Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brussels blogging

It's a grand place.

Beer and food - Brussels at its best

Le Perroquet - a restaurant with dozens of different types of tasty pitas but completely indifferent service!

Taking chocolate to fetish levels

Somehow even the logo looks amateurish, hmmm....

Police van with lots riot shields in the middle of Saturday afternoon shoppers - they were very rowdy shoppers though.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Words I can never quite remember and mix up when I'm trying to

Psephology - the study of elections
Campanology - bell ringing

Yes I know they aren't really very similar, but the thing that links them in my brain is that I can never remember either of the words when I'm trying to.

Religious law for some

There is a lot of talk on the right, often the American right, about how European states are allowing various aspects of Muslim religious law to be used by Muslim citizens in contravention of national laws - the dreaded Sharia. Criticism is also coming increasingly from the secular left (particularly British-based Iranian communists it would seem!) and the avowedly atheistic. But those who argue that there is a place for such parallel systems in society often cite Beth Din - Jewish law in the UK as a precedent. People argue whether this is a good parallel or not, but listening to From Our Own Correspondent at the weekend, they seemed to demonstrate an alternative parallel - polygamist Mormons in the US.

I watched a few episodes of Big Love when it started, but found it a bit boring - but I presumed that it was stretching fact to make good fiction. The only polygamists I had heard about were the really crazy ones like Warren Jeffs who married 80 women, lived in a 'compound' and was wanted by the Feds (he got caught and got 10 to life). But FOOC went to Utah (and watch the film clip at the top) where possibly 40,000 people are living in polygamist families. And they're not in the slightest bit shy about explaining how and why they break the law. Nor does the law seem very bothered about trying to stop them, seeming to take the position that there are simply too many of them to prosecute (it hasn't ever stopped the US govt. from trying to prosecute, say, drug users). The polygamists are campaigning to have polygamy legalised - FOOC quotes one sympathetic politician, Ric Cantrell (who appears to be "Chief Deputy of the Utah State Senate"), a Republican, saying:
"Your patriotism is unquestionable"... "and your faith inspiring. You have no hesitation to put God's law above the law of the state with a propensity toward civil disobedience and I find that very American."
Would it be so American if they were Muslim or Sikh or Jewish?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Finnish fringes

Finnish fringes - supposed Islamists and Russia fans rally in Helsinki (photo from Wikipedia)

Sometimes if I get a late bus home, I see my friendly neighbourhood Salafi. Salafi-chic is a lot less common in Finland than it is in, say, parts of London so he sort of sticks out. He's a skinny white guy with a friendly and slightly goofy smile - but the rest is classic neo-Salafi: the straggly beard, the skull cap, the shalwar kameez, but crucially with mid-calf trousers, and of course some old army surplus jacket over the top. A bit Tora-Bora 2001 for my taste, but there's nowt as queer as folk and each to their own. He wears combat boots though, which I thought was missing the point as aren't Salafis meant to show their ankles to follow the Prophet's example? But ankles and Islamic jurisprudence are by the by - whenever I see him, I think of the Finnish Islamic Party and Abdullah Tammi.

You don't get more loony fringe than Tammi - who may or may not have been a neo-Nazi, communist, fireman, KGB spy, wife beater, entrepreneur and captain in the Red Army. And if that isn't an interesting enough life, now he most definitely is the leader of the tiny Finnish Islamic Party. The FIP aren't solely white converts, but they do seem to make up the majority of the party. The Finnish Muslims I know from more traditional immigrant backgrounds seem to treat them with polite scepticism at best.

Tammi along with some other FIP guys were protesting today outside of the Helsingin Sanomat offices in Helsinki - but it wasn't their protest. Oh no. They were there with the "Nashi", the Russian, pro-Putin and sort of ultranationalist youth outfit - more famous for chasing and harrassing ambassadors in Moscow from countries they don't like, such Estonia and the UK. Now the Nashi don't really seem to be mad at Finland, their fire is directed at Estonia, but for reasons you need to read the news story to see if you can work out (because I'm not sure if I fully do), it was more convenient to protest here.

