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Monday, May 31, 2004

And that was the month that was 

Hey Folks,

I've decided to institute a monthly overview of major life news, accomplishments and failures so that I can chart my progress, or lack thereof, in a simple and hopefully effective manner. Due to my levels of sloth, I'm also planning on printing it and giving it to my psychiatrist to save me the bothersome task of articulating my feelings and news. And if she bitches at me for doing so then I can saliently point out that she bears all responsibility for the status quo - I suspect that in an alternate timeline she mothered Francis Rossi - as, as the title indicates, this whole shebang was her idea in the first place.

Accomplishments

These are mostly related to my weight and fitness level. I'm still roughly the same weight I was six weeks ago which is a good sign as this has been a fairly high stress time for me lately. On the fitness front I'm running an increasing distance each week and training almost daily. I've also been swimming four or five times this week, so we'll say a visit to the pool at least once a week as well, along with a trip to the gym. On top of all this I've been doing sit ups and press ups, and I can currently do 50 of the former and 30 of the latter in a single sitting.

I am generally pleased with this, but I'm monitoring myself for signs of mania - I don't want to replace one disorder with another so I may slacken the pace a little this coming month. Work is proceeding well and I'm relatively pleased with the situation there. Also of note is that my little family history project is gathering apace but I must ensure that my current interest with the Siege of Lenningrad does not side track or derail this effort. I also feel accomplished that this past month alone I've generated a total of 550 hits on my blog. Okay, I feel accomplished for you for doing all that typing od addresses and following of links. Credit where credit's due and all that. A word of admonishment, however, to the eight people who've come here looking doctor's sick notes to get you out of work. Shame on you, shame on you.

Failures

A couple of these, and fairly big ones. When I blogged last weekend about the whole wages not in the bank situation, I left out the fact that I kind of went to pieces for a bit over it because I felt really terrible for missing my friend's nght out and my sister's Birthday lunch and I ws in a bit of a black hole for a bit. I'm better now, although I have been a tad jumpier this week that I should be, and I think my reaction to what happened served as a warning that however well I seem, it is still a transitory phase and I need to guard against such lapses. I spoke to mty friend A about all this today and he's mostly okay about me standing him up but I still got a richly deserved bollocking for my behaviour. I'm giving myself a "must try harder" on this, and I'll do my best to improve.

News

A few bits of news that I've not mentioned in previous postings; I'll start with the bad and go out on a high note. Last week I discovered that my big cousin was preganant with her first child. Sadly, she lost the baby after four months gestation. I feel sad about this, and I'm trying to figure out what it is about the situation that makes me sad. I'm also trying to figure out if I'm brooding over it as that's something I need to watch for. So far I think I've coped with that piece of news fairly well; I've not personalised it and I think that although I'm sad, I'm sad for my cousin and her partner rather that over-emphasising and doing my classic "suck up all the pain" act.

Better news is that my parents seem to be doing rather well at the moment. Dad fell off the wagon for an afternoon but promptly got right back up on it again so full credit to him. He and Mum are now away on holiday up North and they dropped in to see me on their way up yesterday. I hope this break does them good and I'm impressed with their behaviour in general - I shall let you know when I discover the gory details. In the words of Irish comic Frank Carson, "there's more, there's more." The good news keeps on coming it seems. Through my network of remote sensing equipment and informants, it has come to my attention that there is a Girl Who Likes Me. I'm pleased by this, for I like her too and I'm keen to explore this situation further. And this is where the comments box will hopefully prove its worth: I need advice. As I say, I'm keen to explore this, but there are obviuous issues that need to be addressed. GWLM is fairly aware that I am "damaged goods" and so far this doesn't seem to be a problem for her, but it is for me. Kind of. I don't want to hurt anyone, nor do I wish to be hurt either. It's been almost nine months since my breakedown and break up, and I do usually feel well these days: how soon is too soon? I'm enjoying the fact that there seems to be someone who finds me attractive on a number of levels, so do I need to take it further? I was useless at this sort of thing six and seven years ago and I've not improved. I need advice. Despite the fact that it has the power to freak me out, I'm still describing this as good news.

Help me. Please.


So there you go; one month in the life of the Outpatient.

Places to go, people to see 

Hey Folks,

What a lovely day today has been. The sun has been shining and my sister came up to visit, so I've spent the afternoon playing tour guide which was rather enjoyable. Our odyssey of the town and its environs took in a ruined abbey, a castle, a graveyard, one of my churches and an almshouse for the poor. We also walked the route of the old town walls which was the only downhill section of our entire journey. Note to self: do not, under any circumstances, tour the Old Town in temperatures exceeding 20 degrees Celsius; stick to the shops. After all our exertions - we did all of the above on foot - we were naturally hungry and thirsty so we went and visited a regular haunt of mine for dinner and drinks. Directly after dinner we retired to a local coffehouse of excellent quality and whiled away the time before my sister had to get her bus home.

My sister safely away, I returned home, receiving the text message "thanks for a lovely day, had a great time. Sis xx" (spelled in full, surprisingly). So it appears that a lovely day was had by both parties with the double bonus of the discovery that my sister and I seem to be past that annoying sibling rivalry phase.

Result.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Damn straight 

Hey Folks,

In fact, why don't we just assume everyone in the country is guilty of something and lock everyone up. Mr Blunkett is leading us down the road to a police state.

T Harrington, Herts


You tell 'em, T. Harrington from Hertfordshire, you tell 'em...

Mr Blunkett's current plan to destroy our criminal justice system is proceeding nicely. The longer David Blunkett remains Home Secretary, the more I wonder if a) The editor of the Daily Mail is somehow spiking the Home Office's tea supplies - any clue on this Supermum? - or b)that Blunkett's guide dog, Sadie, is telling him to do these things a la The Son of Sam or perhaps even c) that Michael Howard actually did pioneer Mission Impossible-style Face Makers and survived that unfortunate changing of the guard in May 1997. Quite who is impersonating Michael Howard as current leader of the opposition I don't know, but I shall endeavour to discover his (her??) identity.

But I digress. David Blunkett is a shining example of why we do not always have to be nice to blind people. Yes, I know that he looks really cute at the dispatch box reading brailled speeches with his eyes a darting to the left and to the right, but really - come on: the man is evil. Gratifyingly, most of the respondents share T. Harrington's views. Sadly only one of those respondents actually pointed out that we are talking about people, for yes, as vile the crimes committed by sex offenders are, they are still people; people who have completed their sentences and satisfied the Parole Board - and oftentimes a judge in a special sitting - that they are suitable able to be released into society. Given the nature of psychosexual compulsion, continued monitoring of their behaviour is sensible to protect the public - and, sadly, to protect the parolee from the public - but it should be as non-intusive as possible. In cases where lie detectors and other extreme methods are believed to be necessary, the prosecution service should use their right to appeal the Parole Board's decision to ensure that the offender is returned to prison.

This is an issue that to be brutally honest should be left up to the professionals, for the general public has shown itself to be singularly unable to discuss the issue in a rational manner; just ask the Welsh lynch mob that targeted a paediatrician if you wish to know why this should be the case. Perhaps one day the public will be able to tackle this debate in open and honest debate, but I don't expect that day to come while Rebekah Ward is the editor of The Sun. That would be the same Rebekah Ward that was single-handedly responsible for sparking off the moral panic about paedophillia - and a big hats off to Brass Eye for kicking them where it hurts - that now edits the paper that daily brings you a seventeen year old Page Three "stunna."

I cannot convey to you how much I loathe bad journalism.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

"Like the documentary Red Dawn? Then you'll love Ammunation" 

Hey Folks,

It should be apparent to you all now that I am a geek, nay fiend for all things military. There are however people who are far more "out there" - yes, way, way over there past all boundaries of normal people: that's them, just to the left of that tree - and, on the basis of good scholarship or perhaps a desire to know my enemy, I visit their websites. Some of these men - for they are invariably men - are men of genius and cunning who reside on the peripherary in saner times, but come to the fore when they are called - Barnes Wallis, Alan Turing, John Conner are men such as these. The other category, however, are the true crackpots and generally best described using the term "wingnut"

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is wingnutius primus inter pares. This man, in my expert opinion, is a crackpot. At first I couldn't decide if he was serious or if it was all an act of satire, for I stumbled across his site following this link. Until I went to the main page, I thought that I had wandered into a militaristic version of The Onion because it's so surreal. If you can make it all the way through part one without laughter-induced hernia, I encourage you continue onward and upwards to the second part. I've heard that in the fan fiction world it is possible to get certificates for reading particularly crap or unpleasant stories and I'm thinking that this might be an innovation we in the Oedipal military/industrial sphere could emulate...

