30.10.05

Saw II

The fabulous Mrs Doombreed and I went to see Saw II today. Frikkin' outstanding movie. Every bit as good, in my opinion, as the first. The movie ends with not one but two of the most amazing twists I've ever seen. I'm usually good at spotting the twists - I had Sixth Sense figured out about 30 minutes in, and Unbreakable posed no problem whatsoever - but these took me totally by surprise and, yet, massive hints were given in the movie which are, in retrospect, blindingly obvious.

The deaths are more innovative, the carnage more bloody and the bad guy more baddy than before.

Doombreed Rating: * * * * *

Bengals 21-14 Packers

Great result, even though the Packers aren't exactly the team to beat this year.

6-2-0

More baby panda!

Remember the baby panda?

Now you can watch it grow!

29.10.05

Inspection halts Big Ben's chimes

Oh no! Big Ben's not gonna be ringing for part of this weekend!

The massive bell (yes, the bell's called Big Ben, not the clock) will be silenced, along with all of his smaller brethren, while vital inspection work is carried out. The clock will stop after 8am BST saturday morning, and stay silent until around 4pm GMT sunday afternoon. This also means Ben will miss out on sounding 2am twice this year (once for BST, once for GMT, after the clocks go back).

Shame, many a drunk Londoner will be unable to use the excuse "well, Ben just sounded two, love".

BBC NEWS | UK | England | London | Inspection halts Big Ben's chimes

Correction dated 30/10/05 0244;

BST ends at 2am, so the clock goes 0158, 0159, 0100, 0101, thus Big Ben would be required to ring in 1am twice, not 2am.

Friday Rodent Blogging


It's a hard life, being a hamster in the Doombreed household.

You have to lay around most of the day, getting in some much needed napping between the main sleeps of the day. Chewing, of course, takes it out of you, but you have to do something with all the wood and cardboard the humans keep putting in your house. Food and water are often as much as three inches away from where you sleep.

And to top it all off, the moment you do emerge from your bed, some bugger starts snapping pictures before you've even had a chance to put on your makeup or brush your fur.

Somebody call the SPCA.

28.10.05

Miers says "no" to SCOTUS

From various, including the Chicago Tribune:

"Today, I have reluctantly accepted Harriet Miers' decision to withdraw her nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States," the president said in a statement.

No, Mr President, you did not. Miers cannot withdraw her nomination because she never had a nomination. You made the nomination, only you can withdraw it. She can refuse your nomination, or withdraw her acceptance of your nomination, or even withdraw her candidacy, but she cannot withdraw her nomination because it was never hers.

I know it makes no difference to the outcome, but let's have some standards.

Brought to you by CAUSE, the Campaign for Accurate Use of Sensible English.

George Takei outs himself

George Takei, best known for playing Mr Sulu in ST:TOS and six of the movies, has come out of the closet. I'm feeling a mixture of emotions, here.

First, I couldn't care less if Takei is gay, it changes my opinion of him not one whit. I was, and remain, endlessly entertained by his performances as the Enterprise's helmsman, and I still believe that pretty much everything he's made since is a big pile of pants.

Secondly, I do admire the courage of a man admitting this in today's violently bigotted America.

Third, I wish George and Brad, his partner of eighteen years, a long and happy life together, and I hope that one day society will extend the same rights to this loving couple as it does to drunk rednecks in front of an Elvis impersonator in an all-night Weddins By The King Chapel in Vegas.

NOTE: I'm stubbornly refusing to end this entry with some lame, too-obvious Star Trek joke like "Warp speed, Mr and Mr Sulu" or "Set course for marital bliss" or something. I forsee many - oh, too many - such jokes over the coming weeks, from late-night monologues on crappy talk shows to bad cartoons in the sunday 'papers. I will not sink to that level.

Too often.

27.10.05

Others gave all, too

With all of the coverage of America's 2,000th death in Iraq, it shouldn't be forgotten that others have died too.

97 from Great Britain,
27 from Italy, 18 from Ukraine, 17 from Poland, 13 from Bulgaria, 11 from Spain, 3 from Slovakia, 2 each from Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, the Netherlands, and Thailand, and 1 each from Hungary, Kazakhstan, and Latvia.

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And that's the military. Coalition civilian deaths - journalists and contractors mostly - vary by estimate. And Iraqi deaths? Anywhere from 25-30,000.

Again, it's important to remember, amid all the political maneuvering and one-upmanship, when both sides are trying to outdo the other in rhetoric and sloganeering, that every one of those were real human beings. Every single one of them will be missed by somebody.

