Wednesday, January 31, 2007
John Harris appears to be one of those people, much needed in this day and age, who is prepared to devote time and effort to comprehensively debunking the slanders of the pseudo-left and right wing hacks. I am continually appalled by the language and absurd accusations of supporting genocide or terrorism or wanting to impose Sharia Law that are thrown towards people who attempt rational analysis of politics. It seems as if few people these days make a living from actually addressing other people's points of argument but instead simply embark on ad hominem attacks and character assassination. This frequently erupts into further accusations of lefty, pinko, homo-loving, tree-hugging, Trot-commies or right wing, nazi, fascist, imperialist pig-dogs. I have no truck whatsoever with this left-right divide but insist that there is only one brand of politics which works for everyone (and it must work for everyone otherwise you are all of the names listed above). The solution embraces solutions from both sides of the political spectrum and which bridges divides between centralism and localism, libertarianism and authoritarianism, socialism and conservatism.
I find many commentators are so obsessed with defending their own position and attacking that o0f others that they don't spare any time to build a substantial position of their own to defend.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
"The problem that everything depends on everything else is a hard one in biology, as anything left out may prove to be essential in the end. If one includes as much as possible one loses an intellectual grasp of the problem. The art is to leave out as much as possible whilst maintaining the essence."
Monday, January 29, 2007
The SWISH Report No. 1
The SWISH Report No. 2
The SWISH Report No. 3
The SWISH Report No. 4
The SWISH Report No. 5
The SWISH Report No. 6
The SWISH Report No. 7
The world will reward your wisdom.
Well done IJ. You complete fuckwits.
Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Henry Porter rocks.
This shizzle is tha absolute truth:
"The West must realise that if a first strike takes place we have lost. Whatever is destroyed in Iran, the Iranians will come back and produce a bomb that they may feel more entitled to use. The clash of civilisations predicted by neocon academics for years will have moved a step closer to dominating the 21st century at the very moment when all civilisation needs to concentrate on the multiple threats presented by climate change."
Friday, January 26, 2007
Sunday, January 21, 2007
I am actually quite scared about where this will end up. Will China and Russia weigh in to support their favourite oil state? Will Israel actually be mad enough to deploy tactical nukes? Will the EU realise what those two spuds between its legs are for and call for restraint by the Bush war machine?
I don't know.
Friday, January 19, 2007
On an even lower note I found an error in the fecking excel sheet that I was using to calculate the absorption efficiencies I've been working on for the last few months. It means that one of my- apparently perfect- data sets is actually a bunch of arse. Fortunately one of them still worked out nicely with a low S.D. and an appropriate value for the population I was studying.
Shit week, it was.
He's such a twat.
Another feather in Tony's cap tonight as The Independent reports that children are dying in Iraqi hospitals for lack of basic medical consumables such as vitamin supplements, surgical gloves and plastic oxygen masks. This constitutes a (nother) breach of the Geneva Conventions by the UK and comes to pass within a week of the announcement that oil companies are ready to sign 30 year contracts to exploit the Iraqi oil fields that will allow them to intially pocket up to 75% of any revenues until they have recouped their investment and then 20% henceforth - twice the industry average for such production-sharing agreements [PSAs]. Now I have no problem with providing incentives for industry to invest in Iraqi redevelopment but so far the Iraqi government's record in this area is pathetic, although still better than the Coalition Provisional Authority.
And they said it wasn't about oil. George and Tony must be so proud of everything that they've achieved.
From here and here.
This appears to be a repeat of the US's rhetoric in the build up to the illegal invasion of Iraq which is now clearly seen to have been a smoke screen for a decision that the US had already taken. The Iranian Theocracy may be run by a bunch of authoritarian nutbags with no respect for humanism any understanding of human rights but that does not automatically make them guilty of trying to build a bomb. The Supreme Leader himself has proclaimed a fatwa on nuclear weapons. Now to Westerners this may seem like a piece of supreme hypocrisy and a contemptible piece of obfustication. If you think about how seriously these guys take their mediaeval superstition though, you start to see that they are actually quite serious about this.
There's plenty more out there- go find the truth kids! (With an open mind, please.)