The jist of it seems to be that those who criticise the Soviet Union are really just criticising the Russia of today, and they are doing this because they are fascists. All the breakaway states from the USSR - like Estonia - are full of Russia-hating fascists. It's a rather silly argument, but then the Nashi are a populist youth movement so perhaps expecting much more would also be silly. But anything to do with Russia can bring the 'interesting characters' out of the woodwork in Finland - Johan Bäckman being one such. He appears to think that the anti-Russian sentiments prevalent in the Baltics are being imported to Finland. This strikes me as odd as you really don't have to dig very far to find Finnish anti-Russian sentiments. Why they would need to be imported from Estonia escapes me. Bäckman is a member (founder member I think) of the Finnish antifascist committee that seems to be more interested in criticising the Baltic "apartheid regimes" and supporting Russia than the more normal sort of Antifa activities like rucking with skinheads. All very odd.

What Tammi is doing there is anyone guess (beyond the stated protesting for better recognition of Muslims in Estonia - if I was an Estonian Muslim [or should the be the Estonian Muslim], I'd be running in the opposite direction from Tammi's 'support'). I suppose he couldn't get much more weird in the eyes of the Finnish public. But for a man who has praised bin Laden, turning up at a Nashi protest, an organisation that lionises Putin - the destroyer of Grozny, is strange to say the least.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Helsinki ice

All you need for soloing (ok - one more leg is helpful)

Warm days and and the bits of southern Finland in the sunshine are dripping and thawing, but it is still getting really cold overnight, so I decided this morning to go out early and climb some local ice.

Lefthand fall at Kauhala

Kauhala was pretty fat on the left, and the normally biggest icefall on the right that wasn't touching down earlier this year had just formed to the base. I soloed four lines, had a chat with the other early birds who had made the effort to catch the morning frost, then headed over to Nuuksio.

Fields and road

Like elsewhere along the south coast, Nuuksionpää hasn't formed well this winter, the lefthand groove line was decently formed, particularly in comparison to January when I last climbed the route. It felt pretty ok to solo, the ice not being too layered.

Moose and hare tracks

I then climbed the lefthand slab. This was its normal slightly scary self - not very steep, but either thin ice with picks going through the ice and bouncing off rock underneath, or very layered making you worried that even with a well buried tool, still a whole thick section could break away taking your tool with it. Three points of contact at all times and not placing the tools too close to each other was definitely the way to go.

The road to Nuuksio national park

Next weekend I'll be out of the country - so possibly today was the last ice climbing of the winter.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

The boys on the black bikes: a socio-economic thesis on winter cycling.

A black bike (unfortunately suffering from a pinch flat and waiting for motorized support)

Spring is definitely in the air. Friday morning riding into the city I not only swapped my hat under my helmet for just an ear band, but also took off my windproof trousers and was far more comfy with just fleece trousers over full-leg bib tights. But there are still ice patches around and rutted, hard re-frozen snow in shady patches on the cycle paths. I'm looking forward to changing my studded tyres back to summer slicks, but it is not quite time yet.

Riding into Helsinki from the outer edges of the city, as you get closer to the centre you see some other cyclists out and about, but the further out into suburbia you go, the quieter the cycle paths get. And this brings me to the phenomenon of the boys on the black bikes. My thesis is that winter cycle commuting in Helsinki appeals to a rather limited class of cyclists - identifiable by age, gender, bike preference, and probably socio-economic and educational background.

When you are searching for a new bike you quickly realise that all the companies are making very similar models to appeal to certain parts of the market. I wanted a flat bar 700c 'sports hybrid'. I wasn't bothered by suspension but wanted disc brakes. I ended up getting a Felt, but it was by no means the only possibility and other makes made similar at around the same price point. And oddly, in 2008, many of them were also black. And what I have noticed through this winter is the a very large proportion of the cyclists I have seen who are obviously commuting distance by bike are men, in their 30s and 40s, riding black hybrids. I've seen Inseras, Crescents, Treks, Nishikis, Canondale Badboys, Focuses and a dude this morning who I think was on a Kona - plus of course, me on a Felt. And they're all black. Weird. The only exception to this rule is blokes in their 30s and 40s who are riding cyclocross bikes. These are normally Focus Mares which are predominantly black!

So how to account for this odd socio-cycling phenomenon? Here are my hypotheses. Cycling in winter any distance requires studded tyres - this naturally cuts down on bike selection (many road bikes don't have enough clearance), but if you're cycling say 15+ kms each way for your commute, 700cc wheels on hybrid beat 26inchers of mountain bikes for speed, particularly on a clear cycle path. Secondly if you are going to cycle longish distance regularly, you are probably willing to invest in a decent bike. We're talking the EUR 600-1000 sort of price range, to get a decent frame and maybe hydraulic disc brakes and a Deore groupset. This might push this market niche towards middle class professionals, who have both the social capital to want to exercise, and also the financial capital to invest in a bike. Hence one reason for it being 30 something blokes.

