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MAY 2004

Monday 24 May 2004 - some weather events just this week

Severe weekend storms, including tornadoes, large hail and flash floods across the U.S. northern plains and Midwest have killed at least three people and left thousands without telephone service or power, officials said on Saturday. The storms, extending from central Nebraska and Iowa through Chicago and Pennsylvania toward New York City, also disrupted air traffic in Cleveland and Detroit. Moreover, the severe weather should continue for the next three to four days. There is a dry, cool air mass to the north, just over southern Canada, and an unseasonably warm, humid air mass in the southern United States. The clash of these air masses causes the thunderstorm complexes that these areas have been seeing for the better part of a week. Several tornadoes were reported, with the worst damage in north central Iowa from Dubuque to Sioux City. A tornado last week injured 15 people and destroyed nearly all the homes in Bradgate, Iowa, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff's office. Some areas also reported large hail, up to four inches across, last week and Saturday. [Reuters]

Further east, winds of up to 95 miles per hour swept through northern Ohio and southern Michigan, while flash flooding was reported in Ohio. More than 74,000 electricity customers were without power in northeast Ohio, and several communities also lost telephone service, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last Saturday. About 173,000 residents lost power in Michigan, while at least 75,000 customers were without power early on Saturday in Pennsylvania, the Detroit Free Press reported. In Chicago's western suburbs, nearly 10,000 residents had lost power. 'Several places have had days upon days of rain. Some places have had half a foot (15 cm) of rain, and there are reports of rivers flooding in Iowa and Illinois. Additional rains will just aggravate the situation. [Reuters]

A flock of sheep congregated around a near-empty dam located on Lake George near the Australian capital city of Canberra May 23, 2004. Large areas of the major Australian state of New South Wales have been pushed back into drought, experiencing their worst conditions in six months after good rains early this year had reportedly broken the drought. But due to a lack of follow-up rains, very dry conditions have returned with around 70 per cent of the state back in drought. NSW was hardest hit by Australia's worst drought in a century in 2002/3, which devastated crops. [Reuters]

Between May and August, the Andes mountains can't be seen through the blanket of toxic smog that covers Santiago, caused by thermal inversions which prevent the pollutants being flushed away from the city. Many localities of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir State [India], were submerged after heavy rains for the last four days and an unexpected snowfall. [Reuters]

The G7 nations are calling on OPEC to Pump More Oil and bring down the price.

Charles De Gaul Airport in Paris is falling down, well a walkway has gone already and ominous creaking sounds can be heard. Only a year old, wonderful modern design though. And a plane has collapsed at another airport, just gave up the ghost and collapsed on the tarmac, nose first. Either a severe case of ennui [not another service and then lurch back into the atmosphere], or technology has finally turned against the naked ape. I shall keep an eye out for further instances of machine collapse.

Thursday 20 May 2004 - bringing civilization ...

The Israeli Nazis are really excelling themselves, attacking crowds of Palestinian demonstrators with tanks and helicopters while bulldozing houses again, whether occupied or not. The US slaughters almost a whole extended family celebrating a wedding but claims they didn't do it. They seem to like attacking weddings, did it a lot in Afghanistan, obviously developed a zionist-like taste for random killing. The US delivers a 'harsh rebuke' which sounded to me like a mild murmur, something like 'this action is extremely unhelpful', not bloody murderous, fascistic bullying, but extremely unhelpful. One wonders what they would have to do to be really criticised by their big friend, line up all Palestinian babies and run the tanks over them perhaps. The fact that this nazi state has nuclear weapons is very, very dangerous.

Pity the powder thrown at Blair in the Commons was harmless, could have been a terrorist instead of a disgruntled dad. Would have done us all a favour to have wiped out the miserable collection of self-seeking, pompous, dishonest, arrogant third-rate chancers who make up our glorious government and ever-so-loyal 'opposition' most of whom were only too willing to cheer on the professional psychopaths of the armed forces attack Iraq for the greater glory of America. As everyone in the House panicked and rushed out, new security will be installed, and they will be enclosed in a bombproof plastic bubble soon, where they will be viewable swimming round and occasionally opening their mouths in a facsimile of communication.

