Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ken and Trevor

Ken Livingstone has apparently remarked that Trevor Philips is pandering to the right and that he expects that Trevor Philips will soon "be joining the BNP".

I do wonder if this is a yet another case of the left not liking it when a minority member dares to disagree with them?

Breast is best

Darling wife pointed out this article on Comment is Free on the subject of obesity and breastfeeding.

It does seem that some of the comments seem to think that the point that breastfed babies are less likely to be obese in later life means the article is saying:

  1. If you breastfeed, you won't be obese.
  2. If you don't breastfeed, you will be.
Clearly, the article is saying neither.

Incidentally, the wee fella has been exclusively breastfed and has been consistently in the 90th percentile weight wise (aka he's a big boy) for the last four and a half months. I don't think he's particularly fat, just big. He also has the most gorgeous smile!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I recently picked my copy of Robert Fisk's "In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the price of neutrality". I first read the book for my Leaving Certificate, when my specialist subject was Operation Green and the W plan - the plans for the Germans and the British respectively to move their troops into what was then the Irish Free State. Although Green was very distinctly an invasion plan, the W plan was more ambiguous - officially it was a plan to move troops into the Free State to repel a German invasion, though certain aspects of the details and instructions given to British troops suggested that the British might not necessarily have been expecting the full cooperation of the Irish Defence Forces.

The Times is currently carrying a debate in their letters column about the Irish decision to remain neutral, which is a bit of a coincidence. It's even more of a coincidence that it comes on the same day that Neville Chamberlain has come bottom of a list ranking 20th century Prime Minsters in order of "greatness", in that it was Chamberlain's decision to return the Treaty ports that both enabled de Valera to keep Ireland out of the war at the same time as infuriating Churchill (at school, it was suggested that de Valera at the end of the Economic War had simply asked for them towards the end of the negotiations and was slightly surprised to get immediate agreement from the British).

Back firing....

The Royal Mail has suspended a member of staff for distributing a leaflet advising residents on his usual round how to opt out from the unsolicited email they distribute. The result is that the BBC News report now has that information in a handy side bar on its news report, which presumably means that a lot more people than the residents of Barry will now be opting out.

Sometimes it's better to just let these things go.

Crossing oneself and the Scottish police

Over the weekend, I read on Iain Dale's diary that the Celtic goalkeeper had been charged and cautioned for blessing himself in front of the Rangers fans during the Old Firm game last February. However, Mr Eugenides had a different perspective. Archbishop Cramner on his blog made a strong defence of the right to bless one self. However, I heard on Five Live yesterday that the Scottish police have clarified that Boruc's offense wasn't the sign off the cross, but other gestures that followed (presumably the one that implied that Rangers fans were rather fond of committing the sin of Onan).

Most of the comments seem to be based on the single BBC report on the matter (both MrE and the Archbishop refer to the BBC story, where as Iain refers to the Archbishop). The BBC report does not so much cover the news that Boruc was cautioned, as the Catholic Church's response to that. That BBC report links to another report in which the Crown Office is quoted as saying that : "The decision to use an alternative to prosecution in this case was based on an assessment of behaviour, not one single act, which appeared to be directed towards the crowd, which was being incited by that behaviour and which caused the police to intervene and calm the crowd." In fact, it would appear that Boruc's gestures were even more provactive than Gary Neville's gestures to the Liverpool fans earlier this year.

It therefore would appear that this controversy has been caused, not by the decision of the Scottish authorities to caution Boruc, but by the interpretation of the Catholic authorities in Scotland that he was being cautioned by the police for blessing himself. It would therefore seem to me that this whole row has blown up because of an overly paranoid reaction of the Church - or at least certain segments of the Church.

This is a rather worrying trend - because Archbishop Rowan Williams is so busy trying to hold the Anglican Communion together in its current troubles, in some ways Cardinal Murphy O'Connor is seen as the de facto moral leader of Christians in this country (it was the Catholic bishops - in particular Archbishop Smith of Cardiff - who made much of running in the media over Lord Joffe's Bill, though it must be acknowledged that the Anglican Bishops did attend the House of Lords and vote in opposition to the Bill). But Catholic Herald reports on Adrian Hilton took down a committed Christian candidate for the Tories in Slough, and now it appears that they are taking the worst possible interpretation of events in Scotland.

There are battles worth fighting - taking down a Christian candidate in Slough over alleged anti Papism or defending a goalkeeper who makes obscene gestures to opposition fans doesn't strike me as the best use of the resources.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Trains, commuting and time

This is after all supposed to partly be a Brentwood Blog, and I was left thinking tonight on the train to Shenfield about local complaints about the train service. David Kendall, of the local Liberal Democrat organisation, has organised a transport forum to discuss transport issues within the town. If I recall correctly, the forum recently called for fast trains to stop at Brentwood.

