Monday, February 27, 2006


How many times a day do you get to use words begining with the letter 'Z', unless you're off to the zoo?

Here's the first word.


I picked this up at Pashmina, the Grammatical Puss, who was talking about a cracking line of David Strathairn's in the splendid Good Night, and Good Luck
I have searched my conscience and my files
Zeugma is
A general term describing when one part of speech (most often the main verb, but sometimes a noun) governs two or more other parts of a sentence (often in a series).
So, now you know.

Here's the second word.


Zugwang describes a situation when someone can only make things worse by moving.

I picked this up from Ronan Bennett's short story in the Observer and also from saturday's CSI: New York, season 2 episode 204, Corporate Warriors.

Now try and use each word in a sentence.

Belonging and Rationality

In a review of Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell: Religion As a Natural Phenomenon" Andrew Brown writes that
[Dennett] understands that modern religions derive their coherence precisely from the fact that a creed is a statement of belonging as much as of belief.
Many people don't particularly believe in a supernatural entity but take part in the rituals and ceremonies purely for the sense of community and identity; some probably see it as a networking opportunity; and others probably believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden.

There's further discussion about religion, in response to an article by Madelaine Bunting, here.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pride and Prejudice in the Promised Land

Deborah Moggach comments on screening Pride And Prejudice in Nazareth:
Pride and Prejudice was to be the first western film to be shown there, the reckoning being that even the most radical Muslim could hardly be offended by Austen.

As the audience filed in I was interviewed by a journalist. "Why did you call it Pride and Prejudice?" I explained that it wasn't my idea. The cinema was packed. As I watched the film, I wondered how much in common there was, in fact, between the rigid rituals and arranged marriages of Georgian England and the Arab society of Nazareth. People certainly were laughing at the jokes - more so than in Britain because even the inaudible conversations were subtitled.

At the end the audience applauded. Austen seemed to have gone down well. The trouble is, now they must think everyone in England lives in vast houses and drives around in carriages. Even more puzzlingly, as the audience filed out, I passed two boys. One said to the other: "If you read more books you wouldn't cry so much." On the flight home I worried over this. Did he mean, If you were familiar with Jane Austen you'd know it all ends happily?
That point about even the inaudible conversations were subtitled is interesting. For those who are losing their hearing, when watching a film it often becomes difficult to distinguish between dialogue that is important and that which is just background chit-chat. It's not just difficult it's also frustrating. Surely, subtitling background conversations that don't further the plot just clutters up valuable subtitle space that should be used for dialogue that furthers the plot. So, should subtitling cover everything or should it be restricted to important dialogue (however you define "important")?

On the Sound of Sirens

Sometimes after a city is attacked some people want to leave and others want to stay. Those who want to leave aren't necessarily scared, it may be a reprioritising of what's important. Those who decide to stay aren't necessarily the bravest, they may just be the most obdurate or just those who hate having others threaten their existence. It's difficult to predict which people will want to stay and which people will want to go. Here Jay McInerney writes on being in New York city after 9/11
Whether or not to leave had become a mainstay of Manhattan discourse in the last week. He and Corrine had discussed it, of course, and while they hadn't come to any conclusions, it seemed their positions in this debate had reversed. For years, she'd brought it up routinely, whereas his stock answer had always been that John Cheever might still be alive and well if he'd just stayed put in Manhattan. But these past few days, she'd surprised him by expressing a desire to cast her lot with the city, even as she acknowledged that they had to think of the kids - she who had never seemed quite comfortable calling New York home, who could never stop using the word house when she really meant apartment.
It's an extract from his new book "The Good Life".


Here's a word cloud of this blog.

Available from here.

Friday, February 24, 2006


  1. Arabic numerals (originated in India)
  2. Peanut (a legume, not a nut)
  3. Tin can, tin foil (made of aluminium, not tin)
  4. Madison Square Garden (not square; not a garden)
  5. Danish pastries (invented in Austria)
    1. The People's Democratic Republic of Korea
    That's as it was printed. That's because the whole world knows of the oxymoronic People's oxymoronic Democratic oxymoronic Republic of Korea.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    News from Paris

    After the kidnap and murder of Ilan Halimi, in Paris, European Jewish Press notes:
    Jewish organizations have called for another demonstration next Sunday in the Paris suburb city of Bagneux where Ilan Halimi was detained and tortured by his kidnappers.