An American woman, writing to the bulletin board at Al Jazeera, claimed that Iraq wasn't for oil, 'we have enough oil in the US for aeons', a statement I find extraordinary considering the world supply of oil is running out rapidly and America is far from self sufficient in oil even now. Amazing how a large percentage of the US population is kept so ignorant. People in the home town of the trailer trash who was first in line for court marshall, seem to have views to the extreme right of Hitler as well as being factually wrong; 'they cut our soldiers heads off', 'we should just bomb them' 'they killed thousands in the twin towers, we oughta obliterate them'. Compared to this, the average Iraqi is more sophisticated, educated and aware.

Friday 14 May 2004 - the plot thickens

Doubts emerge, and the truism that the first casualty of war is truth, seems ever more apposite. Been reading a lot of opinions on the 'beading' video [although I've not managed to find anywhere showing it yet] and it seems things are not as they seem. Many comment on the fact that the video is actually two, spliced together and with sound dubbed afterwards. There are two distinct date stamps visible. It is also pointed out that no blood appears to flow, yet if this were a genuine beheading, there would be blood spurting everywhere. It's probable then that it was staged with a dead body, and the head may already have been severed some time before. So far, so gruesome. Now we come to the appearance of the five hooded 'terrorists' who all appear to have white skin and are tubbier than your average 'on the run, fighting in the mountains' terrorist, who tend to be fit and lean, even scrawny. These five hooded figures appear to be very well fed.

Could it be that this was staged by the Americans to divert attention from the appalling images coming out of Abu Ghraib? It worked, the world's media were full of it, and many Americans appeared to think it justified everything they were doing to Iraq, or choose to do in the future. Further, the man who identifies himself as the killer is believed to have been killed months ago, and anyway, even if still alive, had lost a leg and had a prosthetic fitted in Baghdad. All five 'terrorists' appear to have all their legs. Makes you wonder.

In the UK the Daily Mirror has said sorry and sacked its editor over the pictures it ran claiming to be British troops assaulting a hooded prisoner in the back of a truck. The interesting thing is that the army and government started shouting loudly they were fakes as soon as they were published, but could only come up with claims that the clothes looked too clean and there was no sand. But now the army has apprently 'prooved' that the truck has been identified and was never in Iraq, although we have yet to see or read any evidence to support this. If this is the case though, it leaves two options open; one, that three soldiers decided to invent a slur on their own regiment and went to great lengths to do so, or two, that the whole thing was a set-up to snare the Mirror [the only British paper opposed to the war throughout] into printing pictures which could then be revealed to be fake, thus rubbishing not only the Mirror, but also claims that the British Army is mistreating prisoners. These people don't mess about, they are more than capable of setting up a critical newspaper so they can knock it down.

Wednesday 12 May 2004 - of dogs and men

We are at a very dangerous point in the current power struggle initiated by the US and UK. The appalling execution of an American, who seems to have been just a young adventurer who made a bad decision to go to Iraq and try to help, so doubly innocent of any involvement in the crimes committed against Iraqis generally and prisoners in particular, looks set to escalate the assault on Iraq. Newspapers across the Islamic world are saying the killing was justified as revenge for mistreatment of those prisoners. This could signal a point when the world becomes much more dangerous and the battle between Islam and capitalism really hots up. As we have seen in the conflict between Israel and Palestine [which is at the root of it all] vicious brutality leads to escalating acts by both sides, where many innocent people die and families are ripped apart. If the current war spreads across the world, outside of the as yet relatively small number of extremists and into mainstream Islam, the repercussions will be enormous. Positions will harden, conflict will breed conflict and tit-for-tat will be the order of the day. Revenge - reaction - counter reaction, all with their justifications. Words like justice and god will be used by both sides, no one will be listening.

