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April 07, 2007

Redirection

If you are looking for Dan Goodman, mathematician/neuroscientist, please find my new web page at http://thesamovar.net. This blog from my days as a maths PhD student is now closed.


November 09, 2006

Comments feeds

My Warwick account is sadly going to disappear at the end of the month, so I’m subscribing to all my favourite blogs’ RSS feeds. Do comments have a feed on warwick blogs? If so, how do you get to it? If not, I think this would be a good feature.


September 20, 2006

Geek question

I’m a sort of semi-geek, in that I know enough to pose the following question, but not enough to come up with a satisfactory answer. Any help from a true geek would be very much appreciated.

I have a desktop computer, a laptop computer and a large amount of email to deal with (say 200 a day). What I want to happen is for my laptop and desktop to both have a copy of every email I have received and every email I have sent. I would be reasonably happy if I could make sure that at least one of my two computers has all this, and the other one has most of it.

The technology I have to work with is this: two Windows XP computers running Thunderbird. One mail server which has a 40MB quota and can work with POP3 or IMAP. I am pretty sure I can’t install any software on this server (so any solution involving running procmail or some such on the server is out).

So far I have a couple of somewhat unsatisfactory solutions.

Solution 1:

Set desktop computer to download using POP3 and delete from the server when messages are greater than a month or two old (I’d have to figure out the number so that I didn’t get too close to using up the whole quota). Run IMAP on the laptop, BCC any mail sent from the laptop and set up a mail filter to copy this to my sent mail folder. This way the laptop always has the last month of email. This solution is OK, and I might well have to go for it but it’s not ideal in various ways.

Solution 2:

This is more an idea for a solution, because I don’t know how to get it to work. The idea is that both computers use IMAP, but that some little bit of software is installed that automatically creates a local archive of all my emails. I would also have a little bit of software that I occasionally run that deletes old mail from the IMAP server. This way both the laptop and desktop would have a copy of everything and it involves minimal maintenance. Trouble is, I haven’t had much luck in finding any suitable software to do what I want, although it seems quite straightforward. Thunderbird can make an offline copy of your IMAP folders, but it’s stored as a sort of backup folder and there’s no straightforward way to automatically merge it with an archive folder.

So any good ideas?


September 18, 2006

Green taxes

Writing about web page http://whitherward.blogspot.com/2006/09/green-taxes.html

(This entry is being posted on this blog and my new blog Whitherward as this one will disappear within a month or two I think.)

Apparently Menzies Campbell wants to scrap the Lib Dems policy of a 50% rate of tax on earnings over £150k in favour of “green taxes”, that is taxes on polluting behaviour. Given this, it seems like an appropriate time to ask the question: are green taxes sustainable?

Now, since he is proposing scrapping the 50% policy in favour of green taxes, he clearly expects to use the expected revenues generated as a basic part of his budget. Someone (I can’t remember who I’m afraid, it might have been Chris Doidge, but it might not), pointed out in an earlier conversation that either these taxes raise lots of money, in which case there must still be lots of polluting activity, or they fail to raise lots of money, in which case there would be a budget shortfall. Strictly speaking this isn’t true, it could be the case that you could expect to reduce polluting behaviour but not eliminate it, and anticipating the reduction in polluting behaviour as a consequence of these taxes you could estimate the revenues that would be produced. However, there does seem to be something slightly perverse about this (and do we really believe that they’re capable of doing these sorts of calculations?).

There is another problem. Presumably, we would hope that in the long term polluting behaviour would significantly reduce over time, which would mean that to maintain constant revenue rates from green taxes, we would have to increase these taxes over time to compensate. As the rate of taxation got ever higher, the illogic of the tax would become ever clearer, and eventually an alternative source of revenue would have to be found. In essence, the revenue generated by the green taxes would be used, presumably, for wealth redistribution, but rather than taxing the wealthy you would be taxing the polluters which seems unfair on the face of it.

