Saturday, March 31, 2007

Has Cameron gone too far ?

Methane meters : How long before they are compulsory in our homes ?

Will they save the polar bears?

(Ed: word of advice: it says above that I posted this on the last day of March. But that was Pacific Standard Time ( out of my control; it's Blogger's chosen international standard).

It was in fact posted early on the first day of April (French time). The devil, as they say, is in the detail.)

OK, so most folk have taken on board the idea that air travel does not really leave a trail of sooty carbon footprints in the sky, that the real pollutant is invisible carbon dioxide gas (CO2).

And measuring our carbon footprint has, up till now, been concerned mainly with estimating the amount of CO2 we add to the atmosphere through travel , heating our homes, and other activities that burn fossil fuels.

*But extending that concept to methane (CH4), the other major greenhouse gas, sounds to me a big step into the unknown, and I have grave doubts about the soundness of the science.

But David Cameron’s sudden conversion to the idea of a 'methane tax' sound to me like a tax too far. OK, so I have simplified the name: the full name is Aggregated Greenhouse Index Tax, or AGIT for short.

In case you missed the item on the news, AGIT works like this: each person, farmer, company etc is rated for their total greenhouse gas emission, which is not just carbon dioxide (obviously) but would now include their personal methane.

The index is weighted to take account of the fact that methane is far more potent as a greenhouse gas , weight for weight, than the equivalent amount of CO2. As such it is considered a major contributor to global warming, climate change and loss of polar bear habitat.
I would guess that most of us who live in towns or cities have little difficulty with the way AGIT will apply to farms and their livestock. They will bear the brunt of the new tax. The importance of ruminant methane from cattle, sheep etc as a major contributor to greenhouse gas emission, and global warming is well known.

Technical note: cattle and sheep are ruminants, with a forestomach full of methane-producing bacteria that efficiently break down plant fibre, that would otherwise be indigestible and unavailable as a source of energy and nutrients. In contrast, poultry and pigs are like us, in being monogastric (single stomach).

Incidentally, did you know that an elephant produces enough methane in a day to run a car for 20 miles ? The comparable figure for a polar bear is unknown (being less cooperative in the matter of meter probe insertion; moreover, not many cars in the Arctic are adapted to run on methane)

What people will think about paying more for their beef and lamb remains to be seen. Speaking for myself, whilst an AGIT levy of 25p or thereabouts on a T-bone steak would not bankrupt me, I would see it as yet one more nuisance tax, to add to the dozens that Gordon Brown has already introduced - usually by stealth, and often on some dubious pretext of "protecting the environment and polar bears".

Personally I am very happy to eat more poultry and pork which I see are almost zero rated. Indeed the new tax, if implemented (Dave’s got to win an election first !) may be just what’s needed to push me into vegetarianism.

But even vegetarians do not get off scot-free, given that the proposed rating of foods applies also to fruit and vegetables, on account of their alleged methanogenic potential. That's due to the fact that many of us harbour methane-producing bugs in our lower bowel. Mind you, so do polar bears, so they have to an extent brought things upon themselves.


Should polar bears be metered as well for methane production ?

Flatus is the subject of much folklore and many jokes, but it's maybe worth mentioning that pure methane is colorless, odourless and yes, highly flammable. So there's some truth to those stories about the games little boys play in the bath with glass jars and lighted candles ....

So it's logical, I guess, that Cameron's new proposals should target foods that tend to favour methane production. It's mainly those that are rich in complex carbohydrates, better known as starch and dietary fibre.

*Well, I never did care that much for lentils, baked beans anyway,. But I was alarmed to see some other items being singled out for the top rate of tax, such as my favourite breakfast cereals. And Colin Randall will not be pleased when he sees the top-band levy that's proposed for curry dishes, which rates them as eco-damaging as prime rump steak.
Incidentally, this is where I have grave doubts about some of the science. The in vitro models used to assess methanogenic potential strike me as somewhat arbitrary and contrived. For example, there is no such thing as a “typical” human gut microflora. Methane production varies enormously from on person to another, even on the same diet, because there is a sizeable variation in one’s ”carriage” of different species of gut bacteria, only a few of which are methane-formers. The same is probably true for polar bears.
Personally, I don’t know about you, but I think that while there may be a case for discouraging wanton emission of personal methane , Cameron’s proposals are unfair: they penalise certain foods deemed “methanogenic”, even if they do not have this effect in all people.

I was interested therefore by an article by Ivor Greenbaum of Surrey University's Flatulence Institute in Technology Today magazine. (In passing , I'd mention that he's a keen naturalist in his spare time, with a deep and abiding love for polar bears, despite one of them having eaten his grandfather on Ellesmere Island in 1963). Anyway, according to the distinguished professor, recent advances in sensor technology mean that every home can now be compulsorily fitted with a greenhouse gas meter (or GGM -see graphic above).


(BTW: Please ignore the meter on the right. Although looking virtually identical, it measures carbon monoxide gas, which is not germane to this topic, but I did not have time to photoshop it out.)
It's a suggestion that David Cameron has keenly endorsed in his Channel 4 interview last Wednesday.

One or more of these GGMs would situated within the home, perhaps inconspicuously, he suggests , in the master bedroom, and would continually monitor ambient methane levels.

They would all be linked into a radio-linked network through a dedicated satellite in geostationary orbit. Periodically they would transmit readings to a central database . There, each home's output of greenhouse gases would be computed, and the homeowner would then be billed annually, possibly through their Council Tax.

*What kind of money are we talking about ? The Surrey prof was reluctant to be drawn on that, saying that was essentially a political decision, but that left to him he would penalise people whom he described as "fecklessly flatulent".

*"People need to be made aware of the importance to choose a prudent diet that does not endanger the planet for polar bears and future generations".

But he conceded that if the levy was set too high, there might be a tendency by cash-strapped householders to engage in a practice known to the medical profession as “flatus retention” (FR).

FR has previously been considered a factor in the aetiology of certain bowel conditions such as diverticulosis – people learn to retain ("save up") flatus, perhaps in places where people congregate, and in so doing may build up potentially damaging levels of intraluminal pressure in the bowel. Once clear of one's fellow humans, the pressure can be released......

There is a danger that FR might be used to cheat on the spy in the home. Folk might be tempted to set their alarm clocks to go off , say, at two hour intervals during the night, and then trot out into the garden for a quick and satisfying vent. That way they might keep their meter readings low.
But sound, as we know, can carry a long way at the dead of night.

*We surely don't want a situation where everyone in a street full of methane meters is driven to wear ear muffs at night to blank out the sound of their neighbours, out under the stars, cheating on their meters .

*That would signal that a well-meant exercise had become self-defeating, at least where the planet's atmosphere is concerned. And where would that leave the polar bears ?

So perhaps you need to think again, David Cameron . Maybe today is not the time to be entertaining these fool ideas. Or there again, maybe it is.

Comments welcomeThink againThink againn*

Filed at 00:45 , Sunday 1st April, 2007 (Paris time)

Comments welcome: email

Competition 2 - suggest a caption

Original caption: These children are a bit young to vote yet, Gordon

The above photograph appeared on the Little and Large Telly blog yesterday, with that fairly innocuous caption, the one you see above.

You may have read today's headlines re Gordon Brown. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we now know, almost 10 years after the event, how he jettisoned Treasury advice, and then, without batting an eyelid, torpedoed Britain's final salary pension schemes below the water line. He did it by the absurdly simple act of withdrawing their 20% tax relief on investment dividends . He slipped in this little Treasury earner during his "honeymoon period". It was the first of his many subsequent stealth taxes.

In view of the iniquity of what he did - sucking 5bn pounds a year, every year, of lifeblood out of pension funds, I think some pithier captions are called for.

This blogger made his feelings clear about Brown's raid on pension funds almost a year ago in the Times. I'll see if it can be googled out of the archives, and post here later. (ed: quickly located, see below)

In the meantime here are four alternative captions. I got the ball rolling with the first three.

"Have you been shown how to fill out a tax return yet?"

"Yes, but there's now much less hayfever since schools got rid of their playing fields"

"Then you tell your Daddy from me that tosser is not a nice word....... "

Phil Slocombe's caption:

"Just think of me like Father Christmas"

Those Telly moderators must have been at peace with the world yesterday, publishing them all , incuding that distinctly dodgy third one.

And as you can see, Phil Slocombe, bless him, one of the Trusty Trio of new guest bloggers, brought in from that wilderness called "Your View", joined in on the fun. too. Thanks Phil- but then you did owe me one (having primed the comments on your maiden blog :-)

Perhaps my die-hard band of readers can think of some more. But please don't send them here ( which might look like internet piracy). Send them direct to the blog instead. I'll cut and paste new ones as they appear.

Footnote: from the archives (see above):

Would Gordon Brown make a good prime minister:

"You asked whether Gordon Brown "looks a billion dollars".

