9/11 thoughts

OK, a week late to the party, but here’s my 2p:

I happily skipped all the commemoration stuff on TV, but while I was in the airport last Sunday I couldn’t miss all the stuff on the airport TVs. (Flying on 9/11 didn’t bother me at all, the chances of anyone being killed in a terrorist attack are still like 1 in 25 million or so.) To me, the TV shows and commentary BS is like the 25th anniversary of the JFK assassination when I was a teenager – it’s just shown over and over and over again so it doesn’t seem real and you just end up numb (or I guess if you’re a Tea Party member you get all enraged, who knows, I still don’t get the Tea Party).

Maybe this will be controversial, but the US and other countries lost over 3,000 people in the attacks. That’s a lot of people, and the results could have been worse, but they weren’t – they didn’t need to be, the message got across. And in the 10 years since, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed or displaced in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., and there’s no help getting to them from the US, no memorial services, no national mourning date, nothing. The TSA is a mockery (even the guy who wrote the original bill that started it wants the TSA shut down), the Patriot Act is misused and abused and there’s a whole string of worse stuff that’s happened (the banking crisis and recession brought on by normal human greed, etc.) that IMO outshines 9/11 but could be seen as stemming from 9/11.

And maybe this is even more controversial (although I’ve read it on some news websites and in newspapers, so maybe it’s not just me), but even with Bin Laden dead and sleeping with the fishes, his message is still out there and he ‘won’ in some (many?) respects. Westerners are/can be overly frightened by the media, countries still hate the US, there’s still 130+ countries in the world with US military presence (there’s only ~150 countries in the world), American soldiers (some of them my friends) are sent away for months on end to do pointless military actions, the masses are cowed into agreeing to go with the flow like these backscatter scans, security lines and other stuff, no one blinks an eye at the ‘we have to do this or the terrrorists win’ line, etc.

It seems that maybe some things are changing recently, and I accept things like the company line regarding ‘national security’ will never get back to pre-9/11 levels, but it’s been so ridiculous for many years it’s (been) at comical levels.

I know that living outside the US for going on 8 years has changed my views on being an American, and sorry if I’ve offended anyone, but I definitely think that things changed for the worse for America & Americans after 9/11. Sorry for the rant-ish post!

BBC licence fee rant, sort of

I had this all typed up to respond in a forum I participate in, but decided it wouldn’t be a good idea for multiple reasons.

In essence, the UK’s television licence fee requires you to register your television with ‘the authorities’ and pay about £120 per year for television channels and radio stations you may never watch or listen to.

There’s at least a couple of other ways just off the top of my head that the compulsory licence fee could be updated. For non-UK folks just remember that every TV owner, whether they watch/listen to the BBC or not, has to pay this fee – what if you only rent DVDs or edit videos of your cats? too bad! This is a problem with many people in the UK, but apparently the same method is used in Germany/Austria/Switzerland for public TV, and the issue hasn’t reached critical mass yet, really, so nothing is being proposed to change it.

Possible replacements to the TV licence? How about:

  • a limited, but highly priced advertising stream (charge advertisers more for adverts every 30-60 min or brief scroll-bys at the bottom of the screen or whatever), or
  • once the tech is in place (think what could happen with DAB radio and digital TV), a real subscription system where you pay just for Radio1 or BBC1 or whatever you prefer.
  • What about TV on demand and/or Sky+, Xbox, etc., you could have an even more streamlined pay-per-view system so F1 fans pay a small amount for a whole season’s worth of races (or one race at a time) or a Dr Who fan pays a small amount for a whole series of shows, etc.
  • I’ll agree that £10 a month is a bargain if you watch enough BBC stuff, and with shows like Planet Earth, Life (or anything with Sir David Attenborough) and the recent return of Formula 1 racing coverage, you can get good value for your £10 if you like them. The problem that people against the licence fee comes when people complain about the salaries of people like Chris Moyle’s and Johnathan Ross’s (popular but controversial radio/TV hosts), among other things. And with massive budget cuts looming for the BBC and digital piracy a long way from being sorted out the bosses will have to think of something to make sure shows are earning their keep, which will get the crap shows off the air faster because they’ll simply lose money.

