Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Treat me like a queen

In a post not authorised by me, the Vol-in-Law expresses some question over the Lawrence Summers - head of Harvard - resignation after his dubious remarks about women in the sciences.

Then he gets into it in the comments section with one of the regular readers. One point that caught my eye was the use of the terminology queen and king - and whether one is of lower value than another.

Now this reminded me of the time that I worked in an office in God's own stadium with two female (engineers both) co-workers. They were bemoaning the fact that the Promise Keepers were coming to town and having a rally in that very stadium.

I hadn't really paid that much attention to the Promise Keepers, so I wasn't entirely sure what their objection was. One of their principal objections was the attitude toward women in general and their wives in particular.

"They tell them to treat women like queens!" my co-workers said.
"What's wrong with that?" I said.
They stared at me aghast. I press.
"You know, putting women on a pedestal, the little woman, treat her like a queen."
"Oh..." I said, finally getting it. "That kind of queen, I was thinking like Elizabeth I, put-him-in-the-Tower, Spanish-Armada-defeating kind of queen."


Interestingly on the Promise Keeper website, it's all men, men, men...til you get to the volunteering section, the hard slog of promise keeping, and there are only pictures of women.

Have to dash...must start cooking dinner for the Vol-in-Law.

Dashed hopes, shredded dreams

Bad news from the garden front - after a week of anticipation, and I'm afraid to admit that I was really, really excited, about the new garden shredder, I finally had time to assemble it on Saturday. It wasn't raining, so I was really looking forward to a full day of shredding and chipping.

I put it together - carefully following the instructions - only to discover the dang thing just won't turn on - switch is busted or something. We had to take it back to the store. The Vol-in-Law accompanied me because he knew I was too fragile from the crushing disappointment to go alone. All the other models were too expensive or too big or both. The equipment hire store was out, but I've booked a rent-a-shredder for this Saturday.

But it's not all gloom - I have some blooms

Purple crocus - I love the orange.
2006-02-28 025 crop

An orange primrose - cultivar "Marietta".
2006-02-28 027

Monday, February 27, 2006

ViL: This post not approved by Vol Abroad

Anglofille writes:

"Lawrence Summers has resigned as the president of Harvard, my former workplace. (Hi Harvard friends!) Summers, a boorish, sexist jerk, resigned under intense pressure from the faculty. Gee, it must be open season on arrogant men in positions of power. ’Bout time."

Maybe I'm missing something, but what did Summers do that merited his resignation? I read that he raised the issue of why there were less women than men at the top of certain academic professions, opined that discrimination against women might not be the main reason, and gave some alternative explanations. Is that really it?

-ViL, who gets paid less than the Vol...

Drought measures

England, this green and pleasant land, this damp and soggy isle, faces a water shortage.

It's still February and already we're warned that we may all be collecting our water from standpipes in the street this summer. And the first casualties will be our gardens.

Whenever there's a threat of water shortage the Environment Agency and the water companies issue hose pipe bans. That means you cannot use a hose to water your garden.

Now I love my garden and I have a tendency to overplant, making use of every available inch in my tiny postage stamp sized London garden. This means that most weeks during the summer I have to do some supplementary watering. But I am careful about the way I water - early morning or late evening and I use soaker hoses and I don't even have a lawn. Not only that, but I am generally thrifty in my water usage (not running the tap when brushing my teeth, washing dishes, etc) so I feel my overall low water usage means that I have extra gallons in my moral water account. Not only that, but part of the reason we're facing a water shortage is that the water companies themselves lose most of the water through leaks in the system. Why should I suffer lack of floral abundance due to their carelessness and failure to maintain and invest?

However, I'm taking precautions and I'm investing in a water butt to collect the rainwater from my roof. I've been adding my homemade compost to the soil which will increase the water retention and I also plan to mulch heavily.

But push come to shove, I plan to engage in a little civil disobedience this summer. No one comes between me and my garden.
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

This e-mail has been scanned for all viruses by Star. The
service is powered by MessageLabs. For more information on a proactive
anti-virus service working around the clock, around the globe, visit:

Friday, February 24, 2006

Mayor of London suspended

I had a little stop gap post on Ken Livingstone's suspension from his job as Mayor of London - which was basically a gloating poke at an adjudication panel's ruling that Ken Livingstone should be suspended from his job for a month. So I'm now republishing with a bit more detail.

What did Ken do to deserve this suspension? Basically he called someone a name. He compared a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard - and then did it again after the reporter said that he was Jewish and found it offensive.

What was the reporter doing? His job. Maybe the reporter Oliver Finegold was being a little pesky (who knows?), but that's what reporters do. He asked a public servant and a public figure a question on a public matter in a public place. You can hear the recording for yourself at the Evening Standard.

First Ken denied making those statements, but Mr Finegold being a reporter had a tape running. Then Ken claimed Mr Finegold was being rude, but from the tape, that doesn't appear to be the case.

What would a grown-up mayor have done? He would have apologised. He would have apologised to the reporter and to the people of London, and it would have been over. Instead he called the Daily Mail group (for which the Evening Standard reporter works) a bunch of Nazi sympathisers - who Ken grants have now turned from hating Jews to hating Muslims and asylum seekers.

Then Ken's co-workers (the Greater London Assembly - our big council) said "Ken, be a big boy and say you're sorry." But Ken refused to apologise. He didn't even apologise for any offense he might have caused (that old get-out) but did say it wasn't his intention to offend the Jewish community of London.

