29 June 2010

Blog Explosion

Ok, this is one of those shameless plug posts.

Blog Explosion is a site that lists a lot of blogs, and if you go and do blog surfing there, for every two blogs you visit, they show your blog to someone else who visits yours. It's a good way of finding blogs that you haven't seen before. And its a good way for people who've never seen your blog before to find it. So it's a way of getting new readers, and a way of finding new blogs.

Quality varies, of course.

Some of the blogs they show you are good, some are not so good. Some are bad.

But it's had a few problems recently, though those seem to be sorted now. But the number of people surfing has dropped, so that means the number of new blogs you see has dropped as well. Tonight I had a bit of time to spare so went to have a look, but only saw about 7 blogs, and then they said the number of blogs with enough credits to earn a display has run out.

So it needs a few more active members who will do a bit more blog surfing there, because the more you look at the more you see. So I'd like to encourage my blogging friends to join it, and list your blogs. That will mean there's more to see, and the more you see, the more you are seen.

28 June 2010

World cup: hospitality and chauvinism

The World Cup is more than halfway over, and more than half the teams have gone home. The USA, England, the top teams from the 2006 World Cup -- France and Italy -- and many more. Ghana is the only African team left in the running, and many South Africans are supporting them.

But what will the returning teams and fans take with them when they go home? And what lasting effect will it have on South Africa?

Here's a rather nice article by an American Shari Cohen: South Africa Rolls Out the Ubuntu in Abundance:
So, if South Africa accomplishes nothing more on the playing field, it will still have won as a host country. I am a cynic, no doubt about that. And yet I have to admit, I'm a little teary just writing this because I leave for home next weekend and I will be leaving a little piece of myself here in South Africa. I just hope I have learned enough to bring back a little piece of Ubuntu to my homeland, where perhaps with a little caring and a little water, it will take root as naturally as it does here, in the cradle of civilization. It's funny, many people in America still ask me, 'are the people in Africa very primitive?' Yes, I know, amazing someone could ask that but they do. And when they do, I usually explain that living in a mud hut does not make one primitive, however, allowing kids to sell drugs to other kids and engage in drive-by killings -- isn't that primitive behavior? I think it is. When I think of Ubuntu and my recent experiences here, I think America has much to learn from Africa in general, in terms of living as a larger village; and as human beings who are all interconnected with each other, each of us having an affect on our brothers and sisters.

And remember, just two years ago there was xenophobic violence in many cities in South Africa, where people attacked foreigners. So perhaps the World Cup, and the welcome it encouraged us to give to foreign visitors, might make us a little more welcoming, and we can hope that the ubuntu won't disappear after the final.

And this will probably also be remembered as the World Cup of the vuvuzela.

But an e-mail has been going around pointing out that it is not so new. The vuvuzela has been annoying people since 1660!

25 June 2010

Are Roman Catholics and Orthodox about to unite?

There has been quite a lot of talk in the blogosphere about an imminent reunion between Orthodox and Roman Catholics. Father Milovan writes about it in “The Arrogant Papal Brow” | Again and Again. The Roman Pope has visited several Orthodox countries recently, and there has also been a proliferation of Byzantine-style ikons in Roman Catholic churches, as this Orthodox writer notes OCA - Q & A - Orthodox Influences on Roman Catholicism:
Of course, it is difficult to objectively detail influences Orthodoxy has had on Roman Catholicism. Very often an individual or a small group of individuals may have contact with Orthodoxy, digest certain things which they discovered, and incorporated them into the life and thought of their communion, generally without the knowledge of the Orthodox. Last May I encountered a Roman Catholic priest from France who operates a school for young adults interested in missionary and evangelistic outreach. He gave me a copy of the school's magazine, which sported photographs of the school's chapel, the interior of which was completely frescoed in Byzantine iconography. Other pictures revealed another small chapel filled with icons, as well as the priest himself in Orthodox vestments celebrating the Eucharist. Odd as all of this might be -- imagine how one would react to find an Orthodox church in which the Sacred Heart statue was prominently displayed! -- it does show that, in many ways great and small, Orthodoxy has had some influence, even if it is only external.

