Tuesday

Look! It's the brain! Touch it. No, seriously, touchit.

As spotted on A Blog's Life , here is my Thinker Quiz result:

You are an Intrapersonal thinker
Intrapersonal thinkers:
* Spend a lot of time thinking about and trying to understand themselves
* Reflect on their thoughts and moods, and work to improve them
* You understand how your behaviour affects your relationships with others
Other Intrapersonal thinkers include: Sigmund Freud, Gandhi, Grahame Greene
Careers which suit Intrapersonal Thinkers include: Psychologist, Teacher, Pilot, Child care worker, Explorer, Drama therapist
Not sure that I agree. Drama therapist? Psychologist?...err...Teacher? (?!)

It's been a fairly good day back, but I feel tired. One day back and already the energy levels are low. I think most of us agreed that another few days off wouldn't hurt, but then again, after those we'd all want a few more days. I sat down and thought about all the things I didn't do enough of during the holidays. They included: reading, sleeping, spending time with N. and surfing the Internet. Then I realised that these are the very things that I never do enough of! It's not a horrible half term, anyhow. This week is a short week; so is next week. The following week, our Year 11s leave and the week after that the year 13s. Then it's another half term. And then eight weeks of work. And then six weeks off. And then we start the whole thing all over again. I've so much enthusiasm in me right now, as you can probably see.

Monday

If the world consisted of just 100 people there would be:

  • 57 Asians
  • 21 Europeans
  • 14 from North and South America
  • 8 Africans
  • 52 would be female
  • 48 would be male
  • 70 would be nonwhite, 30 white
  • 59% of the entire world's wealth would belong to only 6 people and all 6 would be citizens of the United States
  • 80 would live in substandard housing
  • 70 would be unable to read
  • 50 would suffer from malnutrition
  • 1 would be near death
  • 1 would be near birth
  • Only 1 would have a college education
  • 99 of them will not see this message, because only 1 would have a computer.

From this site .

Speaking of Gazeta Wyborcza, here is some more information on Rywingate:

Mr Miller has repeatedly denied any involvement in the scandal, dubbed Rywingate after film producer Lew Rywin. The prime minister has promised to reveal "interesting things" in testimony today and Monday, which millions of Poles are expected to follow on television.

The affair has hit the Miller cabinet's approval rating, which sank in one poll to 10 per cent this week, the lowest for any post-1989 Polish government.

...

The criminal investigation, whose prosecutors ultimately answer to the SLD-run justice ministry, has been widely criticised as half-hearted.

State TV, whose head Robert Kwiatkowski has repeatedly been named in testimony, has covered the scandal tepidly. Polls even show a rise in "distrust" towards Mr Michnik and Agora's president, Wanda Rapaczynski, the scandal's whistle-blowers.

Most Poles doubt that Rywingate will bring an anti-corruption watershed. Sixty-three per cent in a poll last month said they did not expect a full accounting of the scandal to emerge. Close advisers to Mr Miller have professed surprising ignorance of the bribery attempt - about which dozens of Poles knew last summer - and memory lapses over conversations with the prime minister.

The SLD's majority on the committee declined to release Mr Miller's mobile-phone records, which might help clarify his role - if any - in the affair.

The scandal has also aroused lively debate among Polish intellectuals. Mr Spiewak, the sociologist, believes Poland should combat corruption by creating an apolitical civil service and undertaking an "authentic decentralisation" of its large state administration.

Julia Pitera, head of the Polish unit of Transparency International, an anti-corruption non-governmental organisation, joins some other Poles in favouring an overhaul of Poland's electoral system. Members of parliament are currently elected via a proportional system that rewards large parties and lets them draw up their own lists.

Direct voting for MPs in single-seat districts, she thinks, would yield a parliament more accountable to voters. "I think a reform of the electoral system is the only thing that will bring change," she says.

I don't understand why the Polish voting system is as it is. The end of Communism was a perfect opportunity to revamp the voting system and allow people's votes to matter. Instead, voter apathy is horrendously high, voter turn-out is low and people have no faith in the system. And why should they? The politicians are suspected of being corrupt and they don't do themselves any favour by proving that, yes, they are corrupt. Single-seat districts and direct voting for MP's would at least reinstate some of the belief back into the system. If people felt that their vote could, and possibly would, make a difference in the way the country is being run, then they would go out and vote. At the moment, this isn't happening.

Of course, those already in power don't really want to change the status quo. It served them well so far, hasn't it?

Newseum offer "Today's Front Pages", which is just what it says: front pages of daily newspapers from around the globe. I've just spent over half an hour looking at the front pages of newspapers from various countries, most of which in languages I do not understand. In the European section I found the listing for Gazeta Wyborcza , which is the best Polish daily published. A really good site.

Sunday

Unbeknownst to me, I have been listed on Blogshares . Much like the real stock market, this one is also a mystery to me, but somehow my blog is "worth" $ 42.95 and one person seems to be linking to me. Who is it? I've been hoping that somebody, somewhere with a blog would link to me, but this is first evidence that such has happened. The blog is "Indexed but not listed for trading". What does all this mean?

Impeach George W. Bush, a new webpage that calls for just that. Interesting read.

Courtesy of the always informative and irreplaceable Craig's BookNotes .

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--An advisor to Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said Thursday that Polish companies have the skills, experience and readiness to help rebuild Iraq.