Whether you believe in the war or not, whether you believe they died for a good reason or not, that is a thought that should disturb your sleep.

26.10.05

It happened

It happened. The 2,000th US soldier has died in Iraq. Staff Sgt George T Alexander Jr. I mention his name in order to remind that he, and the other 1,999 statistics are not just that.

Each one of those 2,000 soldiers had parents. Most had husbands or wives, girlfriends or boyfriends. Most had brothers and sisters. Some had children. All had friends, neighbours, comrades-in-arms. Some had pets. They were grouchy some mornings, happy others. They had bad breath if they didn't brush their teeth. They made people laugh. They probably made people angry from time to time - we all do. They farted, they belched, they had fun, they were probably sometimes a little mean, sometimes a little saintly. In short, they were human.

2,000 human beings is an almost impossibly large number to comprehend. We think we know what it means, but we rarely come close. Most people don't speak to 2,000 different people in the course of a decade or more of life. Most people don't really know 200 people, let alone 2,000.

This is 2,000:

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And it's not 0's we're talking about. It's filled graves and empty seats at thanksgiving.

It would be nice to think that both sides of the debate might pause for a while - maybe a minute - to reflect on that before they either leap on Staff Sgt Alexander's coffin as a political symbol, or dismiss him as an "artificial mark on the wall".

He was nor is neither. He was so much more than that to those who knew him.

As an atheist, I don't pray. It's like a membership requirement. But I hope that Staff Sgt Alexander's friends and family are republicans. At least that way, they can believe he, and all the others, died defending freedom.

25.10.05

What a loss

Anne Rice has decided to quit writing about vampires and now only writes "for the [christian]* Lord"

Shame. Lost another one to Dietech**.

*my addition, just because I dislike the way people always talk about "the" lord, or "god", like there's only one.

**misspelling deliberate.

24.10.05

Big Brother goes mad

I am a little disturbed by this. Under an amendment to the Freedom of Information act, electronic copies of US citizens' and residents' driving licences are now available online. Check it out.

So if you live in the US, a copy of your license is on this site. I checked mine, and it's there, unflattering picture and all.

Thanks to Aginghippy at AP for pointing this out.

23.10.05

Bengals 13-27 Steelers

Well, what a week for the NFL. My beloved Bengals fall to the Steelers. Then the Cowboys get dicked by the referees who were playing for the Seahawks. The Eagles, looking weaker than most American beers, sneak a lucky win past the Chargers. Poor Favre sees yet another game go bye-bye. The Browns went up, then crapped out.

At least the Colts won. Which means that not only are the Texans still the only winless team, the Colts are still the only unbeaten team.

5-2-0 isn't a bad record by any stretch (unless one happens to be in Indianapolis when one says so), but when you think that Cincinnati have yet to beat a team with a winning record, it's not so impressive. But then, Pittsburgh are the only team so far that they've played that's had a winning record, so maybe it's not so bad after all. Or not.

Well, it's not like I expected much more.

Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, And Right Wing Blogs

A Quaker organisation is going to be marking the day the 2000th US soldier falls in Iraq with rememberance services and prayer vigils.

Why is this seen as bad by the right?

From Daou:

Salon.com - Daou Report:

"MICHELLE MALKIN WADES INTO THE GUTTER: The blog world is certainly not for the political faint of heart. Personal attacks, harsh language, and hyperbole are routine. But in this post, Michelle Malkin sheds every last vestige of decency: 'THE GHOULS OF THE LEFT - They support the troops...by partying over their deaths.' Her post links to a Little Green Footballs entry that makes the same odious argument, namely that this group is throwing 'parties' on the day that we cross 2000 U.S. military deaths in Iraq.

Here's how the actual events are described: 'Events to mark the 2,000th reported U.S. military death will range from candlelight vigils to public actions that illustrate the size of the death toll.' Surely, these aren't 'parties.' I spent years in Beirut, I lived and breathed war, I watched friends get blown to pieces, I've seen horrors I hope Malkin never has to see. Those who are fighting to stop this war deserve the utmost respect, whether or not you agree with their politics. Prominent bloggers like Malkin should know better than to soil our public discourse with this kind of garbage..... Rant over."

Thud!

I'm nearly finished with Thud!, Terry Pratchett's new novel and it is, I must say, yet another triumph. Thought-provoking, sometimes even saddening, but, as always, hilarious. There were several times I found myself laughing out loud, garnering strange looks from those around me.

And this book replaces Night Watch as the Discworld novel I'd most like to see made into a movie, if only for Angua and Sally's scenes, some of which, inexplicably, seem to involve few clothes.

