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Sunday, September 30

OK - I've finished the photos of today's demonstration. I don't know if/when I'll get around to writing the account of events, but the summary in my previous post has the main information, and I'm very busy at the moment.

My news in brief:
  • I had my Students' Union training last week, so I am now Postgraduate Officer in a meaningful way, not just in name

  • I'll be devoting a lot more time to the Union over the next 2 weeks than the rest of the year, because it is of paramount importance that we get out there and talk to new students - a particular issue for me because so few postgrads feel that the Union has anything to offer them

  • I went out to meet CCE students on Saturday, because they are the other group most disconnected from the Union. CCE is an entirely part-time School, and I was surprised to discover that their issues are completely different from mine. I had assumed that my experience was representative of part-time students, but CCE is organised completely differently from my department. We have a major job to do bringing them on board, but both sides of the equation have much to gain if we can do it.

  • I went to see Ned's Atomic Dustbin play live last night , and contrary to expectations they were just as good as they always used to be.


I may write more about these things later, but seeing as I have broken out of my laziness rut I think doing the many things I have on my list is more important than talking about them.
posted @ 3:15 PM -
photos of todays demonstration in Brighton

there is no explanation yet, but that will follow sooner or later, and the filenames should be fairly descriptive (as well as being in time order).

quick summary: police expected 10,000 smelly anarchos hell-bent on blowing up the Brighton Centre (Labour Party conference venue for the coming week), and were on the radio trying to reassure the good people of Brighton about how they would keep us all safe using pepper spray (a Sussex Police first - aren't we lucky!). Somewhere between 1,000 (what the Sussex Police Press Officer told me) and 4,000 (BBC News estimate) peaceful protesters were herded by 700 (also what the Police Press Officer told me) police from at least 6 forces (Sussex, Kent, Surrey, Hampshire, Metropolitan & Dorset), many equipped with riot helmets and long batons, some also with shields, dogs and/or horses. Waste of taxpayers' money?
posted @ 10:19 AM -

Saturday, September 29

some positive news from the BBC. They decided to report on Stamford Hill (London), where about 20,000 Chassidim (the Chassidim are a particular sect of ultra-orthodox Jews) and about 20,000 Muslims (many of whom are very traditional and very religious) live side-by-side. The gist of the item was that these two communities are living very happily with each other, helping each other out a great deal, and have formed a new Jewish-Muslim dialogue group since the WTC attack to reinforce this. Perhaps more importantly, they had a Chassid talking about quite how similar the two communities are. If only more people would realise this....
posted @ 7:36 PM -

Friday, September 28

Then, witnesses reported, God's shoulders began to shake, and He wept....
posted @ 12:50 AM -

Thursday, September 27

I've done some reformatting to this page, because the old style was created with the expectation that I would only post short items. What do you think of it, and is the text too small to read comfortably now? (I know it's OK on my computer, but I also know that it could be minute on someone else's)
posted @ 7:08 PM -
Crazy crazy stuff: Bubbling seas can sink ships!
posted @ 6:20 PM -
heard a friend rap today. His opening line seemed worth recording (apologies if I haven't got this quite right):

when the church is teaching punishment and schools are teaching failure

shortly afterwards I was talking to my brother about bored disillusioned kids making trouble, and how perhaps the problem might relate to the boredom and disillusionment rather than anything wrong with the kids. I don't even need to spell out the link, do I?
posted @ 6:17 PM -
I've been thinking for a while that I ought to clarify my ideas (for my own benefit as much as any reader's) about a lot of things further than this disorganised medium lets me, so perhaps I ought to try to write longer, more focussed pieces (I suppose I would call them "essays" if that sounded less like school) about things in the big wide world that bother me. I may pick a topic and try my hand at this on the weekend - any suggestions? Comment on this page or email me.
posted @ 6:14 PM -

Wednesday, September 26

new virus. Synopsis is if you get an email with an attached file called "wtc.exe" you should check with the sender before opening it - it may be a particularly nasty virus:

CNN.com - Virus that exploits World Trade Center terror unleashed - September 26, 2001
posted @ 5:21 PM -

Tuesday, September 25

my field really is in danger of becoming respectable.