The last point, about the Sacred Heart, indicates, however, that there is still a very long way to go. Why is it that, as an Orthodox Christian, I find this Byzantinised image of the Sacred Heart (found at Clerical Whispers: Prayer To The Sacred Heart) quite shocking, and almost a desecration?

I don't mind if Roman Catholics use Byzantine ikons, but this image strikes me as abuse rather than use. It indicates that the gulf is much wider than we think.

Unity is a lot more than Orthodox and Roman Catholic bishops visiting and being polite to each other. I'm all in favour of them doing that, and even doing the same thing with Anglican and Zionist bishops, but it doesn't mean that reunion is imminent.

Some think that it is only a few minor theological issues that can be sorted out quickly. But it’s not just papal primacy and the Filioque that keep us apart, but a millennium of history. We differ in soteriology (Anselm’s theory of the atonement, which swept the west, never got much traction in Orthodoxy), ecclesiology (the Orthodox temple versus the Roman monolith and the Protestant heap of stones) and missiology (Roman missiologists believe that Orthodox missiology is derived from Origen).

All these have led to a different culture and ethos, and this is just as much theology as the kind of theology that is written in books. And so before there can be any reunion, these things must be faced and examined.

So if Roman Catholics want to have images of the Sacred Heart, I think it would be better if they stuck to ones like the one on the left.

Unlike some writers, I don't think a hasty marriage is imminent. We are far closer to the Oriental Churches, like the Copts and Armenians, than we are to the Roman Catholics, and I don't see reunion happening there very quickly. I'll believe it when I see an agreement that the next Pope of Alexandria to die will not be replaced, but that the other one will simply move in to succeed him and that thereafter there will just be one. But I see no sign of that happening yet.


Some other posts that point to differences that need to be examined and sorted out before we can say that the time is ripe for reunion:

23 June 2010

Coffee's Mysterious Benefits Mount

Coffee's Mysterious Benefits Mount:
From lowered cancer risks to a sharper memory, more studies are showing that coffee is good for you – but why?

Regular coffee drinkers have a 39 percent decreased risk of head and neck cancer, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Those who drank an estimated four or more cups a day had significantly fewer cancers of the mouth and throat than non coffee drinkers, the study found.

Well that's nice to know.

I've read so many articles about how common food that we eat every day is going to kill us that it's nice to read about some of the benefits too, though the article does go on to say that coffee can do bad things as well.

And this year the Apostles' Fast seems to be going on for ever (for people on the Old Calendar it will be even longer than Lent), and I seem to drink more black coffee during the fasts, because I don't like black tea, so it's nice to know that it has some benefits.

22 June 2010

The Coded Message of the Vuvuzela

Some love them, some hate them, but the 2010 soccer World Cup will probably be remembered as the World Cup that introduced the vuvuzela to the world. Our daughter, who used to be a crazy soccer fan before she went to study in Greece, watched the opening match, when South Africa drew against Mexico, and phoned afterwards to say she wanted a vuvuzela. We sent her one. She also thought it would be a useful thing for when her neighbours hold rowdy parties that go on till 4:00 am -- if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

But my blogging friend and former colleague at the University of South Africa Missiology Department has looked below the surface, to discover the unsuspected depths -- Tinyiko Sam Maluleke's Blog: The Coded Message of the Vuvuzela:
The sooner we will wake up to the fact that the Vuvuzela sound depicts a refusal by the working classes to entertain the middle and upper classes, the better. Vuvuzela blowing denotes a refusal not an inability to sing. It is an option for harmonic noise of a special kind rather than harmonic music of the familiar kind. It is assertiveness designed to impact and to solicit reaction – even if that reaction is the insertion of ear plugs, the switching of TV channels, or the technological and artificial screening out of the Vuvuzela sound during match broadcasts.