22.10.05

Friday Rodent Blogging

Imo has recently perfected the art of imitating a dead gerbil, an act which he performs in order to scare the hell out of my wife.

Different tactics

One of the interesting things that's come up with the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, so soon after Roberts takes his new job as Chief Justice, is the different tactics.

With Roberts, supporters of the Bush administration were pulling out all the stops in an effort to convince people that he's not a fundy nutbar. With Miers, they're doing the same thing, but in an effort to convince people that she is a fundy nutbar.

We've had various people with dubious personal experience of Ms Miers' opinions slyly nodding, winking, using that signal for instant pause; "trust me on this", all saying that she'll vote to overturn Roe v Wade before she's even warmed her robe up. Prayer in schools, ten commandments monuments in courthouses, forced church attendance, crucifixion for homosexuality, stoning for women who practice pre-marital sex, all are, if the punditry are to be believed, on the horizon and will sweep closer with Miers' confirmation.

So why the change in tactics?

Let's leave aside the question of whether she's qualified to sit on this nation's highest court. It doesn't matter. 41 past Supreme Court Justices have been appointed without a single second's judicial experience, including the late William Rehnquist.

Let's leave aside the question of whether Bush considering her faith as a qualification is a breach of the constitutional prohibition on religious tests for public office.

I'm perplexed as to why something that was thought to scupper Roberts' chances is seen as a boost to Miers'.

And I'm perplexed as to why people are pushing it for all they're worth.

Is her nomination even supposed to succeed?

20.10.05

Katrina aid sent elsewhere

As an adendum to this story about how tonnes of British aid for victims of hurricane Katrina were to be burnt because they were, well, British, comes this:

U.S. rejects Katrina meals, offers them to others

The United States on Friday offered needy countries more than 330,000 packaged meals donated by Britain to feed Hurricane Katrina victims but rejected due to a U.S. ban on British beef.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the "Meals Ready to Eat," or MREs, had been held in a warehouse in Little Rock, Arkansas, for more than a month after U.S. Agriculture Department officials said they could not be distributed in the United States because they contained British beef products.

"We are certainly, for our part, looking to dispose of these MREs that were offered in the spirit of friendship and charity. We are looking to dispose of them in the same way," Ereli told a State Department briefing.

So, not good enough for starving Americans, good enough to palm off on starving non-Americans. Gotcha.

What's even funnier about this is that the situation in Iraq means that soldiers stationed there eat whatever is provided by the closest supply network. So US forces in areas supplied by UK forces eat these very same Compo rations.

Sorry, did I say "funny" when I meant "insane"?

English words every American should know

First in an infrequent series concerning some of this Legal Alien's more obscure phrases.

Today's word: Bollocks.

The word literally means "testicles", but has grown and adapted over the years to fit many different situations:

1: Shock:

Oh bollocks! I didn't see that coming!

2: Disgust:

Oh bollocks! That's gross!

3: To indicate someone is lying:

You're talking bollocks!

4: To indicate one has made a mistake:

Well, I bollocksed that one up!

5: To indicate something is untrue:

What a load of bollocks!

6: To give someone a reprimand:

Man, I got a bollocking over that report...

7: To indicate something is good:

Yeah, Ferraris are the bollocks!

18.10.05

More news on Iraq constitution vote

Further to this story about the big constitution vote in Iraq, I have to correct myself and thank Draco over at AP for pointing out that the Shia reversed themselves, and changed the 2/3 vote requirements from all registered voters back to all votes.

So, a little victory for democracy there, and a slightly easier job for the Sunnis.

However, the Beeb is relating how electoral observers think there may have been some voter fraud:

Iraq vote counts 'point to fraud'

Iraq's independent electoral commission says statistical irregularities in last week's referendum could indicate fraud.

Chief electoral officer Adel Alami did not give details, but he said many provinces' figures were either too high or too low by international standards.

A source told the BBC both the turnout and result levels were of concern.

The electoral commission said on Monday it was re-examining the ballots and that final results from the referendum would be delayed by several days.

Earlier, United Nations election officials in Iraq said the vote had gone well, but some Sunni Arab politicians have alleged corrupt practices were allowed to boost the "yes" vote.

Colts vs Texans

So, the Colts go face the Texans next week. I have two thoughts on this:

First, a new drinking game; Every time someone connected with the broadcast, be they presenter or commentator, uses the phrases "the undefeated Colts" and "the winless Texans" in the same sentence, you have to drink your beer. On second thought, best not to. You'd be dead of alcohol poisoning by the time the game started.

