Thursday, November 30, 2006

Interesting factoid

Stan is currently holed up under a pile of work. So piled up that he hasn't even been buying the Grauniad for crosswordly goodness. He has had to settle for my pleas for assistance via text message. So I feel duty bound to educate the masses (I use the term freely) of loyal readers that he has.

As I sat doing the Torygraph crossword with my Leeds crossword posse (membership: me and F), F informed me of the reason the British National Party and the National Front parted ways. I thought I would share this little gem with y'all as it's way too serious for my site.

Apparently, the problem stems from the IRA of all things. The National Front supported the IRA on the grounds that they were a nationalist organization. What became the BNP did not support the IRA on the grounds that they were anti-British. So a conflict of ideals or a philosophical difference, if you will, separated the two factions. The National Front became a more cerebral and intellectual organization (albeit fascist madmen) and as a consequence, the thug element was alienated and departed for pastures new. The BNP continue to plod along with their miserable ideals.

I bet Stan knew that. I didn't, but I have the excuse that when all this happened I was living in the Good Old US of A and so was comfortably shielded by the US media's security blanket that ensures no furrin' news is ever aired on a US channel.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Update on Kenny and the giant beanstalk dilemma

I notice that Stan asked for an update on my little dilemma-let, or rather the poor lady in question. I have only spoken to her a couple of times since the incident, but things are not too shiny in her world. Since the incident in question, the violence has been less physical and more mental. The chap hid her mobile phone in the garage, stopped all money (he insists that she have her wages paid into his account and is the sole card-holder for the account) and has generally been a control-freak.

The phone disappeared just after the police did a follow-up call and the social services had been around to interview the children. It reappeared last weekend, which is why I know of all this.

She has packed and unpacked several times. He has threatened to move back to his hometown. They, between them, have decided that they will tolerate this mutual pathos until Christmas is over and then address the problems head on, with a view to either ironing out the creases or going their different ways.

Having been through a divorce myself, I would hate to go through one again. I'm glad I did it though; any other path would have led to madness, and I would never have been able to marry the brightest, prettiest and most incredibly vibrant lady in the world. Shame she's 4000 miles away in Arsesville IL.

Anyway, the upshot is that relations are strained and my friend's time is spent avoiding her spouse or plotting how to avoid her spouse. I'm glad I have never met the chap in question and am unlikely to since he is now aware that it was I that called the fuzz in the first place.

Update to update: I received a frantic text at 6:30 this morning saying that she doesn't think she can make it until Christmas. I have agreed to meet her tonight for a chat. You can call me Aunt, that would be Agony Aunt or Mr Aunt to you.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Why I read Pynchon

I recently bought a copy of Thomas Pynchon's 1083 page "Against the Day". Since he only writes a novel every decade or so, it's something of an event.

Pynchon is one of those writers that you either get or you totally fail to get. I read "Gravity's Rainbow" and "V" and "The Crying of Lot 49" at University, so I guess I was at an impressionable age. It could have been "Catcher in The Rye" or "Ulysees" or "Catch 22". Well, for me it was all of these.

He specialises in writing dense multi-dimensional stories set in paranoid, irrational worlds. Very like real life in fact. The plots tends to be secondary to big ideas, long words, strange page-long lists. The journey is more important than the destination.

So far so good - I'm 5 pages in and enjoying the idea of a dog that reads Henry James and knows which side of an airship to pee from (don't ask).

Warning : I may become almost impossible to understand for the next few weeks. I'm already looking for an opportunity to use the word "absquatulated" in a sentence. Ooo I just did ...

My favourite piece of Pynchon is a description of his desk as being covered in "bureaucratic smegma". Well worth checking it in the dictionary if it doesn't immediately make you laugh.

A failure, that's me, that is

Am I the only person in the history of the universe to have failed to install Ubuntu on my laptop?

I spent Friday evening watching my PC systematically hang during installation. It's not like there are any choices for me to mess up.

Admittedly, it was v 6.10. I am currently downloading the 6.0.6 Dapper Drake (allegedly stable) version. I have a small inkling as to what the problem might have been. Should the energy be available, another attempt will be made this evening.

PS -- Well done Bolton. A better weekend of footie could not have been envisaged, other than Utd beating Chelsea.

PPS -- Stan got battered by Auraucaria on Saturday. I, of course, battered the Telegraph and the Times until they were weeping into their tea.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What's that coming over the hill - is it Anelka ?

Bolton Wanderers versus Arsenal. Saturday in late November 17:15.

I almost didn't go. Didn't really appeal - the idea of driving 30 miles to sit around a field in the freezing cold to watch Bolton try to stifle Arsenal.

But I have a season ticket and it would have been a shocking waste not to go, and Mrs Stan and Stanetta had planned some girl-time at home. And the pies at the Reebok are excellent ...

