Thursday 29 March 2007

Keraunothnetophobes vindicated.

File under "worrying":

A jet aircraft with 270 passengers on board was within 35 seconds of crashing into a blazing Russian satellite as it was falling back to earth yesterday.

Pilots of the A340-300 Airbus suddenly saw fiery debris streaking through the midnight darkness, directly ahead of their aircraft, which was travelling at about 800km/h (500mph). The falling metal, about five miles ahead, broke the speed of sound, causing a sonic boom that drowned out the jet’s four engines.

And the shouting, presumably.

Sexuality and metaphor.

At long last, a suitable counterweight to Terry Pratchett's "Gayer than a treeful of monkeys on nitrous oxide" is here:

I'm straighter than John Wayne voting for Reagan on a horse.


Wednesday 28 March 2007


Courtesy of Benjamin Zimmer over at Language Log, here's a link to an episode of Maraka, one of the best spoofs of anything I've seen in a long while. If you don't have small children in the family or some other reason ever to have watched Dora The Explorer, you may not find it particularly funny. But who cares about you, anyway?

Tuesday 27 March 2007

Heroism in the bureaucratic state.

Tim Worstall links to this uplifting story:

A fireman is facing disciplinary action after plunging into a river to rescue a drowning woman.

Tam Brown, 42, is the subject of an internal investigation by Tayside Fire and Rescue because he breached safety rules during the rescue in the River Tay in Perth.

He spent eight minutes in the cold water and at one stage feared that he would be swept to his death. But after dragging the 20-year-old woman to safety he was told by his employer that he had acted improperly by risking his life.

I wish this sort of news was unusual, but it's becoming depressingly normal.

The brigade's rules state: "Personnel should not enter the water." The fire crew should instead have tried to haul the woman out using poles and ropes.

Stephen Hunter, chief fire officer of Tayside Fire and Rescue, admitted that fire engines in Perth were not equipped with the correct poles and ropes, but insisted that Mr Brown had broken the rules.

Stephen Hunter is a man who insists that his personnel may only use tools that they do not have, and he has been promoted as far as chief fire officer.

He said: "Firefighter safety is of paramount importance to us. ..."

As the commenter Dearieme points out on Tim's site, this is an outright lie, and an obvious one at that. If it were true, they wouldn't allow their staff to enter burning buildings. Mind you, maybe that's on the cards.

"... Although our duties include rescues from flooding, there is no statutory obligation to carry out rescues from moving water."

What a horrid little man Stephen Hunter is. He's the head of a fire brigade, but it's more than his job's worth to save lives. May he drown in Hell.

But what is in men's hearts?

As you've probably noticed, we've had another of those historic days in Northern Ireland, only this time it may be even more historic than usual. Don't have a lot to say about it myself — what with its being the culmination of such a long process, I said it all years ago — but I'll make two small points. Firstly, if our politicians can manage to keep doing their jobs for more than six months this time, I might consider voting for one of them next time around. Secondly, I am surprised at the number of Unionists I meet who, like me, no longer have a major problem with Gerry Adams and would be happy(ish) with him as Deputy First Minister, but loathe Martin McGuinness with all their hearts.

Anyway, as ever, that's not why I'm blogging. My father-in-law was on Channel 4 News last night, loitering outside Stormont to discuss the historic day. Blah, blah, trade, blah, rebuild the economy, blah. Then, right at the end of the interview, Channel 4's interviewer asked a decidedly odd question: "But, as a man, in your heart, how do you feel about today?"

We were all laughing too hard to have any idea what his answer was.

The dance craze that's sweeping the nation.

Daisy has a new thing upon which she is dead keen. She raises her left leg and vigorously waves her left foot. She does not move her thigh: once the leg is properly raised, she only bends the knee. Repeat to fade. The effect is much like Captain Pugwash attempting a Highland fling.

She appears to derive some considerable pleasure from this maneouvre.

Great typos I have known.

I tried to type "further" earlier, but my right hand shifted exactly one key to the right and it came out as "furyjet". Class.

Friday 23 March 2007

And furthermore, their buses run on time.

David Aaronovitch gets it exactly right:

[John] Humphrys’s point surely was that the Iranians don’t want our kind of democracy. They might prefer one where most of the candidates can’t stand because they are too reformist. Others have argued, more extremely, that in some Islamist cultures women aren’t yearning for the right to education, or to be treated by (male) doctors, or to be anything except shut up in their father’s or husband’s houses. And what is bloody wrong with slavery anyway? Three meals a day. Basic security. The Western idea of freedom isn’t everything.

I am well aware that nothing of the above argument makes what has happened in Iraq the less appalling. Hating the occupiers I could cope with, but I didn’t remotely foresee the insanity — the bloody aimlessness — of blowing up students or day-labourers, with Allah knows what long-term objective in mind. And we in the West can take from that experience the lesson of being careful in the way we intervene, of course. But not — not — that you shouldn’t do it. Not that there shouldn’t be moral foreign policies. Not that we think that democracy, basic human rights or liberty are relative values.

How odd the world has become, that one can be denounced by the mainstream Left for saying that democracy, human rights, and liberty are universal values. But he is.

Thursday 22 March 2007

To this lifestyle we should aspire?

There's that ad on TV at the moment for some sort of deodorant — I think it might be Nivea — and it's a tad odd.

Here's what happens.

Man walks along beautiful shingle lake shore, picks up pretty white pebble, skips pebble out across the water. Pebble bounces improbable number of times on water, turns into can of deodorant and keeps bouncing, bounces right in through window of house built on far side of lake. Man and woman inside house are just getting up, catch deodorant as it flies in through window, use it on selves. All very nice.

Except cut through the gimicky crap — the pebble turning into a can of deodorant for some reason, the whole rock-skipping business — and, underneath it all, what do you have? What is the bare essence of this advert?

I'll tell you. A couple are getting up one morning and, while they are still semi-naked, a passing stranger hands them their deodorant. They are unperturbed.

Am I the only person who is disturbed by this?

Tuesday 13 March 2007

Scum and sympathy.

Here's the story. Johnny Elichaoff had a rather nasty motorcycling accident, and had to have some twenty operations. Unsurprisingly, during that time, he became addicted to painkillers. He is now being treated for that addiction — which I hope means that he's over the pain for which the painkillers were required. His wife, Trinny Woodall, again unsurprisingly, has been worried.

How would you report that story? Anyone who has twenty operations tends to make good copy: defying death is the human-interest story that never gets tired. Or you could always report it from the wife's point of view — she is famous, after all — and do a nice piece about the stress of wondering whether your husband's going to live from one day to the next.

Enter one Richard Simpson, Daily Mail journalist. Being a trained professional, he cut through all that superficial clutter to the story's real essence: the fact that all the stress has caused Trinny Woodall to lose a bit of weight:

Trinny, and what not to wear when you're a bit skinny

It's the sort of question often thrown at style gurus Trinny and Susannah.

What should a girl who's lost more weight than she would like wear so she can disguise her shrinking figure?

The answer, one suspects, would not be a clinging floral dress that draws attention to a somewhat bony chest.

Nevertheless, that was the outfit chosen by Trinny Woodall as she arrived at the airport in Jodhpur before jetting home from Elizabeth Hurley's Indian nuptial celebrations.

I've never heard of Richard Simpson before, but may he go to Hell.

At least two Northern Irish people are utterly thick.

A few days ago, Gary brought my attention to this quite brilliant news:

A man accused of robbing a Belfast lingerie shop at knifepoint has fallen back on a time honoured defence — namely, his claim that he believed he was a female elf at the time.

Belfast Crown Court was told by the prosecution that 45-year-old Robert Boyd from Broadlands, Carrickfergus had held up the shop, Orchid, while disguised in a wig, hat and sunglasses. He allegedly made off with bras, knickers, stockings and suspender belts.

However, Boyd's defence maintain that at the time, Boyd believed that he was a elf, having been playing the cyberpunk role-playing game Shadowrun.

I feel it is important to follow this news up with some very exciting news for the legal profession: Boyd was found guilty, but only by ten jurors.

So two people bought this defense. It looked unlikely, it looked incredibly stupid, but it was in fact only slightly stupid. It worked on two people — one sixth of a random sample of the population. It just needs a little bit of tweaking, and, next time, it could work.

Two. People.

Going beyond satire is getting beyond satire.

This is getting ridiculous. Even accounting for the fact that it had already got well and truly ridiculous, now it's getting ridiculous:

Unemployed single parents are receiving free massages and beauty treatments — paid for by taxpayers.

