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27 December 2007

Benazir Bhutto assassinated

This is the blog title I hoped never to write. Bhutto has sacrificed her life for democracy in Pakistan. I am watching the BBC news covering this breaking story in real time, and like so many others around the world, I am bereft and shocked and desperately worried about the future. True, I don't live in Pakistan or even know anyone who does, but can anyone doubt now how we are all connected? This is a cruel blow for all who want peace and democracy.

22 December 2007

One of our two house guests

Photo by Lewis Ramage

We have two house guests staying for a month or so. This is Chewie, a young female. The other one looks very similar, and is male, named Max, and a bit older. They are Blue and Gold Macaws.

Mixed blessings for British victims of US justice system abuses and failures

The family of Jamil el Banna, photo from Guardian Unlimited

There are breaking stories in two on-going sagas of British residents/citizens caught in the web of the US courts.
First, the Guantanamo four: the British passport-holding inmates of Guantanamo were returned to Britain some time ago, but four remaining detainees were British residents, though not citizens, some with very strong ties to Britain, such as close family who are citizens. The Blair government, in its wisdom, probably sacrificed them in order to get a swifter and more favourable deal for the passport-holders. Or something, who knows. I have been following this story intensely since the first cages were erected at "Camp X-ray" and the whole business just sickens me.
In any case, three of the four have been returned to the UK just this week: Abdennour Samuer, Omar Deghayes and Jamil el-Banna. (El-Banna is 45, but looks at least 60 in his picture.) Although Samuer was released with no further questions (all three men may be subjected to control orders at some time in the near future if they choose to remain in the UK), Deghayes and el-Banna were arrested in the UK before they got a chance to see their families who were left waiting and uninformed. Apparently it is Spain who is the culprit now, alleging that the two were members of a Spanish cell of al Qaida, although there is very little if any evidence of this. One piece of evidence is a video-tape of Deghayes training men in Afghanistan, but it has been shown conclusively that the named person is not him. Both men were finally released on bail and reunited with their families yesterday.
The other story concerns a British citizen with dual US citizenship who has been on death row most of his adult life and just hours from execution on several occasions. It is now generally conceded that he is completely innocent, but due to the intricacies of the case, he had to enter a plea bargain of no-contest to reduced charges to be released from prison. Kenny Richey will not be home for Christmas after all, due to falling ill with heart disease just as he was about to enter the plea bargain that would automatically lead to his release. He has had severely deteriorating health during his time on death row, not surprisingly.

A Seasonal Horror Story

This is one of those tragedies of capitalism and human appetites. About five years ago, part of the ethical food movement, along with emphasizing "local produce" and an explosion of demand for fair-traded and organic products, was the promotion in the UK of game birds and meats as an ethical alternative to farmed animal-based foods. As so often happens, the decision turns out to be more shaded greys than black-and-white. The rising popularity of game birds has meant there is not nearly enough supply in the traditional supply chain of seasonal shooting. So we see speciality farms raising caged quail, partridge and pheasant, and selling the meat and eggs as "game". You can see where this is going.

17 December 2007

The Brown Dog of Battersea Park

I came across this gem in my occasional perusal of Wikipedia's site of the day. I love how this highlights radical history, makes links between seemingly disparate movements, and also tells a touching story of courage and principles. Even the "see also" linklist at the end is like a roll call of all that is dear to me.

08 December 2007


After having had to listen to my pro-kudzu rant (I am the eternal champion of despised vegetables and animals) my son simply put this link in a comment to my only blog from Atlanta.
But I am sure there is a dramatic difference in the appearance from the air of Atlanta, and not an improvement, which perhaps only accidentally coincides with the kudzu-abatement programme. And yes, I do miss the kudzu.

16 November 2007


I am in Atlanta for the start of my fortnight-with-the-family. I have just met Carey's girlfriend Ashley. She is amazingly cute, smart and a great match for him in the personality arena, or so it seems to me. They hug all the time and semi-fondly bicker like an old married couple. She drives a Toyota Camry with a stick shift and she drives like my old high-school buddy and partner-in-anti-social-behaviour Margaret (or Maggie, as I began calling her, and I think it stuck.) I describe the driving style as "like a maniac with a guardian angel", that is, fast, confident and leaves the passengers more breathless and speechless than shaking and scared, as less protected maniacs do. It was actually kind of exciting.
I saw their loft apartment at the Mattress Factory. Nice.
We ate at R. Thomas, which I just cannot recommend enough.
I am now blogging from the Atlanta Public Library, which I also recommend; they're such nice people in Atlanta. I had sort of forgotten over the years.
I just discovered I can't capture a picture to illustrate this post. Oh, well, sorry. You'll have to find your own pictures.

11 November 2007

Victim of laws against thoughts

I just heard Norman Mailer, who died two days ago, in an interview with Andrew Marr in 2002, say something very profound: "The essence of totalitarianism is the perversion of language." (This is, I admit, a paraphrase, from my age-enfeebled memory.) He was talking about Bush, of course. One of my major political prophets was George Orwell, who expounded so eloquently on this in the immortal essay "Politics and the English Language", and indeed, that essay is probably the germ of Mailer's political analysis, as it is of mine. The other, closely related, concept besides "newspeak" that Orwell invented in 1984 is the idea of "thought crime". When I read 1984 in 1968, I wondered if things would ever come to such a pass that Western so-called democracies would have thought crimes. In 1984, when Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Reagan held powerful sway, I believed we were on the brink, but still safe in the sane world where evil must be done, rather than just thought about, written about or even aesthetically appreciated (abhorrent as that idea is) before a crime had been committed. Now, in 2007, the US and the UK have had thought crime for about five years. Prisons whose existence we still do not know about are full of these mental "perpetrators".
This week, what I consider a gross miscarriage of justice showed just how far this can be taken.

