Friday, June 29, 2007

English wine

Land of Hope and Glory,
Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee,
Who are born of thee?


By drinking English wine, of course. That's my project for the summer, anyway. On the whole the quality is pretty good these days if you choose carefully. Prices are relatively high, however.

Thus I can certainly recommend this week's tipple, from Yearlstone vineyard near Tiverton in Devon. They do five wines - We bought two no.1s, and two no.5s, both of which are lovely. They have sold out of 2004 red wines, but - in my experience - English red wines aren't all that. If you can't get to Devon, you can buy these online here (though I've not tried the service).

One advantage of English whites is that they are reasonably low in ABV, these range from 10.5% to 11%. So you can have two bottles.

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Haymarket bombs

The news that a possible bomb has been defused in Haymarket gives me a perfect opportunity for idle blog speculation, as I worked on that street only 8 years ago, and so am an expert in anything to do with it.

The BBC notes that it is in Theatreland and near Regent's Street, which is another way of saying it's a bit of nondescript street. The New Zealand house (the skyscraper) is at one end, and Tiger Tiger [1] in the middle, both potential targets, I suppose.

I'd have thought a more likely target, if it is a bomb, was Burberry, who have there HQ (and first ever shop) there. Haven't they been in trouble with anti-fur campaigners recently? Then again, do anti-fur campaigners use car bombs?

[1]Well it was there in 1999 and I think I saw it a few years ago.

Update: Mmm...the Guardian has a handy map of where the car was found, and although it's the right side of the street (East) it's about 50m too far north to be Burberry. In fact it looks more like Tiger Tiger.

Update: Apparently it's a large one, and we have this choice quote from the security services: "Intelligence sources said they were keeping an open mind on who was responsible for the car bomb. 'All options, including the Irish, are open at this stage,' said the source. I suppose we do have a new PM, though who knew Gordon was so disliked?

Update II: The Guardian confirms my Tiger Tiger comments!

Update III: Wasn't David Cameron a director of the company who owned Tiger Tiger? Is this revenge for Quentin Hogg, or whatever that man's name was?

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tony Blair was as 2nd best prime minister since Eden

As every self-respecting Englishman knows, what really matters is the price of housing, in particular by how much it has risen in price recently. Thus this seems the best metric by which to judge Tony Blair's premiership.

The following table could be of use. From left to right it shows the starting house price in pounds of each PM's term in office[1], then the ending price in pounds, the peak price if it was higher than the ending price (this is only true for Mrs Thatcher), the % gain over the premiership, and the quarterly gain. The winner in teerms of total gain is Tony Blair, at 200%, followed by Mrs Thatcher, on 168%. In terms of quarterly gain it's Ted Heath, with an astonishing 5.8% per quarter. "Honest" John Major manages just 7% over his 7 years, or 0.27% a quarter. Pathetic.

The second table shows these figures adjusted for inflation. Ted's 5.8% a quarter falls to a still winning 3.34%. Tony Blair manages 2.24%. Mrs Thatcher only saw a 0.44% increase. Poor old Harold finds himself 2.51% a quarter lower in his 2nd term in office. John Major also saw falling prices. In real terms when Alec Douglas Home took office the average house price was 44,000, less than a quarter of today's price. In fact real house prices were relatively flat between Ted Heath and John Major (though you could also point out they doubled between 1964 and 1990, i.e, 26 years, and have done so again in 17)

[1] I took the first full quarter in which they were in power, so this might mean slightly different results than others you see.
[2] The bolding shows the peak, but it went wrong for JM in the second table and I can't be bothered to redo it.

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Waiting by the 'phone

In much the same was as Heinrich Himmler's greatest concern on being caught by the Allies was whether he should bow to General Eisenhower, I'm worrying this morning what is the correct form of address to take when Gordon Brown calls me to offer me a Cabinet post.

The BBC's Political Editor whose name I forget yesterday said that Tony Blair was now plain Mr Blair. I don't quite understand this - what was he yesterday? Prime Minister Blair is an Americanism, so was it The Prime Minister, Tony Blair? And surely he is still Tony Blair, MP, though perhaps not?

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"At the time of his choosing"

I've only read the first nine lines of Oliver's piece on Tony Blair in the TNR, as unusually it seems to be behind a subscription barrier (I say unusually because his piece on Gordon Brown's foreign policy was not), but I still disagree with something.

