Print Story I wonder to myself
By TheophileEscargot (Sat Aug 19, 2006 at 01:07:56 AM EST) Reading, Not Reading, MLP, Terrorism, ODGF (all tags)
Terrorism. ODGF. Things I'm not reading: "Cloud Atlas". Web. Multipoll.

From the "Things that ought to be obvious" department. The terrorism conspiracy theories, like MI5 orchestrating the 7/7 bombings, are a bad thing, and it's worrying that they're prevalent among British moslems. But one thing that fuels them is the attack on civil liberties. The government tries to do everything as secretly and separately as possible: it wants to put people under house arrest without trying them, deport them without appeal, to keep things as secret as possible; just as it keeps the Kratos guidelines secret. If the government prosecuted terrorists in public; used the courts instead of secret tribunals, and it published its guidelines; it would be a lot harder for these conspiracies to take root.

That said, while I don't like conspiracy theories, it does seem pretty clear that the threat from the liquid explosive plot has been greatly exaggerated. (I suspect it was a genuine plot, just not that effective). It's annoying that the mainstream media still seems to be playing it up: I would have thought at least the Guardian or the Independent would be more skeptical. Instead it seems to be left to The Register, Andrew Sullivan and our own ni to object.

The worst betrayal for me seems to be New Scientist, which I hoped would be pretty objective. It says

Liquid explosives brought down a Korean Air flight in 1987, killing 115 people, and blew a hole in the floor of a Philippine Airlines flight, killing one person, in 1994.
That sounds pretty serious. When I check with wikipedia though, it says the Korean Air attack used two different explosives: "a radio containing 350 grams of C-4 and liquor bottle containing cca 0.7 l of PLX explosives in an overhead rack". That's a conventional explosive, and not a hand-mixed one.

The Philippine airlines attack did use a hand-assembled, liquid explosive bomb (nitroglycerine), and it did indeed kill a man and blow a hole in the floor. It "blew a hole into the floor revealing the cargo hold underneath".

So, so far it seems pretty theoretical that you can bring down an airliner with a liquid explosive assembled on the spot. It seems possible in theory, but it sounds like it's very difficult in practice to get it to detonate.

Operation Don't Get Fatter
Up 2 pounds since last week, which surprises me because I thought I'd been eating pretty well. I have increased the dumb-bell weights lately, and been getting a decent muscle ache: maybe there's a bit of muscle gain beneath the noise. Am only doing dumb-bells every three days instead of every other day during Operation Become Less Fat though.


Not Reading
The amount of reading I do seems to be decreasing. Still have a couple of months to go before my annual Books I've Read This Year diary, but I think it will still be down.

Books per year

Still slogging my way through Simon Schama's "A History of Britain volume 3" audiobook. Only about 4 CDs to go and then I've finished the series. Getting more interesting now, but the long Victorian section was deadly dull: mostly social history. Also the dawn of photography seems to have made the TV-series origin more apparent: lots of sections on photography that are presumably handy for Ken Morse to get visuals for, but they're pretty irrelevant on the page, and excruciating in an audiobook where it's hard to skim.

Have had Booker-candidate "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell on the go for a while, but might abandon it. Started it weeks ago, but put it away when I went on holiday. It seems to have a great reputation, but I've no idea why.

It's a kind of Crab Canon thing: a bunch of novellas, each sliced in two with the beginning at the front and the end at the back, so you have to trudge through every single beginning before getting to the first ending. The novellas are tenuously linked: the characters read the earlier halves, but they're set in different places, times and genres. The jacket's full of gushing praise for the author's amazing protean diversity and mastery of all genres.

But so far, it really ain't all that. The first novella is a Conradian pastiche set on a 19th century ship. The writing style seems more like the Onion's T. Herman Zweibel than Conrad though: Mitchell liberally sprinkles in archaic words and "loads" of "fucking annoying" redundant "quotation marks" into a completely modern creative writing workshop/journo school sentence structure; conveniently devoid of all those tricky colons, semi-colons, nested sub-clauses and run-on sentences that 19th century writers actually used. It's not bad, but it's bright A-level student good, rather than literary genius good.

The second novella is rather good, which encouraged me to keep going; with a young bounder cleverly inserting himself into a 1920s household, and worming his way into family affections.

