Tuesday, August 26, 2003

A Dedication

The Death Bong

(For my long-suffering hosts.)

Monday, August 25, 2003

Oh Yeah

I don't remember mentioning this in any of my previous posts, but on Saturday I flew back to the Heartland of America. To my fellow Americans, I have come bearing gifts -- that of dark chocolate and fine Trappist ales from Belgium (sadly, there was one beer casualty whilst travelling, rendering one piece of luggage a stinky mess), not to mention some delicious uisge beatha To those Europeans I've left for five weeks, I promise to return with a revived level of snarky, blame-America-first scorn ('cause, you know, that's what we lefties do). As for now . . . I'm truly enjoying central air conditioning.

Something Light to Start Off Your Day

Okay, maybe not. I saw a little blurb on Indianapolis' Fox affiliate last night -- their 10:00 news, by the way, is something beyond awful (I take back all the awful things I've thought about the BBC) -- about somebody dying during a prayer meeting, and this actually seemed darkly humorous at the time, but the story behind the blurb is unspeakably, heartbreakingly sad.

UPDATE: It's official now: it was a homicide.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Out of Commission

Just to let everybody know, due to the wild world of a virus-infected computer, I've been out of blogging commission since Wednesday, and will continue to be, for the most part, throughout next week. I truly hate blogging at Katrien's place in Voorshoven anyway, so maybe it's for the better.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

It's a bird, it's a plane.... no, wait, it's just a bird

You Want A Piece o' Me?

Masters of intimidation, they stalk their victims relentlessly and without mercy. Now they are bringing their menace to Britain's town and cities and have been blamed for a string of brutal attacks on urban dwellers this summer.

The arrival of vast numbers of seagulls has created a sharp upsurge in reported incidents. Most major urban areas have experienced attacks, including London, Birmingham and Glasgow.

[. . .]

Councils throughout the UK are drawing up plans to tackle the menace. Calls for mass gull culls are growing. Shooting, poisoning or egg-destroying have been discussed by exasperated officials.

It follows a series of attacks, whose victims have included a woman who sustained deep beak wounds to her head, a pet dog pecked to death and a Welsh pensioner, who had a fatal heart attack after she was swooped on by the birds.

One Sussex school recently had to postpone lessons and install netting above the playground to protect pupils following the attentions of an agitated seagull. Another recent victim was pensioner Marie Munro, who was attacked and put in hospital after weeks of intimidation by the same seagull, an attack that shares parallels with Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 thriller The Birds.

Munro recalls being constantly followed around by the gull for hundreds of yards. However, it was when she set off her personal alarm in a desperate attempt to frighten her stalker away that the intimidation turned ugly. 'That was a big mistake. Every time I stepped a foot outside it would follow me overhead, occasionally dive-bombing me,' she said.

Then the seagull began trailing her husband Len. The next phase of attack entailed attacking the pair in their back garden. Then last month came the attack that sent her to hospital for treatment.

As the creature dived for her face, Munro staggered back and fell, splitting the bone down the length of her foot and rupturing her tendons. Yesterday the plaster came off, but the terror remains. 'They are spreading farther afield. They are just so aggressive and intelligent with it,' she warns.

[. . .]

[Peter] Rock, a visiting fellow at Bristol University, said: 'Urban gulls are increasing exponentially. Many reports suggest they are terrorising workers and even striking bystanders on the street. They also produce large amounts of excrement, some deliberately aimed at humans.' (my emphasis)

Heads up!

Journalistic Dissonance

It's Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Day in today's Washington Post.

First, there's Option A:

This article is based on interviews with analysts and policymakers inside and outside the U.S. government, and access to internal documents and technical evidence not previously made public.

The new information indicates a pattern in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates -- in public and behind the scenes -- made allegations depicting Iraq's nuclear weapons program as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support. On occasion administration advocates withheld evidence that did not conform to their views. The White House seldom corrected misstatements or acknowledged loss of confidence in information upon which it had previously relied . . .

And then, Option B:

THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL race seems to be carrying the Democratic Party in a dangerous direction on the issues of the Iraq war and national security -- dangerous for the nation and risky for the party too. Some of the candidates are more off course than others. If they listen to former vice president Al Gore, who took it upon himself last week to suggest a theme of attack for the nine candidates, they will all go off the cliff.

Mr. Gore, who not so long ago was describing Iraq as a "virulent threat in a class by itself," validated just about every conspiratorial theory of the antiwar left. President Bush, in distorting evidence about the Iraqi threat, was pursuing policies "designed to benefit friends and supporters." The war was waged "at least partly in order to ensure our continued access to oil." And it occurred because "false impressions" precluded the nation from conducting a serious debate before the war.

