Since You've Been Gone...

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Well it really should be "Since I've Been Gone", but Rainbow didn't do a song by that title.



Anyway, I thought the best thing to get started with would be a brief canter through the important things that have happened in the past ten weeks since normal service was interrupted. 

And I suppose I'd better start with a bit of an explanation as to why everything shuddered to a sudden halt...


The beginning of October brought me a sudden change of job, a move to a new house and a relocation of my office. All unexpected, but not all unwelcome. You'll understand that these things all take some time separately, and together take a huge amount of time. And effort. And generally faffing about. And by the time the faffing had all been faffed, I had fallen out of the blogging habit.

Meanwhile, back in the real world...

October 12th

This date saw the sad death of a real giant of the computing world, and a man who has had a great influence on my own life, although I doubt he ever knew it. Dennis Ritchie wrote the C computing language and, along with Ken Thompson, invented UNIX. Ritchie shaped the modern world more than most men can claim, although he was the kind of person who simply would never have made such a claim. As I remarked recently regarding Bert Jansch, often great humility goes along with, well, greatness and Dennis seems to have been a prime example of this.


I earned my living as a UNIX system administrator for many years, so have great reason to be thankful to his memory. As indeed do you - if you are using a browser running in an Apple, UNIX or Linux operating system, it can be traced back directly to Dennis's genius. Even if you are using Windoze, that was based on UNIX principles but hacked around so as not to look too much like it: that's why MSDOS & Windows tree separators go \, not /.

Oh and Steve Jobs continued his habits of a lifetime and stole the limelight from a genuine innovator by dieing a week before, on October 5th.


October 16th and 23rd

Two sad dates in motorsport history as they saw the deaths of two fine sportsmen in the pursuit of their sports. Dan Wheldon died in a motor race in the USA on October 16th and Marco Simoncelli died on track in the opening laps of the last MotoGP race of the season on the 23rd.

dan_wheldon marco_simoncelli

Dan Wheldon

1978 - 2011

Marco Simoncelli

1987 - 2011

December 8th (Yes, I know this is out of sequence)

While we are on the subject, it is a mark of the advances in the safety of motor sport since the killing years of the 1950's and 60's that these deaths have caused so much shock. Formula 1 used to be known as the most dangerous sport on earth but that has not seen a fatality since the great Ayrton Senna's still-unexplained fatal accident in 1994. Part of the reason for that is the massive improvement in on-course medical support, and much of that is down to Professor Sid Watkins, who has finally retired from regular support at the age of 83.

Maybe Sid realised that with the switch of some of the F1 television coverage to Sky the viewing figures in the UK are going to bomb so he might as well go out at a high point.


Back to the chronology:-

October 20th

The armed forces of NATO the brave people of Libya finally achieve their holy task of capturing the evil dictator Muammar Gadaffi. And then bravely anally raping the wounded man with an iron bar and bravely shooting him in the head.


So the man who until some time in April was our best friend in North Africa was driven from office and murdered with the help of our armed forces and those of our other best friends. I'll let you debate the morality of that.

Anyway, where are all the startling revelations regarding the downing of Pan-Am flight 103? Since the rebels managed to overrun all of the government ministries and "liberate" all the documents they could find (accompanied, no doubt, by MI6, the CIA, DCRI, etc.) we should know by now exactly who the guilty parties were if, indeed, they were in Libya.

October 20th

Britain's three main political parties all forced their MPs to vote against giving the British people any chance to express an opinion as to whether or not to stay in the EU. Remember that no voter in Britain has ever had any such chance before, and only those over the age of 54 were once asked if they wanted to enter the EEC (the "Common market" as it was known then, although only here).

October 31st

The world's population is deemed to have reached seven billion (that's 7,000,000,000, not the "real" amount of 7,000,000,000,000). This gives rise to countless scare stories about how poor Gaia would soon be collapsng under the weight of 17 billion because of the exponentially increasing birth rate.

More sober analysts predicted that the population could be down to 6 billion or even less by the end of the century if the developing countries could be developed properly and their birth rates were to drop to western levels.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what our beloved climate activists don't want, since they are spending all their efforts in trying to drive us western countries back to third world standards.

November 3rd

A report shows that greenhouse gas emissions have risen to their highest levels ever, much worse even than the ever-fearful IPCC predicted just four years ago. Meanwhile, the global temperature continues to hold at about 1998 levels.

