All entries for December 2006

December 31, 2006

Happy New Year !

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Well folks, it’s already been new year in China for seven and a half hours. Celebrated it with a little party in my residence followed by a walk in the freezing cold. My roommate decided to come back about 11.30pm, having drunk God-knows how much of his Korean alcohol, taken off his trousers and flopped into his bed. So the countdown came, New Year arrived to the sound of a few dozen people of several nationalities all cheering ”三 二 一。。。新年快乐!” (San, Er, Yi… Xin Nian Kuai Le! – 3 – 2 – 1 Happy New Year!) Good fun.

The temperature at night these days has been around -6-11 degrees, sometimes colder depending on the wind strength. So I walked out in my thick, heavy jacket and started making the phone calls and writing text messages and also just appreciating the beauty of the campus. It’s as scenic as Warwick but is now decked out in snow. And watching groups of people pass, rambling in Chinese, wishing one another a Happy New Year – it was all very surreal. Gorgeous.

So while I was walking, I got to thinking about when I was younger and spending a couple of New Year Eves up in Scotland with the family. I’ve never been terribly attached to my Scottish half for one reason or another but I always used to love the Scottish New Year celebrations. It didn’t have that sort of commercial, artificial feeling to New Year I’ve always found in London. The celebrations always seemed so much more genuine.

And so we get onto Auld Lang Syne, written (or gathered!) by the Pride of Scotland™ Rabbie Burns and adopted as a New Year Hymn by most English speakers and various others (I think South Korea even had it as its National Anthem at one point, with Korean words of course). It is, of course, a beautiful tune, full of a hopeful and happy nostalgia (yes I am aware of the etymology all you classicists!). And here’s the key part for me:

And ther’s a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll tak’ a right good willie-waught,,
For auld lang syne.

So Happy New Year everyone! Here’s hoping that this year turns out better for you all than last, انشاءالله


December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein Executed

Follow-up to Saddam Hussein to be executed tomorrow? from The Story of Hamid-o

Wonderful. As predicted, it’s quite the media circus. We’ve got images on Fox, CNN etc. Frontpages plastered with images of Saddam with a noose around his head. There are step-by-step pictures and videos available of the placing of the noose, the body hanging limply and the corpse on the floor. Fantastic.

Meanwhile, I’m hearing of videos apparently showing various Shi’a executioners dancing around the room.

If he needed to be executed, then fine. But execution on Eid? How wonderful! It’s Like executing a Christian on Christmas day. You don’t bloody execute people on Eid, no matter how vile they may be. And it’s December 30th. How beautifully convenient! Well done Bush! Another mission accomplished!

It’s great to see the “Sovereign” Iraqi courts marching to America’s drumbeat. Naturally the Americans haven’t considered (or have they?) the impact of his show trial and execution on the Sunnis of Iraq. Let’s see how long it takes before Sovereign Iraq divides into three different nations.


December 29, 2006

Saddam Hussein to be executed tomorrow?

Writing about web page http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/12/29/hussein/index.html

So it looks like the Iraqi kangaroo court has heard the appeal and decided that the execution should proceed and it’s looking increasingly likely that it will happen either later today or tomorrow. Tomorrow is, coincidentally 30/12/2006 , just one day short of the New Year.

So it looks like Bush will have some propaganda victory as his party staggers into 2007 under the weight of the Iraq war, Foley(gate), the losses incurred in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Now he can claim that justice has been served, another mission accomplished and an evil dictator has been “wiped off the map” (wahay!). He can gloat that justice has been served whilst at the same time shy away from completely condoning it.

“We salute the Iraqi people and their quest for freedom and democracy against al-qayder and terrism, and we hope that today will mark the end of an era. An era of rape rooms and soldiers seizing babies from incubators. But you know, being the civilised civilisation that we white…. I mean Americans are, we don’t condone the death penalty. Except in Texas (and other states). Where we execute the mentally-handicapped. And heck, you know them there on death row have several chances to appeal. It can take a long time to execute someone. But when it comes to a former head of state who’s become a political nuisance… well ‘Justice’ is always best served quickly and efficiently!

At least he got the vague semblence of justice instead of a “9mm Labotomy” – or a “window in the back of his head” or whatever charming phrase jingoistic, gun-toting Americans are using today – in his cell. So let’s see how this pans out.