Imagine it's the 1960s:

Teenage Tony Blair: Y'know, I'm going to a party and I won't be back 'til 2am.
Alive Tony Blair's parents: No you're not, you'll be back by midnight.
Teenage Tony Blair: You're so UNCOOL, y'know, I hate you.

Some hours later...

Teenage Tony Blair at party at 11:59: I'm going home now because I want to.
Teenage Tony Blair's friends at same party at same time: What a statesman. He's going home at the time of his choosing. We wish we could be like him.

Update: Here's the full post - there's nothing to justify the 'at the time of his choosing' statement. [Thanks DW]

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Baked potatoes

Much better in the oven than the microwave, of course, but you really have to give them at least an hour and a half [changed from two - see comments].

If you have an electric oven, say one of 4,000 watts, this means power consumption of 6kwh. Apparently not only does this cost about 60p in electricity, but chucks out roughly 3kg of CO2 (it depends on the mix of sources of electricity generation, but this is the UK average).

This is turn is equivalent to driving 11 miles in an average UK car, or 18 miles in a Toyota Prius (or about 3 miles in a Lamborghini, which is not so good).

Any of the above calculations might be wrong - I'm not sure if electric ovens are 4kw - I saw in the US they are about 5kw and I've downscaled it a bit, but I'm not sure if that's the right thing to do.

Anyway until someone tells me other, a baked potato = 11 miles round-trip in a car.

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Gordon Brown's first day at his new job

Do you think he'll sit in the corner, not knowing who is who and not really having anything to do, before leaving at 5pm? Or will he be taken out by his new colleagues for an almighty drinking session, and leave his bag in the pub?

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Madness

Talking Points Memo quotes a man called Norman Podoretz, in the National Review:


He is a bristling gray ball of aggression, here to declare that the Iraq war has been "an amazing success." He waves his fist and declaims, "There were WMD, and they were shipped to Syria. ... This picture of a country in total chaos with no security is false. It has been a triumph. It couldn't have gone better."


This was on a National Review cruise, which I think is the sort of thing Christopher Hitchens lectures on. Which gets me wondering, is there anyone in Britain, on the Decent Left or Right, who takes the view of the Iraq war, that "it couldn't have gone better"? When you think of our own slightly crazy commentators - someone like Heffer or Philliips - I don't think it's true. Stephen Pollard is perhaps the best example I can think of, though even he surely has been critical of some aspects of it?



A man called Quentin joins Labour

Gordon Brown has his first mandate, albeit one of one, with Quentin Davies joining Labour from the Tories. His resignation letter to David Cameron contains some pretty strong criticism:

It is fair to say that you have so far made a shambles of your foreign policy, and that would be a great handicap to you - and, more seriously, to the country - if you ever came to power...But the last year has been a series of shocks and disappointments. You have displayed to the full both the vacuity and the cynicism of your favourite slogan 'change to win'.


His reasons for going seem a mixed bag - he mentions the Tories' anti-Europeanism, anti-inequality, anti-nuclear power, and lots of other things. I think he might just not like David Cameron and George Osborne.

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Exciting developments

This blog is now well into its sixth year, and I think this is a good time to update my loyal readers with some exciting developments that will be coming their way in the next few months.

1. Live blogging from Wet Wet Wet's Reunion/22nd anniversary tour: This blog will have a columnist attending all but one of the Wet's triumphant concerts in late Autumn.

2. Competitions with a new prize! - The copy of James Delingpole's "How to be Right" that I gave to a friend as a present.

3. Excerpts from 1951 "Gadget Magazine" - Starting with "How to turn an ordinary Oven into a temporary hair-dryer".

Yes, basically you can all safely unbookmark this site, delete it from your RSS readers, and only return in the New Year, when I'll link to that Michael J Totten [1] piece again.

[1] The most embarassing weblog post ever written.

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Crime higher than the BCS says?

There's a report in the Guardian quoting new research by Civitas (I can't find the report on their pretty terrible website, I'm afraid) that says the British Crime Survey, already the higher of the two crime surveys, underestimates crimes by 3m offences a year. This is because if a respondent claims to have been affected by the same crime committed by the same person [I've edited this because I've seen it says the same person] more than 5 times, the extra times are not counted.