So, although I am in favour of policies which reduce polluting behaviour, and I am in favour of wealth redistribution, I am not at all sure about this policy. It seems like a short term attempt to introduce stealth redistribution of wealth, which fails to address any systemic or long term problems. Perhaps it is justified as a short term measure because of the current right wing trend in politics though?


September 05, 2006

New blog

Well, it really is almost all over now. For anyone who wants to keep reading my rants about politics and cookery, you might be interested in my new webpage and blog.

The webpage is the samovar, and my new blog is Whitherward (on blogger). I might not stick to this arrangement, but any changes will be included there.

This isn’t my last post – but it might be the second last… :’(


August 24, 2006

The end is nigh…

Tomorrow I plan to print my PhD thesis, get it bound and submit it. By the end of the month, I will have moved out of Leamington to London. In other words, my time at Warwick is up, and so is the time of this blog. I'm not going to pay Warwick to keep my account, so at the end of September this blog and my old email address will die.

I will probably get a new blog though and any advice would be much appreciated. As I see it I have two options. I have a new webpage (currently under construction), which is capable of running various scripting languages (SSI, PHP4, CGI–BIN inc Perl and Python, FrontPage 2003 extensions, and MySQL) – is there any cheap or free blog software which I could run on this page? At the moment, I only have 50MB space, is this enough to run a blog? The other option is to use one of the various blogging companies out there like blogspot, blogger, etc. Any advice on which of these are best from a technical and political point of view? Ideally, I'd like one which has a history of supporting rather than suppressing free speech, which has a respectable privacy policy, and if possible doesn't claim eternal rights over everything you write using it.

Hopefully I will get this set up before I lose this account and I'll post a link to the new site.


August 08, 2006

Unbelievably bad taste

Just watching BBC News 24 Hardtalk programme with Binyamin Netanyahu (once Israeli PM). At one point, Netanyahu likened the rocket attacks by Hizbullah to the Blitz! I think this is very distasteful. The basis for his claim was that Hizbullah launched 3,000 rockets into Israel, the same number as the number of V1 and V2 rockets fired at London during the Blitz. Well, that might be true but it is a very clumsy attempt at deception.

Firstly, V1 and V2 rockets only account for a tiny percentage of the number of bombs dropped on London during the Blitz. The total number, according to wikipedia, not the most reliable of sources of course, was over 1 million. Secondly, the number of Israeli civilian casualties is in the tens, the number of civilian casualties during the Blitz was (according to wiki) 43,000.

Anyway, he continued to push this analogy from time to time during the rest of the interview, he was obviously quite pleased with it. This raises the question: does he really think that he's involved in something like WW2, fighting Hitler? Or is it just clumsy bullshit trying to trick us into thinking that what they're doing is right?


Almost finished my PhD

I have almost finished my PhD. The thesis is written, and barring any (hopefully minor) suggestions from my supervisor, all I need to do is print it out and get it bound and then I'm done. That is, until the dreaded viva.

I'm quite pleased that although neither the paper I've written nor my thesis have been published yet, if you search for the subject of my thesis (quasifuchsian space) on Google, they come up as the second and third entries, right after the web page of Fields medal winner Curt McMullen.

I'm also quite pleased that I've just noticed a paper (not yet published even) by two quite distinguished mathematicians (no names!) which proves a result that is just a very special case of the result in my thesis. Victory is mine! :–)

The bad news though is that my time in Warwick is almost up, and so is the life of this blog. Still a few weeks to go though…


July 28, 2006

BBQ Catchup

Just a few barbecue catchup pictures now that I've got them from Alastair's digital camera. There are two quite similar barbecues featured, intertwined below.

Some things cooking

Two Australian threadfin bream with nothing done to them.

Two fish on a barbecue

Two duck legs and breasts marinated in a sort of Asian style marinade of caramelised sugar with sweet soy sauce and star anise, and a butterflied leg of lamb marinated with garlic, lemon and rosemary.

