Archive for the ‘news’ Category


Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

From almost exactly a year ago: a post on Andrew Sullivan’s blog about Obama. Sullivan is a conservative, but even in the early days of the Obama campaign he was seeing that something fresh and needed was coming.

And today, it’s looking like Obama will be able to claim the majority of delegates in the Democratic primary and the word is that Clinton will wind down her campaign and acknowledge him as the presumptive nominee. Either of these candidates would have been history-making as a Presidential candidate for who they are, a woman and an African-American, and they are both super-human in what they have gone through and survived over the past months. I have no idea how they have done it, or how exhausted they must be.

Tonight Obama is appearing in the Twin Cities – specifically in the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, where the Republican party will have their convention in a couple of months – an act of considerable chutzpa seeing as when the schedule was announced late last week the final pieces of the campaign (decisions on the Florida and Michigan pseudo-primaries; the final primaries today in South Dakota and Montana; and today’s flood of super-delegates) hadn’t fallen into place. Unfortunately I’m not able to go, but I would hope that there will be other rallies here. My feeling is that even if you’re not for him, this is quite a moment in history.

what are they thinking?

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

The new mayor of London implemented a decree that drinking alcohol should no longer be allowed on public transportation in the city – buses, trains and the underground. So a bunch of people arranged for a big party for the last night when drinking was legal, with predictable consequences – read about it here.

Most annoying and immature quotes:

Peter Moore, 35, a sailor from Brighton, said he had downed a can of beer in 10 seconds. “It’s sweaty on there, but I’m going round and round until I vomit,” he said.

and, more annoying because it’s from someone in a position of leadership:

Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) general secretary Bob Crow said: “Boris Johnson should apologise personally to all those who were assaulted and abused last night…”

Um, because a bunch of hooligans assaulted police officers, drivers and other transportation workers? That’s the Mayor’s fault how?

population growth

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Just read an article on the BBC about how the Jewish population in the UK is rising rapidly. No comment from me on the point of the article, but some of the way it was written made me want to be picky and pedantic, and seeing as this is my website I think I have the right.

Orthodox Jews in London First thing I noticed was the picture – it seemed to me that it was quite a cliched-looking group. However the article goes on to talk about how the Orthodox population and tradition is a large part of the reason for Jewish population growth, so kind of fair enough. Could have maybe found a happier looking bunch though!

Secondly the following couple of paragraphs:

The population fell to a historic low of 275,000 in 2005, but that figure has since increased to 280,000 in 2008.

The figures were based on UK census data and the monitoring of Jewish births by academics.

Do they mean “The monitoring by academics of Jewish births”? It’s quite a different meaning!

Next pedantic point:

Dr Yaakov Wise, of Manchester University’s Centre for Jewish Studies, says the population has now risen, to about 280,000, and attributes the growth to the extraordinary fertility of strictly orthodox families.

Surely they mean that although the strictly orthodox families are large due to, ahem, cultural practices, they’re not necessarily more fertile than non-orthodox Jews, or anyone else. Surely it’s more to do with being less likely to use birth control?

Also one of the quotes which came out of this from Dr. Wise: “Approximately half of all the Jewish under-fives in Greater Manchester are ultra-orthodox.” I would think he means that they are from ultra-orthodox families. Can a three-year-old truly have ultra-orthodox beliefs?

In fact now I think about it the whole article is kind of grating to me. It seems that this research came from someone who defines Jewishness as subscribing to the Jewish faith, not so much Jewish heritage, based on this quote “Dr Wise – who says his research is based on regular monitoring of Jewish births – attributes the decline in the Jewish population to the fact that about half of more secular Jews marry outside the community, and many of them do not bring their children up as Jewish.” I was under the impression that being Jewish can be as much ancestral (many people describe themselves as being secular Jews) as religious.

storm and calm

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

It was a beautiful early summer day today – quite humid and warm. In a few months we’ll probably be sick of that kind of thing, but today it was just great – lots of greenery, and the humidity in the air really carried the aroma of tree and lilac blossom.

Around 5pm we were just getting ready to go over to our neighbors’ place for dinner, when I looked out of the window and noticed how dark it was getting. And windy too. In fact after a moment I saw that the rapidly gathering clouds were moving in a strange way, with tiers of the clouds moving in opposite directions.

This is not generally a good sign, as it means that the wind is unstable and can even indicate spinning air – tornadoes.

Fortunately we only had a few spots of rain and distant rumbles of thunder, but some really strong gusts of wind. When I stopped looking at the sky I noticed a huge tent-like structure had blown out of the backyard of the house across from us, and onto the road, blocking cars. The owners of that house have this tent in their yard to protect some equipment they have stored there, and even though it seemed to be moored in place, clearly the gust was too strong for it to hold.