The numbers are staggering. The total number of crimes in the BCS, according to that Guardian report, are 10.9m (6.8m household and 3.1m person). If 3m crimes are being underreported by because they are the 6th and more crimes experienced by a person, then some people are hit by crime an awful lot.

It can't simply be that 3m people who report 6 crimes against them from the same offender are only put down for 5, as that would mean the BCS records 15m crimes which it does not. It could, at the other end, be that one person is hit by 3,000,005 crimes committed by the same person, and only puts down 5. More likely, and assumedly the real numbers are in the report if I could find it, would be something like 200,000 people are hit by 20 crimes (4m) and only put down 5 (1m) or 600,000 people are hit by 10 crimes (6m) and only put down 5 (3m). Or, I suppose, 1m people are hit by 8 crimes, and only put down 5.

This doesn't presumably, unless being a repeat victim is on the rise, change the trend in the BCS figures. It also, perhaps, might provide some comfort for most people, as it implies the likelihood of being a victim of crime is lower for most people than they probably realised (as the distribution is so skewed). Nevertheless it seems odd there is this 5 limit. I wonder what sort of crimes hit so many people by the same person so many times in a year? Burglarly? Mobile phone robbery [update - probably not if it's the same person committing the crimes]? Or domestic violence? And why don't these people call the Police, or if they do, why don't the Police do anything?



Update: The Telegraph report has some more details, and this Guardian PA story gives some additional figures, whichs shows that domestic violence is a lot (500,000) but not most of the additional numbers.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

There is another Hucknall in the World

Yes, Mick's become a father for the first time, which if his claims are to believed (that interview, by the way, is second only to Michael J Totten's "Drinking with Christopher Hitchens and the Iraqis" [Update: Link, correct title, and I'd never noticed what a rip-roaringly funny title it is as well. The gift that keeps on giving.] as the most embarassing thing ever committed to print), is a remarkable demonstration of the efficacy of contraception.

Now Mick has become a father, I think it is time to end the custom of his Stars album being the prize for competitions held by this site. In future the prize will be the copy of James Delingpole's, "How to be Right", which I have given to a friend as a present.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Guardian of 1909 reporting Saturday's news

I quite like the style, though I don't think they've really captured 1909 newspaper reporting very accurately. Funny though.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

They'll think they have a bargain...

buying Focus DIY for just 1, but you wait until Cerberus gets it home and finds that it's going to take 15 hours of assembly and they need various types of screw that they don't have. No hang on, the joke doesn't work as these private equity folks usually break things up, rather than assemble them.

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Diana, Tina Brown, Martin Amis

As my regular readers [1] will known, I am a great fan of Royal biographies. As the 10th anniversary (that doesn't seem the right word, but I can't think of another one) of Diana's death approaches, there has been a splurge of books about the Princess. Paul Burrell, her former Butler, has broken his silence about the Princess. Sarah Bradford has decided to give Royal biography a chance. And many others. Luckily Peter Conrad has decided to summarise most of them here.

Tina Brown talks about her book here. The article notes that Tina Brown (at Oxford, I think, though perhaps just afterwards) "had a succession of famous boyfriends, including Martin Amis and Auberon Waugh". No Randolph? I'm obviously far too young to know the answer to this, but were Martin Amis and Auberon Waugh 'famous' in the early to mid 1970s? I suppose if much of your fame comes from your father then you always are famous. Or perhaps if you date someone who becomes famous, that is enough.

[1] An increasingly domestic readership, I hate to have to tell you, as 8% of my readership has moved from the US back to England in the last week or so.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lockerbie bombing

The Observer and the London Review of Books look at the possibility that the only person convicted of the Lockerbie bombing will be freed, on the grounds that it's unlikely he did it.

Update: The power of the blog. Just days after Dave Heasman points out in these comments that he didn't think Barry George killed Jill Dando, an appeal has been granted.

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Facebook for adults

Apparently it's "super creepy" if adults have one, a member of the Youth tells the Sunday Telegraph. I wonder what she would say about the blog, the Flickr site, the six different internet browsers?

Israel

I hope it's overly gloomy, but there is nevertheless a quite interesting article in the Mail on Sunday by Peter Hitchens.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Shania Twain

The "Magic" music channel has "1990 classics", and apparently one of those, playing now, is Shania Twain's "Man! I feel like a woman" (the one with the pastiche of that Robert Palmer video).