Lamb and duck on a bbq

Some things on plates

Scallops and asparagus, wrapped in pancetta.

Scallops, asparagus, wrapped in pancetta

Some slices of the aforementioned duck. Beautifully rested and pink, served with chopped coriander.

Slices of bbq duck

Strawberries, raspberries and cream.

Strawberries, raspberries and cream

Non–food

I don't drink so I could only take vicarious pleasure in this one.

Champagne!

And finally, this is me blogging by candlelight late at night in the garden (about 1am I think).

Me writing a post-bbq blog


Self–deception

What happens when you make yourself believe something that deep down you know cannot be true?

This question has occurred to me a lot this week reading debates about what Israel is doing, but I think the same question can be asked about Blair and the loyal New Labour MPs.

Blair, for whatever reason, felt he had to go along with America in invading Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, like any sane person, he recognized that this was wrong. So in order to do it, I think he must have gone through some (probably agonizing) internal process. He had to do this to maintain a consistent image. If he was just pretending, he might slip up and reveal himself.

New Labour MPs have had to go through a similar process. For them they must do what Blair and co tell them even though they know that it's the sort of thing a Tory government would do not a Labour government.

Finally, supporters of Israel's behaviour must have done something similar to themselves.

So what are the consequences of this sort of behaviour? The first is one that is related to mathematical logic. If you assume any particular false statement is true, you can prove any other false statement to be true. Bertrand Russell gives the example of a proof that he is the Pope if you assume that 2=1. It starts by saying that the Pope and Bertrand Russell are two. But two is one, and so the Pope and Bertrand Russell and one, and therefore Bertrand Russell is the Pope.

Now, I don't believe that morality has a coherent mathematical logic, but I wonder if a similar effect applies. If invading Iraq is assumed to be right, then the reasons for not invading Iraq must be false. For Blair, this goes further. If we assume that America is right in all things, particularly relating to terrorism, then in some sense the reasoning (to the extent that the word applies) of the Bush government must apply. It follows that we too must have these authoritarian laws.

Blair of course is a professional politician so it can be tricky to catch him out when he's doing this sort of thing, although I think there have been instances. But, random people on the internet talking about Israel are generally not professional politicians, and are much less guarded about what they think, feel and say. On one web forum I was reading, an individual who is usually very rational, discussing scientific and philosophical matters coherently and clearly, was brought to saying, in the course of a long discussion of the rights and wrongs of what Israel is doing, that the concept of war crimes was meaningless. The way the discussion went, he couldn't argue anything else because it was clear that some of Israel's actions have been war crimes. The knock on effect of this sort of thing is probably apparent. If the notion of war crimes must be meaningless, then the notion of international law must also be meaningless. Organisations such as the UN must be fundamentally flawed, and we are brought to the position of might is right.

The other consequence of this sort of act of self deception that I can think of is that people who practice it cease to make sense. Their grasp of basic logic and common sense, which was previously apparently secure, becomes tenuous. They begin to feel comfortable with non sequiturs, evasions, conflation of concepts, and doublespeak. The question is: if they talk this way, do they begin to think this way? If our prime minister was ever able to reason correctly, is he still able to?


July 25, 2006

NTL Hatred

My advice:

DO NOT EVER GET A CONTRACT WITH NTL

Let me repeat that:

DO NOT EVER GET A CONTRACT WITH NTL

They are a SHIT company. Let me explain.

When I moved house but carried my NTL account on, they started double billing me. Fortunately, I had refused to pay by direct debit because I had an inclination not to trust them. For three months, they continued to double bill me, even though I rang them and explained the problem after each new bill, paying the correct amount each time. Finally they stopped double billing me, but it was another two months before the outstanding amount was taken off my bill, and even then it was only when someone at NTL took it off even though they weren’t authorised to do so. The previous ones had told me that the problem was sorted when they presumably had done nothing. In the light of this, you can see why I am not really that excited about the prospect of letting NTL dip into my account at will. In fact, I am extremely irritated that they keep my debit card details on their system so that I don’t have to give my number each time.

