Just had a call from a gentleman who needed to telk me that “je suis” is an anagram of “I Jesus”. Must check visibility of my phone number.

Posted in Uncategorised

30 May 1996

Ten years ago today I stood in my last election. (My last election to date, that is – who knows what the future will bring.)

The election was in the middle of the Northern Ireland peace process, for 110 members of a consultative forum who would also be potential delegates to the all-party peace talks chaired by George Mitchell.

Those were wild days. I had moved back to Belfast in 1991 to do the project that eventually became my PhD, and through various channels – in particular, through my existing friendship with the Liberal Democrats’ then deputy director of policy, and through my past involvement with the British Irish Association’s annual conferences – I am surprised in retrospect that it took me as long as a year and a half to get sucked back into politics. By the end of 1993 I was the Alliance Party’s Director of Elections, later renamed Party Organiser. I was a PhD student with not a lot of motivation for the actual topic of my thesis, and basically loved hanging around party headquarters to do whatever jobs needed to be done – not just number-crunching for the proposed new parliamentary boundaries, but also bringing in new canvassing software, and plentiful knocking on doors during local council by-elections – which, quite fortuitously, happened in a number of good areas for us during my period of involvement.

I won’t go into huge detail of the mishandling by all sides of the first years of the peace process from the IRA ceasefire of August 1994. I was both too close to it and also not involved in the key decisions. It still stuns me that politicians as thick as Sir Patrick Mayhew, and his sidekick the even more dismal Sir John Wheeler, were put in charge of such delicate negotiations at a key stage of Northern Ireland’s history. The particular detail that involved me most, from pretty early on, was the possibility of elections taking place as a part of the peace process, and the likelihood that rather than using wither of the off-the-shelf electoral systems available, the British government (in order to get the Unionists to buy into the process) might decide to go for some sort of closed list system across the whole of Northern Ireland from which talks delegates might be selected.

I (and the Alliance Party) very much opposed this, partly for the principled reason that the Single Transferable Vote in multi-member constituencies is simply the best system possible, and partly for the selfish reason that we suspect the party would do less well in a Northern Ireland-wide vote rather than a vote using the 18 new electoral districts (elections for the European Parliament had always been very bad for us) especially if there were no transferable element to the voting system (which does help the Alliance Party punch a little above its weight, though less than conventional wisdom would have it).

The government, of course, were faced with several competing priorities – to get buy-in from the Ulster Unionist Party, and also to try and get the two small Loyalist parties, the UDP and PUP, inserted into the talks somehow. After experimenting with various models including, at one point, an “indexation” system – you would get two seats if you scored between 1% and 5%, three from 5% to 15% and four from 15% up – they eventually came up with a proposal for electing five representatives from each of the 18 parliamentary constituencies, plus giving the top ten parties an extra two seats each, all chosen from closed lists.

This was the apogee of my Northern Irish political career. I remember flying to London one day to meet with Sir Patrick Mayhew, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and on the way back pausing at Heathrow Airport to contact Prionsias de Rossa, then one of the leaders of the coalition parties in the Irish government. I had to get him to call me back at the payphone in the airport terminal building. (That government had an unnervingly informal approach to phone calls – I remember sitting in the party headquarters one evening, and answering the phone as it rang: the caller asked for the party leader, explaining that he was John Bruton, the Taoiseach. “Yes, I know who you are…” I replied.)

It was all for nothing, though, and this very peculiar system went ahead. At the start of the campaign my optimistic predictions were that we should get six constituency seats, plus two top-up seats as we should be comfortably the largest party, and we stood a decent chance of another two constituency seats (hoping especially for second seats in East Belfast and East Antrim). I myself was the lead candidate in North Belfast, where we had won one of five seats starting from only 7% in the 1982 Assembly election; I was not foolish enough to expect to come anywhere close to winning, but did hope to at least equal the 6% scored by the party’s candidate in the 1992 Westminster election (on slightly different boundaries). We had a good, dedicated team – my election agent was only 17, and most of the rest of the North Belfast branch were pretty elderly, but we covered the territory we needed to cover, the intention being not to actually win but to lay the foundations for winning a seat on Belfast City Council in the 1997 elections (which duly happened).