    “We call on Jews and non-Jews to come and meditate on the place where such unacceptable atrocities happened. When cruelty reaches such high level, we must say enough,” says an e-mail circulating within the Jewish community.
    “We will ask that a memorial plaque be set on the place where he was tortured to death because he was a Jew,” it added.
    The Interior Minister Sarkozy has been recorded as saying this was an antisemitic attack.
    Mr Sarkozy told MPs: "The truth is that these crooks acted primarily for sordid and vile motives, to get money, but they were convinced that 'the Jews have money', and if those they kidnapped didn't have money, their family and their community would come up with it.
    "That's called anti-Semitism by amalgam."


    Mr Sarkozy added: "We have a duty to the memory of Ilan Halimi, to his family, his parents, his friends and above all, all the Jews of France, to establish the truth."

    Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    Kidnap and Murder

    Judy Adloyada writes on the kidnapping and brutal murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris. Original suggestions that the case had anti-Semitic motives were denied by the French authorities. However
    [t]he investigating magistrate, Corinne Goetzmann is now conducting her enquiry on the basis that the evidence so far points to "premeditated kidnap, incarceration, criminal conspiracy, and murder, on the basis of the victim's membership of a particular religious group" [Adloyada's translation]

    Her recommendation will be considered at a hearing tonight to remand the seven suspects currently in custody.

    It's in stark contrast to the Paris prosecutor, Jean-Claude Marin who previously denied that anti-semitism was a factor.
    Read more here, here and here.

    Survey Results

    Here's a survey result that's bizarre.

    The main question was "Do you approve or disapprove of the job that Vice President Dick Cheney has done in the Bush Administration?". The sub question asked "Has the shooting accident made you more negative about the Vice President , more positive , or has it has no effect?"
    • More Positive - 4%
    • More Negative - 24%
    • No Effect - 69%
    • Don't Know - 3%
    This graphic is well worth seeing.

    On the Origins of Humanity

    Hitchens says
    What we will find ... is what Russians find when they look at Pushkin, or what Frenchmen find when they scrutinize Alexandre Dumas: that African ancestry is commingled everywhere. If Pushkin could be a black Russian, everything is possible.

    The fantasy of ethnic purity is simply a fantasy, and the fantasy of racial purity is not even a delusion, because we are all of the same race. Ex Africa semper aliquid novi, as the Romans phrased it. There is always something new out of Africa.

    The latest tidings tell us in a sense what we already knew, and knew before the DNA string was unraveled and decoded: We are all brothers and sisters under the skin. No, let me amend that cliche: We were all brothers and sisters under the skin long before pigmentation was evolved. The only surprise is that we are still surprised; but then we do still live in the prehistory of our species. When we eventually get over this, one of the toasts will certainly be l'chaim.
    And who's to argue with that?

    Monday, February 20, 2006

    History and Historians

    Back in the year 2000, in Irving versus Lipstadt, Professor Richard Evans concluded that
    "Irving has fallen so far short of the standards of scholarship customary amongst historians that he does not deserve to be called a historian at all."
    Irving went on to lose the case and the
    presiding judge in that case, Charles Gray, wrote that Irving was "an active Holocaust denier ... anti-Semitic and racist".
    Even the Grauniad calls him a "revisionist historian". Doesn't "revisionist" negate the word "historian"?
    The splendid site Holocaust Denial on Trial, looking at the Lipstadt case sums up Richard Evans as saying
    Irving is a particularly dangerous spokesperson for Holocaust denial because over the years he has consistently portrayed himself as a scrupulous historian with an unrivalled knowledge of the archival sources and an unerring eye for forgeries and falsifications. As we saw in Part I, he has repeatedly claimed that he is waging a ‘campaign for real history’ against legend and myth, truth against falsehood. ‘Real history’, he says, is based on the archives, not on copying other historians’ work, which is how academic, university-based historians in his opinion proceed. Many reviewers, and still more journalists, have been at least partly taken in by this ceaselessly propagated self-promotion and have paid tribute to Irving’s skill and energy as a researcher. But even if they have done so, they have often gone on to complain that Irving manipulates and distorts the sources he uses. If, like Peter Hoffmann, Charles Sydnor, Martin Broszat, Hugh Trevor-Roper, David Cannadine, or Eberhard Jäckel, for instance, they have themselves been familiar with these sources, their condemnation of Irving’s work for its inaccuracy and bias has been particularly detailed and unremitting.
    So, why, on tonight's news, did the BBC insist on saying "British historian David Irving". Surely someone whose professional status as a historian has been so deservingly rubbished is no longer fit to be called a "historian".