People who know me will know that I'm half-way through an MSc and intend to continue carrying out research in the field of Evolutionary & Adaptive Systems. When I started to get interested in this work it was a complete fringe discipline, not yet taken seriously by the AI community, let alone anyone else. Most people these days still haven't heard of the field, but the researchers are starting to be interviewed in non-specialist media.

Almost a year ago Inman (who runs my MSc course) made a comment about how the field was becoming respectable and he was going to have to find something new in order to lose his personal respectability again (or something along those lines - if I'm misquoting Inman I apologise). At the time I found myself disagreeing - I'm just so used to people recoiling in horror when I explain what I do (for the record, I am not and will never be Dr. Frankenstein, and the most likely way I will ever create a monster involves the co-operation of one woman and no computers), but since then I've seen EASy researchers in various places. The latest was the most significant - I finally watched a recorded episode of Testing God from a couple of weeks ago, in which Andy Clark speaks for a significant part of the episode. The thing that astounded me was that his argument, based on what people have learned from building robots and computer simulations, formed an important part of the argument of the whole programme. Don't get me wrong - this is a very good thing - it's just that I've never seen it happen before.
posted @ 3:18 PM -
it's a small world sometimes

By a fairly indirect trail of links I ended up looking at the website of Karen Grünberg, who happens to share her surname with my great-grandfather. At first I thought it just a coincidence - Jewish surnames were generally assumed in the relatively recent past (in the old tradition people just used their fathers' names - the same idea that has become frozen in time with English names like Johnson) and East European Jewish (Ashkenazi) names tend to be drawn from a fairly limited set of pleasant and/or aspirational images in the Yiddish language (Grünberg means "green mountain", and my surname - Goldenberg - translates to "mountain of gold"). Then I happened to notice that she had photos from Burgaz, which is where my grandmother spends every summer. Burgaz is a pretty small place (area of 1 sq km, and not exactly packed with tower blocks) so I started to wonder if there wasn't more to it. I wrote to my mum, who sent me a reply starting with "If it's the Karen Grunberg I'm thinking of:", and going on to list bits of information that I could corroborate on the website. It turns out we aren't actually related, but our families certainly know each other.

as I said - it's a small world
posted @ 12:14 PM -
Just stumbled across a link to a 'photo essay' of the World Trade Center. Right now I am sick and tired of seeing these sorts of images, but these are particularly haunting, so I know that one day I'll want to go back and take another look:

Shattered 9/11/2001
posted @ 6:47 AM -

Monday, September 24

As is probably immediately obvious from reading this page I have been spending far too long exploring the web. I've learned a lot about the background to recent events, and reactions in different parts of the world, and likely consequences. I'm glad I have been able to do this, and it happened at a time when I could afford to spend time doing this, but there are still other things to do with a day.

Anyway, in the course of this I have been often distracted by tangents that seem interesting. One that has particularly struck me is the discovery of a poet who I had not heard of before: Rumi. Rumi was a Sufi, born in what is now Afghanistan, who lived most of his life in Konya in what is now Turkey (both places were part of the Persian empire at the time). It's highly unusual for me to find religious poetry interesting, but Rumi tends to write short, simple verses about people, rather than long epics about god.

Here is one example:
The way of love is not a subtle argument.
The door there is devastation.
Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling, they're given wings
posted @ 3:28 PM -
This quote is entirely out of context, but that's irrelevant, because it is something so universal:

...a new computer system. It cost �77,000,000 and never worked.

