mcgillianaire: (Default)
(via [profile] jhall)

Create Your Own Visited Countries Map

28 countries which include Bahrain, Ireland, Netherlands, and Qatar where I didn't exit the airport and I know most people wouldn't count them, but I do so. :-P The closest I've been to the southern hemisphere is Singapore in the summer of 1989 (1.17N). And I've yet to hit up Latin America, Africa and Oceania.

Create Your Own Visited States Map

19 states + DC which includes Tennessee which I've just flown through and a couple that I've just driven through. I'll be spending a weekend in Nashville this month for a stag-do so I guess this list will be more *legit* than my countries visited.

Create Your Own Visited Provinces and Territories Map

Four years in Canada but just the three provinces visited. I'll be returning to Toronto (and Canada) for the first time in 11 years this September for a college mate's wedding.

Create Your Own Visited European Countries Map
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)
"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London.
No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford."

~ Samuel Johnson ~

On Thursday morning I fly to DC, drawing to a close over nine years in the UK. It seems fitting for such an occasion to delve into the memory bank and recollect how things have changed since I first moved here on a sunny May morning in 2007...

  • Tony Blair was still PM, Ming Campbell was Lib Dem leader and Ken Livingstone Mayor of London.
  • A woman had yet to serve as Britain's Home Secretary.
  • It was legal to smoke in pubs.
  • £1 was worth nearly $2.
  • Kate and Wills had just broken up.
  • Waterloo Station was still the Eurostar terminus.
  • Free newspapers thelondonpaper and London Lite were still in production and you had to pay for The Evening Standard.
  • Steve McClaren was England's football manager and the national team had yet to play at the new Wembley.
  • Portsmouth FC, now in the fourth tier, had just finished 9th in the Premier League.
  • Mourinho was Abramovich's only managerial appointment.
  • There was no equal prize money at Wimbledon between men and women.
  • The Digital Switchover had yet to begin.
  • Britain's Got Talent, Outnumbered, Would I Lie To You & Only Connect hadn't aired; Parkinson & Grange Hill were still on.
  • The iPhone hadn't been released yet.
  • Spain hadn't won a football World Cup or European Championships since 1964.
  • Pep Guardiola had yet to manage Barcelona and therefore hadn't won any of his 15 major trophies to date.
  • Djokovic had not won a Grand Slam yet, Nadal just 3 and there was only one British appearance in a final since 1977.
  • Myspace was the most popular social network, Twitter was just a year old (with fewer than 700,000 users) & Facebook had 20 million active users (it's now over a billion).
  • Justin Bieber hadn't been 'discovered' yet, Lady Gaga hadn't released her first album and Taylor Swift was still unheard of despite having released her first album.
  • Jennifer Lawrence had not acted in a film yet.
  • And finally, a little-known African American senator from Illinois had just announced his candidacy to the US presidency.

I hope I return to Blighty 21 months from now. I'm sure the time will fly. But my life has not quite gone according to plan until now, so who knows what the future holds. What I do know is that my lifelong love affair with The Great Wen and all things British will never diminish. So long Great Britain and its great people, thank you for all the wonderful memories.

Signing out for the last time on this side of the pond (for now), this is That Bloke in the Big Smoke.


Aug. 28th, 2013 09:35 pm
mcgillianaire: (Bedouin in Desert)
Well done Labour, if indeed they were instrumental in securing two votes in the Commons. The second is the crucial one on military action, but it won't take place until the on-site UN weapons inspectors have reported back their findings. My views on Syria are still fairly fluid given the complex nature of the conflict, however if chemical weapons have been used (regardless of whether it was the government or the rebels), then I think I would support a limited air strike, merely to dissuade either party from engaging in that type of attack again. But only on one mandatory condition, that we had UN (and possibly even Arab League) support, just as we did with Libya. Surely that's the most important lesson to draw from the Iraq War fiasco. I don't think we should (ever) engage ground troops or take sides in this conflict because I think they're as bad as each other. If the rebels were to come to power, I'm fairly confident they would wipe out the Alawite community, to which Bashar Assad belongs. Sad as it is to digest, pre-Arab Spring, Assad, like Saddam Hussein before him, had largely maintained the peace (albeit fragile) between the various communities. Both belong to minorities, just as the Sunni rulers do in Shiite majority Bahrain. I suspect the best solution for Syria, would be to broker a deal between the warring factions, with the support of Russia. The last thing we need is to meddle in another regional conflict that is essentially a Greater Game being contested between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. Yet I suspect between Iran's sabre-rattling over Israel, the Anglo-American Jewish lobbies, Iran's nuclear enrichment, and rising oil prices, my advice will eventually be ignored.
mcgillianaire: (South Park Me)