My second thought is on what we call "The Kiss Of Death" or, as my wife calls it, jinxing. So, with that in mind, how much will the Texans stomp the Colts by next week? 20? 30? 40 pts? Will the Colts even score? Surely, with this much of a jinx on them, this'll be the first time a 6-0 team has ever been shut out by an 0-5 team.

(I just googled that. It seems to have never happened before)

Ah well, six days to wait and we'll find out...


16.10.05

Bengals 31-23 Titans

Tense game, outstanding result.

5-1-0

"Courageous" vote in Iraq.

Here's an interesting story from Iraq:

The US has praised Iraqis for turning out in large numbers to vote in a referendum on a new constitution.

The people of Iraq "demonstrated their courageous commitment to a free and democratic future," said an official.

Preliminary estimates say that about 10 million people - roughly 65% of voters - have cast their ballot, but results are not expected for several days.

But, wait a minute. Remember this?

The Shia dominated government in Iraq changed the rules not long ago, meaning it would take two-thirds of all registered voters to defeat the constitution, instead of the previously held two-thirds of actual votes. So, two-thirds is 66.66(recurring) %. 65% voted. Even if every single vote was "no", the constitution passes.

Nice work.

Okay, so that's not quite how it works. Three areas of Iraq need to register a more than two-thirds "no" vote to get it vetoed, but this just shows how hard it will be.

The story states "Official estimates suggest that in seven provinces more than two-thirds of voters did participate - including three where the majority of voters are Sunnis."

So it's still going to be impossible.

14.10.05

Friday Rodent Blogging

Pacha is one spoiled rodent.

Seriously, how many other people have en-suite drinking facilities?

There Is No God (And You Know It)

I wanted to link to this outstanding article by Sam Harris, titled as above.

Almost as entertaining is reading the comments at the bottom of the article. Especially the Christian (y'know, love thy neighbour and all that) who signs as "you are a bonehead" and the unadulterated crap written several times by the poster calling him (or her) self "JohnBryansFontaine".

13.10.05

Wallace and Gromit in The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

We went and saw the latest offering from Aardman Features today, and I have to say, it's yet another triumph. Sure, a few of the jokes won't register with an American audience, but the appeal is certainly broad enough to come across.

The story is straightforward. Wacky inventor and cheese-obsessive Wallace, and his long-suffering silent canine companion Gromit, are in the security business. Vegetable security. Vegetable Security can be a dangerous proposition in a town where the upcoming Giant Vegetable Competition is jeopardised by the appearance of a rampaging Were-Rabbit.

Wallace is batty as ever. Gromit manages to convey pages of dialogue with only his eyes. Supporting characters are hilarious. The C-of-E vicar, Lady "Totty*" Tottington, and the evil Victor Quartermaine - among others - play second fiddle to our heroes, but are no less endearing for that.

Scene of the movie: Watch for Gromit's reaction when he sees the Were-Rabbit "change" from inside the Anti-Pesto van. Classic.

*hint for Americans: The term "totty" is British slang for "very attractive woman who is, in all likelihood, not particularly intelligent".

12.10.05

General Zod - 2008 Presidential Candidate

I guess it couldn't be any worse..

Zod 2008 - General Zod - 2008 Presidential Candidate

Dino reputation 'is exaggerated'

Here's more of that crazy "study the evidence and use it to evaluate conclusions, correcting them if they are wrong" brand of science.

Sure hope this doesn't catch on. It's so much easier to follow the creationist "ignore all evidence that doesn't fit your beliefs, even if that means you ignore all evidence" style.

(it's also a fascinating story in its own right.)

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Dino reputation 'is exaggerated'
The Velociraptor dinosaur made famous by the Hollywood movie Jurassic Park may not have been quite the super-efficient killer we all thought.

Like other dinos in its family, it had a distinctive sickle-shaped claw on the second toe which many have assumed was employed to disembowel victims.

But tests on a mechanical arm suggest this fearsome-looking appendage was probably used just to hang on to prey.

11.10.05

Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian

From Godless Son, via Atheist Parents.

10.10.05

Bengals 20-23 Jaguars

Made a note in my diary on my way here. Simply says.. "Bugger."

This quote, from the final episode of the brilliant Blackadder Goes Forth, sums up my feelings pretty well. Yep, I know I expected this, I said as much. And yes, I know, 4-1-0 is still a pretty respectable record, and that only the 5-0-0 Colts have a better record. And yes, I know, only one team in history has ever gone an entire season from week 1 to the Superbowl undefeated.

But.. Bugger.

9.10.05

England (and the US!) qualify for the World Cup

It always seems like a little bit of an anti-climax to qualify for the World Cup because someone else won or lost, rather than having the fate of the nation's team depend solely upon their performance in a key match, but, hell, I'll take it.

