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30 June 2006

Guantanamo Bay

It brightened my day when I heard that the United States Supreme Court had judged the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals to be unlawful. Bush says that the people held here are murderers and some of the most dangerous people on the planet. If he has no evidence to this end that would not stand up in an American court of justice, then they are only the most dangerous people on the planet because Bush says so. Not good enough! No doubt he will be busy trying to legislate his way out of the Supreme Court decision. Thank heavens this is his last term of office.

28 June 2006

Peter - from the Daily Telegraph 28th June

DICKIN - PETER NEIL died peacefully on June 23rd 2006 aged 68. Beloved husband of Anne and darling father of Judy and Emma. Funeral at St Giles Church, Coldwaltham, on Monday 3rd July at 2 p.m. Family and close friends only please. No flowers but donations to Leukaemia Research or St Giles Church can be made to Bryder & Sons, Tillington, Petworth, West Sussex 01798 342 174. Memorial Service to be held at a future date to be announced.

25 June 2006

A Stark Reminder of my (our) Mortality

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Peter (see left), died suddenly and unexpectedly this weekend.

Peter, Eric, Derek, John, Michael and I played together as small boys on the same housing estate in Kingston Vale, S.W. London. Most of us went to the same schools.

John and Michael disappeared from our radar on reaching adulthood, but the rest of the "gang" kept in touch throughout our lives, in spite of being dispersed to various far-flung parts of the UK.

Eric was suddenly taken from us six years ago at the age of 62. Now Peter has gone at the age of 68 (my age) ... only me and Derek left. It's a sad and sobering thought, and I'm having a pretty bad weekend.

Peter was a decent man with a great sense of humour, and a good friend. My heart goes out to his wife Ann. When we were teenagers I lusted after the gorgeous Ann, but with Peter around I stood no chance. She made the right choice and they had a long and happy marriage, and were blessed with two daughters. Ann can be assured that my wife and I will always be there for her.

23 June 2006

World Cup Football

Well it looks as though the Americans are out of the World Cup, having been beaten by Ghana. I'm sorry they are going. Although, naturally, I am an England supporter I was watching the American team with interest and enthusiasm because I have some good friends in America (via the internet) and have visited the country twice to meet up with them. Sorry about your team folks!

21 June 2006

Any gardening experts out there?

My unidentified shrubA couple of years ago a small shrub appeared in one of our patio plant pots. By the following year it had grown to 6ft in height, as a single stem. Early this year I removed it from the pot and planted it in a shrubbery. It is still mainly a single stem (though now dividing at the top) and is 8ft in height. It has almost-black leaves and pinkish flower displays (see left). The flowers look nice but they smell disgusting. Does anyone know what the hell this is?
Update 22nd June: OK - I've consulted the web and can now answer my own question - this is Sambucus Nigra - a variation on the common Elder.

20 June 2006

Blogger's Learning Curve

Wow! It's a good job I've been slaving over a hot HTML book these last couple of years! I've just discovered that to put anything into the left-hand column of this Blog I've got go into the template HTML and edit the raw code. A couple of years ago I would have shut up shop at first sight of all that gobbledook, but now I can almost understand what's going on.

I've been practising my HTML and CSS on a new Website. My first site - created some years ago - used all the templates, WYSIWIG editors, images, bells and whistles provided by "Maxpages", but I've now closed that site (I was annoyed by "spam" entries in my guestbook, and also a charging policy based not only an annual fee but 5,000 page views maximum, which resulted in frequent requests for subscription renewal because of a whole host of flying robots landing on my site and being called "page views" though no human had seen it!)

So I purchased myself a domain name with a new web hosting company and learned some HTML and CSS the hard way - by trial and error (and the big thick book).

Click here to see if I've learned anything!

19 June 2006

Exams really are getting easier!

I know I'm not alone in thinking that in recent years GCSE exams have been getting progressively easier, resulting in an impressive pass rate and a Government able to gloat that Tony Blair's 1997 three priorities "Education, Education and Education" have been fulfilled. Of course teachers and the Education authorities like to tell us that the kids are just working much harder and the exams are not getting easier. I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I have just had the opportunity of speaking to a girl who has been taking GCSEs and she is astounded at how easy they are, and in no way representative of the intensity of work she has had to put in during the lead up to the exams. She feels she is not being tested in any meaningful way, and that any certificates gained will not be worth the paper they are written on. So there you are ... if the students are saying they are getting too easy, then they are! What is the point?

18 June 2006

World Cup Football

Having studiously avoided football for most of my life, I now find myself curiously drawn to watching international matches. I never watch games between home teams, and know little about them, but bring on a European Cup or World Cup competition and I get excited by watching any two countries slogging it out. To my inexperienced eye the England team looks a bit lacklustre, but I got a kick (pardon the pun) out of watching them beat Paraguay 1-nil and again beating Trinidad 2-nil.

Considering soccer is a minority sport in the USA I am constantly surprised by the high quality of the teams they send to events like the World Cup. Yesterday I watched them play Italy, and they spent most of the game running the Italians (supposedly a crack team) ragged. The game was also remarkable in that three men were sent off - one Italian (for elbowing the USA's McBride in the eye, causing bloodshed), and two Americans (for doubtful and obscure reasons in my opinion). As a result, the second half of the game was between 10 Italians playing against 9 Americans, instead of 11 versus 11. All the more surprise, then that the result was Italy 1 - USA 1. The Americans have their goalkeeper to thank for some superb saves which contributed to the USA staying in the competition instead of the expected next flight home. A close shave.

Talking of Close Shaves ...

I've spend my life using an electric razor - can't stand all that messing about with brushes, foam, scraping, rinsing and drying. Mostly I've used a Phillishave rotary action shaver, but recently I noticed Remington had started making a rotary action shaver, with double cutters on each of the three heads. I bought one the other day, shaved enthusiastically and nearly took my face off!

I'd got used to the pressure required by the Phillishave and had applied the same pressure with the Remington. I started using a "powder stick" before shaving and became less enthusiastic about applying pressure. Now I'm getting my face back and can show it in public. (Unlucky public).