So, when a few months into this academic year they introduced a “Non-direct debit handling charge” of £4 a month I was pretty pissed off. The purpose of this is to punish you for wanting to retain control of your own money. I assume that if pressed they would argue that this offsets the risk of non-payment from non-direct debit payment. I would have more sympathy for this point of view if overall charges had gone down as a consequence, but in fact this is just an additional charge slapped on top. In the last month or so, they have taken this one step further. As well as the £4 a month for non-direct debit payment they have also introduced a £10 late payment charge. Again, this is purely punitive, and further designed to push you into direct debit payment, so they can double bill you and make you work to get your money back (and in the meantime they have your money and there’s no way you can impose a £10 charge back on them).

This is a company that is very underhand in its dealings with customers. Two years ago when I first got my account with them they advertised a deal whereby you got internet, TV and telephone and you didn’t have to pay for the line rental. This year, they sent me a letter saying that for the last four months I hadn’t been charged line rental and they were retroactively charging me for it. When I rang them they explained that it was a time limited deal (it didn’t say that on the advert, at least not anywhere you would actually notice). Whatever, rather than sending me a letter explaining that I would in future months be charged for line rental, they waited four months and then charged me retroactively, eliminating any possibility of my cancelling my contract.

This brings me onto another issue. I rang them today to pay my bill and cancel my account. It turns out that from this month their freephone line has been replaced with a 5p/min line, so that you now have to pay while they keep you on hold so that you can pay your bill. This is of course just more money grubbing and punishment for not paying by direct debit. I paid my bill, and said I wanted to cancel my account. I was told that I had to be transferred to another department for that, and that I would have to wait 30 minutes before getting through to anyone. Not only that, but they also need 30 days notice to cancel my account. Of course I asked if there was any other way I could cancel my account, for instance by writing. I was told no, I had to wait 30 minutes on their paying line listening to their fucking annoying music to do so. Fuck that shit. Why is that when you want to pay them money, they answer immediately, but they have a whole separate, understaffed cancelling accounts department to put you off wanting to cancel. That is a pretty shitty and underhand way to treat people. Also, there is no good reason for them requiring 30 days to cancel your account. They can do it with the press of a button I’m sure, and it’s just another way to screw you out of another months charges if you’re a bit forgetful.

On top of this, they are technically very incompetent. The TV quite often just doesn’t work. The NTL set top box is bug ridden, and the interactive service hardly ever works. When I ring them up, I have to enter my telephone number and account number before I can speak to anyone, but they then ask me to give them this information again (all the time paying 5p/min). Not only that, but their automatic menu system is incredibly slow, they play long messages at you and have long pauses between automated announcements. All the time you’re paying 5p/min. Bill payments frequently fail to go through for technical reasons on their end. I have had to hold the line frequently when ringing them because their “system has crashed again”, and in one case was told to ring again tomorrow because they couldn’t do anything today. Today after paying my bill, they rang me half an hour later to complain that I hadn’t paid my bill, I said this and the guy said “Oh yes, I see that now”. Look at your fucking screen before bothering me you idiot.

It’s difficult not to get the impression that this company will do anything they can to intimidate you into paying by direct debit, and that they will exploit you at every opportunity. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that they have fine tuned the length of pauses on their automated menu system. Just long enough to extract the maximum amount of 5p/min from you, but not long enough to make you give up. Having said that, making you give up is probably profitable too, after all then you have to ring back and do it all again.

In summary, I suggest that if possible:

DO NOT EVER GET A CONTRACT WITH NTL

I personally will never get another one.

Rant over.

Now, perhaps someone who knows about these things can help me here. Is there any way I can effectively complain about NTL and/or get my account cancelled without having to jump through their ridiculous hoops? They have a phone number for the Ombudsman on their bill (I assume they’re forced to do this by Ofcom).