And now we are on the brink of the do-or-die match against France. If Bafana Bafana don't win convincingly, it's our last match of this World Cup. And it's rather sad to see how negative the media have been about it -- reporting that World Cup merchandise hasn't been selling so well since South Africa lost to Uruguay (who were aided by the ref and the linesman). The reason for the drop-off in the sale of merchandise is more easily explained by the fact that the competition is nearly halfway through, and those who were going to buy green-haired leopard dolls and the like have probably bought them all already. But if Serbia could beat Germany after losing to Ghana, surely South Africa can beat France.

And then there is the makarapa, the decorated miners' helmets popularised by Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates fans. If anything, they are even more a working-class symbol than the vuvuzela. I wonder if Tinyiko will decode the message of that?

Eighteen years ago we went to the unrevamped Socceer City stadium (without the fancy roof it has now) to watch Kaizer Chiefs play Crystal Palace, and Orlando Pirates played Mbabane Highlanders. It was the first international club match since South Africa had been readmitted to international football, so we were sporting Chiefs fan kit, yellow flags and caps (not the hard hats, though). And we found ourselves sitting among the Pirates supporters on the opposite side of the stadium. It would be unwise to sit there wearing Chiefs colours the following week, when there was a derby between the two. In the Crystal Palace beat Kaizer Chiefs 3-2, and the Bucs beat the Highlanders.

There were no vuvuzelas then, and the makarapas were just plain old miners' helmets and as it got dark, we could see the Chiefs supporters, on the other side of the stadium, turning on the headlamps, quite an impressive sight. We also did quite a lot of passive smoking, as the ganja fumes wafted among the spectators. I wonder if that happened at the World Cup, and if the suppliers paid advertising fees to FIFA?

20 June 2010

Turkish autopsies reveal aid workers shot from behind

Turkish autopsies reveal aid activists shot from behind:
On Friday, the Turkish Council of Forensic Medicine released preliminary autopsy results for the nine Turkish men killed in the Israeli raid of the Mavi Marmara. The findings have generated almost as much controversy as has Israel's actions. The results show five of the dead were shot in the back of the head or in the back, reported the Guardian. They were all shot at close range, and most were shot multiple times, with 30 bullets found in the bodies of the nine men. A British citizen who witnessed the raid first hand told the Guardian Israel appeared to have a 'shoot-to-kill' policy.

The British government's response to this has been muted, perhaps because of the behaviour of British police in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes.

19 June 2010

Phishing expedition

Scammers cracked Val’s Gmail account on Thursday, and sent mail to several (possibly all) people in her address book begging for money and saying she was stranded in Scotland.

This has happened to several other people I know, and I doubt that anyone we know would fall for this scam, but here’s a warning just in case. Most of the scam letters sent out seem to say that the owner of the e-mail account is stranded there, so perhaps the scammers are themselves based in Scotland.

One of the interesting things about it happening to us is that we got a better idea of how phishing scams work, after I had just written a piece on "identity theft" on our family history blog. If you are interested in knowing more and this particular scam, see here.

18 June 2010

Bloody Sunday and Oily Tuesday

Yesterday one of the four remote control thingies for our TV broke and the channel it was on happened to be showing the US Congressional Committee investigating the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

One thing that struck me was the language they used. First that they kept talking about an oil "spill", but in my dialect "spill" refers to a liquid that falls out of a vessel and on to the ground (or into the sea).

This is not a "spill"; I would have thought it is what is sometimes referred to as a "gusher". The oil is not falling to the earth: it is gushing out of the ground at a pressure that seems to be beyond human power to stop.

The other thing that struck me was the number of members of the committee who referred to "British Petroleum". Now I know their purpose is fact-finding and they have just started, but it is not reassuring when the members of the committee seem not to have done their homework, and don't even know the name of the company whose acts and omissions and negligence they are supposed to be investigating. Or perhaps they were being disingenuous, and grandstanding, as politicians do, and attempting to create the impression that the blame lies in another country, though if they really want to gain more political mileage, perhaps they should refer to it as "Anglo-Iranian", which was also one of the company's earlier names, and thus associate it with a country that Americans love to hate even more than they love to hate Britain.

