April, 2003

Guantanamo Bay

As we learn that the Americans have caputered Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, we must begin to wonder where in the world he’s likely to be held.
And Guantanamo Bay seems the likeliest destination. The front page of this morning’s Guardian carries a report that the Americans are shamefully holding children they captured in Afghanistan.
Of course we’re talking about a nation that executes children, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. Prisoners are being held with no rights, not being considered either criminals within US jurisdiction (and hence being charged and given access to lawyers), or being prisoners of war. These people come from a number of nations throughout the world, but there they are in the US bit of Cuba.
Meantime, what is Castro up to all of a sudden? Just when he could be winning more popularity around the world, he suddenly launches a crackdown on dissenters.
You always have to keep an eye out about what’s going on in the rest of the world when war is afoot. Zimbabwe has also launched a series of vicious attacks on the opposition, with Mugabe’s henchmen seemingly going about their business in a big way (would link to an Independent article, but it seems to cost money).

Sugar

Well I used a tablespoon and a half of it today in my (very successful) first attempt at breadmaking, but I need to ensure that I don’t let sugar exceed 10% of my diet according to a new report published jointly by the WHO and the FAO.
This report has incensed the US sugar industry and a report earlier this week in The Guardian suggested that “Big Sugar” (the world’s new badboys it seems) were threatening to scupper the WHO by persuading America (lots of electoral money in sugar – particularly in places like Florida) to withdraw its annual $406m funding.
Of course this comes at precisely the time when the WHO is working hard to minimise the effects of SARS which is currently causing the world (and the mayor of Toronto) extreme consternation.

Music Collector

I’ve just returned to a program that I first got interested in a couple of years ago – Music Collector. The idea is that it keeps a database of all my CD music (and indeed any other music that I have). The really clever part is that it can batch scan CD TOCs and then query them with a CDDB database to fill out all the album and track details.
Of course this is still quite a big job. So far I’ve scanned over 300 discs, but I have probably twice as many to go (I seem to have accumulated quite a lot of music over the years).
But doing this is very therapeutic, since there is so much music that I never listen to. There is also the fact that I find I have music that I’d forgotten buying. Indeed there are a handful of duplicate albums in total.
The one thing I’d like to do with the data when it’s complete is to host it on this site somehow and allow it to be searched using PHP and MySQL. I’ve hunted their forum, and although others are interested in doing it, no-one seems to have done so yet. I have to battle with the exports that the program allows, and it seems I’m going to have to learn some of the finer points of XML, as well as PHP and MySQL. Could be quite uphill.
In the meantime, let’s continue scanning.

Breadmaking

OK – I bit the bullet. I bought a breadmaker – a ridiculously cheap breadmaker. I got it from Woolies for �19.99. They’d reduced it successively from �39.99 to �29.99 to �24.99, until finally I deemed it cheap enought. I bought some flour, yeast and other bits and bobs, and as I type, I’m theoretically less than 90 minutes away from my first loaf. Could be interesting…

American TV to Iraq

Just watched an entertaining piece about US efforts to present themselves to the Iraqis by rebroadcasting American news programming locally with Arabic voiceovers. The Guardian had a similar story this morning. Although ironically, ABC was showing an interview with The Dixie Chicks over their comments about the war and their feelings about Bush. (Incidentally, their fight back has extending to appearing nude with slogans on their body)
I really can’t see this working.

The White Lioness

I read this whilst studiously avoiding The Guardian’s review last Saturday, when I saw “Reviewers of thrillers usually remain tactfully reticent about plot details” in the first line.
To be fair, when I came back to the review after reading the book, it wasn’t as bad as I thought in terms of giving away the plot. But I don’t like reviews that spoil any plot. I guess that if I know that I’m going to read a book come what may, I’m not likely to read the review at all. Reviews are really to point me towards books I’d otherwise have ignored.
So what of The White Lioness itself? Well despite being published completely out of order (it’s the third), it sits well withing the Wallander universe. His father’s still alive, and he’s missing Baiba.
The big difference with this book is that a considerable amount is set in South Africa and involves real people. I don’t suppose that the plot is that far-fetched, but somehow when you read a novel that tells you what real people are thinking in a fictional set-up, it seems wrong.
Roll on the next one in September!

Arsenal

I’ve managed to avoid talking too much about Arsenal recently.
It’s half-time just now, with Arsenal still drawing Middlesbrough 0-0 at the Riverside, while Man Utd are 2-1 up against Blackburn.
The match on Wednesday night between the two was a tempestuous affair, and it was disappointing that we were unable to win it.
Still the match did afford me the chance to get little Harry, and Arsenal jumpsuit!

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA

This was a wonderful book, that I’ve been looking forward to since it came out in hardback last year. I was a bit uncertain when I realised that the author, Brenda Maddox, publishes a new book every couple of years (her biog of Maggie Thatcher has just been published), but I needn’t have worried.
Next week Life Story is repeated on BBC4 after a new documentary following this book. I’d also be curious to read the much maligned James Watson book The Double Helix, in which he talks so dismissively of “Rosy”.

The Aftermath of Iraq

I simply don’t understand why it’s happening. I can understand a good deal of the looting of public buildings, palaces and the like. By why was the National Museum destroyed.
Every so often I think about the works that were lost for all time in Library of Alexandria. Somehow the destruction of libraries and museums seems worse that the destruction of anything else. Buildings can be rebuilt, but knowledge is lost forever.
Robert Fisk in today’s Independent details the latest devastation to take place in Bagdhad, and the lack of resolve on the Americans’ part to do anything about it.

Harry Bowie

And another small piece of news is the fact that I have a new nephew!
Bobby and particularly Becky have just had a new baby. He was born last Wednesday at 3 something in the afternoon. He’s 7lb 13.5oz and 58cm long at birth.
I went down to see him on Saturday, when poor Becky was still really recovering. And there are some lovely photos and a short video to be found here!