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31 December 2005


I have finally started the job of rehabilitating my broken book review blog. I have taken the lazy way out: I copied in the modified template I use for this blog and now I am in the process of adding back in the margin stuff. So Deborama's Book Reviews and Store is at the moment more readable again but is still somewhat "under construction". As soon as I have it looking nice and get some of my huge backlog of posts up there (mostly book reviews) I will do the same for Deborama's Kitchen. So, fans of my auxiliary blogs (all both of you) - be patient and good things will come.

29 December 2005

City Pages - the restaurant scene in the Twin Cities

This is something I keep up with, in a lax and desultory fashion. I don't know why. I no longer live in Minneapolis and I probably never will again, but in some part of my heart, I can never leave. And then they don't really have a restaurant "scene" around these parts, do they? They just barely have restaurants at all, what I would call restaurants, anyway. So Minneapolis now has two kosher restaurants, even though only an estimated 2% of the Jewish population there keep kosher. (And the Jewish population isn't that large, either. NYC it ain't for all its aspirations.) But of course, in the Twin Cities, only a small minority of their clientele are even going to be Jewish.
I miss eating out.
(Cross-posted at Deborama's Kitchen.)

22 December 2005

More Intelligent Design madness

Excerpts from a follow-up story to the recent court decision (see previous post) knocking down a school district's policy of teaching ID as science:

Both sides are looking to Kansas as the most likely new battlefield in the culture war over education. Last month, the state's education board voted for new teaching standards, redefining science to include the supernatural [italics mine - because I am just dumbstruck] and encouraging Kansas science teachers to question the validity of evolution in their classrooms. If a local authority within the state accepts the board's recommendation and changes its school curriculum to play down evolution, it could trigger another legal battle.
Steve Abrams, the Kansas board chairperson, told The Associated Press that the Pennsylvania and Kansas cases were very different. In Dover, science teachers had been made to read out a statement in biology class pointing to holes in evolution theory and recommending pupils look into an intelligent-design library textbook called Of Pandas and People.
Abrams said the Kansas board was not specifically advocating intelligent design, only questioning evolution. . .
Meanwhile, a federal appeals court in Georgia is considering the case of an Atlanta suburb that had stickers put into biology textbooks, describing evolution as "a theory, not a fact".

Trust Georgia to take the lazy way out. Stickers in textbooks! When I was in the Georgia schools, they would have suspended you for doing that, and now the administration is doing it, and smirking behind their hands at the heathens in the "fed'ral gummint".

21 December 2005

Antievolution idea can't be public school class, judge rules

Good news, good sense. I reckon that "intelligent design" is not false on its face, the way hard-core believers in the religion I call scientism believe. But it is not science. And it is not religion either. It is something almost unheard of in the 21st century, a little thing the ancients used to call "philosophy". And Grid knows, we can't be teaching that in the public schools. Wouldn't that be confusing?
By the way, G. Trudeau has a really trenchant observation on the implications of disbelief in evolution. Perhaps, in the trenches of medical care, there are nothing but atheists? (Another negative consequence of the death of philosophy, imho.)

15 December 2005

Political Angels

The Guardian Backbencher, a weekly satirical political online newsletter, has these four fabulous cartoon angels on offer for free. Just download any of the four PDF files and paste onto thin cardboard, cut it out and assemble it for your "holiday" tree. More politically correct than Birmingham's Winterval and funnier than a drunken Santa Claus.

06 December 2005

Buy your way into heaven!

Weekly Grist is a "tree-free" (that is, online only) weekly environmental magazine, and they have hit upon a very clever fund-raising strategy. They are selling officially authorised Indulgences which can be offset against any environmental sin. And, unlike the original, pre-Reformation catholic church indulgences, they can be purchased on the installment plan, so they are not only available to those who have loads of dosh (which of course you get by committing more sins.)

02 December 2005

It's a dog's life

Some people are so stressed out by their jobs that they have a whole separate blog to bitch about how bad their job is. Up until about a year ago, I really liked my job, although I have never liked the 2 to 3 hours of train commuting and certain other specific peripheral aspects of it. However, in the last year, the department of the large, mostly profitable international company I work for has been beset with diminishing revenue, lay-offs, the departure of the most capable, the selecting out of some of the less capable, interpersonal stresses, the madness of paranoia, and general decline in morale. I think a lot of us "left behind" are somewhat in denial about how stressed we are.
A co-worker of ours is blind, and he is accompanied to work each day by a guide dog (I will call the dog Sarah - not her real name.) She is relatively young and new to her job, having replaced another dog who retired last year. She is usually quite sober and professional, though she occasionally "breaks the rules" a bit to show affection. So, this evening, as usual on a Friday, about half of us got ready to leave at the stroke of 4 pm. Much switching off of computers, putting on of coats, nonchalant behaviour, lest the management would think us too eager to leave. But Sarah, bless her, picked up the vibe - and ran with it. Tongue hanging out, foolish doggy grin, bounding around the room from desk to desk. She was ecstatic that it was Friday, and she didn't care who knew it!

30 November 2005

City Pages - Sgt. Briggs's War

The Twin Cities' weekly newspaper City Pages tells the story of yet more underestimated and underfunded support for US soldiers in Iraq through the story of one Iowa man, grievously injured in Iraq, hurriedly retired from the National Guard and now receiving care at the VA hospital in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis VA is one of four new "polytrauma" treatment centers set up to handle the new complexes of injuries that soldiers are experiencing (and surviving) in 21st century warfare. But how are they going to cope with the incoming flood of veterans from this war on the one hand, and massive funding cuts on the other?

28 November 2005

Thinking nationally and acting pro-actively . . .

In Which parts of the U.S. have put themselves in nature's way? the online environmental magazine Weekly Grist attempts to predict where the next Katrina-style disaster for the US might occur. Complete with interactive topgraphic map and scary symbols.

27 November 2005

This is not the country that I once knew

Former US President Jimmy Carter's article in last week's Observer is a strong and unequivocal condemnation of the current administration's abrogation of international treaties and agreements, and the inevitable forteiture of international respect and credibility that follows. And, as a man of faith (a faith far more demonstrable and sincere than that of Mr. "God-told-me-to-attack-Iraq" Bush), Carter also deplores the increasing militarism and fundamentalism of American Christianity. A must-read article.

23 November 2005

My yoga retreat weekend

This post is a little late in coming. I got back from my weekend Sunday night, intending to post right away, with some nice pictures. But I have a "new" laptop and thus I had a few technical glitches (or maybe just senior moments - DH, don't say a word!) And I had a terrible Monday night experience courtesy of Central Trains and Midland Mainline, although I forgive Midland Mainline because they apologised and sent me home in a taxi. (Other than that little bit, I don't want to talk about it.)
So, the Dru Yoga Centre near Bangor in Wales, is very lovely. Pure air and water, vegetarian foods, gentle vibes, warm and cosy "chalets". I particularly enjoyed the walk through the rolling countryside to a nearby bubbling stream (or small river). The yoga was OK too, although I only attended half the sessions; after all, I was there to relax. There will be a link for all the pictures soon.

16 November 2005

Experian study analyses Katrina impact

Experian USA will be conducting a study to track the outstanding payable balances of 635,000 businesses, the large majority of which are small businesses employing fewer than 50 people. The data will be broken down by major sector, SIC codes, and size and age of the businesses, as well as geographically. So far, it is known that businesses in the affected areas had outstanding payables of $40 billion. Repayment on invoices and debt is a way of tracking business recovery.
This is a good thing, but only a fly's-eye view of the whole economic picture, in my opinion. (Trust me! I have a bachelor's degree - in Economics!) In order to pay off debt and try to claw a way back into the marketplace, many small businesses will slash staff. This will of course have a ripple effect. Already my relatives in the area tell about the impossibility of booking any motel accommodation for at least a year. They were all snatched up in the first weeks by insurance, consulting and construction firms flocking into the Gulf region to work on, and no doubt profit from, the recovery. I have nothing against profit, of course, but this does rather leave the remaining residents "high and dry" (sick wordplay, I confess) when it comes to jobs and housing. The study is not measuring any of this, but somebody should be.

11 November 2005

Wanna piece of this?

First, a jab to the nose! Then a hook to the temple! Next, knight takes bishop on D5! Testing both brains and brawn, it is supposedly the ultimate alpha-male sport.
Yes, it's . . . chess boxing! Deborama is absolutely fascinated by this new international sport that started out life as a very subtle performance art piece and now nets its artist-founder a tidy little income.

09 November 2005

Finding My Religion, by Diablo Cody

Diablo Cody's all-purpose lapsed-Catholic (but not totally lapsed) confession of faith in City Pages is incredibly moving, despite the clever, hip, former-sex-worker tone. Read every word, there are some real gems of writing there.

02 November 2005

CIA Tour with Ginger Bear

I kid you not!

More than 300 years of the Raj . . .

