31 July 2005

From BBC news: Hoon ponders new passport checks (via curious hamster).

Lordy lord. What now? Will the UK be turned into a police state? Will all inhabitants be microchipped/tagged?

My experience with the US Dept of Homeland Security's OTT measures has not been good so far, what with being stopped at the check-in gate in Schipol because some jobsworth decided I could be a security risk because my starting point was the UK although I don't hold a British passport. Why he thought that was dodgy, I will never understand. Unfortunately, I didn't know the Dutch term for jobsworth or f*ckwit, or I'd have told him exactly how I felt about him.

And don't get me started on the number of times I had to "report" to various authorities to get my DS-2019 stamped on arrival here (for those who don't know what one is, lucky you!). And should I wish to leave the US for a vacation, I have to report to UCLA's immigration representative to get that damn DS-2019 stamped again to verify that I am still working for them. Yes, even to visit the UK for a week in September for P's brother's wedding. Thank goodness I thought to ask when I should report to her for that, because it turns out she's on holiday for most of August, and I'd be well and truly f***ed for going home at the start of September. How's them security measure for you now, safety elephant?!? Never pay heed to any security advice from the Americans. They really know how to make aliens feel alienated. No wonder nobody bloody likes them. Do we want the UK to seem as unwelcoming as the US? (And bear in mind that I'm not even here on an immigrant visa, being a postdoctoral fellow... Nothing complex about that, but I'm already very reluctant to extend my J1 visa if I have to go through all that sh*t again.)

Oh yes, I nearly forgot. To rent an apartment here, one has to fill out a detailed form with all of one's very personal and private information. Why? According to my landlady-to-be, because of the events of the 11th of September. So they now track where everyone lives. I seriously considered putting "Mickey Mouse", "Disneyland" and "none of your business" under some of the categories.

Never on me

Wish I had my camera with me today. Saw a couple of homeless men at a bus stop in LA with Rangers FC shirts on (yep, that deadbeat SPL team). Newish ones with ntl:home as the sponsor. Wonder if they were supporters...

22 July 2005

A different take on beef noodles

While flicking through my old shots on Flickr, I realised I forgot to write up this recipe a couple of months back. So I'm back-dating the post, 'cos I don't want it cluttering up my recent slew. --20th Sept 2005 (yeah, i know.. slack!)

The first proper meal I cooked in LA, with a $5 frying pan (v. thin, cooked too fast). Still in my miso-marinade phase, strips of sirloin steak sat in a couple of tablespoons of brown miso paste for about 30 min (better o/n if you can help it) while I sliced the various vegetables. Apologies for the bad slicing. There's something about using crappy knives on glass boards that really annoys me. And add to that the fact that the board would not sit still because it was on an uneven tiled surface. I can't understand that about the two kitchens I've cooked in over here; why tile it, thus leaving plenty of grouted surface to grime up and look disgusting? Then again, it's probably because these are rented properties and the landlords don't care.

Stir fry the beef and veg (separately if your pan is as titchy as mine), and mix with some cooked soba noodles. Sprinkle on some soya sauce, sesame seed oil and rice vinegar. To garnish, plenty of toasted sesame seeds and spring onion.

Ingredients for my Ingredients (continued) Step one completed
Step two: vegetables Step two (continued) Final product: miso beef and noodles

21 July 2005

49-5? wtf?

Minor panic about brother's safety over. But wtf is this all about, like? Looks like I'm going to owe someone a paperback.


nosemonkey is right. Cunting bastards.

Copycat? Wannabe? Piss off, you wanker.

20 July 2005


I'm appalled.

Marin Alsop is an excellent conductor, and we've gone to many of the concerts where she was conducting the RSNO (Royal Scottish National Orchestra. And yes, it has both Royal and National in its name). And we've always come away greatly impressed. I've also heard she gives fantastic pre-concert talks, and is extremely knowledgeable. It's a shame we tend to miss them cos there's only so much time before the end of the work day and start of concert. Anyway, I'm appalled at the orchestra's behaviour, and am hoping they were just so overjoyed they were speechless. Yeah right.