July 22, 2006

Diversifying my portfolio

As I write this, I'm sitting with my laptop in the garden surrounded by candles. In this weather, it's the only sensible place to be. I can hear the crickets or grasshoppers chirping (and also the crap music of the teenagers having a last day of school party a few doors down).

Earlier today, Casey pressganged me into her team for the Warwick Cookout. Hopefully tonight's celebratory barbecue will justify her faith. The occasion of the barbecue was Alastair and me having almost finished our PhDs, and Ayshea finishing teaching for the year.

It started with two bream, cooked until the skin blistered on either side, with a salsa verde. The bream were excellent, but I think the salsa verde was a bit too strong for the subtle flavour of the bream.

The next course was a spatchcocked poussin marinated with garlic, lemon and parsley. As a side dish we had a sliced raw fennel salad with lemon and oil dressing. Again, it was pretty good, but I think a sort of spicy marinade would have been more interesting for the poussin which has quite a simple and mild flavour.

The star of the show though was the marinated vaguely Asian style duck breasts. The marinade was made by caramelising some sugar, water, star anise, ginger, coriander, sesame seeds, sweet soya sauce and chilli flakes. The marinade really went well with the duck, and the breasts were perfectly cooked (about 4–5 minutes on either side, and then left to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes, pink in the middle and tender). I think we also had some tomatoes on the vine, as a sort of nod to the idea of not just eating meat and fish. Maybe I should claim I'm on the Atkins diet?

Photos will turn up in a while…


July 14, 2006

Which of you fuckers voted Nikki out?

Huh? Hmm? Hey?

You should be ashamed of yourselves!


July 13, 2006

'hand picked'

I've noticed recently that shops have started using phrases like 'hand picked' (M&S cherries) and 'hand podded' (Sainsbury's peas). What the fuck? What extra value do they think this adds? I'm supposed to be pleased that they've made some poor person working at less than minimum wage pod my peas for me? This is a selling point? Perhaps soon, next to the 'Fair Trade' chocolate they'll have a section for chocolate made from cocoa guaranteed to be picked by indentured labourers (just think about how M&S could use that in one of their adverts – "this isn't just chocolate, this is chocolate that workers have spent 16 hours a day picking").

Maybe it's a new move towards ethical retailing? As well as giving the name of the food they're selling on the label, whether it's organically produced or not, etc., they're going to tell us the conditions of the workers who helped to bring it to us. That would have enormous revolutionary potential. People would begin to see how much exploitation is involved in the production of their food, and would demand change. The supermarkets are the new vanguard! I also expect them to start advertising the estimated weight of carbon and other pollutants produced in making and bringing each product to us. The supermarkets could truly save the world.

Or maybe they're just moronic wankers who have misinterpreted the reasons behind our desire for 'hand made' food? Some doofus in their marketing department has drawn a graph which shows that when you include the words 'hand made' or 'hand prepared' on food, people buy it more often than when you don't, and so the obvious conclusion is to slap on more labels with the word 'hand' in them. I hope that people aren't dumb enough to fall for this. I hope that people like 'hand made' food because it tastes nicer when good quality ingredients, care and attention have been put into it, rather than being the product of an industrial process that leaves it so bland that it has to be packed full of salt, sugar and fat to taste of anything at all.


July 12, 2006

Big Brother isn't watching you…

For the last few years I've been worrying about the authoritarian tendencies of our government. I've written articles about it, engaged in long discussions about it, tried to keep an eye on everything they're doing, and so forth. But all along, I might have simply missed a crucial point:

Tony Blair may want to turn Britain into an authoritarian state, but his government is too incompetent to do so!

What a revelation!

Unfortunately, this is only a temporary respite. They may be incompetent and unable to spy on their own ass (hint: use a mirror), but that's no reason not to worry about what the next government might do with the legislative framework set up by this one. They might really make it work.


