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My shallowness is only skin-deep
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8th-Mar-2037 08:03 pm - Public Service Announcement
If you've come here looking for my fiber arts or brewing posts, then you're in the wrong place. The droids you are looking for are over here.

If you think you know me, and think we should be friends on DW or LJ, the leave a comment at DW, or send me a message at LJ and maybe I'll add you. Or maybe I won't.

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Rebellious Oak
5th-Nov-2012 08:54 am - It's that time of year...
Please to remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot.

While I'm not a supporter of papists, I'm not so sure that Mr Fawkes and his merry men didn't have the right idea.

We were taught in school, that the plot wouldn't have worked. However, some people with too much time on their hands have tried it out on a replica of the palace of Westminster with rather good results.

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Rebellious Oak
30th-Oct-2012 02:04 pm - *sigh*
I just wasted a half hour of my life trying to explain to a gentleman on G+ that he should put the blame for ObamaCare squarely where it belonged: on its creator Mitt Romney.

Because all the "worst" features of ObamaCare, such as the individual mandate, were lifted clean from RomneyCare -- which Romney created and signed into law when he was governor of Massachusetts.

The guy kept saying "but Obama signed it into law" and "Romney wasn't in power" and seemed completely unable to comprehend that this is something Romney did as governor. Even though I dug up a number of links comparing the 2 plans he still refused to believe that Romney would have anything to do with such "socialist" legislation.

Well, the answer is it's not socialist, because the real beneficiaries are insurance company owners and shareholders. Premiums in Massachusetts are among the highest anywhere, have increased steadily, and are expected to double between now and 2020.

I don't know what the answers to the health care problems are -- said problems IMHO being access, cost, and quality of care -- but I do know that for-profit medicine is a disaster for the patients. One of the worst things to happen to health care was to let MBAs start running hospitals as businesses instead of having doctors run them as hospitals.

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Rebellious Oak
A site called FriendBlab that has taken to reposting journals without permission. After reading about it in [personal profile] twistedchick's journal I went and checked. My Dreamwidth journal is listed there, no content, just my name and my list of friends.

I've emailed the person they list as "Copyright Agent" requesting he remove me from the site. FYI he is listed as follows:

Randy Charles Morin,
6-295 Queen Street East, Suite #326,
Brampton, Ontario, L6W4S6, Canada

I will be posting the following notice on my profile and all public posts until this matter is resolved:
If you're reading this on, you should be aware that I have not given permission to anyone to copy or rehost my words. Friendblab has acted in violation of my copyright on the use and distribution of my work here. I have requested that remove my account from its webpage.

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Rebellious Oak
11th-Apr-2012 09:56 am - How things go downhill
You go to the doctor. Perhaps because you're feeling under the weather, perhaps for your annual physical -- because you've been told it's the right thing to do to.

The doctor says you need to lose a few pounds. (Trust me, doctors *always* say that. Even when they could stand to lose a few more pounds than you.) Your blood pressure's a bit high (whose isn't in the doctor's office. Between sitting around waiting, especially after fighting traffic to get there on time, and being a bit nervous it's not surprising if you have "white coat hypertension").

So they take an armful of blood, give you a prescription for BP medication, a lecture on weight loss and possibly the recommendation to cut back on red meat and animal fats, eat more healthy whole grains, cut back on caffeine, and drink less soda and alcohol. You make an appointment to come back in a couple of weeks to review your BP and the test results.

You come back. You're stressing about the results of the test, the traffic sucked, the doctor's running late. Guess what -- your BP's still high. Also your cholesterol. And you haven't lost any weight (it was only 2 weeks so what did they expect?). And the frosting on the cake? Your blood glucose is at pre-diabetic levels.

You get more dietary instructions. Well, the same ones, reiterated, but with emphasis on how you're at serious risk for type 2 diabetes unless you change your ways. You probably get an increase in your BP meds and a statin. And an appointment for 3 months later.

For 3 months you take your meds. You cut back on meat, drink decaf coffee and decaf diet soda, switch to Miller or Bud Lite, eat lots of healthy whole grains. And feel pretty craptacular. You get more digestive upsets: constipation, indigestion. You're not sleeping so well, your joints are aching. You wonder if it's just part of getting old, even though you're only in your 30s.

After 3 months you've lost maybe 5 - 6lb. You go in for another round of blood tests, then back to the doctor. Still with the white coat hypertension -- made worse by the fact you feel like death warmed over and are stressing over the results. Despite doing what you've been told, your fasting blood glucose is up again -- this time it's well into the diabetic range. Your LDL cholesterol's down a bit, but your HDL is too low and your triglycerides are too high.

The doctor sends you for a glucose tolerance test. You fail. Congratulations. You now have type 2 diabetes.