A 23-year-old Heathrow airport worker who dubbed herself the "lyrical terrorist" today became the first woman to be convicted under the government's anti-terror legislation.
Samina Malik, who burst into tears on hearing the verdict, wrote poems entitled How To Behead and The Living Martyrs and stocked a "library" of documents useful to terrorists.

The article on the trial and conviction of Ms. Malik goes on to catalogue all her "crimes", e.g. the possession of books, the writing of things in a private diary and an ominous nickname she used on social networking websites. "I am not a terrorist." Malik said after her trial.
She claimed to have used the nickname "lyrical terrorist" because she thought it was "cool".

Norman Mailer dead

Norman Mailer, author of The Naked and the Dead and many other fine books, a prolific writer in the New York media, and an often controversial political commentator, has died aged 84.

07 November 2007

The Return of Deborama's WWW - the train you've been waiting for

Deborama's Wednesday Website of the Week is a railway company that has not started running yet. But it will - soon! No, really, they promise. And if you want to find out what Marilyn Monroe has to do with it, you'll have to read the link. But here's a little tidbit for free:

All tables in First and Standard will have imprinted Monopoly®, Cluedo® and Chess Boards for those looking for some more traditional and inter-active entertainment on their journey. Pieces will be available to purchase from the buffet, or passengers are very welcome to bring their own.

Cool, eh?

06 November 2007

The Queen's big day

My goodness, but Her Maj had a busy day today. Not only did she have the Queen's speech to deliver, making it already one of her busiest days of the year, but on the same day she opened the newly refurbished St. Pancras Station to Eurostar travel to the continent. (She doesn't have to write the speech, even though it's called the Queen's speech; the PM writes it and she just reads it, but she reads it very nicely.)

30 October 2007

Minneapolis's first new wave co-op to close

Oh, this is sad. There seems to be a lot of sad stuff going on this week.
I was not a member of North Country, but I was a member of Seward Co-op, and I was a frequent shopper there as well, and also the Wedge when I was in the vicinity. I hope this does not auger the closing of other co-ops. Co-ops, interesting politics, the lovely bridges over the Mississippi, a quirky culture, polite cops and a decent bunch of people: these are the things that always made Minneapolis what it is. But the Minneapolis I knew is changing so much.
Still, on a more positive note, a couple of foody institutions with a 33 year relationship are joining forces to stay in business: The Wedge Co-op is to buy Gardens of Eagen organic farm. "None of our kids wanted it", said owners Atina and Martin Diffley of the farm. "But then we thought, the Wedge has 13,000 members. And they all have kids."

Dina Rabinovitch died this morning

I just read what turned out to be Rabinovitch's last Guardian column about a week ago. It is not comfortable reading, as you would expect from a woman who titled her last book about trying to live with cancer Take Off Your Party Dress: When Life's Too Busy For Breast Cancer, and who calls her blog "Take Off Your Running Shoes."

15 October 2007

Blogkeeping - catch-up

I have been in a fog. Too many things competing for my attention. Almost every day at work, except the days when I have been really busy, I see a few things I ought to, want to, blog about and I email myself a link (or two or ten) and then I don't do any blogging in the evening. To be fair, my computer keeps turning itself off. There have been some family issues, and I have been fighting off a cold, probably due to stress caused by all of the above. But still . . . I'll start with the silly, move through the serious, and hopefully something sublime will turn up.

Received in an email (I'm sure it's on the web somewhere):
The entire city council of Ashland, Ore., has decided to enter relationship
counseling. The catalyst was Councilman David Chapman's telling Councilman
Eric Navickas to "shut your f...ing mouth" during last week's meeting,
though Navickas had previously called the city's mayor "a Nazi," and
tensions have generally been running high. Taxpayers will pay $37,000 for
the council's five months of therapy, which "may seem like a lot of money,"
said City Administrator Martha Bennett, "But if the council doesn't function, the city doesn't function."

I was thrilled to bits that Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature, even though, yes, it was a bit overdue.

The Guardian Society section today profiled Edgar Cahn, the founder of "time banking", a sophisticated form of bartering and valuing social contributions as much as commercial ones.

And finally, how about that England rugby team, eh? Watched all the games so far except the first one (I was out). (I guess this is going to be the sublime bit.) In related news, facebook has a new Jonny Wilkinson Appreciation Society site.

30 September 2007

US presidential candidates courting Americans abroad

NPR's All Things Considered did a show about the candidates Guiliani, Obama and Clinton courting US citizens living abroad. Oh, yeah, we vote alright. The chair of the group Democrats Abroad was interviewed on this show.