But why bother? Cycling in the Finnish winter is in many ways a hassle - you need to layer up to stay warm. If the temperatures are below -5 oC I tend to wear three layers on my legs, waterproof socks, cycling shoes and neoprene overboots for my feet, various baselayers and jacket combinations on my body, different hats and face protectors that all have to fit under a helmet, etc. etc. Basically you need ten minutes to dress before you can even get on your bike, and more time at the other end to shower and change into normal clothes. It is also slower - both studded tyres and snow slow you down. In summer I can just about beat the time it takes the bus and tram to do the same distance, but in winter it's slower by bike. So you have to really want to do the exercise. So the factor that has to be what makes it appeal to men in their 30s and 40s must be children. Between having little kids and work there normally isn't that much time left in the day, or at least not the reasonably civilised times of the day when you don't want to collapse in front of the TV with a beer. I used to get home from work and maybe go out XC skiing, or go to the climbing wall, or even just go running. With kids this just doesn't seem to work.

But everyone (well, most) people have to commute, and that is often sort of 'dead' time - you can read a bit if you use public transport but not much else. But if you can exercise and commute at the same time you're being efficient. Plus of course having kids is the normal reason for moving out to a boring suburb rather than living downtown where all the action is in the first place. So for any blokes in their late twenties who like skiing or running or even just going to the gym, but who think their girlfriend is getting 'that' feeling - I'm warning you. Give it about five years, and you'll find yourself on black hybrid bike cruising into town from the suburbs on a snowy winter morning, studded tyres chattering on the ice, wondering why the few other people riding bikes look suspiciously like you.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Scotland, and not recognising Kosovo

An odd thought occurred to me yesterday, we were chatting about the independence of Kosovo and its recognition by other states. So far only 22 out 27 EU states recognise Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state. The EU has a large mission in Kosovo, EULEX, where it has taken over from the UN and is basically partnering with the nascent institution of the Kosovar government, providing a parallel civil service. One of my colleagues has actually been seconded to the mission so is now living in Pristina. Anyway, because of the non-unanimous position within the EU, EULEX in Pristina can't use a list of words in any official documents that refer to independence, including the former Finnish president and nobel peace prize winner, Martti Ahtisaari, who negotiated the plan for Kosovo's independence and the plan is named after. Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Romania and Slovakia are the five EU members that won't recognise Kosovo. I'm not certain why Greece won't but it probably is connected to their long running (and to outsiders, rather pointless) fight with Macedonia over it's name. Romania and Slovakia both have I believe large Hungarian minorities and they fear separatism from those communities. Cyprus doesn't want Turkish North Cyprus to gain recognition as a sovereign state, and Spain is worried by Basque and Catalan separtism.

But if all these countries fear that recognition sets a precedent leading to other breakaway movements - why wasn't the UK in the slightest bit concerned that recognition could set a precedent for a Scottish unilateral declaration of independence? The UK strongly supported recognition from early on. I'm tempted to say it is because the UK is a mature and stable democracy and we (both Scots and and non-Scots) just don't do that sort of civil war mongering, but are we really that much more mature than the Spanish? So there must be another reason - is it something to do with the Scottish nationalism being more of the French-citizen type than the Germanic blood-and-soil type? Answers on a postcard please to the normal address (the comments box).

Stars


It's midnight and I'm just back from some ice climbing. The climbing itself was nowt special but nice enough and not too far from home, but the night sky was wonderful: no moon, no town lights, seven degrees of frost and just stars and stars and a thousand more stars. I wish I knew how to take good photos of skies like that. It's something to put on my ridiculously long list of "things I really must learn". But you'll just have to trust me - it was great.
Anyway, here's what happens when you try some one handed filming with a camera phone, whilst half way up an ice climb solo - not much really...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Consultants

I was until recently of the opinion that taking the piss out of consultants and business people for their ridiculous use of jargon went out of fashion, maybe, five years ago. But today it seems that the Local Government Association in the UK is criticising its own members for now using exactly the same jargon. So perhaps the joke is hip once again. My pondering (blue sky thinking) on this matter was sparked by a day I spent recently with consultant who was organizing (facilitating) some planning (strategizing) for my work (business unit). The consultant appears to be a thoroughly decent person working hard to get a bunch of slightly suspicious and generally snarky researchers to work better together. This is probably a quixotic quest as getting researchers to cooperate is normally the proverbial herding of cats. But anyway, this is just to say that the consultant is a perfectly nice person before I begin to make fun of them. So, the day proved that consultant-speak isn’t just of invented comedic characters like in the Office or similar; they really do actually speak like that.