This begins an endless round of doctor visits (your PCP and an endocrinologist), nutritionist visits, drugs, blood tests -- including stabbing yourself in the fingers several times a day. You take drugs to boost your insulin production, to prevent your liver releasing glucose, etc. You eat the low fat, high grain diet the nutritionist recommends. You feel as if you're constantly eating -- 3 meals and 3 snacks a day -- yet you're frequently hungry, you're thirsty all the time and drinking decaf diet soda by the gallon. You have no energy.

And you don't get better. You start to get numbness in your feet. Small scratches and bruises don't heal the way they did. You get up several times a night to pee.

Eventually your pancreas starts to fail and you have to take insulin. Which means you have to eat at regular times and count carbs. Your life becomes completely focused on what you can and can't eat, and when you can eat it.

Everyone is very sympathetic, but this is just how it goes. Once you're a diabetic this is the course you're on. The signposts are there, the only variable is how long it takes you to reach the various milestones: heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, gangrene and amputations... it's all there in your future. Implacable, inevitable. All you can control is how long it takes to get there.

Some people can't deal with the regimentation and the constant attention to diet. They don't take the meds, they ignore the dietary advice and continue to consume the SAD with its emphasis on grains and sugars. Not surprisingly, these non-compliant diabetics don't last long.

But is this progression really the only way to go?

We've forgotten a lot of what we knew about type 2 diabetes 40+ years ago. Back then the advice given diabetics (in the UK at least) was to eat a diet that comprised less than 50g carb/day. There were fewer medications (and fewer diabetics). It wasn't that difficult to manage on that amount of carbs -- take out the added sugar, cut out most fruit, and limit bread and other grains (there were several bread-like products made for diabetics which were pretty nasty, but very low carb)

In the intervening decades we've seen a huge increase in processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and new improved medications for diabetics. As a result the diabetic diet has suffered from "carb creep". Today the ADA recommends a diet with between 150 and 200g carb/day. On that amount of carbohydrate, a diabetic needs drugs and insulin to survive.

So enter the various low-carb diets: Atkins, South Beach, and the various Paleo/Primal/Caveman diets. They go counter to conventional wisdom. But they work. And the Standard American Diet doesn't. Yet the conventional wisdom continues to insist that animal fat is bad for us, that dietary cholesterol causes heart disease, even though that particular hypothesis has been found to be flawed. Of course there's money to be made out of diabetics -- the endless rounds of doctor's visits, the prescriptions, the how-to books, the recipe books, the surgeries, and eventually the dialysis.

I doubt if there's one right way for everyone to maintain their health in the face of this challenge, but the LCHF thing seems to help a lot of people quite quickly and quite dramatically.

However it takes a huge leap of faith to turn one's back on medical advice and conventional wisdom. You get all sorts of well-meaning friends telling you that you'll "damage" your kidneys/liver/pancreas. That your brain needs 130g glucose a day (it might, guess what -- the liver makes all the glucose you need). That ketosis will kill you (nope, ketoacidosis might, but that's a whole different animal). That you're at risk of hypoglycemic episodes (probably not, as long as you're producing some insulin and not eating a lot of carbs, your blood glucose will remain pretty stable).

It's funny though, that no one tells vegans or vegetarians that their diet is "too restrictive", "excludes essential nutrients", or is "too difficult to maintain long term". All of which is said of LCHF, even though vegans are at risk for low levels of vitamins D & B12 and the LCHF diet covers that.

As for the whole "meat and animal fats are bad" meme. Umm... we're animals. We're made of meat and animal fat. As long as the source was healthy (dubious with modern factory farming) then animal products are an efficient form of nutrition. For omnivores and carnivores, and people are omnivores. Herbivores are different, but even they're not really designed to live on grains.

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Rebellious Oak
10th-Apr-2012 09:03 pm - My life as a caveman...
Dinner this evening: Leek sauted with bacon, with a side of shrimp and a glass of pinot grigio.

Blood glucose before dinner: 101mg/dL
1 hour after dinner: 119mg/dL

Now, I'd be happier if the numbers were a little lower, but I like the lack of a post-prandial spike. I like that a lot.

There are two things to consider: overall level(s) and the range. Right now I'm running between 100 and 135mg/dL Normal would be between 70 and 125mg/dL.

Many experts say that diabetics should eat every 3 - 4 hours (3 meals and 3 snacks alternating) because that helps keep their glucose level. It's true, it does stay level, but it also stays high. It takes me longer (usually) to process any glucose I get from a meal than it does someone with a normal metabolism. So if I eat every 3 hours, I'm pretty much starting my next meal/snack before I'm done with the previous one.

Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, gives my pancreas and liver a bit of a break. Giving the system a rest, gives it a chance to repair, as does eating LCHF -- reducing the need for insulin (by not eating the stuff that requires insulin for use by the body) also helps preserve whatever pancreatic function I have left. It's the constant strain on the pancreas from attempting to deal with the carbs of the SAD (or the SADD -- Standard American Diabetic Diet) that eventually leads to type 2 diabetics becoming insulin-dependent. The other thing that drives the pancreas to exhaustion is the various medications that are given to diabetics that force the pancreas to produce more insulin.

Insulin isn't my problem -- at the moment. I'm making plenty. I'm just no using it well. So forcing more insulin out of my poor overworked pancreas isn't really helpful.And too much insulin in the system is as bad as too much glucose. Many of the complications of diabetes -- including obesity and cardiac problems -- are caused by too much insulin.

Diet is the easiest, cheapest, and least harmful way for a diabetic to control and manage their illness. You can't cure it completely, but you can get it into complete remission, just as long as you continue to manage your diet. Exactly what you can and can't eat is a fairly individual matter -- some of us are more sensitive to the carbs in different fruits and veggies than others. Some people manage nicely on 40g carb/day, others need to more, or less. It takes a fair bit of experimentation and vigilance to find out what works for you to begin with and you need to continue to pay attention because sensitivities change over time. And there's always the potential for "carb creep".

And this is why "experts" say that people can't do paleo or any other strict dietary regimen -- because it is hard to keep up. However, there are an increasing number of tools that make keeping up with this sort of regimen much easier -- online journals and tracking tools for one thing. But more importantly: community. None of us need to do this in isolation any more. We can create supportive, informative, helpful communities online. The combination of the huge amount of information available and the supportive communities is changing the way we do things.

Though of course, you have to want to do it. Without the motivation, nothing is going to help.

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Rebellious Oak
12th-Mar-2012 01:38 pm - Pimping G+ and Guy Kawasaki
If you've been thinking about using G+ or are finding your G+ experience a little, shall we say, "flat" then you might be interested in Guy Kawasaki's latest book, What the Plus!. It's a helpful little ebook with a lot of tips for improving the way you can use G+.

I got to be one of the beta testers for the ebook, about a month or so ago, and in addition to finding a couple of typos and places where clarification was needed, I got to implement some of the tips he gives. The implementation of those tips has greatly improved G+ for me, I'm in some very interesting (and some far too busy) circles with a lot of people I'd be interested in hanging out with IRL. The kind of people you end up sitting at the kitchen table with till the wee small hours, solving all the world's problems over rather more booze than is good for you. People who do all sorts of stuff and write about it intelligently, amusingly and with great pictures. (Which sometimes makes me wonder why they've added me to their circles, but they did.)

Guy's doing a live chat about the book, tonight at 9:30 pm EST on Twitter at the #MyBookClub hashtag. I don't do Twitter (I have more than enough social networks for someone who's essentially a hermit) so I won't be there.

So yea, if you want to get more out of G+, get Guy's book. It's dirt cheap and he's even got some free copies to give away.

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Rebellious Oak
30th-Dec-2011 06:15 pm - Writer's Block: Half full?
Are you more of an optimist or a pessimist?

Wrong size glass.
Rebellious Oak
29th-Dec-2011 09:11 am - Writer's Block: Bare necessities
Name three things you can’t live without.

Umm... Oxygen, gravity and the Higgs boson.

Trust me, one can live without pretty much any or all of the trappings of modern life for quite a while. Been there, done that.

Very few of my possessions are actual necessities. Except my Land Rover LR3. That would be #4 on that list, closely followed by water, food, shelter and clothing. Though with a Land Rover, I think I've got shelter covered.
Magic Roundabout
What is your favorite day of the week?

Any one that ends in "y". They all have their good points. Even Monday. Though sometimes all that can be said for Monday is "thank god there's only one of them in a week".
Rebellious Oak
When I was 9 or 10 years old we lived about a 1/2 mile from a USAF nuclear base (in rural Norfolk, England). This would be some time between 1959 and 1963, which was when we moved to Walsingham.

Our Sunday afternoon walks took us past the air base front gate. One Sunday, during the Christmas vacation (I was already at boarding school) there were about 50 people blocking the gate by sitting in the road, mostly male, mostly students. It was an official CND* demonstration against the Thor missiles deployed there. There were a couple hundred USAF MPs inside the gate, with dogs and about a 50 - 100 British Police outside. There were at least as many cops as demonstrators. I'd never seen a demonstration or protest before, so I was watching intently.

