Thursday, September 29, 2005


heckler ejected

So farewell then, free speech. If an 82-year-old man who is clearly not a security threat cannot heckle a speech at a party political conference without being manhandled out of the hall by huge bouncers, then it is clearly a death-knell for free speech, especially when he is subsequently held by the police under the new anti-terrorism legislation.

...the prominent anti-war campaigner Alice Mahon also witnessed the incident.

She said: "We were listening to Jack talking about Iraq. This gentleman shouted 'That's rubbish, that's a lie'.

"Two or three of the security people dived on him. This other chap a couple of rows in front turned round and said 'You must be joking', because this was simple political heckling. He wasn't threatening anybody.

"He got manhandled out as well. I think they were really over the top." [BBC article]

See also: Guardian article

Just did a quick search on Walter Wolfgang (the heckler) - he is a veteran campaigner for Labour CND and a member of the Stop the War Coalition Steering Committee, and widely respected for it. So it's hardly surprising that he should have strong feelings about what Jack Straw was saying about Iraq.

sham 24/7

Can it be right that politicians can hijack music for their own ends? It is a rather dubious honour for any musician to have their cherished composition used to bolster the fast-fading image of Tony Blair. His latest attempt to harness the power of popular culture, in using Sham 69's If The Kids Are United seems especially cheesy given the divisive and repressive tactics he is using to promote his neo-conservative agenda. As a left-wing stalwart quipped, "More like sham 24/7."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Big Brother ID cards for what reason?

Good comments by Phil on the security of the national ID cards database issue. Why would it provide more security for us to have ID cards? If all our records are gathered into one place, they will be more easily hacked into by criminals, and it will be easier for terrorists to steal others' identities. (The biometric data is not very reliable.) OK, so at the moment the Government can find out what people are involved in by looking at the various data they hold on them, and probably by searching on the internet to see what forums etc they are involved in. But with this new system, all the data will be in one place - and it will probably be massively inaccurate.

I've just been introduced to, a great tool for bookmarking things and accessing them from anywhere. No longer are your bookmarks exclusive to one browser on one PC - they are saved on the web, and also you can share them with others. Cool. My account is yewtree.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Trade Justice Campaign

The Co-operative Bank : Trade Justice Campaign: there's nothing free about free trade. Vote now for Trade Justice instead.

weekend in Cornwall

Nick and I went for a romantic weekend to Cornwall, which was lovely except I felt really ill on the first evening, and then the car broke down on the way back, so we did the last 70 miles in a recovery truck! But lots of lovely people tried to help us restart the car; Joe at the Arthurian Centre gave us a jump-start, and the kind ladies at Knightshayes came out and pushed the car, as did some of the visitors in the car park. Knightshayes is a very interesting house; I love the Burges décor, especially the reconstructed room with the bird paintings, and the ornate cupboard in the Great Hall.

On the way down we also visited Killerton, which was great except for the costume exhibition which was difficult to follow because the exhibits were numbered instead of labelled, so each time you wanted to find out what something was, you had to refer to a separate list and by that time you had forgotten what number it was. This is especially bad for people who are both long- and short-sighted (another lady who was looking at the exhibition had this problem) and people with dyslexia. I find it tiring even though I don't have either of these issues.

But we went to Boscastle - the Witchcraft Museum was as splendid as before the flood and we saw Gerald Gardner's hat and sword. Also bought two books about the Cochrane tradition, very interesting. Ended up reading half of the first one while waiting for the recovery truck.

We did lots of walking by the sea and admiring the waves crashing, and ate very nice food in the Manor House in Boscastle and the Old Malthouse Inn in Tintagel. We stayed in the Riverside Hotel, which has a very high standard of rooms, and delicious and massive breakfasts. They also do carveries, but unfortunately I was still feeling a bit delicate when this was on offer.

