Catching up

nina321 gently reminded me that I haven’t updated this for a while, and I thought I’d do a roundup. So let’s start going backwards, and see how long it takes me to get bored.

Today’s been a fairly pleasant day of work and semi-work. Morning of Pali, which I’m liking more each week, and really annoyed that I don’t get an exam in it. Then I spent a couple of hours this afternoon reading Ovid, after helixaspersa inadvertantly reminded me that of the existence of Latin poetry. The good part was that I remembered more Latin than I’d expected. The bad part was that I’d forgotten how tedious all the killing-people bits are. And the bonus was this wonderfully comic translation of somebody being attacked with a spear:

fronte tamen Rhoeti non inrita cuspis adhaesit

‘Yet the tip, not without effect, lodged in Rhoetus’ forehead’

But perhaps I’ve just been away from classics too long, and I’ve forgotten the particularly latin translatorisms.

Clock turns back another day….

Thursday. Peculiar, but very ego-boosting. I found out that I’m having an article published in the same journal as Stephen Hawking. (and Kurt Vonnegut, and Naomi Klein. And Hawking’s writing about international law rather than theoretical physics, and it’s not a journal in the peer reviewed sense. But it’s good enough for me!). And then, to cap it off, I got interviewed on a South African Islamic radio station. Which was nice.

The other good bit of Thursday was Alec, Rob and Dave singing silly things at Candle Club. Their college ‘rawhide’ is even better with music and practice, though I think there was too much noise for many people to hear the lyrics. Also, somebody played ‘zombie’ by the Cranberries. Which was wonderful, because I’ve been vaguely wondering what it was for years, and now I know. In fact, I’ve been wondering ever since I heard it about 10 years ago on a schoolfriend’s mis-labelled tape, which convinced me that it was something by the Crash Test Dummies. I don’t mind so much, since it introduced me to one of my favourite groups, but it’s nice to find out what the song really was.

Right. Bored with the past now (mainly because I can’t remember doing anything on Wednesday). Onto the future, which holds…

Tonight: Stay at home. If I’m keen, I’ll do some sanskrit. If not, I’ll put some more stuff onto Per’s cunning new website. And I’ll probably spend an hour or two pissing about on msn/lj/irc (so keep me company!).

Then tomorrow, I’m heading to London for the Indymedia 5th birthday party. Which


be really great: Penny Rimbaud, Rhythms of Resistance, and lots of happy anarchists (*). And my sister is coming down, entranced by the prospect of seeing George again (**). Plus, I should get to see some of the cambridge activist diaspora, who, with a couple of honourable exceptions, haven’t spread themselves anywhere more exotic than London.

Sunday: back to Cambridge, where we’re doing one of the ‘social events under a thin political veil’ that are P&P’s greatest talent. The veil is ‘buy nothing day’ (***), which is us stop buying things for the sake of buying them. The social event is half a dozen of us somewhere in the town centre, with juggling, face-painting, music, origami, rigged twister, and whatever else people bring along. You should all (yes! all half-dozen of you!) come along and have some kind of fun.

Right. That’s the update done – back to stealth mode.

* who, for the record, don’t include me. Despite what an amazingly large number of people think, I’m not an anarchist. I just think they throw the best parties.

** also for the record, they’re just good friends. And even if they weren’t, i don’t understand why people want me to keep my sister segregated from interesting men.

*** or as Josh would like it to be, ‘steal something day’. Josh


an anarchist, though not one of the anarchists who throws good parties. I think it’s what happens when you get your ethics from postmodern critical theory.

Dictionary humour

Yes, I know things are dire when you’re getting your laughs from dictionaries. But I have a supervision with a lexicographer each week, and I’m coming to realise just how depressing a job it is. The following is about the height of bitchy fun you can manage on the way:

KHUJHRAHA: H khujhrAHA khujhraha [prob. khujhra=khujra =khujla, rt. of khujlana, q.v.+ aha = S. ak+kH], adj. & s.m. Stingy, niggardly, miserly, sordid; — a niggard, miser (syn. kripan; ka njus; Shakespear’s Dictionary has `stringy’ instead of `stingy, — a typographical error, no doubt; Forles copies `stringy,’ and adds `ropy,’ in which he is followed by Bate!).

