Archive for July, 2005

just had a celebratory drink

Friday, July 29th, 2005

I don’t drink much, but I broke out the last of the Gentleman Jack bourbon and had a bourbon and Diet Coke to celebrate the relief I feel that the four failed bombers from last week have all been arrested. One got as far as Rome; the other two were caught in West London: one in Notting Hill just yards from Portobello Market and the other in North Kensington.

This is of course not the end; it’s only the beginning of the end, or even the end of the beginning. However, I hope that these people are treated fairly, tried, and if convicted, sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. I hope that information gathered from them will lead to those who masterminded the bombings and to other like-minded young men who can then be prevented from further terrorist activity.

The entire affair is desperately sad. But I’m happy tonight.

In other news: HWMBO has finished his SAS course today and came home with, would youi believe it, an MP3 player branded “SAS”. He’s given it to me and I’m going to be loaded stuff on it for the parish seaside trip tomorrow. Will be bringing a book and the newspaper, and will just chill. May bring the camera too, but if we go to Hastings, there’s not much to see.

Today’s Marblehead Police Log

Friday, July 29th, 2005

The Marblehead Reporter prints the police log for Marblehead Massachusetts each week. This week there were two entries on the last page worth transcribing.

Hamster caught on Walnut Street at 12:41 p.m.
What was reported as a dead skunk was actually alive on Ticehurst Lane at 12:49 p.m.

I can see Dr. Frankenstein lowering his table from the lightning bolts and seeing a skunk on it, and yelling “It’s ALIVE!!!”

I hope the person who investigated the skunk didn’t find out that it was still in the land of the living through a spray.

Interview with Iranian gay activists

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

There is an interview with Iranian gay activists behind this link. It’s an interesting look at the situation over there, in particular the recent hanging of two gay Iranian teenagers.

No-Hassle Day Planner for the Clinically Insane

Monday, July 25th, 2005
The No-Hassle Day Planner for the Clinically Insane by MilesToGo13
This morning, you should… climb onto your roof and practice your naked yodeling to passing 747s.
Then, after lunch… leap on random pedestrians and demand that your need for piggy back rides be sated, lest you kill again.
Dinner will consist of… a very nice pair of shoes with lots of good leather left on them that someone was just going to throw away.
Afterwards, you set off into the evening to… pass out the pamphlets you had made up preaching the divine word of Squiknor, lord of the lemmings, who shall inherit the earth when all the non-believers are gone.
At the height of your madness, you will call roosterbear
And the two of you will proceed to… do dozens of shots of that thick blue liquid usually used to clean combs, then spend the rest of the night alternating between vomiting and talking about how much you love each other.
Quiz created with MemeGen!

Shooting of an innocent Brazilian man in London

Monday, July 25th, 2005

This news has been all over, so I won’t bother with a link. However, I do want to post my thoughts on the incident.

Armed police used to be the exception here. The common-garden miscreant and the bobby on the beat had an unspoken agreement: I’ll come quietly if you find me, says the burglar; I won’t brutalise or shoot you if you come quietly, says the cop. Truncheons were used only in crowd control or subduing violent drunks.

We will never know why that Brazilian man ran from the police. He was a legal resident here, able to work, and unknown to them previously. He had a heavy coat on in the summertime. However, a lot of the streetpeople I see have all their possessions, including their winter coats, on them all year round. They don’t get shot by the police.

I’ll bet that he didn’t know they were police (they were in plainclothes) and only saw that they were chasing him. Perhaps he thought he was going to be mugged, and tried to escape in the Tube station. In any case, he’s now dead andthere are two enquiries starting here into the circumstances. His relatives in Brazil are likely to sue the Metropolitan Police.

While it’s a difficult question, I think that this incident should make the cops pause when chasing a suspect using deadly force. They should also make an ex gratia payment of a substantial amount to the Brazilian man’s relatives, establishing a precedent of sorts.

The rest of us need to be cautious. Not only do we need to look out for unattended bags, we need to look out for groups of armed plainclothes cops chasing us and ordering us to stop.

12-year-old boy is attracted to his 16-y-o babysitter. What to do?

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

The advice columnist for the Boston Globe has some wise words for this young man. I wish that someone that wise had said something to me when I was 12.