July 10, 2006

Ambling with Google

At one point, I considered writing a book of walks in Warwickshire and the Cotswolds (i.e. ones easily accessible from the university or nearby). Like many of my hare–brained schemes, it didn't amount to much. A lot of grandiose ideas, and a whole lot of notes on a large number of walks I've been on. Some of the grandiose ideas were quite cool, but sadly they will probably never see the light of day.

At the beginning it was just going to be a book of walks like any other. But soon that idea was too tame. The first innovation was the idea of having a multifunction book of walks. It would consist of a large book with detailed information about the walk, including things to look at, nearby places to have tea, good picnic spots, etc. But because this wouldn't be very portable, there would also be (laminated) pull outs for each walk to actually take with you.

The next innovation was to improve on the idea of including information about where to have tea and good picnic spots – why not focus on the ambling (rather than rambling) aspect of the book, and include picnic concepts and recipes along with the walks. Pretty soon, the book had transmogrified into a lifestyle coffee–table book. It would have recipes, beautiful colour prints of the walks, etc.

As a bit of a geek, technology soon had to make an appearance. Some time ago, I had an idea about a device which incorporated a GPS with topographical maps and a database of walks. You'd take the little handheld device with you on your walk, it would tell you where you are on your walk and where you need to go next. You could also tie it in with other information (like nice pubs, where to get tea, picnic spots, interesting churches or buildings) which would pop up as you walked around. I vaguely remember reading that some of this has actually been done now, although I couldn't tell you who is doing it, and anyway they weren't doing anything like the full range of things I was proposing.

Anyway, at the time I was thinking about it, all this was very speculative and would have taken a lot of money and effort to achieve, but that has changed thanks to Google Earth. GE incorporates the topological maps, has no doubt already been linked to GPS devices and also includes satellite photography and the ability to view the landscape from any position and angle. It's also very easy to add data to Google using its markes, which can link to webpages, pictures, etc. In other words, everything I wanted to do could easily be achieved in GE.

Well, I don't have the time to make a database of all the walks that were going into the book, but I did make time to do just one, to see if the idea would work. This was prompted by Google updating their satellite photography of the Cotswolds (previously very low res, now very high res). I downloaded the OS maps for the region of a walk I went on from Moreton–in–Marsh from the OS web site, superimposed them over the landscape in GE, and used this and my notes to plot exactly where I had walked. So anyway, in conclusion, you can download the google earth .kmz file for the walk by clicking here (press F10 in GE to walk the walk, although you'll probably want to increase the tour speed in GE options, and increasing the elevation exaggeration makes it look more exciting). Here's a picture:

Snapshot of a walk from Moreton-in-Marsh to Blockley


July 05, 2006

Mathematicians read this entry

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,1803028,00.html

The webpage above is a fairly simple article in the Guardian about why 0.9 recurring is equal to 1. The good bit is the comments below.

A few samples:

OK if .99 is equal to one, give her teacher 99 pounds (GBP) and get her to give you 100, not an infinite number of times, but a million will do nicely.
You need to find a better maths teacher. "Another way of proving this, suggested by my daughter's maths teacher, is this. Think of two numbers, x=0.9 recurring and y=1 Can you think of a number that is higher than x but less than y? No, you can't." Yes, I can. x + (y–x) Teachers eh?
All a bit of bollocks really – as usual, when you get what looks like a paradox, it's because your starting conditions are incorrect – in this case it's because infinitely recurring numbers don't actually exist.
I for one will take Mr PikeBishop’s common sense mathmatics over any amount of pointy headed clatrap from some four–eyes who’s probably working on a thesis about “lesbian algebra” (grant aided no doubt).
Isn't maths great?! I like how this discussion stayed on topic & relatively rhetoric free!
Rhetoric free, until you remember how the genocidal and racist policies of Israel are denying all those innocent Palestinian children the chance to learn anything about maths at all!
Tallisker, Wikipedia Schmickipedia, I’m sorry but I simply don’t approve of any of this “fannying about” with our British numbers. In the world of business one plus one equals two and we seem to get along well enough. Now maybe I don’t have a degree–level course in formal logic and set theory, but I know how many beans make five!
The industrial revolution was based on sleeves up gumption, not the latest fashionable nonsense. Oh and by the way I think you'll find that the calculus wasn't invented till 1972, by an Englishman as it happens, although I suppose we're not meant to take pride in our country's achievements these days.
Dude, calculus is not the "latest fashionable nonsense", it is there since the ancient greeks…
Mathematics is a discipline which is centrally concerned with the pure logical examination and definition of concepts. The mere fact that it is mathematically sensible to separately describe 0.9 recurring and 1 prove that they are different.