(from Platts’ Urdu- Classical Hindi- English dictionary. Thanks to John for pointing it out)

A higher procrastination

The amount of time I can waste on LJ is miniscule compared to the amount I can waste getting angry and self-righteous about Iraq. But I’m quite proud of how this week’s procrastination turned out, especially given that it’s something almost nobody else is paying any attention to.

Read my rant (or in Word format)

[the legal bit turns out to be wrong in detail, but broadly correct in impact. I’m too lazy to update it tonight]

Not quite a party

You’re all invited to a gathering on Saturday at my house, in celebration of the coming of second night of the new moon, the passing of 317th day of the year, the first birthday of the Iraqi ministry of the environment, my abandonment of Sanskrit grammar, and any more ridiculous excuse for a party you can come up with in the next three days. Or, for those in the reality-based community, the officially sanctioned reason is that we were going to have a two-month-overdue housewarming party, but were too disorganised to sort out anything big. So this is my mini-replacement and you are the chosen few. A few mundane details:

WHEN: this Saturday, any time from 7.30

WHO: you, and whatever friends/partners you want to bring

WHERE: 24 Priory Road, which is near the Cam, just behind the end of Midsummer Common. There’s a map at

BRING: drinks would be good: bonus points if it’s something other than wine. Snacky food if you want something to engulf (I’m not cooking). And whatever fun things you want to inflict on us all (many, many bonus points for anyone who does turn up with fun things)

Dissertation liberation

Just got permission to abandon my earlier dissertation plan of tedious things about Sanskrit grammar. Out with word boundaries, padas and angas in Panini’s grammar (right but repulsive), and in with tantric buddhism (wrong but romantic). So I get to do some Pali, and look incomprehendingly at pretty things in Tibetan and Chinese, and work in some theory, and generally have a bit more fun.

I’m sooo excited. I’m going to read lots of crazy things, and learn to fly, and smite my enemies, and attain full and final liberation in a simple twelve-step program.

Off to make some index cards…


because I’m so far behind, another wasted half hour doesn’t even matter…

// series one – describe

— Your heritage: A grandparent each from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. But I mostly think of the English (because it’s where I’ve always lived) and the Irish (because my Irish ancestors were so much more interesting than the rest)

— The shoes you wore yesterday: I own two pairs of shoes: the steel-toecapped boots, and my brown things, which are pretty but falling apart. So it was the brown things.

— Your hair: Long, black, tangled. Hasn’t been cut for 4 years, but every now and again I pull out the really matted bits. It’s a mess, but I like it.

— Your fears: People knowing too much about me. Also forms.

— Your perfect pizza: Lots of meat. Pizza is about the only place where meat is essential

— One thing you’d like to achieve: Freeing myself from any desire to ‘succeed’. I want to be a hyperactive, playful slacker!

// series two – what is

— Your most overused phrase on aim: ‘to be fair’

— Your thoughts first waking up: ‘where are did I put my glasses *this* time?’

— The first feature you notice in the opposite/same sex: Voice, height, build. I’m not really very visual: often I’ll talk to somebody for half an hour and not recognise them the next day.

— Your best physical feature: Hair, probably. Or my eyes (but they’re hidden behind glasses).

— Your bedtime: Irregular. I tend to stay up until 4am one day, then sleep 12 hours the next to make up for it.

— Your greatest accomplishment: Getting the ‘dodgy dossier’ story out to the world last year: I was the link between this and this. *beams*

// series three – you prefer

— Pepsi or Coke: Pepsi. Not on taste, but because two years ago I spent some time teaching English to a Russian Coke salesman, and he was so wonderfully pissed off at how Russia chose Pepsi

— McDonald’s or Burger King: Prefer vans and chippies with real local grease

— Single or group dates: um, neither. I’m a single, and neither want/dare date, or think I ‘d have any luck if I did.

— Adidas or Nike: Anything cheap and unbranded.

— Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Don’t drink either, but Lipton keeps my sister hapy.

— Chocolate or vanilla: Strawberry. OK, Chocolate, if you insist

— Cappuccino or coffee: Coffee

— Boxers or briefs: boxers

// series four – do you

— Cuss: Mostly at inanimate objects. And politicians, but they’re fair game for anything short of assassination.

— Sing well: No. Really no. And so I don’t sing at all, which is sad.

— Take a shower everyday: Yes. Cambridge has showers. Oakham, as far as I can tell, doesn’t. Three years in, and I’m still loving it!

— Do you think you’ve been in love: Yes. Painfully, obsessively, and with all the drama that a rejected teenager can muster. I’m going to make damn sure it doesn’t happen again.