To me he looks more like £5bn, taken each year from our pension funds.

This was not done as a response to some dire national emergency.

He made his raid shortly after taking up office, as a kind of pre-emptive strike, and, for reasons I do not understand, was given a comparatively easy ride by the press and media generally.

He was allowed to get away with committing a (to my mind) hugely irresponsible act, the knock-on effects of which have caused so much anxiety and pension shortfalls for millions of folk.

Did Chancellor Brown, looking for a quick fiscal fix, correctly guess he could get away with it, knowing that the press tends to go easy on new ministers deemed to be in their "honeymoon period"?

There are other reckless acts one could cite, like the decision to sell off gold reserves, and then announcing publicly what he proposed to do in advance.

Dumping so much gold on the market had the inevitable effect of depressing its price.

Billions extra could have been saved if he had done the sensible thing of drip-feeding into the market, especially given today's prices.

And let's not forget that the so-called extra "penny in the pound" on NI contributions was in reality a 10 per cent increase, and effectively a stealth increase in income tax.

Or the profligate spending on unnecessary public servants, botched computerisation project, etc.

I believe there to be a serious flaw in the way this man operates - by stealth and by fait accompli - one which I consider inimical to democratic processes.

He's a dangerous loner. I voted for Blair (though now regretting it) but Labour will never get my vote if Brown succeeds Blair. "

Colin Berry, Antibes, France

Times April 12th 2006

Friday, March 30, 2007

Competition - Name the most-botched film scene

There has been an outbreak of competitions in our small corner of the blogosphere.. As light relief from the recent pistols at dawn stuff, I thought I'd contribute one of my own.

Look at the picture on the left. What is it ? A Hubble image of some tear in the space-time fabric ?
No, it's Sauron's eye from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's what Frodo sees in the palantir (Seeing Stone) which so terrifies him. The Dark Lord is seeking him out, ready to dispatch his Black Riders.

Except in the film, it looks more like an exploding button hole, and, later, something different again, like a conflagration on stilts.

Now there's an awful lot that Jackson got right in that film. I for one used to doubt that any film could ever do it justice. But that pyrotechnic "eye" ..... !

Please, Peter, set up a post-production studio with one or two of your computer whizz kids. Do it again. Get it right. Create an eye that fixes one, and makes the blood run cold.

Now look at the small B/W picture on the right ? Recognize the film ? It's of course "Ice cold in Alex". The title refers to that goal of arriving at a particular bar in wartime Alexandria, and downing an ice-cold lager. But first there are hundreds of miles of desert to cross, trying to avoid German patrols. Remember that heart-breaking scene, where they push the conked-out truck to the top of the sand dune, start arguing about something, while unbeknown to them the truck rolls all the way back down again.

Finally they do make it to Alexandria, and to that bar, and what happens? The barman shoots the lager straight into the glass, and hands Anthony Quayle (?) a load of froth !

How could they have committed such desecration ? The lager should have been poured with loving care . We should have seen a haze of condensation appear on the glass. Quayle should have taken a deep draught of cool refreshing lager, and not have to fight his way through warm froth.

So, which scenes in a film would you most like to see re-done ? Answers on a postcard please, or the equivalent, which has to be an email to . Sorry, I've felt it necessary to block the Comments facility for reasons already stated.
PS Brief update on the fisticuffs. I see on another blog a comment from Bill Taylor, chameleon journalist/blogger, aka James Hamilton and Lacombe Lucien in previous incarnations. He says I am "no longer denying being RCMP". For once, the man is correct. And I am no longer denying being Albert Einstein, Jesus Christ or Mickey Mouse. For more about Bill Taylor, see Shane Richmond's current post (Readers Write) to which I have just posted "Taking people for a ride".

Monday, March 26, 2007

Telegraph invites three "Your View" regulars to be guest bloggers

Simon Coulter XXX XXX David Llewellyn xxxxxxx Phil Slocombe

Final update: Thursday 29th March 0755, CORRECTION 0950

"I supported his attempt to become a guest blogger. I'm not sure I'll do that again"

The words you read above are part of an update that appeared this morning on the site belonging to "Richard of Orléans", that grotesque Goebbels-like propaganda machine that spews out a never-ending stream of lies, distortions and half-truths.

I've already done a line by line dissection of the "comment" that he deposited on Shane Richmond's blog yesterday.

Now he claims that it was all meant in good faith, to "support my attempt to become a guest blogger". Leaving aside the question as to whether or not I wish to be a guest blogger -which I've said earlier would be problematical - is there anyone, apart from Colin Randall's cat, who believes that R of O is really touting on my behalf ?

Let me tell you what his "Comment" was really all about. He saw Shane Randall inviting three contributors to the Telegraph's "Your View" to guest blog and thought "Oh my God, what if Colin Berry is next to get an invite, and Bill T and I don't" ?

And over in Toronto, Bill Taylor was thinking exactly the same thing. That was the real chagrin. Without messages needing to be exchanged both knew what had to done - a wrecking exercise that would deter Shane Richmond from ever inviting me to guest blog.

Bill Taylor began the process with a reference to there being chagrin in Antibes. That was the signal for Orléans to get in with one of his exercises in grotesque caricaturing, that would have brought tears of admiration to the eyes of Joseph Goebbels.

Bill Taylor sensed it was time to go in for the kill, and finish the job, so comes back with his old standby in character assassination - claiming that I use multiple pseudonyms maliciously. In fact, it is Bill Taylor, pillar of the Toronto Star, who has used pseudonyms with malice aforethought on at least two occasions, once as James Hamilton, and the second as the recently resurrected "Lacombe Lucien".

I believe blogging touched rock bottom yesterday with those comments placed by BT and R of O on Shane Richmond's blog. And their message is clear: invite Colin Berry to blog, and we'll trash the Comments section there, just as we have done here.

As I've said before, new freedoms bring new responsibilites. I believe that 'R of O' and BT are killing the local family of blogs, abusing the freedoms they provide to engage in gratuitous insults at others' expense. That, in a nutshell - and I struggle to think of a more appropriate receptacle- is how both get their kicks. Beneath their veneer of civility, microscopically thin in places, they are a pair of bovver boys.

Shame on Colin Randall for turning a blind eye for so long while those two miscreants refined their act on his blogs. Colin R is today celebrating reaching 50,000 on Salut!'s hit counter. Does he not realise that without that pair of thugs, it would probably have been in six figures by now ?

4th update: Wed 28th March 21:30

Have just been re-reading the comments on Shane Richmond's thread. Although I've already posted a response to Richard of Orléans, I confess to still being fairly livid at this latest example defamatory comment.

Here's what he said: His invective is in black. My (printable) responses are in red.

He deserves his spot in the Sun

Well Shane you have thrown down the gauntlet for our fawning Antibois, Monsieur Berry.

Fawning ? Where's the evidence that I have fawned to Shane Richmond ? Anyone reading my blog will know that I tell Shane Richmond exactly what is on my mind. "Fawning Antibois" is the language of a pamphleteer, attacking some perceived evil in society. It is totally inappropriate in the context of our blogs.

He will cut off his right arm to be a guest blogger on the Telgraph.

Since when have you been a mind-reader, Richard? Well, I'll tell you this. I'm no mind reader, so have no way of knowing what is in Shane Richmond's mind. But I could take an educated guess. Would it make sense to invite Colin Berry, or any of the other blog contributors, to write blogs if it's like waving a red flag to the likes of BT and Rof O ? Chances are they will waste no time in trashing the Comments section the way they have trashed Shane's own most recent blog with their attempts at character assassination ?

I know what I'd conclude if I were Shane. But I'm not, and nor is R of O, so he should keep his speculation to himself.

I will not be churlish nor spiteful. Merit where merit’s due. Other things being equal, Colin Berry deserves to be a guest blogger.

That's magnanimous of you, Richard. But we know to expect a sting in the tail

His style would appeal to the posh voiced middle England which adores the Queen, waves the flag, hates the EU and voted for the Iraq war.

And here it is: the inability of Richard to distinguish between his crude stereotypical Telegraph reader (despite being one himself) and a blogger who is about as far removed from that description as is possible.

I respect the Queen for the way she handles her duties, and consider that constitutional monarchy is at least as good a form of government as a Republic with a President as Head of State. I do not "adore" the Queen, or wave Union flags etc etc. That, for better or for worse, is simply not my style.

I do not hate the EU as an ideal, provided it moves no further towards US-style federalism. The Yugoslav federation disintegrated amid atrocities and genocide, despite having a common synthetic language (Serbo-Croat). What chance is there of stable political union in the absence of a common language ?