Most of my time was spent either at headquarters or knocking doors. I did two public meetings. The first was a mild-mannered affair in an upper-middle-class area, after which Dr John Dunlop, the former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, dropped me home. The other, on the Crumlin Road/Ardoyne interface was rather more dramatic. The panellists included Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein, me, and a bunch of minor parties (I suppose I should say other minor parties). The press were all there for Kelly, but I got my soundbite broadcast anyway thanks to the requirements of fairness from broadcasters. One of the audience accused me of having absolutely no sense of reality because I suggested that the police might not be utterly and irredeemably evil. The audience as a whole were really deciding whether to vote for Kelly or not to vote at all; I don’t think I won many for the cause that evening. I departed so rapidly that I forgot my coat, and had to go back for it the next day.

In the event the party’s vote dropped, and we won only five of the six seats I had thought were safe (suffering a double squeeze in Lagan Valley, as Catholic voters who had previously voted for us, faute de mieux, opted for the SDLP for the first time, and Protestants voted for the nice “reformed” Loyalists to encourage them to keep up the ceasefire). I scored 4% in North Belfast (along with my two co-candidates). In my PhD thesis, and in the book based on it, I note:

Thanks to the electorate of North Belfast not supporting me in sufficient numbers in May 1996, I did not become their elected representative to the Northern Ireland Forum and multi-party talks and so had enough time to complete this thesis. For some reason I feel more kindly towards the 1,670 who did vote for me.

Election counts are always slightly odd in Northern Ireland – for once, political foes of every stripe are united in their fear of the one common enemy: the voter! Once it became clear (as it did pretty rapidly) that I had no chance of winning, I managed to get hacked into RTE’s live radio coverage of the event and stayed in their Belfast studio for the rest of the day, my jaw dropping at the surprisingly high vote for Sinn Fein – they had predicted it almost precisely, and I had pooh-poohed their predictions, an experience that left me with a profound respect for their electoral forecasts which lasted until they screwed up in last year’s elections. And so to a rather subdued, but relieved, celebration in the party leader’s constituency office in East Belfast.

Of course, just because I wasn’t elected didn’t mean that I was not involved with the talks once they started. I got a paid political position as one of the researchers to the Alliance delegation, and though I missed the dramatic first night of the talks – where British officials physically restrained the Unionists from occupying the chairs set aside for George Mitchell and his co-chairs – I sat in on a number of the set-pieces for the first six months, including a memorably brutal session at the end of July 1996 following the vicious marching season of that year. Mitchell has written in his own book of his despair after that particular meeting; he was the consummate professional and sounded entirely sincere when he thanked everyone for their heartfelt and vigorous contributions to the discussion, without a hint of irony.

Anyway, at the end of the year I got a job in Bosnia, and my career basically took off in a completely unexpected, and personally much more rewarding, direction. That story can be told another time. But today, I just want to remember the experience of ten years ago. I don’t say “never again”, but I do say that the next time I stand for election, I want to have a much stronger chance of winning.

Posted in Uncategorised


One of my colleagues has sent around this news item, with the heading “Ethnic Group of the Month”:

ADYGEYA PRESIDENT MEETS WITH SHAPSUGS: Khazret Sovmen met on May 25 in Maikop with representatives of the Shapsug community from neighboring Krasnodar Krai, reported. The Shapsugs expressed gratitude for 500,000 rubles ($18,513) he donated to help finance the publication of the newspaper “Shapsugiya.” That paper was first published 15 years ago and currently appears twice a month in a print run of 3,700, according to an article by its editor Anzor Nibo on the website. The Shapsugs are a tiny ethnic group, numbering approximately 10,000, related to the Adygs (Cherkess); they speak a dialect of Adyg.

Well, I’m glad to hear it.

Posted in Uncategorised

May Books 11) Daughter of the Drow

11) Daughter of the Drow, by Elaine Cunningham

Sorry, got a hundred pages into it and just can’t be bothered. Unattractive characters and derivative world. If I was still roleplaying it would probably grab me a bit more effectively. But I’m not, so it doesn’t.

I do remember the AD&D mudule Vault of the Drow with great affection. But not in much detail….