Here's a good starting place- just bear in mind that this is a partisan article. This BBC article is another useful starter.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Yes, the Iranian President's career is on the wane. The guy who called publically for Israel to be "erased from the pages of history" (NOT "wiped off the map") and whose fiery rhetoric- at least as absurd and hostile as Bush, and possibly more so than Blair's - is no longer the Supreme Ledaer's golden boy.
And the response from Dick Cheney himself:
"Go fuck yourselves."
Who can blame the Iranians for their isolationism when they are faced with this groundless lack of respect for diplomatic protocols and outright racism from figures in the White House who cannot surmount their own petty preudices.
If you were in the position of an Iranian diplomatic representative, would you be interested in following the dictat of international organisations whose policy is strong-armed by the very nation that spouts this offensive rot? This article really betrays the lack of interest in the Bush administration in engaging with potentially hostile regimes on a equal footing. Their attitude seems to be "you are all savages and heathens so we are going to dictate policy and if you don't like it we will tell everyone that you're evil". This sort of playground diplomacy is not only counterproductive, its dangerous!
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Not that I've got anything against recycling in our atopian society. Just an idea, you know.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Chrysler has pumped $1bn into alternative fuels over a decade. But Mark Chernoby, who oversees green projects, is evasive about his company's attitude to global warming."I don't know that we've taken a position on it," he says. "If you look at the scientific community, you can see there's still a lot of debate about it." (My italics and bolding)
It seems that every corporation that has yet to accept the conclusion of the Stern Report- that climate change is not an economic obstacle but an opportunity to be embraced- is trotting out this same tired bullshit.
Can I just state clearly here that THERE IS NO DEBATE AMONGST SCIENTISTS ABOUT WHETHER CLIMATE CHANGE IS A REAL THREAT OR NOT.
Chrysler's line can be translated as "we do not want to have to face up to reality so not only are we are going to brazenly LIE through our teeth, we are going to spend money to tell all our customers that this is the case and also on attacking the credibility of climate science". Its worrying how often this position is seen amongst major corporations (not just US ones either).
I'm starting to think that climate change denial should be a worse crime than holocaust denial. Arrest the fuckers repsonsible for such policy, force them to attend lectures on environmental science and don't release them until they can produce a comprehensive document detailing the evidence for climate change and the threat it poses to civilisation.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
My friend's dad is, in her own words, "Jeremy Clarkson". He often rails against the injustice of speed cameras and she mentioned that he was currently driving illegally as he was contesting his latest penalty and therefore considered the consequent ban to be "suspended pending resolution". Anyhoo, apparently the penalty in question had arrived out of the blue after he thought he had got away with it some time previously- something about moving house or the wrong address on the ownership papers. This raised some confusion as to how the police had caught up with him and so he enquired where they had got his details from. The response was somewhat astonishing. Some months before he had stepped into a fight outside a pub in Yorkshire where he lives to prevent some chap taking an undeserved kicking and had done his duty by calling the police and making a statement. The details he had given allowed the police to chase him up for his parking ticket!
I can't imagine anything less absurd in this day and age where politicians and police superintendents go on record blaming the public's loss of any sense of civil duty as partly responsible for the breakdown of law and order and the proliferation of ASBOs. So when someone does their duty you might expect the authorities to turn a blind eye when the opportunity to chase the upstanding citizen for some minor infringement is presented. This is known as "discretion".
My second tale relates to a aprking ticket I apparently received recently. I say "apparently" because I received a letter some weeks after the date of the alleged incident stating that I had failed to pay the penalty within 28 days and consequently was now liable for the full £60 fine. I wrote back saying I had never received the ticket and couldn't remember the day in question but believed that I hadn't been parked where and when they said I had. Unfortunately this form failed to reach them (my own fault) within the 28 days they had given me- I hadn't stamped it when I put it in the internal mail at uni. I delivered it to the council offices by hand the day after the deadline and hoped for the best. Foolish in the extreme, I know. The result you might be able to guess- the fine raised to £90 and a threat to send the debt to county court. I feel that a little informed discretion might at least alleviate the burden of the fine by £30 or so even if it does not excuse me entirely (no doubt about that- apparently they have photographic evidence of my illegally parked van).
