Monday, February 27, 2006

Technical Support

A letter seen somewhere on the web, - honest!

Dear Technical Support,

18 months ago, I upgraded to GirlFriend 1.0 from DrinkingMates 4.2, which I had used for years without any trouble. However, there are apparently conflicts between these two products and the only solution was to try and run Girlfriend 1.0 with the sound turned off.

To make matters worse, GirlFriend 1.0 is incompatible with several other applications, such as LadsNightOut 3.1, Football 4.5, and Playboy 6.9.

Successive versions of GirlFriend proved no better.

I tried a shareware program, Slapper 2.1, but it had many bugs and left a virus in my system, forcing me to shut down completely for several weeks.

Eventually, I tried to run GirlFriend 1.2 and GirlFriend 1.0 at the same time, only to discover that when these two systems detected each other they caused severe damage to my hardware.

I eventually upgraded to Fiancée 1.0, only to discover that this product soon had to be upgraded further to Wife 1.0. While Wife 1.0 tends to use up all my available resources, it does come bundled with Cleanhouse2005. Shortly after this upgrade, however, I found that Wife 1.0 could be very unstable and costly to run. Any mistakes I made were automatically stored in Wife 1.0's memory and could not be deleted. They then resurfaced months later when I had forgotten about them. Wife 1.0 also has an automatic Diary, Explorer and E-mail filter, and can, without warning, launch Turbo Strop and Multi-Whinge. These latterproducts have no Help files, and I have to try to guess what the problem is.

Additional problems are that Wife 1.0 needs updating regularly, requiring ShoeShop Browser for new attachments and Hairstyle Express which needs to be reinstalled every other week. Also, when Wife 1.0 attaches itself to my Lotus Elise hard drive, it often crashes. Wife 1.0 also comes with an irritating pop-up called MotherInLaw, which can't be turned off.

Recently I've been tempted to install Mistress 2005, but there could be problems. A friend of mine has alerted me to the fact that if Wife 1.0 detects Mistress 2005, it tends to delete all of your Money before uninstalling itself.

Help requested please.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Six Nations - Third Weekend

After this weekend's matches, the Championship is now wide open. All teams have now lost at least one match, but more worryingly is the quality of the rugby being played at the moment. If the Northern hemisphere teams are going to vanquish the All Blacks or the Aussies, we need to be playing a lot better than we are.

France 37-12 Italy

The scoreline may be emphatic, but most of those points were won by France in the last quarter when Italy began to tire. For an hour, Italy matched France's endeavour and their defense held. Italy actually went into half-time 4 points ahead. The second half saw a much looser game that suited the French, and with Thomas Castaignede back to something like his best, opportunities started to become available. They took a stranglehold when prop Peter de Villiers emerged with the ball after the France pack powered over the line with 15 minutes to go. Suddenly France started running the ball at every opportunity and Rougerie and Michalak touched down late on as the Italian defense started to tire.

Scotland 18-12 England

Scotland was everything England wasn't. England tried to keep it tight in the forwards, never really allowing the backs to get going, but Scotland matched them in just about all aspects of the game. In particular in their commitment at the breakdown and loose. They were often to the ball first, creating a number of turnovers. Scotland thoroughly deserved their win, - I'm just very depressed at England's lack of invention and ambition. They did not look like potential World Cup contenders.

Ireland 31-5 Wales

After the first 20 minutes, there was only one team in this game, - Ireland. Wales did produce the first score, but this only mobilised the Irish pack which imposed itself on the Welsh forward to the point that they scored a pushover try, probably scored another, but the ref didn't see it and provided lots of space for the Irish backs to express themselves. O'Driscoll was magnificent, running lines that caught the Welsh flat footed, and opening holes in the defense for the likes og O'Gara to exploit. Trys by Wallace, Horgan and Stringer just rubbed it in.

A fascinating weekend's rugby. Lots of interest with teams such as Scotland and Ireland showing that they are not spent forces. Another two weeks, and the most crucial games in the Championship are to be played. England against France in Paris, is still probably the Championship decider.

Friday, February 24, 2006

With Friends Like Blair

Today, I should be posting my preview of this weekend's forthcoming international rugby matches, but a report in today's paper has angered me, and demonstrate how much Blair is Bush's toady.

Two reports have been published this week, one from all-party MP's sitting on the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in their Human Rights report said: "...Ministers should voice loud and public, protests on issues such as detentions without trial at Guantanamo Bay, and had a duty to investigate allegations of CIA torture flights". The camp, where 500 inmates have been held without charge and incommunicado for up to 4 years is hindering the fight against terrorism because it has diminished America's moral authority, they added. Moreover, I would add that 4 years of isolation, without knowing when it will end, constitutes psychological torture of the worst kind.

A second report from Amnesty International said the Government had lacked "vigour" in tackling the issue of Guantanamo Bay.

Tony Blair's response to these reports; practically nothing. He would only repeat that he found the US military prison in Cuba an "anomaly."

At his monthly No. 10 press conference, he went on; "I have said it should end sooner rather than later, I have not got anything more to say. I also think it is important we never forget the context in which this has happened, the war in Afghanistan and the reason for that is the slaughter of 3,000 innocent people on September 11."

So in Prime Minister Blair's eyes, one highly immoral act deserves another. I bet Bush is quivering in his boots at this aggressive criticism of his illegal activities. After that, I bet the base will be closed for good.

