Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday, 31 August 2003

"Snorting Coke with the BBC"

This is the title of a programme broadcast this evening on Channel 4, one of the five terrestrial channels here and a rival of the BBC, specially in what is supposed to be 'socially worthwhile' programming.

Channel 4 broadcasts some exceptionally good programmes; it also broadcasts nonsense such as 'Big Brother'.

I expected this evening's effort to be simply a sensational programme at the BBC's expense - and it did not lack in sensation, even though much of what was broadcast was well known. The cocaine use and sexual shenanigans amongst the broadcasting fraternity have been the subject of many salacious exposes in the tabloid press over the years. It is apparently the case that cocaine use is fairly common amongst broadcasters and media people generally - just as it is said to be in many other high profile professions.

I am no prude, even though I have never taken an illegal substance in my life. Some would, of course, regard being gay as itself an outrage. Obviously I don't share that view, but more pertinently being gay and having same-sex relationships is not illegal and has not been so for 36 years in this country. What religious bigots think of this is, very thankfully, irrelevant in this context. Trafficking in, possessing and using 'Class A' drugs such as cocaine is, however, illegal. Period.

On balance I would say that Channel 4's programme was reasonably well-balanced - it alluded to the fact that illegal drug use was by no means restricted to the BBC amongst broadcasters. But I think those who were interviewed for the programme, whether BBC executives, or former BBC staff or others, revealed a lot more about their general attitudes than they may have realised. We seemed to be asked to accept that use of cocaine was ubiquitous amongst media folk and whilst it is 'technically' illegal, really should not be seen as too much of a problem provided users don't let their habit interfere with the quality of their work or don't indulge in activities which will embarrass their employers.

The Controller of BBC 1 seemed to be saying that she did not want to be placed in the position of controlling people's lives - if only they wouldn't be silly or 'frighten the horses' then they could all get on with their lives. The whole attitude seemed to be don't rock the boat. I find this quite amazing. Whatever the merits of the illegality of drugs such as cocaine, it is a simple fact that at present simple possession, far less consumption, is a criminal offence. It may be a bad law, but whilst it remains on the statutes I find it quite amazing that the ubiquity of cocaine usage should be viewed in such a matter of fact way. Some of those interviewed for the programme, who had nothing to do with the BBC, seemed to be falling into the same error when discussing the matter. The Editor of the Daily Mirror, and a former Head of BBC Youth Programming both seemed to say it was wrong for a prominent BBC DJ to have been sacked, and thought it was acceptable that he was re-employed later, whereas it was necessary for a presenter on a children's show to have been sacked for a similar offence - either it is illegal or it is not.

It is quite obvious that illegal drug use in the UK has escalated dramatically in recent years, specially of things like cocaine, crack and ecstasy. I am not opposed, in principle, to relaxation of the law in relation to 'soft' or 'hard' drugs if that is eventually agreed upon, but I really find it bizarre that high profile individuals, in particular, should seek to foster an attitude that it would not be a problem if only the users didn't draw attention to their illegal habits.

Saturday, 30 August 2003

"Objectionable Content"

This is the classification attributed to my little blog in a recent search engine result which alighted here - I noticed it when browsing visitors recorded by my hit counter. The search engine used was not one of the better known ones, at least to me, but some outfit called "Zworks (which they helpfully advise is pronounced 'Zee works')".

I was curious to understand what could have been 'objectionable' to this outfit, and whomever wrote their filtering software. A clue might be that one of the options available in this 'meta' search engine is called 'Bible Search' and they explain some of their modus operandii thus:

"Features of the Zworks Filtered Meta Search Engine - Our Filter

"…. information is passed through a filter which removes sites with obvious vulgarities (common "four letter" words) and then subjects the title and description of the remaining results to a filtration by word combinations and sequences which are common to adult and hate sites.

"…. since we are filtering the site name, description and URL and not the actual site, this is not a totally "Child-Safe" filtration process. These procedures cannot remove all sites of questionable content but definitely "clean up" the screen containing your search results by eliminating most surprises when searching for content which you thought unrelated to these areas. You don't have to worry about your children being close while performing a search because of the language they might see."


Now the actual topic of the search recorded in my browser was "2003/04 guestbook for market woman in far arab" which may perhaps be incomplete, but is a bizarre concatenation of words, it seems to me. 'Zee works' is located in Houston, Texas, from what they say in their website and obviously is concerned with filtering what can be seen by young minds - fair enough, it's a free world (more or less) and these people seem to have a "Christian" (which I use, in this context, quite loosely) point of view.

So what is 'objectionable' about my little blog? I've no definite idea, but I strongly suspect that the fact that I am gay, and have the temerity to put this in the introduction at the top of the page, must be the root of the classification. In any case the psychology behind this kind of classification is clearly flawed - if you don't want someone to follow a search engine result it would seem better to put some anodyne title at the top, if it wasn't excluded from the search entirely (and as I exclude all 'profanity' from my site for my own reasons), which would reduce significantly the likelihood of someone hitting that link, rather than something almost designed to trigger curiosity such as "Objectionable Content". Just a thought ....