19 July 2005


snigger (via dave weeden) I think the previous clunky, obviously Tory, site was better. Bring it back. I don't want coffee all over my keyboard either.

From the Guardian: Foreign scientists barred amid terror fears.

Meant to write a few thoughts about this last night, but was too eager to go to the pub to watch some *real* football. Unfortunately, it was Real Madrid vs LA Galaxy. Yawn.

Anyway. I wonder if that's why, for YEARS, the Home Office held on to my passport for months at a time while they had me vetted. I didn't think my PhD work would be a threat to anyone (it's medical research, for g'sake!), although I guess any life science lab would be capable of producing dangerous substances, given the right starting materials. Just thinking aloud on why the HO kept picking on me... Funny how when the university applied for my work permit, they gave it to me within a week. Any HO case workers care to comment? Am I on a blacklist? Will I be able to return to the UK in the near future? Will the Safety Elephant (™ I don't know who coined it first) bring in a UK equivalent of the Department of Homeland Security? (omg, just the name fills me with dread. even more so when I see it on the forms I have to fill in here... remind me to post sometime about my wee immigration/security scare in Schipol on my way into the country... i'm still recovering from the fear.)

17 July 2005

Popping in

Busy at work (don't ask), busy at play (more on that next week on the other blog). So much so I haven't read or written much all week other than lots of boring science. curious hamster has posted the inaugral weekly Scottish political blog round-up (stress on the weekly, because Stuart posted a round-up many moons ago).

Sighs. Just linking to others for now. No cogitation going on up there. Wee edit: Umm... I should clarify that I'm referring to *my* lack of writing and my bad habit of merely linking to commentary by others, not dissing the quality of the round-up. (See comments for apology... Oh, I feel so bad...)


Further brief ruminations on nationality. My new colleagues consider me Scottish, even though I explained that I wasn't born in Scotland, nor have any Scottish ancestry. To them, and my friends in Edinburgh, I've lived there long enough to have picked up some mannerisms, expressions and a wee bit of an accent (although I still swear I have nae accent!). I find myself having to defend Scottish/British sporting sides (easy enough) and London's Olympic victory (ambivalence from me). But since my link there is by residency (and by having a Scottish partner), to all the governmental agencies here, I'm not. Which makes filling out forms pretty difficult. I've been putting my Edinburgh flat as my permanent address, with Singapore as my country of nationality (and legal residency). Sooner or later, I'll come a cropper when someone in some bureaucratic office finds the discrepancy. So, although I'm posting infrequently, if you don't hear from me in the space of a fortnight, send a rescue mission to Cuba...

13 July 2005

My £28 [loses to/beats] your £5

In anticipation.

Update: I meant to come back to this to write my thoughts about Liverpool's loss/win over the minnows that are Total Network Solution, but nothing. Nada. Not one spark of inspiration. Instead, I was engrossed in the annual saga of "Will he stay or won't he?" that has involved every home-grown talent from Liverpool for the last few years. Funnily enough, there's a bit of a trend there for impressive talent, peaking in the early 20s, waning quickly (usually after 4-5 years of service), and a hurry to sell to the first chump squad that believes the hype. Honestly, which of the recent born-and-breds has succeeded upon leaving 'pool? If anything, we've cursed Man City with the g'awful Liverpool B -side.

Sick f*cks. (via curious hamster and doctor vee)

Nosemonkey, too, is well-angry. Although I wouldn't go as far as placing ALL the blame on the damn BNP (but it would be a plus if there is a massive backlash against the bastards from the entire country), I would stick my neck out now and say it's not just them, but also the "low-level" racism on a daily basis that gives young people the feeling that they're being persecuted, that only [insert cult or religion of choice here] can give them a way out of the shit-hole they're in.