Now could his remarks have been construed as unacceptably anti-semitic? Maybe. (I sure wouldn't like to be compared to a Nazi concentration camp guard and as a Londoner I was offended by his remarks and I'm not Jewish.) Though when you compare what he said to Ken's cosy relationship with nasty, anti-semitic, homophobe, mysogynist Egyptian cleric al Qaradawi, his remarks hardly even seem noteworthy in the anti-semite stakes.

Ken you brought this on yourself, you stupid mf.

On the other hand, who the heck are these people on this Panel of Adjudication who can remove the properly elected Mayor after a meeting of a few hours? Ken says it undermines democratic principles and is an insult to the people of London. On that, Ken, you and I are in agreement.

Ken you've wasted taxpayer money again because of your stupid arrogance. I can't help but gloat at your misfortune, you stupid, reactionary, anti-American ass. But I'm sickened that London is shamed first by having a loud mouth mayor and then by having him removed.

But as this post from Harry's Place says:

That said, the only way to counter left-racism and the "Galloway-lite" religious communalist politics which Ken Livingstone, and his Socialist Action chums have been pioneering, is for us to organise, politically, against it.

An administrative or quasi judicial 'solution' is not only a mirage: it is also an affront to democracy.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

holocaust denial

David Irving, the British "historian" and holocaust denier is an idiot. He is his own worst enemy. His most severe legal troubles stem from his own stupidity.

To wit:

1. His biggest legal problems in the UK were when he took American academic Deborah Lipstadt to court for libel, when she called him a holocaust denier. In court, it was proven that he was a holocaust denier, and he lost.

2. Austria banned him from the country. He knew that there was essentially a national restraining order in place, and knew there was a warrant for his arrest stemming from a previous holocaust denial incident within Austria. He went anyway and got thrown in the poky.

In each case, he's been the author of his own downfall (as well as the author of some very dubious stuff he calls "real history").

Still, I don't think he should be in jail for holocaust denial. He was sentenced to three years in prison, and Austrian prosecutors are appealing against the sentence saying he should be chucked in for the maximum ten. This despite the fact that he plead guilty, recanted on the denial, and apologised for hurt and affront. (Though to be fair, I don't put much weight on his mea culpa)

Now, I think people who publicly deny the facts of the holocaust should be lampooned and discredited or perhaps just denied the oxygen of publicity.. I don't think they should be thrown in jail - made a martyr to their stupid cause. I don't think that people should be thrown in jail for what they write and say...(mostly, there is the issue of child porn and direct incitement to violence).

Most commentators in the UK are sort of defending his "right to be wrong", but I don't think many on the Left or Right are shedding too many tears. I have to admit I'm not either, I find him abhorrent.

But in the wake of the Danish Mohammed cartoons, I find his incarceration for three years disturbing. Very disturbing. There's been an escalation of penalties for offending others - and as one person is punished for offending an orthodoxy or breaking a taboo, so all the other orthodoxies clamor for their own protection under the law. It's a dangerous climate for free-thinkers as well as vile campaigners.


The other night, the Vol-in-Law took me to a lecture on multi-culturalism and the law (he sure knows how to show a gal a good time) by Professor Ralph Grillo an anthropologist. He took us through the Bezhti affair (a play found offensive by some Sikhs who smashed in the Birmingham rep) and covered the Danish cartoons as well.

He seemed to be coming from the premise that we really oughtn't to be offending anyone...and that free speech was a good thing generally, but it was better not to offend. He was speaking in a law lecture series, but no one could quite pin him down to what he thought the law ought to be. At one point he was pressed...who has the right not to be offended, religious adherents? (yes), members of ethnic minorities? (yes), various nationalities? (yes). He never answered the question of why religion (a system of belief, i.e. thought) deserved any gentler treatment than any other system of thought or belief (utilitarianism, liberalism, conservatism, Darwinism) that all have to take their knocks.

I'd rather think that we all have the positive right to be offended. Yes, you can say what you like, but I have the right to object, to argue back and to feel aggrieved. As I said above, when we start going down the road of protecting the precious sensitivities, everyone wants their sensitivity protected, too, until finally we're paralysed by it and can't speak out when things are really wrong.

Tags: Free Speech, Austria, Holocaust, irving,

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


You know you're classy when you decorate with SunDrop memorabilia...

Sundrop kitty

Other cat looks like she's full to the eyes of the golden drop herself.

Dumb laws

In a report by the Center for Reproductive Rights called What if Roe Fell?, Tennessee is highlighted as a "green" state - that is one of the states likely to protect abortion rights if there were a reversal of the Roe v Wade Decision.

Is Tennessee still the greenest state in the land of the free?

Well, it won't be if Tennessee House Bill 3199 (link to a PDF) goes through. This is a law which requires a woman notify the impregnating male of her intention to get an abortion.

There's a get-out clause for rape, but only if it's been reported to the police.

This isn't just telling a man you're married to (not that I approve of spousal notification, if you're not telling your husband of your intention to have an abortion, I suspect there's a pretty good reason - after all, wife battering often picks up during pregnancy). This isn't just telling someone you're in a relationship with, this is trying to find and tell any possible roll-in-the-hay-lay you might have had.

Can't find him? Don't know who he is? That's ok, sugar, you just march yourself down to the local department of children's services and file a notice with them with the name of the putative father (Rachel of Women's Health News has more on the possible delaying implications of this provision).