But two can play at that game: a week or two earlier, when it appeared that BP's shares had lost several xillion[1], Sky News was accusing US President Obama of being cruel to British pensioners because he blamed BP for the mess, and demanded that they clean it up. Apparently British pension funds are heavily invested in BP. But so, apparently, are American pension funds. And after all, BP did make the mess.

There was more weird stuff emerging from the congressional committee. One member of the committee objected to the setting up of a compensation fund, and referred to it as a "shake-down", and a by-passing of the legal system. I thought he was out of order, until I heard the other politicians on the committee displaying their ignorance, showing that if they couldn't get simple facts (like the name of the company) right, they were unlikely to be able to make good judgements on the more complex aspects of the case.

And the day before there was another news item about a report on "Bloody Sunday" in 1972, when British soldiers shot protesters in Northern Ireland. That inquiry cost 200 xillion, and took 38 years to produce. About half the 200 xillion went in lawyers fees.

Before that there had been an inquiry by politicians, which was a whitewash.

So you can have ignorant politicians running inquiries, or you can have expensive lawyers. Perthaps setting up a compensation fund could avoid both, but no doubt it will have expensive bureaucrats to administer it, who will award themselves more in bonuses than any of the victims will receive in compensation.

Incidentally, I think the same number of people died on Bloody Sunday as on Oily Tuesday.

But news of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon was hidden for a while. It was buried under reports of the inconvenience to travellers caused by a volcano in Iceland.

To crown it all, there were reports that other oil companies wanted compensation from BP for the losses they might suffer as a result of a ban on deep-water drilling. That takes the cake, it really does. It's got even more chutzpah than the Uruguay footballer Suarez's offside dive at the World Cup match on Wednesday night, which got the South African goalie sent off. It's utterly shameless, yet they don't seem to be at all embarrassed by it. If anyone is tempted to feel the slightest bit sorry for them, read this: Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe ignore it | The Observer:
The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades
The way I see it, God put that oil there for our grandchildren, who might have the technology to exploit it without making an unholy mess. But we are determined to use up all the resources of the planet in our generation. Our attitude is like of the Durban town councillor back in the 1850s who declared, "Why should we think of posterity? What has posterity ever done for us?"

And I think one of the best comments is from Father Ted. I urge you to read The Gulf Of Mexico Catastrophe: When Toxins Intoxicate Us | Fr. Ted’s Blog:
I cannot contribute in any meaningful way to what should be done to stop the oil gushing from the well, nor to how to clean up the environmental cataclysm. And while it is easy to point the accusing finger (or some other finger) at BP or the government, it seems to me the situation was really brought about by us the American consumers and investors. I am not an investor, but I am a consumer and enjoy a lifestyle based in cheap oil. It is way past time for us to change our attitudes towards lifestyle entitlements.


Xillion - a large amount of money. It refers to -illion preceded by m-, b-, tr- or several other letter combinations and basically means a lot -- of dollars, pounds, Euros, Rand or whatever. Though if it it refers to Zimbabwe dollars it should probably be xxxillions. It's for those of us who lack calculating minds and are never sure of the difference between a milliard, a billion and a trillion.

15 June 2010

Football fever and winter chills

Winter arrived today, with snow in several parts of the country. They say it's the first winter World Cup for several years. We watched Italy playing Paraguay last night, in Cape Town, in pouring rain. Cape Town, having a Mediterranean climate, is in the winter rainfall area, so the Italians must have felt right at home. I'm not sure about Paraguay, though.

We live in the summer rainfall area, so no snow around here (the picture below was taken in the Eastern Cape, and someone there e-mailed it to my wife). So we had bright winter sunshine, but there was a chilly wind, and no warmth in the sun at all. So it's a good time to test our new solar geyser. And the water was warm, but not very hot. Good for a quick shower, perhaps, but not a long soaking bath.

