TrustFlow results for

I tried out TrustFlow II for LiveJournal. The following people not on the friends list for are close by:

  • , (400 – 450)
  • , , , (600 – 650)
  • , , , , , , (650 – 700)

  • , , (700 – 750)
  • , , , , (750 – 800)
  • , , , , (800 – 850)
  • , , (850 – 900)
  • , , (900 – 950)
  • , , , , , , , (950 – 1000)
  • , , , (1000 – 1050)
  • , , , , , , , , (1050 – 1100)
  • , , , , , , , , , (1100 – 1150)
  • , , , , , (1150 – 1200)
  • , , (1200 – 1250)
  • , , , (1250 – 1300)
  • , , , , , , , (1300 – 1350)
  • , , , , , (1350 – 1400)
  • , , , , , , , , , (1400 – 1450)

Created by ciphergoth; hosted by LShift.

TrustFlow II: Who is closest to your friends

Hmm, this is easily thrown off-kilter, I fear. The two at the top of this list are (separately) the only accounts friended by someone else who is already on my f-list (respectively and . And two of those in the third line are likewise the only two accounts friended by . Meanwhile my own sock-puppet account, , turns up only halfway down. And the few lj’s I sometimes drop in on without friending (such as , ) don’t feature at all.

The LJ feature (on the portal page) for people popular on my friends’ f-lists who are not on mine lists , , , , , , , , , and

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Yahoo IM

I have been trying Yahoo Messenger (thanks, , for relieving me of that particular virginity) and I know I haven’t managed to add everyone I wanted to as it took me a while to work out the system. I am nwhyte, if you are interested. (And even if you are not.)

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You’ve all seen this but…

Science-Fiction Novel Posits Future Where Characters Are Hastily Sketched

March 29, 2006

OREGON CITY, OR—Science-fiction author Morgan Richards announced Monday completion of his long-awaited novel, Zeppelins Of Phobos. The swashbuckling tale of the battle for control of the solar system depicts a terrifying future filled with virtually indistinguishable characters who only communicate through stilted and shallow dialogue. “I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of the two-dimensional, almost caricatured human race spreading to nearby planets,” said Richards in the April/May issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. “I wanted to capture the sense of adventure, lust, and peril that these characters would feel, along with their utter lack of social context or emotional complexity.” Richards said the very nature of his characters demanded that they live in the unlikely, unrealistic, and overly cinematic society he painstakingly details in the book.

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Advice needed

A friend of mine who runs a very small organisation based in New York and London is eager to develop “relations with experienced IT professionals or companies who can help us develop our IT infrastructure, including secure file on-line file storage and secure email.” If you think you might be able to help, let me know and I’ll pass your details on to him.

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Well, doesn’t look like the partial eclipse is going to appear from behind the clouds any time soon; and it’s more than halfway over by now. Oh well, there’s always a next time.

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Irregularly acquired vehicles

OK, I’ll put you out of your misery.

When I took on my current job in 2002, we had an office in Sarajevo which had been opened in 1996 by Sir X Y, a former British diplomat with an enthusiasm for Arabic and hunting dogs. In 1996, government registration of vehicles was a rather grey area in Bosnia, it not being awfully clear which government precisely had the authority to register them, especially perhaps if you were used to a different working environment than that of a newly opened NGO. This meant that when I came on the scene six years later, I had the problem of inheriting several vehicles which, while perfectly serviceable, could not even be insured to drive them off the parking lot because we could not prove that we owned them and had acquired them legally to the satisfaction of local insurance companies.

In the end we sold them to a member of the local security forces who told us that he had a solution to the insurance problem and that he planned to drive them on his country estate, therefore private property and not requiring some of these pesky technicalities to be sorted out. I am absolutely sure that he did as he promised, and there is no way that he sold them on at a higher price to people in any nearby jurisdiction where it is easier to get vehicles regularised if you happen to have lost some of the papers. And anyway, it is none of my business if he did.

We still have a problem in one of our offices, which is not properly registered in the country where it operates (due to certain serious deficiencies in the local legislative provisions for non-governmental organisations), so we bought and registered a car in Belgium and drove it to the field. Now, of course, the problem is that it ought to physically return to Belgium every year for its “contrôle technique” (Belgian MOT) and other bureaucracy. This is immensely hassling, but is actually less complicated and time-consuming than trying to officially import it into the country where it spends most of its time.