Blair then went on to say "As far as I am aware, there is no evidence that any of the 200 flights by CIA transports through British airspace had been used to take suspects to countries where they might be tortured." He then added; "There is a procedure in place where the Americans ask our permission if they want to render. I am not prepared to assume that they are breaching that understanding." Well that's OK then.

This is Tony Blair's response to the committee's request that he speaks out publicly about rights abuses allegedly committed by George Bush's administration in it 'war on terror.' My, was he hard hitting. Bush must have got the message now, - carry on, you're doing OK with me, just no more anomalies.

What a poodle! He really is becoming a national embarrassment.

British history is littered with human rights abuses, - we invented the concentration camp which Hitler perfected; we controlled the slave trade for centuries; every country we took into our empire, was generally done by force and abuse - but we have learnt from that. We should know better, and we have a duty to use that knowledge and experience to guide Bush back to a more moral and ethically defendable position. But our current Prime Minister, who wants to fine teenagers for swearing in private conversations, doesn't have the guts to stand up to someone whose intent appears to be to drive the world back to a feudal dark age.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Blair's Brave New Britain

Kurt Walker, an 18 year-old community worker and student, was walking home from his local community centre when he met up with a friend who asked him what he was up to. Kurt answered "F*** all, mate", as teenagers seem to do. Unfortunately, he was being eavesdropped by a rather zealous policewoman (who also probably had targets to meet) who decided that this statement was a breach of the peace and issued an £80 fixed penalty notice as allowed under the Public Order Act.

The fine is the same punishment he could have expected on a first offence for being drunk and disorderly, stealing goods worth up to £200 or causing £500 damage!

Kurt was understandably angry. He said, "I was gobsmacked. I walked off up the street furious. It's my right to swear in a private conversation. The police officer should not even have been listening - she was snooping. If I told what I thought of this stupid law that makes a criminal of you for swearing, I'd get another £80 fine. It's ridiculous."

Rev Ian Gregory of the Campaign for Courtesy, said: "If we were to fine everyone £80 for using that word, we could solve the national debt."

The £80 on-the-spot fines were introduced in 2003 as part of Tony Blair's 'respect' campaign, but were only supposed to be imposed at times of potential serious public order breakdown as a means of defusing the situation, - not penalising a young man walking home talking to his mate.

However, history shows that police will use powers given to them whereever and whenever thay can, and particularly when they are in the role of law enforcer, prosecutor and judge all at the same time. Unless public apathy changes to alarm at the erosion of freedom, the British will be cowed into a nation of government puppets.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Nelson's Last Words

'Order the signal, Hardy.'

'Aye , aye sir.'

'Hold on, that's not what I dictated to the signal officer. What's the meaning of this?'

'Sorry , sir?'

' "England expects every person to do his duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability." What gobbledygook is this?'

'Admiralty policy, I'm afraid, sir. We're an equal opportunities employer now. We had the devil's own job getting 'England' past the censors, lest it be considered racist.'

'Gadzooks , Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco.'

'Sorry sir. All naval vessels have been designated smoke-free working environments.'

'In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the mainbrace to steel the men before battle.'

'The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. It's part of the Government's policy on binge drinking.'

'Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we'd better get on with it. Full speed ahead.'

'I think you'll find that there's a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water.'

'Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow's nest, please.'

'That won't be possible, sir.'


'Health and safety have closed the crow's nest, sir. No harness. And they said that rope ladder doesn't meet regulations. They won't let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected.'

'Then get me the ship's carpenter without delay, Hardy.'

'He's busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the fo'c'sle Admiral.'

'Wheelchair access? I've never heard anything so absurd.'

'Health and safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled.'

'Differently abled? I've only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn't rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card.'

'Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under-represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency.'

'Whatever next? Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons.'

'A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and safety won't let the crew up the rigging without crash helmets. And they don't want anyone breathing in too much salt - haven't you seen the adverts?'

'I've never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy.'

'The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral.'

'What? This is mutiny!'

'It's not that, sir. It's just that they're afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There's a couple of legal aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks.'

'Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?'

'Actually, sir, we're not.'

'We're not?'

'No, sir. The Frenchies and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn't even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation.'

'But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.'

'I wouldn't let the ship's diversity co-coordinator hear you saying that sir.You'll be up on disciplinary.'

'You must consider every man an enemy who speaks ill of your King.'

'Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it's the rules.'

'Don't tell me - health and safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and
the lash?'

'As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu. And there's a ban on corporal punishment.'

'What about sodomy?'

'I believe it's to be encouraged, sir'

'In that case, kiss me, Hardy.'

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Controlled State

Osama bin Laden's greatest achievement was not to mastermind the flying of planes into the Twin Towers. No, it was to spook the West and allow our alarmed and panicked governments to fill our minds with such fear that we let security oppress our liberty. He was able to take advantage of a West with leaders that are so unread, so lacking in wisdom, so unversed in the democracies they eagerly chose to lead and so lacking in the culture of rights and liberty enshrined within those democracies that they are now so quick to compromise those very same rights and liberties. George W Bush and Tony Blair have the arrogance of my generation that grew up in the Sixties - and, unfortunately, - the ignorance. They have both deceived their peoples and are now bent on stripping them of ancient and hard-fought-for liberties.

It took centuries of struggle by men and women, who were often called terrorists by the governments of the day, to gain us our freedoms, liberties and responsibilities, and it seems it only takes two irresponsible, ignorant men, along with shocked, compliant and fearful populations, five years to demolish. It angers me that their sacrifices are held in such low regard.