All you need to know is that this guy's a candidate for the 2012 U.S. Republican Party presidential nomination.
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
I thought the best way to commemorate this occasion would be to share an excerpt from my favourite speech by the Father of the Nation. It was delivered on 18 March 1922 at Ahmedabad Sessions Court where Gandhi pleaded guilty to the charge of “bringing or attempting to excite disaffection towards His Majesty’s Government", an offence punishable under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. The offence arose from three articles written by Gandhi in his weekly journal Young India. The speech formed part of Gandhi's oral and written statement to the court on the question of sentence. Gandhi represented himself but it mattered little as he did not seek to defend himself against the charges. For those of you who have seen Richard Attenborough's Oscar winning movie, Gandhi, starring Ben Kingsley as the Mahatma, you may recall a truncated though moving court scene in which the presiding judge (an Englishman) imposes the maximum penalty of six years for sedition, with the caveat that if at some future date His Majesty's Government saw fit to reduce the term, "no one would be better pleased than I". Gandhi's greatness lay in the fact that he submitted to the full force of English law while pursuing his fight for independence by preaching nothing but non-violence and non-cooperation. As Albert Einstein once said, "Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth."
    "Section 124 A, under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence. But the section under which mere promotion of disaffection is a crime. I have studied some of the cases tried under it; I know that some of the most loved of India’s patriots have been convicted under it. I consider it a privilege, therefore, to be charged under that section. I have endeavored to give in their briefest outline the reasons for my disaffection. I have no personal ill-will against any single administrator, much less can I have any disaffection towards the King’s person. But I hold it to be a virtue to be disaffected towards a Government which in its totality has done more harm to India than any previous system. India is less manly under the British rule than she ever was before. Holding such a belief, I consider it to be a sin to have affection for the system. And it has been a precious privilege for me to be able to write what I have in the various articles tendered in evidence against me.

    In fact, I believe that I have rendered a service to India and England by showing in non-co-operation the way out of the unnatural state in which both are living. In my opinion, non-co-operation with evil is as much a duty as is co-operation with good. But in the past, non-co-operation has been deliberately expressed in violence to the evil-doer. I am endeavoring to show to my countrymen that violent non-co-operation only multiples evil, and that as evil can only be sustained by violence, withdrawal of support of evil requires complete abstention from violence. Non-violence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-co-operation with evil. I am here, therefore, to invite and submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is deliberate crime, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen. The only course open to you, the Judge and the assessors, is either to resign your posts and thus dissociate yourselves from evil, if you feel that the law you are called upon to administer is an evil, and that in reality I am innocent, or to inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this country, and that my activity is, therefore, injurious to the common weal." (Source)
I think one can draw parallels between Gandhi and America's Founding Fathers, both of whom held a deep reverence for English common law, yet felt successive English governments had abused the principles upon which the English constitution was based, to a point beyond repair both in America and in India. Indeed until the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, Gandhi accepted British rule in India. But the sequence of events leading up to the massacre convinced him, like similar events in America in the 18th century, that India would be better-off without the British. Independence arrived nearly thirty years later. Less than six months later Bapu died. I leave you with the words of American journalist, Edward R Murrow, "Mahatma Gandhi was not a commander of great armies nor ruler of vast lands. He could boast no scientific achievements or artistic gift. [He] died as he had always lived - a private man without wealth, without property, without official title or office."
mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
"The ISI has been working for supporting proxies for an extended period of time. It's a strategy in the country and I think that strategic approach has to shift in the future." -Admiral Mike Mullen, America's outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman (Link)

