Thursday 1 September 2005
Unidentified gobs of goo
Making Fiends, episode 19. Hopefully, in episode 20 we will get an explanation of how Charlotte breathes underwater.
And I still feel sorry for Grudge.
So many things to write about…
…but not enough time at the moment. Maybe later, or over the weekend, I’ll tell you about my thoughts on Ken Clarke’s speech today and on the state of American society when armed looters fire on Navy rescue helicopters in New Orleans. But I will give you this snippet from today’s Horticulture Week (yes, it’s as exciting as it sounds):
"Having a specially named tulip in John Peel’s honour seemed a nice way to keep his name and musical innovation linked together," said Spalding Flower Parade chairman David Norton.
Yes, clearly, because tulips are often linked to musical innovation. Except in Max Bygraves’s case, that is.
Friday 2 September 2005
Seagulls sign Frutos.
Read this: the LiveJournal of a New Orleans resident who is still there, working to keep 800,000 websites up-and-running with a diesel generator on the 9th floor (hauling diesel up the stairs) whilst barricaded in against the looters (and, it seems, the police and military) – and reporting the actual situation on the ground, as relayed to him by friends and supporters elsewhere in New Orleans.
The situation is utterly chaotic and the authorities are going to have some really difficult questions to answer. Remember, George Bush Sr.’s popularity ratings fell dramatically after the public perceived a slow response by his White House in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, with forces at that time maintaining the new and controversial no-fly zones in Iraq.
As a taster, here’s a recent entry relating the situation as described to him by his friend "Bigfoot":
It’s been 3 days, and the buses have yet to appear.
Although obviously he has no exact count, he estimates more than 10,000 people are packed into and around and outside the convention center still waiting for the buses. They had no food, no water, and no medicine for the last three days, until today, when the National Guard drove over the bridge above them, and tossed out supplies over the side crashing down to the ground below. Much of the supplies were destroyed from the drop. Many people tried to catch the supplies to protect them before they hit the ground. Some offered to walk all the way around up the bridge and bring the supplies down, but any attempt to approach the police or national guard resulted in weapons being aimed at them.
There are many infants and elderly people among them, as well as many people who were injured jumping out of windows to escape flood water and the like — all of them in dire straits.
Any attempt to flag down police results in being told to get away at gunpoint. Hour after hour they watch buses pass by filled with people from other areas. Tensions are very high, and there has been at least one murder and several fights. 8 or 9 dead people have been stored in a freezer in the area, and 2 of these dead people are kids.
The people are so desperate that they’re doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single file lines with the eldery in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians.
The buses never stop.
Before the supplies were pitched off the bridge today, people had to break into buildings in the area to try to find food and water for their families. There was not enough. This spurred many families to break into cars to try to escape the city. There was no police response to the auto thefts until the mob reached the rich area — Saulet Condos — once they tried to get cars from there… well then the whole swat teams began showing up with rifles pointed. Snipers got on the roof and told people to get back.
He reports that the conditions are horrendous. Heat, mosquitoes and utter misery. The smell, he says, is "horrific".
He says it’s the slowest mandatory evacuation ever, and he wants to know why they were told to go to the Convention Center area in the first place; furthermore, he reports that many of them with cell phones have contacts willing to come rescue them, but people are not being allowed through to pick them up.
via the LinkBunnies.
Update: the BBC’s Alistair Leithead reports from the Convention Centre and reinforces much of what Bigfoot says.
Further update: the BBC’s Robert Plummer reviews the likely economic impact of Hurricane Katrina. As usual, the poorest will be the hardest hit but all Americans will feel the impact in some way. And, as we all know, if the Americans sneeze, the world catches cold.
Saturday 3 September 2005
Games for the weekend
Monday 5 September 2005
From Our Own Correspondent at 50 – featuring a selection of the best articles from the last fifty years.
Katrina and the US media
Matt Wells: Has Katrina saved the US media?. Interesting, although it would have been good to have had a non-US assessment of the state of the american media with regard to domestic issues before all this, um, blew up.
Thursday 8 September 2005
I had an appointment with my new dentist this morning, which I forgot due to being snowed under with work. I now have to pay a £5 penalty before they will make a new appointment for me and no new appointments are available for six weeks.
I accept that it was my fault, but it shows the state of dentistry in the UK when I have the choice of one practice in my area that accepts NHS patients and that I must wait so long for a simple check-up appointment.
UPDATE: I take it back. I’ve just checked through the NHS website and found a dentist in the next village who accepts NHS patients and has a hygienist (quite important for me) and could fit me in as soon as next Monday (although due to other things going on I’ve elected to take an appointment the following week).
Of course, I’m still an idiot for missing the appointment that I had this morning. That hasn’t changed!
The History of The World According to Weebl and Bob – Medieval Times. Features codpieces, so possibly NSFW.
Sunday 18 September 2005
I’ve been away on holiday, hence the long pause in postings. There will be photos and details in due course.
