Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Public Smoking Banned in France

French Surrender without a fight. Why am I not surprised?

Clark Kent, Call Your Service

What could be worse than having CCTV cameras everwhere you turn?

How about X-ray CCTV cameras!


New York City's Chinatown will soon see the world's second robot parking garage. That's a garage where robots do the parking, not one for parking your robots.

The first one, you may recall, was in Hoboken, New Jersey. That one had to shut down when the firm that handled the garage's software went out of business, resulting in the first building crash that did not involve an earthquake or enemy action.


Lonely? Can't get a date? Looking for that certain someone? Then you need robomonkey.

We don't mean you date the monkey. It's for breaking the ice; that sort of thing. Still, if you need a robot monkey for that, maybe dating it is your best option.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Thought They Were Your Children? Think Again.

If you live in Britain and you have overweight children and you failed to follow the Party's State's orders to put them on a diet, then get ready for a visit from the Thought Police. Now those are grounds for putting your kids on a child protection register and you run the risk of having them taken away from you entirely.

Yesterday's Judge Dredd comic has become today's official policy.

Super Duck

Dear Lord, it's a duck with powers far beyond those of mortal poultry!

Monday, 29 January 2007

Geek Alert

I am:
Hal Clement (Harry C. Stubbs)
A quiet and underrated master of "hard science" fiction who, among other things, foresaw integrated circuits back in the 1940s.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Sickening Idea

From the Independent:
A leading Islamic doctor is urging British Muslims not to vaccinate their children against diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella because they contain substances making them unlawful for Muslims to take.
What is a devout Muslim to do?
Dr.Katme, an NHS psychiatrist, said: "If you breastfeed your child for two years - as the Koran says - and you eat Koranic food like olives and black seed, and you do ablution each time you pray, then you will have a strong defence system."
And this man works for the NHS?!?

Oh, right. What was I thinking?

Poster Girl II

Looks like Beccy Cole is not only the Poster Girl, but also the Single of the Year and the APRA Song of the Year Girl as well.


Sunday, 28 January 2007

Dribbling Idiocy

Concurring that liberty is a horrible thing, Burnham Grammar School in Buckinghamshire has banned football on the off chance that someone might get hurt.

I don't see how, given that the school uniform is made of eight-inch thick foam rubber.

Another Nail

Britney Spears is rumoured to play a group of sex-mad aliens in an upcoming Doctor Who.

Please, dear God, no!

John Kerry: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Now that John Kerry has given up his hopes of the presidency he's free to soar like an eagle:
When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don't advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy.

So we have a crisis of confidence in the Middle East - in the world, really. I've never seen our country as isolated, as much as a sort of international pariah for a number of reasons as it is today.

Not surprisingly, M. Kerry forgot that he himself voted against Kyoto during the Clinton administration, that the Bush administration more than doubled AIDS funding, and that it's not a good idea to spout about the Middle East while you're giving your autograph to former president Khatami of Iran.

Yup, he's still got it!

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Silent Films

Andrew Klavan on the refusal reluctance of Hollywood to admit that the Jihadists even exist.

Wake Up Call

A splash of cold water in the face regarding the West's fecklessness in the face of the Jihadists:

Objectively speaking, the cartoon controversy was a tempest in a teacup. But subjectively it was a show of strength and, in the context of the "clash of civilizations," a dress rehearsal for the real thing. The Muslims demonstrated how quickly and effectively they can mobilize the masses, and the free West showed that it has nothing to counter the offensive -- nothing but fear, cowardice and an overriding concern about the balance of trade. Now the Islamists know that they are dealing with a paper tiger whose roar is nothing but a tape recording.

