Monday, January 16, 2006

The Nuclear Gang

What exactly can the UN do to Iran, the worlds 4th largest oil producer?

Sanctions, as we know, don't work. If we enforce sanctions we turn the Iranian people against us, they suffer, and the Iranian goverment says "Screw you guys, we're taking our oil and going home". So the price of oil goes up again, Bush's Saudi cronies make even more money, a percentage of which they give to fundamentalist madrassas who indoctrinate young muslims into hating the west.

An invasion? If you thought Iraq was a clusterfuck then Iran would be your worst nightmare. A large majority of the people support the government. Those who don't are even more hardline. The type of Iranian who would support UN military action got the fuck out of Persia a long time ago.

Surgical strikes on nuclear facilities? Well, we all know how accurate these surgical strikes are. At the merest whiff of a threat of surgical strikes you will have a few thousand hardline women and children sitting on top of those nuclear facilities burning American flags and singing the Iranian equivalent of "We shall overcome". Then the government will say "Screw you guys, we're taking our oil and going home".

The Iranian government says they want nuclear power. The Iranian people can see no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to have nuclear power. "Hell, the French are allowed to have nuclear power and the whole world knows that they are cheese eating surrender monkeys, so why can't we have nuclear power?".

Now, rightly or wrongly, the rest of the world thinks that Iran wants to make nuclear weapons. What is Iran going to use it's nuclear weapons for? A deterrent? The UK has nuclear weapons and we say it is a deterrent. Why shouldn't the Iranians have a deterrent? It's not like the UK has a neighbour who has recently been invaded by a bellicose nation on the back of lies and poor intelligence who have been fomenting war in the region for decades.

Is the Iranian government stupid enough to actually use nuclear weapons? What do they, and the rest of the world, think will happen if they were to use nuclear weapons? They would be bombed so far back into the past that the stone age would look like the distant future.

Tony Blair and his government keep telling us that we have to have nuclear power, it's clean, it's safe, it's the way forward. But those dodgy Iranians can keep burning their dirty oil.

So I ask again, what exactly does the UN think it can do?

Frankly if I was the Iranian president I'd be doing the "screw you" speech right now, before the UN do anything. Let's see how the UN feel about letting Iran have nuclear power when Iran says "if we can't have nuclear power we'll have to double the price of our oil so that we can afford to clean up after our oil fired power stations".

Here's an idea for the UN:

Instead of sabre rattling and sanctions, how about calling Iran's bluff? Iran is a bloody great desert. The sun beats down on it the whole time. We have the technology to capture that solar energy and turn it into electricity. George Bush thinks technological change is the way out of global warming. So why don't we offer to build the Iranians the mother of all solar plants? It'll be clean and efficient. The Iranians will get their hands on some technology that won't cause their fingernails to fall off and their palms to grow hairs. If Iran is serious about only wanting the nuclear facilities to create electricity they can't complain. They'll get the whole lot for free and we won't have to send our troops halfway round the world to protect the oil that we'll be paying twice as much for as we did last year.

Straight Outta Camden (via Charing Cross)

When I hear the new(ish) recorded announcement for Oystercard that is repeated at Tube stations which tells us that they are available "daily, weekly, monthly and yearly" it always reminds me of NWA's Straight Outta Compton. For those that don't know the track, there is a sublime version available for download from Nina Gordon's (from Veruca Salt) website. Be warned - this song is definitely not suitable for work, your mother, or your children, or anyone who is easily offended by foul language.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Red line news

I just wrote a post about the red line and my damn Dell laptop overheated and shutdown just as I was about to save it. Let's see if I can get it posted before it shuts down again. (This time the laptop is propped up on 4 empty fag packets to let some air circulate. These are old fag packets as I have still given up smoking, despite the mother-in-law bringing us 200 cigarettes back from holiday.)

A friend of my wife pointed out that the red line closely follows the postcode divisions in that area, which you can see at streetmap.co.uk, where it is marked with a red line! It's close to the red line for a lot of the route, but strays where the line goes down Neal St. and Long Acre, again around Chancery Lane and is a bit to the East at the start of the line.

