Archive for January, 2007

Foie a bit of common sense

York, it has to be said, is unlikely to see a sudden influx of Prohibition-style gangs fighting vicious turf wars over which restaurants they’ll illegally supply foie gras to [1]. Geese may die, but no humans were harmed in the making of this legislation.

But, as Matthew Fort gives a good fist of arguing, the councillors priorities should lie elsewhere.

Banning the production won’t stop a foie gras lover visiting Halifax or Leeds to get their fix. And, let’s face it, this has all the hallmarks of a classic ‘Don’t Touch the Red Button’ situation.

The Californian measure of banning the sale of foie gras from birds that have been force fed is an infinitely more sensible and measured way of dealing with the situation [2] as it allows diners to have their metaphorical cake [3] and eat it. Hell, it may even educate the ethically unsound consumers to the point that they repent completely.

But no. As nobody’s thinking of the children or our wastelines, instead assuming we need protecting from these horrors, banning it is the only logical answer. Even God’s on their side, and if even Catholic dogma condemns the foodstuff, who are we mere mortals to argue?

But it’s a rather easy (food) fight, in a way. Foie gras is something most of us would never dream of ordering at a restaurant [4]. Rich people eat it, which is a tad trite, old chap, so we’re only banning people from having fun. You try banning Tesco’s value mince or Sainsbury’s processed chicken rolls and watch an army of angry mothers beat down your door with a giant turkey twizzler.

I’m not in favour of banning one or the other [5], largely because any measure would most as likely be counter productive, especially in terms of public perception via The Express [6].

No, far better we try and teach people why we shouldn’t be eating either, if that’s not your cup of tea. But even then, there’s no guarantee the educators would be able to tell your finest Stilton, which would go nicely with a vintage Port, apart from plastic cheese slices [7].

[1] And no, I wouldn’t bloody touch the stuff, even if I reverted to my meat eating ways. Pates, and foodstuff of a similar ilk, have always been one of the few things I really can’t stomach. I’ve tried it once (In France, where else) and hated it. That does not mean I’ll be picketing restaurants in the coming weeks, though.

[2] And when did this become a situation? And how does something reach ‘situation’ stage? And when does a ‘situation’ become a crisis? 

[3] Somebody out there will cook it and if somebody’s cooked it, somebody will eat it. Probably Heston Blumenthal for the former, at any rate.

[4] At least not at the restaurants I can afford to frequent. I’d be perfectly happy if somebody paid me to be in the position where I could afford to contemplate ordering the delicacy.

[5] Although would rather people could trace their food a lot better, even if it does from the bowels of Satan himself. At least every group, bar devil worshippers, would have a point if they boycotted the product.

[6] It’s political correctness gone mad, etc etc. 

[7] Other than E numbers I have absolutely no idea what these are made from, and probably don’t want to. If rennet is involved, I’ll be shocked. 


Death penalty, Musings on the

A hypothetical I’m sure no-one will thank me for posing….

So, let us suppose there’s a man in jail. He is a singularly wicked and evil man. He is perfectly lucid and in fine mental and physical health. Among his lesser crimes are murder, rape and paedophilia. He is, quite clearly, a danger to the public and will no doubt be locked up indefinitely, such is the risk he poses.

Using Glover‘s [1] definition of side-effects, in this case, again using Glover’s example, the man has no family, no relatives and no loved ones; not one person would feel loss at his death. He has repeated his desire to re-offend if he were to be let out. Such would be the terror installed in the hearts of the public if he were to be released there is no question of him ever becoming a beneficial or reformed member of society. Due to the danger he poses to others he must be kept in solitary confinement, at great cost to the taxpayer. Faced with no prospect of ever being released, his entire life is now a miserable, solitary and non-worthwhile existence.

In short, here is a man nobody would miss and whose net presence dead would be considerably better than alive.

But this individual has consistently repeated his desire to die by a method other than his own hand. Not only does his wretched state of current existence contribute to this state of mind but he has, in his own head, created some bizarre form of religion which sees his final ecstasy, and indeed martyrdom, created by being killed for past misdemeanours. In his mind, to waste away and die of natural causes would be the ultimate failure of his life’s purpose. He repeatedly pleads with his guards to kill him, and frequently goads others into trying to harm him. Death holds no fear for him, and the more gruesome the method the better.

Now imagine you are part of the jury that decides his punishment. You are not there to decide his guilt; that much has been established and confessed to. You can chose to give him the death penalty or life incarceration in his current conditions.. The power is yours and yours alone. What would be your choice?

[1] Causing deaths and saving lives, 1977

You really won’t buy into this

A curious advertising flyer was left on my car windscreen.