As different as the West's reactions to the Muslim protests were, what they had in common were origins in feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. Critical souls who only yesterday agreed with Marx that religion is the opium of the masses suddenly insisted that religious sensibilities must be taken into account, especially when accompanied by violence. The representatives of open societies reacted like the inhabitants of an island about to be hit by a hurricane. Powerless against the forces of nature, they stocked up on supplies, nailed doors and windows shut and hoped that the storm would soon pass. Of course, whereas such a reaction may be an appropriate response to natural disasters, such a lack of resistance merely encourages fundamentalists. It completely justifies their view of the West as weak, decadent and completely unwilling to defend itself.


In 1972, more than three decades ago, Danish lawyer and part-time politician Mogens Glistrup had an idea that brought him instant fame. To save taxes, he proposed that the Danish army be disbanded and an answering machine be set up in the defense ministry that would play the following message: "We capitulate!" Not only would it save money, Glistrup argued, but it would also save lives in an emergency. On the strength of this "program," Glistrup's Progress Party managed to become the second-most powerful political party in the Danish parliament in the 1973 elections.

Glistrup had the right idea, but he was a number of years premature. Now would be the right time to set up his answering machine.

The frightening thing is, this had to be pointed out to us by a German.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Raygun Department

Not exactly a death ray; more of a stings-a-bit ray.

Bleep Save the Queen

It finally happened. The word "God" has been censored from a film.

This time it was accidental, but...

Signature News

Nascent Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has proof positive that Fidel Castro is in incredibly good shape for a dead sick man.

His proof? Castro's autograph.

Well, I'm convinced.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Year of the Dhimmi

Dhimmitude has even penetrated the Celestial Kingdom. It may be the year of the pig, but you wouldn't know it in China, where references to porcine individuals are being removed to avoid offending Muslims.

It's always easier to sink than to swim, isn't it?

Update: The Sydney Morning Herald confirms.

Is Sarah Connor in Singapore?

Singapore's Defense Science and Technology Agency recently announced that they will pay anyone who can submit the best design for a "robot that can operate autonomously in urban warfare conditions."
Something like this, perhaps?

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Stand By for Infinite Regression

In a beautiful example of disappearing up one's own backside, Scotland is now installing CCTV cameras to guard speed cameras from being vandalised.

Stay tuned for the announcement of a second batch of CCTV cameras to guard the first lot.

Quel Dommage!

John Kerry will not be running for president in 2008. That just takes all the fun out of it

I normally don't comment on American politics, but M. Kerry had such a palpable sense of entitlement combined with so much pomposity and a preternatural capacity for self-contradiction that I could no more resist taking shots at him than could a small boy armed with a snowball faced with a fat banker wearing a silk hat.

Au revoir.

Mark Your Calendar

At last! A holiday that I can look forward to!

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Storm Cloud

The Telegraph reports that North Korea is helping Iran with nuclear weapons testing.

Axis? What Axis?

Flying Without a Compass

Britain's prisons are filled to capacity. Do you:
  1. Build more prisons?
  2. Order courts to stop locking up criminals?
If you picked 2, congratulations! You are now the Home Secretary!

A Breath of Fresh Air

Is multiculturalism dead?

No, but it's not at all well.

Virtual Aggravation

The consulting company Accenture has developed a system that allows people to share virtual dinners with relatives. Good Lord, I hope no one ever tries to fob one of the blisters off on me, because it sounds like the sort of thing I've spent my entire life trying to avoid.

Next up: The virtual family argument, the virtual four-year old who won't eat her fish fingers, the virtual teenager who sullenly glares through the entire meal and the virtual father who tries to find some modicum of solace by hiding behind his newspaper.

Frankly, I think I will settle for having my virtual dinner on a virtual tray in my virtual office.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Guns or Butter

Headline from the Telegraph on Britain's defence crisis:
Defence spending is lowest since the 1930s
Low defence spending juxtaposed with the 1930s; last time those two collided we ended up in a right old mess.

Anyone for another world war?

A Pint for Me and One for My Friend.

A pet shop owner in the Netherlands has invented a beer for dogs.

He's a bit late. Down the pub we've had that for years. We call it "beer."