Finally I would like to relate the tale of my wife's visa. She is from Auckland and her grandmother was a UK citizen, thus entitling her to ancestral UK citizenship. She had also been married to me for a year or more when we returned to this country from our travels in 2004. She rang up the Nationality and Immigration Directorate to enquire about getting indefinite leave to remain ("permanent residency") and was told that if she was going to apply as my spouse then there was a 2 year grace period before she could do so in which she had to be resident on a spousal visa. "Fine," she answered "I'm also entitled to citizenship through ancestry and I've been living here on such visas for 7 years so I'd like to get residency through that route instead." The stooge on the end of the phone told her to ring another department and speak to another stooge, who asked her a few questions about her movements before informing her that she would be perfectly eligible for this route. So, Wiff gets the forms sent to her and she spends days filling in absurdly detailed questions before sending the form back with a cheque for the extortionate sum which is demanded with every application.
"Not so fast, sunshine." Says the NID stooge, who calls her a month later. (I'm hamming this up, I know. Its called dramatic license.) "You may have had those visas for 7 years but you've been out of the country for the last 8 months and that invalidates your eligibility for residency. You must have been resident here for 4 continuous years with no more than 6 months out of the country."
At this point I had to grab the phone from Wiff as she was becoming (rightly) abusive. Many rude words were said to thin air before she attempted contacting the NID again. Further phone calls confirmed this story and in the end she got another application form for a spousal visa and sent it off. Another month passed. Then Wiff came home one day in a rage. Apparently some goon had rung her up and told her that the debit card details she had supplied had been declined and that they were returning the form to her. She would like to point out that there was nothing wrong with the details she had written down and there was plenty of money in her account to cover the fee and so the only possible reason for the failure of the payment process is that the goon in question had not punched in the right card number.
After some soul searching Wiff determined to complete the task in hand and so she filled in a new form and rang up to check that everything was as it should be with her application. Imagine her frustration and outrage to discover that the cost of application had recently DOUBLED. To £335.
now my wife is perfectly entitled to UK citizenship through 2 separate pathways. She is (almost) a model citizen and pays her taxes and is generally an asset to the nation. She is certainly not a dole bludger or a burden upon our social support system. Any cursory inspection of her application would reveal this. So why the hassle, the expense and the ignomy assoicated with this process.
A follow up to this tale relates my experience of gaining a New Zealand work permit. I had a 6 month holiday visa and was living with the in laws in Auckland. We were looking for some casual work whilst travelling around and wanted to do it legitimately. If you are looking for such work it i by no means necessary to have a work permit- it is legally necessary but most manual labour jobs aren't picky about who they employ or how rigourously they check such things. The only downside is that you can still be "taxed" on your wages and this "tax" goes into the pocket of the guy organising your labour. So, there was an immigration office in the suburb a few miles down the road, one of several dotted around Auckland- no centralised bureaucracy here- and we toddled on down there one day with the forms that I'd picked up one day from the main office in town. This office was notoriously busy as it dealt with "special cases" and asylum applications too so the discovery of a branch in the suburbs was encouraging. We were not disappointed. 40 minutes from walking in the door I walked out again with my work visa in my passport. 30 minutes waiting in the comfortable, clean waiting room reading magazines and then a 10 minute face-to-face interview with an immigration official. She was polite. She was patient. She was a Kiwi and spoke perfect english- unlike several of the people Wiff had to talk to at the UK NID. This is a demonstration of the use of "discretion"- I was blatantly not an asylum seeker, any other form of immigrant (I had a plane ticket out of the country), a criminal or any other form of citizenship pirate. I had all the evidence required to support my application in hand and I was there in person, reasonably smartly dressed and polite and eloquent to boot. Why is it anathema in this country to give people the responsibility of making on-the-spot decisions about such matters? Why do you have to tick fifty boxes, pay a small fortune and wait a month to be told you are eligible for residency when its clear that you are anyway?
The point of my ramble is that, if other countries have no problem establishing efficient and functioning bureaucracies then why can't we? The same question can be applied to the NHS, the rail networks, the police and just about everything else in the UK. Its all been done better elsewhere (look at Scandinavia).
So why not here?
Friday, January 12, 2007
Why is Blair still prime minister again . . . . . ?
Oh yeah! -because the British population love seeing children's corpses on TV.
All appendages crossed for extra luck (this makes walking a challenge but I reckon I need it).
Sunday, January 07, 2007
This guy wrote this article about how atheism was "the new fundamentalism", smearing dawkins and Sam Harris et al with accusations of religious cleansing. The response is nothing, if not viscerally enraged!