And it was a classic game. Flawed, brutal, skillful, passionate. And the pies really were good.

Bolton's Kevin Davies should have been sent off for pushing Eboue for having the nerve to complain about being half-tackled, half-assaulted previously. It wasn't just a push. It was the biggest push I have ever seen on a football field. Everyone in the ground - Bolton fans and staff included thought he should have been sent off. The referee disagreed and just booked him.

Theo Walcott, the Arsenal teenager showed outrageous other-worldly pace. He is going to be outrageously good real soon.

But the real highlight of the night was Nicholas Anelka. He has underperformed since expensively arriving in Lancashire to say the least, and the pressure must really have been getting to him. But that night he played like a god. His first goal was awesome. All alone up-front, boxed in on the left wing, takes the ball a few steps to his right and puts it in the roof of the net from 25 yards with pace and enormous bend. Short pause for the Bolton fans' chins to hit the floor and then utter bedlam.

From that point on, the stadium was jumping. For the first time in ages there was an atmosphere in the big unlovable place and I haven't enjoyed football this much in years.

Next game : home to Chelsea on Wednesday night. Bring it on !

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Why, oh why, oh why?

This has been rattling my cage for quite a while now. Do you see anything wrong with this map? I see plenty.

The reason this sprang to mind is that not too long ago, plans were approved to extend the Metrolink in the East to Oldham.

You will note that the Metro services the affluent Southern areas of Manchester such as Altrincham. It also heads North towards Oldham.

Okay. We now have covered a substantial part of the Northwest, to wit: North, South and East (upon Oldham completion). Which compass point are we missing? Yes, West. The current Metro system extends as far East as, yes, you really did see it, Eccles. There are no plans to go any further West.

I could understand it if there were good reasons not to extend it, other than the obvious "Keep out the scousers". In reality, a service West could take in Wigan, St Helens and all places in between. It would radically reduce the congestion on the East Lancs (A580) and the M60. Currently the train and bus services from central Manchester have service levels that are roughly equivalent to a pack llama arriving on the third Sunday of every month, as long as it isn't raining.

To give you some idea as to how fundamentally pants the service levels are, it takes me 55 minutes to travel from Leeds to Manchester (45 miles). It then takes me 2 hours to travel the remaining 10 miles home. A Metrolink to Wigan would cut that last ten miles by at least half.

I think I'm going to hop on the good foot and do the bad thing over on their website and question the logic behind not even proposing an extension West.

Join with me in my jihad on Metrolink.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Stan goes Moonbat

At the risk of being branded a "Moonbat" by my learned friend, His Kennyness, I do think we should stop The War on Terror.

I'm not saying we should Hug-a-Mullah and we should definitely take steps to stop the keys to Air Traffic Control at Heathrow falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda.

But an accelerating climate of heavy-handed government with no end in sight is unacceptable.

Here's an idea.

* Pull the troops out of Iraq by the end of next year
* Triple the Foreign Office budget
* Quadruple our Overseas Aid budget

I'd rather make friends than shoot enemies. I'd rather spend my money on a War on Poverty than one on Terrorism.

Our troops in Iraq have tried to do an impossible job and have failed. Time to pull them out and give some Iraqis the resources they need to run their own country.

I'm not advocating a blank cheque. If they show any signs of misusing the money it stops and gets channeled elsewhere.

It's going to cost money, but the current fiasco is far from cheap and is delivering zero value.

Anyway - the new Thomas Pynchon book is out soon - I'm relying on him to have something to say about this

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lowering the tone a little

After Stan's altercation with religious gubbins, I'm not sure whether I'm lowering the tone or raising by bringing up the subject of our little war on Islam terror.

A few days ago, I was chatting with a few colleagues about what would happen if this man had gone undetected and achieved the unimaginable. Had he managed to puncture the tube line under the Thames, all hell would have been let loose. We rather (too) casually asked the question, how you would fix a problem like that and, even more casually, answered that it certainly couldn't be done with polyfilla/spackle and a bit of duct tape.

It came as quite a shock then, when as I sat down to watch the best British drama there is at the moment, [spooks], and the premise of the plot was that a bunch of environmental despots had rigged explosives under the Thames barrier (just before the highest tide for 7 years), that which keeps London from not being afloat or sunk (whichever way you care to look at it). Their demands were that the government should make public a document called Aftermath, essentially a manifesto for exploiting climate change, war and thus profiteering from what they regarded as the inevitable. Anyway, I digress.

[spooks] is fairly well researched from a military intelligence point of view and the repercussions of the Thames barrier being breached in such a fashion are immense. The figure used in the show was 1.5 million people being at risk from drowning. Even if we take that figure as being an order of magnitude too large, the numbers are daunting.

If Mr Barot (not to be confused with Borat) had succeeded with his little enterprise, we could have been looking at even more mass devastation than 9/11.