The Polish government has a list of nearly 1,000 skilled workers ready to go immediately to help repair and reconstruct Iraq's infrastructure, Polish National Security Adviser Marek Siwiec said after meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Condoleezza Rice.

Not to mention the fact that many Poles worked in Iraq in the 70s and 80s, so are familiar with Iraq and its people.

Article found at Nasdaq News .

My personal feelings are still mixed.

Ha!

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller has proclaimed his innocence in a corruption probe that threatens his embattled minority government weeks before a referendum on joining the European Union.
There is more .

Do not trust a politician. Definitely do not trust a politician who proclaims his innocence in a corruption investigation.

Saturday

The afore mentioned Peking Duck is leaving Bejing. He's moving to Singapore and he leaves with a mixture of feelings:

For the past 8 months I have tried to tell readers about Beijing the way I see it. There's no way I could just end all of that and not feel some nostalgia, some sense of loss, some poignant emotions. But I would be lying if I said I wasn't also relieved. Beijing is not an easy place to live during the very best of times. But during a veritable panic, when the city seems to hover on the brink of total breakdown, closing its schools and businesses and hospitals....during a time like this, it's hard not to feel as though you are being slow-roasted on a spit. With the flames being turned slowly but continuously higher and higher.
Read the rest .

Heard on Have I Got News For You? last night about the location of Saddam Hussein:

Perhaps he's hiding in the same place as the weapons of mass destruction.
by Glenda Jackson, Labour MP.

Friday

Ever wondered how much "nature" your lifestyle requires? You're about to find out.

This Ecological Footprint Quiz estimates how much productive land and water you need to support what you use and what you discard. After answering 15 easy questions you'll be able to compare your Ecological Footprint to what other people use and to what is available on this planet.

The test is to be found here . What are my results?
  • Food - 1.2
  • Mobility - 1.5
  • Shelter - 1.4
  • Goods/Services - 1.6
  • TOTAL FOOTPRINT 5.7

  • In comparison, the average ecoloical footpring in your country is 5.3 global hectares per person.
    Worldwide, there exist 1.8 biologically productive global hectares per person.
    IF EVERYONE LIVED LIKE YOU, WE WOULD NEED 3.2 PLANETS

Not great, but not bad either. I think the fact that I use no public transport (as I walk pretty much everywhere) and the fact that I eat meat didn't help my score.

Courtesy of Silt.

The Peking Duck has on-the-front-lines reports on SARS . I love Peking Duck (not the food, but the blog) and I'm sorry to hear he's leaving for Singapore as I've enjoyed reading about his adventures in Bejing. It appears that Bejing is really and finally taking SARS seriously.

Ally and I overdid it last night and we are now suffering for it. We all popped out for a few drinks and celebrated the engagement of some friends, came home with Sharon and proceeded to put the world to right until 2am, when Sharon left. Ally and I continued to drink and talk and generally get lots of things off our chests until 4am. This morning, we are paying for our indulgences. We didn't drink that much, nor is 4am bedtime that late, but somehow our bodies are rebelling against it all. I remember when I was younger, it was a lot easier to have a few drinks and stay up all night and then get up mid-day and be fairly fine.

What is it about our bodies that changes it all as we age. We are in our late 20s and find it hard to have a few drinks without suffering for it the next day. Is this normal? Or is it just the fact that we don't drink often?

Truth be told, we don't drink often probably because it makes us feel so horrible the next morning. And afternoon. Our bones ache; I don't know how bones can ache, but they just do. The head feels twice its normal size and it hurts. The mouth is dry and we spent the day refuelling on water. Why do we drink? It's been a while since I enjoyed the liquered life and it will be a while before I do it again.

Thursday

Please say it isn't so .

Former Neighbours star Holly Valance is to become the next Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a British newspaper reported.

Valance is in talks to replace Sarah Michelle Gellar as the star of the cult US television program but discussions are at an early stage, the Daily Star said.

I hope Joss realises how foolish this would actually be if it came to pass.

American Benjamin James Johnson (an engineer for Fox) was caught smuggling 12 paintings into the US that he looted from the Presidential Palace in Bahdad. More information here .

A US Government official warned returning soldiers and journalists that looting would not be tolerated.

"These items are not souvenirs or 'war trophies' but stolen goods that belong to the people of Iraq," Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Gordon England said.

How low can you go? Stealing art and objects of cultural significance from a country that's already suffered incredible acts of thoughtlessness and idiocity? The FBI is also promising to work closely with art colectors, auction houses and museum curators to prevent any Iraqi pieces being sold around the world. Sadly, this will not prevent it from happening.

Foreign Groceries Museum has photos of various foods from different countries (mostly Japan, Canada and Israel). Courtesy of The Daily Bite .

Long time away from the blogging. I think it's the longest since the start of this little page.

We had a nice time with N's parents, but it is always good to come home. We took in a mighty game (Bristol City vs Cardiff City) that allowed Bristol City to go into third place after their 2-0 win. This win pretty much guarantees them a play-off spot in the 2nd division. Big chance for City to go up to 1st division.

I've got to catch up with a lot of webpages and read up on what I've missed this week.

Saturday

Easter BunnyHappy Easter to all! N and I are picking up my friend Ally at Heathrow today and we're spending Easter with his parents. Hence, blogging will be light.