India's been saying exactly that for decades but it fell on deaf ears. Now that America is facing the brunt of Pakistani foreign policy hypocrisy and double-standards in Afghanistan, the global media networks are lapping it up. Well, we told you so!
mcgillianaire: (Ari G)
From Wikipedia:
    "Fanta originated when ingredients for the production of Coca-Cola became difficult to import into Germany during World War II. As a result, Max Keith, the man in charge of Coca-Cola Deutschland during the Second World War, decided to create a new product for the German market, using only ingredients available in Germany at the time, including whey and pomace – the "leftovers of leftovers", as Keith later recalled. The name was the result of a brief brainstorming session, which started with Keith exhorting his team to "use their imagination" ("Fantasie" in German), to which one of his salesmen, Joe Knipp, immediately retorted "Fanta!"
(via Dan Snow's History Fact Twitter)
mcgillianaire: (Hooka Pipe)
"My friend, take care. When you recognize the concept of “Palestine,” you demolish your right to live in Ein Hahoresh. If this is Palestine and not the land of Israel, then you are conquerors and not tillers of the land. You are invaders. If this is Palestine, then it belongs to a people who lived here before you came."
~ Menachem Begin, former Israeli PM in 1969 at a conference in the Israeli kibbutz of Ein Hahoresh ~ (Source)
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
When copyrights were first created in 1709, it protected creative works for 14 years with the option to extend that by another 14 if the author was still alive. Over time the length of the copyright period was extended to: 42 years in 1842, or the life of the author plus seven years; to 50 years in 1911 and to life plus 70 years in 1996 for a "literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work", while sound recordings were protected for 50 years. That was until two days ago when the European Commission extended the copyright term on sound recordings from 50 to 70 years. Such extensions are bad for innovation. The legal safeguards were introduced to offer an incentive to create, but instead the current regime makes a mockery of that original purpose by working as an active disincentive. Indeed, a copyright period that extends beyond the life of the author is clearly not an incentive to create, it's a mechanism for publishers and record companies to boost revenues, often long after the author has died. In many cases, the publishers and record companies are merely the latest owners of the author's copyright, having invested nothing into the creative process that went into the work in the first place. Yet thanks to their deep pockets and our ridiculous copyright law regime, they're able to stifle creative innovation. For example, in America it's well known that copyright extensions have tended to happen whenever Disney is about to lose the exclusive rights to Mickey Mouse. And the way things are going it's not hard to imagine that eventually, the most powerful publishers and record companies will extend copyright periods to an indefinite limit until they last forever. It's not too late to join the fight against it!
mcgillianaire: (Football player)
I became aware of this a few years ago but most people still think it is. I was reminded of it while watching the latest edition of the newly-instituted, web-only Match of the Day 3 programme on Monday mornings, which featured as its guest the British-based American goalkeeper, Brad Friedel. Neither he nor Lee Dixon (a regular analyst and former England international) were aware of soccer's true origins. Therefore I reckon it's important to spread the word across the length and breadth of this country and beyond. Many Britons (and I've noticed it's not just those who follow the sport!) are quick to dismiss any use of the term soccer as an Americanism, as though it were a dirty word. But as Wikipedia amply demonstrates, this misnomer couldn't be further from the truth. Soccer is well and truly British. In fact it was widely used by the mainstream media until at least the 1970s, but quite what happened after that is somewhat of a mystery. Although interestingly enough, according to the Hansard archives, the use of the term soccer by MPs has increased in recent decades (even as football remains the most popular term in Parliament, the media and certainly amongst the hoi polloi)!

EDIT: It's worth pointing out that according to Hansard, the earliest mention of football in Parliament was in 1824, while the earliest mention of soccer (and rugger) was in 1927.

(Note: Even if you don't like MotD or football in general, that programme is worth watching alone for what is possibly the "best" own goal ever scored... by who else but Lee Dixon himself!)
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)

Unlike a criminal case, the American courts will only have to prove on a balance of probabilities that the former Secretary of Defense authorised the "enhanced interrogation techniques" against the two plaintiffs. As disappointing the facts of the case are in terms of the poor light it paints the United States, I hope the plaintiffs win their case against Mr Rumsfeld. I hated the bastard when he was in government and he deserves to pay in some way for the crimes he perpetrated while in office. A precedent needs to be set to encourage others to follow suit. You can read more about the case here.
mcgillianaire: (South Park Me)
It seems like I missed the news while my dad and sis were in town last week. Since last Thursday, my favourite music client has opened for business in the world's biggest economic market. This is exciting news but it will be tough for it to make headway against a handful of established competitors, in contrast with its popularity in Europe where it functioned virtually unopposed. Still, it's worth checking out so if you need an invite ask away!