26 September 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 37 - Phase2, "bubble letters", Obey Giant and other urban artifacts

I have taken to looking at the main page of Wikipedia every day, just for the serendipity of learning something new and unexpected. Today one of the pages featured was that of a graffiti artist from the seminal NYC 1970s scene, who went by the name of Phase2. He is "generally credited" with the invention of the "bubble letter" or "softies" style which is now quite ubiquitous in the urban and even suburban and rural environment.
As one does on the web, I surfed from link to link, learning about wheatpasting, which led in turn to Obey Giant (which started out as Andre the Giant has a posse.) I remember Andre from the wonderful film The Princess Bride, which due to my kids, children of the early 1980s, loving it so much, I have seen many times and pretty much know by heart.) Obey Giant also has an "official" website.
Getting back to the subject of graffiti, I see some on my way to work every day (two trains, a little over an hour on a good day, through Narborough, South Wigston, Leicester, Loughborough, Attenborough, Beeston and ending in Nottingham, which has a thriving graffiti culture. And a fair number of anarchists too.) In the rural category, just across from the Ratcliff-on-Soar coal-fired power plant, there is a graffiti (a graffitus? a graffito?) on a little hump-backed bridge that the sheep like to shelter under that says, in very crude simple letters, "Peak Power". And on the approach to Nottingham, a graffiti attributed to a group called ALF, says "Devaste to Liberate". I am pretty sure they meant to say "Devastate to Liberate" and it is a real blot on the landscape, to my mind, to have grossly misspelled graffiti. And anyway, I have never signed up to that belief anyway, despite being an anarchist. In fact, I have even come up with a minor witticism to take the piss out of such philosophy: Fuck omelettes, I just like breaking eggs.©

19 September 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 36 - Freakonomics

Yesterday I almost bought a book called The Undercover Economist. I was thinking to myself, as I saw this book, that I like books like that, but then I realised that I actually liked one book like that, or rather, like that but better. That's a book called Freakonomics. And there is also a blog called Freakonomics by the same authors.
The Undercover Economist is very UK-based and Freakonomics is a bit US-centric. But Freakonomics is still far more globally-conscious. The main thing is that every idea in Freakonomics is fresh and original and thought-provoking, whereas the ideas I encountered in my brief browse of The Undercover Economist were not that new to me and may be thought-provoking to someone with zero familiarity or interest in economics, but not to me. It absolutely did not deliver on the promises of either the title or the gushy blurbs on the back. So maybe I will catch it on the remainder pile or get one via Bookcrossing. Meanwhile, I heartily recommend the Freakonomics blog.

15 September 2007

Mrs. Watanabe and the share market crisis

The New York Times has this interesting story about yet another Japanese social phenomenon little-known in the west: stay-at-home wives of affluent Japanese businessmen have been gradually gaining clout in international currency markets and margin trading. Trading exclusively online, with a subculture that includes best-sellers, TV interviews, clubs and blogs, they use their own or sometimes their husband's money as a stake and try (often successfully) to build up independent wealth to shield themselves from divorce or excessive control by their husbands. The current shakeup in international markets has brought chaos to their powerful little market, and professional traders consider them a wild card.

12 September 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 35 - the Dylan Dream concert

I will definitely be listening to (and recording if I have the technology) this. By the way, Deborama is a big fan of Dylan's radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour, even though I don't often get to listen to it in real time, and in fact I have a massive backlog of them on the Freeview box to listen to.

Anita Roddick, pioneer ethical entrepreneur

I'm a bit late blogging about the sad passing (too young) of yet another woman I have admired greatly: Anita Roddick. Founder of the Body Shop, she was a real visionary. Nowadays, it doesn't seem especially radical to be an ethical businessperson, but when Roddick put gigantic signs in the window saying none of their products were tested on animals, believe me, it was radical. The fact that it is no big deal now is largely down to her courage and principles.

08 September 2007

Sex or Rugby Union?

Guess the topic of this quote from a news story today:

Eh? You may think it's easy to sell shirts to large men suggestible enough to bury their heads in each others' thighs for 80 minutes, but . . .

OK, would you ever have guessed RU if I hadn't given it away in the title? Well, maybe if you're a serious fan and instantly picked up on the 80 minutes, I'll give you that. Anyway, for those of you who don't live on Planet Rugby, the World Cup is underway since yesterday. England's still hanging in, and France, ah, poor France. I think we will see a massive rise in the prescription of anti-depressants over there.

02 September 2007

Deconstruct him

Under the marvelous title Dien Bien Fool (oh, how I wanted to steal that) journalist and blogging pundit Christopher Albritton in his blog Back to Iraq 2.0 takes on the job of addressing GWB's latest piece of imbecility (or at least the latest I know about, as I don't keep up with him as I should). I mean, of course, the address a few days ago to a VFW where he very clumsily attempted to use the "killing fields" of Cambodia 1975 as a reason to pursue the endless folly of the coalition quagmire in Iraq.
"Really, it’s hard to know where to start", he says. But he ends up here:

And finally Vietnam. In one speech, Bush had managed to drag out the knuckleheaded, right-wing argument that if only we’d stayed in Vietnam a little longer, we’d have won that sucker. If only the media and Democrats hadn’t been so hell-bent on undermining the troops…
This is a tricky subject for Bush, considering he spent the Vietnam years partying and “protecting” the Gulf of Mexico from the Viet Cong in a champagne unit of the Texas Air National Guard. It’s also tricky because war critics have spent the past four years comparing the quagmire or Iraq to the quagmire of Vietnam — which, I might remind you, we lost.

After addressing the again wrong-headed analogy of the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Vietnam, Chris also mentions "but the U.S. threw open its doors and took the “boat people” in. It has not done the same thing for Iraqis, instead forcing them to stay in a deadly cage or face the instability of life in Jordan and Syria."
The "killing fields" reference was very effectively dealt with by David Cortright on the blog "God's Politics" (Sojourner).