But we, also, have a responsibility. We have failed to understand that when we do not protest and demand an end to atrocities committed in our name, something trips in the deep-brain cynicism of the governing psyche, which takes heart from the passivity it finds and devises more ways to control and enforce its will. When we don't protect our liberties, then men of bad faith will always be on hand to subvert it. Those freedoms and liberties belong to the people, not governments.

The attempt to make it a crime to 'glorify terrorism' is typically Tony Blair. It is first of all unnecessary. Every act prosecutable under this new offence could have been dealt with by existing legislation. When a lot of hotheads called for beheadings and terrorist attacks during the Danish cartoons controversy, the police were entirely within the law to arrest those carrying the placards. If they didn't, it was to avoid inflaming the situation. They lacked the will, not the law. But more essentially, this new law will contribute nothing in the fight against terrorism, but, crucially, it will limit what I can say. Should I wish to make the case for Basque separatism, or celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising, or explain some distant liberation movement, I might be liable to prosecution. One man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist.

Blair says everyone knows what glorification is, but in a court, the definition would quickly evaporate. He wants to send a signal to al-Qaeda and he feels it is worth giving up this "sliver" of free speech to do so. The man is deluded. No terrorist or lunatic imam is going to take the slightest notice of this dangerous law. I have no objection for the state to pursue these people with vigor, and the security services and police have done a pretty good job in tracking terrorist groups so far under current legislation. They have missed some but they do their best to defend us. But to compromise the freedoms of a society which has no bill of rights and no written constitution to protect it from the menace of future tyrants is irresponsible in the extreme. Laws have a habit of lying around and when Labour eventually loses an election, we must hope that the incoming government draws up a list of laws to remove immediately from the statute books.
Last week, Chris Huhne, a challenger for the Liberal Democratic leadership, gave a speech on freedom to the think-tank, Demos. He made the vitally important point that freedom and liberty has an absolute necessity and duty to defend unpopular minorities - those accused of terrorist crimes, those seeking asylum, those seeking to avoid deportation - because we are all in a minority at some stage and need the protection of the rule of law. 'All of us could be wrongly accused of a crime,' he said. 'All of us could express views which the current government does not like. We all of us sometimes do unpopular things or utter unpopular thoughts.'

I have also made the point, previously, that terrorist are defeated from the moral high ground, - certainly those groups in Europe have been defeated, or contained in this fashion, - not slugging it out like a street fighter that knows no better.

There have been few weeks more disastrous for the cause of liberty in this country. Last Monday, the promised Labour rebellion on ID cards failed to materialise, although ministers freely concede that the ID card will not protect us from terrorists or fraud. It also now seems certain that Britons will be required to hold an identity card and see up to 50 separate pieces of information, including biometric details, entered on a national database to which many arms of government, including MI5, will have access. That thought is chilling. Who knows who will have access to that information in the future, and what they will use it for.

The government insists that we are not and will not be living in a police state, but perhaps that is now rather a 20th-century idea. What we are pioneering in Britain is a 21st-century version of the police state - the controlled state.

Bush and others are watching.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

God. I was Really Ill!

My apologies everyone who has attempted to leave a comment on my blog over the latter part of the week. The thing is, I have been very seriously ill with a cold (Man Flu) and I attempted to play around with the settings and clearly clicked the wrong thing.

You'll be pleased to know that I am slowly recovering, but I will struggle into work tomorrow, - because that's the way I am! Don't worry about me, I'll be fine, - probably, but you just never know.

Friday, February 17, 2006

American Diplomacy

What is it with America and its approach to international diplomacy? It now seems that the super-power is feeling under threat from lowly Venezuela and its relationship with impoverished Cuba. From where I sit, it all seems pretty pathetic, and demonstrates an administration totally devoid of ideas on how to deal constructively with those it doesn't agree with. Part time Secretary of State and shoe expert, Condoleeza Rice has spoken out about this relationship, and that we in the international community should all gang together to "defend" the Venezuelian people.

What is Bush scared of now, or is there lots of oil in the area? Could it be that democracy has produced a result that Bush doesn't agree with, - as with Palastine? If you are for democracy, then you have to accept the results of that democratic vote, and work with it, - just as the world attempts to work with the USA.

I am now sick and tired with America's constant search for enemies, because it just makes the world a more dangerous place for the rest of us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"Man Flu"

Today, I am not very well. In fact I'm very poorly. In fact, from my assesment, my chances of recovery are about 50:50. I am suffering from a cold/flu which has kept me off work. My sinuses feel as if there is about 5 miles of cotton wool up each nostril, but at the same time, a tap has been turned on. My face feels as if it has been shot by a Vice-President. In between sneezing - which has now given me a sore throat, I try to take halfway decent breaths through my nose, to no avail.

Last night, I did manage to get some sleep, but fitfully. My brain has stopped working, to even attempt to talk is impossible. I'm in a bad way.

Do I get the sympathy I surely deserve from the caring females of the species. You must be joking. I have "Man Flu", a sarcastic derogatory term meaning that us men when we get a "slight sniffle" we milk it for all we can get. Women, on the other hand, get ill, take an aspirin and then get on with life. Well I would just like to point out that I have suffered in silence since the weekend with this condition, have gone to work, and pulled my weight about the place, but now that I am on the threshold of death, and I've decided to take a little time to recover, I'm accused of having "Man Flu". It's so unfair. Let's face it, I could be suffering double pneumonia, but it would still be diagnosed as "Man Flu".