I have to wonder what that's going to be like - are county children's services geared up for this kind of thing. No doubt lawmakers imagine a waiting room full of rosy-cheeked cherubs lovingly held in the arms of their hard-pressed, but feisty moms swaying the resolve of the abortion-seeker (my guess is these guys probably haven't had to wait in such a lobby ever). Or maybe they just want to pile on the humiliation.


When I first read about this here, here and here, yesterday, I have to say I was really in a state of disbelief - surely Mr. TV on the Fritz, who first spotted it, had fallen for some kind of hoax. No sensible lawmaker would propose such a bill. But I found it on the state legislature site (where you can track progress of this bill) and then I remembered that we were talking about the state house...not a place 100% populated by sensible lawmakers.

Aunt B of Tiny Cat Pants says:

Yes, apparently Tennessee sperm is so powerful that it can penetrate doctor-patient privilege and render privacy rights non-existent. So powerful that its mere presence at one time in a woman's reproductive system obliges that woman to report in to that man about her medical activities.

Rachel of Women's Health News says:

You can find names and email addresses of TN Senate members here and House members here.

And since this Bill is next on its way to the Judiciary Committee, then you might want to have a word with them, too.

Technorati Tags: ; ; ;

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ain't nobody here...

...but us chickens.

2006-02-21 047

Well, they found some bird 'flu in France, in fact they're now on "bird flu war footing" (hmm...France, war footing? - are we about to see new lows in surrendering?) That's just a short flight across the channel. It's bound to show up here.

I know I should be worried about this, but I can't seem to summon up the fear. I shared a taxi with a guy not long ago who thought me foolish for my lack of concern. He knew a disturbing amount about the avian influenza, the Spanish 'flu of nearly a century ago, and previous 'flu epidemics. He talked about our chances here in London, the stock of vaccines and anti-viral treatments. The UK government doesn't have enough, the NHS won't be able to handle it...he said. I have no doubt that this is true. As he reeled off death tolls and infection rates (he knew the numbers), I did my best not to snicker.

If some nasty virulent 'flu - like the H5N1 virus - decides to jump from human to human I know it will be bad, I just kind of accept that. In London, I know I'm a sitting duck. London already makes me sick. It makes everyone sick. You're sharing enclosed spaces with all kinds of sniffling, coughing, wheezing fellow commuters. You touch a handrail as you begin your commute and there's no way to wash your hands for nearly an hour. By the time I've accepted that I've got to look like a paranoid plonker on my daily commute, with gloves and a mask it will be too late.

For those who either want to scare themselves senseless or prepare and take appropriate measures - check out this site: avianinfluenza.org

Monday, February 20, 2006

What's in bloom?

I love spring bulbs and flowers...I love the anticipation and the unfolding...

What's in bloom this week? Not a heck of a lot. My garden seems very slow to take off this year, nary a daffodil.

On the upside, this means that bulbs will have a more intense, showier season.

But here's what's in bloom from this week:

Hellebore - I think this is an ericsmithii, that I bought for cheap one time. Wouldn't it be cool to have a flower named after you?

Maybe this one should be called crocus volabroadii
Orange and white crocus

I also have a smattering of snowdrops in bloom.
February snowdrop 1

My mother-in-law and I dug these up last year just after Easter from the abandoned homestead across the road from her house in Aberdeenshire. We packed them in moss and I carried them in a backpack down to London and put them out despite a raging cold. At her house they don't bloom until late March, but they are lush and thick. This year in my garden, they're a little straggly, but I'm pleased they've done as well as they have.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Deal me in

Me and Vegas didn't gel. I didn't really care for that town, and the closest I came to really enjoying it was when we went downtown.

I do like a flutter (Britspeak for small stakes wagering), but I came to the realisation that I'm more of a Mississippi gambler. So, I was quite excited when I heard that there's to be casino gambling in Cherokee, North Carolina, just over the mountains from Knoxville.

But in this post from Knoxdot -News for Hicks (a new one to me - HT Michael Silence), the casino sounds like it's just slots - and maybe video black jack (which I like):

With a casino just over the hill, wouldn't it be nice to have some live card games? Harrah's Casino and Hotel in Cherokee, NC, is a slot players paradise. However, state law in NC prohibits cards from being dealt (As far as I know).

So, if NC changed the law to allow the casino to have a poker room and blackjack tables, do you think you would be more inclined to go over the mountain to gamble?

But what really interested me was a suggestion in the comments that full casino gambling be brought to Gatlinburg. At first, I thought, yeah - that would be awesome. But on reflection, I can see problems - damaging the character of the Smokies. Next thing you know, Pigeon Forge would be all casinos, pushing out the more traditional diversions like miniature golf with giant dinosaurs and alligators.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Power tools

The Vol-in-Law is now in a position of leadership on our street - he's involved with the neighborhood watch (distributing leaflets, point of contact with the cops and so on).

And because we now feel we must be more upstanding members of the local community, it's time for us to trim our hedge. It is, frankly, a bit of an eye sore and a little crime magnet in and of itself. Not once, but twice, stolen items have been dumped behind our all-concealing front-hedge. The most recent incident involved a schoolboy's, the previous a preacher's briefcase.