I got to the point where I just started writing down my favourite phrases. Readers will have to decide what they think the consultant meant by them, I will offer what came to my mind when I heard them. Resulting speculations on the state of my mind are not welcome.
  • Firstly we have “stakeholders”. I was willing to let this one fly at first because I do see a use for the term, but it came up again and again (plus its usage is criticised in the article linked above). By the end of the day I came to the conclusion that the word stakeholder should from now on only be used by people who build fences or who are vampire-slayers.
  • Next – “breakout groups”. Presumably a breakout group is subdivision of mass prison escape attempt. Think The Great Escape (“Let me come with you. I can see. I can see perfectly…”).
  • Then “concrete action points”. These are presumably those big concrete lumps you see in Baghdad that GIs can use to return fire from behind when targeted by insurgent snipers.
  • And finally – “collective internalisation”. This is clearly something that should only be attempted by experienced and highly paid porn-stars.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring drips in


Drip, drip

The changing guard: out with the Frogs in with the Yanks

Rain on the windscreen and it’s not looking good. The trees have all long since shed their loads of snow, but not in the gorgeous sloughing off their winter coat that happens under the first blue skies and sunny days of spring, but with the soggy, heavy greyness of warm south-westerlies that also soak the air with moisture sucked up out of the snowpack. Low cloud, mist, sleet and an all pervading dampness. Southern Finland looks monochrome, white snow in the fields, brown dull forests behind them. We drive westward getting sprayed with muddy water from every truck we overtake on the new motorway.

Me, trying out my new ice tools for the first time

Yesterday had been perfect – bright sun, a cloudless sky, the deep snowpack in the forest soaked but gleaming in the sunlight. We had stumbled down into a steep-sided and shaded valley and found fat ice against a steep little cliff. It was soft in the above freezing temperatures and easy to climb, yielding to first time swings of the ice tools. The birds chirped in the trees, enjoying the warm sun as much as we were. But Sunday is dawning damp and miserable.


Dave's lead

We get to the cliff in Angelniemi and our optimism from the night before is rewarded; it is still plump with fat, white ice. Dave meets us there and with him my gleaming new ice axes – personally imported by Dave for me from Canada, and the Mountain Equipment Co-op; a shop that has an almost mythical reputation amongst European climbers as an Aladdin’s cave of ridiculously under-priced and high quality outdoor equipment. My new babies live up to their name – Vipers – and bite firmly and reassuringly into the fat, soft ice. I had been just about to start leading a route when Dave had arrived at the crag, so I put my trusty old Quarks aside and decide just to jump in the deep end with the new tools. I haven’t quite got the leashes quite at the right length but still bash up 15 metres of 75-90 degree ice in pretty passable style. Pretty good going for my first ever try with the tools. I think we're going to get on well. I climb the rest of the day with them leashless, the secondary hand position making a big difference when hand swapping from my Quarks which lack this.

Tony's lead

The countryside is full of the sound of dripping and occasionally small pieces of ice drop off from the cliff and crash to the forest floor, but at the top of one of the climbs we can hear another rhythmic sound - the high speed tap-tap-tap of a woodpecker. I spot him high above at the very top of tall dead tree. I can see black and white and he looks to be a good size from a distant - so at a guess, a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Just as we are about to leave the cliff there are strange noises echoing down the valley, and then a flight of huge swans - pure white and in perfect line formation sweep past us. We can easily hear the beating of their wings even from 100 metres away. It's grey and dank and dripping, but the climbing and company has been good and the signs of spring and tapping and honking all around us. Even when it's not a nice day to be outside, it is often still nice to be outside - if you see what I mean.