On Saturday we did a big walk round Boscastle, up to the headland and Forrabury Stitches (a common with medieval strip-fields), then into Boscastle Church, across to Minster Wood, and back down to the car-park. In Minster Wood there was an island where people had built little stacks of stone. The devastation wreaked by the flood of 16th August 2004 was still apparent though, lots of debris up against the trees, and the banks ripped up. We also saw a lovely green man sculpture in the woods there. The village itself is pretty much back to normal and open for business - only the Youth Hostel, the Harbour Light shop, and Things have not yet re-opened (not that I was planning on going into Harbour Light anyway!)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

fiction forum

send gumboots: a collaborative fiction forum

After a discussion with Balador & Meadicus, we decided to create a collaborative fiction forum. It also has a slot for people to post scifaiku (science fiction haiku).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

condensed milk and honey

100-minute Bible launched

I'm not sure what to think about this. The Bible (especially the King James version with its sonorous poetry) is - or used to be - part of our culture. OK, so I haven't read Leviticus or some of the obscurer prophets, and I skipped all the lists of who begat whom, but I have read most of the rest of it, and even though I am a Pagan, I still think it is part of our culture. It inspired loads of art and music, the legal system is based on it, and so on. Apparently a huge percentage of young people have no idea what happened at Easter. Actually I remember when I was at school, there was a Jewish girl in my class, and neither she nor the rest of the class had any idea what was the main doctrinal difference between Judaism and Christianity. (I did.)

I think people should be aware of the beliefs of the world's religions, at least in outline. Hmm, must get around to reading the Koran and the Guru Granth Sahib etc. I have read the Tao Te Ching (highly recommended). I suppose the 100-minute Bible will give people an idea of what Christianity is about, but it removes the poetry and the diversity of styles found in the original - which, whatever you think of the content, is a great work of English literature. And more credit should be given to William Tyndale's version, as much of the text of the King James Version is based on it. And look at all the everyday phrases people use which come from the Bible - "land of milk and honey", "the meek shall inherit the earth" and so on. AS Byatt wrote a short story about this, bemoaning the loss of these phrases from our speech. The one I particularly remember her quoting was "Here is the butter in a lordly dish" - apparently from the story of Jael, who killed her husband with a tent-spike (after bringing him the butter in a lordly dish). There's also a painting of Jael in the Russell-Cotes Museum in Bournemouth.

I also wish people were more aware of what Paganisms are about, especially the philosophical aspects. It makes my brain hurt sometimes having conversations about theology with people who just don't get my worldview. I encountered a refreshing change recently on a train, in the person of a Muslim chap, who was very well-informed. However, we ended up talking about Islam and how it is widely misinterpreted - but then that is always a hot topic.

that's cheating

So that's how she stays so thin!

Friday, September 16, 2005


Guardian Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson

Worth a read, though bizarrely the interviewer claims that Robinson's books are all set in America - so they haven't read Years of Rice and Salt, then?

Robinson's latest book is about a flood overwhelming a large American city - that was particularly prescient of him.

scary things

Things I really should get my head around...
  • Inner and outer joins in databases
  • Programming (working on this one)
  • PhotoShop
I once went to an interview where I was asked the difference between inner and outer joins in SQL. Er.... dunno. The scariest thing was that the person who asked me this bore an uncanny resemblance to Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen. Don't try to explain it to me (the inner and outer joins, not the uncanny resemblance).

ethnic cleansing

More evidence of the mass extermination of eastern Germans:

The Open Wound by Samuel D Sinner
The Expulsion by Erik Edelstamm

There should be a memorial for these people. OK, so some of them had settled in Eastern Europe on the basis of Hitler's Lebensraum policy; but many of them had been there since the Austro-Hungarian Empire and even the Middle Ages. East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia had been German areas since the 13th century. There is official denial that this even happened, but there are eyewitness accounts and documents.

Apparently it's not politically correct to mention this particular genocide, as it's often used as an argument by neo-Nazi revisionists and deniers of the Holocaust. However, the way I see it is, genocide is genocide is genocide. Just because these people happened to be Germans, doesn't mean they were worth less than other people. Most of them were civilians - farmers and artisans.

There needs to be a process like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, which dealt with both black and white people who had committed murder during the apartheid era, even though the apartheid system was set up by whites. The Czechs have apologised and put up a memorial in 1990, but the rest of Eastern Europe has yet to follow suit. Haven't they heard of the saying "Two wrongs don't make a right"?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

bums on pews

By their adverts shall ye know them... (BBC)

I quite liked the Che Guevara version of Jesus, it was a lot cooler than most of the adverts (usually involving really bad puns) that you see outside churches.