Monday, February 13, 2006

How Things Have Changed

What country am I describing?

  • The government was always right and never apologised;
  • Any dissent was suppressed, ridiculed, banned or worse;
  • Secret prisons were denied and never acknowledged or spoken about;
  • The torture of captives was condoned by the political elite;
  • State incarceration was not subject to the checks and balances of a legal system;
  • Economic plans, like for oil, were established/determined in closed sessions between politicos, commissars and production managers, far outside public view, and where government claimed privilege in so doing;
  • Wages were set at the lowest common denominator, no matter what Bloc country you were in;
  • Government agents had access to your medical records, your library records, your telephone.
  • A place where judicial power and judicial review were proclaimed concepts, but simply ignored in application;
  • Where criminal records of young adults were closed to all but the military;
  • Where a Constitution was a mere facade and ignored by state actors.
  • Any dissent, debate and protest were deemed unpatriotic;
  • The public media was bought, paid for, and provided by the state;
  • The military clandestinely and shamelessly influenced the national media and public opinion;
  • A place where wrong was declared right;
  • Where tapping a phone was like tapping a pencil;
  • Where lying was considered a patriotic skill;
  • The extraction of natural resources was paramount to any concern for the environment and the impact on the health of its people;
  • Where the use of “state secrets,” (those things embarrassing to the government) were confused with legitimate issues of “national security”;
  • A place where "secrecy" and "national security" were used to control debate;
  • Where legitimate secrecy, was subject to political use and abuse;
  • Where "legislators" were mere mouthpieces for and rubberstamps of whoever was in power;
  • Where you lived and died with the permission of the government;
  • A place where foreign policy was more important than domestic concerns;
  • Where fear was used as a political weapon and an acceptable means of control;
  • Where the best medical care was reserved for the influential;
  • Where wealth was concentrated in the top 5%;
  • A place where there was no middle class - just a small economic and political elite, and the working poor.

These were some of the reasons we in the West opposed the Soviet Union. Thank goodness there are no super powers like that any more! The full article, from which the above is an abstract can be found here.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Six Nations - Second Weekend

This weekend has seen England emerge as the only team not to have been beaten in the Championship. The matches ended up the way I predicted, but not in the manner I expected, - a weekend of the almost and possible, - but in the end, the natural order was restored.

France 43 - 31 Ireland

On the face of it, a score that was to have been expected, but if it hadn't been for the looseness of Ireland's play, the story could have been a lot different. France was 12 points up in the first 10 minutes, the scores coming off the back of Ireland's loose play and missed tackles. In truth, Ireland had a lot of the play, and put France under intense pressure, but their defense held and scored on the breakout. With a half-time score of 29 - 3 to France, you would have been forgiven if you were expecting a cricket score to France by the end of the match. In truth, at the start of the second half, France continued, but for some reason I can't fathom, France took their foot off the peddle, and Ireland took advantage. In that last quarter, Ireland ran in 4 trys and dramatically closed the deficit. However, the target was always going to be just too far for the boys in green to haul back.

Italy 16 - 31 England

This match was the tough match I expected. A half-time score of 6 - 7 to England is a testament to the way Italy played, and it was only really halfway through the second half, as Italy began to tire, that England were able to cut loose and pull away. Although Tindall opened the scoring for England with a try, I still have concerns about the half back pairing of Tindall and Noon. With the slow ball coming from England's second phase, meant that Italy had time to re-group and organise their defense. They were up on England very quickly, not giving them no time to play. The change to England's fortunes came when Matt Dawson, one of the old lags, came on as replacement for Harry Ellis at scrum half. Suddenly options became available to England. Charlie Hodgson had freedom to run in a try within seconds of Dawson being on the pitch, and overall, England looked a different team. Italy can take great heart from this performance - actually leading England early in the second half, and only a last minute poacher's try from Simpson-Daniel made the score seem respectable for England. However, on this performance, I don't think it will be long before Italy take their first major scalp, and won't that be something for World rugby!

Wales 28 -18 Scotland

On a Cardiff pitch that seems, as always, to cut up whenever any pressure is put on it, Wales came back from last week's defeat and played rugby somewhere near their best. In particular, they put real pressure on the Scottish scrum, which eventually led to the award of a penalty try, as the pack collapsed for the umpteenth time. However, Scotland came back into the match, and started to exert some real pressure on Wales, when an incident between Scotland's Scot Murray and Wales' Ian Gough. Murray was sent off, while Gough was sin-binned, the result being that Scotland had to play an hour with 14 men to Wales' 15. This incident changed the match, and although Scotland defended bravely, the extra man, the home venue and a Wales team playing with some of their old imagination meant that the final outcome was never in doubt.


Another feast of rugby, with England's first-half performance raising my blood-pressure to unacceptable levels. Although France and England are looking as if they are getting back to something like normality, none of the six nations are looking world beaters at this stage. Lots of errors, indiscipline and lack of imagination are the hallmarks of the competition so far, with only Italy, so far, playing better than expected. No internationals next week, but battle commences again in a fortnight with France playing host to Italy, England travel to Scotland for the Calcutta Cup match and Ireland take on Wales at home.

A Year Older, And, Of Course....

A Year Older, And, Of Course...., originally uploaded by markhsal.

And, of course, no beer today! (I should have started my penance next week).