What a nutter

"I'm just makin' my play/ Don't try to push your luck, just get out of my way" 

Hey Folks,

I've always been fascinated by the world of spies and covert operations. Like most young boys I believe my first exposure to that murky world was through the James Bond films - realistically, who hasn't watched Bond do his thing and not wanted to be him? Even from a young age I knew that the Bond universe was frankly, well, bollocks and I was soon reading the likes of Len Deighton, John Le Carre, Tom Clancy and loads of similar authors whose novels, if not entirely real, were certainly believable. Len Deighton's Bernard Samson series is quite possibly the most compelling and, spanning eleven books, rivals Lord of the Rings in its breadth and scope. Le Carre is also very good and he has very possibly lived the life that he writes about. I don't find him to be as realistic as Deighton, however, because Le Carre's spies inhabit Oxford quads and gentleman's clubs. His may well be the true portrayal of the British intelligence service's hierarchy, but it seems all too far from my working class background to be real in the way that Deighton is. Moving forward a few years, I started to read histories of the organisations and biographies of the individuals involved in this murky world, and found these to be different again but no less compelling. It was a form of escapism from my rather pathetic daily existence; some get into science fiction or model building, I was reading about covert operations against the IRA in Northern Ireland and CIA-sponsored assassinations of Latin American leaders. It's really funny that back then the depth of knowledge I possessed was not only weird to my few friends but also a little frightening to them is now de rigeur in today's climate of fear and gets me lot's of attention at dinner parties. It's heartening to know that in this day and age of global instability guys like myself with in depth knowledge of evasive driving techniques and counter-surveillance skills are becoming attractive as possible life partners to countless terrified females across the globe. I find that to be a totally delicious irony...

So now that you know where I'm at, you'll understand why I wasn't in the least bit surprised when I discovered this article on this here Interwebnet. I find it strangely comical that after being attacked by terrorists on the 11th of September who were possibly inspired in there methodology by Tom Clancy, Donald Rumsfeld has chosen to fight fire with fire and use another Clancy novel as a guideline. All levity aside, I'm not in any way shocked by these revelations and I doubt that any of you will be either. So called "black" programmes go on all the time and I believe that some are actually necessary: I'd much prefer an assassination of say, Osama bin Laden, using a small number of highly trained people to do the job than air attacks based on dubious intelligence - dropping 8000 pounds of high explosive on a residential district of Baghdad because you have information that a mobile phone, possibly connected with Saddam Hussein, has been used within a certain radius of a certain building in the last twenty minutes is just one such example. Torturing suspects is also a flawed strategy that, as we have clearly seen, wins us no friends and only breeds more enemies. "Black Jack" Pershing may or may not have buried his enemies in the Philippines with pigs - the tale is most likely apocryphal - but the consensus among everyone, bar it seems Donald Rumsfeld and his clique, is that oderint dum metuant (let them hate so long as they fear) should not be the order du jour. What might have been acceptable in 1911, even if it worked, is not acceptable today and never should be.

Look, even The Onion says so. I'm not wrong.

Friday, May 28, 2004

You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send on of his to the morgue! 

Hey Folks,

I saw a party political broadcast by the BNP last night, and I have to say that those neo-Nazi bastards did a frighteningly good job of making themselves look not like neo-Nazi bastards - at least to the Man on the Street. Now I do not wish to talk down to anyone, but I believe that the BNP, by massaging data and other tricks, were able to come across as sophisticated and reasonable. It's only because of my education and the fact that I'm a chronic news hound with a memory for stats that I knew in my head as well as my heart that they were essentially lying. The fact that the MotS most likely does not spend as much time on the Internet as I do - how could he, he's on the street while I am in a poorly ventilated room with a computer - means that he may well be taken in by these gross inaccuracies and may well possibly vote for the BNP as a result. The BNP have managed to tuck themselves nicely into the slipstream of the UK Independence Party's campaign to take advantage of the gradual rightward drift in UK politics, the blame for which I lay squarely at the door of both Labour and the Conservatives. Ironically enough, far from making themselves electable as both parties have tried to do by playing up race and immigration fears, they've strengthened the BNP's position immeasurably. This means that right thinking persons like myself who would under normal circumstances totally ignore the BNP must take action to prevent them from gaining a further voice in British politics.

We must campaign for more representative coverage of minorities and refugee issues and we must ensure that those in our community with a louder voice than our own - clergy, business people, teachers as well as councilors and MPs - are encouraged to speak out against them and to continue to do so. Every initiative by the BNP must be countered and countered swiftly; the rot shall not be allowed to set in. I believe that to take an effective stand against the BNP we must also stand against the UKIP for they campaign on many similar platforms to the BNP. The UKIP may not be as bad as the BNP in this round of elections, but what about the next ones, or the ones that follow those? People on the fringes rarely come in from the cold and will often become more extreme in their views. We must work for a political climate when it is wholly unacceptable to campaign on such grounds and bizarrely it is Channel Five who have struck the first blow. Perhaps they fear that significant BNP gains will interfere with their abilities to show soft-core pornography, or that increasing isolationism will rob them of the new CSI spin-off. Perhaps it's just a basic sense of morality and decency that's inspired this reaction; I don't care, they've done a wonderfully noble thing.

And that is how we'll beat the BNP

It cuts like a knife 

Hey Folks,

My recent wistful musings for my departed relationship have been thrown into sharp relief by my reading of this article about a boy that incited his own murder online. How, I hear you ask, does this impact on my yearning for the days of yore? Well the simple reason, and I appreciate that to you it is most likely an unreasonable reason, is that my former squeeze and her family hail from nearby to where these events transpired. The people that live down that way are, well, in a word, weird. Weird shit like this was always going on whenever I visited them but I must confess that I never really paid much attention to it due to a) dubious national/international goings on requiring me to apportion blame on the flimsiest of evidence and b) proximity to aforementioned former partner who still mostly liked me then, kind of. But yes, weird shit was always occurring. Witness the huge number of letters to the local rag about a singular bollard flattened by a van, or the locals' near constant refusal to accept Scottish banknotes as legal tender and interpretation of rates of exchange, as the following discussion between myself and a shop owner demonstrates:

Me: [receiving approximately 5% of expected change] Excuse me, I gave you a twenty.
SO: Did you?
Me: [emphatically] Yes.
SO: Oh [looking in cash drawer] So you did, love, I'm just not used to seeing Scottish money you know.

Or reading our Scottish money's special Scottish numbering system of £5, £10, £20 - a special numbering system that is, to be fair to their regional sensibilities, exactly the same as all other banknotes in the UK.

Then there was the time that I was taken on a post pub forty mile round trip, halfway through which the driver announced that she was most likely over the limit and that we'd better not meet any police cars. This was after she'd slated anotherher couple for even mentioning that the were thinking of driving home. Basically no activity was too strange for those locals and I could never quite decided if it was a front that they put on for my benefit or if they truly were like that on a permanent basis. Although they didn't have river rapids, their canal wouldn't have looked out of place in a Ken Loach re-imagining of Deliverance and you could always faintly hear "squeal little piggy, squeal!" being carried on the winds when out walking the dogs.

Yup, they were crazy folks alright.


I felt at home there.


Dingos ate my baby 

Hey Folks,

I've talked before about how it's the little things that I miss now that I'm no longer in a relationship. Admittedly, my "little things" vary drastically from the standard conception in that I miss gossiping with my ex's mother about People That Done It And Got Away With It. J's mother (A) and I form the hardened core that failed to be deceived by Merryl Streep's performance in A Cry in the Dark. Dingos ate your baby you say? Uh huh. That'd be "dingos" as in the "sacrificed my child in a perverse blood-ritual" dingos, then? Lindy Chamberlain is quite possibly number one on our list of PTDIAGAWI. When we were together is would holiday with J and her family during the summer and winter breaks from university. Now the winter breaks were usually uneventful news wise, but summer always provided a good news story for us to get our teeth into. WE had the sinking of the Kursk, we had the Soham murders and we had Peter Falconio.

On hearing the news that Peter Falconio had been murdered, but that his girlfriend not only miraculously escaped a gun wielding maniac but also survived a night in the Outback, J's mother and I looked at each other with The Look. The Look that says "she did it." "I know," said J's Mum, "bet she killed him."

J: But Mum! You still think that that woman whose baby was eaten by dingos killed her baby.
A: Because she did. She was one of those mad cult people.

