Archive for December, 2005

Red coats and coronets

The bold members of the local hunt turned up at the corner of the street for the traditional Boxing Day hunt, bravely defying the Politically Correct Brigade (waving knitted hemp banners and armed with rolled-up copies of the Guardian) and the massed ranks of police who were of course out en masse to keep tabs on a group who had obviously come equipped to commit an offence. I must have been still a bit dozy from yesterday’s Christmas lunch as I failed to spot either of the latter groups, but I’m sure they were there.

I’ve yet to meet a local who thinks these people are anything other than wankers but I’m assured by fawning ITN News coverage that the issue is uniting “country people”. We were also treated to nice pictures of happy smiling red-coated riders holding babies (never too early to blood them I suppose) and Jim Fucking Davidson, doubtless back for a few days from Dubai on the advice of his accountants to retain the most favourable tax status. Now, the hunting of Jim Davidson with dogs I think would be a worthwhile continuation of this ancient tradition. Admittedly, if he was caught, that would be it for the season, but one could always then use Garry Bushell.

Instead of this socially useful substitute though we have them using various loopholes to continue, such as the fact that you are allowed to use dogs to flush out quarry for birds of prey – thus we have hunts wandering around with an owl. No, really. Another legal pursuit is drag hunting where the dogs chase a scent-impregnated piece of cloth, but, you know, if they happen to get out there and the dogs get the scent of a fox, well, you can’t stop them can you? No choice but to follow them and carry on with it.

There are those that complain about the hunting ban but really, it’s helping to re-establish the whole point of the ritual. It’s always been about demonstrating social dominance, and by going ahead with it in defiance of one of the few pieces of popular legislation enacted by New Labour, in the full knowledge that the police are going to do absolutely nothing, one is able to give the middle finger to the proles to an even greater degree than before.

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Seagull train trolley head

I was watching a seagull on the roof just now – I was on the roof of one house, it was on the roof of the house next door. (There’s a roof terrace, I’ve not recently learned how to fly.) “MAAAA” it said, then again, “MAAAA”. Another seagull just down from it said “MAAAA” and it replied “MAAAA”. And so on. I was wondering whether the seagull actually had any idea why it was doing that, and the conclusion was that it probably had about as much idea as I do why I do things.

Yesterday I came down on the 16:20 train from Waterloo which, oddly for the last train on the last Friday before Christmas, had a lot of free seats. I was expecting to have to stand up for three hours with the occasional light relief of tripping people up on the way to the loo, but instead I had a table and nobody sitting next to me. Near the end of the journey the carriage was almost empty.

What might have influenced seat availability was luggage availability. When I did get up to try to buy overpriced refreshments (fiver for a tuna sandwich and a small, nasty Stella) I saw that there were actually lots of people standing around in the spaces near the doorways, in plain sight of empty seats. These people had bags that you could fit warthogs in, bigger than they were in many cases, and apparently they weren’t prepared to risk having them rifled through by the Christmas present thieves who infest the British railway network. You can’t put a soap set or a chocolate orange down for five minutes on a train without some little monkey nicking it.

I was immune to this problem by dint of having only one merely medium-sized bag – a baby warthog, or a few meerkats – with no presents in it. I suppose I shall have to buy some presents on Boxing Day for the more traditionalist members of my family but the ones I’m with over Christmas don’t really care, and said so. I didn’t actually come here to give them stuff anyway, I came to see them. Next year I think that I shall order everything online and have it sent beforehand so that it’s all nice and ready and I don’t have to trawl through Exeter with a hangover.

When the man with the refreshment trolley came along the carriage, a woman stuck her head out into the aisle to talk to her studentish daughter in front of her and kept it there until it was hit by said trolley. (You can’t really see over the trolley if you’re pushing it so you would have to expect that people would be mildly concerned with their own self-preservation, even if it’s not going very fast.)

I was watching but she quite clearly knew that the trolley was coming, since she was discussing what to purchase, and I was sure that she’d move her head out of the way, so I didn’t say anything in time. The man pushing it clearly wasn’t in the mood for an effusive apology and said something along the lines of “be careful there madam”. He stopped to serve someone behind her, and incredibly she stuck her head out into the aisle again. Once more, I was sure that she had to be going to pull it back in time, especially considering she’d just been bumped by it whilst doing exactly the same thing, but no, the man pushed it forward and bang. This time he just said “do you want to move your head out of the way then?” To her credit, or not to her discredit, she didn’t complain.