I'm not going to fill in the context because that would detract from the general point. Computers are incredible tools, but we really haven't worked out how to make use of them yet.
posted @ 2:50 PM -

Sunday, September 23

A couple of hours ago ITV screened a Jonathan Dimbleby special about understanding Islam, and understanding why there is so much anger in the Middle East. The programme featured a mixture of ordinary people (though they seemed to have been auditioned - it was a far more articulate and less aggressive audience than is usual on such programmes) and people picked as prominent experts on or spokespeople for Muslims in Britain. This grouping included various academics, advisors to religious leaders, a representative of Amnesty International, a representative of the Commission for Racial Equality and newspaper columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

The programme struck me as a carefully made, well-researched account of a way of life which over a fifth of the world's population follow in some form or other. Especially in the light of various reports of attacks on mosques, attacks on Muslims, and even attacks on brown-skinned people on the assumption that they are Muslims, I was very glad to see this programme being aired. Having said that, I felt deeply sad watching it, because the fact that such a programme is suddenly necessary at a time of crisis like this. The sudden need for such things reflects that fact that we as a society are stunningly ignorant of any way of life other than our own.

The right-wing press (by which I mean a whole range of opinions ranging from relatively Centrist Conservative voters through to the BNP and the White Wolves (thought to be behind the horrific nailbomb attacks in London last year)) often howls about how Britain's multi-cultural society is a failing experiment. I actually agree with them, but entirely different reasons. While the racists argue that multi-culturalism can never work, I feel that mutli-culturalism can and eventually will work, but is plagued at the moment by closed-minded, insular attitudes on every side. Even if there were no Muslims in this country it would be unforgiveable to know as little about this culture as most people do. As it is, there are over 1 million Muslims in the UK, and yet most non-muslims know next to nothing about Islam. In those circumstances how can people be expected to understand each other's values (which actually are less different than most of the ignorant people on either side would think) and way of life?

To make things worse, the BNP are now campaigning to stop children from being educated about Islam at all. Knowledge is the key to understanding, and it is in this sadly impoverished environment that programmes like this evening's are necessary.

Incidentally, if you want to know more about Islam, and don't have the time or inclination to read the Koran (it's not the lightest of reads), I can reccommend a few sites I've found interesting:

Also incidentally, because it shouldn't really be relevant to what I have to say, I feel I ought to include a little background about my own beliefs in case of the unlikely event that anyone who doesn't know me reads this page. I am an atheist (more precisely a philosophical atheist), Jew (I do not believe in the religion, but Judaism is my heritage and an important part of my culture) from Turkey (yes that's right - a Muslim country - it is a dangerous myth that Muslims and Jews necessarily persecute each other - Turkey has welcomed Jews for a long time, even when it was ruled religiously). I have lived in Britain since the age of 2, and I do consider myself British, even though technically I am an immigrant. I am interested in all religions as an outsider to all of them, but someone who feels it is very important to understand things which form such a large part of so many peoples' moral codes and ways of life.
posted @ 5:43 PM -
I've had a couple of snide comments from friends about how boring these pages are. As if it justifies anything, here are some links to genuinely boring web pages.
posted @ 1:28 PM -
My mum sent me this today:

When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 Billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300C.

The Russians used a pencil.

I don't know if it's factually accurate (opinions please), but it makes a nice point anyway.
posted @ 1:19 PM -

Saturday, September 22

these are interesting times we live in, and there are some signs that a new overriding enemy is bringing some sort of rapprochement between various countries. Even if this is all over by Christmas, which anyway seems implausible, it will be years before all of the implications of the 11th of September are clear. It is a distinct possibly that the long term effects will be greater stability after the upheaval. Here are a couple of small but encouraging signs:


The Guardian tries to summarise the
redrawing of the world order, but really nothing is clear yet.

Meanwhile, I have to say I hope that when this is all done and dusted the US learns its lesson about haphazard interventions in the world. This cartoon is not as far from the mark as I would like to believe....
posted @ 10:46 AM -

Friday, September 21

why we have a highly evolved instinct for revenge, and why it isn't always right to act on this
posted @ 8:38 PM -
the case against, and then for, civil liberties. It's supposed to be topical, but really it's a discussion that is relevant to any less-than-Utopian society.
posted @ 8:36 PM -
why anything we do is completely irrelevant in the greater scheme of things.
posted @ 8:34 PM -
Two interesting articles about religion:

  • I hope that if there is a god, this is how he [she/it you know what I mean] would address the dangerous lunatics who use religion as an excuse for intolerance. As far as I can tell, the rantings of such people accusing gays, lesbians, anyone-who-disagrees-with-them of offending god amount to using the lord's name in vain....