Believe me, years of friendly disagreement have revolved around that conversation. J and I would argue about it at 3am if one of us couldn't sleep. In true Margaret style, J would turn to me, because I was usually the one sound asleep, and say "she's innocent , you know" and I would know exactly to whom she was referring.

Well now it seems that J's Mother and I may well be right: Joanne Lees - and she's got that sultry look of a young Katherine Turner about her - admits to having had a second lover. Okay, so she never had much in the way of credibility in my eyes, but three years on we may finally be getting close to the truth, and perhaps someone might be removed from the PTDIAGAWI file.

"We go now to Jerusalem for our balanced view of the Middle East: a Muslim nutcase with a hook" 

Hey folks,

You probably wouldn't believe such a thing of me, but it's true: I like standup comedy. Don't judge me. The UK has recently produced some very innovative exponents of the genre, two of my favourites being The League Against Tedium, a blend of standup comedy and IT, and possibly my all-time favourite Omid Djalili. Not only is Djalili an excellent comic, his material's basis of him being a bridge between two cultures gives it the social relevance that many comics strive for. And he's got it in spades. His Abu Hamza parodies are exceptionally funny and I await with baited breath Djalili's sketches inspired by Hamza's arrest and possible extradition to the USA.

The is much discussion of Hamza's arrest at Bloggerheads and The UK Today being just two sites worthy of your nigh constant attention, and Manic and Balders exposue a similar opinion to my own and do so more eloquently than I. I will however add my own slant to the proceedings: given the USA's utter contempt for UK requests for extradition of wanted IRA terrorists, whey the hell should we accommodate their request? As noted elsewhere, Hamza is a disagreeable and most likely a dangerous man, but until he is proven to be guilty of any crime he remains an innocent man entitled to all the protections granted to a British citizen. Hook-handed nutcase or not, I am appalled that the government appears to be stripping him of that citizenship with the sole aim of short-circuiting the usually sought guarantee of life imprisonment rather than the death penalty when our citizens face extradition to the USA. The rather shady involvement of the Murdoch press is also another worrying factor, and yet another entry on the lengthening list of those receiving trial by media.

Trial by media - Murdoch inspired or not - is a very dangerous path to tread as I know from personal experience. When the man who murdered my friend was finally brought back from the Netherlands after a long extradition battle, items circulated in newspapers and online came within a hair's breadth of fatally undermining the prosecution's case because of fears that it would be impossible to construct an unbiased jury for the trial. As with Hamza, my friend's killer was not a nice person at all and had been rather demonised by the media during his months abroad. It also seemed very much an open and shut case against him, with a compelling weight of evidence present. I am eternally glad, however, that the police and the prosecutors played by the book and in doing so ensured an accurate and safe verdict against him which will ensure that he remains in prison for a long, long time.

If Abu Hamza is guilty of all the things that the US alleges, then wee have the capacity to try him here for those crimes and we should do so, and ensure a correct and lasting verdict in the process.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Epiphany  

Hey Folks,

You know how you can sometimes just stumble across an absolute peach of website, and how sometimes, if you're incredibly lucky, that website will change your life? Well today at 10:39am I discovered that site. If anyone wants me, I'll be here - a site of note if there ever was one!

It's more than a little ironic, then, that it couldn't actually help me with what I was looking for...


Monday, May 24, 2004

"The only card I need is the ace of spades" 

Hey Folks,

All of us have little tell-tales that tell us when enough is finally enough. Today I discovered that I've been spending too much time on the computer lately: I completed Solitaire in 94 seconds.

94. Seconds.

The sun is shining, I'm going for a walk.

Generally speaking 

Hey Folks,

Now many of you may well feel that I'm a tad...negative about things. In reality, I tend to swing from ridiculous levels of optimism to crushing depths of despair - but yes, I am a manic depressive and such things are to be somewhat expected. In the main, however, I tend to think of myself as a bit of a realist when it comes to viewing the world. One of my pith little aphorisms, for which I am by no means famous for, is I told you that would happen and I find that I apply it all too often these days. Take this quote

Last month, Secretary Rumsfeld acknowledged that he hadn't anticipated the level of violence that would continue in Iraq a year after the war began. Should he have been surprised?

from a recent Sixty Minutes interview with Ret. Gen. Anthony Zinni*. Zinni goes on to say that a great number of people, important people but myself as well, told Rumsfeld that what the Coalition is currently experiencing - and doing - in Iraq was exactly what would happen in the aftermath of a war in Iraq using too few troops. I was against the war, but it seems to me that if you are determined to not only fight but to rebuild a nation afterward that you shouldn't mess about and make sure that you have all the planning and resources in place before you begin. It's expected of any teacher that they are fully prepared for classes, and generally speaking education is not usually a matter of life and death. When Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz went on the TV last year and talked of a "rolling start" to operations, the jitters hit me. Not only was the war coming, but it was going to be a half-arsed effort. They may have had more than enough troops and equipment to win the war, but the battle for Iraq can still be lost - who can forget the huge PR blunder of guarding the Oil Ministry whilst every single hospital and armoury in Baghdad and elsewhere was pillaged by looters. "We did not have sufficient troops to guard all locations;" I may not be a general, but I certainly know about Aims, Objectives and Methods.

And don't get me started on my Afghan campaign either.

If you seek a measure of how likely it is that Zinni's position is a correct and accurate one, just look at the amount of attempts that have been made to smear him. I'd like to say that I told him that would happen, but credit must go to Joseph Goebbels:

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

*Link from Bloggerheads

"He gets intimidated by the dirty pigeons - they love a bit of him" 

Hey Folks,

I woke up hellishly early today and since it was such a lovely morning I decided to go for a run before work. Usually I go running after work is over and use the university's running track, but today I decided to run in the park. I don't know the exact distance but I reckon that it's something in the vicinity of at least 2.5 miles (4Km)and over some fairly "variable" ground, and I made it all the way around without stopping. Granted, I'm no Ultra marathon-running Kilgore Trout, but I'm still pleased with myself. And a pretty lady walking her dog smiled at me.

I think I shall run in the park more often.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

"Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise, random acts of water damage and blood poisoning.... I'll come in again" 

Hey Folks,

What a weekend. I spent all day with my client on Saturday as his flat was partly flooded due to a pipe bursting in his upstairs neghbour's flat. This involved supporting him through several calls to the water board and the council and lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then I went to an ATM and discovered that, for the second time in two months, my wages had not been paid into my bank account. This meant that I couldn't afford to go to Auld Reekie for a friend's birthday meal, nor could I go home today to dine out with my family for a meal. At a restaurant that today had T-bone steaks on the menu.

I have decided I shall kill the payroll clerk.

In other news, my friend Robert is home from the hospital - it seems that the NHS's current efficiency drive to free beds extends as far as the neurosurgery department - and is doing really well. The issue of most pressing concern is the bedsore that he developed after a month in hospital and has been nurtured by another seven weeks of, well, lying on his arse. When he asked staff in the second hospital why their counterparts in the first hospital took blood from him every day, they answered that it was because he almost developed septaceamia.

Septaceamia. From a bedsore.

Bastards.

Goodnight.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

"Any booze for the baby?" 

Hey Folks,

My Dad's an alcoholic, my Mum's borderline, my sister's practically teetotal and I eat chocolate by the crate because I, too, have an addictive personality. I could easily become a problem drinker and I've only really noticed this in the past few months: I can't decide whether what I experience is simply what any other person who enjoys alcohol feels - that desire to taste what you know to be nice, like you do with a favourite meal,when your first glass appears on the table in front of you - or if I am, in my own way, also an alcoholic. It's probably me just thinking too much, engaging in a little too much self-analysis, but I'll classify myself as a addict that gets the required fix from chocolate rather than booze. Anyway, I'm not surprised to see this, and I wholly agree that there is a problem in our society with alcohol, and especially amongst my contemparies.

I have family that live in France, and although I admire their way of life in general - as a slacker I admire officially sanctioned two hour breaks for lunch - I especially admire the attitude that the French, and indeed the majority of continentals have towards drinking, and drinking sensibly. In the UK we go out of our way to make things hard for ourselves. We make dramas out of non-existent crises by creating a mystique around alcohol that is completely unnecessary. I've taught kids, whose life's ambition at the age of eleven and twelve is "to go on the dole and get pished every day." Fact. We give alcohol aspirational qualities and simultaneously make it a social crutch; it is both the highlife and the lowlife. On the continent drink just is - children are brought up with it all around them in largely positive circumstances and by the time they reach adulthood they have no desire for it in the way that so many of our young people do; it's not a rite of passage for them to go out and get hammered and start a street fight - information gleaned again from classroom discussion. Yes they may drink, and drink to excess on the continent too, but in the main their model is much safer and socially responsible. As it is, we're heading towards almost Russian standards of endemic abuse, and I know well enough the damage that can be wrought on families by this problem.