As an aside, the media circus is increasingly stomach-turning. I was just watching CNN and my skin crawled as the announcement came. It reminded me of that satirical scene in Starship Troopers concerning the criminal due to be excecuted “Execution live at 9.00, all channels”. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s live coverage of the execution.

So, whatever you might think of Saddam, there are two things I remember him for, back from my youth:

1) An interview with Trevor Macdonald (I think it was just before the Gulf War whilst America was gathering UN support for “ejecting Iraq from Kuwait”) in which Saddam Hussein was speaking Arabic through a translator. The translator mistranslated something – Saddam paused, looked at his translator and told him to translate it properly. Was quite surprising and an insight into the dictator. As shitty a commander as he was, he had some cunning.

2) Another quotation. I can’t remember when it was said (or to whom it was said) but I remember my father quoting it to me sometime after the Gulf War. I’m paraphrasing but it was essentially:

Reporter: Mr. President, what do you think about the threats coming from Qatar and Bahrain these days?
...
Saddam Hussein : Qatar? Bahrain? Ha! I’ll tell you what I think of Qatar and Bahrain. I took Kuwait in a week. I’ll take Qatar in a day. And I’ll take Bahrain by fax.

For some reason, that still cracks me up. Sadist with a sense of humour perhaps?


CSI Miami…

I don’t expect much from a lot of the TV shows I watch on a regular basis. I put them on in the background while I read or play video games or learn vocab.

One of the shows I enjoy “watching” is CSI Miami. I watched Seasons 4 and 5 with my girlfriend (pausing every five minutes to say (wait so that’s his dead brother’s wife or his girlfriend? Why does that blonde one have a stalker? etc. etc.) and I liked it. I think the acting’s of a pretty good quality and there’s something of a James Earls Jones quality to Horatio Cane’s voice. It’s not quite as deep, but it has that same disarming and calming factor. Even when spouting off the usual SLAP-ME-BEFORE-I-SLAP-MYSELF cliches/puns that crop up in every episode with at least one just before the title screen. Just this minute he’s come up with “She should have been seeing the time of her life here in Spring Break… not the end of it”.

Anyhow, the rant. I can live with the idea of Cane being some sort of combination of Police Chief/Lieutenant/CSI/Vigilante/Man-of-the-family. Hey, it’s fantasy! I can live with the idea that a woman can wear skin-tight clothing whilst somehow concealing a kevlar vest (wait… we can see the shape of her boobs… and she’s wearing a bullet-proof vest? Oh my!). I can even live with the idea that these guys can increase a picture’s resolution “Hey gimme a close up on quadrant 19 of that shitty mobile phone picture. Can you give me a close up? OK can you clear it up a bit? Well shit, of course you can! Now I can see a license plate in the reflection on this guy’s sunglasses! How convenient!”

What I can’t live with is the fact that these guys are forensic scientists. And they have to be told some of the most elementary scientific facts in order for the story line to progress.

For example, one of them receives a dose of alpha radiation. The Ditzy Blonde bullet expert says something like “Well what does that mean?”. Speed then has to explain the differences between Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation to her (not that he does a good job of it). WHAT THE HELL. I remember this stuff back from when I was 12 years old. I can appreciate that not all audience members will know bits and pieces of basic physics but Christ, give us some credit. Make one of the CSIs explain it to a Police officer or even a child. It drives me absolutely crazy.

And if I hear a CSI say to the other for the billionth time “Oh you have a print? Run it through {what is it? AFIS? That fingerprint database})” I will strangle myself with my own socks. HE’S A CSI TOO. HE’S JUST BEEN WORKING ON GETTING THE PRINTS. YOU DON’T THINK HE KNOWS ENOUGH BY NOW TO RUN IT THROUGH THE FRICKING DATABASE? WHAT DO YOU THINK HE’S GOING TO DO? “Oh we have a viable print? Better file that away and never do anything with it. EVER.”

God damn.


December 27, 2006

No Car Bombs Please…

While crossing a road on the 24th of December I came across this sign:

No Car Bombs Please

First thought was “No car bombs please.”

Couple of other suggestions were “Crashing into this signpost is forbidden!” and “Do not crash your car!”.

Anyone else have any ideas?


December 24, 2006

An overheard Christmas conversation…

...in a Beijing net cafe.

