infested with roaches and mice, and thick with mud in the rainy season. The government has so far used a mix of spin and harassment of journalists (local more than foreign) to avoid international condemnation. But that may be changing.
An independent commission into the June and November killings has become an embarrassment. The government had stacked the commission with its supporters but eight out of ten of them still decided that the government had used excessive force. The commission members claim Mr Zenawi tried to get them to reverse their decision earlier this year; when that failed the government sought to bury the findings. The head of the commission and his deputy fled to Europe, fearing for their safety. Their investigation says at least 193 people were killed, nearly all by the security forces, including 40 teenagers, some shot at close range, others strangled. Some 20,000 young Ethiopians were said to be imprisoned in labour camps, though a government spokesman calls this “absolute rubbish”.
The government is spending more on its secret police as well as on state media. Well-placed sources claim an Israeli-trained unit now monitors e-mail and blocks opposition websites. Yet there is also disloyalty in the security apparatus. Berhanu Nega, the imprisoned mayor-elect of Addis Ababa, managed to write a book in Kaliti entitled “Dawn of Freedom” that is now being widely distributed in samizdat. Some people say 200,000 of the opposition calendars have been sold, often for several times their cover price."
On the other hand the Somali Islamist seems to be running on a law and order ticket! In the past few days they have used their forces to retake a ship seized by pirates, freeing the crew (the seas off Somalia have in the last decade and a half become notorious for pirates), and cracking down on drugs - in this case Khat, an incredibly common substance in those regions. Yet from the American self-styled 'anti-Jihadist' right, such as in this case the widely read and quoted Jawa Report, we are still getting this sort of 'advanced analysis':
"...the Ethiopia (and U.S.) backed Somalian interim government (which controls very little actual territory) has rejected a peace deal with the African Taliban [he means the ICU]. To whatever extent we are arming the opposition[he means the 'oppostion to the ICU', which is confusingly the interim government], we need to step up our efforts.Mr. Jawa should listen to his Ethiopian friends a bit more. As likely refugees from political oppression they might have a bit more perspective on his "my enemy's enemy is my friend" logic. The premises of his argument are a mixture of the sickening and the laughable; firstly that the US should arm any old warlord or totalitarian regime who says they are fighting Islamists ('cos Islamist are, like, all bad and terrorists and stuff don't ya know?). And then the second - that the US experience of fighting proxy wars during Cold War suggests they should try the same again! Can anyone say "Daniel Ortega"?
Some in the Ethiopian ex-patriot community have reminded me in the past that the Ethiopian government isn't exactly immune from charges of corruption and doesn't have the greatest human rights record itself. Maybe not, but in war you look for help from nations with mutual interests and not ones that are perfect.
The U.S. has plenty of experience fighting proxy wars from our experience with the Cold War. It's high time we began to use that experience in the Horn of Africa."
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I love police shows, British and American, but currently The Wire is the best. But who is the best TV cop? The contenders:
Detective William "Bunk" Moreland (played by Wendell Pierce), "The Wire". This man doesn't talk, he rumbles like a passing freight train. He is Barry White with a badge and gun. Although all the girls will love and the all the blokes want to look like Officer Jimmy McNulty, it's Bunk who really has the style.
Detective Vic Mackey(Michael Chiklis), "The Shield". The "new Sipowicz" for cop-show-connoisseurs. Mackey lacks the critical introspection of Sipowicz, but then he hasn't sunk to the personal depths that Andy did. He has moments of moral clarity but can't seem to hang onto them. I'm sure Vic and Tony Soprano would get on well.
Any other suggestions via the comments are welcome.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
- in 2005, 81 Finns died in fires.
- in 2006 the projected figure is 110-115.
- in 2005, 379 English people died in fires.
- the population of Finland is approx. 5,231,000.
- the population of England is approx. 49,139,000.
I have absolutely no idea why this might be: less population density so further between fire stations? Wooden houses? Great fire fighters in the UK? Alcohol consumption patterns? Shoddy Finnish electrics? Who knows - but if you have any ideas, please leave a comment.
When I was reading last week's edition of the Economist on the bus to work I was struck by one full page advert. Despite being an Economist subscriber and a fan of its news coverage, I realise from the adverts in the paper that I'm not part of their core-demographic. My eyes just move over all the advertising without stopping: I don't play golf and never will so my brain can just ignore that Tiger Woods wears a certain watch or represents some management consultancy or other. As the kids say - I sooo don't care. But this ad was different - plain text with the large title:
"An apology to Sheikh Khalid Bin Mahfouz and Sheikh Abdulrahman Bin Mahfouz"slap bang in the middle of the
The apology is from Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié who together had written a book called “Forbidden Truth”, first published in French and later in English. It would appear that they had claimed that Messrs Mahfouz and Mahfouz had been involved in financing al-Qaeda. The Saudi gentlemen had clearly taken exception to this, sued Messrs Brisard and Dasquié, and won. News reports say that the businessmen will donate their damages to UNICEF, which is a nice touch.