We have a pair of old-fashioned shears, but the frequency of my pruning has been so poor that I now can't manage the hedge with the old loppers. I've been after the Vol-in-Law to let me buy a hedge trimmer (much like a chainsaw, only far less useful for home defense) for some time, but we have a rule that both of us have to agree on the purchase of expensive or bulky items. Anyway, with the new pressures of command and the eyes of the neighbours beady upon us, the Vol-in-Law finally consented to the electric hedge-trimmer.

I go off on my own to the hardware store and I select my hedge trimmer (mid-range, nothing too flash, nothing too cheap) and I spot something I've always, always wanted - a chipper-shredder, on sale no less. With that, I can chip and shred, and make much better compost. Well, the Vol-in-Law and I have this agreement thing - and the shredder is both expensive and bulky, so I phone him up and ask "Can I buy this shredder? It's on sale..." and believe it or not, he says yes, that he knows how I like my power tools.

I make my other selections; bedding plants, an axe and some lightbulbs and I proceed to checkout. Well, the guy at the checkout, - I can see that he's probably not your swooftest and I sort of let him not charge me for the lightbulbs and the ax (though how he missed the ax or the lightbulbs that I laid on the counter, I just don't know).

Well, you know that karma thing...

Checkout guy overcharges me for the shredder, fails to take off the clearance reduction and that's more money than the free ax and lightbulbs, so I complain, and it takes them twenty bloody minutes (I kid you not!) to refund me my money. But finally I get the money, I get the ax and I...

go home, and it starts to rain so I can't use either of my new toys.

Friday, February 17, 2006

street art

I've always been a big fan of "street art", random creative weirdness that you can just stumble across.

On my way back to work from a meeting yesterday, I took the path along the South Bank. Since I had brought my digital camera along, I walked out onto a jetty in an attempt to get a better shot of St Paul's and the River Thames. Instead what I saw was this...


Of course, I had to walk along to the next jetty...and I saw this:


As far as "street art" goes, I've seen better...but I have to admire the artist's use of duct tape.

The South Bank

The weather's been odd (though that's not unusual for London) When Vol K was visiting it was absolutely freezing and the sky was leaden. Not a glimpse of sun. I was coming down with SAD. It's warmed up again, but it's scattered showers and only a rare hint of blue skies - but at least we have the rare hints.

Yesterday, I happened to catch the rare moment of sunshine as I walked along the South Bank. I could have taken a taxi back to work, but decided to walk (turns out it was a bit further than a thought).

I thought I'd share some photos from the South Bank, both from the dreary weather days when Vol K was here and from yesterday.

IMGP1033 crop
On the London Eye

view of Parliament from the London Eye

across the Thames and view of St Paul's

The bridge to nowhere near Blackfriars Bridge and St Pauls

IMGP1087 crop
Blackfriars tube sign

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dispensing more advice

Well, I've finished a finalish draft of the book/pamphlet which will only increase my fame in my arcane, frankly a bit dull, professional field. This should mean I have a bit more time for my personal interests. I suppose this also means that I will be further professionally type cast, but I guess we all have our burdens to bear. Funny thing about being an expert - doesn't mean I can actually do what I tell other people to do so convincingly.

But I do so love to dispense advice. I was recently asked for my interpretation of Islamic law by a devout Muslim. Now, I'm hardly an Islamic scholar, but I did read Teach Yourself Islam once, I guess that's close enough. What was the quandry? Did taking a cough syrup containing alcohol constitute a breach of sharia?

Well, I could have said: "Sweetie, gosh, that's a big one. Now that you've taken that, you better hang up the head scarf. I don't think you're even a Muslim anymore. To help you transition into the life of the kafir, we'll hit the bars tonight and just as soon as the weather gets warm enough, I'll fire up the grill and introduce you to VolBro's tastiest-tenderest-ribs-in-the-world recipe*."

But instead, I paused and pretended to ponder (a great device for convincing people you know what you're talking about). "Well, it's medicinal. I think that's ok, as long as you're taking it for medicinal purposes. It's about intent."

Any more questions?

* I use his recipe, but I can't reproduce his ribs exactly. I try to get him across the pond once a year just to make him cook those ribs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

No more Ms Nice Gal

I've been having lots of posting problems... so here's hoping this actually shows up.

So the UK Parliament voted overwhelmingly to ban smoking in public places last night. I have several contradictory reactions:

1. Good. I'm too old to still be smoking. And banning it in pubs will mean that the source of my greatest weakness will be removed. (Smoking while drinking).
2. Bad. My libertarian streak and my tobacco addicted core bristle.
3. Ha! For all you Brits who laughed at the NYC smoking ban and said it wouldn't, it couldn't happen here because the British weren't the cringing, nannying sort, what do you say now?
4. Stupid. Ok Labour Government you're just about to criminalise a whole class of people who are generally pretty law abiding. Once you take the first step into lawlessness, the rest becomes easy.

No doubt this law will alter my behavior, and even before it comes into affect.

I've always been uneasy with the British free-for-all, one big smoking zone, approach. I'd rather be segregated, sitting with my filthy friends, my nicotine brethren, than to be cheek by jowl with sneering, scowling non-smokers in restaurants. I would remove myself to have my post-prandial smoke elsewhere in crowded, mixed zone restaurants out of respect for others. Now, non-smokers, you've had your way, and I'll have mine. I shall light up without regard while I still can.

Mobile blogging

I had a great little post on Valentine's Day that I composed on my blackberry on the way home yesterday. It was a combination of pithy and sweet.

But...there seems to have been a delay in posting. I don't know if it's the fault of the mobile server or blogger - but anyway, the moment has passed.