Meanwhile, our daughter in Athens wants a vuvuzela. Apart from tootling it when South Africa scores a goal, she wants to use it when her noisy neighbours have those parties that go on till 4:00 am. She said the ones they sell in Greece have mutes in them.

And they are spreading to other sports as well. Our local rugby team, the Blue Bulls, were playing in the final of the Super Fourteen tournament, and their home ground, Loftus Versveld, has been taken over for the soccer World Cup, so they held the final in Orlando Stadium in Soweto, accompanied by the droning of the vuvuzelas.

Next thing, they'll be playing them in church. The Orthodox Church doesn't normally use instruments in worship, but in Greek churches they have a sort of droning base called ison which sometimes sounds like a swarm of angry bees, and vuvuzelas make a very similar sound. The difference between a soccer stadium and church is that in church there is also a melody that goes above the ison.

Vuvuzelas take the world by storm

Thanks to the soccer World Cup, the monotonous droning of vuvuzelas might replace singing at football matches throughout the world. According to this post, more than 1,5 million of the plastic bugles have been sold in Europe. Afrikaanse vuvuzela’s vliegen over toonbank: al 1,5 miljoen | Poundsterling: financieel nieuwsoverzicht:
Ondanks het groeiende aantal klachten over de Afrikaanse vuvuzela's zijn de toeters een verkoophit. In Europa zijn er al meer dan 1,5 miljoen verkocht.

And "vuvuzela" is one of the trending keywords on Twitter.

My suggestion: reserve vuvuzelas for applause, when a goal is scored or something like that. It would be a pity if they replaced singing altogether.

Flemish separatists triumph in Belgian election - Europe- msnbc.com

Flemish separatists triumph in Belgian election:
The Flemish N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) was set to be the largest party in Dutch-speaking Flanders and in all Belgium, narrowly ahead of the French-speaking Socialists, results showed after 86 percent of the votes had been counted.

'The N-VA has won the election today,' N-VA leader Bart De Wever, 39, told cheering, flag-waving supporters who burst into a rendition of the Flemish national anthem.

The Interior Ministry projected the N-VA would win 28 of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, compared to just eight now. It forecast heavy losses for the Christian Democrats and the liberals, former partners in government.

Funny, isn't it, that 20 years ago the West wanted South Africa to drop apartheid, and almost immediately imposed it on Eastern Europe, most notably in Yugoslavia, where the West has consistently supported the independence of Kosovo, the Bapetikosweti of the Balkans. Hat-tip to A conservative blog for peace.

And now it's spreading West, with English nationalists increasingly demanding independence from the UK, and waving the flag of the patron saint of Palestine -- one hardly ever sees the Union Jack nowadays.

Perhaps if the Flemish section of Belgium gains independence our diehard apartheid holdouts could emigrate there, and have it as their Boerestan. There's just one problem -- the Flemish are Catholic, and "die Roomse gevaar" ranks pretty close to "die Rooi gevaar" and "die Swart gevaar" as things for which there must be zero tolerance.

14 June 2010

Patriotic flags increase carbon dioxide emissions

Now that the World Cup has started, just about one car in three on South African roads (including ours) is sporting a national flag, sometimes two or more, and sometimes representing more than one country. However these also have certain drawbacks -- hat-tip to Big Blue Meanie for Bongo Bongoland

BBC NEWS | Flag drag will boost fuel costs:
Patriotic drivers showing their support for England with window flags during the World Cup will pay more in fuel costs, an academic has claimed.

An average car with two flags attached burns an extra litre of fuel per hour at an average of 70mph, said Manchester University's Dr Antonio Filippone.

He also calculated that 500,000 drivers all doing the same will create 2.8m kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

The extra fuel consumption is caused by the flags creating drag.

11 June 2010

More police on patrol during World Cup - in Hull!

The World Cup starts today, and the squawking of hadedas has been augmented by vuvuzelas as people get in the mood for the opening match this afternoon.