The cops were picking the seated demonstrators up and carrying them from the roadway to the side of the road where they were dumping them in the ditch. I watched one pair of cops deliberately pull up the demonstrators' shirts when they dropped them and made sure that they were dropping them into either the brambles or the stinging nettles. I was horrified -- my sense of fair play was outraged. The demonstrators weren't hurting anyone or anything, so why were the police being mean to them?

I asked my mother why the police were being unfair by dropping people into the brambles and she said: "They're not doing that, the police don't do things like that. They're just moving them out of the way."

But I knew what I saw, and I've never trusted the police (or my mother) since.

During the anti-Vietnam war demos, gay pride and women's lib protests of the '60s and '70s in England we knew there were professional agitators sent by the police to "start something" so as to give the cops an excuse for mass arrests. Usually they were football hooligans or petty thugs the cops offered to drop or reduce charges against if they "helped out" a little.

At least now we've got ubiquitous instant video and the internet to help us communicate, organise, and recognise agents provocateur when we find them.

The power elite, be they elected officials or just rich, aren't going to give an inch. Sod that -- they won't even give a millimeter. They want it all: power, control, the good life, and they intend to keep what they have, get more, and not share any of it. This has always been the way of things.

There are two ways that they keep the 99% subdued: the classic Roman method of "bread and circuses" and the Stalinist/Big Brother police state. America has been working from the bread and circus playbook for the past 30 years or so while at the same time building a militarised police force beyond anything seen anywhere else in the world.

If you're going to any of the #OWS demos anywhere, don't expect the cops to be either fair or reasonable. That's not why they're there. They're not there to keep the peace, they're there to protect and serve their masters, the 1%. That's who pays them, that's who gives them the authority to use violence on innocent people and act like thugs without any fear of reprisal.

If you go to any of the #OWS demos, expect to get hurt, arrested, beaten, pepper sprayed, tasered or even shot. I'm not saying don't go, I'm saying go with your eyes open. The police are not your friends, they're not on your side -- hell, they're not even on the side of justice or the law! Just be careful out there.

*Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, originators of the Peace symbol, and a formative influence on Yours Truly.

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15th-Nov-2011 06:38 pm - Frustrated Hugh is Frustrated
So the Green Man socks which were going to have cables and the gansey Tree of Life pattern on them are being recalcitrant. The yarn is significantly thicker than my usual sock yarn. I need to rip out the toe and inch or so of foot I've done and start over with 56 stitches instead of 64. That's what happens when you get 7 st/in instead of 8, socks that would have been a perfect fit for my dainty little size 9s become something that BigFoot would be happy to get for Christmas.

This in itself would merely be a minor annoyance, except the carefully planned pattern, which works beautifully with 64 stitches cannot be shoehorned into 56 stitches. Thus I need to go back to the stitch dictionaries and come up with a new plan.

I'm not entirely happy with the first Fetching mitt -- the bind off is a little loose and I also think the finger section is a little short. I need to think about that some more before I start the second one.

I *could* start the Herbivore shawl I want to make. Except it's a pattern that requires counting and thinking and keeping track of what you're doing. What I want is mindless knitting.

So I've started another pair of socks in some Patons Kroy Socks FX -- a nice heathery green. These will have a (relatively) mindless cable panel up the front. Mindless =/= boring!

Fetching is sitting on my desk, where I can glare at it until it submits. The Green Man sock is back in the sock yarn drawer.

Is it too much to ask? To have a nice relaxing project to keep me busy in the evenings?

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Rebellious Oak
11th-Nov-2011 08:53 am - It's Remembrance Day
So you get a little something to think about:


Have you forgotten yet? ...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same - and War's a bloody game ...
Have you forgotten yet? ...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz -
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench -
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, "Is it all going to happen again?"

Do you remember the hour of din before the attack -
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads - those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet? ...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forget.

- Seigfried Sassoon

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Norwich Cathedral Green Man
10th-Nov-2011 06:52 pm - New socks

New socks
Originally uploaded by hughtauerner

Finished the Trekking Hand Art socks.

This means I get to start the Mystic Alpaca fingerless mitts. I'm doing a Fetching variant. Variant in this case means "do fancy math because the yarn's not the weight the pattern calls for"

IKEA knitting
10th-Nov-2011 09:27 am - Flu vaccine withdrawal
According to the Daily Mail, 300,000 doses of flu vaccine Preflucel have been withdrawn because of side effects.

This is the vaccine developed by those who have egg allergies and sensitivities. If you're planning on getting a shot, check what they're giving you.

Or save yourself the aggro, up your vitamin D and C intake, stay away from sick people, wash your hands, and even get some fresh air.

(It's worth noting in passin that Baxter, the company that makes Preflucel, is the same company that a couple of years ago accidentally sent out vaccine with live virus instead of the dead/inactive virus.

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Rebellious Oak
10th-Nov-2011 09:16 am - Happy Birthday
To the guys and gals who can do just about anything.