Radiohead's new album comes out on June 9th (??). At Ease have some good information about it, including lyrics.

The title of Radiohead's sixth album 'Hail To The Thief' is also an anti-George W. Bush slogan used by protesters at the end of the controversial election campaign that put him into the White House. The phrase 'Hail To The Thief' was coined by protesters at the end of the 2000 US Presidential election, when controversy famously surrounded Bush's rise to office. The battle between Bush and Democrat candidate Al Gore came to a bitter end, with the result in the key state of Florida dogged by recounts, amid allegations of unfairness in the voting process.

On the day of his inauguration Bush was greeted in Washington by thousands of protesters with banners, some of who shouted, 'Hail to the thief, our commander in chief'. The phrase has now become well used in anti-Bush circles. A website, www.hail-to-the-thief.org, that casts a cynical eye over US policy is active and goes under the banner 'Hail to the Thief! Love your country. Never trust its government.'

Is it intentional? I'd never believe Radiohead would be so obvious, so I'm going to think that it isn't.

I've had a listen to the album and it's as happy as the previous three. A grower, I think, but there is beauty within. Yes, I will be buying it when it comes out.

At Ease link courtesy of MetaFilter.

Friday

London from the sky at nightLondon from the sky at night from NASA . You can just make out the M25 as it surrounds London.

Bill Clinton (who I thought supported the war on Iraq) speaks out:

FORMER US president Bill Clinton today blasted US foreign policy adopted in the wake of the September 11 attacks, arguing the United States cannot kill, jail or occupy all of its adversaries.
More here . Courtesy of Craig's BookNotes .

Britain's favourite breakfasts according to The Nation's Favourite Food .

10. Yoghurt
9. Porridge
8. Croissant
7. Scrambled Eggs
6. Bacon Sandwich
5. Fruit
4. Coffee
3. Toast
2. Cereal
1. Full English Breakfast

The full English is not really a surprise, but the croissant is. Someone pointed out that coffe is not a food, it's a beverage and it shouldn't count. Josie Dew, whose A Ride in the Neon Sun I thoroughly enjoyed, made her favourite porridge recipe. I do seem to recall reading that Josie was thrilled to find boxes of Quaker's Oats in a supermarket in Japan. It turns out that she has porridge every morning, regardless of where she is. My favourite breakfast? Probably pancakes with maple syrop or a traditional Polish breakfast consisting of rye bread, cold cuts of meat (sausages, etc.), cheese, jams and honey.

Thursday

More proof that life isn't fair: Ani DiFranco is appearing at this year's Winnipeg Folk Festival. Because of the late ending of the UK school year, I'll still be teaching and won't be able to attend the festival. It's not fair, it's not fair, it's not fair.

And it gets interesting:

A consortium of more than 20 Polish companies plans to hold talks in Kuwait soon with Houston-based Halliburton Co. on how to reconstruct Iraq's oil industry, the Associated Press reported Wednesday in Warsaw.

Part of me feels: "hey, why the hell not? We earned it. We went over and fought. Why shouldn't Poland get some of the riches that the US is bound to get?!?". And then the other part of me feels really as if we're making deals with the devil.

Hang on tightly onto your souls, folks.

Poland is seeking a favoured role in the rebuilding of Iraq (so they say).

NICOSIA, Apr. 16 -- Poland, a staunch supporter of the US-led war in Iraq, anticipates that US businesses will give its firms preferential treatment in picking partners to help rebuild the Middle East state, especially its oil sector, according to government and industry sources.

"In Washington, the fact that Poland was part of the (military) coalition creates a great reception for our country, especially by the political elite," said Piotr Ogrodzinski, director of the America department at Warsaw's foreign ministry on Wednesday.

During the war, President George W. Bush praised Poland for sending 200 troops to join the US-led coalition, while Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld singled out Polish commandos for their effective work in helping to seize key Iraqi oil export facilities.

More here.

A seriously doctored version of Bush's State of the Union Address is to be found on Improvland. There is an audio version and a video version. The video is rather big at 14MB, so audio is recommended for those on slower access. Thanks to Kim for showing me this file.

Wednesday

The always informative Idle Words discuss the completion of the Human Genome project. He questions just how much of a victory decoding the human genome is (when we know that most characteristics, traits and diseases are caused by more than one gene).

Of the top of my head, I can think of six areas where we don't understand anything:

  • Development – How do cells in the embryo know how to specialize? Why will a frog arm grow back, but not my own arm?
  • Expression – what governs whether a certain gene is turned on or off? There is almost certainly complex emergent behavior here, and many interacting feedback loops. But how does it work?
  • Transcription – what determines how a gene is transcribed into RNA? Pieces get left out, added in, rearranged, modified, swapped out. What governs this behavior?
  • Translation – many proteins go through heavy post-processing after the basic amino acid sequence has been assembled. How does this work?
  • Folding – given an amino acid sequence, how can you predict what the shape of the protein will be? Can you work back from a desired shape to a sequence that will create it?
  • Cross-species transfer – genes have been known to migrate from organism to organism, and across species boundaries. WTF?
It is an incredible accomplishment. The science behind it is really quite wonderful. But, as Idle Words point out, there is still much that we do not know.