November 7th

Jo Frazier, the former world champion heavyweight boxer, dies from liver cancer. Strangely, little or nothing is made of his nickname "Smokin' Joe", possibly because the name could encourage young people to smoke. Or am I just being sensitive?


November 17th

The UK government sells Northern Rock to Richard Branson. The sale price is probably in excess of £747M, which is a lot to you and me, but not a lot to Beardie to allow him to achieve his long-held ambition to own a real British bank.


So we lost something in excess of £600M on the deal. As it happens I know a bit about this organisation and I reckon there were unpublicised factors that led to a hurried arrangement to save some political embarrassment.

Rather ironically, the taxpayer has lost £600M on selling the "good" part of the bank, but should eventually make a profit of up to £20Bn on the "bad" bank. It's a strange world, isn't it?

November 30th

The largest strike since 1926 took place, to defend the well-earned pension rights of the country's most essential workers. Or a bit of a day off for a bunch of overpaid parasites, you choose.

December 4th

One of the greatest footballers of all times, Brazil's Sócrates, dies. All of his televised obituaries emphasise his great talent, but also mention his smoking and hard drinking. Not many of them mention that what actually killed him was a beef stew.


December 6th

After a mere 541 days Belgium finally gains a government. Public joy is unconfined. TPDRSL takes down the counter from the front page.

However, not all is not well in the manufactured state of the Belges. The new Prime Minister - Elio di Rupo - is the leader of the Socialist Party, which came a poor second to N-VA, and so leads a minority government. N-VA wants independence for Flanders and will continue to press for that. I think that life for M. di Rupo will be quite interesting for the next couple of years.

December 8th

Hurricane Bawbag strikes Scotland, and does nearly £12M worth of urban improvement in Wishaw.


(And before you slag me off in the comments, I didn't realise that nearly the same joke was made in the video.)

Those of us old enough to remember the 1968 January storm in Glasgow occasionally looked up and said "Oh, is it windy?".


We had some real news here in South Lanarkshire - SNP GAIN A SEAT IN AN ELECTION!!! You didn't hear anything about it because it was a council by-election in Hamilton West and Earnock, caused by the sad death of the independent Tommy Gilligan. This was nominally a massive swing to the SNP but the turnout was only 11.79%. The low level of enthusiasm is partly blamed on the weather (see above) but there's not a great deal of trust in the worth in these elections locally. Historically, regardless of what anyone thought to the contrary, the Labour group on South Lanarkshire Council did what they damn well wanted. In fact, that's one of the main reasons for the existence of this blog and some day I'll get round to documenting the ridiculous behaviour of SLC over the rebuilding of Strathaven Academy in 2005. One good thing about our new voting system is that can allow an easier route to office for independent candidates: in our constituency the Labour candidate was the last of four elected and we'll be trying hard in May to eradicate Labour completely. Then we'll go for the other parties.

Anyway, another notable feature of this election is the margin of victory. For those from foreign pairts, here in Scotland we use a form of that nasty proptional representation that you turned down in May. And that means that you don't just have to get more votes than anyone else, you need 50% plus one vote. And that's just what the winner, John Menzies, did. There were 1,659 votes cast with 16 rejected, giving a winning quota of ((1659 - 16) / 2) = 821.5. Mr Menzies achieved 822 first-preference votes, giving him victory on the first count by the narrowest possible margin. A little bit of history that will take some time to beat.

December 19th

Kim-Jong Il dies. or at least Kim-Jong Il's death is announced, he may have died some time ago. A bit like the latter presidents of the USSR, who were sometimes in office for several months or years after their death. Remember Brezhnev, anyone? Or the protracted death of General Franco in Spain?

kim brezhnevjpg Franco
Franco (still dead) Kim Il-Jung Brezhnev

An even sadder death is that of SAAB Automotive, who finally filed for bankruptcy. Again.


As well as these events noted above, there's been a bit of bother going on in mainland Europe with their currency, which seems to have allowed the Germans to appoint governments in Greece, Italy and Spain. So far. And I'm sure other things have slipped my mind but they'll just have to stay slipped.

Well, now we're at Christmas. I've just found out I'm going to be a Mancunian for a few months, so the beginning of the new year will bring a lot of new experiences and a bit of disruption. I'll try not to let it keep me from the keyboard for so long.


I wish you all the best for a merry and peaceful Christmas.


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