lördag 31 oktober 2009

Hacker extradition scandal

The case of the autistic computer hacker whom the Americans are trying to extradite is worrying. The legislation is intended to be used against terrorists, and nobody has even suggested that the man concerned has any terrorist links.

If anyone should be on trial, it is the US military and their computer software consultants responsible for the lapse, and who have evidently failed to maintain the security of their systems.

The British courts should have dismissed the extradition request out of hand. What is going on here?

tisdag 27 oktober 2009

Another Brighton Halloween suggestion

Meet at St Mary Magdalen's Church and go round Brighton saying a decade of the Rosary at selected locations. I suggest the Abortionarium, the various witchcraft shops round the town and the dolphin fountain in the Old Steine.

Disgraceful article by David Milliband

What a disgraceful article David Miliband wrote in The Times yesterday. Under the title "Britain is still a big player. Europe needs us", and speaking in support of Tony Blair's bid for Presidency of the EU, he claimed

Britain is a leading contributor of people and money in tackling the great challenges of the world. Our Armed Forces are trained, equipped and flexible. And we are willing to deploy them in the toughest places. and again Second, British ideas give us influence. During the economic crisis, Britain has been at the forefront of new thinking.

Who in Britain is actually doing this contributing, who exactly is being "deployed", and what is this "new thinking"?

Miliband should take a walk round Brighton and see the grinding poverty in which many people are trapped, as a result of being expected to "contribute". He might also consider deploying himself for a while with the military, to find out how things are at the sharp end and whether their equipment is all that it might be.

He could also usefully to a bit of travelling incognito as an ordinary standard class passenger both in Europe and Britain. He would then notice the astonishing difference between the two, and the shabbiness and poor quality of the infrastructure of this "Big Player".

I cannot even imagine what Britain's new thinking could have been at the forefront of during the economic crisis. Britain's economic policies ensured that the country was as badly placed as it could have been when when the storm hit, and in no small measure actually helped to bring on the storm. This "new thinking" has resulted so far in sterling losing about 25% of its value against other currencies, with nothing to show for it apart from signs that the asset price bubble is starting to blow up again. And it could yet slip out of control and lead to a hyperinflation.

The notion of Britain as a player suggests that international politics is a game. Britain's politicians need to grow up. And their glib use of language needs to stop.

söndag 25 oktober 2009

Suggestion for Halloween in Brighton

How about this for a counter-cultural activity in the most godless city in the UK?

Meet St Mary Magdalen's Church. Process through city to St Nicholas, Christ the King (Clarendon Church), St Bartholomew's, St Joseph's (Elm Grove), St Peter's, then down the Steine and up St James's Street finishing at St John the Baptist, Bristol Road.

It seems to me that it would be a good idea to resist the atheism, and strange spiritualities such as Wicca, Tarot, Crystal energy and other beliefs that are running in this part of the world.

Suggested starting time around 6 pm. Please leave comment if interested.

torsdag 22 oktober 2009

Who needs new Windows?

Windows 7 cannot come too soon. Lots of perfectly serviceable computers will be thrown out and become available for next to nothing if they do not end up as landfill. Computers which run XP will also run a Linux distribution just fine. If all you do is browse the internet, write letters and edit photographs, which is all that most people use computers for and Linux does perfectly well, this is good news. In any case you can run both Windows and Linux on the same computer if you want to and you can even run Windows as a Linux application. Windows can do the fancy things like run Autocad, Linux is good for simple routine tasks or if you want to tinker.

There is no need to get into arguments about which system is best. There are horses for courses, so take your pick. But I get a bit angry when I see people being sold expensive Windows systems when they did not need them and could have mangaged just as well or better with Linux running on an old box under their desk.

BNP adopts Spitfire as icon of Britain


It strikes me as odd that a party with Nazi antecedents should be using Spitfires in its advertising. Spitfires were used against the Nazis, not by them. Surely the BNP should be showing Messerschmitt 109s?

måndag 19 oktober 2009

En invandrares upplevelser i början av 1900-talet

Min mormor och morfar var invandrare. De flyttade till Storbritannien i början av 1900-talet. Min mormor kom från Estlands huvudstad Tallinn och min morfar från Babruisk som ligger nära Minsk i nuvarande Vitryssland. På den tiden var både Estland och Vitryssland en del av det Ryska kejsardömet, liksom Finland. Min mormor hade studerat till lärare vid Tartus universitetet och hon undervisade i musik och kanske språk. Hennes modersmål var antagligen tyska och hon kunde ryska, och judiska, hebriska, estniska. Sådan språkkunskap var inte ovanlig. På den tiden var tyska och ryska de gemensamma språken. Hon hade avslutat sina studier 1895 och förresten, på den tiden hette Tallinn Reval och Tartu Dorpat. Det verkar som om hon blev privatlärare. Hennes släkt var affärsmän som handlade med pälsar och som blev mycket rika.