Some nervous souls have been concerned that with all the police being busy with crowd and traffic control there might not be enough to keep tabs on ordinary criminals far from the football grounds. But at least the good citizens of Hull need have no fears, 6000 miles away from the opening match.

BBC News - More police on patrol in Hull during World Cup:
Police are planning an increased presence in Hull during the World Cup as officers try to reduce crime and violence, the force has said.

Humberside Police said it wanted to provide 'a reassuring presence' during the tournament.

Extra officers will be on patrol around the city's pubs and bars during every England game.

A campaign for fans to alternate between alcoholic and soft drinks was also started by the force.

And remember that Hull is north of London, the venue for the 2012 Olympic Games. I hope the British "Daily Mail" is reminding its readers of that.

08 June 2010

Spreadsheet for World Cup fans

My wife Val is a football fanatic, and also has the calculating mind in our family, and has designed a spreadsheet to keep track of the World Cup results.

If anyone is a soccer stats freak, you might like to try it. A tiny corner of it is shown below, but there is much more than that.

You enter the results of each match as it is played, and it will predict who will play who in the next found. It also keeps track of yellow and red cards, and things like that.

Don't try it unless you are really interested if both football and stats, though. It's 5 Mb, and there's nothing in it that you won't be able to find on the web or in the paper the next day

South Africa Pts Mexico Pts Uruguay Pts France Pts
0 0 0

0 0 0

0 0 0

0 0 0

If you would like to try it, e-mail val.hayes@gmail.com and ask for a copy. It is in MS Excell, but it also seems to work in the Open Office spreadsheet program.

Val also notes:

In 1966 when England were the home team and won the world cup their first round group consisted of


is this a sign!

Dancing giants

I had to take my son to work in Joburg yesterday, and bring him back because he has an exam this morning, so white I was waiting I did some research in the Wits University library.

For much of the day a brass band was practising outside, and when I finally left, I saw dancing giants, who had the strange effect of making the real people around look Lilliputian.

I'd be interested to see what kind of production the characters eventually feature in.

05 June 2010

How posh or chav are you?

Hat-tip to Nourishing Obscurity.

33% Posh - How about you?
MySpace Tests

If you're American and reading this, "chav" is the nearest Brit equivalent to "redneck". If you're South African and reading this, the nearest equivalent might be "Pirates fan", except that Pirates fasns have a certain degree of panache (and saying "panache" marks me as posh, geddit?), which is lacking in chavs.

30% Chav - How about you?

Chav Test

Violence and values

All yesterday Sky News was still full of the Cumbria shootings. They seem obsessed with them, to the exclusion of all other news. Now they are interviewing survivors and witnesses. A fellow taxi driver who was shot, a little boy who witnessed the man on a bicycle being shot. They tell their stories calmly and matter-of-factly, in contrast to the breathless hype of the interviewers, going on about how terrible it is for such events to take place in a small and close-knit community in a beautiful part of England.

And then there are the expert counsellors, talking about the lasting trauma of those who witnessed these things, and how long it will take the community to get over it, and it is all so over-the-top. British soldiers have been doing such things as Derrick Bird did every week for the last few years in Iraq and Afghanistan, but nobody talks about the trauma they have caused in the small closs-knit communities there. Nothing about the trauma of the people on the ships taking aid to Gaza, hijacked on the high seas by Israeli pirates. There is something hugely disproportionate about it somehow.

I suppose it is understandable that Israel wants to impose a blockade on Gaza. Bombs are expensive, and running an air force to deliver them is expensive. So when you use bombs to break things you want them to stay broken. When you bomb people out of house and home you want them to stay homeless. If people bring aid to help people to rebuild their homes, then you are going to have to go to all the effort and expense of bombing them again to make them homeless again. It's cheaper to stop them from rebuilding their homes.

When I was a child at school we used to amuse ourselves by kicking holes in anthills, and watching the termites scurrying around to repair the damage. And when they had just about repaired it we would kick holes in it again, easier the second time, because the mud was still damp and hadn't hardened yet.