— Want to go to college: I’m at uni.

— Liked high school: No. Partly teenage grumpiness. Partly the falling stupidly in love. Partly the usual ‘nobody understands me’ thing (nobody understands me here either, but there are lots of people who each understand a bit of me, so it works out OK). Mostly just the dump of a small town I was in, and the lack of anyone interesting there, old or young.

— Want to get married: No. It’s the not wanting to fall in love thing, and not being able to imagine spending an entire lifetime with somebody. That and Patriarchy

— Type w/ your fingers on the right keys: Yep. And fast.

— Believe in yourself: No, except for brief moments when I have absolute blind faith in myself. Fortunately those moments generally happen when I’m alone, so they aren’t inflicted on anyone else.

— Get motion sickness: Yes.

— Think you’re a health freak: No.

— Get along with your parent(s): My dad is way cooler than me or most of my friends. I get on really well with him. My mum I respect immensely, but don’t have much in common with, and I find her really hard to talk to.

— Like thunderstorms: Yes. Preferably outside, in the countryside, and as close to naked as possible.

— Play an instrument: No. Piano a bit, but not for many years, or with much skill to begin with.

// series five – in the past month, did/have you

— Drank alcohol: yes

— Done a drug: No

— Made Out: No

— Gone to the mall?: No. Don’t think I’ve bought anything except food, tickets for a few things, and household bits ‘n’ bobs.

— Eaten an entire box of Oreos: What is this Oreo of which you speak?

— Eaten sushi: No, never

— Been on stage:

— Been dumped: No. Benefit of being single!

— Gone skating: No.

— Made homemade cookies: No.

— Been in love: No

— Gone skinny dipping: No. It’s November, for chrissakes!

— Dyed your hair: No. Would like to, but suspect the dye would need to come in a van (long and black not a good combination for dyeing)

— Stolen anything: No.

// series six – have you ever

— Played a game that required removal of clothing?: Yes

— Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: Yes

— Been caught “doing something”: No

— Been called a tease: No.

— Got beaten up: Not seriously, and not for many years.

— Changed who you were to fit in: Yes. But not nearly as often as I’ve denied what I am because I’ve been embarassed to fit in.

// series seven – the future

— Age you hoping to be married: Never

— Numbers and Names of Children: I’d make a good uncle or godfather, but an awful father.

— Describe your Dream Wedding: Quickly and quietly, as part of some legal/political scam. Mika, Kelly: you’re the only newlyweds I’ve honestly admired.

— How do you want to die: suddenly and dramatically

— Where do you want to go to college: here will do.

— What do you want to be when you grow up: as above: hyperactive and playful, changing job and lifestyle. My nightmare is ending up in a pleasant office job, and not having the initiative to quit and spend a year flipping burgers.

— What country would you most like to visit: Georgia

// series eight – opposite/same sex

— Best eye color?: green

— Best hair color?: Black. And men with long, light ginger hair look gorgeous.

— Short or long hair?: Long. Always long.

— Best height: Not fussed.

— Best weight: Thin.

— Best articles of clothing: Anything that stands out. I love clothes that get laughter from half the people, and impress the rest.

— Best first date location: as above: loner!

— Best first kiss location: loner! (it’s the singleton’s ‘get out of jail free’ card)

// series nine – number of

— Number of boys/girls I have kissed: 0 (assuming cheek-pecking doesn’t count)

— Number of boy/girlfriends I have had: none

— Number of drugs taken illegally: One.

— Number of people I could trust with my life: depends on the context.

— Number of CDs that I own: twenty? thirty?

— Number of foreign countries I have visited: 3

— Number of states I have visited: none. 1

— Number of piercings: none, yet.

— Number of scars on my body: none

— Number of things in my past that I regret: mostly I regret the things I didn’t do

and the homework is…

I have a new favourite comedy lecture series, to replace the 14-part ‘landmarks in German comedy’. Next term, Dr L. Kassell is giving four lectures entitled ‘

How to live forever

‘. Page 193 in the


, if you don’t believe me.

don’t change horsemen mid-apocalypse

Sam’s pretty pissed off, but only an overexcited Mark Morford stream-of-consciousness rant can cope with the sheer horrendousness of the election:

You want to block it out. You want to rend your flesh and yank your hair and say no way in hell and lean out your window and scream into the Void and pray it will all be over soon, even though you know you’re an atheist Buddhist Taoist Rosicrucian Zen Orgasmican and you don’t normally pray to anything except maybe the gods of really exceptional sake and skin-tingling sex and maybe a few luminous transcendental deities that look remarkably like Jenna Jameson.

and some light relief…

After that, a couple of beautiful things.

