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Days Not born on the 4th of July - DECEMBER14.NET

Days: it's a blog thing

Previous ramblings are stashed away under Replays.

Sunday, November 17, 2002


File under “those thoroughly inconsequential little things that bug you…”

I wonder how many people like me get irritated by reading an article on a topic of which they have particular knowledge (like their home town, perhaps) and finding basic errors that simple fact-checking could have avoided?

Being a capital city, architectural jewel, home of the world’s largest international arts festival, yadda yadda yadda, my home town of Edinburgh gets written about a lot. And a lot of nonsense gets written about it. Amongst the minor-but-unforgivable-because-it-is-published-in-an-“authoritative”-source types of errors is in a piece on the BBC web site:

The Royal Mile, or to Edinburgers, the high street, runs from the castle down to the Palace of Holyrood.

Actually, as any citizen of Edinburgh (we don’t commonly call ourselves “Edinburgers”) will tell you, the terms Royal Mile and High Street are not synonymous. The Royal Mile is the name given to the route from the Castle right down the ridge to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and takes in Castlehill and the Lawnmarket, the High Street, and Canongate — all streets in their own right.

I’ve come across some hilarious boobs in the past, such as the travel site (unfortunately, I can’t find the link now) which completely confused Mons Meg and the One O’Clock Gun, reporting that Mons Meg was fired every day from the Castle ramparts at 13:00 hours. The thought of firing a 500-year-old cannon (that would blow itself to bits in the process) is funny enough, but the picture it conjured in my head of a 300 pound projectile being lobbed over Princes Street Gardens and through the windows of Marks and Spencer
4:05 PM | permalink

Saturday, November 16, 2002


'Moors Murderer' Myra Hindley

I heard the BBC report in the early hours of this morning that Myra Hindley, probably Birtain’s most hated woman, had died at around 5 o’clock on Friday evening. In doing so, she fulfilled the fate set for her by successive Home Secretaries, that she should spend the rest of her life in prison. By dying yesterday, she eliminated a looming problem for Home Secretary David Blunkett, in that a forthcoming ruling on an appeal brought before the House of Lords in another case could have paved the way for Hindley’s release unless some other extraordinary measures were taken.

I doubt many people who lived through the period of her crimes will shed a tear for her passing; certainly not the families of the children that she and her lover, Ian Brady, sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered. If you are not familiar with the case, there are many write-ups on the Web:

I was nine years old when the whole story unfolded, and to this day I have a vivid recollection of the horror felt by the entire country over what the evil pair had done. I can’t imagine the effect it must have had on those (including the child’s own mother) who had to listen to the quarter-hour tape recording that Hindley and Brady made of ten-year-old Lesley Anne Downey just before they killed her, in which the distraught child calls for her mother and God to help her. She knew she was in mortal danger.

Whereas Brady accepted his sentence and later made it clear he never wanted to be released, Hindley protested for a long time that she was not involved. She finally gave up that tack some years ago, but continued to protest that it was Brady, and not she, who had committed the murders. Even if true (and from the evidence in Lesley Anne Downeys’s case, that seems unlikely) she could not seem to see how little difference that made morally, if not legally. It can be argued that Brady was simply a crackpot, but there was no such excuse for Hindley, and no excuse for her going along with or failing to prevent Brady’s schemes. Her numerous appeals for release on the grounds that she had served longer in prison than other murderers did nothing to endear her further in the eyes of the British public.

In the way of these strange coincidences, it’s less than a fortnight since I and a few friends drove over the Pennines by Saddleworth Moor on our way from Yorkshire to Birmingham. The only truly sad thing about Hindley’s death is that the body of Keith Bennett, still buried somewhere up on that bleak moor, will probably never now be recovered.
12:01 PM | permalink

Monday, November 11, 2002


Purely by coincidence, after mentioning Meryl Evans’ efforts yesterday, I stumbled across another list of sites using CSS-based layouts. The Big CSS List has been put together by Bob Sawyer. The list, to quote Bob, “has been culled from a variety of sources around the Internet and is comprised mainly of personal, non-commercial sites” and includes those on Donimo Shriver’s original WebNouveau list.

Update Nov. 15. And another, this time at Dotfile… though it doesn’t look like this one is being maintained.
10:28 AM | permalink

Sunday, November 10, 2002


Some time ago, Donimo Shriver began compiling a list of sites that use pure CSS positioning rather than tables to effect their layout. This site was listed as number 0516.