England are in the World Cup. Woo, and, indeed, hoo.

BBC SPORT | Football | Internationals | England qualify for the World Cup

Because Americans seem so mind-bogglingly against real football, I'll offer my congratulations to the US squad, who have also qualified for Germany 2006. Most Americans will be blissfully unaware that their nation's team for the most popular sport on the planet put in a great show in Korea/Japan 2002, and are shaping up as a team to watch next year. They qualified second in their group, narrowly being beaten for the top spot by Mexico.

I've added a new section to the sidebar with all the relevant links to next year's World Cup, and I'll certainly be keeping up with both US and England's games.

"The beautiful game", indeed.

8.10.05

Friday Rodent Blogging

Imo, displying both Evil Laser Eye and Wolverine claws.

I defy you to tell me he doesn't remind you of Nosferatu.

The eyes, the claws, the pale face, the glare full of soulless malice and evil intent?

Oh, yeah.

6.10.05

On Basra

Just wanted to link to this thread, wherein an old sparring partner and I are "discussing" the Basra situation.

4.10.05

The world just got ever so slightly more interesting

Terry Pratchett, who has done more to make this world bearable than just about any other human ever, has released a double whammy;

Thud, the latest Discworld book, gives us another outstanding look into the world of His Grace His Excellency the Duke of Ankh-Morpork, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes (former blackboard monitor) as he attempts to get to the bottom of what happened at Koom Valley, whilst trying to prevent a repeat, whilst trying to solve the murder of a prominent rabble-rousing Dwarf, whilst trying to find a stolen picture, whilst also trying to read "Where's My Cow?" to his son, young Sam.

Coincidently, Pratchett has also released Where's My Cow?, so that we may read along and get the jokes and, presumably, to read to all our own little Sams. But, of course, anyone familiar with Pratchett's work will know that it's never going to be that simple...

Terry Pratchett's work takes hilarity to a new level, kicks the door in and steals everything of value before burning the place down and riding into the sunset raising two fingers to all the other books.

Check it out.

3.10.05

Sunni anger at Iraq vote change

Don't like the prospect of a fair vote? Change voting procedures to guarantee victory!

Learned your lessons well, you have, young padawan..

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Sunni anger at Iraq vote change:

"The two-thirds majority needed in three provinces to defeat the constitution will now be counted from all registered - as opposed to actual - voters."

2.10.05

Bengals 16-10 Texans

Outstanding result. Shame the commentators had to bring it down with all their griping over Carr's fumble in the 4th.

4-0-0 (for the first time since 1988, apparently)

Further news on the Basra story

Times Online has a story today concerning a new development in Iraq:

"THE radical Shi’ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr has authorised his militia to kidnap two Britons in Iraq in the hope of swapping them for two of his senior officials who are held in Basra by British forces."


What made this story jump out to me was this little nugget of under-reported information:

"A senior official from al-Sadr’s Mahdi army in Baghdad said that al-Sadr had given the order after last month’s dramatic rescue of two SAS men whom he had been hoping to use as bargaining chips."


The two soldiers weren't being held prisoner (as the conspiracy theorists claim), they were handed over by the Iraqi police - in contravention of Iraqi law - in order to serve as hostages.

Fuck that. Y'know, I don't care if those guys were SAS or not. I don't care whether they were up on their old "own-goal" rigging tricks or not. When the people we're supposed to be helping, ignore their own laws, and hand our guys over to be used as hostages, I support every effort to get them back.

1.10.05

Gorilla with stick takes a walk on the safe side

Why does anyone still doubt we're related?

the Mail online | Gorilla with stick takes a walk on the safe side:

"It seems at first glance like just another remarkable example of the wildlife photographer's art - a female gorilla wading through a pool.

But the stick clasped in her right hand changes this picture from fascinating to historic.

It proves for the first time that gorillas - like their relatives Man, chimpanzees and orang-utans - can use tools to overcome problems."

Hi-tech beermats for 21st Century

Yeah, because what the world really needs right now is a way to increase the speed at which people get drunk...

BBC NEWS | Technology | Hi-tech beermats for 21st Century:

"An intelligent beermat that alerts the bartender that your glass is empty could feature in pubs of the future.

Like an ordinary mat, it absorbs drips; but the gadget also has hidden sensors.

The device will detect the weight of the drink above it, working out how much is left before sending a signal to the bar for a refill."

Friday Rodent Blogging

Imo, sleeping, looking all cute and cuddly.

Do not be fooled.