Who Got A Cardigan For His Birthday!
Got some new scales yesterday, - 17 stone 7 pounds! I've now got a target - at least a stone loss by Easter, or no beer then either! (Mind you, as you can see, most of that weight is muscle and sinew!).

Friday, February 10, 2006

Six Nations - Second Weekend Preview

This weekend is the second weekend of the championship, and after last week's matches, it could be a very interesting one. Effectively, the championship is pretty much wide open at this stage, and the eventual winners will be the team that can absorb the physical and psychological pressure the best.

First off; France v Ireland. This could be an interesting match. On paper, France should walk away with it, but with their loss to Scotland, a lot will depend how they respond to that defeat. Has their confidence been dented, or will they be out to show that it was an aberration. Ireland, who played no where near their best last week, and who were lucky to win, can not possibly play as badly again. I'm sure they will have been working hard to start to play as a team and together again. If Ireland can pick up their game, and France are still suffering after effects, then it could be an Ireland win, but I feel that with France playing at home, they will want to show that last week's game was a one off, and that they are back to winning ways. France win, but narrowly.

Next up; Italy v England. After Italy's narrow and controversial loss to Ireland last week, they are not going to be in the best of moods! This is likely to be England's toughest match physically up against a heavyweight pack, and big backs that are starting to show some connectivity. The good news is that England, after a bit of a slow start, began to show that they are returning to the standard of play that got them a World Cup. At the end of the day, I believe that England will be too strong throughout all departments and should win the game. England win, but how ruthlessly?

Finally, on Sunday; Wales v Scotland. Like the France/Ireland game, this is a game between 2 teams who have something to prove. Scotland would love to show that their win over the potential World Cup finalists France, was not a one off. In that game, last week, Scotland played with real flair and enthusiasm, and left France flat-footed. Can they repeat that performance against Wales? Certainly their confidence is up, and they are enjoying playing the game again, but Wales are at home, and Scotland don't travel well. Wales have a real question to answer this weekend. Do they have the strength of character to come back from such a heavy defeat against England, and show some of the class that got them the Grand Slam last year. I believe that Wales will probably shave it. Wales win, but it will be close.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Two Lost Souls

Please visit this previous post of mine and have a look at the comments section. If you ever doubted the damage that Bush has done, then look no further.

James and Clay need your support before they totally lose their tortured, fractured minds. They are like dogs with bones who just don't know when they are starting to sound and look stupid. Don't mock them. These are but a couple of the few remaining sad people who still think that Bush didn't lie, and that he has been good for America and all Americans. James in particular seems infatuated with me, he can't keep his hands off my blog and mentioning me as often as he can on his blog. If I wasn't already married, I might be interested. (He would have to like Real Ale, or it's none starter. Sorry James). Obviously I feel honoured that a solitary Englishman like me can provoke such a response. As for Clay, if you read the last comment he left, you can see he is clearly at the end of his string, - no further comment necessary.

I have found in blogland, that there are basically 2 types of right-wing blogger; those in whom you can engage in rational discussion and argument, and others like James and Clay who have this mentality of "us and them". If you don't agree with them, then you must be wrong and a danger to all society. It is precisly that attitude that has got us into this mess, with American and British soldiers dying for a fraudulent cause. These guys, unfortunately, appear so far out of their tree, they can't have much support.

All there comments are on a simple post where I argued that Americans are probably more in danger from other Americans, than all the terrorists presently active in the World. Perhaps us Brits have a bit more back-bone than some of our cousins across the pond, because we've learnt how to live with terrorism without infringing civil liberties and defeat it morally and legally.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

And The Winner Is....

My Tea, originally uploaded by markhsal.

I am astounded! We actually have a winner!

The winner is Jay.

I had decided that I want to lose at least a stone (14lbs) by Easter, - more if possible, and I thought that the best way of doing this would be by cutting out meat, potatoes and - beer for Lent. I then thought that was not a long enough period of time, so it starts today!

All that you see in the above picture is now off the menu until Easter. Now it's rice (brown if possible), brown bread, wholewheat pasta, fish, - especially oily fish and anything else that will help in the reduction.

Also the exercise will be upped to help get rid of the ballast I'm already carrying. I'm sorry, girls, but there's some bike riding in the near future. It's going to be an interesting couple of months.

Jackie, how could you suggest that someone born west of the Pennines could go and live in Yorkshire, - I'm daring, - not mad. Yorkshire, a good place to visit, Lancashire, a great place to live. Barb, sorry affairs of the heart are there for life and mine has been given to Rugby. Sande, wash your mouth out for even contemplating I could do such a thing.

Jay, that pint (and perhaps a few more) still stands, - even if it takes you 20 years to get here. How does someone 5,000 miles plus away know me so well?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

An Announcement of an Announcement

Tomorrow, I will be making a rather important announcement which many of you will find close to unbelievable. You will be required to totally review the way you think of me. This decision of mine is of earth-shattering significance. Am I about to declare that Blair's stampede towards big brother is right for the country? Have I seen the light, and no longer believe that Bush is the weak, untruthful, moronic criminal ape I have perceived him as for the past 5 years? Is James right and that guns are actually good for a civilised society?

I am prepared to buy a pint of the best wallop at my local pub for anyone who can guess what it is that I'm about to do or say. If you win, you will have to make your own way over here, but I do promise a pint of best.

Monday, February 06, 2006

"All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song"

The above statement from the late, great Louis Armstrong, is by way of an introduction to another passion of mine, - Folk Music and in particular the English Folk scene. It has been a long, hard and at times, lonely journey. As my friends were tarting themselves up to go to rock and pop concerts, I was forcing myself to go down to my local pub, drink beer and listen to some of the country's best musicians and singers.