No doubt sometime next week, the post will mysteriously show up just as it has mysteriously disappeared and make me look foolish and behind the times. I will backdate it and the balance of blogging history will be restored.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Be mine

The Vol-in-Law and I were channel surfing the other night and landed on one of those count down/ list format shows, you know 100 Trashiest Videos, Top 40 One Hit Wonders. This one was 100 Best Break Up songs.

We watched half of one video and then decided it had been so long since either of us had broken up/ experienced unrequited love that it just didn't appeal. Like a long ago toothache, you can remember being in pain, but you just can't feel it anymore.

Happy Valentine's Day, ViL, thanks to you I'm off the lonely, heartbreak songs.


On my way home tonight, I've seen several couples all dolled up for Valentine's night, embracing in the street. Awwww. We couldn't get a dinner reservation now if we wanted one. I expect I'll come home, make a crack about not getting a Valentine's Day gift, then we'll eat some soup and watch Battlestar Galactica.


Happy Valentine's Day everyone - to all my friends and family, readers near and far.

And a Happy Valentine's Birthday to two Nashvillians - Cousin D who's recovering from a c-section but has a lovely new baby and to Vol-K's old flame L.

(And apologies to everyone else this year whose birthdays I will forget or have already forgotten. If you wanted me to remember your birthday you should have had the good sense to be born on a memorable holiday).

UPDATE: The ViL came good by bringing some pink and white carnations.

Monday, February 13, 2006

written out

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

I've been doing a lot of writing for work... I have very little else to say.

Here's a weird picture from the current Turbine Hall exhibit at the Tate Modern that I took visiting Vol-K to see last weekend.


I'd like to say that it was more than piled up plastic boxes, that it spoke to something within me. But it was really just piled up plastic boxes in a big space.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The VA's travel advisory service

The Vol Abroad loves dispensing advice. Lack of relevant topical knowledge is no barrier.


A colleague is headed to Nashville for the Fan Fair (or whatever they're calling it these days) this summer and asked me for my advice on where to stay. My time in Nashville is usually rigorously controlled and I rarely get out unsupervised by relatives who don't really do the tourist thing. For example: Parthenon? Never been. Not even when I lived in Nashville. Printer's Alley watering holes? A distant dream for me. A sneaky beer in a plastic SOLO cup on my cousin's deck is as close as I've been.

I'm dreading the "where should I eat?" question, since I always dine at the Kinfolk Kitchen. I highly recommend it. You can always get a table, there are convenient locations all over the greater Nashville area, food's good (amazing at some branches), company's great, but sometimes you have to load the dishwasher.

(Hey Nashville readers, who would like to give me tips on where to eat and what to see so I can look smart?)


Out and about last night, I met a couple of recent graduates doing the European backpacking thing.

One of them was on his way to Amsterdam, so I dispensed my usual piece of advice to prospective travellers to the Netherlands:

Don't eat the fish soup.

(When I previously dispensed this advice to a friend of VolBro’s, he replied “So your only warning about visiting Amsterdam, a town of whores and drugs, is not to eat the fish soup?” OK, here’s more advice, don’t eat them either.)

Really - don't eat the fish soup. I know this first hand, well second hand, since it was the Vol-in-Law who ate it. And it resulted in a catastrophic case of food poisoning. The ViL and I had a quiet lunch in Amsterdam. I had a bunch of fried stuff and felt guilty when he ordered the healthy fish soup. He wasn’t feeling too good later on that afternoon when we went to the Van Gogh museum. But we were in a group, and I wanted to see the pretty pictures, and anyway the Vol-in-Law being a Brit is normally pallorous. Who knew it was serious?

On our flight out that night back to London he started feeling really bad. He got up to use the facilities and returned to our seat about a half hour later sweating and shaking. Turns out he passed out in the bathroom. (He asked me why I hadn’t been worried over his long absence, and I had to admit that I was so engrossed in my book on internal controls and corporate governance that I didn’t notice.) Not only did he pass out in the bathroom, but he passed out mid-upchuck with his trousers around his ankles. When he came to, he discovered there was vomit all over the inside of his pants. Nothing for it, but to hitch up the britches – you can’t exactly wander pants-less on an aircraft. We got home with no further incidents, but I did have to take him to the emergency room a few days later when he came out in a horrible rash and started blathering incoherently due to an amazingly high temperature. At that point, I was seriously worried.

So when I say, don’t eat the fish soup in Amsterdam...

more Danish cartoon controversy

Fellow American blogger in London, Anglofille has some interesting views and news on the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy. The Liberal, a London magazine, apparently published at least one cartoon on their website. Warned by the Metropolitan Police that they couldn't protect their safety, the magazine chickened out and put a square block with word censored over it - or should it be "self-censored"? This morning I couldn't click through to the Liberal site (www.theliberal.co.uk) at all. Go check out all of what she has to say on that.

Also read her interesting commentary on who's talking about this issue. She says:

From where I sit, it appears that the right-wing has hijacked this story in the American media. Perhaps I am wrong, and I hope I am. But I would not be surprised if liberal writers and thinkers in the States avoid taking on this story because they’re afraid to be lumped in with the right-wing. I think that many liberals are terrified to do anything that may be deemed politically incorrect.

Ouch. We don't have to go on about it (like I've done), but either we value the principles of a liberal democracy or we don't. These things are free press, free speech, freedom from unwarranted intrusion from Government.