There’s at it again

Thursday, July 21st, 2005

Well, we seem to be under siege again. The BBC has been on since 1:30 here with speculation, rather than a lot of fact. I think that the four “explosions” were probably meant to kill, but were set up by someone who is not terribly skilled at this. Thus, the detonators went off but the bombs did not. This is quite remarkable considering that the explosive reported used in the 7/7 attacks is quite volatile and fairly sensitive to heat, electricity, or jostling. I think that at least one of these guys has been arrested as he was injured in the explosion. One of them happened at the Oval, two stations south of the Elephant and Castle on the Northern Line. I myself went to Brick Lane, quite near today’s bus incident, to buy black bread and a lunch bagel around 12:45 pm. In the midst of life…

Thank God there were no fatalities. Thank God they may have caught at least one of them.

A defense security analyst on BBC News 24 just now has said that the public has to be super-vigilant, and pay special attention to Asian-looking people. I think that it’s going to be very difficult to be Muslim and young and male in the United Kingdom in the next few days, weeks, and months.

HWMBO and I are OK.

RIP Sam Badham

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

I knew it was only a matter of time before I recognised one of the victims of the 7/7 bombing. This was Sam Badham, who was PA to the Chairman of Quantime, my first employer in the UK. She was killed instantly in the Russell Square Tube bomb, and her boyfriend, who was with her, died yesterday without regaining consciousness. Sam was a real live wire, or a “hot ticket”, as my sainted mother used to say. She was a ray of sunshine in a somewhat grim job. After Quantime was sold to SPSS, she remained as PA to the head of the Market Research division, and was on her way to work when she was killed.

Update on, well, everything

Friday, July 8th, 2005

I am, slowly, recovering, I think, from the traveller’s diarrhea I suffered a week ago. Wednesday was the worst day, and I haven’t slept in the bed since Saturday morning. I’ve been sleeping on an exercise mat in the front room, padded with towels. It’s closer to the downstairs loo, and it wouldn’t disturb HWMBO, who has been a real brick through all this.

Anyway, while I did get up a few times last night (perhaps TMI, I suppose), I have been relatively stable today. This is all no thanks to the quack. I went last Monday, she diagnosed giardia as most likely, gave me a prescription for the medicine for that, and said to call her if it didn’t work. Well, it didn’t. So I called her. Twice. Left messages, She didn’t call me back. I left a stool sample for analysis, and that hasn’t returned. I’ve been dehydrated, uninterested in food until today, and close to despair several times. I wept Wednesday night for an hour.

So now, what to do? I feel that the office staff at the GP’s surgery is probably not very efficient, and I expect that she never got the messages. However, HWMBO has also gotten the runaround from the staff there, and I’m starting to think it’s time for a change. There is another surgery up the road that a lot of St. Matthew’s people use; I’ll canvass their level of satisfaction with the service they get there, and whether they are open for new patients, and decide whether I need to change GPs.

I haven’t said much on the London bombings yet in this place. I appreciate all the calls and emails I got from people worried that I or HWMBO had been injured or killed in the events. I do have a couple of observations.

First, I am so very proud of our Mayor, Ken Livingstone. He has said exactly the right things, he exudes a level of love of the city and of Londoners that it would be difficult to find in some other mayors of large cities, and he is passionately committed to helping us cope with this and anything else that fate throws in our path. Even though I’ve never met him, I get this sense that he personally is committed to my welfare as a Londoner, and that he’d go the extra mile to do whatever was needed to make me safe. I’ve not had that feeling in other cities where I’ve lived. Ken is that rarest of politicians: he loves us and our city unconditionally and not for his own gain. I hope he stays in politics after 2008 when his term ends.