I'm having my own problems with conflict resolution, this time regarding one of our dogs, Kees, who is a rescued dog and has improved behaviourwise immensely in the two years he has been with us. He has a lovely nature, is gentle with small dogs, puppies and even our cat, but is still prone to be a bit exciteable and flighty when he meets a strange dog. He's never bitten, and always wags his tail vigorously while rushing at another dog. Some dogs find it threatening of course, and I've been at pains to train him out of the habit and to relax about other dogs. He's getting there, and dogs he knows are ok about him, as are their owners, the vast majority of those we have met. There are a few, three women to be precise, who have been bothered by him and have been gossiping together and working themselves up into a state. One of them, clearly with too much time on her hands, has visited our house twice with instructions that we fit a muzzle, implying he is dangerous and could bite someone. Saying things like 'I've lived here for thirty years' and 'I know all the dog owners' and 'I have a friend who's a policeman' she has attempted to bully us into going along with her obsession. I've tried my best to reassure and explain why he behaves in this way and that he's improving all the time, that we are responsible and working on his remaining problems, and why he is no danger to her dogs, as I have with other owners, but this woman just will not listen, is clearly intent on clinging to her view despite anything I say and constantly inflates her little gang of three into 'all the dog owners'. She's now threatened that if he isn't fitted with a muzzle within a week she will go to the police.

So I went to the police, for clarification on the situation, and to find out just what the attitude of the law is. I was reassured by an officer who knows and likes dogs [something not true of these three women] and who immediately understood the situation and why Kees behaves like he does. He informed me quite firmly that no one can tell me to muzzle a dog, that anything that happens between dogs is down to the owners and not the concern of the police, and that if I thought the dog was dangerous I should fit a muzzle, but only if I thought so, not someone else. He also said I should report it to him if she bothered me again, and he would sort it out. Just shows how situations can arise and get out of hand, people don't listen or are incapable through prejudice of understanding. Animosity builds, words are exchanged, threats made, next thing you're calling in the UN to arbitrate. Silly really, he could play with her dogs as he does the others if she could only calm down and understand. Him being muzzled won't help as it will send a signal to owners that he's a dangerous dog and he'll feel even more insecure with something clamped to his face. Muzzling should only ever be a last resort because it must be very uncomfortable for the dog and should be used if they are a definite danger. It is a sign that you've given up on training and socialising and are resigned to the situation, rather than actively working on it. But all I have to do is avoid the problem owners which I've been doing for weeks. Yet still they persist in their tiny minded vendetta. It seems to me there are two types of dog 'owners'. Those for whom their dog is part of their family, who care for and feel for the animal which gives them so much in return and loves them without reservation. They are relaxed about their dogs and others, and enjoy dogs company, whatever the situation. There are others who don't actually like dogs, feel no affinity with them, see them as potentially dangerous killers - two's a pack, if off the lead - and anything short of absolute instant obedience means out of control. These people are often keen on trining and exhibiting their dogs, competitions are popular along with winners rosettes. They are essentially control freaks and see any free-running dog as an unknown quantity, unpredictable and therefore a threat. Normal dog owners aren't interested in obedience and showing, just in enjoying their dog companion's company.

Sunday 10 May 2004 - another bomb, another dollar

The Russians thought they had Chechnya, their last colony, under control. A victory parade with the top Russian general and the puppet premier was about to take place, purportedly to celebrate the victory over the Germans in WWII. The Chechnyan bombers have changed that, and reminded the world that Russia, while sheltering under Bush's war on terror, is still occupying their country. The main collaborator is dead along with the Russian occupier. Cause for celebration in Grozny, and ex-KGB head Putin must be gnashing his teeth in fury. He'll still appear calm and sinister in public, unlike Bush who looks increasingly defensive and at bay whenever being questioned. There won't be any photos of tortured prisoners in Chechnya for Putin to answer for, but he's allowed this as payment for his lack of criticism on Iraq. It's a pact between devils. Whether[Dr Strangelove] Rumsfeld can hang on is highly dubious.

