Saturday, May 15, 2004


I have a little schadenfreude on Mirror editor Piers Morgan's resignation sacking over at Samizdata.
Food blogging

Today, my breakfast includes some "Toulouse sausages", bought from Sainsbury's yesterday, described on the packaging as "a wonderfully flavoursome French recipe of coarsely chopped pork and bacon, richly seasoned with red wine, garlic and fresh parsley" (their use of bold). With it I am having some unsmoked lean back bacon, the consumption of which demonstrates I am a wimp (or so I am told).

Update: The sausages were tasty - pretty heavy on the garlic, but I like that. Australian practice is (or at least was when I was a child) to eat fairly plain beef sausages with tomato sauce (the word "ketchup" was never used - when I visited America and England for the first time in 1991 when I was 22 years old, I did not know what the word meant). These can be excellent, particularly when they are barbecued, but the European idea of sausages packed with all sorts of things to give them flavour is relatively recent, although all kinds of interesting sausages are available now - particularly those from Italian recipes.

However, I am open to new ideas.

Further Update: Somehow, really good food will sit on the bottom of your stomach all day (or at least until your next meal) giving you a warm and satisfied feel. These sausages managed that.

Friday, May 14, 2004

This looks interesting

Apparently a company named Sion Power has developed a Lithium Sulfur battery, that they are claiming has four times the battery life of the Lithium Ion batteries that most of us use in our batteries and laptops these days. Sadly, it can only manage about 300 recharge cycles at the moment, so it is not quite ready for prime time. Shame. Perhaps we will get portable fuel cells first, but clearly the dreadful battery bottleneck is somewhere where we will actually see considerable improvement within a few years.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has lost the Indian general election, and there will certainly be a change of government. Few people expected this, because the general perception (certainly shared by me) has been that India has been booming recently. (Hey, they have even been winning at cricket). The new government looks to be dominated by the formerly long-ruling Congress party, although they will have to have the support of the Communist dominated "Left front" alliance to form a government. (In this day and age, people who used to be communists can end up being a lot of things, I guess). Sonia Gandhi, the Italian born widow of the late Rajiv Gandhi, looks to have a strong chance of becoming the next Prime Minister. As to whether this result means that the new government will reverse the generally free market orientation of the previous government, I have no idea. (I rather doubt it though). Elections are often won and lost for domestic reasons that are not especially apparent to people looking at the country from outside.

And of course, governments do not always end up being what they appear when they are first elected. When it came to power, the BJP appeared (at least to me) to be a rather fearsome party of Hindu nationalism, but the party became much more moderate once it was in power. I suspect this is almost inevitable in as large a country as India, particularly when there are so many competing political forces.

And writing this article, I cannot help but continue to realise just how ignorant I am about everyday Indian politics. India is becoming a very important country, and I rather like those aspects of it that I do know something about, but it is not a place with everyday goings on that are widely reported in the west.

I have a piece about up and coming international cricket matches (and why I won't be writing about Australia v Zimbabwe) over at ubersportingpundit.

I have a piece on Transport Blog explaining how my choice of a route home was influenced on Tuesday by the fact that I was carrying something heavy.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

An odd thought

Lots of people (starting I think with Arts and Letters Daily) have linked to this article by Elinor Burkett about her experiences as an American teaching in central Asia shortly before and then for a substantial period after September 11. The discussion of her discoveries of just what people do and don't know about America (and what the do and don't believe) is intriguing, but it gets surreal towards the end, when she discovers that it is almost universally accepted in the region that America "cheated" in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and locals feel more vehement about this than virtually anything else discussed in the article

In Bishkek, once-friendly taxi drivers assailed me because George W. Bush had bribed judges to deprive Olga Koroleva of the gold medal in women's aerial freestyle skiing. My students railed that the judges had been corrupted by pity for America -- the only possible explanation for Sarah Hughes's triumph over Irina Slutskaya in the figure-skating competition. And in Turkmenistan, strangers in the market ranted at me about the injustice of Larissa Lazutina's disqualification from the games by Americans so threatened by her cross-country-skiing prowess that they'd trumped up a charge of drug use.