. . . and the British have no idea about curry! There is a joke about a British lad (of, say, 50) who has had a curry late at night, after a marathon drinking session in one or more pubs, nearly every Friday night of his adult life. Then one day he has one for lunch. And is appalled at how unpleasantly hot and pungent it is! And British men, in particular, do not know how to make curry. They are always very proud of their fiery creations, with loads of half-cooked onion, tinned tomatoes, extra chili, and a huge wad of raw madras curry paste dumped in at the last minute. It's more of a trial by ordeal than a meal deal, let me tell you. (See the excellent cookbook Cooking Like Mummiji, touted on these pages, for lessons in a better way.)
The catering service at my place of employment is officially "celebrating Diwali". Far be it from me to criticise their attempts at cultural sensitivity, but today they featured a Beef Madras. Besides being Diwali (or near to it, anyway) it is also into the last few days of Ramadan. So who exactly is going to eat this Beef Madras, amongst the Indian and Pakistani members of our workforce? Hindus (hello!) don't eat beef (if they are devout) and Muslims don't eat lunch during Ramadan (if they're observant.) So there you go. All the British lads can "celebrate Diwali" by devouring sacred cow cooked in a manner that would make Mummiji blanch. I saw one of our Asian or British Asian employees or contractors special-ordering a Vegetarian Madras, so I popped into the queue behind him and said "I'll have what he's having." But our "chef" is a British lad and it was - well, pretty bad. All hot and sour where it should have been pungent and alluring, no subtlety, loads of onions. Nice try, but no banana.

30 October 2005

Rosa Parks given an unprecedented honour

Rosa Parks is to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Who would have ever predicted such a thing? The only downside to this story (apart from her being dead, but she did have 92 years) is that she is the first woman to have this honour in over 200 years.

I AM the President

: "

Powerful. Intimidating. Trivia Nazi. President Bartlet is all of these and more. A super-nerd who's into chess, National Parks, and rambling off things in Latin, POTUS is the 'real thing.' Not being completely upfront with the American people may cause him re-election headaches, though...

:: Which West Wing character are you? ::

Before the deluge

Could we be seeing the beginning of the end for the Bush administration? Could there be a premature departure in deepest shame, a la Nixon? We can but hope. It feels like the tipping point is just around the corner, and the feverish comment on the ins and outs is very alluring.
DH asked: what the heck kind of a name is "Scooter" for a grown man? "Frat boy," I answered.

22 October 2005

A decent review of Dylan

Dick Jones of Patteran Pages is eminently qualified to do that movie review of Socrsese's Dylan epic, but unfortunately I don't know if he saw it. He did see the The Madhouse on Castle Street, and become a lifelong advocate of everything Dylanesque (that's Bob D, not D Thomas, of course, although the two often go hand in hand.) Dick says the things I wanted to say about Dylan:

My relationship with Dylan as a key figure in that movement of souls that gathered us up in the ‘60s & dumped us, high & dry, somewhere in the middle of the ‘70s was never one of acolyte. Rather he represented for me a symbol of detached individualism. He followed his own trail, not because some imp of perversity had him flouting the protocols, but because he was driven by creative forces over which he had no control. In an era of largely spurious non-conformity, in which fashion & popular cultural diktat functioned significantly at the behest of commercial concerns, Dylan walked alone. Drawn by his eccentric star, he entered the forbidden realms of country music, recorded utterly unsuitable cover versions, embraced the suffocating sterility of fundamentalist Christianity, & then – his voice shot & with blood in his eye – he returned to the timeless blues, ballads, rags & hollers of his seminal years.
Ever the maverick, evading the obsessive efforts of the media finally to bind him to the ground like Gulliver, Dylan has maintained triumphantly an inviolable uniqueness amongst his many peers. Inhabiting as he has for so long a bewildering multitude of roles & identities, each drawing deep on America’s rich resources of popular culture, he has enjoyed a measure of creative freedom & self-determination experienced by very few artists.
I’ve been tempted to shell out for increasingly expensive concert tickets each time he has toured. But somehow, after all these years, from beatnik cherub to ageing troubador, it’s simply enough to know that he’s out there.

19 October 2005

The Antidote to Civilization?

I saw the above slogan (but without the question mark) on a very large banner on the outer wall of the Methodist Mission in Nottingham city centre. This is just so wrong on so many levels. It presumes that 1) civilisation and Christianity (or Protestantism? or Methodism?) are antithetical; and it presumes that 2) civilisation is a bad thing and that perhaps the luckless masses exposed to it need treatment to ameliorate their suffering; and it presumes that 3) what is wrong with the "modern world" is the presence of civilisation, rather than its all too conspicuous absence. You see, this is what happens when people who are far too shallow and stupid to understand any philosophy at all are allowed to read or hear a little about post-modernism. All I can think is, poor old John Wesley must be rolling around in his grave.

08 October 2005

Body and Soul: The pursuit of happiness

This classic post from yesterday in the excellent blog Body and Soul is about human scale economics, what you have vs. what you own. It really hit me right where I live. This is an absolute must-read, and it is right on target for the sort of thing I would now be publishing if I had pursued my dream to be an academic economist. My grand thesis which never happened was based on this tantalising paradox: economics started out as a branch of philosophy that was concerned with the human drive to be happy. It is now called, half-affectionately and half-disparagingly, "the dismal science". How did this branch of knowledge transform itself from the art of happiness to the science of immiseration? Ah, that's a very good question ...

04 October 2005

Dylan - A Complete Unknown

I had high hopes of this City Pages review of Scorsese's No Direction Home, based on the title and the "hook" (Scorsese takes 200 minutes to preserve the mystery of Dylan). But I was disappointed, very disappointed. Biggest problem with it? The reviewer confesses that he is too young "to have ever trusted the dude in the first place" and then continues, thinking himself very hip and clever:

The combative mid-'60s press conferences, the autobiographical fabrications, the mumbled cryptoquips, the endless string of overrated best-album-since-Blood on the Tracks-es--all were part of the legacy passed on to us post-Boomers.
Excuse me, but do give it a rest. "Us Boomers" have heard this particular whinge quite enough, thanks. But then, having framed this as another us-vs-them generational pissing contest, he allows several howlers to creep in. He notes that "Like A Rolling Stone", in a week when it was no. 2 in the Top-10, "nestled not incongruously between the Beatles' Help and the Beach Boys' California Girls" in a screen-shot in the film. Damn, when in the 1980s or 1990s or this decade did you have three top songs of that calibre? Isn't it just too obvious that post-Boomers are suffering from the most massive case of Bloomian anxiety of influence imagineable? Isn't it all just too darned Oedipal? And then, and then, the twerp has the gall to cast aspersions on Scorsese's choice of a sound-track to the 1950s. Hey, dude, you have just told us that you were not around then, and Scorsese most definitely was, and he is a cultural giant while you are a lowly insect toiling away as a stringer for a local weekly! Where the heck do you get off telling Scorsese he got it wrong?
Truly, I wish someone would write a good review of No Direction Home. Someone who "gets" Dylan, who was alive in the 60s, who respects but doesn't worship Scorsese and who doesn't have an axe to grind. Damn, that could be me. Too bad I'm so lazy.

26 September 2005

Is It Civil War Yet?

So asks Christopher of Back to Iraq 3.0. Defense News, the trade publication for defence contractors, says so. When will the media admit it?

17 September 2005

Sink or Swim

August Nimtz, a New Orleans native who is now a history professor at the University of Minnesota and a leading American Marxist scholar, has this brief but pithy interview with the City Pages' Jim Walsh.

12 September 2005

A smaller newspaper and a little self-disclosure

Of course, I had to buy the new Guardian today. Britannia has been all abuzz about the new "Berliner" format, quite like a tabloid but more serious and attractive. (I also had to buy an Independent, but that was because it had a banner that said "Life Without Sex" by Belle du Jour, which turned out to be a bit of a bait-and-switch. When will I ever learn?) The Guardian had this story, that everyone has, no exclusives, about the NHS recently discovering that - shock, horror - depression is rampant in the UK and the handing out of anti-depressants like candy is having almost no positive effect. A few skillion pounds is about to be invested in more cognitive-behavioural therapists. I could have told them this years ago. I first suspected the problem because almost everyone I know is clinically depressed, and almost all of them have tried drugs, and I don't know a single person who has "recovered" or even been helped. Oh, they sometimes say they are helped; they say they would be much worse without the drugs. But I wondered. So, after over 20 years as a diagnosed but unmedicated depressive myself, I gave two anti-depressants a try (not at once, obviously). The first made me want to die with almost the first dose so I quit it immediately. After a six month hiatus I tried again. The second one, I could tolerate and took for a few months. I noticed no improvement and stopped it on my own without consulting the GP. The only possible lingering side effect of this ignoble experiment is possibly a few (well more than a few) extra pounds I could ill afford. Grr. Bring on the CBT on the NHS, I say.