On the face of it, this is not an unreasonable proposal. On closer thought I'm not so convinced it is there. When I first moved to Brentwood, I lived in Warley and took the train from Brentwood to Southend every day. That job turned out not to be as good as it was labelled on the tin, so instead I found a job in the Docklands, and continued to commute from Brentwood, but this time via Stratford and the DLR. Not long after moving jobs, I moved house to Shenfield, where by moving three miles further away from London, I cut 15 minutes off my commute. However, I also added £40 a month to my season ticket. Shortly we'll be moving to Ingatestone, which means, if I have it right, that despite being five miles further out than when I lived in Warley, I'll still have an eight minute shorter commute. However, I'll now be dealing with two trains an hour, rather than every ten minutes from Brentwood.

However, I'm convinced there are two reasons for the infrequent service there. Firstly is the issue that according to the world's largest collection of facts, debate, rumour and rubbish the population of the village is 3400. Secondly, and more significantly in my opinion, it's on the main line between London and Chelmsford, with a large number of express trains on the line (during a driving lesson recently, I sat at the level crossing at Ingatestone and watched four trains pass before the line was sufficently clear to raise the gates, only for the gates to come down as soon as I'd crossed over). That line merges with the Southend and Southminster line at Shenfield, which means you've got even more traffic along the line I commute.

This leads to me conclude it's not feasible for fast trains to stop at Brentwood - when I did commute from Brentwood during rush hour, you could usually reckon on a train going by every two minutes on the fast tracks. A sum I once did calculated that for a train travelling at 100 km an hour, a stop would add three minutes to the journey. I can't remember the assumptions, which were probably wrong, and it was done in my head, which means the calculations could be wrong, but there is a point in that the deceleration and acceleration required to stop at a station does mean that a train takes longer to traverse that section of track, and that doesn't include the time to let the customers on.

In case I lost you there, my point is that I think having "fast trains" (by which I suspect would mean trains from Southend Victoria) stop at Brentwood as well as Shenfield is not operationally feasible during rush hour (I think the high level of traffic on the fast line is the reason only off peak fast trains sometimes stop at Romford).

There are two other points I think are worth making to the Brentwood commuter, as opposed to the Shenfield commuter:

1. There's rarely seating on the fast trains from Shenfield as it is - there simply isn't room for all the Brentwood commuters on the train as well. On the other hand, metro services are practically empty on arrival in Brentwood, so at least you get to sit down.
2. There's a mark up for travelling from Shenfield which probably includes the price of getting the fast train as opposed to the Metro service. And you've always got the option of buying the Shenfield ticket anyway, and then going to Shenfield on the slow train before double backing on a fast one. That's often quicker than going direct on the Metro.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dodgy sporting decisions.

In the world of illogic that is football rules, while Wayne Rooney is suspended from the next two Manchester United matches because of a dodgy red card in the Amsterdam Tournament (and by the way, would someone please explain to me why the game he missed in that tournament doesn't count towards the suspension), Ben Thatcher is free to play for Manchester City despite putting a guy in hospital with an appalling tackle last night. I would suspect I'm paranoid, but Jose Mourinho has quite enough of that.

What I find more interesting though is the row in cricket. A lot of people, including most of the Cricket writers in Monday's Telegraph, were critical of the umpire in how he handled the ball tampering allegation, and also the Pakistani protest. I enjoy watching cricket, and have a minor connection to fame in that my brother as a schoolboy played football with Ed Joyce, and my sister has played cricket in teams coached by Ed Joyce's family. I am a little excited to see that he's in the squad for the One Day Internationals. However, I would acknowledge I'm no expert in the sport.

It does appear to me though that the ICC has little choice but to support the umpire. Yes, he may have accused the Pakistanis of cheating, but then so does a Premiership referee when he books a player for diving, and you don't see Manchester United refusing to come out for the second half in protest. Even if Darrell Hair has made a "massive mistake" to quote Nasser Hussein in the Mail, that's not the point. The point about referees and umpires is that their word is law and if teams feel they can pressurise officials into giving a decision their way or the authorities (the ICC or FIFA) will back them over the official, then you remove one of the key elements of good officialdom - the ability to make a decision based on how they see it at the time without undue pressure.