More information from here :

The next challenge will stretch far into the decades to come: determining the function of all 3 billion DNA letters, and understanding how those letters direct the growth, life, reproduction, disease and death of human beings.
...
The completed version has only 400 gaps. Those gaps remain because, for unknown reasons, these portions of the genome have been very difficult to grow in large quantities in bacteria, a step that is required before a chunk of genome is sequenced. The pieces may be unusually shaped or toxic to the bacteria they are grown in.Certain regions of densely packed, highly repetitive DNA that do not contain genes also have not been sequenced.

Biologists say the effect of the genome on biology has already been huge. In the pre-genome era, it was common for whole teams of graduate students to devote years pinpointing and sequencing a gene of interest. Now that the genome is completed, the same information can often be had with the click of a computer mouse. In the years since the genome was completed, the identification of genes involved in human disease has exploded -- from less than 100 in 1990 to more than 1,400 today.

We returned today from a trip down to London exhausted and a little bewildered. Are we turning into country bumpkins?

I find London as fascinating as I find Tokyo. In fact, when I sit on the Tube and it happens to be going above ground (as opposed to under), I can almost pretend that I'm sitting on the Yamanote line. There is something about big cities, metros and the way things are structured. There are apartment blocks close to the tracks; we can pretty much look into people's rooms or offices. There are buildings moulding into each other and winding their structure along the path of the tracks. There is graffiti and rubbish along the track. It all blends into each other; it's beautiful and ugly at the same time and I love it. I find London fascinating, but I wouldn't want to be there. N, I and Alex (a friend) spent sometime yesterday wandering along a busy street yesterday and I found it bewildering. The sheer number of people and the noise generated was overpowering. Buses and cars and noisy motorbikes added to the collosal wall of noise.

We spent the first part of the day wandering around Hampstead and made our way to Primrose Hill. Then, calmly and slowly, we walked to Abbey Road (crossing not in Beatle style) and read the scribbles on the wall surrounding the studio. We admired the architecture of London (especially the beautiful houses in Hampstead) and enjoyed a wonderfully warm day. With N's friend Dan leading the way, we found a lovely pub and then a wine bar and then another pub. We spent the afternoon relaxing and having a great time.

It was wonderful, but pricey. N and I found ourselves wondering how people can afford to live in London; we know that we would find it too tempting to eat out all the time and our pockets would quickly empty in the metropolis of shops, pubs, cafes, and restaurants.

On Monday, we made our way to Hammersmith and the Polish shop along the street. I stocked up on some necessary goodies (including, would you believe it, Polish mayonnaise). A few steps down the road and we were in the bookshop in POSK where I purchased:

  • Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski
  • Longplay z Kowalskim by Krystyna Boglar (pl)
  • Sto Jedenascie Dni Letargu by Adam Grzymala-Siedlecki...apparently about a year spent as a prisoner in Treblinka (pl)
  • Pan Wolodyjowski by Henryk Sienkiewicz...an absolutely gorgeous, yellowing and crumbling edition from 1887 printed in Lviv (Lwow) for 50 pence! It's in not the greatest condition, but I couldn't resist it. (pl)

The area around the Polish shops and POSK is, logically enough, brimming with Poles. There's the wall of ads and job postings in the kiosk next door to the Polish food shop (half are in Polish). There were Poles everywhere! It was as if I was in Warsaw (only more multicultural). There is something amazing about the mix and melt of cultures in London. We walked past a news agent that sold Polish newspapers, Russian and other Slavic newspapers right next to the English, German, Arabic and Chinese ones. It's fantastic.

We've now returned to our quiet and beautiful town very happy to have seen all our friends in London. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but are happy to be home.

Sunday

The cost of the War with Iraq to be found here. Courtesy of 410 W. High . I like the comparison of the money spent with various other more worthy causes into which millions of dollars could be placed.

Looking for more information on Children books of the Soviet Union (see earlier post), I came accross a chonology on the fall of Polish Communism. It's a PDF file, so you'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read it. What is interesting to me is that the first free elections were held in Poland before the Berlin Wall fell. Somehow, in the minds of most people, the fall of the Berlin wall is the end of Communism. The Polish elections in the summer of 1989 were the beginning of the end.

Saturday

Is this why we did what we did?

Poland's Gdansk Refinery asked to take part in Iraq reconstruction

"We will comment on this proposal when talks are finished," Zachowicz told AFP.He was speaking after the biggest Polish daily newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, had said that the refinery had been approached by US company Kellogg Brown and Root, which specialises in construction for the oil industry.

The Gdansk Refinery is currently being privatised.

The newspaper said that the role under discussion was rebuilding and modernising petrochemical installations in Iraq.

Found here.

I found this story earlier on Gazeta Wyborcza's site, but then I lost it. Interesting. Is this how the US will reward Poland? Because if so, this is quite a lucrative prize. Do we want oil soaked in blood? We'll see how it works out.

More information on Taras Protsyuk, my former student's father, to be found here , here and here. There are also some photographs to be found on a Polish website with the caption: "Our friend Taras Protsyuk has died. A cameraman for Reuters, a Ukrainian waiting for a Polish passport."

A common quote appears in all of those articles: his death was unnecessary. It wasn't any more or less unnecessary than any other deaths of innocent people in this war. But for the Americans to fire at a hotel where they knew foreign journalists were stationed was complete and utter stupidity. And I do not buy the whole "this is a war, there are no safeguards" argument. Hotel. Foreign journalists = no Saddam (unless he's working for a foreign press agency all of a sudden) = do not fire!