Torturer Lynndie[sic] England was brought up in a trailer. Now what did I say about trailer trash? She has more media attention than any trailer trash is entitled to, and was only a very small cog in the machine. Being America, there will be exhaustive investigation and many heads will roll [lovely expression, if only it was still literal] America's view of itself will be dented, or will it just settle into its self-deluding complacency again. Russia has no such problem, despite embracing free market capitalism they are still embedded in the secretive, state-controlled mindset of the previous system.

Found beautiful, stimulating writing the net can do with. As they say, the net's not just a shopping mall. In fact, it would have been so much better if the suits had never got interested and had stuck to their high streets and junk mail and left the net for ideas above the mundane world of money. I continue to get 50 or more spam a day mostly American and offering insurance, mortgages, drugs and sexual aids, obviously American obsessions, but not mine. The prospect of protecting email from this garbage with signed encription keys for email, which I considered two years ago before it was a problem, is looking like the only way to go.

Saturday 9 May 2004 - it's all going pear shaped

I hear this morning that a truck driver has been arrested with three illegal immigrants hidden in his truck. This would normally be too commonplace to report, except that he was smuggling them out of the country. Obviously the UK was a disappointment.

Watched Rumsfeld on TV yesterday, being grilled by a succession of democrats, interspersed with supportive republican questioners. Reminding me more and more like Dr Strangelove, Rumsfeld condemned himself while thinking he was doing a good job of defending himself, indicating clearly to everyone that he's clinically insane. He will go. Such is the revulsion of ordinary Americans to the increasing revelations of systemic abuse of prisoners, that sacrificial heads will roll as the blame creeps nearer and nearer to Bushmonkey. Even Republican senators who supported the war are aghast and looking for a way out, and the claim that this is an 'aberation' and a 'few bad apples' is looking shaky. Perhaps, many are thinking, it's gone on so long that all the apples in the barrel that is US foreign policy are rotten to the core. My Lai is being spoken of in comparison now, but how long did the angst over My Lai last? And did it change the US military one little bit? Apparently not. Still too many Americans cling to the belief that they are the good guys and only want to bring freedom to everyone in the world. They must want us all to become the Grateful Dead.

Another site worth a visit is the home of creative play, where you can create stick creatures and animate them. Go there to read all the stuff about it and maybe you'll have more luck than me; I couldn't get things to work as they should, perhaps my Javascript isn't working properly, windows appeared and disappeared faster than I could see what was happening. I realise this is my fault, and no reflection on the site. It's just so difficult to keep everything up-to-date with all the right plug-ins, so it's not unusual for sites not to quite work as they should. Having a firewall does open your eyes to the number of programs trying to access their home site as you surf. Much of the slowing down that occurs is down to the sheer bandwidth of cross-communicating that's going on, most of it invisible to the average net user. Small wonder that among all this the advertisers slither in and out, 'borrowing' your details for their own ends and behaving as capitalists always do. A growing industry offers tools to block them, and these tools join the queue to access their own sites and download/upload streams of data.

Then there's Japanese sites, where almost all the text appears as empty squares among those strange soul-less computer-generated cartoon graphics that seem to have swamped Japanese culture lately. Incomprehensible to anyone over five years old. There's probably a full length cartoon of the end of oil and resulting mayhem, they go a lot on mayhem, and action. They'll be seeing plenty of that in non-virtual reality soon enough as will the rest of the world. Being so interlinked, no one country could survive a breakdown of the others, it will be a classic domino effect, whichever one falls first will knock on to all the rest. Already we have seen markets across the planet wobble and crash over less monumental causes as soon as their trading rooms opened. Following the sun, just can't get away from it.