Posted in Uncategorised

The Daleks

Over the last few weeks, an episode here and an episode there, I’ve been watching the first ever appearance of the Doctor’s ultimate foes, first broadcast in 1963-1964 in seven episodes. Great fun. I had of course read David Whitaker’s novelisation, roughtly 25 years ago. A few things that sprang to mind:

1) the settings were very convincing – the Dalek city (OK, we know with the eye of hindsight that it was a model shot), the sense that this was a big landscape with forest, swamp and caves.

2) Barbara’s romance with Ganatus – there is surely some fanfic dealing with that somewhere?

3) The devious Doctor, sabotaging the TARDIS deliberately to get a chance to explore the city.

4) The time travellers, despite Barbara’s relations with Ganatus, are all set to just bugger off and leave the Thals to their doom at the end of episode 4.

5) The end of episode 6 is indeed a literal cliff-hanger – with a brutal resolution

6) Terry Nation’s attack on pacifism. A lot more ideological than I remembered from the book.

7) The Daleks at the end talking about the total extermination of the Thals practically raise their plungers in Nazi salutes – sounds silly when I describe it but actually very effective.

8) the one bit that really didn’t work – the fight at the end; the time-travellers and Thals win too easily.

Anyhow, well worth it. I watched with the closed caption commentary, which to be honest was more annoying than helpful on the whole. Though it was interesting that the very day of the filming of the Doctor’s first encounter with the Daleks was 22 November 1963, the day before the first Doctor Who (recorded over a month before) was to be broadcast, and also the day of John F Kennedy’s assassination. (And of the deaths of C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley; but who remembers that?)

Posted in Uncategorised

Noted for reference

Walt Willis on Bob Shaw:

They reached a position of great wealth and influence during the famines of the 1840’s, attaining a prestige in Ireland comparable with that of the Campbells in Glencoe, and ranking second only to Cromwell in the esteem of the Irish people. Even today their name can occasionally be seen scrawled by simple peasants on the walls, coupled with a sincere, if somewhat crude, suggestion that the populace should demonstrate their love in a practical manner.

Also I obviously need to read some Garth Ennis – I caught Troubled Souls when it first came out but have completely missed his work since.

(Why yes, I am working on that article for and .)

Posted in Uncategorised


That was a bit disappointing.

I thought they got the 1950s atmosphere well, but didn’t think much of the rest.

Apart from anything else, we already know that in 1953 the entire population of London did not turn into faceless zombies, so the element of suspense was slightly lacking.

Posted in Uncategorised

Curse of Fatal Death

Just cheered myself up by watching The Curse of Fatal Death. As well as several fun elements of continuity (“All these corridors look the same!”) (the music at the end is surely the incidental music from the end of Logopolis) I thought I picked up on some foreshadowing of the (canonical) Ninth Doctor’s story arc. And some zany other bits (“I’ll tell you later”, even echoed by the Daleks).

I am a big fan of Julia Sawalha but did not recognise her at first. Her best line is “Result!” According to IMDB this is her only joint appearance with Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent or Jonathan Pryce. Richard E. Grant appeared in one episode of Absolutely Fabulous, and Joanna Lumley in, er, more.

Posted in Uncategorised

Bye bye weekend

I exaggerate a little. But not much.

Had been hoping for a nice long weekend – this being a Catlick country, yesterday was a day off for Ascension Thursday (apparently the Merrykins get Monday off for some secular holiday).

But a certain piece of work that I’d been hoping to get on Wednesday did not arrive until 7.30 this evening (of course was waiting for it all day); meanwhile the deadline at the other end got tightened up to, er, right now. So I’ve spent the last two and a half hours turning it round. And now it is turned around. So that’s OK.

And I have to give a speech on European citizenship tomorrow morning which will mean leaving the house before 8 am. This is not nice on a Saturday. (But thanks, , for your help. And , I will probably be raiding ideas from that book you left behind.)

The winner in all of this is my mother-in-law, who was anxious about getting to the airport in time for her early flight home. Under the circumstances, that will not be a problem.