11 September 2005

Gore airlifts stranded patients, while elsewhere . . .

Here's a story that you may not have heard at the time. Ex-VP Al Gore paid to airlift the patients of a hospital in New Orleans to Tennessee when they were stranded in life-threatening circumstances. (Gore has apparently been a little shy about the story, no doubt due to his unfair and atrocious treatment by the press in the past.)
In an interesting if chilling parallel, I was watching the new Andrew Marr show Sunday AM this morning and in the ritual reading of the newspaper headlines, one of the national tabloids had a front page story alleging that hospital staff in New Orleans engaged in mercy killing of stranded and terminally ill patients. I could not find a link for this on the internet (I'm sure it must be out there*) but I did find a lot of other stuff, including this powerful accusation of ethnic cleansing in New Orleans. Here's a quote:

Buffalo-based columnist Michael I. Niman notes Sept. 8 how the feds effectively shut down citizen self-help rescue efforts such as [New Orleans resident Charmaine] Neville's:
The Â?too dangerous to rescueÂ? myth was also employed by FEMA as rationale for ordering rescue teams to stand down early in the crisis. Louisianans are a tough lot, and many private boat owners from areas surrounding New Orleans immediately entered the city as flooding began, creating an ad hoc rescue flotilla. Many survivors tell of strangers in small fishing boats plucking them out of second story windows or off of roofs, depositing them high and dry on highway overpasses. The Federal government put a stop to such heroism, while failing to replace the independent effort with one of their own. (Online at MediaStudy.com)
There appears to have been an overt policy of racial and class discrimination in the rescue effort. ThMilwaukeeee Journal-Sentinel Sept. 2 reports the ordeal of Kelli Nelson, an African-American Wisconsin native working as a nurse at Charity Hospital, New Orleans' largest public hospital and trauma center. She and other personnel and patients were finally airlifted out to San Antonio on the 2nd, after she stood on the roof with a big sign reading "Save the babies, please get us out of here." The city's big private hospitals like Tulane were evacuated days earlier. Trapped in the city, Kelli did manage to get out some chilling text messages to her friends and family.
"She says the situation has gotten worse," the friends relayed that Kelli had messaged them. "The evacuation was aborted... [T]hey had taken babies and mothers down to a boat to go to Tulane's helicopter pad and they were refused access to the pad... what a horror story.
"Does that mean indigent people have no rights...?
* Update: It was The Sunday Mail. I ended up buying the paper and reading it "offline". The pundits on the show pooh-poohed the possibility of accuracy of this story, but I have to say it had, for me, a ring of verisimilitude.

03 September 2005

New Orleans left to the dead and dying

A shocking story comes to a conclusion of sorts. Only read this if you have the stomach for the unpleasant truth.

Mississippi family all safe from Katrina

Okay, cast of characters for those who don't know me. Dad and Mom (79 and 72 respectively) are still alive. There are six of us "kids" : oldest, middle and youngest sisters and oldest, middle and youngest brothers. All but youngest brother, who is also the youngest, are married with one or more children. I am oldest sister (and the oldest). (It's beginning to sound like one of those nice logic puzzles, but never fear, this is just for orientation.)
Middle sister's family and Mom and Dad all live in Gulfport, not, thankfully, near the gulf. Youngest sister's family lives in Hattiesburg, MS. Oldest and youngest brothers both live in Alabama, youngest is in a nice little house in Birmingham. The middle brother is somewhat reclusive, so he actually is not very involved in this story. So, before Katrina hit, I phoned youngest sister Denise to check that Mom and Dad were with her and not left behind in Gulfport. Middle sister Cindy was in the midwest working on a contract. Her husband and son took refuge up in Northern Mississippi with another relation. And then, not surprisingly, we had phone silence for three days while I worried and fretted. Because we heard that things were not that good even in Hattiesburg. I now have news, even having received an e-mail from Mom, bless her, that they all had to abandon the house in Hattiesburg (not sure when - Tuesday or Wednesday) due to lack of water, power and food. By the way, there were other people sheltering there, too, a total of nine, including a baby. Denise and family and Mom and Dad set out in a 2-car convoy to the youngest brother's house, where my parents have been lodged and it looks like they may be there a while. All three houses are still standing, but damaged. That's "the blue house" that Cindy's husband built for their family, "the duplex" on the same land that he built for our parents and his very aged father (who apparently "rode it out" there and is also OK) and the lovely Victorian house in Hattiesburg that Denise's husband carefully restored. So it looks like Mom and Dad, at least, may be displaced persons for a couple of months at least. For one thing, the hurricane season is only started! Now there's a disquieting thought.
Oh, and. The parents' car died irreparibly just as they got to Birmingham. Still, we are all grateful, knowing it could have been a lot worse. Pray for those still suffering far crueler fates in Louisiana and Mississippi.

01 September 2005

Thousands feared drowned in New Orleans

And then there is this:

President Bush flew over New Orleans and parts of Mississippi's hurricane-blasted coastline in Air Force One. Turning to his aides, he said: "It's totally wiped out. ... It's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground."

Although ex-President Clinton is too much of a gentleman to criticise Bush, this has got to be said. If Clinton were president, absolutely nothing would have prevented him from landing in New Orleans and doing his famous touching, feeling, comforting thing. I am just saying. The difference between the two men is searingly obvious.
I am in mourning for New Orleans, a city I loved, and Mississippi, a state where half of my family resides. On a personal level it is hard to get information. I know more or less where everyone is, but they are cut off by phone and power outages, so I do not know how much loss they have suffered. All we can do is wait and pray. And send money to the Red Cross or your choice of charity if you can.

Update: here is a whole bunch of news photos from LA and MS.

29 August 2005

Katrina headed for Mississippi

Most of the web news is focusing on New Orleans and the Louisiana coast in the hurricane Katrina story, but it appears that the Mississippi Coast is taking the brunt of landfall. This is something that concerns Deborama very much, as her mother, father, sister, brother-in-law and nephew all live in Gulfport. The live CNN and Fox News reports from the beach in Gulfport are very frightening. I am waiting for it to be a little later and then I will phone the other sister in Hattiesburg to see if the parents got evacuated and are up in Hattiesburg. I also have a young friend, mainly a friend of daughter Aimee, who lives in New Orleans. Apparently 80% of New Orleans is evacuated. Of course the concern there, apart from the possible loss of life, is the devastation that will result if the levees are breached and the petroleum wastes, toxic chemicals and septic tank contents flood New Orleans, which is up to 10 feet below sea level in places.

25 August 2005


I am posting this from my new laptop. Sorry for the huge lapse in blogging. Going back to work (11 hours per day), and trying to keep up the momentum of my new healthy lifestyle (10 hours per day, including 7 hours for sleep), and spend at least a little time with DH(3 to 4 hours per day), none of which can be done simultaneously, simply does not leave time for blogging. Something's gotta give! Any suggestions?

20 August 2005

U.S. lowers sights on what can be achieved in Iraq

This article from the Washington Post details how the current US administration is gradually coming to realise that their initial "plans" for post-war Iraq were based on a very faulty understanding of Iraqi history and politics. With all the government officials being quoted anonymously, it appears that they are still rather skittish about openly admitting the unrealistic and even naive nature of the original ambitions for a unified, secular, pro-western government to emerge after the "liberation" from Saddam Hussein.

U.S. officials now acknowledge that they misread the strength of the sentiment among Kurds and Shi'ites to create a special status. The Shi'ites' request this month for autonomy to be guaranteed in the constitution stunned the Bush administration, even after more than two years of intense intervention in Iraq's political process, they said.
The US administration is giving up such hopes as the enshrinement of women's rights in the constitution, a totally secular government and the complete integration of Kurds and Shi'ites into a unified Iraq. Instead, they are now focusing limiting the failures by influencing the constitutional process to make it easier to amend in the future, and establishing some credibility and order in an accelerated withdrawal of coalition troops and advisers.

The best die young, part II

Mo Mowlam passed away yesterday after a period of grave illness. She survived a brain tumour several years ago. Among other glowing tributes, Prime Minister Tony Blair said of her:

It is no exaggeration to say she transformed the politics not just of Northern Ireland itself but crucially of relations between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, and it was this transformation that created the culture in which peace-making could flourish.

18 August 2005


My boy Carey has finally got his website up and running. Go see it. Buy some art. I love it, and not just 'cause he's my son, either.

14 August 2005

The naive American - a correction

I posted (In good faith, having seen it in more than one "proper" news source) that the woman shot with Steven Vincent, American trouble-making blogger in Basra, was his fiancee as well as his translator. "Fiancee" being often the polite term for lover these days. This article in the 5 August Guardian G2 section causes me to be pretty sure that this was not the case. The article goes into far more depth about who Vincent was and where he was from, and quotes extensively, amongst others, from his wife back in New York City who was in almost daily contact with him and knew all about Nouriya and is adamant that the relationship was a platonic friendship. This is fairly important, because it has been suggested that the "reason" for the attack was a presumed sexual relationship between the two.

