Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.


( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

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Saturday, April 17, 2004
The smooth new concrete by the side of the house was much admired. Nobody connected it to the mysterious absence of blog posts. Nobody except the annoying old guy who made it his business to look into such things...

I am going to be very busy in the next week, so there may be few or no posts. Make of that what you will.

The Joy of Knitting.
"It begins with a simple thread onto a needle...but it ends in no holds barred diatribes against the pathetic left, weakness in the face of terrorism and capitulation to the new Eurabia."
My kind of gal. Except I can't knit.

(Via Tim Blair.)

Mind you, the non-pathetic left, as represented by the likes of Normblog and the boys at Harry's Place can stitch up an anti-appeasement storm themselves.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself.
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Gary Farber of Amygdala writes in Whitmanesque fashion comparing:

"Some of you may be under the misapprehension, which I concede I have not striven to correct, that I like sewing."


"You got a problem, bud? I like sewing" [in the sidebar]

I admire people with big brains, my love.

We contain multitudes. Darn them. Don't sew them.


(Strictly meant in a non-sexual, platonic, non-threatening or imposing or implying, way.)

What are you talking about Gary me old china? I love sewing. Adore it. Especially really challenging projects that make full use of my skills; the cream dress in slinky fabric I am just completing for my daughter, for instance. There is little in this harsh world so satisfying as finally reaching the stage when you can sew in one of the "Made by Natalie" nametapes so vaingloriously ordered from Cash's the other day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Some of you may be under the misapprehension, which I concede I have not striven to correct, that I like sewing.

In fact I loathe it and perform the hateful act only as a spiritual discipline. Of all the sects of this peculiar practice the most contorted, maddening and repugnant to a free spirit is that branch of self-flagellation known as dressmaking.

I am currently making a dress. But that's not the worst.

If it were for me I could have quietly left the half-made thing out for the recycling van by now, like Dr Moreau deciding that the result of crossing man and lobster was an idea whose time had not yet come. But once parental guilt enters the arena such easy tactics are unthinkable. My imagination instantly supplies a scene from a therapist's consulting room, circa 2030 and Offspring saying, "It all started to go wrong when my mother promised to make me a dress..." So I'm stuck with it till it's done. But that's not the worst.

It's made of utterly unforgiving monocoloured light cream fabric. No matter how carefully you match the thread to the fabric, every stitch shows and has to be perfectly placed, and every wobble in the line has to be unpicked, and then the frickin' holes show. But that's not the worst.

It's all smooth and shiny. Every possible misjudgement of tension shows, and every possible misjudgement of tension happens because it's so slippery. But that's not the worst.

I have just enough. There is no more of that fabric in the shop.

That's the worst.

Tomorrow's excuse for not blogging is that I will be mixing concrete. Strange but true.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
"Natalie would go beyond the non-throat-slitting definition of good, and say that making money is actively a good thing."

Hmmm. Would I? Definitely the first bit, not sure about the second.

Anne Cunningham has written a post in response to one of mine. In a snatched moment I'm posting it here. Read the comments, too, which include a second post-within-a-comment by Anne herself.

Forgive me, amigos, I have to go away and do lots of non-blogging stuff. I also have to think of a response which is somewhere close to the level of thoughtfulness I am credited with.

UPDATE: First draft: making money, like the public exercise of any other talent, is good thing but not a duty.

Saturday, April 10, 2004
World Conquest the nice way.
"Dr Johnson is endlessly quoted here, because he is so incontestably right. A man is seldom so innocently employed as when he is making money. Just think what benefits Hitler or Stalin might have brought the human race if their vast energies had been devoted to making profits. "

Dennis O'Keefe, Capitalism and Corruption: the Anatomy of a Myth.

IKEA boss Ingvar Kamprad has overtaken Bill Gates as the world's richest man. As a young man Kamprad went to several pro-Nazi meetings in Sweden in the three years after the war ended.

Isn't it nice that he turned to taking over the world via flat-pack furniture instead?

Friday, April 09, 2004
Iraqi gunmen of the Mujahideen Brigades, a previously unknown group, have taken three Japanese citizens captive and say that Japan must pull out its troops or the prisoners will be burned alive.

Well, it worked in Spain. It worked in Somalia. The question is, do we keep it working?

