Thursday, 25 October 2007

A380 - the bad news


This picture shows the economy class cabin of the new Airbus A380 - the double decker jumbo - which has just entered service between Singapore and Sydney. While you can expect a lot of gushing about the double bed suites in first class (which apparently Singapore Airlines believes should not be used for sex), this is what the ordinary travellers can expect. As usual there is a distinct trade-off. Comfortable or cheap. If you cannot afford the high prices (that will mostly get written off against tax as business expenses), you could still get stuck in a dreaded middle seat (look beyond the far aisle). Singapore Airlines looks to have gone for the maximum seating 3-4-3 configuration. So make sure you spend some of the savings on the fare on those special DVT socks.

And apparently there's more room on Singapore's A380 than Air France's

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Is this the work of the world's worst forgers?


Its not even a very good forgery but the point is there never has been a real half million pound note - and yet they took it to the Bank!

A very public affair

The Guardian on the collapse of the French President's marriage - with all the salacious details

They opened their hearts on chatshows, they appeared on the cover of the increasingly popular - some say vulgar - celebrity magazines


And The Guardian, which once upon a time was a quality newspaper shows that it can be as vulagr as any of them. The only thing missing is the photospread of paparazzi product

I preferred the sophistication with which the French treated Chirac and Mitterand - they simply didn't care. The private life of the President was none of their concern. But Sarkozy courted the media attention and used his wife - so he deserves all he gets. Maybe she does too but I stopped reading. I felt like I do when standing in line at Save on Foods reading the covers of the tabs and peep mags. Ugh.

Drivers' pet peeves

Some of mine didn't make the list

- queue jumping: there's a lane closure ahead, and two lines of cars start the zipper process. As the zipper works, the closed lane is empty for some distance, and drivers begin to anticipate the need to merge, so the closure point of the zipper moves back. Until one smart arse decides to speed down to the end and jump in at the last minute. And the polite merging now gives way to push and shove and the line just gets longer. What part of "wait your turn" do you not understand?

- dazzling headlights: not on main beam, these extra bright lights are probably really useful on a deserted mountain pass - but on a well lit suburban street? And so often the vehicle they are mounted on has been jacked up, or has headlights mounted several feet above the ground. You can tell that its alignment is wrong as the interior of the car in front is lit up like day, and its driver is grabbing to flip the internal mirror - and adjust the door mirrors too. Yet the guy behind gets as close as he can, and keeps those lights a blazin'. The police do this deliberately with cars they have stopped, so I suppose this is where the practice has been learned.

- the sudden dart out into traffic: "I've been waiting too long for a break in the traffic flow so I will just force my way out"

- driving the wrong way round the traffic circle to make a left turn (a Vancouver favourite)

- driving with a flashing yellow light on - for ever - with no turn or lane change in prospect

- turning right from the left lane: a variation on the queue jump - this driver always drives in the left "overtaking lane" even though he knows it will be necessary to turn right in a short distance. But the left lane is moving faster so let's take a chance ...

- driving through red lights. Not content with keeping going through the yellow, this driver simply follows the car in front. The opposing flow now has a green but this clown doesn't care - just as long as he doesn't have to wait to the next green for his turn.

I could go on and on but the common thread is total selfishness and lack of concern for others

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Be good or be gone


Music video - drawn to my attention by Very Short List of singer-songwriter, Fionn Regan - in many places singing the same song

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Movie Reviews | Rendition

I haven't seen the movie. The Strait (print edition) sniffs about "sanitised torture". On the whole, I would rather not see the alternative. I get really worried about people who watch movies like Syriana (pulling out fingernails with pincers). I have a nasty suspicion that some movie makers and movie viewers get off on this kind of sado-masochism. Mel Gibson in particular.

The point about torture is not just that it is illegal, immoral and corrupting of the people who do it. It does not provide any useful information. As people like Maher Arar and William Samson have testified, under torture, innocent people will confess to anything - just to make it stop. So I simply do not believe the officials who say that we "need" to torture suspects, because post 9/11 the threat of terrorism is so much greater. The use of extraordinary methods of interrogation now employed on a daily basis does not seem to be helping very much in resolving issues in Iraq, does it?

In every major enquiry into high profile cases, investigators have to deal with disturbed people who come forward and "confess" to crimes they could not possibly have committed. Innocent people have been jailed on all sorts of evidence that turns out after the event (sometimes long after) to have been tainted. All torture achieves is that every one that gets arrested ("round up the usual suspects") now becomes disturbed enough to confess. Indeed, that is what the CIA manuals show is the intention of these techniques - the breakdown of a personality. It does nothing to further the cause of finding out what has happened - and even less about what is going to happen. If you do lift the right person, his contacts will know that his or her knowledge is now compromised. That is why terrorists operate in small cells - so they can only implicate one or two other people. The interrogator should assume that anything the suspect now tells him about future plans will be changed by those left in play. The most successful counterintelligence is conducted by leaving the suspect in place but feeding him duff information. Britain used this strategy very successfully against the abwehr.