“GENUINE JANUARY SALE” it screamed, as shrill as a Daily Express headline.

I am confused. Does this mean all previous sales by this company were fake? Or are they implying none of the competitors are actually engaging in the price reductions they claim to be?

It reminds me of a similar sign in the window of a bed company I used to pass frequently in Cardiff. It advertised “Genuine next day delivery.” Are bed companies so unreliable in Wales that this fact needed to be advertised? [1]

It’s quite astonishing, and just a little bit brazen, that we’re being sold something on the basis of yes, this will actually happen. In the old days you’d walk into a store in January and, lo, there would be the sale. Now it’s advisable to check that they’re not lying, apparently.

And, more to the point, who actually uses the word genuine these days apart from Frederick Forsyth?

[1] If this was a plumber I could well believe it. It’s been 2 weeks and my taps still aren’t working. I should have known he was no good. He didn’t sigh, tut and shake his head when examining the bathroom.

Also big in Ireland…

I had several detailed, intricate and thoughtful posts stored up in my memory. They’re still there, but they’ll have to wait a while because somebody has, rather carelessly, left a ship by a beach. I once left my keys in the freezer. Nobody tried to steal them but, like big boats in shallow water, keys in the freezer are not a great idea.

As is inevitable in such situations I’ve been running round yelling words into a microphone such as: ‘The boat is right behind me. I can see lights on,’ and, ‘It’s chaos. I’ve just passed a man with a large and very full sack.’

I’ve also been interviewed by radio stations in New Zealand and Ireland. I probably made sense, although I did nearly drop off at my desk earlier.

Tomorrow, like a Devonian Mercury, I’ll be running around the seafront with a microphone again. I’ll stop short of swimming out to the wreck though, on the basis that it’s bloody cold and I’m not a very strong swimmer.

I’m sure this wouldn’t have happened had it been the Argo.

For God’s sake, stop our freak weather

Overhead in public earlier today: two concerned citizens discussing the upcoming strong winds. The conversation itself meandered but came to a most definite conclusion. One of the two was going to complain to the council about the weather. Not any resulting damage from the weather, contingency plans, or even global warming. No, just weather itself.

Quite right too. And Canute for Prime Minister while you’re at it.

Who would be a politician, though? If it’s not the weather, then its the bins, and if its not the bins, its the roads and if its not the roads its because Jonny fell over on the rugby pitched after being tackled and now has a bruise and, dammit, this may come under the jurisdiction of several other authorities but WON’T SOMEBODY TAKE THE BLAME [1].

Excuses? What do you mean excuses? Of course it has to be the politicians fault. If they deny it, it must be true, and if theysay its true then they must resign [2]. It’s a simple law of politics that we understand and insist our leaders adhere to.

Of course it wasn’t always this was. Athenians used to frown upon men who weren’t involved in public life, but those who were allowed to participate in democracy [3] . Everything was debated, arguments were had and votes from the people were counted.

Granted, they tended to vote for an awful lot of wars, and didn’t view women or slaves as citizens, but when you think about it today, other than the female vote which has been gained, and wars, which will always stay the same, have we actually come any further?

What we have gained, though, is blame [4]. The Greeks would probably use it as an excuse to have a good old punch up against Sparta. We’re now more civilised, and use it to sell newspapers instead, which in turn causes for somebody to be blamed NOW for

a) the warm winter we’ve had so far

b) the windy weather we’re having at the moment

c). The cold weather we’re about to have.

And if the cabinet don’t resign now, nobody, least of all the Daily Express, will be happy. Never mind years of abuse of the planet and scientific theories surrounding climate change, no, what we need now is action, and by action I mean writing a letter to the council, and by that what I really mean is blame.

[1] And, for that matter, think of the children.

[2] Unless they happen to be one of those rather rum fellows like Boris Johnson. They will grudgingly be tolerated.

[3] From the Greek demos, meaning people, and kratos, meaning rule. So a rather rough translation is rule by the people. A rather strange concept by today’s standards. No wonder the Ancient Greeks became just that.

[4] And, by default, lost the use of the word happenstance.

Crunching the numbers

Plato viewed numbers as an absolute and, given their perfect nature, can explain anything [1].

So, one interesting side-exploration of this blog, has been tracking visitor numbers as and when they’ve arrived [2].

Since starting this blog on the 30th of December visitor numbers have steadily risen, much as you may expect.

The first two days there were no visitors. I then told a couple of friends, and the visitor numbers hovered around 2 per day, until I told a few more people. It then rose to around about 5 before rising into double figures when I posted a comment on Oxdown.