It is a popular misconception within the Moonbat community that if we stop taunting these poor oppressed mullahs (sic), they will leave us alone. Wrong. As long as Israel continues its illegal actions, we will be targetted as allies. In a week where the UK has actually started to take more of a lead in the war on terror (while DC dries its eyes after dear, dear Donny's departure and a pumelling second to none in the mid-terms), we have also started jabbing at the ribs of Israel for the desecration (by tank) of British graves. A small step in applying a ruler to the palm of Israel, maybe, but a necessary one. Israel has a right to defend itself, but as I predicted, the UN resolution that stipulates that, whilst calling for a complete Hamas ceasfire, is open to abuse; and indeed it is being abused. Pre-emptive strikes could be construed as subverting an attack. All very one sided methinks.

The upshot of all of this is that Moonbats will continue to wail and moan that we should stop the war on terror. The fact is that we cannot. The quite literally diabolical ideas that these fanatics have cannot be underestimated. Each one seems more insiduous than the last and I have to wonder what else they have conceived because, quite frankly, apart from hiring a Vogon ship to come and zap the whole place into oblivion, I cannot imagine what else they can come up. And I probably don't want to.

Here endeth (prematurely due to a phone call interruption) the Torygraph reader's little worry.

Christian Girl and Atheist Dad

So this little Christian girl said to her Atheist dad, while her Christian mum was out of the house :

"What's the point doing Maths homework; Jesus could come back tomorrow"

Atheist Dad's brain turned to mince. It churned slowly through the following possible answers :-

(1) "Don't be daft - there's no such thing as Jesus - and even if there were, he's never coming back"

-- Not nice to belittle anyone's faith; not least the faith of his little princess. Also it's not a provable statement - just a belief of Atheist Dad's.

(2) Use the Bible back at her

-- His knowledge of scripture isn't up to scratch - and little Christian girl knows it pretty well. And anyway he doesn't believe that book can be used to prove anything.

(3) Victorian father : "Because I am your Father, and you will obey my commands ! For I am wise in the way of the world, and you are but an infant."

-- Puh-leez !

(4) Sit there with mouth hanging open and mind doing loop-the-loops

He opted for option 4.

When Christian mum came back, she compiled half a dozen decent quotations where the Bible is down on laziness, lack of pride in your work etc.

It figures : the stereotype of Jewish children being pushed so hard to study must have had some basis in the Old Testament. Most people I know who are serious about their religion also take immense pride in their non-religious work.

Christian Girl was obviously just trying to wind up her dad, which is natural and BOY did she ever succeed.

Any advice gratefully received !

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Like a white rag to a bull

Funny how it is that for this left-winger it is the the antics of other left wingers that is more likely to raise the blood-pressure than anything the other side can produce.

Today's example is Ekklesia, a progressive Christian group who seem to have a problem with our annual Poppy appeal.

Like most successful campaigns it's simple - every year we give money, some wear a poppy, some go to church, but mostly a bunch of money is raised to support people who were damaged protecting the freedom we're currently taking for granted.

Now this Ekklesia bunch want to get into the old, tired argument that the poppy should be white and not red.

As an atheist I'll not take a swing at their quote that the white poppy is "more Christian", but I know Mrs. Stan will probably have something to say on that.

The head of Ekklesia is Jonathan Bartley, who is an endangered species - an outspoken Christian who is anti-gay-bashing and anti-Christian-Jihad when it comes to "Jerry Springer, The Opera". The man is a national treasure, but today he didn't have a good day with me. I hope today was just an opportunist piece of shameless publicity and that tomorrow Mr Bartley will go back to fighting the intolerance and chauvinism in his church, which is where he is needed.

Repeat after me - the colour doesn't matter. The Poppy appeal does very little harm and an enormous amount of good - both in raising money and in the annual remembrance.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Kenny and the giant beanstalk dilemma

I had considered posting this chez-moi but decided that it was a bit too serious, and I have spent a lot of my little acre of cyberspace being morose for a while, so I thought I would keep in the tone of being a serious individual rather than the iconic madman that I so often adopt the personna of.

I had a pretty serious ethical dilemma on Sunday. My good friend B texted me around lunch time to inform me that her husband had given her a pretty good kicking in front of the kids. I texted her back and got no reply. I waited 15 minutes and then tried to call. Voice-mail. I called her friend J and asked whether she had had no contact at all. Eventually, about another 10 minutes later, the phone rang and I could hear palpable fear. I suggested she call the police. She was too scared to countenance the idea.

I sat gnawing on the problem for around 10 minutes, wondering what to do for the best. Do you come between man and wife? Do you exercise some compassion in aid of the greater good? Do you go around and ensure that the guy in question knows that his cards are marked by a fairly large group of guys who are quite happy to deposit him at the bottom of a lake should he ever do that again?