    In essence, it’s a losing system and just because it’s ‘the way it has been done’ doesn’t mean it’s the best way forward.

    Haggis, haggis, haggis!

    So I’ve been having haggis lately. It’s just £4 for a small one at my nearby Costco, that’s £1 per serving. That’s a large serving, too, about 120g for what I can get in the store – restaurants in Scotland serve less than half the amount I have, even less if you go to an expensive place.

    The English folks here won’t eat haggis because a) it’s Scottish and b) they don’t even know what goes in it.

    Well…here’s what goes in it, according to Wikipedia and many other websites:

    Haggis is a dish containing sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours.

    Alright, I’ll admit that a sheep heart, liver and lungs doesn’t sound appealing. There’s maybe a reason why this stuff (plus stomach, kidneys, etc.) is called ‘offal’.

    However…have you ever eaten sausage?

    I won’t go into the old ‘lips and assholes’ myth (which is probably true for very cheap sausages), but let’s face it, unless you’re paying full whack for the best handmade, top rank gourmet sausages from an actual butcher you’re getting reclaimed meat and tendons at best, and at worst you’re getting fat with pink food coloring. Oh, and MSG, sugar and other crap.

    Want to know what sheep eat? Grass. Pigs? They eat feed out of bags, and food scraps at best.

    Here’s some facts and figures about British sausage, from Channel 4, one of the major TV networks:

    A typical economy sausage recipe might look like: 30% pork fat, 20% recovered meat, 30% rusk and soya, 15% water and 5% assorted e-numbers, flavourings, sugar, flavour enhancer, preservatives and colourings.

    Premium sausages look hand made. Good sausages use joints of meat, minced; you’ll be able to see the granules of fat and meat through the skin.

    At the top end, the ingredients list is much shorter; something like 40% belly pork, 40% boned shoulder of pork, 10% breadcrumbs, 5% water and 5% herbs and spices.

    What is meant by ‘meat’?

    (I love how this even needs to be defined)

    The definition of meat is hard to explain. Meat can contain certain percentages of fat, connective tissue and skin and still be considered ‘meat’. What most consumers consider ‘meat’ is what we call ‘visible lean’. A pork chop is 90 per cent visible lean. A sausage label may say that it contains 60 per cent meat but that could be as low as 15 per cent visible lean.

    What is connective tissue?

    Gristle and the tissue that holds muscle to bone. The definition of meat is understood to include some connective tissue; good butchers don’t abuse that understanding. In cheaper sausages connective tissue is used to bulk up meat.

    Does it matter that economy sausages aren’t all lean meat? Isn’t this a good way of eating the whole pig?

    You could construct an argument that using connective tissue and fat is better than wasting them but the fact that extra flavourings, salt and fat are added to the pork slurry undermines this. Nearly two thirds of sausages at standard and economy level contain MSG. Good butchers won’t use it.

    So, pay loads for quality sausage, or get the stuff people won’t eat because of their sensibilities and pay much much less. How about that?

    This doesn’t mean I don’t eat sausage – far from it. I love a good sausage, but only buy the good stuff. No frozen bulk variety packs for me. But the idea that haggis is disgusting or nasty or whatever…come on, if you don’t try it how can you know?

    By the way, haggis tastes and looks like a meaty stuffing, like what you’d put in a turkey or duck dinner. In fact, some people use it as a stuffing for pheasant, grouse, goose, etc. And posh haggis is made with venison and other top-drawer meats, just like gourmet sausage…I’d love to try that stuff!

    What Twitter is About (according to me)

    I wrote the following in response to a thread where a woman on a web forum I go to, who wasn’t into Facebook or other social media sites and decided to give Twitter a go. I respect the effort but she only put in 3 days of work, and gave no indication of who she was trying to follow, but I’ve read SO BLOODY MUCH about people who don’t get Twitter and think it’s some mystical universe that they’re just mystified and never give it a real try. Seriously folks, this is nothing compared to, say, the furry sections of Second Life! Anyway, the post follows:

    To be honest, there is nothing to ‘get’ about Twitter.