In the meantime, this site celebrated its fifth birthday last Thursday. I know I said that I was going to organise something special, but it didn’t come to pass. So have some cake instead.
Please note: I did not say that I would provide the cake. Come on, do you expect me to do everything?!
Monday 19 September 2005
Avast ye! Tis ye Official Talk Like A Pirate Day, so be sure to answer ye telephone with a loud "Yarr!", ye scurvy scalliwags!
Meanwhile, congratulations to our friends David and Andi who are now proud parents to Kate, born last Monday. Ah-arr!
Why I think that PR is not a good idea
Germany faced with days or weeks of political uncertainty after CDU wins election by only three seats.
Meanwhile, half-way around the world, New Zealand faced with days or weeks of political uncertainty after Labour Party wins election by only one seat.
In both cases, we see either a situation where a minor party representing a tiny minority of voters holds the balance of power (with the result that their policies become the policy of government) or two major but diametrically opposed parties attempt to create a government together (resulting in impasse and conflict).
In a society reliant on personality and soundbite, consensus politics seem unlikely ever to be successful. Whilst first-past-the-post is seriously flawed, I think it offers a better option than the forms of PR employed in the above two nations which are leaving them with weak government or power disproportionately offered to the smallest minorities.
Robyn is back with a new site. And a piano. She got me started in this thing, you know.
Wednesday 21 September 2005
I went to the dentist this morning. Unlike my last appointment, I actually remembered.
This was my first visit to this dentist, a friendly chap of Middle-Eastern origin who has a stereo playing rather good Persian-type music in his surgery (I’m not an expert on these things, so please use your imagination). There was some form filling to be done (Q: Are you pregnant? Y/N) and then he poked about in my mouth with the usual implements of dentistry.
"Hmmm. Very good!"
Encouraging, thought I. I’m proud of my teeth – no fillings have gone into my mouth other than those that go into pies. (Speaking of which, go sign Scary’s Bring Back The Breville Pie Magic Petition).
In fact, what he meant was "Very good! I see a way to extract money from your wallet!"
About eighteen months ago, I chipped one tooth from the front of each jaw. I’m not sure how I did it, probably biting on a nectarine stone or something. However it happened, my last dentist was not too bothered about it, but this one thinks differently. He says the upper incisor can be filed down to remove the rough corner, but the lower incisor needs a crown. I can either have an NHS crown, which is not of high quality, for around £95. Alternatively, I can have a really high quality crown, 90% white gold with porcelain finish, for the regal sum of £275. Ouch.
Thankfully, given the current state of family finances, he agreed that the work could be deferred for the time-being. But it looks like I’m going to have to bite the bullet at some point and have it done (maybe I caused the chip by biting a bullet previously?).
And can I confess to something? Having never had any form of "serious" dentistry going on in my mouth before, I must admit that I’m a little nervous at the prospect. Words of reassurance welcome.
On this day 50 years ago, the Admiralty announced the annexation of Rockall – the last expansion of the British Empire.
Surely there must be something laying around that we could annex now? We need more useless lumps of rock.
Friday 23 September 2005
Sunday 25 September 2005
The last match of the domestic season, and Sussex win the Division Two title in the League. Coupled with third place in Division One of the Championship, I think it could be classed as a good season for Sussex.
In a rare event, last seen back in May (I think), I treated myself to two CDs today. One, obtained second-hand for the princely sum of £2.99, is Land of the Lost by Greyboy – definitely suitable for dinner parties in polite company (assuming said company has good taste, of course) or, as we did this evening, for listening to whilst flopping on the sofa. The second, obtained from my favourite record store in Brighton (Edge World Records, for those in the know), is Seasonally Affective, a retrospective by Piano Magic – they wonderfully describe their music as "romantic and square", which is a fair description of tracks like The Sharpest Knife In The Drawer but doesn’t really cover the bleeps and bloops of For Engineers AA. Recommended.
I *so* need to get back into listening to music properly.
Tuesday 27 September 2005
Expect to see a few photos over the next few days from our holiday in Devon.
A garden bench, covered in lichen, at Rosemoor gardens.
Wednesday 28 September 2005
The domes of the Eden Project rise out of the American Prairie and merge into the grey sky. Or something.
We were really impressed by the Eden Project – it was a full day out for us, with Hels managing to keep energy levels going through the whole day in spite of quite a lot of walking up and down the sides of the quarry in which the whole thing sits. It is much more than a garden – it is an entertaining and educational attraction with a definite "wow" factor.
Dedicated followers of good coffee
See us? We’re so trendy that when we stop for coffee and croissants in Ilfracombe, the only place that we’re seen in is 11 The Quay, Damien Hirst’s uber-fashionable bar and restaurant by the harbour. Daaaahrlings!
PlanetX – Jupiter Lander with bells on.
Thursday 29 September 2005
New variant spam
A new and worrying variant of comment spam has hit my site this morning – just a single spam comment so far, but it was sufficiently unusual for me to look at it closely before hitting the "delete" button.