Right now I raise my coffee cup to all y'all. Later it'll be something more appropriate!

Semper Fi!

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beer cat
9th-Nov-2011 07:35 pm - Cool App for off-road
Wheelin is an iPhone/iOS inclinometer app that shows you just that—the roll and pitch of your off-road vehicle in real time.

I got to play with this while it was in development. It is very cool and the final version is much prettier than the earlier "under construction" versions.

It's also free, but only available for iPhone and iPod Touch. Neither of which I have right now :(

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Rebellious Oak
27th-Oct-2011 09:10 am - Sic Semper Tyrannis
So the "international community" (i.e. a bunch of frightened despots and their sidekicks based mostly at the UN) is concerned that the late unlamented Qaddafi might have been (a) executed and (b) subjected to some sort of "violent sexual assault" before said execution. They want an investigation into this terrible offence against his dignity.

Now, I'll grant you that he should have been captured alive, brought to trial, and then if found guilty, sentenced as would have been appropriate. In an ideal world, he would have been. However, he didn't live in an ideal world. He lived in a world of his own creation, where internment without trial, torture, rape, and summary execution were par for the course. When his regime fell, he found himself hoist with his own petard.

I've got no problem with this. I'd have had no problem with someone walking up to him and gunning him down in his own Bedouin tent, or one of his palaces, or even one of his limos. The state he created was not run by the rule of law, but by whim and edict.

Going forward, Libya has to come up with a constitution and a legal system with all the appropriate checks and balances so that it can reform itself into a decent sort of nation with all that entails. Good luck to them with that.

FWIW, I expect the new regimes in the various countries of the Arab Spring to be at least inclined towards Islam -- we're seeing a moderate Islamic party taking the largest share (though still very much a minority) in Tunisia's first elections, for example. And there's good reason for that. Islam provides a good framework and foundation to build a state on -- it was pretty much designed that way -- the trick is to use it just as a foundation and not become a theocracy. After all, much of Europe and the West has its laws and governments based on a Christian foundation, but we're not (yet) locked into Christian theocratic governments.

The danger is that the moderate Islamist parties all contain an element of fundamentalism and if not kept firmly in check, the fundamentalists will take control and you end up with another repressive regime like Iran. Few people remember that the revolution which overthrew the Shah of Iran was very much a secular one and it wasn't until Khomeini and his supporters pulled a fast one that the new Iran became a theocracy. Which has put it firmly in the "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" position, although the Shah's regime was secular, both it and the current regime in Iran employ the same brutal tactics (and probably a lot of the same people).

I think we're going to see a lot of Islamist groups in the Arab Spring countries. Some of them will try to form governments. Some will succeed. Some will be moderate. Some will not. The more outside influence (American especially) there is over the process of the development of political parties, elections, and forming of governments, the greater the likelihood of the emergence of new dictators and new oppressive regimes. I suspect that some of these countries will go through several governments and periods of unrest and upheaval in the next decade or so before the dust starts to settle. Rome wasn't built in a day. Nor was America, come to that -- there's a period of 13 years from the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to the introduction of the Constitution in 1789. The French Revolution began (officially) in 1789 and wasn't really over until Napoleon won his successful coup d'etat in 1799.

Now the US government is going to be unwilling to let what it sees as anarchy and chaos in the oil-producing region continue for a decade. Profits Oil Democracy is too important to be left to the people to work out for themselves. So there will be all sorts of military "help" offered to these nations to get them "back on their feet". Along with all sorts of money flowing through all sorts of channels to get the "right" people into power. The main pushback against perceived American imperialism and corporatism is going to come from the Islamic clerics. Partly because they're generally better educated, and partly because they see American imperialism as a personal threat -- and not without good reason. This is going to bend the politics of the revolutions towards Islam and also towards fundamentalism, because moderation is seen as weakness (not just in Islam, but in politics and the world in general).

Thus in attempting to get a pro-US (and pro-Big Oil) government in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, et al. to replace the pro-US dictators that have been ousted, the US is going to inadvertently push these countries towards a more fundamentalist Islamic government than they might have chosen if left to their own devices.

This sets up a situation where the US will be "at war" on "terror" all across North Africa and the Middle East until either the US empire collapses or someone accidentally nukes something and we get Armageddon for realz.

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Rebellious Oak
26th-Oct-2011 05:54 pm - DreamWidth invite codes
I have DreamWidth invite codes.

Leave a comment here with an email addy and I'll send you one.
disco DW
18th-Feb-2011 03:39 pm - I didn't expect to find this on line
Blind Eye to the Butcher (Torture in Bahrain) is a documentary made in 2002, about the nefarious head of Bahrain secret police -- Ian Henderson.