However, the problem with a lot of church services is that they simply do not provide genuine spiritual experiences, which is why so many people are looking for alternatives.


take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints

I personally think that roadside shrines are pretty tacky and unnecessary - except perhaps where they remind you to drive more slowly - but the idea of having plaques and other items on mountains just seems completely over-the-top. People go to the wilderness to enjoy the beautiful unspoilt scenery, not to be intruded upon by other people's grief. When I die I'll settle for a green burial in one of these woodland burial grounds; I wouldn't want some plaque or shrine to spoil other people's enjoyment of mountains. I'm glad to see that 100% of the comments on this BBC article were against the idea of placing memorials on mountains.

In Alexandria, a certain Thompson from Sunderland has inscribed his name in letters six feet high on Pompey's Pillar. You can read it a quarter of a mile away. You can't see the Pillar without seeing the name of Thompson, and consequently, without thinking of Thompson. This cretin has become part of the monument and perpetuates himself along with it. What am I saying? He overwhelms it by the splendour of his gigantic lettering... All imbeciles are more or less Thompsons from Sunderland. How many one comes across in life in the most beautiful places and in front of the finest views.

Gustave Flaubert, quoted in Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel.

I think that Flaubert has perfectly summed up the distastefulness of leaving one's mark on the wilderness. Fortunately there seems to be now no sign of the imbecile Thompson upon Pompey's Pillar.


Ditch Holocaust day, advisers urge Blair - Sunday Times

This is an awkward issue. Of course we should remember the Jewish victims of the Holocaust - but we should also remember the gypsies, the gays, the Communists and other political prisoners, the mentally ill, the people with learning disabilities, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and (allegedly) the Pagans who were killed in the Holocaust.

And we should remember all the people who died in Rwanda, and Cambodia, and Serbia, the desaparecidos in South America, the victims of Stalin, the dead of the Cultural Revolution and Tibet, and so on. And the millions of Germans in Eastern Europe who were massacred after World War Two.

So maybe it would be better to change the name of the day to Genocide Day - or alternatively add another day immediately after Holocaust Day to remember other victims of genocide. And make sure that the other victims of the Holocaust are also remembered on Holocaust Day. Let's not forget that the gypsies in the extermination camps were completely wiped out in 1942.

My initial response to the Sunday Times article was that this was political correctness gone mad - but then I remembered that some Jewish Holocaust remembrance marches exclude gays from participating, and I began to feel differently.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

always listen to teacher

Award for tsunami warning pupil - smart kid.

Just goes to show that listening to stuff you are taught in school can be genuinely worthwhile. (Spotted by Karen Traviss)

naming hurricanes

Naming Hurricanes (BBC)

I like the idea of naming hurricanes after politicians that you don't like - how about "Hurricane Dubya" or "Hurricane Tony"?

pas mort

Plans afoot to rebuild New Orleans: Plans are being drawn up to retain historic areas of the city while rebuilding residential areas on higher ground and regenerating old wetlands to reduce the risk of future flooding.

"We need to be very careful about rebuilding very low areas of the coast. Nature has told us that we should not be living there." Larry Schmidt, Louisiana director of the Trust for Public Land

It appears that reports of the death of New Orleans are exaggerated - in fact the French Quarter (the historic bit of the city) was not flooded. It was only the bits that were built in the 20th century, when people were overconfident with the use of flood barriers and so on.

You can also now make a donation to various appeals.

Friday, September 09, 2005


"Leading Canadian artist, Barb Hunt, presents her first solo exhibition in the UK. Barb is interested in the rituals that surround death and mourning. Here 'rescued' flowers cascade down the gallery walls in a site-specific work that is a response to rituals in Newfoundland."

I was walking through the ArtSpace at lunchtime when I saw the artist sticking flowers on the gallery wall, so I asked her about it, and she explained that she has gathered artificial flowers from the edge of cemeteries (where they have fallen off people's bouquets) and made them into the artwork.

At last, some concept art that I can relate to!

It looks as if a lot of her work involves ritual - I did a quick Google to look at her previous stuff:

· Anti-personnel
· Dark Cloth


News - Q&A: Identity cards
BBC News looks at how the government's identity cards scheme would work

Action Network - ID cards
An article outlining the arguments for and against ID cards, the latest policy developments and how to get involved

Cards 'not answer to theft of ID'
A study claims that identity cards may not solve the problem of ID fraud.