  • It is important to remember that the fact that religion is used to justify bad things does not mean that religion is necessarily a force for evil. Richard Dawkins, however, would argue that it is. For such an allegedly great scientist (actually he has published very little original research) he shows astounding failures of logic when discussing religion. His argument in brief:

    1. Religion can be used to convince people not to value their own lives

    2. [radical interpretations of] Religion can be used to convince people to kill

    3. A radical interpretation of a religion was the probable motivator of the attacks in America last week

    4. Therefore all religion, in any form, is inherently evil and must be stamped out

    Just in case the stupidity of this is not obvious enough, I will draw a parallel with an equally daft argument that I can imagine Creation Scientists (Dawkins' mirror image, in that they are the religious people who believe that the theory of evolution must be stamped out - no more representative of mainstream religious views on science than Dawkins is of most scientists' views on religion) using against the ideas that Dawkins has based his career on disseminating:

    1. Darwinism has been used to devalue life

    2. [Social] Darwinism has been used to justify eugenics and genocide

    3. Social Darwinism was a major part of Nazi self-justification

    4. Therefore Darwinist theory, in any form, is inherently evil and must be stamped out

posted @ 8:27 PM -
As the media gets news-hungry but just shows up how little actual news there has been to report in the last day or two (yes, Bush's speech was news but I read the text last night, and therefore I'm no longer interested in being shown little snippets) I've been going off exploring tangents that are related to current events but also to life in general. I remember after the Dunblane massacre there was some discussion, mainly outside the 'mainstream' press, of whether crisis counselling actually works. I don't remember reading anything at the time that actually based its rhetoric on research findings or seemed to have anything worthwhile to contribute. By contrast Slate has an article which does make some interesting points, particularly about where to offer help to people. The conventional wisdom would suggest that counsellors should address grieving families when they come to NYC, because in war time shell-shock is best treated at the front line. The difference is that if a family have come to NYC from elsewhere, the actual site of their trauma is back home where they would have been glued in horror to the TV and trying frantically to phone for information. Shows the risks of trying to transplant scientific findings from one context to another (err.... lab to field anyone?)
posted @ 9:34 AM -
well well well. Next week I become the University of Sussex Postgraduate Officer (officially I have been for a couple of months, but I get my training next week and there was nothing to do over the summer), and here is a striking illustration of the problems with postgraduate education in this country. It's hard to see what I can achieve in this area, but I will be trying....
posted @ 6:35 AM -

Wednesday, September 19

OK, time to bring this page away from matters of such great seriousness. Last night Brighton & Hove Albion won at home yet again (13th in a row I think). This means that we are top of the League [division 2]. Nice.
posted @ 4:40 AM -
Someone's done a far better job than me of gathering links to a wide variety of opinions and reports relating the World Trade Center attack and its consequences. Although I said I'd stop linking to such things, this source is worth knowing about.

One day, probably not all that far in the future, school history lessons will be teaching about these events. I hope someone archives a load of sites about them - they will be a valuable resource once a new generation are around who don't remember it first hand.
posted @ 3:49 AM -
just realised there's a line in the previous post that needs explaining. "If we feed them they wion't want to eat us" is a reference to the article that got me writing in response. It's a short article and worth a read.
posted @ 3:30 AM -
I was going to leave politics and serious world events out of this for a while because it's all getting a bit heavy, but I do have something fairly long, and quite possibly wrong, that I want to say. I was writing to the editor of think peace with what was originally a half baked idea about lessons from 20th century history. As I wrote I worked out the analogy a bit more, and while it is still sketchy, and my knowledge of history is not that great, it reached a point that I thought it might at least be worth publishing here. Please read this with the awareness that I am not an authoritative commentator, and I could really do with input from people who know more about recent European history:

....I just thought it might be worth considering a few precedents from WW1 & WW2 to see how peace can best be achieved, and how some bloodshed might be a necessary evil.