No more Minneapolis nice

I can remember when Minneapolis police were famed for their sensitive handling of political protests. Those days are long gone. A regular event in the protest calendar is "Critical Mass", when an assembled group of cyclists take to the city streets, usually at rush hour, to assert their rights to equal use of the roads. This Friday, it suddenly became ugly. Given the tenor of this quote, from before the incident that led to the arrests, I don't think it was the protestors who caused it either:

"Drive down Nicolet, herd the assholes down there. Any blocking of traffic, any blocking of anything, arrest them."

26 August 2007

Is Athens Burning?

I have been following this story about wildfires in Greece. It is becoming very serious. There are real fears that along with property and lives that are being lost each day, the fires are threatening to destroy ancient sites of great importance. Fires are raging in half the country and the fire services are not even close to equipped to cope with the scale of the disaster.

24 August 2007

Grace Paley dies at age 84

Grace Paley died Wednesday at the age of 84; she had breast cancer. Obituaries of note at NPR, the NY Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Guardian. There were lots of nice recent pictures of her in the various articles I read, but I just loved this picture of a much younger Paley from 1959.
I first became really aware of Grace Paley (although I had heard of her, and may have read some of her stories in my teens, a voracious reading period for me) through an independent film released in 1983 and based on her stories, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute. And Paley was more than just a great writer; she was also a peace activist and a central figure in her community in her New York days, and in her later years she lived in Vermont and continued in political activism right into old age.

Minnesota too polite to ask for federal funding

From the Onion, of course:

"Oh, we wouldn't want to bother the U.S. government—they've got more than
enough on their plate as it is," Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. "Most of the
potholes on I-90 are less than four feet wide. We get by just fine."

22 August 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 34 - Get Your War On, by David Rees

This week's WWW is a scathing political comic strip called "Get Your War On." If you don't know it, you should. If you don't like it, why not? Here is some background, if you want it.

16 August 2007

An encounter with "socialized medicine"

Jim Wallis on his blog God's Politics tells this very funny true story of his encounter with the dreaded NHS. And even ultra-liberal Jim (shall I tell them I'm a friend of the Prime Minister, nah) has some silly stereotypes shattered.

Deborama's WWW Number 33 - London Under - water?

My new m.o. for Wednesday Website of the Week is to start on Friday and work my backwards. So this one is only one day late, a 100% improvement on last week! This week's WWW is not a site exactly but a theme, a film coming out in a little over a week which is a fictional tale of London in a disastrous flood.
In 1984 the Thames estuary southeast of London inaugurated a system of flood defence in the form of the massive Thames Barrier. It is the second largest flood barrier in the world, exceeded in size only by one in the Netherlands called the Oosterscheldekering. The film concerns a tsunami surging up the estuary and breaching the barrier (a scenario that the experts say is extremely unlikely but hey if it makes a good movie . . . )
It is a little uncanny that as this film was being made, floods of a fairly disastrous type were hitting Britain in real life, even if there was no tsunami involved and London was barely affected. Meanwhile, monsoon floods have claimed hundreds of lives in south Asia. And if it's not water, it's fire: I just saw the most appalling footage on the TV news of a towering inferno sweeping through suburban Athens (Greece, not GA) propelled by gale force winds.

10 August 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 32 - two days late and not all that serious

The Shaggy Blog story, something to do with Edinburgh Fringe I think. Published in installments (it is a shaggy dog story, just like a blog) on the Guardian Unlimited website. This is Chapter One, by Josie Long, and this is Chapter Two, by Marcus Brigstocke. You can find the subsequent installments on your own, as they are in the future.

Blogkeeping and my life - a visit, a website and a resolution

Yes, yes, I missed Wednesday again. Now for the excuses. First, my life was disrupted a bit, but in a good way, by the visit last week of my sister, her husband and her son. It's a complicated tale so I won't go all into it, but I took some time off work, I wore myself to a frazzle and I had a good time. It is quite painful to me being thousands of miles from my family, so these brief visits are far more idealized and - well - enjoyable than family visits are to normal people who at least live on the same continent as the rest of their kin. Or so I believe, based on my memories of when I was a normal person. But my sister is partly responsible for excuse number two as well. I took her to my new gym, where I have been struggling to attain a goal of three times a week. She suggested that I would probably not see much fitness change unless I went for five times a week, which makes a bit of sense to me, so I now am on a resolution to strive for that. My job keeps me away from home about 11 hours a day, and then there is still all the little tasks involved in keeping me, the husband and the house up and running - hygiene, laundry, shopping, filling and emptying the dishwasher, doing at least a minimal share of the cooking. There are newspapers and blogs to read, parrots to talk to. Basically what I am saying is that I am running out of time in the day. Anyway, on to excuse number three. Which has two parts. Part 3A - my sister and I were talking about memories and stories, and how she is trying to get our parents to write down some as keepsakes for the future, for our kids. And we had this brilliant idea to set up a website for the family and post short articles of our various memories and stories. A meetup group I am involved with (another big time sucker, if you let it be, as I just spent four hours last night going to a meetup and had to ditch the gym!) has recently moved from our paid sponsor site to a free site called me.com. Now this website is not perfect; its interfaces and applications are chaotic and sometimes unpredictable, and I think it has ideas above its station, if you know what I mean. But it's free, and I mostly find these things are what you choose to make them (and are capable of making them.) So I am spending a bit of my precious "free" time administering this site. Excuse 3B is Facebook. I never planned to get addicted to it, but it is very seductive. Anyway, I am doing something else as the WWW, just after this (although you will see it before this, due to the magic of blogging.) Amongst the many worthy things I meant to blog, and didn't and quite possibly won't, are-