Med min morfar var det helt annorlunda. Han hade många syskon och familjen var fattig. De flesta syskonen flyttade till USA men av en slump hamnade min morfar i London. Kanske hade han blivit lurad. Omkring 1900 kom min mormor till London för att hälsa på sin syster. Hon träffade min morfar och snart gifte de sig. Det var ett beslut som min mormor alltid ångrade. I början kunde hon inte engelska. Familjen var alltid fattig. Hon tyckte inte om sina engelska grannar som var hotande och ofta fulla. De fick två flickor och då kom första världskriget.

Det verkar att, som flicka, var min moder mycket medveten. De flesta flickorna i klassen var också invandrares barn och talade engelska med en märkbar brytning, en blandning av det judiska språket och arbetaklassdialekt. På något sätt – vem vet hur – visste min moder att det var viktigt att tala engelska med överklassbrytning. Hur kunde man lära sig det? Det var ingen gåta. Det behövdes bara att hon lyssnade noggrant till läraren och sedan kopierade exakt. Och det gjorde hon. Hennes klasskompisar såg ner på henne men hon brydde sig inte.

Hon slutade skolan när hon fyllde 14 år, blev lärling på en hattfabrik och när hon var färdigutbildad etablerade hon sin egen affär. Snart blev hennes affär mycket lyckligt. Men hennes mor blev obotligt sjuk och min moder tvingades att stanna hemma för att ta hand om henne. Efter min mormors död var det omöjligt att börja igen med hattaffären eftersom då, som nu, var det lågkonjunktur: det så kallade hungriga trettiotalet. Vad hände då? Hon gick till kvällskolan och lärde sig att skriva maskin. Nu blev hennes överklassbrytning verkligen till nytta för henne, eftersom hon kunde jobba som sekreterare till exempel, på myndigheterna eller på något stort bolag. Om hon inte hade lyssnat noggrant till sin lärare skulle livet ha blivit helt annorlunda. Med arbetasklassbrytning kunde män och kvinnor bara få något tråkigt jobb i någon fabrik och bara dålig lön.

söndag 18 oktober 2009

Turning towards the Lord

Whilst the sanctuary floor is up this week, our temporary altar has had to be placed where is was not possible to say Mass except in the traditional position ie facing east. Our parish priest, Fr Blake, explained this and reminded everyone that this is how Mass was said for all but the past few decades of the church's history. This shows the elevation of the Host.

When the floor has been put back the altar will be placed in a more permanent position. Many people in the parish would like to see it go, as soon as possible, in what must surely be its ultimate location - where it was originally, against the reredos. That means it will no longer be possible for Mass to be said facing the people, but there is a growing preference for it to be said as in the photograph. It gets rid of the them-and-us feeling created when the priest and congregation are facing each other across a block of stone, for all the world like a terrified junior in front of the boss behind his desk.

Of course, it could turn out to be impracticable to put the altar anywhere else but in its original position, which would resolve the question nicely.

lördag 17 oktober 2009

Migration to Windows 7

If you are interesting in migrating to Windows 7, this article in the Financial Times might be of interest.

On the other hand, you might find it so daunting as to conclude it wasn't worth the effort, and you could decide that it was easier to go out and buy a new computer. However, you probably don't need to waste your time and money at all, let alone throw away a perfectly good computer.

If you are running XP, then your present computer will run the latest versions of Linux without trouble, though it helps to put in extra memory. 2GB is good, 512MB can be a strain especially if you are using it to edit photographs.

What to do? First, save your data - photographs, word-processing documents, etc, also your email addresses. These can go on CDs, DVDs or USB memory sticks. Then download a copy of the live-CD version of a Linux distribution and burn a CD. The various versions of SuSE and Ubuntu are good and you can try all them first without altering your computer. In fact, you need never load them on to your computer if you don't want to.

When you have found one you like, install it. Ideally, you will divide the disk into partitions, with separate partitions for swap (a sort of temporary notepad that the programmes use), "/" (which means root, where all the programmes go), and "/home", which is where your own files go. The root partition should be at least 10GB, preferably 25GB. The advantage of doing this is you can regularly do "clean installations" without having to wipe your valuable data, which, being on the /home partition, is undisturbed by any changes. A good option for desktop and tower systems is to fit an extra disk drive and put the Linux system on that instead. That way, your Windows system remains unchanged and you can continue to use it.