10 August 2005


I am halfway through the first week of my functional restoration programme. It is not Army basic training tough, but it is tough nevertheless. We were warned on Monday that our levels of pain may increase at first, that emotions would well up, and that we may have some negative feelings about the treatment. All true! Today we had a lecture about stress and learned that we may be experiencing random floods of adrenalin. Well, that may explain the two almost sleepless nights, despite being bone-tired, and the strange desire to do violence to DH, who has no idea what I am going through. Hormones mostly suck, in my opinion. And I say this despite having experienced pregnancy (thanks, I actually slightly prefer old age!) and having at least the memory of having a great sex life. The problems with hormones is that the good vibes they give you are far more than outweighed by the misery they can cause in other circumstances. YMMV.

07 August 2005

Robin Cook dies after collapse on mountain

In the UK as in the US, it seems that the best die young. Robin Cook was only 59, with possibly the best part of his already brilliant political career ahead of him. This is a very sad turn of events.

Blogkeeping and personal stuff

I have made some minor changes to the template. I added my Truth Laid Bear status back in, now that I am back in the mammal category, although at a vermin level. Also, see the update of the Constant Gardener post to read about my woes over at the book review blog, and plea for debugging help.
Blogging may be scarce for the next two weeks, or it may be better than usual. I am off work, but attending day-long physical therapy, group therapy and punishing exercise sessions at the Priory, Sketchley Hall. Meanwhile at home, we are embarking on an intensive six-week house makeover, to put our house on the market for the second time. This time, we're serious.
In preparation for the above-mentioned PT fortnight, I decided to bite the bullet and get my hair cut really short. I have had medium to long hair for the past decade. I went to local unisex hair-cutter and said cut it really short - not a crew cut, but short enough so that nothing can touch my face. With a fringe (American = bangs) but not heavy or long. And that's what I got. It looks quite different. When I brush my teeth, I reach for my hair to keep it up out of the way and there is no hair. When I go to bed, I feel as if I need to "let my hair down" but there is nothing to let down. My scores of hair scrunchies and bobby pins can be hidden away, possibly forever. I am a new woman.

03 August 2005

Fearless Basra blogger is abducted and murdered

This story is from the Times Online. Steven Vincent was an American journalist/blogger based in Basra. He had been posting stories about the conditions of lawlessness and corruption in the (supposedly) British-controlled area, stories that were often critical of the British military. He was also the author of a well-received book about post-invasion Iraq and was said to be working on another about the history of Basra. He was kidnapped along with his translator and fiancee, who is seriously wounded.
Update: see correction post above.

"The Constant Gardener"

I see that David le Carre's last-but-one book, "The Constant Gardener", is to be made into a film. This is a great idea - not only is this one of le Carre's most moving and passionate books, with a message that is rarely seen in literature or non-fiction, but it is told in a very cinematic way. I can hardly wait to see it.
This post will be cross-posted at Deborama's Books and if I can get my lazy donkey in gear, I may even re-read and review it.
I was also very taken with le Carre's last book, Absolute Friends, but somehow I doubt that will ever be made into a movie. Not in this decade anyway.

***Update*** 7 August
I did try to cross-post this at Deborama's Book Reviews and Store, but we are having problems over there and I ended up deleting the post. For some reason, my template no longer displays as it did. Look and see, it's all messed up. I tried debugging it with my limited HTML/CSS skills but failed. Also, Amazon associates has changed the links they give you from simple text and/or book-cover graphics to some horrible, busy, scripted box, which really does not work with my book blog's format very well. The two latest posts use what they provide, and I don't like the look of it at all. I can edit it down to something useable, as I did with this post, but yecch. If anyone wants to volunteer to help me debug my book review template, or wants to offer a shortcut to getting simple links from Amazon, I would be very grateful.

28 July 2005

Seth's obituary

Here is a link to Seth Garwood's obituary in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, including a "guest book" feature where people can leave condolence messages.

Londoners Pay Heavy Price for Blair's Deception

This no-holds-barred polemic against the Iraq war. which does not shrink from calling Bush and Blair war criminals, is on the usually more conservative Newsmax website. I probably would not have put it this strongly, but there really isn't anything I can disagree with in it.

26 July 2005

Last Thursday

Rev. Seth Garwood, the minister of my church in Minneapolis, died quite suddenly and unexpectedly (he was young middle-aged) last Thursday. I was notified by e-mail, for which I am grateful, grateful that we have this e-mail connection which means so much to us absentee members. It is so painful to lose someone suddenly anyway, but when you cannot even grieve, except alone in your house thousands of miles away, it makes it worse, in a way. The only ripple on the www is this obituary on the Methodist Annual Conference website; no picture yet, but I am trying to obtain one.
Whenever I get news of someone dying who was a friend back in Minnesota, it sharply increases my sadness at being separated from that wonderful community of friends I enjoyed there, which is not something I expect ever to experience again in my life. (I can hope, of course.) Anyway, even though I missed the memorial service today, my thoughts and prayers are with my beleaguered little church in Minneapolis, and the family and friends of Seth.

The slowest-motion train wreck in history

The slowest motion train wreck in history is the unfolding horror show of GM technology. (Disclaimer: I am not a Luddite, nor am I opposed to all "tampering with nature", nor am I an ill-informed granola-cruncher with knee-jerk oppostion to "evil GM". This is serious stuff here, and I am quite serious about it.) The reality of GM testing and its commercial deployment is so far from the cynically glib pronouncements of its deluded proponents that it leads one to begin to doubt literally every word they say. They mouth platitudes about careful testing and scientific consensus about safety, when they know that no such things exist or could even be faked up if required. The thing is, they probably won't be required. This is because the main community relations effort of the giant headless chicken corporations that produce the actual GM products consisted of a very effective pre-emptive smear of anyone who opposes GM technology for any reason. Now we have a scenario where they roll out GM rapeseed to a few willing UK farmers (surrounded by a small horde of vociferous protesters and a vast, worried but quiescent public) blandly assuring us that gene transfer to create "superweeds" is a billion-to-one improbability (note the scientific precision of that; they obviously did tests far too sophisticated for us to understand.) Within a mere three years there is the news of the discovery of a GM superweed that herbicides cannot kill. It rates a few anxious paragraphs and the world goes back to its nap. Meanwhile, in the jungles of South America, GM trees are the latest untested and almost unimagineable threat to the vital rainforest.

Last Friday

The fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. I have been obsessed (a bit) with this ever since the story broke last Friday. DH and I have desultory half-arguments about it; neither of us wants to take a strong position, but he tends to be more forgiving to police (in general) than I am. I am interested in hearing from American bloggers, readers and friends as to how much coverage this gets in the US and what the general opinion is about it.

19 July 2005

Food for thought

"Obesity craze spreads to pigeons." And . . . "Tattoo craze spreads to fruit." These were the twin headlines topping my Kitchen Gardners International Newsletter in the e-mail inbox. Sign of the times, both of them.

17 July 2005

Take the BBC Brainsex quiz

The Brain Sex Quiz will tell you how female your brain is. This is related to a series on the Beeb called Secrets of the Sexes. It's better than the usual dumbed-down science fare on TV. At this site you can also read about the accuracy (or not) of intelligence tests, which celebrities have high IQs and the latest thinking on - um - thinking.

16 July 2005

Blogkeeping - my life

Yesterday I missed work to go and be evaluated at The Priory, Sketchley Hall, in Hinckley. I have been recommended to a great programme they have there called "Functional Restoration". It's basically an intensive get-fit thing that lasts 2 weeks and corrects muscle-and-joint problems that may have been caused by accident, injury or neglect (or all three in my case.)
Today I attended the Nottingham Bookcrossers Meetup at Costa Coffee in Nottingham. I released eight books and caught three. I shopped a little and came home on the train.
Ah, the train. There used to be a direct train from Hinckley to Nottingham but it was discontinued about a month ago. Now, the first leg of my train journey (to home) is generally from Nottingham to Leicester and the second is from Leicester to Hinckley. The second leg is only on Central Trains but the first can be Midland Mainline, which is travelling to London via Leicester. Except not today, because there is a track-side fire outside of Luton, one of the stations it goes through, which "involves gas canisters". Therefore my second train was packed with people trying to get to London. They were bound for the next stop after mine to catch a Virgin Train to London Euston, which does not go through Luton. Everybody was quite cheerful about it; they were just glad it wasn't a bomb.

11 July 2005

WWII Memorial celebrations link past and present for Londoners

The Times and other news sources covered the weekends WWII Memorial events in the same spirit they were presented, somehow simultaneously linking London's present-day terror attacks to the Blitz and the threat of world-wide fascism in the 1940s and still giving superior honour to the veterans of the Second World War. The Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury and even the veterans themselves all followed the same theme, amidst the flypasts, mass marches and pageantry that the British do so well (dropping millions of poppies from a Lancaster bomber for example, and the seven Books of Remembrance with the names of all the wartime civilian dead).