Smoking News

Went into a shop in Cambridge and the Muslim assistant refused to sell you a packet of fags because its "against her religion?" Don't bother going to the Metropolitan Police about it. They're having enough problems of their own with a Muslim police officer refusing to shake hands with the chief because its "against her religion."

I think its time that someone had a quiet word.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Some Duck

A duck in Florida survived being shot by a hunter and spending two days in the fridge.

Now if it had then pulled an automatic and dramatically fought its way to freedom while quacking cool one-liners, you'd have a story there.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Progress and Exploration

A British team has made "history" by reaching the Antarctic Pole of Inaccessibility "without mechanical assistance." Translated into English, that means that they skied.

I don't want to take anything away from the achievements of Henry Cookson, Rory Sweet and Rupert Longsdon. God knows that trekking 1093 miles to the most remote part of Antarctica is no walk in the park and you'd have pay me a sizable chunk of change to get me to try it-- twenty years ago, that is. However, it does show how seriously dead the Age of Exploration is in the 21st century.

What makes the feat of Cookson et al newsworthy is not that they reached the Pole of Inaccessibility, but that they did so with a self-imposed handicap. If this were 1907, anyone hearing of such an idea would have thought the authors mad. When the Poles were conquered no one gave a tinkers damn whether it was done on foot, by dog sled, snowmobile, Zeppelin, gondola, or pogo stick. The important thing was to get there and hang how you did it. In fact, when Captain Scott made his ill-fated march on the South Pole he took snow tractors, ponies, dog sleds, and man-hauling equipment. When the Hunt Expedition finally managed to conquer Everest, it did so with all the scale and equipment of a military campaign and pinned its hopes on the latest in oxygen gear.

Today, we've so filled the map and reached every spot on the globe worth reaching that the business of "exploration" has been reduced to the level of stunts and extreme recreational activity. The big thing is not to climb Everest, but to do so without oxygen, or with as little equipment as possible, with an all-woman team, with paraplegics, alone, via the most insanely suicidal route possible, or while painting one's face blue. As for polar "expeditions," now that we can touch both of Earth's extremes in a few hours by plane, and it seems that no one has the stomach to go shoggoth hunting, the only thing "explorers" can do today is make their mark by pointless endurance tests that end with a nice, hot shower at the Scott/Amundsen base.

This is probably one of the few sound reasons I can think of for manned space travel. If no solid scientific or industrial reason can be found for mounting an expedition to Mars, we may need to do so anyway as a viable alternative now that Earthbound exploration has been reduced to the level of sport.

Love Letters to Dead Tyrants

The BBC has another hard-hitting article on Cuba, this time culling the reaction of British residents to Fidel Castro's death health. The tone was set early from the moment they referred to the Maximum Leader as "the world's longest-serving political leader" rather than "one of the last of the Communist dictators."

Unable to find any actual Cubans who were willing to risk the safety of their relatives back home, the Beeb had to fall back on a dance video producer, the spokesman for a Communist front organisation that the BBC calls "non-party political" despite having card-carrying members of the British Communist Party on its executive board, and Labour MP Ian Gibson, who last graced these pages when he blamed the incidence of diabetes in his constituency on inbreeding.

I'd love to sit in on the editor's meetings at the BBC that okays this sort of thing for publication. It would afford a glimpse into a new and terrible world.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Follow the Signs

I have got to learn to follow my instincts.

I had to go into town on business yesterday and after picking up my daughter from school in the afternoon I decided to take Carl the Cattle Dog to the dog park to make up for his having to spend all day in the kitchen. Something told me that this was a bad idea, but I put that down to being tired and the sky being overcast, so I changed into my boots, bundled daughter and dog into the Cruiser and drove into Redmond.

Now, King County is a bit odd when it comes to parks and some bizarre subterranean logic told the bureaucrats that be that having paid parking in Marymoor Park was a jolly good idea-- especially when such parking is jammed solidly in the 20th century with parking machines that only take hard cash rather than debit cards. I only bring this up because I had to get out of the car in order to use the machine (another bit of mind-boggling design) and left the engine running.

