Saturday, February 02, 2008

Boys and Girls

The Pooter of Geek points out what should be the bleeding obvious - but which still apparently needs saying :

When female friends come to me looking for insights into the behaviour of males—which usually means the males they are about to, are currently, or have just been going out with—I point out that most of the ones I know are simpler than Duplo™ and that no imaginative and sensitive interpretation of their actions is necessary.

“He hit me last week . Do you think that it might be because he’s still be upset about his sister dying when he was twelve?”

“No. It’s because he’s a cowardly, bullying ****. Dump him. (And please let me be the one to give him the bad news.)”

We men are as complex and multilayered as any randomly selected dwarf from Snow White. We are so inept at disguising our natures that we might as well have hoardings floating above us saying things like “kind-hearted”, “unreliable”, “generous”, “bastard”, “affectionate”, “bashful”, or “Sneezy”.

Or as Mrs du Toit puts it :

They don’t use words as a way to manipulate others. There is no hidden agenda. They’re just telling you what they are thinking, right at that moment. It wasn’t because they had a run in with a coworker, or something you said three months ago, or they watched a Hallmark Movie of the Week that caused them to reflect on their lives and relationships.

One of the differences twixt chaps and ladies is that when she says something, even the simplest thing, there may be a subtext - which we, being literal, don't pick up on - much to their disgust. The same thing happens in reverse.

"Is (whatever it was) done ?"

"I had to stay over time with patient X and then school called and I had to pick up Y and Z called round because she wanted me to do W"

"Is that no ?"

"Look, don't start blaming me ..."

And he only wanted to know if she'd collected a library book or got the new tyre on the motor. A straight "no" would have done.

"I'm not blaming you - I just want to know if it's done, that's all. If I was cross I'd say so" .
This sentence may optionally be preceded by 'For God's sake !' and succeeded by "I meant 'is X done?', not 'why didn't you do X ?'"

Reverse scenario.
"Is (whatever it was) done ?"
"No. The garage was running late and it was gone four when I got back"
Two somewhat icy hours later, the exact timespan depending on degree of awareness ...

"Is something wrong ?"

"Look, you knew I wanted (whatever it is) done today because ...."

All part of life's rich tapestry I guess.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is it just me ...

Or has the ever-popular blog Harry's Place, run by good-hearted lefties (or the 'decents') gone missing due to over-using its bandwidth ?

It's been down for more than a day. Anyone know what's going on ? DoS attack by Lenin or Mad Dog Milne ?

"for smashing skulls, iron is best"

Thus Winston Churchill, in his very wonderful History of the English-Speaking Peoples. Never has a Nobel Prize been better awarded.

At this point [- 400 BC] the march of invention brought a new factor upon the [British] scene. Iron was dug and forged. Men armed with iron entered Britain from the continent and killed the men of bronze. At this point we can plainly recognize across the vanished millenniums a fellow- being. A biped capable of slaying another with iron is evidently to modem eyes a man and a brother. It cannot be doubted that for smashing skulls, whether long-headed or round, iron is best.

Not so, says a Mr Morris (Robert Morris ?) from the Korea Advanced Institute for Some Technology We Don't Do Any More In Britain.

Winston Churchill was individually responsible for a measurable fraction of the history of his own age and was, perhaps as a consequence, an unusually perceptive commentator the histories of others. But in this passage he is wrong. I do not refer to his social psychology, which I am not competent to judge. He is wrong in his metallurgy. Recent research has shown that the iron that appeared in Britain at the end of the Late Bronze Age was, in fact, inferior in its mechanical properties to the bronze that preceded it. Since iron is also less dense than bronze, this metal was in every respect less suitable for smashing skulls, whether long-headed (Nordic) or round (Mediterranean) ...

... there are at least two competing theories that attempt to explain why the ancient British replaced bronze with iron that was mechanically inferior to it. The first suggests that the motive was necessity, the second that it was a misguided sense of opportunity. I will briefly describe both, since they are case studies in motives for materials selection that are applicable today.

The necessity theory begins from the observation that bronze could not be made in Britain, since the island lacks copper ore (bronze is an alloy of copper and tin). In the period around 400 BC trade patterns in Western Europe were significantly disrupted; commercial contact between the British isles and the continent declined precipitously. A probable cause is the establishment of Greek colonies along the Mediterranean coast in which provided better market. According to this theory the British were simply unable to obtain good bronze in quantity, and were therefore forced to turn to iron, which as locally available. Since they were somewhat backward in the metallurgical arts, their Iron was of inferior quality, but it was the best metal they could get.

The opportunity theory is based on the suggestion that by about 400 BC it had begun to sink in to the backward British that the more developed nations of the world had moved from bronze to iron some centuries before. Both the Greeks and the Persians, who led the major leagues in head-bashing at the time, had well developed metallurgical industries. They manufactured iron weapons and implements that were far superior to the best that could readily be made of bronze. This theory suggests that the ancient British moved to iron for exactly the same reason several underdeveloped nations of the present era have squandered huge resources constructing and maintaining integrated steel works: the super- powers made iron, and, by heaven, they would make it too. That their iron was inferior to the bronze they had been using was beside the point, if they noticed at all.