And it seems that grown-ups are no different, and just as cruel. It's just that they can afford bigger bombs, and attack their own species. And no, I'm not overlooking Hamas as some have accused me of doing. Hamas and Likud are both terrorist organisations, playing a zero-sum game[1]. As my former blogging friend Facebook | Simon Hewitt says, "in spite of being utterly opposed to the attack on the Flotilla, will not be demonstrating tomorrow. Reason? : I'm just sick of marching alongside Hamas supporters and people chanting 'we are all Hezbollah'. My enemy's enemy is not my friend. My enemy's enemy is an authoritarian, misogynistic, murdering bastard." And they continue playing zero-sum games because it suits the more influential spectators for them to go on doing so.

So when it happens in Cumbria, Shock! Shock! Horror! Horror! from the Brit media. But when British soldiers do it elsewhere, they are heroes. Perhaps they should take Derrick Bird's coffin in procession through Wootton Bassett.


[1] terrorist n. one who favours or uses terror-inspiring methods of governing or of coercing government or community (from The Concise Oxford Dictionary of current English, Fifth Edition).

03 June 2010

Some useful e-mail utilities

Someone sends me a "crime report" of crimes that have taken place in our neighbourhood. I've thought of saving these in a database that would make it easier to refer to them -- to see if a car registration on a vehicle behaving suspiciously has been recorded as being involved in crimes elsewhere, for example. But what deters me is all the extraneous headers in the e-mails. All I want is the to, from and date lines, and not all the routing information and spam checks and the like.

And suddenly someone has pointed me to a utility that does just that, for Pegasus e-mail, the mail-reading program I use. And lots of other useful utilities too.

LEXACORP - Information Systems Development : Papua New Guinea:
Note that none of these utilities has a 'Setup' or 'Uninstall' procedure. They do not write to the Registry and do not put DLLs etc in other directories. To remove any of these utilities from your system just delete them.

I notice that Windows 7 doesn't have a built-in e-mail system. This is an improvement, since it gives the user a choice of what e-mail program to use, and I use and recommend Pegasus, partly because in its default setup it is immune to a lot of the spam and malicious e-mails that seem to go around.

Pegasus Mail:
Welcome to the North American Web Site for Pegasus Mail, the Internet's longest-serving PC e-mail system, and for the Mercury Mail Transport System, our comprehensive range of Internet Mail Server products. Pegasus Mail is a free product, dedicated to serving all who need it, while Mercury is a modestly-priced commercial system.

I suppose I am a bit old-fashioned about e-mail: I think e-mail is e-mail and web pages are web pages, and that HTML codes should be kept out of e-mail, and reserved for web pages. Using HTML in e-mails is wasteful of bandwidth and disk space. A two-line message in plain text can take 200 lines or more in HTML, yet the content is exactly the same. So I don't like HTML in e-mails, and Pegasus lets me send and read message in plain text.

Pegasus also, by default, blocks "lazy html". That is, HTML codes that refer to an external web site and not something in the message itself. It is something most often used by spammers, scammers and distributors of malicious software, designed for more tolerant and less protective mail readers like Outlook and Outlook Express. Pegasus by default blocks them and displays a warning, and anything in the message that refers to a remote site is displayed as a blank grey block. Sometimes such a message will display something like "Your mail reader cannot display this message" and tells me what hoops I need to jump through to read it. But such messages are almost invariably unsolicited spam anyway, which I don't want to read.

I prefer that if people want me to look at a web page, they describe it and give the URL. Then I can decide if I want go there or not. Pegasus displays the URLs in clickable form, so you click on them and it calls your web browser. But it also displays the real address at the bottom of the screen, both for e-mail and web addresses. That is useful for exposing phishing expeditions. When you are asked to send details of your bank account to an address like:


amd Pegasus displays it as


you know something phishy is going on.

02 June 2010

Taxi violence in Britain?