That said I'm not sure how much of an effect legislation will have on the issue, although a moratorium on senseless promotions is certainly a good start. Alcoholism is truly a disease of the mind, and I think that any attempts to tackle this disturbing trend shall need to include proper education and acclimitisation to alcohol and its effects - good and bad - at a timely age. Alcohol education in secondary schools is largely wasted as by that point kids have been exposed to certain choices through friends and family and will have generally made up their minds to partake to excess, partake in moderation or abstain. Ironically enough, my own parents were quite careful to make sure that I experienced alcohol under correct supervision and I thank them for it. Secondary school is too late: like all things respect for alcohol begins at home and can only be taught effectively in early school years; this is the key area that the government needs to address.

Arrgh! It burns 

Hey Folks,

Although I find John Major to be a reasonably decent enough man as politicians go, as a member of the Tories I really hate having to agree with him. This comes on top of agreeing with Colin Powell's statement "I believe the activities of the Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza in recent days have caused a problem and have worsened the situation, and I think made it more difficult for us to move forward and get back into the peace process" yesterday. I feel ritually unclean.

To solve this I am going to go and bathe 64 times in the levite tradition before tea.

I shall return, purified and a tad wrinkly...

"Choose any candidate/Whose name is Ahmed Chalabi" 

Hey Folks,

UK-based readers will most likely be familiar with Rory Bremner and his brand of political satire and stand-up comedy, and the fact that he finishes off episodes with a topical song. Classics such as a Tony Blair rendition of I Don't like Mondays, The Two of Us featuring Tony and Alastair Campbell and the underwear-wetting Iraq Democracy song (to the tune of the Galaxy Song by Monty Python)

IRAQI DEMOCRACY

All the Sunnis hate the Shias
And the Shias hate the Sunnis
And the Muslims hate the Christians
It’s enough to make a general cry
But it’s Iraqi Democracy
Something you’ve got to see
Hundreds of hostile groups
Will live in perfect harmony, now
Saddam Hussein has gone, it’s
Rule from the Pentagon
It’s Iraqi as Big Mac and Apple Pie

All the Shi-ites hate the Baathists
And the Saddammists hate the Royalists
There’s no room for the loyalists
Or anybody from Iran
‘Cause it’s Iraqi Democracy
Land of the young and free
Choose any candidate
Whose name is Ahmed Chalabi
The least that you can do
Is vote how we want you to
We made you free, now don’t upset the plan.

All the Sadrists hate the Sistanists
And the Daawaists hate the Sciri-ists
The Americans hate the Islamists
And everybody hates the Kurds
‘Cause it’s Iraqi Democracy
A new theocracy
Instead of shouting “USA!”
They go to mosque five times a day
Hey! That doesn’t fit the plan
It’s like the Taliban!
Look out cos when the Mullahs cry "Jihad!"

We might prefer the government they had!


I appreciate that in the light of the past year's events, such as Moqtada Sadr's little rebellion, it's not quite as funny, but it just serves to show that Rory Bremner would probably have done a better job of running the situation that the coalition of the willing...

Well it seems that old Ahmed, despised by many on both sides of the current Iraq issue and ower of much money to the Jordanians, is no longer flavour of the month with Washington. Perhaps he and Mr. Hussein will end up sharing the same cell? It see,s though that if you're universally hated by everyone then it stands to reasons that you must be doing a good job. Or something.

I wonder what Jacques Verges is doing at the moment...

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

How to waste 600 thousand pounds 

Interested?

Go here.

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."  

Hey Folks


An amazing article (if more than a little frightening) courtesy of Bloggerheads. Although we've been seeing signs of this for a long time, I still mostly thought that it was all a bit of a myth, an urban legend. It seems to be the case, though, and it scares me greatly to think that people who supposedly share my religious convictions - although extremely loosely in this case - could think that that was a good idea.

[Shudders]

Danger Wil Robinson! Danger! 

Hey Folks,

By some circuitous web traveling and random poorly connected thoughts, I ended up with some pictures of Bill Mumy, star of Lost in Space and Babylon 5, in my possession. I am greatly pleased, although pleased for deeply irrational reasons that only the most warped of you may understand. Conversations in my relationship, when not discussing billboard advertising, would go like this:

Me: Why don't you stop watching Babylon 5 and do some dishes, wench?
Her: I wish Lennier were here, he wouldn't make me wash the dishes.

Or

Her: I wish Lennier were here, I think he'd be a much better lover than you, Outpatient. Only Lennier can satisfy me.
Me: Yes.

We had variations of this conversation for years and years, with occasionally Danny from NYPD Blue or Marcus Cole from B5 replacing Lennier. Funnily enough, when I mentioned my desire for her to be more like - or, in fact, actually - Kim Delaney, that just wasn't allowed.

Anyway, despite the fact that we never saw Lennier in the flesh due to all the make-up, and therefore she never really lusted after Bill Mumy the actor - at least not in the way that I lusted after Kim Delaney the actress - I am pleased.

From this, to this to that.

You're welcome to him.

What is it good for? 

Hey Folks,

An extremely interesting site from BBC News. Very informative and well worth a look. Strange as it seems, I'd have thought that the death toll from all those conflicts would have exceeded two people a minute because that's not even three thousand people a day. You call that genocide?

Murdering bastards these days...

And the 1000th visitor is: 

[drumroll]

Ford W. Maverick from West by God Virginia. Well done, Ford, although you don't get a prize, you do get the satisfaction of being an appreciated visitor.

Okay, I know you'd rather have a prize, but life's tough.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"This programme contains scenes of nudity and strong language from the outset" 

Hey Folks,

When I hear a TV announcer speak the above words, words familiar to any post-watershed British viewer, is it so wrong, and possibly deeply revealing of my psyche, that I let out a huge cheer? Even if you think it is, please don't judge me too harshly for it gets me through my day. It's also usually a sign that at last, after sitting through untold levels of crap, that you're about to get some good telly. Although good TV shouldn't necessarily rely on buckets of sex, swearing and violence for inherent goodness, it does seem that that is what discerning viewers want. How far is too far? In Scotland, we have Irn Bru - those resident in other parts of the UK may believe they have it, but it's like champagne and is only truly Irn Bru if it comes from Glasgow - and they are famous for pushing the boundaries in their advertising. They do this in a fun and playful manner, but they do aim to be offending some of the people all of the time.

With this in mind, I can't decide whether their new campaign featuring old adverts that got banned is a sign that the goalposts of what constitutes decency in advertising have moved in the last five years, or if they are once again going for the "shock 'em all" type campaign to get as much notice for their product before the Advertising Standards Agency pulls the plug on them. This reissue campaign has brought back my all-time favourite billboard poster, and it makes me wonder most about what is permissible in today's society. Five years ago the phrase "bitches" was pretty much verboten here, but since then we've had a massive influx of "teen rap culture" - he I'm an educator at heart, and that's how we in the business refer to it - from the States and "bitches" has most definitely entered the social lexicon. On this basis, will my poster stay up? I hope so, because I love it, and I've genuinely missed it in its absence. My ex would confirm that recalling it has always made me chuckle, and her own favourite banned poster, deemed deeply offensive by a large number of vegetarians, provoked a similar laugh-out-loud response in her. Granted, she was mostly laughing at all her fellow vegetarians with no sense of humour, but she was like that, and she genuinely liked the poster.