The opportunity theory has less hard evidence to recommend it. But it has a certain appeal. If it is true then, in Churchill's words, "we can plainly recognize across the vanished millenniums a fellow-being".

Tough On Crime ...

Remember all those 'tough community sentences' ?

Criminals are being allowed to miss meetings with their probation officers if they claim they overslept, or had no transport to get there. The "unacceptable" excuses have been revealed by an official watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO). The sessions were part of supposedly tough community order sentences imposed by courts as an alternative to prison.

Justice Minister David Hanson said action was underway to address the issues raised in the report. The community orders - which involve a variety of activities including unpaid work, drug rehabilitation and alcohol treatment - have been promoted by ministers as a tough alternative to sending offenders to jail. In 2006, courts in England and Wales handed out 121,700 community orders but the NAO said that probation services still need to find out exactly how effective the orders are at preventing re-offending.

How odd. I could have sworn these programmes were 'evidence-based' on 'what works'. I'd never have thought they were just cobbled together in a desperate attempt to keep people out of jail. The Rand report on studies of community sentencing is mixed, to say the least.

We find that the quality of research on the effectiveness of community-based interventions for offenders is extremely variable. However, in two areas – cognitive/behavioural programming and drug treatment – rigorous research exists that points to a reduction in the odds of re-offending. In four other areas – programmes for domestic abuse perpetrators, unpaid work, education and basic skills training and intensive probation – existing studies have not suggested that the programmes have a positive effect on recidivism. Finally, in four areas – anger management, probation, and alcohol and mental health treatment – the question of impact on re-offending remains unsettled. This review highlights the need for more rigorous research – especially randomized trials – into the requirements that constitute community orders.

Two out of ten, in other words. I suppose that's a grade 'B' if the Department for Indoctrination and Skills, or whatever they're called this week, are doing the assessments.

Full NAO report is here.

What did I tell you ?

This blog, Tuesday :

No one seriously envisages hordes of blackshirted Brits roaming the streets looking for suitable windows to smash. Any potential smashers or beaters up of Jews are likely to come from quite another quarter.
East London Advertiser
THE Holocaust Memorial Day marking the genocides of the 20th century was marred on Sunday when a gang of youths stoned Jewish tourists on a guided tour of London's East End. A group of 96 visitors looking at sites of Jewish interest were attacked by youths hiding behind a fence in a back street in Whitechapel.

Two were struck by the missiles, an American woman lecturer at London's Metropolitan University and a Canadian lecturer. The woman had blood pouring from her head and needed hospital treatment. The tour was organised by leading local historian Clive Bettington, who was later asked by police if he wanted officers to accompany him in future, but declined.

"That would be admitting there are 'no go' areas," he said.
And that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it ?
A woman who eye-witnessed the incident saw the youths in the act.

"Stones started to come down and some in the group were scared and ducked," she said. I looked over the fence and saw four Asian youths throwing stones. They were laughing, then ran away."
Tower Hamlets' newly-appointed senior police officer responsible for youth involvement, Ins Paul Sloan, is treating the incident as "an anti-Semitic attack and as a 'race hate' crime."

He said: "The injured woman certainly felt it was anti-Semitic because she's Jewish and the attack was motivated by the fact a lot of Jews were present. We're keen to work with the organiser to stop this happening again. We might accompany them in future. That's one of the tactics we would employ, but that's not routine. We have to get to the root of the problem and need to know how often it's happened before."

The Met's new police liaison officer for the area, Ins Brian Mitchell, was immediately informed about Sunday's incident in which he said youths shouted at the tourists, 'if you go any further you'll die.'

He added: "It gets flagged up as 'racial' because of the victims' perception of what happened.

(Welcome to visitors from lgf)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"ministers are sacrificing the lamb of cohesion upon an altar of political vacillation"

Thus the delightfully named Sukhvinder Kaur Stubbs.

But was the lamb of cohesion humanely stunned before having its throat cut ?

Broadband Is Back

Just about recovered from the great evil that is BT Broadband "support" and installed a new Netgear router. Normal blogging will resume ... whenever.

Thanks to jockney for this link. It presumably dates from around the time of the Great Armada Debate.

THE early history of Britain is 'horribly white' and should be rewritten to include the black and Asian people who weren't there, the country’s equality chief said last night.

Freeman: Cut out of British history for being black
Trevor Phillips said he had read a number of key texts on the Middle Ages and not one had mentioned the major part played by Morgan Freeman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

He said the only dark skinned character to feature regularly in works on the medieval period was the Black Death, which he described as a “typically negative stereotype” of people of colour.

(And I know - there were North African soldiers on Hadrian's Wall nineteen hundred years back, just as Brits served on the Roman frontiers in places like Syria ...)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Remember, Reflect, React

It may be me, but after a couple of low-key Shoah Memorial Days (when the Muslims were boycotting) the events seem to have been ramped back up now they're back on board. My views on the commemoration (summarised as 'killing people is bad' and 'the Germans did it') are unchanged.