Now comes the slightly interesting part. Given my activity in promoting the blog up til then, the numbers were as could be expected, with a number of curious people clicking through from the comment I left accounting for the slight increase.

One of those people was Clive and, a couple of days after I commented, he picked up on the fact I’d started blogging again and gave me a plug on Europhobia. As soon as he posted that my viewing for the next day was 47, which just goes to show what one link from a well connected blogger can do for your site traffic.

By this stage various others, like Matthew, whom I’ve had a fair bit of traffic from since, had got round to updating their blogroll and daily visits remained somewhere between 25 and 35, expect for yesterday when it only received two visits. I’m assuming this was because I’d not updated for a few days [3] and it was a Saturday.

Back to normal today, and I’ve even started to get some search engine traffic for ‘Gary Andrews’, which I’m assuming is from people I know.

I’m now at a stage where I’m comfortable I’ll continue blogging here, so will start informing more people about it [4] . From there it’ll be interesting to see what the daily site traffic will be.

So, what does this tell us? Well, everything and, frankly, not a lot. It is, if you will, the birth and evolution of a new blog, while being utterly useless because it tells us nothing and figures can tell us anything we want to. In this case it confirms people do, indeed, read my blog.

[1] Unless you’re Enron. Actually, cancel that. Especially if you’re Enron.

[2] And, quite genuinely, I had no idea of the blog stats wordpress had available to its users when I started up here.

[3] Which won’t be an uncommon occurrence. Get used to it.

[4] I won’t say promote, because that’s really not the correct word for this occasion.

Please, do, visit the ballet

I keep an emergency jar of instant fairtrade coffee in my cupboard. Having recently encountered several emergencies the stock was replenished, this time with Traidcraft Medium Roast.

On the back of the jar is a curious request to your average ethically-aware caffeine consumer: ‘WARNING: Do not go to‘.

This is clearly the Pandora’s Box of product labelling. Asking not to visit the web address without giving a valid reason is just asking for coffee drinkers the world over to ensure this is EXACTLY the first thing they do when arriving home.

Had Traidcraft added we should not visit it because it was, variously, a competitor’s website, had been taken over by porn merchants [1], was an intricate scam designed to purge the liberal middle-class of their guilt by encouraging them to part with cash for non-existent products, or just simply slightly crap, then that would have been fine. We would have nodded sagely, understanding, and the traffic to this site would have markedly decreased.

Naturally I typed the address into my browser as soon as I’d turned my computer on to see why I should desist from visiting, and was sorely disappointed. There were no obscene images [2], nor did it appeared to have been designed by a 3-year-old with no grasp of HTML.

In fact it looked suspiciously similar to Traidcraft’s ‘official’ site. I checked their news section to see if geoactive was an elaborate scam. Nothing. Not a sausage, fair trade or otherwise.

Now here comes the supposition on my part. If this was a marketing tool designed to up site traffic it was an incredibly clever one. Whilst the human race is supposedly intelligent, it is also stupid enough that if you leave them in a room with a red button with instructions that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES are they to touch this button, they’ll press it the minute you walk out of the door [3]. And so it follows if you try to ban something by telling people it will corrupt their very soul to see it, naturally you’ll double first night ticket sales, and telling the consumer that, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, should they visit, you’re guaranteed success.

Maybe I credit Traidcraft with too much marketing nous, but all it needs is one clever marketing man who understands the red button and knows not to touch it, and those who do not comprehend the red button duly follow, like sheep.

Of course, the evolution of the advertising campaign will ensure that some slightly less than bright spark, who comprehends the red button but knows nothing of its powers, will use this to create ‘irony’, after which the trick will be lost for ever [4]. But then capitalism’s loss may just be intelligent life’s gain.

[1] I do apologise for this, even if I wouldn’t have the first clue have to make such technically skilled images, let alone find the models. I’m still ignorant as to how, but have spent a good deal of time apologising to people who viewed C&P at work and, no doubt, will continue to do so.

[2] This wasn’t the reason I was disappointed. Honestly! If I wanted that type of thing I’d just have to type ‘hot lesbian ass sucking’ into Google and could have clicked away to my heart’s content. Not that I’ve even done that either.

[3] This may be a reason why intelligent life has never properly made contact with us. After abducting a few hicks, Little Green Man 1 turns to his partner and says, “Ack, dfsakzaiau, it is no good. If they cannot even master the red button test there is no hope for them. Let us bequeath our technology to somebody who truly deserves it.”

[4] Stupid as the human race can be, they’ve evolved to such a stage where they can see straight through a company that claims to be your ‘friend’.

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January 2007
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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com