Posted in Uncategorised

Fun correspondence

Emails received and sent this morning:

From: XX
Date: May 26, 2006 8:51 AM


From: Nicholas Whyte
To: XX
Date: May 26, 2006 9:47 AM

1) Please be more specific. What error in particular have you detected?



From: XX
To: Nicholas Whyte
Date: May 26, 2006 11:48 AM


From: Nicholas Whyte
To: XX
Date: May 26, 2006 12:06 PM

Thank you for your helpful comment.


Nicholas Whyte

My correspondent appears to be associated with the Free Presbyterian Church. Why is this not surprising?

Posted in Uncategorised

The Tiptree furore

It’s a crazy debate.

This was a longlist, not a shortlist, let alone an actual award. All it means is that one person thought the piece worthy of note. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t; I haven’t read it, and don’t especially intend to (and I believe it’s been taken down so I can’t now anyway), but I would bet that most readers would rate it as of higher quality than the worst stories on the Hugo or Nebula shortlists (let alone longlists). People make choices and sometimes other people disagree with them. There are many, many examples of stories and novels on the Hugo or Nebula long lists which are really bad; which fail to meet the criteria we would like to associate those awards with, in other words. Why should it be at all surprising that the Tiptree long list suffers from the same deficiency?

I don’t read fanfic myself but it is obviously a part of the genre and it is good to see, however grudgingly, the gatekeepers of the genre starting to acknowledge that.

Edited to add: OK, I’ve now read “Arcana”. It is slightly worse than the two Burstein stories on the Hugo short-list. It’s not that much worse (the Burstein stories also evoked my sub-editing instincts pretty forcefully). Its being unfinished should not really be an issue. To be honest I find Liz Henry’s defence largely convincing.

Posted in Uncategorised

BBC interview

Did a piece for BBC TV on Montenegro this morning. I understand likely times of broadcast are (in Europe only):

1430 Ireland/UK / 1530 Belgium, Saturday 27th, BBC World
1630 Ireland/UK / 1730 Belgium, Saturday 27th, BBC News 24
0930 Ireland/UK / 1030 Belgium, Sunday 28th, BBC World
1030 Ireland/UK, Monday 29th, BBC Parliament
Midnight, 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am and 5am, Tuesday 30th, BBC Parliament

Posted in Uncategorised

July 2006 Fantasy and Science Fiction

I don’t actually read many sf magazines. I am a subscriber to Interzone (which arrived yesterday) and occasionally pick up F&SF or Asimov’s or Analog if I see them in the bookshop (rare) and have the impulse. Finding time to get though them is difficult, and I tend to leave my short stories reading to a) the Nebula nominees (some of which are usually pretty dire), b) the Hugo nominees (fewer of which are usually dire) and c) the various Year’s Best compilations (which often seem to make better selections than the awards processes).

posted about Gordon Van Gelder’s offer of a free copy of the next issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction a couple of weeks ago – free, in return for a commitment to blog about it. (Incidentally I thought Van Gelder’s instructions were pretty clear – “email me, I send you the magazine, you blog about it” – and it is a bit depressing how many people misinterpreted the instructions). But I digress.

I don’t think I would have necessarily bought this issue on impulse if I had seen it in the shop. The cover art – an imagined landscape of one of the moons of Saturn – is striking, but I only really feel familiar with one of the six authors listed, Terry Bisson, and while sometimes I like his writing, sometimes I don’t. However I’m glad to have read it. As well as eight (not six) stories, it also includes Charles De Lint’s short reviews of three new books, James Sallis’ (entirely right-minded) rave review of Ian McDonald’s River of Gods, and a rambling, poorly written film column by Kathi Maio that turns out to be about Nanny McPhee while making some fair points about nannies on page and screen.There are also four one-frame cartoons, of which the only one worth reporting here has the tag line, “My client is a zombie, Mr. Davis. He’s not intimidated by threats of mind-numbing protracted litigation.” As I recall, both Asimov’s and Analog tend to have more non-fiction material, and it is usually better.

