Tuesday, November 28

Put-down of the week.

That bastard Peter Hain is even more unpopular than usual in Northern Ireland at the minute — quite an achievement for a man who so brilliantly augments his innate fundamentally dislikable personality by being an utter bastard. If I were a cynic, I might even suppose that his appointment was a brilliant move by Blair: unite the squabbling factions of Northern Ireland by giving them a common enemy — or a common git, at any rate. Actually, I am a cynic, but I don't credit Blair with quite the necessary degree of low cunning.

So, anyway, Norn Arsh television is currently rather well stocked with people slagging off Hain. Channel-hopping last night, I came across one young political commentator just as he ended his monologue with this:

The sunbed's on, but nobody's home.


Someone should write that in weedkiller on the lawns of Stormont.



Thursday, November 23

Futility.

Mark has noticed this article warning us that opium smoking could be making a comeback. Can't say that's particularly interesting, myself. Some people do drugs. Like everyone else in the world, most of them like a bit of variety. This news is right up there with "Hot-dog sales overtake hamburgers." Big deal.

However, buried in the article, with no attention being drawn to it by its author, is the reason why drugs should be legalised. Forget the health arguments. This is it.

In Britain, the latest figures for the seizure of all opiate drugs, including other drugs as well as opium, was 30 kilos in 2003.


("The latest figures was"? Tsk. In The Times, as well. But anyway.)

Then, ten paragraphs further down:

The price of heroin has been falling and the only problem for the traffickers is transportation. [Andy Sellers, one of the senior officers in the Serious Organised Crime Agency] said 25 to 35 tonnes of heroin are reaching the United Kingdom each year


I put it to you, then, that transportation is almost no problem at all for the traffickers.

25 to 35 tonnes of heroin alone coming into the country. Of that, 30 mere kilos of heroin and all other opiates confiscated by the state. Our tax money at "work". In the case of The War On Drugs, that's lots and lots and lots of our tax money.



Wednesday, November 22

Choice.

Joel Spolsky explains what's wrong with Microsoft's interface design — and, come to that, what's wrong with most interface design, and not just in the IT world:

I'm sure there's a whole team of UI designers, programmers, and testers who worked very hard on the OFF button in Windows Vista, but seriously, is this the best you could come up with?

Every time you want to leave your computer, you have to choose between nine, count them, nine options: two icons and seven menu items. ...

On many laptops, there are also four FN+Key combinations to power off, hibernate, sleep, etc. That brings us up to 13 choices, and, oh, yeah, there's an on-off button, 14, and you can close the lid, 15. A total of fifteen different ways to shut down a laptop that you're expected to choose from.

The more choices you give people, the harder it is for them to choose, and the unhappier they'll feel.


Joel goes on to explain his own solution to the problem. It is extremely good, and Microsoft, and every other company in the world, should use it.



Dancing about architecture.

You know the drill.

Extremely angry and foul-mouthed pensioner gives up on writing to the Telegraph and instead possesses body of hip young Cockney and starts rapping.



Tuesday, November 21

Priorities.

When state officials do something utterly, utterly stupid

A SPICY sausage known as the Welsh Dragon will have to be renamed after trading standards' officers warned the manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon.


— they often defend themselves by claiming that they are merely protecting a purely hypothetical group of people even more stupid than themselves.

A Powys County Council spokesman said: "The product was not sufficiently precise to inform a purchaser of the true nature of the food."


Insert joke here about EU legislation forcing relocation of all British prostitutes to the town of Bakewell.

Anyway, there are two possibilities here. Either trading standards regulations are now being rigorously and jobsworthily enforced on every single product in Powys, or this case was considered a higher priority than some other case. The latter is clearly absurd.

It must be nice, living in Powys, knowing that there's not a single dishonest mechanic or builder left in the land.



Monday, November 20

Dissatisfaction.

This is just class:

Marie Steichen died two months ago but she won a battle to become a county commissioner for a small South Dakota town in the US elections, an official said.

Jerauld county auditor Cindy Peterson said that the election list closed on August 1, and while Steichen died from cancer in September her name was kept on the list for Tuesday's election.

Steichen beat a Republican rival by 100 votes to 64 and Peterson said she believed that voters knew the woman was dead but wanted to make their political point.


I think they may have succeeded. Will her opponent ever be able to live this down?