08 July 2005

In Iraq, as in London

Aslam, of the blog methinks [mythic flow], has a post about his love for NYC, Madrid and London. Then he puts it in perspective, quoting William Rivers Pitt of Truthout, and I nod my head sagely and pass it on:

In Iraq, they call events like this "Tuesday".
(Actually, I would have said "Thursday", but then I didn't think of it, did I?) The Truthout.org editorial goes on to say:
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and wounded in Iraq by way of deadly bombings that have been taking place every single day. These Iraqi people are no different from the Londoners who perished today. Their skin is darker perhaps, and they pray to a different God, but they have families and children and dreams and they die just as horribly as their British counterparts. Yet they earn perhaps a few sentences on the back page of the paper, and virtually no comment from the members of the international community which ginned up the invasion of Iraq in the first place.

07 July 2005

Coverage of London terrorist attacks

There are a number of sources of information about the terrorist attacks in London earlier today. Web sources do not tend to be as up-to-date as the TV and radio, but if you are at work or not near a TV, it may be your best bet. Sky News has a good selection of stuff on the web, including this summary of public transport and traffic conditions. My first checkpoint at work was Google News UK, and although it was a little slow getting the news at first, there is a lot there now. I see from the Guardian that the US has raised the HSA threat level to orange. (It is my perception, by the way, that the British take this sort of thing in stride a lot better than Americans; there is a remarkable air of sang-froid and getting on with it, and not letting the terrorists win by shutting everything down and going into full panic mode.) The Guardian also has a story about the possible perpetrators, and the level of planning that would have been required for this type of attack. The choice of time for the offensive is chillingly brilliant strategy, with the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, in Singapore for the IOC meeting, and much of the nation's security force focused on Gleneagles and the G8 Summit.

05 July 2005

Nightlife - New York in the 70s

This is a smashing collection of photos of New York arty and queer and rock-and-roll society in the 1970s. The photos are all copyrighted by Allan Tannenbaum. I stole this link from Pete. And like he says, these are NOT work-safe pix so look at them late at night in the privacy of your study. Or with an open-minded friend.

Riverbend talks back

Baghdad Burning's point by point reply to George Bush. It's nothing you haven't heard before, but dammit, we just have to keep saying it.

03 July 2005


Or not, as the case may be. I have been very remiss, I know. I have just come through a re-organisation of the division of the company I work for. I have "come through" in the sense that I have kept my job, by basically re-applying for it. A number of us were forced to go through a selection process involving tests and interviews. I think about 2/3 of the project team I am on did not make it, which does not bode well for the stress-free completion of the project. This reorganisation was forced upon us by economic necessity, and the management layer was hit at least as hard as the lower tiers, so there is not much point in moaning about it. Still, British people do like a good moan, and redundancies are never painless, so the stress levels have been high and are not going to go down very soon.
We recently took a little day trip to Ludlow, a place I have wanted to visit for a while, because of its foodie reputation. It was nice. We bought some foods. We had company in the house yesterday and overnight. DH made a smashing cassoulet with venison (from Ludlow) and chorizo (from the local supermarket) and flageolet beans and fresh tomatoes. My buffalo wings, made with free-range chicken from Ludlow, got lots of compliments, but were very easy to make. You can read more about Ludlow and our recent food and drink explorations on Deborama's Kitchen.
What with all this going on, I have also had to miss out on a bit of book-crossing activity. The Unconvention in Birmingham is just now drawing to a close, but I missed all of it, as well as the mini-meetup in Beeston two weeks ago. I was sorry to miss both of these events, just as I was getting into the BC spirit. I did manage my first release, a controlled-release to two non-BC friends from the train, of a really wonderful book that DH and I both liked a lot: The Last Family in England. Look for a review at Deborama's Book Reviews soon.

26 June 2005

US acknowledges torture

The Information Clearinghouse website has a story from Agence France Presse that concerns the first official admission by US officials that torture by American personnel has occurred. The documents given to the UN committee against torture admits to torture of prisoners in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan, but says that all such acts were committed by low-ranking military personnel and were not approved by their superiors. Well, I guess it's a start. This, combined with more recent news that the American public is finally beginning to register some disapproval of the administration's pursuit of the Iraqi occupation, may in fact signal a long-overdue turnaround in the past three years of flagrant abuse of power on the part of America's ruling party.

21 June 2005

Help save our rescue centre

Leicester Animal Aid, which runs the really excellent dog (and now also cat) rescue centre in Huncote, Leics, is facing the possibility of closing down at the end of this year due to a severe funding crisis. As the link explains, the organisation is entirely funded by donations (money and in-kind) and volunteers. The future survival of over 100 dogs and cats is at stake. Please visit the website and donate what you can to help. Our Sandi, who passed away about a year ago, and our current only-dog Desmond (pictured), both came to us from LAA at Huncote, as did Cassie, our Akita who died in 2000.

16 June 2005

Baghdad Burning

Because I have not been keeping up with my blogging and, more importantly, my blog reading, I missedRiverbend's blistering rebuttal of Thomas Friedman's ill-informed (and as Riverbend says, incredibly arrogant) NY Times article Outrage and Silence. Don't you miss it, too; this is really vital reading.

12 June 2005

Blogkeeping - Bookcrossing and more

I have finally got a few books registered at BookCrossing.com. You may need to join (free) to see this. Most of the books are in the "available" category, but two in "To be read" and two in "Permanent collection". Now I can go to book-crossing meet-ups with something to offer!
Other personal news - DH and I went to Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield today. It was quite exhausting. (It is also 75 miles away.) I bought tons of clothes, though. For work, and the possible upcoming job hunt. More later on that, as I am under a gag order at the moment.

Howard Zinn on the scourge of Nationalism

I found this link (from The Progressive) at Whole Wide World of Fat Buddha. It echoes my feelings on the subject perfectly. In my heart, I belong to a nation called "None" and our anthem is "Don't Fence Me In."

10 June 2005

News of the Weird

This is a story I would think was a hoax, except who could make up such a thing? And I must ask, how many mayors, whether controversial or not, love their city so much that they want to import poisonous snakes within its boundaries?

06 June 2005


I have been so bad that my page hits have drastically declined. I haven't done any actual blogging for over a week, but you may notice a change nevertheless. I have amended my template here to remove the button for meetup.com. meetup.com began charging for its "services", which is not so bad in itself, but what they are charging is absurd - 9 USD a month per group. It appears that people are leaving in droves. I was in 10 groups, some of which were struggling to become active, only one of which was really robust and every single one of them is either disbanded or abandoned. I have added in its place three new buttons for the current focus of my online community-building: tribe.net, Google groups and especially Bookcrossing.com.
Bookcrossing, Nottingham, was the one really active meetup group I was (am) in. It has migrated to a mailing group in yahoo.co.uk. But all the real action is in the bookcrossing-uk group and the Bookcrossing site itself. I just received my release kit from their US supply store this morning and I plan to get really involved with it.
I migrated my East Midlands Webloggers group, which has still not really got off the ground, to Google Groups, and Jay followed suit with the Midlands American Ex-pats group which she moderated. And I am still to be found hanging out on tribe.net sometimes. I wish it would get more participation in the UK (apart from London) because it is most useful and meaningful in its local dimension, with the possibility of f2f meetings, job seeking, swapping, and other activities. But it's still serendipitously interesting, for all its flaws.
I have also changed the template a bit over at Deborama's Books; I added a link to a great auxiliary Bookcrossing site called Wren's Crossing. I will soon (I hope) be putting up a small flood of new book reviews, including some books got through Bookcrossing.

22 May 2005

Sunday Times on Gorgeous George

Focus: Zero to hero in today's Sunday Times attempts to put George Galloway into context and answer the question is he a friend or a foe of Saddam Hussein? The answer they come up with is a little bit of both, and is best summed up by GG's own statement during an earlier phase of his besiegement by press and less radical lefties: “My opposition to American imperialism is greater than my opposition to this or that tinpot dictator with whom American imperialism from time to time falls out.”
While it is true that Galloway visited Saddam in 1994 and again in 1998, and that he made a sycophantic speech to him in 1994 and that he refused to condemn him in the harsh tones demanded by the establishment, but instead praised him with faint damns, it also true that he marched, demonstrated and spoke out harshly against Saddam from 1980 to 1993 (even though he also opposed the 1991 Gulf War.) In fact, in his own ultra-leftist way, Galloway has been quite consistent. The one thing the American people (including especially the Senate) will never understand is that there other standards of ethical public behaviour than their own, and there is a long and not yet defeated (despite what all the uber-patriots may wish) tradition of international anti-imperialist socialism which stands unashamedly in opposition to them. The British Labour party knows all about this tendency, but has no truck with it; but New Labour has no consistency or principles at all. If Galloway's actions in 1994 were so repellent, why did they wait until 2003 to expel him? I think we all know why: he has a following and he wins elections.