No problem, I thought. I was only going to be out a second and it wasn't like carjackers were going to leap out of the turf. I got the ticket, turned back to the car and saw Carl sitting in the drivers seat with his nose on the door lock button. Yes, nothing like progress. In the old days, you had to lock each door individually. Now, a dog with no formal training is able to lock the car all by himself-- still running and with the keys in the ignition.

I suspected that Carl would be no help in this situation, so I then spent what seemed like an epoch explaining, very loudly, to my four-year old daughter through the window how to undo her belt, climb into the front seat, and unlock the door, which she eventually did.

Of course, I abandoned the outing as a bad idea. Did I? Did I, Hell. I'd spent an entire dollar on parking and I wasn't about to let that go to waste, so into the dog park we went.

Last time I'd been to the park it had been one expanse of ice and snow packed down by dogs of various sizes and breeds. Even the black, swampy bit was frozen solid, much to Carl's dismay, as he'd been looking forward to a good muddying. Now the thaw had taken firm hold in the lower altitudes and most of the snow and ice was gone. Most, but not all. We discovered this when my daughter walked through a puddle and slid on a camouflaged slab of ice. out went her feet from under her and she landed flat on her back in what was to her scale a fair-sized wading pond, albeit a very, very cold one.

So, five minutes after the start of our outing we were back in the car, Emma stripped down and under a blanket, daddy sweltering in his winter gear with car heater turned up full and Carl feeling confused and relieved that at least he'd had a chance to poop.

Next time I think I'll settle for throwing the Frisbee around the garden.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

China Destroys Satellite in Weapons Test

Nothing to worry about here. Nope. Nothing at all. Business as usual. Move along. Nothing to see.

Update: Defense Tech has a roundup on the subject.

Telescreen Upgrade

Not content with making Britain the most spied on country on Earth, the government wants to "improve" things:
The police and Home Office are to press for regulatory powers that will insist that every one of the 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain is upgraded so it can be deputised to gather police evidence and provide a vehicle for emerging technologies that will automatically identify people and detect if they are doing anything suspicious.
Doubleplus ungood.

Dhimmitude Depresses

Martin Amis on what he finds the most depressing thing in Britain:
The most depressing thing was the sight of middle-class white demonstrators, last August, waddling around under placards saying, We Are All Hezbollah Now. Well, make the most of being Hezbollah while you can. As its leader, Hasan Nasrallah, famously advised the West: "We don't want anything from you. We just want to eliminate you."

Similarly, when I went on (BBC television program) Question Time the other week, a woman in the audience, her voice quavering with self-righteousness, presented the following argument: since it was America that supported Osama bin Laden when he was fighting the Russians, the US armed forces, in response to September 11, "should be dropping bombs on themselves". And the audience applauded. It is quite an achievement.

People of liberal sympathies, stupefied by relativism, have become the apologists for a creedal wave that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, imperialist and genocidal. To put it another way, they are up the arse of those that want them dead.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Warring Camps

As the Netherlands fights for its life against Jihadists who regard Dutch society as morally bankrupt, Amsterdam seems dead-set on proving them right by erecting a statue that will be "a tribute to all prostitutes all over the world"

Dutchmen caught in the middle can only hope both sides can lose.

Snow Day III

It's the winter that never ends at Chez Szondy. I thought we were past the worst by last Sunday, but the temperatures remained at below five degrees of frost and yesterday morning we were slammed with another snowfall that made the road impassable.

Worse, both of our motor cars are now hors de combat. The Cruiser gave up the ghost two days ago when the cold became too much for the engine and now all I can get out of it is a sullen, battery-draining growl. I'd charge it off the Honda, but when the power went out for a few hours yesterday I decided to go into town for supplies, only to have the car slide ingloriously backwards down the hill, where it now rests marooned in the cul-de-sac by the whippet fancier's house.