    Footnote: I've just discovered Deborah Lipstadt has a blog. She sums up the issue with commendable insight:
    In principle I do not believe in laws which entail censorship. I believe in free speech and, moreover, I don't think such laws are efficacious.However, having said that, I also recognize that Germany and Austria are sovereign states with a democratic system. And, more importantly, they have a unique history which gives Holocaust denial a different resonance in their country than it might in the United States or the UK.
    Finally, when all is said and done the way to defeat these kinds of lies is with what I do in the classroom and what we did in the courtroom during my trial in the UK: With the historical facts, the evidence, the testimony. In short with the truth.

    Justice, what justice?

    Here's something to be concerned about.
    Since 6am last Tuesday a Salford family have been held in detention at Yarls Wood Removal centre resisting deportation to Rwanda. Olive Mukaraguwiza and her children Yvan Gisinko (aged 5), Oliver Hirwa (aged 17) and Sandra Gihozo (aged 18) after having lived in the UK for 3 years were arrested at dawn.

    Significant issues
    (1) Olive is an asylum seeker. She fled Rwanda after years of severe domestic violence towards her and her children. Wherever she lived in Rwanda her husband pursued and attacked her.

    (2) The eldest daughter ,Sandra, has been studying her A levels for almost 2 years at Pendleton College. She has been offered a place at 3 universities. Just at the point of taking exams she has been arrested.

    (3) The youngest child, Yvan, has lived most his life in the UK. He attends Lower Kersal School in Salford. His teachers and classmates are extremely concerned about him being held in a prison situation.

    (4) The family were not informed of the refusal of their asylum claim by the Home Office. The raid on their house came as a complete surprise.

    (5) The Home Office attempted to put the family on a plane to Rwanda last Friday. This was an Ethiopian Airways Flight. However because they were in such a distressed condition the pilot refused to fly them. Friends of the family are concerned that Olive may harm herself.
    Things to do.
    1. Email Hazel Blears at
    2. Phone Hazel Blears at 0161 925 0705
    3. Stress
      • Hazel Blears as a Home Office minister has the ability to quickly and easily intervene with the Home Secretary to stop this deportation.
      • Sandra the daughter is about to take her A levels and the family should be allowed to return to Salford so Sandra can get on with her A levels, Oliver his ICT course and the whole family can benefit from this Government’s commitment to education, education, education.
      • Olive is now in a depressed and suicidal state.
    Arbitrary deportation of those who have committed no crime other than to overstay is wrong. If you are in the UK and contributing to society, or getting in a position to contribute to society, you should be allowed to stay. That's a fair immigration policy. That's a just immigration policy. Arbitrary deportation is just plain cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

    A good night and a gratuitous plug

    Norm was listening to Start the Week and caught Linda Grant talking about her new book "The People on the Street: a writer's view of Israel".

    If you're in the East Midlands on the evening of March 8 you can catch Linda Grant talking about her new book at County Hall, Nottingham.

    Sunday, February 19, 2006

    Hidden in Hidden

    Hidden probably is one of the best films of 2006. Yes, I know that's standard fare in PR and journalism-speak that anyone with an inch of nous can see through, especially when it is only January. However, it is only February and it will be one of the best films of the year. How's that for being categoric!

    As Peter Bradshaw says
    Hidden is Michael Haneke's masterpiece: a compelling politico-psychological essay about the denial and guilt mixed into the foundations of western prosperity, composed and filmed with remarkable technique. It is one of the great films of this decade.
    Even that contemporary of George Méliès, Philip French, says
    ... while Hidden is a gripping thriller, it is almost a moral and political enquiry into colonialism and its aftermath. The acting all around is outstanding, with Auteuil and Binoche working beautifully together as their marriage falls apart, expressing their emotional upheaval through the slight movement of an eye or the flicker of a lip. This is a movie that takes one back to the glory days of art-house films in the 1960s and 70s, when you left the cinema not in need of food and drink, but a sympathetic person to discuss the film with.
    Yes, we left the cinema in need of conversation, but what's wrong with wanting food and drink as well?