Second, our civil liberties will indeed be under threat in the future from this event. The police and MI’s 5 and 6 have cooperated for years in tracking and neutralising threats, and have said all along that the events of yesterday were inevitable. If the new security regime we’ll be living under only includes more CCTV cameras, I’m not so concerned about that. While Big Brother may be watching me, it’s unlikely that anyone will review the tapes unless something has happened in the vicinity. This event will be used to justify even more tight controls on where we can do, with whom we can associate, what we can do, and the like. While it’s unlikely that any sort of airport-like security can be introduced on the Tube, who knows? The problems of screening 3 million people a day, some of whom enter the system through an open door rather than a staffed gate, would be almost insurmountable. And, inevitably, there would be a slip-up when you’re screening so many people every day, and something would eventually happen. So this won’t happen. ID cards will not assist in this case; the fact that there is a database won’t help police on the beat much as it’s unlikely they will have instant access to the database. In any case, a project of this magnitude (a database of 60 million people with god-only-knows how many separate pieces of information attached to each person) is unlikely to be supple enough to use or cost-effective to implement.

So what will help? We could ensure economic opportunity in our poorest neighbourhoods and among our poorest communities. This will ensure that jobless and idle people will not become enraged at the UK for purely personal economic reasons. We must also ensure that people who espouse extremist views, no matter where they originate, are made to stop. This includes the BNP, fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist Muslims, and any other fringe group that advocates curtailment of life and liberty of another group. We must continue to examine our involvement in Iraq, and ensure that we withdraw at the earliest possible opportunity. We must also ensure that we do not engage ourselves in another adventure of this sort without a proven, public, and personal threat that can be verified–we are not in the business of changing regimes for the sake of liberty. For goodness’ sake, we can hardly preserve it here!

For anyone reading this who is contemplating a visit to London, please come! We are open for business and for pleasure, we are a world-class city with some of the most historic sites in the world. HWMBO and I would love to show you around (and we may even have guest facilities). People here, yesterday notwithstanding, are as safe or safer than they are in their own cities and countries.

PS: After spell-checking this entry, I discovered Livejournal’s suggestions for replacing the word “HWMBO”. To wit: HOMEBOY, HBO, HMO, GUMBO, JUMBO, HOBO, HOMO, DUMBO, LIMBO, RAMBO, BIMBO, COMBO, MAMBO, HEMP, HOB, MOB, HEB, HEM, HM, MB, HEBE, HERB, HEME, HUMOR, HEMS, HOMOS, HUMP, HYMN. How can we add HWMBO and save ourselves from this dreck!!!

Today’s London explosions

Thursday, July 7th, 2005

My own digestive problems pale in comparison with the 7 blasts which occurred in Central London this morning. There are few accurate reports on casualties at the moment. WL is OK (he called me).

The problem is that the PM and Home Secretary will use this attack as an excuse to push the ID card scheme and other laws designed to reduce everyone’s civil liberties, in the name of protecting the UK from attack. People who oppose them will be labelled as pro-terrorist and we will all be subjected to a police state in the name of protection.

The quack says….

Monday, July 4th, 2005

Went to the quack this morning, very fearful that my sphincter control would not be very good. Managed to get there and home without an accident.

The quack said that she thought I most likely had caught giardia. However, she needed a stool sample (which I provided later) for lab tests. I persuaded her to give me the antibiotic for giardia; after the lab report, she might change the antibiotic to one more suited to whatever parasite I’ve picked up. Let’s hope that she got it right this time as she says that I should be feeling better within 24 hours if she is right.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a good conversation with the other course presenter and it looks like we may be doing some more work–thankfully in the UK at first, so that I don’t pick up any unwanted guests.

How American am I??

Sunday, July 3rd, 2005
You Are 19% American
You’re as American as Key Lime Tofu Pie
Otherwise known as un-American!
You belong in London or Paris…
Get out fast – before you end up in Gitmo!
How American Are You?

This American!

Delhi belly finally arrives

Saturday, July 2nd, 2005

and I wish it would leave. I think I know what caused it, and I shouldn’t have drunk that drink on the road between Pune and Mumbai.

Immodium, bananas, orange juice, and bread. Hopefully these will all bung me up.

I feel wasted.

From Bangalore to Pune to Mumbai to London

Friday, July 1st, 2005

Pune is about 70 minutes away from Bangalore, southeast of Mumbai. It used to be called “Poona” and is a regional IT centre. The plane trip from Bangalore was in a puddle jumper but they _still_ served a full meal _and_ cleared it away in 70 minutes.