  • the bridge collapse in my hometown of Minneapolis, which I have been following obsessively
  • the foot and mouth outbreak, and especially a very affecting and poignant piece from a PTSD suffering slaughterman, which I now cannot find a link for
  • the latest developments in my chosen focus areas of world news and politics: Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, Nicaragua and the US presidential race
  • the trapped coal miners in America
  • the monsoon floods in South Asia

01 August 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 31 - Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown having had his coming out party in America now (oh, is that not what it's called? sorry), American readers of Deborama may now be wondering what to make of the man. I really don't think you could have gleaned much from those ghastly photo-op "press conferences". So here is the official version, from the UK gov site for Number 10 and here is an even more official site, from Wikipedia. For those who want to delve a little deeper, there is this excellent article in Prospect magazine. And for those who just want to take the piss, there is Steve Bell (see picture).

Family vacation

I have not blogged much because, even though I am at home. I have been on holiday since Thursday. I am going back tomorrow. DH and I have been hosting the visit of my middle sister, Cindy, her husband Shephard and their son, Tyler. We went to London yesterday on the coach for a whirlwind tour. While they were here, Cindy and I had this brilliant idea to set up a family website (participatory, not just a showcase) which I then did, using a free software called me.com. I am pretty tired now, but it's been fun.

25 July 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 30 - The Man in Seat 61

My WWW for this week is a site dedicated to train travel. The Man in Seat 61 promises to tell you all the little tips and insider skills to enjoy smooth travelling by train throughout Europe and the world, with connections by ship and ferry where necessary. (I noticed the currency exchange with dollars is a bit en retard - $1.80 to the pound, ah, those were the days.) But generally, very thorough information and the site has a great reputation. I have done the Eurostar to Paris and I thought it was fine; some day I would like to do that and follow on with the overnight sleeper car to Barcelona. But this site goes a lot further, covering Transatlantic ship crossing schedules and the super-expensive "boat train" to Portsmouth, train travel in Asia, Africa and South America, recommended guide books, travel insurance providers and food options. It's a wealth of information for the serious traveller. (By the way, the illustration above is meant to be Eurostar as seen through Railroad Tycoon, one of DH favourite computer games.)

24 July 2007

Leicester Tigers are heroes in the flood

In the course of jazzing up my customised Google home page, I added a feature called Mood News that was supposed to be a newsfeed of only good, uplifting, positive news. It didn't work at all and I had to delete it; it was just giving me the same old depressing news as any feed only more weird and random. But I serendipitously found this piece of lovely upbeat news - about a terribly depressing subject too - on the newsstand in the W. H. Smith at Leicester train station.

Leicester Tigers stars turned heroes to help victims of the worst flooding
in living memory.Ben Kay and Martin Corry carried motorists and trapped
villagers to safety, and pushed flooded cars out of the path of rising waters
after they became stranded in a Gloucestershire village on Saturday.The pair
were heading back from England training duty in Bath when they were caught up in
the flooding in Weston Subedge, near Chipping Camden, where more than five
inches of rain had fallen.Today, it emerged they spent hours carrying people out of
danger.Afterwards, Martin, 33, and Ben, 31- both strapping forwards standing 6ft
4in and weighing more than 17 stone each - were forced to spend the night in
their stranded car.

Shambo reprieve overturned

A Court of Appeals has upheld the original slaughter order for Shambo, a bull held sacred by a Hindu community in Wales. I know that a lot of people are happy about this ruling, including my most faithful comment poster, DH. And every farmer in Wales, apparently, who were feeling really hard done by. I just have to say that I don't see how anyone could have lived through the Stygian nightmare that was the foot-and-mouth crisis, and seen those hideous piles of burning cows and sheep, and seen the very real grieving tears of the farmers forced to see "in the flesh" and all at once the slaughter of the animals they cared for, and not understand what this case is really about. Ask yourself why it is raising such curious levels of passion for people who aren't Hindus or vegetarians, on the one hand, nor farmers, nor atheists, nor bloodthirsty animal-haters, on the second, third and fourth hands. (Take my husband for example: he called it "obscene" and said it "made him sick".) (See what I did there with the third and fourth hands? A little subversive Hindu humour.)
I submit to you that a cattle farmer has got to harden his heart to the suffering of animals, to a great degree, to do the job he does. And an eater of meat similarly has to be in denial about what goes on, or brazenly proclaim a lack of feeling, as many do. And yet they remain good men (or women as the case may be). When I saw farmers grief-stricken on TV over the slaughter of their herds, it was not just about the money, or their "way of life", it was an awakened compassion for the animals themselves. I must therefore make my position clear: I do not think that religion is some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card for unpleasant laws. I think this law is one example of a law that was made without consideration of compassion, of what Shakespeare's Portia called "the quality of mercy that is not strained" and it needs refining. Some day, we will all be refined and there will be no herds of cattle that live only for the slaughter, but in the meantime, we do not have to be monsters, or Terminators with no off-switch.

19 July 2007

Viking treasure hoard is find of the century

This is very exciting. I heard about it on the radio driving home from the station (a 5 to 10 minute drive, so very serendipitous).