Chief UN Weapons Inspector, Hans Blix, said that US and UK were bent for war, from the Guardian .

War against Iraq was a foregone conclusion months before the first shot was fired, the chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has claimed. In a scathing attack on Britain and the US, Mr Blix accused them of planning the war "well in advance" and of "fabricating" evidence against Iraq to justify their campaign.

Letting rip after months of frustration, he told the Spanish daily El Pais: "There is evidence that this war was planned well in advance. Sometimes this raises doubts about their attitude to the [weapons] inspections."

Mr Blix said Iraq was paying a "a very high price in terms of human lives and the destruction of a country" when the threat of banned weapons could have been contained by UN inspections.

The 74-year Swedish diplomat made clear that he believes he was misled by President Bush. At a White House meeting last October Mr Bush backed the work of Unmovic, the UN inspection team.

Day one of blissful freedom (read: Easter Break) and what did I do? I woke up late and had breakfast and then I took a test . Yes, indded. Because I could.

TPM Medal of Distinction "Congratulations! You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity without being hit and biting only one bullet suggests that your beliefs about God are internally consistent and well thought out.

A direct hit would have occurred had you answered in a way that implied a logical contradiction. The bitten bullet occurred because you responded in a way that required that you held a view that most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable. However, because you bit only one bullet and avoided direct hits completely you still qualify for our second highest award. A good achievement!"

Well, hooray to me.

Friday

Happy Me!We survived. It is here: blissful two weeks of holidays filled with sleep, books and friends. Blogging may be light due to a few trips out of town. Hoorah for Easter break! It was one of the most joyful days at school: everyone was smiling at each other and was in the greatest of moods. It's a wonder what surviving a 13-week term will do to a staff.

A few days ago, I came across Children Books of the Early Soviet Era (probably courtesy of MetaFilter . It's beautiful. It has all these gorgeous illustrations and covers from books printed in the early days of the Soviet Union. The illustrations are in, what I would describe, typically Soviet style. I once had a couple of books from the Soviet Union as a child. I still remember one picture of how to set the table for breakfast, dinner and supper. The pictures were clear and bright and beautiful. In the corner of each was a picture of the clock to show you which meal it was. The plates were bright (yellow or orange, maybe) and the tablecloth was a white and blue chequered one. I loved looking at those pictures of a foreign land, wondering how people lived there and what they were like. And I really enjoyed looking at the pictures of those books on the website.

Thursday

I have just found out this morning from my friend Ally that somebody we knew died in Iraq. He was the father of one of our students that we taught in Poland.

Two cameramen, working for Reuters and Spain's Telecinco, were killed when a shell hit the hotel which houses hundreds of foreign journalists. There is video footage of an American Abrams tank firing at the building.
He was a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters. He left behind a son (a lovely and energetic son) and a wife. This is fucking ridiculous! Why were they firing at a hotel they knew had foreign journalists in it?! Ally's email includes these sentences:
His father is now dead thanks to the cowboy hero US soldiers sent in by oil, war loving bush. I'm sure [the boy] and his mum can live now, safe in the knowledge that their beloved father and husband died to make the world a safer place.
I can't think rationally about this.

Wednesday

I've not said anthing about the war recently. I could have. I could have linked to those horrible photos of the demonstrators who got hit with rubber bullets. I could have talked about Saddam being dead, not dead, maybe dead, definitely not dead, dead, possibly dead, injured. I could have written about my rage and sadness about a 12-year-old boy , who is now missing his arms, badly burned and an orphan because a missile "obliterated" his home while he slept. I could have wept over the lives lost: American, Iraqi or British . But I haven't. It's not that I've hidden my head in the sand. I'm still very aware of what goes on but I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to think about it.

My friend, Jorge, has sent me two things this week that have made me laugh about a subject that's not laughable. The first is a joke:

Saddam's doctor called a meeting of all the Saddam's doubles.
"Men, I've got some good news and I've got some bad news. The good news is Saddam is still alive. The bad news is he lost an arm."
The second is a quote from SkyNews
"Umm Qasr is a city similar to Southampton," UK defence minister Geoff Hoon said in The Commons yesterday.

"He's either never been to Southampton, or he's never been to Umm Qasr" says a British Soldier patrolling Umm Qasr.

Another soldier added: "There's no beer, no prostitutes and people are shooting at us, It's much more like Portsmouth."

If Saddam has fallen and Baghdad is under control of the US armed forces, then possibly all this insanity can now stop.

Eddie Izzard Eddie Izzard is on the cover of Radio Times this week. This is because the mini-series 40 is on this week on Channel4. It started last night, but I was v. tired and taped it instead of watching the whole thing. I did like how it started and it seemed to have quite a good plot going for it.

"The cliche has it that life begins at forty. It doesn't, of course. It starts much earlier than that...In this new three-part drama, seven 40-year-olds are drawn together by a disturbing school reunion. Long-standing sexual tensions and emotional conflicts come to a head as the surreal secrets of apparently normal lives are revealed. Beneath the veneer of a successful career simmers a life of quiet desperation, behind the closed doors of a happy marriage lies a disordered world of sordid sexual dysfunction. Acting as a catalyst, the reunion forces the seven friends into a re-evaluation of their past and the present - and brings about an unexpected future."