As time goes on, that's the only thing I really miss about not being in a relationship, that lack of back and forth bantering that you get when two people are deeply intimate and comfortable in each other's company. I've been able to let go all the other relationship elements fairly easily: I don't miss physical intimacy, nor do I get upset when I see people being "coupley" with each other. A friend from home got engaged last week and I'm genuinely happy for them both, and I'm not jealous or even slightly bitter. I won't deny that when it finally sank in that we were finished I had no idea how I would manage, but like it or not, and I don't really, I'm one of Nature's survivors. I've had six people that were close to me die (1 childhood leukaemia victim, 2 car accidents and two murdered; 1 elderly Grandmother to thyroid cancer) over the years and I've coped with it all. It's true that I've not coped exceptionally well with things, but I'm still alive myself and I'm learning how to deal with my problems. I'm just very sorry that I did so much damage to people that loved me in the process of realising the extent of my problems. I wish I could turn the clock back, but I can't and I'm slowly coming to terms with that fact, and also that I'm not responsible for those deaths. Therapy has been wonderful for drumming it into my head that no one holds me responsible for any of that, and that punishing myself is perhaps not the best thing to be doing. Although I obviously knew this to be the case myself, it's disturbing just how much work a team of professionals have had to do with me to get me to believe it. I often see myself as a very frail person, but I suppose there must be a core of steel in here somewhere as I'm still a mostly fully functioning human being; I know I'll survive these current traumas, I just wish that I didn't have to. The road to reprogramming my brain with the correct code has helped me realise that the responsibility for the deaths in my past does not lie with me at all, and now that I've got that straight I know - although part of me always did - that there was no excuse for the way I behaved towards my fiancee and others. I may have been very ill at the time, but that is no excuse for what happened and I am truly sorry for my behaviour. I think the real reason that I'm okay with other people having relationships and me not is because I know that I have no right to a relationship, at least not with the person I was with, and although my behaviour was possibly even worse during the breaking up process and after, I've accepted that 100 percent now, and I feel strangely happy as a result.

That was interesting. I was talking about fizzy drink advertising and ended up giving you the condensed minutes of about six months worth of cognitive behavioural therapy sessions, but them's the breaks I suppose.

Goodnight.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Lest we forget 

Hey Folks,

Today marks the sixtieth anniversary of the climax of the final Battle for Monte Cassino. One of the bloodiest battles in the Western Theatre of the Second World War is largely forgotten, overshadowed as it is by its proximity to D-Day, and I find that terribly offensive on a personal and professional level. My paternal Grandfather fought alongside young Poles, Indians, Americans, New Zealanders and Frenchmen and I am ashamed that we forget so lightly the great sacrifices that thousands of young men, allied and enemy alike, made for their countries; not only that, but that the sacrifices of Mediteranean theatre are deemed less real, less important than the Normandy battles - the song,We're the D-Day Dodgers, sums up the bitterness and resentment felt by so many. It scares me most of all because I do not wish to see the current crop of young men and women who are presently watering the tree of freedom with their blood forgotten in such a way by the middle of this century. I do not agree with the current war in Iraq, but in no way do I want the sacrifice of Iraqi and coalition lives to be forgotten either - we have a great responsibility to remember them all. We must if we are to avoid the mistakes of the past, and I truly believe that we owe it to my Grandfather and the rest of his generation, and all other generations, that their sacrifices are remembered.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

"It's brain surgery: it's hardly rocket science!" 

Hey Folks,

I've been a tad busy these past few days hence the lack of updates after my crazed amount of blogging last week. I've been rather busy with work, attending therapy, scribing my friend's essays - 3 in the last 8 days - visiting my friend in hospital and I've also been home to see my family and celebrate my sister's 19th Birthday. And I'm absolutely knackered.

The best news to report is that my friend Robert had his surgery on Thursday afternoon and came through it with flying colours. Now some of you may well be squeamish, so you may wish to skip the rest of this paragraph, but the details of the operation are so damned interesting that I can't keep them from my more warped readership. After they knocked him out - always a good start when undertaking the opening of the skull, I find - the surgeon opened the back of Robert's head from the top of the skull down to the nape of his neck. Then they drained off the fluid and removed the section of his brain that was putting pressure on his neck and spine. So far, all standard stuff for neurosurgery, but this is where it gets all Tomorrow's World: to ensure that the watery growth couldn't return in the future, they inserted a Goretex patch between the brain and the sac, due to the waterproof nature of Goretex. My friend now has half an outdoor sports shop residing in his skull. When I went to the hospital on Saturday afternoon, I was expecting all sorts of tubes and ventilators, shaven skulls, mummy-like bandages and other surgically-associated unpleasantness. Instead, I found Robert sitting up and chatting away to another visitor and still relatively hirsute. He showed me the scar from the operation - hey it's what regular surgical inpatients do, okay? - and they've basically stapled the back of his neck shut again that will leave him with a very interesting scar - plus a rather humourous haircut as they'd shaved only the back of his head! We had a good laugh about it, which gave the situation a rather surreal edge as I had actually been working on what to say at his funeral; no one had expected him to be doing so well.

So he's fine, and the only foreseeable danger to him is an infection, which would be bad, but there is much to be thankful for - he still has his sight, can recognise everyone and his memory is unaffected.

I'm pleased.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

"I have a nasty cold. To make things worse, I have been smoking heavily. To make things worse still, I have been kidnapped by Maoist rebels."  

Hey Folks,

Having followed a link on Supermum's page, I came across The Man Who Fell Asleep. Going through his journal's archives, I came across this entry from May 27th 2003:

I spent the afternoon spaying dogs. It's not a pleasant job.

Actually, I lie. It's a job I enjoy immensely...in fact it's not really a job. I just do it for fun. So, if your dog disappears and the reappears without its bollocks, it was probably me. Sorry. He's happier now.


The quote in the subject line is also his...

I like him.

He also has a page devoted to gossip that he may or may not have heard on the London Underground


Central Perk 

Hey Folks,

Right, this is another rant on the Trade Justice Movement by way of mass media lifestyle campaigns. Recently the final episode of Friends played in the states and I've seen many, many articles linking the programme to the lifestyle trends of the 1990s. The rise of Coffee Shop Culture in particular was linked, in part at least, to the activities of the sextet of twentysomethings and there was much discussion on whether Friends was driving this trend or simply an accurate reflection of New York daily life. Now coffee farmers have always had a bum deal since the dawning of the multinational age, but the addition of multinational coffee chains has had a further severe impact on their ability to make any money whatsoever from the sweat and toil of their families.

On Thursday, the 13th of May 2004, the humans struck back against the Machines.

Oh, hang about, that was Terminator, my mistake. Sorry. Yes, Oxfam are launching a chain of coffee shops to compete with the likes of Starbucks and Costa Coffee. Now don't get me wrong, these two chains do offer the Fair Trade option, but it is not quite the same as you have to specifically ask for your beverage to be made with a fairly traded coffee; I like the idea of going to a cafe and knowing that my purchases will automatically be properly compensating someone for their work.

My ex was a coffee hater, and wished to destroy what she saw as the pernicious influence of Coffee Shop Culture - I was praying daily for a housing stock crash so that we could get a desirably affordable property when we graduated and she would pray with the same vigour for the emasculation of the coffee house industry. I always felt that there was a touch of self-loathing in her stance due to her a) not liking coffee and effectively limiting our socialising options and b) for being a big fan of Friends and therefore propagating the entire industry.

Life can be funny that way.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The American Dream 

Hey Folks,

Some of you may be familiar with Eddie Izzard - I was a latecomer to the Izzard phenomenon but I took to it with the traditional zeal of the convert. I find him amazingly funny and one of my favourite sketches is from his stand up show Dressed to Kill, filmed in gay San Francisco. It has many, many hilarious bladder-weakening moments, but arguably the funniest sketch - and the one that is always quoted on the way home from the pub is the sublime sketch on History. In this, Izzard expounds on his comical notions of history and the relationship between Old Europe and the New America, and about how we Europeans are to miserable, but the Americans have their Dreams. According to Eddie, the American dream, at least according to Crazy Eddie, is the dream of seeing babies on spikes.

Lynndie England's pregnant. I wonder what she's dreaming about...

One last thing before beddybyes 

Hey Folks,

In my last post but one, I asked if someone could translate the phrase "Alastair Campbell is a horse's arse" into 1984-style Doublespeak.

Balders's effort, I'm sure you shall agree is sublime:

Hmmm, how about "Alistair Campbell, doubleplusungood Equine Rectum, today doublethink stated, Media responsible for spin, NuLab MiniComm plusgood nospin. Media guilty thoughtcrime through ungood oldspeak"


He is, as they say, the man.

Wow... 