The third one, subtitled "the first Luisa Rey" mystery is absolutely dire though. If it's supposed to be a mystery, an element of mystery would be nice rather than revealing whodunnit at the start. It would also be good if the heroine encounters significant obstacles and uses some cleverness to overcome them: all the other characters here seem to be morons. "Oh, you say you're a family member, so I'll just hand over the property without checking your ID". "Hi, you seem nice, here's a big dossier of proof". "Don't worry about covering our tracks, we're rich industrialists who can just buy our way out of everything".

So not sure whether to abandon it, or keep going and start seeing if things cleverly interlock, or just read the endings of the bits I've started.

Youtube link, stolen from B3ta: One Day at Torchwood.

Stolen from Monkeyfilter: The Text Files top 100.

Completely hypothetical question
Suppose that you just met a girl, just as a friend. And supposed you had a kind-of blog involving lots of dull nerdy blathering and the occasional political flamewar. Would it ever be appropriate to reveal that blog on the grounds that she's bound to find out you were kind of nerdy and opinionated eventually? Hypothetically, it could be a bit different to revealing it to existing friends where if one person knows, everybody knows.

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I wonder to myself | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Completely hypothetical answer by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Aug 19, 2006 at 03:41:15 AM EST
Hypothetically, is she kind of nerdy and opinionated too, else, hypothetically, why would you bother?

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

Good point by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Aug 19, 2006 at 04:29:59 AM EST
I suppose hypothetically, someone might be interested by some of the content, like Reading and Museums; but be put off by the slashdot-type stuff.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
There is a terrorism threat but by jump the ladder (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Aug 19, 2006 at 06:06:37 AM EST
The gradual consensus seems to be that the current level of security at the airport is not justified even in the Guardian today. I suspect that the govt will relax the guidelines again and we'll go back to the bearable level we had before the alert but with more searches. The airlines are really starting to kick up a fuss about this.


Yeah by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #4 Sat Aug 19, 2006 at 06:24:29 AM EST
I saw the Guardian thing saying exactly what I was bitching about them not saying, practically as soon as I'd posted.

I want my Edit Story back ;-)
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Concerns by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat Aug 19, 2006 at 07:28:00 AM EST
The bigger concern to me was the pressure to act on what we now know not to be an immediate threat. The longer these people were infiltrated, the more people they could have caught in the end. It appears to me that at least some were more concerned with splashing it all over the news than actually catching people. (I've also heard that they may in the end not be able to charge these people again because they acted.)

I don't entirely blame the airport people...they were told "PLOT INVOLVING LIQUID IN A COUPLE DAYS!!!" Would they have reacted the same to "Perhaps unworkable plot set to go off in a month if they can get their act together"?
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Looking for a source by Vulch (2.00 / 0) #8 Sun Aug 20, 2006 at 08:20:11 AM EST

There's a story I've seen in a couple of unrelated places now, but with no source given, that none of the people arrested had tickets for a flight and half of them don't have passports. That would rather imply no imminency if true.

[ Parent ]
even worse by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #9 Sun Aug 20, 2006 at 10:34:04 AM EST
It was supposedly a plot set to go off on the anniversery of 9/11, which was obviously not "ONLY A COUPLE DAYS AWAY OMFG!!!!!"
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Edit story by hulver (4.00 / 1) #6 Sat Aug 19, 2006 at 08:42:58 AM EST
Soon. I promise.
Cheese is not a hat. - clock
[ Parent ]
Woohoo! by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 4) #7 Sat Aug 19, 2006 at 09:20:11 AM EST
I need never be proven wrong again!
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Nice one by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #11 Mon Aug 21, 2006 at 12:05:00 AM EST
Great feature that.

It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Tricky one by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #10 Mon Aug 21, 2006 at 12:04:04 AM EST
You write really well and your diaries are always interesting (and I think would be to a non-geek too), but for some reason it still feels risky. Intelligence is attractive though, so maybe you should hypothetically go for it.

Unless, of course, she works backwards and finds this diary, thus busting your evil plan to get inside her pants. Hypothetically.

It's political correctness gone mad!

I would never reveal my super secret identity. by Tonatiuh (2.00 / 0) #12 Mon Aug 28, 2006 at 09:34:06 AM EST
Hypothetically or otherwise. Far too risky.

One self's traces in the web are more often than not put there for posterity in the heat of the moment, so a lot of stuff you regret you said will be easy to reach.

We all have flammed somebody else, trolled and in general being a c***t, but that is safely tuck away behind a veil of anonimity.

I wonder to myself | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback