Friday, December 31

More crappy BBC sub-editing.

The headline:

Ex-Irish PM Bertie Ahern to stand down at next election


Yes, the BBC appear to be suggesting that Bertie Ahern is still Prime Minister and used to be Irish.

Friday, December 24

New life.

It seems only fair, since Daisy's birth was quite excitingly blogged live from here, that her new sister get a mention.

Poppy Antonia Kynaston Reeves was born on the 25th of November. She is very well, thank you, and looks exactly like Daisy, which is no bad thing. She is also a right wee besom. Already.

Long-time readers of this blog may remember from four years back that Vic suffered major health complications exacerbated by a certain amount of NHS awfulness after Daisy's birth, and might even by interested to know that all is well on that front this time around. We can wholeheartedly recommend the treatment you get in an NHS hospital shortly after you've made an official complaint against them. Works wonders.

I'm knackered.

Two adverts that are really annoying me.

Insert useless apology about not blogging for ages here.

OK. Anyway.

First, Dettol. Their Surface Cleanser is being advertised on heavy rotation at the moment, and, apparently, it "kills 99.9% of bacteria, including the flu virus." It's reassuring to see that a company that specialises in disinfectant products is unaware that 100% of bacteria wouldn't include the flu virus, in much the same way that 100% of pigeons doesn't include the Bengal tiger. The correct voiceover should be "Kills 99.9% of bacteria, not including the flu virus, obviously."

And so on to Bailey's. I love Bailey's. It is a quite wonderful drink. But my God, this advert is stupid. These people are having a party and their fridge breaks down or they're too thick to figure out how to use it or something, so they have no ice. So they go outside and break off icicles and use the icicles in their drinks. OK, nice image, very good. But then there's the voiceover: "The time we made our own ice." Well, no. This is in fact the exact opposite of what you've done here. When the fridge works, that's you making your own ice, using the fridge. Unless you've been spending days carefully turning the central heating on and off to jiggle the temperature of your house's roof above and below and above and below freezing in order to get the snow on the roof to repeatedly melt and refreeze at the optimum rate for icicle-creation, no, this is not the time you made your own ice. This ice you're using wasn't made by anyone; it just happened. The correct voiceover would be "The time we didn't make our own ice."

Glad I got that off my chest.

Monday, September 27

The matter at hand.

So I was watching an episode of Castle and it starts with a PG-rated yet highly vigorous sex scene, and it's one of those scenes in which they convey the rumbunctious nature of sex via the medium of breakages, so cups are getting kicked off bedside tables and everything's rattling, etcetera etcetera, and right at the end, climactically, a great thump on the floor causes a couple of pictures to fall off the wall and I immediately, unhesitatingly, think "Well, what bloody idiot put them up? Shoddy job."

And it strikes me that this is how you know for sure middle-age is nearly here.

Monday, July 26

Better brioche.

I did say I'd keep tinkering, and I have. Here is the new improved bread-machine brioche recipe. I'm very pleased with myself: this stuff is really good.

1 large egg or 2 medium eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
cold milk
1/4 tsp salt
30g diced cold butter
15g brown sugar
35g-40g castor sugar
80g strong white bread flour, sieved
180g plain flour, sieved
for 1 large egg, use 2 3/4 tsp fast-acting yeast
for 2 medium eggs, use 1 tbsp fast-acting yeast

Beat the egg, add the vanilla, then add cold milk to bring the total amount of wet ingredients up to 150ml.

My experiments have shown huge (bad) differences with softened butter, and so I recommend not softening it, but dice it quite small.

I'm using setting 1 on a Morphy Richards machine, which is the setting for a basic small white loaf. To help you tally that with your machine, that is:
Slow knead: 6min
Fast knead: 27min
Rise: 23min
Shape: 20sec
Rise: 64min
Bake: 45min

I'm getting fat here.

It's this sort of thing that makes me wonder whether gods are at work.

Fans of brand names and the theory of nominative determinism will be amused to hear that Reckitt are taking over Durex.

Friday, July 16

A brioche recipe for bread machines.

Anyone who's ever tried looking up bread-machine recipes ont' Web knows that there are thousands of them out there. Except not, for some reason, for brioche. I've done plenty of searching and found only three or four, and, quite frankly, have found none of them to be up to much. So I've been experimenting for the last few days and have wasted quite literally a tenner's worth of ingredients to bring you this, a brioche recipe for bread machines that is not too bad at all. I certainly intend to eat vast amounts of it.

1 large egg
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
cold milk
1/2 tsp salt
30g diced cold butter
15g brown sugar
35g castor sugar
40g strong white bread flour, sieved
210g plain flour, sieved
2 1/4 tsp fast-acting yeast

Beat the egg, add the vanilla, then add cold milk to bring the total amount of wet ingredients up to 150ml.

My experiments have shown huge (bad) differences with softened butter, and so I recommend not softening it, but dice it quite small.

The amount of flour may be slightly out. Keep an eye on it during the kneading and add an extra sprinkling if you think it's necessary. The consistency of the dough should be pretty soft and a bit sticky and should start out rather wet but should still eventually coalesce into one neat ball.

I'm using setting 1 on a Morphy Richards machine, which is the setting for a basic small white loaf. To help you tally that with your machine, that is:
Slow knead: 6min
Fast knead: 27min
Rise: 23min
Shape: 20sec
Rise: 64min
Bake: 45min

The crust is, I think, not quite right, but the overall results are perfectly good enough for dipping into hot chocolate.

I'm going to go on tweaking this and will provide updates if I manage to make any more improvements. Do feel free to email me with any cunning suggestions you may have.

Enjoy.


Update:

I have improved on this now. Here's the better version.

Monday, June 28

Translation and explanation.

Yet more world-class journalism from the BBC:

The wives and girlfriends of Spanish players, known as esposas y novias (wives and girlfriends)


Only half a sentence, yet I could write pages about the myriad layers of wrongness within it. But won't.

Wednesday, June 23

Unjustified.

Let's just take Saville's "facts" as read. He is, after all, a judge, and his job is to presume innocence and only declare as fact that which is proven — which puts those who are willing to tell the truth about their actions at some disadvantage. So fair enough: we'll say the facts are as Saville describes them. His reasoning is still bollocks.

Those rules of war so disdained by the Left when considering our enemies are there for a reason. Yes, if you keep chucking paras into crowds of civilians with terrorists hiding amongst them, sooner or later you'll have an atrocity on your hands. Which is precisely why not wearing uniform is a war crime, why hiding amongst civilians is a war crime, and why the traditional (and legal) punishment for being caught by the enemy out of uniform on a battlefield is summary execution. I believe Saville is right that the soldiers who fired had no reason to suspect that the particular individuals they killed were about to attack them. But the cases of Martin McGuinness — who had a Tommy gun but didn't directly use it in a way that justified the soldiers' opening fire — and Gerald Donaghy — who had nail bombs but was not shot because he had nail bombs — show the absurdity of it all.

No. The fact that Donaghy had nail bombs and was dressed as a civilian and was in a crowd of civilians may not be why he was shot at that moment by that particular bullet by that soldier, but it is very much why soldiers were pointing guns at civilians in the first place. Does anyone seriously think Bloody Sunday or anything like it would have happened had the IRA worn uniforms that distinguished them from ordinary members of the public and refrained from mixing with the general public while on duty? That the army, faced with an identifiable enemy on a battlefield and an entirely separate crowd of civilians several miles away, would have chosen to shoot at the civilians? To ask the question is to ridicule it.

Remember this the next time some romantic eejit excuses "asymetrical warfare". Of course fighting out of uniform gives you a huge advantage; of course hiding amongst non-combatants gives you a huge advantage. Such tactics would give anyone — the British, the Israelis, the Americans — the same advantages, yet they don't use them. There's a reason why civilised people disallow such behaviour, and that is that every single time you step into battle disguised as just another member of the public, you make Bloody Sunday more likely.

Just because it's someone else's fault, doesn't mean it's not yours too.

Saturday, May 8

Voting for what you want.

OK, I don't want to go on about the bloody election, but really, what the hell? I'm seeing all this grass-roots campaigning now from anxious Libdem voters who don't want their party to form a coalition with the Tories. The idea of a Tory-led government, they say, is repulsive to them. It's not, they say, what they voted for.

Look, if you want a Labour-led government, vote Labour. That's how it works. No-one thought in their wildest dreams that the Libdems could get an outright majority or even a minority government, so everyone who voted Libdem was voting for, best-case scenario, a coalition. And everyone who voted Libdem was also voting for a change in the electoral system to some form of PR, because they think that it is unfair that a party's proportion of seats in Parliament doesn't reflect their proportion of the votes nationwide. Only now they suddenly object to their party's leadership choosing to honour that very principle by trying first to do a deal with the party that got the most support rather than propping up the party that the voters unequivocally rejected.

If I could write the British Constitution, one of the clauses in there would state that parties have to declare their coalitions before elections and are not allowed to enter into new ones after they see the results. That's a basic democratic principle: people have a right to know what they're voting for.

But, nice though that would be, it's really not something that was needed this time. All Nick Clegg is doing now is absolutely sticking to his declared principles. Going to Labour first would have involved throwing his principles out, tearing them up, spitting on them, feeding them to livestock, burning the manure, and throwing the ashes into the sea.

Libdems, this is what you voted for. Didn't you know?

Friday, May 7

When parenthood and telecomms collide.

I get my bank statements by text message, and hadn't got any since Monday this week — and I always get two on Monday, one for the credit card and one for the current account. Still none by this yesterday, so I was going to call First Direct to ask if there was a problem with the sending device when I realised that I hadn't got any text messages from anyone. And I tried to identify a record using Shazam and they didn't send me a message either, so I knew something was up.

I rebooted my phone, which had no effect. Then I sent myself a test message to see if it would come through. Not only did it arrive, but it also somehow cleared the blockage and all my outstanding messages came through over the next few minutes. Including this one that Vic sent to me when I was at work on Tuesday:

You should buy a new toothbrush ... found it on the floor with the handwash, dettol, and loo roll. Not quite sure what Daisy was up to but I wouldn't risk it.


Two days ago.

A bit of a mess.

Been very little blogging of late due to my dividing my time between work and sleep and sleeping at work and trying not to sleep while driving to work. Such is life. But, if I had been blogging, I'd've mentioned at some point that I was only ever getting more convinced that my almost-prediction from way back in December '08 —

I've seen all this before, in 1992. No-one in their right minds seriously thought that Major might win that election.

I'm not saying the Tories can't do it. They might well. But I think it's easy to overestimate their popularity when that's being reported through the prism of the media. David Cameron is very media-friendly. There's some evidence that he's less popular with the Tory base than with BBC staff. And he's trying to appeal to the electorate by making the Tories as much like Labour as possible. That's a tricky game, that, and likely to create misleading poll data.

If Cameron persuades a lot of traditional Tories to stay at home, and if a bunch of Labour supporters who've been telling the pollsters that they'll vote Tory go and discover at the last minute that they just can't bring themselves to do it, then the Tories will lose. And are either of those things unlikely? I certainly don't think so.

Like I said, they might do it. But I just wanted to go on record, so that, if they lose, I can say I nearly told you so.


— was going to turn out right. My prediction a year-and-a-half ago was certainly a lot better than David Bloody Cameron's just a few hours ago:

Although there are still many more results to come out, it looks as if the Conservative party is on target to win more seats than we have done at any election for perhaps as long as 80 years.


I'm sure he'll try and spin what he really meant by that, but it's difficult to read it as anything other than a prediction of a bigger landslide than Thatcher. Such a wildly clueless reading of the signs shows the man is not suited to the job.

Reading back over my post now, I see that I even explained — long before knowing such an explanation would be needed — the Libdems' huge pre-election popularity and pathetic actual results. It's not about policies. It's about tribalism. If people don't think of themselves as Liberal Democrats, they won't vote for Liberal Democrats. Sure, a few will, but never enough.

So now I get to say it: I nearly told you so.

As things stand right now, the Tories may still get enough seats to form a minority government without allying with anyone. But, no matter how they spin it, it's a terrible result for them.

But a pretty good result for us, I think.