My position on Iraq ? Here's what I posted to Adam Boulton's Sky blog over a year ago:

"The US/UK led invasion of Iraq was not wrong in principle, but it was premature, did not have UN approval, and did not involve a broad coalition of forces, such as that which Bush Sr. put together for the liberation of Kuwait. But to pretend, as some contributors do, that allowing Saddam to stay in power was the lesser of two evils, and that he should have been allowed to continue terrorising his own population (Shias, Kurds, Marsh Arabs), shows a callous disregard for human suffering. Bush&Blair have made many mistakes , but the idea that the invasion of Iraq, costing billions of pounds and dollars, was all about oil is frankly naive. Blair's main mistake was to focus on weapons, real or imagined, instead of that tyrant's track record as a monster.It's about international security, about being able to sleep at night. The focus is now moving to Iran, for all the same reasons".

Just as he wedges stubbornly in the nostrils of those who hold none of the aforesaid qualifications.

Where does he find this kind of prose ? It's redolent of the 17th century !

But other things are not equal, for Mr Berry doesn’t allow comments on his blog.

This is what Churchill would have described as a "terminological inexactitude", or Alan Clarke as being "economical with the actualité " Blatant, deliberate lie is the expression that I would use. I'm grateful to Louise for setting the record straight. Comments are always welcome, by email, but not from R of O, for the reasons stated in previous posts.

The Telegraph, already accused by some of Stalinien tendencies, would hardly associate with an individual who sets up his sermonising pulpit but denies the common man a right of reply.

Who's sermonising, I ask you ? Who's the one with the authoritarian tendencies, who likes subjecting folk to his impromptu "peoples' court" ( with this self-appointed commissar deciding what the people should be thinking)

The ball is in your court Mr Berry, what are you going to do?

I've just done it, Mr. High and Mighty Orléans. I've updated my blog to make clear my deep distaste for your language and style of blogging. You are a whisker away from warranting the description ???????? ( I'll come back later on that one).

richard of orléans at 27 Mar 2007 19:07

Third update: Wed 28th March 17:10

I have just sent the following reply to Bill Taylor on Shane Richmond's blog. How nice it would be if that would draw a line once and for all under this ridiculous business .

"OMG. We're back on that again - the subject of pseudonyms. Bill Taylor just cannot let go, can he ? And to read his comment above, one could be forgiven for thinking that I was the only person ever to have blogged under a pseudonym. No mention of his own excursions under at least one, and probably more besides.

Yes, I have used pseudonyms - invariably because I don't wish to be constantly advertising what a sad old bastard I am, making repeated posting to the same thread under my real name.

Back in August last year there was a brief spell of midsummer madness when a spate of pseudonyms appeared on the same thread of Colin Randalls's entitled "The importance of public scrutiny".

Bill Taylor appeared on that thread under his "James Hamilton" persona. And it was far from benign. Using that pseudonym he had previously claimed to have arrived in Antibes seeking confrontation with me (he laughs it off, but my wife and I were not laughing at the time, especially when he said he was going round knocking on doors).

I appeared (defensively, not aggressively) on the same thread as "Gordon" and as "James", not to be confused with a "James N".

I would advise any students of blogosphere ethics reading this to consult that thread, and look closely at the behaviour of the three "pseudos".( Maybe Dom Kureen above has material for a PhD thesis).

Note, for example, the rough treatment meted out to "James N" and "Lacombe Lucien" by Bill Taylor/James Hamilton for daring to speak their minds, and contrast it with my own, addressing the ISSUES rather than rounding on on individuals. It would have been very easy for me to have sniped at "James Hamilton", whom I was 99% certain of being Bill Taylor. But I did not do so, because I believe sniping from cover to be reprehensible.

It's time to let go now, Bill Taylor, and stop dredging up past history again and again. The portrayal of Bill Taylor as Saint, and myself as Sinner, simply does not stand "public scrutiny", as Colin Randall so presciently put it.

Let's agree to draw a line under this now. I have withdrawn from personal blogging; I simply wish to post comments to Telegraph blogs without being constantly jumped upon for supposed misdemeanours in the past, which seem to be largely a figment of Bill Taylor's imagination. Much the same could be said of Richard of Orléans, though they are clearly cut from very different cloth."

Second update: Wed 28th March 12:10

Have just sent the following to Shane Richmond's blog, under the title "Give it a rest". It went up in record time - less than a minute !! Thank you Ceri Radford et al.

"I see the incorrigible Richard of Orléans is still trying to use other people's blogs, in this case Shane Richmond's, as his kangaroo court.

It's the same old story: trumped up charges, and 'R of O' acting as prosecution, judge and jury, all conveniently rolled into one.

It's easy to do that, Richard, when you hide behind a pseudonym, but unfair and irresponsible when your target blogs under his real name.

Sorry, Richard, but I don't wish to participate in your warped little game. Kindly give it a rest, and do please stop misrepresenting the facts. For the record (sigh) I rarely comment on world politics, but can assure folk that I do not fit Richard's stereotype. I am broadly pro-EU, but anti-federalist and against Britain joining the single currency. I strongly opposed the Iraq war, believing that Saddam had no WMD to hide - that he was just playing cat-and-mouse with the inspectors, to wind up GWB/TB, and that bilateral US/UK action was premature and probably illegal.

Thank you Louise for correcting Richard on that absurd claim about no longer accepting comments. That is yet another instance of Richard misrepresenting the facts, just so he could work in his little joke about Stalin.

I think this is the point to stop, but if anyone wants clarification on any of the matters raised here, by BT, 'R of O' or Louise then I shall be only too happy to oblige. (BTW, Louise, thank you for the clarification re emails)"

Update: Wed 28th March 07:00: I have just this minute composed and sent off the following to Shane Richmond's most recent blog, entitled Readers Write :

"I suppose I should be flattered by all this attention from Bill Taylor. But I do wish he could find something, or someone else to talk about, instead of dogging my footsteps the whole time.

It is true that I have had to return, albeit reluctantly, to one or two blogs that are frequented by BT. And it has been invariably to deliver the same message: "Please find someone else to talk about".

Note that he has returned to Telly blogs, Shane's in particular, after several months of absence, not to respond to the issues, but to resume the same old nitpicking and backbiting at my expense.

I find it somewhat strange that a professional journalist on what is reputed to be Canada's leading newspaper should behave in this fashion. It puts one in mind of what an erstwhile Telly blogger used to refer to as the "green ink brigade".

Does anyone have any ideas about how one deals with it ? But please don't say "Ignore him". It doesn't work.

2nd update Tuesday 27th March: my old sparring partner, Bill Taylor, underworked journalist on the Toronto Star, apparently feels I should be feeling "chagrin" at the latest developments. He presumably means that I should be feeling miffed that I'm not in the initial tranche of Telly regulars invited by Shane to host blogs.

Bill T, a professional journalist, has been posting comments to the Telly for as long, if not longer than myself, so by that reckoning he should in theory be feeling pretty sore himself.

But let's think for a minute. We are both grown-up. We know how the world works. Shane is taking quite a bold step, and has had to get his open-door policy past his proprietor , namely the idea of letting Joe Blog(g)s onto the rostrum, and demolishing the barrier that separates the pros from us hoi polloi.

Maybe I'm sounding presumptious right now, as if I expect a call any minute.

Hey, but wait a minute. Let's look at this logically. I've blogged for several months, used up most of the obvious topics that I've wanted to get off my chest. So while I'm not entirely a spent force ( especially having taken a sabbatical) there's a sense in which an invitation to do a series of MSM posts would leave me like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights - what am I going to talk about, for Chrissake ?

So BT, who is a perceptive individual, but uncharitable piss-taker into the bargain, must understand that I and other Telegraph BLOGGERS are relaxed, indeed philosophical, that the first invites have gone out to those who comment, but do not BLOG. They, the "Your View" commentators have left their blogging powder dry, so to speak, and Shane probably knows that ....

More about that key distinction later, between "Your View" and "Telly blogs". There are other considerations, but they can wait.

Updated Tuesday 27th March : Late addition to Phil Slocombe's thread: the first a contribution from "Richard d'Orléans", followed immediately by my own. Scroll down to the blue font.

Sorry about the misaligned name captions. But there's an upside (for those not in the know): they are links. Clicking on them will take you to their maiden Telly blogs. One is assuming/hoping they will be all allowed more than one bite of the cherry (National Union of Journalists permitting !)