This is slightly surreal at the best of times, but it becomes even stranger when you realise that the women's aerial freestyle skiing was won by Alisa Camplin, an Australian. Apparently, although George W Bush is prepared to screw Australia's farmers at any opportunity he gets, he is willing to bribe Olympic judges so that our athletes can win medals. Great.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Wednesday Evening Song Lyrics

Do you always have to tell him everything
On your mind?
You know that too much honesty can be
So unkind
And every time you throw him to the floor
Why are you surprised to see he's breakable?
You always try to find what's holding him
Away from you
But do you ever see your anger standing there
Right between you?
And every time you throw him to the wall
Why are you surprised to see he's breakable?
Tell the world that he's breaking your heart
Go tell the world nothing's ever your fault
Go tell them all
And every time you throw him to the floor
Why are you surprised to see he's breakable?
And every time you push him to the wall
Why are you surprised to see he's breakable?

-- Breakable, performed by Fisher on the soundtrack of Alfonso Cuaron's interesting but flawed modern day adaptation of Great Expectations (1998).

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A small town in Germany

If he was a spammer, I would endorse firebombing this house, I think. As it is, I recommend that everybody keeps calm. Whilst I generally am sympathetic to young nerds, a punitive prison sentence is clearly in order here.
See what is presently in the middle of my carpet

Doesn't this look like fun?

Monday, May 10, 2004


I have a piece on the puzzle of why terrorists do not have weapons of mass destruction over at Samizdata.

Sunday, May 09, 2004


My brother's computer (in Australia) got infected by the Sasser worm. He is running Norton Anti-Virus, but this didn't help, as the worm arrived by exploiting a vulnerable port rather than via e-mail. Incoming e-mail is scanned for viruses as a matter of course, but that didn't help with this problem. And although Norton would have deleted the worm if it had been able to run, Sasser kept shutting down the computer before we could get that far. Symantec has a downloadable mini-application to remove Sasser too, but the problem was once again that the machine was shut down by Sasser before he could download and run it. (Yes, there is a way of stopping the shutdown after it starts, but my brother is not a very sophisticated user and it was a relatively hard thing to talk him through).

Eventually we managed to download the Symantec tool on another PC, copy it onto a CD and send him the CD. This copy of the tool we were able to run before Sasser shut down the machine, and therefore we managed to remove Sasser. So my brother's computer (a perfectly nice 3 month old Dell desktop) is now working again.

In terms of support from a distance, this was a hard one. Support from a distance is in many cases getting easier, as I can do such things as remotely take control of my brother's computer over the internet, and just fix the problem myself rather than talk him through it. (It's slow over his dialup connection though). But when a worm keeps shutting his machine down, there is not very much I can do, at least not directly.

Now, I think it is biological analogy time. I think Sasser is like the SARS virus, in the sense that it is very contagious withough being extremely harmful in itself. It shuts computers down and causes strife, but it doesn't do things like mess with or delete files, or wipe out your hard disk, or anything like that. A worm that spread the same way and was damaging could do an untold amount of damage, and I think we are pretty wide open to this kind of thing. And why is it like the SARS virus: well, the SARS virus is basically an extremely nasty variant of the common cold: it is airborne and quite contagious, and it causes nasty symptoms but does not kill very people. However, a nasty airborne varient of influenza would be something else. If we had something as deadly as the 1997 influenza virus that could spread like SARS, we would be in serious trouble, and would be talking tens of thousands of deaths. And even this is a long way short of the nastiness of the influenza of 1918.
They really didn't take enough care when they Romanised the spelling the first time, methinks

This is why the individual's right under the English common law to change his or her name to anything he or she wants is important.

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