Hey Folks,

This boy can't sleep, and I've been surfing. As I alluded to in my Nosebleed of Death post from yesterday, I look at ships on the internet. I let you have your perversions, so just you allow me mine and we can still be friends - but I digress. One of the sites I visit has discussion boards attached, and by their nature they are virulently right wing. I've mentioned it previously in another post, discussing a fellow Christian who advocated cluster bombing Palestinians. Today, though, my faith in right wingers has been restored. Please, I'm not relapsing; bear with me. Lately a discussion on Rumsfeld's fate over the prisoner abuse allegations has been raging and I have seen the most succinct, accurate and above all honest post from a man who is incredibly sincere:
Gents,

Normally, I'm all for wholesale pre-emption. Generally if you don't hit the other guy BEFORE he starts to do something, bad things happen. That is why the Israelis struck the Libyan and Iraqi nuclear facilities--because there is little doubt that we would have been seeing bright flashes and mushroom clouds all around the land of "Zionist Imperialists".
However, there is one key difference between these actions and Operation Iraqi Freedom--the Israelis actually PLANNED and EXECUTED these operations properly. There were CLEARLY DEFINED GOALS and END STATES. Finally, there was ACCOUNTABILITY within the IDF.
It is the direct contrast with these ops which is the reason that Donald Rumsfeld should be either resigning or fired. Iraqi Freedom was planned in a vacuum--and few if any of the senior civilian leadership wanted to believe in a worst case scenario. (BTW, we haven't reached worst-case yet...but I'm not giving anyone any ideas.)
Those military leaders which voiced opposition either got quietly retired and/or publicly humiliated, most notably General Shinseki who was forced to retract his original estimate of 250,000 soldiers. There is a method to this madness--sometimes in order to enact change you must break paradigms. Wartime, however, is not the time to do this. By choosing not to allow the proper number of troops (i.e., enough to restore law and order in a country the size of California), Rumsfeld took a GAMBLE, not a RISK. The fact that Iraq is in a tailspin stems directly from this decision.
Who is responsible for this decision? Ultimately George W. Bush--but I give him a grudging pass because I believe a president is only as good as the advice given to him. Ultimately, all the input from those sources I've been able to read (to include Fox News) indicates that VP Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al overran the reservations of Colin Powell, Shinseki, and other members of the military. Notice General Franks is heading for retirement after 2 successful ops rather than taking CofS [Chief of Staff, emphasis mine] of the Army? Good men do not leave their posts when their country is in its fight of the current age unless there is a good reason--like having a dispute with a boss that does not listen. In effect, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz staked their reputation, the lives of soldiers, and their own jobs that their plan with Iraq would be successful--the house should be calling in that bet anytime now.
The current crisis is just the tip of the iceberg. The Bush Administration has directed that prisoners we take are to be held as "enemy combatants". This is in direct flouting of international law (yes, folks, even insurgents have some rights). We have derided or humiliated international agencies such as the U.N. as being "weak" or "non-effective". Finally, we have treated with open disdain requests from activist groups like the Red Cross or Amnesty International to be allowed into our prisons or detainee camps. Most of this has been done without the direct orders of the SecDef, but in most cases his implied acknowledgment that the "rules are different". Is it any wonder that soldiers in the field, with this example from the second-ranked civilian in the chain of command, have not started to act under these different rules with regards to prisoners?
Finally, in front of Congress Rumsfeld has stated that as SecDef he was unable to get a copy of these pictures much prior to them going to press. If this is true, the final reason that he should be fired is for gross incompetence. Rumsfeld's position is second only to the President--either he is lying, or he did not try very, very hard to become informed about what was occurring in the prisons under U.S. control. Do not believe this smoke screen about "undue command influence"--knowledge and pictures would not constitute UCI, especially since things will likely be handled two tiers below him at Corps Level. So if Rumsfeld cannot have pictures on his desk within 72 hours, then what is he doing at the Pentagon?
It's simple folks--we are AMERICANS. That little red, white, and blue flag our soldiers wear on their right shoulder is intended to recommend decency, humanity, and fair play. It's what we do--we're the baddest, hugest killing machine on the planet, but we don't fight dirty. That is why it's time for accountability, and time for Rumsfeld to go.

-Y-


I don't agree with all his points, but I don't grudge him his clearly reasoned and deeply personal opinion - and nor would he mine.

Goodnight.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

MiniTru 

Hey Folks,

Well, it appears that George Orwell's 1984 is now here. For weeks we've had Life Logging, ID cards, biometrics, all sorts of stuff and now we have Doublespeak and Doublethink.

Can anyone translate "Alastair Campbell is a horse's arse" into Doublespeak for me?

Ta.

Cinema Paradiso  

Hey Folks,

I went to see Kill Bill last night, and was amazed by Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning performance. You see, I went to see Kill Bill, but a SNAFU with the film being incorrectly loaded led me to getting a full refund and also seeing Monster for free. I'd set myself up for some kung fu violence and ended up getting World's-first-apprehended-female-serial-killer-violence instead, but all things considered it was a good night. I suspect that, as good as Kill Bill may or not be, that Monstor was operating on a level several removed from that of Tarantino's fourth film.

Theron thoroughly deserved her Oscar win as she was truly phenomenonal in her role as Aileen Wournos. I'm a big fan of Theron's breakthough film Devil's Advocate, in which she is one of the most beautiful women you'll ever see. In Monster she is the antithesis of this character and her character is so ugly that it literally was breathtaking to behold. Makeup and weight gain transformed her in much the same way that Daniel Day Lewis's extravagant clothes made him into Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. I've been interested in the Aileen Wournos saga for about a decade from the time when I read a huge interview with her and article on her crimes at the time of her first post-sentencing appeal. The harrowing nature of her story is well played out in Patty Jenkins's film. Above all, Monster is Wournos's story because the case is so obscure and twisted up that the only person who really knew the truth is now dead, courtesy, at long last, of the State of Florida. Wournos lied and embellished so much, for so many different reasons, that the truth of this case really is a matter of perception. The reason that the film was so successful, in my opinion, was because of its very ambiguity: it was perfectly possible to interpret Wournos's actions as understandable as we see her tortured by past demons, present sufferings and committing cold-blooded rage-drive-killings. Theron portrayed a character that I felt equal measures of pity and absolute loathing for at the same time.

It was also a love story, which showed how wonderful love is, but how terrible and awful that it can be. There were sections of the film that I could relate to from my own recent experience: an argument between Theron and her girlfriend - played with usual flair and skill by Christina Ricci - was reminiscient of one between my ex and myself, right down to the body language. There were a couple of sex scenes, one in particular which was quite intense, and made me recall the scene in Don't Look Now between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. You know the one: the one where they were rumoured to actually have got it on with each other for the cameras - but real sex is like that and on the whole, this and several other "real" scenes made the movie very believable.

Bruce Dern's character Tom deserves mention - and to me it was a performance worthy of Oscar glory too - for his was one of only two male character in the film that did not try to take advantage of Wournos; at one point she describes him as her only friend in the world and we do not doubt this. Although only in a few scenes, he played a pivotal role in the development of both story and character. Tom is also the only character that understands the life that Wournos has had, and what it's taken for her to survive.

See this film. You might not enjoy it - in fact I seriously doubt that you will - but see it anyway, and like me you'll never quite be able to look at Charlize Theron in the same way again.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Left Nostril of Death 

Hey Folks,

There I am sitting at my PC, looking at ships on the internet, when all of a sudden, I feel something cold, yet strangely gelatinous oozing down my face:

*SPLASH*

I look down at my forearm and see a big red splodge just above my watch. Yes, people, the Nosebleed of Doom had arrived and sweet God was it a corker. When I first started on my anti-depressants, I went through a few physiological changes: my fingers became hypersensitive to heat and I started to get nosebleeds which I never ever had before. Seriously, there are some people that I've met, that if you even look at their noses funny then they go off like a squished tomato. My nose has always been dry and was until the age of 22. Obviously spontaneous nosebleeds are a bit of a worry, being as they are a possible sign of brain tumours and other lovely stuff, so I asked the GP about it. She told me not to worry that it was a comparatively mild side effect out of the possible ones from my medication. I tend to agree: apart from the two already listed, the only other problem I had was that I was always parched and needed to keep some form of liquid on hand to deal with it. In the scheme of things, not a big deal.

Back to the present day,and the Nosebleed of Doom: I bled. Profusely. But only from the left nostril. I ran to the bathroom with my hand cupping my nose and mouth. It's still pouring away. "Come on platelets, kick in damn you - clot you bastards," I mumbled through a throat and mouth rapidly filling with blood. No dice, still gushing away. Strangely, all I could think about was my first student flat and a day when it rained so much that the River Forth threatened to burst its banks and we were worried about our flat flooding.

Oh yeah, and we lived one floor up, and a good 60 feet above the riverbank to boot.

Simultaneously, I grabbed some loo roll and crouched over the toilet.

"HHGHAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRK!"

I ejected a mouthful of blood - or was it saliva tinged with my late-morning Mars Bar? It tasted like blood, let me tell you - into the toilet bowl, jamming the toilet roll up against my left nostril. All through this, my right nostril was performing as the good Lord intended, and was probably wondering what all the fuss was about. By this time, I was entertaining grim thoughts about living my life looking like Daniella Westbrook and that gave the event a further grim surrealism: "God, I swear that if you save my nose so that I don't end up looking like the original and worst Sam Butcher, I'll emigrate to India and work with leprosy missions to save the noses - and other appendages - of others."