The British and American military and commercial interests require a stable base in the Middle East. Bahrain is ideal for this because it's an island (well, technically an archiapelego, but there's really only a few of the 33 islands that matter). In order to keep the friendly regime in power, the UK has assisted the Bahraini government in suppressing dissent, providing assorted military hardware, intelligence, training for intelligence officers, etc. They've also turned a blind eye to Henderson's activities.

I heard about him when I was living there, from about as reputable a source as you can get: a senior officer in the prison system (I won't give his name for his safety). He talked about beating prisoners with rubber hoses, the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, starvation, and so on. While torture of this sort was carried out on suspected insurrectionists, it was also carried out "for practice" on ordinary common or garden prisoners -- thieves, muggers, rapists, et al. Nor was it always for training purposes -- my source told me that there were "some men" who tortured people "for the pleasure".

I have very mixed feelings about the Al-Khalifa family. On the one hand there is much about the way they run the country that is good. They have an excellent record on women's rights, on education, on health care, and on creating and maintaining the country's infrastructure. They planned ahead of the oil running out, and while they haven't been living in poverty themselves, they've been a good deal less rapacious than some of their neighbours. On the other hand, they've employed Henderson for almost 40 years if not longer, and what he has done has been just plain evil. I understand their desire to stay in power. I appreciate that they have different sensibilities than we effete Europeans when it comes to crime and punishment as well as political opposition and dissent. But there's a line between harsh treatment and downright torture which should not be crossed, and in Bahrain it has been.

If, as I suspect, they're torturing people they've detained during the protests, then things could get very, very, ugly. And the US and UK will own a lot of the blame for it.

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Why does political and social unrest in such a tiny country matter?

First off: Some history and so onCollapse )

Next: The social structureCollapse )

So where's it all going to go?Collapse )

Edit: After posting this I realised that I've actually got more to say. There will be another post, probably not till late Sunday though as I'm going to be stepping away from teh intarwebz for a bit.

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If you could have any car in the world, what would it be?

The one I have! I love my Beast*. The only way she could be improved would be by having better gas consumption and being a little quicker off the mark. She'll go plenty fast enough, but she does take her time getting there. The handling is good, though I'm sure it could be improved, and she's wonderful off road and in adverse weather conditions.

I'd also like a Bugatti Veyron for those days when I need to feel the wind in what's left of my hair and watch the world zip past me at some stupid sort of speed.

Of course, I wouldn't turn down a nice Classic motorcycle either. I have a long, long list of those I'd like.

*I just realised, this is a public entry -- so yea, The Beast is a white** 2006 Land Rover Discovery 3/LR3

**Yes, colour is important -- the Car Talk Guys insist on it.
10th-Jan-2011 09:44 am(no subject)
We live in a country where assassination is a political tool. Thus we should not be entirely surprised when the citizens emulate the government. To be honest, I can't say that I'm entirely against assassination. There aren't many cases where it should be used, but there are some. I suspect that the Middle East would a much less dangerous place if we'd simply sent in some ninjas a SEAL team (or better still, the SAS) and quietly taken out Saddam Hussein and let the Iraqis sort themselves out.

However, assassination should take out the targeted individual, and that individual only. No collateral damage (and that includes you, Uncle Sam, and your blowing up of houses that might have a "terrorist leader" in them). It is not assassination when you fire into a crowd of people, kill half a dozen, wound a dozen more and don't actually kill your target. That is incompetence and mass murder. The Proper British Way(tm) of dealing with rogues and mavericks is for someone to have a quiet word with them, then leave a loaded pistol on the desk. The rogue/maverick then does The Right Thing, there is an appropriately solemn funeral and a number of very anonymous gentlemen deal with the mess and loose ends very quietly.

American political rhetoric, well American mainstream culture really, is very martial and militaristic. The national dialogue is all about war: War on Poverty (in which Poverty seems to be ahead at the moment), War on Drugs (again, Drugs seem to have the upper hand), War on Terror. There's a fight against cancer, one dies after losing a battle with illness. There's fighting to end racism, bullying and homophobia. The list goes on. All across the political and religious spectrum we are exhorted to fight back against $evil. And that's without getting into the violence endorsed by Hollywood or rampant in professional sports (waves, cautiously, at the NHL and NFL).

Every nation, every religion, every social organisation has its lunatic fringe -- even Church Flower Ladies and Librarians (a Google search for "librarians and censorship" returned about 486,000 results (0.19 seconds) -- both pro and con) can get their dander up when provoked.

The mass murder in Tucson on Saturday was a predictable result of the massively inflammatory rhetoric of the extreme right in US politics. No matter the mental state or reasoning behind the murderer's actions, much of the responsibility needs to be laid squarely at the feet of the people whose rhetoric and exhortations to use "second amendment solutions" and so on almost certainly contributed to the murders.