This stuff really does give me grey hairs, far more so than the political disputes that we get into from time to time. By far the most dangerous activity that any of my staff engage in for work purposes is driving. The consequences of a crash in the middle of nowhere in a car that wasn’t properly insured, and the potential legal liabilities for my organisation, are pretty horrible to contemplate. I hope it never happens.

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Older astronauts

The two astronauts currently on the International Space Station are aged 54 and 53. The astronauts going to join them on Friday are 52, 48, 47 and 43.

When and why did the average age of astronauts increase? In the early years of spaceflight most astronauts seem to have been in their thirties (or even twenties).

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Getting your priorities right

I was supposed to have lunch with a Swedish MEP today, but she’s just emailed to say that her little twins have a tummy bug so she is staying in Stockholm. Quite right too.

And it gives me a better chance of catching some of the eclipse (from 1145 to 1330 here).

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Internship appointment

Well, I’ve just appointed my next intern, I hope – my current assistant works with me until the end of June, and normally I leave it until six to eight weeks before, but the right candidate popped up – someone I’d actually offered the position to last year, but it didn’t suit then. So let’s hope it works out. Hiring – even for unpaid positions – is the most difficult part of my job. (The most tedious part of my job is disposing of irregularly acquired vehicles. But let’s not go into that.)

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Thunderbirds are go!

We (ie F and I) watched episodes 17-20 of the Thunderbirds DVD collection. I see one on-line source that claims these are actually episodes 20, 21, 22 and 9, but there you go…

The Man from MI5 – ought really to be MI6, surely, as its overseas? But never mind. A great episode for Lady Penelope who gets most of the action, plus a welcome appearance from Thunderbird 4 in full swing. Also the Andersons’ somewhat cheeky gesture to James Bond – the British secret agent who gets in trouble is called Bondson. Why he would call in the Tracys rather than get his own government to try and sort it out (and what the French authorities think of all this going on on the Riviera) – probably better not to ask.

Cry Wolf – a rather moral but good little story from Dennis Spooner: two little boys call in the Tracys as a hoax, and then it turns out that their father is in fact a secret agent under attack from The Hood with his mesmeric gaze. I am sure every viewer wanted to be Tony and Bob, given a personal tour of Tracy Island. Definitely a top episode. The Hood of course escapes to fight another day.

Danger At Ocean Deep – Crumbs, you couldn’t make this today. I was tallying the various elements which would be treated entirely differently now – Parker’s unashamed drink-driving, the dog food manufacturers casually dumping vast amounts of fungus in the Mediterranean, every single character (apart from the clean-livin’ Tracys) appears to smoke. Having said that, it was good to see Thunderbird 3 put through its paces for once (poor old John actually gets to do something for a change), and the scientific gimmick – the two chemicals which cause radio interference at medium range and a big explosion at short range – was pretty original. And the effect of the sinister clouds of OD-60 bubbling from the depths and then swirling over a (rather North Sea-looking) Mediterranean was well done. Though I would not fancy manoeuvring not one but two large rocket-powered craft (Thunderbirds 1 and 2) in the vicinity of so much explosive substances. A classic episode, but not in the sense of one that has aged well.

Move – And You’re Dead – not wildly convinced by this one. Alan Tracy turns out to have had a motor racing career. His attempt to return to it (portrayed, rather bizarrely, in crayon drawings) is resented by a rival, who rather than just shooting him on the spot, maroons him on a bridge with his grandmother and a bomb whose timer is set just in time for the family to arrive and rescue him (and despite the fact that the bomb’s ultrasonic mechanism will detect any noise, they seem able to move around a bit, faint, engage in long conversations etc without setting it off). Though I was interested by the hint of romance between Alan and Tin-Tin – does that fit into a wider story arc, I wonder?

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Hugo reactions

Official shortlist. I know I am several days behind the curve here. Anyway, congratulations to , , , Ken, Paul and Cheryl all of whom I think do read me here from time to time (and apologies as well as congratulations to anyone else seeing this who I missed).