Skinny start



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

V is not always for Victory

Stockmann, the department store in central Helsinki is an institution. In many ways, Stockmann is central Helsinki. I've heard stories from Russian friends that during the Cold War, Stockmann was famous in the Soviet Union, as a place reachable for a lucky few where all the luxuries of west were available. It might be apocryphal but some Finns claim that some Soviet citizens actually believed the capital of Finland was called "Stockmann". Stockmann, the biggest department store in the Nordic countries, is a very international place. All the staff members wear name tags with little flags below their names showing which languages they speak - just about everyone has the Swedish flag and the Union Jack, but Japanese, Russian, Spanish, French and German flags are also common - plus other more obscure languages. And in the shop, you'll hear a veritable babel of languages being spoken by customers - particularly in the summer tourist season. This just makes it even funnier that they managed to pick such an inadvertently amusing current window display.


The corner window of Stockmann, next to the Aleksanterinkatu tram stop, is famous as the site of the annual Christmas display - something people bring their kids to come and see. But currently it is a display for Nike - under the slogan "V is for Victory". Behind mannequins wearing classic Nike tracksuit tops, are three giant photos of some footy player wearing the same top and giving the "V for victory" sign. Or at least I suspect this is what the marketing department thought he was doing.

But unfortunately he isn't, rather Stockmann has presented the good people of Helsinki with three large photos of a young, shaven headed, man giving them the "two fingered salute", which to all Brits, Irish, Aussies and Kiwis is basically the equivalent of telling them to "fuck off".


I wish I could say I was shocked, insulted and upset - perhaps enough for Stockmann to send me a gift voucher to help me recover from my mental pain and anguish. But actually it's the funniest thing I've seen in ages, and completely made my Monday morning.


So thank you Stockmann for inadvertently brighting my day and one other thing...

Monday, March 09, 2009

Fight or flight - an ice climbing story

It is annoying to be a bit rubbish at something you love, but accepting your mediocrity in certain fields is part of growing up. I'm not as crap an ice climber as I used to be, although I'm still desperately average particularly considering that I get to climb most weekends through a decent length winter. But then, if I was better, the little icefalls of Finland would offer few challenges. At least my genetic unsuitability for my chosen winter past-time means there will always be another line that I haven't yet been brave enough to try and lead as yet.

Jody abseils back down the Ramp Route

So with this as the context, it was actually a good day climbing yesterday. We headed to Linojanvuori in Valkeala where the ice is super fat this season. Jody led the first route in good style. I then led the line nicknamed Ramp Route. I've done this before, but there was less ice that year and it made the ramp more of a feature, which helped considerably. This year, the 'ramp' wasn't really much help at all, and it felt steep and sustained the whole way, but I got to the top with out too much panic and faff.

A knackered and slightly emotional blogger heads back down to where he belongs on terra firma

We then went down to the big fall at the south end of the cliff. I've checked it out before but never tried climbing it - there aren't really any lines of weakness up what is pretty much a vertical cascade, but in the back corner the fall is split by a ledge, basically cutting it into two vertical step of about 10 metres each.

After a reasonably competent display on the previous route, I decided to pretend I was a real climber, man-up and 'ave it. I blasted up the first vert section to the ledge without stopping to place screws. So far, so Tim Emmett. From the comfort of the ledge I placed a couple of screws and clipped the ropes in. Now all that was left to do was to blast up the top vertical section to the sunshine and glory.

It was steep but featured and after a couple of metres I managed to get another screw in. This gave me the confidence to keep going despite my pathetic arms already starting to feel the vert. When that screw was below my feet, the top now looked easier to reach than any down climb, so up seemed logical. I decided to place another screw before going for glory. My left arm was wilting badly as it took most of my body weight as I fought to get the screw in with my right. Normally when climbing with leashes I have no problem holding on with my left whilst placing a screw, but then normally I can get some weight on to my feet. This route was so steep that this was hard, and a number of times I had to stop placing the screw so that I could grab my other tool with my right and relax my grip on my left tool for a seconds rest, before going back to battling the screw in. Clipping the rope into the screw was a huge relief, and I thought about just giving up at that point and lowering off. Why I didn't I'm not sure, ego probably - although it is a rather sad and self-obsessed type of ego because any half decent ice climber would piss up the route. But anyway a few more moves and my feet were once again above the screw and I had one axe insecurely in the easier angled ice of the top out. My forearms were burning out totally. My shoulders and biceps still had enough juice to swing my other tool desperately - but my forearm was so pumped I couldn't grip it hard enough to stop it twisting and deflecting. So for all the wild flailing, I was achieving exactly nothing besides wasting the few seconds I had left before the fight ended and I took flight. Much swearing, self-hate, whimpering, and pleading followed. Desperately trying to not find out how good that last ice screw was, I ended up hooking my right tool over the left and hoping like hell. This was enough to take a few breaths, and work out a better place for my feet, so that they could take some weight. Then a few desperate swings got my right tool stuck in the frozen turf at the top of the cliff and I hauled myself back onto the horizontal, arms burning.