    Today there's a Q and A with Michael Haneke and Jason Burke that successfully refuses to clarify any questions any viewer may have. Just as any good director should. Mystery is all.

    Rullsenberg gave a splendid review that ended
    Most beautifully, in an age which demands 'closure', the film ends on a bleakly unresolved note which, even for a pretty substantial art-house cinema audience drew a collective mental gasp of "huh?!" when the credits started to roll: it was as if the entire audience was unwittingly dragged into admitting they had expected resolution and instead found themselves resisting the urge to yell "that's it? that's how you're ending it?!" A good thing.
    It seems even an art-house audience wants to get closure and the Q&A in today's Observer thankfully does nothing to provide this.

    Saturday, February 18, 2006

    How many bloggers does it take ... [Updated]

    How many bloggers does it take to change a lightbulb?

    The answer's a fish. No that's another joke. Here in chez Cloud and Rullsenberg the downstairs rooms suddenly went dark. We flicked the switch in the fuse box and all was fine. Then Rullsenberg noticed one of the bulbs in our swanky halogen lightfitting in the dining room had blown. I went off to fetch step ladders. Rullsenberg found a spare halogen bulb. All ready to go. I climbed the step ladders. Could I get the bulb out? Are Wolves going to get promoted this season? Are Nottingham Forest? For those without any knowledge of lower division English football the general consensus on both questions is "No". Five degrees between us and we can't change a lightbulb. What makes it worse is I'm a member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. My excuse is, I'm a software guy, I don't do hardware. How embarrassing. How shocking.

    Update - Sunday afternoon. I try again. On my own, with BBC Radio 6 for company. Rullsenberg was upstairs doing something on the pc. Out came the light bulb. In went the new one. On came the light. On the radio came
    "Let there be light,"
    There was light
    "Let there be drums,"
    There was drums
    "Let there be guitar,"
    There was guitar
    "Oh, let there be rock!"
    Actually that's a lie. It was AC/DC but it was actually Highway to Hell. But all the best personal stories are improved by a lttle embellishment.

    Sudan and Tony Blair

    Just found this piece of news on Sudan Watch. Tony Blair has congratulated Libya's Col. Moammar Kadhafi for his efforts in seeking a solution to the crisis in Sudan. There is more on Kadhafi's efforts at Sudan Watch.

    The news about Tony Blair originates from The Angola Press. Funnily enough that's the only source for it as of 19:41 on 18th February 2006.

    Thursday, February 16, 2006


    There is no excuse - ever - for treating anyone in such a way they lose their dignity. There is no excuse - ever - for torture (not even in the Jack Bauer ticking bomb kind of way). What happened at Abu Ghraib is reprehensible and contemptible. Those responsible should be subject to full military justice. As Hak Mao says
    Military law is different from civilian law and applies in particular circumstances - it follows that the application of military justice should be just as particular - regardless of the rank or status of the guilty. There is no room here for the Nuremberg defence or slimy moral relativism.
    The prison has a long history of being a major hell hole. Here's a report of Abu Ghraib under Hussein
    The facility occupies 280 acres with over 4 kilometers of security perimeter and 24 guard towers. The prison is composed of five distinct compound each surrounded by guard towers and high walls. Built by British contractors in the 1960s, Abu Ghraib is a virtual city within a city. The political section of Abu Ghraib was divided into "open" and "closed" wings. The closed wing housed only Shi'ites. The open wing held all other varieties of real or suspected activists. The "closed" wing was so named because its inmates -- at least until 1989 -- were permitted no visitors or outside contact. Cells measured approximately four meters by four meters and held an average of 40 persons.