18 July 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 29 - Last.fm

I am still very new at this, but I got turned on to this site by the same guy (from the BBC) who forced me to join Facebook. (OK, to be fair, Facebook forced me to join Facebook, he just gave me a link on it.) This week's Wednesday Website of the Week is for music lovers. It's called last.fm and it is yet another possibility for the future of music distribution, consumption and production. Check it out and let me know what you think.

16 July 2007

Sacred Bull in Wales is spared by UK court

Shamba the Bull, who lives in a shrine in a Hindu monastery in Wales, was saved from slaughter by a court ruling. The bull has tested positive for bovine tunerculosis, and was under an order to be destroyed. In addition to appealing the order in the traditional way, the monks also set up a blog of the bull's "daily thoughts", launched an internet petition to save him, and put images of him on the internet through a site called "Moo Tube". It is doubtful whether this contributed to the judge's ruling though, which seems based more on the commonsense conclusion that even if he is incurable infected with tuberculosis, which is far from certain, he poses little threat to other animals due to his protected status. Still, I am happy for the bull. And as a closet Hindu, I feel vindicated. Thank you, Welsh judge, for your compassion.

Quake in Japan

When this was originally reported earlier this morning, there was a claim that no "nuclear material" was in danger of being released. Now it appears that some radioactive water was released into the sea. True, it is apparently of negligible danger, but the thing is, every time there is a nuclear accident, the first news out is always absurdly positive, and the real truth takes from hours to months to make it to the surface. It does make one cynical.

07 July 2007

Moving house

I got this e-mail from a friend in Minneapolis about another friend. "Steve S** House Moving Celebration" it said in the subject line. Now, in the UK, when people move from one house to another it's called "moving house". But in Minneapolis, they mean moving the house. Here's the slightly edited body of the e-mail.

S**'s Follies is scheduled for next Monday evening, July 9, at 10:00 p.m., at the Avalon Theater,1500 East Lake Street. The event is to see and celebrate his house enroute to its new location just north of Lake Street on 17th Ave. The house is to travel (from Richfield) on several streets including Lake between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m., and Steve's rough estimate is that it will pass the Avalon about 3:00 a.m. At any rate, get there when you can and bring along some snack food for the potluck.
Obviously, this is a one-of-a-kind party not to be missed. A repeat isn't likely. Steve says if the house move is rained out he'll reschedule.

PS: I am sorry I missed this week's WWW. I have been in a low-energy mode and so has my computer. Maybe it's the rain. On the plus side, I joined a gym and went twice this week to work out.

28 June 2007

World, meet Gordon

Have you ever had a situation where you had two good friends, that you never saw together, and never really thought of together, and then it turns out they know each other better than they know you? That was sort of how I felt when I received today's SojoMail, the e-mailing from Jim Wallis, a left-leaning religious politics pundit well-known in the US. The segment was titled Someone You Should Know, but it turned out to be about someone I know (of) very well, and in fact had been thinking about most of the day - Gordon Brown! It was strange, because the piece was obviously aimed at Americans (real Americans, not phony ex-pats like me) and it presumed the reader had heard little or nothing about Gordon Brown; whereas I had been bemoaning the fact that I was so busy at work, I had still not found out who was on his new cabinet at 8 pm tonight.

27 June 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 28 - Schmap Travel Guides; Flickr

I got an e-mail tonight from the editor of the Schmap online travel guides saying that a photo of mine found on Flickr had been shortlisted to be used in their upcoming Atlanta guide. I thought it would be the one above, but it was not, it was this one of the foyer of Mary Mac's Tea Room, which is also a pretty good picture if I do say so myself. But this other one, which is Lucky Street, downtown Atlanta, on a sunny April afternoon, is one of my favourites ever, and makes me feel all gooey and nostalgic and homesick - for Atlanta of all places! which I haven't counted as home for decades! Funny thing, nostalgia.

23 June 2007

NewOrleans deaths up 47%

Not my usual link source for this blog, but USA Today reports that deaths in New Orleans were 47% higher in the year following the Hurricane Katrina flood disaster than in the previous year.

Doctors say the dramatic surge in deaths comes as no surprise in a city of
250,000 mostly poor and middle-class people who lost seven of 22 hospitals and
half of the city's hospital beds. More than 4,486 doctors were displaced from
three New Orleans parishes, creating a shortage that still hampers many
hospitals, says a companion study released Thursday.

Elsewhere, on the Gulf Coast mainly of Mississippi (including Deborama's parents' and sister's home town of Gulfport) cities and towns still remain in ruins and in a definitely related case, State Farm insurance company has been accused of racketeering.

20 June 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 27 - Scots Cafe

The website of the week this week is a wee social networking site called Scots Cafe. It's like a MySpace but in miniature, based in Scotland. You don't have to live in Scotland to join, but it's designed for Scots and people with a Scottish connection or interest. I have just joined it so I will tell more (good or bad) after I have explored a bit.

13 June 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 26 - (Still) Made Here

This week's Wednesday Website of the Week is from Trendwatching.com , self-described as "an independent and opinionated consumer trends firm, relying on a global network of 8,000 spotters, working hard to deliver inspiration and pangs of anxiety to business professionals in 120+ countries worldwide. " The particular post I am highlighting is called (Still) Made Here and concerns the trend in demand toward locally-produced goods and services. Like organic food, humane farming and green businesses, these ideas formerly languishing in niches of right livelihood are beginning to enter the mainstream in great shock waves. Often a lot of the fashionistas clamouring for the green or ethical cachet miss the point, by quite a large distance in many cases, but still it's better than going the other way, in my opinion. So it's up to those of us who have been considering and trying to practice these things since the 1970s to educate them, now that we (finally) have their attention. Interestingly, one of the entrepreneurial initiatives featured in (Still) Made Here is a new loyalty card in the UK called Wedge, which gives loyalty points for shopping at local small businesses. (This is a funny coincidence for me, because in Minneapolis, I lived in a neighbourhood called the Wedge and shopped a lot at the food co-op there, also called the Wedge.)