Clearly, just going on the offensive and then leaving people to be punished by the mess that is left behind is not only morally indefensible but also futile - witness the Versailles treaty, which just left Germans desperate and hungry, pretty much making WW2 inevitable.

Then, as Hitler started to invade countries, he was left to it for a while by European powers desperate to avoid war. Appeasement failed - Hitler just became stronger, but no less hungry. Eventually it became clear to the European powers that they had to crush Nazism or face annihilation. At no point was the aim to crush the German people (though I think a great many people saw it that way), but it was impossible to attack Nazism without attacking Germany directly and brutally, with huge civilian casualties. Incidentally the British had a very detailed plan for the assassination of Hitler which was shelved for various reasons, one of which was not wishing to create a martyr.

After WW2 came the Marshall Plan, which is where the "If we feed them they won't want to eat us" bit comes in. Rebuilding Germany to be a great power again has upset many people, but it has also bought the whole of Europe unprecedented security, in the shape of the longest period in recorded history when none of the EU states have been fighting each other militarily. Clearly feeding them has stopped them wanting to eat us, and within Germany there is a visible microcosm of this - in the wealthy towns & cities of the West racism is utterly intolerated, in a way I have seen nowhere else, but meanwhile in the East where there is still high unemployment neo-fascist groups do operate. It's also important to note that Germany has not simply been rebuilt with American money - it has also changed its constitution, changed its school system, restructured its economy, all to make sure that history does not repeat itself. If there is to be a Marshall Plan for the Middle East it needs to be conditional, following this example, rather than simply throwing money at a problem - just throwing money creates dependency which can not be sustained.

The point though is that if you are faced with an aggressor they do have to be faced down by force, even though many innocent people will suffer. Perhaps a thousand civilian casualties in a military campaign now will help prevent a thousand in another terrorist attack next year - to do nothing is as good as saying "other peoples' lives are worth more than our citizens'", which is just as bad as saying they are worth less.

After this comes the time for reconciliation and rebuilding, something we should have done a long time ago, and are paying the price for not doing, but can still put right.
posted @ 3:15 AM -
Amsterdam was great. The occasion being a stag party I didn't actually get to do any sightseeing, but it's a very easy city to have a good time in, and a beautiful place too. There's something utterly odd about the red-light district being so open and so full of tourists though - as well as removing all the bad things about such places it completely removes any allure it could have had. Still surely a good thing - an Amsterdam prostitute enjoys better working rights and legal protection than call centre workers round here....

I am starting to find it slightly unnerving that my friends are starting to marry off. In this particular case the groom is a few years older than me, and he was engaged when I first met him, but by the end of this year there will be 2 couples of my age give or take a year. Odd.
posted @ 3:08 AM -

Friday, September 14


some sick puppy is trying to cash in. I was going to leave the previous post on its own on this page for a few days, but I think it's important that people are warned about this email scam. Spread the word.
posted @ 6:34 PM -
I've just had an email from a Muslim friend living in Britain informing me that her brother, his fiancée and friends were attacked in the street this week in some sort of twisted reprisal. She is now afraid to leave the house.

And we have the gall to claim the moral high ground.

posted @ 6:00 PM -
two very cool science & technology articles from BBC News - a hominid fossil find in South Africa older than any previous finds in the region, and some interesting ideas about learning from bacterial self-organisation to make electronic devices 'co-operate' better.
posted @ 8:35 AM -
on to lighter things. I'm off to Amsterdam tomorrow. We'll be celebrating the end of Dave's batchelorhood, and I do mean celebrating - I don't go in for this "commiserations on your loss of freedom" nonsense.
posted @ 8:05 AM -
it takes a while to make sense of this article, but it's worth a read
posted @ 8:03 AM -
more reactions to crazy events of last few days, just to give a flavour of a range of opinions:

Jerry Pournelle ranting about how we must retaliate by levelling many cities. Retaliate for the massacre of innocents my massacring more innocents? Need I say more?

The London Evening Standard's article about how, no matter what the justice of the situation may be, the US must be pragmatic in how it retaliates to avoid a catastrophic escalation of horror. Maybe they are right, maybe they are paranoid, I don't know.