It started off with Eddie's character turning 40, standing naked on the roof of his house/flat (pan from the back from calves upwards...pan from the front--shadowy pan). I know you probably think I got excited, eh? But I didn't. No. I'm looking forward to watching the rest of it this evening and then taping the next episode. It sounds very rough, but interesting.

E is for the Election that got us to this placeAn interesting cartoon by Mikhaela B. Reid called Wartime ABC's. It's a big file (everyone who's posted it on their blogs already has said this) so if you're on a slow connection, equip yourself with patience.


Tuesday

Of Men and Philosophies. I took a test today to see which philosphies closely matched my morals and ethics. Here is what I got:

"The highest score, 100, represents the closest philosophical match to your reponses. This is not to say that you and the philosopher are in total agreement. However this is a philosophy that you may want to study further.

1. Aquinas (100%)
2. Aristotle (82%)
3. John Stuart Mill (77%)
4. Jeremy Bentham (69%)
5. Plato (61%)
6. Kant (59%)
7. Ockham (57%)
8. St. Augustine (57%)
9. Epicureans (51%)
10. Spinoza (50%)
11. Ayn Rand (48%)
12. Jean-Paul Sartre (46%)
13. Stoics (41%)
14. Cynics (35%)
15. Nietzsche (34%)
16. Nel Noddings (29%)
17. Prescriptivism (29%)
18. David Hume (28%)
19. Thomas Hobbes (10%)

I don't know much about Aquinas. So I'll have to look into this more.

Monday

I was off to read some books...

Oh, for God's sake:

The Blount County Board of Education denied the adoption of three new biology textbooks because they teach evolution but do not cover creationism.

...

Treadway said he had reservations about the approach to the theory of evolution in the three texts. He said he does not want people to believe he is against evolution, but wants it to be taught as a theory along with creationism.

``With the overwhelming references to evolution, I don't feel comfortable with (adopting these texts),'' Treadway said. Simerly said she is concerned with how evolution is approached in the selected biology texts, because creationism is not addressed. ``I do not believe that we evolved from anything other than human beings,'' she said.

McNelly said he shared those concerns, though he is not against evolution as a theory. Like Treadway, he said he believes students should be taught both creation and evolution theories. ``With creationism not presented as a theory, there's a large gaping hole in the books,'' McNelly said. McNelly said he voted against the motion to reject the textbooks because he believes the teachers could address creationism when covering the material in class.

Technology supervisor Brian Bell, who is charged with assisting teachers in selecting new textbooks, said these three particular texts were those selected by the biology teachers at both high schools. Those texts are also on the state's list of books that can be adopted for use in the schools. ``The theory of evolution is covered in the Gateway exams, and the teachers have to address that,'' Bell told the board Thursday.

The "About Me" page has been taken off. It's been off for a couple of weeks, basically, because I'm not happy with it. So I've been trying to work on it, but since I got interested in writing the structure of my page by hand, that's gone out the window. Then I arrived at school this morning and found that IE5, which we've got at work, doesn't like (my) CSS and have had to go back and do the layout in tables. Bit miffed about it because I was so proud about doing my layout in css. Alas, such is life. The crux of it is that "About Me" will be added on as soon as I've finished writing it up and laying it all out properly. I'm really enjoying this side of weblogging: tinkering with the code until it's just right. I will sort out the Reading Room page as well, but not tonight. I'm off to do some reading (of books).

It's been a rather mad day today. It's the last week of term and the kids are more hyper than a 5 year old looting his Halloween stash. Then, the car has been doing odd things, so we drove it into the Fiat dealer's last night, so they'd have a look at it today. This meant that N had to catch a train to Ipswich and was supposed to be picked up by a co-worker there and driven to school. I was supposed to go and pay for the car stuff and get a friend of ours to drive it home. Sweet plans gone all awry (aglay?). The train did not come this morning as there was some problem. So, N took a cab to some town (courtesy of Anglia Rail) and then took another to work (£20!). Co-worker wasn't leaving in the evening till well gone 6pm, which meant that N would be home by 7:45 at the earliest. So, I asked our friend if we could pick up N from work and we did that. We got lost on the way to N's school and had to ask for directions. Twice. Finally, we got there and managed to get home just before 7pm. Insane day! And this is just Monday. I fear the rest of the week.

Sunday

War by Numbers from Common Dreams . Includes:

  • 69: In a 2002 poll, percentage of Americans who said they believe Iraq has nuclear weapons.
  • O: Number of nuclear warheads in Iraq.
  • $850 billion: Estimated military spending in the world in 2002.
  • 50: Percentage spent by U.S.
  • 0.0015: Percentage spent by Iraq.
  • $750,000: Unit cost of one Tomahawk cruise missile.
  • 54 to 67: By 2020, estimated percentage of crude oil that will come from Persian Gulf.
  • 2: As a measure of proven oil reserves, ranking of Iraq among all countries.
  • 6: Percentage of the world's population living in the U.S.
  • 30: Percentage of the world's energy resources used in the U.S.
  • 38: In a 2002 poll, percentage of Americans who said Canada should be annexed.
  • 50: Percentage of weapons entering the global market that come from American firms.
  • 10: Percentage of U.S. military spending that would provide global population with basic necessities.
  • 1: Number of countries that have used nuclear weapons against another country.