Sorry for the serious time-delay, btw. I'm too darn busy at work to check the news and other weblogs, and too darn tired when I get in. So much so that I fell asleep on the laptop's keyboard last night, and b*ggered up the post I was trying to write. Lost it now... (Or, have been losing it and have only just realised...)

Update: chicken yoghurt has a long list of considered opinions by a wide range of British bloggers. I strongly urge a read, if not of the posts, then at least of the choice quotes.

12 July 2005

Compare and contrast

Watching a bit of C-Span to try to cure the insomnia.

"We are united in our determination that our country will not be defeated by such terror but will defeat it and emerge from this horror with our values, our way of life, our tolerance and respect for others, undiminished." --Tony Blair.

And from across the floor: ""The faceless killers behind last Thursday's attack brought death and tragedy to many innocent families. They have tried with the fires of hate to destroy the bonds of love. But since their attacks we have seen compassion and self-sacrifice prove themselves stronger than fanaticism and evil." --Michael Howard.

Compare and contrast to:

"We will continue to take the fight to the enemy. And we will fight until this enemy is defeated. [snip] America will not retreat in the face of terrorists and murderers." --George Bush.

Clearly, Dubya thinks that offense is the best defence. I take offence at that.

Also, addressing Dubya's declaration that "America will not retreat", see Commemoration Day vs. chicken American troops.

To erase the annoying whine of the Bush along with the sycophantic clapping of the carefully chosen "crowd", playing on the ipod: Explode (or implode), Cardigans.

Wee update: I'd like to add badly dubbed boy's discovery of yet another self-centered twat to the list: Omarion. I really have no idea who this guy is, but I like google-bombing even though my low ranking will hardly help.

08 July 2005

London will march

The Sharpener crew are organising a march: http://www.pledgebank.com/solidarity.

I can't be there, but encourage anyone who stumbles across this to join in. Show 'em who's boss!


"Across-the-pond" update: Switched on the news when I (finally) got in to hear LA's new mayor describing how LAX and other major bodies in LA are on alert (along with all the major cities in the US).

First thought: didn't see any signs of it myself. Second thought: wouldn't notice it anyway, the police here carry guns all the time. scaring the hell out of me (also still not used to seeing London police with projectile weapons). Third thought: anything to keep the populace scared and under control, eh? (TinFoil hat™ (curious hamster).) Fourth thought: I wish I hadn't moved here. abc has opportunistically scheduled an entire evening of "prime-time live" continuously showing footage of the seriously injured and bringing on "security consultants" who kept saying "I told you so" and generally trying to pour scorn on what I think was an excellent response by London's emergency services and its hardy population. I'm very uneasy about the response over here. I'm convinced there is a clear-thinking majority here, however the mainstream media is just full of scare-mongering propaganda presented as "analysis". I don't like the spin, nor the packaging. Nor the "selling" of news as stories, and not facts.

I was very impressed by the way New Yorkers carried on living their lives after the bombing of the towers. Just as I'm convinced Londoners will pull through, sticking two fingers at those who wish them unwarranted harm. Which makes me mad (as predicted earlier) that such suffering is being exploited by the TV networks here. I have no objections to seeing images of victims of the bombings, but only with their permission, g'dammit. And I sure as hell don't like the way some are calling this a good "wake-up call". Piss off to whatever windowless hole you live in, creeps.

Robin Grant has started/picked up on (not sure which yet, and I'm too tired to check) a meme (via curious hamster).


07 July 2005


From BBC news: More than 30 die in London blasts.

See europhobia for updates. And also going underground. And Robin Grant for photos of the aftermath. And Tim Worstall has a running log of responses on other blogs. More photos.

My first response was to check the date. My brother is still on holiday at home. So that's good on the family front. Then it hit home that 30 or more people have probably died. I can't describe how relieved yet saddened I am. It feels insufficient to say that I have the greatest sympathy for those who have lost their loved ones. I get this disjointed feeling when I hear about things like that (and not just in the western world, but also when the multiple reports of bombs in Iraq come through). I keep hoping I've heard wrongly, that estimates of the dead are wrong, that somehow, these innocents have survived. It's not happened yet, and I'm not inured to the shock either. Soon, the anger will come, but not all directed at the bombers.