The authors are described as “upstart Western writers who, passing themselves off as international terrorism financing experts, have been dishing out all kinds of nonsense in the name of journalism” by one unnamed Jeddah businessman in a news report on the case. Harsh words indeed, but perhaps there is a grain of truth there. This gets back to what in an earlier entry I have called “the terrorism industry”. Brisard is very industrious in his work and has carved a little niche for himself post-9/11 as an “international expert on terrorism financing” (see the blog header). But what this is built upon is slightly obscure. Google turns up various things: it seems he worked for Vivendi at some point, or was at least a consultant to them, and also for the “French secret services” (whatever that actually means – why the plural?). But he has given evidence to Senate committees in the
The gist of Brisard’s argument seems to be that the
Some supporters (scroll down) see the libel cases against Brisard and Dasquié as being a case of the
I was on Finnish TV this morning talking about terrorism. They wanted me because they see me as “a terrorism expert”, a term I’m immensely uncomfortable with. I will continue to happily call myself a researcher as there is always something else to read, or another person to talk to, but I’m coming to the conclusion that if anyone calls themselves a terrorist expert, you should run a mile.
Monday, November 13, 2006
So despite the slush (see the posting below) we did pop out today and do some ice climbing. It snowed the whole time, soggy fine stuff, the snow equivalent of drizzle. All through the forest you could hear the sound of dripping. Not particularly inspiring. I backed down from leading one short line I tried unable to even get my shortest screw in. Big Toni* found a bit more ice a few metres to the left (photo above) but still got the fear good finding a total lack of ice on the ledge just above him in the photo. Some slight gibbering and swearing in two languages followed before he managed to teeter onto easier ground. I had actually worked out my running route away from the cliff to try and take in enough slack rope to stop him hitting the ground had he fallen. Fortunately this wasn't necessary. I told him after that's he's always been a ballsier ice climber than me, to which he responded "is that a polite way of saying I'm stupid?" You might have a point dude. :-)
The pic above is of Big Toni on a line at the right of cliff that I have never seen form before. Although the weather doesn't look good for the week ahead with temperatures above freezing, the amount of seepage and ice after just the first couple of weeks of subzero temps, suggests it might be a good season.
*It should be noted that Big Toni isn't particularly big, just that he is bigger than Little Toni.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Does it ever strike anyone else that we live in really bizarre world?
On an equally bizarre but otherwise unconnected note, I was listening to Reporting Religion on BBC World service this morning. They interviewed an American pastor who has a special ministry that serves fallen evangelical ministers. They had obviously found this guy to discuss the Pastor Ted Haggard affair (which currently appears to stand at: he bought a massage from a gay prostitute, but not sex, as well as buying crystal meth, which he didn't take. Hmmm... can anyone say "Clinton"?), but the Haggard story in itself isn't particularly strange. A homophobic preacher who is actually gay isn't especially hypocritical when we compare him, for example, to disgraced former-Congressman Mark Foley who was sending sexually explicit instant messages to underage teenage boys, whilst heading the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. What is bizarre is that there is a Pastor who specializes in 'fallen' pastors. Are there that many?!
Thursday, November 09, 2006
I should say that if any of the Radio Open Source crew are reading this: you completely messed up my thursday! I got to bed a 4am and didn't get up until nearly noon. :-)
I'll be discussing the mid-term elections: "how was it for you?". Earlier today, I offered on their blog a view from abroad, which they seemed to have liked so called me earlier this evening and asked me to join. So here I am, sleep deprived and with butterflies in my stomach.
Update: So I've done it. I didn't get too flustered and random words like "bum" and "knobber" didn't pop out of my mouth like some instant tourettes syndrome. I'll listen back tomorrow and see if I sound as awful as I usually do when you hear your own voice recorded.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
OK, so it's not that intimidating.
I was sent the above by a friend in the US on Election Day 2004. As few will have failed to notice, that turned out to be a very bad day for the kittens. If we want to be all serious and mature about this though, these kind of political threats (please note: I don't really believe that God kills kittens) are ugly politics. In the US mid-term elections where voters are going to the polls today, there have really been a lot of nasty attack ads. The Washington Post calls it 'kitchen-sink time': what the hell! You've chucked everything else at your opposition, why not lob the kitchen-sink as well? Slate.com have collected up the worst ones and you can see who wins the 2006 Political Slime Awards here. British local politics gets really rather dirty - oddly the Lib Dems seems to have a reputation amongst both Tory and Labour local activist for being the worse: utterly unscrupulous in saying exactly what they think people want to hear regardless of how unpleasant that is - but on the national scale the Blair-devil eye's ad:
was enough to cause shock and consternation in 1997 when it was used. But what all of these ads have in common is the negativity tends to be aimed at "what my opponent might/will do to you if you vote for him", not "what I will do to you if you vote for the other guy". The former is just normal scare tactics, the latter is truly intimidation.
So have the representatives of the US Government in Nicaragua stepped over this line in threatening that if the country voted for Daniel Ortega, as it now appears to have done, there would be consequences? The L.A. Times reports:
"[U.S. Ambassador] Trivelli warned that $220 million in U.S. aid to Nicaragua could be imperiled in the event of an Ortega victory, and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez said U.S. aid to the country would be endangered if "anti-democratic forces" prevailed in Nicaragua. Three Republican congressmen called on the Bush administration to stop people in the U.S. from sending money to Nicaragua should Ortega win."The pro-Ortega campaign has been heavily bankrolled by Venezuela, so it's not like they are innocent of accepting foreign help, but as much as it pains me to say, Hugo Chavez is playing the smarter game in helping one candidate to campaign better, not threatening the country with sanctions if they vote for the man he dislikes.
All is not fair in love and politics.