It's the use to which the Shoah is put which concerns me. The Brits didn't need a memorial day for fifty-odd years after WW2. It seems to have been only in the last ten years that it's been considered that we need to 'Remember, Reflect, React' - though for longer than that the Nazis have been the staple of school history. As long as our rulers feel that we need to be reminded of the evil of the Mail or Sun's views on asylum and immigration, the drum will continue to be banged and schoolchildren will continue to make unpleasant remarks to German exchange visitors.

Not that anyone nowadays is tasteless enough to mention Germany. You can search the BBC scripts (someone spells 'lectern' 'lecturn') without finding anything about the country except as the birthplace of Anne Frank and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (and notice the missing human rights elephant in the list of post-WW2 disasters ). The 'G-word' is banned from the script and the 'N-word' (Nazis) is everywhere.

But this isn't a campaign about anti-semitism. No one seriously envisages hordes of blackshirted Brits roaming the streets looking for suitable windows to smash. Any potential smashers or beaters up of Jews are likely to come from quite another quarter. It is, I'm sorry to say, all about 'us' - 'us' in this case being the natives.

This isn't to imply that we shouldn't remember the lessons of history. I've been reading Hew Strachan's one-volume 'The First World War', a somewhat revisionist history (i.e. not all the generals are donkeys) which focuses on the wider conflicts - Africa, the Far East, the Eastern Front, Middle East and Balkans - rather than the fields of Flanders. One of the points he makes is that, of all European and Russian Jews, those of Germany were uniquely integrated. Pre-War writers like Nachum Goldmann were well in tune with the zeitgeist, describing the military spirit as the means to human progress, because it combined equality of opportunity with meritocracy. Walter Rathenau, described by Churchill as 'Germany's faithful servant' (and after the War murdered by anti-semites), organised industrial production as Albert Speer was to do twenty five years later. There's a wonderful/sad photo in the book, which I'll post when broadband's back, of uniformed German soldiers gathered round a menorah, celebrating Hanukkah in Poland in December 1916. What were their fates twenty-five years later ?

Strachan quotes the conductor Otto Klemperer, a member of the Eastern army's press section, on the Jews of Poland and Russia :

'No, I did not belong to these people, even if one proved my blood relation to them a hundred times over. I belonged to Europe, to Germany, and I thanked my Creator I was German'.

Alas not everybody in Germany thought he was as integrated as he himself did. You can see why one might be wary - very wary - of any nationalisms after that. I've read a lot of stuff in the past few weeks about how well all the different tribes in Kenya lived together before the recent unpleasantnesses.

And that's the point. Our government are worried about how all the different tribes in the UK will get on. Hence the dire warnings. Strangely, they seem convinced that it's the natives who are most at risk of packing cattle trucks or doing some quick machete work. I'd disagree.

They could of course try to reverse, or at least slow down, the tribalisation of Britain - by which I mean the proliferation of disparate ethic/religious/cultural groups with no common culture - surely not a recipe for harmony in Kenya, Kent or Kathmandu. But I think an increased "educational" effort in the schools is far more likely.

Monday, January 28, 2008

They Really Do Think It's Their Money

Surprised Sam Tarran hasn't picked this up - via bloggers4labour.

Richard Udall donates funds to support new youth shelter

Foolish reader. Did you really think that "donates funds" implied somebody putting his hands in his pockets ?

County Councillor Richard Udall secured £3000 from the county council’s youth service. He said: “I was pleased to help. The shelter should provide young people in Dines Green with somewhere to go".
Unless Dines Green has changed a lot recently, it'll cost another £3K to rebuild it when it gets vandalised. Doubtless the good councillor will be putting his hands in someone else's pockets once more.

Maybe Tomorrow .. Maybe Some Day ...

The BT engineer arrives tomorrow pm. Pray for my broadband connection, that it may take its place without blame on my PC.

I blogged last year on the UK's Ashura processions and the associated flagellation with knives, or zanjeer. One of Eduardo Martino's photographs was of a young boy, head streaming with blood after cutting himself to show religious devotion.

Now I read this :

A man has been charged with child cruelty after two teenage boys allegedly took part in a religious ceremony involving flagellation. Syed Mustafa Zaidi, 43, of Station Road in Eccles, Salford, is due before magistrates in Manchester on Friday.

The charge relates to the treatment of two boys, aged 15 and 13, in a traditional Ashura ceremony held at a community centre in Levenshulme. The investigation was carried out with the help of the local Muslim community.

My comment on the incident at the time was : "isn't he a little young to be doing that sort of thing ?" I really don't think something like this should be a matter for the police. A quiet word in the right ear should have been enough, and I hope Mr Zaidi is acquitted. After all, the wounds were self-inflicted in an excess of religious zeal. Mr Plod should take his flat feet out of it, and if the Shias of Manchester wish to cut themselves, it should be restricted to those of full age. I'd think Mr Martino is unlikely to be snapping away next year.

Grand Ayatollah Sistani's comments on the Shia sense of PR are still pertinent.

"People fear from Shiites when they see them doing Zanjeer Zani crazily and from head to toe covered with blood.