There was a record fair on in town and N decided to go while I was out getting my driving lesson. He loves his records and always manages to find some goodies. Yesterday was no different. He found some excellent 7" singles (some were 4 for a £1!) and he found something for me! It's a collection of the Unforgettable Fire singles (not sure if all of them) in a single sleeve, which folds open. On the first single, I've got "A Sort of Homecoming" and "The Unforgettable Fire" back to back with the pictures of Larry and The Edge adorning the jacket. The second single contains "Love Comes Tumbling" (with Out-Take One written next to it) and "Two-Sixty Seconds in Kingdom Come" (Out-Take Two apparently). The other side has "The Three Sunrises" (Out-Take Three). The jacket is adorned by pictures of Adam and Bono on either side. It's a real beautiful find, but I have no clue how this was released,when, etc. I've never seen this anywhere.

There is a travelogue to North Korea on the web. The pictures are fascinating to me. I have a need to see, need to know, need to read about current and former Communist countries. Because it's something I grew up in, when I get nostalgic, I get nostaligic for my life in Communism. Not on purpose, obviously. Queueing for bread, sugar, oil and other basic foodstuffs isn't anybody's idea of a great memory. Watching your parents scramble and queue for meat of questionable quality isn't anybody's idea of bliss. But it was my life. It was all I knew and it comes back to flood my brain with memories.

When I talk and think about my childhood, I think of it as anybody else thinks of theirs. It was the life for 90% of Poles at the time and there was nothing that could be done about it. It was how we lived and that was my childhood. It was fun, I enjoyed playing with my friends, going to school and going to the cinema. And because we didn't really know any different, we took it for granted that this was life. People still got married, had children, went to unversity, went dancing, had parties, etc. It was life. As normal as we knew it could get in Communist Poland. Yes, there was life oustide of Poland and we knew that people in the west lived differently (better?). But as kids, you don't worry about changing the world. You just think about your friends and family and school and going to play in the park.

My favourites folder on Poland is filled with sites that talk about Communism or reminisce about it in negative or positive ways.

Here is one of the best: Taka Byla Polska (This Was Poland) is a fantastic collection of photographs from the 50s through to the 80s in Communist Poland. The captions are in Polish, but you get the sense of the visual communism. You can see a pram with a "necklace" of toilet paper (always in short supply) wrapped around its front, children in school, a young girl eyeing a pair of white skates, a huge queue for a bus in Krakow, a parade for the 1st of May (where the front row is carrying a slogan: Socializm Przyszloscia Swiata --Socialism the Future of the World) and my absolute favourite the old ladies in the butcher with no meat. The caption tells me that this photo was taken in Warsaw in 1981 on the day that meat ration cards were brought into use. There is an old joke that says: Before the war, there were shops called "Butchers" and when you went in, they had meat for sale inside. After the war, we had "Meat Shops", but all they had was a butcher inside. And I can remember a butcher in my hometown a couple of streets over that was basically a carbon copy of this one. Sometimes you'd go in and they'd have a couple of rings of sausage. Just before Christmas, you might be lucky and be able to buy a bit of ham from them. But otherwise, empty shelves, empty meat hooks and a small pile of meat just behind the lady (always a lady, I seem to remember). It's amazing (and proof of the women's imagination and ability to make food out of nothing) that we didn't all starve to death. But, as we say "Polak potrafi" (Lit.: The Pole can do, meaning that we can manage no matter the difficulties).

Saturday

I had my first driving lesson today. It was alright, but I still get stressed at roundabouts and when getting into first gear. Otherwise, I seem to be ok. Driving on the left hand side is something to get used to, though. I hope I'll be able to pass the test.

The rest of the day was spent writing a new code for this site. So, if there are any problems, feel free to comment in the comments section. I hope that it looks good on your monitor, too.

Friday

Has Barry gone insane on EastEnders? Yes, I think he has. Why am I watching it? It's making me sick to the stomach. When is he leaving the show? Shall we do a countdown to his last day?

N and I went to see Brian Patten last night. If you don't know who Brian Patten is--he is a poet and a sort of a storyteller. Last night we went to hear some of his newer poems and some of his older ones, too. N is very familar with his work, but it was my first exposure to Brian Patten's work and I have to say that I loved it. He was very funny and I enjoyed myself! Some of his poems are for adults, but, by far, his best ones are for kids (imho).

Unfair
A giraffe's a giraffe
An ape is an ape,
But a pig is a sausage
In a different shape.

This one's from his book "Juggling With Gerbils".

Gust Becos I Cud Not Spel

Gust becos I cud not spel
It did not mean I was daft
When the boys in school red my riting
Some of them laffed

But now I am the dictater
They have to rite like me
Utherwise they cannot pas
Ther GCSE...

From "Gargling With Jelly". I had a good time, N got a couple of books autographed by Brian and it was a great evening that we both enjoyed.

The weekend's arrived and the weather seems to be quite pleasant the mo. And Coldplay are on TOTP at the mo:

"Am I part of the cure
or am I part of the disease?"

Can it get any better?

Wednesday

How quickly we forget: The Pentagon have named Saddam Hussein as the worst ruler in world history. As Tom Tomorrow observes "What was the other fellow's name --Adolf something?--"

Also courtesy of This Modern World : Iraqometer shows the statistics of this war.