This one was posted to Simon's:

Beware the hypobaric chamber

I bought a new mariner's watch at Luton Airport, mainly because it has a compass (for land-based navigation I hasten to add) but among its other features is a barometer. On the flight back to Nice, the reading dropped from over 1000hPa right down to about 775 as I recall - almost a 25% drop in cabin pressure. While this was happening, the hermetically-sealed pack of sandwiches that I had bought in the departure lounge began swelling up, and ended up looking like a balloon, giving a most satisfying, but somewhat alarming bang when punctured. So apart from the ear-popping etc, it's a sobering thought that wherever one has trapped air in one's body, eg middle ear, chest cavity, there's going to be a similar attempt to balloon out. Quite an alarming thought! One wonders if this under-pressurising of cabins is really necessary, and whether it's right to inflict this stress on passengers people willy nilly, not knowing their medical problems. And that's on top of the DVT risk, and the rotten air filtration system that you refer to.Welcome by the way to Telly blogs, Simon. You and your two fellow "Your View" contributors have scored a notable first (a Trojan horse of citizen journalists penetrating the MSM fortress). Oh, I'm the Resident Bore, by the way (at least according to he who goes under the nom de plume "Richard of Orléans"). He's the Resident Pain in the Butt, although plenty of other descriptions spring to mind. "

Colin Berry at 26 Mar 2007 14:03

and this one to David's (I've started, so I will finish ......)

Keep taking the tablets

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Telly blogs, David. And that's just the journalists' posts. Just wait till you see some of the Comments. All life is here (including some that ain't terribly high in the food chain).Re those ancient "cookery stone tablets". Only a few us know the vital role they played later in human evolution. For aeons they cluttered up every cave and simple dwelling, long after the hieroglyphics etc had become indecipherable. It became a huge challenge to mankind to find some use for this prehistoric toe-stubbing detritus. Then someone had one of those eureka moments. "Why not use them as bookends? " But then someone spotted a drawback. "But we haven't invented books yet". Well, the rest, as they say, is history.Don't say I didn't warn you about the Comments section ......
Colin Berry at 26 Mar 2007 15:03

and, finally you'll be relieved to hear, this one to Phil Slocombe's ......

Three new faces

Hello, Phil Slocombe. It's nice to see the face behind the name, especially one who has given us so much entertainment under the "Your View" section (and de-mystified China for a lot of us). The Telly's open door policy - with two more Guest bloggers waiting in the wings, I see - is also a welcome and innovative move. But don't I recall Shane Richmond saying a while ago that non-journalists need not apply, or words to that effect ? One wonders what some of the old hands must be thinking about this blurring of the distinction between citizen and professional journalists. Or are Phil and other two seasoned NUJ members ?

Colin Berry at 26 Mar 2007 11:59

..and here was Phil's speedy reply ...


Hello Colin I do not intend to make a habit of replying to posts or interfering with any discussion that takes place but as you were so kind to welcome me to this new opportunity DT has given me , I felt it would be very rude not to thank you. No I have never written for any sort of publication before. Definitely amateur but trying to improve. Many Thanks

Phil Slocombe at 26 Mar 2007 13:42

Added Tuesday

Curried Cuisine

My favourite is the British use of the word 'cuisine'. They apply it to the vile food that they eat. As in 'Tika Masala is British cuisine'
Richard of Orléans at 26 Mar 2007 18:12

Sacré bleu

Richard of Orléans has led us off-topic onto his favourite bête noire - the unspeakable Anglo-Saxon (despite qualifying himself for at least part of that description).Rather than challenge him directly (since he never concedes so much as a single Napoleonic millimetre) I would make an oblique reference to the subject he alludes to.At least when we borrow a word from another language, Richard Coeur d'Orléans, we try not to muck it around, and usually endeavour to pronounce it correctly. The French show no such respect for imported English words. "Le parking" (car park) was bad enough, but the real horror doing the rounds a year or two back was a Parisian buzzword coined for the entire eating-out experience, covering cuisine, service, décor etc. Brace yourselves now: "le fooding" !

Colin Berry at 26 Mar 2007 19:08

The latest post on "R of O's" own blog, called La Sologne, is about French canal-building. I composed the following, but decided against sending it:

I'm surprised you overlooked to mention that plan of Napoleon to link France with its old rival by a canal, to be dubbed "La Grande Union". Those plucky French engineers built the Paris to Calais stretch at great speed, learning valuable lessons that they later put to good use in the construction of the Suez Canal. But at Calais they ran into a technical snag about which they are loathe to speak, and the project was abandoned, at least on the French side. Well, not entirely. An alternative plan was briefly considered to rescue the project, a kind of face-saving exercise. It was from that we get the expression "to have tunnel vision".

Meanwhile on the other side of the Channel, after the mirth and jollity had died down, it was agreed that the idea was good in principle, but needed to be in tune with realities. So the first stretch was built from the industrial heart of England down to London. It's still there to this day, and a gesture of solidarité, and a nod in the direction of L'Entente Cordiale, it was called "The Grand Union Canal".

Well, that's how my grandad told it to me, and as my dad always said "He tells 'em good".

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Shostakovich - the great survivor

Igor Toronyi-Lalic, the Telegraph's classical music blogger, posted today under the title "Most overrated/underrated composers of the 20th century ". So far, it's only attracted one comment. But then it's a Sunday. There could be several more in the in-tray, waiting for moderation.

Igor is pretty dismissive of certain recherché composers, notably Dmitri Shostakovich, whom he refers to in less than glowing terms:

"I'm pretty sure Shostakovich will be knocked down a peg or two once the political fascination in him as a resistance composer fizzles out."

The caption under the Telly's obligatory blog graphic is even less flattering. Shostakovich is said to be , among other things, musically "flatulent" whatever that means. A bit OTT, as descriptions go, methinks, but we'll let it pass .....

DS was one of about 10 or so mainly 19/20th century composers who rated a half dozen or so LP records in my collection. There was one particular piece of his that seemed to me to sum up his relations with the Soviet culture-police, but the record is in store in England, and even if it were here, in Antibes, what use would it be ?

Well, it shows the power of the internet, if any were needed, that a quick Google not only brought up the particular piece I had in mind, but also an Amazon selection of audio clips from the same, with exactly the two memorable passages that I had in mind .

The first one, the second movement, is sad, immensely so, whilst the second, the last movement, is a rollicking piece of irreverent mockery (presumably directed at the po-faced commissars who were trying to cramp his style).

So here's what went off to Igor's blog some 2 hours ago, although it may not appear for some time.

"Over-rated maybe, Igor, but you have to hand it to a man who remained musically productive for the best part of 40 years, despite twice having Pravda and Uncle Joe (no less) denounce and humiliate him for straying from the true path of "socialist realism". And what better example is there of the man's courage and wit than to have composed his Concerto in C Minor No 1 (for piano, trumpet and string orchestra , 1933). See link below:

The Wikipedia contributor puts it as follows:

"The trumpet parts frequently take the form of sardonic interjections, leavening the humour and wit of the piano passagework."

Personally, I'd say it was an amazing tragi-comical conjunction within the one work. For the tragedy, you can hear a clip (Windows Media) on:


That has to be one of the saddest few bars of music ever written !

For the nose-thumbing mockery:

(listen especially for the lampooning trumpet in the last few seconds of the clip - shame there's not more) "

PS I've tried several times now to convert those chunky URLs into nice compact links. Everything works fine till I hit the Save as Draft, and all the editing disappears, and cannot be retrieved. Sorry, I give up. It's chunky URLs or nothing.

Response to critics

This comment has just appeared from me on Shane Richmond's blog:

Late response to critics

Anyone wishing a prior exposure to the torments of everlasting damnation should visit some of the blogs that developed as a local galaxy around Colin Randall's "Salut!".

Although most have now wisely blocked comments from anonymous or unregistered usernames, there is still a lot of what you call "mudslinging", Shane, thanks in part to blogmeisters who are loathe to moderate for fear, presumably, of appearing authoritarian.

But that still leaves scope for mischief makers to post abusive comment under a registered pseudonym, and then point the finger of suspicion at another contributor, and then take a back seat when the accusations start flying.

It can be rough and tough in the dirty world of personal blogging.

That is why I back you so strongly, Shane, in the robust line you have taken on the need for moderation, and your right to do it without having every decision picked over by us contributors.

Most of my posts get accepted, but when they don't, I can usually guess why it was withheld, and then try not to push my luck too far the next time.

Perhaps I might be allowed a brief response to Louise and Anne Gilbert in your previous thread, claiming I was inconsistent or hypocritical in supporting moderation, and your right to set your own rules.

Louise says I have tried to impose my moderation criteria on her, denying her editorial freedom.

But that's because she allows a lot of comment to appear on her blog that I (and probably yourself) would consider defamatory, eg when people (including myself !) are falsely accused of "trolling" ie posting abusive comments under the cover of newly-created pseudonyms.

That is the only serious point of contention I have with Louise - her excessively light-touch that has allowed certain individuals occasionally to give her blog the character of a kangaroo court.

In fairness, it has happened on other blogs too, within the "local galaxy".

As far as the charge of hypocrisy is concerned, it is because I am alleged to have blocked ALL comments (a defence against the kangaroo court merchants).