I'm with chicken yoghurt on this. First, let's not jump to conclusions. Second, whatever the findings are, we cannot tar entire racial, national or religious groups with the same inhumane brush. It makes me mad that people will use bombings like this to justify their deep-held prejudices about people not like themselves.

06 July 2005


Short post, at work. Will comment later (a whole day after the rest of the world!).

03 July 2005


From BBC news: Bush rejects Kyoto-style G8 deal

"If this looks like Kyoto, the answer is no," he said in an interview with ITV's Tonight With Trevor McDonald programme.

"The Kyoto treaty would have wrecked our economy, if I can be blunt."


But he showed signs of coming into line with general world opinion by describing climate change as "a significant, long-term issue that we've got to deal with".

In the past, he has strongly opposed any action on climate change in favour of further studies on the issue.

Hey Dubya! By the time you've done those "further studies", Bangledash will be the new Atlantis.

Make it so

uknae of Mischief to Data has uploaded loads of photos of the march in Edinburgh, which I was very sorry to miss, although I sent P as my representative. Since I have the digital camera, he had to use a disposable film snapper, which means he won't be uploading those photos anytime soon. In the meantime, get a feel of the day at uknae's Poverty march photoset.

Meanwhile, Chris of qwghlm has a very rational rant on the very reason I am currently hating Bob Geldof's guts. The idiot (Geldof, not Applegate...) has given free publicity to lots of music acts that don't need it, and given himself yet another chance to sing his one hit song. He has also insulted an entire generation of young people who care about affairs of the world, try to do their bit by volunteering or donating what little money they have, and don't need bribery with banal pop concerts to get them interested or talking about how we, or rather our governments and theirs, have [bad word]ed over Africa. Instead of rational discussion and positive suggestions, he's just given the media and official voices leeway first to gasp in horror at his ludicrous suggestions and now to repeat his banal soundbites.

Instead of patting themselves on the back for turning the world's attention to Africa, they should be giving themselves a great big kick for taking the attention away from WHY talking about Africa and its debt is important. I don't like over-simplification, but sometimes, an idiot's guide is a good start. Have a look at the BBC's attempt to give some background to the various obstacles to African success.

We cannot lump all of Africa together. There are nations rich in natural resources who will prosper, given time and better trade agreements. There are others with ridiculously corrupt governments, which must be encouraged (or forced) to give greater care to their own citizens before lining their pockets. And then there are some which don't have much to call their own, yet owe the World Bank sums of money I cannot even comprehend in my tiny head. I think what I'm trying to say is that every country needs its own solution, and we're probably doing the poorer nations a disservice by speaking of Africa as a homogeneous place.

So, if you enjoyed the concerts (live or on TV), and want to know more, ignore Bob and friends. Instead, why not read some opinions by people who know what they're talking about?

"This is the right gesture - but certainly it is not enough. What Tony Blair is offering Africa is a leaking bucket. Such policies create the very poverty which they are now trying to address."

--Trevor Ngwane (anti-privatisation campaigner from South Africa)

I like the imagery. It puts in mind a song, to which I know some of the lyrics, but not the title:

There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, there's a hole.

Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Then mend it dear Henry, dear Henry, mend it.

It goes on for a bit, but essentially, it comes back to Henry requiring some water with which to wet a stone that he needs to sharpen an axe, which for some stupid reason he needs to cut a straw with. Why he didn't just stick some gaffer tape over the hole, I could never understand. But there is some similarity to the situation at hand. To stop money leaking away via corrupt or inefficient channels (come on, not all the officials can be corrupt... law of probability and all), there needs to exist a certain level of affluence or financial security. For that to happen, there must be infrastructure (either government-provided or sold to the lowest bidder). For infrastructure to be put in place (or remain there for any length of time), there must be political stability and an absence of civil war. And for that to happen, yadda-yadda...