But why did I get turned onto this form of music? The reasons are probably quite varied, but at the time, I was teaching myself the guitar, and most folk songs I came across could be played using the only 3 or 4 chords I knew. Obviously, the excuse to go into pubs also played a hand, but there was also something about the songs. They were songs about ordinary people doing ordinary things (and probably, originally written by another ordinary bloke watching then do it!). They provided me with an insight into the world of the 17th to early 20th centuries. Some of the songs were about rural pastimes, others about class struggle, some humourous, and others heart-breakingly sad. For some reason I still don't understand, that music touches me still.

The history of English Folk music has been a checkered one, and there have been times when we could have lost this rich heritage for good. As musical influences started to drift across the Atlantic from America, interest in our home grown music was deminished. Fortunately, one person was determined to save what he could, - Cecil Sharp who saw it as his life's mission to collect and record what he could of the music, - often going around the old country lanes on his bike and getting people to sing the songs they could remember - there are even some wax cylinder recordings of these in Cecil Sharpe House.

Like most other folk forms, English traditional music was, in its heyday, an oral tradition, passed down through generations and reflecting everyday concerns (war, murder, deflowering maidens etc), and also handy for dancing to. Unlike its Celtic counterparts, English music has had to be brought back from the dead a few times, first by collector Cecil Sharp (and heavy friends like Ralph Vaughan Williams) in the early 20th century. Sharp had been inspired by a chance encounter with some Morris Men in 1899, and instead of running away had been moved to collect thousands of songs and dances, even traveling to the Appalachian mountains to notate tunes from descendants of English settlers. As a living tradition however, Folk music was not healthy.

By the early 1960s though, the second Folk Revival (the first had been around the time Sharp had his Road to Oxford conversion) was underway. Collector Bert Lloyd was doing similar work to Sharp and fired by similar movements in the US, songwriter Ewan MacColl spearheaded a modern, politicised acoustic music (along with singers like Tom Paxton) that drew upon English folk's rich past. This was the golden age of the English folk club and the inspiration for the next wave; Folk Rock.

With the folk boom still in full effect, younger musicians started to fuse Folk harmony and lyrical concerns (more murder, deflowering maidens, etc) with rock rhythms and (gasp) electric instruments. While no doubt anathema to some, bands like Fairport Convention (previously West Coast rock copyists), Steeleye Span and Ashley Hutchings' Albion Band looked for audiences that wouldn't be seen dead singing sea shanties in Somerset pubs. They also provided me with an opportunity to musically meet my rock loving friends somewhere on common ground. What's more, these bands really did it, hitting the album charts regularly during the 70s and even influencing the likes of Led Zeppelin. Others like Pentangle took a jazzier approach, while the Incredible String Band and Amazing Blondel went all cross cultural and psychedelic with their rambling, fragile concotions of sitars, harps and hallucinogenic substances.

While the folk rockers, er, rocked, singer songwriters like John Martyn (OK he's a Scot), Nick Drake, Sandy Denny and Ralph McTell forged a distinctively English take on the acoustic guitar/sensitivity combination. More recently musicians like Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy, Northumbrian Piper Kathryn Tickell(along with slightly elder statesmen like Martin Carthy, Martin Simpson and Norma Waterson) have moved back to a more traditionally flavoured approach, though there's little about them that's retro. Billy Bragg, The Oyster Band and others have also extended the folk rock heritage.

My excuse for all of the above, is that I recently read that there is yet another revival going on. People are turning on to the purer, acoustic sounds of folk and roots music, and connecting, once again with a tradition and culture that was yet again about to die. This is something I truely welcome, as it will bring more young people and diversity into the genre, and we can move away from the commercially driven pap we get thrust at us. There is a web-radio I always switch to on a Sunday morning, and is really worth a listen, Folk Alley, an American station that plays some of the best folk music from around the world, you will ever hear. You may even like it, I know I do.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Six Nations - First Weekend

Well, I've survived the first Six-nations weekend. Everything seemed to go as predicted; England won, Ireland won and Scotland won. No surprises there .... but hang on a moment, did I say Scotland won? Scotland won and France lost? Have I finally lost what little mind I had and dreamt that Scotland, who have hardly won a match in the past 5 years have beaten the favorites for the World Cup, - France?

This first weekend of international rugby has been as exciting and controversial as it could possibly be. The best match by far was today's match, Scotland against France, but all the matches had something to offer the fan.

Ireland 26 - 16 Italy

This was as good an opening match as one could hope. For a large part of the first half, Italy, - not Ireland , were in the ascendant and actually led Ireland for most of it. At the break it was 10:10 and I felt that Italy could actually shave it. Unfortunately, the game turned on a controversial decision. Ireland's second try by Tommy Bowe was given, even though it looked as if he hadn't touched down. The resultant conversion gave Ireland the platform to close out the match for a win, but if I was Italy, I would be feeling pretty aggrieved. Ireland's performance lacked conviction and, dare I say, passion. It was an ugly win at best, and if they are to progress further in the competition, they need to up their game. Italy, on the other hand, can take great heart, and the influence of new coach Pierre Berbizier was apparent in the passion, commitment and desire shown by the team. All that's lacking is the killer instinct in the last 22.