Friday 8 May 2004 -it's all a question of seeing the big picture

Seems on top of Shell's admission that they've been overestimating oil reserves for decades and therefore the world stocks have to be adjusted downwards, someone has just noticed that China's meteoric race to industrialisation means their demand for energy has gone way beyond estimates and looks set to continue to rise and rise along with it's increasing pollution problem. Still, most people involved still only seem capable of a narrow 'how will this affect the cost of oil and therefore petrol and how will this impact on our economy?' mindset, yet their previousl complacency that fossil fuel stocks are good for fifty or more years is clearly way out. Some scientists think we have 20 years left- still without factoring in China - so this is likely to be adjusted downwards as the Chinese growth in oil demand is deducted [the math isn't that difficult surely]. China being so large and so populous [increasing wealth means more cars] is clearly a major influence, but has any 'futures' analyst added the rest of the developing world, which must add up to much the same effect, meaning it has to be doubled. That twenty years is beginning to look a bit shaky to say the least. Could it be that we have at best ten years of oil left? This largely depends on whether we accept we have reached the peak yet [after which it's all downhill] as opinion still differs, and probably will continue to right up to the pumps drying up. The effect of fossil fuels running out on the whole world economy doesn't take much imagination.

As the reality hits home, certain strategies will be enacted by governments to mediate the effects. First price rises to price a lot of people out of the demand side, then rationing [and corresponding black market] and eventually restriction to essential services such as farming, transport, emergency services and key personnel. This might delay meltdown for a year depending on which country and how effective the government is. None of it takes into account terrorism. The effect on world trade will be catastrophic, there will be a worldwide crash.

For too long people have been comfortably consigning things like oil running out to 'the next century' while mouthing such mealy-mouthed and homocentric sentiments like 'we don't own the planet, we are keeping it in trust for our children'. It's now becoming apparent that it's this century and sooner than anyone thought. That seemingly distant future is about to come close and smack us in the mouth for being so unfocused. Reality has a habit of doing that, yet many never seem to learn and continue doing what they've always done; driving in the car everywhere, building houses on flood plains, throwing out sackfulls of rubbish every week to be dumped in holes in the ground, flushing the environment with agro-chemicals until the topsoil is destroyed and washes away in the increasingly violent downpours. Oil running out will be a blessing for Planet Earth, literally a breathing space for the ecosystem to start to put right the damage we have done in just a couple of centuries. It will take longer than that probably, and there will be little place for homo sapiens whose main strength was always intelligent co-operation, as individually we are probably the most vulnerable species.

Wednesday 6 May 2004 - that's Americans for you

The self-important arrogance of soft-porn crooner Madonna is truly staggering. Having decided to live in the UK now she's past her prime, she now wants to close off a huge area of open countryside bordering her 'estate' in Wiltshire so walkers, [born here and enjoying their countryside] won't get close enough to her house to catch a glimpse of her body, which she's based her career on showing to the world to compensate for her unremarkable voice. Money doesn't talk, it swears.

I wondered if Bush had money in TV sets, considering the net result of his 'interviews' with tame [American controlled] Arabic TV stations is likely to be sets shot up and damaged by missiles throughout the Muslim world. Here, we just make do with hurling invective at the set whenever he appears with his pathetic attempt at a sincere look. I think his effectiveness in countering any anti-American sentiments in the region caused by the continuing news of torture and abuse of prisoners by both US and UK conquerers is going to be minimal. But it shows just how desperate he and his crew of war criminals are right now. Time to enjoy that a little, don'tcha think.

An excellent site which illustrates what I wrote about shareware is where you can download for free Paint Buster and Paint Buster textures [a very fast, small, compact and innovative freeware paint program that's simple for beginners and powerful for professionals. It's been designed for those of us who paint using the mouse. It supports JPEG, GIF, TIF, PNG, BMP, ICO, PCX, and TGA formats. MorphBuster is a powerful and easy-to-use morphing program for the creation of morph animations in Shockwave Flash, Animated Gif, JPEG, and other popular formats. The program is very intuitive and user friendly. If you think only expensive graphics software can do these things, click on this link and prepare to be amazed. You have a 15 day trial then I guess you're asked to pay, but it won't be that much.