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Because Bill Gates' software is shit I had to do a screen dump and then cut the image out of it to get a good enough reoslution shot to use.
Proud I am, oh yes!
As the title suggests its a schematic of the energy flows through an organism and the efficiency values required to model them. I rock!
Its late and I can't sleep because wiff gave me her cold and hence I am ridden with snot. So thought I'd lay down an update on the usual cutting edge science.
This is the first week back from the christmas hols and its been a gentle easing into things with the usual 10am starts and 10 cups of tea before anything gets done. The first thing I have to share is that my Scope For Growth [SFG] assay seems to have kicked arse! I set up the feeding rate assay with my ragworms in the week before christmas before going digging on a lovely, clear winters day at Bantham, the Mouth of the River Avon. We found appropriate numbers of wriggly things and carted them back to the lab where I set about making them as comfortable as possible (itsimportant to take care of your worms, otherwise they do not cooperate with later requests). Anyhoo, the worms were allowed to purge their gut contents overnight, as is necessary for SFG, before being weighed and fed the next day. I selected the 24 biggest ones in order to get better data as smaller worms means smaller appetites and smaller amounts of pooh which, in turn, means less accurate measurements, higher standard deviation and arse data. This is not desirable.
Come the following day I arrived and promptly stood one of the little fuckers which had decided to make a break for freedom and had managed to reach the wet lab floor (RIP worm #10- your life was not wasted). Despite this poor start the day went well as the worms had hearty appetites and had eaten considerable amounts of the fish food pellets that I had offered them. Having retrieved what was left of these pellets I set about drying and weighing them to determine the dry weight lost from each so that I could work uot how much each worm had eaten. I was going to collect their faecal matter and the string of mucus the little blighters trail everywhere but then I remembered reading about how the residence time of food in the gut means that you should collect material from the 24 hours following feeding if you wanted to calculate absorption efficiencies. This I decided to do but instead of cleaning the worms out and leaving them to depurate in clean water I thought I would strike a balance between these two approaches and simply collect what was there 48 hours after feeding. In hindsight this was a bit daft. If I had been switched on I would have collected the excreta then and then collected the excreta for the following 24 hours seperately. As it happened, the next day it was clear that some worms had been doing their coprophage ting and had consumed some of their excreta from the previous day. Not to be discouraged I dutifully collected what was left by passing syringes of water from each trough through preweighed glass fiber filter discs and then dried and weighed each one. These were then ashed, along with the pellet residues from the previous day so that the organic content could be calculated. In reality there was a 10 day period between the drying and the ashing that encompassed xmas and NYE but the first thing I did when I got back into the lab this Monday was turn on the oven to ash my worm pooh.
Finally, having wacked the numbers into excel, I could view the results of my labours and was chuffed to bits to find that I had 23 data points with a beautifully tight SD, although with one outlier, admittedly. Even more chuffing brilliant was the 1-way ANOVA I did between the Avon worms AEs and some AEs I'd measured before xmas in worms from Restronguet Creek- my polluted site. The difference was clear and marked and was significant to P=0.001, which is pretty goddamn significant, I can tell you!
So there you go. Another success story of cutting edge research. Keep reading for my next adventure titled "The Return to The Polluted Site- The Hunt for More Restronguet Worms".
Friday, January 05, 2007
"It is also argued that voting is a "civic duty", much like paying taxes, and that it is important for the continued functioning of the nation. People are required to pay taxes and sit on juries for the good of society; some feel that voting is another duty that all citizens should be required to perform."
Life isn't free. You can't simply live your life as best you can without engaging with those around you. If you are you are dehumanising yourself. Just as everyone has rights so they also have responsibilities. I have no problem with people not wanting to vote but I abhor a system that does not punish people who are too lazy to engage with their country's politics.
“ Everyone is a political person, don’t you understand that? You would have to be autistic or a hermit to be truly apolitical! People who say that are merely saying they support the status quo, which is a profoundly political stance.”
Kim Stanley Robinson
Thursday, January 04, 2007
So to all those at Harry's Place who have been calling me an anti-semite, I am sorry. I apologise unreservedly and withdraw my criticism of zionism. I am not an antisemite- I am an antitheist so whilst I may scorn the religion of Judaism I do so in a general fashion as I do all religions and I have nothing against the cultural group known as Jews.