Where Tottenham Court Road meets Euston Road the postcode division is set slightly to the South of Euston Road and there is a T-junction of postcodes. The map is not quite up to date as that area is where the new University College Hospital building is. This convergence of post codes means that the front entrance to the building is in NW1, the rear entrance is in W1 and the ambulance entrance is in WC1. One of the lifts must be in all 3 postcodes.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Feeling Mooreish

Today I booked tickets for Alan Moore on Gothic Nightmares at the Tate Britain. I've had a bit of a Mooreish week. I heard on Wednesday that Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore would be "in conversation" at the Vanbrugh Theatre on Malet Street next Wednesday. I went down to Blackwells bookshop to buy tickets yesterday only to find out it had been advertised in Metro that morning and had sold out. I bought myself the hardback of V for Vendetta to console myself (and a signed copy of China Mieville's Looking for Jake and Other Stories).

At lunchtime today I was fidgety and bored (I should add that I gave up smoking last Monday, which might explain the flurry of posts over the last 2 weeks compared to the previous 2 years). I hopped on a bus with the intention of going to Forbidden Planet, my normal bored lunchtime destination. On the way down Gower Street I decided to get off at Museum Street and visit Gosh instead (for the uninitiated Forbidden Planet and Gosh are comic shops). I had been tempted by the new Absolute Watchmen in Forbidden Planet, but at £50 it was a little too much to justify having a 3rd copy of Watchmen (not to mention the £190 I'd like to spend on the new editions of Frank Miller's Sin City). In Gosh however it was just £35 so I grabbed a copy. Chatting with the guys at the till about Alan Moore they told me that he no longer autographs any of his works that he doesn't wholly own, due to a falling out with DC. They then told me about the talk/tour that Alan Moore was doing at the Tate Britain.

V for Vendetta
was supposed to have been released in the cinemas on November 4th last year to coincide with Bonfire Night. Due to the scenes where a Tube is blown up it has been delayed until March. I'm unsure what to think of the film since most film versions of comics, particularly British comics, are appalling, I'm not going to hold my breath. Judge Dredd and Tank Girl spring to mind. From Hell is an exception, although it does not really do the comic justice it is a good film. I haven't watched The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but from what I've heard I'm lucky. I also haven't seen Constantine (who started out as a character in Moore's Swamp Thing). I have heard good things about Constantine, but I can't understand why a blonde English character should be played by Keanu Reeves. Watchmen is allegedly in pre-production, again.

V for Vendetta stars Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving, supported by John Hurt, Sinead Cusack, Stephen Fry and various others, so it has some things going for it from the start. On the other hand it is written by the Wachowski Brothers and I never got sucked into the Matrix. I understand they have changed the setting, or at least moved it forward in time (I have heard that the Watchmen screenplay is suffering the same fate). Alan Moore is not happy with the film, but I'm going to reserve judgement until I see it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The End of the Line!

Passing UCLH this morning I saw Camden Council employees busily attempting to remove the line by painting it with some greasy stuff and spraying it with a high-powered water jet. Is this the end of the line?

Council worker Ripley: Uh oh. I made a clean spot here. Now I've done it. Guess I'll just have to do the whole thing. Hard to believe...there's a pavement under all this.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Thin Red Line News!

The Thin Red Line was on BBC London News this evening. Camden Council deny responsibility (well the representative of Camden Council wouldn't actually say anything on camera, but the BBC said he denied it), as do Transport for London and the electricity suppliers. The BBC theorised that it could be graffiti, a utility company or a drunken prank. I think I've heard those theories before...

The BBC claimed that it started on Euston Road and finished at the Embankment, but I still say that the solidity of the line indicates that it starts at Embankment and fizzles out on Euston Road.

Stop killing Orangutans. Yes, I'm talking to you.

Ok, so today I move from moaning about parochial problems to something a bit more international.