Tuesday 5 May 2004 - it's all a matter of perspective

Been reading writings from a 22-year-old student in Baghdad called Hamsa, with excellent English and a sharp mind. Worth reading if only for the semi-literate, right-wing, ravings that are posted on the site by Americans;' we went to Iraq to liberate it', 'cos we're just good ole boys what wanna help people', 'it wasn't about oil, and anyone who says it was is lieing' kind of garbage. One of the correspondents even claimed Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 'humane' and that no war America had ever fought had been for anything but to help people to 'freedom' [not read Noam Chomsky then]. The contrast between an educated young Iraqi woman and American lame brains is a beautiful juxtaposition which resonates with the whole 'cradle of civilisation' thing and the unnaceptable side of America. Hamsa 'hopes to be a writer' one day, she already is, and in a non-native tongue.

The best page on [the official site!] is where you can see a lovely picture of the nicest person in the white house, Barney Bush. Emails to Barney should be sent to, I'm sure he'll pass them on.

In 1996’s The Making of the Atomic Bomb, author Richard Rhodes details plans by Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller, and Robert Oppenheimer in the spring of 1943 to use “radioactive materials bred in a nuclear reactor as a weapon of war.” The idea was to poison the German food supply and the three fathers of the A-Bomb were thinking radioactive strontium “appears to have the greatest promise” to realize their goal. Oppenheimer wrote, “We should not attempt a plan unless we can poison food sufficient to kill a half a million men.” Radioactive strontium does not exist in nature. It only comes to be through human induced nuclear fission.

Like calcium, radioactive strontium entering the human body will concentrate in bones and teeth. Strontium 90 (Sr-90) has a radioactive life of nearly 300 years. A recent study by the New York City-based Radiation and Public Health Project found that, over the past two decades, Strontium-90 has found its way into baby teeth, most likely through air, water, and food poisoned by the nation’s commercial nuclear power reactors. For full article click here.

Hearts and minds. Brits you are hated all over. This war is why. And when the next 'innocent' western tourists are blown up on holiday in a foreign resort, their relatives will know why. And as for 'supporting our boys' and 'this will put them at risk even more' well fine, they shouldn't be there.

There was me thinking the British army's reputation round the world was shit. Like they haven't raped village women in Kenya [except the children are there for all to see, and DNA tests would find exactly who the fathers were if the British army was concerned at all about it]. Like British squaddies aren't hated in every country they've done their government's bidding, plus a bit extra for kicks; Aden, Malaysia, Burma ... it's a long list. And that's not mentioning Ireland where they had a licence to brutalise Irish people, and even plotted with paramilitaries to assasinate prominent republican lawyers and activists. What reputation? This is the British Army's reputation; hardened, bullying, sick racist killers. To listen to the retired wierdoes that have been recruited to defend the army over this, you'd think it was a gentleman's club with high moral principles and the aim of doing good in the world and helping people. Is this 'through the looking-glass' country, is the Mad Hatter going to appear at any moment?

Monday 4 May 2004 - a river ran through it

Wow, heavy rain in the marches at the moment, the rain teeming relentlessly and a temporary river running down the road outside. I caught the only clear spell with the dogs early and, although squishy underfoot, it was a fine morning with even a bit of blue sky. Not any more. I seem to wear Wellington boots most of the year these days, they used to be out away in the shed until the next winter came round, but they're as needed in August as in December, pity they don't make them for dogs, takes ages wiping the mud off their legs and bellies after a run in the mud and our towel laundry is an almost daily chore..