Tuesday, 19 August 2003

Low Carbohydrate Diet - Week 9

I lost only a little weight last week as predicted a few entries ago. I lost 0.5kg and my weight is now (as at Sunday 17th August) 80.5kg, a reduction of 17.5kg since I began (or 38.6 lb) - I have 15.5kg to reach my target of 65kg. Measurement indicators for the week, however, are quite good showing reasonable reductions:
- waist down a further 0.4 inches to 36.2 inches (total reduction so far 8.8 inches);
- hips down 0.5 inches to 43.6 inches (total reduction so far 4.9 inches);
- thighs down 0.2 inches to 24.9 inches (total reduction so far 3.6 inches).

Friday, 15 August 2003

A 'holiday' from politics, more or less

Readers may have noticed I have posted nothing about current events recently, partly as a result of my computer problems. However, I also decided that the month of August should be more or less politics-free here, despite the high drama being played out in the wake of the suicide of David Kelly, the person at the centre of the storm for allegedly having been the source of leaks to the media which our government, and it seems our Prime Minister (Tony Blair) and our Defence Secretary (Geoff Hoon) both took a personal interest in how the earlier Parliamentary Select Committee operated in that they both insisted that Mr Kelly should testify, despite advice to the contrary from the senior Civil Servant in the Ministry of Defence.

Whilst I still believe (strongly) that it was correct to take action to topple Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, I can't help feeling that both Blair and Hoon have allowed their appetites for 'spin' to outweigh what would have been sounder political decisions; they do seem to believe that any old rubbish fed to the public (through compliant media) will be swallowed whole. This government (of which Tony Blair is Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury) now has a lengthy record of 'leaking' stories designed to attempt to diminish the character and personal integrity in the mind of the public of anyone who disagrees with it - Mr Kelly is just the latest, although probably the most horrific, example.

No more in this vein, though, until 1st September.
Atkins Low Carbohydrate Diet - Weeks 7 and 8

Weight loss continues, but at the lower rate indicated last time. In week 7, I lost 2kg and in week 8 1kg, and my weight is now (as at Sunday 11th Aug) 81kg, a reduction of 17kg since I began (or 37.5 lb) - I have now crossed the half-way stage and I have 16kg to reach my target of 65kg. Measurement indicators for the two weeks are:
- waist down a further 1.2 inches to 36.6 inches (total reduction so far 8.4 inches);
- hips down 0.9 inches to 44.1 inches (total reduction so far 4.4 inches);
- thighs down 0.4 inches to 25.1 inches (total reduction so far 3.4 inches).

So far this week, I suspect I will be lucky to lose a further 1kg by next Sunday although my waist and hip measurements have already dropped significantly since last Sunday so, as the good Dr Atkins advises, I'm not becoming despondent as I expect the weight loss will follow in its own good time. I got some ketone testing strips earlier this week and this comfirms that lipolysis continues at a moderate level - neither too high nor too low. And I'm never hungry and have almost zero 'cravings' - this is the most remarkable aspect of this diet.

Tuesday, 12 August 2003

Archives problem resolved and old PC files restored to new PC

The archives problem I referred to earlier has been resolved - it must have been a minor error at Blogger, presumably because of the new system they've introduced, as they confirmed they had resolved it for me.

Important as that is, it was not so important as recovering all the data from my old PC (see a little further down this page) which was accomplished today. I had left the old machine with a computer centre nearby last week and managed to take the new CPU there today for them to do the copyng for me (the power supply and a few other components of the old machine are 'kaput' so I needed their help to do the copying). Phew! It's a big relief as I had lots of files (databases, correspodence, HTML files for various websites) on the old machine.

Sunday, 10 August 2003

Problems with Archives

Since the change in Blogger a couple of days ago (at least I think it dates only from then) I've been having problems with my archives. I adjusted the code in my main page from the old javascript format to what it now suggests is used to show archive links on the main page - this seemed to work in that I now have 'links' to my archives shown in the right-hand column.

However, the links themselves don't seem to lead anywhere but to an error screen. I've tried to understand what I may be doing wrong, so far without success. I've also lodged a 'ticket' with the Blogger support people, but as it's the weekend I don't expect to hear anything until Monday evening at the earliest - because of the time difference between here (UK) and the west coast of the US.

Sorry if not being able to access my archives is a problem for you too.

Friday, 8 August 2003

Back online with new computer

I received my new PC today and am now back online. It will be a few days, however, before things are completely back to normal as I have quite a lot of catching up to do.

Monday, 4 August 2003

Computer down

If it wasn't enough having a problem with my Blogger page, last Thursday my PC crashed - the computer centre I took it to for checking tells me, luckily, that the hard disk is unaffected, but the power supply and various other components need changing. As the machine is a little over 4 years old, I decided it would be best to get a new machine and I ordered it today. With luck I shall have it by Wednesday or Thursday this week so hope to be back online by the coming weekend.

This is being posted from a friend's computer, but I won't be posting again until my new machine is up and running.