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.
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.
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.
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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