Two friends discussing (what else?) but intercourse. Daniel is Greek, the other is not:

John: So Dan, have you had sex yet?

Daniel: Yep. Had a girlfriend in Southampton and crazy karaoke sex in Shanghai.

John: Woo interesting. But how about those girls you introduced me to in Greece last time we were there?

Daniel: Dude, nah…. just… nah….

John: But man… they were Greek. They were hot! They had breasts… and vaginas…

Daniel: ...and moustaches.

-—-

Oops. Merry Christmas everyone! (25th here in China already :P )


December 20, 2006

Oh my that's odd…

So as many of you know, I’m currently living in Beijing. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve just told you. And I bump into some fairly random things when out and about. Here are some of my recent accidents:

Chococheese

What the hell? Chocolate Flavour Cheese? Bleurgh. I didn’t give it a try and my arteries are still thanking me. For anyone who’s interested the Chinese for Chocolate is 巧克力 (Qiao Ke Li). There’s a phone advert plastered on half the billboards in Beijing for a “Chocolate” phone. Their slogan? 爱巧克力你 (Love chocolate you) with the English subtitle (I Chocolate You – 爱 is pronounced Ai in Chinese).

Dr. Pee

Adult Diapers. Called Dr. P . Who knew adult urinary problems could be fun! I have never seen adult diapers in a supermarket before I spotted these next to sanitary towels (don’t ask :P) in Carrefour.

Coon Cheese

This was both startling and funny until I realised it came from Australia :P.

Mc Consumerism

For anyone who still harbours the misguided view that China is, in fact, Communist. McKids. It’s actually the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in China. Childhood obesity ain’t fun. Even if you’re wearing a super-sized pair of toddler mittens.

That’s it for now!


December 18, 2006

Ugliest Car Ever?

I think so… I was going to say something more but I think the picture says it all:

Ugly Car


December 15, 2006

Palestine: Attempt on Ismail Haniyeh

Follow-up to Palestine: Civil War Ahead? from The Story of Hamid-o

Haaretz

Hamas officials said the 24-year-old guard was shot in the head during intense gunfire from Fatah forces. “The bodyguard to Ismail Haniyeh was killed during an assassination attempt,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
/> [Haniyeh] added, “we know the party that shot directly at our cars, injuring some of the people with me… and we also know how to deal with this.”
/> About 50 gunmen greeted Haniyeh at his home in a refugee camp next to Gaza City, firing in the air and throwing candies. [What the hell?]
/> More than two dozen people, including the Haniyeh’s son, Abed, 27, were wounded in the fighting, deepening factional violence that has pushed the rival Hamas and Fatah parties closer to civil war. An official said that the son was not badly hurt.

Reading through the article, it’s not clear exactly how things started, but the end result is Haniyeh with a dead bodyguard, a half-dead son and a clear threat in the shape of “And we also know how to deal with this.”

This piles onto other recent events indicating the spiral down into a civil war, at least within Ghaza.

As with nearly any Israeli/American-written article on Palestine/Lebanone/The World these days, the evil Iranian boogeyman crops up:

The security establishment has voiced its concern over the emergence of closer ties between Hamas and Iran, as Haniyeh’s visit to Tehran this week is viewed by Israel as a possible step by them towards establish a strategic pact.

In my view the Palestinians could do a lot worse than looking to Iran for backing. The Arabs have failed them. The Europeans have been pic’ ‘n’ mix friends. The Americans have since the ‘60s been firmly aiding Israel.

The Iranians are promising ideological support (ie firm support for the creation of a Palestinian state or some bi-national state – I’m going to be deleting any comments saying Ahmadenijad wants Israel “wiped off the map”), economic support and logistical support. The Palestinians are already under severe economic sanctions and the occupation has been continuing in its brutality no matter what the Palestinians do. If the Palestinian factions stop failing the Palestinian people and embrace Iran, it is quite possible they will be able to more-effectively wage guerrilla warfare against the occupying power.


December 10, 2006

Blatently Best Christmas Ad Ever

Remember the little Christmas animation we all used to watch on a yearly basis called The Snowman ?

Ever indulged in the delightful Irn Bru (Pride of Scotland!)?

This is what happens when you mix the two:

But to be honest the only advertising Irn Bru ever really needed was Rab C Nesbitt. Jamesy ye bashtard, I tell you this, boyo, I tell you this!


Damn I hate shaving…

The title says it all. I hate wet-shaving. I can’t stand electric razors. I hate the feeling of shaving stubble (like ripping the short hair from my face). I hate the feeling of having to shave somewhat longer hair because it takes a bloody age.

And I really hate it when you accidentally miss a spot. I rarely cut myself, thank God and I rarely get stubble/shaving rash. But the odd spots are annoying.

And to think when I was a kid I wanted to shave.

Shaving


December 07, 2006

Rape might not be rape if you're drunk…

Writing about web page http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2490449,00.html

This is from The Times so there was plenty of sensationalism to wade through. The proper “news” is contained in the first paragraph.

Juries are reluctant to convict men of rape in cases where the alleged victim has been drinking, research published today suggests.

Then we have:

The findings suggest that juries, as much as the Crown Prosecution Service or police, are responsible for the low rate of rape convictions. Fewer than 6 per cent of rape allegations result in successful convictions.

The research [...] also indicated that juries hold a drunken victim partially responsible for what happens.
/> This is either because she accepted drinks from the defendant, failed to stand her ground against pressure to drink more or did not take adequate care to ensure that her drinks were not spiked.

Another finding was that jurors were less inclined to see “taking advantage” of a drunken woman as rape in situations where the woman’s normal behaviour was to drink heavily in the company of men.
...
By contrast, where the drug Rohypnol had been used, jurors were more inclined to hold the defendant responsible for rape, even if the effect of the drug was the same as if a woman were very drunk.
...
Dr Vanessa Munro[...] “These findings reflect the hold that gender stereotypes still have. They suggest that ‘rape myths’ can have a profound influence upon jurors.”
...
This month Jonathan Hagan was cleared of raping an undergraduate after a freshers’ party at the University of Nottingham, where he was student union president. The girl said that she was so drunk that she could remember nothing more than Hagan removing her underwear before she passed out.

First a comment on these statements before we get on to the statistics given at the end of the article. In the final quoted paragraph, the student remembered that the man had removed her pants before she remembers nothing else (ie claims to have passed out). If she remembers him removing her pants then it would also seem to be a consensual sexual act. The article doesn’t go into great detail, but I would guess that getting into a position where he is removing underwear, intercourse would be the logical conclusion. So it would seem to me that the jury made the right decision in the case. It would also seem to me that it is about as much a rape as an attractive man getting really drunk, having sex with an ugly woman, waking up without remembering anything more than having had his pants removed but seeing that he’s woken up next to a woman with whom he’d normally not have had intercourse and coming to the conclusion that he’d been raped. It would be laughed out of court.

It also seems that juries are leaning in the right directions when it comes to convictions based upon drug-use vs “taking advantage” of drunk women who’ve had a history of getting drunk around men. The usage of such a drug as rohypnol, without the woman’s consent, leading to intercourse seems to me to be clear-cut rape. Having sexual intercourse with a woman who is so drunk as to barely remember the details does not seem to be a clear-cut case of rape. I don’t see the controversy. Nor do I see it as a perpetuation of rape myths. Not all jurors are men. Many jurors are women who will know what it is like to have been drunk. The key is to avoid getting very drunk without making sure you have at least one friend to watch your back in advance.

As for the statistics afterwards, they seem to be very misleading and sensationalist. 5.7% of rape allegations lead to convictions.

OK. But 66% drop out at the police stage, presumably either through embarrassment (I am not saying that it is merited, just one of the psychological reactions to rape), fear or some other such motivation on the part of the woman (or man). So of those we have 34% which continue through the police stage. Of that 34%, 25% are deemed to not be crimes by the police. which means that a further 8.5% of the original claims are deemed to not be crimes. Which means that we have a figure of about 25% of the original allegations being investigated as crimes. 50% of those deemed worthy of criminal investigation (I presume since the artile doesn’t quite define its terms) lead to no further action by the police. One can only imagine that it is due to a significant lack of evidence because once criminal proceedings are begun by the police, the alleged victim cannot simply withdraw her claim without making herself a target of prosecution. Which means that 12.5% of the original figure are claims evidenced enough to warrant the case going to court. As 5.7% of the cases lead to convictions, then about 46% of claims with evidence of sexual activity and/or lack of consent lead to a conviction and presumably a rape conviction. Which means that of the 56% that don’t lead to a conviction, it is entirely possible that quite a substantial number lead to convictions for sexual assault or assault of some kind (ie plea bargains).

Now I don’t think that plea bargains should be part of the system. And I do believe that the punishment system needs an overhaul (but that is a legislative issue and not the fault of the courts). And of course this does not mean that there aren’t inadequacies in the policing or justice systems in this country. But I dislike this statistic-based rhetoric that because there are x allegations then there must be x percentage convictions.

I think that a conviction rate (of rape) of about 50% all evidenced cases of alleged rapes is a figure that shows that the police are working properly on the whole.


December 05, 2006

Palestine: Civil War Ahead?

The Palestinians have more-or-less managed to avoid civil war. over the past 40 years. There were always various rivalries between competing Palestinian factions, but the Palestinians have been able to stop that from fomenting into anything more than rivalry because of the united national goal and the united will of the Palestinian people (to see an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip).

Now it’s looking increasingly as though there is set to be some form of civil war between Fatah (and which ever splinter groups or allies choose to aid it) and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

This isn’t worrying just because of the potential violence and death that may ensue, it is also worrying because it reduces the Palestinian leadership(s) to mere monkeys dancing to an Israeli accordian.

Fatah has proven, since 1993, to be willing to comply to Israeli demands in order to gain or retain power. Hamas has proven to be equally pliant but in a different way. Time and again Hamas has predictably reacted to Israeli provocation in precisely the manner the Israeli authorities desired (for example, when Hamas would orchestrate a hudna, the Israelis would make an assassination. And if no reaction, another assassination. And then another until Hamas responded by making a strike against Israeli civilians which the Israelis would use as an excuse to escalate their violence).

And now these two monkeys are hearing the Israeli tune and dancing more ferociously than ever. They can’t see the wood for the trees? Would Palestinian Civil War be beneficial to Israel? Of course it would. Why? Well:

1) If the major Palestinian militant groups are fighting amongst themselves, they’re not going to be fighting with Israel.

2) If the Palestinians are engaged in civil war, Israel can continue to pursue its policy of the last 10 years and create de facto borders which will ultimately result in a semi-autonomous Palestinian region within an Israeli state. The Israelis won’t have to negotiate if the Palestinians can’t decide on their leadership. Negotiations completely go out the window. Palestinians destroy themselves while Israel reaps the benefits. To quote the Chinese Idiom: ”坐山观虎斗“ – Sit on a mountain and watch two tigers fight.

3) It frees the Israelis up to pursue other actions. Notably Lebanon. Israel is already making hints towards a future invasion (as though the hints at the end of the last war weren’t obvious enough) and it’s looking increasingly likely that an invasion or “intervention” will take place. .

Here’s hoping that neither Fatah nor Hamas will take the bait and launch a civil war. It would mean the ruin of hopes for a sovereign Palestine.


December 03, 2006

Chinese Queues

You’ll have to forgive the terrible and rather obscure historical pun in the title, but this is one thing I can’t get used to in China and it’s irking me more and more as time goes by.

Without wanting to be too much of an Orientalist… Chinese people (well at least those in Beijing) just don’t queue very well. I hate it. I love China but I hate the lack of queues. I can’t think of anything that has pissed me off more here than watching fairly well-off and educated people crowding literally a milimetre in front of an elevator door without bothering to leave any room for folks who might want to get off. Then when the doors do open and people are trying to get off, they swarm in and it becomes a tussle to get out of the fricking elevator. And, naturally, this leads to stupid situations where you have a fairly full elevator where the person who’s getting out on floor three is at the back of the elevator because he/she rushed in first, while the person getting out on floor nineteen is practically up against the door because he has a modicum of politeness.

It goes for queues in shops without a ridgid till system. I was at McDonald’s for the first time in China the other day on a Friday night (we’re talking about 12.30 am here) and trying to form an orderly queue was nearly impossible. People would come in, waltz up to the front of the queue and begin edging their way in until they got to give their order. It also happens in any local shops you might go to. It drives me insane.

So I’m loving China. Not loving the lack of queues at the moment (and for some reason women seem to be the worst culprits). Next-up – I’ll be whinging about a 30:1 shop-assistant-to-customer ratio in various Chinese malls.


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