Friday, 28 July 2006

Tête à claques XII

The heat wave is apparently over. Phew! I couldn’t stand it! No, not the heat – the moaning, the whingeing, the grumbling, the millions of newspaper articles with dire warnings about heat strokes and other various illnesses caused by the hot weather.

I know a 76-year-old woman, in good health, who lives in a lovely, airy house, with a gorgeous garden, and who, after reading all those doom-laden articles, was convinced she wouldn’t survive – like those very frail old people who were left alone in deserted French towns a couple of years ago and who died because no one thought of checking up on them.

I had heat stroke once, years ago – in Israel, in the middle of August. I was staying with Polish relatives of my mother’s who had recently arrived in the country, complete with goose-down mattresses, duvets and pillows. I was sleeping in a kind of meringue during the night and being fed incredibly stodgy food during the day. I collapsed. I was put to bed sans duvet, and given sweet and salty drinks. All I had was a slight fever and a headache. I didn’t die.

Who’d have thought the Brits were such wimps?! There won’t be any more complaining, I hope. I’d be very glad not to see such a lot of yucky white flesh on show as well. Not a chance of that, though, the Brits strip down to their knickers as soon as the sun comes out for a second. Ugh!

They never stop talking about the weather, yet they’re always taken by surprise by it. The whole of the UK comes to a standstill whenever the place isn’t grey and chilly. We’ve just had ‘the wrong kind of heat’, very soon – too soon for my taste – it’ll be ‘the wrong kind of snow’ again.


Wednesday, 26 July 2006

I was right

It's not happening: Now What?

Monday, 17 July 2006

Worried, angry and frustrated

Maps from

This will tell you why I can't write just now: This Ongoing War

Just read it! It's updated every day so go back if you want the latest news.

Slapping the biased media!

Updates (Wednesday 19 July): For the first time in days, on the World at One (BBC Radio 4) today, the war in the Middle East was replaced by an item of domestic news. Are the media already getting bored? Is Israel getting too long to get wiped off the map? That’s what they’re waiting for, aren’t they?

Every day I’ve turned on the radio or the television and switched it off again within a minute, after hearing the word ‘Israel’ followed by a verb signifying aggression. “Israel attacked...”, “Israel bombed...”, etc. Even when whatever Israel did was in direct response to rockets fired by Hezbollah, this wasn’t made clear in the reporting and the lasting impression was that Israel was the aggressor.

So what else is new?

Two of the very first words I learned as a small child were ‘propoganda’ and ‘demagogia’. That’s how my Russian father pronounced them. He said them often, usually at the television. I used to laugh at him and think he was slightly paranoid, but I see now he was right. He knew the meanings of those words first-hand. As teenager, he had lived through the Revolution, then through the 30s and beyond in France, where propoganda and demagogia were also common currency. Nothing has changed: these days, as always, if you want to be liked (or get a huge round of applause on BBC programmes like Any Questions?) all you have to do is to tell lies about Israel. I should be used to it by now, but I’m not. I carry on being dismayed.

And I wonder.

I wonder why anyone would want to ally themselves with people who don’t value their own lives nor those of others. The answer is very simple: anti-Semitism. Some people would rather support murderers than be on the side of the Jews. They should be careful not to back the wrong horse, though: history might remember them as those who tried to carry on Hitler’s work.

(Saturday 22 July): Apparently, there are still some people out there who, although Israel has been in the news for years, still haven't got a clue how tiny that country is. The maps above are meant for them.

(Thursday 27 July): And this map is for those who still think that size doesn't matter.

Thursday, 13 July 2006

Ta da!

Guess what!

I've done it!

Me. Myself. On my own. Thank you Tina, Craig, Wayne, Nicholas and those lovely people at PC World. Didn't need you in the end.

I won't bore you with the technical details. Let's just say it involved downloading drivers from the Internet, unzipping files, moving folders about, telling the computer to get off its butt and go and look for stuff and install it now, this instant, otherwise I'm going to have a fit, etc. etc.


Update (Friday): The replacement disk, which arrived this morning and which I thought of using to install broadband on my laptop instead of downloading the whole thing again, is also missing an essential driver and miscellaneous bits of info. Wonder what the techies would have suggested I do today if I'd waited for them to solve my problem.

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Ta da!

That’s what I was going to say today, after successfully installing broadband on my computer.

Except it didn’t happen.

I spent the entire day trying to coax my computer into recognizing the modem supplied by my ISP. But it wouldn’t. I had a wonderful team of helpers – Tina, Craig, Wayne and Nicholas. It cost me 25p a minute to speak to them, but Nicholas was very nice: he called me back after 20 minutes…

In the end, after trying everything, I suggested they send me another installation disk. So I can spend another day being frustrated and aggravated.

My ISP has already started to charge me for broadband; no one actually said what would happen if my computer absolutely refused to communicate with the modem. “No, I don’t want to work with you: you’re a nasty little dark grey box. Blech!” Am I condemned to carry on paying as I go for ever and ever now?

Slapping my ISP again –because it’s been making my life more difficult than it already is for the past month and because there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of this particular tunnel.