Sara Palin, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sharon Angel, Michelle Bachmann, et al. are qualitatively no different from Ayatollah Khomeni, Osama bin Laden, Muqtada al-Sadr, Maulana Yousef Qureshi, and others of that ilk who make repeated calls for violence against others. There's no moral difference between the Islamic fundamentalist whose rhetoric inspires suicide bombers and an American political candidate, radio personality, or religious leader whose rhetoric inspires the murder of a doctor, people at a political meeting, or even bombing a church. All these people act from a safe distance and shrug off direct responsibility for the consequences of their exhortations and teachings. Both groups also prey on the unsophisticated, under-educated, disenfranchised, discontent and marginalised members of their groups and societies. To use and abuse people who are incapable, for whatever reason, of making reasoned mature ethical judgment and then decry all responsibility for their actions, is moral cowardice of the highest order.

This sort of terrorism is not new to America, it has been used to prevent working men unionising, during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, to make abortion virtually unobtainable (despite being legal), and so on. It continues to be used by (mostly) the right because it's a tactic that works. Why bother to make abortion illegal, when you can frighten doctors into not performing abortions? Why worry about same sex marriage when you can bully gay kids into committing suicide, or gay bash adults who look like they may be gay --scare them enough and they'll go back in the closet and no longer be a threat.

These are troubling times. We have a Supreme Court Justice who doesn't believe in women's rights. We have the Tea Party, who seem intent on returning the country to a golden age that never existed outside of TV Land and even there was golden only for middle and upper class white men. We have the religious right who seem to think that The Handmaid's Tale was an instruction manual rather than a cautionary tale, and a government that appears to feel much the same way about 1984. Meanwhile much of the populace seems to be busy amusing itself to death in this Brave New World.

I don't know what the solution is. I don't know how we can back away from this horrible climate of anger and rage. I do know one thing -- the answer does not lie in more gun control. There are approximately 80 million gun owners in the US who between them own around 200 million guns. The logistics of confiscating them all are impossible -- even assuming the owners would be willing to give them up (not an assumption I'd be willing to make). Restricting ownership further through licensing and registration will have no effect -- the people most likely to use guns for criminal purposes are those who are already unlicensed and whose guns are unregistered. Besides, if someone's already planning an illegal act, why would they be concerned to obey the law in any other area? OK, it makes sense not to get busted for speeding or running a red light on your way to rob a bank (though I'm sure it has happened) but not to obey the law on gun ownership. Outlawing guns will just give (armed) smugglers one more thing to make a profit from. That leaves us with the avenues of education and rhetoric. We need to back away from the anger and rage and start both talking and listening calmly. We need to teach ourselves and each other to live with our differences, to be responsible for our decisions and choices. We need to stop trying to force other people to live their lives in ways that make us comfortable.

It is impossible to have any sort of political discourse when neither side will listen to the other and no one is willing to compromise. The essence of a parliamentary system of government is that the two sides discuss issues and come up with a compromise solution which ideally comprises the best elements of all positions on the issue. No single party or political group has all the right answers. Obviously the party in power is going to push its agenda -- that's what they got elected to do. It's the job of the opposition to temper their agenda, to steer it back to the centre, to negotiate a compromise for the good of the country. And that's not happening these days. For a number of reasons. That, however, is the direction we should be attempting to head in. Not further towards either extreme.

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Rebellious Oak
It's a wonderful thing, the internet. You can summon thousands of voices to your cause instantly. Just post in Facebook, Livejournal, Dreamwidth and your minions are there for you to command.

Get picked up by a popular blogger, or bOING bOING or and the whole net goes nukular.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love to warm my hands beside a nice crackling flamewar. The vicarious witchburnings warm the cockles of the sad black shrivelled entity I use instead of a heart. However, while a bit of righteous anger and proofs that the perpetrator of $injustice or $crime is a repeat offender is all well and good, hate email, insults and other such nastiness is not so good.

Some years ago, when Google was scarcely a twinkle in its designers' eyes and Tim Berners Lee hadn't quite realised what he'd unleashed on an unsuspecting world, I was involved in an internet posse hunting down copyright infringers. On an email list, an embroidery designer had mentioned that some of her designs were being photocopied and swapped around on a large scale. She'd seen her royalties diminish and her publisher was concerned about the drop in sales volume across their product line. A group of us went hunting. Quite a task in those pre-Google days. We created disposable email addresses ( IIRC) and hunted down our prey. We found an astonishing amount of pattern-swapping sites where pattern books for all sorts of crafts were being scanned and sent as downloads to anyone who asked.

