On Hutton…

I should have written at some length about the Hutton Report but after it’s been released, it’s clear it’s a bit of a whitewash and that Blair, Hoon and rest of the Government have gotten off far too lightly; at the same time it has rendered the more urgent questions about the reasons for going to war in Iraq as a mere sideshow. This excellent Guardian article by Seumas Milne more or less mirrors my own opinions of the whole sorry affair.

Update: Last night’s Question Time (Real Video) is quite fun to watch, if you get a chance, with Ian Hislop tearing into a quite hapless Margaret Beckett.


A nice idea I saw on MetaFilter: Wikitravel. It does what it says on the tin, it’s a wiki for travel. So if you’ve been anywhere and want to share your top tips with other people then you can contribute – and since it’s a wiki, it’s free and up-to-date. It’s still quite young and relatively sparse (if I get round to it I’ll add some stuff on the Baltic Region), so there’s plenty to contribute.

It’s not a total replacement for the Lonely Planet books as it lacks the authority and accuracy that professionalism brings, but it looks a useful site for picking up information quickly and when looking for holiday ideas.

If you have no idea what a wiki is – basically a public collection of documents written & edited by a community – this description from the excellent Wikipedia provides further explanation.

Snow joke

It snowed today in much of the country. As it is the first time this has ever happened in Britain, we promptly got travel chaos – from 10-mile tailbacks to massive train cancellations. I had a fun time walking to work this morning as not a single piece of pavement in town was gritted, and by the evening most of the snow had melted and re-froze, making the streets comically lethal.

Not meaning to get into a Daily Mail-style rant about this, but it does seem the British (and especially my local council) can be spectacularly incompetent and lacking in foresight. Three unextraordinary inches of snow results in instant chaos. Why aren’t our footways gritted? Why can’t people drive more carefully? Why can’t we make trains that run below 0°C? Why can’t we work out “Hmm…winter – the weather might be getting a bit colder”? The Swedes and the Canadians seem to function quite well despite the snow, and they get metres of the stuff every year.

Still, I can’t be too grumpy – it is snowing after all! And Cambridge does look especially beautiful under a nice white carpet. If it lasts I’ll borrow the digicam from work and take some pictures…

Followup: Found this amusing take on the whole situation…

Getting Blair back onto the rails

Blair survives. Just.

A 5 vote majority, slightly down from the usual 165. Although relieved that a bill that (in my opinion) that made higher education funding more progressive, it is worrying that our Prime Minister has managed to outrage his own party so much that they made this issue on of his leadership rather than the policy itself.

So relief for Blair, and according to leaks to The Sun, he’ll be mostly cleared by the Hutton report as well. Blair looks like remaining as PM, but the question remains – what is he going to do now? How is he going to reassert his authority after a year on the ropes, and with a resurgent Tory party over his shoulder?

Blair needs to start re-engaging with his party and his people, not with such PR larks as the Big Conversation but by recommitting the Labour Party to social justice and genuine change for the better. New Labour have done a fair bit over the past seven years – the minimum wage, the New Deal, family tax credits, baby bonds – but lately Blair has concentrated on reform of institutions (top-up fees, foundation hospitals again) rather than new initiatives. As Gordon Brown has said, we are best when we are at our boldest – so why not bring about some real change – universal childcare, improved rights for younger workers, a proper law against corporate killing, proactive initiatives on rail and transport? Blair has to convince his people and his party that he can do ‘New’ things again, if he is to gain their confidence after this bleak period.

Going Viral (of a different kind)

Having a very annoying day at work – Novarg, a new virus, is making the rounds, and the bloody thing is emailing itself from some random idiot’s computer pretending to be the CARET email server (I’ve checked the IP and it isn’t us), with my work address as the reply-to (probably lifted from my profile page on the department website), so I’m getting a ton of crap from all the servers where the virus scanners are picking it up and throwing it back. Very distracting, and something that only adds to the chaos on email servers. Thankfully it seems to have stopped, as I was about to phone the company whose IP address the emails are coming from and yell at them a lot.

But anyway, it’s a slightly devious twist on using viruses to attack other people’s computers – and it shows how you can still be annoyingly inconvenienced by viruses and poor computer security even if you yourself take all the precautions and have anti-virus software and a firewall.