But that is nonsense. As mentioned on an earlier thread here, I am inviting emailed comments instead, which, provided they meet my criteria of acceptability (similar to your own, Shane) will be integrated into the body of the post.

That way I hope to offset the obvious disadvantage of hindered access by creating an open-ended forum, and eliminating the all to common "disconnect" between post and comments.

Colin Berry at 24 Mar 2007 08:24

Comments invited, email only to:

Arts of oak

Updated 25th March 11:50
I mentioned in the last but one post that we celebrated our daughter's success in getting her MRCP with a botttle of wine. But this was not just any bottle of wine ( to echo that seductive voice on the Sainsbury ad). This one came from the display rack in the wine store which has a lockable bar that clamps the premium wine in place, preventing a quick exit with one under the coat (not that I would ever dream of doing such a thing).

So what did I think of the '96 Margaux, given it's the most I have ever paid ?

Hugely underwhelmed is the answer, which is what I now say about the majority of clarets. And always for the same reason - oakiness predominating over grapiness.

Last night I did a bit of googling, but in unashamed charlatan fashion, seeking facts that would support my position. That meant ploughing through pages of stuff about how the French initially chose oak for their barrels, because that hard, generally close grained timber is ideal for allowing the wine to mature. And it is recognized that the wine acquires an oaky flavour in the process, which can be controlled to some extent, because new barrels add a lot of oakiness, old barrels very little, so that wine can be switched from old to new barrels, and even back again, to get the desired degree of oakiness. And it's all traditional, we are told; it's been going one for centuries blah blah blah.

But so far I haven't found what I've been looking for - the killer fact that would nail once and for all this intrusion of woodland into wine-making. Namely that the invasion of oak flavour was tolerated initially because the oak resins allowed the wine to be kept, and matured, for longer. There was a trade off, in other words. If you wanted the flavour of mature grape, then an accompaniment of resinous old oak was the price you paid.

Consider for one moment that British substitute for wine - namely the barley-based ales and beers. They have been "hopped" for centuries, and Kentish hops impart a distinctive flavour. But when I visited a brewery, there was not attempt to hide the original purpose of the hops. They were there, originally at any rate, as a preservative. That's because any solution of alcohol, exposed to air, turns to vinegar, due to the action of aerobic Acetobacter, whose spores are everywhere in the air. Having stumbled by accident on the antiseptic properties of hops, brewers no longer needed to rely on high alcohol content as a preservative, and could then use less barley, and produce beer more cheaply, and which had a longer cellar life.

The Greeks developed even more robust means of preserving certain wines - by tossing lumps of pine resin into the wine, to create retsina. But we all know one can develop a taste for the stuff, even if it does taste like turps.

Resins - now what are they ? They are substances that trees and plants produce to protect themselves against microrganisms like fungi and bacteria. Oak has resins. So you can guess where my thoughts are heading: storing wine in oaken casks did not just protect against leakage: it added a touch of what might crudely be called disinfectant, without which there would have been tremendous spoilage of wine if they had been stored for too long.

Over time , our palates have become accustomed to the natural preservatives used in beers and wines, and that includes the oaky flavour of a mature claret, to the extent that it's supposed to be a prized characteristic in its own right, and winemakers now go to great lengths to control or enhance that oakiness. See link

But if you have ever tasted a mature red wine that is still predominantly grapey, perhaps because it's been protected by its own tannins, or by its high level of alcohol, or by being kept in the right kind of old oak barrels, then, if you are like me, you will be irritated at paying an arm and a leg for a bottle of 'upmarket' claret that hits you with an oakey instead of grapey flavour.

One suspects that there's probably a supply-and-demand problem here ; grapey unadulterated wines are a dicier prospect, without all those additional oakey resins to keep them sterile.

Ipso facto, one tends to be offered oakey wines, even if, like me, you are somewhat dismissive of the genre, suspecting that one is the fall guy for a centuries old con that's as old as the trees ( well, mature oaks, anyway ). Never mind the flavour, just taste the additives!

I've asked my wine merchant to recommend clarets and other reds that are grapey, not oakey, but one suspects from his reaction that no one's asked him that before. ....

Maybe we need a wine equivalent of that German standard for beer, Reinheitsgebot, which specifies barley, hops, water and yeast, period. In other words, no additives, whether modern, or just there as a result of some "happy" accident of history.

But that would mean specifying an inert container, eg stainless steel, or glass, for storage and maturation. That's hardly designed to seduce palates, is it ? But at least it doesn't assault them.

email from Louise: 25th March 11:50

Did you decant the Rausan? It was a young wine for a Bordeaux and needs to be opened and decanted at least 6 hours before drinking. Despite popular belief, the younger the wine, the longer the need for opening and decanting. An old wine should only be opened at the last minute and if necessary, decanted (this is only to avoid the sludge, not to develop the flavours which will rapidly disappear in an old wine).You will not get a 'grapey' wine from Bordeaux - the wines from there are extremely tannic like the wines from the Languedoc. For a 'grapey' wine I would suggest a wine from the Loire Valley, such as a St. Nicholas or otherwise a young Bourgogne - you could go as far south as Mercurey for that, just about ...

A young wine, you say Louise ? 1996 ? I hardly think that's a young wine, even if it can stand years or even decades longer in the cellars.

There was no sediment. This and other wines from the chateau go through a fining procedure with egg whites, repeated racking etc.

The man in the shop recommended we put it into the decanter 30 minutes before serving.

I don't consider tannins to be at odds with a grapey flavour. Even fresh black grapes can have their sweet pulp given a slight bitter edge from the skins, which is, of course, where the tannins are concentrated. I see no reason in principle why a Bordeaux cannot be grapey/tannic, provided it is matured in old barrels, preferably ones that have been recycled, "second hand" if you like.

Comments welcome, but only by email:

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Blogospheric tactics for beginners

LESSON 7 : Trolls, Clones and Innocent passers-by

Having mastered the first 6 lessons, you should by now be finding your feet, and applying some of those techniques you have recently acquired.

And what is the main point we have stressed repeatedly ?

Yes, it's that PASSIVITY is always perceived as a sign of weakness.

In the Brave New World of the blogosphere, the only thing that counts is ASSERTIVENESS, allied ideally to total TRANSPARENCY.

But sometimes, as we have said, there is no choice but to go over, if not quite to the Dark Side, at least into shady territory.

Today's Lesson, Number 7 in the series, takes the form of a case history, and it's drawn from a recent MSM duel.

It was a Telegraph blog, in which Shane Richmond invited readers to meet him on his own ground (now there's one adventurous soul ! ) . Sadly, that fine gesture on his part brought out both the best and worst in the small blogging community that logs on to his site.

There were 16 comments in all. The entire thread is reproduced below ( I trust that's OK with you Shane: I didn't consider it necessary, or prudent, to consult, maybe for obvious reasons).

Here's what you have to do:

1. Identify the troll
2. Identify the target
3. Identify the clones. How many are there ?

"Hold on a minute", I hear you say." Who or what are "clones" ? Have I missed something ? I don't recall hearing "clones" mentioned before on this course. "

Correct, dear student, but common sense should tell you what that term "clone" refers to in the present context.

Why do you think clones were deployed in this thread. In other words, what was their intended role, and was their intended purpose achieved ?

What are your feelings about the ethics of (a) the trolling (b) the cloning ?

Comments invited, but regrettably by emails only ( a defence against those trolls ....)

Here then are the comments posted to Shane's post:

Look forward to meeting you
Nice one, Shane. I must hand it to you folk at the Telly - when it comes to the human touch you are streets ahead of the competition.I went to a similar hospitality "do" quite recently at the headquarters of Nice Matin, on the outskirts of (not surprsingly) Nice. That was most interesting - I've been meaning to post my video, complete with noisy soundtrack, but with my own modest blog in semi-hibernation mode, I have not got round to doing so yet.Have just this minute booked my flights - in on the 12th, back the next day. I look forward to meeting you and your splendid team. PLEASE don't change your mind .....Colin Berry (Antibes, France) at 14 Mar 2007 15:39

Look forward to meeting you (ii)
I'm definitely up for this.I would have been suggesting it myself 'ere long.
Sally Crawford at 14 Mar 2007 17:05

Look forward to meeting you (iia)
PS: art, art music and art literature would be my choice of blog topic/blogger; I get enough politics with my day job.
Sally Crawford at 14 Mar 2007 17:44

fly them in
At present this looks like being a pretty select party. However, if Daniel Hannan were there to kick-off proceedings and wind us all up with a brief Euro-homily, Catherine Elsworth and Bryony Gordon to bring a bit of chat and charm, Mick Cleary to buy those drinks he's been promising, and Toby Howse to generally raise the tone, I'd be delighted to accept.
Roger Goodacre at 15 Mar 2007 10:08