Many news sources, having first said that it was impossible for anyone other than a trained pilot to direct an airborne jet to a particular target, later realised that actually in clear weather (which there was) taking off and landing are the only really hard bits about flying. Since then they have latched on to how easy it is to get realistic and detailed flight simulators. This article from the Daily Mail is not the most hysterical I have seen, but it is what I have to hand a I type. I have already heard calls to take such software off the market, just like when protests turned to riots in the City of London last year the papers went mad about how people used email and mobile phones to organise themselves.

Adequacy satirises the whole knee-jerk reaction and use of events to forward particular political goals phenomenon.
posted @ 7:53 AM -

Thursday, September 13

The world has changed, and I am still afraid of what may happen. It's not the threat of war any more - some sort of war does seem likely, though it may be astrange war more akin to Bond films than anything we've seen in reality. I am less worried about this because no-one has taken any hugely rash actions yet, making me think that whatever revenge is taken probably will be well thought out and well justified to the rest of the world. There has also been an unprecedented show of unity behind America, with Russia and China pledging their assistance in strong terms, which means that any potential action is far less likely to have catastrophic side effects. I am afraid because of the more subtle way the world has changed.

Americans no longer feel invulnerable. In itself this could be the one positive consequence of what has happened, bringing a sharper sense of reality to US foreign policy.
Articles about this:

  • Salon - a US news & comment website

  • much more cynical comment from yearzero


The trouble is having had this change of self-image brought upon them in such a horrific way will make many people far harder headed. Anybody with vaguely right-wing, statist or anti-libertarian views will see this as cause to remove any restrictions on police and secret service powers. The fact that intelligence did not predict or prevent these things from happening will be seen as justification. In more immediate terms there are many individuals so angry that they want to take revenge on other (presumably innocent) individuals because they see them as part of "the enemy". Muslims in the West are scared, particularly Arabs in America. Indians are also scared, and rightly - there is no obvious visual cue that tells a potential vigilante "don't attack him he's an Indian Hindu, not a Pakistani Muslim".
Relevant sites:

I'm including the bottom 2 to make various points:

  1. extremism exists in every culture; I hope a couple of examples that caught my eye today make this clear

  2. both sites are similar in some ways - they immediately decided who was guilty before any evidence had been released by the FBI

  3. they are both making the dangerous generalisation that "Muslims" are responsible, seemingly oblivious to the way these generalisations damage the groups they represent as well

  4. they have both dehumanised the Muslims of the world as a faceless enemy

  5. they both sound like each other (no surprise - they support each other) and just like sites which demonise Jews or Hindus, in an ironic way underlining just how all peoples are much the same


Meanwhile here are a couple more links about the actual events:

I won't be linking to any more of these pages; I also probably won't be reading any more of them, because it's simply too powerful. This cartoon expresses my feelings better than I can.
posted @ 3:12 PM -

Wednesday, September 12

just heard that people on the aircraft that hit the World Trade Center were told to phone relatives on their mobiles. The hijackers had knives. The passengers knew what was about to happen to them. Somehow this brings the whole thing closer to home - it means more than the numbers of anonymous people that I had been thinking of so far.

I do believe that the world is a good place, and I do believe that most people are good, but sometimes this simple faith is challenged....
posted @ 5:27 AM -
interesting article about how the web has been used in peoples' individual responses to yesterday's events
posted @ 2:48 AM -
an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind
posted @ 2:36 AM -
Well. I woke up today and my world hasn't changed. There is something odd about watching what feels like a totally cataclysmic event one day and waking up the next day with 4 walls still around me, a roof over my head, relatively petty tasks still waiting to be done. I'm still worried about consequences, but it all feels more remote now.

On the other hand hearing people talk about the financial consequences does feel a bit sick. I know it's important, I know it's actually the only direct way that this will touch most peoples' lives worldwide, including mine, but I still feel nauseous when I hear talk (as on Newsnight last night) of how Americans feeling under attack will affect consumer confidence. There is a probable 4 figure death toll here - I don't want to hear about financial markets and consumer confidence just now.