19 May 2005

More Wal-Mart news than you can shake a big stick at

LabourStart, the excellent online news source and organising tool, has a dedicated Wal-Mart page. Get all the hottest late-breaking news about those corporate buzzards that bring you Asda supermarkets. Along with scofflaw child labour practices, political ads comparing their opponents to Nazis, and health-care benefits for their workers that are so lacking that in most states Wal-Mart workers get their only health-care from state benefits (if they exist in their state that is, otherwise, nada.)

16 May 2005

Stress at work costs economy £100bn a year, says Mind

A story in the Guardian cites the charity Mind in saying that one in five people in Britain are too stressed to go to work. I can readily believe it. I think three of the remaining four are nearly as stressed, but can't face the hassle of trying to sign off work, or the added stress of losing their job and having a reduced income. The one in five remaining is simply too stupid to be stressed, and he is usually made the manager of the other four, which is why they are so stressed. So it's really stupidity that's costing the economy £100bn a year, but just try getting funding to prove that.

11 May 2005

Permanent power to the non-elected

A Guardian comment piece, The rise of Tony Zoffis, shows just what an appallingly un-democratic thing is going on, has been going on since 1997, with New Labour's education policy. Now the naked power play is in the open, with ennobling of Andrew Adonis to be supposedly a junior minister in education, but obviously he is still calling the shots, "ensuring total obedience from his nominal boss, Ruth Kelly", as Francis Beckett says in the Guardian. Unlike in America, where the legislative and executive branches are completely separate and the President appoints the entire cabinet from non-elected citizens, in Britain all cabinet members must be members of one of the houses of Parliament. This means that non-MPs must be brought in through the Lords. The really sick thing about this, is that even if Tony B. is ousted soon from power, and Adonis's moment of cabinet glory is decently brief, he will always be Lord Adonis, and always eligible to sit in the House of Lords, exerting some power however limited over the people who never elected him and never would have done.

08 May 2005

Nuclear energy battle looming

Margaret Beckett is accused of blocking the government from considering building new nuclear power plants as part of its strategy for achieving carbon emission reductions. On one side of the argument, some government policy wonks think solar and wind energy are "unproven" and too expensive, and say nuclear power has the "potential" to be green. But committed environmentalists will never buy that. How can a technology be called "green" if it produces deadly wastes? I myself would have to come down on the no-nukes-ever (what part of "no" don't they understand?) side of the argument.

05 May 2005

The best news always comes from Minnesota

Another rural Minnesota high school in the news, not for a mass shooting this time, but for a good old-fashioned pro-American free speech protest. In the best tradition of Minnesota liberals and feminists, two high school girls were sent home from school for wearing "offensive" T-shirts from the "Vagina Monologues". This came after a rally was held outside the school with numerous students wearing similar T-shirts in support of one of the girls, who had been threatened with expulsion for wearing a button purchased at the show that read simply "I [heart] my vagina". At the rally, girls wore T-shirts with the same slogan and boys wore T-shirts proclaiming "I support your vagina". Most of the students turned their T-shirts inside out to hide the slogans before returning to school, but two girls who wore theirs the right way were sent home for a day. "We consider public education to be the backbone of America. And we have to draw the line. If you let this in, what's next?" said the principal of the school.

Those wacky MIT guys

From the Guardian:

One of the strongest arguments against time travel is that we are not overrun with curious tourists from the future. A university student in Boston plans to change that, by inviting budding Doctor Whos to the world's first time traveller convention this weekend.
The organiser, Amal Dorai - a masters student in electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - aims to test the theory of time travel by inviting people from the future to the event.

Dorai says: "Of course, no time travellers doesn't rule out the possibility of time travel, they could have just decided not to come to our convention." Hmm - yeah. But it gets better.
Physicists believe some kind of time travel is theoretically possible, but it will take hundreds or even thousands of years to work out the technical details.
Concerned that people will have forgotten his convention by then, Mr Dorai is urging volunteers to publicise the event to future generations by carving the details into clay tablets and burying notices in time capsules. He has slipped invitations on long-lasting paper inside dozens of obscure books in the MIT and Harvard University libraries.

02 May 2005


I have just added a couple of new recipe-finding links at Deborama's Kitchen. One of the many things I love about the internet is the recipe swapping community. Where would I be without it? And where would all these chatty housewives with the great recipes be without it?
Over at Deborama's Book Reviews there is finally some action. Besides the Labour History sale on (see previous post), I have reviewed not one but three books today. Two are in a double-header (Hey, Nostradamus and Vernon God Little) and one stands alone: Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, by Amanda Foreman. You will find that the book reviews/store has a new look, with new "high tech" links on all today's books. I am not all that crazy about it, but blame Amazon.co.uk. (You can still do the old style links, with a lot of faffing, but then they penalise you for it on the commish.) Sorry about that.

Buy a book for International Labour Day

I have set up a tribute to May Day on my book review and bookstore blog. A personally selected list of 21 excellent books on labour, philosophy and labour history are posted for your perusal, in the new improved Amazon associates format. I added a few of them to my wish list, too, I must confess.

01 May 2005

Defrocked lesbian minister wins appeal

Elizabeth Stroud, the lesbian Methodist minister defrocked by a close verdict in a church trial, has won an appeal on the grounds that the Methodist Book of Discipline had failed to define "open and practicing homosexual".

24 April 2005

My Name is Rachel Corrie

Speaking of the deaths of activists, which I was doing just recently, there is now a play about the life and death of Rachel Corrie. It's playing at the Royal Court theatre, and the script is based on Corrie's own letters and e-mails.

Atlanta pictures on Flickr

I decided to use Flickr as my photoblog site and here is the album of Atlanta pictures I have created there.

Deconstructing Hitchens

Here is a wonderfully meaty article about the astonishing and disappointing change of heart of former leftist pundit Christopher Hitchens. I got this link from Ethereal Girl, who in turn got it from Altercation.

23 April 2005

Pictures from Atlanta

I have put the pictures on my website, but they are, like before, not especially user friendly. This link will get you the index, and clicking on the individual names will display the pictures in full size, one at a time. I am going to also put them on a photoblog in a bit; Carey is using a thing called TextAmerica (this is his blog and this is Alix's) so, although I don't like the chauvinistic name, if it proves easy to use I will set it up there. More on that later. I am off to an event of some kind in Cropston with my yoga teacher. I don't know what to expect, so more on that later, too.

21 April 2005

The truth behind the picture that shocked the world

This story is from last Sunday's Observer. It tells the story of the woman whose body was found hanging from a tree near Srebrenica, and of the fate of her husband, which led her to this grim suicide. It also tells the story of her two children, who did not know where she had gone when she disappeared from the refugee camp and then, traumatically, recognised her from the picture when a journalist showed it to them six months after it was published.

Death of an activist

Christopher of Back to Iraq 3.0 has a touching tribute to his friend Marla Ruzicka, an activist in Iraq who was killed Saturday by a suicide bomber. He says of her "She was so many things to so many people, but for the journalists who knew and loved her she was, ultimately, our heart and our conscience." Her organisation, CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict) can accept donations in her name at this website.

Riverbend on the weird unreality of the American media

I missed this post on Baghdad Burning almost three weeks ago; it was when I was having a combination of stressed out overwork and a dodgy computer problem, so my blog reading was severely curtailed. But it's worth referring back to. I was in America myself last week, and even being in Britain for years and being used to British newscasts (which Riverbend would probably also find to be quite sanitised) has caused me to look askance at the American news that I used to assume was normal. It's not normal, though, it's annoying, puerile and mostly pointless. I can only imagine what it's like to people in a place like Iraq. Yet another abysmal failure at winning hearts and minds, I'm afraid.


I have been intensely busy since returning from Atlanta, and with little time to catch up on sleep. I am not totally unpacked, but that's because the airline (Delta, yucky food too) lost one of my bags and I didn't get it until Tuesday. And I haven't had a chance to post, mainly because my computer at home was acting squirrely, but DH fixed it last night. I have got my Atlanta pics uploaded to my computer, but not to my website yet; I hope to have that done this weekend. On Deborama's Personal Page, you will see a new quiz result - what personality disorder are you? I may be a little histrionic, it says. Well, duh. Anyone could have told you that.