Criminals to 'adapt to ID cards'
The UK government's proposed ID scheme will do little to stop identity theft and fraud, studies on criminals suggest.

'Health underclass' ID card fear
Identity cards could create a "health underclass", warn the Lib Dems as opposition to the scheme is renewed.

Labour admits ID card 'oversell'
A Home Office minister admits the government "oversold" the advantages of national identity cards.

Youth MPs ready for city debate
ID cards will be among issues debated at the annual sitting of the UK Youth Parliament.

ID cards 'wouldn't stop attacks'
ID cards might help counter terror but would not have stopped the London bombs, the home secretary says.

does size matter?

'Proof' our brains are evolving

Apparently two new genes have been found which are linked to brain size. One emerged about 50,000 years ago, and the other about 5,800 years ago. Their appearances coincide with major cultural shifts - allegedly - though such things would be hard to date.

I don't like the idea that everything is genetically determined. For a start, there must be some interaction with the environment, the social and cultural context, and so on. Which came first, the gene or the need for it? And does brain size actually matter? What about the complexity of the cortical folds?

sweet spot

Planet Earth and Titan moon occupy 'sweet spots'
Earth from space, Nasa
Many processes that occur on Earth also take place on Titan

Interesting that you have to have just the right combination of distance from the Sun, size of the planet, and chemical interactions for there to be the sort of geological processes we get on Earth. Apparently both the planet Earth and Saturn's moon Titan occupy a 'sweet spot' which gives them similar geological processes.


I've just been sent this - excellent!

Go to, type in 'failure'and hit the 'I'm Feeling
Lucky' button.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

daft cat

Harry in the sink - what is it about cats and sinks? Is it the cool porcelain, the basket shape, what?

Monday, September 05, 2005


...but I have to share him with 325 others :(

What SF writer will you marry?
The only one for you is Neil Gaiman.

(brought to you by Quizilla)

cultural diversity

TIME Europe Magazine: Europe's Lost Tribes
A recognition of cultural diversity — rather than an attempt to crush it — can stop a sense of identity spinning out of control into violent separatist campaigns.

Let's hear it for the Basques, Cornish, Bretons, Sorbs, Veps, Roma, Rusyn, Welsh, Picts, and other forgotten minorities.

cats in sinks

The Blog of Balador: Cats in sinks. Aww cute. Must find my picture of Harry in the sink.

yay - I am Gandalf

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

A wandering spirit caring for a multitude of just concerns, you are an instrumental power in many of the causes around you.

And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet, unless you are brought alive before the seat of the Dark Lord.


Here's how I scored on the belief-o-matic "What religion are you?" test:

1. Neo-Pagan (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (98%)
3. Liberal Quakers (86%)
4. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (86%)
5. Mahayana Buddhism (82%)
6. New Age (80%)
7. Secular Humanism (77%)
8. Theravada Buddhism (68%)
9. Taoism (61%)
10. New Thought (60%)
11. Reform Judaism (59%)
12. Baha'i Faith (57%)
13. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (56%)
14. Jainism (56%)
15. Scientology (51%)
16. Orthodox Quaker (51%)
17. Nontheist (49%)
18. Hinduism (47%)
19. Sikhism (45%)
20. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (44%)
21. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (37%)
22. Orthodox Judaism (30%)
23. Jehovah's Witness (29%)
24. Islam (23%)
25. Seventh Day Adventist (20%)
26. Eastern Orthodox (14%)
27. Roman Catholic (14%)

Interesting, though I don't quite see the match with "Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants" - they must be very liberal indeed if they believe 86% the same as me!

Friday, September 02, 2005

random grooviness

I love the "next blog" button on the Blogger toolbar - it can take you to some really weird places. Today I found The Nuthatch (a blog about working in a psychiatric hospital), Victory Gin (strange news stories), Raed-in-the-Middle (caught between east and west and linked from Victory Gin), Comment-dit-on (random well-written musings, a bit like Nemeton), and Nighthawks (a night photography site, linked from Comment-dit-on). The other day I found Steve Shakespeare's blog, the musings of a radical liberal Christian, and from there John Davies (liberal Christian and fan of Current 93, quite an interesting combination; also has an intriguing article, "Towards an urban theology of land").

postcards from history

Vindolanda Tablets Online: "The Vindolanda writing tablets, written in ink on post-card sized sheets of wood, have been excavated at the fort of Vindolanda, immediately south of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. Dating to the the late first and early second centuries AD, the formative period of Roman Britain’s northern frontier, they were written by and for soldiers, merchants, women and slaves. Through their contents, life in one community on the edge of the Roman world can be reconstructed in detail."

