Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Respect My Authoritah!

Monday's Start the Week from BBC Radio 4 is interesting, as it normally is. But what makes this week's edition particularly delightful is Madawi Al-Rasheed's response to Niall Ferguson's attempt at a bit of political analysis on Saudi Arabia's future. Her response to the history professor's, as-ever, self assured and slightly windy assertions on the Kingdom was: "this is absolutely inaccurate". Ferguson is without doubt a great scholar of 19th century economics, but he needs to hear responses like Prof. Al-Rasheed's a bit more often when he starts pontificating on matters he obviously knows less about.

And if you don't get the title.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Must all good things come to end?

I just listened to the last episode of Politics UK on the BBC World Service. This program has been one of the victims of the cuts happening across the british government currently; the World Service is funded by the Foreign Office and they are having their budget cut just like the rest of the public sector. Politics UK has been perhaps the best programme on the BBC about british politics across all the radio channels both domestic and the World Service: half an hour long giving time for real interviews where people could really make a coherent argument rather than just knock out a few sound-bites. The final guests on the programme are typical of the sort of heavy-weights with decades of experience that have typified the voices that have been heard on Politics UK; Lord Hennessy - Professor of Contemporary British History at Queen Mary, University of London; Lord Howe - former Chancellor of the Exchequer, foreign secretary and deputy prime minister under Margaret Thatcher and Lord Donoughue - former adviser to Labour prime ministers Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan and a minister under Tony Blair. And all agreed that the Foreign Office and BBC were shooting themselves in the foot cutting such an obvious 'weapon' of UK 'soft power'.

I for one will miss it, and want to thank the team at the BBC who have made such consistently good programme/podcast over the years.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When democracy protests become "sectarianism".

Earlier, I listened to Marc Lynch being interviewed on yesterday's Fresh Air about the Libyan situation. Lynch is always worth paying attention to, but it was actually his discussion of Al Jazeera's treatment of the Bahrain protests that really jumped out.

Al Jazeera has been a long-term whipping boy particularly of the American right for its perceived anti-American stance. Particularly once it had launched its English service, it became - partly in response to being bashed from the US right - lauded by many on the left; in Europe and America. It clearly does cover stories that don't get much coverage elsewhere and often shows 'the other side' of stories that are covered by western media. Nevertheless, like any other institutions, it exists in its own political context - in this case being in effect owned government/royal family of Qatar - and that brings distortions.

Lynch points out that whilst it al Jazeera's coverage of the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and now Libya has been extensive and central to raising the Arab public's conciousness across the region, it is dealing with the Bahraini protests differently. The Bahraini protesters are, it would seem, predominantly Shia, mainly because being Shia in Bahrain is to be given the shitty end of the stick in life and hence make you more likely to protest. But the protesters have been careful to make their claims in terms of nationalism and democracy - it is only the Bahraini government and its backers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that wants everyone to see it as sectarianism, with the obvious unspoken assumption that Iran must be lurking in the background. Lynch points out since Qatar and Saudi Arabia patched up their differences, al Jazeera has been more reticent about criticising Saudi policy, and the Saudis are the superpower of the GCC, an organization that sent troops into Bahrain in support of the regime there.

Lynch makes the argument in greater detail on his blog at Foreign Policy - it is well worth reading. As ever, context is everything.

New for reviewing: bags of various types.

Lots of packages arriving with new things to review for UKclimbing. Always a nice excuse to get outside. Firstly I'm trying out one of the new Sea to Summit down sleeping bags. It's got some really funky technology in it and the company is very excited about launching them - I think there are genuinely some novel ideas involved.

It's also very red and rather jolly looking which has got to make it work better don't you think?

Secondly, I'm going to be doing a group review of "crag pack for trad racks". I think cragging packs - rucksacks designed for getting your climbing gear to the cliff, but not for actually climbing with - are great.

So far I have an Arcteryx Miura 50 and a Mammut Neon Gear 45. First impressions of both are very good.

Both are kind of boxes with rucksack straps, which is exactly what I'm looking for.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Triple rated ropes - and some spring sunshine ice.

New ropes!
I've just started reviewing a group of ropes for UKC, which are (if you are a climber at least) pretty interesting. We are looking at triple rated ropes; that are tested and certified to be used as a single, double or twin rope. I've got to try a Beal Joker 9.1; a Mammut Serenity and an Edelrid Swift (both 8.9). I think these routes are pretty versatile and will become increasingly popular in the next few years.

Across the lake

Today was a beautiful day so Eärendal agreed to a quick trip out to Nuuksio for a few routes - a sort of warm up before our trip to Norway next week.

Here E is leading one of the easier routes using the Edelrid Swift as a single.

We then went down to the main sector I led Oikea Suora. Here the Beal and Edelrid are being used as doubles.

E descending after our ascent of Oikea Suora. The route is fantastic condition now. I was quite chuffed that I managed it without any great drama.

We then went and did the far-left pillar thats has a funky free hanging start currently. Here E is just reaching the belay.

Sari leading on the Mammut Serenity and her rope a couple of weeks back at Klöverberget

So fingers crossed for decent weather and condition in Norway next week, then I'll have a chance to really give the ropes a good use. And for the Helsinki climbers, people have been telling me that the normally super reliable One Point Gully has been ice free all winter, but it isn't any longer. I led it today placing three screws. The ice is thin and a funky - I guess the result of snow melt at the top rather than the normal spring feed. In fact a number of easier routes at that left sector are now climbable. I soloed the slab to the left of the line that Eärendal is leading in the picture above on thin but solid ice, for example.