The quality of the fiction is, however, pretty good – up to the average for the Hugo nominees in the shorter categories, I would say, which makes me wonder what is wrong with the system. In brief, my thoughts on each story:

  • R Garcia y Robertson’s “Kansas, She Says, Is the Name of the Star” is a story of interplanetary sex slave traders, loosely structured around the plot of The Wizard of Oz
  • Steven Popkes’ “Holding Pattern” is a nearer-future story of international crime and cloning, which didn’t quite hold together for me.
  • Terry Bisson’s “Billy and the Unicorn” packs a nice amount of lyrical weirdness into only five pages.
  • I also liked Matthew Hughes’ “The Meaning of Luff”, which has some Resnick-style criminals in a decadent far-future Earth setting, and a wonderful gizmo called the “salience indicator”, which reveals your true purpose in life and therefore causes chaos and dismay to those who use it.
  • The longest story in the magazine is “The Lineaments of Gratified Desire”, by Ysabeau S. Wilce, a lushly described story of dynastic misbehaviour in a magical city which seems to include roughly equal meaasures of Byzantium, Regency London, and the sinister fantasy environment of your choice. I see this is the second story in this setting; I hope there will be more – Ms Wilce’s control of world-building from such disparate elements is impressive.
  • Robert Onopa’s “Republic” tells an old story of the astronauts who go to explore a planet and are fundamentally changed by it, with a couple of new riffs; done well enough but not spectacular.
  • I had the oddest feeling of deja lu with Jerry Seeger’s “Memory of a Thing that Never Was”, an obliquely told story of two veterans of a hidden war. Some great scenes, assembled out of sequence to good effect, but (even though it is such a short story) I felt he had run out of steam by the end.
  • Heather Lindsley’s “Just Do It” is a near-future tale of injectable mind-control: this dystopic situation is told for laughs, and it very nearly works – and probably will work for people who are bigger fans of, say, Connie Willis than I am. (For whatever reason, she and Seeger are not named on the front cover.)
So in general, I felt there were no actively bad stories here, and a couple which were very good. Next time I see F&SF in the bookshop, I will not just judge it by the cover but look inside to see what it has to offer: more by Garcia y Robertson, Hughes or Wilce would certainly tempt me to pull out the wallet.

Posted in Uncategorised

Not quite an anniversary…

…on 4 March 1801, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson completed their terms as, respectively, the second President and the second Vice-President of the United States of America. It was a good day for Jefferson, who (like only Adams before him and Martin Van Buren and George HW Bush after him) completed his term in the number two spot by moving up to the top and (unlike the other three) serving two full terms in the newly completed White House. It was a bad day for Adams, who fled Washington before dawn rather than take part in the festivities.

25 years and 43 days later, on 4 July 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, both Adams and Jefferson breathed their last, aged 90 and 83 respectively. Adams’ last words, according to some, were “Jefferson still lives!” (In fact he had died earlier in the day, but hundreds of miles to the south.)

On 20 January 1981, Jimmy Carter and Walter “Fritz” Mondale ended their terms as 39th President and 42nd Vice-President respectively. It was a bad day for both of them; to rub it in, the American hostages held in Iran for 444 days were released, to coincide with the inaguration of President Reagan and Vice-President Bush.

25 years and 43 days later is today, 22 May 2006. So, as of today, Carter has survived the presidency longer than Adams (and indeed longer than any other president except Herbert Hoover and his own predecessor, Gerald Ford) and Mondale has survived the vice-presidency longer than Jefferson, and indeed longer than any other living ex-VP apart from Ford (though there are a bunch of dead ones who he still has to beat – Martin Van Buren, Hannibal Hamlin, James Nance Garner, Levi P Morton, Harry Truman, John Adams, Aaron Burr and Richard Nixon).

Carter is now 81, and has had a pretty vigorous post-presidential career, including winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. Mondale, now 78, got the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, but was electorally crushed by Ronald Reagan, running for re-election. He served as US Ambassador to Japan under Clinton, and unexpectedly emerged to fight the Senate seat in Minnesota in 2002, losing narrowly.

I remember the November 1980 election fairly clearly – I felt for Carter, but Reagan won. I don’t especially remember the inauguration day itself, though I do remember the first space shuttle launch three months later – I bought my first radio to listen in at lunchtime (and then it was postponed for three days and happened at the weekend anyway).

What were you doing on 20 January 1981? I see that around a quarter of my friends list admits to having been born since then, so you’re excused. Anybody else have any memories to share?