5 years ago my wife and I went on holiday to Borneo. We had taken a train to my mother's one weekend and someone had left the colour supplement from the Mail or some such paper on the train. Flicking through it we came across an advert for a Kuoni holiday to Borneo. We hadn't had a holiday that year so when we got home I looked into it. Included in the holiday was the flights, 10 nights at a 4 star hotel and 3 excursions and the total price was less than the cheapest return flights I could find on the internet, so we thought we'd go for it.

Now I have to admit that even up to a week before we went away I thought that Borneo was that big island off the East coast of Africa. It turns out that island is Madagascar and Borneo is the even bigger island half way to Australia. I had wondered why the flight was going to take quite so long.

Anyway, the holiday was very nice, thankyou. One of the trips was to Sepilok Orangutan rehabilitation center on the East coast of Malaysian Borneo. We were staying on the West coast at Kota Kinabalu so flights were laid on. Flying across the country was amazing. Looking out of the window at miles and miles of rainforest. Except that it wasn't. Closer inspection showed the trees to be regimented lines of palm oil trees.

Seeing the Orangutans at Sepilok is one of those experiences that you have to do for yourself. I can't really describe the sense of wonder at being confronted by these large, intelligent, gentle animals in the rainforest.

But the reason they are in the rehabilitation center is the palm oil plantations. Every minute an area the size of 3 football pitches is cut down, ostensibly to create palm oil plantations. The reality is slightly more complicated - palm oil can just as easily be grown on already degraded land, of which there is plenty available. The fact is that the palm oil producers can make a fast profit by clearing an area and then selling the logs without having to grow a single palm. After the logging comes the burning.

Palm oil is used in many everyday products including ice cream, chocolate, biscuits, crisps, soap, toothpaste and cosmetics. In the UK it is often labelled as simply vegetable oil. A recent survey by Friends of the Earth revealed that most UK companies don't know where their palm oil originates. This is where you can help. If you visit www.safepalmoil.org you will find pre-printed letters on their "How to Help" page that you can send to the main UK supermarkets, asking them to ensure that their palm oil supplies and those of the manufacturers they stock are sourced from non-destructive, sustainable sources.

You might wonder why I brought this up today. Well, my wife is a member of the freecycle London email list and recently there was a request for medical books from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK for help with medical books and all things medical. As I work in a hospital, and as we recently moved from our old building to our nice new shiny building, I was pretty sure we had left some of our old books behind. So I picked up a few bags of BNF's and other assorted medical books and today handed them over to Michelle Desilets who is a director of BOS.

You can see the work of BOS on BBC2 tonight at 7:30 on their program Apes in Danger.

In local news - Londonist has reported on the Thin Red Line, including a handy map and a picture. One of their commenters suggests it might be a piece of work by Banksy, as he did a white line on the riverside. I hope so as I am a fan of Banksy's works.

Monday, January 09, 2006

RMT down the Tubes

I'm on annual leave today as I didn't want to take the risk of having to walk to or from work during today's Tube strike by the RMT and the wildcat strike on the Northen Line. It looks like I needn't have worried.

Now, I'm a union member and I'm all for strong unions. Generally I support the Tube unions when they strike, whether it be over safety issues or getting a better deal, but today's strikes are pathetic and give the trade unions movement a bad name.

The RMT are striking over a disagreement on rosters, or that is what the union leadership would like us to believe. The fact is 40 out of 44 station groups have agreed the new rosters. The RMT is concerned that there will be not enough staff on duty at the stations. Perhaps this is because last year they went on strike to get a 35 hour working week? At the time Bob Crow and his dummy Bobby Law (you can get his phone number on the internet as some idiot released it to the press) celebrated the successful negotiation of the deal by telling his members that they now had 43% of the working year off (they get 52 days a year off now). Maybe they should come and work for the NHS where everyone is being moved onto a 37.5 hour working week and 27 days annual leave. Don't forget the RMT guys don't actually drive trains. The RMT guys are the ones who are "responsible" for looking after the stations. These are the guys who let you wait 1/2 hour before giving you incorrect information, or, in the case of Shepherds Bush H&C line station are responsible for standing around outside smoking and turning a blind eye to fare dodgers.