I was met by an extraordinarily handsome man from the company that commissioned me to do the courses–if I had been free to do so and I’d thought he’d accept I’d certainly have propositioned him–he was about 6′ 1 or 2″ tall, olive-coloured skin, slim. Yum, yum. But, it was all business.

I ended up in the Hotel President in Pune. The room was better than Bangalore’s Hotel Ramanashree’s room, but there was no wi-fi (they suggested I use my MODEM, fergawdssake!) and no fridge. The food was better, though. South Indian food is predominantly vegetarian, with a bit of chicken on the side (sounds like Michael Jackson’s life, doesn’t it…) Dal is ubiquitous, as are various vegetable stews, lemon pickle (I had it with every meal except breakfast…I’m certain my blood pressure hasn’t recovered yet), and paratha bread. Use the bread to dip into the stew or dal, but not with your left hand–custom dictates that this is unsanitary.

The course consisted of 18 people, and was a rerun of the Bangalore one. But logistics was again a problem. There were never enough copies of the course material to go around, the projector and my laptop refused to cooperate to show the slides correctly, two days the course was on the first floor and the last day it was in the banquet room. The Indians are very much a hot-climate people in that the ones I encountered didn’t seem fazed by changes, difficulties, or absences of things they needed. They just waited around for the difficulty to be dealt with. Of course, Anglo-Saxon me was reduced to a gibbering wreck when things didn’t turn out as I was told they were to be.

I did no sightseeing, as there didn’t seem to be much to see in Pune. The South India guidebook didn’t even have it listed. So I stayed in my room watching BBC World (what a waste of electrons–the same news and features endlessly repeated all week. But, I was desperate for some news as the Indian papers are like American ones; they are little concerned about foreign news except sports news), drinking 660 mL of Kingfisher or Fosters each night with my dinner, and doing Sudoku puzzles. There were power cuts every day, of two to five minutes’ duration. I nearly got stuck in an elevator during one.

The staff were very eager to please. The first day there, I needed some laundry done, so I followed instructions and put it in the laundry bag with an inventory sheet. It arrived at the end of the day, laundered and pressed. The next day I returned to my room after lunch and discovered that the jeans and polo shirt I’d folded to await my trip home had just disappeared along with my undies and socks from the previous day. I hadn’t asked for them to be washed, but washed they were. Not only that, the laudryman ran down the hall with another bag and wanted to remove all my clean shirts from the closet to wash them as well. With difficulty, I persuaded him that they weren’t in need of cleaning and he left.

It’s monsoon season, so every day waves of rain battered at the hotel windows. I didn’t even go out. I wonder how the denizens of Pune keep from becoming mounts of mould each summer.

So the last day came, and the students were sitting their exam, under an invigilator who was an absolute mess. He couldn’t have grabbed his ass with both hands. I was supposed to have a social hour/meeting with the head of the company that brought me to India, but this was cut short. Instead of leaving at 6:30, I had to leave at 4:30, because a religious procession would bring most traffic in Pune to a standstill. So I checked out, went to the company’s office (in a somewhat run-down office building with rutted earth streets in front) and had a cup of tea with them. There may be more work coming my way there.

The handsome man, the driver, and I then set off for Mumbai by car. After getting out of Pune, we finally got on the Mumbai expressway. It’s as good as or better than many highways we have here in the UK. The scenery was beautiful: the expressway is surrounded by mountains, and in the monsoon season (June through August) they are cloud-shrouded, and little waterfalls course down their sides to end up in the drainage ditch next to the highway. Sometimes we dipped under a mountain into a tunnel, picture and videos of which are strictly prohibited by the government. We stopped at the rest-stop and had sweet lime juice and pastry, while sheltered from the monsoon. It took us about 2 hours to get to the outskirts of Mumbai and another 2 to get to the airport. My handsome guide got out and wished me good luck, I tipped the driver 100 rupees (about GBP 1.20) and I was left at the airport.

I met a businessman in my line of work in the queue for the x-ray machine (it’s do-it-yourself x-ray for checked baggage) and we propped up the bar with some good Ould English G&Ts while we talked about outsourcing, integration testing, and the perils of bidding for government contract, until the plane started to load at 2:10 am.

So I’m back in London now, with a touch of delhi belly that just might be joy at returning. I’m pretty certain that I’ll be asked back.