Posted in Uncategorised

One more country for my list

Rumours are that Montenegro has voted in favour of independence, with 56.3% in favour on a turnout of around 90% – comfortably over the thresholds.

Interesting times…

(the only comment I have found on-line so far is in Basque!)

Posted in Uncategorised

New computer, new software

Well, I’m delighted with it so far – a Dell Dimension 8150, and I’ve been putting lots of CDs on it, and installing old and new software. Thanks for all your advice.

But I’ve been hit by an unexpected snag: what software to use for maintaining my websites? It’s a good five years since I seriously considered this question. I have been happily using Arachnphilia 4.0 for HTML mark-up, and an old version of WS_FTP for file transfer, but both seem to have been deprecated by their respective authors and you have to pay for the new ones (and I didn’t like tha later version of Arachnophilia I tried anyway). And I suppose there are probably better programs out there, if I could be bothered to look.

Any recommendations for a good HTML and FTP program, preferably free but if it’s really really good I am prepared to pay?

Edited to add: Well, a consensus rapidly developed (thanks, , and ) around Filezilla for FTP, and I’ve tried it and it works very well. Any thoughts about HTML editors? offers Stone’s Webwriter – any views?

Posted in Uncategorised

May Books 10) Moondust

10) Moondust, by Andrew Smith

After reading James Hansen’s biography of Neil Armstrong, I mused that “If I want to read about the wider meaning of his mission and of space exploration, I will have to look somewhere else. And I will.” While Andrew Chaikin’s A Man On The Moon was a perfectly decent narrative history, it didn’t really answer for me the key question, what did it all mean?

Moondust is superb. Smith tells the story of his efforts to track down the nine living men who have walked on the moon, presenting it as a chronological narrative, one by one, with contributory material from other interested parties (Reg Turnhill, Richard Gordon, Bill the dentist in Carson City, Charles Duke’s wife Dotty, etc). But he integrates also reflections on how it seemed at the time, what was going on in politics, how the Apollo program affected and was affected by the popular culture of the day.

He gets much more from the five surviving LM pilots than from the four surviving commanders. Alan Bean in particular comes across as the kind of guy you would like to know. Buzz Aldrin, given a chance to tell his side of the story, seems much more human than in Hansen’s biography of Armstrong. Armstrong himself proves elusive – two conversations at conferences, followed by a series of email exchanges. The most elusive of all is the disgraced David Scott, in hiding not so much because of the decades old “stamps affair” but because of his fling with British newsreader Anna Ford (which I had completely forgotten about).

I guess I found the book particularly appealing because Smith reflects several times that he is about the same age as the astronauts were when they carried out the moon landings. He is four years older than me, and wrote most of the book three to four years ago, so I felt a particular connection with him, and with them, while reading it. But I think it is written well enough to appeal even to people who are not approaching or just past their fortieth birthdays.

It would have been nice to have had some photographs, but Smith’s visual descriptions are so evocative that perhaps it’s not necessary, and anyway there is no shortage of pictures of the relevant individuals on the Web. An excellent book.

Posted in Uncategorised

Eurovision voting

Slovenia votes for Bosnia and Croatia
Andorra votes for Spain
Romania votes for Moldova and Russia
Denmark votes for Finland and Sweden
Latvia votes for Russia and Lithuania
Portugal votes, to their eternal credit, for Ukraine.
Sweden votes for Finland
Largely fits the latest research. You have more of a chance if you have lots of neighbours.

Further updates:
Finland votes for Russia
Belgium votes for Armenia (!!!)
Croatia votes for Bosnia, (Finland) and Macedonia
Serbia and Montenegro promises “the best” song next year. Likely that there will be two… They vote for Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia.
Norway votes for Finland and Sweden
Estonia votes for Finland, Russia, Lithuania
Ireland votes for Lithuania!!!

But I think Finland have a lock on it now.

Malta votes for Switzerland!!!
Lithuania votes for Russia, Finland and Latvia
Cyprus votes for Greece, of course

Israel, Malta and France still have no points

The Dutch vote for Turkey.

Finland are now 30 points in the lead, 148 to 118 for Russia. I reckon that’s it.