England 47-13 Wales

This was a very satisfying performance by England. They have clearly taken the performances during the autumn and stepped up a gear. The first half, predictably, was a bit scrappy and although England seemed very comfortable, Wales managed to keep in touch trailing England by only 5 points at half-time. It was in the second half that England showed their class and quality by scoring a further 32 points to Wales 3. Not only did England put together a performance of discipline, commitment and control, they ruthlessly exposed the weaknesses in the opposition and exploited them, - something they haven't done for quite some time. England are moving rapidly back to where they were just a couple of years ago, and gives me great heart. What delighted me particularly was that a couple of England "geriatrics", Lawrence Dallaglio and Matt Dawson got trys. Wales were clearly struggling with the loss through injury and suspension, of some key players, and were probably out-matched by England in just about every department.

Scotland 20-16 France

This was the match of the weekend. France were the bookies' favourite to take this match and even the Grand Slam, but they hadn't taken account of Scotland's resurgence under new coach Frank Hadden. They looked relaxed, calm, even happy to be out on the pitch, - which hasn't been the case for a few years. When the game got under way, they very quickly took a control of the game that they hardly relinquished until the final whistle. They played as a team, they played with passion and it was superb to see the Scots go from their usual hopeful resignation to one of belief that they could actually win! The try which must have given them the most satisfaction was a driving maul that drove the French pack back 22 metres and as it reached the try-line, Lamont got his hands on the ball to dive over. France's pack was broken! France, in a nutshell, were terrible. They seemed to be devoid of ideas, and a number of them looked as if they were carrying injuries, - particularly their usually inspirational stand-off, Michalak.


My prediction is out of the window, - which pleases me no end. This weekend has been full of drama, excitement, shock and passion, and this is just the start! England are starting to look a world beater again, France are looking a shambles; Wales are looking a bit lost, but that could change once the stars return; Ireland need to think out their game; Italy can take some heart from the manner of the way they played, - a bit of luck going their way would help; and Scotland need to come back down to earth quickly to prepare for a tough match against Wales in Cardiff next week. I just can't wait.

Goodbye Jane

My tenant for the past week has now left for pastures new. It has been a pleasure to have her living on my site, and I wish her well in future residences. In some respects, she picked a tough week to join my blog when my obsession with all thing rugby took me over. I hope it didn't effect her clicks. If you missed her, you can catch her blog at Jane Loves Tarzan.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I Was Wrong, But Bush Is Still A Liar

In a previous post, I quoted facts that I had taken from the newspaper which I fear were wrong. I stated that less than 5000 people have lost their lives since 9/11. I was wrong. I've come across this post by Bob Geiger which is based on information from National Counterterrorism Center (NCC) with information taken from its Terrorism Knowledge Base. This, I believe, is a government agency and the information it holds would have been accessible to Bush. He chose not to use them. Instead, he used the tactic that all right-wing governments use to maintain their authority, - scare the little people, then tell them, they are the only people who can protect them. What he didn't say, but is now quite obvious, is that he, George W Bush, is probably the best recruiting sergeant the terrorists have ever had, and that Americans should really be scared of him and his policies.

The information Bob Geiger's post, clearly shows that terrorist incidents and subsequent deaths have risen year-on-year since 2001, but didn't Bush say that "we are in this fight to win and we are winning" in this year's State Of The Union speech. As Bob Geiger says, - "So if we're really winning the war on terror, shouldn't all of those numbers be going down?"

I am prepared to apologise for the mistaken impression I gave in my post. My defense is that even with the revised figures, Americans with guns are still far more dangerous than terrorists, - and Bush lied again in a State Of The Union speech.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

She Is One Tremendous Human Being

Moxiegrrrl has this transcript of a letter by Cindy Sheehan putting her side of the story of her arrest. With people like her in the world, I know we are not yet truely lost.

My Six Nations Preview

This year's Championship is a critical one for all six teams. With the World Cup is only 18 months away, this is the time when teams will be setting out their stall and measuring where they are.

So how do I see the teams as they stand at the moment?

Following the World Cup win of 2003, the England rugby squad were set to take the 2004 Six Nations simply by turning up, - that is, until the French decided otherwise. Beating England in the Stade de France by a meagre three points sealed their destiny and gave France their eighth grand slam. England didn't return to form in 2005 either and, so again, opportunity passed them by. But this season is looking much more promising. With some sterling pre-season performances against the Aussies and All Blacks, England are right on track and this could very well be their year. The team are strong, mentally and physically fit, and the hunger, which may have been lacking over the last couple of seasons, is back with a vengeance. An impressive November with a good win over Australia, a close defeat to the All Blacks and a ‘thumping’ of the Samoans have revived their belief and sparked the momentum that Andy Robinson has so desperately been searching for. This year's Championship must be used to up that momentum and make Twickenham a fortress once more. "We have an extra 9,000 seats at Twickenham for the first time, it will be an awesome atmosphere and is a great game to have first up," he said of the 4th of February opener. Wales have not won at Twickenham since 1988 and after a string of injuries to key stars, will be hard pressed to retain their ’05 Glory.

Last year the Irish were hotly tipped to run away with the Grand Slam with great Munster and Leinster players in tip top form but when the chips were down, they buckled under pressure and ultimately paid the price for their numerous false starts. Wales took victory in the Millennium stadium and the Irish headed home empty handed. Never ones to quit though, the Irish are once again out for blood and with the World Cup just around the corner they need to step up and comprehensively take this Six Nations. A year ago everything pointed towards Ireland winning the championship for the first time in 20 years. But, as so often is the case in the world's oldest international rugby tournament, things did not go to plan and Wales swept through to a surprise clean sweep. "That's the beauty of the Six Nations," said Ireland’s Captain Brian O'Driscoll. "This time last year we were being hyped up and no-one gave Wales a chance. This year, the way the fixtures fall, it will be a big ask for both of us."