Thursday, November 16

Irony.

That last post was just a distraction from what I'm really thinking about, which is my answer to Raven's challenge:

A fun challenge — not so much fun for the doing as funny that it is unintuitively quite challenging: come up with three good examples of irony as quickly as you can. Examples from real life or made up are fine, but famous examples, eg. from Shakespeare, are not. Sarcasm is not.


Usually, I think I'd agree that that is surprisingly difficult. Right now, though, for me, it's a piece of piss. My answer is just one word: thrombophilia.

Thrombophilia's great. It's a genetic condition that causes your blood to clot unusually quickly, which causes you to heal freakishly quickly. In extreme cases, that extra-fast healing could actually save your life. Cool.

Except, if you're female, thrombophilia makes you far more prone to miscarriage. Excessive blood clotting tends to kill foetuses, depressingly. So the very condition that, if you pass it on, will help your child get healthy more quickly after an injury also makes it far less likely that that child will ever exist in the first place.

So, once diagnosed, you take Clexane during pregnancy. Clexane thins the blood, dissolves clots, and doesn't cross the placenta. The injections are painful, but the treatment is highly likely to succeed.

However, all pregnancies bring with them a danger of injury or emergency surgery or both, so the last thing you want to be on during the delivery is any type of blood-thinner. So you stop taking the Clexane two or three days before the birth. In order to do that, of course, you need to know exactly when the birth is, so you get booked in for an induced delivery. Trouble is, inductions are long drawn-out processes that involve lots of lying around in bed not moving; they also tend to involve epidurals, leading to even less moving. Inductions also tend not to work, so attempted inductions often end with caesarians, which lead to even less moving. And thrombophilia makes you especially prone to deep-vein thrombosis, which is triggered by long periods of not moving. In other words, the fact that you're being treated for thrombophilia makes you far more likely to be put into a situation where the thrombophilia is particularly dangerous to you, and the treatment has to be suspended at exactly the time the thrombophilia is most dangerous.

And then the same condition that puts you in such extreme danger will cause your caesarian scar to heal incredibly fast.

Vic is still in hospital, with multiple blood clots in both lungs. Thrombophilia has caused her injuries to heal super-fast her entire life, and now it's nearly killed her. She should be out of hospital (for the third time) in a few days, but a full recovery is expected to take months.

Daisy is very likely to have inherited the condition, which, if she's anything like as accident-prone as I was when I was a kid, will be a blessing.

I think that was more than three examples.



Is it ironic?

Exhibit A in the great Americans Don't Get Irony debate has, for over ten years now, been the hit song Ironic by Alanis Morissette, who is Canadian and therefore about as American as anyone need be for the purposes of your average whinging Pom with a Yankee stereotype to prove true. It is generally understood that not a single one of the things listed in the song is actually ironic — rather, they are examples of Sod's Law.

It has always struck me, however, that the events in the song are potentially ironic. What is lacking is not so much an understanding of irony but more some context, some background. Is rain on your wedding day ironic? Well, it could be; it rather depends. And so I was very pleased to be proven right, yet again, when I found the following draft version of the lyrics scrawled on a selection of napkins and envelopes stuffed down the back of a second-hand sofa that was definitely once owned by Ms Morissette and was on sale for a mere twenty quid in a bric-a-brac sale in Donaghadee for some reason. I have had the ink carbon-dated, and can confirm that the following was definitely written on November the 13th, 1994, at about 2:30am, in a pub in Toronto.

An old man turned ninety-eight
He won the lottery and died the next day
He had spent his life leading an unsuccessful campaign to ban gambling
On the grounds that God disapproved of it
It's a black fly in your Chardonnay
Which you are drinking to celebrate winning your bet
That you could eat a kilo of insects
It's a death row pardon two minutes too late
Because the Governor couldn't get through due to a telecomms problem
The condemned man's victim was the state's chief telephone engineer
He was very good at his job
This sort of problem never occurred when he was in charge
The new guy's shite
And isn't it ironic
Don't you think

It's like rayiyai-ain on your wedding day
As predicted by the weather forecast
Which has been consistently wrong about the weather every single bloody day for weeks
It's a free ride when you've already paid
For once
'Cause usually you fare-dodge
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
Coming, as it did, from the same guy whose advice you had been following for quite some time
Which had led to your financial ruination and the break-up of your family
Who would've thought it figures, eh?