What a fabulous website - loads of background information, the actual text and images of the Vindolanda tablets, and a nice usable interface. Cool.

diversity is strength

Whether or not one supports the principle of multiculturalism depends on how one defines it.

If it is tantamount to the doctrine of "separate but equal" espoused by segregationists in America, then it is doomed. If it means lumping people together in monolithic cultural categories which are seen as fixed identities, then it is doomed.

However, I do not believe that multiculturalism should mean either of these things. It should mean an awareness that we all have multiple identities and allegiances, which vary according to context. I am English, yes, but I primarily see myself as a European (in the sense that I identify with the inclusive and cosmopolitan values of Europe). I am also a Pagan, so I do not subscribe to the idea that British or European culture should be founded on Christian values (except where those are also universal humane values).

One of the many reasons that I welcome diversity in Britain is that, even ten years ago, it was very difficult to be openly Pagan, as many people assumed that it meant you were a devil-worshipper and/or a child abuser. One of the benefits of multiculturalism has been an increased recognition of the legitimacy of Pagan beliefs. Another reason is the massive improvement in our cuisine that has been brought about by the presence of other cultures.

Britain has always been diverse, ever since Roman times, when Hadrian's Wall alone had legions from Spain, Gaul, Germany, the lands along the Danube, Asia Minor, Syria and North Africa. ( Retired legionaries also settled in Britain. All these cultures lived happily side by side.

It is ironic that those who shout loudest about British culture being tolerant and inclusive are also the ones who vilify the supposed intolerance of Islamic culture - without bothering to look at the reality of what Islamic culture is actually like. The admittedly small sample of Muslims with whom I have discussed religion have turned out to be much better-informed about and well-disposed towards Paganism than many Christians I have encountered.

We need to focus on the shared values which underlie all our different cultures, whilst celebrating the diversity of customs and traditions. The reason that Britain has become more violent is because of the erosion of a sense of community and the social and economic alienation of many groups (not just extremists among the Muslim community, but other groups which have resorted to violence, such as racists and animal rights activists). This social and economic alienation is a direct result of the erosion of traditional economic infrastructure, such as the mines and factories. It is nothing to do with multiculturalism.

Integration is a two-way process, and requires both an inclusive attitude on the part of the majority and a willingness to be included on the part of the minority. However, one of the main difficulties in the way of Muslim integration is that British socialising revolves around alcohol, and alcohol is forbidden in Islam. If we are going to engage in dialogue, maybe we need to revive the coffee shop as a place to hang out.

Diversity is strength, monocultures are economically and biologically weak. A monoculture is slow to adapt and its homogeneity means it has no resources to cope with new threats and opportunities.

the 'mad' pile

"Dear Mr Pa" was Downing Street's response to Tony Blair's proud father when he wrote to congratulate his son on becoming prime minister.

D'oh! Severe public relations error...

clover game

Green found this, which is weird but oddly relaxing as long as you don't get emotionally attached to finding the four-leaf clover... I like the way the clover ripples.

academic silly season?

Row erupts over dyslexia 'denial'

Is there some sort of academic silly season going on? I think we should be told. First they claim that men are more intelligent than women, now an academic from Durham has claimed that dyslexia is an 'emotional construct'. Words fail me....

If he was saying that the various conditions which are collected under the heading of dyslexia are separate and should be given separate names, that would be OK but potentially confusing. However, he appears to be saying that the whole thing is indistinguishable from "other poor readers".

The underlying problem that causes dyslexia seems to be an inability to hold more than a small number of items in working memory - this makes it difficult to perform complex operations involving the manipulation of several items of data. This can include mental arithmetic, taking lecture notes (i.e. transferring aural stimuli to written form), remembering phone numbers, and so on.