I say, no. Kill the Muhajideen brigades. God willing the hostages might be saved, but if they are killed too, better a bullet than being burned alive and better a world where they die thus than one where the tactic of threatening hostages with death by torture works. As I said in January when Israel more-than-foolishly released many terrorists in exchange for an Israeli hostage, "Yes, of course I'd feel and speak very differently if it was my relative held hostage. Do you think I'm made of stone? But what is that to the purpose?" Think not only of the hostage we see now but of the next, and the next, and the next - because unless war is waged and won on this tactic, that is what there will be.

I've changed my mind on something. With the example of the wrong and unwinnable War on Drugs before me I used to be very scornful of wars on phenomena rather than on nations or groupings of men. I didn't like the name "War on Terror." However, as Mark Steyn has pointed out the Royal Navy fought a War on Slavery, and won it, too - if not for all time then at least for many generations.

During that "War On" it would often happen that the crew of a slave ship, seeing that they were about to be overhauled, would throw the slaves overboard to destroy the evidence that they had been slave trading. This dreadful and predictable result of the War on Slavery did not stop it from being worthwhile.

So much - save them if possible but do not bargain for them - for the victims of the Mujahideen Brigades. What of their audience? I think that Iraqi public revulsion at such tactics (one of the hostages is a woman, two of them are aid workers) will work against the hostage-takers. My impression that the majority of Iraqis, and Arabs generally, would indeed be repelled is backed up by this post by Iraqi blogger Zeyad. Zeyad writes:

I found it particularly interesting that while Al-Jazeera displayed most of the tape, it did not display the part where the masked men held knives to the neck of the wailing Japanese woman while screaming "Allahu Akbar!". What? too hard for Arab feelings?
That very significant omission reflects slightly better on Al-Jazeera's audience than on Al-Jazeera itself. The station evidently thought that even its hardened audience might sympathise with the wrong people.

For others, sadly, contemplation of any situation where Arabs are the active agents and non-Arabs the victims gives pleasure.

This is one effect of the glorification of suicide bombers. Once you have glorified people who target civilians in buses or pizza parlours you are fairly safe from feeling the unpleasantness of ethical revulsion ever again. Many Westerners, too, have extended their obsessive quest for safety to include safety from ever having to condemn anything. The self-loather amours himself against rejection by forestalling it. Unlike the Arabs these people do not have the excuse that they have been brought up in a culture of fanaticism or that they would face violence if they ever said, "this is wrong."

Thursday, April 08, 2004
The world turned upside down. While His Worship Comrade Mayor Livingstone warms every neocon's heart, a former Blair-appointed Cabinet minister enthuses over appeasement.

Wait a minute... No. Surely not. AOL News, from whom I took this link, are famously liberal in the US sense. Furthermore it would be in appalling taste, but, but... there couldn't possibly be an implied comment in the last line, could there?

"Some people couldn't conceive of Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness getting to the table but they did."

She added: "If you go in with guns and bombs, you act as a recruitment officer for the terrorists."

Mowlam, who stepped down as an MP in 2001, said she was ready to criticise the Government she once served in her new one-woman show, particularly about its policy on Iraq and the Middle East.

She also confirmed on the programme that she has completely recovered from a brain tumour.

Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira / Les aristocrates à la lanterne! Dear old Red Ken says he wants to see the Saudi Royals strung up. I assume he doesn't mean it literally. I mean, not all of them. There's thousands of 'em. Can't have that. Just the one or two who hired Bin Laden would be fine.

Scarcely a week into the holidays and I'm whacked. Exhausting stuff, this here leisure. Maybe that's a good thing. I'm slightly depressed about the situation in Iraq and I'm pretty sure that I'd be more than slightly depressed if I had the slightest energy left to be depressed with.

John Weidner and Andrew Sullivan both stress the need for resolve. Listen to them, not me.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004
My internet connection has been acting coy. After playing hard to get for half the evening it has finally decided to allow me in on sufferance. Naturally, my mind has gone blank and I can think of nothing to say. Er, hello, Internet Connection, do you come here often?

Here's something I posted earlier to White Rose, Samizdata's sister blog concentrating on civil liberties. It quotes from a couple of letters to the Times written during World War II on the subject of identity cards.