Friday, 7 July 2006

Last year… in London

There is a very old story on the theme of Death that goes like this:
One morning, the caliph of Baghdad’s vizier ran to his master and fell to his knees, pale and shaking with fear, “I beg of you, my Lord,” he panted, “permit me to leave the city today!” “Why?” said the caliph. “This morning, while I was crossing the square, a man bumped into me in the crowd. I turned around and recognized Death. He was staring at me in a threatening way. My Lord, he’s looking for me.” “Are you sure it was Death?” “Yes, my Lord, he was dressed in black from head to toe and had a red scarf round his neck. Please, my Lord, he’s looking for me; let me leave this instant; I will saddle my fastest steed and, if I don’t stop on the way, I can be in Samarkand by the evening.” The caliph was very fond of his vizier so he let him go immediately. A little later, he went out of the palace, disguised, as he often did, to mingle with his subjects in town. On the square, he noticed Death and went up to him. “I’d like to ask you a question: my vizier is a young man in good health; why did you scare him this morning by staring at him in such a threatening way?” “It wasn’t a threatening look; it was a look of surprise. I wasn’t expecting to see him here, in Baghdad. I have an appointment with him this evening… in Samarkand!”
On a sunny morning, last year, in London, innocent people met Death at the hands of murderers (not ‘martyrs’). A lot was said about the victims at the time and they are in the news again on this first anniversary of the atrocity. I felt very sorry for all of them, but particularly for those who died thinking they had cheated death a little while earlier – those who escaped from the hellish underground only to board the bus that was blown up in Tavistock Square.

Again I’m slapping everyone who condones those kinds of terrorist acts – wherever they are perpetrated.

I’m not sure if I’m also allowed to slap someone who is a survivor of 7/7… ok then, I will: in an interview in the Evening Standard, this man said, “Terrorist bombs are a daily routine in Iraq, but they also happen in Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, Bali, Madrid and so on…” One country is missing from that list; a country that should have been mentioned by name, not vaguely included in a general ‘and so on…’ I’ll give you a clue: it begins with the letter ‘I’ and suicide bombers have perfected their technique there over a great many years. Is it a memory lapse or is it perhaps that, like someone who was grilled by Melanie Phillips the other night on The Moral Maze, he believes that that particular country deserves it? One can have been through a terrible ordeal and still say objectionable things.

Saturday, 1 July 2006

Guest Slapper of the Month VI

Red Queen of She'll be feverish after so much thinking and I have been cyber-friends for several years: we usually laugh at and get annoyed by the same things. She has a lot of common sense and a light touch. She radiates kindness, but when something gets her goat...

Mad enough to slap someone? It’s not your fault.

Yes, fellow slappers, finally, a plausible defense for our inordinate rage – we may be suffering from Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED).

IED has been described in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that bible of mental health professionals, since its 1980 edition. It is classified as an impulse control disorder, along with kleptomania, pyromania and pathological gambling. However, IED is in the news lately because a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and The University of Chicago have found the “disease” to be far more prevalent than was previously thought, afflicting as many as 16 million Americans. They are saying IED may be to blame for the rise in “road rage” plaguing our culture.

Huh. Aren’t we all angry from time to time with the stressors of modern life? I have been known to curse at other drivers (within the confines of my own vehicle), give my PC a good whack upside when it’s acting hinky, engage in a primal scream in response to endless automated phone menus. But we’re not talking about plain old losing one’s temper. IED anger is “grossly out of proportion to any precipitating psychosocial stressors.”

Persons with IED exhibit “several discrete episodes of failure to resist aggressive impulses that result in serious acts of assault or destruction of property” over the course of a lifetime. According to the Harvard and UC researchers, IED costs sufferers an average of $1359 in property damage. That’s not much. Heck, I only need to toss my bleeping computer out the window one time to meet that figure.

Anybody buying this theory yet? The researchers have linked IED to low serotonin levels. (Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps mediate the body’s production of adrenaline – think “fight or flight” response.) So if IED is a disease caused by a discrete neurochemical deficit, it can be treated with – you guessed it – medication!

I’ll admit I’m frustrated with my own “industry” of mental health professionals for making it all too easy for people to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior. Such disease-mongering has been an identifiable problem for at least three decades. They doubtless deserve a slap. But my experience is that these individuals are well-meaning. I believe they as much misled as misguided. So let’s dig a little deeper and ask, Qui bono?

The study I mention was funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, a US government agency. Sounds like it might be legit. But keep in mind that pharmaceutical companies comprise the most powerful lobby in Washington DC, with enormous influence on how government research dollars are spent. (EU members, don’t pat yourselves on the back too vigorously – roughly half of the largest drug companies are European, so this is a global problem.) According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, in 1990 the big pharmaceutical companies allotted approximately 11 percent of sales revenues to research and development of new drugs, while more than three times that much – 36 percent – went toward “marketing and administration.” The investment is certainly paying off for them: From 1960 to 1980, prescription drug sales were fairly static as a percent of US gross domestic product, but from 1980 to 2000, they tripled. They now stand at more than $200 billion a year, with by far the largest increase being among neuropsychological medications.

Are you good and mad now? It’s not your fault. You’ve been provoked – 200 billion dollars’ worth. SLAP! Take that, drug companies!