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27 November 2006

Wireless Route to Madness

The two computers in my house connect to the internet via a Belkin wireless router. In the current debate on energy efficiency and reduction of consumption I read that by not leaving the TV on standby each night this saves about £45 per year. This got me thinking about other things that are left on continuously. One of them is my wireless router. The supplier recommended leaving it on all the time, so I went to one of those technical support forums to ask whether it would really matter if I unplugged it each night and rebooted it in the morning.

I got about a dozen replies within hours; half of them said "Keep it switched on" the other half said "Switch if off". One said go into the router settings and disconnect it via the software before unplugging it otherwise it would get confused. Most of the advice came from people who wrote in computer geek speak liberally sprinkled with acronyms and initials such as MAC, SSID, DHCP, IMO AND WPA2.

I am a bear of very little brain, and what there is of it is now thoroughly confused, so I have made an executive decision to keep it switched on and stop worrying about how hot it gets.

21 November 2006

More Nuts

I recently wrote about religious nuts. The other nuts that drive me bonkers are the patriotic nuts. The “my country right or wrong” brigade. There’s nothing wrong with patriotism but the best kind is that which acknowledges faults and endeavours to put them right for the good of the country in which one purports to believe. Personally I believe patriotism runs a persistent danger of over-spilling into pernicious nationalism – an altogether different species of patriotism to the noble kind.

Here is an example – one of those pernicious, smug little messages that circulate around the internet vie e-mail groups. It was sent to me the other day … I was going to copy and paste it here but have just discovered I’ve deleted it. Anyway the gist of it was “I encountered a guy with a ‘I hate America’ kind of placard, and I told him that my grandfather died in the 2nd World War, my father died in Korea, and my brother died in Vietnam. They all died so that you could stand here and protest. If I had an umbrella I’d stick it up your ass and open it. God bless America.”

What struck me about this, and so many other anecdotes like it, is how factually incorrect it is: the bit about the 2nd World War is right – this was the last major conflict in which the USA fought from the moral high ground and helped defeat the odious Nazis. But as for Korea and Vietnam – they are totally irrelevant to this argument. What did all those American deaths achieve? Communist North Korea still exists, and Communist Vietnam still exists. Indeed the Vietnam war ended with an ignominious American retreat. Finally, you have to laugh (or get very angry) at someone who in one phrase wishes to stick un umbrella up someone’s ass, then in the next phrase invokes the name of God. It’s priceless loony stuff!

14 November 2006

"God's Foreign Policy" ?!

The New York Times reported yesterday that as Israeli bombs fell in Lebanon for a second week in July of this year, the Rev John Hague of San Antonio arrived in Washington with 3,500 evangelicals for the first annual conference of his newly founded organization called Christians United for Israel.

In a message to the assembled crowd he called the conflict a "a battle between good and evil" and said that "support for Israel was God's foreign policy".

What preposterous arrogance! God save us from religious nuts.

The sooner we all wake up to the fact that nearly all the major conflicts around the world are perpuated by religious nuts the better.

13 November 2006

After Dubya's Drubbing

It is so refreshing to bask in the sunshine of an America that has suddenly come awake and realised that the Republican Dream was in fact a nightmare. The Democrats new-found strength hands them the opportunity to be part of the solution to current domestic and international problems, but it also gives them the chance of being part of the problem if they do not use their new influence wisely.

It is encouraging to see that a genuine debate on the Iraq debacle seems to be opening up in the USA - unlike in Britain where that huge disappointment known as Tony Blair seems to have effectively closed down the debate, as he heads a government seemingly in denial.

As I have already said to a good American friend, I am sure that the American Democratic Party (like the UK Labour Party) have their fair share of incompetence and corruption (after all, they are members of the human race!) but I take some comfort from the fact that the founding principles which form the basis for their existence are on a higher moral plane than those which form the foundation for the Republican Party (and the UK Conservative Party).

As I grow more cynical in my advancing years the best I can say is that I regard political parties like the American Democrats and the British Labour Party as the lesser of a number of evils.

09 November 2006

Farewell to Arms

And so
Farewell to Don.
He's gone from
This was
One of
Those things
Of which
He didn't know
He didn't know.

08 November 2006

Waking up to Good News

I woke up this morning to news on the radio that put a smile on my face. As a long-term friend of the American people (as opposed to the "America" represented by the intellectually challenged Bush and his "neo-con corporatacrocy" partners in crime) I was happy and relieved to hear that the American voters had awakened from their Republican dream, realised it had been a nightmare, and put the Democrats back in control of the House of Representatives. Furthermore it was just possible that they might pull off the same thing in the Senate, but it was too close to call, and there might be some recounts.

To this interested Brit, however, the whole system is very confusing and I can't get my head round a system which can result in a House majority that is opposed to the executive president. It's a bit like us having the Labour Party's Tony Blair as Prime Minister but with a majority of Conservative MPs in the House of Commons. Such an arrangement would be untenable. If anyone can explain to me the logic behind the American system I'm always happy to learn!

I look forward eagerly to the next Presidential Election.

05 November 2006

Who needs Town Planners?

Last week we had reason to visit Telford in Shropshire. After a 200 mile drive the last thing I needed was the hassle of trying to find our destination in the giant maze that comprises residential Telford (see above for a tiny fraction). It's a nightmare of bendy roads, side turnings, cul-de-sacs, and cul-de-sacs off cul-de-sacs, compounded by a plethora of vicious "traffic calming" speed humps and chicanes. There appears to be no rhyme or reason behind the layout of main roads, minor roads and housing estate roads that, on paper, resemble nothing so much as industrial-scale spaghetti bolognese delivered by cluster bombs.

The place was obviously designed by a committee of lunatics. Who needs town planners? Never mind "modern" towns like Telford. What about those towns and villages that have real architectural merit and display a wide diversity of attractive styles developed over the centuries. Town and country planners seek to maintain these features by the strict imposition of regulations governing how Joe Public may be allowed to make changes to their private houses, down to the shape of gable ends, or the style of windows or the colour and material used for rainwater gutters and downspouts. And yet it has obviously escaped their bureacratic minds that the charming character of the very places they are supposed to be protecting actually grew up in the complete absence of planning controls!! How did our forefathers manage to get things so right without the help of a Council Planning Department?

By contrast every town in the UK has examples of post-war developments undertaken with the approval of Town and Country Planning Departments that are no more than rectangular blocks of concrete, hideous in the extreme, and falling to bits.