And most surreal of all…

So I will have to just accept that we have agreed to differ – you at ground level with only a coloring book to your name, peering into crevices, and I, in a box on the shoulders of Robert Hooke with a vast array of luminescent and florescent crayons but (I think you implied) not knowing where I put my spectacles. I can only claim that it might appear so from way down there but . . .

July 03, 2006

BBC News headline writer should be sacked

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5138294.stm

Do we all remember "comprehension" questions in GCSE English? They usually took the form of a very simple paragraph, followed by a multiple choice list of statements, one of which summed up the paragraph. I'd like you to see if you can correctly answer the following GCSE English question:

Q5. [2 marks]

In its report, the committee says no recent cases provide justification for a longer detention period.

But it adds: "The growing number of cases and the increase in suspects monitored by the police and security services make it entirely possible, and perhaps increasingly likely, that there will be cases that do provide that justification.

"We therefore believe that the 28-day limit may well prove inadequate in the future."

Which of the following statements best describes the paragraphs above?

  1. The 28 day limit is too long
  2. The 28 day limit is sufficient, but may have to be extended
  3. The 28–day limit will almost certainly need to be extended

If you got the right answer, then you did better than the buffoon who writes headlines and summaries for the BBC News page.

The BBC article linked to above is entitled:

28-day terror limit 'inadequate'

In case we were in any doubt about what the headline writer thinks, the one line summary of the article reads:

The 28–day limit for police to hold terror suspects without charge will almost certainly need to be extended, an influential committee of MPs says.

Are we dealing with an idiot or an ideologue?


June 27, 2006

Hay Festival

You've heard about the Hay Literary Festival. But have you heard of the Hay food festival? Probably not. Slightly lower profile. When I was in Hay last weekend it happened to be on, so I popped down to have a look and found some delicious stuff.

First purchase: some local pork and cider sausages, which went on the barbecue and were very fine.

Second purchase: some gravadlax from a local smokery, which was quite good but could have been better

Third purchase: some mutton, yes mutton! I've been meaning to try this for ages 'cos all the foody types go on and on about how great it is. Sure enough, it was really good. Fantastic flavour and really tender after being slow cooked. I used the recipe for "Fricasse of Mutton with Glazed Vegetables" on this page. Quite an interesting recipe. You brown the meat with sugar, which caramelises and makes the sauce a very rich, deep brown. Then you sweat a mirepoix (which turns out to be finely chopped vegetables; onion, garlic, leek, carrot and fennel), add some tomatoes and stock and cook for a couple of hours. You take out the meat and sieve the remainder to make a thick, smooth gravy, put the meat back with some vegetables cooked separately (carrots, broad beans, french beans and button onions). Very rich.

Fourth purchase: 'Elephant garlic' – the stem's about the size of a leek, the bulb about the size of a large apple. I'm gonna roast it with a chicken. Should be good.


June 21, 2006

North Korean missile test

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1802094,00.html

North Korea is apparently ready to test a missile which is capable of reaching the US. The US are threatening that they will attempt to use their missile defence shield to shoot it down (we'll see if it works).

I find this disturbing. The missile test itself may be in contravention of certain treaties which North Korea has signed up to, but it may not. I haven't read enough to be sure, and the Guardian article above is a little ambiguous on this point. The US threat to shoot it down is hardly reassuring though. Surely this will make a bad situation considerably worse?