The internet formed round an ethos of people helping people and sharing. It's still like that in many respects, but it's withering from the onslaught of the bread-head suits who see it only as a means of blasting people with their buy from me, gimme some money message. The original spirit lives on in bulletin boards, file swapping sites and even on a lot of websites which give away information for free, some of it very useful, and shareware software, often better than its highly priced commercial cousins. These two very different world coexist on the net, but there's friction as one would expect, neither having any sympathy with the other's viewpoint. Spam comes from the suits, it's just another marketing ploy and costs nothing so even if it yields nothing but anger in the recipients, it's still cost effective. Most of it American where all the capitalist sickness originates these days. Sad really, apes collecting tokens and feeling superior to other apes with less tokens than them. If chimps indulged in this ludicrous aquisition of tokens, biologists would probably describe it as non-survival-related obsessive behaviour, probably caused by stress. As it's humans, it's seen as perfectly normal, even worthy of admiration and indicative of how clever humans are. Actually, the aquisition of 'wealth' beyond that necessary for survival is a deeply sick obsession and the cause of most of the suffering in the world. Either the rich are all atheists, or think with a bit of slimming they'll fit through the eye of a needle.

My partner is planning a trip to Florence. Having been brought up without religion of any kind, she seems to have a need to look at religious pictures of which Florence is preeminent. On the other hand, I, having been subjected to the excesses of catholicism as a child; kneeling with the family at prayer, picture of a man with an exposed bleeding heart in the dining room, strips of dried palm leaves woven into crosses, the numinescent experience of midnight mass with candles and incense causing near psychedelic states, 'faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee till death ...', have no wish to visit Florence or look at another bleeding heart as long as I live. Neither can I be tolerant of any religious silliness whether traditional or new age, and those who wallow in such simplistic reassurances. Yet my sense of morality is not diminished because I have no time for supreme being/creator myths, it is in fact much stronger by not being based on fear. There has, as far as I'm aware, never been a war caused by atheists to defend their beliefs, but many caused by people with god on their side.

Sunday 3 May 2004 - fake or whitewash, free or not

Now the whitewash begins; they look like the wrong boots, the soldiers rifle doesn't have a sling, the prisoner is wearing a football shirt, all implying the shots are faked to discredit the British army. Of course there aren't a string of unexplained deaths in army barracks across the UK, but mostly Deepcut where young recruits are supposed to have committed suicide by highly dubious means [with three rifle shots to the head in one case], as if bullying and intimidation aren't the stuff of army life - 'they'll make a man of you son', or a corpse. It's part of the culture of the army, so no one should be surprised. And that's with their own. Imagine the attitude to a 'towel-head' who they think has been shooting at them, and may be responsible for the deaths of friends. The grand old British tradition of cover up is about to be celebrated, if they can only get the media to buy it.

There is a crisis in the music industry, people are starving, having to sell their limos for a crust, and if you know of a local 'hero' of rock'n'roll near you, you should immediately organise a benefit for them to see them into old age in the manner to which they've grown accustomed. In other words, the record industry continues to agonise over the millions it supposes it is losing with so called illegal downloads of music mp3s. Like any overstuffed, complacent group which has successfully ripped off the consumers for half a century, they are terrified of losing the golden goose, and fail to understand the spirit of the net and how it works. Software developers have learnt and increasingly go the shareware route - try it lite and if you like it, give us a little money for an expanded product. Spybot Search and Destroy is one of these; you can use the program as much as you like [it finds spy bots and ads - which track all manner of personal details about you - on your computer and allows you to remove them] and just offers a Pro version [take it or leave it] and donations if you feel so moved, but is a helpful and useful product among others they offer. They are sometimes subject to hacker attacks to close them down, which has to be coming from the people who use spy bots, and they're all commercial sites, not hackers whose culture is embedded in the net free spirit. The giants of the software world continue to charge outrageous sums for their products, and only the rich companies buy them, thus creating a haves and have-nots situation. It's all about whether you're obsessed with or relaxed about money.