I didn't know what to do. Da Missus and I had our moments, like all couples do. The difference here is that Da Missus wasn't averse to a bit of physical herself. We gave as good as we got and, where possible, the kids were not around. B is about 5 foot nothing and weighs less than a Mars Bar. Her husband is a 6 foot three ex-soldier who is built like your proverbial one.

After straining my addled brain for another 10 minutes, I took the view that I could not ignore the fact that this guy could well seriously injure her, if not kill her. I called the police. They went and arrested him. He was released later with a caution and her and her kids ended up in my bed while I suffered on a sofa knowing full well I needed to be up at 05:30. The ramifications of my actions worry me greatly. Have I caused a divorce? Is it likely to escalate now? Will it have taught the chap in question a lesson?

I would imagine that he is a combination of humiliated (being arrested in front of his neighbors), annoyed that he had to walk 8 miles home when released and relieved that he is not now sat at Her Majesty's pleasure.

The violence is not unprecedented so I think I feel vindicated. Opinions welcome.

In the meantime, if I can keep my eyes open when I get home, I may try to perform some bloggage on my realm. Perhaps something a little lighter?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Quick Saddam observation

Yes, we have convicted Saddam. Well done all.

In the interest of bringing civilization to the Wild East, we agree to allow them to execute him by hanging; a practice disbanded by the UK over 40 years ago for its brutality. Of course the US still has the death sentence. What kind of signal does it send to the rest of the world?

As much as I believe he should be put through the ringer prior to his well-deserved demise, I'm not sure that hanging him is the right decision. How many problems does it solve? And how many does it create?

Just a quick gut reaction there. Maybe more after my second gallon of tea and another twenty smokes.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Outsmarted by a Dead Bloke

Bunthorne is a name that will mean nothing unless you're big on Gilbert and Sullivan or have a serious three-a-day crossword habit.

A Bunthorne crossword is a work or art. The references are twice as esoteric as usual and the language dense and poetic.

For example :
"Well done, the solver ! That was Erin's stout assertion! (4,3,3)"
Could have been part of a poem by WB Yates.

So you launch into a few dozen streams of thought that lead to dead-ends before hitting on the idea that Erin is another name for Ireland and "stout" refers to the beer and not the body-shape. And then you remember that Guinness was advertised as being "Good For You". Hard to describe the strange connection you feel with the clue-writer after he's led you on a journey like that.

The reason I mention this here is that Bunthorne's final puzzle appeared in today's Guardian. And although he died in August, he beat me again. Rest in Peace, mate.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Halloween U-turn

A few days ago, I bemoaned (in a joyless whining kind of way) the fact that Americans spend $60m a year at Halloween on their pets.

Having seen the photos (thanks Guy L.), I've changed my mind

Next year I might consider renting a dog just for Halloween.

Sorry, America !

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Phone or super-computer

Stan and I are both geeks of an order of magnitude normally associated with nerds. We do not fall into the nerd category though. I have no interest in science fiction ergo non-nerd and Stan is a world authority on musicals (empirically proven by the pub quiz in St Albans). Yes, I have questioned his sexuality.

The reason I write the above is that I am currently in a state of immense excitement. A few days ago I received a call from my mobile phone provider informing me that I was due an upgrade to my handset. This is particularly fortuitous in that I had nearly bought one at the weekend. The one that I have is the mobile phone company branded one. It runs Microsoft's CE OS and I loathe it with a passion. My Linux box used to boot in approximately a quarter of the time it takes me to "boot" my phone. In my world, you boot PCs not phones. You switch on phones like you do lights.

The handset that I have at the moment performs more operations than I need by a nautical mile. I hate it with a passion. Thirty years ago, you would have needed a large room to house the power that I carry around in my pocket. Thanks to the advent of 0201 and 0101 passives, I have the equivalent of NASA's 1960s computer power and it fits in the palm of my hand. Progress is unrelenting.

I used to work in the electronic manufacturing business, first in Europe, then in the US, then in Asia and spent about 8 years walking around the various plants that make the phones. I can say without a shadow of a doubt, Nokia were by far the most impressive. Back in the day when Motorola used to make their own phones, I was surprised any of them ever worked. They were so focussed on statistics that they forgot about the primary aim; make the damned thing work. Walking down the Motorola lines, there were machines for as far as the eye could see, hammering down passives, ICs, SOICs, BGAs and RF shields by the thousands. A phone every 20 seconds. It all looked very impressive until you got to the end of the line, where armies of drone workers sat with ICT equipment and soldering irons. That is the face of Moto that you never get to see.

I digress.

Anyway, as I sit here typing, waiting for my new Nokia (read Cray) to arrive, I'm like a kid the night before Christmas, just waiting to get the bugger in my hands. At last, a phone I actually want to own!