    As of 2001 Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, may have held as many as 15,000 persons, many of who were subject to torture. Hundreds of Fayli (Shi'a) Kurds and other citizens of Iranian origin, who had disappeared in the early 1980's during the Iran-Iraq war, reportedly were being held incommunicado at the Abu Ghurayb prison. Such persons have been detained without charge for close to 2 decades in extremely harsh conditions. Many of the detainees were used as subjects in the country's outlawed experimental chemical and biological weapons programs.
    Here's an account from Seymour Hersh
    In the era of Saddam Hussein, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with torture, weekly executions, and vile living conditions. As many as fifty thousand men and women—no accurate count is possible—were jammed into Abu Ghraib at one time, in twelve-by-twelve-foot cells that were little more than human holding pits.

    In the looting that followed the regime’s collapse, last April, the huge prison complex, by then deserted, was stripped of everything that could be removed, including doors, windows, and bricks. The coalition authorities had the floors tiled, cells cleaned and repaired, and toilets, showers, and a new medical center added. Abu Ghraib was now a U.S. military prison. Most of the prisoners, however—by the fall there were several thousand, including women and teen-agers—were civilians, many of whom had been picked up in random military sweeps and at highway checkpoints. They fell into three loosely defined categories: common criminals; security detainees suspected of “crimes against the coalition”; and a small number of suspected “high-value” leaders of the insurgency against the coalition forces.
    When Iraq starts to approach normality Abu Ghraib should be razed and a memorial park built in its place. It should be a place for reconciliation, reflection and kite flying.

    On Teaching and Blogs

    This is just a quicky so don't expect some great pedagogic insight. This teacher asks her students to keep blogs as part of their business studies course. I thought wow! That's a great idea. It works like this:
    There are no restrictions on subject matter provided they follow one rule: they link the topic to one or more of the four strategic management theories and analytical frameworks that comprise the core of this course. Those theories are Michael Porter's "Five Forces", Gary Hamel's "Business Conception Innovation"; Jay Barney's "Resource-Based View of the Firm", and David Baron's "Four I's".
    Each week I recommend up to three articles that the students may blog about. They are free, however, to choose any article or any topic beside those. This past week, one of the articles I recommended was one entitled "Effect of Danish Boycott Patchy" that appeared in the Saudi English daily, Arab News, on January 29th. As one might imagine, several students decided to write on this topic.
    For it to work you would have to be teaching something connected to current affairs. Could you have a blog devoted to group theory and rings? On the other hand, an algebraic number theory blog would be something else.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    Having fun in your forties.

    After reading this about being 34 and old I was shocked to read this in today's Grauniad Notes and Queries:
    How do you have fun in your 40s?
    Being only thirty-eleven I wouldn't know but I should imagine it's just a case of carrying on doing what you've always done.

    And maybe trying some new things. Maybe meeting some new people. Maybe going to some new places.

    Maybe just go on having fun.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    On Intelligence

    What is intelligence? Some would say it's shown by articulacy. To that I would counterpose Joey Tribiani, well known for learning his lines, being articulate yet not having a clue what he's talking about.

    Some would say it's being perceptive. I would add being systematic, analytical, curious, questioning and sceptical but not cynical. At the risk of incompleteness there are other aspects I won't go into here.

    Gene at Harry's Place has an account of a piece by Sue Blackwell that mentions how anti-Zionism can just be an outpouring of anti-Semitism. In it she mentions how
    [The Protocols of the Elders of Zion] crops up everywhere on the internet, including the weblogs of people who claim to be campaigners for Palestinian rights. I had a graduate student in my office not long ago, a highly intelligent young man who is a member of a socialist party in the UK. He told me in all seriousness that I really ought to read this incredible exposé of a world Jewish conspiracy, which was apparently new to him.
    How much reading of the history of socialism and general socialist material do you have to read before you come across condemnations of the viciously anti-Semitic Protocols? Sue Blackwell's "highly intelligent young man" should read more books and he should read better books.

    David Hirsh has written a splendid reply to Blackwell's piece. Here's a snippet:
    In this article, Sue is recognizing the fact that her brand of ‘antiracist’ anti-Zionism lives in a world where there are also a number of antisemitic anti-Zionisms. And she is confirming the fact that the boundaries between these different but adjacent movements are sometimes fuzzy and are sometimes porous. Political alliances across those boundaries are looking increasingly tempting to many anti-Zionists.