Judging from his letter, I like the cut of Baron Quickswood's jib; I hope he doesn't turn out on further research to have been a loony, serial wife-murderer or Municipal Socialist. Not that that is likely - anyone called (even without the Baron bit) Lord Hugh Richard Heathcote Gascoyne-Cecil (a) has too many names for his sins or eccentricities to matter, and (b) is obviously related to him.

Monday, April 05, 2004
An anti-anti-semitic Google bomb. Apparently the top site for the word "Jew" on Google has been coming up as some nutjob screed. Quite a few bloggers are linking to this straightforward, unpropagandistic Wikipedia entry for the word Jew so as to correct the situation. Good idea.

(Via Normblog, Sporadic Chronicle and others.)

David Gillies writes:
It might be pertinent to point out to your readers that the WWII ID card did not even have a photo, merely the bearer's signature. It's a far cry from a flimsy bit of nondescript cardboard to the all-singing, all-dancing biometric database that Britons will be required to carry.
It is pertinent indeed.

Incidentally, David Gillies was the one mentioned at the bottom of my March 24 post who was writing his own account of discovering student cheating while I was writing my account of being a student cheat. I am relieved to see he is confident enough of my rehabilitation to keep writing to this blog!

How I search through different mental libraries to remember things. Very busy today, so all you get is this quick meta-thought which doesn't require any links or reading.

In this post from March 24 I wrote this:

There was one particular experiment designed to teach us about statistics where you had to let a small ball drop out of a funnel and mark where it hit or something like that about a thousand times over.
You can probably guess from the "or something like that" that I can't really remember what I did. When it came to the events of slightly later in the story my memories were locked in by sheer terror; however there was no reason for the nature of the run-of-the-mill experiment that started it all off to stick in my mind.

I am always hitting "Post & Publish" when I mean to hit "Post" and then having to frantically correct the unformed version that is exposed too soon to public view. I did it this time. Early bird readers will have read a version of this that described the experiment thus:

...where you had to throw a ball and mark where it hit...
I wrote that then I stopped. I knew it wasn't right but my visual memory was simply not giving me any more. What interests me is the way I tested my memory-hypothesis that I had thrown something: I mimed throwing something at the computer. After a second or two my kinetic memory library came up with "no matches found" for the active throwing motion + my visual memory of that experiment. I was quite confident in that negative, but less confident of the weak feeling I had that I might have let the ball drop.

I still don't know what I did. But now I am more fully aware that the kinetic memory library and the visual memory library are in different locations in my mind and that the former, at least, can work by elimination rather than positive assertion.

Friday, April 02, 2004
ID cards. This does not look good. In terms of permanently degrading Britain's liberties it seems that Al-Qaeda is set to succeed where Hitler failed. It's going to be a while before I see the funny side of this one.

(Historical note: Identity cards were compulsory during WWII. They were tolerated as a necessity of war, although the intrusiveness of petty officialdom asking Britons their business was much resented. After the war government efforts to make them permanent were seen off by the courts. Until recently the view that this was a victory for common sense was uncontroversial.)

Public Interest has a ten point plan for national salvation.

A reader enquires if the invitation to buy a photo of my car mentioned below might have been sent by the Police Benevolent Fund. Come to think of it I do remember some mention of the Force on the letterhead, and now I'm feeling bad that I threw the letter away with scarcely a glance. After all, I did support the firemen when they did the sponsored car wash. I've decided to go back to the same place and hope that the nice man takes my picture again. Only this time I'll go a little bit faster in the hopes of getting that cool motion-blur effect. It's a totally empty stretch of road so I'm sure no one will mind.

Thursday, April 01, 2004
Oh, how nice. Some entrepreneurial roving photographer has sent me a picture of my car. It's a neat idea, but is it really going to "take off" (pardon the pun) the way that selling people aerial photos of their houses did? Although this unposed action shot has a certain undeniable freshness and spontaneity, besides bringing back happy driving memories, I have to say that the picture quality is not good, and I don't think a black and white rear three-quarter view shows her to her best advantage. There also seems to be a lot of paperwork to fill in before you get your framed glossy photo.

Sorry for the lack of posts - we've had a guest staying in the computer room. How times change. When we first got the computer we put it in the guest room.