06 June 2007

From God's Politics Blog - the Rebirth of Irony

Just a quick link here, because I don't need to add anything to this insightful piece by Diana Butler Bass on the Sojourners-related Blog, God's Politics. She talks of Reinhold Niebuhr's definition of irony in the context of American Protestantism and how conspicuous is its absence in the "theology of glory" espoused by a lot of religious conservatives. Deep but worth it.

Deborama's WWW Number 25 - SimonG; Favourite Things & The Dressing Up Game

Last week, when I was doing the Deborama's WWW, I was looking around the blogosphere for some extra links about Ask Elvis, so as to jazz it up a bit. That was how I found Favourite Things, which in turn led me to the Blog of SimonG, which in turn led me to The Dressing Up Game. All three of them share a hostname, so I guess they can all be the WWW at once. I like these concepts and this site because they and it are very silly. The basic idea, as I understand it, is that the registered users of the site (zillions, including, now, me) post their favourite Thing in some category of their choosing, and the other users accept the challenge to try out their favourite thing and post their opinion/review/rating of this Thing on the forum. (Although I am really too old to like stuff like this, I do anyway.) Here is a brief excerpt from the FAQ for Favourite Things, just to get a flavour.

Well, I think it must have some... hang on, aren't I supposed to be asking the questions? Oh, so you are. carry on.

Thank you. Er... where was I? No idea.

Oh yes. Isn't the plural of forum forums? Shut up.

Okay. Can I become a Thinger? I don't know. It takes a special kind of person.

Oh, please. Ack, alright then. Just register, and then get Thinging.

What kind of stupid word is Thinging anyway? The best kind.

Why has your index page got a picture of Julie Andrews on it? I'm sure you can
work that out for yourself.

Seriously, isn't the plural of forum forums? I said shut up.

It appears that the categories of the Favourite Things are just made up at the same time, as no two are the same as far as I can tell. But Ask Elvis was a Thing; here is the entry:

Category: comedy elvis radio thing
Title:'ask elvis'
Submitter: henry the thirst
Submit date: 19 Jan 2004 03:12
Status: Normal
Last update: 13 Apr 2007 16:26
Submitter comments: shame i can't post an address, but i CAN post an address.tune in and work from the bottom up for chronological effect or just do what you want. the king of rock 'n' roll won't mind. go to... http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/shows/wright/elvis.shtml

The picture above is from the Dressing Up Game, or DUG. The idea of this is that a persona to dress up as is posted and the contestants have an hour or so to find a costume in the stuff around the house, dress up, take their photo and upload it. Pictured is the winner of Elizabeth II.

04 June 2007

Ironies of history

This is classic, this is supremely stupid, this is adding insult to injury in a whole new level, this my friends, is irony writ large! After years of to-ing and fro-ing, trying desperately to find a fool-proof way to prosecute and convict the clearly "bad people" illegally incarcerated in Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Bush Administration and the subservient Congress got a law of sorts to use in its endeavours, based primarily on an acceptable (to the Supreme Court, hopefully) definition of this new phenomenon the "illegal enemy combatant".
Armed with their pristine new law, the military prosecutors prepared documents for their first best case (and clone them for all the other cases waiting in the wings) and sallied into court only to be thrown out of court by their own hand-picked judge because, unbelievably, they failed to use the terminology of the law designed just for these cases. The defendant in the case was never called in the suit an illegal enemy combatant, but merely an enemy combatant. God may be on the side of the big batallions, but He occasionally likes to deliver a backhand slap to those with the tiny intellects, and the moral vision to match.

30 May 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 24 - Radio 2 "Ask Elvis"

My ride-share driving guy, Jan, and I really look forward to Fridays, when the car radio is switched to BBC Radio 2 in the hope of hearing an installment of "Ask Elvis" on the Steve Wright show. The best size of drill bit to work on lath and plaster? How to find a vegan caterer for your upcoming wedding? Where to buy a caravan in Peterborough? How to change the oil in a 1959 Fiat? No one has yet found a question that can stump Elvis. And then he finishes it all off with a music-related question which usually involves him giving his own unique rendition of a contemporary chart-buster. Fast and cheap maybe, but priceless entertainment; it's the gen-yoo-ine article all right.

25 May 2007

Great British Menu results

It seems about 90% of my readership in the past few hours has been people searching for Great British Menu results, which were just broadcast tonight. (DH look away if you haven't watched it yet.) Folks were getting a hit on my blog as number 3 (of many) even though the post was for last year. So I thought I would be kind and post this year's results, which are not available yet on the BBC Food website (although they may be by morning.)

The starter : Sat Bains' Slow-cooked Egg, Air-dried Ham and Pea Puree
The fish : Richard Corrigan's Poached Salmon and Wheaten Bread
The main : Mark Hix's Rabbit and Crayfish Stargazy Pie
The dessert : Mark Hix's Perry Jelly with Summer Fruits, Ice Cream and Elderflower Fritter

Recipes available.

Cross-posted at Deborama's Kitchen.