I wish I could fly them in!
Hi Roger,It won't be all that select - most people are emailing me their response, rather than leaving them in the comments. So far 15 people have said they'll come and eight Telegraph bloggers have confirmed that they will be there.I'll try to get Mr Hannan along - however he's in Brussels most of the time. Likewise Catherine Elsworth - I don't think the foreign desk will take too kindly to me taking one of their correspondents away from their post...I'll ask Bryony and Mick, though. But, as for your last request, are you after Toby Harnden or Christopher Howse?Shane Richmond at 15 Mar 2007 10:46

Christoby Howden
Sorry, a slip of the pen - both would be welcome, Christopher Howse was the intended, and I guess he might come cheaper (from his photo, I have to say he looks like a Toby though).. Disappointed to hear it won't after all be select.
Roger Goodacre at 15 Mar 2007 11:26

I'll see what I can do
Toby is unlikely - for the same reasons as Catherine. Though if this becomes a regular event I'll schedule future ones so that we can catch foreign correspondents on their occasional visits to home base.I'll speak to Christopher.It may be a juggling act to ensure that numbers are small enough for the event to be intimate but large enough that everyone who wants to attend can get in.I may cap the numbers at around 30, plus ten Telegraph staffers. That should be a decent size.Still, we haven't reached 30 yet so perhaps I won't have to cap at all.So can we expect to see you on April 12, Roger?
Shane Richmond at 15 Mar 2007 11:33

I will look in my diary.
Sounds like a better class of party. I am too old for fighting but whilst the youngsters grapple with each other over the hand, and possible other parts, of Bryony, Richard of Orleans and I could prop up the bar (there will be one won't they)and empty Mick's pockets in the process whilst solving the Anglo/French/Irish problems once and for all.It would be interesting to compare the photos with the flesh so to speak and I might find the moderator who objects to my light hearted banter about the Scots. (I love them dearly, I just have an unusual way of expressing it). Can't promise anything but I will see what I can do, unless I get death threats, in that case I will definitely turn up.
ped at 15 Mar 2007 11:41

I am skipping 'Growing tips for plants' at the YWCA for this gig
And Shane, if I may,You will try, won't you, to mix the genders (although please do not feel the need to exert yourself TOO much).But, as I see from the above, males would appear to be preponderant (I use the word advisedly). Fine. Please ask Mr Leith and Mr Toronyi-Lalic to attend.Actually, I could now skip out of the meeting with the 30 readers because I have already had the thought that perhaps the one way that journos can make their blogs different to those of the rest of us is to take the bold step of interacting with their readers.And you're already there.:))But I don't think I could bear not to meet ped, Richard of Orleans et al.
Sally Crawford at 15 Mar 2007 20:41

CO2 neutral
Shane, your meeting is a nice idea. I just have one concern. In these green times I believe this type of meeting should be as CO2 neutral as possible. Excessive and unreasonable travel should be avoided. I suggest you limit your invitation to those people who live in a 1000 km radius of London. People beyond this limit who really want to attend could come on a bicycle or in a rowing boat. Alternatively take a one way ticket only
richard of orléans at 16 Mar 2007 05:57

Health warning
Would it not be a good idea for "Richard of Orleans" to label his posts so we know what is intended, eg "This one is to reveal my ignorance of the facts" or "This one is just anti-Brit" or "This one is meant to be funny" ?
Tony S at 16 Mar 2007 10:56

It's a little bit funny
One has to suppose that the "joke" is at the expense of the guy who's flying in. If that be the case, then its presumably an in-joke between a couple of internet buddies. If it's not, then it's no joking matter at all. It's what we here (USA) call internet stalking.
geejay at 17 Mar 2007 03:02

Helpful Suggestion
As you are aware the lottery will no longer be paying out any prizes since all funds are needed for the financing of the Olympic Games. In Coe and Jowell’s finely tuned budget this hiatus is not expected to have any impact on the revenue generated from the patriotic Brits who are eager to contribute to this prestige project. However just in case some of the more money pinching souls are tempted to reduce outgoings, might I suggest that you offer tickets to Shane’s blog meetings as an alternative reward.
Richard of Orléans at 17 Mar 2007 07:29

It's that man again
Now that's a real brain-teaser you have given us there, "Richard of Orleans", where the filecard index is concerned (see MY helpful suggestion).The first sentence is definitely Category 1 - ignorance of the facts. It's not the Lottery prize fund that's to be raided, it's the grants to good causes, something entirely different. The final sentence is pretty opaque too, except the last bit. Yep, I'm all in favour of free tickets to Shane's shindig. Provided it's restricted to those who can write the Queen's English.
Tony S at 17 Mar 2007 13:14

Take it as read
Why would no one take it (CO2 neutral comment) as a serious relexion that we shouldn't be polluting our surroundings with CO2 and noise for the sake of non essential meetings?Or has environmentalism now become "stalking", to our rather heavily polluting American co-inhabitants of planet earth?
Richard of Orléans at 18 Mar 2007 14:55

"Richard of Orléans"
Anyone still reading this thread, Shane, whose eyes are not completely glazed over by now, may be wondering what on earth "Richard of Orléans" is blathering about (see "CO2 neutral" etc). Well, it's certainly not a genuine concern for the environment, as "geejay" above has correctly surmised, despite Richard's solemn assurances. It is in fact a case of "Richard of Orléans" using your post as an opportunity to snipe at someone he regards as the arch enemy. Now why would he do that, you may ask ? It's for a number of reasons, but mainly for my having had the temerity in the past to challenge his oft-stated anglophobic views - despite his being a UK national himself, a long-term resident in France (although still unnaturalized) - and for my having the effrontery to retire to France, which he considers "sponging".Here's a comment he posted yesterday to Louise's "Chocolates and Cuckoos" blog (see link below) which should leave readers in no doubt as to this man's true agenda:

"Colinb for me is the quintessential Englishman: free speech if you say the right thing, democracy if you vote for him, free trade as long as you buy his goods, fair play provided he wins, justice subject to him writing the laws as well as being judge and jury. There is an island set aside for people like him, he should go there." 3/17/2007 5:12 PM

Note in particular the final sentence, which ties in with his reference above to that "one-way ticket". He expects me, it would seem, to sell up, and return to the UK, because I and fellow retired Brits are deemed to be economically non-productive (despite spending freely on a multitude of French goods and services, and paying an assortment of taxes etc). The fact that I'm legally resident under EU and UK rules appears to cut little ice with this self-appointed defender of the French national interest, as seen through the prism of Orléans. I don't know about you Shane, but Richard of Orléans would appear to me guilty of at least a degree of self-indulgence in his questionable use a Telegraph blog to grind his particular axe. But then, you know this guy's modus operandi: he's almost an institution on Telegraph blogs, but may still have newcomers shaking or scratching their heads. Some might consider this man to have a confounded cheek, obsession even, to be pursuing one particular UK expatriate in particular, especially as he hides behind a pseudonym, while I use my real name. Perhaps we could discuss the issue of problematical posters such as Richard of Orléans when we meet next month.
Colin Berry at 18 Mar 2007 18:35

Scam and spoof emails and letters

Below, there's a cut-and-paste of an email that arrived this morning. Apparently, all I need to do is respond to it, and that inheritance I've been waiting for all these years is mine for the taking - a share of a quite tidy sum - a little over 13 million dollars. That'll help pay for the roof repairs.

We are not opening the champagne just yet (although we are celebrating our daughter having just added MRCP to her medical qualifications with a suitably upmarket wine at dinner tonight - a 1996 Chateau Rauzan-Ségla

Before that we are supposed to be joining a protest march in Antibes against the idiotic, botched reorganization of the bus services. Hopefully the electric storm with hailstones will have cleared in the next 45 minutes. (ed. It didn't- apparently a few brave souls - about 30 - braved the elements. Hopefully the protest march will be rescheduled, and us public transport users will cease to be treated like third class citizens.)

Back to that email. If one looks at it closely there are the tell-tale signs of scam, both in what it says, and what it doesn't say. But I'll say nothing more, just on the offchance that the scammers are reading this, and then go back and tweak their flaky missive to make it more credible. But Engr. Horst Schroeder (RIP) writing beneficiaries into his will with their email as the only contact addresses - I ask you !

Here's the offending item below. Does anyone know what happens if one responds ? I suspect it's one of those "419" advance fee scams as I think they are called, most of which originate in West Africa, especially Nigeria. When you respond, they tell you there are one or two legal formalities or glitches that need to be dealt with first, which require, yes you guessed it, the payment of upfront fees - almost certainly in hundreds, or even thousands of US dollars!