This notion -- that we were all somehow bamboozled into war -- is part of Mr. Gore's larger conviction that Mr. Bush has put one over on the nation, and not just with regard to Iraq.

[. . .]

He's not the only Democrat who thinks he can have it both ways, pandering to anti-Bush passion while protecting his national-security flank. Sen. John Kerry has been trying something similar with, for example, this applause line, which he must know can only stoke isolationist sentiment: "We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad while closing them in Brooklyn." It would be possible to support firefighters in Brooklyn without questioning U.S. commitment to Iraq. Sen. Joe Lieberman has found plenty to criticize in the Bush administration foreign policy without abandoning his longstanding support of American strength and democracy promotion. It's an honorable position, and one that doesn't depend on portraying everyone else as poor saps duped by wizardly Bush propaganda.

Unfortunately, unlike the series of old, you can't flip ahead to see which alternative leads you (or, as the case may be, the ascendency of an oil-addled junta) to an untimely end. Bugger.

Another Season

I don't think this has anything to do with it, but seeing it today made me think of another season of footie action here in Glasgow. Have at it, ye neighbourly, intoxicated yobs.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

It's a Life

Sorry for the lack of posts these latter days. Between meetings at the department and moving, I'm ready for this week to be over! Fortunately, I'm nearly moved into my new flat in Glasgow -- and so very close to having a decent cable provider to boot! After toiling for two years in relative squalor it's nice to have a bit more luxury in my life, even if most of that luxury is paid for with loans. Perhaps I should be like all the other cool bloggers and start asking for money?

Anyway, for those who are at all curious, this is what my street looks like:

I should say, though, that I don't actually know this to be Dumbarton Road, my new West End haunt, but there's something about every major street around here that looks utterly same. So, even if it's not, it may as well be my street.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

A Dedication

This one's for Silentio's favourite regular reader -- she knows who she is. And if she doesn't, she'll know when she clicks the link. For everybody else, I can but say: 'The Dude abides.'

Sunday, August 03, 2003

What a Great Gig!

For proof that reading the smaller, slightly hidden articles in your Sunday paper is much more fulfilling than anything on the front page see page twenty-one of today's Observer, 'Delphic oracle was ancient glue-sniffer':

She advised generals about invasions; told citizens about the fates of their investments; and even warned Oedipus about the dangers of murdering his father and marrying his mother.

Yet the oracle at Delphi was not blessed with prophetic vision, scientists have discovered. In fact, she was high on alcoholic vapours.

This is the conclusion of scientists - writing in this month's Scientific American - who have found that the oracle chamber was built over a geological fault from which seeped ethane and ethylene gases. As a result, the oracle, the temple maiden who uttered Delphi's prophecies, was probably in a permanent narcotic state.

In other words, the oracle's utterings, upon which so much of ancient Greek life depended, were not the words of Apollo, the god of prophecy, but the babblings of a drunk or glue-sniffer.

Readers of Nietzsche, of course, already knew this, as Dionysus can never be too far from Apollo.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Foreign Policy

UPDATE: I don't necessarily object to the three words I've since deleted from this post, but posting them was a product of a double of Glenfiddich I probably should not have accepted. Being too forthright is always frowned upon here at Silentio, if not necessarily in real life -- even when there's whisky involved.

Unemployment versus No Employment

Good news, my unemployed friends! Our great nation's unemployment rate in July dipped to the laughably miniscule (or not!) 6.2%. Wonderful news! Beautiful day! No more beans and rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the masses sing. Oh wait, you mean there's a difference between unemployment going down and number of places offering NO EMPLOYMENT going up?

The nation's unemployment rate declined to 6.2 percent in July as nearly half a million discouraged Americans stopped looking for a job. Payrolls were cut for the sixth month in a row, suggesting that businesses remain cautious and want to keep work forces leans despite budding signs of an economic revival.

The Labor Department's report Friday pained a picture of a job market that remains stubbornly sluggish and continues to frustrate people looking for work.

The economy lost 44,000 jobs in July. While that's an improvement from the 72,000 shed in June, economists were hoping that positions would actually be added. They were forecasting payrolls to go up by around 10,000.

Although the jobless rate dipped to a two-month low of 6.2 percent from a nine-year high of 6.4 percent in June, much of decline's July represented the exodus of 470,000 discouraged people who abandoned job searches because they believed no jobs were available.

Oh, lest ye Republicans worry about the reelection chances of your chosen son, we almost get yer weapons fer ya. Ahem, on second thought, or do we?