It does look like Cameron's going to be the PM now, but a weak one. Tory backbenchers are going to be looking at this result in disgust and seriously rethinking whether Cameronism's such a great idea. Its selling point was always "Swallow your principles in return for electoral victory" and that victory's not looking so impressive. We might well have the best of both worlds here: Labour out, but the Tories deciding to become properly right-wing again before the next election, so we can go back to having an actual choice in British politics. That may be today's most important result.

Meanwhile, fantastic results in Northern Ireland. Peter Robinson and Reg Empey both out — amazing and wonderful. Robinson believed that he didn't need to resign when he'd been shown to be — giving him the benefit of all possible doubt here — married to a woman who corruptly abused his position for financial gain, because he had a safe seat. His message to the voters, let's face it, was "Yeah? What you going to do about it?" Well, that seat's not looking so bloody safe now, is it, Pete? Ha.

And it's wonderful to see Reg Empey kicked out after the way his grubby little party treated my MP, Sylvia Hermon — who has just been re-elected as an independent with a majority God must be envious of. Ha.

And now I'm going to go back to working and falling asleep.

Enjoy your new government, whoever it turns out to be. Or, you know, don't get apoplectic over them every single day. That's the best you can really hope for, with governments.

Thursday, March 11

Excuse the mess.

I am just about to change Web-hosting providers. Hopefully, things around here won't go completely arse-over-tit, but do please excuse any weirdnesses that do happen.

This has been a boring public-service announcement.

Thursday, February 25

That bang.

As you may remember, I was greatly inconvenienced last October by the Real IRA's trial run for Monday's car-bomb in Newry. I was working from home this Monday, so thankfully unaffected. My colleagues who were in the office said that the shockwave was unbelievable: like the storey above them had collapsed, they described it. Our office is pretty close to Newry Courthouse, and the bomb exploded about ten to twenty yards away from where my car would usually be parked. Had I been in Newry at the time, the chances of my getting caught in the blast as I popped out to get food would have been pretty high. One of my colleagues walked past it a couple of minutes before it exploded, apparently. Reassuring.

And the bastards'll be trying again. The intention of this bomb was to get some casualties, as evinced by their giving a thirty-minute warning seventeen minutes before the explosion. Great.

On the subject of Northern Ireland's politics, I do have one observation. The bombing has been condemned by all members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, the Northern Ireland Assembly doesn't have straight unfettered democratic representation; it has democracy that's been rigged to enable the peace process. (And there's nowt wrong with that, I should add: I'm all for constraining democracy within awkward undemocratic boundaries, as, for instance, the USA's system does. Imagine how much better British governance could be if the Deputy Prime Minister were always the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister were forced to work with him.) Anyway, the whole point of the Northern Ireland Assembly is that the views of all Northern Ireland's political factions are represented, to encourage them to get involved in democratic politics rather than terrorism. So, by its very definition, the Assembly is supposed to contain at least one member who approves of this bombing. When every member of the Assembly condemns this attack, what that demonstrates is that they've set up the Assembly wrong.

Tuesday, February 9

Northern Ireland's problem.

There's been much in the news the last few days — as there is every few months — about the stalling, the stalemates, the lack of progress, and the all-round nothinghappeningness of Northern Irish politics, and how awful that is.

Well, I think it's bloody brilliant.

Just imagine how much better Britain would be if our lords & masters couldn't get anything done; how little chance they'd have to fuck up the country if it took Parliament three years merely to do a simple little thing like figure out who runs the police. We'd be living in a utopia.

Yet everyone acts like Northern Irish politics' usual glacial progress is a bad thing. And like their finally agreeing to work together and Get Things Done is a good one. Despite all the evidence of their lives, people still dwell on this fantasy planet where some good can come from an assembly of professional politicians achieving something. I despair.

The dead art of proof-reading.

This from The Times, who have standards, apparently:

Gordon Brown announced in the Commons that the South-East Antrim UDA — a splinter group of the Ulster Defence Association, the province’s largest Protestant paramilitary organisation — had decommissioned just completed getting rid of its weapons.


Asked about the murder of Mr Neave, who was Mrs Thatcher’s Northern Ireland spokesman, was killed when a bomb exploded beneath his car in 1979 as he left the House of Commons.


Yesterday Shaun Woodward, the Northern Ireland Secretary, confirmed that the IICD, would cease to function from todaytue. As a result, the possession of terrorist weapons can be prosecuted throught the courts.