I've noticed that some right-wing bloggers in Tennessee have been disappointed with the reaction from the US State Department and if they cared, the UK Foreign Office, (if you don't care, it was the same mealy mouthed "sensitivity" crap, "wise not to publish" crap).

It's time to point out that the Bush Administration doesn't give a toss about civil liberties, so their po-faced sensitivity crap is just more of the same. Look at what else they do: Cindy Sheehan (who by the way, I'm not an apologist for), invited to the State of the Union address by an elected Representative is dragged out of the Capitol and arrested for wearing a t-shirt. American citizens are spied on illegally- not because we have an over-rigorous legal framework on the matter, but because the administration is too lazy and too arrogant to get easy-peasy retrospective warrants, and they're too full of their own zeal to realize what they're doing to the Constitution.

Republicans who value the principles of our civil society need to stand up against this - it's already clear the Bush Administration doesn't listen to us "liberals" (the other half of the voting population, by the way).

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How 'bout them Vols?


I'm still all in a tizzy over the decline of civil discourse in the UK - following the Danish cartoon row (Brittney and NIT has a selection of Mid-State posts on that and Michael Silence has the round-up with an Eastern slant)

But there's one bright spot in my universe...one big bright orange spot.

Hey, how 'bout the men's basketball team? How 'bout Bruce Pearl? Go Vols.

Read all about the Wildcat skinning here: Opinari.net, Six Meat Buffet, and a pre-game one from Left of the Dial (note to self, must get Frank on my blogroll...country music, Vols and reasonable politics, what more could a girl want?).

Check out this Lady Vols fan site.

Meanwhile Joel Hollingsworth at the View from Rocky Top gives us hope for a cheerier football season with a series of profiles of the new recruits.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

stirrin' it up

Hook-handed Abu Hamza, preacher at the North London Finsbury Park Mosque, was convicted today on 6 charges of soliciting to murder (inciting violence through his speech) and for possessing a "terror encyclopaedia". Good.

Finsbury Park Mosque has been quite the little Terror 101, shoe bomber Richard Reid passed through there, as did some 9/11 bombers, as did a collection of other terror warriors. The Yemenis want Abu Hamza in connection for the kidnap-murders of 4 Western tourists and the US wants him for the same reason. (He couldn't be extradited to the Yemen because he might have been tortured.) I'd be happy for him to finish his seven years in jail and then take a little tour around the penal systems of the world. This guy is bad news.

Abu Hamza was also convicted of 3 charges of "stirring up racial hatred". What does that mean? Well, actually in Abu Hamza's case, I know exactly what it means - he used his vile sermons to stir up hatred against all kafirs (non-Muslims) and Jews in particular. But I have to say, I'm against the idea of prosecuting people for stirring up an emotion.

ViL: We're too polite...

From Steve Sailer, http://isteve.com/

"...You can see the problem that then develops when people from the in-your-face end of the gradient immigrate to the feel-your-pain countries. When immigrants bring their Middle Eastern hostility and assertiveness, the natives in the northwest are reluctant to vocally protest right back at them, because, well, it's just not done. They just give them That Look that causes their fellow Northwest Europeans to feel guilty that they've caused their neighbors discomfort. But it doesn't work on the Middle Easterners. They just see the failure of the natives to do anything substantial as proof of their bland white bread inferiority."

This is true. We do That Look that makes queue-jumpers shuffle guiltily to the back of the line, and we're still kinda surprised when it doesn't work on Islamonazis. Or even Poles.

Monday, February 06, 2006

suicide bomber apologises

Omar Khayam spoke to reporters this weekend after appearing in a suicide bomber harness as part of the protests against the Danish cartoons in London last Friday. What did he say? He said "I'm not sorry. I'd do it again." Well, I guess that's one advantage of being a fake suicide bomber.

Today, Mr Khayam decided he was sorry. He made a very nice statement, apologising for his lack of sensitivity. He admitted that he done what the Danish cartoonist had done - made a statement without respect for others. Only, of course, it isn't the same thing. Not the same thing at all.

Perhaps Mr Khayam decided that because he's currently out of jail on license (probation after completing only a portion of his sentence) where he'd been serving time for posession and distribution of cocaine and heroin, he'd better tidy up his act.

Update: 7 Feb - Omar is back in the pokey. Most likely on parole violation issues.

The Metropolitan Police were protecting Islamo-Nazi protesters with placards endorsing beheadings, but they did manage to make a few arrests. Two people passing out leaflets with copies of the Danish cartoons were arrested Friday - according to today's Metro, which is, alas, unlinkable.


Mel of Mel's Diner links Mark Steyn of all people today and says she pretty much agrees with this column article. Me, too.

new baby!

New baby cousin in Nashville! He was born on Groundhog Day - must be a sign of early spring, 'cause there weren't no going back to the den for him.

The photo came via cell phone with a Nashville area code - there was no other message. So I hope this is the right little guy.

baby cousin

Anyway, he's cute.

I agree with the French guy

There are some interesting posts (1, 2) by Bob Krumm on the Danish cartoon thing. Bob says he hates it when we're wimpier than the French. Yeah, that's a tough one. And the French are talking a bit more sense on this one, too. French Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy said that he preferred "an excess of caricature to an excess of censure". I also prefer that to an excess of crispy Danish embassies.

I have to say, I'm pretty perplexed by the attitude of both the State Department and the UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

According to this BBC piece:

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has praised UK media for not publishing them.