After a few minutes of this spit-clamp-pray routine, I felt that sufficient progress had been made so I staggered over to the wash hand basin and the mirror to survey my face. I'm not the best looking of guys, but let me tell you it was far from pretty. Blood, sweat and tears had mingled across my face making me look like the chappie in Munch's Scream painting. Either that, or I would have made a suitable template for Poe's the Masque of Red Death. So there I am, leaning over the sink and I decide, in my infinitely poor wisdom, to make sure that the LNoD is fully expectorated and blow firmly through it. The nice bone white Shanks sink now looks like that billboard advert for Resident Evil - you know the one: white tiles, white bath brimming with blood - and now I'm thinking what Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen would have to say about matters, never mind the deliciously lightly-oiled Sarah Beeny - cause face it, when those interior decorator - excuse me interior designer - types advocate chucking colours about the place, I don't quite think that's what they had in mind. Oh well.

So I wash my face, my arm, under my watch strap, the sink and even, God as my witness, the bathroom door which bore my bloody handprint, and then I come back and tell you people all about it.

Hope your Monday's as good as mine. It's been bloody good so far.

I'll get me coat.

Introducing Supermum 

Hey Folks,

I've added yet another fellow blogger to the list of blogs in the sidebar:

Supermum, civil servant, widowed mother of teenagers, prolific Outpatient commenter and fan of Spectator extraordinare Boris Johnson.

Go read her blog, you'll like her. I do, but that might only be because she says nice things about me...

"Ch-ch-Changes" 

Hey Folks,

Having been to work and been for my morning run, I decided to do my tour of the blogosphere - see how I made that look as if it was a voluntary decision and not a compulsion? - and got caught up with the lives of my fellow bloggers. Several patterns began to form almost right away: Mary Magdalicious's kids are once again violently ill and both her good self and Supermum were alluding to big changes over at chez Blogger.

Having suitably armed myself will bell, book, candle, and small portable flamethrower, I decided to investigate. So far, although it's undeniably different, I like what I see. It feels a little like Macintosh's OS-X ( I thank you kindly for refraining from mentioning Windows XP at this juncture) and is currently safe from a) exorcism and b) incineration which, as any self-respecting insomniac computer addict knows, are the only suitable ways of dealing with rogue web-based programs. This may be a temporary state of affairs, however, as these things can turn on you in a heartbeat.

If Blogger comes for me in the night, fangs bared and sweat streaming from its flanks, I'll be ready...

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Buttons, we got buttons! 

Hey Folks,

Not content with simply having my Campaigns section all spiffy and graphicy, I decided to give Sites of Note the same Treatment. As you can see it is all, well, nice and, er, graphics-laden. The Lord may have rested, but on the seventh day, the Outpatient creates!

Whilst assembling the required graphics, I discovered that Septworld is no longer active, which is a pity as it was a good site with many thoughtful and well-written pieces. Hopefully it's just a glitch and the administrator will fix it soon* as it's well worth your time - and it had a really nice banner that I was looking forward to using! Chaos in Motion is also well worth a look, but has no suitable graphics for use in my sidebar. This should not detter the more image-reactive of you from going there and having a bloody good read. The fact that these sites do not have graphical buttons in no way makes them inferior to the others on the list. It just makes them...different.

*Emphasis for benefit of Septworld's administrator if she happens to wander past this way.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

"If I die in the combat zone, box me up and ship me home" 

Hey Folks,

I forgot to mention before that I've posted a link to Globalsecurity.org's coverage of US military casualties in Iraq - just look in the Sites of Note section. many other sites have coverage of the scale of Iraqi civilian and military casualties, so I hope that you'll forgive me for not adding them right now although I may at a later point in time. I'm not surprised at the lengths that the Bush administration has gone to prevent information relating to US casualties leaking out as it makes for disturbing reading - when we hear reports of personnel killed and wounded, if the wounded expire then they do not make it onto that day's combat fatalities list. Instead they're listed in such a manner as make their number appear less than it is; 120 US troops were killed in April according to the figures, but another 30 most likely died from their wounds later on. I find it appalling that their sacrifice is covered up in such a manner.

I believe that only when the true scale of the USA's casualties comes to light that the populace will begin to act to change policy; it's clear that so far the vast numbers of Iraqi casualties has little or no effect on a significant number of US citizens, but perhaps they care more for their own countrymen than Iraqis as their fellow human beings. It is also a great disservice to the courage and professionalism of US forces that their sacrifices are not noted by the government that sent them to die in foreign fields. I was against this war from long before it began, but now we must stay and make Iraq a truly free and democratic nation that respects the rights of its citizenry. Those that fall in the line of duty deserve recognition and the US government denies them this as it attempts to cover up and minimise its policy failures. George Bush has not been present at a single funeral at Arlington and I find this to be so incredibly callous to the families and comrades of the fallen that words fail to describe the shame that I feel for him. What scares me the most is that if we do not remember them now, then what of the future? Are the US dead of Iraq going to be honoured on Veteran's Day, and what of a memorial to them? If we forget them, then will the future see us commit this same mistake from an unlearned from past?

I truly hope not.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Ooh, nasty - and me like! 

Hey Folks,

Using yet more of Tim Ireland's code, we can all have a go at the powers that be over the conduct of soldiers towards POWs in their care:

Sack Bush - The Bagged Statue Experiment

I'm ashamed, but hardly surprised, that our country could be involved - even at one remove, if the Mirror's claims are proved false - in actions as heinous as this and so contrary to the human rights and talk of dignity expoused by our leaders.

The link to the code can be found here and I've also added the Bloggerheads page to the list in the sidebar.

"Even my friends say to me sometimes/And make out like I don’t understand them...They say, "daddy you’re a fool to cry" 

Hey Folks,

I'm a big fan of the Scots writer Ian Rankin. I know that police proceedurals featuring washed up and embittered alcoholic detectives have been done to death over the years, but Rebus, along with Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, is at the height of the genre. It's the fact that the novels are so realistic that appeals; last weekend, while visiting friends in Edinburgh, I happened to wander past a cafe where Rebus's colleagues go for their lunch - simply put, I can relate to the locales and characters of Rankin's books because I know them. One of Rankin's best novels is 1997's Black and Blue which offers an interesting take on the Barrowland Ballroom murders and the Bible John legend. The novel taps right into the nation's subconscious fears about serial killers and ghosts from the past, and has potent symbolism for all regardless of the generation gap.

From the late 1980s to the middle of the last decade, several prostitutes were murdered in Glasgow in strikingly similar fashion. The police claimed that there were only tangential links at best between the cases and disputed the assertion that there was a "Glasgow Ripper" on the loose. Eventually, the Husband and brother in law of one of the victims were arrested and charged with that specific killing, and the police felt sure that they would finally be able to lay the notion of a serial killer to rest. Except for one thing: both suspects were acquitted and the police were heavily criticised for being too keen to find evidence against them. Almost a decade later, police across the country are investigating seven unsolved murders committed during the period of 1977-1980, including the notorious World's End killings of October 1977. The victims attributed to Bible John were slain in the period 1966-68 and it is conceivable - in a similar manner as Rankin's novel - that the same man could be responsible for some or even all of the unsolved killings. It is not without the bounds of probability for this to be the case: convicted paedophile and child-killer Robert Black was linked to several long-unsolved murders after his trial and conviction, and a gap of ten years between the Bible John series and the latter killings is easily explainable by the theory that the killer left the country or was incarcerated for a different offence. Then we have the killings of the Glasgow prostitutes; will their murders be reinvestigated too, or will their families need to wait a quarter of a century - or even more - to have any hope of finding out the truth about their loved ones?

Obviously there could be no links whatsoever, either between any of the cases to be reinvestigated or them and Bible John, but it is a possibility that needs to be investigated for the sake of surviving family if no one else. That such killings could go unpunished for so long is a stain on our nation's history and an indictment of the lack of openness and honesty in our criminal justice system. It is long overdue that this entire matter is addressed.

Hot off the press 

Hey Folks,

Ivan Noble's posted again on his Tumour Diary, and I've fixed the sidebar link so that it leads to the index page again. I'll keep a close eye on it to make sure that the link stays live.

Carry on.

"Oh, they have the internet on computers these days" 

Hey Folks,

Inspired by my success with the Christian Aid button yesterday, I spent half the night giving the rest of the Campaigns section the same treatment. I had a few issues with scaling, but in dealing with this I became a better image editor. Now that all the campaigns have got nice big buttons, I don't want to hear "Outpatient, we just didn't notice the links sitting there all dull in the sidebar because they're just words and we can't be bothered reading them."