23 May 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 23 - it can only be . . . The Illuminati!

I used to own this game, back when it had a much more reasonable price. And I used to play it, with my kids, if I couldn't get anyone else to play (usually.)

For those not familiar with all the arcana of the Illuminati, the fact that this the 23rd WWW of Deborama, and it is May the 23rd absolutely impels me to refer to the Illuminati today in this post. Now I need to find a way to put the game on my Wish List . . .

21 May 2007

Triumph of Serbia is also triumph of the "big-boned gals"

The Eurovision Song contest of 2007 was won by a 23-year old Serbian lesbian, singing in a deliberately non-glitzy but not what you could say is traditional setting. According to Germaine Greer (who seems over the moon about it):

It was wonderful enough that a solid plain girl in glasses won it for Serbia with an old-fashioned torch-song; that she should have sung it in passionate earnest as a lover of her own sex is what made this viewer switch off the iron and start praying that the gods might let her win. When Marija Serifovic was asked in interviews why the presentation was so subdued, no high kicks, no pelvic thrusts, she was puzzled by the inappropriateness of the questions. While all around her were writhing and mugging, she sang Molitva as her ostracised self.

Molitva is a traditonal Serbian ballad; the word means "prayer".

Cutty Sark can and will be restored

The Cutty Sark was burning this morning. The fire was stopped, and the damage has been assessed. At least it is not a write-off, and police seem to have moved away from an arson theory.
Cutty Sark was the last remaining tea clipper, an icon of the great age of sail, and a major tourist attraction in Greenwich.

17 May 2007

Mourning for Yolanda King

Yolanda King, 51, the eldest daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, died Tuesday. She was a social activist, motivational author and speaker and an actor, appearing in several major films and TV mini-series. She is survived only by her two brothers and one sister.

Riverbend's news

Riverbend's last post on Baghdad's Burning concerned the infamous "wall". She is right about the link between walls and concentration camps, or at least walls and racism. I always associate walls being built to divide a city with the early 20th century days of Atlanta's Jim Crow, a history I absorbed rather than being specifically taught (no I am not quite that old, but I am old enough to have seen de-segregation getting under way.) Walls were built on the "black" side of "white" neighbourhoods to prevent easy passage through the privileged environs. A lot like apartheid, or a literal rather than symbolic ghetto. Interesting that this presents itself as a "solution" to the ilk of the American "advisors". But anyway.
In the Guardian, Riverbend posted a more personally dramatic announcement: she and her family are planning to leave Iraq, as so many others have done recently.

16 May 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 22 - The Flash Girls, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly and QWERTY Ranch

A homage to lost Minneapolis things. At the May Day parade, I saw a young woman wearing a T-shirt that read "Keep Minneapolis Weird". Amen to that.
Some excerpts from Wikipedia about the Flash Girls and Emma Bull:

The Flash Girls are a now defunct folk music duo based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota..
The duo consisted of Emma Bull, a noted science fiction author, and Lorraine Garland, who went by the stage name "The Fabulous Lorraine". Garland is also notable as Neil Gaiman's personal assistant; the group formed at a Guy Fawkes Day party at Gaiman's home. The connections that both Bull and Garland had with the science fiction and fantasy communities allowed them to have an unusually notable group of people writing songs for them, including Jane Yolen, Alan
, and Neil Gaiman. These songs are mixed in with traditional songs such as Star of the County Down, and Lily of the West, as well as poems put to music, including works by Dorothy Parker and A.A. Milne.

Emma Bull is a science fiction and fantasy author whose best-known novel is War for the Oaks, one of the pioneering works of urban fantasy. . . She sang in the rock-funk band Cats Laughing, and both sang and played guitar in the folk duo The Flash Girls while living in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Her 1991 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel Bone Dance was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. Bull wrote a screenplay for War for the Oaks, which was made into an 11-minute mini-film designed to look like a film trailer. She made a cameo appearance as the Queen of the Seelie Court, and her husband, Will Shetterly, directed. Bull and Shetterly created the shared universe of Liavek, for which they have both written stories. There are five Liavek collections in print.
She was a member of the writing group The Scribblies, which included Will Shetterly as well as Pamela Dean, Kara Dalkey, Nate Bucklin, Patricia Wrede and Steven Brust. With Steven Brust, Bull wrote Freedom and Necessity (1997), an epistolary novel with subtle fantasy elements set during the 19th century United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Chartist movement.

Emma's Blog, Dark Roast
Will's Blog, it's all one thing
Steven's website, Dream Cafe
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Emma and Will's website QWERTY Ranch

I would dearly love to put a link to my Amazon.co.uk site and sell you CDs of the Flash Girls and Cats Laughing. They are unheard of at co.uk, and Amazon.com, there is one used CD available for each group (they both made several). The Cats Laughing CD is $44 and the Flash Girls will only set you back about $120.

15 May 2007

Parrot and Cockatiel pictures

Here are a selection of recent parrot and cockatiel pictures. We lost one of our two original cockatiels, Clemmie, to some unknown infection or wasting disease. But Cindy, our parrot rescue operating friend (also the person who gave us the pair of cockatiels in the first place) has given us a replacement partner for Winston, the survivor. We have named her Daisy.
Meanwhile, Cindy is on holiday in the US, and we are parrot-sitting three of hers, Frit, Frat and Maisie. They are all African Greys. Maisie has a liver condition which is why she is almost featherless. Finally, there is Han, our own little rescued-guy. Who says "Bye-bye" to me in a little boy voice every morning as I leave for work.

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