But the worst possible effect (additional to the damage to the people tortured) is that officially you have sanctioned and encouraged people who take pleasure in causing others pain. And since we have laws against many other kinds of deviant activity, I do not see that our society benefits from sanctioning - or encouraging - this particularly nasty kink.

Another review in the Guardian is a lot clearer (and it doesn't like the film either) that the torture is not "sanitised"

These torture scenes are grim. No punches are pulled. The technique of choice is waterboarding, and the film demonstrates how this is done for those of us who weren't quite sure. It is a quasi-drowning ordeal achieved by strapping the victim to a board, putting a hood over his head, tipping him back and then pouring water continuously on to his face so that the wet material slops down into his mouth and nostrils and he is unable to breathe, and overwhelmed with terror and disorientation. (Robert Harris, in his new thriller The Ghost, says that in 1947 a Japanese officer was convicted of using waterboarding on a US civilian and sentenced to 15 years' hard labour for a war crime. Harris also says that waterboarding victims generally last 14 seconds before giving in; the record is 150 seconds by the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a feat of endurance that reputedly won the grudging admiration of his CIA captors. I wasn't timing it, but in this movie Anwar manages around the 14-second standard.)

But does waterboarding get facts, foil plots and save lives? Corrine Whitman angrily maintains that it does, but Douglas quotes Portia in The Merchant of Venice; rendition victims "speak upon the rack,/ Where men enforced do speak anything."

Friday, 12 October 2007

Bright idea

A really neat idea for micro power from the wind. Not a turbine - a simple belt under tension.

Why we curse

I recently was aksed to speak at a public meeting that was to be held in a Unitarian church. The subject matter was one on which I have very profound convictions - and in which the present provincial government is behaving very badly indeed. But my concern was that since I feel so strongly about these issues, profanity could well escape my lips, since I speak without notes or script. And I could no sooner swear in church than I could vote conservative.

This piece from the New Republic analyses why we resort to bad language, and what happens when bad words are deprived of their power.

As I think Michael Flanders once remarked, I am very much against the everyday use of swear words. If we use them too much, we have nothing left for special occasions. He was the lyricist of that archetypal song of the sixties "Pee, Po, Belly, Bum, Drawers"

I don't particularly mind the swearing but I know my mother, who was an English teacher, would say, "You're using the same word too often."
Margueritte Patten

And the CBC now reports that swearing at work can actually be good for you!

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

POST SECRET


You know about this - but like me you forgot

There's a project. You make a homemade postcard and send it (anonymously of course) and it gets put on a web page and now in a book. Well actually this is the fourth book. I didn't know that.

Just read the screts and suddenly one will seem to be aimed at you - or could have been written by you

We crave privacy so we can do things that we do not want other people to know about. Which is why the internet became so popular and why so much of it is about sex. Considering what the word "intercourse" can mean, that in itself is sad.

So many people, so much shame and guilt and longing

So much desire for revenge - I just picked up Carl Hiaasen's "Nature Girl" and like so many of his other books the main characters are driven by the need to dole out their idea of justice.

Life isn't fair.

What is Stephen Harper reading?

Every two weeks Jan Martell sends Stephen Harper a book accompanied by a letter. Fortunately he is copying the letters to a blog (click the tile for the link)

So far there has been no response from the PM - or the PMO from what I can see. But the list is well wrth looking at and the letters are illuminating. And would be a good start the next time you find yourself wandering around the library wondering what to read.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

15 REASONS CANADA MAKES ME UNEASY AND CONFUSED

I think this is supposed to be funny. Anyway they don't allow comments on their blog (like I do) so here is what I would have written

It is a list of American misconceptions - or stereotypes - about Canada.
Canada has a whole province where the folks speak a different language and you don't hear Canadians bitching about "those dirty Frenchies", they just leave them alone to speak their own language.
It is, of course a lot more complex than that, though anti-anglophone policies in Quebec have led to a shift in population and business to Ontario. And New Brunswick is bilingual and the whole country is pleased to offer you service in the language of your choice - well the federal bits are obliged to and elsewhere we will also happily speak to you in Mandarin, Cantonese, Urdu and an increasing diverse variety of tongues. There are even places where some indigenous languages survive - though with great difficulty. And while we may appear tolerant now our history is not pretty and some of those prejudices still lurk in nasty little pockets - though we seem to be getting better at dealing with them.

Canada's Prime Minister? He's cute.
Possibly, matter of taste. Sadly he is also Mr Bush's poodle, and seems to forget that he is supposed to be running Canada for the benefit of the Canadian people not American corporations. As far as the environment is concerned he is an idiot - but then he does come from Alberta, which is Canada's version of Saudi Arabia - more oil than sense.

they do not even have a War On drugs! Canada doesn't DO war! And I'm betting their rate of alcoholism is also very low!
We were supposed to have four pillars of drug policy but thanks to the New Canadian Government (that's the idiot we were just talking about) we are going back to the Bush style prohibition and punishment approach. BC bud is supposed to be the best in the world but frankly we are getting a bit fed up with home invasions and drive by shootings, even if we have fewer of them than say, Oakland.