I zoomed out to let the owners know what had happened, when I saw a guy wrestling with the thing, and thought I should probably help – it’s about the size of a two car garage and made of metal poles with big sheets of tarpaulin. We managed to get it out of the road and into the alleyway, when one of the guys in the house ran out clearly agitated at what had happened. We dismantled the thing and thought that was it. Emma, Toby, Dara and I went to our other neighbors as planned, and had a great evening with good food, drink and friendship. We did notice that the temperature dropped about 20 degrees in half an hour or so, but the weather stayed really calm.

Looking at the news this evening it seems that we actually got off lucky – just north of the Twin Cities in the town of Hugo there was a big tornado which killed one person, seriously hurt eight others and damaged more than one hundred homes. Here’s a photo gallery – crazy stuff.


Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

For a long time Emma has said that if we had a big back yard she would much rather get a couple of pygmy goats than have a dog – for some reason she just really likes little goats. When we go to the zoo she always wants to go to the farm section to see the little goats. However here’s something she might be more interested in: miniature pigs. Apparently pigs are at least as smart as some breeds of dog, and these particular ones are always sold in pairs so that they won’t get lonely. I think it would freak out our cats though, and I’m not sure if they can be house trained…

jeff healey

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Sad news today – guitarist Jeff Healey died at age 41. He was an impressive songwriter and musician, more impressive due to the fact that he was blind, and played his guitar across his lap. I saw a show of his in Glasgow probably over 10 years ago – it was a lot of fun. I remember at one point he got carried away in a blues jam, he jumped up and started bopping around on the stage while playing his guitar. You got the feeling that this was something he regularly did, but even so his band seemed to be keeping close watch that he wouldn’t hurtle off the front of the stage.

something to look forward to

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Fantastic news: depression is most likely in your 40s. I can’t wait. My take on why this would be so: when I was a teenager I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted with apparently no consequences. Now I need to be careful about everything I eat if I don’t want to balloon (yes I know, everyone should have such problems). I guess it’s time to book time with a psychiatrist and a personal trainer.


Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

There are a lot of failures this morning – it’s -15F outside now that the sun has come up – that’s -22C.

Rudy Giuliani failed badly in Florida, and it sounds like John Edwards has also quit the presidential primaries.

To sum it all up, take a look at failblog - some great pictures of failures.

scotland is…

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Bit of a furore over a leaked email from an aide to the Scottish Secretary, where that country is described as being “narrow, Presbyterian, racist, etc, etc”

Obviously I moved from Scotland some time ago, and while America is by no means perfect I’m very happy living here. I’d like to address the points from the email one by one:

Narrow: Yes, guilty as charged. Scotland is not a wide country, but in fact living in the central belt I personally found it very convenient to be able to get from Edinburgh to Glasgow in under an hour on the train (and a relief to get out of Glasgow and back to Edinburgh again). Or could this guy be meaning narrow-minded?

Presbyterian: Well my mother is one of these, and I’ve generally found her to be a very nice person indeed. I know that the Scottish Presby church is often seen as being somewhat dour, but often it’s with a wry sense of humor which is more than can be said for the freaky right-wing nonsense you get in the US. I’d take low-insanity dourness any time.

Racist: well this is more difficult. Like most places in Britain Scotland has been kind of welcoming to outsiders and kind of not. There are a lot of Asians in Glasgow, some more integrated and welcomed than others. I think that the email author’s comment may have been directed against the Scottish reaction to England – there is considerable racism against England (sometimes commented upon in this blog) which goes hand in hand with the Scottish inferiority complex. Not pretty at all.

Etc: The Scottish Parliament doesn’t do itself any favors – from here it looks like a lot of bickering and reinforcing the inferiority, persecution complex. But I could be wrong. Maybe it’s the smell of pee on main streets after a Saturday night which makes things seem somewhat depressing?

depressed, or british, or fact-checked?

Monday, January 21st, 2008

I subscribe to a couple of podcasts from the BBC, including one for the comedy show The News Quiz, where panelists are asked to answer questions on the week’s news in an amusing and satirical manner. It’s great stuff and usually very witty.

The panelists also read amusing press cuttings which often are sent in by listeners. There was one this week from the alternative magazine the Utne Reader, about a man being treated for depression in the US, but it turned out that all that was wrong was he was British. All very amusing, but if you follow the link to the article you’ll see that at the bottom of the page it’s clearly marked as being a satirical piece (reprinted from a British publication) and very tongue in cheek. Could it be that the American sense of humor is too subtle for Brits?