Mr Straw said the decision by some European newspapers to print the cartoons was "disrespectful" and he added that freedom of speech did not mean an "open season" on religious taboos.

And here's the US State Department line on it:

These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in answer to a question. "We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable."

(Hasn't invading Iraq been the source of all kinds of religious and ethnic hatred? Just asking.)

You know what, every day is open season on religious taboos in my book. Every day that someone believes something that you don't agree with, you have the right to disagree, and you have the right to use art or words to make your argument.

Today some Muslims are offended by cartoons, before that it was toy pigs, what's it going to be tomorrow? Am I going to have to start going about in hijab, because someone's offended by my presence as a bare-headed woman? Where does it stop? (And this isn't just about Muslims - I'm looking at all the fundamentalists.)

I do try to maintain respectful conduct in my dealings with others. I really do. I don't actually want to offend people. I haven't published the Danish pictures of Mohammed on my blog partly because I couldn't decide if it was the right thing to do. But when I see pictures of people in the streets of my city calling for death to those who blaspheme Islam, it makes me angry. Really angry.

So, here we go. It's not the Danish cartoon image, but it's really a rather nice frieze on the US Supreme Court building - Mohammed's the guy with the sword - you can see this image and a whole lot more at the Mohammed Images Archive. Somebody over at the State Department better get a look at this.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Naked lunch

Another lost post from Saturday - reinstated.

We took K to the nekkid men restaurant for dinner last night. It's not really full of nekkid men - it's really just a normally funky small cafe, but the ladies' (and apparently the gents') is decorated with paintings of the partially clothed to completely disrobed.

Since this is a family blog (heh), I won't publish my photos of the art in the Ladies' restroom here - but you're more than welcome to have a look on my flickr account.

On the ceiling
Stall to the left
Stall to the right
My eye level view while seated

There are less fully exposed paintings in the hallways - but fleshly none the less

So here's one for the lads

Nice hotel, interesting location

My visiting friend K (Vol-K perhaps?, she is a UT alumna) had to change hotels this weekend as she needed to be in one where other colleagues are staying. As we took the taxi from her old hotel to the new one we passed the Danish embassy.

Now normally it's pretty cool to be staying in an embassy-rich part of town, but what with Danish Embassies going up in smoke at such an astonishing rate, maybe these are not the folks you want as your near neighbours... and you certainly don't want to be hanging out with the folks that seem to frequent Danish Embassy environs these days.

It was all pretty quiet, but I said I wanted a picture before we started on a site seeing tour of London (more about that in another post) so we went back that way - about a block and a half from her hotel. The hotel staff said that there had been lots of excitement on Friday, but not so much on Saturday or Sunday.

Protesters were across the street from the embassy, cops out front of the embassy, facing off across the road. People were chanting and speaking through megaphones, but I didn't see any pictures like these shown here at 6MB and I didn't hear any nasty, violence inciting chants as described in my previous post.

I wanted to get some closer shots, but the Vol-in-Law and Vol-K said that we were quite close enough.

Here's what we saw:

IMGP1022 3
Cops in front of the Embassy, a handful of protesters across the road

More cops coming

Cops just having a friendly chat (?) with a passer by

still not so funny

I've tried to post this several times...and blogger keeps losing my posts. Arrgghh.

The furore over the 12 Danish cartoons continues apace with sickening protests in London.

I do believe that anyone has the right to feel offended. I'm offended on a daily basis by something or other. I believe that anyone has the right to boycott (even if it's a bit over the top) or write strongly worded letters to the editor. People have the right to protest.

But I think this craziness over the 12 Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and their publication in other newspapers across Europe demonstrates that there's real difficulty in trying to accommodate our traditional Western freedoms and certain types of Islamic worldview. A Danish Imam summed it up nicely in a quote from The Telegraph.

A Danish imam, Ahmed Abu Laban, told worshippers in Copenhagen: "In the West freedom of speech is sacred; to us, the Prophet is sacred."

And that's fine. But you have to understand that our free speech means we don't have to follow your religious dictats - and equally our profane speech doesn't really affect what's sacred in your heart.

I think we must stand firmly for our traditional liberties. Unlike the Bush administration State Department which has decided to appease Islamists on this matter.

No newspapers in Britain have republished the cartoons, but the BBC showed a few pictures of the cartoons as part of their coverage of the reactions. In their piece, which I saw, a Danish Imam was flipping through a portfolio of the cartoons and was explaining to the Jyllands-Posten editorial staff why each and every one of them was deemed offensive. That was enough to spark protests in London. Protests which I believe were not only offensive (fair enough), but might also have breached the acceptable limits of free speech - a direct incitement to violence - and could certainly have fallen under the description of "glorification of terror" - one provision in a recently proposed terrorism bill.

Here's some of what was said in the protest - according to The Times:

  • Protesters screamed: “UK, you must pray — 7/7 is on its way.”
  • Banners made references to the British suicide bombers with slogans such as: “Europe, you will pay. Fantastic 4 are on their way.” [a reference to the 4 7/7 bombers]
And The Sun - never known for holding back - has some nice photos of protesters in London whose banners read:

  • Behead those who insult Islam
  • Massacre those who insult Islam
  • BBC = British Blasphemic Crusaders*
  • As Muslims we unite & we are prepared to fight
And worse yet - a picture of an adorable little girl, bundled up against the cold with a hat that said "I heart al Qaeda"

And despite the fact that many of the banners called for violence, police prevented passers-by from snatching offensive signs and banners - and apparently the protest was largely peaceful (if that's the right word).


