Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

[thought for the day] monday evening

For all you budding writers out there, advice from the sage:

"I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils: 'Read over your compositions, and whereever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.'"

The greatest difficult with 50% autobiographical novels is the Mary Sue factor. To deal with this, I'm now rewriting mine in such a way that another 3D chap with a background can do the heroic things and the character who can be vaguely construed as me can trot along in his own way, winning some, losing some.

What's your solution?

[this britain quiz] identify the six places if you can

[the lexx] manhattan size kaboom

The Lexx is a bio-engineered, Manhattan-sized, planet-destroying, bioship in the shape of a giant wingless dragonfly, or to the remotely Freudian eye, a phallus. It was grown by ingesting organ collections from the protein bank on the Cluster, the seat of the Divine Order, for use by His Divine Shadow.

It was originally intended as the ultimate deterrent: the threat of a weapon that could instantly obliterate any planet would keep the remaining "Heretic" worlds of the Light Universe in line, and those that refused to capitulate would be summarily destroyed to reinforce the point. This plan was foiled when the crew commandeered it to escape from the Cluster.

The most important function of the Lexx is its ability to destroy entire planets with a single, high-powered blast. Its primary — and only — weapon is initiated by command from the captain only, followed by a highly dramatic sequence when the Ocular Parabola found on the surface of its eye tissue flips from a smooth surfaced dome into a complex array of satellite dish-like structures.

Huge amounts of yellowish-orange particles are released en masse from the array and focused by Lexx's nervous system to a point just above its mouth. Once focused, the particles burst into a massive, forward-moving, planar wave which expands ahead of the Lexx exponentially until colliding with an object of sufficient mass to disperse it, usually a planet.

The wave instantly vaporizes smaller ships without losing momentum. Though the Lexx is designed to destroy entire planets, it can fire less intense blasts to hit smaller targets; however, the smallest area it seems capable of destroying is roughly the size of an entire city.

So there!  :)  

H/T: Bag

[the haves] and the have nots

If you're having a particularly bad Monday, you might want to skip this post.  Can't remember what I was looking for in youtube but up came the Twilight Zone and one episode was called "The Best Ever" so of course I had to watch it. Part 2 of 3 is above here and if you can put up with the atrocious acting and 50s noir [which I sort of like], it's quite topical today.

In a few paragraphs - some neighbours are celebrating a birthday when, on the radio, the President announces a crisis - alien bombs and missiles are heading their way. Everyone helter skelters to the shelters. The birthday boy, a doctor, has made hay while the sun still shone and has a bunker, food, water, medicine and a trickle of air to breathe plus ... space for just his family and a steel door to stay behind.

The neighbours, of course, who just minutes earlier were drinking toasts to him, now start to come back over to his house - they haven't bothered building anything for themselves so they want to share his one family shelter. Trouble is there are three or four families.

One nasty piece of work turns on another and says that immigrant Americans have no right to food and shelter like real Americans and he attacks him, all sorts of proposals are put, proposals, naturally,  which will result in their particular family getting into the bunker; they argue about whose family has more right to live and then another nutter urges everyone to help him get a battering ram to break down the doctor's bunker door.

All pretence of civilized behaviour has disappeared.

Of course it raises interesting questions for this current day, in a recession, with resources slowly running out or their prices going sky high and the have-nots greedily eyeing the haves and saying the latter came by what they have immorally.  

In any societal breakdown, it's not only the Marie-Antoinettes, Tsars and Gordos who get bumped off but anyone else who actually worked for what he has.  Suddenly, all bets are off and neighbours become enemies, as in some William Burroughs novel.

What do you do in this situation?  What if you were the one who had the bunker?  What if you were one who'd never planned ahead and now wants it all?   Would the doctor have been justified in using a shotgun on his erstwhile neighbours, in order to protect his family?

[rough justice] and the european arrest warrant

The case of Andrew Symeou has been covered in the media and I read of it in the Eye's current edition.

In a nutshell, the 20 year old student was holidaying in Zante, Greece and then came home to Britain. Meanwhile, two of his friends were taken into custody and there seems evidence that they were beaten and pressurized to sign a statement in Greek that they had seen him punch another young man so that he fell off a nightclub stage and later died.

I don't want to get into the rights or wrongs of that but there is a principle for all Brits in the matter of the EAW or European Arrest Warrant:

The magistrate at the preliminary hearing on 7th July at the Horseferry Road Magistrates Court made it plain that he had no power to consider the evidence against Mr Symeou, or the methods by which it was obtained from the witnesses, before agreeing to extradition.

The EU now has a system in place whereby you can be accused of a crime in another member country of the EU, let's say one of the Eastern European countries [and imagine if Turkey got in], automatically extradited and during that time, you can be incarcerated for up to a year, depending on the country, with no guarantee you won't be tortured as Mr Symeou seems to have been and with no rights vis a vis the process.

The current Frederick Toben issue is another case in point.

A friend of mine recently said that these days you should not mention the words British and Justice in the same breath and yet - which process would you prefer to be subject to? Neither, you say. Well yes, but what if you had to decide? It's fairly clear, one would have thought.