Our rate of alcoholism is fine, thank you very much, and is a real problem in many areas, despite our much higher taxes on booze. We also make terrific ice wine, stronger beer and better whiskey than you lot. And you probably will not be able to buy BC wine since all the good stuff never hits the stores but gets sold direct by subscription from the winery gate.

Canada never says a word about how stupidly geocentric we are.
Oh yes we do. I take it you have never tried to find any Canadian media on the internet. Did you know that the internet reaches beyond the United States?

You will also not be able to buy Canucks tickets - get on the waiting list or find a scalper - we don't deal with them as effectively as you do. How can write about Canada and NOT MENTION HOCKEY?

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Sen. Larry Craig to Remain in Senate

The Republicans are the party of "law and order'. They are the party that says it has the moral high ground. It is the home of the "moral majority", and it is also the party that tried to impeach a President - for nothing very much, and even then they didn't succeed.

They are getting a bit fed up with one of their members - I wrote about his case some time ago. He pleaded guilty. He then changed his mind and asked a judge if he could change his plea. No, said the judge. End of story you might think. Well, he is still there, and there are three pages of discussion about it.

I stopped reading after one. I think he is about as moral as some of the other recent headline makers from his party - the rules he makes are for other people. He thinks he is not only above the law but also that he does not have to abide by his own freely given undertakings.
... by far the harshest words came from Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in remarks many interpreted to be reflective of what Senate GOP Leadership as a whole feels.

"He said that if the judge would reverse his guilty plea he would fight on, if not he would resign from the Senate and remember -- that was going to be effective at the end of September," said Ensign. "He had his day in court, the judge ruled against him, and I'm calling on Senator Craig to keep his word," said Ensign.


And, apparently, his predelictions were well known long before his arrest

Update 2 December - and four men have come forward with details of their encounters with the Senator

Liquor stores to stop selling beer by the bottle

This is, quite simply, wrong.

A bottle or a can of beer is a package. With a bar code. No matter if it is bigger or smaller than a given size or a speciality or run of the mill beer. No one should be required to buy more than they want. Of anything.

Supermarkets sell pre-packaged meat. But if you do not want enough for four people all at once, they will - if you ask - give you just enough for one person. It is manifestly unfair but if I chose to buy myself a muffin for breakfast, I have to pay tax on it. If I bought six, I wouldn't have to - but why should I pay to store for more than I want. I only have a small amount of space - essentially a factor of this region's housing unaffordability. And anyway, freezing bread and bagels takes up too much of my small freezer as it is.

I encourage you to make your views known to

British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch
2625 Rupert Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V5M 3T5
Switchboard telephone: 604-252-3000
Fax: 604-252-3044
E-mail: communications@bcliquorstores.com

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Supervised injection site granted 6-month extension

The federal health minister has told Vancouver Coastal Health that the city's controversial supervised drug injection site will be allowed to operate for a further six months.

Insite will be allowed to remain open until June 30, according to Viviana Zanocco, a spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

"We understand that the extension is being granted to allow Health Canada to conduct, or gather, additional research on the impact of injection sites, on prevention, and treatment and crime," Zanocco told CBC News.

The federal government temporarily exempted the facility from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as a pilot project in 2003. After the initial exception expired, an extension was granted while federal Health Minister Tony Clement reviewed its operations.

Why just six months? There is now more than enough scientific evidence that supervised injections achieve all and more of what was expected. Deaths from overdoses, and infections from the use of dirty needles are both down. Users of the facility are much more likely to seek treatment for their addictions than those on the street.

This is one of the very few success stories to come out of the Downtown Eastside. This is one of the very few success stories in dealing with any drug addicted population.

So why cannot the Tories and the Vancouver Police live with it? Because it does not fit into their preferred "punish the sinners" approach. In that mindset, since drug use is against the law, therefore the only response must be to put the users into prison, give them a criminal record and make sure they are treated like social pariahs. The fact that prohibition and punishment has not worked - does not work - cannot work - must not be allowed to get in the way of this "moral imperative". The Police and Mr Harper know they are right: they do not want anything like science to get in the way. And, though they would not admit this publicly, they felt that the consequences of unsupervised injections "served them right". Aids and Hep C are thought by such people to be divine retribution for sin. The same mind set is playing out across the world, denying that prophylactics can reduce infections. It also interfered with the other successful initiative - exchanging free clean needles for used ones.

The "need" for more research is twaddle. There is more than enough available for those who have a truly open mind on the subject. For the indomitable "just say no" brigade, no evidence will ever be enough to convince them that they could be wrong.