The Mac to PC ratio on the train that I saw was 4:1. On one of the tables in the first class compartments were two empty bottles of champagne.

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More iBookery, with penguins and panthers and tigers oh my

clamshell-ibook.jpg (9K)

There’s not really any point in making a long post about installing Ubuntu 5.10 (“Breezy Badger”, uh huh) on my new old clamshell iBook, because it was so easy. And everything just worked; even the sleep problem that I talked about on the last version I tried was fixed. It did take a very long time, though – well, it’s an old slow machine. Unpacking and copying all those files was always going to take quite a while.

(For the record – indigo G3 clamshell iBook, 366MHz, 128Mb RAM, 10Gb hard disc. I’m adding an Airport card and some more RAM. I’ve got some iBook RAM sitting around though I’m buggered if I can find it.)

I think the only issue that I had was to do with the display. It’s only got an 800×600 screen. Ubuntu tells you that it’s autodetected suitable modes for your graphics card, including 1024×768 and do you want to tell X that? Don’t worry, it’ll just pick the most suitable resolution. Don’t believe it. You end up with a horrible blur where your display should be, and you’re a bit stuck because you can’t see anything.

One can fix this without reinstalling or anything though – if you press ctrl-alt-F1 you go to a command line (I had no idea about this). From there you can edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf, though on Ubuntu you will have to use nasty vi instead of lovely emacs. If you go through and just remove all the references to 1024×768 in the file, and then restart gdm (sudo /etc/init.d/gdm restart) you’re fine. Now, I don’t know whether the iBook can actually handle 1024×768 when using an external display, and if it can you might like to use that with Linux – if so you can probably leave it in and do some cunning editing of xorg.conf or some other file but you work that out yourself, I’m not going to do it, I don’t care.

In the end though, after playing with it for a while, I reformatted and installed Panther over the top, because one of the points of having Apple hardware apart from cuteness is that you can run OS X, which is lovely and for which I have lots of software I’ve paid for. I couldn’t install Tiger because I’ve only got a DVD copy of Tiger and the iBook only has a CD drive, so I’m going to need either to get hold of an external firewire DVD drive from somewhere or, more likely use my Powerbook in target disc mode. One of the great things about OS X is that the later the version, the faster it seems to run on old hardware. Really need to find that RAM though, as things are just a tad slow with 128 meg. It’s probably under the bed, or under some beer cans, or both.

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Westminster circle

If you’ve heard about Mary Anne Evans being arrested for having the temerity to hold a (very small) political protest within half a mile of Westminster

Maya Anne Evans, 25, a vegan cook from Hastings, was found guilty of breaching Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

She was arrested in October after reading out names of soldiers killed in Iraq at central London’s Cenotaph.

Bow Street magistrates gave her a conditional discharge.

Demonstrators must seek police consent for any protest around Westminster under the new law introduced in August.

…you might be interested in the following pledge:

“I will form part of a human chain around the Westminster no protest zone but only if 6,000 other people will join in.”

Six thousand being the number of people estimated to be required to surround the zone. Come on, it’s not that many. And it’ll make great TV.

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Bloody Apple bloody argh

As I mentioned previously, my little iBook’s screen suddenly went black and refused to respond a few weeks ago. I finally got my act together to book an appointment, take it to [the Temple Of Apple on Regent Street][1] on a long drizzly bus ride and hang around waiting for a bit on their hard wooden bench.

Predictably, when turned on in front of the repair person, the screen came on as if nothing had ever happened to it. “Er,” I said. “It wasn’t doing that last week.” Instead of dismissing me as some idiot the chap tried to test it with an external monitor, which it didn’t respond to.

“Something wrong with the graphics card,” he said. “We can take it in, it’ll be about ten working days before you get it back” (which would mean I wouldn’t have it over Christmas, no portable computing at all, I can’t manage that). And like the idiot that he charitably assumed I wasn’t I said “okay, well, the screen seems to be working again, I’ll take it now and bring it back after Christmas”. Cue an even longer drizzly bus ride and a bit of a drizzly walk back home.

You know what’s coming, don’t you? I turned it on just now and did the screen come on? Did it bollocks. So I’m going to have to book another appointment tomorrow to take the thing back in and leave it there this time. Bastard thing. All my “oh isn’t it cute” instincts go right out the window as soon as something like this happens. I’d make a terrible mother.