The issue is also one of vague grounds for arrest:

The new regulation has been significantly simplified in this regard: when the suspected crime is included on a so-called "positive list of criminal areas," then the criminal can be extradited.The problem however is that the list is too vague.

Then there is the problem of a crime in one country not being a crime in another. Wiki says:

EU law has direct effect within the legal systems of its Member States, and overrides national law in many areas, especially in areas covered by the Single Market.

Yet it doesn't, for example, in Italy. The Italians use the local police HQ, the Questura, for matters of sojourn in the country and have criminalized staying outside the visa. This means that not only are you subject to deportation, the normal consequence but you are also subject to criminal proceedings and penalties. The law even applies to Brits on British passports remaining after three months without a stamp - it is not automatic that you can go over there, work and live.

What many don't know is that when you cross the Italian border, you should obtain a stamp in your passport but if that stamp was obtained in another EU country on the way, the EU is satisfied but the Italians aren't. Further to that, the Schengen states on the Euro are treated differently to those which are within the EU but on their own currency.

In short, it is messy. One can go even further and question whether the EU even exists as a state able to make and enforce laws of its own. Lisbon was not ratified in Ireland and is in suspended animation right now.

So where does that leave the humble Brit, in his own country? Where does it leave the humble Englishman within Britain?

[employment] will balance ever return

There has been a trend towards the four day week gathering momentum and the schools are one area where this is manifesting itself:

Bucking a nationwide trend toward bulking up school calendars, dozens of rural school districts are actually paring back their work weeks, cramming more academics into four days. The trade-off: School days are an hour or more longer than in most schools.

In rural areas, where pupils are required to help out with the farm work, this might make some sense but for them to hang around malls, doing nothing? Especially with ASBOs and chavs on the increase? I wonder what justification is given for this:

The South Carolina Department of Transportation rolled out a pilot program this week that offers four-day work weeks in exchange for longer work days. "Secretary (Harry) Limehouse felt that this was a very important thing to do for employees because we have a number of employees that commute," said Mary Gail Monsts-Chamblee, the department's director of human resources.

The justification is that gas prices are now $4 a gallon. So, in an induced economic crisis, people are to work less? An eight hour day [including lunch] will now become a ten hour day? Or will it be a nine hour day, with the net effect a 32 hour week?

The point is probably moot anyway, as more and more firms are employing people as temps or part-time, with the slant towards women:

She added that women returners who wanted part-time work were preferable to those who were seeking full-time positions as they were more likely to remain in their job when the economy recovered.

There are more and more cases of overqualified people trying for less qualified positions but firms are wary of that, as they don't believe they will retain those people after times get better. Against that, the qualification hike [in the UK - NVQs] is getting to a ridiculous stage. The tick boxes are exponentially expanding, often demanding irrelevant skills for that particular position. This comes close to expressing it:

This comprehensive skill set, once required only of managers but now applying to all levels of employment, appeared in several employer surveys, with an additional emphasis on communication and computer/technical skills.

What will be the immediate and medium term future for employment? If things do improve, has the wheel of change irrevocably moved to a mobile, part time and temporary, expendable workforce? More than this, as an article in the Asia Times states:

President-elect Barack Obama is the only man in town with a checkbook, and by virtue of the Treasury's near-monopoly of financial power, will take office as the most powerful peacetime president in US history. Faced with the collapse of private pension, health care and financing systems, Obama will have every reason to use his mandate to socialize medicine, pensions and many other aspects of US economic life. The American economy may be hard to recognize afterwards.

I think not only the American economy will transform in this way.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

[comment moderation] during the trolling hours

This post was modified at 23:39 by request and in the interests of goodwill:

I'll switch to comment moderation until the morning to avoid a repetition of last night.
Better be safe than sorry. Until tomorrow then, readers, sleep tight.

[shakespeare] five of the best

Couldn't resist the Telegraph's little exercise today - rating the "best" of Shakespeare's plays. In compiling it, I tried to take into account the writing quality, the issue, the popularity and whether I like it or not. Lear's a great play but I don't like it, so I didn't have it in the top five. So here are my five:

1. Hamlet

2. Romeo and Juliet

3. Twelfth Night

4. The Merchant of Venice

5. Macbeth

Hoping you'll be as opinionated as I was on the Bard, what would your top five be?

[blogfocus] a sunday scan

Teething troubles?

Methodius writes of moving back to Blogger from Wordpress.

Does Liz have hubby trouble?

Trixy shows that there is more to life than shoes. There are teeth as well.

Chris Dillow writes: "I’ve never seen the attraction of prostitution. If a man wants quick unfulfilling sex with a woman who despises him, he should get married." Read the rest of it, if you haven't already done so.

Mr. Eugenides informs us that Mr. Dillow's opening line blockbuster is no fluke.

Ross Fountain puts you straight about herpetology.

The Quiet Man thinks you should check your children's homework.

Hooky's at it again with this video.

Need to know about a US diner at Battersea? Charon QC fills you in on his new job.

Gallimaufry and Chips introduces an angry blogger who is making waves.

Angus Dei is a newer blogger to check out.

How about the Domestic Goddess's thick broth on a cold, blustery day?

... and lastly, the Valleys Mam writes of high heels and a woman's sex life.