Meanwhile I am deeply disturbed by the way the western world seems to have already decided who is behind this. I can see the link to the Middle East, I can see the link to Osama Bin Laden, but it's time to remember that these assumptions have been wrong before. Spearhead said it better than I can:
Yes I remember the time in Oklahoma
you tried to blame an Arab
but the whitey was the bomber....
posted @ 2:21 AM -

Tuesday, September 11

anyway, I can now finally get to the thing I originally sat down to write about - the World Trade Center(sic) bombing. I'm not going to recount events, because you must know by now, and I doubt I will forget this day in a hurry. I have a few things to say about it though, mainly along the lines of why I am scared.

  • My cousin lives and works in Manhattan. I have heard from her, and know that she's OK, but this took a while after first seeing the news, and the whole family were worried for some time

  • What happens next? I live somewhere that is irrelevant in the grand scale of things - terrorists with the resources and determination to get the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are not going to bother with Brighton. The thing is that people are talking about Pearl Harbor(sic again). Pearl Harbor brought America into a huge war, and what will happen this time? No-one knows, and I am tempted to dismiss this as melodrama, but then a large number of Jews stayed in Germany in the 1930s thinking what was about to happen couldn't possibly....


In case you don't know what happened, or in case I do forget one day, here are some links:

I hope these all stay online when this is no longer news....
posted @ 1:54 PM -
having had my attention drawn to the nefarious ways of the BNP, I had a look at their website. I also found a highly amusing article about whose side they are taking in the Tory leadership battle and why. What I found hilarious about it is that just the other day I was reading a satirical article (on The Brains Trust) about how the BNP is distancing itself from the extremism of the Conservative Party. The serious article has a couple of echoes of this story in it....
posted @ 1:36 PM -

beaucoup bad shit


I can't imagine anyone could be reading this and not know what's happened in the USA today, so I won't actually start with that, but go back to something I was reading just before the radio mentioned aircraft hitting buildings.

First of all I had read a report from the BBC about how the BNP have changed their strategy. They no longer wish to portray themselves as anti-immigration (though they do support "assisting voluntary repatriation" for those immigrants who choose to go back where they came from perhaps because repeated attacks made them uncomfortable?), but instead as specifically against those "extremists" who are guilty of anti-white racism. While I can only support attacks on racism, whether it is anti-white or anti-others, the BNP blow their cover by being obsessed with muslims. First of all they have been approaching Hindus & Sikhs to try to form an alliance against islamic extremism - divide and conquer anyone? What really worries me though is the subtext - most critics of Zionism are really criticism all Jews (though clearly there are people who are anti-Zionist without being anti-semitic), and it strikes me that the BNP are really talking about all muslims when they say "muslim extremists".
posted @ 12:51 PM -

FREE EDUCATION PICKET


Wednesday 3rd of October at 1pm outside the Brighton Centre.

Go there. It's important.
posted @ 5:27 AM -

Sunday, September 9

I'm off to Amsterdam next weekend. This has actually been planned quite far in advance, but I only booked my flights last week, and suddenly over the last couple of days mildly looking forward to it has turned into actually being excited.

It's for a stag weekend, which should be a laugh but also reminds me of a somewhat scary fact - my friends are starting to get married.....
posted @ 10:50 AM -

minor technical difficulties


Having proudly trumpeted the addition a few days ago of a service that lets readers comment on my posts, it now seems to be broken. If you see "Discuss comments so far]", it is an error. There should be a number in there, and as long as it's not showing, it's a symptom that the whole thing is broken.

I don't have the time or inclination to investigate right now, and I have a feeling it might be the service itself that's broken rather than my pages, but I'll check it out soon.
posted @ 3:41 AM -

Thursday, September 6

further to my moan about people who shouldn't be at university, and universities trying to be what they shouldn't:

University of Bums on Seats - Welcome
posted @ 7:34 AM -

Wednesday, September 5

just discovered that the 'bombed out city' set that a lot of Full Metal Jacket was filmed in is actually East London. Hmmm....
posted @ 3:50 PM -
I was introduced to an amusing concept today - the use of the word "vocational" to describe people. I realise this might sound like an extremely anorakish point, but somehow it expresses something about a lot of people I've encountered at university, and why I feel there is such a gulf between them and me.