15 April 2005

Blogging from Atlanta - Part III

This will probably be my last blog post from Atlanta, as I am flying home tomorrow. Wednesday evening I went to a concert with Carey and Alix - Iron and Wine at the Variety Playhouse in L5P. I got to try a martini at the Sweet Lime restaurant (see previous Atlanta post) and I opted for the Thai Tea Martini which was quite nice. I had more crab, more tofu-corn-cakes and then just some edamame, which I shared with Alix, who was also having shushi. This was before the show. Afterwards we went to the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club (note: there are no yachts and indeed no navigable waters within many miles of Atlanta) because it was about the only thing open. I had two vodka-limes. I was hung over the next day. Which was yesterday, a busy and exhausting day. It started with brunch with my very old friend Charles, proprietor of the Atlanta Book Exchange. (He's probably not net-savvy enough to appreciate that I just gave him a link. He says the inventory is online but I couldn't find it; I'll post it later if I can get it from him.) Then we went by the bookstore to chat with employee Jim, an almost-as-old friend and there we bought a few books. Then we went around photographing places we used to live. Then Carey dropped me at a Marta station and I went downtown and visited GSU, my alma mater, and Underground Atlanta (I say don't bother) and then, fool that I am, I walked all the way to Peachtree Center in my new achey-painy but rather sexy sandals. Ow, my feet, my back! I Marta'd back to Inman Park, where Carey picked me up and then we went on a marathon grocery shopping. Then we went to Carey's place, which he rents from and where he lives with Stephen, my godson and his sort-of step-brother. Also living there is John, Carey's uncle. Stephen was out but had promised to come by to see me, and he did, but only for about 15 minutes. When I finally got back to my motel at about 10:30 pm I was beat. Tonight I am making dinner for Carey and Alix in the motel suite kitchenette. Tomorrow is the last day and I don't have much planned, just packing, checking out, hanging out with Carey and starting the long flight home.

12 April 2005

Blogging from Atlanta - Part II

Yesterday, Carey and I went to Little Five Points (L5P), a neighbourhood with which we both have history, mostly Carey, from his days of living there, aged 10 to 13 or so, with his father, and his father's mistress, D, who is the adopted parent of his "brother" Stephen, my godson. Yes, it is all very incestuous, which is more or less why I left Atlanta in 1984 for the relative sanity of Minnesota. (Where I was lucky enough to have primary custody of Carey until 1989, when his father took primary custody by a prior arrangement.)
But to get back to L5P, as we walked through the area, Carey pointed out things - Junkman's Daughter has expanded and moved, and the location where it now is used to be a little ghetto supermarket, where Carey and Stephen walked to after school to buy 69-cent burritos and, no doubt, sugary treats. Sevananda, the venerable health-food co-op, has also moved, but it shrank. Ababdabba is still in the same place, and I bought some high-tech walking shoes there and changed out of my painful sandals. We went to a Japanese restaurant called Sweet Lime with dollar sushi, and I made a complete pig of myself eating the most fabulous dinner, to get fortified before the long dusty walk to the brand new Target store on Moreland Avenue. I had two sushis, smelt-roe and salmon, then tofu-corn cakes with chili sauce, then a soft-shelled crab, tempura-fried with a light soy-citrus dipping sauce, and then seared but otherwise mostly raw tuna with soba noodles and two-seaweed salad. Carey had the other of the two crabs and Hawaiian shrimp, which was tempura shrimp with a sweet sauce and veggies and jasmine rice. I had an iced tea and Carey had two Japanese beers, and he used the bottle to give me a quick lesson in Katakana. It was all fabulous, and we were too full to have the yummy-sounding ice cream. They also have martinis, which I would have tried but was too tired to risk drinking.
After becoming even more laden with purchases at Target, we took a taxi, first to drop Carey off at his house SE of Atlanta, then me to my motel here in Buckhead, about 10 miles in the opposite direction. The bill was $45! (Thank heaven for the weak dollar.)

Unitarian Jihad!

This is priceless. Here's a little snippet to whet your appetite:

We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.
Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day.
By Jon Carroll, from SFGate.com. I received this from a friend on a mailing list.

10 April 2005

Blogging from Atlanta - part I

It appears that my motel here has a "business centre" with a computer guests can use for free. There is only the one, and of course, this morning, some guy was totally monopolising it. But anyway, I can easily and freely blog from here. I got in yesterday about 3 pm (plus 5 hour time difference, after getting up at 4 am to be driven by long-suffering DH to Gatwick.) So by 10 pm when I finally tried to sleep I had been up 24 hours. I got to meet my son Carey's girlfriend Alix, who is of course very nice. We went out to dinner and I was craving veggies; Alix recommended a truly excellent restaurant (review to come later.) I went out this a.m. pretty early and after the motel "continental" breakfast, I walked to the Marta station, Marta'd to Midtown and then walked all over there. I have come up with this silly idea of photographing all the places I ever lived, even though a few aren't there anymore. I got 3 so far. Then I had lunch at Mary Mac's tea room, where I also bought DH a cookbook and a feedcap. Then my feet hurt too much to walk anymore so I got a taxi back here. Trivia for the day: The AJC (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) had an almost Brit-worthy headline for the royal nuptials - a Windsor knot.

06 April 2005

Going away again

Again (sounding like a broken record here (hey, is anyone who reads this old enough to actually remember what a broken record sounds like?)) I am sorry to neglect my few loyal hopeful readers. I just wanted to note that I will be out of town and not blogging for about a week starting this Saturday. I may find something to say between now and Saturday, but if I have things to say between the 9th and the 16th, it will have to wait. I shall be in Atlanta, visiting my son, my god-son and a very few old friends. (I have about 1% as many friends in Atlanta as I do in Minneapolis, but alas no family living in Minneapolis any more.) I hope to come back with gorgeous photos.

01 April 2005

The Doctor is not in

The BBC is furious at Christopher Eccleston. After making one series of the widely heralded return of Dr. Who, he has quit, for what appear to be, quite frankly, rather prima donna reasons. ("I don't want to be typecast," he whinged. Too late for that, I think.) Could it be that his co-star, Billie Piper, was said by at least one TV critic to have "acted the socks off" of the more credited Eccleston? Part of the BBC's issue with the premature departure has to do with money. The Beeb badly needs good "income streams" and they have already invested heavily in promotional gear with Eccleston's image. "What child is going is going to want to buy a Doctor Who action figure of an old Doctor when a new one is already on the television?" They have also had to re-shoot the final scenes of the show to pave the way for a new star to take his place, said The Daily Mirror. Writers were forced to hastily improvise a new cliffhanger, rumoured to show the doctor disappearing into the ether.

28 March 2005


Deborama's Kitchen has a post about the arrival of Bisquick in the local hypermarket. The Book Review blog has a post about the BBC production of Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters (highly recommended).

27 March 2005

For Easter - A redemption story

Like Jeanne, I too meant to blog about the story of Ashley Smith, a suburban single mom who subdued a "dangerous" murderer with home-cooked food and acceptance and talk. And like Jeanne, I am glad someone else did a good job of explaining the importance of this compelling story. Instructions for Care: What Ashley Smith Reminded Us is an article by peace activist Susan Van Haitsma in Common Dreams.

24 March 2005

Hardly Lake Wobegone

Red Lake to White Media - stay out! Non-Americans may not have noticed - there has been another mass killing at a high school, and this one is a predominantly Native American (Ojibwe tribe) school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation near Bemidji Minnesota. "Normally" (and how sick is it to use that word in reference to such a thing?) when a community experiences a murderous teenage rampage, the whole town and its environs and inhabitants are transformed (not for the better) by the intense media attention. Red Lake, however, is what is known as a "closed" reservation, where the Tribal Council has broad powers to limit access by anyone not an approved resident of the rez. And they are exercising their power fully in this case. Which has got to be a good thing, in my opinion.

23 March 2005

Blogkeeping and some journalling

I just recently added Creative Loafing (Atlanta) to Deborama's Fund of Knowledge under the Local News Sources category. I was browsing the web trying to find places to shop in Atlanta. That's because I am going there for a week, from April the 9th, primarily to visit my son, Carey. But hey, I may as well shop a bit too.
I recently attended a meetup in Nuneaton of American Ex-pats. I met two, Jay and Carla, and also Jay's English husband. We were all three American women with English husbands and we live within 5 miles of each other. We are trying to grow the network of Midlands Americans.
Deborama's friends, colleagues and family have been plagued by illness and stress lately, so even though I am theoretically fine, with my thin psychic skin, I am feeling the effects. My mother-in-law had a heart attack (she's much better now), my husband is in an emotional trough, the guy next to me at work on the verge of a total emotional meltdown, and a woman I ride to work with on the train most days has a 21 year old grand-daughter who just had her second major brain surgery and has apparently had some brain trauma because she is in a sort of fantasy state and has severe short-term memory loss.
All this is partly why I have not been blogging very much. I am just wiped out when I get home and then the weekends pass in a daze of TV and messed-up sleep patterns. I am off work until next Tuesday so maybe I can get something done, at least my backlog of book reviews. I am thinking of introducing some TV reviews. I am in awe of the wonderful site Television Without Pity, but I would do much more selective, and much shorter, reviews. Feedback?

19 March 2005

Rosie O'Donnell

Yes, that Rosie O'Donnell, has a blog and it is written in blank verse and this post is about depression, mostly. It's very good, read it.