Yes, it's another step in the Government's scheme to save money on satire by making the welfare state self-ridiculing.

So far, more than 1,000 people, mainly women, have taken advantage of 'pamper days' at salons as part of the project, called Big Brother.

They actually called it "Big Brother". This may be the greatest government marketing double-bluff of all time.

It has been justified on the grounds that if jobless people are happier and more presentable, it will be easier for them to find work.

For that very reason, I don't think I'd oppose a scheme like this if it were for homeless people. But it's not. Like so many of our leaders' schemes, it appears to be based on the assumption that Britain's poor are running around barefoot, eating rats, and sharing outside toilets with ten other families. I'm amazed no-one's suggested a scheme to paint Britain's poor, on the grounds that they're all in black and white.

So, who are these unemployed people who have no confidence and can't even afford to wash?

A teenage girl who works in a salon used by the single parents was critical of the initiative. 'They didn't look like they needed their confidence boosting — they were all very loud,' said the girl, who did not want to be identified.

Loud? Loud and on benefits? Blimey.

'They seemed to have a really good time. One of them was talking into her mobile phone and laughing and joking with a friend about how she was still drunk from the night before when she woke up that morning. Many of them had tattoos and were wearing crop-tops.'

I'd point out that tattoos aren't cheap, but there's always the possibility that the state pays for them these days.

The scheme — in operation in Hereford, Worcester, Northumberland, Durham and Greater Manchester — is open to any single parent over the age of 18 who has been unemployed or on disability benefit for at least six months. They can choose from a range of treatments, including a massage, a haircut, new make-up, a facial, a manicure and even ear-piercing.

I'd be interested to see the research that shows that people do better in job interviews if they're wearing earrings.

They can also claim a separate £30 handout to spend on a shopping trip for new clothes, and are eligible for free lunches and childcare.

Stop me if I'm on completely the wrong tack here, but isn't the point of unemployment benefit that the handouts allow unemployed people to meet their living expenses? And aren't clothes a living expense? So why do unemployed people need more money on top of their unemployment benefits to pay for clothes? Following this logic, what next? Second homes for council tenants?

A man whose teenage daughter works at a salon in Northumberland said: ... 'My daughter earns the minimum wage in the salon while she studies at college. She doesn't get a penny from the Government and earns less than these single mothers get in benefits.'


Friday 9 March 2007

Self, self, self.

I believe that one of the most important Christian teachings regards charity. Tell that to this selfish little git:

A Roman Catholic teenager has launched a £70,000 damages action against a council for sending her to live with Protestant foster parents.

The 18-year-old claims she was denied the opportunity to follow her religious persuasion during her time in care from the age of eight.

She is now seeking £70,000 in damages from Highland Council.

You don't have to be a genius to figure out what the result of this action will be. Whether she wins or loses, Highland Council, and probably others, will stop placing Catholic children in non-Catholic foster homes — and, for good measure, stop placing Muslim children in non-Muslim households, Protestant children in non-Protestant households, and so on. When no foster homes of the correct religion are available, children will simply be kept in the council's shelters, where they can be kept safely away from pernicious metaphysical disagreement while being exposed to crime and drug abuse. Thank God for that.

She is seeking £50,000 for her suffering, loss of earnings and loss of employability and £20,000 for the alleged breach of her human rights.

Catholics who have been exposed to Protestants are unemployable?

No, no, no.

Gerard Baker in The Times:

On the Right too there are similarities in the US and the UK. In both Britain and America there is a gathering sense of despair among true conservatives about the condition of their party’s politics. True conservatives in Britain, who, rightly, see the country on the road to a state-controlled serfdom, hear Mr Cameron and wonder whether there is a genuinely conservative bone in his body. His instincts seem as busybodyishly paternalist as any new Labour bureaucrat.

In America, where conservative disillusionment is a more recent but no less palpable emotion, the three front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination are all, in a sense, Cameroonian in their frailty. With no obvious conservative candidate in the field, the contest between Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney is coming down for many conservatives to a choice of whom you hate least.

Absolutely correct. So what's the solution?