I don’t think he reads this, but in case he does, an extra shouted “Congrats” to Dominic Green, who I haven’t seen since student days in Cambridge, though we were in touch a few years ago, er, in 2000 now that I look at it.

Novels: Am stunned and surprised that Anansi Boys didn’t make it to the short list. Perhaps it came out too late in the year? Perhaps the reason I particularly liked it – that it marked a move onto slightly different territory for Gaiman – worked against it for most fans? Will obviously have to get hold of Old Man’s War and Spinthe other three.

Novellas: The only two I have read were the Link (which must surely win) and the Sawyer (which rather to my surprise I nominated).

Novelettes: Have read none of them. This will change.

Short Story: Despite my congrats to Dominic, nobody stands a chance against Margo Lanagan.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form: Serenity, obviously.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form: Good Lord, I have actually seen four of these – the three Doctor Who nominations (for four episodes) and Kim Newman/Paul McAuley’s Hugo presentation last year. Despite ‘s surprise, it’s not so very surprising that the two Worldcon live events both made it to the shortlist. I have a vague feeling this has happened once or twice before but have not yet found supporting evidence.

comments, “It’s one of our subcultural myths that we’re “neophilic,” that we routinely acclaim strong new work, and in fact since the first Hugo Awards in 1953, fully 22 debut novels have been among the finalists.” He is entirely right to be sceptical of that myth. In fact, the Nebula voters are much more neophilic than the Hugo voters. It is some time since I last crunched the numbersLocus Online) none of the Novelette nominees has ever won it before. And I think we can add Margo Lanagan as well.

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Highlights of the week

…a conference in a beautiful château near Maastricht from Monday night to Wednesday morning
…discovering that a Cyprus newspaper had accused me of having the “insolence of a thousand monkeys” (αναίδεια χίλιων πιθήκων)
…going to a videoconference about energy in Kosovo on Thursday morning, only to lose the Pristina end of the link-up because of a power cut
…getting two signed books from an sf author who I met only briefly at P-Con
…waiting around in the European Parliament for ages because the previous meeting in our room had over-run, and then realising I knew the organiser of the meeting that was running late
…meeting someone on Friday who remembered me from a brief conversation at a party in Skopje in 1997

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Second Friday Quiz

As spotted, the answer to the quiz is Bulgaria. The countries are listed in order of their international dialling codes:

+30 Greece
+31 Netherlands
+32 Belgium
+33 France
+34 Spain
+351  Portugal
+352  Luxembourg
+353  Ireland
+354  Iceland
+355  Albania
+356  Malta
+357  Cyprus
+358  Finland
+359  Bulgaria

OK, here’s another one. What is the tenth in this sequence?

  1. deutsch
  2. english
  3. français
  4. italiano
  5. nederlands
  6. dansk
  7. ελληνικά
  8. español
  9. português

[Edited to add: The correct answer is suomi [finnish] as guessed by . They are the EU official languages as they appear on translation booths in the European Parliament – worked out the question, but got the wrong answer.]

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Friday quiz

The following European countries are listed in a particular order. Which country is next after Finland?

  • Greece
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Spain
  •      Portugal
  •      Luxembourg
  •      Ireland
  •      Iceland
  •      Albania
  •      Malta
  •      Cyprus
  •      Finland

Edited to add Yep, got it right!

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March Books 11) Swords in the Mist

11) Swords in the Mist, by Fritz Leiber

The third of the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser novels, or the first half of the second of the more recent reprints, but basically a fix-up of short stories first published in 1963, 1959, 1960 and 1947 – the last of these is actually set in our universe rather than that of Lankhmar, and takes up half the book, though is fairly standard stuff.

The best story is the one set in Lankhmar itself – “Lean Times In Lankhmar” – and has Fafhrd take up ascetic devotion to a deity called Issek of the Jug, while the Mouser gets hired by the city’s top religious protection racketeer. Various fantasy conventions and real-life targets are satirically skewered, and of course we know our heroes will escape with their lives in the end, but the ride is worthwhile.

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Irish Representative Peers

Briefest tenure: John Prendergast Vereker, 3rd Viscount Gort, from 13 June to 20 October 1865 (born 1790, inherited title in 1842, died 1865).
Longest tenure: Stephen Moore, 4th Earl Mount Cashell, from 1 July 1826 to 10 October 1883 (born 1792, inherited title in 1822, died 1883).