    The question that follows from Sue’s new piece is what kind of political responsibility she is now prepared to accept for these worrying developments. What does the fact that some of her own rhetoric is very similar to some of the rhetoric of the antisemites tell her? How does she explain the fact that antisemites assume that she is one of them? How does she explain the fact that a highly intelligent postgrad student, a member of an anti-Zionist socialist party, knocks on her door all over-excited at having discovered in the Protocols evidence for a global Jewish conspiracy? Why are anti-Zionists, who go out of their way to intervene in Israeli and Palestinian affairs, so often unwilling to educate themselves and their recruits in the history and themes of antisemitism?
    Go read the whole piece.

    On nom-de-blogs

    I recently gave up my nom-de-blog, Wilson, for my real name, Neil.

    Then I added some links to my sidebar and republished my blog. It's like Stalin's graphic artist airbrushers had been on the case. There is no longer any mention of my nom-de-blog Wilson. Gone. As if he was never there.

    "And like that, he was gone".

    Intelligent readers may have noticed inconsistencies in the accounts of Wilson. Playing test cricket until the 1950s, yet being reported dead in WWII. Inconsistency is what the chap was all about.

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    On Romance

    'Twas the night before Valentine's day and news was breaking about the state of the English Cemetery in Rome, final resting place of Keats, Shelley and Gramsci.

    In a sectarian sort of way it's officially named the Non-Catholic Cemetery. It has just been put on an endangered Site list by the World Monuments Fund.
    In addition to the graves of Shelley and Keats, both of whom died in Italy, it contains those of hundreds of 19th-century foreign residents and exiles, as well as that of Antonio Gramsci, the founding father of Italian Marxism.

    Founded in 1734, it is the oldest burial ground in continuous use in Europe. It was established on land donated by the Papal State and was for centuries the only place in Rome where non-Catholics could be buried. Its cramped grounds contain nearly 4,000 graves, many of them extravagant Victorian monuments dominated by carved angels. “It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place”, Shelley wrote when Keats died.
    Having done Highgate, in London, Montparnasse, in Paris, and Arlington in Virginia, it sounds like a good place to visit and reflect on mortality. Better hurry while it still stands.

    Pencil sharpening

    This should be the first post not by Wilson.

    If it's by Neil then Wilson has met a tragic demise with a pencil sharpener made out of a cog from a Fairey (in keeping with William Wilson's reported death in a Fairey "Battle" during WWII).

    If it is by Wilson then it can't be true that
    • All men are mortal
    • Wilson is a man
    • Therefore Wilson is mortal
    Actually it could be true but he's just darned difficult to kill off.

    Here goes.

    Smart eyed readers will have noticed that this the second post not by Wilson. That's because I spotted a piece of crap typing that I had to go back and correct. So Wilson was mortal after all.

    On Wilson and anonymity

    After the Manchester blogmeet I began thinking about nom-de-plumes, anonymity and being open about blogging.

    When I started blogging I needed to have a name and wasn't sure about going public with my own name. Blogger insisted on a name so I put down the first thing that came into my head - Wilson. I was thinking of William Wilson the athlete and cricketer, born in Yorkshire in 1795 and still playing for England against Australia (and why was it always Australia?) in the 1950s. He must be the only cricketing superhero ever. Anyone who knows any different please let me know.

    So after having people ask "is it your real name?", "is it from Little Wilson", "is it from Woodrow Wilson (that's the official version) (or even Woodrow Wilson (the more open version) ?" the answer is "it's from William Wilson, 1795 to now".

    Once I work out how to do it, Wilson is meeting with a tragic end. Blogging will continue.

    Sunday, February 12, 2006

    Manchester, Manchester, England ....

    That's a line from a song by The Times from the days of madchester, ah that whiff of nostrilgia (sic) in the air.

    On Saturday we, that Rullsenberg and me, made our way up to Manchester for the Manchester blogmeet. Why did we go the Manchester meet when we've never lived in Manchester? Because we like Manchester and think it's a great city. And it's ages since we've visited. The blogmeet started in the Piccadilly Kro Bar. Being a sometime archivist I made a list of almost everyone who attended. For those interested here's the list, in no particular order.