In Britain Thatcherism is not in favour and in America Reaganism is not on offer. But that doesn’t mean reformist conservative candidates are inferior to their socialist and liberal opponents. In a hostile political environment a scaled-down conservatism is still better than no conservatism at all. The current generation of Republican and Conservative leaders recognise this and are working to renew conservatism rather than destroy it.

The right thing to do is not to make faces at this bandwagon but to jump aboard and keep trying to drive it in the right direction of freer markets, freer people.

Does this make any sense at all? That an argument like this could invite anything other than sputtering derision from a supposed Conservative is in itself good evidence of what's wrong with modern politics. Gerard Baker appears not to have heard that incentives matter.

Cameron is turning the Conservative Party... You know, we really need to stop calling them that. OK. Cameron is turning the Tory Party further and further left. He has decided that it's best to fight Labour on their own ground, i.e., to prove that the Tories will be an even better Labour Party than the Labour Party. If enough people vote Tory at the next election, enough even to get them into government, then that turn leftwards will have been rewarded. In what kind of bizarre psychology does Gerard Baker believe, that he thinks that the Tories' likely response to being given a massive reward for their behaviour will be to utterly change their behaviour?

And when does he think this sort of strategy has worked before, I wonder? Did voting for Thatcher push the Tories further left? Did Labour change in the Eighties because Michael Foot did so well in elections?

This is a short-term game Baker's playing. If you want a government that is almost imperceptibly more right-wing than Labour for the next ten to fifteen years, vote Tory. If you want genuine change, the way to get it is to give the Tories a nice big defeat and teach them that the likes of Cameron are losers. Sure, that'll mean another five years of Labour, but it'll also mean that, when the change does come, it will actually be a change.

This is the only thing I agree with Tony Benn about: parties should be very different, in order to give voters choice. When they become similar, they take away the voters' choice. Don't reward that.

Tuesday 6 March 2007

There's no pleasing some people.


The person whose email exchange I blogged a couple of posts back has written with further contributions from his brain.

Subject:   a reply from a clown
Date:   6 March 2007 09:40:44 GMT+00:00

Dear Mr. Reeves,

Thank you for your e-mail, which you seem to have forgotten to remove me from your copy list for ha ha ha.

Yes, I forgot to unsubscribe him from the blog's mailing list, just as I forgot to feed him his breakfast and wipe his arse this morning.

Shame you didn't remove my name and place of work – the fact that I e-mailed you from this and not my personal e-mail address in the first place shows that I am proud that Northern Ireland is British and if anyone has a problem with that come down to my place of work and we can have a chat and a cup of tea over it. In fact, why don't I give you my mobile number and you can call me to arrange this?

I also enjoyed your statement that I was unable to navigate your simple website. Your website is indeed very simple – so simple in fact that the send me an e-mail link did not work, which is why I subscribed to your mailing list and then replied to its welcome message.

OK, I'll grant him credit for that. The link's working now; presumably he hit some sort of server error; but subscribing and replying showed initiative.

Even more amusing ...

What, even more amusing than that?

... is the fact that you thought I was being rude by not writing to you in a polite sentence.

It's true: I thought that he was being rude by not being polite. My mistake.

The fact is I was not expecting a reply anyway – usually that is the case when you try to e-mail some sad idiot on a blogging website who obviously has too much time on his hands and needs to get a social life. I stumbled across your site by accident by typing a phrase in a Loyalist song I was looking for into the search engine called Google.

"a blogging website"? "the search engine called Google"? This has to be a wind-up. He'll be hyphenating "tomorrow" next.

I was amazed to find that you had spent so much time creating a your own website and that you made it very clear on there that you are completely unaware of the constitutional status of the country you live in. Do you also spend your time sending junk e-mail trying to sell Viagra and things like that?

Then finally, came the icing on the cake! You were expecting a tirade from another 'Irish Republican'.

A wise man might have considered the implications of the word "another".

This underlined your stupidity. Why would a Republican e-mail you in the first place about a blog in which you claim Northern Ireland is not British. This is what Republicans believe, that Northern Ireland is not British and they should get 'back to England' as you said.

Irish Republicans should get back to England? This is the one solution to the Troubles that hasn't been tried yet. You know, it just might work.

They would completely agree with your blog! I am a Loyalist from Northern Ireland and live in England at the moment – not an Irish Republican, I think you do need to check the history after all!!!!!