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Writing historical fiction

Hat-tip to and : Sally Zigmond’s collection of rules for writing historical fiction, a genre I occasionally enjoy:

1) The Top Ten Rules for Writing Prehistoric Fiction
The males will be given easily pronounceable one-syllable names because, as we all know, language was more primitive back then. Female names will be similar to male names with the addition of the letter ‘a’ on the end All names should form part of the vocabulary of any normal 21st-century infant, e.g., Dog and Ooga.

2) Rules for Classical-Set Fiction
Barbarians must always be portrayed as politically-correct Noble Savages, especially if Celtic. They must embrace sexual equality and be in total harmony with Nature and the Mystic Elements.

3) Rules for Arthurian fiction
All inhabitants of Roman Britain must have suddenly reverted back to being ‘Celts’ as soon as the Roman army and administration withdrew from the island.

4) Official Rules for Writing “Feminist Re-Imagings & Re-Imaginings” Historical Novels
All goddess worshippers are pacifistic, politically-correct, and ecologically sound.

5) Official Rules for Writing Medieval Fiction
The Saxons who are the bad guys of the Arthurian stories magically turn into good guys in 1066 when the nasty Normans invade. Then they turn into the English and become bad guys again.

6) Rules for historical fiction about Edward II (a minority interest, surely?)

7) Ten More Rules, involving sex and Richard III
If a woman is beautiful and a man handsome, their first sexual encounter must be ecstatic and multi-orgasmic for both, no matter how inexperienced, intoxicated, or tired one or both parties are or how inhospitable the setting is. Any children born of the encounter will be wild and free, like Nature herself.

8) Rules for Writing Scottish Romances
There must be at least one scene where the hero shows the heroine the beauty of his country by dragging her along over mountains and stones, through heather and moor, until he finds a river where he can catch some salmon with his bare hands. Romantic dinner ensues.

9) Official Rules for Writing Victorian Historical Novels
Britain was a smaller place then. It consisted only of The Industrial North (Yorkshire, Manchester and South Shields) and London (West End, sleazy and rich; East End, sleazy and poor, but full of loveable rogues).

10) All-purpose rules
If your heroine becomes pregnant, she must always be astonished, in spite of everything that has happened in the last six chapters.

and also rules for writing Ripping Yarns set in British India:
All hairy naked wandering holy men are in fact English public school types in disguise.

Good stuff, and a warning against cliche in any genre.

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March Books 10) Easter 1916

10) Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion, by Charles Townshend

Saw this reviewed in the Guardian last year, and then saw it excoriated on a couple of Republican websites, and thought it would probably be an interesting read.

And it is. I guess most people reading this will at least be aware of what I was brought up to call the Easter Rising (Townshend prefers “rebellion”, for reasons which are well argued), most memorably portrayed in the opening section of Neil Jordan’s film about Michael Collins (where you may remember that Dev has mysteriously been transported to the GPO from the other side of the river, and the building appears to face south rather than east). A few hundred rebels seized control of central Dublin on Easter Monday, 1916, and eventually were shelled out by the British as they retook the city; while most of the leaders were shot by firing squad, the survivors became the nucleus of the political movement that fought for and then ruled the independent Irish state that emerged in 1921. It is generally regarded as one of the turning points in Irish history; and while Townshend tries to cast some doubt on that assessment, he doesn’t really succeed, carried away as he is by the drama of the topic. There’s lots of detail here, and some very interesting analysis as well.

The most extraordinary finding for me was the true extent of British repression in the run-up to 1916: specifically, that there was so little of it. MI5 employed 1453 people as postal censors in England, Scotland and Wales by the end of 1915. In Ireland there were precisely ten people doing the job, five in Belfast and five in Dublin. Of course, the Post Office, as it turns out, was pretty heavily infiltrated by militant nationalists anyway, so it might not have done any good; but they simply were not trying. (The fact that the GPO was the headquarters at Easter 1916 is not especially relevant here.) The government had no intelligence capability – or rather, there were a number of intelligence-gathering agencies, but they don’t seem to have been reporting to anyone, and no effort appears to have been made to find out who exactly was in control of the various armed militias parading around the place, let alone what their political agenda and concrete plans might be. Even the Pope had been told that an Easter rebellion was planned, but the British were caught completely by surprise. The authorities had given up trying to enforce even the limited extra wartime repressive measures offered by the Defence of the Realm Act within six months of the war breaking out. No wonder that they were caught napping (or, to be more accurate, out at the races) when the rebellion began on Easter Monday. Townshend feels that the liberal character of British legal culture, even in its weaker Irish reflection, was too heavily engrained; I’m inclined to just put it down to sheer incompetence.