Sujet :
Date :
24/03/2007 00:53:18 Paris, Madrid
De :
Répondre à :
Envoyé via Internet (afficher l'en-tête)
MANAGING PARTNER EllIS BRYAN SOLICITORS ENGLAND. NOTIFICATION OF REQUESTOn behalf of the Trustees and Executor of the estate of Late Engr. Horst Schroeder, I once again try to notify you as my earlier letter returned undelivered. I hereby attempt to reach you again by this same email address on the WILL.I wish to notify you that Late Engr. Horst Schroeder made you a beneficiary to his WILL. He left the sum of thirteen million five hundred thousand United States Dollars ($13,500.000.00 USD) to you in the codicil and last testament to his WILL. This may sound strange and unbelievable to you, but it is real and true. Being a widely travelled man, he must have been in contact with you in the past or simply you were recommended to him by one of his numerous friends abroad who wished you good. Engr. Horst Schroeder until his death was a member of theHelicopter Society and the Institute of Electronic & Electrical Engineers. He had a very good heart and was a philantropist. His great philanthropy earned him numerous awards during his life time. Late Engr. Horst Schroeder died on the 13th day of December, 2004 at the age of 80 years, and his WILL is now ready for execution.According to him this money is to support your humanitarianactivities and to help the poor and the needy in our society. Please if I reach you this time as I am hopeful, endeavor to get back to me as soon as possible to enable me conclude my job.( yours,BARR. EllIS BRYAN (ESQ).MANAGING PARTNERS/SOLICITORS ENGLAND.

When you have had time to digest that, I will put up my favourite spoof letter. It's one I confess to having used twice, in both cases when leaving a job, singling out the prat who caused me most grief ........

Here it comes ....

From: Rev. Theodore Godfrey, c/o Alice Farthingdale Rescue Mission, Mile End Rd. Stepney

Dear Mr. ____________

Perhaps you have heard of me and my countrywide campaign in the cause of temperance. Each year, for the past fourteen, I have made a tour of Kent, Surrey and Sussex delivering a series of lectures on the evils of drinking. On these tours I was accompanied by my friend and assistant, James Lindstone. James, a man of good family and excellent background, was a pathetic example of life ruined by excessive indulgence in whisky or gin and women.

James would appear with me at the lectures and sit on the platform, wheezing and staring at the audience through bleary bloodshot eyes, sweating profusely, picking his nose, passing wind and making obscene gestures, while I would point him out as an example of what over-indulgence could do to a person.

Earlier this year, unfortunately, James died. A mutual friend has given me your name and I wonder if you would be available to take James's place on my next tour.

Hopefully yours ..........

Comments to this blog (by email only) please to:

Friday, March 23, 2007

Is time travel just the stuff of science fiction ?

The concept of time travel throws up some real conundrums. You know the sort of thing: you could go back in time with a few crates of modern weaponry, give them to King Harold, train his men in their use, and then machine gun all those Normans as they waded ashore. Result: Battle of Hastings a great English victory, no Norman Conquest, but maybe some old wives tales circulating about some devilish new weaponry.

So time travel would seem impossible: it would allow you to change history, which is impossible, unless you get into the idea or multiple parallel universes, one for each possible outcome, like Universe A, in which the Normans won, Universe B in which they lost etc.

And there would be Universe C, in which we won the Battle of Hastings, and the Germans won the 1966 World Cup etc etc.
In other words, there would be a near-infinite number of universes to cover all permutations of possible outcomes. I don't know about you, but my head begins spinning at the mere mention of parallel universes , so let's leave it at that, shall we ?

But I thought the other day of a rather more subtle scenario in which history is NOT changed, at least from a modern perspective, but one is still left with what seems an impossible situation.

Suppose you go into a shop on Charing Cross Rd that sells rare books, and ask for a copy of Newton's Principia. Suppose you then step into your time machine, and whizz back to 1665 or thereabouts when Newton was still an undergraduate at Trinity College Cambridge. You seek him out, and say, "Excuse me, Mr.Newton, might we just have a quiet word in private ?"

You explain to him that you are a time traveller, and are bringing back a summary of his life work that is due to appear in 1686 (see graphic). You say that you will make a present of it to him, provided he buys you a drink at the bar.

Over that pint of grog, you point out that by giving him Principia years before he wrote it, you will be saving him a great deal of research and mental effort.

Newton accepts the book gratefully, releases its contents in dribs and drabs, gets recognized, made a fellow of the Royal Society and Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, and, 20 or so years later, submits Principia for publication. Newton is properly hailed as a genius of the first order, and is regarded by many, myself included, as the greatest scientist who ever lived.

The question then is: if , thanks to time-travel, Newton didn't have to do the work to make the discoveries, who did ?
Maybe time-travel, at least back in time, is impossible, on account of these and other taxing conundrums. There's another weighty objection: if time travel is possible, then there should surely be time-travellers from the future among us at this moment, if only to see with their own eyes how we 21st century folk managed to squander what was left of the Earth's resources in the space of a few decades.
NB: This blog no longer has a Comments sections, thanks to the visits of people like Richard of Orléans and Bill Taylor (aka Lacombe Lucien) . They both have a track record in setting out deliberately to provoke, insult, and make false accusations of trolling, despite the latter being an accomplished troll himself ( notably as "James Hamilton" on Colin R's erstwhile Telly blog) .
Nope, the standard facility for moderating comments does not appeal: R of O especially would whinge endlessly about my decisions, so I've dispensed altogether with the Comments.
But contributions, of any length (within reason) are still invited by email, and every effort will be made to work them seamlessly into the body of the post, which then becomes effectively an evolving open-ended thing. Well, that's the theory anyway, but these are still early days. We'll have to see how things work out in practice. However, one thing is certain: Dreams and Daemons should no longer be considered a mainstream "personal blog". It only welcomes contributions from genuine bloggers who are not out simply to take the piss.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Is Gordon Brown fit to be PM ?

5th and final update:24th March No need to scroll down for this one. It can be said here very quickly. The headline of today's Times reads "Final Budget backfires for Brown as poll rating slumps" .

Don't say I didn't warn you, Gordon, that you really had to get this one right. Expectations were running so high, thanks to all the pre-Budget leaking and trailing from the Treasury, which Philip Johnston (Telly) and others all lapped up so uncritically. And what did you go and do ? You went and blew it, and with it probably blown your chances of succeeding Blair, or at any rate, of serving a full term as PM !

4th update: 23rd March 18:50 ( reply to Louise, in green)

3rd update:22nd March 13:30 (email from Louise at C&C): please scroll down to the blue font:

2nd update: 22nd March 11:40
Please scroll to end

Updated 22nd March (the morning after the Budget Day before!)

(Scroll to end for today's immediate reaction)

This is intended as an organic blog. I sow the seed, invite emails (comments being blocked), and see where it goes. As I said yesterday, every effort will be made to incorporate your ideas into a running commentary.

The seed ? The Telly's leader today is wondering what surprises if any Gordon Brown has in store with his Budget tomorrow.

Someone ought to tell Philip Johnston (Telly blog) that it's far from being a foregone conclusion.
Well someone did, actually ( me !) .

Sample quote: from Philip J. "Nowadays, it wouldn't matter if the same thing happened to Mr Brown's Budget since we know most of it already. Except, that with Mr Brown, as many have found out to their cost, the devil will be in the detail. "

The Telly's leader invites our comments. Here's one I've just this minute sent off.

"The UK constitution, or lack thereof, permits the PM to subsume the role of Foreign Secretary too, often reducing the latter to mere messenger boy (or girl). Brown as PM could cause the role of Chancellor to go the same way. The result: an omnipotent, untouchable one-man triumvirate.

Place that amount of power into the hands of someone with demonstrated control freak tendencies, and we could all be pining in 5 years time for a return to Blair's Golden Age of power delegation. (I never thought I'd say that).

Only you can rescue us now, David Cameron. You must drive home the message that while Brown controls(obsessively) he's shown himself to be a total loss as a manager, except for one decision - probably made for the wrong reasons- namely to delegate control of interest rates to the Bank of England. Without that self-denying ordinance, his chickens would have come home to roost a long time ago, and the UK economy have gone down the plughole."

emails to:

(Am out for two or three hours this afternoon - meeting daughter at airport, who's visiting for a few days).

Updated 22nd March

Well, much scepticism in the Press today about whether Brown's 2p reduction in the standard rate of tax is worth the candle, given that he has replaced the starting 10p band with the new 20p band. (Incidentally, some newspapers reported him as having "abolished" the 10p band, giving a totally misleading impression".

I mentioned above a strange and unsatisfactory post from one Philip Johnston 3 days ago in the Telly blogs. You won't find him in the list of contributors on the right, but I've since learned that he is the paper's home affairs editor. Here's how he ended his post:

"In 1996, virtually the entire contents of Kenneth Clarke's last budget were leaked to the Daily Mirror on the eve of presentation, but the paper resisted the temptation to publish any of the contents, instead returning the documents to the Treasury. Nowadays, it wouldn't matter if the same thing happened to Mr Brown's Budget since we know most of it alreadyExcept, that with Mr Brown, as many have found out to their cost, the devil will be in the detail."