In other, odd news:

BERLIN (Reuters) - Human sperm become excited when exposed to the scent of lily of the valley, doubling their speed and homing in on the aroma, a German scientist said on Wednesday.
Read more at Yahoo News .

Jessica Lynch has been by the American forces. Good news, almost a wave of relief about this news. She's only 19 years old. Nineteen! Still a young woman with a full life ahead of her. Even more so now! She joined the Armed Forces to get an education (she's an aspiring teacher, one report stated). Unfortunately, 11 bodies were found in or around the hospital from which Lynch was rescued.

The longer this drags on, the more people will die. It drives me mad that the two men actually responsible for this are sitting on their asses (pardon my language), probably safe and sound. Why don't we get the two of them into a room and get them to bang heads together. The one who passes out first, loses. That would be a much fairer way of deciding this conflict than sending 19 year old children to die for a war that's useless. It isn't fair! It isn't fair that the two men responsible are not in the line of fire. Their familes are not the ones worried sick over their safety. They are not in the line of fire, exposed to the enemy, face to face with death, dust and danger. It's not right. I think they both should be tried for crimes against humanity. It's despicable. It's disgusting.

Parliamentary elections in Poland could occur next year, according to Leszek Miller (Prime Minister), so writes Gazeta Wyborcza(pl) today. The elections could involve the Poles voting on their Lower House and the Senate, as well as Representatives to the European Parliament. The Prime Minister feels that by then Poland would have joined the European Union and a new situation requires a new government.

Leszek Miller also outlined 3 further goals of his government: integration with the European Union, consolidation of pro-EU members and improvement of the economic situation in Poland.

This is interesting. I feel that if the SLD (the current ruling party in coalition with whoever they're not in disagreement with at the moment) stood for elections this year, they would not win as many seats as they have done in the past. It's interesting that they are willing to push the vote forward. But we'll have to wait until July, 2004 to see how the Poles feel about SLD.

Michael Moore talks about winning his Oscar and the reasons for his speech.

Tuesday

My Mum send me an interesting link on Monday in regards to Michael Moore. According to an article on Onet (pl), who got their news in Variety, Moore is planning a new film. The film is meant to focus on the connections of Bush Sr. and Moore has just finished collecting material it. The working title seems to be "Fahrenheit 911" and it is meant to be released in the autumn of 2004 (during the US elections). Should be interesting.

Margaret Atwood writes into the Globe and Mail . She writes a A Letter to America . Here are some of the excerpts:

Dear America: This is a difficult letter to write, because I'm no longer sure who you are.
...
You put God on the money, though, even then. You had a way of thinking that the things of Caesar were the same as the things of God: that gave you self-confidence. You have always wanted to be a city upon a hill, a light to all nations, and for a while you were. Give me your tired, your poor, you sang, and for a while you meant it.

We've always been close, you and us. History, that old entangler, has twisted us together since the early 17th century. Some of us used to be you; some of us want to be you; some of you used to be us. You are not only our neighbours: In many cases -- mine, for instance -- you are also our blood relations, our colleagues, and our personal friends. But although we've had a ringside seat, we've never understood you completely, up here north of the 49th parallel.

We're like Romanized Gauls -- look like Romans, dress like Romans, but aren't Romans -- peering over the wall at the real Romans. What are they doing? Why? What are they doing now? Why is the haruspex eyeballing the sheep's liver? Why is the soothsayer wholesaling the Bewares?
...
But I'll take the plunge, because your business is no longer merely your business. To paraphrase Marley's Ghost, who figured it out too late, mankind is your business. And vice versa: When the Jolly Green Giant goes on the rampage, many lesser plants and animals get trampled underfoot. As for us, you're our biggest trading partner: We know perfectly well that if you go down the plug-hole, we're going with you. We have every reason to wish you well.
...
Let's talk, then, not about what you're doing to other people, but about what you're doing to yourselves.

You're gutting the Constitution. Already your home can be entered without your knowledge or permission, you can be snatched away and incarcerated without cause, your mail can be spied on, your private records searched. Why isn't this a recipe for widespread business theft, political intimidation, and fraud? I know you've been told all this is for your own safety and protection, but think about it for a minute. Anyway, when did you get so scared? You didn't used to be easily frightened.

You're running up a record level of debt. Keep spending at this rate and pretty soon you won't be able to afford any big military adventures. Either that or you'll go the way of the USSR: lots of tanks, but no air conditioning. That will make folks very cross. They'll be even crosser when they can't take a shower because your short-sighted bulldozing of environmental protections has dirtied most of the water and dried up the rest. Then things will get hot and dirty indeed.

You're torching the American economy. How soon before the answer to that will be, not to produce anything yourselves, but to grab stuff other people produce, at gunboat-diplomacy prices? Is the world going to consist of a few megarich King Midases, with the rest being serfs, both inside and outside your country? Will the biggest business sector in the United States be the prison system? Let's hope not.

If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They'll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them. They'll think you've abandoned the rule of law. They'll think you've fouled your own nest.

The British used to have a myth about King Arthur. He wasn't dead, but sleeping in a cave, it was said; in the country's hour of greatest peril, he would return. You, too, have great spirits of the past you may call upon: men and women of courage, of conscience, of prescience. Summon them now, to stand with you, to inspire you, to defend the best in you. You need them.

I guess I'm not alone in seeing the Sovietisation of the US economy and the slippery slope of "limited democracy" that the US government has imposed.