I've learned my lesson. Next year I'm laying in a couple of cords of firewood, a barrel of emergency water, a well-stocked wine cellar and a couple of hundred weight of pemmican.

Update: We finally got out! Now to explore this strange, new world.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

AP Translator Service

AP headline:
Castro Reportedly in Grave Condition
Castro Reportedly in Grave Condition

Monday, 15 January 2007

Mothball or Anchor?

Is the cutting of the Royal Navy by half an example of penny-pinching short sightedness or a shotgun wedding intended to severe Britain's ties with America in favour of a decaying Europe?

Only Tony Blair would prefer to step out of a supercarrier and into a worm-eaten dinghy.

Tangled Plot

Security forces in Britain are testing a new device designed to snare bomb-laden boats bent on attacking Parliament by fouling their propellers.

I can't help thinking that there's a snag in this somewhere

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Throttling Freedom

More erosion of Britain's liberties from
Ministers are exploring the introduction of the devices - expected to cost hundreds of pounds - which automatically cut the throttle on motor-bikes to bring them within the speed limit.
In related news, the government is also exploring having thirty-pound weights clamped to everyone's ankles so they can't run away from the Thought Police.

Stand and Deliver!

As if we didn't have enough to worry about, elephants have turned highwaymen and are attacking sugar cane and tapioca convoys.

Tapioca convoys?

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Metaphors are a Trekkie Thing

And now, from the floor of the United States House of Representatives, we present clinching proof that Congressman David Wu should move out of his parent's basement.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Sergei Korolyov; the Other Von Braun

The BBC has a fascinating profile of Sergei Korolyov, the Soviet Werner Von Braun. Both were the architects of the modern space age, but where Von Braun was feted as major figure on the national and international scene, Korolyov spent eight years in a Stalinist labour camp in the '30s and '40s and the deepest obscurity that the Communists kept him in afterwards, despite his success in putting the first satellite and man into orbit, was nearly as bad.

I remember reading a book about Korolyov back in the late '60s based on leaked information and it was astonishing when I taught university in the '80s that even seasoned space engineers would greet my bringing up his name with blank looks.

Beware the gratitude of princes.. and totalitarians.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Snow Day II

According to the local transport department, major roads in the area are more or less open, but that's as maybe at Chez Szondy, where the road is an ice rink and we're socked in by about eight inches of the white stuff. That's the joy of living in the foothills; every inch of snow in the lowlands gets multiplied by four up here.

Accordingly, we will be initiating emergency winter protocols: Crackling fires, snow angels, cocoa, cozy books, lap rugs and Carl the Cattle Dog snoozing on the hearth.

It's Hell up here.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Snow Day

I had to go into town today and then spent six hours getting home after a sudden snow storm hit, forcing my wife, daughter, dog and self to detour miles out of our way to Monroe, where I had to buy and install the first pair of tyre chains that I'd ever encountered in my life so we could get home-- which we barely did.

Not only did I have the joy of putting greasy chains on with bare hands, but I also had to deal with walking the extremely confused dog in a car park in a blizzard, hunting for the cell phone that I lost during that walk, calming an hysterical four-year old who had to go potty, but refused to use anything other than the one at home, and a wife who had her own toilet emergency when we got home and left me to put the car in the garage, but neglected to tell me that the parking break was on, which would have explained why I was having so much trouble getting traction and why there was that nasty burning smell.

That is why I feel we need a cheese shop sketch.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Dan Dare, Call Your Service

Britain plans first Moon mission.

The good news is that, unlike Beagle 2, this one is intended to bang into the ground.

Big Brother on the Buses

Believe it or not, but the following poster is meant to be reassuring.

Reassuring, but to whom is not clear.