People are people all over the world. There is no such thing as an altruistic politician or CEO. The nature of our world dictates that only the strong rise to the top, and the strong have historically maintained their grip by using/abusing their power. All the belly-aching in the world by our well-meaning pop stars won't change that. Live8 must have been fantastic for all the people who attended it. Good for them. Now let's concentrate on the task at hand.

Edit: Silly me. The white band's been right in front of me for months, and I don't even remember to plug it. Go here and here.

Update:No point retracing the steps when someone else has done the legwork. See curious hamster for a round-up.

02 July 2005

Lucky escape

I know I said don't mention the cricket a few posts ago, but I just had to put in my 2p worth. Bleeding neck! What's wrong with Australia?! For that matter, what the [bleep] is wrong with England?!

When I first woke up at 6am US Pacific time, Australia was all out for 196. First thought: blimey, should be a walk over. Second thought: it's a bowler's wicket today. Third thought: blimey, England are going to suffer.

And suffer they did. It was a little too early in the morning to scream over here, but my BBC RealPlayer got a few choice words when first Trescothick, then Strauss went too cheaply. I could hardly believe Vaughn's loud quacking, and almost cried when both Flintoff and Pietersen walked for virtually nothing. All I could see was a complete collapse, nay, a whitewash. Oh ye of little faith!

I could never have predicted that Collingwood and (Geraint) Jones would be the level-headed saviours of England. And when they faltered, good old Giles and Gough gave their very best to scrape a lucky draw for England. Oh that final nail-biting over! Such is the pleasure of one-day internationals! Down to the very last ball (and maybe an iffy decision). I wish I could have seen it.

With only 18 days to go to the first Test, England have a lot of work to do, psychology-wise. The top order came in today expecting an easy victory. They'd just dismissed Australia for a not-too-good 196 after all. King of the world! But they apparently fell in a VERY predictable fashion. Every batsman has his little Achilles heel. Without it, they'd all be perfect automatons, and we might as well watch Men's Wimbledon instead. But, come on guys! Did you all have to fail on the same day? You fell into a massive Aussie billabong, lulled in, suckered in, waltzing with Miss Matilda. You were John Buchanan's dream team to play: predictable, ill-disciplined, hungry for boundaries.

I don't want to take anything away from the fantastic four who saved the day. They did better than could be expected, given the early collapse. But if the top order batsmen had done their jobs instead of going for glory, England would have won the game and the series. I'll settle for a draw now, but only because that was the most exciting thing I've ever heard on radio.

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The green, green grass of Comely Bank (who cares about Fettes?)

Chris Applegate of qwghlm is making me homesick. He's uploaded a shot of MY street on Flickr. Not that I ever took photos of my flat or my neighbourhood the whole 6 years I lived there. You just don't do these things as a local. But I've been acting the tourist in Santa Monica today, and will shortly be uploading some grossly overexposed photos to my Flickr LA set.

Plug for the other blog: blethering about Santa Monica.

Geek, or not?

It's been a while since I last did a silly internet quiz, so I jumped at the chance to prove my geek-worthiness after reading badly dubbed boy's geek post. A score of 9/11 left me feeling rather disappointed; I didn't know who coined the phrase "science fiction", nor could I remember a quote from Dune (although, in mitigation, I last read it 15 years ago).

There are probably lots of other geek quizzes out there that test one on a broader range of geekiness. Some other day, perhaps. Today, I plan to do some non-geeky things and hit the beach!

Update: I failed miserably to avoid being a geek today. Spent an hour in the Apple store on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade.

Cool bag

I'm looking for a cool/cooler bag to get the ice cream safely from shop to fridge, and have come to the conclusion that Americans just don't do small. But this has made my day. (Don't mention the cricket.)