    No it’s not for everyone, and yes it’s a much simpler version of the Facebook status update, and yes that’s all it really is: status updates. But if you use it and follow a few people you’re interested in and maybe write to them it can be a lot, LOT more.

    You don’t have to sign up with an account, it just makes it easier to follow more than one person at a time. Without an account, you’d have to bookmark each celebrity or friend or website or organization that you want to follow. With an account, though, you can have all of those people arranged in a timeline on your home page.

    You don’t have to message anyone – but if you do message a celebrity you really like and then get a response – it feels really cool! If you’re not a celeb hound, you can still message people you know.

    Advanced tips: If you end up following loads of people you can organize them into lists. I have a list for expats, another one for celebrities, another one for websites, etc. If you still feel you follow too many people and can’t be bothered looking up all the posts you missed while you were sleeping or whatever, there’s a site called Twitter For Busy People (www.t4bp.com), which organizes all the people you follow into who’s updated in the last hour, the last day, and farther back than a day.

    A lot of people use Twitter and Facebook as the new era of marketing, which can be a pain because if you suddenly get loads of people following you, you may start to wonder why.

    However, if you’re just using it to connect with people then it’s not a big deal and you don’t have to ‘do’ anything with it. It simply becomes another site to visit. You literally don’t have to post a thing and just read what other people are talking about. Sometimes it’s nothing, sometimes it’s major. I get a lot of my headline news sort of stuff from there (an account called BreakingNews is very good for this).

    I use Twitter to post to my Facebook status sometimes, but most often to share interesting & provocative links to people I know. At least, I HOPE they’re interesting and/or provocative!

    (if you care to follow me, see the link to the top right or look me up @krushgroove)

    My car was busted into the other night

    Normally I’m pretty blaise’ about crime, like most people – until, of course, it happens directly to me. I mean, I ignore certain things that most other people ignore, like speeding when I think it’s safe to speed, etc., but the other morning I noticed a shopping bag on the sidewalk when I was walking to my car. I was heading out to work and I stopped and thought, “That’s one of the cloth shopping bags I got for my mom for Christmas.”

    And immediately I knew that my car had been broken into. Walked up to the car, spotted that there was no window and the passenger door was ajar and saw the glass on the ground.

    DAMMIT! The second time, as well.

    The first time was when I’d left my wallet and phone on the center console of the Fiesta I had at the time, it was a simple smash-and-grab. I would say it was my fault, but you don’t really expect some fuckwit to be walking along the sidewalk and smash your window just because he saw something he wanted, right? But that’s what happened, and I sold that car soon after.

    And this time, I may be ‘losing’ this car again, too. As soon as I had glanced around the car to see what had been taken (stereo, of course – I’m sure I had left the front of the stereo on, which you’re not meant to do but oh well) and saw how the glove box had been emptied and strewn about the car, I called the police, got a reference number and drove to work. Well bundled up, too, because I had no damn window and it was just above freezing. That is, just above freezing if you’re standing still – at 60mph it’s a bit colder. Luckily it was the passenger window.

    So I called the insurance company when I got to work and they arranged for a window replacement company to come out the next day (today). When I got home that day, I made a plastic window from some firm plastic sheeting I had and cleaned out as much of the glass as I could by hand. As I was putting stuff back in the glove box I noticed there was a lot more space in there than there used to be, so obviously he’d taken more than my stereo and my mom’s shopping bag. I was missing a few CDs, a road atlas of Britain, my girlfriend’s sunglasses, car chargers for mobile phones and one of a pair of racing Momo gloves I’d bought ages ago at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Plus I noticed the hood/bonnet was loose – funny that, I certainly didn’t open it, so I’d been driving around with it like that all the way to work and back. Luckily it wasn’t fully open!