The installation process loads the entire operating system and applications at one go, since they are all included on the disk or downloaded from the internet. Installation disks, activation codes, number keys and all the other troublesome things that go with using proprietary software will then become a thing of the past for you.

onsdag 14 oktober 2009

Relics row continues

The visit of the relics of St Theresa of Lisieux continue to provoke anti-Catholic articles and comments. There was yet another on the subject in today's Guardian, with a string of mostly approving comments. Much of this is just Britain's Calvinist legacy on display - good old Paisleyite prejudice dressed up as liberalism. It is strange how a few old bones can get people's backs up so much, especially with those who affect disbelief. If it is such a load of nonsense, why not ignore it? Instead, these people just give it the publicity which presumably they believe it does not deserve, thereby helping the cult to serve its intended purpose.

As a Catholic who does not do relics and was never particularly keen on St Theresa's style of spirituality, I had no intention of going to visit them, but thanks to all the comment in the British press, such as the above article, I changed my mind and went to Aylesford where she was on display last weekend. Contrary to my expectations, I found the event worth while and a good sermon was preached which you can listen to here

What can be seen looks like a scaled-down mausoleum - say about 1:50 - with a barrel roof and fish-scale roof slates made out of some veneer, in the late nineteenth century French chateau style - a fine piece of craftsmanship, protected these days by a perspex cover. It is in effect a portable shrine. A full-sized version would look quite impressive on a low mound in a spacious park setting.

Many saints have a following and people like to visit their shrines. There are usually a few pilgrims around St Brigit at Vadstena in Protestant Sweden, where even King Gustav Vasa did not dare to get rid of her. Funny, the Swedes don't seem to make the kind of fuss, probably because Calvin never had much of an influence in Lutheran Scandinavia and they don't get so worked up. It is always good to know where one's prejudices come from, but thanks for the publicity anyway.

The Haj starts on 25 November so presumably we can look forward to a spate of articles about people flying thousands of miles to worship a lump of rock thought to be a meteorite. The response should be interesting.

måndag 12 oktober 2009

EU needs constructive criticism

It is a poor argument on the part of the Euromaniacs to label sceptics as unprogressive and Little Englanders, as they so often do. As someone who spends much of my time outside the UK, I can hardly be considered a Little Englander and as a beneficiary of the freedom of movement and residence that comes with EU membership, the last thing I would want is a break-up.

However, it does not help to turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of the organisation as at present functioning. There is a democratic deficit. Legislation, often ill-considered, is churned out, some of which can only be implemented at considerable expense and to little gain, or is positively counter-productive. Its protectionist trade policies work in the interests of the big trade cartels which have the resources to lobby at Brussels and Strasbourg, and against the interests of consumers. It has failed to devise an effective policy to protect fish stocks, despite ample scientific advice which would have enabled it to devise a workable strategy. And the Common Agricultural Policy is nothing but an expensive scam.

The benefits from infrastructure projects simply end up in the pockets of landowners in the areas that gain, since they just lead to an increase in rents and land prices. And the huge resources that were put into the Republic of Ireland merely generated a monster land price bubble, followed by a disastrous implosion.The EU is in need of constructive criticism instead of the uncritical support it gets from the Euromaniacs.

söndag 4 oktober 2009

Tories will force jobless into work

"Tories would force jobless to work". So ran the Sunday Times headline today. The policy was tried in the 1980s. I saw this from the inside. I was working for Lewisham Council and my colleage was involved in a scheme for refurbishing the railway arches in Deptford. A worthwhile job got done and a few people acquire useful skills. But it was an administrative nightmare. The client, British Rail Property Board, concluded that the work could have been achieved much more cheaply by letting the work out to contract on a commercial basis, which was what happened with later phases of the project. Cameron is spouting nonsensical political rhetoric.

So what should the Tories be proposing? Get out a pocket calculator, pencil and paper. How much would someone get in benefit when out of work? Jobseeker's allowance, Housing Benefit and all the other things that come free. Now work out how much it would cost an employer to give the same person a job and leave them with the same amount, and that is before the person has to pay the extra costs incurred in going to work, such as travel and meals out.

There is a big difference between the two figures. This used to be called the tax wedge but people who ought to know about it appear to have forgotten, including all the country's politicians and media commentators.

But if the aim is to minimise unemployment, the first thing to do is to get rid of the tax wedge by raising the thresholds for PAYE and Employers' and Employees' National Insurance contributions. Which does not have the headline-catching appeal of "force the jobless off their arses" but is actually one of the things that absolutely needs to be done.

Irish say yes to EU "treaty"

Pity the Irish didn’t have the guts to say NO. And NO again, each time the politicos asked for a YES. The EU provides a forum where only the rich and powerful can exert effective influence.

Who has actually read this treaty and understood the full implications of what is contained therein?

In the remote event that the British government were to introduce a tax on the rental value of land, the Duke of Pestminster and his pals would no doubt appeal to the European court that their human rights were being infringed upon, and the tax would be ruled unjust, and overturned.

Croydon tram accident ‒ no charges

It has been announced that no charges will be brought in respect of the accident in 2016 when a tram was derailed and overturned at Addisco...