Some dyslexia can be linked to proprioception and orthopaedic problems apparently, according to Orlando da Silva, a friend of a friend who has done some ground-breaking research in this area.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

context is everything

Was having an interesting conversation at lunchtime as a result of talking about The Player of Games for the SF Reading Group. At the end of the book, the Emperor engages in an act of pointless destruction. This led us on to a general discussion of the motivation for acts of evil in fiction. Motiveless evil (and indeed good) is hard to imagine.

In Perelandra (part 2 of CS Lewis's SF trilogy), Weston, who has been possessed by the devil, engages in a series of senseless acts of cruelty. This is believable simply because he is possessed by the personification of evil, whose obvious function is to destroy and perform senseless acts of evil. But it is less believable when you have a "dark lord" type character who seeks to destroy everything for no apparent reason (cf the Master in Doctor Who). I suggested that perhaps they decide to destroy everything because if they can't dominate it, they don't want it to exist outside their control.

Tolkien pointed out that Morgoth (the evil principle in The Silmarillion) diminishes himself every time he subdues another creature to his will, because in order to dominate it he has to control it with part of his own will. The same is true of Voldemort in the Harry Potter books, who rules his minions by fear. By contrast, the servants of good join the good cause of their own free will, and therefore its strength is added to every time someone joins. Arguably also its intelligence is added to, because they retain their free will and agency.

We then discussed whether there can be good actions without motive - e.g. if you jump in a river to save someone you don't know from drowning, can that be said to be motiveless? (As you might feel guilty afterwards if you didn't try to save them.)

At the end of the discussion, we still couldn't imagine how someone could end up evil without some cause. In order to choose between good and evil actions, you need free will, therefore you need a motive. We live in a specific moral and social context, which provides the motives of our actions; we do not operate in a vacuum. This is why Weston's evil actions are believable - because he has been taken over by something that exists outside of the human context. (I still don't believe in an abstract personification of either good or evil - I believe that the potential for good and evil resides in the human breast - but it makes an interesting fictional device.)

When trying to write fiction with baddies in it, I always find it difficult to imagine their motivation, because I am not interested in dominating the wills of others (it would be too much effort, for one thing...)

Also, it's rare to find someone who is completely evil with no redeeming features whatsoever. Even dictators who preside over oppressive regimes that torture and kill know they're doing wrong, because they hide their misdeeds from the light of common day, and pressure from Amnesty International has an effect on them. And even though it's obvious to the rest of us that they are committing evil acts, their motivation is often a misplaced attempt to improve things (even Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were trying to improve the situation for a specific group of people, though unfortunately at the expense of another group). This does not by any means justify their actions, but it explains the twisted thought processes which led them to such extremes.

The mistake that such people make is to limit their vision to one specific group at the expense of everyone else. For example, in Babylon 5, there was a racist group of humans, called "Earth First" (no relation to the radical eco-activists of the same name) who were focused solely on what they thought were the interests of humanity, and were against aliens. Similarly, Londo Mollari cares only about his own people, the Centauri, and doesn't give a damn about anyone else. This is contrasted with the enlightened vision of G'Kar and others, who embrace the whole of sentient life.

finders looters

Now I Get It: I get it now. If you're white, you find things. If you're black, you're looting. - Scott Roeben, Las Vegas, NV

Scott has a good point. Both the above links come from Yahoo news photos - that is seriously biased reporting. Taking groceries from a grocery store seems like a reasonable survival tactic to me - looting is when you steal stuff that you don't need.

Caption for photo of two white people: "Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana."

Caption for photo of black person: "A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005." (though to be fair he is carrying a box of Pepsi and a large black bin-liner - saves making more than one trip to the shops I suppose).

water has to go somewhere

New Orleans: Nature's revenge?: "It perches under the lip of a vast lake more than twice its size, while to the south and east lies the Gulf of Mexico, one of the world's most fertile hurricane zones."

Could this be yet another symptom of global warming? New Orleans' levees were built to withstand a category three hurricane; Katrina was a category five. Also the wetlands around there that would have absorbed some of the flood waters have been built over (a similar story to what happened in some areas with the tsunami).

The people who have suffered the most are the poor, some of whom actually couldn't leave the city in time. The worst thing is the looting - what kind of person steals from those whose lives have been turned upside down?

It really looks as if the old site of New Orleans should be abandoned - this map shows how vulnerable it is.