So what defines a vocational person? Well unfortunately they don't always choose vocational courses, though vocational courses are the ones that tailor to their needs. In a positive sense vocational people start their course with a pretty good idea of what they want to do at the end of it - something I used to envy when I didn't have that sort of direction - and they work towards this goal. They spend a sensible, perhaps somewhat excessive, amount of time towards the end of a course looking and applying for jobs. The end result of this is that they have jobs waiting for them. All good, and to be envied.

So what's so bad about them then? I think Adam (who seems to have coined the phrase "vocational people") summed up one part of the problem with another great coinage: they have vocational haircuts. This must sound to most people like a really petty bit of sniping, but the point is that to be a vocational person you have to give up things. The haircut is pretty unimportant, but what ends up happening is that vocational people are far less interesting than the people who work out what to do as they go along.

What really winds me up about vocational people though is when they end up on non-vocational courses, and try to turn my (yes my - this is an essentially selfish moan) great adventures of learning into a dull exercise in CV-filling. These were the people who joined every club at school so they could put a list on their UCAS forms, not realising that admissions tutors have brains, and see through these ploys. These are the people who object to being taught things that won't be in the exam, who compare marks obsessively, and who forget everything they've learned right after the exam. These are also the people who should absolutely be given a space in higher education, just not the same space as me. These people and their prevalence are the reason why Polytechnics should be distinct and separate institutions from Universities. Universities serve them very badly, and Universities are better off without them.
posted @ 3:40 PM -

Tuesday, September 4

Sticks and stones oh yeah, and pipe bombs and nail bombs. Usual story for an absurd ethnic conflict. This one is in Belfast, but it could have been Israel, the Balkans, Indonesia, most of Africa and so on. The difference is that the poor souls caught up in the middle without any responsibility or power are five years old.

is there hope for humanity?

<added on the 12th of September 2001 - Economist article about this>
posted @ 3:16 PM -
it's true. We are all stupid and we need to be protected from other stupid people.
The Times says so.
posted @ 11:43 AM -
One more thing - if you add comments you ought to know that they can not be deleted. I actually thing this is a great thing, as it makes it impossible for me to fascistically (sorry if I'm making up a word) edit out anyone I disagree with, but it does also mean that if you contact me and say "please delete what I wrote yesterday, it's really embarrassing", I won't be able to help.
posted @ 10:52 AM -

Argue with me online!!!


Wahey! Just found a nice new service which lets any reader post comments to any of my entries here. If you disagree with my highly controversial views, you are no longer restricted to emailing me, you can actually reply here. I can't see this being used much seeing as I don't exactly go out of my way to offend people, but it would be nice to see my occasional ramblings about the world actually kick off some sort of debate....

Incidentally, if you know elementary HTML you can use bold, italic and font tags in the comments.
posted @ 10:49 AM -
well here's a shocker - an article from Yahoo! News points out that 1984-style internet monitoring at work alienates staff. It astounds me how many successful companies don't seem to understand the value of their staff and of keeping their staff happy....
posted @ 10:12 AM -
Yesterday was the hand-in date for MSc projects at Sussex. All the full-time students on my course (i.e. everyone but me and one other) have now finished, and the majority are leaving Brighton for uncertain futures. We spent most of yesterday celebrating the huge weight of dissertations being lifted off peoples' shoulders, though a little half-heartedly because many people had either not slept at all or not slept enough the night before. The actual goodbyes at the end of the night were very odd. I should have learned by now that such goodbyes are always an anticlimax, and in this case I've only known the people for a year, and not even seen much of half of them in that year. Realistically there are only a few people who I'll really miss, and I suspect I'll probably keep in touch with them, but somehow it still feels like the evening ought to have been more emotional.

Oh well. Not really anything to do about it....
posted @ 7:06 AM -
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