Currently, the French are faultless. They are odds on favourites to follow up their 2004 grand slam victory with another series of excellent performances and snatch the Six Nations from the current Welsh cup holders. They only narrowly missed out last season when Wales beat them 24-18 so they are out for revenge and they just might get it on the 18th March. If you love flair, passion and unstoppable drive to win, then look no further than France for 2006. France start as favourites, partly on the back of their impressive displays in the November test series and partly due to the fact that they face both England and Ireland in Paris. The French will be looking to stamp their authority on the tournament once more and set the ball rolling towards a successful World Cup campaign at home base next year. "Our target is to remain unbeaten at home right through to the end of the 2007 World Cup," said France coach Bernard Laporte.

Gavin Henson and the rest of the Welsh side, set the Six Nations rugby stage alight in 2005 - but can they do it again? With a very surprising, to all but the Welsh, grand slam victory under their belt, they now have the confidence and self belief needed to go back out there, and fight to retain their honour and glory. Their pre-season matches didn't go as planned leaving the fans wondering if the Welsh had truely lost their form - maybe the 2006 Six Nations will answer the question! Ranked 6th in the World, another grand slam could see the Welsh climb even higher - and that's clearly an incentive! Coach Ruddock has also had to contend with a significant injury list, while suspension currently removes Gavin Henson, Dafydd Jones and Ian Evans from his plans. This could be a very tough Championship for Wales.

The last time Scotland won the Six Nations was in 1999 when they pipped England to the post on score difference (and don't the English still remember, - God, it hurt). It's been a long time coming for the Scots and though their support is unwavering, they really do need to get themselves into gear and start making their mark in this competition. Second from bottom of the table last season was certainly disappointing but could this have been the kick in the backside they needed? The Scots have the fighting Celtic spirit and this could be the year they surprise the pundits and bookies alike by coming out all guns blazing. Scotland are desperately hoping new coach Frank Hadden can pull them out of their current rugby recession. A brave performance against the All Blacks in November may have just been the spark that ignites the flame.

Since joining the Six Nations in 2000 when it officially changed from the Five Nations to the Six, the Italians have been a little slow off the mark and each year they are never heavily tipped to make any waves in the competition. Their six previous seasons have seen them at the bottom four times, including last year but steadily they have been improving, giving more than one team a fright along the way. The Italians have been working hard and though it is unlikely that they could win the Six Nations this year one or two surprise upsets may not be out of the question! Italy will also be looking at turning a few heads and will be sure to give it their everything, in a Tournament that has allowed them to grow and improve as a team. With new coach Pierre Berbizier, expect to see an injection of Gallic flare in their backs.

My Prediction

The following is how I expect the competition will play out, but as is the case in all sport and human endeavour, the unexpected can, and generally does, happen (I hope):

  1. France
  2. England
  3. Ireland
  4. Wales
  5. Scotland
  6. Italy

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Six Nations

The history of the Six Nations Rugby competition goes back to the last quarter of the Nineteenth century. In 1871 , England and Scotland played the first rugby union international. Wales and Ireland joined battle in the 1880 s, and the Home International Championships began. By 1910, England had acquired a 10.5 acre site at Twickenham and had built the first international rugby stadium in the world. Previously, England had played their games at Crystal Palace football ground. Over the years since then, the ground has been extensively developed, but has always remained steeped in the culture of rugby. Great rivalry and commitment on the pitch, great friends off the pitch.

In 1910 , the French, who had played in four of the tournaments up to that time, coined the phrase "Five Nations", but by 1931 the inadequacies of the French game's administration led to the Home Unions halting relations with them. Due to this, the championship became an entirely domestic affair for eight years until France rejoined in 1939-40. Unfortunately, with the outbreak of World War Two their re-entry was delayed for a further eight years, - talk about bad timing!.

In 2000 with the addition of the Italian Rugby team, the Five Nations became Six , adding a new dimension to the development and history of Northern hemisphere rugby and hence the title, - Six Nations.

Last year's championship was, if you were an Englishman, a very bitter pill to swallow. I knew, by the form they were showing, that the chances of England winning were not good, but I expected us to come a decent second to France. What I didn't expect, and still can't accept is that the Welsh won the championship. More over, they won it as a grand slam, - they won all their matches. This must not happen again. I do not want to see a similar picture to the one above. It would constitute unusual and unnatural punishment.

In 2003, England were crowned World Champions after a dramatic final in Brisbane against Australia. A superb drop-goal by Johnny Wilkinson sealed the win for England led by the magnificent Martin Johnson. If we are to repeat that win in Paris in 2007, - a short 18 months away, then this season is really England's make or break season. We have simply just got to start winning, - and winning well. Just scraping a win is not good enough. We need to show dominance, control and flair. I'll give my run down on the teams tomorrow, but this year, France are again favorites and probably rightly so judging from performances during the Autumn internationals, but we should at the very least gain the Triple Crown, - that is a win against each of the home nations (Wales, Ireland & Scotland) and push France very hard if we are to have a credible build up to the World Cup. This season's Six Nations is just the place to start developing that winning habit again.

And finally, boys, you owe it to this young lady to start winning again!