At first the pattern publishers weren't interested in what we found. After a while they realised the scale of the copying and the fact that it wasn't just their older patterns, but new stuff -- often within days of publication -- being spread all over the net. They took the information we'd gleaned and started to go after the worst. Based on information in website profiles, email sigs, and email or bulletin board conversations we'd actually managed to get names and addresses for several of the worst of the pattern posters.

Somehow someone found out who we were and what we were doing. And all hell broke loose. Threats, accusations, tears, you name it we had it. Fortunately for us, we'd all been very careful not to allow any connection between our real world selves and our online presence, because there were some threats of personal injury made at one point.

We let it drop at that point -- but the damage was done. Yes, a few of the pattern copiers got sued and probably lost. But I doubt many of them had enough assets to cover the cost of taking them to court. Pattern sales picked up a little for a while, but I don't know how long that lasted.

It's left me with a strong dislike for internet vigilantism. I'm not saying intellectual property theft should go unchecked, but do it with a little style -- no dog piles, no insults, no threats. Take to the proper channels and stay classy in your correspondence.

There's lots of room on the moral high ground -- the view is great and the air is fresh and clean. It'll be a while before it gets crowded, so why not pick out your spot there before it does?

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Rebellious Oak
15th-Oct-2010 11:47 am - MMORPGs and The Great Mortgage Scam.
I play Runescape. It's a (mostly) kids game. It makes for better "kill pixels for relaxation" game for me than WoW because it's cheaper and less complicated.

A couple of years ago there were several scams going on in the game. Most of which involved luring low-level players to dangerous areas, killing them and looting their stuff. One of the scams offered the player a video of them killing a high-level player, "wear your best armour and bring your best weapons". Others involved high-level players offering to show newer players how to defeat various boss monsters "easily". Players who were new to on-line gaming fell for this sort of thing because they didn't expect other players to attack them and steal their stuff. The makers of the game came up with a number of strategies to prevent this from happening and to a great extent the scams have died out. However for a while, there were new scams being perpetrated as fast as the older ones were blocked.

Very few people blamed the new players for getting scammed. The company that wrote the rulebook, came down hard on the scammers, laying the blame on them. If and when they got caught scammed items were returned (if identifiable) and the scammers banned from the game.

It's been very different in the mortgage market.

Most people aren't financial wizards. I'm certainly not. I've got a very small clue about how these things work, and suspect most people are in a similar situation. So when the Great American Dream of the house with the picket fence gets waved in front of us, we salivate in the proper Pavlovian manner and plonk down our cash.

If we weren't paying our mortgages, we'd be paying about the same in rent, so it's not really an expense we'd not otherwise incur.

Then the experts tell us it's an investment. That our houses will appreciate in value. When they offer us cheap home equity loans which we can spend on improvements that will make our homes more valuable as well as nicer to live in, we think we're getting a good deal.

We're like the new players in the on-line game. We don't know that we're heading into dangerous territory where the boss monsters will annihilate us. Nor do we know that the "dragon proof" armour we're paying millions of gold pieces for (game currencies are so over-inflated) isn't worth the pixels it's made of. We trust the high-level players because they've got more experience than we have.

We trust the mortgage brokers, because they're in the business of providing mortgages.

We don't see that those "experienced" players are really predators, nor that the mortgage brokers are only interested in making a commission on the sale and don't care if a couple of years down the line our ARM explodes on us.

And none of us can predict when the boom will go bust. Hell, most of the experts didn't even realise it was a bubble until it burst -- they were all swept up in the big money they were making.

So now here we are. The financial sector has screwed the general public by selling and re-selling sub-standard products. Sometimes selling their dangerous loans (any loan where the payments can change dramatically without notice is dangerous) knowing that the customer would not be able to pay when the rate went up. They've made enormous profits. They've had huge government bailouts.

And they're still scamming us left, right and center. Except now the game is foreclosure. As our economy has weakened -- in large part because of their shenanigans -- with jobs disappearing or going overseas. The banks are foreclosing on loans as eagerly as they were making them. And just as they weren't too particular with the paperwork when they made the loans or sold them, they're being sloppy with the paperwork for the foreclosures.

But who's getting the blame? The sharks who sold people loans they couldn't afford? The finance companies who created loan packages with deceptively attractive terms? The banks who've just had a massive government bailout and are still paying senior staff bonuses?

Nope. They're blaming the consumer. They're blaming the very people they scammed a few years ago into buying their toxic products.

And the government, the dudes who make the rules of the game? Instead of helping the honest players, the new players, and keeping the playing field vaguely level, they're tilting it even further in favour of the banks, finance companies and other crooks.

We'd get a better deal from a game company than we're getting from the government right now.

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Rebellious Oak
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