In South Africa, sad to relate, stories of shootings at taxi ranks are all too common, as taxi bosses hire hitmen to take out their rivals. There have even been threats uttered against Johannesburg's new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, and I believe someone was shot a month or two ago when a new route opened.

Until now I've not heard of taxi violence in Britain. But now Sky News is reporting shooting incidents at a taxi rank in Whitehaven (north-west of London, where the 2012 Olympic Games are to be held), which are possibly connected with taxi rivalries. Body Of Suspected Gunman Found After Shootings Across Cumbria | UK News | Sky News:
Police have found a body believed to be that of Derrick Bird, who was being hunted over shootings across the Lake District.

The body was found in a wooded area near Boot, where Bird, 52, had abandoned his car.

Police hunting Bird found a gun in the area where the body was discovered.

Local reports are putting the number of fatalities in the shooting spree as high as 10, including one person killed in Duke Street, Whitehaven.

It hasn't been confirmed yet that it is taxi-related violence, but that is what some people seem to be saying.

In South Africa the taxi "industry" is one of the finest examples of the unfettered free market in actiion, with minimal government regulation. It's a free-for-all out there, the nearest thing to laissez faire you can find. If there is a serious incident, in which 5 or more people are killed, the government does get involved, to the extent of trying to broker a peace deal between the rival taxi bosses, rather as they are trying to do between ZANU-PF and the MDC in Zimbabwe.

Itn't capitalism marvellous?

Sitting dogs

Our dogs waiting for permission to eat breakfast: Samwise, Ariel and Squiffylugs..

Which country are we talking about here?

Immigration can be a contentious issue, and sometimes people get carried away and talk quite irrationally about it, as this letter in Cyprus Mail shows.

Which country are we talking about here? - Cyprus Mail:
Surely I’m not the only person to see the irony of British expats in Cyprus making comments on the UK elections last week such as: “I’ve got nothing against immigrants but there are too many and it’s getting out of hand” and “Immigration concerns me. It’s only a little island”?

Coming over here… can’t speak a word of the language and the colour – pink as lobsters, some of them.

01 June 2010

Piracy spreads -- first Somalia, now Israel

t r u t h o u t | Israeli Commandos Kill Gaza Aid Volunteers:
At around 5 a.m. this morning, the live feed on the IHH ship showed helicopters floating above the desk of the Mavi Manara, and paratroopers rappelling onto the decks. Israeli army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibowitz claimed that the navy confiscated light weapons and handguns from the flotilla. 'We basically encountered a lynch,' she said. 'We had to control this violence.' All evidence suggests that Leibowitz is lying. The boats and passengers were rigorously checked for guns by international monitors before leaving the port. According to FGM, the commandoes opened fire from their machine guns practically as soon as they hit the deck.

'Under darkness of night, Israeli commandoes dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck,' the FGM report says. Some of those they shot were asleep.

Critics of violent and aggressive actions by the Israeli military are often told that "Israel has the right to defend itself." It seems, from this action, that Israel's claim to a a "right to defend itself" is the same right claimed by a rapist to justify attacking those who try to help his victims.

And piracy on the high seas seems to have spread from the south to the north of the Suez Canal. Any lingering doubts that Israel is a rogue and terrorist state should now be dispelled completely.

Some other bloggers' responses:

Neil Clark: Israeli forces ‘kill up to 19 people’ in raid on Gaza aid ship: "can you imagine Hague and co's response if Iran had violently stormed ships in international waters on which there were 28 British civilians?"

would it have been like this?
CalumCarr on .... Whatever: Israel: Hague’s, UK Government’s Weasel Words: "The Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on the Government of Israel to open all crossings for aid to enter Gaza and deplored the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla.

In a statement this morning the Foreign Secretary said:
' I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla. Our Embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli Government. We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved.

We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way, because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations. It will be important to establish the facts about this incident, and especially whether enough was done to prevent deaths and injuries."

Tell Obama: free the human rights activists, conduct an impartial investigation: A Jewish Voice for Peace.


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