In the process of discovering the news above I also managed to unearth half a dozen websites that can simply be described as enhancing the Spotify experience. They complement the Spotimy link I found a few weeks ago so well, I can't believe I went so long without uncovering any of them earlier. Whether it's finding out what new albums have been uploaded or watching your playlists as YouTube videos, there's something for everybody.

01. Spotify Blog - The official companion to the music client.
02. Spotimy - Essentially a list of all the albums released week-by-week, but with much more.
03. The Pansentient League - The best independent blog about Spotify. Be sure to check out Part I, II and III of Spotify Top Ten Tips. So many good ones I didn't know before!
04. Spotibot - "Spotibot uses the listening habits of millions of people to help you find your new favourites. Simply enter the name of a band you already like" and it does the rest. And it's integrated with!
05. spotiseek - Another site that helps you find new music by creating a mixtape by typing the name of an artist you like.
06. spofm - A mashup that uses your username to "fetch new releases added to Spotify"
07. SpNotify - An unofficial (email) notification service for artists you like.
08. Utubify - Watch your playlist in motion on YouTube. I love this link!
09. Spotify Classical Playlists Blog - Just like it says on the tin. For classical music buffs.
10. SpotiDJ - Spotify songs on Twitter
mcgillianaire: (Default)

I'm not Piers Morgan's biggest fan but smug little Louise Mensch MP (nee Bagshawe) should've apologised for abusing parliamentary privilege. Mixing Tory good looks with a sexy intellect, she's the ultimate femme fatale.

Ironic that I shared this video just a couple days ago...
mcgillianaire: (Lock Stock Still-frame)

Foster the People is an indie pop band from California. This track is probably their best known song and was originally released in 2010 but I discovered it on Spotify only recently. It's catchy. [Link to album on Spotify]
mcgillianaire: (Default)
A Nigerian-American man was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport last Wednesday because he was allegedly attempting to travel with a boarding pass that was "issued in another person's name and for a flight that had departed a day earlier." Worryingly for you and me, this was apparently not the first time he had travelled this way with his most recent such trip earlier in the week. But on Wednesday he forgot to take a shower.

There's some fascinating additional stuff in a blog post by Gulliver on The Economist. It includes an explanation given by security guru Bruce Schneier in 2008 about how a terrorist might exploit loopholes in airport security:
    "To slip through the only check against the no-fly list, the terrorist uses a stolen credit card to buy a ticket under a fake name. "Then you print a fake boarding pass with your real name on it and go to the airport. You give your real ID, and the fake boarding pass with your real name on it, to security. They’re checking the documents against each other. They’re not checking your name against the no-fly list—that was done on the airline's computers. Once you're through security, you rip up the fake boarding pass, and use the real boarding pass that has the name from the stolen credit card. Then you board the plane, because they’re not checking your name against your ID at boarding."
Fills you with confidence, innit?
mcgillianaire: (Lock Stock Still-frame)

I've recently acquired a taste for Bloody Marys to recover from a night of heaving drinking but I was sober when I had this one. It was on an US Airways flight from Detroit to Washington DC. [26 May 2011]

20 More Hungry Pics )
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)

You can click on the image for a bigger view. [Taken Sat 28 May 2011]

As taken from Brown University's website:
    "The Baccalaureate Service, with roots in medieval academic tradition, honors the achievements of the candidates for the bachelor’s (“bacca”) degree by presenting them with the laurels (“lauri”) of oration. Brown’s baccalaureate tradition derives from the immense range of religious, ethnic, geographic, linguistic, and musical traditions present within the campus community. The ceremony includes rituals, readings, and prayers from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and animist traditions, as well as choral and instrumental music, the Chinese lion dance, poetry, dance, and Taiko and Senegalese drumming.

    The service is conducted in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America, completed in 1775 “for the Publick Worship of Almighty God, and also for holding Commencement in.” Significant portions of the University’s Commencement ceremonies have been held in the church ever since."

As family we witnessed the ceremony from College Green on the main campus. It took place at the same time as the European Cup Final between Barcelona & Man United, but I chose to stay until the end of the Baccalaureate address that was delivered by Kenneth Roth, a 1977 Brown graduate and human-rights crusader. He has been the executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993 and he spoke about "Finding Your Way When There Are No Rules" by "explaining what human rights' work and the Arab Spring say about making one's way in the world." Even though all the goals had been scored by the time I left, the talk was worth it.


mcgillianaire: (Default)

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