* I think that sign is perfectly acceptable but included it because I thought it was kinda clever. I've felt similarly about the sneering BBC, too.

Friday, February 03, 2006

ViL: "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it..."

In what looks like a victory for the increasingly threatened liberty of free speech, the BNP leader Nick Griffin and a follower were acquitted yesterday of inciting racial hatred through saying that Islam was "a wicked religion". The jury failed to reach a verdict on some charges and acquitted on others.

The BNP say: "Even many voters who dislike the policies of the BNP have written in to say that they want to hear about us in a democratic environment and we should all be free to disagree with one another without risking a jail sentence for disagreeing."

This is true. Even Shami Chakrabati the head of Liberty, which mostly campaigns on behalf of the rights of suspected Muslim terrorists, seemed to think Griffin should not have been charged. The BNP's statement above is slightly ironic since while they are careful not to say anything that could be reasonably regarded as race hatred, if you read their website long enough you will see articles including comments like "when we take power the media will be prevented from spreading their lies and disinformation. All news will come from government-approved sources." So they are perhaps not the ideal poster boys for free speech.

But that's really the point, isn't it?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Nervous tick

When some people are nervous or have what's described as social anxiety they get a little eye twitch or blush or say really stupid things. Me, when I'm a little nervous I talk like a Yankee.

I don't have the strongest Southern accent to begin with, but if I'm in a group of people I don't know very well and am maybe a little shy of I get this weird upper-midwestern cum northeastern accent. It sounds ugly even to me. My inner voice says STOP, but my outer voice keeps talking like a Yankee.

Anyway, I was in a group of Americans last night, some of whom I find a bit intimidating. We were all talking politics and my Yankee voice was peeping out. As the evening progressed, someone - one of those people I find a little intimidating - started putting on a faux Southern accent whenever she wanted to imply that she was saying something stupid. I called her on it. I said I resented it, that it was an unfair characterisation, and that stunts like that don't help the cause of progressive politics in the South.

She kept it up. And to make it worse the non-Southerners complimented me on my "not bad considering you're from Tennessee" accent. My blood boiled.

She kept it up. "Go on, keep doin' it Sugar," I said. "I know what car you drive and I'm gonna slash your tars while you're asleep."

The gentleman from Georgia, sitting to my right, added "Hell, we'll do it while she's still in the car."

Groundhog Day

It's Groundhog Day. I hope the groundhog sees its shadow or doesn't see its shadow or whatever it is that's a sign of an early Spring. I'm sick of being cold. I'm sick of overcast days. I'm ready for my dormant garden to push forth in bloom.

I'll be watching the US websites later this morning. I'm waiting...and hoping.

UPDATE: Stupid groundhog. Six more weeks of winter.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I'm Danicus

Newspapers across Europe are taking a stand by publishing cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed. A Danish paper got into big trouble for publishing a series of such images back in the Autumn. There's been furore aplenty - Saudi Arabia recalled its Ambassador, Libya said it would close the Danish embassy, EU offices were raided in Palestine (demonstrating a remarkable level of gratitude for the years of dubious EU funding there) and Danish products have been boycotted across the Middle East.

Yikes! All for 12 pictures - though granted, some might well be deemed as offensive, and of course, Islam prohibits the depiction of the prophet in any context. (And let's give a little bit of a hand to the Imams in Denmark who helped reach a compromise.)

I wrote yesterday about how the Danish newspaper recently apologised for any offense caused, but not for publishing the cartoons.

Let me applaud the France's Paris Soir and Germany's Die Welt and of course all the online journals and blogs that have published these cartoons, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Danes and Jyllands-Posten.

I do wonder how many British newspapers will do the same, given that a law against "stirring up religious hatred" passed in Parliament last night (though not the stupidest, sternest version of it).

UPDATE: The editor of Paris Soir is sacked.

My comments on comments: I see a couple of commenters are questioning whether German, French, Italian and other papers should have published these cartoons. I agree that publishing the cartoons might be a poke in the already sore eye of the offended Muslims and that it could be seen as deliberately provocative. Maybe it is.

But in the UK at least, we face a situation of small errosions of our freedoms of expression lest we offend Islam. This means no images of pigs at Dudley Council, Burger King pulls its "offensive" ice cream and further no depiction of the prophet in a newspaper or Saudi Arabia will pull their ambassador.

In the UK, we face a situation where new legislation means that speech "offensive" to Islam might be prosecutable. There are not the same protections for freedom of speech that there is in the US, so in Europe there's a need to push back to say "this far and no further".

Speech that incites violence, that encourges people to attack others is wrong. But speech that encourages others to go into a paroxym of rage because of their offended sensibilities should not be outlawed. No one has the right to go around in a protective bubble free from anything that might offend them.

Cold dead hand

The IRA has held on to some guns after its "final act of decommissioning". Shocker.

According to a BBC news story:

The head of the body responsible for overseeing decommissioning [the Independent Monitoring Commission - IMC], General John de Chastelain, said there was no indication that the "quantities of arms involved were substantial".

But intelligence reports suggest that the IRA is still holding on to weapons, despite making a big deal of "putting the weapons beyond use" in 2005.

In a classic example of British understatement:

"The level of confidence which he's expressed...is not a level of confidence about full decommissioning that we are in a position to share," said Lord Alderdice [an IMC Commissioner].