    First the window guy couldn’t lower the electric windows – some sort of electrical fault. He tried the fuse box but all the fuses looked OK. He tried the ignition lock in all the various positions, no joy. Then he noticed there was smoke coming from the engine, from under the hood. GREAT.

    All I could think at the time was that this asshole had, for some reason, screwed around with my engine and it was damaged somehow. Later on I realized that maybe he’d just been grabbing at all sorts of things inside the car while looking for the trunk release and pulled the hood release, making it pop open a bit. At this point that’s what I’m hoping is the case and the smoke the window guy found is nothing, because I can’t afford a big deductible to pay for repairs, and I need my car to visit my girlfriend this weekend, and for Christmas.

    Anyway, the car has been towed to a garage for a full estimate and I’m supposed to email my insurance claims agent as full a list as I can come up with of everything that’s missing and the approximate value. Off the top of my head, including the stereo, there’s at least £300 worth of ‘stuff’, so that leaves a lofty payment of £100 payout, plus the repairs which would be covered. Whoopee. If the repairs are TOO much, then they’ll just buy out my car, because it can’t be worth much – it’s a 13-year old car with 188,000 miles on it (it literally just turned over 188K on Monday).

    Best case scenario is that the engine is fine and I’ll have to pay to have the electrical problem fixed before the window can be replaced. Worst case is that the engine is actually damaged somehow and the insurance company buys me out of my car, minus a £200 deductible.

    What a ball-ache! (I’ve really become attached to this British phrase)

    The best thing about the whole experience is dealing with the insurance company – you never know how good a company is until you have trouble, and the people I’m with are really good. I get calls from the window people and the towing company within minutes of reporting things to the insurance company, and I’ve already got one guy that is my main point of contact for everything. In case you’re wondering, the people I’m with are Liverpool Victoria, I’ve been with them for years since choosing Which? Car insurance (Which? is like Consumer Reports, but every issue they do is about one particular item, like Which? Car and Which? Hi-Fi, etc.).

    So, big thumbs-up to LV and Which? Car, really.

    I couldn’t care less

    I’m usually a pretty bad grammar monkey, some folks online call us types ‘grammar nazis’, so when I hear people say things like ‘I should of‘ instead of ‘I should have‘, it really makes me cringe and want to say something, so I generally refrain unless I know the person. If I know them I’ll just take the piss out of them and make fun incessantly.

    Another thing that bugs me, but not quite as much because it doesn’t really come up that much, is when people say, ‘I could care less’. I hear people say that, or ‘I couldn’t care less’, which is something else entirely, if you think about it.

    If you CAN care less, that means there’s a bit of caring there. So you DO care a bit.

    If you CAN’T care less, well there’s no lower you can go. You just…don’t…care. It is IMpossible for you to care any less than you do already.

    Someone made a handy chart to illustrate this point:



    Another term that annoys me: ‘any way, shape or form’ – just one will do, thanks! You don’t have to list every possible way, wherefore or art thou something can exist. Just adding this one for…the fun of it 🙂

    Britney: media darling, and inspiration to trailer trash everywhere

    Rumor has it that the former ‘it girl’ is pregnant again.

    Whether she is or isn’t, this train wreck of a life is just sad to watch roll downhill. I don’t even pay attention to celebrity gossip crap, or even watch televised news programs, yet I’m still subjected to stories of her partying it up with Lindsay and Paris – both of whom need a firm slap and an airlift to the Siberian steppe with a knife and firestarter – along with stories of how she doesn’t get along with her mother, how she flips out, how she uses the paparazzi to get help ordering food at a fast-food drive through, the list goes on and on.

    Part of me feels sad for Britney and the circus that her life has become, but the people feeding this circus is the stupid media that employs people to follow her around, and the clowns that gobble up the incessant stream of filth that comes out of Hollywood on a daily basis.

    Stephen King recently had a few choice words to say about modern mainstream media, in an interview with Time:

     STEPHEN KING: So who’s going to be TIME Person of the Year?