Perhaps Donimo was unable to devote time to it any longer; whatever the reason, the list disappeared. Recently Meryl Evans has undertaken to revive it. is on this page.

In addition, Meryl has started a new list for standards compliant, accessible web sites that have been validated by Bobby as conforming to W3C WAI guidelines or Section 508 requirements.

Wouldn’t you just know it(!), but meets both WAI Conformance Level A and Section 508 requirements, and is a fairly early entrant to Meryl’s new list.

Hats off to Meryl for doing her bit to encourage web builders to adopt web standards and embrace accessibility. There’s a lot of other good stuff on her site too, so get over there and take a look.
3:18 PM | permalink


Wired News reports on a decision taken by the Council of Europe that legislation should be introduced to criminalise hate speech on the internet.

Specifically, the amendment bans “any written material, any image or any other representation of ideas or theories, which advocates, promotes or incites hatred, discrimination or violence, against any individual or group of individuals, based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, as well as religion if used as pretext for any of these factors”.

I can’t say I feel enthusiastically supportive of any such moves. First of all, there are huge practical difficulties. How could the law be enforced, when web site content is written and published on web servers all over the world, in countries with what can be staggeringly different legal systems? There’s nothing new about this question, but it’s still largely unanswered.

Second, I object to most forms of censorship, and the internet is the last mass medium where it is difficult to impose — so “the bastards can’t get you” for saying what you think (well, not all of the time). This doesn’t mean I support the views and activities of paedophiles, child pornographers and would-be murderers — be sensible, people. But I like to remind myself of those living in oppressive regimes who, in spite of the physical dangers and technical difficulties, manage to make the rest of the world more aware of their plight through the Web.

Finally, I belong firmly in the camp that believes the best way to expose bigots, racists and religious fanatics for what they are is to let them express their views freely, widely, and often. We need freedom of expression so that we can be constantly reminded that there are people who hold lunatic, despicable and unacceptable views. We need freedom of expression so that we can see who they are, know what they think, and watch their every objectionable move.
3:17 PM | permalink

Tuesday, November 05, 2002


Mr. Justice Moses handed down sentence today in the case of David Shayler, the former MI5 employee (I will not refer to him as a “spy” in the way that some elements of the media have, since that conjures up images of field agents, rather than someone like Shayler who was clearly a desk jockey) who passed secret documents to the Mail on Sunday newspaper five years ago.

I have a pretty straightforward and (perhaps unusually, for me) illiberal view of such matters. I’ve spent a large part of my professional career in the defence industry. Consequently I’ve been subject to vetting, and I’ve signed pertinent parts of the Official Secrets Act. I knew what it meant, I knew I was going to have to do it before I went into that line of work, and it was part of my contract with my various employers.

David Shayler is not stupid. He also knew these things when he joined one of the security services. He knew, as the prosecution in the case put it, that he had a “life-long duty of confidentiality” that did not end with his employment at MI5. I can therefore find no sympathy for him when the Crown follows a necessary course of action and a jury reaches the only possible verdict. Given his cavalier handling of secret materials and disregard for the difficulty or danger in which his actions might have placed real MI5 or MI6 agents, he was damned lucky to get away with so short a sentence.

He can pontificate all he likes about how he was trying to expose wrongdoing or incompetence in the security services. His way was not the way to do it. If he believed there were serious causes for concern, he could have approached his own MP, or the Home Secretary, or (as indeed he did) the parliamentary committee on security and intelligence. A national newspaper does not figure in that list. (And call me an old cynic, but if he truly was motivated only by a desire to expose what was wrong, then why did he accept the £40,000 payment from the Mail on Sunday?)

Just as those who can’t stand heat should stay out of kitchens, those unable to keep confidentiality should stay out of jobs requiring their observance of the Official Secrets Act.
10:58 PM | permalink

Monday, November 04, 2002


Racing at Wetherby: Saturday, November 2. Motor Show at Birmingham: Sunday, November 3.

A good time was had by all, as they say. But no, the proceeds from the first did not allow us to buy anything at the second. You can’t even buy a Corgi car these days for £3.50…
12:00 PM | permalink

Friday, November 01, 2002


Though probably not to you. Just ignore me. I’m playing with w.bloggar.
8:24 PM | permalink

My momma told me there'd be days like this

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