This is not to say officials always get it right - Dermot Gallagher certainly didn't at the City Portsmouth match - nor that they shouldn't be sanctioned when they get it badly wrong. But the ICC have consistently insisted they have confidence in Darrell Hair despite complaints and criticism from the Pakistanis, and they should continue to give him their backing now.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Missing the point

The BBC is reporting that Channel 4 has defended the decision to reintroduce an evicted Big Brother housemate into the game with the line "all profits from the phone vote [for the reentry vote] are being donated to charity." This is particularly in response to the fact that ICSTIS have announced they are investigating the possibly misleading advertising of the premium rate numbers used to cast votes.

Talk about missing the point - the issue is not where the profits from last weeks vote as to who to put back into the house went, but the fact that many people (including my wife) voted earlier in the series to evict these losers. Having voted to evict Nikki from the house, who is an appalling, self centred, vicious, spoilt, whiney brat, my wife is understandably annoyed that she's not only potentially back in, but has the chance of winning the money. There appears to be an element of "you didn't really mean to evict her". When you get 37% of the votes in a field of ten, it's fairly clear the Great British Public did.

It's not far off the situation where if Labour doesn't like the result of the next election ("you didn't really mean to elect a Tory government") they simply change the rules and have another one.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Singapore National Day

To my darling wife and son, Happy National Day!

More on Dispatches

One of the biggest things that can get confusing when discussing Islam is the failure to realise the common identity in the Islamic community is a religious one, not an ethnic one. Which is what made Monday's Dispatches program completely unsatisfactory.

A quite significant proportion of the program was devoted to Islamic attitudes to sexuality, and discovering that they held relatively conservative views on the area.

What was particularly idiotic and unsatisfactory about this is that the views expressed (no sex outside marriage and marriage is for heterosexuals), while not shared by society at large, would be shared within other groupings in British society who would also have religion at the core of group identity. Catholics for a start, but you'd probably get even more extreme opinions if you interviewed attendees at a large number of Evangelical Christian Churches as well. I was not surprised by the results, nor was I particularly bothered by them. My darling wife stated her agreement a number of times with the views on sexuality attributed to Muslims.

It also raises the question of why the liberal media is always so obsessed with religious groupings teaching on sexuality, but that's a different issue.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Education Education Education!

Last night's Dispatches on Channel 4 was Jon Snow interviewing young Muslims to assess their views on modern Britain. At one point he interviews a group of young men who put forward the conspiracy theory that Princess Diana was murdered to prevent Britain having a Muslim King as the result of her liason with Dodi Al Fayed.

This is a sad reflection on the state of modern British education, which has clearly failed to teach these young men some basic facts on how succession and monarchy works, or the ability to apply knowledge and critical thinking. Or both.

Surely they don't need to be told that any child Diana had with Dodi Al Fayed had no claim to the throne. And I wasn't even educated in England.

Monday, August 07, 2006

So apparently I'm Bartlett.....

Powerful. Intimidating. Trivia Nazi. President Bartlet is all of these and more. A super-nerd who's into chess, National Parks, and rambling off things in Latin, POTUS is the 'real thing.' Not being completely upfront with the American people may cause him re-election headaches, though...

:: Which West Wing character are you? ::

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Better late than never....

John Reid is quoted today as saying the country needs a debate about immigration and "We have to get away from this daft so-called politically correct notion that anybody who wants to talk about immigration is somehow a racist."

So was that why the Labour party spent the last election campaign criticising the Tories for saying the same thing?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Proof that Symantec is the tool of the devil

I've always had my suspicions about anti virus and anti spy ware software, but here, finally, is proof that it is in fact the devil's work.

The BBC is reporting that their security suite is identifying a software package that vicars use for planning services as spyware.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I've not posted for a while, though oddly, I've had a lot to say.

Firstly the County Council by election result is available here but the short version is that Ann Naylor of the Tories won comfortably. I now have a vested interest in the result as the wife and I are moving to Ingatestone (hopefully) in the not too distant future.

Secondly, sadly the West Wing is no more. Janet Daley had an excellent article about it in the Telegraph on Monday which is well worth reading. I will admit I'll miss it, though I think my wife will be pleased thats one less thing I'm watching (though as a Big Brother addict....).

She's not the only one in the house watching BB though - I have also been watching this year. I've never really bothered with BB much before - I can name a handful of former housemates, Anna Nolan and Brian Dowling from the early series as being Irish and popular meant it was impossible to hide from them if you were living in Dublin. Jade Goody of course has made a career out of well.... being thick? And Makosi and Derek from the last series simply because the issue came up on Question Time when Derek was on (he is also mentioned in Alan Clark's diaries, though with a different spelling of his surname). I really, really, really hope that Nikki disappears back into obscurity - the idea that her tantrums could be an inspiration to young girls as to what to be when they grow up bothers me immensely.