Firstly, necro_angel has put up three lovely new photos.

Then I came across this hilarious “Jerry Springer does philosophy” spoof. Perhaps it just appeals because I live with a critical theorist, my best friend is an analytic philosopher, and I’ve spent far too much of my life talking to Josh. But who couldn’t love this:

Todd: See what I have to put up with? Do you know what it’s like living with someone who sees sex as a metaphoric demonstration of the anti-feminist violence implicit in the discourse of the dominant power structure? It’s terrible. She just lies there and thinks of Andrea Dworkin. That’s why we never do it any more.


[political rant below the cut, to spare the uninterested]

On Friday the Lancet published a report by, among others, the wonderful Richard Garfield, which estimated 98,000 deaths caused by the Iraq war. The previous best estimate was around 16,000. The only reason it was that low is that it relied entirely on deaths reported by journalists. Journalists don’t dare go into the really nasty bits of Iraq any more, and even where they do go they miss a lot of deaths, and don’t often notice the less bloody deaths caused by, for example, the US policy of cutting of water to hundreds of thousands of civilians

Not that you’d notice that from the government or media response, which was basically to rubbish the Lancet report and suddenly decide that the IBC figures they’ve been dismissing for the past 18 months are really very accurate. My personal favourite is this beautiful response from Downing Street:

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about a survey published today suggesting that 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died as a result of the war in Iraq, the PMOS said that it was important to treat the figures with caution because there were a number of concerns and doubts about the methodology that had been used. Firstly, the survey appeared to be based on an extrapolation technique rather than a detailed body count. Our worries centred on the fact that the technique in question appeared to treat Iraq as if every area was one and the same. In terms of the level of conflict, that was definitely not the case. Secondly, the survey appeared to assume that bombing had taken place throughout Iraq. Again, that was not true. It had been focussed primarily on areas such as Fallujah. Consequently, we did not believe that extrapolation was an appropriate technique to use.

Just about every sentence of that is seriously misleading. Let’s take it bit by bit:

a) “

it was important to treat the figures with caution because there were a number of concerns and doubts about the methodology that had been used.

” But they can’t deny that these are the best figures we have so far. Putting it another way: does the government have better figures? If so, why are they secret? If not, why don’t they care about casualty figures?

b) “

the survey appeared to be based on an extrapolation technique rather than a detailed body count.

” Said as if it is a bad thing. In Iraq, where there are so many no-go areas, it would be impossible to count every casualty. Attempts to do so, like Iraq Body Count, underestimate because the areas where people are being killed are the same areas journalists don’t dare go. The same with Ministry of Health figures, which only count people who die in hospital, or are taken to hospitals after they die.

c) “

…the technique in question appeared to treat Iraq as if every area was one and the same. In terms of the level of conflict, that was definitely not the case.

They did surveys in 33 areas of Iraq. Then, to get the figure of 100,000 deaths, they


the area where conflict was most intense, namely Fallujah. They did collect figures for Fallujah which were much higher than for the other areas sampled. So they basically ignored them. If you include them – which is what the PMOS implies the problem is – you get a figure of about 298,000 excess deaths.

d) “

the survey appeared to assume that bombing had taken place throughout Iraq. Again, that was not true. It had been focussed primarily on areas such as Fallujah.

” Given the exclusion of Fallujah mentioned above, this is completely misleading. Or is the PMOS claiming that *all* 33 areas surveyed suffered significantly higher bombing than the rest of Iraq?

e) “

Consequently, we did not believe that extrapolation was an appropriate technique to use.” This is equivalent to saying “we don’t believe in surveys

“. Unless you rigorously count deaths (which you can’t really do unless you’re the government, you


to extrapolate. The results aren’t going to be perfect, but they’ll be a lot more reliable than any body count NGOs or academics can do

Other things that aren’t being talked about much:

  • there were something like 38,000 deaths of children under 15. That’s not in the report itself, and the sample size is


    small, but you can get it from the data they use
  • “”most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children”
  • Most violent deaths resulted from air strikes. “Surgical strikes”, anyone?

Good. Got that off my chest. Back to LJ trivia!