Mr Play-It-Safe was afraid to fly
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought "Well, isn't this nice"
Because the bomb he'd managed to smuggle on board wasn't due to detonate for another half-hour
And isn't it ironic
Don't you think

It's like rayiyai-ain on your wedding day
When you're marrying the man you met when he rescued you from dying of thirst in the Outback
It's a free ride when you've already paid
To have your car professionally valeted
After you picked up a hitchhiker and they threw up all over the upholstery
And you've therefore vowed never to give anyone a free ride ever again
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
Because it happened to be in a horoscope
And you had taken the other good advice to ignore superstitious claptrap
Which, mind you, didn't stop you refusing to let your child be vaccinated
Who would've thought it figures, eh?

Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything's okay and everything's going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything's gone wrong and everything blows up
In your face

A traffic jam when you're already late
For your job as the town's chief designer of roads
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
When you've just invented the cure for emphysema
It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
But, funnily enough, you did need a spoon ten minutes ago
But couldn't find one
So, improvising, performed the task with a knife instead
Which you have now mislaid
It's meeting the man of my dreams
Who's been after me for years
But I'd always turned him down before because I thought I was a lesbian and I was in love with this woman
Who wasn't interested in me
But now I've finally decided that actally I should get together with him cause he is wonderful
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And it's her
Damn
And isn't it ironic
Don't you think
A little too ironic
And yeah I really do think

It's like rayiyai-ain on your wedding day
If you're marrying a famous meteorologist
It's a free ride when you've already paid
For your shiny new car
Which you bought so that you wouldn't have to rely on other people for lifts any more
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
Because you knew damn well that the guy giving you the advice hates your guts and was trying to give you bad advice
But it turned out he was wrong
And his advice, though it was meant to screw up your life, was actually, unintentionally on his part, rather good
Who would've thought it figures, eh?

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out
Helping you out


As you can see, Morissette's original lyrics make the various cases of irony clearer, but arguably don't scan as well as the final version. The reputation of the people of an entire continent has therefore been needlessly damaged by the mere rhythmic requirements of the pop music form. A form that was made ubiquitous by the denizens of that very continent, I might add. Ironically.

No, the problem with Ironic is not the lack of irony in its lyrics. It's the fact that it's turgid insipid tripe.



Thursday, November 9

Bush derangement syndrome.

A work acquaintance of mine — a perfectly intelligent and reasonable bloke — said this today:

Did anyone else find that rather worrying this morning, seeing President Bush on the TV saying "I thought it'd be all right. Shows what I know." You're the President, for God's sake! You're supposed to know these things!


For obvious reasons, I've not been keeping up with things of late, so I assumed this was something to do with Iraq. So I asked "What was he talking about?" and got the reply "The mid-term elections." Apparently, the Democrats have taken control of the House and the Senate. Tsk.

So this is interesting. There are all sorts of things the President is supposed to know and can be rightly criticised for not knowing, but the results of elections, in advance? If he had known, that would be grounds to worry. His not knowing — and every other democratic politicians' not knowing — is the right and proper way of things. Obviously.

Can we imagine a perfectly intelligent and reasonable bloke making that criticism of any other politician, ever? Even Reagan didn't get this.



Great spam subject lines of our time.

Spurious banana


Spamming works, so, presumably, somewhere out there, someone was eagerly awaiting an email regarding unnecessary and out-of-place fruit, so opened this. I would like to meet that person and ask them questions about their life.



Wednesday, November 8

After the good news, the shit.

I am understandably more keen to tell the world about the fantastic birth of my new daughter than to weep depressingly about its less-than-ideal aftermath, but those of you who know us and are concerned may wish to know that, while Daisy is fine, she is back in hospital with Vic, who is being treated for a complication that, had it not been caught and diagnosed, would have killed her. Now it's being treated, she should be fine, eventually.

(My libertarian and right-wing readers should know, before they start commenting, that, for once, it wasn't really the NHS's fault. They've not been perfect, but they've been very good, and it was NHS employees who saved Vic's life. And you can't argue with that.)

If you know us, feel free to text or email me for more info. If you don't, please let your curiosity be content with the information that Vic is not OK but is going to be.

Daisy's pissed off at being back in hospital, but as healthy as we could wish.

That's all.