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boooo

baroness thatcher after treatment

Thatcher Not Dead.

Former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher has been taken to hospital after “feeling faint”, the Tory party says.

Doctors examining her found that she was suffering from an acute virgin’s blood deficiency. However, following the ritual sacrifice of a number of unnamed proles, her condition is said to be “stable”, though she herself is not.

It’s good though because I have absolutely no champagne in the fridge right now, and by the time I’d got home the whole country would have sold out. Come to think of it, I should stock up.

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Atheist PC liberal ban fanatics stole the Christ out of Christmas, also vote Tory

Okay. I really cannot take the Express seriously any more. I mean, I can’t get annoyed by it any more, not that I can’t take it seriously as a news publication any more, heaven forfend that I would do such a thing. Anyway, story yesterday of girl in school with “no jewelry” policy told to take off a gold chain that included a cross on it, and sent home when she refused to. A few items of jewelry are allowed at the school, including the iron ring (kara) that Sikhs are required to wear. Girl and mother whine about religious discrimination, even though Christians aren’t required to wear anything at all religiously, which sounds like an advantage to me but hey.

What does the Express make out of this?

Now the cross is banned!

I just started laughing when I saw that. They’re trying so hard, aren’t they? Bless.

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important news

But the real talk of Olde London Town, the buzz on the streets and in the coffee houses and the Clapham omnibus, is the fact that David Cameron has becomezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Well. At least that’s one person who’s guaranteed not to be Tory leader at the time of the next election.

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Give me something better

It’s been a bit quiet round here recently, apart from bananaphones. Partly that’s because I’ve been ill with the accompanying demotivation that that brings but there’s the usual problem of there not, apparently, being anything new happening that I’ve seen. Vexing and disgusting perhaps, but not new.

I mean, take the whole Condoleeza Rice / torture / secret prisons thing. The general practice of rendition is not new. It’s been going on for years. The fact that the CIA has been rendering people to various places in Europe rather than just the Middle East was new, but isn’t really new any more, though it still bears repeating as the whole idea of rendition in the first place still seems to be considered something shockingly new. Goodness! They’ll be telling us next that they used napalm! Really, if you consider yourself at all aware of the issues surrounding US conduct in Iraq and foreign policy generally and you didn’t know about rendition, please attach electrodes to yourself until you sign a document saying “I will pay attention in future”.

Another thing that isn’t new is the constant sophistry about legality, and the acceptance of this in the media.

Mrs Merkel said Ms Rice had given “important” reassurances that the US would use “every lawful means” to protect citizens from the threat of international terrorism.

Ms Rice said the US respected the sovereignty of its partners, adding that the US had an obligation to defend its people and would use every lawful means to do so.

“We will live up, in the United States, to our commitments under our laws, and to our international obligations,” she said.

If enough lawyers can be marshalled to prove that actually, kidnapping people without due process and flying them off to places where they can be detained and tortured is legal under international law, and that actually, waterboarding and so on aren’t legally torture anyway, then what that says is that there is something definitely wrong with international law. Reductio ad absurdum. Yet we still get all this thrown up as if it’s a legitimate defence – and as if they actually gave a toss in any case, rather than just, if enough lawyers can’t be marshalled, going ahead anyway as long as it doesn’t threaten anybody’s re-election chances or bank balance. And that’s behaviour that’s even less new than any of the other things here.

What’s meant to happen exactly? Are people who think that such behaviour is dangerous and wrong meant to be reassured on the off-chance that it turns out to be legal? “Oh, well, I was worried, but now that I learn it’s fine under international law I suppose it doesn’t matter. Thanks, Condi!” If I’m going to go along with whatever my rulers do but also avoid cognitive dissonance, I need something a bit better than “legal trumps wrong, and we define legal”. Please help me out.

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Ringtone sympathy

I have a theory that an embarrassing ringtone provides greater incentive to answer one’s phone quickly.

After all, if a ringtone is pleasant to the ear, there’s no rush, is there? Whereas one that will make everyone around you think you’re a twat, you’re likely to be much more motivated.

With that in mind I am setting my ringtone to be bananaphone. The speeded up, “badgerphone” version. I can guarantee that as soon as I hear the “boo-bee-doo-be-doo” at the start, I’ll be leaping for my pocket.

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