13 March 2005


A little while ago I got an invitation from a person who had started up a website to feature posts by various bloggers in a news digest format. It sounded like a good idea, but I did not want to submit any posts until I had checked it out. I am glad I did; after monitoring it for about a month, I was moved to write the following reply to the founder of the site:

Dear ******:
I have been reading your blog *** for a few weeks now, having added it
to my Bloglines feed as soon as you had the feed up and ready (and
just watching it before that.) On reflection, I have removed it from
my Bloglines feed, and I want to take the opportunity to notify you
that I am not interested at this time in participating as a writer,
forum-member or supporter. Quite frankly, I am very turned off by the
quality of most of the writers. And I do think you have a real
problem with bias. You are basically sounding a single note, and it
is the note of a rather shallow, male-dominated, US-boosting, blindly
and reactively conservative viewpoint, one which I do not even care
enough about to bother arguing with.
I wish you well for the future, and I will probably check in about
once a month to see if things improve, but at the age of 52, my life
is too short to spend any of it reading the drivel of pimply-faced
frat boys who think they are libertarians, or the middle-aged men who
write like them.
Kind regards,

In a way, this is rather tragic, because I am not sure that the founder of this blog shares the bias of his writers (whom he is paying, by the way, as soon as the blog generates enough revenue. But even so, good idea, poor execution. Would it be possible to start a similar enterprise that featured a balanced number of liberal and conservative but high-quality bloggers, a few interesting nutters of various fringes, and a real international viewpoint, rather than just a few token stories by American "friends" abroad? I seriously doubt it. And that is very sad.
On another note - I have a nice post about bananas at Deborama's Kitchen.

England, abolition and the current immigration debate

The air of England is too pure for a slave to breathe, and so everyone who breathes it becomes free. Everyone who comes to this island is entitled to the protection of English law, whatever oppression he may have suffered and whatever may be the colour of his skin.
In preparation for the mammoth task of reviewing the mammoth literary work known as "the Barock Cycle" (Neal Stephenson) I have been browsing the Quicksilver Metaweb, where I found the sublime quote above. Slavery and the history of abolition movements is one of about a dozen major themes that run through the three weighty tomes that make up the Barock Cycle. As you may know, abolition movements, the study of, is one of my areas of passionate interest, and the Stephenson novels seem to uncannily hit upon a lot of them (cryptanalysis, metaphysical debates, religious wars and slightly unusual sexual practices also feature prominently.)
I am struck by the vast philosophical gulf between the sentiments in the quote above, from an English judge in an historic case which may have sparked the British abolitionist movement, and the beliefs (or perhaps total lack of beliefs) of the current guardians of British liberty, ironically known as the Labour Party.
Several cases in point will illustrate this:

10 March 2005

Things are not looking good for Sinn Fein

Parliament has decided to fine the Sinn Fein party for the crimes of the IRA. And things are looking very bad indeed for the IRA, which has (predictably) been called upon to disband by many parties, including the American envoy to Northern Ireland and six out of ten nationalists and almost half of Sinn Fein supporters.

You want a rabbit?

Riverbend's latest post at Baghdad Burning starts out with some opinions about the killing of Nicola Calipari and then segues into an anecdotal account of a horrendous confrontation between doctors and Iraqi National Guardsmen in a hospital, and thence into discussing the inadequacy of Iraqi officials under the occupation. It ends up with a piece of Iraqi folk wisdom, hence the rabbit thing:
“Tireed erneb- ukhuth erneb. Tireed ghazal- ukhuth erneb.” The translation for this is, “You want a rabbit? Take a rabbit. You want a deer? Take a rabbit.” Except we didn’t get any rabbits- we just got an assortment of snakes, weasels and hyenas.

09 March 2005

Trudeau's tribute to the inspiration behind Uncle Duke

Doonesbury is running a little series featuring Duke (now an American warlord in Iraq) in an existential yet surrealist tribute to the good doctor, aka Mr. Fear and Loathing, aka Hunter S. Thompson.

05 March 2005

US troops kill rescuer as Italian hostage is plucked to safety in Iraq

Story from the Guardian. I could hardly believe I was hearing this correctly when I caught just the tail end of the story on the news yesterday. And yet, in a way, it was a disaster just waiting to happen. It has long been noted that the demoralised American troops in Iraq (and to some extent this is true of all coalition forces), having been given an essentially impossible mission (shades of Vietnam again) have been responding by becoming increasingly "trigger-happy" and careless of suffering and the loss of human life, which is all around them daily whether they precipitate it or not. And now it has happened, and the victim is a coalition agent in a high-profile rescue operation.

Buy some stuff

My daughter, Aimee Danger has an online store with some very cool things for sale. Wouldn't you like a wall calendar with a picture of my first grandchild on it? I know I would.

27 February 2005

Blair is election liability, warn Labour aides

The Observer reports on trouble within the Labour election camp. Tony Blair is too "presidential". He must now appear with cabinet members at his side, and Gordon Brown will be put more to the forefront. Oh, the irony of it.

25 February 2005

A law to end all lawfulness

George Monbiot, in Protest as Harassment raises an important but overlooked (in the media) issue about the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill. While attention has focused almost exclusively on the admittedly problematic religious incitement provisions, most people have not noticed that, by clever redefinitions of offences, the Bill pretty much outlaws all forms of peaceful protest and makes free speech a crime. The most basic activities of peaceful protest are now defined as criminal harrassment; it is only necessary, for example, to hand a handbill making a valid point to two people to be guilty of "harrassing" the public 'in order “to persuade any person … not to do something that he is entitled or required to do, or to do something that he is not under any obligation to do.” ' And the public itself does not have to complain of being harrassed; under this law, the McDonald's libel action against Dave Morris and Helen Steel that was recently overturned on human rights grounds would not even have been needed. McDonald's could have just had the two activists locked up for criminal activity.

24 February 2005


Yes, almost all of my pictures are broken. This is not the fault of Blogger or Blogspot. I think the server of my ISP (ntlworld) is completely kaput. I cannot even access their main site to see what's wrong, and my mail service with them is sputtering around, timing out, only an occasional little dribble of mail coming through very late. I don't know about the fate of my outgoing mail.
Sorry for the inconvenience this will cause, as they say on the trains.
***Update, same afternoon *** Seems to be all better now. As you were.

22 February 2005

The Doctor is Dead

Hunter S. Thompson, one of my great heroes is dead from an apparent suicide. With a gun, which is appropriate, because he loved his guns a lot, and he famously said that he would feel really trapped in life if he didn't know that he could commit suicide at any time he chose. So I guess this was the time. He also said he never expected to live past 30, and he was a respectable 67, and in far better health than he had any right to be, the old devil.
The following are some excerpts from the obituary for HST in The Independent:

Hunter S. Thompson in 2003 summed up his life thus: "I was a notorious best-selling author of weird and brutal books and also a widely feared newspaper columnist . . . I was also drunk, crazy and heavily armed at all times."
His heyday was the Seventies when every magazine around wanted to use him. He set up home in Woody Creek, near Aspen, Colorado, in a "writer's compound". In 1970 he was almost elected sheriff in Aspen under the Freak Power Party banner but in subsequent decades became increasingly reclusive, surrounded by peacocks and guns. His books were mostly collections of his journalism. They included: The Great Shark Hunt: strange tales from a strange time (1979); The Curse of Lono (illustrated by Ralph Steadman, 1983); Generation of Swine: tales of shame and degradation in the '80s (1988); Songs of the Doomed: more notes on the death of the American Dream (1990); Silk Road: thirty-three years in the passing lane (1990); Better than Sex: confessions of a political junkie (1993); and The Proud Highway: the saga of a desperate southern gentleman, 1955-1967 (1997).
Thompson was the model for Garry Trudeau's balding "Uncle Duke" in the comic strip "Doonesbury". In 1980 the film Where the Buffalo Roam, based on Thompson's coverage of the Super Bowl and the 1972 presidential elections, had Bill Murray playing the good doctor of gonzo journalism. Later, in 1998, Johnny Depp played him in Terry Gilliam's film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
As the years went on, Thompson's provocative insights into American society and politics sometimes veered into hectoring and invective. However, on occasion, he still kept his bite. In a 1994 Rolling Stone obituary of Richard Nixon he famously described the former President as "a liar, a quitter and a bastard. A cheap crook and a merciless war criminal."

Another kindred spirit gone.

16 February 2005

The Fighting Moderates

My non-blogging friend Joani sent me this New York Times op-ed by Paul Krugman. It's a good analysis of what Howard Dean is and isn't (the clue is in the title) and also outlines what the current Democratic strategy should be for preserving the last great creation of Democratic liberalism under the guns of the Bush administration - the middle class.

13 February 2005

Baghdad Burning

Another infrequent post from Baghdad Burning's Riverbend. This one contains a Baghdad-eye view of the elections and a story about a visit to the Ministry of Education, where Riverbend was admonished by a strict Shi'a official for not dressing appropriately.

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