Understand?

I actually enjoyed the experience of footering about with graphics from websites and I'm pleased that I learned something new pretty much all by myself. To my eternal shame, though, I have got all narcissistic about the blog - I've loaded it several times just to look at the shiny new buttons.

I may be off the drugs, but I still don't have a life...

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Clarification 

Hey Folks,

In my previous post I was discussing the hot button - I pray that that's the correct term, if not I have no idea what I could be describing - that I had created to link this page to Christian Aid's homepage. When I said that I had used Tim Ireland's code, I meant simply that I had looked at the format of his code for the "I believe in the BBC" gif so that I could understand how to turn an image into a link. Regular readers will know that I'm somewhat...remedial when it comes to webpage design and I often follow the examples set by others. There was no malice in my actions, quite the opposite in fact, and it was certainly not my intent to plagiarise any of Tim's code.

I'm pleased that this (non)issue has generated so many hits on my blog, and I ask all of you to actually - but especially UK-based readers - follow the link to the CA website and see what you can do for the coming fundraising events. Christian Aid work with anyone - and will certainly take cash and signed blank cheques from - religious or not, and I hope that when the Christian Aid envelope drops through your door that those of you who can will contribute however much you can afford. It's also important that we give our time to the causes that Christian Aid supports, and in my experience the time we give is often more important than any monetary donation. If you feel uncomfortable in campaigning on such issues while being involved with a religiously motivated organisation, then there are many, many secular organisations that work in the same sphere that also need your support.

I came across a wonderful site today, set up by Christian Aid. Lifeswitch.org will change your life - literally - so click away, it's quite something.

That is all.

Hot diggety damn! 

Hey Folks,

In the sidebar can now be seen my very own homemade Christian Aid link button, created in honour of the coming Christian Aid Week. Although I did it all by my ownsome, a big shout out must be sent in the direction of Tim Ireland over at Bloggerheads as I - and I'm letting y'all into a big secret here - used his code for the BBC gif in the sidebar as a template. I'm still pretty chuffed that it worked though - from idea to execution in ten adrenaline-filled minutes.

I feel all warm inside.

"Take me down to Paradise City where the grass is green and the girls are pretty" 

Hey Folks,

The thing I love most about the internet is the fact that you're never more than a couple of mouse clicks away from some new information that you never knew before you logged on. In my experience, you're also never far away from some NAKED TEEN HOTTIEZ! action either. What I did not expect when I turned on the PC this morning was to have this new information and NAKED TEEN HOTTIEZ combined. Even more perplexing, however, was the fact this new info and NAKED TEEN HOTTIEZ were combined in one article...on the BBC News website...

Indeedy. Never have I seen such a sex-fueled piece of journalism since I stopped delivering tabloid newspapers. The NAKED TEEN HOTTIEZ* will be readily apparent to you, but you're probably wondering what the new information I garnered from this article was. Was it, perhaps, the fact that most Italian programmes, regardless of content, have a song and dance routine in the prologue? Or perhaps it was that I was able to discover the address of the current Miss Italy using cunning detective work and my mad imagery analysis skillz?

No, it was neither of these - although I am working on the location of both Francesca Chillemi and Eleonora Pedron. What I learned was that:

Italians have traditionally got their forecasts from military meteorologists

Who ever knew, eh?

*I promise to never again use the phrase NAKED TEEN HOTTIEZ in any future postings.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Robert 

Hey Folks,

New and committed readers alike should, if the have any intelligence whatsoever, notice a pattern forming over the past few posts. If you've failed to take note of the narrative structure, then I politely ask you to leave my blog and never come back. Right, now that I've acknowledged my new post titling style, let me move on to the subject matter at hand: My friend Robert is still in hospital, meaning that he has been confined to bed for almost two full months now. Progress, however, has been made and he has been transferred to a hospital in Glasgow and will undergo intercranial - a frightening word, but an excellent one all the same - surgery this coming Monday. When he was younger, such surgery was a matter of routine, but the passage of years has made us forget how we coped in the past and it all seems so new and slightly terrifying. I myself am no stranger to hospitals, having had five operations as a child and young adult, I still found my most recent round of hospital stays somewhat disturbing even though the only real difference was the small matter of some hallucinations and locked doors deeper in the ward; I got to stay on the "good" side of the locked doors, so realistically, it was still just another hospital.

What made it different from all those other times, and I know that Robert finds this too, is that we had to make the decision to receive treatment. When we were younger, consultants discussed matters with our parents and hardly acknowledged us as people; now, as sovereign adults, we must take full responsibility for our treatment. The fact that they are no longer making the decisions is, I believe, what frightens Robert's parents more than anything because ultimately it means that he could refuse treatment down the line that may be necessary for his survival, and opt to take his chances without surgery. Such decisions are hard to take, but I think that they are harder to understand for family and friends as we cannot convey precisely how and why we feel to another person, even a close relative. Although this surgery is relatively common and safe, we must remember that my friend will soon have surgeons poking around inside his skull, and that accidents can happen. Although I'm sure he'll be fine, deep down I know exactly why I'm going to see him this weekend, and I feel bad for embracing the possible negative outcomes in such a manner. It is, I suppose, a natural human reaction and I won't ignore its presence, but I'll try not to let it dominate my thoughts. I sometimes feel that the saga is some type of Test as I took my last tablet on Friday and now I must cope with whatever life throws at me without the helpful insulation that my medication provided.

It's going to be interesting to find out how the rest of you live.

David 

Hey Folks,

I got a phone call from my Mum earlier and discovered that my nineteen year old demi-cousin - he's my Godparents' son - is going to become a Dad in September. Although he's grown up a lot lately, the general consensus is that he is somewhat...unsuited for such responsibility, but I hope that he'll do the decent thing and act responsibly. The good news is that they have been together for two years and that his girlfriend wishes to go on to university after she finishes her exams and I hope that she doesn't lose that ambition over the coming months. David has also had to cope with learning difficulties and a couple of other interesting syndromes over the course of his life and has sorted himself out a great deal lately, from being a complete idiot a couple of years ago; perhaps he has matured due to the influence of his girlfriend, and that also bodes well for the future.

Anyway, as long as they call the baby a sensible name, I'm happy for them.


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Sam 

Hey Folks,

For a good while, I used to hang out in the Religion:1 Chat room on Yahoo, and met many, many people. I stopped going there - although it wasn't really a conscious decision - to give myself and my ex some space as the chatrooms were her domain. I miss talking to all those people, but I keep up with their blogs - those that don't have blogs seem to get talked about all the same, so I still interact with the community albeit at one remove. One of the most knowledgeable and always interesting chatters is a college lecturer from San Francisco and he has a comprehensive blog that can be found here, and will receive a long-overdue link over in the sidebar. Aside from a constant battle against classwide cheating, Sam takes the most amazing pictures of California and latterly, some ugly cycling injuries.

Enjoy

"Just give us the fucking money" 

Hey Folks,

I know that I blog a lot about the past and my earliest memories, but I like to think that I only do this when it is especially relevant. Currently my present is alternatively dull and deathly boring or terribly harrowing, so I'd wager that you lot would prefer me to dwell on past memories.

But I digress. My sister was born this month in 1985. One month later, on a sunny summer day - how idyllic can this get, I hear you ask - my four year old self, parents and attached family friends sat down, ignored the newborn baby and watched Status Quo kick off Live Aid. Now the Quo are uniformly shite, and the Style Council following them weren't much better, but somehow, as history shows, the thing just worked. It was truly amazing, and made a huge impression on me then and still does today. Of course, what I remember the most is Bob Geldof swearing on national TV.

When I lead sessions on Trade Justice with my youth group, I often try and convey the power that the Live Aid concept possessed, its reaction against the ethos of "do over your neighbour lest he do likewise unto you" so prevalent at the time, and each time I fail. My kids are simply too young to understand it - they understand the effects, but they will never be able to feel it in the way that all of us who do remember it feel it. I don't suppose that's a fault on their part, just the way life is, but I can't help but think that they're missing out somehow. Basically, longhaired men who say "fuck" on telly has lost its effect, such is the pernicious effect of quality HBO programming on the youth of today. I digress further, and shall move on to the point of it all: Geldof at No 10 for Africa talks. Hopefully good will soon come of this, but he'll need to go in at the back of the queue of people currently politely asking Gordon Brown to "give us the fucking money."

I'm so funny, I should come with a health warning...