    TIME: I really don’t know, there’s a very small group of people who make that decision.

    I was thinking, I think it should be Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

    Yeah. You know, I just filmed a segment for Nightline, about [the movie version of his novella] The Mist, and one of the things I said to them was, you know, “You guys are just covering — what do they call it — the scream of the peacock, and you’re missing the whole fox hunt.” Like waterboarding [or] where all the money went that we poured into Iraq. It just seems to disappear. And yet you get this coverage of who’s gonna get custody of Britney’s kids? Whether or not Lindsay drank at her twenty-first birthday party, and all this other shit. You know, this morning, the two big stories on CNN are Kanye West’s mother, who died, apparently, after having some plastic surgery. The other big thing that’s going on is whether or not this cop [Drew Peterson] killed his… wife. And meanwhile, you’ve got Pakistan in the midst of a real crisis, where these people have nuclear weapons that we helped them develop. You’ve got a guy in charge, who’s basically declared himself the military strongman and is being supported by the Bush administration, whose raison d’etre for going into Iraq was to spread democracy in the world.

    So you’ve got these things going on, which seem to me to be very substantive, that could affect all of us, and instead, you see a lot of this back-fence gossip. So I said something to the Nightline guy about waterboarding, and if the Bush administration didn’t think it was torture, they ought to do some personal investigation. Someone in the Bush family should actually be waterboarded so they could report on it to George. I said, I didn’t think he would do it, but I suggested Jenna be waterboarded and then she could talk about whether or not she thought it was torture.

    Do you actually think Britney and Lindsay should be on our cover?
    Yeah, I do.

    Sort of a, ‘This is what the media’s actually interested it, so let’s just put it out there’ thing?
    I think there ought to be some serious discussion by smart people, really smart people, about whether or not proliferation of things like The Smoking Gun and TMZ and YouTube and the whole celebrity culture is healthy. We’ve switched from a culture that was interested in manufacturing, economics, politics — trying to play a serious part in the world — to a culture that’s really entertainment-based. I mean, I know people who can tell you who won the last four seasons on American Idol and they don’t know who their f—— Representatives are.

    He goes on to say:

    it’s time for somebody to discuss the difference between real news and fake news.

    Print media has been consistently under threat from internet sources, which is a haven for the alternate news media. With Rupert Murdock owning major news groups around the world and especially in the US, the mainstream media is becoming increasingly untrustworthy.

    There’s a documentary available online called Orwell Rolls in His Grave which covers a lot of these issues, in case anyone’s not heard of it. You can watch it online at the link, it has many interviews with former newspaper editors and TV producers from networks like CBS and others. The movie ‘It examines the current and past relationships between the media, the US government and corporations, analyzing the possible consequences of the concentration of media ownership.’ (quote from Wikipedia)Finally, if you still think Bush and his cronies are all well and good, check out this article that mentions some of the journalistic fakery his administration has been responsible for, including fake press conferences during and about the recent Southern Californian fires:

    The mainstream media is dominated by a handful of mega corporations who control what many of us hear, read, and believe. The propaganda masters are censoring and suppressing the truth from the American people. There are many reporters who know the truth but dare not talk or write about it, and what some report they don’t even believe themselves. Those who are courageous enough to stand up to the establishment are often ridiculed, intimidated, and blocked by editors and producers who are acting as gatekeepers to the truth.

    My ultimate pet peeve

    Wanna know what my ultimate pet peeve is?