Monday, 8 January 2007

Future Past

The Wall Street Journal does its own take on Future Past. I particularly like this 1925 prediction by the cheese tycoon James Lewis Kraft,
I do not suppose anyone else ever planned a cheese business to live through the ages. After we are gone, there will be Kraft salesmen trekking the veldt of Africa, braving the snows of Siberia and battling the superstitions of Mongolia -- all earnestly striving to increase sales.
At least you have to admire his sense of focus.

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Insult to Injury

Not only is the government threatening to cut the Royal Navy by half, now they're considering thanking the men for all their hard work and dedication by freezing all promotions until 2012.

The words "stab" and "back" leap to mind

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Cold Timing

It's a good job that they taped that Hungarian television interview yesterday, as today I'm down with a cold so bad that I can barely put two thoughts on fish in tumble dryer with milk-fed aprostrophe ribbon mike... Huh?

Friday, 5 January 2007

Media News

I'm being interviewed about Tales of Future Past on TV2 in Hungary on Saturday.

And to all our Hungarian readers, a big "szia".

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Royal Navy: "A Coastal Defence Force

The Telegraph takes a detailed look at New Labour's insane decision to mothball half the Royal Navy. It makes for a chilling read.

Meanwhile, the government is spending £7.4 million to teach civil servants how to keep their desks tidy. It's enough to make strong men weep.

NICE idea

Dr. Richard Dawkins, who regards President Bush and Prime Minister Blair as "war criminals", does not believe that Saddam Hussein should have been executed. That, he asserts, is far too uncivilised and that the late genocidal dictator's life should have been spared. Not, mind you, so he could spend his days in a cell, but rather to be poked and prodded by psychologists and sociologists ad nauseum as a prime speciman of the genus dicator.

This sort of "mercy" makes me immensely glad that I'm an uncivilised proponent of the hanging. At least, unlike Dr. Dawkins, I was willing to regard Saddam as a truly evil man, but a man none the less, to be merely hanged and leaving his ultimate fate to God's judgement. I was pleased to see Saddam go to the gallows and was not bothered in the least that some of the people that he'd oppressed and terrorised for over a generation taunted him as they placed the noose around his neck, but I draw the line at the sort of "humaneness" that Dr. Dawkins advocates that would have reduced him to the status of a lab rat to be experimented on and "treated" endlessly in a fashion that would have made a Borgia blanch.

C. S. Lewis, please call your service.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Into the Wild Blue (Origin) Yonder

It looks as if Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is going to have some competition from Steve Bezo's Blue Origin.

SpaceShipOne may have the lead, but for my money the Goddard is ahead on coolness points

Another Nail

The first female Beefeater has been appointed at the Tower of London.

God help us all.

Gambling News

150 "scientists and intellectuals" predict an end to religion and war in twenty five years.

They also predict that I'll be a Chinese jet pilot.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Monday, 1 January 2007

A Modern Miracle

In a burst of incredible go-ahead thinking, New Labour is well on its way to trying out a breathtakingly original scheme of making the Royal Navy the first in the world to operate without the benefit of ships.

First Out of the Box

It's the first post of the year and the BBC has hit the ground running. In an article on the terrible fate suffered by Muslim's in racist, Islamophobic Britain, the Beeb manages to make the whole of the local Muslim population look like passive victims of wicked infidels whose warmongering in Iraq and questioning of the veil is forcing the poor Islamic dears into strapping on bomb belts and killing innocent men, women and children.

Not quite even that. The Beeb doesn't even mention suicide bombers, preferring to make it look as if those trains and that bus just sort of exploded on their own and last year's attempt to bring down ten airliners simultaneously wasn't even mentioned. True, the Danish Cartoon War was mentioned, but not British Muslims in the streets of London calling for beheading anyone who dares to insult Mohammad nor the cravenness of the British press in refusing to publish the cartoons in question.

I particularly like the use of the weseal phrase "real fears," as if the fears may be real, but the actual threat is a matter of perspective.

"War? What war?" looks to be the BBC motto for 2007.