A CD costs a few pennies to produce, a few more to burn and a few more to market. Considering that the average CD costs around £15+ in the UK, that means a helluva profit margin. Of course it's a cabal, a fix, and none of the major players has reduced their prices to compete, after all, music is down to taste so if you've got someone's favourite artist contracted up, you can charge what you like. Those who can't afford the price can do without. But millions are fed up with this and download tracks via such services as Bearshare and Gnutella where you download a small program, install it and it connects you to millions of other people who like to share. Most offered are single tracks, good for getting that track you like, or maybe for listening to someone you've heard about but never actually heard. And even the artists themselves are understanding that 'free' doesn't threaten their priviledged lifestyle one bit, but even endears them to fans and makes them more popular.

Many new, indie bands are marketing themselves on the net and often give away tracks for download as tasters. Some may even have embraced the shareware concept of pay me if you like it [and can afford to]. Of course this is very threatening to the suits who run the labels, musicians taking thier own careers in hand rather than signing on the dotted line to a life of pampered slavery. Other, commercial, operators are using the net to sell, with download after the payment has gone through. We can all burn our own CDs now, and printing out a label isn't too hard if you want it [or you can read it all in Real Player while listening], so the means of delivery of the product which is an album is changing, and the labels are just dinosaurs, screaming their displeasure at the changes they don't understand, and think they can stop.

I keep getting into total confusion with passwords and user names. So many places demand you have one, and generally I try to keep the same one, but this can be difficult. Sometimes the stipulation is 'more than seven letters', others either allow or demand numerals as well. The result is that I have combinations of words and numbers in my head that might or might not be the right one for the service/member area/online payment facilities that I need at that time. I often spend 1o minutes trying them all and give up. So rather than ensuring online security - which with anything but money is surely unnecessary - the insistance on member logins and passwords actually just makes life more difficult for users. This is obviously a widespread problem as many sites also have personal Q&As to confirm identity in order to get sent your password. When I have to do this I try to keep the email with the password safe, but invariably it takes as long to find it as trial and error, so I'm no better off. I have yet to find out if my browser, which constantly asks me if it should remember the details of the log in page 'for this page' can actually make this process smooth and stress free. It never seems to know the answers, and asks me over again if I want the details remembered, which I always click yes to. If anyone has the answer to this one, they could make my life so much simpler, and probably that of lots of others. I'll pass it on if I ever find out.

Saturday 1 May 2004 - anyone for war crime trials?

No sooner had the chorus of 'tut, it would never have happened with the British army' faded, than the pictures showing it happening burst on the stage, British soldiers abusing hooded prisoners.. But whoever expected soldiers to behave in a humane, considerate way? They are hired killers who do the state's dirty work, in this case very dirty work. The British army is no different, there are many instances in the past where ill treatment of prisoners has been exposed, and probably plenty where it hasn't. It's a tradition of armies throughout history to rape and pillage and brutalise their conquered foes. If prisoner's rights are to be respected, better a body like the Red Cross or UN took charge of all prisoners pending an end to the war. Outer security could be left with the men with guns, but care of the prisoners would be in the hands of civilians who hadn't lost sight of their humanity. After droppings bombs on people, everything else is somehow less. The whole idea of honour on the battlefield is nonsense anyway.

The May bank holiday just had to be cold and wet everywhere [except Cornwall, which will probably be crowded as a result], it's traditional and reassuring somehow. Baby birds already out and trying their flight feathers then getting lost and calling loudly for parents, much like human teenagers.

The lilac tree, bigger this year again, dominates the view from my window and is about to burst forth, another day or two. It's blotted the ugly modern house now which is a blessing. This year, it looks like the camellia will flower. Apparently it's down to water, last summer was very dry and we didn't know to water it. This year it will get all our surplus water if at all dry, better to use that than pay for it out the tap. I hate water meters, never had one before, but was always careful not to waste. Now, the meter is set so high by the suppliers that even our minimal use results in massive bills. Considering it's Welsh Water who supply us, one would have expected it to be cheap, Wales being one of the wettest parts of the UK. Maybe it's because we're English!



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