    It’s not any of these:

    • hearing about the iPhone – I listen to tech podcasts from the US, and even they are tired of the damned thing, and now that it’s out in the UK I have listen to radio people mention it with their guests, who also have the thing
    • slow, speed-limted trucks/lorries passing each other on an uphill gradient
    • speed cameras
    • cars with loud exhausts that drive by the house at night, reflecting their noise off the closely spaced brick terraced houses
    • cars driving down the ‘no access’ street I live on
    • not being able to sleep when I know I should really be sleeping
    • drivers that don’t signal
    • having to re-heat food that I thought I’d already heated, but isn’t heated enough? you know what I mean?
    • drivers that jump out in front of me, forcing me to brake (if I didn’t have to brake and there’s room, I don’t mind, really)
    • babies crying non-stop – I know they’re babies and what babies do is cry, but COME ON!
    • iTunes – DRM-enabled, low-quality music that needs to be downloaded? No, thanks.
    • falling behind on emails and personal correspondence with long-distance friends
    • seemingly inattentive parents
    • the Macarena
    • modern pop music
    • daytime telly (shows and adverts)
    • bad year-end ‘best of (insert year here)’ compilations
    • Tejano music – luckily the UK has a huge dearth of tejano!
    • 99% of hip-hop music
    • Christmas stuff that’s out way too early (I’m talking Halloween, here, folks)
    • seeing the rubbish that people throw into the road – this morning I saw an empty file folder tossed into a bush! Really! A binder! In a bush!
    • country & western music
    • POP country & western music (C&W x2)
    • puppy and kitten farms
    • celebrities getting a slap on the wrist (Mike Tyson in jail for a day, Lindsay Lohan in jail for less than 90 minutes) while commoners getting sentences 10 years for cocaine possession
    • the spate of police brutality and Taser abuse news I read every week
    • fads that involve pets (clown fish, turtles, small dogs, etc.)
    • people that don’t give a crap about the environment because “I’ll be dead when the ocean level rises, so why should I care?”

    None of these things annoy me as much as…are you ready?

    My number one, daily annoyance is the stupid instant coffee granules in the sugar container! First of all, instant coffee is terrible. If I were a coffee drinker, I’d be using a carafe or French press instead of lame instant coffee. However, I’m not a coffee drinker. I don’t like coffee. Not. At. All. Not liking coffee is is why I DON’T WANT TO HAVE COFFEE-FLAVORED TEA!!! Yes, I can taste it! And yes, I hate it!

    I might have to make a sign…and people don’t like it when I make signs!

    I am sick of hearing about Diana, Princess of Wales.

    I am so tired of hearing about Diana and her death. Yes, she is perhaps the most famous person to have died in a car crash in the last 25 or so years, but NO ONE else I know at work is the least bit interested in the concerts (which just happened a month or two ago!), the specials, the articles, the papers, the magazines, the books, the clothes or anything at all. So why does it come up every month? Does anyone else care less than me and pretty much everyone I know?

    At the time Di was really active with her good causes I was thinking ‘that’s great, good job’, but since the car crash it’s been all about the supposed conspiracy, the controversial books and more. There’s a whole industry of Diana that has been built up and shows no signs of slowing. If, tomorrow, Paris Hilton ran over Lindsay Lohan while Britney held a gun to her head and then the car went over a cliff, maybe that would dominate the news and we could all get sick of that, but eventually things would come back around to Diana.

    Just so you know, I’m not heartless. I give to charities at work – at least a few quid a month on average, plus I’m a continuing member of the National Trust & English Heritage. I”ve donated to PBS. I used to be a member of the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy and a couple other environmental groups. I give to a different charity every month for a year – the RSPCA and Trust for the Blind in the past. I buy the RSPB pins and things. I shop at Oxfam. I donate my clothes instead of selling them. I buy fairtrade whenever possible. I’m also considering a trek on the Coast to Coast path for charity.

    edit: Here’s a picture I snapped last Friday at my local Costco, just to show you the overall shove-it-down-your-throat level of Di-love we get here:

    original here

    Why I don’t want to be fat…ever


    This Belgian woman had to be rescued by the local Coast Guard as dozens of people looked on (why none of them helped, well that’s another issue) because her chair had sunk into the gravel on the beach and she couldn’t get out. Click here for the original article.


    Meanwhile, most Americans seem to think that being fat is just…considered normal! How freaking sad is that. No longer will there be ectomorph, mesomorph, etc., just heavyset, fat and fucking HUGE! C’mon folks. Lay off the Denny’s cuisine and go for a walk every now and then. Link here for the original article.