Meanwhile te ASLEF drivers on the Northern Line are holding a wildcat strike in support of a sacked driver and seem to be doing a better job than Bob Crow's lot (maybe because he was sunning himself in Egypt when he should have been organising the strike or negotiating a deal). A comment on the Going Underground blog sheds a little light on the situation. It seems that the sacked driver went through a closed station at 29mph, 24mph faster than he should have done, then failed to stop at the next station, then lied about the whole incident.

And the Tube unions are always telling us they have our safety in mind?

The only good thing to come out of this is that the RMT strike seems to be a bigger failure than the New Year's Eve strike. Bob Crow has shot himself in his suntanned foot and RMT members aren't supporting him. It wasn't that long ago you needed lines of police and baton charges to break a union, now you can just leave it to the idiots in charge.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

There and Back Again (or The Ends of the Line)

Today I went out to investigate the line. Anything to take my mind off being a non-smoker for 6 days. I took the Tube to Temple and walked back to the end of the line I had discovered yesterday, along to Waterloo Bridge and over to the South Bank (I actually had my passport with me, just in case). I walked along past the National Theatre and the back of London Studios but there was no sign of the line, so I went deeper into South London and looked along the road at the front of London Studios and the back of the National Theatre. Still no sign of the line. I did see the back of the London Duck Tours DUKW though.

I walked back over Waterloo Bridge and up to Covent Garden for a detour to Seven Dials and a quick visit to the London Transport Museum shop, then took the Tube up to Kings Cross. Walking alog the South side of Euston Road there was no sign of the line, so I crossed over just West of the British Museum at Mabledon Place. No sign of the line there either, but a few yards along I could see the line on the other side of the road so I crossed back over. Disappointingly the line petered out at the Westbound Mabledon Place bus stop.

So, from the evidence I've gathered the line appears to start at Victoria Embankment, runs for about 3 miles (I'm guessing that based on how long it took me to walk it) and eventually just runs out (literally, there's a few splodges and it just ends). Of course, the line may not be complete. Someone maybe along next week to continue it South of the river and East of Mabledon place. Or it could be just a drunken prank, but it seems a bit much to think a drunk would walk 3 miles laying a neat line along the pavement, carefully skipping the roads.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Thin Red Line

Walking to work from Euston Square Tube Station (don't get me started on London Underground, this morning was another pathetic display of incompetence) I noticed a red line painted on the pavement. I followed it along Euston Road past UCLH and round the corner onto Tottenham Court Road, where it continued while I went into my office.

I jokingly asked the art curator if it was a new piece of art for the hospital. He said he had seen the line at Kings Cross and followed it up to the hospital. So at lunchtime I endeavoured to follow it to one end. Before setting off I jokingly said I would take a picture of St Brides church on Fleet St. as I went past it.

I headed down Tottenham Court Road following the line. The line is evenly painted and appears to have been done by a machine. It stops at each road intersection and continues the other side when the pavement starts again. At around Store St. I was waiting to cross the road with 2 policemen so I asked if they knew what it was for. One of them suggested it might be for a fibre optic cable. The line continued to the end of TCR and turned left into New Oxford St. then crossed over almost immediately, through Centrepoint via St Giles, across the top of Shaftesbury Ave. then up Neal Street. At the end of Neal Street it turned left into Long Acre, past the Masonic building, along Great Queen Street to Kingsway where it turned left upto High Holborn. Along High Holborn to Chancery Lane, then right into Fleet Street, where I took a picture of St Brides (with RM2071), along the Strand a bit before turning left into Surrey Street, where it appeared to end at Temple Place, except I cut round to Victoria Embankment where it came out of a wall again to cross over the road only to end again at the river, at the pier for El Barco Latino.

I didn't have time to cross the river and search the opposite side to see if the line continues there.

Does anyone know what this line is for? Next week I will follow it north past Kings Cross and see where it goes and take the Tube to Waterloo and look for the line again South of the river.