Oh, one more point – Mr. James is indeed a fictional creation – of your very own, as that is not my name! you made it up!

He's got me there. In response to his request, I've edited the post so that it now shows his real name: Simon Todd.

The next time you want to make a basic point about property rights and land ownership have a look at the cover of your passort –UNITED Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. This shows Northern Ireland is British and if anyone should get out it should be the Republicans – down to Ireland where they belong.

Not England?

Just so it's simple for you:

Loyalist – wants Northern Ireland to remain within the UK
Republican – wants a United Ireland but won't get it.

So now I know. That's a relief.


More? Of course there's more.

Subject:   ran out of ideas?
Date:   7 March 2007 09:18:14 GMT+00:00

That last blog is not as good as your first one, and again you forgot to remove me, so I can see exactly what you said.

It's a bit sad really, does anyone else read them and actually care?

Sorry, but to your readers, since you posted my comments, it does look like I have a point.
Good job well done.

That's you lot told: you all think I want a united Ireland.

Please stop shouting.

I'm in the market for a new phone — not a mobile, an actual phone — and so am shopping around a bit online (where else?). For all I know, these people do the very bestest prices around. I will never know, because I can't bear to spend more than a few seconds on their site.

Does this sort of web-design actually work?

Monday 5 March 2007

Accosted by a genius.

We bloggers get some right old emails, we really do. Here's one from last week. Much as I'd love not to, I've changed the perp's name and removed his address and the auto-signature of his place of work; the rest stands unedited. [Update: Would you believe he's complained about the anonymity? Well, he has. So I've changed it back to his real name.]

Subject:   RE: Yahoo! Groups: Welcome to squandertwoblog. Visit today!
From:   "TODD Simon"
Date:   02/03/2007 10:53

Yeah with a load of incorrect crap in there contact me now

Simon TODD
Policy Administrator

You might notice the odd subject line. Simon TODD couldn't find or understand the link marked "Send me an email" so instead subscribed to the blog's mailing list and then replied to its welcome message. Not the most straightforward way to email me, but hey. Mr TODD's inability to navigate a simple website will become even more apparent shortly.

This sort of thing surprises me, it really does. I mean, whatever you think of their opinions, would you ever think it acceptable to make something like that your first contact with a stranger? I know email is less formal than traditional letters, but still. And what happened to writing in sentences? Or even just vaguely coherently?

Anyway, I thought I'd find out what this guy's problem was. Hey, I was bored.

From:   Joseph Kynaston Reeves
Sent:   02 March 2007 12:35

Hello, Mr Todd.

Thanks for contacting me. May I politely inquire what the problem is?

Thank you.

Joseph Kynaston Reeves

From:   "TODD Simon"
Date:   02/03/2007 12:38


"Northern Ireland is not owned by "the British"; it is administrated by the British Government. There are, of course, lots of perfectly good arguments for having the province administrated by the Irish Government instead, but none of those arguments have anything to do with giving back stolen property, and such talk of stolen property emotively clouds the issue. Which is why Gerry Adams talks in those terms all the time."
Etc etc.....

This can be found at:

who wrote this?

Simon TODD
Policy Administrator

Ah. Here's the post in question. (If you've not already, I recommend reading it before continuing this exchange.) So, looks like I've upset another Irish Republican. I hope I'll be able to live with myself.

He's already contacted me but hasn't figured out who wrote the post yet? Oh dear. And I'm not about to be overly helpful to someone this rude.

From:   Joseph Kynaston Reeves
Sent:   02 March 2007 12:59

Mr Todd,

You certainly are very polite.

You might notice that every post on the blog has a byline, and that there is also an FAQ page. You may use these resources to find out who wrote any of the posts.

The blog also has a commenting facility, allowing all readers a quick and easy right of reply.

Thanks for reading.

Joseph Kynaston Reeves

From:   "TODD Simon"
Date:   02/03/2007 13:01

Dear Joseph,

Why tank you for a most prompt reply, you are most certainly rather polite your good self.

May I please request of you in this case the electronic mail address of the author of the comments outlined below.

Your kind reply is much appreciated and eagerly awaited.