Here's what I said. I think I can fairly claim (immodestly) that events have confirmed my hunch that PJ is either very gullible (read his entire post) or very complacent or both.

"I agree with Mark. If as Philip Johnston says, he and the meeja are already privy to the Budget, then why aren't we lesser mortals also allowed to know the specifics of what Brown has in store ? We can then see what emerges on Budget day, and decide whether Philip's touching faith in Brown's new transparency was justified or not. But don't hold your breath, as they say. Brown is a wily operator who likes to spring surprises - hardly what the country needs as a successor to Blair. "

Some papers are saying that this final budget to was designed to be Brown's springboard for the Premiership. They too seem remarkably naïve, poor dears.

This Budget is a reminder, if any were needed, of the man's geekishness and deviousness. He's been too long on Planet No.11. Definitely not PM material !

Updated again:11:40

This is nothing whatsoever to do with Gordon Brown. It's about Shane Richmond's recent blog on the subject of the Telly's moderation policies. Louise and the mysterious Anne Gilbert have both posted comments, giving yours truly a bit of stick.

I sent a rebuttal yesterday, but was not surprised that it failed to clear the Telly's moderators. Does the general readership really need to know about the infighting that occurs on personal blogs ? Did Louise or AG think of that before putting our recent disputes into the wider MSM domain ? Is this yet another example of the kangaroo court in action ? R of O has a lot to answer for: he has set a friightful precedent, and Louise considers his baiting to be an OK part of blogging. It's not Louise - baiting is the nasty, unacceptable face of human nature.

Anyway, here's the one that the Telly would not publish:

"Haven't you rather missed the point, Louise ? The Telegraph moderates. In contrast, you rarely do, if ever. In fact, you persistently allow people to make defamatory comments about others that would never see the light of day on the Telly's or any other MSM blog, for the reasons that Shane has set out.

So I feel fully justified in having criticized your lax policies. There is no inconsistency in my position, and I have made no secret of my preference for professionally-moderated MSM blogs.

That was a good punning title, "Anne Gilbert". But I've already used an earlier post of Shane's to explain my experimental blog policy. It's not true that I have "banned all comments". I am asking that they be sent by email, so they can be incorporated into the body of an evolving blog post. All too often there tends to be a huge disconnect between a post and the subsequent comments

The reason for blocking comments was also alluded to. A particular individual was placing abusive comments on my blog using a pseudonym. But he later posted to another blog under both his original name and pseudonym. Unfortunately for him, that blog happened to have an embedded hit counter that allowed anyone, myself included, to access a log of visitors to the site, listed chronologically by computer number, geographical location, ISP, OS, web browser etc. Once I had a fix, I had no hesitation in exposing this individual as a "troll" because he had remained silent when another poster had earlier accused me of being the very pseudonym under which he himself was operating. Indeed, the same guilty party, ie troll, was claiming just yesterday that I was "Anne Gilbert" as well, so your appearance here has left even more egg on his face !

If you want to use Shane's blogs to denounce hypocrites, "Anne Gilbert", you should start with the individual who posts under the pseudonym "Lacombe Lucien". I have given his better known identity on my own blog, but won't repeat it here, not wishing to jeopardise the appearance of this (hopefully)restrained comment.

To add a final twist, I once suspected "Lacombe Lucien", or rather his real identity, to be posting under the name of, er, "Anne Gilbert". When challenged directly, I was assured that was not the case, and accepted the denial at face value, despite this individual dismissing contemptuously my own protestations of innocence re trolling.

I now have an open mind on whether "Anne Gilbert" is a unique identity, or simply one of the many aliases of Lacombe Lucien et al.

Having read all this, perhaps Telegraph readers will understand why I have abandoned personal blogging. It's a jungle out there: it only needs one or two mischief makers with a personal axe to grind - and, without moderation, the blog quickly degenerates into a rancorous scene, unbefitting supposedly mature adults.

When David Attenborough has ticked off all the world's wildlife on his checklist, he could usefully turn his attention to that human zoo called personal blogging."

3rd update: 22nd March 13:30 email from Louise at Chocs and Cuckoos

I'm sorry Colin, but it would appear that you do seem to allow one set of rules for Telly blogging and another for 'us'.

Last spring when I joined Colin Randall's blog, at one point I was on the receiving end (and Sarah too) of some pretty sharp comments from Richard. Don't ask me exactly when it was, as I can't remember.

The comments he made at that time were a damned sight nastier than anything you have received on my blog, and yet they were published, after moderation, by the Telly.

I imagine that Shane has not published your last post, as it is of little interest to Telly bloggers who do not read our blogs and therefore probably don't understand what you or I are talking about.

You would have been better off sending me an email (you have my address) rather than trying to go 'on line' with your comments.As I have already stated, my blogs are not particularly thought out - I type as I think of something, so my blogs are more in 'chat' mode rather than yours, for example, which are well researched and totally different to mine.

For me, a blog is a 24-48 hour wonder and then we move on to something new; you may have noticed that at times I do elaborate on one of my blogs through a posting, after seeing how people react.

After Colin Randall left the Telly and we started our own blogs, I did at one time, somewhere, say that we should make an effort to add different links to our blogs as it was becoming rather 'incestuous' - we were sending readers from pillar to post. Knowing the Telly bloggers on the CR blog, I am surprised that you didn't widen your links to those who are more in tune with your way of thinking as opposed to silly people like me who just post whatever comes into their head. I'm sure you would have far more satisfaction from your blogging and wouldn't get so upset by stupid one-liners that are posted on my blog, for example.

You criticise my lack of blue pencilling - I know what I will blue pencil but you cannot expect me to interprete your feelings - I'm not a psychiatrist and although it may offend you, it doesn't necessarily offend me. Since starting my blog I do not remember anything that was so offensive that it should have been trashed - personal stabs to my way of thinking are either to be ignored or replied to by the person involved. There are tons of articles out there on the psychology of blog writers and commentators - if you go through a few of them, you will see that often what a person writes on a blog has very little to do with their character in 'ordinary everyday life'.

So, there we are - we beg to differ - and that is part of the blogging fun. It will be interesting to see if you publish this on your blog - I must just add that this has been typed in less than five minutes and I haven't pored over the content for an hour!I do hope that your trip to visit the Telly will be productive and I do sincerely hope that you will let us all know how it went and with pictures too!

Regards, Louise

Thank you for taking the trouble to share your thoughts, Louise. I'm not able to give an immediate answer right now, but will get back to you later.

Update Friday 23rd March 18:50 Reply to Louise.

I consider Louise's behaviour quite extraordinary. First she posts to Shane Richmond's blog, accusing me of "speaking with a forked tongue" (how's that for bloggerly charm - with friends like that, who needs enemies ?). She then posts here, imperiously telling me that I had no business even trying to post a reply to the Telly, and should have been content merely to explain myself to her in a private email.

Maybe Louise needs to consider a few facts. Firstly, there is absolutely no inconsistency in principle between the way Shane runs his blog, and the way I run mine. Neither will allow comments to appear without prior moderation, as a protection against the various individuals who have abused the facility, notably R of O, Bill Taylor aka Lacombe Lucien , and various anonymice.

But it's a totally different story where Louise's blog is concerned. She has allowed these same individuals to place comments on her blog accusing me of trolling, under various pseudonyms or anonymously, which I have vehemently denied, but she then allows the same people to dismiss my denials, thus rubbing salt in the wound. And just yesterday she was allowing BT/LL to persist with his line in character assassination in the course of a cosy 1:1, despite BT/LL being guilty of the very things that he accuses me of.

They say people can be judged by the company they keep. That being so, there has been a sad change in Louise's priorities, and even her fundamental sense of what is right and wrong.
Her first email, published on this blog, showed her not just condoning the baiting behaviour of R of O, but even admitting to being amused. I think where you and I are concerned, Louise, it's time for a parting of the ways. I will keep off your blog, but with one proviso - you block any further attempts by your visitors to blacken my character. I did not troll in the period referred to, and will continue to post protests if your visitors persist in stating otherwise.

Yes, maybe I am guilty of telling you how to run your blog, Louise, but that's only because you are failing in your duty and responsibility to protect this blogger against victimisation on trumped-up charges. Indeed you encourage it by entering into dialogue with the likes of BT, with a track record in trolling, in which I and my alleged sins become the subject of conversation, and you then protest when I break in on the cosy fireside chat.

To summarise, you have allowed others to turn your blog into a kangaroo court in which false charges can made without a shred of evidence. Indeed, you actively encourage it. I would urge you, Louise, to read what Shane Richmond has to say on the subject of defamation of character, and put your house in order .

emails to:

The Comments facility has been blocked, for reasons previously stated.