    Chris, Kate(1) aka Yankunian, Kate(2) of the wonderfully named "If you're sad and like beer", Norm, Chern Jie (who has loads of wonderful pics), Clare the organiser and all round glorious hostess with the mostest, Tim, Lisa, Abby, Jonathan, Ian (he likes Firefox, which means that for us who are still using Internet Explorer much of Spinneyland is invisible: sniff! - who actually posted a pic from the Kro Bar), Mike of "Me-Me-Me", wearing his blogname on a t-shirt, Richard (ageist!), Tom from "3 degrees of noise", Duncan, Dan, Phil, and Rob - who we discovered when we got home had followed in the footsteps of Rullsenberg and been quoted in Saturday's Grauniad (sadly not online).

    A good time for all.

    This post has been a Rullsenberg/Roberts collaboration.

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    On skiing

    There's something faintly ridiculous about sticking two planks of pretend wood to your feet and sliding down hill without falling over and spilling your drink.

    I've just discovered several things. One of these things is that there are two types of skiing. There's Nordic, which is crosscountry skiing on essentially flat terrain. And there's Alpine which is the down hill bit. The story goes that Nordic skiing was "the" done thing. Popularisation of Alpine skiing was the responsibility of an English man, Arnold Lunn. Here's an extract from the tale:
    Before Lunn arrived, the Nordic countries preferred to do their skiing horizontal and the Nordic Games amounted to cross-country and then some more cross-country. They did not take kindly to Lunn's tinkering. 'One Norwegian complained to Arnold saying how would you like it if an eskimo changed the rules of cricket,' says Hussey. 'And Arnold replied he would be delighted by such an intervention because there were far too many drawn matches at cricket, don't you think?'

    'It's now accepted as so obvious that the thing to do is ski downhill that people find it difficult to think there was ever opposition,' says his 91-year-old son, Peter, speaking from the Swiss ski resort of Murren, which his grandfather founded. 'But they used to say that downhill was for people too cowardly to jump and too feeble to do cross-country.' In reality, they soon found out that moving from the horizontal to the near vertical was fraught with difficulty.
    This is to point to the exercise in pointlessness that is the Winter Olympics. You know, that thing that's all over the BBC at the moment.

    Folk Music

    There has been a resurgence in folk music. Not the arran jumper, stick your finger in your ear (sounds like you only have one of both), hey-nonny-nonny bollix but stuff like this.

    When I get round to listening to it I'll tell you what it sounds like. As the man said "this music is your music". As Louis Armstrong was wont to say "all music is folk music, I haven't ever heard a horse sing". Some say this was also said by Big Bill Broonzy. Whatever it's a fair quote. A fair quote from a cracking musician in both cases.

    Saturday, February 04, 2006

    On the importance of vegetables.

    Vegetables are important. Some people insist a vegetable diet can cure all sorts of ailments. Vegetable snake oil.

    Some people insist that five a day makes you healthy fit and wise.

    Some people find vegetables play a prominent role in belief systems.

    This guy was a dedicated vegetarian. Indeed he believed food should not be cooked. A vegetarian diet is good. Can be interesting, tasty, succulent and healthy. I draw the line at not cooking. That's total mishegas.

    Seduced by Progress

    This guy was seduced by Progress Publishers in India.

    I got seduced in Wolverhampton. Going into town with pocket money as a twelve year old. Going into bookshops. Wanting to buy something interesting. Something informative. Something to overcome terminal boredom. Something to put on your bookshelf. And most importantly something to read. What is to be done? For one pound fifty. How could anyone refuse?

    I hurried home with the book, feeling worthy and slightly dangerous. I began to read it. And I got bored. I was twelve. Cricket called. The book sat on the shelf. Looking down at me. It's moved with me many times. I think it's still on a bookshelf at home. Do I feel guilt that I never really read it from beginning to end? Yes. But I feel that guilt about many books.

    And that got me to where I am today. In a house of books.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    A Memo

    This is a memo purporting to be circulating in the court of the house of Saud on imagery and Denmark.

    Read it!

    (Thanks to Eric at DSTPFW)

    Beauty is both wondrous and strange

    Justin Mullins has an amazing exhibition.

    Ponder Euler's relation. It's just awesome how it pulls together e, i, pi, 1 and 0.

    So terse. So elegant. And so damn beautiful.

    If you're interested there's a splendid description and derivation here.