Brilliant.

Saturday, January 30

Classy.

Some simply lovely news from Canada:

Imagine that you are undergoing a fairly routine surgery — say, removal of uterine fibroids or hysterectomy. During or right after the procedure, while you are still under anesthesia, a group of medical students parades into the operating room and they perform gynecological exams (unrelated to the surgery) without your knowledge.

Do you consider this okay, or an outrageous violation of your rights?

Regardless of your feelings, you should be aware that this is standard procedure in many Canadian teaching hospitals.


Ah, it's those bloody paternalistic doctors again.

The interesting thing about this is that it's not against any laws or even guidelines. In fact, it's not even that there are no rules covering such an event: there are guidelines, which say that this is OK because permission is "implicit". The fact that it's come to light might eventually lead to a change in the law, but not to any prosecution. Under Canadian law, no-one's done anything wrong. Apparently, it never occurred to anyone that there was anything wrong with putting their fingers into the genitals of a woman they don't know without her permission.

The article doesn't mention when the practice first became routine, but it looks to be well established: 72% of medical students polled said they had done it. What is particularly striking is the total lack of basic ethical thinking present in the brains of Canadian doctors. I mean, this is simply not something that needs to be banned. Legalise it in Britain tomorrow and I still wouldn't do it. But doctors are so much more sophisticated than me.

The story goes back to 2007 when Sara Wainberg was a medical student at McMaster University. Her younger brother Daniel, also studying to be a doctor, phoned for advice: As part of his rotation in obstetrics and gynecology, he had been asked to perform a pelvic exam on a woman who was under anesthetic. He refused, saying doing so without consent would be unethical.

"It got me thinking," Sara Wainberg said. "I had done this numerous times in my training and it had never occurred to me that it might be unethical."


Yes, this woman is the whistle-blower on this barbaric practice, but she still did it perfectly happily herself for years without ever questioning it and would probably still be at it to this day if her brother — who must have missed one or two of his indoctrination sessions — hadn't pointed out the bleeding obvious to her. And did she have a revelation and realise just how awful it was? No, it made her think about it. She even did a survey of patients to find out what they thought of it. And, would you believe it, turns out they're broadly against being raped — which is what the law in the UK and various other jurisdictions would call this. In fact, I'm pretty sure that this would constitute rape or at least sexual assault in Canada if it were done by anyone other than a doctor. But, you know, doctors are special.

That was 2007. It is now coming to light. During the last two years, while Dr Wainberg faffed around before eventually deciding that, hey, turns out it is wrong, and then publicising the matter, lots more women have had this done to them. What strikes me is that she seems to have approached the whole scandal as an interesting question in moral philosophy that needs plenty of cogitation, rather than as an appalling thing that is being done to actual people and that needs to be stopped immediately.

Remember, these are the guys who reckon they should have the legal power to decide to turn off your life-support machine. Because of their excellent judgement. This has been going on for years, and, out of all the medical students to pass through Canada's teaching hospitals in that time, one has noticed that it's immoral.

One.

Monday, January 25

A poor solution and a good one.

Well, further to that last post, two things have happened that make my life easier and might make yours too, if you're one of the hundreds and hundreds of thoroughly pissed-off ex-Haloscan users out there.

Firstly, JS-Kit have noticed just how appalling their self-induced PR was and introduced a free 30-day trial period for their product. You know, like they would have done in the first place if they weren't thick as a mince plank. This could be good, not because I need to try their platform, Echo, out — I've already seen enough to know that it's laughably bad — I mean, for fuck's sake, this is supposedly a commenting system built by people who just smugly and cluelessly announced "the death of Comments" — but because it may be possible to export comments from their Echo platform to other platforms which aren't crap or owned by companies who extort their customers or both.

Secondly, and almost certainly a lot more importantly, a very nice man called Kirk has spotted the gap in the market and just gone and damn well built a replacement for Haloscan, which looks great.

One day, in the currently purely hypothetical universe in which I have any time at all, I might even build my own comment thingy. Yeah, I know: hollow laughter. In the meantime, a giant thank-you to Mr Kirk Tridentscan.