The legal theme continues through and after the rebellion. The Lord Lieutenant, desperately swigging brandy (like his first cousin Winston Churchill), declared martial law on the Monday, without any clear idea of what this would mean. This was then the justification for the most memorable and transformational episode of the entire affair – the execution in Dublin after secret court-martial of 14 of the rebels, including almost all the leadership. While this was by far the most drastic measure taken by the British state to defend itself, there were others, combining over-zealous repression with legal tail-spin: the internment without trial, on dubious grounds, of 1600 Irish prisoners (over a thousand of whom were then released because, essentially, there was no evidence against them); the authorities’ refusal to publish the official records of the courts-martial at which prisoners had been condemned to death; the cabinet’s repeated discussions of Roger Casement’s pending execution – Townshend quotes Roy Jenkins, “There can be few other examples of a Cabinet devoting large parts of four separate meetings to considering an individual sentence – and then arriving at the wrong decision.” (Townshend then notes that Jenkins was wrong – the Cabinet discussed the matter at least five times.)

Turning to the other side of the story, I also found very impressive Townshend’s reconstruction, practically from the historiographical equivalent of trace fossils, of why Easter 1916 was planned as it was. Since all the people who actually knew what was going on had been executed within a few days of the end of the rebellion, and almost all the documentation, if it ever existed, had been lost, this was not an easy task. But he does a good job – significantly, many of the survivors among the rebels had been (or at least later claimed to have been) proponents of the guerilla warfare model that indeed was successful between 1919 and 1921, rather than the urban seizure which Pearse, fascinated as he was by Robert Emmett’s 1803 adventure, had fixated on early in his career. Emmett, of course, didn’t even manage to lead his rebels to the end of Thomas Street; but for Pearse, and for Joseph Mary Plunkett, who actually wrote the plan for 1916 (such as it was), that was hardly the point. William Irwin Thompson’s The Imagination of an Insurrection argues that the entire Rising makes sense considered as a work of heroic literature to waken the country rather than as a military act, and if considered in those terms it must be considered a success. There is a certain desperate poetry in the only document of Plunkett’s relating to the Rising that does survive, a notebook found lying in the street after it was all over, which ends with the scribbled notes:

Food to Arnotts
Order to remain all posts unless surrounded
Barricades in front
Henry St

He’s also very good on the actual events leading up to and surrounding the outbreak of the rebellion. There had been a scare from a leaked Dublin Castle document apparently planning for repressive measures to be taken in the event of introducing conscription. This led to the ramping up of tension and expectation, and seemed to offer an excuse to start the rebellion on Easter Sunday. Eoin MacNeill, of course, countermanded the orders; but as things turned out, he was not fully in control, and the rebellion went ahead, though on a smaller scale, on Easter Monday instead. A strength of the book is his description of what happened outside Dublin – more than is usually recounted, including relatively successful operations in Louth and Meath, and a dignified surrender with no lives (or even weapons) lost in Cork, for which both the British forces and the Cork rebels were duly chastised by their colleagues.