The Swiss voted for Bosnia.
Ukraine for Russia (“We couldn’t help it”, they said rather ominously)
Russia votes for Armenia, Ukraine and Finland
Poland votes for Finland, Russia and Lithuania
UK votes for Finland
Armenia votes for Russia and Ukraine
France votes for Turkey!!!
Belarus votes for Russia, Ukraine and Armenia.
Germany votes for Turkey.
Spain votes for Romania!!!
Moldova votes for Romania, Russia and Ukraine
Bosnia-Herzegovina votes for Croatia, Turkey and Macedonia
Iceland votes for Finland!
Monaco votes for Bosnia!
Israel votes for Russia
Albania votes for Bosnia
Greece votes for Finland!!!
Bulgaria votes for Greece and Russia
(I see Malta picked uip a point somewhere)
Macedonia votes for Bosnia and Croatia
Turkey votes for Bosnia, Armenia and Ukraine

Good on the voters of Portugal, Belgium, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain, Iceland, Monaco and Greece for not, in fact, voting for their immediate neighbours. (None of Israel’s immediate neighbours was actually in the contest.) Though in several cases (including also Israel) I suspect a diaspora influence. (Not, however, Ireland)

Well done to the voters in general for picking such an extraordinary looking winner, whose victorious performance was a bit more spirited.

And it’s also a little heart-warming to see ties of neighbourhood cut across historic conflict – Turkey put Armenia second, the Croats, Serbs and Bosnians giving each other votes.

Posted in Uncategorised


Started watching this just over halfway in, so here are my thoughts, updated as it went on:

14 – Lithuania – full marks for cheek! But apart from the joke, not a great song.
15 – UK – Dreadful. Out of tune, trying unsuccessfully to combine two different genres.
16 – Greece – pretty good – fully professional, giving it her all.
17 – Finland – looked fantastic, of course, in the genre sense of the word. But I had a strange feeling that their hearts weren’t in it.
18 – Ukraine – looked very nice, a full-hearted performance
19 – France – nice song, nice-looking singer, but teeth-gratingly flat on the high notes.
20 – Croatia – the (in)famous Severina, performing a song by Goran Bregovic – what could possibly go wrong? Yet something is definitely wrong. Why does the music sound more Irish than Balkan? Her costume is a disaster, and she doesn’t even seem to be enjoying it much.
21 – Ireland – Hah, I remember standing with 20,000 people listening to this guy and Van Morrison do the warmup act for President Clinton outside Belfast City Hall in 1994. He’s still pretty good. Not so clear what the backing singers were up to.
22 – Sweden – Crumbs, this is really good. Apart from the costume, which is very bad.
23 – Turkey – Very brave of them to sing in Turkish. But it looks fantastic. Much much better than it sounds.
24 – Armenia – Well, at least they were trying.

Well, I think I’ll cast my vote for the Ukrainian entry. Or the Swedes. Though I don’t know how I would go about doing that. Sorry to have missed the Moldovan, Norwegian and Maltese entries. Las Ketchup seem to have been terrible judging from the extract played at the end.

Posted in Uncategorised

Quote from The Leopard

Late that night the shutters on the balcony of the town hall were flung open and Don Calogero appeared…To the invisible crowd in the shadows below he announced that the plebiscite at Donnafugata had had the following results: Voters: 515; voting yes: 512; voting no: zero…

At this point calm descended on Don Fabrizio, who had finally solved the enigma; now he knew who had been killed at Donnafugata, at a hundred other places, in the course of that night of dirty wind: a new-born babe, good faith. Just the very child who should have been cared for most, whose strengthening would have justified all the silly vandalisms…Six months before they used to hear a rough despotic voice saying “Do what I say or you’re for it!” Now there was already an impression of such a threat being replaced by a money-lender’s soapy tones: “But you signed it yourself, didn’t you? Can’t you see? It’s quite clear. You must do as we say, for here are the IOUs. Your will is identical with mine.”

Posted in Uncategorised


Nice new computer, thanks to everyone for their good advice. Works beautifully (and yes, , it even runs GAIM).

Right, bedtime now.

Posted in Uncategorised