They're still hurting now, 36 hours later.

The walk-in to Pyörämäki

Then we went to Pyörämäki and Jody led and I just enjoyed the sunshine at the blunt end of the rope. And it felt good.

The right hand fall at Pyörämäki

Jody on the mainfall at Pyörämäki

And again

Another climber on the righthand route

Moon over Rapojärvi

There isn't really a moral to this story, besides perhaps - if you're going to go down, go down swinging.

Dreams of my president

Nope, not that one.

This (from YLE) is possibly the weirdest news story I've read in ages, and somewhat disturbing on many different levels:

Tarja of Dreams Is Pragmatic

published yesterday 05:13 PM, updated yesterday 08:03 PM

President Tarja Halonen

Image: YLE

President Tarja Halonen tends to appear in people's dreams as a sensible, down-to-earth figure. Since Independence Day last December, citizens have been able to submit descriptions of their president-inspired dreams to artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen.

The dreams venture is part of a communal artwork project about Finns’ relationship to the president.

The 60 dreams that have been reported to the project to date all relate to the down-to-earth nature of the president. Dreams include Halonen drinking coffee in a hut, giving advice at a market square and sitting back and relaxing on a sofa.



If you are dreaming about the President in other ways, you're unlikely to write it down and send it to some artists are you?!?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Somalia-UK, and other bits and bobs of interest

Some quality reporting from the UK's Channel 4 from last month that I only just stumbled across, looking at the links between British Somalis and suicide bombings in Somalia/Somaliland.



Don't just watch the vid, read Jonathan Rugman's report as well. Also if this is your type of thing, check the Jamestown report that Rugman mentions, on the various stories of western Somalis who have gone back to fight - Americans, British, Canadians, Swedes and possibly Norwegians - but no Finns mentioned. I wonder if any young Somalis have gone back to fight for any of the other groups besides the Jihadists? The answer could be no - in which case it leads to the question why not? Why aren't, say, Puntland nationalists or Les éradicateurs of the TFG as an attractive a cause for a kid in a western city as wack-job jihadism? It sort of makes Olivier Roy's globalised Islam point for him. Alternatively, the answer could be that Somalis have gone back to fight for other groups - their clan militia, the TFG etc. and we just haven't heard about it because it's not then part of the 'terrorism-link' game the media and some analysts like to play. If British Tamil kids go and get themselves blown up in Jafna fighting for the Tigers, frankly who in the media gives a shit? I hope MI5 do, but it's not going to make Channel 4 News, let alone the front page of Sun*.

Apropros to nothing and probably only of interest to those who have similar research/geeky interests to me; I note the Jamestown report is written by James Brandon. I was at a seminar with James last year, and because he was at from the Centre for Social Cohesion, I was a little bit suspicious of where he was coming from. So I noticed with interest he's now at the Quilliam Foundation. Hmm.... I think: "from the outwardly neoconservative, to the group just called neoconservative by it's critics... interesting", but looking just a wee bit further into it, I found this quite amazing op-ed by James in CiF. Well said, Mr. Brandon. If you ever need to write a resignation letter, it would be good to do it with the honesty and clarity of James' piece.

*And just as a side note, the Sun has been caught making up nasty-Muslim stories. Again. The victim of the Sun's lies is thirty grand richer, and good for him, but at Pickled Politics they have a few suggestions of how to make a paper really think twice before running this sort of shit.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Trying to hold back the tide

Photos of the Mexican-US border by photographer María Teresa Fernández, from the exhibit, "Cerca de la Cerca - Near the Border Fence" being shown at USC Annenberg. See more of her pictures from the exhibition on the BBC website.



I have a bit of a thing about border fences, maybe it is coming from an island nation. Politics is ultimately just a series of mental acts, land is land and always will be, even when we're all gone. Trying to put our mental acts onto the land often turns out to be just plain weird, and that's what border fences are. Where borders meet the sea, it just illustrates the strangeness of the fence. Look at how they have tried to fence the sea. It's so half hearted, like they know it is ultimately futile.
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