One of Townshend’s more irritating habits is to describe the various military tactics pursued by the 1916 rebels, point out why they were flawed on any serious military analysis, and then wonder aloud why the rebels took this course. OK, so some decisions were indeed blindingly stupid – why the GPO, for heaven’s sake (whatever Peter Berresford Ellis may say), rather than Dublin Castle, or the actual phone exchanges in Crown Alley and Store Street? Why St Stephen’s Green, surrounded by tall buildings, rather than the citadel of Trinity College? Above all, why was no provision made for, well, provisions, so that by the end of the week the surviving rebels surrendered as much due to starvation as due to military defeat? But the answer, to me anyway, is pretty obvious: military victory was not, in fact, their chief goal. They did have a vague hope that they might hold out until the Germans came to rescue them, but no real evidence for this – indeed, Roger Casement was actually arrested on his way to tell the leadership explicitly that no German help would be forthcoming. (It’s not entirely clear why the socialist radical James Connolly chose to unite his Irish Citizens Army with the larger nationalist – but not socialist group. He obviously wanted an armed revolution himself; did he imagine that a) the rebellion would succeed, and b) he would gain control of a post-revolutionary government? But of course he was also deluded enough to believe that the capitalists would not use heavy artillery against commercial property.)

Moving back a bit, I was very interested in the argument in an early chapter that Redmond and the Irish Party had irretrievably lost their credibility as early as 1915. Redmond, as leader of the Irish Nationalists, had taken a huge gamble by committing them to the service of the British during the first world war. He was comprehensively screwed over by two factors. First, the British army (Lord Kitchener in particular) decided not to incorporate the existing Irish Nationalist paramilitary structures into the army, with symbols and regimental identity etc, as was done for the Ulster Volunteers. The Commander of the 10th Division (in which my own grandfather fought) was “described in the divisional history as ‘an Irishman without politics’, but of course this meant he was a Protestant and an unthinking, not to say pig-headed conservative.” Second, the war lasted a lot longer than people expected, which meant that Home Rule was now put off for far longer than the few months originally anticipated and that Redmond’s main political role collapsed into being a British recruiting sergeant. Meanwhile the war was not going well. The only news most people were getting from the Western front was the telegram telling them their sons were dead. And while wages were frozen but prices rising all over the United Kingdom, it was in Ireland that wages were lowest and fewest jobs were created on foot of the war effort. In November 1915, Redmond was condemned in unprecedented terms by a Catholic bishop, who declared of the potential Irish recruits heading to America to escape any potential conscription, “Their blood is not stirred by memories of Kossovo, and they have no burning desire to die for Serbia.”

It’s an interesting and even slightly attractive argument, which goes completely against the orthodoxy that British repression following Easter 1916 turned Sinn Fein into a more credible political force than the tired Redmondites, but that up until then the older political party’s position might have been salvageable. Rather to my surprise, after outlining his (to me) revolutionary and innovative analysis of the 1914-16 period, Townshend appears to retreat back into that orthodoxy in later chapters dealing with the 1916-18 period, which made me wonder if he really believed his own argument. He returns to it to speculate that, had there been no rebellion, there would have been a fatal crisis in 1918 anyway over conscription, leading to a political victory for more extreme nationalist forces, as Alvin Jackson seems to suggest in one of those alternate history books. Hmm.

A few other historiographical points. Townshend clearly sees himself as in the “revisionist” camp of Irish history, and will no doubt have been duly delighted by the republican rants against his book that I mentioned earlier. It’s all a load of nonsense. Anyone interested in Irish history, of whatever political views, should be grateful to him for pulling this material together and in particular for the wealth of detail about the precise military facts of what happened. Havig said that, I was a bit unsatisfied on a couple of historical points. I was left unclear as to why Townshend believes that Bulmer Hobson was written out of the history of the Rising, in that he doesn’t give examples of earlier accounts which omit or minimise him, and my own reading has tended to be from the more recent end of things anyway which counts him in. Likewise I was a little baffled by his defensiveness of the heads of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, W.V. Harrel and Sir John Ross of Bladensburgh (whose botanical correspondence I once riffled through, in a different life), who on any reasonable reading of the facts bore at least some responsibility for the Bachelor’s Walk shootings in July 1914.

Three other peculiar little things noted here for completeness. Sean T. O’Kelly believed he had been appointed “Civil Administrator of the Government of the Republic”. Almost thirty years later, he was elected President of the real thing. De Valera’s surrender in Jacob’s biscuit factory – Owen Dudley Edwards suggested that Dev was in the end over-ruled by his officers, but Townshend has him in control right the way through. And he quotes from an account of the defence of Trinity College, published anonymously, though I happen to know that the author was the TCD physicist John Joly.

Anyway, an excellent book. Though I would like to know more about the revolutionary implications of the bicycle.

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