Anyway, the chorus goes like this:

The best thing about being a woman
Is the prerogative to have a little fun (fun, fun)


It doesn't make any sense does it? Do women have a prerogative to have a little fun (fun, fun)? Surely not. I can understand that if they did have such a prerogative it may be the best thing about being a woman, certainly as opposed to being a man, but I just don't think it is true.

God please someone invite me out to pub. I'll travel.

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Mispronunciation

We've been discussing comical mispronunciations.

My contribution was a family member, who in the 1960s when doing a EFL teacher training course, said to one of the instructors "It's on boo-un-dowry lane', to which he replied, "I think you'll find its Boundary lane, my dear"

A friend contributed the surely apocryphal story of an Australian friend of his who had arrived in London and was staying with someone else. He called friend up and said, "I'm at Looger-Boorooga Junction".

Someone in the office owned up to believing that "misled" and "misled", but pronounced "my-zuld", were different words.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

That Olympic logo

It's actually growing on me. I think it's partly as you know exactly what kind of logo a lot of people would like - something of unlimited tedium such as these. So I don't think it should be scrapped[1].

I'm also amazed that Wolff Olins managed to come up with something that wasn't a simple geometric shape, such as a square or circle.

[1] Though I'm still open to the idea that the Olympics is scrapped.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Labour's Deputy Leadership election

Chris asks us, his readers, who he should vote for in the forthcoming election for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. I suspect it should be Hiliary Benn or Alan Johnson (the current Cabinet Minister and former Trade Unionist, not the lecturer involved with Engage, Unite Against Terror and the Euston Manifesto) though I can't really give any good reasons except Hiliary Benn seems to be right about the right issues. To think that some people were suggesting Alan Johnson (the Minister...) as a potential Prime Minister only recently.

An opinion poll last week for The Times asked people about whether they recognised the candidates. The results were not encouraging (for the MPs, perhaps they were for the rest of us).

The % who indentified (I believe unprompted in any way) each of the candidates.

Alan Johnson - 10%

Harriet Harman - 17%

Hazel Blears - 11%

Hilary Benn - 9%

Jon Cruddas - 2%

Peter Hain - 15%


Which would I have got correct? Certainly Alan Johnson, Harriet Harman, Peter Hain and Hiary Benn. I don't think Hazel Blears (I think I would have said Helen Liddell) and definitely not John Cruddas (who I would have gone with most people and said Derek Hatton, if I'd not been told he was a Deputy Leader candidate).

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US military to arm some insurgents in Iraq

So says The Guardian., which notes it is a 'high risk strategy'.

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Safari

Hurrah - you can now use Apple's Safari browser on a Windows machine. Three cheers.

Well, maybe two cheers. I've now got IE7, Firefox (2?), Opera something, and Safari all on the same computer. We've managed an essentially simple system where I use Firefox and the girlfriend uses IE7, with Opera as a backup when a third person arrives. But now there's Safari, which seems pretty quick (its main selling point, it seems). Maybe I should take in a lodger...

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The Things Daily Mail Readers Say!

It's the last sentence I loved...

Dear Sir,

Channel 4 is to be congratulated for its programme on the car crash which killed Lady Diana Spencer. While it is doubtless uncomfortable viewing for her sons, one can only hope that the photographs of the wreckage and its dying occupants will lead viewers to realise the importance of wearing seatbelts. I am sure that is what she would have wanted.

J.D.D

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Facebook II

Thank you very much to all the people who have signed up as one of my Facebook friends [1]. As an spur to those of you who are still wavering (I calculate only 66.666% of my readers have signed up) I announce a incentivization scheme. If you sign up as one of my Facebook friends in the next 28 days I will enter you for a prize draw to win a copy of Stars, by Simply Red. No strings attached and the chance of winning is going to be at least 1/3rd [1].

[1] Those loyal Friends (I think the capital is justified) who signed up without this incentive will be pleased to know I am gong to exclude them from the draw.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Facebook

I now have a Facebook account. Which goes with my blog, my flickr account, and god knows how many other accounts. But what do I do with it? Can I link it back to this blog? Do I have to put a picture up?

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

England caps

Does anyone know how much England players get paid to appear for the England team? Google is no help, as far as I can see.

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