The spam itself contains the usual "I think your site is great" crap and a link, telling me to scroll half-way down for a recipe. Now, this is the sort of thing that I might do, but I usually check that the link is not to some pr0n or cas1n0 site before clicking, particularly as the link has come from a stranger (and consequently went straight to moderation for me to review).
In fact, the link is to a legitimate weblog, specifically to this post. As you can see, I’m not the only one to have experienced this.
It seems that the comment spammer is trying to pollute comment spam blacklists by getting valid websites blacklisted. This would have the obvious consequence of rendering blacklists useless and reducing the value of anti-comment spam tools and plugins. This is a worrying development.
You can read more about it at The Net Is Dead. The advice is to carefully check comments left at your site and do not blacklist legitimate sites and URIs.
Personally, I find this all immensely tiresome. I had reduced the problem of comment spam to a minor nuisance, but now I’m back to getting 50 to 100 comment spams per day. This is not why I have a website – to wage a constant war on idiots is not why grayblog is here. A more timid soul might throw in the towel in the face of all this crap. It seems that waging this war is the price I must pay for subjecting you all to my words and pictures.
Some might argue that it’s a fair deal!
Looking west across the Taw-Torridge Estuary from near Crow Point.
We particularly liked what the clouds were doing that day.
Friday 30 September 2005
Little fluffy clouds
Little fluffy clouds over Saunton Sands. Like cotton wool.
Uborka a real weblog – official
Pete posts a picture of a cat. Resigning from blogging, my foot.
I order my stationery from the very well-known mail order company that send you catalogues and brochures every ten minutes (top tip: unless you ask them not to send them!). Yesterday, I ordered a pack of 250 self-seal C4 white envelopes with no window. Today, I received 1000 self-seal DL white envelopes with window. They’ve said that they will send me the correct envelopes free-of-charge on Monday and that I can keep the incorrect envelopes.
I never use window envelopes. My normal usage rate of plain DL envelopes is satisfied by purchasing a pack of 50 from the local post office roughly once every six to eight weeks. So, what am I going to do with three-and-a-half years’ supply of envelopes that I wouldn’t normally use?
The truth will out
I’ve lost count of the times that the Home Secretary has denied on TV, radio and in the press that there is a shoot-to-kill policy against suspected terrorists in London. Today, it has been revealed that the head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, has effectively curtailed the investigation into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station. In a letter he wrote to the Home Office explaining his reasons for this, he said:
Will the Home Secretary now admit that there is a shoot-to-kill policy? Will Sir Ian stand down? Will the IPCC now be allowed to carry out a proper investigation?
Somehow, I get the feeling that we’re looking at no, no and no again.
Piss up, brewery
Oh dear – I’m going to sound like some grumpy old man. Another rant:
I am trying to organise the importation of a consignment of plants from Australia from next week.
In order to do this, I must be registered with the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (part of the Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs). I’ve always got on well with PHSI – they’re a grotesquely under-funded and under-staffed bunch who try their best to prevent another Colorado Beetle or Dutch Elm Disease type problem from wiping out horticulture, agriculture and our native fauna. Our local inspector in Chichester is a part-time copper and a great laugh.
Anyway, in order to make the application for registration, I need something called a TURN. This stands for Trader Unique Reference Number and is issued by HM Customs and Excise. For most businesses, their TURN is their VAT number plus an additional three zeros on the end.
All well and good if you are already VAT registered, but my business isn’t. So, I need to apply for something called a Pseudo-TURN. This is issued by HMCE to businesses and entities that don’t have a VAT number.
Following so far?
So, I contact HMCE and they kindly put me through to a chap who is responsible for issuing Psuedo-TURNs. I explain the situation and he sends me a form by email straight away. Excellent so far. However, in order to complete the form, I have to tell them the flight details of the plane carrying the inbound consignment as well as something called the Air Way Bill number (or AWB – anyone who has ever had anything to do with international air frieght will know what this is).
The problem is that I don’t have this information. I can’t get a Pseudo-TURN until I get the AWB and flight details. I can’t get the AWB and flight details until I orgainse the consignment. I can’t orgainse the consignment until I’ve registered as an importer. And I can’t register as an importer until I’ve got a Pseudo-TURN.
I explained this to the man at HMCE. Utter intransigence. He simply refuses to budge from their policy and push a couple of bits of paper to issue a number to me and free up the logjam. Thankfully, PHSI, as usual, are completely flexible and have agreed to register me as an importer subject to me supplying them with a Pseudo-TURN as soon as I have it, so we can now get things moving. But the head of importer registration at PHSI in York was, frankly, astonished at HMCE’s reluctance to do this. The whole system was introduced earlier this year in order to make life simpler. It’s failed to do that for me.
Hels has just looked over my shoulder and told me that this is all utterly boring and nobody will want to read it. Probably true, but it’s my site and I don’t care. So nerr.