Warmest regards,

Simon TODD
Policy Administrator

Apparently, even with the instructions spelled out for him, clicking the obvious "FAQ" link on every page of this blog, reading the answer to the first question ("What's your name? Joseph Kynaston Reeves."), and comparing it to the name of the person he's emailing is too much trouble. Worse than that, his sarcasm's horribly leaden. It makes me wince in pity just to read it.

Much fun as it would have been to string this out for a couple of days, it wouldn't really. I was actually curious to find out what his problem was, so that I could get on with telling him to sod off.

From:   Joseph Kynaston Reeves
Sent:   02 March 2007 13:18

Mr Simon,

Oops: got his name wrong. I do hope this didn't aggravate him at all.

I wrote the post. It is my blog. My pseudonym is Squander Two. Again, this is all explained rather clearly on the site, specifically so that I don't have to painstakingly explain it to every single reader individually by email.

Joseph Kynaston Reeves

From:   "TODD Simon"
Date:   02/03/2007 13:22

Dear Joseph,

I express my utmost gratitude for another speedy reply.

May I ask do you come from Ireland sir?

Simon TODD
Policy Administrator

Oh, for God's sake, cut to the chase. Looks like I'm about to get a tirade of "If you're not Irish, you don't understand the history... potato famine... black and tans... get back to England... up the rebels... the visionary Jim Sheridan... Tir na Nog, etc." So I prepare myself to explain to this cretin that one does not need to be Irish to make a very basic point about property rights and land ownership.

From:   Joseph Kynaston Reeves
Sent:   02 March 2007 13:52

Mr Simon,

I come from the UK and live in Northern Ireland.

Joseph Kynaston Reeves

From:   "TODD Simon"
Date:   02/03/2007 13:54

Dear Joseph,

Your website comments amaze me even more in that case. As you live in Northern Ireland you will be ware that it is part of the UK and not Ireland.

Please remove the post.


Simon TODD
Policy Administrator

OK, at this point, I laughed. Brilliant; utterly brilliant. The build-up, the timing... this is comedy gold. I'm just not entirely sure that it's meant to be.

From:   Joseph Kynaston Reeves
Sent:   02 March 2007 14:11

Dear Mr Simon,

Yes, I am aware of which country I live in, but thanks for the reminder anyway. Allow me to return the favour by letting you know that West Sussex [Simon TODD's location] is in England.

I shan't be removing the post, no, but I do thank you profusely for providing the most amusing correspondence I've had from an irate reader in months.


Joseph Kynaston Reeves

From:   "TODD Simon"
Date:   02/03/2007 14:19

Dear Joseph,

Thank you for your kind e-mail. I am aware that West Sussex is in England. England also happens to be part of the United Kingdom as is Northern Ireland.

The fact is you amuse me more than I do you. I have never read anything as incorrect as that in my life and am not irate, in fact I am still giggling at it.

There are many people like yourself who fail to admit a geographical fact. You coming from the mainland and living in Northern Ireland and still not knowing this is quite frankly hilarious.

I think you should carefully reconsider your decision on removing the post.

Kind Regards,

Simon TODD
Policy Administrator

From:   Joseph Kynaston Reeves
Sent:   02 March 2007 15:01

Mr Simon,

I have no idea where you got the idea that I don't think Northern Ireland is part of the UK. Perhaps it came from the same place as the notion that website owners should remove content of which you do not approve.

Joseph Kynaston Reeves

From:   "TODD Simon"
Date:   2 March 2007 15:01:47 GMT+00:00

I think I got the notion from the following:

"Northern Ireland is not owned by "the British"; it is administrated by the British Government. There are, of course, lots of perfectly good arguments for having the province administrated by the Irish Government instead, but none of those arguments have anything to do with giving back stolen property, and such talk of stolen property emotively clouds the issue. Which is why Gerry Adams talks in those terms all the time."
Etc etc.....

it is completely Republican

Simon TODD
Policy Administrator

And I left it at that. If Mr TODDis a fictional creation — and I still half-suspect that he might be — allow me to congratulate his creator on a job well done. If not, well... blimey.

Friday 2 March 2007

British Conservatism in action.

An excellent point here by DumbJon about the current kerfuffle over the British banking "scandal":

It baffles me why the Daily Mail is such a totemic hate symbol for the Left.

... Apparently, in the Mail’s preferred system of government, the state not only sets the price, but also dictates who businesses can sell their services to. This is right-wing how exactly?